SEBASTIAN - Back in WaterRose
WaterRose, Meadow Mountain, Grier
Conferring with Mardichi
Hours crept by as Elsabet frantically searched for a way out.
Sebastian watched from the next room, feeling her movements through the wall.
Nothing had been built before that could hold her. It amused him.
She was beginning to feel like a pet railing against domestication.
“Why am I here?” She called, inspecting every corner of the dim room for weakness.
She was thinking someone boasting a gold katash in his arsenal of beasties certainly didn’t need a valkyrie watching over his gates…
You’re right on that point.
Elsabet pried boards from the shutters and revealed the window slit. Finding his magic sealing each.
It’s not all my magic. It was the bond of a hundred immortal knights feeding it constantly.
She sat on the ledge of the window slit and look down on the bailey below.
Go ahead and consider jumping. He knew he had a barrier over it that wouldn’t let her out.
Lifting her hand, she pushed on the invisible wall blocking her exit. It was relentless. Sending out a sparkling gold spiral that rippled from the window opening over the walls like being inside a bubble.
As the hours lengthened, her stomach spoke louder. Objecting strenuously to her earlier pride.
I’d feed you if you’d tell me what you eat.
Sebastian kept Elsabet in WaterRose that first day, then another. Quite enjoying himself as he sat in his library or his chamber in the servant’s quarters under the platform of the stairs.
Mardichi arrived the following evening. Half-heartedly stomping off his boots in the foyer. “Where are your magical cleaning elves at?” He peered around the corner into the parlor. His booming voice rattling the walls.
And my nerves.
“Probably hiding. You know they don’t much like the look of you.” Bast watched the barbarian strolling the foyer, dwarfing the entryway in his padded blue tunic and brown leather breeches. His mammoth size only rivalled by Acharius.
“That’s because I’m large and they’re,” He pinched his finger and thumb together and raised his voice to depict their tininess. “wee little people.”
Bast laughed and shook his head. “Certainly, it couldn’t be your cheery disposition that drives them off.”
“Most definitively not.” He feigned appall. Striding toward the library behind Bast.
Sebastian recognized the familiar sound of a cask opening and the red barbarian taking a heady dram.
“So, I hear things were quite eventful at that wretched ball the other night?” Mardichi gave a satisfied smack. As he dropped into the blue chair near the fire making it creak in objection. He tossed his boots out in-front of him. Thick chunks of mud dropping to the floor from them.
“They were for me.” Bast tossed over his shoulder as he headed into the library. “I acquired a captive.”
“Careful with those.” Mardichi cautioned. “Taking women captive tends to be the downfall of our kind.”
“I dearly hope so. She is stunning.”
“I’m fascinated.” Bast corrected as he slumped into his favorite red chair pushing over the glass jar of exotic nuts for Mardichi to partake.
Mardichi examined a large walnut. “Where do you get these?”
“From InnerCircle City. I regularly buy them from a man there.”
“Mane Country.” Mardichi’s eyes narrowed knowingly. “As an excuse to give him a bit o’ coin, no doubt. He gives you information?”
“He’s quite pleasant.”
“That’s rare.” Mardichi grunted. Shaking his head, he returned to the former topic. “I pity the woman.” He feigned sorrow.
“You should.” Bast said. “I plan to find out everything about her, then woo her.”
“That shouldn’t take much. Look directly at her.” Mardichi stirred through the glass bowl for another walnut. “That usually works for ye.”
“Is that bitterness in your voice?”
“Jealousy. Flat envy.” Surrendering, he grabbed a handful from the dish between them, popping them in his mouth. “If women fell at me feet the way they stumble to bow at yers, I’d never leave me bed chamber.” He grumbled. “I’d simply line them up and stay preoccupied.”
A glance at Bast verified he no longer listened. “You’re watching her, aren’t ye?”
“I’m sensing her.”
“There a difference?”
“I’m only seeing her in my mind.”
“And watching everything she does.” Mardichi shifted in the seat. “Gad, blessedly women canna do that to us. That’d be dreadful. They’d know what foul creatures we are in truth.” His burr thickened as he grumbled.
“You are.” Bast corrected. Earning him a black look. “Do you truly think they don’t already know?”
