Chapter 12 – Aden

Most people go through their lives and never have to endure hours tied to a tree. After a few hours, I found myself cursing those people… barring Kyla…. and Macyn, if he ever showed up. Almost the instant they had bound me, I felt a pressure against my bladder. I needed to relieve myself.

Mind you, I sat on it as long as I could. Hours. When Kyla and the leader were eating, I got the attention of the two men left to guard me.

"Hey, buddy!" I said quietly, not wanting to get him in trouble.

"Shut up!" he answered back sternly. I waited a moment, wondering how long I could contain myself. I sighed.

"Hey, I gotta take a piss!" I directed at the guard. He looked over his shoulder, and then turned and walked away. He whispered something to the leader and returned.

"No." I had feared that would be his answer.

"C'mon! Are you kidding?"


"Surely you can spare me at least that much of my dignity?"


"Why not?" He didn't answer. He clearly needed persuading. "Hey, who's in charge of watching over me?" Still no answer. "Is it you?"

"Maybe. What is it to you?" He replied.

"Nothing, just wanted to know who would have to deal with me."

"What do you mean?" Ha! I had piqued his curiosity.

"Well, I don't know how long I'm gonna be stuck here, but I'll wager it's a few days. If you guys keep making me wet myself, I'm going to start smelling really bad." I paused. "You don't want to deal with that, do you?" His face started in realization. He went back to the man sitting with Kyla. The two walked away from her, talking. I kept my eyes of Kyla. She searched for something on the ground. I watched curiously as she found a scrap of paper and scribbled on it with ash. The guard returned, accompanied by five other men, obscuring my view of her.

They untied me, and led me off into the woods. About 20 feet into the forest, they stopped, and formed a circle around me. I figured that asking for privacy would be pushing it.

After I finished, they led me back into the clearing and, once again, bound me to the tree. I remained there, half standing, half leaning against the tree. Regardless, I tried to keep my weight off my right leg. It still throbbed where that fucker had kicked me to determine if I was indeed crippled. If I got out of my bonds, the leader was going first. That fucker was going second.

The next few hours were torture for me. Forced to remain still and unable to protest, I watched Kyla as she navigated the precarious situation I had lost her to. I was shocked when I heard the sound of drunken singing approaching from the path. In moments, The leader and a larger number of his men rose and left. My two guards and a few straggling men who were undoubtedly drunk remained behind. Kyla crept into the forest. I felt relief wash over me. She could get away. But to what end? They would only find her again.

After a few minutes, somebody tapped my shoulder. Startled, I turned my head to find Kyla hiding behind the very tree I was bound to. We conversed silently. I felt increasingly more grateful that I could read lips. She understood me well enough. When the drunken singing in the background suddenly ceased, I knew that the owners of those voices had lost more than their ability to speak. I glanced over at the path. They would return soon. I gestured her to leave and she crept away, returning to where the men had left her.

Hours crawled by. I marked the passing time by the gradual changes in the sky. Hours slowly changed into days. I barely slept. After the first night, it was no longer a matter of comfort. My arms ached, my legs throbbed, and my back was nearly rubbed raw in some places where all-too-inconvenient knots or bumps on the tree's trunk scratched at me with every intake of breath. I was exhausted, but I couldn't bring myself to rest knowing what the thieves' boss might try to impress upon Kyla. The first night, he contented himself to let her sleep next to him. I kept watch over her as best I could. The second night, he insisted on holding her while he slept, clearly suspicious of his men's intentions. The third night, thankfully, he got so drunk that he passed out long before his men went to sleep themselves.

Those hours after the leader passed out and before his men went to sleep were uneasy and frightening. Without anyone in charge, there was no balance. Poor Kyla was at the mercy of the large group. They hit on her tirelessly, but she managed to hold them back, ironically by staying at their boss's side. Through it all, she looked to me often, and I tried to smile encouragingly… I didn't do very well. She often found me glaring murderously at one of the thieves. After everyone had fallen asleep except my guards, I lost hope.

You knew this was coming, I bitterly reminded myself. I hadn't seen or heard any signs of Macyn for three days. He had abandoned me… again. Once again, I found myself imagining the different ways I could kill the leader.

