1700 - The Pursuit
1700 LandingTown, Igonox (Two Hundred ninety-two years of immortality)
The odd-shaped bird-woman dove through trees, rattling the tops in a spray of green leaves. Staying low to escape her pursuer. Weaving through the shadows of thick tree trunks and splashes of blinding gold light shimmering between. It was cool and dark this low smelling of wet dirt. It concealed her movements better than the cresting dawn above. Manipulating through trunks by twisting and arcing, she was careful of her dark, bony wings. Already breathing heavily, it was apparent she wasn’t accustomed to fleeing.
She won’t escape today. Sebastian’s eyes focused on the strange look of her. Like nothing I’ve witnessed before.
A distance above, and behind her, trunks snapped like kindling. An immense black shadow spread its silhouette over the tree canopy. Darkening the trunks below. And casting over her.
She sped up. Wings pumping in a determined escape. Black hair trailing behind buzzed with lightening currents stemming from her scalp. Each tress frosting into a silvery mane.
Declaring her presence like a beacon in the dim light. He smiled a toothy grin. Looking particularly ominous on his gold scaled snout.
She heard the whoosh of giant wings. A look above revealed the gold hunter’s outline as it stalked her.
Deeming her worthy prey.
Come here, My Sweet. He thought. Waiting for her to slide into reach.
Her blood red eyes seeped to startling blue.
She’s tiring. Her guise diminishing with her magic.
She’s running out of time. Having flown long past even her impressive endurance.
Good. Soon she’ll be mine. Turnabout is fair play. The gaze of the gold eyes zeroed in on the bird-woman.
You’ll have to fly a hell of a lot faster than this if you hope to escape me, Little Bird.
He heard her thoughts. Intending to identify his whereabouts then dive into dark underbrush and let him pass over.
Oh, I’m not so fool as that!
She shot into the sky. Twisting in flight with the efficiency of a hummingbird.
Fast. But I’m faster. He watched her intensely. Tracing her movements with lethal precision. The monstrosity of shimmering scales nearly blinded her as he appeared from nowhere, stretching razored talons.
Escaping the sting of a claw by microseconds, she caught the giant edge of a feathered wing in the face, as he pivoted to pursue her. Hitting her with the force of a runaway horse.
She screeched. Unprepared for the stinging blow, she was knocked from flight. Dropping in a deadfall.
The gold beast tried to catch her once more, barely missing. One black claw slicing a thin line along her side as she slipped through his grip.
She quieted, too weak to do anything but drop. A few drops of blood showering from the wound as she fell.
That was how Serenade the valkyrie, plummeted into the warm embrace of Lily Lake. Shimmering on the fringe of Phalanx forest’s dark treeline. It swayed into a grasping hand as she hit. Drawing her under. The surface stilling as if it’d never consumed her. Even the flowers trimming it, stood fast despite the breeze swaying the trees further in the woods.
Eerily still here if one didn’t know what magic cradled this land. WaterRose. He glanced in the distance and saw the watery river walls of the stronghold, teasing the light over the grassy meadow between the trees and the structure. Home.
His gaze returned to the water, waitingly. She moved precisely as I directed. He thought, self-satisfied. Like herding a falcon.
Now she’s in my dominion…My prey...The giant winged katash was complete with a ridge along his spine and twining serpentine tail. Rumbling in his throat caused a billow of sulfury smoke to waft between sharp teeth. Leaving the acrid stench floating over the trees. His bat like wings, trimmed with feathers along the bone, coasted the air. Silent in the breeze. His elongated snout and flared nostrils traced the exact location where she fell. Stalking her singular scent.
Unlike anything else.
This winged female was far from the angel that’d fallen for his kind centuries ago. She’s something else…
Something darker. Something more like…Me.
No sooner had she hit the water then a square shouldered man, emerged from the woods dressed in immaculate white. Shirt laced at the collar with frilled sleeves. Black breeches accompanying boots which had, earlier in the night, been polished but were now mucked from crunching foliage.
His whistle elicited the creak of WaterRose’s drawbridge and summoned thudding hooves. Sivikon loping to me.
The silver stallion stopped behind him. Dragging its lead. Tossing his head, he stared at the water through silver flecked blue eyes.
Sebastian stopped at the edge of the clearing. Watching the water’s still surface. Blue-green eyes flicking over the banks. Until he spotted a distance away the glint of his amulet shining from the naked branch of a tree. He collected it and stuck it in his pocket. Rounding to assess the lake.
