SEBASTIAN - Remembering Serenade
For the first time, the bird-woman twisted to view the castle cradled by giant trees. Framed by the foamy moat stirring with life. Stone walls were behind a layer of pouring water interspersed with roses peering from beneath the waterways, miraculously untouched by the torrents. Bubbles drifted from the water to float away.
The drawbridge’s creaking made her body tighten. Her eyes flashed to watch it slowly lowering.
She’s terrified. Bast noted.
Intertwining with her mind, he found her assessing the intricately engraved wood of the bridge. She recognized the symbols as ancient. Confusion marred her face.
Her emotions are obvious there. He rather liked that.
She emitted tiny vibrations.
Trying to muster enough magic to make an escape. But that weak fluttering is less then a hummingbird’s flight. He shrugged. Trying to flee me will prove moot anyway.
She’ll figure it out when her body won’t move. He did his best to suppress the movement of his lips but apparently, failed.
Her teeth gritted and she snarled in hatred.
She knows I was smirking.
“Oh, I find you charming too, Dove.” He cooed oozing honey in response to her venom.
She’ll learn this is my dominion.
She scowled. “You’re repulsive! I can’t bare your presence!”
Interesting. I’ve never been told that before.
“You’ll learn to.” He gave a boisterous wink.
You won’t have a choice. Not if you’re around me long enough.
“What happened to me?” She demanded.
I bumped you from the sky, albeit roughly I admit, and you took a dip.
“What do you remember?”
“Falling. Fleeing something huge.” She murmured. Brow knitting.
“Whyever would you do that?” He gave a calculatedly blank look.
“It was hunting me. Like a sparrow. It was a massive thing that wanted to feast on me.”
Least she’s right about that. His eyes wandered over her body again. But I was only after you because you’re a thief.
“Are you sure about that?”
“Why was it after you?”
“I-I can’t remember. My head,” She put a hand to it. “It feels heavy.”
Your head? What happened to your head? He realized then his wing must’ve struck her in the back of it.
“Did you hit it?” He frowned. Tilting her to examine the back but observing no injury.
She’s okay. He blew a relieved breath.
“I don’t know.” She murmured. Eying him. “Who are you?”
The man you tried to steal from.
“Who do you think I am?”
“What are you?” Predator, though she was, she knew an instinctive wariness of him.
What are you? And where have you been hiding?
“I’m wondering. Does what I make you feel reflect how you’ve terrified others?”
You’re obviously accustomed to having other creatures fear you.
“Not in the least.” Her face jerked in distaste. “I don’t fear you. Whereas I’ve never met a creature that didn’t fear me.”
Doesn’t hold true any longer.
His eyes roved her body. “You have now. I’m far from fearing you.” He gave her a half smile. “In-fact, I’m now your captor.”
“How long do you think that’ll last?”
Much longer than you hope.
“As long as I desire it.” He said with such certainty she shook with rage.
“Was the flying thing your pet?” She surged on.
My pet? Not in the least.
“You think it drove you here for me?”
She nodded slightly.
“Oh, it positively did that.”
After eying him a moment she continued. “No matter what you are, I despise you.”
“As you do all of my gender, I suspect.” He shrugged.
“Undoubtedly.” She confirmed. “I see nothing of note about you.”
“Mmm.” He made a disbelieving sound.
“You find yourself quite irresistible, don’t you?” She accused.
Unfortunately, I know I am.
His eyes were blue green like a sea frozen in the throes of turbulence. A straight aristocratic nose lent him a dispassionate air. Hair the color of twisted sunshine smoothed from his forehead to his nape to curl slightly. A squared jaw framed a full mouth tipped at the corners as though he found all things bitterly amusing. An undisguised cynicism written over his enigmatic face.
Her nose twitched in distaste. “You’re ugly.”
He was laughing inside. Then stop staring up at me with those pretty blue eyes like you’ve never seen a man before.
“As are all men?” He asked softly.
“Yes.” She asserted.
“You’re long looks at me say otherwise.” He laughed.
As they entered the castle the drawbridge creaked closed with a loud slam.
“Well she’s a captive now!” Rhyers called from the drawbridge. “Few ever make it inside, WaterRose, My Lady.”
None. Other then Forever Knights or their rare wards. Bast stared down at her. Long dark lashes framed eyes now as gold as his hair. His lips tight as he glanced at her again.
“Am I a prisoner?”
Need you ask?