“Nay. They’re smart creatures.” Mardichi grudgingly admitted. Speaking awhile longer before growing certain Bast paid him no heed. Leading him to mutter about the deviled troubles with women as he closed the door behind him.
Bast focused on the chamber above him. Not revealing himself to her as he studied her movements from within his mind. She was conserving her energy. Trying to regain the magic he sapped from her.
Since her arrival he’d been careful to drain her energy now and then, keeping her weak enough to refrain from overcoming the walls he built around her chamber.
By day three in WaterRose Elsabet trembled and could no longer turn into the valkyrie.
“Do you intend to starve me now?” She cried.
No. Just hungry enough to swallow your damnable pride!
At the window she stared over the bailey. Empty and still as death. She watched water cascading the outer walls in ceaseless motion, creating a sacred place constructed and bound together by magic.
He touched her thoughts and found her desire for escape and plots for freedom, outweighing physical hunger.
She worried over only one real obstacle.
She studied him, felt his magic in the castle. But she’d been unable to kill him. Thus she was forced to consider other ways to get away.
To get around me.
She returned to slump onto the dusty bed. Lacking the energy to do much. Her stomach growled loudly, and she moaned. Biting the pillow, she stifled the involuntary sounds.
Let go of your pride. He was nearly snarling in frustration.
Far below. On the bottom level, Sebastian sat at the table. Propped back in his small wooden chair. Eyes glowing in the nearly black room. A lone candle burned nearly out, fighting for life on the table next to him and dancing over his face. A fur drooped loosely over his shoulders. He stared at the ceiling, thoughtfully rubbing his chin.
He watched her writhe on the coverlet clutching her stomach.
I can help you. Just ask.
But she won’t. He knew. Give up this ridiculous fight.
He enjoyed her fighting spirit and her righteous rage. But starving herself for the sake of pride seemed a bit much.
The soft yellow reflected in his unblinking eyes. He looked through floor after floor until it seemed no barriers stood between.
He watched her movements. A quiet presence in the room.
Her stomach growled. She was curled into a ball, clasping it. On the large four-poster bed, she seemed impossibly small. She groaned against the pain making the walls of WaterRose shiver as she unwittingly generated a wave of power in her discomfort.
He sighed, relenting. A sway of his hand generated shimmering gold flakes dancing in the firelight next to him. He blew on it and sent it dancing through the halls of WaterRose to seep under her chamber door. Floating on dancing currents as it hovered over the floor and curved to rise up onto the bed before flowing into her nostrils and stringing out into her body. There, you prideful creature!
It eased her pain and relaxed her body.
She sighed. The soft sound echoing hauntingly through every corridor of the castle. Caressing him with her relief and sorrow.
Shaking his head bemusedly, he thoughtfully rubbed his fingertips together. Heedless of the gold sparks slipping eagerly from between them. Turning into shining flakes that slid to the floor, glimmering in the darkness until subsiding into the shadows. When he abruptly opened his hand, the light erupted from it. Snapping loudly in a moment of chaos before folding into a ball and promptly crystallizing. He held an orb with the reflective shine of mirrored glass. Staring into its sparkling lights, he watched the images there.
Answers came to him from within those images. Chavias in chains. A white katash ripped from the sky and covered in dark blood.
Bast blew out a heavy sigh and looked once more to the ceiling. Thoughtlessly, he let the crystal ball slip from his fingers. It dissipated into nothing just before it would’ve shattered against the ground.
The next evening dragged on. A breeze coasted through Elsabet’s room. Rejuvenating the gold flakes pouring horizontally across the walls.
Too weak to do much, she turned her head to trace their movements. Even that small action made her groan, putting a hand to her forehead. Blinking heavily, she fought off unconsciousness. Levelling her gaze on Lord Bodane who appeared in the doorway. Wearing a teal tunic, the same color as the penetrating gaze searing through her.
“What do you want now?” Head heavy, she slumped further into the pillows. Eyeing him passively.
It’s the first time she’s looked at me without distaste twisting her face.
She’s too tired. She won’t last long if she doesn’t eat.
Seeing how deathly pale she was, he suffered a pang of remorse. She was surrounded by dead curling feathers. Molting.