Chin lifting, he eyed the water haughtily. Sleek movements revealing his animalistic nature.
Come up, Lovely. You can’t hide down there forever.
Seconds passed agonizingly slow. He didn’t move. Waiting.
The horse next to him gave a shrill neigh.
“Shh, Sivikon.” He put a calming hand to its muzzle. “All things in time, My Friend...”
She ruptured the water. Bursting in a rush of bared flesh shivering from ragged breaths.
His eyes hungrily roved her beautiful form.
Surely her skin can’t be as smooth as it looks. His eyes grew hooded as he watched.
Waist deep in water, she tossed pale blonde hair back. Limbs shaky, she calmed enough to rise. Floating across the surface with only toes cutting a swath. Water slipped over her skin like a falling silk sheet. Tiny droplets clinging to the gold circlets vining her arms. All she wore, save a bit of flimsy garb which drew lazily over her shoulders and wrapped her waist.
Meager cover. Knocking the hood of his cloak back gave him a better view. And revealed the shine of his gold hair in the morning light. Swaying as he moved. His gaze tracing her from head to toe. She was hiding a lot under those LandingTown clothes.
Hovering over the water she reached delicate toes to step onto the bank. Her sparking eyes flitting over the clearing. Flashing from dark blue to blood red and back again as she laid eyes on him. Face a mask of fury. Her head fell back as though damp hair weighed more than she could hold up. Her legs shook and gave as she collapsed.
The reins of Sebastian’s mount slipped from his shoulder to land amongst heavy green leaves littering the ground as he moved from Sivikon.
Reaching her side, he caught her just before she’d have hit. Sweeping her into his arms. Come on Little Bird. He grunted. Let’s get you inside and have a look at you.
The flawless silver steed followed him, dragging its rein. Matching his master’s step.
Bast walked the woods with the horse’s warm muzzle resting softly on his shoulder. A glance down revealed the woman’s delicate beauty had not been imagined. Certainly, prettier now, unconscious, then when she’d been enraged earlier.
“You were hiding.” He murmured more to himself then to her.
“Disguised.” She corrected weakly turning her head limply away from him.
The hell you were.
She grunted and blinked slowly. Silvery-white hair brushed with gold poured over his arm, draping down his thigh as he stepped. Black eyelashes rested heavily over her high cheekbones. Face arrowing to a pointed chin that should’ve put off the viewer but instead leant her features innocence.
Innocence she most certainly doesn’t possess. He was certain.
“You weigh little more than a child.”
But she doesn’t look one. His eyes inadvertently roamed her lush curves.
“I’m no child.”
“Oh, I noticed that when you came out of the water.”
Unwilling to respond she only blinked heavily before going limp. She didn’t stir again until they entered the clearing around the Keep. Her body tightened.
No. Don’t. He braced himself for the impending onslaught. Her wide eyes which had been vacant, now suddenly narrowed. Sweet vulnerability squelched.
Brows snapping together, she turned against his hold. Rotating in his arms while bat-like wings spun from her body. Hands turning to taloned claws, she tore the flesh of his chest as she spring boarded off his torso.
He sucked in his breath at the sting.
Ripping from his grip she darted skyward.
Nope. Catching her ankle, he yanked her from flight.
She thudded to the ground. Instantly rolling to her back to face him. Claws tearing ground as flesh darkened to a similar brown. Glaring up at him through burning red eyes.
Go ahead. Fight me. His blood surged at the sight of the half-naked woman staring hatefully at him. There was something erotic about it. After years of women fawning over me, one panting with rage, her own thoughts written on her face instead of a hypnotic reaction, is far more appealing. Pleasant images of her panting from more pleasurable exertions tore through his mind.
I can’t recall ever finding a woman so tempting.
The look on her face was vindictive promise. Her hiss bared pointed little teeth. Flapping her wings dangerously, she screeched in warning.
Before she could lunge, he casually lifted a palm outward. Freezing her movements and making her wings drop dully. Binding her with invisible chord. She snarled through a curled lip. Lovely blonde mane burning dark as ebony to frame her angular face.
“You wish to tear me apart, do you?” He rubbed a hand against his shredded chest in an effort to soothe the burn.
“Without a moment’s hesitation.”
Good. Keep struggling. He’d begun to think it wasn’t possible to find one immune to his animalistic appeal. Yet, here she is.
But peering into her mind to find that she was actually afraid of sobered him instantly.