The next time I glanced up, I noticed the last two men, my guards, starting to doze. One slumped over, and then shortly afterwards crashed to the ground unconscious. I glanced over at Kyla. Her attention was resting on the remaining guard. I looked back at him. He had settled himself on the ground, choosing to just go to sleep on his own, rather than literally falling asleep. My heart jumped out of my stomach for the first time in days. Kyla could escape!

She sprung up from the ground and bounced over to me. Immediately she flung her arms around me as best she could, considering my limited mobility at the moment. I tried to convince her to leave. She refused.

We argued, and as our voices got louder, a guard began to stir. Stubbornly, she pulled at the knots that bound me. I knew as well as she did that those knots weren't going anywhere in the next few minutes. I gave rough her directions to Larion, but she continued struggling with the knots in the ropes. The guard threatened to wake any moment.

Kyla was going to miss her chance to escape. I couldn't bear the thought. My eyes roamed the clearing. More men were stirring. Tears ran down Kyla's face as she struggled with the bonds I had utterly failed to overcome in the past three days. I couldn't let her stay for my sake.

"Kyla!" I let go of my walls, my inhibitions, my fear of intimacy or commitment. Desperately, I begged her to leave. "Please!" I suppressed the tears that I know wanted to fall. "I can't watch them hurt you. Go!"

She kissed me, and told me what I had thought I would never be told. "I love you." She stroked my cheek.

"I love you, too" I whispered back, never once pausing to think about what I was saying, what it meant, or even that I could say it at all.

Kyla disappeared from my limited view, and moments later I heard her crash through the first line of shrubs and start into the woods. Soon, I could no longer hear her motion over the calls of nocturnal birds and animals in the dense forest surrounding the clearing.

The guard that had stirred didn't stop and settle back into a peaceful sleep like the other thieves did. He woke, only moments after Kyla could no longer be heard. He glanced back at me drearily. I glared in response, meeting his eye. He smirked and turned to survey the clearing, smugly certain of his superiority over me. I have no doubt that his face dropped when he came to realize what I already knew. Kyla was gone.

He woke the other guard. They quietly exchanged words, and then slowly, reluctantly looked over at their leader. The man who so authoritatively commanded them laid face first in the dirt in the center of the clearing. Apparently his men had felt no need to move him to his usual "bed" after he passed out. I wouldn't want to move somebody that was piss drunk either, even if he was unconscious.

The two guards looked back at each other, and promptly began arguing. Neither of them wanted to wake their leader and tell him that the girl had escaped. This suited me just fine. They ignored me, too involved in their own petty quarrel to notice what I was doing. While they were distracted, I attempted to escape...unsuccessfully.

The ropes that bound me dug into my arms. With every move I made, they burrowed further into my skin, literally rubbing my arms raw as I tried to wiggle my way out, hoping that I could somehow loosen the knots that bound me so tightly. Despite the searing pain, I didn't give up. Kyla was gone, so I didn't have to worry about taking on the entire band of thieves to rescue her before we could escape. So long as the two guards were the only men awake, I needed only to eliminate the two of them. Distracted as they were, I was certain that I could handle it, despite the fact that I was wounded, sore, and completely exhausted.

But to no avail. Try as I might, the ropes we too strong, too tightly tied, and burned too intensely for me to continue struggling for long. I wouldn't have escaped anyways. The guards continued to quarrel, and as the argument became more heated, their voices rose. Inevitably, other men started to stir, woken by the continuing crescendo of the guards' voices. I wasn't long before the leader himself woke.

"Shut the hell up!" he yelled. The guards both snapped their heads his way, immediately silent and attentive. He dragged himself off the ground, unceremoniously wiped drool from his face and glared at them. "What is going on?" The two guards exchanged glances, hesitating. After a few moments of silence, one of them ventured a response.

"Boss, the girl-"

"What about her?" he interjected.

"Well...," the guard paused nervously, " She's gone." The leader had ignored me from the moment he first told his men to bind me and bring me with them back to the camp. For the first time since then, he rested his gaze on me. I stared back, silently. It didn't shock me when I realized that I truly didn't care what was happening. I didn't care what he could do to me. Kyla was gone. She was safe from them. Nothing else mattered.

