SEBASTIAN - A Golden Beast
Elsabet recalled seeing him for the first time as he rode through Eden Park. The women observed the ferocious redheaded giant guarding Sebastian.
Mardichi. Bast nearly spit out his food at the idea of Mardichi guarding him.
Drinking at the parties I got him into, is more apt.
“Why are they here?” Wrenny asked.
“He looks for an old enemy.” Elsabet had answered. Eyes riveted on him. As she recalled the memory, he was able to perceive what she’d felt. A thrill of anticipation and interest as she studied his profile talking to Mardichi.
Radix...How’d the two little snippets discover that? Bast pondered.
“Do we know this one they look for?” Wrenny’s eyes narrowed.
They discussed Sebastian, dismissing him as a threat.
That made Bast in the library below the chambers pause his chewing. His eyes skidding upward in annoyance.
In the vision of a sennight ago, Elsabet assessed his long blonde hair and changing aqua eyes. His quick smile making him appear harmless, enough. A frilled shirt customarily worn with lacings scandalously opened, revealed the ripple of his body as he moved flawlessly. Speaking to the women hounding him. He smiled mockingly down at them. Amused by their antics.
His conversations were generally limited. She assessed, disgusted.
Limited? Bast was appalled. Nuts slipping from his fist as his eyes narrowed on the ceiling above him.
Nothing about me is limited, Woman. You’ll learn. He sat straighter.
The women were more concerned with the barbarian ever at his side then with him. Certain Bast was more concerned with the women flocking him than anything else, they believed the barbarian the only threat.
If he was sober long enough to be one. Bast grunted. “Harmless?” His voice rose. “Limited conversations?”
Judgmental harpie. Drawing a staying breath, Bast glared above him, willing himself still.
Disturbing her now may very well lock me out of these memories. He warred with himself on going up there and correcting her perception of him and his limited conversation…
Bast had seen her very differently. Immediately sensing she wasn’t human; he’d been taken by her rare beauty. Instantly intrigued.
Though not more so than when she’d stood before me in my parlor less than an hour ago. Proud and angry despite her near nakedness.
Like a wild mare ready to run a man over. He focused on returning to her memories.
Throughout the last fortnight, the valkyrie had noticed his gaze on her several times. Occasionally returning it unwaveringly.
Her eyes flashing with challenge.
He’d cocked his head at her.
Their gazes locked, until a woman tugging at his sleeve distracted him. When he’d looked up, he’d found her gone.
Yes, I recall that. Present day Bast grunted.
“He’s harmless.” Wrenny commented to Serenade, as he’d rode past them. “Look at him. Unaware of anything but his own beauty.”
I didn’t hear that.
The valkyrie nodded in agreement.
Wenches. Bast grunted at their hurried opinion of him.
Rhyers strode into the parlor and noticed Sebastian’s concentrated expression. “Ugh. You look fair black with rage.” Rhyers jerked to a stop just inside the doorway.
“I am.” He said absentmindedly.
“You’re listening to her thoughts?”
“Memories. She was watching me for a nearly a fortnight.”
“Oh?” Rhyers lifted a dark eyebrow as he stood near the doorway.
“She was after my talisman.”
“That’s not good.” Rhyers winced.
“She didn’t think I was a threat.”
“Oh.” Rhyers reared back. “Well, she was sorely mistaken.”
“Thank you.” Bast’s gold eyes flicked to his friend, gratified.
“Is she cimmerii?”
“No. But she does have a tinge of evil.”
“Not demonic though?” Rhyers poured himself a glass of amber liquid from one of the decanters off the corner table.
“Would I have let her into WaterRose?”
“Not if you knew.” Rhyers returned with glass in hand. Swishing the liquid thoughtfully in it. An old habit when he was deep in thought. “How’d she get here?”
“I drove her here.”
“Drove her? I do hope you mean in a carriage.”
Bast shot him a staying look.
Rhyers sighed. “Of course not. As a wolf or a katash?”
Bast lifted a brow as if Rhyers should already know the answer.
“You know as the katash you’re far more visible to Radix’s all-seeing eyes. Especially you. You’re so bloody bright.”
