Authors: JK Ensley,Jennifer Ensley
Redeemed by Rubies
“My hope is that the message of this story rings true in your heart, that the words written herein remain with you throughout your days and when you are aged and life is nigh finished with you, you will remember Jenevier, remember her tale… with a tear in your eye, and a smile upon your soul. Namaste, Brothers and Sisters.”
Book Six of
A Dance with Destiny
I am Jenevier Olesia Embarr. Herein lies the remains of my story.
Namaste, Brothers and Sisters.
May Father always forgive you, Guardians always protect you, and Dragons ever walk by your side.
Copyright© 2015 by Jennifer Ensley
Redeemed by Rubies 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.
Dragon artwork by Bettina Catana, Gewalgon.
Cover Design by Ashley Dungan, The Bookish Brunette.
Editing by Keith Roberts.
Proofed 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.
*There is a variation of an old harp song my Granny Woods used to sing to me on pages 48-49. It was passed down through the ages and I cannot find the one whom I should credit. All rights go to the original author. Namaste.*
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For all of my amazing fans along the way… this one is for you.
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A Dance with Destiny Series:
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“Do not think differently from this life to the next, for one is born from the other.”
“Hey, Dimples.” Lala glanced toward the River Spirit. “Come look at this. Isn’t this material the softest you’ve ever felt?”
Duhrias did not answer. His gaze remained fixed on a shop display just a little further on up the street.
“What are you gawking at?” Lala came to stand beside him. “What’s so fascinating that you won’t even listen to me?” She followed his line of sight. “What
“I’m not sure, Princess.” Duhrias glanced sideways at her, then back to the shop window. “But… I believe it’s food. Look, there.” He motioned with a nod to a young boy walking toward them.
The boy stuck his tongue out at Lala as he passed, then popped the spun sugar on a stick back into his mouth.
“It must be some form of candy,” Duhrias mumbled. “But I have never seen its like.”
“Did you see that?” Lala balled her hands into fists. “Did you see that little boy just now? Did you see what he did?”
“Huh?” Duhrias turned to glance at the youngster’s back. “What? What did he do?”
“He stuck his tongue out at me,
what he did.” She growled under her breath. “I should teach that little snot a proper lesson.”
Duhrias placed his hand on her shoulder as Lala made to stomp off toward the lad.
“Hold it right there, Princess,” he said, trying to restrain his chuckle. “You’re a grown woman. How would it look if you suddenly started shouting at a small boy in the marketplace? Show your temper here, Lala, and we won’t be welcome back on Val Hal.”
“I don’t care.” She stomped her foot. “I can’t believe that little brat. His parents should teach him some manners.”
Duhrias bit his bottom lip. “Yes… and tell me, Princess. What did you do when he stuck his tongue out at you?”
“I stuck my tongue out back at him. What do you think?” She spun back to face the River Spirit. “And I don’t want to hear it, Dimples.
Duhrias only sighed and took her hand. “Come on. Let’s go see that candy shop. I want a closer look at those masterpieces.”
Lala rolled her eyes and let the large sell-sword pull her along behind him through the marketplace on Val Hal.
“Have you ever seen anything so amazing?” Duhrias softly whispered. “By look alone, I would have sworn it was glass.”
“Yeah.” Lala nodded. “Are you sure it isn’t?”
“No.” He opened the shop door and led her inside. “But I definitely want to find out.”
“May I help you?” a friendly, ginger-haired woman said with a smile.
“Umm…” Duhrias glanced back at the intricate window display. “Umm…”
Lala rolled her eyes at him, then held her hand out to the shop keeper.
“My name is Lala.” She jabbed her thumb back over her shoulder. “And
awestruck man over there is called Dimples.”
“Nice to meet you both.” The lady smiled again. “My name is Celia, and this is my shop.”
“Did you make that?” Duhrias turned back to face her. “Did you make that display, and… can you truly eat it?”
The woman swallowed back her chuckle. “I did make it, yes. And, yes, it
edible.” She approached the large sugar-spun sculpture of an ancient Viking longboat. “But I fear if you did, your belly would ache for ages.” She glanced toward Duhrias. “This one is for display only. It is a memorial—my homage to our beloved King.”
“Memorial?” Lala furrowed her brow. “Did something happen to the King?”
Celia nodded. “Two winters past… good King Brodder left to join our ancestors in the Otherworld.”
“Two winters?” Lala whispered.
“Yes.” Celia smiled softly. “He ruled this realm for more years than any who had come before him. Age took our beloved King… and we mourn him to this day.”
Lala and Duhrias faced each other, but neither spoke.
