SEBASTIAN - Elsabet Makes an Escape
Elsabet struggled to move but could eventually sit. An hour later she stood. Another hour and she paced.
I can feel you up there moving around. Bast’s book lowered to his lap as his eyes narrowed on the ceiling above him.
She was using magic to touch the pulsing gold flow along the walls. Now and again, glimpsing the lines crisscrossing. Resulting in flakes fragmenting and plummeting to the chamber floor.
She used her energy to cloak herself. Tossing it against the window slits, testing the barriers there.
Not that way. He smirked.
Finding them impenetrable.
Walking the room, she sent her magic lifting tapestries and moving coverings. Inspecting every corner. He felt every brush against his magic blocking all those directions.
Or any of those. Where to now? He waited.
Finding no break in the wall, no hidden doors, and no weaknesses in the magic, she turned toward the only option left.
She faced the door, head dropping forward. Fingers of energy wove from her in smoky whorls twining to the door. Seeking out the keyhole it permeated to the other side. Curling back on itself to find the locking mechanisms. Clicking through the tiny fixtures within. The door clicked and creaked open. Her footfalls barely touched the floor.
I hear you. His gaze trailed the ceiling. Following her steps.
She dropped the illusion of the makeshift gown and manifested tan breeches, a loose tunic and high boots. Clothes for an escape.
She projected her energy ahead, scouting her path. Whispering through the hall and around door frames. Evading a servant and taking the dark stairs to the lower platform where it split into dual staircases.
The outdoor smells of the bailey wafted in. The scent of freedom.
She paused atop the stairs as the spiraling tendrils of her spirit peered into the great rooms of the lower level. The Ballroom, the foyer, and eventually, the library. Weaving the aisles until finding the fireplace. Drawing near to see if it was occupied.
The chair spun, and the hovering shadow came face-to-face with her teal-eyed captor. Cocking his head, he eyed the fingers of fog passively. His red overcoat was perfectly tailored, over a white shirt. A knotted cravat wrapped his neck from an event he’d attended earlier.
The Captain’s wedding.
She froze, praying her aura was invisible to him. But the intrigued tilt of his head as he studied the filament, told her hope was futile. She drew a quick breath and her aura retracted back to her body. She fled the foyer and ripped open the door to the Bailey. Rushing across the lowering drawbridge. Wisping tunic flowing against her. Melding to her.
You really think it’d be that simple? His eyes were on her retreating back.
“That her?” Raese asked from a dark corner of the library. Green eyes flashing from the shadows. He was researching places to hide his staff were there ever a need. “I saw her at the ball. Didn’t get much of a look at her…”
Sebastian nodded, still watching the door where the filmy haze had vanished. “She apparently thought we couldn’t see that.”
“Most wouldn’t. She’s unaccustomed to our kind. It seems you’ve an unfair advantage.”
I don’t care what’s fair. Bast stared silently after her.
“Oh, you’re besotted.” Raese teased.
“You’re not one to talk.” Bast’s head snapped to him, finally hearing his friend. “That woman of yours has you quite wrapped around her little finger.”
Raese smiled proudly. “She sure does. And she’s quite aware.”
“Does that mean you’ve forgiven me for meddling?” Bast glanced over his chair at his friend.
“Quite not.” He thunked a book onto a corner table. His look turning angry. “Must you forever be?”
He has. Bast dismissed his bitter tone.
“None of our honorable brethren would ever find happiness on their own. Too duty-oriented.”
“Save you?” Raese finished.
“Save me.” Bast nodded proudly. “I consider myself above nothing.”
“I fear you may be the most muddled of all of us.” Raese shook his head.
“Meaning?” Bast quirked a blonde brow.
“You worry more than any of us. You’re consumed by duty. You’ve been beaten, tortured, left sleepless and exhausted all the time from caring for us. Ever the Great Protector.”
“Hmm…” Bast murmured thoughtfully. “Perhaps my pretty diversion will help me relax.”
Just the opposite, to be honest.
Raese laughed outright, seeing through him as he often did. He opened another book. “I quite doubt that, My Friend. You don’t appear to be relaxed just now.”
“She’s fleeing.” He gestured, voice rising, as if that explained all. He wondered if she’d crossed the drawbridge yet.
