It troubled Zee to see Lottie Punishere’s weakness. Since they met she always exuded strength, beauty, rebelliousness and bravery. The news of Bristol’s containment caused Lottie to endure the simmering agony of remorse and guilt. “What have I made happen?”
Lottie looked out of a shack window. The sun shined brightly on Kobo, over the berry fields and even over the Black Rip Sea. She hoped that the sun hadn’t turned its back on the village of Bristol. Zee pulled a small bottle out of his pocket and gave it to her. “Drink this, if you need to.” Though he attempted to be helpful he wore a troubled face. “It should thin out Hettie’s blood enough.”
Lottie Punishere found it hard to believe that he kept her blood in this bottle, but she knew that he was an odd warlock indeed. “You kept this for all these moments?”
“I still have the twigs that you gave me. I keep whatever you give,” Zee barely looked at her.
“If I drink my blood, the book of law will find me and I’ll have no choice but to become the new Punishere of Bristol.”
“You seem like you want to help the Bristolians and your tribe. Might be best for your conscience.” Zee forced the words out.
“No, I want to be free to live my own life! I don’t want to spend the rest of my moments as the Punishere. I’d have no life at all. Of course, I feel bad about what’s happening to my village. Nestor doesn’t seem to care about Bristol at all. ”
“Nestor is a cursed, self-involved old man. Don’t count on his help. You are the only one who can bring back order to Bristol. Without the true chosen Punishere, the people will be living with no enforcement of the laws.”
“They can choose to have order without a Punishere ruling over them,”Lottie expressed.
Zee who had lived in solitude in the village of Logoff was not the best communicator. “Just let me know before you drink your blood. I’ve intensely enjoyed our moments together.” He began to create a small floating fire above a table with his magic twigs.
Lottie walked over to him. “Hey, Hey. Drop the sticks.” He did slowly and the fire disappeared. Lottie grabbed both of his cheeks. “Zee, you are the strangest thing that I never knew that I wanted. I’m not leaving you for anything, anyone or any place in this land. Fate brought us together because I’m not supposed to be the next Punishere. I’m going to be with you. The book of law is wrong. My dead ancestors are wrong about me.”
Early in the morning, still dressed in her festival attire, Asher knocked three times on Nestor’s door. “Nestor!”
Nestor’s mind was exhausted from helping Grant and Magnus count the endless piles of gold all night. “Hold your horses, I’m coming.”
Before he would’ve been glad to see Asher in the middle of the night but presently his heart only desired the all to eager Omeria.
He opened his front door. “Hello, Asher. Something wrong? Do come on in. You do realize that it’s mighty late out?”
Asher gave him a laugh before sitting down at his table. It was nice to see her finally out of her ruined, berry stained, cat clawed gown for a change. “You didn’t come to the festival?”
“Is that a statement or a question?”Nestor asked.
“I’ve got a question for you. Why must you stop by at all hours of the night to question me about nonsense?”
“No nonsense. You never miss a festival… unless you are tied to a post or in a deep sleep or stuck in a snakes’ pit or if half of your village is on fire.”
Nestor sighed. “As you can see, I’m fine. My village is fine. It is kind of you to worry though, Asher. I had Kobo matters to attend to all night so I missed your little festival.” He continued to stand up. “I hope my absence didn’t spoil your grandest moments.”
“It’s not just that. I wanted to talk to you. I am still afraid that Mercy and that Declan Mortis III, will come back for the rest of us. He turned half of my people into vamps in a few moments, a bite was all it took… I heard that you found the black cat that attacked me in the berry fields.”
Nestor stooped down before her and held her hands. No sparks whatsoever, he thought from her touch. “I understand that you are scared. I can’t guarantee that they won’t come back. Your people were selling garlic behind your back, so Declan Mortis III made us all suffer for it. You know you and your people can always come back here if you fear for your safety again. I fear that one day we will have to go to war against the freaks. They may leave us with no choice.”
“It would be easier to get along but….”
Five hard knocks came from the other side of the front door. Nestor wished that it was Grant or Magnus at the door but he absolutely recognized the knocks. “Great. Just what I need right now. Asher, dear. I can only handle one guest at a time. So tired, I am. I’ll chat with you soon.”
He quickly opened the door, shoved Asher out and pulled Omeria inside.
Omeria spun around. “Wait, I saw her. What was Asher doing here? So late at night. Were you at her festival? I came by earlier but you weren’t here.”
“Well, first off you look lovely. My eye is still a little black as you can see.”
Asher frowned. “You would answer my questions if nothing was going on.”
