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Worse Than We Thought

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Jasmine was scared. No, scared didn't seem like the right word. Jasmine was terrified.

Nausea worked its way up from the pit of her stomach as her eyes scanned her surroundings. Her breathing quickened and her bound hands started to tremble as she started to realize that there was no escape.

Gravel that seemed as sharp as knives sliced into her body as she was dragged from the Inn, leaving a thin trail of blood. Rough hands gripped her legs so tight that Jasmine was sure they would leave bruises.

Gravel turned into grass as Jasmine's kidnappers dragged her into the forest. Jasmine's eyes filled with tears as the Inn became a mere speck in the distance.

Roots, sticks, and other things scraped against her body as she was dragged further into the dark forest. Jasmine kept quiet, she knew that if she cried out something a lot worse would happen.

Her kidnapper was talking loudly in front of her. She could tell by his uniform that he was a Grey Guard, and she wondered if he knew who he had caught.

Jasmine strained her ears, trying to hear what the Guard was saying, but all she could hear was blood roaring through her ears. Bile rose to her throat, never before had she been this scared.

Jasmine tried to even out her breathing. 'One, two, three. One, two, three. One, two, three.' Jasmine closed her eyes in concentration. 'Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in, breathe out. Come on Jasmine, you're better than this.'

Jasmine grinned as she began to take back control of her body. Her hands stilled, and her breathing evened out. Once again she listened for the conversation between the Grey Guard and someone else.

"This is the last one boss. Yes, I'm sure this girl is the champion. I watched the battle with my own eyes. Quite a comeback, she'll do good in the Arena." Jasmine's eyes narrowed in confusion, what Arena could they possibly be talking about?

"Yeah, the other finalists that traveled with her are already in the cart. Her bird and that creepy creature managed to escape, but I don't think they're going to be much of a threat. After we load the girl into the cart, we'll be golden." Relief invaded her system. Kree and Fili escaped! They were sure to get help!

'Focus Jasmine. You don't have time for this. You must keep listening.'

The Guard that held her legs stopped. Her feet and legs crashed to the forest floor, and Jasmine winced. She opened her eyes a crack and saw that she was in the middle of a clearing.

A horse drawn cart was parked at the edge of the clearing, and another Guard was standing next to it, loading what looked suspiciously like a body bag into the back.

Jasmine bit back a scream when she saw Lief laying next to the wagon. He wasn't moving, but Jasmine could see his chest slowly moving up and down. Lief's arms were banged up, but other than that, Jasmine couldn't see any other injuries.

"Here she is, boss. The champion of Rithmere. Alive, just as you requested." Jasmine's eyes snapped shut as the Grey Guard by the wagon walked towards her.

The Guard's footsteps grew louder the closer he came. Jasmine forced herself to keep her breaths even. The footsteps stopped, Jasmine could feel the cloth of his uniform brushing her face.

"Are you sure this is the girl? She looks pretty scrawny to me. Harmless, in fact. She is pretty though, maybe you and I could have some fun with her later, if you know what I mean." The men chuckled and Jasmine felt fear creep into her system.

If she didn't get out of here soon, these men would do horrible things to her.

"Let's tie up her legs and get her into a sack. It may be night, but we have no idea what's lurking in this forest. After we make it out of here, we can torture the girl and her friends." Jasmine gulped as the nausea rolling around in her stomach grew worse.

The two men's footsteps grew fainter as they walked away. Jasmine decided it was safe to open her eyes, so she slowly cracked them open. She almost cried out in despair as the Guards grabbed Lief and stuffed him into a moldy sack.

The Guard in charge rummaged through the back of the wagon. His eyebrows wrinkled in frustration. He turned to face his partner.

"Damn it! You only packed two sacks, you idiot. What are we supposed to do with the girl now? If she isn't covered, our operation is done for!" The enraged Guard advanced on his companion.

The offending Guard gulped and cowered away from his boss. He stuttered for a few seconds, desperately trying to come up with a solution to the problem.

"Um, we could... PUT THE GIRL IN WITH THE BOY! They're both scrawny, I'm sure that if we tie them together they could fit into the sack." The rambling Guard squeaked when his boss grabbed his shoulders and slammed him against a tree. "I'm sorry boss, really I am! It's this place! It's throwing me for a loop!" The Guard shook in absolute terror.

His boss stared into his eyes, and after seeing only fear and truthfulness, he dropped his arms from his thug's shoulders. The thug's shoulders drooped and he sighed in relief. Then, an evil glint shone in the boss's eyes. He pulled back his arm and landed a quick punch into the thug's gut. The thug doubled over in pain.

