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The Hardest Thing in Life to Learn- Which Bridge to Cross and Which Bridge to Burn



 
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Zahrah Mubarack

I'll keep this until such a time when you'll consider being an untrustworthy bitch isn't worth it.

Even just thinking of the words he said made her physically flinch. He'd said them so easily she could swear he enjoyed it. She'd never seen that side of him and she had to say she wasn't a fan at all.

Did it hurt? Even just a little to say those things? she couldn't help but wonder.

He'd compared her to Corbin, and breaking that barrier for her was almost unforgivable. How could he? He knew what that man had done to her. Hurt her inside and out. Confined her, tied her up and tortured her. That was the ultimate insult and he knew that. Did Naberius really think that ill of her or that she and Corbin were cut from the same cloth? She laid with the man so he wouldn't hurt Naberius, did that make her just like him?

It had been a few weeks since she'd come back to NOLA from Port-au-Prince, and then another since the altercation at the Yule Ball. Telling LaBelle that she needed some time away, but promising to stay within the city limits of New Orleans, she rented a room in a rustic hotel located in the French Quarter. She needed to be away from the Coven; she had research to do. People to talk to and seek out. Despite how much Naberius had hurt her, she needed to try and help him. She owed him that. Paying for the room in advance for 2 weeks, she felt that would be ample time to do what she needed to do (or least get a decent head start).

Afterwards, if they didn't speak again, she would consider them even -no matter how broken hearted it left her- and go their separate ways.

The room was gorgeous, and there was an even better view outside of the window. But she couldn't enjoy it. Everything looked dull and gray; ugly. She was jaded by the words of the man she loved because she chose to lie. Those intimate moments they shared that night before she left caused a flutter in her belly, but was immediately replaced by a nauseating feeling that she'd destroyed that bond with him.

Sitting at a desk in the room, her laptop illuminated her features in the darkened room. The sun was beginning to set, so while it wasn't completely dark, she could tell that it wouldn't be long. Papers and books lay open and scattered on the plush bed that she'd scoured for information. She'd already been in this room for three days, and while there were tidbits here and there she had pulled and some leads she planned to seek out, there wasn't much she had to go on. Pulling her legs underneath of her in the swiveling chair, she turned herself to the large, leather book Naberius had given to her at the Yule Ball.

"What the hell is this, Legba?" she wondered aloud.

Using the tips of her fingers she gently opened the book. The pages looked to be lined with gold, and they had a parchment-like quality to them. But page after page... she flipped through them again and again just as she'd been doing since she received it; they were blank. Every single damn page had nothing on it. Was this just Legba's way of screwing with her again? Making her think there was something there that in reality isn't? There's no telling what the mysteroious Voodoo man meant by ensuring she took this book into her possession. She thought at one point Legba wanted to assist her in freeing Naberius from Abigor's clutches, but now she wondered if he, too, was just taking pleasure in her torment.

Frustrated, she slammed the book shut, uttering "son of a bitch" as she did so. She closed her eyes, dry from staring at the laptop screen and books all day, and pinched the bridge of her nose for a few moments. Her stomach growled, reminding her she hadn't eaten since the day before.

She opened her eyes again, staring at the blank leather book. What the hell. Just ask him.

Her fingers drifted towards the laptop and she pulled up her email. Finding the initial contact from Legba about receiving the "package", she hit reply. What's the worst that could happen? He could ignore her?

She typed out a short message:

Why was it so important you give me this book?

How is Nab-


-delete, delete, delete-

She couldn't ask about Naberius, no matter how much she really wanted to.

A simple signature at the end; "Z", and she hit send.

She swiveled herself around, away from the laptop.

Why was this line so hard to walk between loving Naberius and being so angry at him?

A lump in her throat formed as the image of his angered face flashed before her eyes. Her vision blurred as his words played over and over in her head. Angry. Spiteful. Zahrah could feel the warmth of a tear sliding down her cheek and she hated how weak she felt when it came to this man. She'd helped nurse him back to health, sang to him in her native tongue in hopes it would quell the pain in his mind so he could properly mend not only his physical being, but his mental being as well. Hastily, she wiped her face with the back of her hand. Why couldn't she be free of LaBelle and Naberius be free of Abigor so they could live and love peacefully? She used to think that was possible at one time. But not anymore.