“Yes.” His tone was decisive.
Because I need to find out what you are. And if you are a risk to us.
“You don’t know?” He countered.
“You tell me.” His verbal parries were beginning to annoy her.
“You won’t hold me for long.” Her eyes darkened with the unspoken threat.
I’ll do a lot more than hold you. Seducing women was never hard for him.
“Yes, you will.”
He looked down at her in his arms “You’re adorable.”
It’s not a lie.
Shaking her head cleared some of the fuzziness from her eyes. She hissed at him but had to clench her stomach against a surge of nausea. Her body jerked making her huff.
“Are you going to heave?” He asked warily.
Don’t do it. Not on me!
I may return it.
“I’m heading in.” Rhyers strode past them to go in abruptly. Obviously not wanting any part of her rejecting her meal.
Coward. His eyes narrowed on Rhyers’ back.
“It’d serve you right.” She muttered. “I hope I do send my meal all over your fine clothes.”
“What was that?” He glanced down with a frown.
Growling she writhed against his grip. Trying to pull away.
“You don’t like my touch?” He asked innocently.
“I’d rather my flesh rotted off.”
“Hmm.” He smiled. “Sweet little thing, aren’t you?”
He climbed the few steps to the heavy dark wooden doors. Pushing one open with his foot to step into the opulence of the expansive foyer. The triple chandeliers hung from the ceiling. The second dangling from chains connected to the first. And the third hooked to the second. All of them laden with a tight circle of candles. Glowing brightly over the gold trimmed red carpeting beginning at the stairs, leading to the dais where the stairs split into mirror images turning out toward the walls and winding up to the second level. Torches glowing up there.
But there was a dark hall passing the dais and continuing to darker chambers down the hall. Lined with elaborate frames along the right. As he past a few she realized they were portraits, the eyes following their progress. He suddenly turned sharply to take the stairs up the dais.
She glimpsed a door going beneath it.
My lower room. He often slept in the servants chamber under the stairs when trying to recover from some injury or another.
“Who are all these men? They’re…Strange.” She peered around his arm toward one of the portraits. It’s intent dark eyes staring through her.
“I’m certain they’d find you quite strange.”
“Who are they?”
He knew well she tried to distract him, searching for a viable escape. “My brothers.” He said nothing more on the subject. Keen on her plan, he was disinterested in small talk.
As they reached the second level her eyes roved the corridor’s beautifully ornate furniture. Well-hung tapestries depicting gorgeous scenes accentuated the beauty here.
“Lovely is it not?”
“I might be in awe, were I not wondering what you intend to do with me?”
He was quiet. Staring ahead.
“Are you going to kill me?”
No. That’s ridiculous. His brows drew together. “Would I have taken the time to bring you here when I could’ve killed you where you collapsed at the pond?”
She tilted her head grudgingly.
“What are you going to do with me?” Her voice quaked slightly, and he sensed her humiliation at the weakness.
Ignoring her question, he asked. “You don’t like feeling weak, do you?”
“Especially not you. You’re usually in control?” When she didn’t answer he added. “Is it preferable to have others at your mercy?”
She huffed as though he asked nonsensical questions.
Which is answer enough, I suppose.
“Am I to be your prisoner for a while then?”
A long while.
“As long as pleases me.” He smiled.
“I’ll tell you nothing of my kind. No creature in the world can keep a secret from men like a valkyrie. No torture nor beating will make me waver.” She said assuredly.
“You already have.”
“Have what?” She blinked.
“Told me of your kind.”
“I did no such thing.”
“You most certainly did.” He continued walking, staring ahead. Boots clicking across the wood floor. “You’ve told me there are more of your kind. You even told me what you are. Thank you. Until now, I’d no idea you were anything other than myth.”
“What more would you like to talk about?” He asked easily.
“You mean what more would I like to tell you about?”
“If you wish.” Smiling broadly, he glanced down at her.
Perfect silver-blonde hair framed features so delicate they were almost childlike. But that expressive face betrayed how very much of a woman she was.
There’s pain in her eyes only a woman grown can suffer. His gaze zeroed in on the pained look. She had eyes that resented meeting the gaze of any man.
Tightening her lips, she refused to say anything more.
No matter. I’ve tamed more reserved women before.
Concentrating, she once more exercised the energy it took for wings to form. Before they could manifest, a ripple of energy rose from him. Shoving her more firmly into his arms and stealing her breath. Like someone laid on her.
