Shemyna watched Lady Lusca disappear behind the door. The sudden disappearance of Rumini, Rheya and Riana had caused a stir, and the lady of house Lashami was freaked out.
Shemyna knew Lusca didn't care much about Rheya, but Rumini and Riana were her own daughters. And they were also supposed to be offered to the temples. Some might interpret this disappearance as Lusca's unwillingness to give up her daughters, which might bring bad consequences for a house as old as Lashami.
Shemyna had always been good at exploiting weaknesses. She knew how to bend events according to her advantage. Wasn't this the exact reason why she had made Carshian kidnap the sisters? And Carshian still hadn't figured out that Shemyna was Miss Anonymous. Hell, he probably didn't even know who Shemyna was.
But Shemyna knew Carshian. She had studied him, closely. Carshian was an interesting puzzle, but she had solved him as much as it was possible.
But somehow, he still managed to amaze her now and then. Like, him scoring Rheya. Who would have thought Rheya would fall for any man, much less her abductor. Or like, the night before yesterday, when he broke himself free of nagini's mind control. Had Shemyna not stopped in between and made him unconscious, he might have ripped her friend's throat off. Of course, he hadn't realized that nagini had been messing with his mind the entire time, that Riana was alive and well, asleep in her cave.
And Shemyna wasn't going to overlook that fact.
"So, how did he do?"Nagini had asked her, as they were wiping his memory of the night.
"He is not the one", she had replied.
Nagini had studied her face for a long time before replying. "He seemed pretty deserving to me. He even broke through my mind control."
"Barely", Shemyna had replied. "He managed to overcome your enchantments at your weakest. You just got distracted, that's all. Not his feat."
"Don't get so harsh on him, Shem. His mind wasn't exactly in his control. And about his feat, isn't that what you do too? Look for someone's weakness and exploit them? How is he different?"
"He stumbled upon your weakness. It's not same."
"But…", Nagini had started.
Shemyna had interrupted her. "Whose side are you on, girl? If he had figured out that you were pretending as Kiadhra, I would have been impressed. If he had figured out that Riana wasn't present there at all, I would have been impressed. Even if he would have somehow managed to stop you from swallowing that imaginary girl, I would have given him a chance. But he failed, plain and simple. And I can't chance a failure."
Nagini had studied the Elemental witch in silence. In a whispering voice, she had stated, "He reminds you of youself, doesn't he?"
Shemyna had not looked at her. "And I wanted him to be better."
A silence had spread between the girls as Shemyna started contemplating how to go forth with the plan.
Everything was going on as planned, till then. The girls were kidnapped. Shemyna had made sure to bring it in public notice, but had also erased every trace that could lead them to Carshian, or could lead Carshian to her. The girls being of the ancient house of Lashami, and also a nomination as an offering for the temples, had called an immediate attention of all of Tierra. Needless to say, the political meetings were going useless.
Thus, a few moments ago, Shemyna had managed to agree Lusca to make her the envoy of the house on a visit to the house of Wolfe, asking for aid. Desperate Lusca had agreed, and the arrangements were being made for her to leave the day after tomorrow.
For Shemyna, the journey to Wolfe mansion was nothing but tiring. She had somehow resisted all urges to check on Carshian. He was a lost cause, she had decided. She couldn't waste her time on him.
Trying to play the upcoming conversation over and over in her head, the journey felt longer than it should have. Around public eyes, she couldn't even bend the earth to make her limousine go any faster. She just stayed sitting in the backseat, willing the journey to get over as quickly as possible.
The damned mansion too was in the middle of nowhere. Somewhere in the eastern cold desert, the road gave way to the massive Wolfe mansion. Around the mansion, the whole house was scattered in little packets of buildings.
Wolfe was one of the oldest houses in Tierra. Its history could be traced back to the similar time as the origin of house Titans, or even to the start of the civilization.
The mansion was huge, sporting tall gigantic pillars supporting high ceilings intricately designed in various colors and arrangements. Two massive wolves' statues stood guard at the humongous entrance, so did the maids welcoming Shemyna.
The gallery they took her through was narrow but long, with numerous doors on both sides. The tiles, flooring and well décor left no clue that the said mansion existed in the middle of a desert.
Shemyna was welcomed in the grand dining hall as a reputed envoy from a friendly house of Lashami. Thus, she enjoyed great hospitality. Even the snake around her torso was allowed inside.