Definitely not now.

Her eyes fell to her cell phone and she reached for it. Even though she'd deleted his number it didn't matter, she still had the sequence memorized perfectly.

She wanted to call him and hear his voice. She was dying inside not being able to tell him how sorry she was that everything happened the way it did. But she couldn't. People would get hurt and possibly even killed.

She needed to make things right. Or at least try.

January 02, 2021 09:04 pm

Legba

The Voodoo Priest of Port-au-Prince, otherwise known as Papa Legba or simply Legba, raised a brow at the commotion that flooded his lounge space in his warehouse. Papa Legba's Peche Minwi masqueraded as a nighttime lounge bar in a warehouse on the coast of Port-au-Prince with several different rooms for entertainment.

The belly of the structure was not for the faint of heart; the hidden rooms were geared toward the deranged and deprived. Fantasies, kinks and perversions were acted out willingly, and sometimes unwillingly. Either way, certain patrons were allowed through the only door that was located near the bar. The entrance into the building's bowels was closely guarded by Nita.

The two idiots who were arguing loudly, shoving at each other, must not have seen Legba. His usual seat by the fireplace was vacant, as instead he had decided on sitting in a dark corner, the leather seat booth was small with a wood table. His usual glass of rum sat near an old thick leather wrapped book. A cell phone sat to the right of that. An oak letter box with twin crystal glass cut ink pots took up most of the left side of the table. On the flat part of the wood, resting in a groove made for it lay an old glass dip pen.

"Fucking asshole! You still owe me fifty bucks!" One of the men growled, grabbing the shorter man's shirt.

"Piss off dirtbag! Theo didn't take the bet, it's not valid." He sneered. "Be happy with the twenty I handed over."

"Cocksuckingdouche…" the first man raised his fist to slam it into the other man's face.

"Enough!" The word filled the space as Legba hit the floor with his cane, a pulse of power ripped through the entire room. Everyone was frozen in place, unable to move. The seven foot Priest slid from his table with deadly grace. "Both of you know better than to bring dealings from below to the upper levels. For that alone you two will go back down to the cages and fight it out. Begone!"

A second tap from his cane broke the spell. Everyone was released. A small murmur filled the room as conversations were picked back up after the two knuckleheads wandered back down to the cages.

Taking his seat once more, Legba glanced at his phone vibrating on the table. His red painted brow jerked up at Zahrah's text. There was a lot that she didn't know. A lot that Naberius didn't know. The loa had taken interest in the two lovers, but there was only so much he could reveal at once.

Unbinding the book, Legba opened the cover to reveal blank rough parchment pages. This book was sister to the one that Zahrah had in her possession. He knew the exact second she stole the scroll, he had known from the start that she would steal it. It was the way things had to play out. However … that didn't mean she had to steal the real scroll. An item this powerful could not find its way into Madame LaBelle's corrupt fingers; losing the Staff was bad enough.

Uncorking a glass jar, Legba dipped the glass pen tip, paused for a brief second over the pages before writing his response. He didn't bother texting Zahrah back. This would get the point across. Whatever he wrote on these pages would appear in Zahrah's book.

Do you seek the answers you want … or the ones that you need. How far are you willing to travel, bend, deceive and possibly take a life to find what you search for? Your path is not for the faint of heart. You will ache, shed tears, be angry and betray before the end.

There.

Legba set the pen in its home, picked up his rum and waited for an answer.
January 03, 2021 04:46 am

Naberius Reum


The first thing Naberius did when he returned to Peche Minwi from Valhalla in the Crossroads, was get ahold of his jeweler. He wanted to make the green emerald charm into an earring for safe keeping. He dropped the gem off the next day, and picked it up four days later. The gem was set into a short dangle chain with a lock loop that went into a hole in his left lobe.