“Calm, Elsabet.” He gave a chastising cluck. “Your fears are unfounded with me.” Willing his tone soft, he kept his hand out defensively. Prepared to send another surge of magic if needed.
“I fear nothing.” Chin hitching. Her voice rose as a dark whisper in his mind. Her mouth unmoving.
And secretly he hoped for more of her beautiful fury.
He felt an immediate response to the crackle of energy in the air. His animal trying to roar to the fore, making his eyes flash gold and breathing deepen as power pulsed through him.
Pressing against his magic she tried to rise. Almost a physical shove against him as she struggled under the strength of his will. Rising to her knees she slowly lifted to stand. Wings shivering against their bindings until finally snapping loose.
“Strong little thing, aren’t you?” He gave a lopsided grin. Impressed.
Give me more, Little Bird. He growled low in his throat.
Her head tilted down as she eyed him from under lowered lashes. Squawking again.
For the first time in a century, Sebastian felt excitement. Energy and hope.
She took a step towards him.
His mind raced. You’re mine. He decided in that moment. You’re not going anywhere.
His eyes roved her assessingly as he decided how he’d put that decision into play. Fighting her magic will be a matched battle.
I’ll borrow hers. Turning outward palm in, he clenched and pulled to his midsection. Abdomen reflexively tightening around the thrill of magic.
The dark brown of her flesh was stolen from her. Leaving her skin porcelain perfection. Her head fell back, and the red drained from her eyes like a retreating pool. When her head jerked forward, those eyes were so perfect blue they were nearly purple. Her hair changed from the roots. Spinning back into a moonlit silver glow. Twisted tresses straightened as they dropped around her shoulders. The glistening cover of brown fur running along her sides disintegrated in dark flakes. She dropped naked to her knees, a whoosh of air erupting from her lips. Lurching forward she landed on her palms, back heaving. Struggling for air, since she’d not been able to breathe during the process.
Head tilted he watched her recovering.
With the last vestiges of her strength she lifted terrified eyes and met his blue-green gaze burning like sunlight on dancing water. Bright as if a flame lit behind them.
Where she’d shrank and withdrawn, his body expelled a flow of energy like a rushing river.
Her eyes fell weakly to the ground.
Stronger than I anticipated. He growled low in his throat as he felt her power charging through him.
Does she know how powerful she is? He offered her a hand up.
Gritting her teeth, she shunned it. Turning her head.
Quirking his lips, he told her. “You’ll come with me, one way or the other. Willingly or nay.” Determination set his jaw.
Please say nay. He hoped. He’d enjoy putting his hands on her to take her in.
Another man appeared in the clearing barefoot from having run from the castle. He looked at them both and quickly assessed the situation. Long black hair framed a narrow face and bright green eyes took in the scene.
“Oh, I’d listen to him.” The tall thin man suggested. “When Bast gets that look on his face, he means what he says…”
Damn right I meant it.
But I don’t need his help.
“Rhyers.” He greeted stiffly his gaze zeroed in on the woman.
She spat on Sebastian’s shoes.
Oh, you did not. He looked at them before his stern gaze slid back to her. Fire sparking in his eyes. “You’ll pay for that.”
“I think she likes you, Bast!”
“I have this, Rhye.” He shot Rhyers a contentious look.
“I see that.” He laughed. “Good luck with the wee beastie!” He waved over his shoulder as he headed back. Black hair billowing in the breeze as he walked quickly away.
Get over here. Leaning over, Sebastian grabbed her upper arms and hefted her into the cradle of his embrace.
She slumped helplessly.
He gave a smacking kiss to her forehead. Just to remind her who’s in control.
Gnashing her teeth, she lifted penetrating eyes to glare at him. Her rage tangible.
Little savage. His lips twitched.
When she gets herstrength back, she’ll come at me again. He was certain. And he reveled in the knowledge.
His eyes grew shadowed as he eyed the fragile looking thing he held. She shouldn’t be in the outside world. Best contain her.
In WaterRose. With me. A slow smile was already turning his lips.
He thought a moment. If the demon got his hands on her, he’d never let her go.
I can’t let that happen, now can I.
Not when I want my hands all over her. His eyes slipped over her firm, curved body again.
Now this…will be fun…
I never saw anything like her. So beautiful. Filled with fire and life and…Rage. Her spirit was breathtaking. She was as wild and untamed as she was beautiful. And my heart ached at the thought of what could happen to her if I let her go.
So, I decided I would not.
From the Journal of Sebastian Bodane.