The night seemed to grow darker as the carriage became engulfed by the shadow of a massive building. As she descended from the carriage, she was awed by the sight of a massive palace, the magnificence obvious even dimmed as it was by the night. Intricate brickwork, framed by smooth white marble was revealed by the light of mounted torches at the entrance. An immaculately dressed butler stood waiting at the open door for them to ascend the wide sweeping staircase. He kept his head bowed low, his eyes fixed on the floor until Alaunus addressed him directly.
“I assume dinner is prepared and ready in the dining hall for myself and my guest?” Without a sound, he strode passed the butler and into the dark, lights lit further down the hall and she barely caught site of skirts as servants scurried through the shadowed hall, clearly they had not expected him back tonight. A set of double doors swung open to a well-lit dining room, that Morrigan swore had been dark and empty just a moment before. But now was full of waiting servants, and a long table of dark wood heaped with food as if by a miracle.
Smoothly walking over to a chair at the end of the table, Alaunus pulled it out for her. “I’m not hungry,” she said as she sat ungracefully in the intricately carved chair of dark wood, with seats padded and covered with a rich maroon velvet.
Tsking, he made his way to his own seat at the other end of the table. “You wouldn’t want to offend the servants, would you? They went to such great lengths to make sure to prepare food that you would like. A little something from home.” A servant girl moved to the table, removing the silver covers off the platters set about the table. The smell of honey glazed ham, home cooked rolls, and mashed potatoes filled her nose, causing her stomach to growl loudly.
“Maybe I am hungry after all…” She admitted begrudgingly.
With an exaggerated sigh, he set down his fork, leaning forward he laced his fingers together with his elbows on the table. “We have a lot to discuss, I will start by telling you that none of this would be possible if you did not have gifts of your own, passed down to you through generation after generation. Gifts that lay dormant all this time… until I found you.”
“Gifts? What are you talking about?”
“How do you think you got here?” He asked. “I see you think it was me who brought you, but no; that is not the case. You did it. You opened that portal and brought yourself to me. And you have so much more you can do!” Picking up his utensils once again he took a bite. “But that is for another time. For now, we eat, and rest. We have a big day tomorrow.”
“So… I am not a prisoner?” She asked.
His charming smile appeared again, “well, that all depends on how you look at it.”
Once she was done eating, he took her by the hand and guided her up a grand curving staircase. Her breath came in shorter and shorter gasps as she tried not to think about what might happen once they were behind closed doors. He stopped at a large, heavy wooden door with carvings of stags and grapes around the edge. She tensed as he opened the door to reveal a large double bed in the center of the room.
Turning her to face him he placed his hands on her shoulders. An amused smile appeared on his face, “you will sleep here tonight. As much as I would love to share your bed, I am a bit old fashioned and will wait until our wedding night.”
He closed the door as he left, and the tension left the room. Still she found that she could not sleep again, while her body was exhausted, her mind would not cease its wandering. She would have worn a path in the lush carpet if her door hadn’t opened with a crash… jumping she spun around to see Alaunus standing in the door way.
“You blasted woman would you just go to sleep already? Your incessant pacing is keeping me awake.”
“I can’t sleep; how can you expect me too after everything? You expect me to marry you tomorrow, then start having children for you. Like I am some breeding cow! And to make the children we have to… have to… ugh!” Throwing her hands in the air she started to turn away from him. But before she could he was there by her side.
Grabbing her he placed his hand on her forehead. Darkness took her, and she fell into a dreamless sleep.
The next morning dawned clear and bright. “Rise and shine sunshine! It is a beautiful day!” Alaunus sang, daylight flooded into the room as he yanked open the plush curtains.
Groaning Morrigan sat up, “are you always this obnoxious?”
“Only when I am happy, and today I am very happy. I couldn’t have asked for a better day if I tried… well actually I could have made it a perfect day, but didn’t have to.” Smiling he walked over to the bed, and gazed down at her. “Surprisingly I am actually looking forward to waking up next to you, you’re quite beautiful.”
She attempted to pull the covers back over her head, and failed as he yanked the covers completely off her. “Time to get up and get ready,” and with a smack on her ass he strutted out of the room.
