Authors: JK Ensley,Jennifer Ensley
Protected by Emeralds
“When life comes full circle, and the path you have walked comes back to you… what will you find? Will the bones of your enemies be strewn about at your feet? Or will you now see forgiveness where once only pain lived? For know this… your life is like a museum for your old age—a visual testament your mind will ever walk through. Paint pretty pictures, Brothers and Sisters”
Book Five of
A Dance with Destiny
I am Kagi Naga, the blessed one… the cursed one. These words tell my story. Yet my pain… Ahh, Brothers and Sisters, my pain is oft too tangible a thing to ever be properly sated by mere words. As is my heart. Epic and marvelous a thing—Love.
Copyright© 2014 by Jennifer Ensley
Protected by Emeralds is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance, similarity, or identification to actual persons, living or dead, events, products or locales is entirely coincidental and unintentional.
Artwork by Claudia McKinney.
Cover Design by Ashley Dungan, The Bookish Brunette.
Editing by Keith Roberts.
Additional Editing by Mel Carey.
Formatting by Jennifer Ensley.
All rights are reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form, including but not limited to, characters, text, book design, and artwork all owned solely by Jennifer K. Ensley. Any unauthorized duplication and/or distribution of this work, characters, places, and story in whole or in part may result in civil liability and criminal prosecution.
*A variation of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s
There was a Little Girl
poem appears on page 58.*
*A stanza from Lewis Carroll’s
poem is quoted on page 207. All credit goes to Lewis Carroll.* Namaste.
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This one is for my loyal fans.
Namaste, Brother and Sisters.
All works by JK Ensley are available in print at Amazon.com, Createspace.com, Barnes and Noble.com, and wherever books are sold. eBooks available in all formats and for all devices. Audio books available through Audible.com, Amazon.com, and iTunes.
A Dance with Destiny Series:
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“Treat your life with care, Brothers and Sisters. Make wise choices. The bed you now make should b
a comfortable place to eventually lay down your tired old bones.”
“Jezreel, my love. Come here. Father has something he wishes to share with us.”
Kias held out his hand, beckoning his wife to come join them in the meeting hall.
“I have news of your angelic sister, sweet Jezreel,” Dofarel said, smiling. “I wish to ease your mind concerning her. You need to save your energy, Princess. Not only for
peace of mind, but for the health of the babe as well.”
Jezreel quietly thanked her doting husband as he helped her to sit. She looked to the Elven King as she absently rubbed her encumbered belly.
“Is it fair news?” she asked hopefully.
The King smiled. “I would bring you no other kind, Milady.”
When all interested parties had filed in and taken their seats, he went on.
“Jenevier has been found, whole and well. And although her state of mind was such that she refused the return of her stolen essence, her Blessing remains hopeful that one day she will come around.”
“What do you mean, refused her essence?” Kias asked.
“What I mean, my dear son, is that Jenevier had learned to thrive, minus what it was Trelaina stole from her. She is not yet the woman you all met at the wedding celebration, no. Nonetheless, she fell upon a different layer, was taken in by their kindly King, and even found love there. Her heart and soul were nearly healed by the time her friends found her. And as such, she refused to accept the return of the Jenevier she once was.”
Jezreel snorted softly. “Still stubborn as they come, that’s good to hear.”
“Not nearly as stubborn as you were, my love,” Kias whispered.
“Let’s hear the rest of the story before you say such.” Jezreel tenderly patted his knee. “You only knew her for a day. I knew her for a lifetime.”
Kias lovingly kissed his wife’s temple, before turning his attention back to his speaking father.
“As I was saying.” King Dofarel quietly cleared his throat. “She was returned to her home safe and sound, but with a huge decision to make. The Archs offered her a chance to give up her wings, if she so wished, and return to her normal human life. Alas, things did not go as planned. Jenevier ended up running away with her Dragon, returning to the new family she had made on Val Hal.”
“Perhaps you were right, dear wife,” Kias whispered.
“Just wait,” Jezreel whispered back. “I can tell there is much more to come.”
“Once there, she was married to the snow-crowned warrior she had fallen wholly in love with. Although it was not her immediate intent—marriage—it turned into an amazing blessing. Jenevier has lived these last seven peaceful years as one of the happiest creatures under the sun.”
“Wait for it,” Jezreel whispered.
“…Until yesterday,” Dofarel said softly.
“I knew it.” Jezreel slammed her hand down atop the table. “By the gods, Fate is the most evil creature I have ever known. Why, Father? Why bring us all here only to pour salt inside my gaping wounds?”
