Chapter 5: Outlaws

Chara drifted off to sleep without even knowing it, leaning against the hard, dry, earthen walls of her cell. She was awakened when the larger sun's light fell on her face with painful brightness. Quickly, the heavy, loud sound of the armored guards' footsteps followed and the metal door was thrown open with a horrible clanging that made her already aching head feel as if it were about to split open. Even after that one day and night, the heat and her thirst were starting to weaken her.

She didn't resist when they hauled her to her feet and chained her legs to each other so that she could just barely walk. They led her through the halls, past all the people. Chara expected them all to regard her with hate and disgust, but instead she saw a look off sadness and compassion on their faces. As if, given the opportunity and the courage, they'd have freed her. But they all feared the traditions. Fear held them in place.

The guards led her out of the Citadel's gates, across the scorching sand that burnt and blistered the pads of her feet as she walked until she left blood in the sand, which the ground greedily absorbed almost as soon as it was laid.

She knew where they were going. They would travel some distance in this heat and sun to a shine, a temple with solid stone walls where the queens and kings of the past were laid to rest. The top of this shrine was open to he sun and the heat. That would be her end. They would lock her there until nature; the merciless sun and heat took her life over a period of several days until she saw torturing hallucinations of pools of water, people… She would probably even imagine Iason being there with her, standing beside her, talking to her, even feeling him hold her. She sighed. At least if she died imagining him with her it wouldn't be so hard, she thought.

As these thoughts went through her head, almost without her realizing, they'd led her up to this torture chamber. She tried to fight then, as they shoved her through the door, biting and struggling, knowing that she was just using her strength and killing herself faster…

Iason woke with a start and sat up quickly, calling out his lover's name, only to see the space next to him in the bed empty and Elias waiting for him with tea and breakfast. "They've taken her away, my lord. They have found another girl worthy of the title to replace her. She arrives in two days' time. Soon this will all be forgotten," he said.

The king shook his head slowly, before letting its weight rest in the palm of his hands as if the weight of her death rested in them as well. Complete despair washed over him and he gave into deep, heart wrenching sobs of the deepest grief any man had ever known. "I'll die without her," he said, "There will never be another. I promised her. I'll die and we will be together in death. I will not take another bride."

"You will," Elias said matter-of-factly. "You must. It is your duty. You must govern your people with the servant of the Goddess. It has always been this way, and it must always continue to be the same. Order must be maintained."

"I am as guilty as she… I destroyed the evidence, not Chara. I should be locked there with her."

"My duty is to my master's well being. It is my sworn duty, like yours is to your people. I must not stray from my oath. It was for me to protect you and expose the traitor to the people, my lord," said Elias calmly and slowly.

"What?…" Iason asked, staring at his manservant blankly, astonished, dismayed, completely lost in confusion, "You?! YOU SLIMY LITTLE WORM! FILTH! HOW DARE YOU BETRAY THE QUEEN?! YOU'VE KILLED HER! YOU HAVE MURDERED THE ONLY WOMAN I HAVE EVER LOVED!!!" With these words, he struck his servant across the face with all of the force he held in his strong, able arms, knocking him to the floor, making his nice and lips bleed until blood covered his face and began to drip onto his chest and shoulders. "SNAKE! YOU ARE THE LOWLIEST CREATURE ON THE EARTH, CRAWLING SNEAKING TRAITOR!" He kept hitting him with a rage he had never felt before, that he thought only a psychopath murderer could ever have. He beat him, broke his bones in, crushed his skull, shattered his ribs until finally, a hard blow to his chin snapped his neck and the servant fell dead to the floor, lying in a pool of his own blood. The red sticky, stinking liquid ran from his mouth, his nose, his lips, and his eyes… A river of it made its way over the cool marble floor towards the nearby balcony and slowly started to drip off of it, a crimson waterfall of his creation.

He just kept staring; mesmerized by this mangled heap of flesh and bone, unable to believe that he had done this. He'd killed a man, and he had intended to. If his Chara were dead, then the person who killed her deserved to die… and he deserved to die. He was unable to save the one he loved and now his life would end. He would travel down that river of souls and find the one he loved, hold her gently to him as they traveled to the underworld.

The young king thought on this… but no. Chara was not dead yet… she couldn't be. He could not believe that she was no longer living. He glanced down at his hands as he went to open the door to leave the room. They were sticky, wet and warm with his servant's blood. The smell filled his nostrils and it revolted him, turning his stomach and he vomited, rushing around in search of something to remove it from his hands. He poured his hot tea over his hands into the saucer, over the table. It blistered his hands and he cried out in pain, but at the same time felt only slightly relieved as the tea washed away the blood.

Iason ran through the door, down the halls, the stairs and the courtyard and finally stopped to ask a young woman selling flowers by the gate if she had seen them take her this way.

The woman nodded, "Yes, they took her," she said sadly, "Poor girl… I wouldn't let anyone die that way…" she said.

"What way?!" he asked, "Where did they take her?"

"To the shrine in the east. Tradition says that a traitor must die in the shrine by the hands of the Goddess. Though I don't see how they call blame this on her. An infant can't plan conspiracy anymore than the birds singing in the gardens," she said. "This is a terrible event." The woman was looking at her flowers as she spoke, not realizing that Iason had already rushed back to the halls and took as many flasks of water as he could carry and looked surprised to see him running towards her again and out the gates.