"Where is she?" the leader asked me, strutting over to me.

"Can't keep track of one little girl, Thiery?" I answered mockingly. A murmer ran through his men when I said his name. Did they honestly think I hadn't heard Kyla use it at least once over the past three days? Thiery's eyes narrowed as he continued to approach threateningly.

"Where is she?" he repeated. I met his gaze, and said nothing at all. Thiery's anger was obvious. Some thief! Couldn't even hide his feelings! I allowed myself a small triumphant smile.

"Answer me, Cripple!" Thiery roared. I met his eyes, and said nothing. I simply smiled. Enraged, Thiery curled his hands into fists. "Last chance," he said, attempting to control the anger in his voice. I said nothing, still smiling. I didn't care what this man thought. I didn't care what he did to me. He couldn't harm Kyla.

He released his fist. I involuntarily let out a yell as it landed on my shoulder. Pain shot up my arm, reminding me of the cut the headhunter gave me over a week ago. The wound opened when his fist connected with my skin, and blood began trickling down my arm, slowly beginning to soak the ropes that aggravated the cut with even the slightest motion.

"Come out, Princess!" Thiery yelled at the forest around us. He walked into the middle of the clearing. "I know you're there!" He laughed. The harsh jarring laughter rung in my ears. "You can't leave him here any more then he could leave you!" His shout echoed, bouncing off the trees. I found it hard to be sure of Kyla's safety when he yelled after her like that….

"She's not here!" I yelled. Thiery laughed.

"Fool." He spat the word out at me. "Do you think that we can't find her?" He approached threateningly. I met his eye, ignoring the pain my body was in and dismissing the fear that surged through me. He would not succeed. He paused, considering me, weighing options, calculating. I met his gaze, refusing to break the eye contact.

"She's not here." I repeated, smiling. He couldn't do a damn thing to me that would hurt any more than everything else I had been through in my life.

"You're pathetic." He sneered, "No friends." He spat the words out. He would never know how right he was, or how much it hurt. "No family." He laughed. "You might as well not exist. I could kill you and leave your body to rot for days, and nobody would know you died. Nobody would care."

My head reeled. Thoughts and memories crowded into my consciousness that I had worked to suppress for years. My strength was faltering, but I refused to cave. I held fast to the only good thing I could think of. Kyla wasn't there. I kept eye contact.

"You're pathetic." I answered. "You're taunting a man that's beaten, starved, deprived of sleep, and tied to a tree. But I suppose I understand your position. After all, you wanted to make sure you were picking on somebody that was an equal. I guess you're almost up to my level at this point." Thiery matched my gaze, but said nothing, clenching his fists. "You lose."

"That's where you're wrong, Pie-Man." He laughed darkly. "You lose." He tilted his head to the side, listening. The leaves in the trees rustled gently in a slight breeze. An owl called out to the night. Crickets chirped. Fallen leaves shifted to either side as a snake slithered by. No evidence of human life.

We both surveyed our surroundings. Thiery's men silently watched the two of us, waiting for the next move. My heart sank to my stomach, and my throat dried up with dread when I heard it. The crunch of fallen leaves was barely audible, but it was audible enough. Thiery heard it as well as I did. An evil grin crept across his face, contorting his features.

I held my chin high, instinctively knowing what was next. He raised he arm, fingers still curled into a fist, and backhanded me across the jaw. My head snapped to the side as I cried out. Thiery raised his arm to hit me again.

A flash of cloth bolted through the clearing. Kyla emerged from the blur and immediately draped her arms around me as best she could. Thiery lowered his fist, and smiled.

"Don't worry, Pie-man." He smirked. "So long as she's here and cooperative, you're safe." He paused, "That is, until we deliver you to the king." Roughly, he jerked Kyla away from me and wrapped his arms around her. "C'mon, Kitten." He pulled her along beside him as he headed towards his bed. His men went back to their beds, and the guards faithfully kept watch the rest of the night, while I brooded.