“Not salt, dear daughter-in-law… balm.” He smiled softly. “Last night, beside her beloved Finnean’s funeral pyre, Jenevier swore vengeance and wrath upon her broken heart. She vowed to end the murderous man’s life minus any trial, any forgiveness. When the Angels pleaded with her, she banished them from her sight.”
Jezreel held her tongue, listening quietly, nodding as the King spoke.
“Then, what happened, Father?” Kias asked. “Please give us fair news.”
The King cleared his throat. “Her dark husband, the one who unleashed the wretched war that nearly destroyed this realm… he came to her.”
“I hope she tore his vile head off,” Jezreel hissed.
Dofarel smiled. “She tried, yes. She very nearly succeeded. Alas, he had come for extraordinarily different reasons than the ones you might think. He brought with him a warning, one concerning the fate of her soul if she did not give up on her vengeance.”
“She forgave him, didn’t she?” Jezreel said softly. “My beautiful, trusting sister forgave all the wrongs that had been wrought her by that darkest of all Angels.”
“I am not certain she forgave
the wrongs, no,” King Dofarel said. “But she did forgive the man who took her husband’s life. At least, she bade him be released from his chains. As for the Prince of Hell… No, he was not forgiven. When her son convinced her to accept the whole of her stolen essence, the whole of her soul, all the old memories of her former life came flooding back with it.”
“Dammit,” Jezreel whispered. “She had to suffer through everything again? That is beyond cruel.”
“Perhaps so, my love,” Kais said, stroking her silky hair. “But she is better off being a whole woman, than one walking about minus most of her past.”
“Yes,” Dofarel agreed. “When her stolen life was returned to her, she accepted her fate and lives now as the lethal little Death Angel she was meant to be.”
Jezreel furrowed her brow as she spoke. “Just like that?”
“Well, no… not
like that,” Dofarel admitted. “She is changed now. She no longer skips across the layers all smiles and blowing kisses. Now… now she rains fire down on the damned, minus guilt or remorse. Now… she is fierce and terrifying.”
“Good for her,” Jezreel said, smiling happily. “That’s the best news I have heard in ages. I am truly glad she has overcome the vile trappings of her poor old tattered heart.”
“And that’s not the only good news,” Dofarel continued.
“Come, Father. Do not keep us in suspense,” Kias complained.
The King smiled down at his lovely daughter-in-law. “She is now a grandmother, Jezreel. Tenshi has given her a beautiful little granddaughter. And… a new reason to live.”
“A grandchild…” Jezreel’s whispered words only emphasized her complete shock. “Jenevier… a mamaw?” She smiled. “Ha, who would have guessed it?”
Kias sweetly kissed her cheek before whispering in her ear. “We have some catching up to do, my love.”
Jezreel only giggled.
“Perhaps when our child is born…” Kias gently helped her to her feet. “…perhaps she will come. If she knew you were burdened thusly, I am certain she would be here now.”
“Perhaps,” Jezreel whispered. “But I fear she has much more pressing concerns than silly things like throwing a baby shower or some such nonsense. Besides, she swore never to return to this realm.”
“Ahh, mi Shafeal, there is no such thing as
“Where have you been, Naga?”
She tossed the little bag of colored stones on the table and collapsed wearily down into the soft chair. “Read my mind, Daichi.”
He sighed. “I was not questioning you, Empress. I was merely trying to carry on a normal conversation.”
“Normal?” She huffed out a laugh. “On which layer of this universe, exactly, would we be considered
“You know what I mean, Mistress.” He lightly touched the back of her hand. “You have been returned to your people more than three years now. We share the same room, sleep on the same bed. Yet, I no longer know you, Kagi Naga. You are withdrawn.”
She rolled her eyes. “I’m going to take a bath.”
Her dismissive words stabbed his aching heart. “You have another summons,” he said stiffly.
She sighed loudly, exaggeratedly. “And just
were you keeping this little bit of news to yourself?”
Daichi stood then and turned to face her. “I miss you, Naga. I only wished to spend a tiny moment in time with you—a blissful breath of peace. Is that too much to ask?”
“You dream of things that will never be, Daichi.” She sighed again. “You wanted me eternally? Done. I am yours. I am immortal. I made the choice, accepted my lethal wings. I am at your side for all time. Yet, my eternal decision came with a price, one I must continue to pay. We can never have it both ways, Daichi. We were not formed with freedom such as that. Either we live and love like a flash in the pan—blissfully happy yet gone in nearly an instant—or, we live as we are. Forever we breathe, yet forever we war. Blood was my choice. I gave up on love when I accepted my fate. You would do well to follow my lead, Brother.”