He wouldn't admit it, but her words had hurt badly. They sliced, bled him on the inside. At night she haunted him, mocking his love for her. Or, she would be screaming at him, cussing him out for the vile things he said to her.

And he deserved every single word she tossed at him. He was an asshole. The darkness inside craved to make sure Zahrah knew exactly what her devious actions caused. And in doing so, he cut her deep. Comparing her to Corbin, to her rapist and tormentor had been low. To even suggest she was cut from the same cloth? How would he take it back, if ever given the chance?

Fawk. He was in a mood. Even the three cage matches in the basement did nothing to ease the rage burning inside him. The hurt.

A week later, Abigor summoned him. And here he was, back in his small ass bedroom, locked inside … waiting for his Master to remember that he was here. Grey sweat pants hung low on hips as he completed the twenty fifth set of thirty pushups. At least they remembered to feed him this time,even if it was once a day.

A knock jarred him from his thoughts, the door opened. "Reum, Master wants you downstairs now."
January 03, 2021 04:58 pm

Zahrah Mubarack

After she'd sent the email she knew she needed to walk away for a little while. She threw on a hooded sweatshirt and tossed her hair in a pony tail before wiggling into some jeans. Shoes were last, and grabbing her bookbag with her phone and wallet in it she decided she would take a small respite by walking a few blocks over for some take out. The French Quarter had no shortage of restaurants, so she knew it would distract her to walk down there, look around, and figure out what she wanted to eat. Happy with her decision, she left and began her journey around the French Quarter.

Her mind was running a mile a minute and truth be told it was exhausting. There was so much she wanted and needed to do but it seemed like she had no where to start. In the research she had done thus far she knew Abigor was a demon general. He was proficient in war and its tactics. So, keeping this knowledge in mind, what did he want with Naberius? How did Naberius come to even be a possession of this demon general?

Her heart ached to think of her Naberius- no, not her Naberius. Not any longer. What happened to bring someone as strong and smart as Naberius to his knees and basically render him powerless against this being? She shoved her hands into the front pocket of her hooded sweatshirt as she sighed; images of Naberius' tattered, broken, and bloodied body entered her mind. It was like Naberius was forced to do Abigor's bidding because he owed him some kind of debt. But what could Naberius possibly have wanted that would lead him to take advantage of a bargaining chip such as slavery to a demon general of Hell?

And how was LaBelle connected to all this? The staff? The scroll? When was this going to start making sense to her?

Delectable smells filled her nose as she breathed and she realized that she'd already made her way to the French Quarter. It didn't take her long to decide on some street-food style Chinese; short ribs and lo mein noodles. With her prized meal in hand, she made her way back to her hotel room, where she was greeted with the same loneliness that she'd had left. She set her food and backpack down on the desk, but as she took her hooded sweatshirt back off, she realized something had caught her eye but just now registered in her brain.

The book. Legba's book. It was open.

She knew she didn't leave the book open like that before she left. In fact she remembered shutting it with quite a bit of force as well as a few choice words. Her sweatshirt fell to the floor in a crumpled heap and she turned her attention to the desk. Instead of the blank page that had greeted her before, there was now writing in its place.

From Legba.

There had to be another one or he was using some form of magic to communicate with her through this book.

And he knew something. Legba knew more than he'd let on before. He had to have some connection with Abigor to be considered a safe haven for Naberius from the demon. She needed answers. She would travel, bend, lie (more), and even kill to help Naberius. She would even steal the scroll back from LaBelle and return it to Legba if it meant she could make this right and free her demon.

Her mind was made up. She would do whatever it took and more. Picking up an ink pen sitting beside her laptop, she penned her own response below the cryptic notation:

I need answers. I have to help Naberius and I will do whatever you need or ask. Please tell me where to start.

She tossed the pen aside and chewed on her bottom lip nervously; where was this going to lead her? Her dinner forgotten she crossed her arms and made her way to the small balcony attached to her room. There she stood, staring at the moon now that the sun had disappeared, and nervously awaited her instructions to begin a journey to free her enslaved love.

