I ran as if my life depended on it ... which it did. As I was running, in between trees whose branches ripped at my clothes and tore painfully at my skin while nettles in the undergrowth stung me and thistles scratched me, I disturbingly found I could semi-relate to those cloaked people.
Kieran ... I could see myself worshipping him, desiring his attention and luxuriating in his company despite the power he would undoubtedly have over me... Feeling ... blessed as he kissed me and told me I was a faithful follower who would be rewarded greatly. I would continue to be awed by him and would grow to respect and admire and be devoted to him. There would be no person more loyal to him than me.
When I thought I was a safe distance away, I stopped, panting, and leant against a tree. I shoved the pictures of adoring him and willingly carrying out sacrifices for him, sickened by my love for him out of my head.
"See, that's what I don't understand," came a horribly unfamiliar voice from up above. Seconds later, Kieran jumped to the floor and landed on two feet looking as if he'd merely stepped off the last stair in a staircase. He approached me.
Too tired to run anymore, I watched him warily as he closed the gap between us.
"Why do you resist it so much?"
"Resist what?" I asked, pretending not to know what he was talking about.
Kieran rolled his eyes. "Your very evident longing to be mine."
I shivered from his gaze. He was so mesmerising. I felt myself slipping. That was incredibly risky. Slipping led to falling and falling led to paradise. It was highly likely that he could keep me occupied with kissing him for an hour.
"Don't resist," he whispered, his face nearing my own.
My heart was racing in frantic desperation and great anticipation.
"Stop it," I murmured, trying to tear my eyes from his but failing.
"I'm not doing anything: it's you who wants to surrender. I don't see why you're making this so hard for yourself."
"You know exactly why," I muttered.
"I don't know, actually. What could be more delightful than spending the rest of time with one other person and having no need to care about anyone else? Oh, the pleasure that would bring you, Evee."
I saw something in his eyes that surprised me. Sincerity. He truly believed I would enjoy his sole company. I found I was losing myself, but I was also losing the ability to describe Kieran negatively. Was he really very evil?
Our eyes closed and our lips brushed. Oh, the kiss was to die for! And I found myself thinking, as I felt the tugging again, Take what you want from me. I live to love you and serve your purposes.
I wound my arms around his shoulders again. I held him tightly. Don't ever let me go, I thought, with the strange idea that he could hear me. He must have been able, because, in response, his own arms, which were at the sides of my waist with his hands stroking my back, tightened their grip.
At that moment, I actually wanted to give in to him.
He broke away.
With a jolt, I came back to reality. "This level hasn't ended yet: the cloaked people must still be looking for me."
I realised I'd walked straight into a trap. I shoved Kieran away but around us I could see figures approaching.
"You found him, master," one called. "Well done."
Kieran nodded slightly and ... dematerialised.
The circle began to close in on me. I tried to look for an escape but there was none. Then I remembered I was standing with my back against a tree. I turned and began to climb it, praying that I wouldn't slip and fall to the predator-like people below. All wish to join them disappeared in a wave of revulsion. How could they commit murder and think it righteous?
To my great surprise, on a thick bough about halfway between a star-strewn sky and dark ground was a bird's nest. And inside that bird's nest was a pocketknife. Was Kieran helping me? Perhaps he grew tired of this game. Too wishful thinking, I thought, shaking the thought out of my head and instead gratefully grabbing the knife. I sat on the sturdy branch and began to plan my attack.