Far too weak to stave off his greater power her brow furrowed. “What are you?”
Stronger than you.
He laughed. “Now you’re interested in me?” He walked with her in his arms, effortlessly. Stepping to a door which silently opened. They entered a dark chamber where shutters were drawn. Only a few candles in the corners. As yet unlit. The bed rasped along the floor as it slid to one edge of the chamber without being touched. Posts grating.
She turned her head to watch it moving in shock. She fumbled for words. Finally muttering. “This room is designed to house a valkyrie.”
Now. He blinked down at her, face impassive.
“Did you use magic to adjust this room?”
“As we climbed the stairs.” He affirmed.
Shaking her head, she eyed the bed.
He followed her gaze. “It’s lovely, is it not? Large and spacious?” He said in a voice smooth as honey.
“I’ve no need of such things.”
“All women do.” He purred.
“Only if they’ve a need to please a man. I’ve no such need.” She spat.
“Would you like to?” He tilted his head and lifted a brow in challenge.
Once you have a taste. You’ll want more…
She snarled under a curled lip. “Do you enjoy teasing me?”
You’ve no idea…He quirked an inviting brow.
“Immensely.” He neared the fireplace where a flame burned warmly. Leaning over the back of the loveseat, he dropped her to the warm cushions.
It was plush and gave beneath her, molding around her.
Like I want to mold around her.
She shifted uncomfortably.
Rounding it, he flopped down, leaning his back against her shoulder and crossing his boots over the armrest to settle in.
Leaping to her feet as though he’d burned her, left him teetering for balance and chuckling.
She’s utterly unsettled.
She glowered at him. Warily backing up and weaving around furniture to put a small table between them. Her pert breasts jutted upward, body tapering to a waist perhaps slightly narrow for his taste, splaying into slender hips made for fleeing. Without looking, she seemed to sense when to step to the side and trail a hand over an armrest or table. Placing anything she could, between herself and him. His eyes roved over her fluid actions, her body moving as if disconnected at the joints, those hips swinging as she strode behind the chair on the opposite side of the room.
As far from me as possible.
He draped an arm over the back of the loveseat. “You think furniture will protect you from me?”
It won’t. Nothing will. His head lowered. Eyes sparking gold. The firelight eerily reflected there. Framed by hair a similar shade, tousled from retrieving her from the lake. Those eyes zeroed in on her. Only they followed her movements. The rest of him still. Like an unmoving predator. Waiting for her to head for that door…
“Relax animal.” She hissed.
Not a chance.
“Until I know what you are, I’ve no intention of putting myself in a situation where I may have to endure your touch again.”
“Such as trying to escape?”
“Yes.” She rasped. Eyes flushing red before she blinked, and they were blue once more.
She’s dodging my gaze. I unnerve her.
And she doesn’t know what to make of it…Interesting.
She looked down her body and then to her hands which she tightened and released. Observing her own movements carefully.
“Feeling a little delicate?” He asked, lips quirking again.
“You know I do.” Contempt twisted her lips. “Will my energy replenish?” Panic rose as she felt for the tendrils of her magic coursing within her body.
Even while she’s weak it flutters through her at an expedited rate. Her heart pulses like a bird.
You’ll be fine.
“You’d know more of that then me. You know your body better than I…”
A fact we could correct if you soften that viper tongue of yours.
Sensing his offer, she cut in. “No.”
Glaring at him, her hands fisted, and silver wisps curled from the fire smoke to weave around her bare form. Winding to circle her waist, cinching it. Other gray fingers followed, layering to form a spider web fabric.
A gown made of smoke...Interesting. He cocked his head. Still doesn’t hide anything.
Awful hard for her to hide her shape from me now. I’ve already seen her naked.
When she stepped forward, the dress snapped into reality like a sail jerking in the wind. Becoming cloth in truth. Charcoal gray and shadowing her slender curves.
She’s a skinny thing. But tempting, nonetheless. What her figure lacked in feminine curves her face made up for in beckoning beauty.
“Fine then.” He shrugged. Watching her move further across the room at his baiting.
As I thought she would. She fears I’ll rush her.
I won’t. I like my women wanting what I offer.
Turning to watch him cautiously, her blue eyes were intent on his chorded body.
“You could come over here and relax.” He gestured to the loveseat next to him.
Her dark glower was ominous as she tossed her hair over her shoulder in preparation for a fight.
