I yanked my slipping hood up as I shouldered my way through the crowded market. People cried out, swore, and one even tried to lunge at me, but I moved too quickly through the cobblestone square to catch any of it. My eyes glanced about for the biggest openings between the bodies that reeked of sweat. Couldn’t blame them for that though, the Mraga Isle was unbearable hot. I wanted to rid myself of this cloak for that reason, but it was the only means of concealment I had. I was sure he had spotted me though anyway. At least the cloak would ensure that no one I angered in this crowd would recognize me.
Upon escaping the masses, I broke out into a sprint towards the columned passageways. They were a network of inner channels and bridges in the city that allowed only nobility to move swiftly through the capital city while letting them admire its sights from on high. One of the many marble, arched entrances came into my line of sight. I slowed myself to a brisk walk. I lowered my hood, making the delicate, jeweled headpiece I wore visible.
Stopping before the armored guards, my panting filled the quiet area. The two of them studied my headpiece for too many moments before raising their pole-arm axes. They wore identical scowls as I nodded my head while rushing into the passage. I coughed on the fumes of lavender that wafted through the arch. It was more toxic than the market.
I passed the spiraled, marble columns, enjoying the shade the passage brought from the sun. My steps echoed throughout the corridor without anyone else present to counteract the noise. The intense smell still in the corridor and the almost glowing tiles told me the cleaners had already been through. So, I would be alone for a while then, good. This city, competition, and him were suffocating.
My body tensed as my ears picked up quick, yet light footsteps. My left hand instinctively went to my waist to grab my mace, but only grasped air. I gritted my teeth as I kept my pace steady. I forgot it got taken away when I was captured. No matter, I could do it the common way.
My cloak was grabbed from behind and I went back swinging my left elbow in the gut of my perpetrator. He groaned. I wound up to hit him again. He grabbed my elbow before I connected and spun me around. Now face to face, I snarled while moving away. As I thought, Fletcher.
He smirked as he lunged for my left wrist. I sidestepped and landed a kick to his right side. He lowly hissed, regaining his footing. “Come on Evelyn. I am not looking to fight you,”
“Well, I don’t want to fight either, but you haven’t taken the hint to leave me be. So, knocking some sense into you is my only option,” I slowly walked backwards, watching him.
He frowned and bolted straight for me. I shuffled to the side and ran back the way I came. If the guards saw that he was an intruder it would give me a chance to break away. However, his arm hooked around my waist and threw me into one of the marble columns. I gasped as my head and back connected. Both areas throbbed with pain. My head lulled forward. My body began to slip down the column
His strong, left forearm pushed into my stomach and held me in place. His left shoulder supported my right one with our foreheads nearly touching. I breathed in his scent of steel and grimaced. Long ago I had pondered what he would smell like, but that question and many others were destroyed long ago.
With his free hand, he ripped the decorative cuff from my left wrist and twisted it so the inside showed up. He slid his callus fingers over the scar on my skin. And gripped my wrist higher up and displayed his matching scar next to mine.
Both were two diamonds joined together by two points to form a straight line. The other six points became narrower the further they were from the fat core. The tips of the points curled so they resembled a curved blade. The initial for the first and last name were in the center of one of the diamonds while the middle was where the two points conjoined. The only differences were his scar contained the letters “EVH” in gray and mine “FAZ” in brown.
My fingers traced the shape of my mate scar on my left wrist as I watched him. My heart rapidly pounded in my chest as my lips spread into a wide grin. I bounced on my feet. My fingers clasped over my wrist. My soulmate. That man could be him.
The man swept his messy, dark hair out of his pale face. He swung his double-bladed naginata in a full circle with one hand before charging at his sparring partner. The lean muscles of his arms bulged out with each forceful swing he made. He nimbly avoided every jab and thrust from his partner before unarming him using his free hand. The fight was now over. His partner clapped him on the shoulder before taking his leave.
Most people were familiar with the mercenary Fletcher Zuric. He was the youngest Chief Fighter in the Honor In Arms, a reputable mercenary company that lived up to the name of their organization. I had been told from a barkeep that he had seen Fletcher marked with a mate scar similar to mine when they had passed through years back.
It wasn’t a fresh lead, but it’s the best lead I ever had. People who had soulmates weren’t in the majority, so when people saw the occasional mate scar they tended to be right in their recollection of them. And he swore one of the letters it bore was an ‘E’. No one else had ever given me a correct letter from my name.
