Zarcar eventually found my skulking form outside the Moon Tower and he led me a short walk down into an awaiting carriage. We sat opposite one another and neither of us spoke. My arms were crossed and Zarcar was looking out of the window, always about to speak, but then holding his tongue.
I’d attack and lose my temper if he tried to reason his reaction away now, so he was indeed smart for keeping it in until later.
“We’re arriving at the premises, Warlord Zarcar!” the driver of the wagon turns the carriage down a tightly paved road that curves through an overgrown green garden.
I look out the window and I see a black gothic mini castle that bordered the river which wound its way through Swendula’s centre. The black stones were hugged by green vines and many influential guests were already walking in.
Only the high born were attending this welcome dinner for Torrent.
I see one mess of brown hair at the steps and she wears a golden lacey dress that looks two sizes too large. I assume she stole it.
Andoll waits at the steps, practically drooling when Zarcar stands first and opens the door. He waves to her and he holds out a hand behind him towards me. Zar hesitates when I do not grasp it.
“…come on … you first,” Zarcar stands back, forcing out the polite words.
Without looking at his perfect face in his perfect suit, I lunge out of the doors and head straight for Andoll.
She nods in approval of my dress and fishes out a piece of root from her bra. She hands me the Horse Root.
I promptly throw it into the garden.
“Not needed, but thank you,” I walk past her as she snarls and then clutches onto Zarcar’s arm.
I walk up the steps, barefoot once again.
I pass the butlers and servers, refusing drinks as I promptly decide to lose myself in the crowd.
Many rooms held groups of people, while one spacious area held a ball room of some kind with a large long balcony overseeing the river.
I head to one corner of the packed ball room and I stand there, as still as the decorative pillar beside me.
The whole inside of the castle was contrastingly white and grey, compared to the black stones of the outside. I watch from my corner as every man and woman ignore me but pay me some respect. In other words, they don’t bother to stare or watch me with judgement. They ignore me, respectfully enough.
Eventually I see one head of hair bobbing towards me through the crowd.
Zarcar has tracked me down quickly and he almost apprehends me, until Lixar appears from nowhere and intercepts.
With a hand on his shoulder, Zarcar stops and looks over everyone to grasp my gaze.
Zarcar holds my stare and gives me a generous glare, a warning not to try anything funny.
Lixar glances at me for a brief second but them turns to Zarcar, speaking about something else.
They turn and Lixar motions Zarcar towards the other end of the ball room. I follow with my eyes. I see a table set up on the balcony in the furthest corner opposite from me. It was luxury privacy for the two men already there.
I see Rey lounging back on a fancy throne, scowling as he listens to the words of the man opposite him.
I can’t see his face, I can only see his back.
His entire uniform is star white edged with silver, like his hair, which lies in a fairly wavy, combed style to his shoulders but no further. While this man was seated forward, I could not tell much besides the fact he equalled Zarcar’s large warlord physique.
Clearly, this was Torrent of the silver hair.
When I glance at Lixar and Zarcar, they are already making their way there.
I am now ignored. As Lixar predicted.
However, I am intercepted by someone else.
“…ey, you stay with me, Queen,” Andoll jumps into my side and her crazy red eyes hold mine, as if she’s trying to read my thoughts, “…you’ll arrive to them when called,” she forces those words out as if she’s repeating them.
“Did Zarcar tell you to pass that on if you found me first?” I ask, raising a brow.
She simply mimics my eyebrow raise and her lip curls up, disgusted.
I guess I was right.
“…let us go above…” Andoll growls.
“Hmm?” I’m confused by what she means. She turns and shrugs her shoulder towards a set of stairs out in the nearby hall, “Up to the next level?”
Andoll pauses, but then raises her hand and taps her ear lobe, but holds her other finger in front of her lips.
Listen and be quiet.
At first I want to yell at her, but then I realise she meant we’ll listen to them but we had to keep quiet.
I nod and Andoll turns, scurrying away. She hops between men and women while I dance around them in my more graceful way.
She scuttles up the stairs on all fours and I prance up two at a time.
Once on the second level, Andoll swiftly grabs my hand and forces me to a halt while she stares into the dark corridors beyond.
She squeezes my hand as if to say it’s safe and then she pulls me forward.
We walk to the end, to a second corridor, this runs on top of the ball room and has large arch windows, almost the exact same as my Moon Tower. They overlook the balcony below.