He’d thought being a creature rather than a mortal she’d have more endurance, but he was finding her surprisingly fragile.
Chavias said food was important. But I didn’t realize…
He’d not counted on the bird part of her needing to metabolize sustenance at a substantial rate to keep her alive.
“Admit it or nay Harpie, you’ve been bested.” He sighed. “It’s time you eat.”
“You think starving me makes you a conqueror?” Scoffing she shook her head and looked away.
Bast was duly shamed. “Is it more infuriating that it is a man that keeps you?” He moved to sit on the edge of her bed. His face absent any mocking. There was genuine sensitivity in his gaze.
He didn’t miss the blood red flash of her eyes. But her face was impossible to read.
Her study extended.
He was reluctant to peer into her mind for fear of seeing the pain she was suffering.
She was pale and ill while his tawny skin glowed with life. His gold mane catching meager light slivering in between the curtains. He wore a shirt ruffled at the neck and cuffs. The fabric laced together over his collarbone and well-toned chest. Hanging loosely around his torso. The Dragon’s Eye pendant winking at her from beneath the strings.
He saw her eyes light on it.
“I retrieved it from the pond.” He explained.
He caught her wetting her lips and his brows lifted. “Thinking about making me your next meal, are you Little Harpie?”
“Absolutely.” Her tone was sinister.
“Funny.” He tapped his lips. “I thought valkyrie only eat small animals?”
Startled she reared back into the pillow.
“How do I know?” He read her thoughts. “I’ve been reading.”
“Not everything you read about us is true.” Her tone was dry.
“So, I’m incorrect?”
Lips tightening, she looked to the side table.
“As I thought.” He commented. “Tell me, do your fingertips ever itch to know what my skin feels like? To fist in my hair? Because mine certainly urges to feel yours.”
Her eyes widened before she glowered darkly. “You’ve no place rummaging in my thoughts.”
“I was merely asking. I thought a valkyrie would be immune from such thoughts?”
She gnashed her teeth. Eyes flashing from red to blue to red again.
“If you wish to touch me. Do so.” He offered her his chest. “I beg of you.” But there was no pleading in his voice. The challenging lift of his brows combined with his seductive half smile as he offered her his skin. Unlacing his shirt, he opened it, exposing his collar and well-muscled chest.
Her eyes fell to the sparkling chain dangling from his neck. To rest along his defined sternum.
Face dissolving into a frown he drew back from her. “Ah. Your greed overwhelms even your womanly urges.”
“I’ve no woman’s wants.”
“We’ll see.” He murmured thoughtfully as he rose from the edge of her bed.
“You’re my enemy.”
“Keep your woman-beast shrieking inside of you, if it gives you comfort. But ask yourself, what is it really protecting you from?” He turned to leave but her fury radiated in an explosion that blew off the bedcovers. Sending them flying over the floor. And caused the walls of WaterRose to shiver.
A glance over his shoulder revealed she was oblivious in her weakened state. Too weak to even care about anything more than her personal frustration.
He heard her thoughts. Saw what she felt. The sense that she’d failed a man called Iceron was ever-present.
And bothers me. Why does she care what this man thinks?
This man she thought of as the Prince of Air and Darkness. And the Realms of Night and Day…Someone whose praise she sought.
A man. That thought was an unwelcome annoyance.
Before he walked away, he leaned over and pressed his fingertips against her bottom lip. Sending a surge of energy into her that pinkened her cheeks. Colored her hair with life and brightened her eyes as she blinked faster.
He injected sustenance into her with a mere thought.
She sighed contentedly and fell into a sated slumber.
Straightening, Bast studied her beautiful face. She looked so innocent in sleep. Dark lashes dense against the pale perfection of her cheeks. She’s stunning.
There’d probably been a time when men fell at her feet. Was that how she destroyed them? Using herself as bait?
He grunted and turned to leave the chamber.
To his surprise her hand shot out and caught his wrist. “Thank you.” She murmured.
His brows lifted but before he could respond her breathing had deepened again and her hand dropped from his.
But that small touch sent shockwaves through him. Making his magic heighten and his vision blur slightly. As he breathed. Power coursing through him in billowing currents.