Another late update! I'm really sorry:(
My dad is hospitalized and i've been worrying instead of writing to be honest and again i'm sorry!

THIS CHAPTER IS DEDICATED TO TORTURED BREATH!
because only she knows what a crappy chapter this was before she betaed it! Thank you so much for your help!!

the next chapter is half done, but i've also got some exams coming up. so the next update might be sometime next month:)

CHAPTER 7

Demanding. . .

Powerful. . .

That was how his lips felt against hers.

But the kiss had started gentle, a sweet sensation stirring havoc inside her. Surprised, she gasped. The mistaken breath was taken as a sign of permission; he delved deeper, prying her lips open.

A rough hand came up to cup her face drawing her closer, he crushed her against him as his other arm wrapped around her waist possessively, pulling her closer.

"Taline" he groaned, the deep voice traveling to her ears and down her spine, sending goose bumps fluttering across her skin.

My God, she could listen to him forever.

The kiss started building, growing desperate. She found herself clinging to him, thinking that if she let go, she would be letting go for forever.

He responded in kind by trailing his lips across her jaw, down the side of her neck, lingering there. Her eyes closed of their own accord and she let out a low moan. Her own voice sounded alien.

He smiled against her pounding pulse for a small moment only to lift his head away, the loss of his hot breath was painfully noted

He gazed down upon her, showing his face for the first time. The rich brown of his eyes were intense and she could feel herself getting lost in them.

Prince Xoàn…

X – x – x – x – x – x – x – x – x – X

Taline snapped her eyes open, breathing heavily. She tried to place her hand over her racing heart, but found it painful. Slowly, she became aware of every aching muscle in her body.

Christ, it felt like she'd crushed all of her bones.

Suddenly images of golden sand and blood invaded her mind and she remembered the fall she'd taken.

Her vision was blurry, barley able to make out the outline of strangers, or shapes, leaning against the walls of the dark rectangle room. Despite her body's protests she tried to sit up, only to be pushed right back down by the figure closest to her.

The searing pain didn't allow her to think of much else or be afraid, she felt helpless, groaning in agony. Blinking, she tried to make her eyes adjust, clearing the blurriness and trying to see through the dark.

"Hush girl, if you know what's best for you." the figure told her, bringing the hand that had pressed her down to rest gently over her mouth.

It took Taline a few moments to realize that the voice was feminine, but her eyes were only able to pick up long wavy black hair and dark skin.

"It is safer to stay unconscious," the soft voice continued, making sure Taline was silent. "An unconscious slave is harder to sell off."

Taline frowned, not really sure what she meant, still feeling disoriented. Her vision slowly cleared in the dark surroundings. Small rays of light spread out from different cracks, cutting through the dark. It was the only source of light.

"Where am I?" Taline managed to groan.

The woman smiled, sadness tugging on the corners of her mouth. She just shook her head in reply.

She doesn't know either.

"My name is Ginta. Were you sold or did they kidnap you too?" the woman asked.

The question triggered something inside Taline; more images and sounds. From the bad circus date to the faint sound of horses as she'd lied motionless on the sand.

Oh my God, I'm kidnapped.

It seemed her expression was enough. "Most of us were kidnapped."

It caused Taline to looked around again. Her bettered sight picked up more detail.

It wasn't a room she realized; it was rather a caravan of some sort. There were fifteen to twenty people in there with her, most of them clad in dirty rags, barefoot. To her horror, she realized that nearly all of them were young, nothing but children. The youngest seemed to be around five, curled up in a ball in the corner, crying.

Her insides twisted in to a knot.

The thought that small children are easier to kidnap came into her mind for a split second.

Their parents, God, their parents must be worried sick about them.

Her blue eyes stumbled upon another figure, leaned against the far side of the wall.

Taline stared at the boy. Out of all the children she could see, he must be the oldest. Somewhere between 13 and 15, he couldn't be more than a few years younger than herself.

With his legs crossed, he sat with his arms folded neatly in his lap and stared silently at the wall. His short hair was in disarray, as if he'd chopped it off with a ragged knife. There was a faint rich brown in his eyes, as if to give a hint of what used to be.

"Naira rarely speaks." Ginta told her, noticing her inquisitive stare.

One of the walls suddenly opened, pouring light into the small space and summoning a testy silence inside. Even the smallest of the children had stopped their crying and hid their faces between their small arms and feet, as if to shield them from danger.

Despite fear tingling across her nerve endings, Taline found herself raising her head to take a look, curiosity overwhelming any sort of fear. She was quickly pushed down again by Ginta as the woman gave her a firm look.

"Close your eyes and pretend to sleep." she instructed.

Her grave tone didn't give Taline a second thought about her intentions. She shut her eyes firmly at first, then gradually began to open them.

Curiosity would be the death of her. Leonas had told her that.

The young man who stepped inside looked familiar, though she couldn't recall where she'd seen that great mop of black curls and yellow teeth.

Is she dead, Manjan?

A dream or a memory? She didn't know, but found quickly that she didn't like this man at all.

"She's not up yet, huh?" he asked, bobbing his head in Taline's direction. It took every bit of her strength not to move, as she felt his intense gaze on her.

No one answered him, but Ginta shook her head firmly. Manjan gave a short smile that didn't quite reach his eyes.

He doesn't believe her.

Slowly, he approached.