“Would you like to try some?” Celia walked behind the display counter. “While I’m afraid I cannot let you sample the boat…” She smiled as she handed each of them a crystal clear piece of hard candy. “…I
let you each have a tiny taste of heaven.”
When they stepped back out of that shop, Lala had a large bag of assorted shaped crystal candies in each hand.
“Here,” Duhrias said, relieving her of her packages. “You didn’t have to buy it
. We could have come back tomorrow, if you wanted.”
“When you find something you’d rather not live without, you should always obtain as much as possible.” She glanced back towards the shop door. “Besides, the lady said it was sugar and that sugar doesn’t go bad.”
“Pfft.” Duhrias glanced sideways at her. “You’re spoiled.”
“I am a Princess.” Lala smiled up at him. “I’m supposed to be spoiled.”
Lala and Duhrias both gasped when they heard the young woman call out from the other side of the crowded square.
“Princess Jenevier! Come on!” The young woman motioned with a wave of her arm. “Your mother will be angry if we are late for dinner. I promised her I would have you back before now.”
“Fret not, Lady Tahbrok,” a gentle voice called out from beside the bewildered couple. “I am coming now. I was simply waiting for my gifts to be properly prepared.”
A young man brushed past Lala, his arms loaded down with decoratively wrapped packages.
“Mother will not be cross with us. I had something special made… just for her.”
Duhrias’s mouth fell open when the elegant young woman with the long flaxen braid crossed the square in front of them.
“Will you look at that,” Lala whispered. “She’s the most beautiful woman I have ever seen.”
Duhrias only nodded.
“Do you think she is human?” Lala shook her head. “She isn’t Angel, that’s for sure.”
“Her skin looks like cream,” Duhrias softly said.
“Yeah…” Lala kept her gaze fixed on the other woman until she was completely out of sight. “And her hair… I believe that’s the fairest I’ve seen on any layer.”
“Agreed.” Duhrias nodded. “And did you hear what that lady called her?”
“Of course I heard.” Lala glanced up at her beloved Guardian. “I’ve never heard of another Jenevier.”
“Nor I.” Duhrias took her hand. “Come on, Princess. It’s getting late. We best be getting back before dinner ourselves.”
He squeezed her hand, lending her much-needed support.
“And then… I looked down.” She sniffed and drew in a ragged breath. “There was blood, sooo… much… blood. I was not only stained with it, I was bathed in it, baptized in it.”
Tenshi drew her hand up to his lips and kissed her knuckles. “Go on, Mama. Tell me what you were feeling. Let
be your strength, just for today.”
He could feel Daichi lurking just outside the doorway, but Jenevier was too caught up in her panic to sense much of anything.
Is she okay, Tenshi?
She is not injured, Brother. But I wouldn’t go so far as to say she was okay.
He tenderly patted the top of her head. “I’m here with you, Mama. Go on. Let it all out.”
Taka was buzzing about her nervously, his anxiety matching her own. Tenshi almost swatted him away, merely out of reflex, but then realized what such a careless action would do to his already frazzled mother.
She sniffed again, wiping her eyes with the back of her hand. “It was like… I lost myself. Like, I blacked-out. And when I came to, when my sanity returned… I was standing in the midst of a red sea filled to the brim with countless bodies—torn, headless, bludgeoned.” Her swollen red eyes met her son’s concerned gaze. “Why did such a thing not bother me? I mean, I know that is what I do—deliver death. Yet this time… this time was different. This time I did so without regard, without the slightest bit of remorse.”
Tenshi pulled his tiny mother onto his lap, gently rubbing little circles across her back. “Crimson cloaked, single-minded, ruthlessly brutal—it’s who you are, Mama, who you are meant to be… the Angel of Death. I thank all that is holy, the day has finally arrived.”
She rested her head on her son’s broad shoulder. “And what day is that, my beautiful boy?”
“The day you went into battle, minus your humanity. The day you were more Angel than woman.”
She smiled slightly and yanked on one of his sapphire curls. “And why would you be thankful for such a thing as that?”
“Because, Mama.” He sighed. “I am so very tired of seeing you broken and shattered, tired of watching Daichi all but carry you to your chamber and sit by your side for days… weaving you back together.” He lovingly stroked her curls. “To remain with us, to keep our family whole, you made the only choice you could make—living as the creature you must now be. Vashti is a part of you for a reason, Mama. Think about it. How can a gentle woman rend minus guilt?”
“Yes, this I know. But… I am afraid of that side of myself, son. I am afraid of Vashti.”