In the centre of the hall, Lady Wolfe sat on one end of the long dining table laden with numerous cuisines. The maids silently rushed in and out of the hall, filling empty wine glasses, bringing warm food covered in shining plates, or cleaning the little dirt that could piss off the lady.
On the chairs surrounding the dining table sat several beautiful maidens, Lady's immediate family.
Shemyna bowed in courtesy to the lady of the ancient house of Wolfe. If things were to go smoothly as planned, she needed this woman on her side.
"My greetings, Lady Wolfe. I am Shemyna of the house Lashami. On behalf of my house, accept my greetings."
"No need to be so formal, my dear. Come, have a seat."
Shemyna sat on the empty seat beside a little girl, probably five years of age. The lady sat on the front end of the giant table. With red hair and fierce red eyes, she looked similar to her entire family. She proudly sported a scar running over her cheeks down to her throat, complimented by her muscular physique, as expected from the lady of the house of hunters.
"My, we haven't met before, have we?"
"No, my lady, we haven't personally met before. But I have seen you before on one of your visits to our house. And I have to say, you have been an inspiration for me, my lady. I am so glad to have an honour to talk to you."
"Stop with the 'my lady' already. I told you, there is no need to be formal. Call me Lena."
Shemyna nodded. "Lena."
"And this is Elena, my sister and second head of the house."
Shemyna looked at the woman sitting on the right of Lena. Probably 23 or 24 years of age, Elena was in the peak of her youth, with well-built muscles and determined eyes.
Beside Elena sat a young girl, barely seventeen, with same fierceness in her eyes as Lena.
"And that is my only girl, Selena. And sitting beside you, the young devil is Helena, Elena's girl."
The five year old Helena looked up at Shemyna and smiled. Shemyna smiled back.
She one by one looked at them all, peculiar family that probably didn't want to change track while naming their kids. Lena, Elena, Helena and Selena. That left one unintroduced person on the table.
"And this must be…?" Shemyna asked looking at the young beauty sitting next to Helena. She had a slightly darker shade of red in her hair than the others that said she belonged to the house but was not immediately related to Lena.
"That is Symrin", Elena replied. "She looks after little Helena while I'm busy."
Shemyna smiled. So she only had to please Lena and the pack would follow. Helena and Symrin wouldn't be a problem, and Selena still looked novice about the world. Elena though…
"Nice to personally meet everyone", she said, pasting a vibrant smile on her face. "If the little tragedy hadn't befallen us, I am sure Lady Lusca would have personally came here on this great occasion of The Awakening. But I assure you house Lashami stands with you in your happiness."
Lena smiled. "I have complete faith in the friendship of the two houses. Alas, the young girls went missing at this auspicious an occasion. But I assure, as soon as The Awakening is over, our house will use all its might to find our dear girls."
"Did you know, a wizard is coming here tonight?" young Helena squealed, clearly excited. "And Symrin says that he will be bringing loads of gifts for everyone."
"Will he bring gifts for me?" Shemyna asked, acting to be equally excited.
"Probably. He won't leave you sad."
Shemyna chuckled. "I can't wait."
"Neither can I", Helena giggled, tearing at her meat.
"They say this was the day we settled here", Helena told Shemyna.
They were walking through the streets running through the small packets of villas surrounding the mansion. The fragrance of festival was in the air, complimented perfectly by the aroma of excitement. The festivities would start tonight, the first new moon of the year, and would go on for a fortnight, coming to a conclusion on the full moon night, when the Wolfes would howl their happiness and thanks to the moon and the heavens.
"The new moon denotes new life and the full moon denotes epitome as well as blessings. The hunters awakened to the idea of civilization, thus The Awakening. At least that is what Symrin told me, but personally, I'm more interested in gifts and sweets."
Shemyna smiled at the blunt innocence of the young girl. She wished she could enjoy that innocence, it was so soothing. But the cycle of births had trapped her in its clutches, and as long as she didn't complete her mission, these simple jollies in life were just a dream.
She looked up at the sky. The sun shone brilliantly in the west. The clouds were nowhere to be seen. In just a few hours, the sky would lit up with countless twinkling stars, but the moon wouldn't appear, just like in her life. But she had to find the moon, and she will.
The snake around her torso slithered slightly, bringing her back to the moment. She looked at the little girl beside her. No, she couldn't let herself be distracted. She will complete her mission, no matter the price.
