“Do you enjoy self-torture?”
Omeria was beyond displeased to be left at the leadership table alone with Rayden. To her horror, Nestor had not arrived yet in the dining hall. The other Kobo protectors Jephrey, Teffani and Jayson were mingling with the other villagers. In between eating bread and drinking berry juice, Rayden continued to annoy.
“Well, do you enjoy self-torture? You are from Logoff. Is it practiced there?” Rayden spoke while still chewing.
Omeria glanced at a fly that had landed in a bowl of oil. Any distraction would suffice. “One of your jokes, not humorous at all. No one likes to be tortured.” She understood why so few took him seriously.
“I think they do in Ondello,”he uttered.
“Well, I’m obviously not from there.”
Rayden moved the oil bowl towards himself and removed the fly. He put the fly directly on the wooden table and smashed it with the bottom of the bowl. “Nestor tells you that you are safe in Kobo, but one false move and you are thrown into the Black Rip Sea and forgotten.”
Omeria wanted to leave the table but decided to stay and endure the conversation. If she was going to stay in Kobo, she would have to converse with Rayden, a Kobo protector, regardless since he was high in command and close to Nestor. “You are upset with Nestor. Why did you ask me about self-torture?”
Rayden lowered his voice and tone. “You seem like a nice girl. I should tell you that Nestor’s last flame Hettie drowned in the Black Rip Sea upon Nestor’s command. He said he loved her but didn’t hesitate to end her life after she disobeyed him.”
She could hear the rage building in his voice. “Rayden. It’s against code to kill someone here. I’m sure he had his reasons.”
“He said the reason was treason. Everything he does is for Kobo. I’ve heard him say it a thousand times. But he does things for himself. If you decide to be his flame, he won’t protect you. He’s not a noble man. He is a thief at best.”
Omeria waved her hand in front of Rayden’s face. “Please stop. You don’t have to worry about me. I’m not Nestor’s flame. I like to eat meals with him. I’m trying to learn about Kobo. There’s no one better to learn from than Nestor. And I am well aware of his thievery. You should deal with your feelings towards him.”
“Sometimes I hate him. He knew Hettie was my flame but he went after her anyway. He had to be with her. He’s had a flame in every village even witches. His ex-flame Mercy tried to burn down Kobo and stopped me from becoming a guardian. Then there’s Asher, she wants nothing to do with Nestor because he’s a cursed man. He still hounds her every chance he gets. As soon as Hettie was gone he headed right over to the Ash village with Grant. ”
Omeria lightly touched his hand with hers. “I’m sorry that your leader let you down. Sometimes, they fail at being who we need them to be.”
Nestor laughed at the sight of Omeria’s hand on top of Rayden’s. “My apologies, I’m behind the times.”
Rayden confronted Nestor. “So you know how to apologize? You want to look human in front of Omeria? Like you care about our feelings.”
Nestor smiled and peered at Omeria briefly. “Stop the horses why don’t you? I’m going to be merry in my first meal. Rayden, we can speak of your complaints later, privately.”
“We can speak now,” Rayden yelled. “While you eat or not at all.” He balled-up his fingers to make a fist in both hands.
Omeria couldn’t make out the eye signals that Nestor gave to Teffani but they were effective. In less than a moment, Rayden was escorted out of the dining hall by the other protectors. “Umm…How long has he been this angry?”
Nestor played with his salad. “He’s upset cause I told Yessenia and Grant and not him to interrogate Lottie Punishere last night and that warlock Zee. Think about it… I have what could be two of the most powerful beings in all of the land at my gate. I’m not going to send Rayden to talk to them upon arrival. He’s upset because I prefer Grant over him. He’ll have to get over it or meet the Octo Trail.”
Omeria took a sip of berry juice. “No, he stated that you took Hettie from him and you killed her. He never mentioned any jealousy of Grant.”
“A man won’t admit that he’s jealous of another man. Hettie gave herself to me. I can’t take a flame away from someone. I loved her. It didn’t work out. I loved her even when she carried Rayden’s child.”
