I watched the procession of men, all of them brawny and tall, as they walked past me into the Sariu. The Sariu is…well, it's the place for people like them, and for people like me. The ones who didn't fit in the village; who weren't 'normal'. Basically, we were too strong or too pretty to live in the village without freaking people out. Those who were 'too strong' became the Warriors of the village and the ones who were 'too pretty' were virtually Servants to the Warriors. Not the nasty kind of servant; no. Servants did actual servant things; serve food, draw baths, tend wounds, welcome guests—if we ever have any—and the like. The Servants were actually well respected in the Sariu; it was near law. Most Warriors abided by the rule; some actually believe that the Servants have nothing for themselves past their looks. For the record, there have been many occasions when Servants showed some serious strength.
And what category am I under, you ask? Well, I thought it'd be obvious, but I guess not. I was too beautiful for my own good and got landed in the Sariu, serving the Warriors. In my opinion, I wasn't that attractive; I probably wouldn't've ended up here if my features weren't, in fact, so strange. Actually, I was fairly strong and could've became a Warrior, had it not been for my features. I was secretly anointed for the Warrior sect, I had the sword and everything, but in my whole life I've only ever picked it up twice. While I can hold my own in a fight…becoming a Warrior was out of the question. I was soft and I knew it. That's the way I was raised.
Someone smacked the back of my head and I quickly ducked it—we were technically supposed to keep our head bowed at all times when the Warriors returned—as the Captain and his First Militia marched in last. It was legend, Captain Rage and his team of four. No matter the number, no matter the strength, the First Militia has never lost. They were highly valued and respected in the Sariu and were always served first and by the best and prettiest Servants. I was one of them; I either served the Captain or his right hand, the Berserker. I didn't know his real name; no one knew it. Contrary to his name, though, he was always fairly nice to me and didn't try to grope me like how some of the other Militias did.
As we headed inside after the Warriors, my best friend Celeste came up beside me, eyeing the Captain, as she always did. In my opinion, Celeste was the most beautiful girl in the whole Sariu, with natural features that dazzled all. She was tall—just a bit shorter than me—with a fit, yet curvy and sensuous, body. Her hair was long and thick, in a pretty shade of dark teal, complimenting her slightly tan skin and sea foam green eyes. She was a sea Succubus; anything that had to do with the sea was her forte—the animals, the plants, the water itself. She looked away from the Captain, up at me.
"Snow, you're so lucky. You get to serve the two hottest men in all of the Sariu…well, in the Warrior sect anyway." She sighed wistfully. "I wish I could, just to have them smile at me when I serve them their caé."
The Captain was the tallest Warrior in the whole force. He wasn't the buffest, but he was definitely the strongest, power-wise. He had dark, dark straight red hair that he kept trimmed in the back, with long bangs in the front. His eyes were narrow and almond shaped, and a fiery orange color. His skin was a smooth dark tan, marred in many places by scars from battles. He was a fire Incubus. Everyone wanted to hop in his bed…except for me.
The Berserker was nearly as tall as the Captain, and he was definitely was the buffest. He has a shock of electric blue hair, worn messily and uncombed, and his eyes were narrow and nearly white. His skin was pale and just as scarred as the Captain's, but he had symbols of the ancient language etched into the flesh of his arms. He was a lightning Incubus. Overall, he carried this insane look about him, but if anyone took the moment to get to know him, they'd realize that he was pretty nice off the battlefield.
"The Captain doesn't smile."
"Berserker does." She rolled her eyes. "You're missing the point, though. Wouldn't you just love it if one of them groped your ass as you bend down, or have them smirk at you suggestively?"
I pretended to think for a second. "No."
"You're such a prude." She quieted down as we reached the eating hall of the Warriors, grabbing my arm as we headed down to the special room for the First Militia. "But I love you for it."
Behind us, Deci sighed. Deci, my other best friend, was an animal Incubus; he loved all animals—cold and hot blooded. That did include people…and he really liked to show how much he loved people, which is why most called him a slut, but that was just wrong. If a person wanted to get really technical, Deci was probably the most naïve, innocent person anyone could meet. He was absolutely the sweetest person ever. He looked completely innocent too, with his long, wild, dark brown hair and open hazel eyes and always blushing baby face.
"Snow's not a prude. He doesn't want people groping him, then that's how it is." He frowned at Celeste. "You shouldn't say something so mean, Celie."
At that point, we reached the double doors leading to the First Militia dinning quarters and the girl in front—Violet, a shadow Succubus—opened the doors. Celeste closed her mouth, ending the retort she was about to say to Deci, and relented to roll her eyes at me. I ignored her as we entered the bright lit room, shining the glinting golds and silvers and highlighting the bright colors in reds, blues, and purples. All the Servants lined up horizontally in front of the door, the last person entering left to close the door. For some reason, I always ended up in the middle; I think the others did it on purpose. Deci was to my left and Celeste to my right.