“Wise words birth wise counsel.” He bowed toward her. “I shall plant them in my heart and tend them daily, Empress.”
“Spare me your condescending sarcasm, Lord Daichi. I grow ever tired of it. Now, tell me. Where am I needed?”
He cocked one sapphire eyebrow as he turned to leave. “Read my mind,” he muttered.
Jenevier rolled her eyes, shook her head, and leapt from the high balcony.
I hate Angels
, she thought.
Swooping down low, she let the tips of the ever-blooming lavender brush along her gliding body.
“Sayonara, Naga Obaasan!”
She pulled up sharp, smiling as she returned the exaggerated wave of the tiny girl bouncing atop the broad shoulders of her only son.
“Nos da, little one. I will see you soon,” she yelled. “I left a surprise for you in my room—a little bag on my nightstand.”
She watched as the precious little Princess clapped, urging her father to take her at once to retrieve the new gift. Tenshi smiled and waved before turning to go back inside. Jenevier returned the gesture and sighed.
“Wow… You look
to be a mamaw.”
She rolled her eyes when she heard the familiar voice. “Oh, just shut it, Uriel.” She turned to find the Arch right behind her. “What are you doing here? It cannot possibly be good news,
“Ouch, your words cut me like a knife, little sister.” He smiled then and puffed out his angelic chest. “You can consider me your
for this one, tiny Fire Dragon.”
She rolled her eyes, again.
“Why do you always do thus?” he asked. “Know you not it is irritating to all who witness it?”
“Yes. As a matter of fact, I
know that. Thus the action.” She did it again. “Tell me. Why has a mighty Arch been reduced to answering a Death Angel’s summons? A demotion, perhaps?”
“Ah, I never tire of your advanced wit and timely jests.” Uriel rolled
“See? Is it not a maddening thing to look upon?” he said sardonically.
She sighed. “Very well, you made your point.” She turned her head slightly and rolled her eyes.
He yanked one of her curls. “Kagi Naga, I can still tell you are doing it… whether I
it or not.”
“Ugh, I hate Angels,” she grumbled.
“Yes. I believe you have mentioned such before. Once or twice.” He smiled down at her. “Ready to go?”
She smiled brightly, batting her long lashes. “Always willing and ever eager, Milord,” she chirped.
“Hmm… You used to be much better at hiding your sarcasm and disdain. You are losing your touch, Naga.”
was back when I wished not to cause too great an offense. Now… I just don’t care.”
Uriel narrowed his eyes. “Are you well, Kagi Naga? Does your Daichi remain with you, always?”
“He heals me daily, if that’s what you mean.”
“Physically, perhaps,” he mumbled.
. That is the only way he heals me because that is the only way I let him. It’s the only type of
I need, Brother.”
“Hmm… So you say.” He cut his eyes sideways at her. “It must be nice to be so young yet know
“Eh… it has its good days and bad,” she said, shrugging her shoulders.
“Why you little—”
Uriel’s chastising words came too late. Jenevier had already darted into the clouds, leaving the Arch to chase after her.
Uriel’s mighty wings joined hers as she gazed down upon the carnage below them.
“You are maddening, little Naga,” he said.
“So I’ve been told,” she mumbled.
Her eyes never left the bloody scene laid out upon the ground.
“It is horrible, is it not?” he whispered.
“No matter what I happen to witness, Uriel, no matter what horrible thing I come across, the atrocities contained within the heart of man… never cease to amaze me.” She shook her head, sorrowfully.
“‘Tis true.” He slowly nodded his agreement. “This particular realm has known its fair share of war and unexplainable violence, to be sure. Magic was once a blessed thing upon Earth. Long has it been absent this place.”
“But, these people, Uriel…” She drew closer, morbidly mesmerized by their raven hair and fair skin. “They look like…” She paused.
“Yes, Naga.” He lightly touched her shoulder. “And that is the truth of why I am here with you today.”
She looked at him, confused.
“For support,” he continued. “Support for your heart, if you need it. And support for your mission, should you not be able to complete it.”
She bent down and brushed the long black locks off the cold cheek of a young woman. “Why would I not be able to complete it?” she asked absently.
He waited until the realization of what she was looking upon sank in.
She gasped. “Uriel, this woman… she could be Hinata’s twin.” She turned to make sure he was looking. “This woman, Brother, look at her. How can these people be as my own? You said we are on Earth, did you not?”
“Yes, Naga. We stand upon the eighth layer, yet a different part from what you have seen before. The humans who live here, they call this part of their realm, Asia, to be exact. And, yes. They greatly favor your Jinnites in looks and coloring.”
“It is wretchedly uncanny,” she whispered, mostly to herself.