I couldn't escape my own thoughts. She came back for me. This was my fault. She could have been safe. For the remainder of the night, my thoughts screamed at me. You're shit. The only person that cares about you will die by your own hands. It's all your fault. You're stupid, useless, weak… I angrily stewed for the remainder of the night, waiting for another chance to get Kyla out of there.

Over the next day, my anger slowly became complete and utter despair. I knew deep down that the fate awaiting me couldn't be pleasant, but surely Kyla had something better waiting for her? She did until you messed with it. My own venomous thoughts began to consume me. Was there nothing I could do?

The fourth night came, and slowly the men dropped to sleep. I tried to ignore the gnawing of my stomach. Four days. Four long days. They had given me water, but only enough to prevent dehydration. The night wore on as I tried to ignore the voice in my head harshly reminding me of all the terrible things I had done in my life… I deserved this. I was truly at the lowest point in my life since my father a-

A twig snapped on the path. I turned my head, resting my gaze on the path. Was there someone there? A rush of hope ran through me. A thief on watch woke three of his companions and they ventured down the path, no doubt to investigate the sound before alerting the leader. Minutes passed. They didn't return.

They didn't return! Somebody else was there! One of my guards went and woke the man in charge. He looked up at him, around Kyla's shoulder, clearly irritated. Moments later, every man was awake and their "king" was directing them. Many of them crept into the woods. Others hid themselves in the trees and bushes bordering the path where it connected with the clearing. Some remained with Kyla, the leader, and myself.

Sounds of fighting drifted into the clearing from the forest and the path. It was maddening not knowing what was going on… Were the people coming friends or foes? Then it occurred to me. It must be palace guards. I silently hoped I was right, and there wasn't another notorious band of criminals heading our way. True, palace guards wouldn't change my situation, but at least Kyla would be safe. Unhappy, perhaps, but safe.

My guards left as the "king" gestured for them to take the path and investigate. Soon, just Kyla, the leader, myself, and four men lying ready to ambush remained. I could barely believe that Kyla might actually escape the fate I had given her, again. The idea that Macyn had come back didn't cross my mind…

That is, until he walked into the clearing, bloodstained knife exposed. Could it be? I closed my eyes, looking again, expecting the figment of my imagination to vanish, replaced by a palace guard. Several men entered the clearing after Macyn, armed and clearly ready to fight more. Who were all these people? I resolved myself to help them. There were no guards standing by me to prevent me from speaking.

"Look out!" I called as the four thieves still hiding in the woods leapt from their hiding places. Startled, Macyn's allies turned and countered the attack. In moments, the four ambushers were dead. Only Thiery remained. I silently prayed that I would be allowed to kill the fucker myself. Alas, none of us would get that chance. He gauged his chances, and made a grab for Kyla. Shit.

"Get away from me!" My heart swelled with pride as she drew the knife from her boot and pointed the tip in his chest. He didn't stay to fight her. He turned and bolted into the forest. Nobody dove after him. I didn't blame them. I wouldn't want to get lost in these woods either.

"Are you okay?" Macyn approached Kyla. Three of his companions approached to converse. The others began walking around the clearing looking of things for value.

"Hey! A little help?" I called. Kyla ran past the four men that clearly wanted her attention. It struck me as odd that two of them immediately began wrestling. What the hell?

"Coming, Aden." She approached and used her knife to cut my ropes. Weak from standing in the same position for so long, I slid to the ground, grateful for the chance to stretch my back. "Are you alright?" She knelt beside me. Sore. Tired. Hungry. Exhausted. Injured. Emotionally worn down…

"I'm fine." I smiled, blowing my bangs out of my face again, "I'm just glad you're alright." I paused… "Well, I'm a little hungry too."

"Aww…" Shit, I didn't realize women actually did that! She looked over her shoulder. "Seth!" She paused, looking at the two men wrestling. "Already?" She sighed. "Jasper! Could you bring me that food sitting there?" Macyn and a blonde-haired man approached. The blonde handed her a loaf of bread. Macyn smiled at me.

"Didn't think I'd come back, did ya?" I fixed my eyes on him.

"Can you blame me?" He laughed.

"Consider my debt repaid, brother." Macyn crouched down beside Kyla.