He had no idea how far it was and before long he had exhausted himself. He wanted to badly to take off the long robes he'd put on, but he knew that this would be a mistake. He kept walking until he could see the stone shrine ahead from the top of a sand dune. He found new strength seeing it and ran down the hill, tripping and tumbling the rest of the way down.

As he stopped at the bottom, he stood up, coughing out the sand and dust and kept moving. He hadn't thought about the guards. They didn't matter to him. He would fight them. As far as he was concerned, there was nothing that would stop him from saving Chara. He was not going to let her die, even if it cost him every drop of blood he had.

Chara sat there, on the side of the room where there was still a little shade cast by the wall, panting, trying to keep herself from overheating. Already she was beginning to feel dizzy, the walls around her beginning to sway back and forth before her eyes. Now she just wanted to sleep, to lie down and let the sun take her life without her feeling it, as she slept, dreaming of Iason. She lay down slowly, with her underside pressed against the still slightly cool wall, and closed her eyes, letting herself drift into sleep.

Iason came to the entrance, and the guards let him in, thinking that he had come to pray, not recognizing him under the many folds of fabric. He stopped once he was inside out of the heat. Regardless of how quickly he needed to find Chara, he would have to have a plan for getting them both out of there alive, if indeed Chara still lived.

The camels… there were camels in a stable not far from the entrance. If he could make it to the stables, no one would be able to follow. Not without the provisions he had. He made his way up the stairs to the top of the shrine. The door was barred three times. He lifted each of the bars and slowly pulled the door open so as not to make any noise and he nearly fell to his knees in despair when he saw her lying there. She breathed so softly that it seemed she was dead. He slowly edged to her side. "Chara…" he whispered, slowly lifting her body up into his arms and stroking the top of her head gently.

Chara blinked her eyes opened to see Iason's face looking back at her and she sighed heavily. She knew it was only a mirage, a dream created by her own to see. So she was dying. It was faster than she'd thought, and she welcomed it. "Iason…" she whispered softly. She wanted to reach up and touch his face, but she stayed still, worried that if she tried, he would disappear and she would die alone.

She felt herself being moved, lifted from the ground, and carried over the floor, out the door… She became so confused; she hardly knew what to think. The shade… they passed through the door, and she felt an instant wave of relief as they passed into the shade.

Iason could feel that her body was hot. The sun had heated her fur and skin so that it almost hurt to touch her. He lay her down on the cooler stone in the shade and held her head up, carefully pouring a little water into her mouth, which she quickly swallowed. She'd finished nearly a whole flash before she looked up at him, and realized that it was really Iason, holding her in his arms.

"How could you?" she asked weakly, looking up at him,

He looked confused. What did she mean? How could he what? Then the thought occurred to him. Of course she blamed him. He'd just let them take her. He could have stopped them, helped her escape if he'd wanted to, if he'd tried. But he just let them, without anything more than angered shouting. Here she was dying and he had been lying in bed waiting for his breakfast.

"Forgive me, Chara," he begged her, tears in his eyes. "I am the one who ought to be punished. I ought to die your death," he said, "Can you forgive me?"

"Iason… You've made us both traitors now," she said, "You came here… now they will hunt us both down… Why did you come for me? Why couldn't you just let me die, take a new bride and keep the order?" she asked, closing her eyes again.

"I couldn't, Chara. Nothing matters to me but you. We are both traitors now, both outlaws. And if we can be together as outlaws, then so be it. I have enough food and water to cross to the next city. From there we will get more supplies and travel on."

"We'd always be running, Iason. Could you live always running for your life?" she asked him.

"Yes. I could live any life, in any place if it were by your side, Chara. We will travel… see the world beyond the desert, and we'll make it our home," he said, and kissed her nose softly, "Now come, before someone realizes something is wrong." He picked her up and rested her gently over his shoulder, trying to conceal her as much as was humanly possible under his robes and the folds of his long cloak.

A shout came from behind them and a dozen guards came rushing at them from behind. Iason didn't hesitate to start running, knocking down anyone who came into his path, letting the crossed scimitars of the entrance guards tear through the fabric of his robes and into the flesh of his arms. He didn't care. He kept running toward the stables and mounted one of the beasts there, not even bothering to take a bridle in his hands as he passed them. He sent the camel running out of the stable, trampling the two frightened stable hands and out across the desert. He moved only just fast enough to keep the people on foot from catching them, not wanting to waste the creature's strength.

Soon the guards came after them on the camels and he urged the camel on faster. He knew they wouldn't be able to follow them for long, and he kept the distance between themselves and the guards.

When the shrine had been out of sight for nearly two hours, the guards turned back, needing water already in this heat and the two continued out into the desert. Chara lay across the camel's back and looked up at Iason, "That was an adventure…" she said, laughing, but with tears in her eyes.

"Why do you cry, my love?" he asked her, smiling.

"I was already prepared to die, Iason. I had accepted it already… and just the moment I thought my time had come; you appeared… just like when I came to the Citadel. I had accepted that I would never see you again, and there you were…" she said, "I think that the Divine shines upon us, despite our crimes and the events in our lives," she said, "I cry because I am so happy that I can't do anything else."

A/N: Okay, cheesy ending… there's an epilogue coming, but that's pretty much the end. I may write a sequel. I have a few ideas. So… you tell me… Sequel, or no sequel? Tell me hat you think of my characters, plot and writing. I was cruel heartless criticism here, people! But don't bruise me forever… So… be cruel, but gently cruel…oO And thanks for reading.