Last Line(s): “But you still murdered her!” Audrey exclaimed, horrified.
“Not exactly. And even if I did, Herschel would send another one of his slaves to kill you two. I was protecting you, so shut up and follow me. I’ll explain.” Akol said.
Audrey tried to retort but when she tried to open her mouth, it wouldn’t budge. Neither did Will’s. So they held each other’s hand, and followed Akol out of the dark forest.
Hours passed - it was almost mid-afternoon and they still hadn’t reached wherever they were going. Audrey was now on Will’s back, half-asleep, and Will had unbuttoned the first two buttons on his black shirt. It had gotten warm, especially with the heat radiating off Audrey’s body. Akol still looked as handsome as ever. Not a single scratch. Audrey and Will still couldn’t talk, and Akol still didn’t let them do so.
“We’re almost there.” Akol said again.
Will wanted to point out that he had said that many times before and they still weren’t there. Wherever the hell ‘there’ was. He couldn't though. Akol had taken their voice away. He started feeling weak. When he spotted a long, smooth, stone slab a few feet away from him, he walked towards it and set Audrey down on it. She shifted uncomfortable on the slab, and finally, after some more shifting, settled onto her side. Will plopped down beside her. His eyes rolled to the back of his head and his head drooped. He fainted. They had been walking too long and without food or water.
Akol couldn’t hear his footsteps anymore. He stopped and turned around. Panic struck him. “Where did you two go?” He caught sight of the couple on the slab and ran towards them. “What… Oh. Oh no. Frick.” he muttered. Akol raised his hands again, letting their vocal cords grow back without pain. Afterwards, he held out his hands towards both of them, purple mist dancing out of his palms, surrounding the couple. Soon enough, they were floating above ground. And both of them were still passed out.
There was a large, stoney palace on the horizon. Akol sighed. “Finally.” This job would have been so much easier if he could snap his fingers to get to places. But the snapping-fingers-trick only worked if one wanted to get to a different planet.
Akol heard a murmur from above him. He looked up. Audrey was waking up. He whistled loudly and stallions came galloping from a field far away. One was all black, and the other, all gray. Akol patted the black stallion’s neck. “Greetings to you too Raven.” The all gray horse nickered. “I missed you too, Pebble. But I’m back now! How are the foals doing?” he asked.
Pebble and Raven bobbed his head.
“That’s good. You two let me know if you need anything alright?”
The stallions bobbed their heads again.
“But right now, I need you guys’ help.” Akol pointed behind him towards the sleeping Audrey and Will. “They’re going to wake up soon, and you know I can’t have them floating once they wake. So I was wondering if both of you could carry them? Just to the palace?”
Both Pebble and Raven trotted underneath Audrey. They looked at each other and nipped at each other’s mane. Akol rolled his eyes. “Stop.” They obeyed. “Raven, you can take Will. Pebble? Stick with Audrey.”
Pebble raised his head, full of pride, and snorted. Raven drooped, slowly walking underneath Will. Gradually, the couple were seated on the stallions - still asleep. Akol patted both horses and the snort from Pebble jerked Audrey awake. She looked around drowsily. “What the…” She stared down at Pebble’s mane. Her gaze shifted to how far off she was from the ground. At least two meters. “...Will!” she screamed.
Will groaned. Akol rolled his eyes, and continued walking.
“Why am I on a horse?” Will asked. Akol smirked. “Audrey?”
“Will, I’m scared of heights, please, get me off!” Audrey shrieked.
Since Will knew how to ride, he reigned Raven towards Pebble. Raven snorted as his shoulder and thigh touched Pebble’s. “Easy there.” Will whispered, patting Raven’s neck.
“What are you doing? Will, you’ll fall!” Audrey cried.
“Calm down.” Will said, concentrating on bringing up his legs and crouching down on Raven’s side.
Akol turned around and raised his brow. “You do realize you could just get off Raven and hop on Pebble.”
Will shrugged. “I’m showing off is all.”
“You’re not doing well.” Akol said. He raised his hand and flicked his wrist to right, magically making Will tumble right off Raven, who had halted. “See?”
