Ace of Spades

I couldn't see before I came here. I was 'blind,' they had said. They were wrong. I could see three feet in front of me at all times; past that may have been blurry, but that doesn't matter. Being blind means you can't see at all, but I could. Just not very well.

When I came here, I had been fighting for my life. I had been eleven; I had been for ten days exactly. My boyfriend had asked me out naught but three days prior, and my grades were good, and my friends were nice, and my parents were rich and of British decent. I had it good. I lived in America. I was free, but had always thought I was trapped. If only I had known what trapped meant.

My eyes have long since gotten better, though. I suppose that's good, but I'd rather not be able to see all the corpses and ash, or smell them, or be surrounded by them, or sleep knowing the morning would only bring another of them.

Really, this wouldn't be so bad if I wasn't black. I mean, I realize I had a boyfriend, but that's over now. I mean, who'd want to date a freak with giant black wings? Unless, of course, you also happened to have wings. But, he is a red. And I'm a black. Thus, we won't ever be together. And I realize I'm just scribbling on a wall, at the bottom of a pit, where there isn't light until another five miles behind me, while I'll probably be the only person ever to read this, but I just figured I would let you know that this won't end as well as Romeo and Juliet's fates did. Not that winding up dead is all that brilliant, but it's better than what would happen to us.

Actually, he was the first thing my new eyes had seen. Well, not that I had been seeing much. I had been blindfolded most of the journey here. But, when they had finally taken that stupid cloth off of my face, it had been spectacular.

Green, lush fields had meandered for miles around us. Tall, homely trees had towered around us and dotted the horizon. There had been a building there, as grand and imposing as the Greek temples. And there, on the steps between two of these majestic columns, had been him.

Black hair, almost shoulder length, looked almost unkempt but in a cared-for way. He had been about fifteen, I think. His broad shoulders were exposed and his bare chest was lined with muscle, while his long legs had been hidden behind black sweat pants. He had been bare-footed, but still managed to look respectable. And his wings, oh, his wings had been amazing! They had been like shimmering rubies, ornate garnet, slender roses or terrific displays of wondrous beauty! Oh, how they had been!

And don't even get me started on those eyes, that voice! He had been perfect, I swear!

Zia Severin Libonati. He had introduced himself as I had been paraded up the steps beside him. The one on my right had moved to grab his arm too, and he had gone with them obediently! I had, foolishly, figured that anywhere this handsome young man was going was good enough for me. How stupid could I have been?

They had led me to a pit. It was literally a hole, about twenty feet in radius. That means forty in diameter. I had followed them right up to it, as stupid as I was. I didn't have my wings at that point. Zia had been talking with some of the guards, but I hadn't been listening, though I do believe it had something to do with escaping and promising not to do it again. I couldn't take my eyes of off that hole.

Then, Zia had grabbed me by my waist. I had screamed for him to let me go, that it wasn't proper, that I didn't even know him. He had told me to hush up, and then had leapt. I swear, that had been the most frightening bit of my life.

The drop had seemed to last forever, but I don't remember much of it. All I know is that I was scared out of my mind's eye, falling for so long and so fast, and unable to see. It had been pitch black, and we had been falling away from the light, which is the one from the 'sky' as we now call it, and is the one behind me. I can now see in the dark, though I know not why.

Zia had spread his wings out, quite a while after he had dropped. He had seemed to know exactly the precise time to, and we landed safely. He told me to stay silent and to never speak of him again, and to always behave, and to call his name if ever I needed any help. And now, I want his help.

There is a leader of the blacks, of one of our many tribes, who is called Bone Crusher. He is the one who wants me. Apparently, in his mind's eye, I would make a good enough woman for a while. I will be his sixteenth bride. He has been here since before my time.

Apparently, he is almost at the age where he can be claimed, and then he will be gone. I have only seen it happen once before. Usually, we die before we can be. I probably have quite a ways to go, though I don't know how long I've been here.

I only know that I don't want to be his woman. I have heard stories of how cruel he can be to them, and how quickly he disposes of them. But, he has earned his place as leader, and so can claim anything or anyone that he chooses. He has even given me a name. 'Goldilocks,' he calls me, for my long locks of golden hair. I do not like my name.

I sat back and looked at my work. Today's chapter was a basic recap of Zia, and then the 'weekend update,' if it could be called that. I would be summoned to Bone Crusher soon. Frankly, I was quite scared. I was an absolute virgin, and my boyfriend and I had only just gotten to the hand holding stage, before I had been taken. My breasts had never been touched, nor had I Frenched, nor had I …done anything else like that. I knew Bone Crusher would be displeased with my lack of skill, but he would enjoy training me while it lasted. If I lasted.