That is when reality hit her. It was morning, and she was being forced to marry this person, or thing, whatever he was… today. She knew she couldn’t go through with it, at least not without trying to fight back. A sudden feeling of self-disgust consumed her… she had been going along like a meek little lamb being led to the slaughter. Not even attempting to find a way out, until now. A desperate determination consumed her, she had to try.
Running to the door, she attempted to open it, only to find that it was locked. Turning franticly, she scanned the room, her gaze locked on the window. How high up was she? Could she possibly jump down, that is if the window even opened. She went for it, and to her relief it swung open effortlessly. Climbing onto the ledge she felt excitement, until she looked down at the drop below her. Her vision blurred at the edges, and the ground seemed to pull farther and farther away the longer she looked down.
The small garden below her room was abandoned for the moment. Closing her eyes, she calmed her turning stomach, and jumped, landing in some shrubs at the base of the wall which broke her fall. Which allowed her to walk away with only minor cuts, and a couple bruises.
There a forest not far from the outer wall of the courtyard. A courtyard which was still deserted. Working her way slowly through the bushes, careful not to make any sounds, she got as close to the wall as possible. Her heart felt as if it might pound right out of her chest, and once again the noise of it was deafening. She made a mad dash for a vine covered gate that was slightly ajar. Continuing her headlong rush, she entered a clearing on the other side of the wall, she ran as fast as she could. Every second she felt like someone would see her and raise the alarm, with every step she took it felt as if someone was right behind her about to stop her desperate attempt at escape.
As she crashed through underbrush leading into the forest her steps slowed, impeded by the dense bushes and vines growing along the forest floor. She stopped occasionally to listen for any sounds of pursuit. After some time passed without any sign of pursuit, and just as hope began to blossom in her chest, she heard a sound. A sound that sent panic piercing through her very soul. Hooves in the distance. To her ears it sounded like an army, when in fact it was one lone rider. Alaunus.
She burst through the dense underbrush into a clearing, not a second later and his horse burst through behind her. She stumbled with fear, the sound of a hidden spring, and the heavy breathing of his winded horse filled the air. The smell of the wildflowers watered by the spring was almost over powering.
Before she could reach the other side, he cleared his horse, landing a few feet behind her. It only took a few strides for him to reach her. Morrigan felt his iron like grip on her shoulders and all hope left her as he flung her across the clearing, where she landed with a dull thud against the base of a tree. By the time she regained her footing he was there. Pinning her, his face mere inches from hers.
Locking his eyes onto hers, she saw rage, pure rage staring back at her. His nostrils flared with each breath he took, but even that could not break the beautiful symmetry of his face. “Do you know how lucky you are?” He growled. “I am giving you everything, EVERYTHING that a person could ever want. And you insult me by trying to run? Did I not make it clear just how important you are?” His fingers dug into her arm, causing her to flinch in pain. Seeing this he abruptly stepped back, and taking a few deep breaths seemed to calm himself back to his normal state.
“Who said I wanted any of this?” Tears sprang into her eyes. Tears that she angrily wiped away. Hugging herself she turned her back to him. Presently she felt him behind her, and when she turned to face him, the gentle look on his face gave her pause.
“Look…” he began gently rubbing her arms as if to comfort her. “What do I have to say to convince you to come willingly? I don’t want to force you, I really don’t. But I won’t hesitate.” His tone of voice made what he seemed reasonable, even with such a clear threat present.
Glancing around as if searching for answers, she finally gave an almost imperceptible shrug. “I don’t know…” she whispered, barely able to contain her tears.
“Come,” with a sharp whistle his horse came to his side. “We can discuss the matter on the ride back.”He lifted her onto the horse, nimbly jumping up behind her. They rode silently back through the forest, her back against his firm chest. He started to speak in a hypnotic rumbling monotone once they reached the clearing. Her body relaxed against his, her mind seemed to empty, and she lost awareness of the surrounding countryside.
No sense of alarm penetrated her calm haze when he offered to give her a five-year break between children, instead of his one child per year. Acceptance filled her, and a sense of comfort pervaded her mind as he droned on about the things he would teach her to do with her powers, and just how powerful he could make her. After some time she heard herself agree to the marriage, and his terms. It wasn’t until much later that the spell he wove around her wore off.