AS STRANGE AS IT MAY be, Cecelia sensed as though someone was watching over her and Lucifer as they slept. In her fitful slumber, she dreamt of a pair of gray eyes boring into her, as if finding her interesting and seeking into her inner thoughts. She laid there on the cold, wooden floor with Lucifer snuggling up against her. A gust of cold breeze swirled into the room out of the blue. She sensed Lucifer’s shiver and wrapped her arms around him, pulling his small body even closer to her. The ship swayed, rocking them back and forward and side to side, reminding Cecelia once again of where she was and how she came to be there.
As she laid there with Lucifer in her arms, she remembered the gray eyes in her dream; the color bottomless and mysterious, giving her a sense of intrigue. It was a pair of the eyes that could only belonged to the demon king. A shivered coursed down her spine, and she tightened her arms around Lucifer as if for comfort.
A whimper escaped Lucifer’s lips, which drew Cecelia’s attention. His body shook violently as he cried out in his sleep, tears flowing down his cheeks. She held him tight in her arms as she soothed him with soft, sweet words. Poor boy, she thought, to be dragged into such a condition. Surely, his family must be frantic searching for him.
Eventually, his whimpering stopped and his body relaxed. Cecelia eased her holding of him and kissed his forehead.
“You are a brave little boy,” she said softly.
It was about an hour or so later that loud noises could be heard from upstairs and then the swaying of the ship came to a stop, telling Cecelia that they had reached land. She sat up in alertness, her eyes searching about her.
“Lucifer, I think we have stopped,” she said softly.
Lucifer frowned at her for a moment, as if confused. “What?”
“Come, we must try and escape before they come down for us.” She got up and walked toward the locked door. She wiggled it a few times. When it didn’t budge, she tried to pull the chains.
“It won’t work. It’s too strong,” Lucifer said, rubbing his sleepy eyes. “If only Papa were here, or Uncle Drake, or even Julius or Uncle Gerick,” he groaned.
Cecelia’s hands were getting sore. She slumped down and rested her head against the wall. She was tired and hungry. She would never escape this, she thought and felt very depressed.
Cecelia bolted upright. A man headed toward them and then unlocked the chain.
“Out!” he shouted, “and no funny business.”
Cecelia and Lucifer staggered out of the prison as he opened the door. They were rudely escorted with sword pointed at their backs up to the top deck.
Cecelia felt for the first time in days a gentle breeze caressing her face as they came up. She breathed in the fresh, open air and stared wide-eyed at the sight before her. The beach was long and wide, with white sand that stretched to the endless horizon. Behind the beach was a jungle of lush tall trees and exotic flowers of unimaginable sizes, shapes, and colors.
She searched around her and realized that not one man was in sight except for the one escorting them.
“Where are your men?” she asked curiously.
“No questions! Start moving!” he snapped, shoving his sword against her back. “There!” he nodded toward the beach.
Cecelia went to the floorboard and walked down the ship, Lucifer following behind her.
“That way!” he said.
The sands were deep and porous against her boots. She found it more tiring than walking on hard earth. Once they had reached the jungles, she found herself stumbling over vines and dead wood many times. Lucifer, on the other hand, seemed to know his way around. When she fell, he helped her up. He didn’t at all seem to be very tired as she was, which she thought a bit odd for a five-year-old boy.
It wasn’t long when they came to a small camp. The men were there with their tents and weapons. They were sitting around a fire with some unfortunate odd-looking bird—it had the head of a bird and the body of a cat—that had been stripped to the skin and now was roasting upon the pit of a fire.
“Go, sit there!” The man behind them shoved her.
Without a word, Cecelia went to sit by a tree. Lucifer made himself comfortable beside her.
“I’m hungry. Won’t they give us some food?” Lucifer groaned, looking at her with his sky-blue eyes large.
“I don’t think so,” she said, her mouth watering at the sight of the odd bird. The skin was turning, glistening and golden brown, and its fat was dropping from its skin, landing on the spiting fire.
She turned away, ignoring her hunger and diverting her thoughts to finding a route of escape. A man came to her then and tied her hands and feet. He did the same to Lucifer.
“To make sure you two stay put,” he said, grinning at them, showing his stained, yellow teeth. His breath was stinking and hot against her face.
She gagged in disgust.
They had their meal and gave none to her and Lucifer. She closed her eyes, pretending sleep so she wouldn’t have to watch them eat the bird while her tummy grumbled. She was drifting into a slumber when she was kicked awake.
“Get up. We’re moving,” a man snapped at her, and then he proceed to cut her and Lucifer loose.
Freed, Cecelia stumbled up, aiding Lucifer at the same time. They walked through the jungle for a long while before they came to the mouth of a cave.
“In there. Get the boy,” Jackson shouted.
Cecelia was alert because Jackson sounded rather excited. She watched as one of the men came to them. He stared at her and pulled Lucifer from her side.
“Come,” he said, shoving Lucifer so hard the boy fell to the ground.
“Don’t you touch him!” she snapped and shoved the man back. She bent down to help Lucifer. “Can’t you see he’s only a child!”