Omeria didn’t desire to hear anymore of their confusing spoiled folk drama. She was haunted still by the times when she and her brother could barely afford to eat. “You guys will figure it out. I was only trying to be helpful.”
“But why was he confiding in you? He doesn’t tend to like those born outside of Kobo.”
“Oh, like you, sir Bristolian. Oddly, he was warning me not to get inflamed with you.”
“Oh, he was?” Nestor turned his whole body towards Omeria. “What did you tell him in response?”
“There was nothing to tell, of course,”Omeria answered.
“Good, cause there’s a lot of hassle that comes with being my flame. I mean I lie and I steal. I’m a leader so everyone depends on me. I have awful visions and awful enemies. But on the positive side of things when I get the chance to love I love deeply and hard for as long as I can. Even with all my flaws, Rayden was no competition for me.”
Omeria couldn’t help but to blush. “I see.” Nestor had the darkest eyes she’d ever seen. It was like staring up into the darkest night sky.
Nestor grinned. “I’m afraid this is a wasted conversation. Listen to Rayden, I’d be too much for you.”
“I believe you would be. I have a question though. Were you ever involved with this Lottie Punishere?”
Nestor laughed once. “No, but I did know her before. We got into some trouble back in the village of Flaco years back. I think she’s banned from there actually. We were friendly until she accused me of stealing from her.”
“So you never wanted her?” Omeria asked.
“No. I’m not warm for everyone. Would it matter to you if I wanted Lottie?”
She shook her head. “No. I wondered why Lottie Punishere would be hiding here.”
“I thought that if she became the new Punishere, she could undo my punishment. My visions. But that won’t happen now or ever thanks to Sam. I’m going to talk to her tonight after I pray about what to do. I’m hoping that Zee will agree to get rid of those man-eating fish.”
Omeria stood up. “I hope so.”
“You leaving?” Nestor gave her a sad face and pout. “I guess it’s plenty to hear at one moment.”
“Yes, my mind is frazzled. I will talk to you later.”
“When later?” Nestor asked.
“I don’t know, just later.” Nestor enjoyed her company and conversation. It was likely best to keep a little distance from him. Nestor had a way of seducing girls with his unpredictable personality and behaviors. He was an attractive older man with infinite influence who was giving her a lot of attention. He was too tempting to ignore, though he hadn’t said that he was romantically interested in her. She needed to clear her head immediately. She would go and feast her eyes on the perfect man Grant for a while and then look around for the alleged black cat that attacked Nestor’s unrequited flame Asher.
Hours later, Omeria was outside following what she believed was animals tracks through the mud when she spotted Nestor going into the prayer room. Speaking with Grant earlier, only made her think of Nestor’s attributes and his words. No one matched Nestor’s wittiness or ego. If she caught the black cat that would surely impress Nestor. After she realized how muddy her only pair of shoes had gotten she abandoned her mission.
“Never mind, it’s pointless.” She left her dirty shoes outside of the prayer room and barged in.
“I hid in here when I first got here,” she stated to Nestor.
He looked shocked to see her. “It’s nice to see you but Omeria, only one person can be in here at a time. Sorry, you must go. I will look for you later.”
“But I’m here now,” she whined. “I want to be around you.”
Nestor wasn’t getting the hint. “Well, it’s against code for you to be in here with me. ”
She smirked. “You’ve broken code before when you wanted to. You wrote it.”
He stood up and walked up to her. “You are new here, so I’m going to pretend like this never happened.” He started to guide her towards the door. “I hope you are not possessed. We never found the black cat and you are acting very needy.”
She waited until they were close enough to the door to orchestrate her physical attack on Nestor.
“Ouch! Woo, what is this?”Nestor questioned her. She roughly pushed him against a wall. “Omeria, I’m sorry for what I did to your tribe really but you don’t want to fight me. You’d only lose and I don’t want to have to hurt you. I enjoy your…”
Before he knew it she was wildly kissing him all over his face starting with his cheeks. “The first thing I think about each day is you.”