“Only during the day.”
“Was it at night that you chased her here?”
Shut up and go away with your chiding. Bast returned his focus to the ceiling above him.
“I’d thought not.” Rhyers took a long swallow. Eying him thoughtfully.
Bast pointedly ignored him until Rhyers rose, shaking his head and chuckling as he went toward his chamber upstairs.
Bast hardly noticed when Rhyers left focusing on the trail of memories leading to today’s events.
In the rented Town House, only a particularly brave lady’s maid, Libby, had dressed Serenade and Wrenny. Even bold enough to offer advice on piling Serenade’s pretty silver tresses atop her head. “Most of the maids fear ye Mum. Especially after you near took Susan’s head off last syenite.” The maid explained why she was the only one willing to tend Serenade.
“That was her doing.” Serenade grumbled.
“I’m not afraid. Just careful.” Libby plaited Serenade’s hair as the valkyrie watched in the looking glass. Careful to not tug this terrifying woman’s tresses as Susan had done. “Yer so beautiful Mum. Ye could make men bow to yer wishes. Men wouldna be able to resist ye!”
Serenade reflexively caught the girl’s wrist in an iron grip. “Am I not already irresistible?”
Libby nervously shuffled. “Not to these men, Me Lady.” She shook her head. “Ye’re breathtaking ’nuff miss. But to these jaded jacks ye’re just ’nother lovey maiden among the many thrown at ’em by money hungry mamas.” Libby adjusted the metal plate of vines holding her hair in place. The headcover common for LandingTown servants.
“How would I…do…that?” She adjusted in her seat. “Blend?”
“Make eye contact with one, touch ‘im light. Laugh soft, Miss. He’ll find ye delkit and charmin’.”
“Delicate?” Serenade nearly choked.
Libby swallowed hard and ducked behind Serenade to evade the other woman’s reflective stare. “Another thing Mum, ye may wish yer name less odd...” Libby said hesitantly. “If ye wanna blend…”
“You think my name odd?” Serenade’s voice turned condescending.
Libby bit her cheek, prolonging her hesitation.
“Name me then.” Serenade directed. Staring at Libby in the mirror.
Libby froze, hairbrush aloft. “I never named some ’un afore...” Fumbling with the brush she piled the shining tresses atop Serenade’s head, chewing her cheek.
“Had ye been me child-”
“I was never anyone’s child.” Serenade snapped.
Libby eyed the shimmering strands of hair slipping over her palm like fine satin. Letting them move more slowly as her eyes rolled upward and her body jerked minutely as she tapped into the energy pulsing in the other woman. Finally, she breathlessly murmured. “With hair such as this, I’d ’ave called ye Elsabet, My Lady.”
Serenade tipped her head to eye the girl. Lips tight as she decided.
“If ye were ta wear tha’ purple dress, Mum ’twill sure make yer perty eyes pop, Mum.”
Libby laid the lavender dress on the bed positioning the arms out with careful precision before stepping away.
Watching as the dress lifted and floated over Serenade’s head, Libby murmured. “Many times as I ’ave saw that, Mum, I never get used to it.”
Serenade didn’t respond.
“My ye are a sight miss. An enchantress or the like.” She was awestruck.
“If you say.” Elsabet nodded over her shoulder.
“That ye’re unawares, will have them all awhirl, Mum.”
Libby carefully tightened the laces, cinching the fitted dress around the petite woman. “My Lady?” Libby queried as the woman abruptly spun to exit the room.
“Call me Elsabet.” Serenade commanded.
The maid gave a dark smile as she watched Elsabet leave. Eyes lighting with pleasure.
Why that name? The valkyrie wondered but refused to think about it further. Elsabet headed down the corridor and Wrenny fell in line beside her.
“Elsabet?” Wrenny asked catching the end of the conversation from the hall.
“I thought you were done with that name.”
“As did I.” Elsabet said sharply.
“No one has called you that since…”
“Yes.” Elsabet cut the other girl off and bit down the memories it invoked.