“Don’t care!” the man said, dragging Lucifer.
Cecelia would have none of it and pulled Lucifer to her side.
“Come!” the man said through gritted teeth.
Cecelia glared at him. She wouldn’t let Lucifer go. The boy turned and wrapped his arms around her waist for support.
“Where’s the boy,” Jackson shouted, looking at them.
“Come!” The man dragged them both toward his captain.
“You, lead us in.” Jackson pointed a finger at Lucifer.
“I won’t,” the boy cried. “’Tis against the rule. I will be punished.”
“Lead us in,” Jackson snapped, drawing out his sword. “Or bear the consequence.”
Lucifer widened his eyes as the sharp blade was pointed near his throat.
“Don’t do anything stupid!” Cecelia shouted, her body shaking with rage. “He is only a boy.”
“Now lead us in.” Another man shoved her from behind.
Slowly and hesitantly, his body shaking uncontrollably, Lucifer walked into the cave with his hands clutching onto Cecelia’s. The men followed them.
Inside was total darkness. The men lit their torches. Instantly, the flames lightened up the hollow passageway.
“Walk faster!” Jackson snapped, shoving both her and Lucifer forward.
“He’s only a child,” she snapped again.
Jackson only laughed. “Lead us, demon, to the Pearl of Life.” His callous voice echoed in the silent cave.
Cecelia’s heart kicked in her chest. So this was the Cave of Doom where the Pearl of Life was rumored to exist. She was right; the men did come to steal the pearl.
“How long to go?” a man asked.
There was silence except for the thudding of their footsteps.
“I said how long to go?” the man hissed again.
“I don’t know,” Lucifer cried, his grip tightening on Cecelia’s. She pulled him closer to her as they walked.
“There, I see it,” Jackson shouted excitedly, laughing. “There!”
“Let’s get it,” another man said, rushing toward the clearing.
He was about to reach the end of the passageway when he stepped on something that moved beneath his foot. He frowned, and before he knew it, the ground opened and swallowed him. He screamed to his mates for help. One rushed forward with his hands reached out, but he was too late. The man fell into a pool of molten lava below.
Lucifer shoved his face against Cecelia’s side. She could only stare at what had just happened.
“We must be careful. There are traps everywhere here,” Jackson shouted, nodding to his men. “You two!” he snapped, looking at both Cecelia and Lucifer. “Come here and lead the way. Everyone, stay behind them.”
What a clever ploy, Cecelia thought. Those coward men, they’d rather let a child and young boy die first.
“I’m scared,” Lucifer whispered to her.
She looked at him and patted his shoulder in encouragement. They both started moving again. They took each step carefully so they wouldn’t step into another trap.
Once they’d reached the opening of the cave, they were thrust aside as the men made their way toward the huge waterfall. High above them was the cleft of an opening. Clear blue sky from above shone upon them.
The shower of water streamed around a small island. There Cecelia saw the largest clam she’d ever beheld in her life. And inside its opened mouth was the Pearl of Life. It was a small thing and its pinkest color shone against the hot ray of sunlight.
“’Tis our luck all right, captain,” one man said, smiling.
“Aye, Joe, let’s get across,” Jackson said, pointing to his men.
“Is the water deep?” another asked.
One hopped into the stream. It barely reached his chest. “Nay, not at—” He didn’t finish the sentence, for he started screaming in pain. “Aaghh…” The agony in his voice echoed like death, and birds high above them hiding amongst the trees dispersed in every direction in fright.
“What happened?” Jackson shouted.
“Get me out! Get me out!” Joe screamed, his hands scrambling for his mates.
“Pull him out!” Jackson shouted.
Two men hurriedly pulled Joe out. As he landed, the lower parts of his body steamed with smoke. His breeches stuck to his legs; his boots were burned and melted to his feet.
“What kind of water is this?” Jackson shouted, twisting his face in rage toward Cecelia and Lucifer, demanding them to answer.
Cecelia turned her face away. Her heart sank at the thought of ever getting the pearl herself. If those men couldn’t get through, what chance had she?
“I said what kind of water is this?” the captain snapped. When none answered, he stalked toward them. “Tell me!” he growled, pulling Lucifer up and shoving the boy about.
“Stop it!” Cecelia snapped angrily. “You cannot treat the boy this way.” She pulled Lucifer into her arms. “Leave him be.”
“Get out of the way!” He slapped Cecelia with the back of his hand, sending her falling to the ground.
When she looked up at him again, she touched her sore face, glaring at him.
“You, tell me now,” Jackson growled.
“I don’t know,” Lucifer cried.
“You nuisance bastard! No point in keeping you,” he growled, drawing out his dagger.
Cecelia panicked when she saw the knife moving toward Lucifer’s stomach. She got up and raced to the boy, thrusting him aside. The blade slid through her arm as she and Lucifer fell to the ground.
“Damn nuisance, the both of you,” Jackson snapped, throwing away his dagger and drawing out his sword. Cecelia stared wide-eyed as he raised the blade high, intending to kill them.