"Friend." I corrected. The blonde handed me the loaf of bread, which I gratefully sank my teeth into.

"Right." Macyn said awkwardly before turning to Kyla, "Now do I get a kiss?" She smacked him playfully on the arm. Kyla leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. I promptly kicked him. "Ow!"

"Don't take advantage of the situation, Asshole." I said. Kyla giggled.

"Where's mine?" The two men who had only seconds before been rolling around on the ground trying to strangle each other rushed over and simultaneously imposed the question. She giggled, kissed them each on the cheek, and then turned and planted one on Jasper's cheek. What the hell?

I had endured the last four days with her! Hell, I had saved her ass more than once before that. C'mon! Did that mean nothing? Then a realization dawned… I was jealous! Ahh! When did that happen?! I didn't say anything. I settled for an angry scowl. She looked at me… I couldn't put my finger on what exactly her expression meant… Something between pity and …adoration? Amusement? Happiness?

My eyes widened as she leaned down and kissed me. The two who had been fighting complained the instant her lips touched mine. Ha! I thought. She chose me! I quickly suppressed the thought. That wasn't good.

"How come he got a real kiss?"

"We saved you! Not him!"

"Yeah! What did he do? He just kinda…. stood there!" She pulled away and turned to look at them.

"Since the moment I left the castle he's done everything he could to take care of me." She paused. "You didn't spend last four days tied to a tree either. It hasn't been easy for him, and I'll bet he never once thought of leaving me." She answered. Of course not!

"Whatever!" One responded. They both pouted… are these two serious? I leaned over to Kyla.

"Who are these guys?" I asked out of the side of my mouth.

"These are my boys." She said simply. Ah. That explained why they acted like spoiled children who had just been denied another cookie. They both stood tall with pride, smiling smugly, as if they had a claim on her. I chose to ignore them and ate the rest of the loaf of bread Jasper had brought over.

"I wish you wouldn't call us that." Jasper complained. So her boys weren't all idiots. That was a relief.

"Oh shush, you know you like it." She ruffled his hair. He grimaced.

"Not to be a killjoy," I interrupted, "But I'd like to get the fuck out of here before that shithead comes back with reinforcements." The two idiots gasped. Jasper raised his eyebrows. Macyn merely smiled at their reactions.

"You can't say that!" The two exclaimed in unison.

"Say what?" I asked. "What the fuck is your problem?" They gasped again, each clapping a hand over one of Kyla's ears. She sighed, rolling her eyes. She gently pushed them off.

"Guys, it's not that big a deal." She intervened.

"But it is!" One answered.

"He's deflowered your virgin ears!!!" The other proclaimed dramatically, as if his world was about to combust. I burst out laughing. These guys can't be serious! Kyla giggled, hiding her smile behind her hand.

Good. I was glad that I wasn't the only one who thought they were retarded. Jasper rolled his eyes and offered me a hand up. Normally, pride would dictate that I stand on my own. But I was tired, sore, and all too ready to find a soft patch of dirt to sleep on.

"Well, Macyn," I turned to him. "You got this far. How does your rescue mission end?" Please say it involves a soft bed and a wonderful feast. Macyn smiled.

"I go home and beat the shit out of anyone who broke into my shop."

"Ah. And by 'you,' you mean me."

"No, but it would be nice if you could convince one of these guys to help me out…" He paused. "I'm asking the wrong person." He turned to Kyla. "Think you could convince one of your friends here to help me out?" She opened her mouth to respond, and I kicked him. "OW!" he cut her off.

"Stop imposing on her! She owes you nothing. You paid your debt. You didn't gainany favors!" She laughed and turned to Jasper.

"Could you?"

"Yeah. Now let's get out of here." They started to walk to the path. I groaned.

"What?" she asked.

"Walking…." I muttered. "My favorite." She laughed, took my arm and let me lead her down the path.

To my enormous relief, twenty minutes down the path an entire herd of horses stood. I had never been so happy to see a horse in my life… including when I stole the midget's… that one wasn't just worth money… That one was personal.