She narrowed her eyes when she looked back up, studying Uriel’s guarded face. He shuffled uncomfortably under her penetrating gaze.
“What do you hide from me, Brother?” she said, staring deep within him. “Why is your mind so closed to me? Do you not think, in just a very short time, I will find out your secrets for myself?”
He didn’t answer her.
,” she half hissed. “Keep your knowledge locked away. You can bloody well drown in it, for all I care. I can plainly see these mangled bodies. Yet, I know they are not who they appear to be. Believe it or not, I learned years ago to look deeper than
“That is what we all tell ourselves, yes,” he whispered. “Alas, the eyes are extremely powerful things, Naga. Vision claims a direct line to our hearts, little sister, almost magically so.”
“Save your wisdom. Store it alongside your secrets. I wish for neither,” she spat. “The reality is this. A madman is murdering innocents at an alarming rate. He poses their lifeless forms within this forgotten forest and visits them as one would admire their possessions. I am here to put an end to his wicked game and cease his life. No worries. I have done this same deed many, many thousands of times before. Your ridiculous babysitting is not necessary. I got this.”
Still, Uriel didn’t speak.
She sniffed the air. “He comes,” she whispered.
Uriel remained silent, motionless.
Jenevier watched as the long barrel of the cold black gun emerged cautiously from the dense bamboo. She stepped closer, removing her mask.
“Naga, what are you doing?” Uriel demanded. “He will be able to see you in that form. Don Vashti, now!”
She turned toward the infuriated Arch, rolled her eyes and crinkled up her nose at him. She almost stuck out her tongue, but caught herself.
“Is this how you carry out your missions, Angel? Does Daichi know about this? Does anyone?” He started toward her. “You are reckless and foolhardy, little sister.”
The man’s face appeared at that very moment.
Her eyes went wide. She took a hasty step back.
“By the gods…”
He spun at the sound of her shaky voice, gun leveled at her angelic face.
“Musashi…” The name forced itself from her lungs, painfully taking her breath with it.
The man dropped his gun and ran toward her. Quickly speaking in a language she could not force her addled mind to understand.
When he touched her, grabbed her shoulders… all hell broke loose.
Her claws sprang out, full length. She raised her arm, meaning to slash open his massive chest, but Uriel grabbed her wrist.
The man could see neither her ethereal weapons, nor the Angel now restraining her, keeping her from claiming his life. He simply watched, amazed, as the tiny little woman covered in colorful curls, struggled with the very air about her.
Fear has claimed her mind
, the man thought.
“Hold, Naga,” Uriel shouted. “Don your mask. Calm yourself. That is not Musashi. Look closer. He is not—”
She screamed as she tore free from the mighty Arch, leaving him with a nasty cut down the length of his forearm, and minus a handful of his lovely angelic hair.
“Why… you little demon,” he snapped.
Then, her maddened eyes revealed to him the extent of her temporary insanity. Naga was gone. She stood before him as weapon only—raw, unreasoning, Death.
By the gods… What did that man truly do to you?
The Arch lunged for her just as another raven-haired man stepped into the secret clearing.
She dodged Uriel’s grasp and found herself, face to face, with a dear friend and trusted companion.
“Yui!” Jenevier flung her arms around his neck and held on for dear life.
The shocked man slowly returned her frantic embrace, fixing his gaze upon the now unarmed man before him.
“Kagi Naga, open your damn eyes before I remove your head,” Uriel shouted.
She shook her head violently, burying her nose into the second man’s neck, her curls half covering his hardened face.
“Yui, I thank all that’s holy, you are here.” She pulled back, holding his cheeks in her hands. “He is alive, Yui. He came back for me.” She smiled lovingly at the confused man. “I knew you would save me. Just like last time. Hold me in your arms, dear friend. Keep me safe. Hide me from the beast.”
She kissed his fair cheek and then his nose. Giggling at the look on his face, Jenevier kissed him again, over and over until he gave in to her.
Tightening his arms about her, the man looked deep into her magical eyes, tenderly ran the tip of his nose along her cheek bone, and then inhaled deeply the thick rose scent of her colorful hair. He moaned softly, then slowly covered her mouth with his. She was startled by this unusually forward action. Yui had never kissed her like
before, not like a man would. But she was too relieved by his presence to just push him away. His tongue entered her mouth just as a burning, searing pain shot through her back.
Jenevier fell to her knees, gasping for air that wouldn’t come. Loud shots rattled her ears, bounced through her throbbing head. Then… Yui’s body fell to the ground before her, crumpled in an unnatural position. She focused on his still open eyes, on his still open
eyes. All life had left them.