I’m not going to fight you bird-woman. You’re not even in my weight class. He laughed as he rubbed his chin thoughtfully.
She stood before the fire, panting heavily. Wearing no more clothes then the flimsy spider-webbing.
The makeshift cloth draped around her and folded over her shoulders. Blissfully unaware it was utterly transparent near the light. Her lovely silvered mane glowed like sunlight in the orange illumination of the fire behind her. Framing delicate shoulders in a halo of fire.
Nearly too tempting not to touch. He felt a pain low and deep. She’s able to affect me more than most beautiful women…How…intriguing. He eyed her as she studied the room.
Her gaze assessed the distance to each window and back to him again.
You won’t make it…He thought leisurely. I’m faster. His fingers tapped on the back of the loveseat.
Why do I find you so alluring? He pondered her as she frantically assessed the room. Because my usual ability to charm is utterly useless? Most likely.
I do like a challenge.
The lavender-blue of her eyes was mesmerizing. She wet her lips quickly and he caught the motion, tracing it hungrily.
She watched him. Anger written over her features.
Fully aware my gaze feast on her. He lifted a beckoning brow.
Sensing the change in his energy she began to tremble.
Glancing down her body she saw the light shining through her dress. Stepping from it, cast her lovely body in shadow.
He was sure his disappointment was visible as he itched one thumb with the fingers of that hand to refrain from leaping up to touch her.
“Why do you stare at me like a starved man?”
His full lips curved up. “Most likely because you make me hungry.”
“Animal.” She took a step back making no effort to conceal the insult on her face. She glowered at him.
“Little late for modesty now, Sweet.”
She glared heatedly. Shoulders heaving.
“The image of your tempting figure is branded on my brain.” He tapped his temple as he grabbed an apple from a bowl on a side table. Sinking his teeth in with a crisp crunch.
Her head was turned away from him, but now whipped back at his comment, to shoot him a scathing look. “You’ve no right!”
“To my own memory?” He scoffed. “I most certainly do.” His jaw jerked as he chewed the bite. “What a cold little thing you are.”
She huffed, small hands fisting.
He barely spared them a glance as he took another bite of his apple. “Conceal your fury, Little One. You’re just heating the spark between us.”
“There’s no spark.” She seethed. “Is this how you speak to all women?”
“You’re not a woman.” He reminded her.
She winced slightly.
“And no, I wouldn’t refer to heat between myself and a female unless I felt it.”
She gave him a doubtful look.
“Trust me.” He said in a dangerous tone. “I’m highly tempted to wrap you in my arms and show you what you feel.”
“Try it.” Her eyes widened, and chin hitched.
“That’s the only thing stopping me. For I fear that reciprocated attraction or not, were I to wrap you in my arms, you’d fight me like a wild animal.”
Her cheeks sucked in. Confirming his suspicions.
“With that said…” He tossed the apple in the air and by the time he caught it, he’d risen to his feet in a smooth motion and crossed the fur rug.
“Thus, I’ll leave you to reflect on your newfound captivity.” Spinning on his heel he exited. Letting the door slam for emphasis, his key turning in the lock. Gold flakes poured from his palm to creep in lingering tendrils over the door. Seeping into the lock hole, around the key, to twine along the wall. Swirling in sparkling waves which branched to splay over every crevice of the room until she was enveloped in a shimmering web. The colors faded, seeping into stone. But the cage remained, nonetheless.
The apple dropped to the floor in the hall. Thunking then grating as it slid.
His boots echoed down the corridor. The bit of fruit dissolved in a puff of dust.
He headed for the library downstairs. To listen.
The woman, Elsabet, studied the door as his steps faded.
He heard her run to it and try ripping it from its hinges. He closed his eyes and could clearly see in the room. Snarling through her teeth when it didn’t budge. The room shivered with life. Candles burst into flame with the energy of a torch, before settling into a comfortable glow.
Stalking the room made the gray gown swish around her ankles.
Glittering fingers of magic vibrated across the walls and interwove over the window slits like gold spiderwebbing. Blocking every exit.
“Enchanted the walls, did you?” She hissed. Tossing her arms. “What are you?” She raged. “Lord Bodane my ass! You’re no human.”
Of course not. He thought with a self-satisfied smile.
In his library below her, Bast dropped into his red and gold brocade chair. Swinging a leg over the armrest. Relaxing to tune into her thoughts.
She froze. Suddenly remembering before her fall to the pond. And prior.