We stood silently and waited for the Warriors to be ready to eat. We did this nearly every day; host in the Warriors, serve them food, draw their baths—bathing them depending on the Warrior—and prepare them for bed. It sounds monotonous, but living with the Warriors of the First Militia was never a boring event. They were very lively and boisterous and friendly, save the Captain, and actually enjoyed spending their time entertaining us with stories from their outings. Servants weren't allowed too far from the Sariu, unless given specific orders from the Aluin, so we pretty much had a narrow view on the outside world. I wanted to see the outside world badly, but that was never going to happen. The only Servants that ever got an order to go out were always the least prettiest and there was only one other way a Servant would see the outside world. Through bond and matrimony. But because most Servants never really are able to get out, therefore not being able to see others, most Servants end up married to Warriors. Therefore, they most likely wouldn't have been able to leave the Sariu, anyway. Besides, I wasn't getting married any time soon. Not. At. All.
The always rowdy First Militia finally settled down enough to eat and the Captain signaled for us to begin serving. I first approached the Captain, as was my job, but he waved me away. I guess he wasn't hungry. I bet he'll be starving later and I'll have to go and fetch him something from the kitchens. With an inward sigh, I veered towards the Berserker, who sat to the right of the Captain. I bowed low and began to serve him his food. He gave me a big grin.
"Snow! How have ya been, scout? Man, I haven't seen your pretty face in ages."
Today the kitchens brought out fish; fish was the Berserker's favorite. I served him two fat slices, with a side of firetes—a vegetable—sautéed in gré—a type of berry—and drizzled with honey. Used to my lack of response at this point, Berserker clapped his hands together, eyeing the food, and licked his lips with an appreciative hum.
"Ya always know my favorite, Snow."
I nodded and lifted a slightly cracked jug to pour his caé into a cup. Caé is a really sweet, warm, cream colored liquor, usually drunk during meals or at informal social gatherings. The First Militia always drank caé, no matter the time, and always managed to get completely wasted on the beverage. Berserker raised his cup and tasted it before grimacing slightly and holding it out to me.
"I just canna do it, Snow. I like my caé icy cold, no matter what anyone says." I said nothing but leaned down to blow lightly on the rim of his cup until small snowflakes formed on the top of the caé. He raised the cups to his lips and sipped, sighing approvingly. "Perfect, simply perfect. Thanks, oh mighty Snowman."
I nodded and bowed at him before turning to glance at the Captain. He was tense, sitting ramrod straight and staring directly ahead; his jaw was clenched tightly, as were his fists on his lap, and his whole face was tight. Curious, I turned back to Berserker questioningly.
He also glanced at the Captain and shook his head. "Just in one of his moods. You guys don't usually see him like this because he usually lets out all his steam before returning back to the Sariu. But see, we got orders tah return immediately." He shrugged. "Dunno why, but the Aluin seemed pretty stressed."
I frowned. He was right; the whole Sariu has been tense since the Aluin returned from a meeting with the High Council. No one knew what was going on, but only a few days after his return, we got orders to prepare for the return of the Warriors, nearly a whole week before their set time. I'd be pretty pissed too, if I had to return to this place before I had planned.
Berserker suddenly looked up at me with a mischievous smirk. "Hey, I got an idea." I looked at him questionably. "Don't worry about it, just follow me after dinner."
It was in my right to deny what he wanted, but I was curious as to what he had planned. The Captain was notoriously known for being harder to crack than a rock, but if there was one person who could always manage to, it was the Berserker. So I nodded, rewarded with a bright grin from him.
Immediately after dinner ended, separate servants—in a way, servants to us higher Servants—came to take away the dishes, the Captain rose and exited the room, without an escort. Berserker frowned, but flipped it to a smile when he caught me looking. He stood, towering nearly a head taller than me, and clapped a hand on my shoulder.
"Come'n then, scout. Time tah execute plan: Cheer up the boss." He set his face in a mock determined expression and directed me out of the room.
The only person I ever served in the First Militia after dinner was Berserker. I usually only drew his bath, waited until he finished, and then helped him for bed. I never served the Captain; he usually chose someone else to do that. Most would take that as an insult—people get crazy ideas in their head about the First Militia—but I didn't. Personally, I preferred it that way. I didn't like the Captain one bit and I was pretty sure he didn't like me. I've hated him since the first time I met him, ten years ago.
Berserker led me down the hall to his room, but went straight past his door, to the next one. The door leading to the Captain's room, I bet. So this was his plan, have me tend to the Captain. Too late to back out now. He would probably deny me anyway. Berserker knocked, loud and hard, and when the Captain opened the door, grabbed my hand and barged right inside. The Captain slammed the door and glared at Berserker.
"What the fuck are you doing?"