His boss sighed. "Yeah, I know what you mean. The sooner we get out of here and into the Shadowlands the better. This place is way to sunny for me." This time, Jasmine couldn't stifle the gasp that escaped her lips.

The boss turned around to study Jasmine. She went completely still, to any passerby Jasmine would look dead. The Grey Guard in charge glanced over at his thug, who was still doubled over in pain, and grinned.

Jasmine could hear his heavy footsteps, slow and deliberate, stalking towards her motionless body. They stopped, and Jasmine could hear the smirk on his face.

Suddenly, something extremely hard connected with her stomach. Jasmine's eyes flew open as pain exploded in her stomach like fireworks. She cried out in pain. The Guard smirked as he pulled his metal boot from her stomach.

"Well, well, well, looks like Little Miss Champion is awake after all. I wouldn't expect anything less from anyone like you. Great fight, by the way." The Guard kicked one of Jasmine's bound arms.

"What the hell are you going to do to us you sick Bastard," Jasmine winced as her head connected with the Guard's boot.

"Shut your trap, girl. I'm the one asking questions here. What's your name?"

"None of your business you mutated piece of metal."

"Well, if you're going to be like that, I can always screw you right here," the Guard bent down and cupped one of Jasmine's breasts. She whimpered.

"J-Jasmine," she sighed in relief when the Guard removed his cold hand from her body.

"Well Miss Jasmine, I'll let you in on a secret. My buddy and I are taking you and your friends to the Shadowlands, where you'll fight to the death in the Arena. My boss said he wanted you alive, but he never said in what condition. If you're a good girl, I'll wait until after we get out of this forest to screw you. If you're bad, I'll have to punish you. Do you understand?" Jasmine nodded in mute fear as a lone tear trickled down her face.

The Guard laughed and wiped it from her cheek. Jasmine shivered under his touch.

"Don't worry, I'll be gentle. My friend over there, not so much. You see, we haven't had a good fuck in a long time, so you're a long awaited change. I'll see you soon, my love. Jerry, you know what to do." The Guard nodded at his thug and backed away from Jasmine.

Searing pain shot through Jasmine's back. She shrieked as her head whipped around to locate the source of the pain. The thug, Jerry, was holding a scalding rod of iron to her left shoulder. Jasmine shrieked in agony as blinding pain invaded her system. Her body started to spasm.

The last thing Jasmine heard was the evil laughter of the Grey Guards as they carried her towards the wagon, still forcing the iron onto her flesh.

Chapter Text

"Jasmine... Jasmine... Wake up! Come on, you're stronger than this... JASMINE!" Soft fingers tapped insistently on her back.

Jasmine groaned and cuddled into the heat source in front of her. She tried to stretch her arms, but found that she couldn't move them.

Startled, Jasmine's eyes fluttered open, only to discover that her face was centimeters away from Lief.

His blue eyes were overflowing with concern. Black smudges under his eyes hinted that Lief had had little to no sleep for awhile. An ugly black and blue bruise spanned across his left eye and part of his face.

Jasmine took note of their current position. It appeared that her and Lief's legs were tied tightly together. Lief's hands were tied together, and his arms were looped around her shoulders. Jasmine was in the same situation, except her head was resting on his shoulder.

After taking a quick glance at the knots that bound them together, Jasmine concluded that there was no way to untie them. They were stuck.

"Thank God, you're alright." Lief sighed and closed his eyes in relief. "Do you have any idea how we got here?"

Jasmine flinched and her beautiful forest green eyes filled tears once again. She started to shake as the memories of their ordeal flooded her mind. The touch of the Guard in charge was imprinted on her body, his horrid voice in her mind.

Jasmine felt her chest heaving as her throat closed up. Her panicked expression must have showed, because Lief automatically began to comfort her.

"It's okay, Jasmine. It's okay. I've got you. You're safe with me. Nothing's going to hurt you while I'm around." His hands rubbed soothing circles on her back and Lief moved so her head was on his shoulder. "You need to calm down. Breathe, that's it! Just calm down, I've got you."

Jasmine's mind pushed out the poisonous memories as she focused on Lief's words. She began to cry, her sobs racked through her frail body.

"Lief," she sobbed. "It was horrible. They- I-" Her eyes widened in fear when Jerry yelled at her to shut up.

To say Lief was concerned was an understatement. Never in his life had he seen anyone this scared, and this was Jasmine. She's lived her entire life in the Forests of Silence, and the majority of it was spent alone. Something terrible must have happened to Jasmine, and Lief was already feeling his blood boil.