“You’ll catch her.” Raese said chastisingly.
“Doesn’t Tev have his Demon Dogs in the stables right now?” Raese paused thoughtfully.
“Which you know full well.” Raese shook his head adjusting another book.
Bast still motionlessly stared at the empty doorway.
“That’s enough of a head start. No need to toy with her needlessly.” Raese assured. “Goodnight, My Friend. I’m soon headed to the Captain’s festivities. But it appears you’ve a busy evening before you. I’ll let the Captain know…” Raese put the book back.
When he glanced back at Sebastian’s chair, he found it empty.
Once outside, Elsabet flexed her wings but couldn’t extend them. They were tied to her body.
Relying on her feet, she shook her head like a wild thing as she struggled to become the valkyrie. To no avail. Snarling in frustration, she glanced at the gray sky above her, heavy with clouds. She set toward the trees bordering the meadow.
Thunder cracked, and lightening shredded the sky. Sunlight unable to find her.
She moved through descending darkness. White tunic mingling with shining blonde tresses to make her a beacon in the evening. Her boots left distinct tracks. Signifying her direction.
Her step grew deeper in the dirt as she stalked in frustration, unable to take to the air. Rain dumped, but her clothes never dampened. Slipping off her like oil. Only absorbing in her hair. Causing strands to cling to the curve of her back.
Another woman would’ve admitted exhaustion. Admitted her legs grew weary. But not her.
She put the castle behind her. Stumbling once, she caught herself. The second time there was no salvaging her step.
She fought thick mud she sunk elbow deep into as she fought to free her feet from the muck. The hooves of a great white mount stepped into view. Groaning she saw five or six strange dogs moving around the prancing steed. The beasts snaked around their master, willing to defend him. The horse was unspeakably beautiful. Reluctantly lifting her eyes to find him atop the gorgeous mount. Posture relaxed, his forearms casually crossed over the saddle horn. Heavy armor encased him. His black cloak billowed behind him and over the horse’s back. As the wind calmed it draped down to the dogs. An unnatural semblance of wings.
“I hope he throws you.” She seethed.
Inhumanly still, he watched her. Were his graceful mount to buck, it was clear Sebastian would move fluidly with him. She noted bitterly.
“He’s never dislodged me.” He grinned.
Unable to suppress it, a shiver shook her.
“Cold?” He frowned.
Only to herself, did she begrudgingly admit she’d been cold for a while now.
“Only your mad run for freedom kept you warm, aye?” He offered her a hand up.
“You’re my enemy.” She only stared at him. “And I’m accustomed to that.”
“You should be. Since all men are.”
She drew her knees to her chest, curling tight for warmth.
“Does your fear of me make you hate me all the more?”
She scooped a chunk of wood to toss at him, but he ducked to a side. Evading it.
Twisting her wrist, she felt the comforting sensation of fingernails elongating into long curved claws. Claws that could eviscerate.
He followed her gaze and watched the motion of her hands intently. “Do you wish to cut me, My Lady?”
“To hollow you out, My Lord.” She sneered the title.
“You think you’d be free then?”
She lifted her chin.
“Your fear keeps you captive more than I. Until you can be free of that you’ll never know actual freedom.” The leather of his saddle creaked as the huge horse shifted.
“Fear?” She scoffed. “I fear nothing.”
“Then hop up here. Let me wrap my arms about you. Pull you to me and rest my chin on your shoulder. Warm you against this cold.”
Hissing she reared back as though he’d slapped her.
“As I thought.” He pointed at her as the mount shifted. “The thought of a man’s hand on you terrifies you…That is fear.”
“Only a mask for your fear.” He waved away her excuses.
“You think you know me?”
He leaned over the horn, his eyes conveying the depth of his message. “I see you, Elsabet…”
She quaked with all that delightful anger. Aimed at me.
It wasn’t too far a stretch to imagine her passion would run just as hot as her temper.
“I’ll make you a deal. When you surrender to me. Let me wrap my arms about you and warm you with my flesh. Allow me to chase away all those terrible fears of men…I’ll set you free.”
When you show you can be tamed. Soft and in control of your fiery emotions, there’d no longer be a reason to hold you here. He justified.