Berserker pushed me forward. "Doing ya a favor. Ya're insanely tense and ya need tah relax." He put his large hand on my head. "This guy here gives the best massages ever. I swear it tah ya; you'll fall asleep under his hands."
Well, I wouldn't go that far, but people have told me that I gave great massages. Possibly because my hands were naturally cold, freezing the tension straight from the muscles. I didn't give many people massages, and Berserker knew this, and yet he's offering me to the Captain. Whom I don't like.
The Captain didn't look at me, but increased his glare at Berserker. "No."
"Aw, come'n." He moved forward. "Imagine it. He draws a nice bath for ya, and when ya get out, he's there waiting." He made weird rubbing motions with his hands. "Ready tah rub away all the bad stuff."
The Captain was unrelenting. "No."
"Yes. Ya need this."
"No, Serk." Woah, the Captain had a nickname for the Berserker? Serk, so cute.
The Captain stopped and blinked, looking away. "Don't want it."
"Ya say that now; wait till he starts. You'll be begging for more." Berserker nodded with finality, grinning playfully before quickly exiting the room, closing the door softly behind him.
The Captain growled at the closed door, fist tightening at his sides. I bit my lip and stood there awkwardly before turning for the bathing room. His voice stopped me before I took two steps.
"Where are you going?"
I glanced back at him quickly before looking away. "To go draw your bath."
He didn't respond, which I guessed was the okay. His bathing room was nice; his tub was a lot bigger than Berserker's and was actually built into the ground, with steps and everything. Years of practice made it quick and easy for me to fill his tub, and before much time passed I was returning his bedroom. What I saw made me gasp slightly.
He was in the process of removing his clothes, his shirt already off. Along his back were multitudes of scars, all different sizes and colors, and some jagged while others were a perfect straight line. One in particular stood out, a long one starting from his right shoulder and going straight across his back to curve on his left hip. It was nothing but a rope of scar tissue, a dark angry red. He whipped around and I looked down, gnawing on my lip. Two long heartbeats of silence passed.
"Your…bath is ready. You should get in before it gets too cold." I don't know if he nodded or not, but he strode past me into the bathing room.
It was only ten minutes later when he exited the bathing room, dripping wet and a towel wrapped around his waist. He didn't glance at me but went to his bed and sat on the edge. I waited until he was ready to speak; no reason to freak him out and make him yell at me. He rubbed his neck before glancing up at me.
"So, how do we do this?"
I blinked, surprised. "Well, I guess…you lay down…on your front and…I'll do the rest."
He nodded and turned to lay face down on his bed. I cautiously approached him, thinking he was only faking and was going to jump up and attack me or something. He didn't do that when I reached the side of the bed, and I relaxed slightly. I could see the tension rolling between his shoulders and down his back. On his forearm, I noticed symbols of our ancient language going down the underside. Did all Warriors have that? I frowned and shook my head, clearing my thoughts. I carefully sat down beside him on the bed, pausing when he tensed further, and placed my hands on his shoulders. He shivered.
"Sorry, my hands are cold. But others say it really helps."
He gave a barely perceptible nod and I applied a slight pressure, slowly moving my hands along the curve of his shoulders. I used the pad of my thumb to rub away all the little knots and tension bumps, doing the same with the ball of my palm. The scars on his back felt weird under my hand, and I was hesitant to apply any pressure on them.
"It's fine. It doesn't hurt."
I nodded, even though he couldn't see me, and rubbed circles down his back. Throughout the rest, it was silent. He would occasionally give a small, almost nonexistent sigh and I could feel him relax under my hands. When I was finally done, my arms were stiff and my fingers were unusually warm from the friction. I stood and stretched with a sigh. He really was insanely tense; it took me nearly an hour just to rub out the knots and kinks. Behind me, he shifted and sat up, rolling his shoulders. I smirked slightly at his surprised expression. When he looked up at me, I bowed.
"Have a good night, Captain." Without waiting for his response, I walked towards the door. I was reaching for the doorknob when he finally spoke up.
I snorted. "Just doing my job." I opened the door and left.
After servicing a Warrior, a Servant was given the freedom to do as they pleased until the next day, unless their help was required beforehand. I usually spent the rest of my night reading or talking with Celeste and Deci. No doubt they're going to question why I was out so late; I was going to tell them. I bet they'll flip a lid.
The next morning, the Captain acted as if nothing happened, but Berserker was grinning like an idiot. I ignored them both. All through breakfast, though, Deci and Celeste laughed at me. They knew how much I hated the Captain and thought it was hilarious. I was happy when breakfast ended and the First Militia went to…go do whatever it is Warriors do when back at the Sariu. The Servants pretty much lazed around until they were called for something.