“Really? Well, we have that in common.” He kissed her on the lips aggressively and rubbed her back. He instantly felt an electric shock go through his heart. He had a vision of Omeria and her brother Jacobi in their shack in Logoff. He was telling her to skip going after the rabbit meaning Grant. She only needed to catch the snake. The snake held the key to the good life. Nestor pried Omeria away from his chest but kissed her on the forehead.
“We don’t need to stop Nestor,” Omeria went to kiss him again but he took two steps back. “You thinking about Asher again?”
“No. I don’t think about her when I’m with you.”
“Then what’s wrong?” He allowed her to hug him.
“Omeria,” he whispered into her left ear. “You will never catch the snake.”
“What?” She looked into his eyes.
“Your brother called me a snake.”
“You’re thinking about my brother at this moment?”
“You came here to seduce me and seek your revenge. I haven’t forgotten.”
“I told you that I no longer feel that way .” She reached for his hands but he slapped hers away and gave her a look of disgust. “You’d have to learn to trust me for us to work.”
“There is no us Omeria. Thank you for interrupting my prayer time. I have to collect Rayden and Sam so that I can face Lottie and this Zee. Please stay out of my hair.”
Shocked she was by his brazen insensitivity. However, she was not fooled by his performance. He without a doubt had kissed her first. If it wasn’t for his pesky visions he would be hers as she wanted. Nestor did note a tear running down her face but also saw her crack the slightest smile as she wiped it away.
Rayden joined Nestor outside of his residence. “Just you and me tonight?”
Nestor snatched a glass of berry juice from his hand. “You don’t need this.” Nestor drank the juice and then handed the glass back to Rayden.
“Thanks. I enjoy drinking air myself.” They began walking towards Nestor’s chambers. “I’ve been thinking that I should take a flame, someone who you hold dear. Take a little love from you,”Rayden told Nestor.
Nestor stood still. “You know what? This is getting as old as I am. Hettie chose me. She chose me over you. Live with it.”
“You think you can take everything from me! My flame, my drink just a moment ago. What’s next you going to exile me from my village, Bristolian?”
Nestor stood before his face. “Words for the foolish. It doesn’t matter where I was born, Kobo is mine. I’m trying to save our sea while you want to argue over a dead girl.”
“Watch it or I’ll take what’s important to you. ”
“This is golden. What are you plotting? I will remind you that plotting against me is treason.”
“Omeria!” Rayden blurted out.
“What about her?” Nestor asked him.
“She’s going to be my flame. She showered me with a great deal of compassion today.”
“Oh, when she touched your hand? She humored you while you bad mouthed me. She waited for me. She forgot you existed as soon as I showed up. Just like Hettie did.”
Nestor woke up warm in his bed to find Omeria sleeping soundly in a chair. She was wrapped up in a large thick cloth. Nestor felt a soreness coming from his left eye.
“Omeria, wake up! Wake up,” he shouted. “There’s something wrong with my eye.”
She stretched her arms out and yawned. “Your vanity never fails, Nestor. Rayden gave you… I think they call it a black eye.”
“What? Someone should have been there to protect me. I’m the leader for goodness sakes.”
“Sam helped you Nestor. He heard you arguing. He brought you home.”
Nestor pulled his covers upwards to his chin. “I feel something like embarrassment. They are going to think I don’t know how to defend myself.”
“Your people love you. Not as much as you love yourself. But they do. Don’t hide.” She pulled his covers back down. “I can help you.”
“How? Why would you want to help me? I was rude to you.”
She climbed into his bed and placed her head on his right shoulder. “You need to be humble. A good leader is humble.”
“I’m a great leader and you’ve got a heavy head.”
She sat up straight. “Listen, stop telling Rayden that he doesn’t measure up to you and Grant.”
“But he doesn’t. It’s the truth.”
“Never mind. Have it your way. Sam said he heard Rayden say my name last night during your argument.”
Nestor laughed. “Yes, he thinks that he can have you as his flame.”
“Wow. I wouldn’t think that he was interested.”
“He wants to upset me, plot against me. He said that he was going to take you away from me as a form of retribution. It’s all quite absurd.”