Oh good. He settled his shoulders against the cushions.
“Lord Bodane.” She tried the name on her tongue. “I remember you now…”
She was thinking he’d toyed at being a charming and infinitely dangerous, as a gentleman. Pretending to be a mere human only hours before.
“But now I know.” She murmured. Her spiteful voice rising again. “I’ll shred you like child’s play.” The fireplace doused in a puff of whining smoke, as effectively as if she’d thrown a bucket of water on it.
Already regaining her strength. He tapped his lip thoughtfully, as he noted. Her fury fuels her power.
Sebastian envisioned her in the chamber above him.
“Nothing has gone as planned.” She paced. “I’m failing!” Stopping in horror she realized she, Serenade of the valkyrie, couldn’t recall the last time she failed at anything.
Failing at what? Bast wondered as he eavesdropped on her thoughts.
Prince Iceron of the Lost Island and his princess would both soon be learning she failed them as well. She’d thought this a simple mission.
Stealing from me, simple? Bast down in his library shook his head. Absolutely not. Grossly underinformed.
“Go to LandingTown, they said. Charm some mortal, they said. Return to the Island with the pendant. Offer it to the Prince of Air and Darkness, Dear Iceron.” She grumbled.
Crossing her arms over her stomach she clenched her elbows so tightly her fingernails drove into the pale flesh. Red droplets seeped from her arm, but she was heedless. The pain only a shadow of her rising ire.
“How dare you! How dare you!” Her fists turned white-knuckled. Ranting at walls calmed her. She quieted, realizing she needed to conserve her magic for it to regenerate. Palming her face, she rubbed tired eyes.
She needed to study her enemy.
Me. He realized. She’s thinking of me as the enemy.
Fair enough. He shrugged to himself.
She plotted to discover his weaknesses and leave this wretched castle with the amulet which she’d noticed still hung about his chorded neck. A beacon of her purpose...
He grunted. Staring at the ceiling above him thoughtfully.
Elsabet revisited the last fortnight, unwittingly taking Bast on the trip through memory lane. Much to his delight.
She’d been told the man carrying the pendant was dangerous. So, she’d taken Wrenny, the devious purple-eyed creature, with her to LandingTown, Igonox. A far stretch from the lush meadows they were accustomed to back on their Lost Island.
They’d disembarked to the aromas of the dock. From the stink of old urine to the scent of fresh biscuits a boy pedaled from a pushcart. But the smell of the fear of those boarding nearby ships was the most potent for the valkyrie.
She likes the smell of fear. Bast toyed with the flame of a candle on the table next to him. Pinching the wick and then releasing with dancing fingertips.
LandingTown was darkly cobbled streets. Hooves clicked over them, pulling creaking coaches. A man climbed a ladder to light the street lanterns.
Finally, the women rounded the block and found the rental Iceron had contracted for them. They entered the dim house. Wrenny’s purple eyes fluoresced in the darkness of the doorway. The butler swung the door wide, unleashing the smell of food roasting from the kitchens. Glazed chicken and potatoes and buttered green vegetables tantalized their senses.
Behind the butler, servants buzzed nervously across the foyer. He glanced at them beneath hooded eyes. Terror coloring his body language.
Iceron had mentioned their coming. And likely offered the servants caution.
Who the hell is this Iceron? He wondered with a frown.
To Serenade, the Valkyrie, finding fear when she arrived was akin to one finding beloved belongings already settled.
Serenade returned to the present with a jerk, drawn by the breeze drifting through the shutters. Jumping, she turned to attack. Finding nothing there, she commenced pacing. Utterly unaware of Bast below her, linked to her thoughts.
Bast leisurely scooped handful of exotic nuts from the bowl next to him. Firelight dancing over his features as he chewed. Awaiting the pictures moving over his mind’s eye as she remembered them. Dancing before him in nearly three-dimensional figures.
She recalled a sennight ago. Wandering LandingTown with Wrenny in descending darkness each evening. Studying the dress and mannerisms of the citizens.
Chattering women clung to the arms of handsome men, who strolled gracefully over the cobbled streets.
The men tolerated much mindless talk, in Serenade’s opinion.
Bast choked on laughter below. Of course, she’d think so.
It wasn’t long before the two foreign women wore similar garb. Their preference for bleak tones tamped down as they worked to blend into their surroundings.
Hunting. Bast realized. His hand already back in the crystal jar for more of his snack.