This morning, though, I was called to the Aluin's office an hour after breakfast. I racked my brain for anything wrong I could've possibly done and came up with nothing. Even Deci and Celeste were confused. The Aluin's assistant, a pretty summer Succubus with curly, bright blonde hair and huge sky blue eyes, led me to his office. I haven't been in his office since I first moved into the Sariu, nearly eleven years ago at the tender age of seven. Before, I had been terrified for my life; my parents were average people with average lives and average jobs. Everything I knew about the Sariu had been stories and myths; the villagers didn't know much the Sariu, unless you were a retired Warrior or Servant, and they would always lie and tell ridiculous stories.
The Succubus stopped in front of elaborate double doors, etched with ruins of our ancient language, and glanced back at me. I arched an eyebrow at her and she gave me a single nod before moving to open the doors.
The office of the Aluin wasn't very elaborate, as one would expect it to be. It was pretty normal, with a single huge window looking out into the forest a ways off and a large mahogany desk with two plush chairs in front of it. Sitting in the desk chair was the Aluin, a shadow Incubus. The Aluin had been, a long time ago, a Servant just as I was. He was actually known as one of the most beautiful Incubi in the whole village history. His hair was inky black and curled slightly at the edges, falling straight down his back to nearly his waist; his eyes were wide and vibrant purple, framed by thick lashes. His face was rather feminine, but he carried an air of dominance and masculinity that demanded respect. He was, in fact, married to a Warrior.
I stepped inside all the way at the assistance's urging and noticed someone sitting in one of the chairs. It was the Captain, looking just as confused as I was and pissed. Berserker stood—always to the right—beside him, also looking confused, but wearing a huge, happy grin. His normal look, then. I arched a brow and looked to the Aluin for an answer. His face was drawn tight and he looked stressed.
"Snow. Please, take a seat." I sat in the chair and the assistant bowed and left. The Aluin looked between me and the Captain. "Snow, Rage, I am sure you both are bewildered as to why you are here, yes?"
Berserker snorted. "I'll say. Why am I here?"
"In time, Berserker. I hope you all recall the current meeting I attended for the High Council? Well…there seems to be some trouble with the village people."
The Captain leaned forward. "The village? Has something happened down there?"
The Aluin grimaced. "Not…exactly. It would seem that they are questioning what we do here in the Sariu. The villagers don't feel safe living near a place that trains men with strong abilities into even stronger men."
"But the Sariu has been around for centuries! Wha' complaint could the villagers have?! We've neva bothered them before, why now?" Berserker frowned.
"Yes, well. The villagers sent complaint to the High Council and they called for me to discuss possible solutions." The Aluin sighed. "They came to a decision." He paused. "The Council has decided…that the most attractive and strongest Servant would wed to the best and strongest Warrior in the village to…show a type of respect to the villagers. The Council has decided…" He paused. "…You two."
I blinked. No way. No possibly possible way. I sat forward. "No way. There are others who are definitely a lot more attractive than I am."
The Aluin shrugged. "That's in your opinion and besides, it's the Council's decision. And there is no one who can beat your features, Snow, and you know it. Besides, you're the strongest Servant seen in a long time. You would've been a Warrior hadn't it been for your looks."
"Yes but…" I trailed off, desperately searching for something so that I wouldn't have to marry him. But it was no use. If the Aluin is telling us this now, that means that the High Council came to a final agreement. I would have to marry Captain Rage of the First Militia.
"Is that why we had to return early? For this foolishness?" The Captain's voice was harsh and his expression was livid with anger. "We had to—.'
"Rage, calm yourself. It is not simple foolishness. Had we not come to a decision, the villagers would have rallied for the destruction of the Sariu. Then what would you do? What would anyone living in the Sariu do? There are a nearly half a thousand Servants and Warriors living here; would you dump them on the streets?" The Captain clenched his jaw and looked away.
Berserker stepped forward. "All and well or whateva, but why am I here?"
"You will bear witness to their matrimony, Berserker. It's better to have one person from the village and one from here."
I snorted and sat back, crossing my legs. "That's rich. Send in two Warriors by the names of Rage and Berserker. Real rich."
The Aluin sighed. "I know you don't want this, Snow, or you, Rage. But we have no choice; the decision of the High Council is final. You two will be married within the next two weeks." He shrugged. "Look on the bright side, you get to go and see your parents since what? Ten, eleven years? And you won't have to worry about marriage later."
I'd rather die alone than live with him. No matter how strong or good-looking he was, I couldn't marry the Captain. I didn't want to marry the Captain. I didn't want to marry anyone.
"…shouldn't worry much. You two are actually really compatible. The relationship should go smoothly."
I shook my head at the Aluin. "You say that we are compatible, but how can we live as one, if neither of us have a heart?" I could feel the Captain's eyes on me, but I kept mine on the Aluin.
He sighed. "You've been doing it so far on your own. You can do it with someone else."
I looked away. "It's not the same…"