Andoll slows to a silent tip toe when we get closer to their location and their masculine voices can be heard.
I also glide forward as silently as possible and I drop to my knees with Andoll, beside the large and low window overlooking the meeting. Andoll spins to face me and I spin to face her.
We listen, but do not watch so we’re out of sight from their detection.
“It’s polite to ask…” Lixar growls, audibly irate.
“No, it is not polite to ask about riches of those you do not know, it does not matter that we are family, it is beyond rude,” Zar scolds Lix.
“You have been quite the guest,” Rey speaks with mockery towards Torrent.
“Yet you can only be the guest, this is Arkraxy after all,” Torrent’s reply is so perfectly timed, with whatever meaning he has implied, that every man falls silent.
For a whole minute.
“…I can only assume you were here…” Rey sounds rattled when he finally speaks.
“Indeed. Arkraxy is the place we both become legendary Kings,” Torrent seems to be totally cool headed. That meant ice and fire were speaking right now.
“Please explain,” Lixar asks, “Is it what I think it is?”
I hear Rey make some kind of snarl but he cannot stop Torrent from answering Lixar.
“The day I became the bearer of the Ash of Eden was the same day Rey became a Commander of Hellfire. It is, also, the same day Vampyre Lord Reyn, commanded his kind to retreat to Hemon… that is all other prominent demons, centaur, goblin, fae and vampyre. They all went below ground. Rey, for whatever reason, was left behind. Rey, you burned half of Arkraxy to the ground in an act of arson that same day, killing a hundred thousand, while I arrived from the south and saved a hundred thousand more. You razed this city, and I built from the soil my first home; Swendula. I do not boast it. I left some Arkraxy ruins to commemorate the needless deaths. I have not visited here for over a century. It’s been neutral… until you waltzed in and made yourself comfortable.”
“Oh, I know that, Torrent,” Rey grumbles over a cup of wine, I can hear him gulping it down.
Clearly, he was anxious with Torrent here. Or maybe it was the conversation.
“So, you are in fact, my guest, Rey,” Torrent murmurs, but I can hear the condescension loud and clear, “For now we are at an armistice by my word. Until the Surge begins and ends, we are… allies. When it’s done, you’ll be nothing more than a trespasser.
“I will consider the same of you, tamer of lizard women,” Rey scoffs, laughing, “Zarcar did seem to inherit that talent of yours.”
Torrent hesitates at the mention of ‘lizard women’ which I assume means a Draconess in Rey’s book… when I peek over the balcony, I see the new handsome man cock a smile but I can tell he does not wish to give away his secrets, “…that is warming to hear of my brother… but we are out of wine.”
Torrent is opposite Rey and Zarcar and Lixar are in between.
“Chyronex,” Lixar pipes in, rather ambiguously, and I drop my head, almost believing he must sense me… maybe he does… I did not think of it! “She believes when we fuck her consistently that she is sharing power or that it empowers us.”
“…she actually believes that?” Torrent asks.
“Yes. None the wiser,” Zarcar murmurs.
My ears burn, even as I hear it all.
“So, you have a completely useless Draconess... finally I can seek answers from what intrigues me most… why do you want a Venatores, Rey? Least of all with an unhinged and untrained Queen?” Torrent is curious.
“Not quite. She is witless and they won’t know that. When they come back, and they see a mastered Draconess by a Commander, they will consider surrender,” Rey explains.
“I see. So, you all fuck her consistently, to…?” Torrent inquires.
“…to totally disengage her from the real nature underneath,” Zarcar answers.
I almost gasp, but I grit my teeth and press my forehead to the stones of the wall before me. I hope the coolness of them will keep me calm.
“Is she beautiful?” Torrent seems to catch on to the edge in my Warlord’s tone.
“Would you like to see her? I’ll fetch her soon. You’re welcome to her bed... we share on Rey’s command.”
“So, Rey, you’re a master of ingenious ideas. You go against the grain. I hear you do not allow females to practice magic either, why?” Torrent is smooth with words and I’m thankful his mastery of language and total command of the conversation at least briefly takes them away from the topic of me.
“It will attract the demons to mate so I forbid it,” Rey growls.
“That sounds like a rather personal grudge, wouldn’t you say?”
“That’s none of your damn business, Torrent.”
“And how many Draconesses have you slaughtered?”
“Too many. I will not face critique or consequence from a female lizard. They obey or they perish.”