Tenshi half chuckled. “As is all of creation. Listen, Mama. To save yourself, you had to let Jenevier go, had to release her… something which you could not seem to do on your own. And I will always be grateful to Duhrias for his part in helping you through your greatest trial. Now, embrace the Angel within you and be whole.”
“But, what about…” She paused.
“But what about what?” He snickered. “What about me and Daichi? Worry not for us, Mama. We are Angel as well. Don’t be afraid to let us go. We will not disappear. We may be your past, but we are your future as well, Kagi Naga.” He tickled her a little. “We will always be here for you, for each other. The only thing that will change is
contentment. Release the guilt and embrace the joy, Mama. I will be here right alongside Yui, awaiting your nightly return.”
She smiled then. “Hot rose tea by moonlight.”
“Yes.” Tenshi matched her smile. “Our own little heaven.”
Daichi rested his forehead against the door, listening as her son took up his part as her loving support. He was her Blessing, yes, but these days… her strength rendered him all but useless. He turned when he heard the approaching footsteps.
“Master Daichi,” Yui whispered as he bowed.
The enchanting sapphire Angel narrowed his steely gaze at his old sensei.
“Will you be joining us for tea?”
Daichi did not speak. Yui noticed the path tears had marked down his sculpted cheeks, but the mighty Angel made no move to wipe them away.
After staring at the beautiful Shinobi his beloved Naga had wed, Daichi slowly turned, gliding from the window without a word.
That marked the last day Jenevier would ever cry on her son’s shoulder. Henceforth, when she returned home she did so as the loving mother and devoted wife her blessed family needed her to be.
Whenever she felt the weights begin to pull at her soul, whenever she felt the tears swell to bursting, the Angel of Death went to the one place that now brought her comfort. Time and again she would return to that beautifully magical place Vittorio had taken her the day he asked for her hand. Time and again, the sun set upon her crumpled form curled up beneath those enchanting cherry trees.
Whenever she had been summonsed to perform a particularly bloody task, or simply on the days when her heart was overly pained with the absence of her beloved Guardian… she would return to those trees, to that unrivaled garden. Countless times throughout the many bloody years, this proved true. It was the place that marked a major turning point in her life, and was now the only place upon any layer where her heavy heart could find a few moments of blessed peace.
The lovely sakura only lasted for a few short days each year. Then, their soft pink beauty danced upon the wind and was carried away. Jenevier knew this. Alas, her forever scarred heart was a greedy little thing. She returned many times, always as Vashti, unseen by human eyes. But her heart… ahh, her heart was her heart. Whether her wrapping appeared as Vashti, Naga, or even Gealach, her heart would always and forever be Jenevier’s—fragile, lonely, and eternally tormented. Her very human heart… it was her greatest secret. To all whom she loved, she was only the Death Angel. The truth of her heart she kept hidden, locked securely away from those who would worry and fret if they knew the truth of it.
So it was, and without conscious intent, the tears of her shattered heart always brought the sakura… even in winter. As she sat, invisible beneath the trees, her crying soul would sing to the hidden buds softly sleeping within those bared branches, charming them with its lamenting prose, awakening their tiny souls, causing their beauty to burst forth like delicate pink stars against a moonless night.
Lying there beneath their glory, she was wholly restored. Their rare magic would piece together the tired old shards of her broken heart, giving her the needed strength to face another bloody day. When she would finally leave the little garden of her sanity, she would once again be strong enough to return to the palace on Jinn with a smile on her lips, and joy in her words.
Never did it cross her mind that humans may take notice. For when the spell her crying heart had cast upon those rare trees was broken, when she would leave the eighth layer realm of Earth, the enchanted trees would release their delicate blooms. The dainty sakura would vainly chase after her diamond pinions, following her nigh unto the clouds… evidence of their magic erased by the wind of her wings.
And this was the way of it for many long years. The sakura would heal her and then desperately seek her, wishing only to stay by her side. Alas, she always returned to her devoted Yui—rose tea at the ready and loving arms to embrace her. He had become her constant, and she loved that man more than she could have ever hoped for. Yui not only reveled in her love, he returned it to her a hundredfold. Even when she let her secret tears fall, Jenevier knew she was blessed beyond her worth. That made
pain all the easier to bear, healed her even more than the magical sakura.
Then, one day, after a fierce and bloody battle had come to its end upon Spadroon, Jenevier sat upon a hill, tears staining her dirty face, watching as the
snatched up the departing souls.
Jophiel plopped down beside her and sighed wearily. To his surprise, she turned to look him in the eye.