We mounted and rode back to the main path, cutting through some of the undergrowth to reach it. We rode on to the next town and Macyn generously paid for an inn. Kyla and I said our goodbyes, and he left. Her boys were slightly harder to get rid of, if you don't mind the understatement.

"Boys, I'll be fine!" She said.

"With that… that…. Defiler?" These guys were insane. No wonder I thought she was insane at first. This was the company she kept!

"He's not a defiler. He's my knight in shining armor…" She paused, observing the sad state of my clothing, "Or dirty rags."

"I used to have a suit of armor!" One intervened.

"You did not! It was mine!"

"Enough!" Jasper stepped between them. "Don't start fighting again!" He turned to her, "I really think you should come back with us, but…" He eyed me, clearly repulsed, "If you want to go with…your new friend, I won't argue." I suppressed the urge to hit him. I contented myself, knowing that if I wanted to, I could easily beat the shit out of him.

"Thank you." She hugged him, kissed them each on the cheek, and they went on their way.

We entered our room, and I fell to the bed and settled down to sleep. She approached, took off my boots, and laid down next to me. In minutes, she had fallen asleep. I forced myself to stay awake for a few minutes longer, watching her gentle breathing.

Is this what it felt like? Had I truly found… I pushed the thought from my mind, pulled her into my arms, and fell asleep, smiling.

A/N: Hope y'all enjoyed it. Here are Spoon's review responses!

Tainted Petal - Thanks for reviewing!

DarK-FreEdoM - Thanks! I love the scene at the end too! So sweet. As for Aden, well, he's fine for now! Lol. Keep reading and reviewing!

Lady Vagabond - Well, Kyla wasn't able to save him, but Macyn (the unlikely hero) was (along with Kyla's faithful stable boys)! Hehehe. Thanks for the compliment!

Faedora - Well, we work hard on characterization. It's nice to be appreciated. :-) As for wanting to see the world…I think that if my parents were so controlling, I'd be eager to get away too! Who wants to have their future decided for them? Lol. Aden's protectiveness of Kyla is part of his nature. He felt responsible for her at first (since he kidnapped her and thusly put her in danger), began to care for her after that (she wasn't ALL bad), and has (now) even grown to love her. Of course, this doesn't mean that things are all cut and dry for them now.

ChaoticBunny - Yay! I was hoping that someone would think it was worth the wait, though I was sorry that y'all HAD to wait…lol. :-)

awestruck4 - Thank you! So, were you expecting anything like the escape they made? Lol.

Jekodama - Well, Fork was thrilled to hear that you were in love with Aden. lol. We love when people love our characters. Hehehe. Thanks for the wonderful compliments about the development and pace! About Kyla's speech, she's informal for a reason. Most of her childhood was spent around maids, tutors, and the stable boys. They mostly speak informally, other than the tutors. With the tutors, she had to put on an air, a presence of grace and royalty as practice for taking the throne. So, naturally, her "normal setting" wouldn't be the way she spoke/acted in front of them. It would be the way she acted/spoke in front of her friends and mother figures (the maids). So, since most of the story is in an informal setting, she generally speaks and acts somewhat informally. Were she in court or somewhere else formal, she would be very different.

Ivory Dragon - Well, it seemed silly to have them in captivity for four days and cover the majority of it in a few paragraphs. And the whole point wasn't that Kyla got hit on and escaped. There were underlying things like…for the first time, Kyla was in trouble and knew beyond a doubt that Aden couldn't rescue her. And, they said they loved each other and kissed. Big milestone! Kyla realized that Aden couldn't read (Fork's note: which is actually mentioned in the very FIRST chapter when he finds his picture on the church door, if you'll all remember). They suffered together. Overall, it strengthened their bond even more.

SkepticCritic - Awww, thanks! I know just what you mean.

Plinky - Man! I keep forgetting about the tags! Lol. Oh well. At least it's not a big thing. Lol. Hehehe. Yeah. I couldn't think of anything else for her to write on but paper. But it was a moot point since there's no way Aden would be able to read! Lol. That was actually something Fork thought of. I didn't think about it. lol. Not all villains are unattractive! In fact, many are down right gorgeous! Lol. Thanks for your wonderful compliments! You rock! Your reviews rock! Heeheehee.