"Jasmine, I want to help you, but I have to know what happened. Can you tell me what happened after we left the Inn." Jasmine nodded. "Good. Start from the beginning."

Jasmine stared into Lief's eyes, and after finding concern and another, unknown emotion residing in them, she took a deep breath and started her account of the tale.

Lief listened attentively, and he definitely didn't like what he heard. When Jasmine finally explained what happened when the Grey Guards discovered her, Lief was ready to commit homicide.

"It was horrible Lief. Then, he- he-" Jasmine buried her head into his chest. Lief's arms tightened around Jasmine, and she winced.

"Jasmine, did they hurt you?" Lief's mouth quirked into a frown when Jasmine didn't respond. "Hey! Hey... I know this is hard, but I have to know if the Guards hurt you."

"Yes," Jasmine whispered.

Life cocked his head. "What?"

"Damn it Lief! I said yes! They hurt me a lot."

"Jasmine... What exactly did they do to you?" Jasmine whimpered and squeezed Lief's waist. He sighed. "You have to tell me if you want help."

Jasmine didn't respond. Lief took Jasmine's chin in his hand and gently lifted it so she was looking at him. "Please."

"The one in charge. He kicked my stomach, my arm, and my head. Then he- he," Jasmine took a deep breath. "He told me he was going to rape me when we made it out of the forest."

"What?" Lief's eyes darkened in rage. He pulled Jasmine even closer to him, desperately trying to comfort her. How dare anyone touch, let alone harm his Jasmine.

Lief couldn't deny that he harbors strong feelings for Jasmine. It started as a minor attraction, which had gradually escalated into something more.

Looking at her now, crippled and broken, Lief swore to protect Jasmine with his life. Even if it meant he would have to put his life on the line.

'I love her.' The thought surprised Lief, even though he knew it was inevitable.

"Jasmine," Lief sighed and gently rested his chin on top of her head, "I want you to know that those bastards will never hurt you ever again, especially if I have a say in it. You're saf-"

"How do you know that Lief? Last time I checked, we're both tied up in this sack, completely defenseless, Barda is goodness knows where, and neither of us are armed. How could I possibly be safe?"

Lief smiled fondly. 'She's still her realistic self, even in a situation like this one.'

"I honestly don't know, but I can guarantee you that as long as I'm breathing I'll protect you with my life. Jasmine, you're such a special person, and I love you way to much to allow any harm to come to you." Jasmine's head jerked up, crashing into his chin. Her forest green eyes were wide with disbelief.

"Wha-what did you say?"

'Shit! Did I really say that out loud? Nice timing Lief, you should win a fucking award.'

"I said that, that Iloveyou."

"What? Slow down."

"Fine! I said that I... love..." Lief gulped. "I love you Jasmine. I know that this is the worst possible time to say something like this, but I can't hold it in anymore! You're way too close to my heart, if anything happened to you, I would die.

I haven't even known you for a year, and yet, you still managed to worm your way straight to my heart. I know you're probably disgusted with me- I mean, after all that's happened to you today, I totally understand if you don't return my feelin-"

"Shut up you sap," Jasmine whispered. "I love you too Lief! More than you'll ever know."

Lief was acutely aware of how close his and Jasmine's faces were. Their lips were centimeters apart from each other. Jasmine's eyes flicked down to Lief's lips.

He licked his lips and leaned in. Jasmine smiled and pressed her lips to his. The kiss was gentle and a bit hesitant, but he look in Jasmine's eyes reassured Lief that she was completely okay with the kiss.

They parted to breathe before leaning back in. This time, the kiss lasted longer, and was more passionate. Lief was sure of himself, and Jasmine seemed content to go with the flow.

"I told you that nothing would happen to you as long as I was breathing. Jasmine, the truth is, I can't make that promise to you, but I sure as hell can try."

"Lief..."

He silenced her with another kiss, this one a quick peck to the cheek. "Don't say anything. I know, somehow I've always known. We'll be okay Jasmine, we'll be just fine, as long as we have each other."

Jasmine knew that Lief's words were pure. She smiled and nodded, then buried her head into his chest. His arms tightened their iron grip around her waist, and in that moment, Jasmine knew that everything would truly be okay.

As long as they had each other, Jasmine and Lief would continue on with their lives. No matter what the Shadowlord threw at them, no matter what obstacles they would face, they would rise above them. For love is the strongest force in nature, and it will always prevail above all.

Their relationship will lead into something more, something stronger than ever. Deltora would survive the Shadowlord, and eventually, the king will have his queen.