Sebastian in his lair, was sorely disappointed she refused to indulge in them. She should. I’d be curious to know why that name has such significance. And how the maid knew it. Bast’s leg swung over the armrest as he enjoyed the memories she rehashed.
Elsabet waved away assistance to climb in the coach.
Wrenny quietly eyed her. Clearly wanting to say more about the name but refraining.
Elsabet settled on the task at hand. Their mission. Once accomplished they could return home…To the valkyrie tree. She gave a guttural sigh at the blissful thought.
Valkyrie Tree? Hmm…Bast mused. His leg swinging over the armrest thoughtfully.
Tamarin Hall, Mane Country
The women traveled the short distance across the Igonox Realm Border into Mane Country to reach Tamarin Hall.
After arriving, they refused escort as they entered the ball. Ignoring the butler and barely relinquishing their wraps to a nervous footman.
Gentlemen slowed to stare at them.
Sparking Elsabet’s annoyance. She fought heat flooding her eyes. Knowing it’d bleed them red. Crossing the archway, she reached the chairs against the wall.
Wrenny took one.
One Lord ran a hand along Elsabet’s arm. “Name is Bodin Rhyers, My Lady. Care to dance?”
Ah, yes. I’d forgotten I saw Rhyers make that move. Bast’s face brightened. Set on teasing the hypocrite later.
A hiss escaped her throat as she looked at Rhyers. Light dimmed in the ballroom before brightening a moment later.
Rhyers backed away slowly, face darkening before he turned and left. To break it to Deragan cimmerii may be here. Bast recalled seeing them lurking in the corner of the room. Overhearing Rhyers briefing the Captain and Raese Whiting in the corner.
Deragan’s blue eyes lifted to the pretty blonde, narrowing.
Even then Bast had looked across the room following the Captain’s gaze and thinking. He’ll kill her if he thinks she’s a threat.
Elsabet disappeared into the crowd. Her attention averted to the dancing couples.
At first, she couldn’t discern him in the crowd. Her vision zoomed in on men’s clothing. Looking for the glinting chain.
Then she’d seen me. Bast of the present, stared at the ceiling thoughtfully.
She noticed the two men, nearly a head taller than most, winding gracefully through the crowd. Her gold-haired target and a black-haired man of similar height and breadth.
Chavias and I.
Bast reached to pull a book off the round table between the chairs, rolling it in his palms to keep his hands busy and his focus sharp. Anticipation heightening. Because I know what’s coming.
Elsabet saw women staring at Bast raptly. Only Wrenny seemed immune.
Chavias and Sebastian strolled the room. Elbowing each other and laughing jovially.
“Chavias, it was so long ago! Do let it go!” Bast had chuckled.
“She had the bluest eyes I’d ever seen and hair as black as mine. We’d have made a fine pair.”
“Like horses?” He jested. “Calisto was not for you.” Bast shouldered him. “You can’t harbor me ill forever.”
“The devil I can’t! You pulled the fur from under me feet! And placed her squarely in Raese’s path.” He feigned outrage but there was a laughing note in his voice.
Bast was grinning broadly when his eyes had lit on Elsabet. Returning her thorough assessment.
Blonde hair hung loose over his shoulders. Brushing a beautifully cut overcoat which swathed over a loosely laced white shirt. Leaving his collarbone and the defined lines of his upper chest exposed. Breeches molded a well-muscled body and boots were polished a high shine. Vibrant blue-green eyes burned through her.
She wondered where were all the stuffy dowagers were as the disheveled rogue flirted, half clothed, with their daughters?
Too busy staring at me themselves. Bast shrugged absentmindedly as he opened the book in his hand now. Flicking pages with his finger.
She had noticed all the women stared at him open-mouthed and sweating.
Elsabet had watched a woman arrive at his side, tugging his arm. Forcing him to break his study on her. The delicate beauty, dangling off him like a necklace, giggling at something he’d said. Basking in his attentions.
Elsabet cocked her head, watching the interaction.
Chavias wandered to the refreshments table. Relieved the massive redhead man, Mardichi, was absent tonight. Not wishing to contend with the big beast.
Mardichi would’ve probably been too drunk to do much anyway. Bast’s fingers paused on the pages of the book as his lips turned ruefully.