That was when she noticed the slight commotion in her surroundings. There was a slight stirring in the air. The shops were being partially shut down. The stalls were deserted. The lanes grew crowded as everyone was in a hurry to get to some point. And just a moment later, everything was silent, the crowd gone, the streets empty.
She heard a pair of footsteps rushing towards her and soon Symrin melted in front of them.
"What is going on, Symrin?" Helena asked, voicing the question in Shemyna's head.
"You always wanted to see a man, right?" Symrin asked her, a glint of excitement shining in her eyes. "They have caught one. He is tied at the central square. Come."
Shemyna looked at the two elated girls rush towards the central square. She herself wasn't that excited. She had seen enough men for a million lifetimes.
What excited her was the opportunity it presented.
Everyone would be gone to see the man. Meaning the mansion and surrounding lands would be deserted. Meaning no hindrance in searching.
She quickly rushed towards the mansion. She didn't know how much time the Lady would take in announcing the punishment for the man who had illegally decided to trespass in the lands belonging to the civilization. Men were banished after all.
The huge entrance doors were slightly ajar. The wolves stood guard at the door, but they were statues after all. Everyone alive had already left.
Thanking the heavens, Shemyna kicked off her boots and felt the naked earth beneath her. Walking on concrete did hinder her senses, but she had spent more than 30 lifetimes harnessing her power. She could detect the vibrations that the floor gave. She knew the number of rooms on all her sides, she knew everything that was placed in every one of those locked rooms in the four storey mansion.
And she also knew that beneath the exact centre of the mansion was a giant egg shaped cavity.
She sighed in relief. She put on her boots and quickly made her way towards the central hall.
She was sure she had found what she was looking for. Why would there be such a massive cavity beneath the mansion, unless it was hiding the greatest treasure of the elementals. She had stressed without any reason, planning and revising and re-revising her plans over and over again, while the luck had decided to be on her side this one time. The appearance of that idiot man had presented her with the opportunity that she needed, and she wouldn't let it go waste.
She looked at the flooring in the central hall. The tiny pieces of dirt and concrete had grown solid. The trapdoor hadn't been opened in centuries.
Placing her hand on the cold concrete, she willed the earth to obey her command. The dirt beneath her fingers shivered under her gaze. The floor shifted too.
Well, not the entire floor, but the coating that had solidified over the trapdoor under the constant pressure of time.
Shemyna removed her hand looking at the square trapdoor revealed before her eyes. Pulling it open, she lowered herself on the dark staircase leading downwards.
She didn't bother to fetch a flashlight; the earth was her eyes. She touched the wall surrounding her and knew the whereabouts of every tiny molecules in her proximity. The stairs spiralled down towards the centre and that was where her reward was situated.
She hurried her steps, rushing to end her mission soon.
But the fates have a twisted way of laughing at us, don't they?
On the base of the stairs, she found the massive egg, red but transparent. Inside it was trapped a body, looking as beautiful as the day it were born. Suspended in the mid-air, her limbs floated in air, her silver air long and open like that of a goddesses'. She had an aura around herself, even in that state, which demanded awe and respect. Her complexion was white as the moon, beautiful as the first snow.
Shemyna's heart sank. Within the Bloodstone was trapped the Rider of the Pheonix.
She stared in the inanimate silver eyes as a silent drop of tear trickled down the side of her eye. She had been feeling so close to her goal, and yet now, she felt so so far away.
With a renewed determination in her eyes, she promised the inanimate woman that she would bring her back to life.
But if her body was trapped here, where was her soul?
Looking at the silver goddess one last time, Shemyna left, closing the trapdoor behind her, willing the earth to coat it same as before.
She had to go on with her plan. Which meant, for now, she had to win the trust of the Wolfes.
Finding the central square wasn't hard. All the commotion was stationed there watching the punishment that was to befall the idiot man.
Pushing through the crowd, Shemyna reached Selena, daughter of Lady Lena. She was watching the proceedings with wide eyes.
On the pedestal, Lady Lena raised her right hand and a pin-drop silence spread through the crowd.
"Begin", Lady's voice rang clearly through the painful silence.
Everyone turned towards the man tied to the giant boulder, bent over on his stomach. Four Wolfes stood on his four sides. At the command of the lady, they raised their hands in the air.
Tearing through the silence, down came the whips in unison, biting at the bare flesh of Carshian's back.