Ginta's hand was still firmly resting over Taline's stomach, a comfort and a warning that told her to keep faking sleep. Manjan lazily slapped the woman's hand away and traced his hand over her stomach as a replacement.

Sweat dampened her forehead, as she fought the urge to jerk away from the disgusting man.

His hands travelled upwards, past her ribs and rested on her chest. Her body went rigid at that and anger pooled in her mind. She wanted to bite his hands off, but forced her mind to follow Ginta's advice. If there was one thing she needed to realise more than ever in that moment, Taline told herself, then it was that this wasn't her world. She should try listening to those who knew of Sareth and stop acting solely on her impulses.

"Now that's strange." Manjan spoke up, his tone a mixture of amusement and suspicion. "Her heart's strong. Beating very, very fast…"

Busted.

Taline knew, he'd figured it out. Now there was a choice of still faking it or try one of her karate moves on him.

None of them seemed feasible though.

Damn.

His eyes narrowed dangerously.

"That is what happens when you dream." An unfamiliar voice spoke up from the far side of the wall. "Perhaps, she is having a nightmare?"

Silence settled inside the caravan again, brewing a tension thick enough to strangle someone with. Looking up from Taline, Manjan stumbled with the word "Perhaps."

He didn't sound too convinced.

"You may take your hand of her breast now." the same voice spoke up again, firm and daring.

At first the man's eyes widened as if he'd been struck in the face, then he smiled. He didn't release his hold immediately but rather took his time. His dirt covered hands rested directly over her heart before pulling away and striding over to the far side of the wall.

Ginta's hand was immediately over her again, pushing Taline back down with a warning, when the girl had decided enough was enough. This time the woman's hand covered her mouth. The slave gently placed Taline's head in her lap, a position that allowed her to see where Manjan had gone to.

The man was standing in front of Naira. A determined face on both their faces, as neither backed down. It took a second for Taline to realize that the little boy had been the one who'd saved her.

Suddenly, Manjan slapped him hard across the face which sent the boy sprawling to the floor and walked out of the caravan, shutting the door with a thud. The sound started a headache for Taline.

No one said anything.

Horrified, Taline stared at Naira who had slowly got up again. He was trembling, but none of the determination on his face had lessened. There seemed to be more of it now than before.

"Are you all right?" Taline breathed.

The boy didn't respond, merely staring at the wall again while he dusted off the dirt from his clothes and sat back into his earlier position, hands clasped in his lap.

"Thank you." Taline managed before dark spots started to claim her vision and soon she fell into unconsciousness again.

X – x – x – x – x – x – x – x – x – X

She'd woken up shortly after falling unconscious.

That was at least what Ginta had told her. The woman had been amazing to her. Kind and gentle, she looked after her wounds and made sure there weren't any infections.

"My husband was a healer." she told Taline, bandaging a deep cut with a torn piece of cloth from her dress. "A clumsy healer, but a good man."

"I'm sure he's looking for you."

A small silence settled between them.

Shifting so that she could look up at the woman's face, Taline realised that Ginta was crying. Silent tears slid down dark cheeks and were wiped away just as they reached her chin. "He died trying to save me from this." she gestured at the caravan.

Her gentle hands settled over Taline's forehead again, caressing and combing her hair.

The motion was so motherly and heartfelt, that it made Taline wonder if Ginta really was a mother.

What if there is an orphan out there?

In a world like this, it wouldn't survive alone for long.

For some reason, her determination to see the prince grew beyond her other desires. She wanted to slap him hard across his face and tell him how his kingdom had gone to hell.

"I'm going to put an end to all this." Taline promised fiercely.

Ginta gave her a look of amused disbelief and stroked her hair. "Slave trading has been common for thousands of years, how can a girl change it in one lifetime?"

Deciding that Xoàn's version would be the most comforting for Ginta, Taline pushed herself into a sitting position and said "Because I am Gaia, Prince Xoàn of Sareth's Earthian."

That had to be the strangest words she'd ever tested out, but it oddly gave her a sense of power. A feeling of being able to accomplish anything. It lasted for about half a second as a small laughter chimed in.

Naira was looking directly at them, laughing without any mirth. "You are not the only one to claim that title. Ever since the word of Gaia spread from Zerion, impostors have risen from every corner of our world." he told them in a hoarse voice that sounded as if his throat wasn't used to being able to speak. "Just inside this cavern, there are four people who've claimed to be who you say you are."

Taline looked uncertain from Naria to Ginta in front of her. The dark skinned woman looked as if she couldn't believe her eyes. She'd told Taline that the boy never spoke, usually.

"Prove it then." he suddenly challenged testily. "An Earthian is said to be powerful. They can wield fire and restore life to the dead. Can you do that?"

Silence settled inside the room. Even the crying had stopped to listen in on the conversation. Everyone was looking expectantly at Taline, as if waiting for her to burst into a thousand bubbles of light or something.

Great. They have prophecies.

That wasn't going to make the proving anymore easier and she really wanted Ginta to regain some of the hope she'd lost.

But she couldn't do any of the things Naria had been told an Earthian could do.

"I expected nothing." the boy scoffed, going back into the same position, arms clasped in his lap and sitting straight, staring blankly at the far side of the wall.

Taline felt her energy failing from the effort of sitting up straight and she started falling back down. Ginta was there again, grabbing a hold of her before meeting the cold floor and rested her head in the woman's lap.

The last thing she remembered before blacking out again was the faint sound of a broken voice, distantly singing about lost love and hope.