January 04, 2021 10:47 pm

Legba

"I haven't heard from Berius in a week," Nita broke the silence that Legba was enjoying as he watched over the room. She filled his glass with more rum. Her worried eyes locked with his. "It's not like him to go a couple days without a text that he's okay, even if he's with Abigor."

The Voodoo man sighed. "Abigor has him on a tight leash this time. Something has the brothers and sisters in a frenzy. They are unwilling, or unable, to share with me. My hands are tied, Nita."

Her ice blue eyes snapped in quick anger then fizzled. She sat heavy on the opposite side of the booth, disgruntled at the notion. "I hate this. I hate that he's alone, I hate that they're mad at each other. I hate that I actually like the green eyed bitch, and think she's good for him. Even if she stole from you."

Legba smiled at her easily, his dark hand patted her shoulder once. "Tough decisions must be dealt by both of them before the bigger picture is clear."

Nita rolled her eyes at him, sarcasm dropped from her words. "That's some comforting voodoo shit. Roberto!" She sprang to her feet, her voice carrying across the room as a spanish male dressed in black pants and a loud Hawaiian shirt jerked to attention, spinning around to face her from where he was attempting to sneak behind the bar. "I swear to the fucking gods, if you take one step behind my bar, I'm going to make you an eunich."

"Ah, come now chica. You were busy with the boss," Roberto sought to placate her quickly. "I didn't want to interrupt."

"You're a lying …"

Legba tuned them out as writing began to appear on the page before him. "Good girl, Zahrah," he murmured, impressed that she had figured out the book's secret so quickly. There had been others who remained to this day stumped. He wasn't surprised at her response. The pirate and his dancer would always fight for their love. It was how their story went, everytime.

Good. Your first destination is Jerusalem; there is a town brownstone that I think you are interested in visiting. Do not worry about LaBelle, she will allow you to leave. When you arrive, text my number and I will give you the address. Also, wear the wolf charm and try to resist throwing it at someone.

Closing the thick cover, Legba stood to intervene in Nita and Roberto's argument before the healer actually went through with the threat of castration.
January 05, 2021 03:14 pm

Naberius Reum

"Reum. Good to have you back, I hope your time away was pleasant?" The flat words came as Naberius entered the living room. Abigor sat in his usual recliner next to the fireplace. They were the only two in the living space.

Naberius stood at attention, feet shoulder length apart, wrists crossed against his back with his eyes straight ahead. He remained silent knowing the question had been rhetorical.

Everything he didn't want the asshole to know was safely locked behind a wall in his brain. He made sure to keep enough available in case Abigor felt like rummaging around in his thoughts.

Zahrah was safe. Even though he was pissed as fuck about her leaving, as well as the words she tossed at him, he still protected her. He continued to keep her secret from his Master.

She would always be his Beloved, no matter how bad they fought. Keeping her from being found was his priority.

The last few times at Legba's the slave bonds seemed to have weakened. The once bright red energy that connected the black tattooed bands was now dull. He could access power that wasn't available before, and it seemed that Abigor was none the wiser.

"You're going to Tokyo, Madrid and Haiti."

Naberius' eyes narrowed. What the hell was his Master after? This man did nothing without a reason. Nothing. "What are in those cities, sir?"

An evil glint appeared in Abigor's eyes. "Three beings that belong to me. A kitsune in Tokyo, a basilisk shifter from Madrid and a Mambo priestess in Haiti. You may choose your own itinerary, but I expect you to be back in a month. The basilisk will be the most difficult to obtain. The details are in the folder on your bed. You leave tomorrow morning."

"Yes, Master."

Abigor flicked his wrist, the wards keeping Naberius in the house disappeared. "Go get a decent meal from the kitchen, supplies from the basement as well. Your car leaves at 8am."
January 05, 2021 08:33 pm

Zahrah Mubarack

A brownstone in Jarusalem that she would be interested in visiting? She'd never even been to Jarusalem. Well, not that she'd remembered. It pissed her off that Legba was always so cryptic and could never just tell her right away what she was looking for, what she was supposed to do, or even what he expected of her. But no. He had to pull his Loa bull shit and be mysterious.