Nestor threw his hands up. “I’ve already stated that I’m not thinking about Asher. She was worried so she came to check on me. If I was up to something, I would’ve ignored your knock and pretended that I wasn’t here. It would’ve been easy to do so. But I didn’t. I have to have decent relations with all of the other village leaders. I get along with Asher. If it’s a problem for you then maybe you should…”
“Can’t say it can you?”
“No, I could tell you to go away, if I wanted to.” He decided to hug Omeria tightly instead. “I confess I did hold hands with Asher to comfort her but I don’t yearn for her affections. We are both leaders so we purely share the same concerns.”
“Share your concerns with me, Nestor.” She wouldn’t allow herself to be released from his embrace. She laid her head on his shoulder. “I can try to understand.”
“That’s very sweet of you. It’s all so complicated, Omeria.”
A few hours later, Nestor rolled over in bed and felt a warm body next to his. He was reluctant to open his eyes. He prayed that it wasn’t his old fame of a clumsy witch Mercy. She used to have a way of appearing out of thin air in his old shack and enticing him. He opened one eye at a time. “Omeria, right.” Omeria was covered up to her chin by his covers. “Wake up.” He shook her repeatedly and poked her shoulder with his finger.
She rolled over landing on her side away from him. She fake snored as if she weren’t listening.
He placed his cold hand on her exposed back. He moved her long hair to one side and wrote the letter “N” across her back with his pinky finger. “I wasn’t trying to fall for you. You had despised me so.” Somehow he had found the energy. A clear vision passed through his mind of himself and Omeria wildly kissing each other until they reached his bed. He relinquished all control to her and did whatever she wanted, how she wanted and for as long as she wanted. The snake had been caught, unraveled, skinned and then devoured. It was too late to turn back the moments.
He closed in on her right ear just as she began to drift back into sleep. “Omeria, I hope you can hear me. You are the best thing that ever snuck into Kobo. You’re mine. I am your flame but I am also your leader. I will take care of you, I will cherish you above all others but if you cross me at any moment, I will see to it that you pay the ultimate price three times over.” Omeria’s eyes widened as she experienced a splash of pure terror.
Nestor jumped out of bed, washed up, dressed himself and headed out of the door. He decided to go and visit with Malta and Kaytee for a while. Omeria laid in Nestor’s bed staring out into space. She was overcome by numbness. The plan was to get into Kobo, seduce Nestor and then live the good life. Nestor owed her since he stole the profitable berry fields from her Abayolla tribe. Strangely, the plan had worked out except for the part about him gifting her back the berry fields. Also, that morning Nestor had been more of the seducer than she had. She was starting to believe that she truly had developed feelings for him. They had been spending plenty of moments together. Truthfully, Nestor was all that she thought about since arriving in Kobo. When they kissed or held each other, the passion wasn’t an act at all. He thrilled her. She still felt his touch all over her body. This was not the poor village of Logoff. He was not an ordinary man. No matter how hard they tried, this would not be an easy relationship to sustain. Maybe, this was the self-torture that Rayden was speaking of. She still felt uneasy about Asher’s presence, Mercy’s obsession with Nestor and his visions of the past, especially her past.
Errola stood on a high plank staring down into a large pot of melted gold. Mattau watched from down below, patiently waiting with his advisor Bennett. The odd physician Cassius was supposed to push Errola off of the plank, sending her right into the pot of scolding gold. She would meet the same fate as Mattau’s former niece Glodean. Someone had to take her place. Errola liked the thought of living in a golden palace but didn’t love the idea of being dropped into a pot of melted gold. During the goldification process Glodeans’ screams could be heard from the village of Ondello all the way to Kobo. Everyone had shed a tear for the girl who would have it all. Glodean, so beautiful, even managed to become Grant’s flame in little moments. Errola had practiced keeping her eyes closed for as long as possible. Errola was practically ready to jump since she didn’t like standing naked in front of these golden armed freaks. She wondered to herself if her future excrement would come out gold in color or just with flecks. Her laughter temporarily dulled the fears. The gold bubbled and popped sending gold slashing up and over the pot. Mislin, one of Mattau’s other advisors informed her that the gold would age her face and body by a couple of years. After the process was over, she would request to see her friend Omeria again. She was curious to find out if Omeria had journeyed on solo to the village of Kobo. Perhaps, Omeria could live in the golden palace with her if she insisted on it. It would be nice to have someone whom she could trust around her in Ondello. The suffering would be worth it if it meant that they could start a new life together as extremely rich women.