Fletcher dissembled his naginata as I strode up behind him. The clashing of steel rang out throughout the clearing that smelled of pine. He applied more force onto the blade of my guard glove. Smirking, I matched his strength. I bet he wasn’t expecting that. He narrowed his brown eyes at me and withdrew his blade.
“If you want to join the company you need to prove yourself to the Chief Leader. Trying to impress a Chief Fighter will get you nowhere,” He sheathed his blades and turned to leave.
“I think you’re my soulmate,” There was no point in dancing around the question.
“Afraid I don’t bare a mate scar,” He started to walk away.
“I met a barkeep in Tessilia who claims otherwise,” You had to have one, I needed to find him.
Fletcher continued on his way. I marched past him and cut him off. I stood tall while I held my inner left wrist up to his eye level. “Prove to me you that you don’t bare the match to my scar and I will leave,”
He tightly grasped my wrist, shoving it down. “I am no one’s soulmate,”
Well, you might be mine. “Then let me see your right wrist,” I locked eyes with him.
Letting go of my wrist, he growled. He yanked up the sleeve on his lower right arm to reveal bandages. Did he keep his scar hidden? The soiled bandages uncoiled to reveal a wrist covered in ruby blisters and skin. “My arm got burned on our last operation. And as you can see its just burnt skin,”
He went to sidestep around me, but I matched his movements. I bit the inside of my cheek. Sure, there was no skin to hold the scar, but it didn’t mean it hadn’t once been there. Mate scars always came back once an injury healed. “That doesn’t prove anything. If you have a mate scar it will reappear once that heals,”
He glared with flared nostrils, “Listen, woman-”
“Evelyn, my name is Evelyn,” I grinned.
He glowered. “Listen, Evelyn, I don’t have a mark, so I don’t have a soulmate. So, leave me be and continue your search elsewhere,” He shoved me aside with his shoulder and stormed past.
I watched his retreating figure. “Your wound will eventually heal and I will be back to get my answer,”
“I guess this is your answer…we’re soulmates,” He gazed up at me. The right corner of his mouth upturned slightly.
“You gave me my answer three years ago,” I focused my eyes on one of the intricate marble columns. The unique swirling lines of dark purple were the same as the ones at the noble parties I attended as a child. Parties where people spoke of the grandness of having a soulmate. I wondered if they would still have those naive thoughts if they experienced what I had.
“I never thought you would smell of spiced ginger,”
“One of the nobilities most sought after scents,”
“You’re a noble?”
“For the present moments yes,” I pursed my lips as my eyes flickered over to his. They were such a rich, chocolaty brown.
“Are you in trouble?” His lips pressed into a firm line. His rough fingers dug into my left arm. After all these years, now he decided to care?
“Like I want the help of someone else holding me captive,” I snapped. I tried to adjust my torso, but his arm kept me pinned to the cool pillar.
“I’m not holding you captive,”
“Then let me go,”
“You’ll just run again,”
“Well, if you won’t release me then I’m your captive,”
“Darn it, Evelyn! I wouldn’t have done any of this if you just would have given me a chance to explain,” He stared into my gray eyes as he forcibly breathed through his nostrils.
“I did, three years ago. You made it clear you wanted to be alone, so you’re getting what you wanted,” My cheeks flushed while I inched forward with each word.
He sighed and released my left arm. His freed hand brushed some of my golden brown locks behind my left ear. His callus fingers tips glided down my face, cupping my chin. “I regret how I handled that day, but there was no other way too. If you just let me explain, I think you will understand,”
Our eyes remained locked, neither of us moving. I focused on my breathing, trying to keep it even. Each breath I let out fanned across his fan and vice versa. I used to dream of being this close to him, my soulmate. I dreamed of holding gazes right before I imagined the sweetest taste my lips would ever have. His eyes glanced several times at my lips before his face crept closer. But those dreams were gone, like so many others.
I spat in his face. He recoiled, yet kept his arm snug to my stomach. Shifting my torso, I managed to tuck my legs under me. I sprang off the marble tiles and threw myself into him. We toppled to the ground in a heap. He laid there dazed as I rolled off him.
I climbed to my feet but stumbled backward. My head whipped down to see Fletcher yet again had a hold of my cloak. The stupid thing had been more trouble than help. He was on his stomach and slowly getting to his feet.
Taking the cloak’s clasp in both hands, I ripped it from my throat. I ran to the nearest side of the passageway that provided a look-out point. Fletcher’s movements filled my ears. I scrambled onto the thick, marble railing. He shouted my name as I leaped into the city below.