It was neither here nor there at this point though. That night she packed her things up and left the hotel in the French Quarter to return to the large mansion-like house that the Coven and most of its members resided in. Legba made it seem like LaBelle would have no problem with her leaving the country. She had no idea how that would even work considering the last time she left the country LaBelle got pissed and pretty much sent a mercenary after her to bring her back. How was this going to be any easier?

But it was. It was as if LaBelle was allowing this as a favor to Legba. It irked Zahrah to think of this; how did these two know each other and what was their relationship? That would just have to be another thing to add to her list of things she needed to figure out that others felt the need to hide from her.

That list had grown exponentially over the past few months.

Zahrah could not leave until another ritual was done by the Coven. When they found her on the beach with the large, gaping wound that began above her belly button, came up over her left breast, and ended at the collar bone, she was near death. And she'd begged for it. As the waves had washed over her she could taste the saltiness of the water and the metallic properties of blood on her tongue and wished for death to just claim her once and for all. But LaBelle and the Coven had found her and through the help of magick, continuous rituals done every four to six weeks, she was able to be kept alive. As the Coven Leader had explained to her, while the ritual slowly healed her, it also kept her alive because of the extensive damage to her physical body and soul.

This is also why she was in a perpetual state of debt to LaBelle.

Again... another thing on her list. There had to be more to this.

Before she could leave for Jarusalem another ritual must be done. Strangely enough she could never remember them. LaBelle informed her that they put her in a cataonic like state because it would be much too painful for her to remain awake and aware while they performed it. She'd tried many times to fight the magick but couldn't. It still won over in the end and she would wake up in her own bed a few days later.

This had become habit, and because of that, Zahrah knew that she would need to focus on this at another time. It was low on the list of priorities to her. Right now her concern was Naberius.

She pushed herself, though still groggy from the ritual, to pack for her trip to Jarusalem. Two suitcases and a backpack later and she felt she was ready to go. She had no idea how long she was going to be gone, so she made sure to pack enough for two weeks. The backpack would be kept on her at all times until she landed at her destination. Her laptop and the leatherbound book from Legba were among its contents. She'd chosen a red eye flight so she wouldn't have to deal with so many people. She hated the crowds, they made her nervous sometimes.

As she opened her bedroom door to leave, she muttered "shit".

She walked back towards her dresser. A small, black, fireproof safe on top rested there. She quickly pressed in the numerical code that would open it. One thing lay inside; a small bracelet with a wolf's head charm. Her heart ached thinking of Naberius and the happy look on his face the night he'd given this to her. He loved her. Well, he did. She had put the necklace on before the Yule Ball thinking the charm and the emerald would look stunning with her dress, and noticed that the wolf's head had fallen off. She took it to a jeweller and had them affix it to a bracelet so she wouldn't lose it and she could wear it whenever she needed or wanted to. A small sigh left her as her heart ached to hear his voice. She missed him dearly. Clasping the bracelet around her wrist, she shut the door to the safe, grabbed her suitcases, and exited the bedroom.

By the time she'd taken a cab to the airport and gotten to her seat in first class on the plane, she was nearly exhausted. And the flight was going to be several hours. Clutching her backpack to her and leaning her head on the small pillow provided by the flight staff, she allowed herself to close her eyes.

She was asleep before the plane left the ground.

January 15, 2021 10:29 am

Naberius Reum

Naberius climbed into the SUV with dumb and dumber the next morning. His duffel bag was already thrown into the trunk. No one spoke as the driver pulled out, the dislike was mutual for them all.

The Mamba was hiding out in Cite Soleil, in a shop that she owned. A small run-down building at the heart of the poor city. This would be the easiest of the three. He hoped. Anything was possible when it came to the Loa. The two SUVs rolled to a stop in front of the store. A worn sign ‘Mambo Widelene’s’ hung at the entrance.

“Stay here,” Naberius snapped, getting out of the vehicle.

“Whatever,” the front seat passenger grunted. “You’re the trained lapdog.”