The last girl had apparently died halfway through. I didn't know how something like that had happened, or even known it was possible. Apparently, he was something called a 'sadist.' I had no idea what I was, but I didn't want to die. Of course, I didn't want to be raped, either, but I had no real say in that.

"Goldilocks, what're you doing way out here?" I turned to see Karl, one of Bone Crusher's more loyal minions.

"Nothing," I whispered, my own voice harsh as coral from the usual lack of speech my days held. I shifted my hand ever so slightly, and felt the writings slide away, leaving only the smooth wall. No way on Earth, or in it, was I going to allow anyone a good look at my thoughts.

"Well, he's ready, so you'd better hurry up and get over there, alright? If you make him wait, he'll only be meaner to you. You wouldn't like him when he's pissed."

Yes, I knew that.

I also knew resisting would only give me a beating, so I left with him. Maybe Bone Crusher wouldn't be in that 'mood' when he saw me. If only.

When Karl got me to the place where they all stayed, he shoved me into one of the maids. She led me aside. I knew what was coming.

The maids were girls who were deemed attractive by the leader. They were naked. They brought food from the stashes and drinks from the wells. They served the men in power, if the leader gave them his blessing. Most men within his inner and slightly-extended circles had the blessings. The girls were supposed to do anything they were asked. I had seen it happen before. The first time is always public, in the food-area, under the light, for all to see. The leader rapes her, and then leaves her. Anyone else who wants a go is welcomed.

Sometimes, they are told to do things to each other. I have seen that, too. It was disgusting. Neither girl wanted to do it, but they were told to, so they had to. The places they put their fingers and faces and tongues, the things they did, the ways they moved. It had been gross.

But I was to be a wife, so my first would not be as public. It would be in front of the fire, for only the maids and the inner circle to see. Bone Crusher would rape me, and then an 'orgy' would follow. I didn't want to. But, if I did, there was a chance of living. If I didn't, then I would be beaten, raped in public, and killed, and my blood would be drained and used as water for the poorer and weaker of our kind. I would join the corpses, and I did not want to.

So, I was stripped by the girl, who mumbled an apology in my ear as she did so. I did not blame her. It was her job, and her life was on the line. Any life at all is better than no life at all.

"Zia, save me," I pleaded, as I was led back to the fire. Bone Crusher was already there. I could recognize him from the many rapes I had been forced to witness, and also by the fact that he was the only of the males who happened to be naked. Karl was beside him, with a strange look in his eyes. I had a feeling he would be enjoying this just a bit too much.

"Come to me, my sweet Goldilocks," whispered my dictator, "I am aroused already, and have not even felt your touch. Come and aid me; relieve me of my suffering."

I knew I had matured. In the bit of time I had been here, my breasts had grown just a bit, and myself had started changing. I now had hair. I was thin, but not bony, and had enough muscle to stay safe. My wings were beautiful. I was not perfect, but I knew I was not unattractive. I constantly wished I was ugly. If I were, then I would not be bothered.

Yet, I could see that he was in need of a woman's touch, and making him wait would be stupid, and could end my existence.

I could not bring myself to step forwards. I was frozen in my place, and could see him growing angry.

"What?" he questioned. "Am I not good enough for a woman like you? Stupid bitch, I'll kill you for-"

"Touch her, and you will die."

Bone Crusher wiped the blood from the gash in his face. "Just who the Hell do you think you are?" I shuddered. Hell was a bad word. It was the place worse than anything Earth could conceive of. If Hell was worse than this, I'd rather not go there. "Well?" he demanded.

"I am known as Scythe. As you can see, I am a red. She is my woman. Touch her, and you will die." The man stood roughly a few inches more than six feet tall, with black hair and a deep voice. He, like most who had been here a long time, was slim. However, he did not seem as boney and depraved as most. When he turned to look at me, his brown eyes betrayed no thoughts of injustice or immorality, and certainly he was not so wanton as Bone Crusher. He looked almost familiar, but I did not know any red, save for Zia.

"Who are you?" I asked him. He jutted his hand, in a quick, precise motion, and the earth around me shifted. The ash at my feet sprung up from its desolate and lacking lifestyle, and swirled around me. It melded together, and formed a barrier, which drew itself in tightly to my skin. When it was done, I was in a lovely satin black dress, and my hair had been pinned up behind my head. It felt like the clothing I had worn often times at home.

"Did you not call for the help of the Master Libonati?"

"I did."

"Then, why are you surprised to see him before you?"

I could feel the wheels in my head spinning, and felt a wave of dread wash over me.

"Zia," I whispered, "how long have I been here? How old am I now?" If I didn't even recognize him, then how long could it have been? More than a few weeks. More than a few months, if he looked like that. "Zia," I could hear my own hoarse voice shaking, and cursed myself for the weakness. "Zia, why won't you answer me?"