“So, this… Chyronex… she obeys you?”
“Precisely,” Rey hisses.
“And what are your plans for Chyronex?” Torrent wonders.
“To train her slowly,” Rey sighs in frustration by all the questions, “Lixar is in charge of her knowledge in war should it ever come to that. Zarcar is her Keeper.”
“Yet a Keeper in a Venatores is the pre-chosen mate, only she can choose who that is.”
“Well, I chose for her,” Zarcar buds in, stating this firmly and protectively.
“Brother, you care for her in that way?”
“…to a degree. My heart originally set with a Draconess called Aisha, as was his heart… and his,” my heart nearly leaps out of my chest.
“Was?” Torrent thanks a server for bringing in more wine, “And who was that, a beguiling Queen that manipulated all of you against one another?”
“Precisely,” Lixar buds in, and I hear them all poor more alcohol.
“So, Chyronex is your humble, obedient little pet… is she?” Torrent questions this with specific tones to his voice I do not understand.
“Humble?” Zarcar bursts out laughing, “Not at all. And obedient enough.”
“I assume she has a temper.”
“No, she is quite tame….” Zar’s answers are so off. Tame?! He’s crazy! “…unless provoked.”
“How old is she?” Torrent asks.
“19,” Rey, Zar and Lix all answer.
“Young enough to bend, brother,” Zarcar adds this and I focus on Andoll.
She’s watching my reaction, she genuinely looks worried.
I shake my head at her and I turn. I’ve heard enough! I head down the hall.
Andoll follows me to another window on the adjacent side of the mini castle.
I look out and there are plenty of vines. I stand on the sill and Andoll growls from behind.
“You run?” Andoll asks.
“Yes,” I snap.
“No,” I turn to her and Andoll pauses, considering the fire in my gaze, “I won’t.”
I look up to the sky, as thunder clouds continue to roll in after dispersing all day.
Moon guide me.
“…then… do not die…” Andoll murmurs her simple farewell.
“You’ll not see me again, farewell,” I answer without turning.
I stare at the Moon again and pull on her power.
I am dislodging myself from this place, this prison. I cannot hear my soul be tossed around between brutes. I cannot stay just to be fucked by each one, the cheek of those swine.
They would never see me again!
My Draconess inside doesn’t purr with agreement, she is prowling with utter fury.
Part of me believed I needed to run before I murdered every single one of them!
I do not climb, nor fly, but I feel at that moment, my feet turning into something else. Something so light, my body contorts and becomes the same thing.
I roll forward, as waves of smoke, towards the river. It’s so fast, I’m flying over water and more until I see the edge of the city.
In seconds, I form back together, reappearing under the gates of Swendula.
I find myself leaning over a wooden crate… standing… and swaying.
I hold my breath… I’m on the back of a merchant’s boat!
One man sails upfront and he turns as we head under the gates, out of the city, to gaze back at the tall stone walls.
That’s when he sees me.
I’m hard to miss in my white dress.
“…my lord!” he exclaims, jumping forward, the long bearded man picks up a steel weapon.
“I am a witch and I suggest you lay down that pitch fork or I shall curse you infertile till moon’s end! You do know how curses work, don’t you?” I quickly stand up right and hold out my hands, trying to appear confronting.
“I’ve already looked upon your eyes,” he hisses, scolding himself.
“So you will say nothing and I will depart… when the… fae… call me…” I add the last part without knowing much about my own threat.
The merchant thinks a good minute and finally lays down his fork.
“Be sure to keep to your side of the boat, witch!” he gulps and stands still, waiting to see if I turn into a monster.
“And you to yours,” I drawl, low. I jump forward and I snatch up a half burnt torch. I smack out some ash onto my hands and squat to draw a dramatic line between us.
When I look up, I see the bearded merchant panting in a panic. The next moment he’s jumping onto the edge of the boat and launching himself to the muddy edge of the river bank.
I watch him fall into the water and splash frantically in an attempt to get out.
I look for others and see no one on the craft.
The boat is mine.
I look down the river and an uninhabited forest awaits ahead.
It looked like and smelt like the one thing I craved.
From those bastards back in Swendula.
I thank the Moon for her guidance... and then I sit down… but I don’t cry, I bite my tongue.
I would sob my frustration away, only after I found a safe place to do so.
My instincts were already suggesting a place.
Aye, a cave far, far away would do just fine.