Unaware of the valkyrie’s thoughts, Bast had lifted his arm to spin his dance partner.
Pleasantly oblivious at that moment.
Elsabet caught the glint of a silver chain falling over his collar and dangling just beneath those laces. Stark against his tanned skin. The candlelight caught the shimmer of a gold ornament on the chain. Nestled against his defined chest. A serpent twining a thick cross.
Elsabet moved purposefully through the crowd. Shooting a look over her shoulder to warn Wrenny. A slight nod had Wrenny rising. Elsabet held out a staying hand and shook her head. Focusing on him, she found him absorbed in dancing with the flirtatious brunette. Elsabet calculated his next step.
Her plan was simple: She’d intercept him as he turned in step with the dance, she’d hook the pendant on a claw and let his own movements tear it off him. Freeing it into her waiting hand.
Already hanging open, his shirt would offer little resistance.
Amulet in hand she’d exit the dance floor. Likely while he stood in surprise.
That was her plan anyway. He licked his teeth and clucked. Amused by how simple she’d thought it would be. Her naivete is almost amusing.
Her detail in LandingTown settled and free to return to Sanctuary Island, The Realms of Night and Day…And being revered by her people.
I don’t know what any of that means. Present time Bast blinked at the book in his hand and the ones stacked on shelves behind him. But I will…
Elsabet had watched him, nearly shaking with intensity. Anticipation heightening as he danced closer. She was already reaching, waiting for his flowing movements to place the amulet in her grasp.
Instead, her quarry released the brunette and abruptly faced her. Sparking gold eyes focused on her. His hair settled around his face and back over his shoulders.
Jaw agape she froze a second before her brows descended.
I sensed your thoughts. Present time Bast smiled at her confusion.
He recalled the look on his face, had been accusing. Still unsure what she was after. Grasping her outstretched hand, he twirled her.
Suddenly incorporated into the dance it took her rapid reflexes to move in step with the group.
He’d realized instantly she didn’t know how to dance.
The woman previously dancing with him expostulated profanity.
But Elsabet’s focus was this man whom, had abruptly change from docile prey, to glaring at her predatorily.
They stared each other down, unblinkingly.
For the first time, she felt as though an enemy, an equal, assessed her as she did him.
When he pulled her close to turn her again, claws rent from her fingertips to shred his shirt and grasp the amulet.
She jerked it violently. Snapping the chain.
His eyes narrowed on her.
Spinning on her heel, she dissolved into the crowd. Gesturing to Wrenny as she passed. Wrenny flanked her. Moving through the throng as one, they exited into the dark.
Elsabet paused to glance behind her. Finding herself facing the stranger again.
His features were perfection, an aristocratic nose framed by arched brows and vivacious green-blue eyes. His square jaw was ornamented with a broad mobile mouth.
He tipped a brow in challenge. “I believe that’s mine...”
Tossing an elbow into those handsome features, she made crushing contact.
Stepping back, he scowled at her. His hand moving to his nose and eyeing the blood collected on his fingertips before lifting to set on her with steely determination.
Climbing into the coach, the women were appalled when he leapt in as well. Despite the footman’s objections, he shouted for the driver to go.
Elsabet was livid when the man complied with this stranger’s order. She scowled across the carriage. This stranger was quickly becoming a nuisance.
“Get out of my coach.” She enunciated the words.
He stared at her unblinkingly. Refusing. “Why are you stealing from me?” He cocked his head.
“Get out of my coach, My Lord!” She ordered, voice brooking no argument.
“Lord Bodane, My Lady.” He calmly corrected. “I suggest you answer me.” Gaze unwavering, he stared her down. Ignoring Wrenny’s scathing look.
“I suggest you get. Out. Of. My. Coach.” Her head tipped in warning. “I’ll not say it again.”
He didn’t budge.
“You’ve no idea what you’re dealing with.”
His eyes narrowed at her cautioning words. “Heed your own words, My Lady...”
She hissed. Her irises bled to ruby. Slamming her hands against the sides of the coach she screeched. Cracking her neck, she looked at him.
