“Are you okay heading downstairs by yourself?” Star asked, looking worried.
Zephren nodded nervously as he stepped out into the hallway.
Standing there for a moment, Zephren felt frozen, taking in this new image of the home that he’d stumbled through in the dark.
With no basis of idea if this house was ordinary or not, Zephren could merely conclude that it was simple. Though it was still dim, the windows boarded, there were small lamps glowing on side tables. The soft light revealed walls and floors made of a warm wood, like the basement, only this time laid with thick embroidered carpets.
A man’s loud and muffled cry of displeasure echoed suddenly through the house, making Zephren flinch involuntarily.
Star looked at Zephren with apologetic concern as she grimaced. “That would be Ryker… He’s…a bit of an acquired taste.”
Another’s irritated shout followed shortly after.
She rolled her eyes, sighing deeply; a sign that this would be something that Zephren would come to expect.
‘If I make it that long,’ he thought grimly.
“And that’s Blade,” Star pursed her lips together into a flat, unimpressed line, “who I believe you have met.”
Zephren remembered Blade, his dark complexion and orange eyes… What did Ryker look like? Judging by the temperamental shouts from downstairs, Zeph could only imagine a tall brutish man with heavy scars and a distain for authority. “Is it just Ryker I haven’t met?” he asked, wondering how many other strangers he’d encounter.
“Here, yes. But there are others stationed all over Sanctus, like our companion, Novan.” She smiled sweetly as she said, “Just worry about Ryker, for now. He’ll take a lot out of you.”
“I can hardly wait,” Zephren muttered drearily under his breath. Did he even have the energy to be questioned or confronted?
Star laughed lightly, giving him a small shrug. “Head down the stairs to the main hall; first door on your left. I’ll finish packing up for you.” As she closed the door behind him with a soft latching sound, Zephren couldn’t help but feel the icy chill of being alone once more.
His eyes dragged over rich and luxurious carpets, looking to his right; as if his gaze was being pulled by an eerie sense.
There were no lamps at the end of the long shadowy hall. He could only make out the faint outline of a large door, sending a flashing image of his cell to the front of his mind.
He shut his eyes, inhaling a sharp breath as he tried to expel the thought. Gulping he peered down again to the end of the hall…
That was Rosakai’s room.
Glancing around the empty hall, ensuring that no one was watching, Zephren took a step towards the door. As he walked the length of the hallway, leaning against the wall for support, he stopped…looking at the door.
Rose’s door; made of dark rich wood with outlined swirls of grain and knots.
Zephren knocked quietly, tentative and unsure what he was really searching for.
He was half surprised when no one answered, knocking again a little louder.
Still no answer.
Reaching out to the golden handle carved with filigree and elegant shapes, Zephren turned the doorknob, his heart fluttering.
It was unlocked.
Standing there for a moment, debating if he should really invade this stranger’s privacy, Zephren’s heart was wild in his chest.
He wanted to know what Rosakai’s room looked like…wanted a glimpse into his stoic nature. The man who saved him, the siren that wished to protect him… Did Rose want him for some purpose? Need him?
Though Rosakai didn’t know him, he knew more about his past than Zephren had ever thought about. His lineage, his race, and his potential… Because of Rose, Zephren might actually have a future and it terrified him.
This stranger that his life was suddenly linked to, terrified and awed him. And Zephren wanted to know more. More about him and why he felt so torn between suspicion and trust.
Here was the door to Rosakai’s room, a window into who he really was and answers Zephren wanted. All that stood between Zephren and knowing even something…was a door.
Zephren gritted his teeth, inhaling a shuddering breath as he let go of the doorknob and let his hand fall to his side.
Turned around, Zephren pressed his hand against the wall as he limped towards the staircase, back at the other end of the hall.
Rosakai’s door remained unopened, and his secrets undiscovered…
Tortuously slowly, Zephren descended the steps as he headed towards the main floor. Reaching the small foyer by the back door, he carefully tip-toed around the pairs of shoes that he had notably tripped over the night before. Down the narrow hall running parallel to the stairs, he could see the small kitchen at the end, the hall wrapping around to the left to some other unknown part of the house.
Forced laughter caught his attention as he quietly crept into a room to the left.
It was warm and furnished with large brown sofas, the only light from the fire that popped cheerfully beside another boarded window. Bags were scattered in the middle of the room, packets of what was probably food and dark clothing visible inside the luggage.
Though to Zephren he had been practically silent, he watched all eyes magnetize towards him, the boisterous conversation quickly ceasing.
Swallowing hard, nerves twisting in the pit of his stomach, Zephren recognized Blade, the black-haired man from the night before, who was frozen in the midst of packing and checking weapons.
About to greet him, someone else spoke before Zephren could even raise his hand to wave.
“This is what I’m risking my life for?” a voice said from across the room.
Zephren looked up to see an unfamiliar siren perched on the arm of the couch.
His white hair was pulled back into a short pony tail at the nap of his neck, black streaks running sparsely through his hair. His violet eyes that slanted at the outer corners flashed as he looked at Zephren. Smirking the siren tossed a dagger in the air, catching it when he slid to his feet. “Pathetic.”
Immediately, Zephren paled. He couldn’t help but think back to his father, throwing and catching the letter opener…
Blade’s familiar voice was defensive as he uttered, “Ryker, come on,” he looked at Zephren apologetically, eyeing Ryker with caution, “help me load this stuff.”
Zephren’s eyes widened, taken aback. ‘This is Ryker?’
Ryker’s lavender eyes seemed so much colder than Rosakai’s silver ones. He ignored Zeph, zipping up two bags and swinging them over his shoulder with ease. He walked over to Zephren, uncomfortably close. He leaned in, his nose almost touching Zeph’s as Zephren stood his ground.
Ryker narrowed his eyes, snarling, words that sent adrenaline through Zeph’s veins.
“You’re in my way.”