He turned his head away, and took my hand in his. Bone Crusher made a move to protest my removal, but Zia quickly cut him off with the wave of a crimson broadsword.

"What part," he asked, "of 'touch her and die' did you not understand?" without turning, he dropped his sword, which turned to ashes as it hit the ground. He twitched his hand in a different way, and Bone Crusher was shoved to the side, into a wall, which was really just one of the pillars that held this place up. It was suicide to climb more than a third the way up them, but if you got that far, you didn't have to bother with anyone else. I had flown up there once. Or, at least, tried to.

Zia pulled me away again, as Bone Crusher's private army ran to his aid. If he was mainly uninjured, he could keep his place. If he was seriously hurt, he would be killed, and the next guy would take his place. It was a sad world that I lived in. it seemed like there was never a shortage of loony people, and far too few of the good ones.

I pulled my wrist out of his hand as Zia passed through the center of the light. This was mutual ground, but any farther, and I'd be on red territory. I didn't want to die. Not yet.

Zia turned to face me. His eyes were so big, so dark, so trustworthy. Until I remembered where I was, and that if it hadn't been for him, I might be free right now.

"Where are you taking me?" I hissed. "To the other side? Where I'll be killed on the spot? Then, why even save me to begin with?" He said nothing. "How long have I been down here?" Still nothing. "How'd you hear me, from the entire other side?" His silence would get him killed some day. It was really starting to bug me. "If you're mad at me, then just say it!"

"Mad?" his eyebrows shot up, and he looked genuinely surprised. I believed him, until he continued with, "Who could be mad, over something like this? I mean, when you tell someone they can call on you when they're in trouble, especially after flying them safely down into a cavern that would kill most people just by the concept of it, you kind of start to expect a call of sorts, and begin to worry and keep tabs on them after about a week. I mean, is it unreasonable to expect them to ask you for food when they're starving? Or, water when they thirst? And, it's just insane to think that they might ask for a shelter, in vain or not, after their third month of sleeping in the cold, damp, mucky ashes they live in? I mean, honestly, who could ever be mad?" his eyes were gleaming with an emotion I couldn't identify. It was more than just anger, it was…concern? No, that wasn't quite it. More along the lines of… I really didn't know, but whatever it was, it was fierce. "Rose, of course I'm mad. You didn't call me for four, almost five years. Who wouldn't be mad?"

"I-" I swallowed. "I'm sorry, I just didn't think that you'd want to be bothered by my complaining. I just… I never thought that I was troubled more than anyone else, which means if I went to you about things that you were going through…and besides, you're red, and I'm black, so, so…"

"So? None of that stuff matters to me, Rose. You matter to me, not anything else. I can be the poorest man alive, and you the richest woman, and you could complain to me about your butler not preparing your stew properly, and I wouldn't mind it, because it would be you. Tracelynn, you could never to anything to offend me, except to ignore me, which is the one thing you did do. Rose, I just wanted you to call me, to think of me…"

"Of course I thought of you! I thought of you every day! All I wanted was to see you again! Wait, five years?" I could feel the Din spinning around me. "I'm sixteen… I've been here for five years… five…"

"Almost. It's still three months until then, so I think you're still only fifteen. Now, that's not too long of a time, considering I've been here about sixteen or so. Now, what was that about you loving me always?"

"Sixteen? How could you last that long? That's insane! How aren't you dead yet?"

"Yes, it's tragic. Now, about your endless love?"

"You must have gotten here when you were, like, five!"

"I was five, actually. Now, Tracelynn Rosemarie, could you please continue about your love for me?"

"Is this just some joke to you? There's no way a five-year-old could ever survive down here! And, before you say anything, I never said anything about loving you!"

"Yes, you did. I remember it distinctly. It went 'Zia, my beloved, you saved me not only once, but twice, even though we belong on different sides! How may I ever repay you?' 'Nonsense, dearest, your beautiful smile is all I need in return.' 'Oh, thank all that is good in this world! I'm so happy I fell in love with a man so kind as you, my precious. And, I swear to always love you, regardless of whatever may happen!' And then, we had a really endearing moment, where we flew through the skies as graceful as two swans, and you pledged yourself to me, and we were married and had five kids. It was a lovely dream, really, but just to hear the word 'love' out of your mouth would be enough for me, for now."

I hit him. Not some sissy punch from the girl next door, a real, full-on punch that made even a grown man like him stumble.

"No. not even in your dreams, and if you ever talk, dream, or fantasize like that again, I'll kick your ass so hard, you won't believe what hit it. Understood?"

He looked right at me, grinning like an idiot.

"Well, at least I got you to stop moping around."