The coach rocked. Long brown wings snapped out from her body, one shattering the narrow coach window.
The driver lunged off his seat and crawled through the dirt. Vanishing down the drive yelling.
Wrenny flattened against one wall, face expressionless. Unmoved by the other woman’s violent fury.
“Out!” The valkyrie shrieked in his mind.
To any mortal, the sight of the Valkyrie with red eyes and brown wings spanning the coach, would’ve been an intimidating sight.
Shredding her slippers, her feet became taloned claws embedding in the coach seat. She emanated predatory hunger.
Cocking his head, he studied her new visage, fearless.
That really should’ve been her first hint. He mused. Toying with the book in his hands.
Her skin was as pale as when she’d been beautiful. However, hair pins clattered to the floor and her mane went coarse and black as a Dread’s shroud. Her changing body tearing the lavender gown. She now crouched before him in naked glory, claws sinking into the edge of the leather cushion. A softer shade of the brown tinging her wings climbed the sides of her hips and along the ridge of her ribcage.
Blood red eyes burned. As wide and unblinking as that of a baby bird...yet far more terrifying. She screamed threats into his mind though no voice filled the coach. She breathed quickly. Her vibrating body rattling the coach with barely contained energy.
He glanced at the other woman, huddled in the corner of the coach. Her eyes glowing purple in the dark. Black hair surrounded her face. She peered through it threateningly.
She’s a threat. When he didn’t break their stare, she compressed her lips and relaxed her shoulders, letting her head fall back.
Coming to some decision she reclined in the seat with a vague smile. Her eyes moved to the valkyrie, waiting.
She thinks I’ll be dead soon enough. She doesn’t think she’s needed.
Averting his attention back to the woman-bird, Sebastian eyed her. Fury emanated from her. Nearly tangible. He caught her upper arm, but her hand now equipped with claws, raked his forearm. Cutting deep and leaving three jagged marks which seared with venom. Ignoring the pain, he watched her. Unflappable.
Raese Whiting and Captain Black emerged from the ball to stare openmouthed at the horrifying creature peering red-eyed from the coach. Raese swirled his hand. The long staff topped in glowing green, materialized in his fist. He spun it once before slamming it to the ground which shortened its length by half. Turning it into a quarterstaff.
His weapon of choice.
His and the Captain’s eyes went to Bast, questioningly.
They’re telling me it’s my choice what reaction they take. Angling to be in their view near the broken window, he gave them a long look, lips tight. I’ve got it. He conveyed in the Captain’s mind.
Deragan turned, jerking his head for them to return indoors.
Raese crooked his wrist again and the staff vanished in a billow of green flakes.
They straightened their overcoats and stepped back through the doorway as Chavias emerged.
Catching him by the arm, Deragan turned him murmuring words Bast couldn’t hear.
Telling him to go back in, likely.
Chavias twisted and glimpsed the red-eyed creature atop the shattered coach. “Bloody Hell!” He muttered over his shoulder as they drug him back in.
They’ll keep anyone else from coming out. Bast had thought.
Leaning over, he’d collected something from the floorboards before stepping from the coach. Giving the women his back, he ignored the bony wing protruding from the window near his head. He’d cracked the door and squeezed through the slight space. She hissed warningly.
He’d taken two steps when he’d heard the rising voice of the quiet one. “The pendant! You dropped it!”
Glancing over his shoulder he’d watched the coach rattle from the furious shaking of the creature within. In moments, the boards splintered and shattered, projecting wooden fragments as it exploded. Bursting from the chaos, her red eyes burned in the dark.
She landed barefoot on the remnants of the coach roof. Clawed feet gripping the splintering wood with a crunch. Ruby eyes glittering in the dark. She held out her hand for the pendant. A superior lift to her chin as she glared down her nose at him.
He’d given her a bored look, jaw ticking. His shrug made it clear he’d no intention of handing it over.
She shot into the air. A dark blur cutting the sky before plummeting in a calculated dive.
He’d stared at her. Considering going back in.
If I do, she’ll barge in exposing all immortals.
I think not.