Cracking her neck side to side, she summoned emotion to fuel her power. Brown wings rent from her body to splay straight back ominously.
They met in the darkness of the storm. The valkyrie in the shape of a beautiful white woman standing her ground. Still as a statue and contrasting with the bat wings which seemed black in the faded light.
Her enemy was equally as motionless on the back of the white beast, dusky cape billowing and the dogs a single silken mass twining around him. Strange toothy black beasts. Their fur looked dense and rough. More like tree bark then hair.
Neither of them broke contact nor made a move. Two foes facing down in the storm.
“Come little Harpie. Come back with me. To the warmth.” His tone was soft, voice coaxing as he leaned over the horse to offer her a hand up.
Her back went ramrod straight. “As the devil likely said.” She scoffed. “I will not.”
His eyes sparked until gold light, bright as sunlight on a river, glowed in the dark.
She dares defy me? His face turned angry. He dismounted in one graceful motion.
“Stay.” He injected his power, the voice of persuasion, into his tone. Putting up a staying hand.
Immersed in those eyes, she couldn’t will her body to move. Rooted where she stood. Her wings relaxed involuntarily. Blowing a frustrated breath, she fought to budge. Jerking her torso. But her legs refused her.
“Stay.” He said it again. He approached, dogs in stride with him. A rippling mass. One at each side and four flanking him. Hulking beasts. Drawing near she realized they were not dogs, but something nightmarish with huge pointed teeth and wide mouths. She shivered.
His burning gaze seared into her as he reached out to her.
She jerked her shoulders back, but her body wouldn’t retreat. She was unable to resist as he swept her into his arms.
He put her before him on the white stallion. They rode through the forest, beneath leaden clouds. He released her will and heard her draw rapid breaths. Huffing in anger.
“How did you-”
“I crept into the parts of your mind that control your willpower.” He omitted he now clenched it in an iron fist. He held it to keep her still.
You should be grateful I’m not using it to have you pressed against me. Molding all that sweet skin against me.
Instead her face revealed only fury.
She hates me. All men. He sensed her barely contained anger. This close to him he caught the scent of wildflowers coming from her shoulders and wet hair which was slicked against her back and molded her cotton tunic to her.
She gave him a withering look over her shoulder. The sapphire eyes changed. The pupil reddening as blood pooled in them. She considered killing this mount to escape.
Fury snapped through him at her thoughts of harming his horse. But before he could react, he noticed her unusual stillness as she fixated ahead.
He twisted to see her profile and followed her gaze to the crown of his horse’s head as they passed through a patch of moonlight. The silver horn appeared, winding heavenward. Unbearably beautiful to behold.
And gone just as fast. The instant they stepped back into shadow. The horse again seeming no more than it’d been before.
“His name is Sivikon.” Lord Bodane whispered in her ear.
Her brows drew together as she felt his breath in her hair. His arms tightened around her reflexively as she trembled.
“Cold?” He questioned.
She shook her head vehemently.
“Liar.” He brushed the back of his hand down the back of her upper arm. Feeling the bumps rising there.
Hissing she tossed a withering look over her shoulder.
Taken aback to see her crimson eyes so close, he gathered his composure and wiped his expression.
It’s blood filling them in her rage.
“Can you not but once, tell me the truth, Little Harpie?” His tone was flat as he realized she’d likely been considering attacking Sivikon. “You should know I may kill you if you harm him. He’s my oldest friend.”
She cracked her neck in an action that caused other creatures to give her space. “I’m surprised you have any at all.”
Instead he inhaled deeply as her hair moved. Giving a guttural growl in response. “You could be my friend, Little Harpie…”
She froze. “I don’t think we discuss the same thing.”
He smiled. Not reacting as she’d hoped.
Stiff against him she became very still. Realizing he wouldn’t answer. Knowing exactly what she’d meant.
“I’m not one to be easily intimidated.” His laughter daunted her, but she dared not move. She let him to take her back to the stables. Stiffly sliding from, the horse.
Only then did he turn on her. “You’ll do as I say woman. If you continue to defy me, I’ll have you beaten and thrown in the dungeon.” He bluffed.
But she doesn’t know that.
“Now,” He straightened. “tell me why you were trying to steal my pendant.”
She was unflinching. Chin notching.