“No!” she whispered, closing her eyes.
She felt the blade moving slowly down toward her heart, its sharp coldness inches from her breasts. That split second felt like an eternity.
The next moment, she opened her eyes and saw an arrow hit the captain’s hand, sending the sword flying, landing in the stream. The sword shriveled, and within seconds, it was destroyed into nothingness.
She looked up toward the entrance and saw giants. She was sure they were giants, for they were as big as pine trees.
“You scoundrel, you dare to hurt my son?” the man with dark-blond hair growled, his deep-set eyes glaring at the captain. The intensity in that gaze could send a man running in tears.
It almost did, but Captain Jackson stood his ground. “Give me a sword!” he shouted at his men.
“But captain—” one said, his voice quivering as his eyes flickered from one giant to the other.
“I said my sword!” the captain growled, reaching his hand in the air. One threw him a sword. He caught it and nodded toward the giant addressing him. “You, let’s fight man to man.”
“I am no man, you bastard,” Adam growled, taking a step forward.
“Look at all those scary little humans,” Gerick said from behind. “I’ll take those ten there.” He nodded to the bunch on his left.
“I’ll take the captain,” Adam said, taking a step toward the leader.
“You will not,” Drake said, handing his bow to Leon. “You will take your son home. He needs you.”
Adam frowned darkly. He wanted to kill the bastard human who had hurt his son. If that boy hadn’t shoved aside Lucifer to take the blade himself, Lucifer would be dead by now. He was still damn angry, but Drake was right. Lucifer needed him right now.
He grunted loudly to show his displeasure for not having the chance to kill the captain.
“I’ll take the captain,” Drake said, sliding out his thick, sharp sword. “We will fight man to man,” he said to the captain.
Jackson swallowed. “I’ll kill you all, demons,” he screamed and rushed toward Drake.
Drake stepped aside and rewarded Jackson’s neck with the back of his hard fist.
Captain Jackson fell forward. He scrambled up and rushed for an attack. They were fighting with their fists and feet—blow to blow. Both Gerick and Leon charged the other men and began their combat.
Adam went to his son. “Lucifer?” he said, kneeling beside the boy.
“Papa?” Lucifer said through the sounds of swords slashing and men grunting. He rushed up to the hug Adam. His tears flowed down his little cheeks. “Papa, I’ve missed you. I’m so scared,” he admitted.
“I’m here now, son,” Adam said, picking up Lucifer. He turned to look at Cecelia. “Come on, boy. Let’s get out of here.”
Cecelia stared at him, at a loss. She had never seen any man as tall and big and muscular as this one. His face, she saw, was quite handsome.
“Come!” he said again, dragging her up none too gently and leading her toward the passageway.
“What about the others?” she asked.
“Do not worry yourself about them,” he said, pulling her after him.
“But Captain Jackson has many men. There are only four of you, and now you left your comrades. They will not escape.”
Adam didn’t reply and kept dragging her toward the clearing. She had to keep up the pace by running so she wouldn’t fall. It was only a short time later that they were out again.
Out in the clearing, Cecelia saw four animals. She supposed they were horses of some breed, for they had horns like those of a unicorn. Their bodies were bigger and more muscular, however, which she supposed indicated strength. Their colors were of particular interest to her. One was beige, two were grey, and one was a sinful velvety black.
Adam led her to the beige one. When she was standing beside the horse, her head barely reached the saddle.
“CloudStorm!” Lucifer shrieked with delight, patting the animal’s long nose.
Adam placed his son on the ground and turned to Cecelia. She took one look at him and knew what he was going to do.
“Nay, I can’t—” She could go no farther, for she was being lifted up and swung over the saddle like a doll. “Thank you,” she said. Her backside was quite sore because he’d dumped her on the saddle none too gently.
Adam picked up his son and easily climbed on the saddle in front of her. He made his son comfortable sitting on his lap and took the bridle.
“Hold tight,” he said and slashed the reins.
The stallion hissed and rushed forward. Cecelia had to quickly grab for Adam’s coat so she wouldn’t fall back from the force. She didn’t know how long they were going to ride until they got to somewhere safe. But she didn’t care, for Lucifer was safe with his father.
Somehow, she knew she must find a way to get that pearl. The thought of her mother was at the forefront of her mind as she drifted off into a slumber.
Not long afterward, Adam heard the thunder of hooves approaching them. He didn’t slow down, for he knew they would catch up to him soon enough. Then three stallions were riding alongside him. Adam slowed his stallion to a slower pace. Gerick took the lead, while Leon took the rear as guard.
“How is he?” Drake asked, looking at his nephew.
“Doing fine,” Adam said, gazing down at his son. “Brave boy,” he said, glancing at Cecelia sleeping behind him.
“Must be tired,” Drake said. “Here, let me take him.”
They moved their stallions closer and Drake lifted Cecelia and laid her on his lap. She snuggled against his large chest, sleeping in contentment. Drake wrapped one arm around her and then kicked his stallion to gallop faster.
* * * * *