So, he’d made no move as she drew near enough wind hissed over her wings like sails slapping. The energy of her fury clenched his stomach, forcing his muscles tight. Instinctively ready to fight, he felt no inkling of fear.
She caught him in a taloned grip. Lifting his limp body. Her grip slipped so she tossed him like a dog with prey. Catching him by his arms in a better grip. What remained of his shirt rent as her claws embedded in his flesh.
Ouch. Bast winced at the mere memory.
Gritting his teeth, he willed his body not to react. Don’t change.
Drawing from his training over the years, he forced himself passive. Eying the creature carrying him into the night.
She shook her black mane like a bird settling ruffled feathers. Glowering down at him, her eyes completely red. Absent any white.
A horrific sight to behold.
Less than an hour before, she’d been lovely to look on.
She tossed him once more.
Trying to intimidate me. An inhuman growl rumbled from his throat.
The woman-bird glanced down at him, surprised he was capable of such a noise. Tightening her grip, she pierced those claws deeper into his arms and shoulders. One hooking painfully under a shoulder blade.
Is she trying to sever my heart?
He allowed her the flight. Where’s she taking me?
The further she goes the better this will go.
Why was she after the pendant? Where did she come from? His mind worked fervently. Then anger set in.
She dared steal from me? Not only had she the tenacity to steal from him but to fly away from a LandingTown Ballroom with him.
And now she’s got her claws in me. His lip curled, he continued working to control his irritation.
They’d long since passed over cities bordering LandingTown. Heading deep into the Grier mountains. High over the trees. In the distance, moonlight shined white on the pond he knew so well.
She’d be furious if she knew I was smiling.
Checking her thoughts, he found she thought to fly him far enough from the city no one would hear him screaming.
I’m growing bored with playing your toy. His brother would have said it was his alpha male instinct rearing his head.
“Enough. Cease toying with me.”
She looked down at him, black hair falling about her face as she sneered. “You’re a captive, great lord. I suggest you cease your tongue.” Her angry voice ripped through his mind. Leaving a wake of discomfort. It was a dark hiss. Though he was sure it could invoke terror it was still somehow infinitely feminine.
What an interesting array of contradictions you are. Contradictions he’d enjoy plucking apart.
I’ve been bored for so long... And though he would’ve denied it, he had become lonely. He laughed at himself. He, Sebastian Bodane, lonely. Loneliness only broken by the need of the other Forever Knights.
His brethren had told him to take a mate. Plenty of women are willing but they’re so...mundane. It was cruel to admit.
Now this...He looked at her lovely underside. She is something…else. Fascinating...
Contrary to his thoughts, his tone was tired. “This flight grows tedious. Remove your hooks from me.”
Smirking at him, she refused to even slow. Great brown wings moving across the night sky. Blocking his view of stars and the moon.
Where they belong. In daylight she’d be far out of place. Persecuted for whatever she is.
She gave him a rough shake, driving her claws deeper.
She thinks to remind me I’m her prey, does she? She knew she could as easily drop him as spare him.
When she’d glanced back down, his jaw clenched and a muscle there ticked decisively. Anger vivid on his face.
“You think to hold me captive, Harpie?” His rage was obvious. That blue-green look unwavering on her. Flexing his body, he ripped from her grasp.
She released him momentarily but captured him around the waist again.
He jerked around to face her, cutting his own flesh deeply in the process. Staring up at her purposefully, the ground far below him. A fall no mortal could survive.
Elsabet looked down, red eyes wide. Appalled he would rend his own skin so flagrantly. She studied the strange fragile creature she held in a viselike clasp. He was heavy, and she felt the hardness of his body in her grip. She cocked her head as she looked at him.
“It is a shame.” She murmured. “But I cannot jeopardize my mission for any mortal. No matter how…Interesting a one.”
That pendant was needed on the Lost Island to stave off the invaders. Much greater need than any lord wanting to wear a pretty trinket.
She thinks I don’t know its value.
Bast’s voice interrupted her thoughts. “The Dragon’s Eye.”
“What?” She hissed into his mind.
“It’s called the Dragon’s Eye, my trinket...Why do you seek it?”
