Chapter 9 - Stolen
“This is a trap, Marcus,” Alena warned without the usual respect his position allowed because they were alone and this was once her father’s house. Marcus glanced at her with irritation. Sometimes he suspected she lashed out to goad him.
“Maybe,” he agreed with a slight tone of anger. He decided their course, and he knew she would obey him, even if she didn’t agree with him. He was in no mood for explanations or theories, without more knowledge of their enemy. They were in the dark and vulnerable for it; toys for the dark one to play with as they fled before him. His mouth settled into an even grimmer line.
“So what do we do?” Alena demanded, and she could tell from the brief flash of annoyance in his eyes that he knew of the danger and she was pushing it. Alena half expected him to mount his horse and ride off, ignoring her question, but he turned to face her, his eyes steady as he caught her gaze.
“Hope and curiosity,” Marcus answered bluntly, and Alena froze. If hope and curiosity were all the saving grace they had, then they were screwed. She steered her horse past him and out of the stables, without another word.
Rowan waited in the courtyard, and she looked as reluctant as they were, to go outside the walls. Her strange vampire horse kept shying until she firmly took the reins and he became instantly still like a block of granite.
Alena was quiet and grim as she steered her horse past Rowan while avoiding her sister’s searching gaze. Alena knew she would sense the tension between her and Marcus, but didn’t want to feel obligated to explain. Rowan noted the reaction and heard the argument, but not the words. She had a good enough idea of what it was about.
Alena never heard of such a creature or saw one before, but she acknowledged that Rowan trained it well. Their father possessed of the same knack with horses, but it also extended to people.
“I don’t suppose it would help to ask where we’re going?” Rowan asked, and they both just spurred their horses forward without answering or looking back. Left with the choice of remaining behind in the empty castle or riding off alone into the night, she found she fancied neither option. Rowan followed behind them, taking the reins of the extra horse and leading it outside with her. They could use a spare.
She stopped outside the gates to get her possessions and the instant she uncovered the tiny heap; she knew what was missing, and her heart ached more for the loss than she ever thought possible. The weapon was an integral part of her for so long, and she could not picture being without it.
“Damn,” She swore under her breath. Defeat streaked through her and her shoulders slumped.
“What now?” Alena demanded with slight irritation.
“They took my sword,” Rowan sounded as if she wanted to ride after them and take a swathe out of their hides, but she forced herself to calm down. Emotions were dangerous in situations like these, especially with implacable allies.
“They killed my men, and yours, stopped to steal a sword and yet they leave everything else?” Marcus quipped. Rowan couldn’t decide if he sounded perplexed or disbelieving, and she found she didn’t like the thought of him not believing her.
“It possessed silver inlays in the haft and a master swordsman crafted the blade,” Alena answered in Rowan’s stead. She knew the sword, saw her father carry it once; when she was younger. Marcus glanced at Alena and noted the closed-off expression on her face. He knew it well by now, and she adopted it when she felt hurt or betrayed.
Seeing Victor with that sword and knowing for whom he intended it, she could remember well her first taste of envy and hatred. It was tangible proof of the existence of the sister her father sired, and the only time she saw him touch the life of this unfortunate creature.
“It was valuable,” Alena’s voice carried no expression.
“It belonged to my mother,” Rowan said with anger, hatred and a flash of agony, but it quickly disappeared; never intended for them to see or hear.
“No Rowan, my father had it crafted. It never belonged to her and was always intended for you. His way of acknowledging you and giving you something of himself,” Alena said the words with no particular inflection, but every last one of them hit Rowan like a punch. She froze, her eyes became wide and her mouth set.
Alena spurred her horse forward, and Marcus waited for Rowan with hooded as he watched her. She mounted her horse without saying another word, but she was suddenly unapproachable, aloof and Marcus let her be. Her world just shattered and rearranged itself.
They had nothing much to say to each other after that and rode in silence. There would be time enough to speak later, and the only valid conversation he wanted to have could wait until they were alone. There was no knowing who or what could listen. Or how.
They risked dawn to make it to a group of sheltered caves. Nothing followed them; as if they were unimportant. None of them believed in the fallacy. They could sense and felt it the minute they hit the open road. Even as they switched to back roads, the feeling never changed or lessened. Somewhere, somehow, someone followed their movements with undivided malicious intent.