“What are those things, Brother?” She gazed back out across the carnage. “I believe I have seen them before… lurking about the edge of battlefields.”
“What do you speak of, little sis? The shadows?”
“Yes. Normally I do not linger, but weariness has given my wings pause this day. And now… curiosity wishes to be sated. Tell me, Brother. For I am almost certain I have seen them before.”
Jophiel snorted. “As well you should. They are reapers, Naga. They come to collect the souls—the dark ones we do not attend to ourselves. Perhaps you haven’t given them much thought because your purpose is not to escort. You, tiny Angel, you only rend. But these dark shadows always move in your wake, little one. I mean, well… you
the Death Angel, are you not?” He bumped her shoulder as he made to leave. “I guess you could say… you’re their leader, or something.” He chuckled. “Well, back to work. See you around, Kagi Naga.”
And with the parting words of that smirking Archangel, the enormous weight of her existence finally broke her.
I am their leader… the Grim Reaper… followed always by these gruesome, symbiotic shadows.
Daichi felt it first, but Tenshi was fast on his heels, seeking out her cracking form amongst the endless sea of dead warriors. They found her not. For how could they? She had spent years learning to hide her pain, learning how to keep her bitter tears untraceable. She now lay curled up at the base of an ancient cherry tree upon layer eight… crying out the last of her previous life’s sorrow.
Her ceaseless tears soaked the ground as the hungry sakura eagerly drank up each salty drop. Exhaustion finally claimed her and she slept. And for the first time in ages, Jenevier dreamt of simpler times—happy days where she and Jezreel laughed and played under the cloudless sky, then slept under the sparkling stars of Ashgard. Even in her dreams, she couldn’t remember ever smiling quite so much. Her cheeks ached, even in slumber.
“No matter how many times I watch you sleeping here, nor how many years have passed, your beauty never waxes old. You are now as you were the first day I was blessed to look upon you.”
“I am not beautiful,” she whispered in her dreams. “It is all an illusion… smoke and mirrors.”
She giggled then, and not her normal all-grown-up giggle. Now, she laughed with the lightened heart of a child.
“Smoke and mirrors or no,” he said. “I love you more each time I look upon you.”
“Ah, ah, ah… best guard your heart, poor soul. To invest your love in a creature such as I, is to damn your future and execute your own happiness. Believe me not? Then simply ask any man who was ever cursed enough to look into these damnable, bewitching eyes.”
Her words were hard to hear, yet her sleeping smile remained. He dared to move just a bit closer to her.
“Well be that as it may, I cannot turn back time, tiny Angel. I know all too well the truth of your words, for I first met you in my youth, and have been haunted ever since.” He sighed. “Alas, now I am old, walking through the twilight of my days. I have watched you slumber here for so many years… I can scarce recall. Yet only now have I found the courage to confide in you my only secret.” He lightly ran his fingertips down her bare arm. “You were my only Princess. I never chose another. The King arranged my eventual marriage, yes. I did not fight him in it. And as was my duty, I went in unto her at the appointed times… but only to ensure royal lineage.” He snorted out a self-deprecating laugh. “And why am I telling you all this? Well, I’m not certain. Perhaps I just wanted you to know… I never kissed her.” He whispered that last part. “I have never wanted to kiss anyone but you. To do so would have been too much like cheating on you… a thing which I could never do.” He gently lifted one of her curls. “You are my every other memory, tiny Sakura. I took the last moment I ever saw you and buried it deep within me.” He smiled. “My Sakura Mankai. You are my only joy, my only riot of color in an otherwise dreary gray world.”
Jenevier had woken about halfway through Suou’s confession. His words tore at her heart, ripping away the child-like wonder she had only just felt in her dream. Slowly opening her eyes, she turned to look at the startled man.
“Why would you forever withhold your love like that, sweet Prince? When I left here that day, I left no doubt concerning my heart. When I walked out your door, I never promised… anything. I even went so far as to unbind you.”
“Yes… you tried.”
She studied his sad eyes as he stared absently at her hair, twisting one pink curl around his finger. Finally, he met her gaze.
“I withheld my love because it wasn’t mine to give. You speak true, lovely Sakura. You never promised me… anything.”
He closed his eyes then, slowly shaking his head. When next he opened them, they were filled with stinging, bitter tears.
“But the heart wants what the heart wants,” he whispered.
She completely understood. Her life was a testament to that very saying.
“It is a greedy little thing, is it not?”
He smiled knowingly. “Yes, Milady, viciously so.”
She sat up, leaning against the large cherry tree, and patted the spot beside her. Suou chuckled as he joined her there.