“To save a people more precious than you, human.” She shook her head almost sadly. Reaching down she yanked the pendant loose from his hands. His torn shoulders and arms offering little resistance. It was as the sun was cresting the ridge that she released her grip on him. Watching him fall desolately.
He heard her thoughts. And for just a moment, she wished she could take it back.
Even in his shredded tunic with gold hair tousled, he was wildly handsome. She watched his strange expression as he looked up at her, dropping limply.
Totally calm...He was...peaceful.
Bafflement marked her face. Making him fight the smile pulling at his lips.
He gave her a chiding look. Angry at her choice. Or perhaps disappointed.
She started to turn in flight, reluctant to see his human body crushed in the trees.
Turning back from the body of water, she headed back toward LandingTown.
As she turned something scintillating caught her eye. She glanced down and watched flashes of vibrant gold erupting from where he’d been falling. Only seconds passed but it seemed an eternity as something rising within the pink and purple hues of the morning sun, stole her breath.
The rising sun shimmered like fire on the gold scales pouring over him in a layer of armor which clacked as it laid into place. Snapping together they interlaced over his shape as he lengthened and distorted.
His body tore apart. Until finally the giant creature blew out of the mist. Massive and graceful in flight. Giant wings longer then her and more proportioned were beautiful rather than terrifying. Its long neck unfolded.
She looked down on a head covered in horns. Watching her attentively, it moved its wings twice and rose to where she hovered. Her wings stilling in shock, she nearly plummeted as she watched his shape shifting before her.
Her body quaked as the rival rose to her height in only a few sweeping beats of his wings. His sharp teeth were gritted in rage.
And now the tables are turned. Flee little Harpie.
And she did…
Elsabet swallowed convulsively. Afraid.
The way it watched her darting movements and the way those large gold eyes observed her told her clearly, this beast was furious.
He intended to rain retribution.
Now she recalled what Lord Bodane said to her about heeding her own words when she’d cautioned, that he didn’t know who he dealt with.
You are out of your league, Little Harpie. I could swallow you whole.
She had always been the vicious predator. Bowing to no one and thinking it quite customary for other beings to lower before her in terror.
Now something she’d not known existed hunted her. Predatorial eyes set on her. He shined as brightly as the sun. Nearly as large, he blazed from the foliage after her in blinding light.
His lumbering head dwarfed her by double. Flipping on her wings she began a furious flight to safety.
That flight that’d land her in the pond. Proving so futile…
Elsabet paced above him a long while before surrendering to exhaustion. She turned into the valkyrie, hair blackening to the shade of burnt wood. Angling the tips of her wings to the floor she used them as leverage to turn upside down and lift until her taloned feet could clench the wooden planks of the ceiling. The talons embedded in the wood as easily as they had Bast’s skin.
Her body snapped as the strain of hanging, cracked her spine into alignment.
“You’ll not keep me, Animal.”
I will. He stared at the ceiling above him. Knowing she hung just beyond it.
Coarse black hair draped to the floor. She pressed her arms to her sides coiled her wings around her. Warming her for the night as she succumbed to slumber.
Rising from his chair he made his way to the chamber under the stairs on the ground level so he could guard the front door from an attempt at escape.
Lying in bed a floor below her, his green-gold eyes shined in the dark as he watched the valkyrie’s movements as though standing in the room with her.
Pace. Stretch. Run. Sleep. The transitions of captivity. He knew them well. I’ve been there afore.
She readjusted her position making her wings scrape over the floor.
Tapping into the energy of the moon and the life of the trees surrounding WaterRose, he generated a shower of magic. A sparkling downpour absorbing into every cranny until completely enshrouding the castle. Sealing the valkyrie’s dark power inside.
His energy expelled as he finished creating invisible boundaries that even a powerfully enraged valkyrie couldn’t tear through.
He sobered. Perhaps for a while, just a little while, I can evade the loneliness.
He surrendered to his own sleep. Letting the hours steal his worries as he took one of his rare rests. Knowing he’d likely not be able to sleep again for several sennights.
I’ll deal with my new ward when I wake…He decided.