The pirate's hand reached in through the open window, slamming the lackeys' head into the dashboard. Blood and a startled cry from a broken nose erupted the SUV into chaos. Rolling his head side to side as aggravation hummed through his body, Naberius jerked open the door to step inside. The faint smell of mint, musk and cigar smoke smacked him with such familiarity that it caused him to pause in the doorway, brows furrowed in confusion. Dark chocolate eyes adjusted quickly to the dim lighting produced by the glass in the door and the three lamps that were placed around the shop. Wood shelves full of knick-knacks and voodoo objects created isles that lead to a glass display with an old cash register. The antique piece of equipment was from decades passed; no electronic gadgets could be found inside it.

Goosebumps raced up his arms, down his spine as he surveyed the store before him. He narrowed his eyes as the shadows on the walls began shifting. Images of men formed then disappeared in rapid succession - over and over again. A low humming filled the air and it took him a couple of seconds to realize that HE was growling.

The shadows combined to form a tall figure on the back wall. He appeared to laugh at Naberius then tipped his hat before vanishing in a swish. The shadows finally quieted.

"Fucking Loa," He muttered darkly.

"You should take that as a compliment. Ogou Balendjo doesn't show himself to just anyone." The older feminine voice gave way to the mocha skinned woman as she pushed through the beads hanging in the doorway. She wore a white ceremonial robe with bright colored embroidery around the delicate vee neckline, wrists and hemline. Symbols mixed in a foreign language ... how he knew it was a written language, he had no idea. Unease began to settle in his body, tensing his muscles.

A knowing grin curled her lips at his discomfort. "I've been waiting for you, Naberius Reum. It only took five years, seven months and becoming a new version of yourself."

Naberius grunted, fingers pinched the bridge of his nose before he made eye contact with the Mambo again. "What is it with these ... creatures and their sudden obsession with me?"

Widelene's brow jerked up, a half laugh filled the space between them. "Why are you so sure it just started? Could it be that only now you are willing to listen? I will share something with you, Mr. Reum - for free." Her body jerked to attention as a predatory look entered her gaze, the change took place in a matter of milliseconds. "You have been on our radar for a very long time - since your birth truth be told. However, the time was not appropriate - you had much to learn - much to lose, and now you have much to gain. Take heed, Mr. Reum - Pay attention to the mountain when he speaks of the moon; for the moon cannot survive without his blessing. And without the moon - the Sultan's Pet will be lost."

Naberius frowned at her, watching as her body shook for a brief moment before relaxing. Her eyes lost the predator look that happened when the loa took over. Mountain? Moon? Sultan's Pet? Could she be talking about Zahrah? His eyes darkened. Even with the heartache, anger, suspicion - and perhaps a little disgust because she didn't trust him enough to help - between them, he felt the pull to protect her. To make sure no hostility or backlash found her. He wanted nothing more to make her happy, to free her from her bounds. Magical and other.

Fuck.

"What does Abigor want with you?" He asked bluntly. "He has ordered me to bring you back to his house."

Widelene rolled her eyes. "Abigor is, and will always be, thirsty for power. As a Demon General it's in his nature to find and acquire different methods of obtaining that. Legba and I have dealt with Abigor longer than you have been enslaved to him; we understand his tactics and we know how to navigate them with the least damage possible to us and others."

Naberius considered her words. If she knew Legba and Abigor, there was no need for him to even consider worrying. She could handle herself.

“Do you need to grab anything before you leave?”

Widelene tilted her head. “No, Abigor won’t keep me long regardless of what he thinks. A few days at most. One final piece of advice - free of Loa intervention. Trust yourself Naberius, when the time comes to choose - trust in yourself.”

Naberius led the woman out of the shop into the SUV not occupied by dumb and dumber. He nodded to the driver. “Abigor is expecting her.”

“Yes sir,”

Climbing into the back of his SUV, he growled. “Airport.”

Ignoring the dumbasses up front, Naberius pulled out his cellphone to check for messages. He sent one to Legba about Widelene, also telling him that he would be out of the country for a bit.
March 28, 2021 01:36 pm
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