She doesn’t fear threats. And she’d fight me to the death if I tried to have her beat. He hid a grin. An admirable trait.
“You don’t control me. You’re only a man. Nothing to me. As any man.”
“So much hatred for my gender…” He said thoughtfully. Studying her face.
What kind of past do you have, Little Harpie?
Never one to keep his thoughts to himself he couldn’t resist. “Did you have a childhood? Were you a little human girl once?”
Hard to imagine.
She blinked at him. But the shock on her face was priceless.
“Or were you always a woman-bird disguising yourself as a beautiful woman?”
Her chin lifted as though she’d confirm this.
So, no. She’d only confirm a lie. His lips turned in amusement.
“How long do you think a man can resist touching someone as lovely as you?” He taunted.
Her look turned scathing. “As long as he wants to keep his hands.”
“Hmm…That’s the price?” He murmured. Tilting his head in thought.
She cocked her head as she gave him a withering look.
“That’s all?” He probed moving his hand as though he’d touch her.
Rearing back, she eyed him like snake ready to strike. Eyes flaring red like the inside of a flame.
“Now it’s nearly irresistible.” His hand snapped up to catch a tendril of hair. Winding it around his finger as he pulled it from her face.
She tried to jerk from his reach, but he held her by that lock of hair.
Her teeth gnashed.
Unwinding his finger, he tucked it behind her ear and drew back.
She leapt away. Shaking with unholy wrath.
He barely had time to complete the simple motion. Cocking his head, he drew his hand back from where it hovered.
Smelling her fear. His eyes lit knowingly.
“What?” She snapped.
“Torture doesn’t scare you. Death doesn’t worry you. But my touch...It’s my touch that sends you quaking with terror.” His tone was silken.
But it fascinates me. Women fall at my feet. Begging for my touch. Caressing my skin like it’s made of gold…But you…He was awestruck.
“I’m unafraid.” But her voice shook.
He clucked “Little Harpie, you lie to me.” He laughed. Sniffing as he added. “I can smell your fear. A cloying scent clinging to you, even now.” He gestured to her length. “Nearly as potent as your woman’s scent.”
Eyes huge her jaw tightened. She said nothing.
Oh, please. He thought. Accuse me of bluffing…He hoped. Because he wasn’t.
“How about this then, Girl. I’ll have you bound in that chamber and make damn certain it’s my hand that feeds you, you’re every meal. And my hands that tend your needs. Until your duly tamed.” His words a soft vow, he took a step toward her.
She backed up one.
He descended on her. Backing her against the castle wall.
He watched her gaze flick across the ground to the horse at the stable door then across the bailey. Looking for help.
Her gaze stopped when she noticed the animals crowding his feet. His wolves had vanished as they entered the castle. Now cats and dogs clambered around him. Every horse in the stable pressing against its door. Straining to be closer to him.
He followed her look. Yes, they all want around me.
You’re the only beast unsusceptible to my charms.
“Wolves than dogs?” She gestured to his feet in an attempt to distract him.
So, she can escape around the corner.
“Yes.” His stare never wavered from her as he drew even nearer. “I dislike them. But they are fond of me.”
“You-you dislike them? W-Why?” Her lips moved and her tongue shot out to dampen them.
His eyes trailed the movement. His gaze flashed burnished gold momentarily before returning to turquoise.
“What is that? Why do your eyes-”
“I prefer cats.” He cut her off. Growling low in his throat as he slammed his palms to the wall on either side of her. Caging her in.
She yelped as she jumped. Her breaths quickening to a pant.
Now she’s terrified.
Her eyes, which had so recently turned red, now melted into dark blue. Wide and vulnerable. Afraid of what he’d do.
“Yes, indeed. It’s only my touch you fear. You don’t hate men. You fear us.” He was so close his breath blew loose the tendril he’d so recently tucked behind her ear. Causing it to fall across her cheek and brush her full bottom lip before going still.
A low rumble began in his throat. As he looked Heavenward, it bloomed into laughter. Shaking his head at himself, he stepped back.
Drawing a hasty breath, she danced around him. Walking stiffly through the inner bailey.
“Just because you walk doesn’t make it any less running away…” The sound of his baritone laughter chased her back to the castle.
You’re not nearly fast enough to outrun me.