“Ugh.” he groaned. “Was that necessary?”
Will stayed on the ground for a while. Audrey glared at Akol. “Now he’s paralyzed.”
“I’m not.” he said.
“Get me off! I’m afraid of horses and heights.” she whined. “Please.”
Akol raised his hand and flicked his wrist to the left. He raised his head, amused, as Audrey fell off, screaming. “Oww.” she groaned, slowly getting up and crawling over to Will.
“Are you okay?” she whispered.
“Couldn’t be better.” Will snapped, getting up on his elbows. Audrey frowned. “Sorry. Didn’t mean to snap.”
“You too need to stop fighting.” Akol said, turning away and continuing towards the palace.
“Says the one who dropped both of us!” Audrey yelled at his back. After a moment, “Wait!”
Finally, they had arrived at the palace. It loomed above them, gray and haunting. More lifeless trees surrounded the back of the palace. And the mid-afternoon sun gave it an eerie glow. There were barely any windows, but there were a couple of bars in some places.
Audrey took a sharp intake of breath. “What is this place?” she asked.
Akol clicked his tongue and the stallions both bowed at him before galloping away behind the palace.
“You know, I actually felt more safe with the horses.” Will said.
“Wasn’t asking for your opinion.” Akol huffed. He turned around again to face the couple. “As for your question, Audrey, this is where me and my siblings live.”
“You have siblings?” Audrey gaped.
“Shut your mouth - you look inhumane - and yes, I do have siblings, is there a problem?”
“Yes, there is. You never seemed like a person who would have siblings…” Audrey trailed off because of the snarl Akol gave her. Will smirked. Akol’s eye twitched and he turned on his heel, pushing open the wooden gates of the palace. The walls were made of stone - the same from outside. There were no pictures of anything, no home decorations, no nothing. And it was cold.
Audrey shivered. Quickly, as if on instinct, Will pulled off his hoodie and held it out for Audrey. She looked at it, then rolled her eyes. “I was expecting you to put it on me.” she said flatly.
Will shrugged. “I’m not that cheesy. Take it or leave it.”
Audrey controlled her smile and swatted at him. He watched Akol stand frozen at the front as she slipped on his hoodie. “What’s wrong with you?” he asked, stepping forward.
“Waiting.” Akol said curtly.
“For what?” Audrey asked, shuffling closer to Will for warmth. He wrapped his arm around her and pulled her closer.
“For a slave.”
“Slave?” Audrey squeaked. She cleared her throat. “Why do you have slaves? That’s cruel.”
Akol sighed. “Shut the hell up.”
Will ground his teeth. How dare he talk to my wife like that? “Since you’re the master of Hell, I’m assuming you’d be the only one to shut it up.” he said coolly, straightening his posture. Akol facepalmed and turned to look at the two.
“Will you please shut your mouths?” Akol asked pleadingly.
Audrey looked at Will and kissed his neck. “At least he said please.”
“You’re taking his -”
Right at that second, a young girl, around seven or eight years old ran into the front hallway where the three of them were still standing. She was skinny. Her brown hair was tied into two braids and she wore a shalwar kameez. The top part - the kameez - was pink and netted, while the bottom part - the shalwar - was black with pink, yellow, green and purple embroidery at the bottom.
Audrey smiled sweetly at the young girl and gave her a slight wave. The girl waved back and sent Audrey a smile as well, but it didn’t reach her hazel eyes. Audrey’s smile faltered.
“Took you long enough, Ujalaa.” Akol glared at Ujalaa. “You’re a trainee so I’ll let you off the hook. Be careful next time.” Ujalaa nodded so fast it looked like her head was about to pop off.
The anger in his voice stopped both Audrey and Will to keep their mouths shut. Akol looked at the couple and smiled sweetly. “She’ll accompany you to your rooms. Food will be delivered there. You can rest as you please because you have to be ready for what is to come.” And then he was off.
Audrey and Will looked at each other, then down at Ujalaa. She gave them a shy smile. This time, it reached her eyes.