SEBASTIAN - Bringing Her Back
WaterRose, Meadow Mountain, Grier
In Elsabet’s mad flight down the corridor, she spotted a suit of armor displayed on her right. Unbuckling the dagger and sword sheaths, she slipped them over her shoulders and cinched the dagger around her waist. Eased by the familiar feel of a blade at her back.
Sebastian rounded the corner as she put them in place. He chuckled.
Comforted by tiny blades. It was amusing.
He reached for her, but she took a long step, sliding from his reach. His laughter intensified. “You think now you have a weapon; you’ll be safe from me?”
She darted a look over her shoulder to verify he’d stopped following her. But walked faster anyway.
“Nothing can keep you from me.” His head lowered dangerously.
Evading his gaze, she eyed the endless length of portraits. They bore witness to her shameful walk back to her cage. Torches lit on either side of her as she passed. Causing her to jerk at each pop and smoky sizzle.
Re-entering the inner chambers of WaterRose, made the walls vibrate with energy. Another torch exploded in red and yellow. She glanced at it tensely. Looking forward, she squawked at finding him in her path. Nearly slamming into him.
She jumped backward. Hands fluttering before her. “I need no assistance to protect me from you, Lord Bodane.” She said scathingly.
“Oh…” He taunted. “Don’t you?”
Stepping past him she took the hallway rapidly. Shoulders tight as she tried to ignore the hiss of blooming torches.
“My name is Sebastian.” He called to her retreating back.
Another torch lighting made her squeak and skitter sideways.
She doesn’t know it’s her magic? He laughed harder, clutching his belly.
She shot a withering glower over her shoulder.
Sensing he toyed with fire, possibly literally, he still couldn’t stop. Trailing her step. It’s impossible to resist baiting her.
“Where are you going? You’ve past the stairs.” He gestured behind them. Knowing she’d merely seen the armor and weapons and headed blindly in that direction.
She didn’t answer.
Ever since the Fallen empowered him, everyone and everything he came across fell at his feet. Except this creature.
Women responded to him hypnotically. Finding touching him irresistible. A fact his brethren usually found less then amusing. And one I’d enjoyed exploiting for nearly a century. Then he’d grown bored.
Bast still found it vaguely comical. But it made contriving to find a mate impossible. Since women typically thought themselves in love with him from first glance due to his power.
Perhaps it’s just her lovely rounded bottom. He nearly purred at the sight of the pleasant rolling of her slim curves under the fitted breeches. Absorbed by that pleasant lulling motion, he’d failed to notice she’d abruptly slowed.
He slammed into her back.
This time she exploded. Turning on him with a shriek.
Making his sensitive ears ring. He covered them, wincing against the pain. Crouching instinctively.
She thinks I want to hurt her. The realization made him sober instantly. Refusing to retreat, he straightened to meet her nose to nose without flinching. “Listen.”
Teeth gritted and chest heaving, she quaked. Ready to attack.
Sensing her aggression, he realized he’d taken taunting her too far.
She now thought she’d come to the point of defending herself from being harmed.
She doesn’t need to fear me forcing her.
Relenting, he held his hand up for her to inspect, showing he meant no harm. Slowly unlacing his armor with the other. Then his chainmail. Sliding his shoulders free.
In only a tunic and breeches I’ll be no threat.
Her eyes sparked unblinkingly as she watched his movements, bleeding to rich red. The pupils swallowed by dark color. Upper lip jerking rhythmically.
The sound of Bast’s armor finally clanking to the floor triggered her. With explosive results.
Rearing back, her nails elongated into serrated talons. She defensively swiped, sinking them into the flesh of one pectoral muscle. Imbedding in the back of his bicep on the other shoulder. She jerked forward and to the side, tearing through him. Tissue gave and tore. Splashing red drops on the painting next to them. Marring the pale face watching them.
What in the Hell? He roared in pain.
She stared in horror, expecting the usual results of evisceration.
To his gratification, it was apparent she’d not intended to hurt him.
There was the same instant remorse he saw on her face a few nights past. When she’d dropped him over Warlock Grove, expecting he’d fall to his death.
Always a moment later than it should be. His lips peeled back in a snarl.
Rhyers Tries to Calm Me
“Bast!” A jovial male voice called from the foyer. “I left the party to come check on you. Raese said-” The tall thin man rounded the corner behind the stairs. Then froze, jaw agape as he took in the scene before him.
Go away. Sebastian thought harshly. He hissed in pain as his body spasmed. The wide gaping wounds across his torso were already sealing closed seamlessly. Tanned skin melded beneath his torn tunic until the wounds were only light indentations.
Elsabet’s eyes flew to Sebastian’s enraged face.
Eyes narrowing, he hooked his finger in his shredded, bloodied shirt to stare at his mutilated chest. Looking slowly from there to her. Blue-green eyes narrowing.
“That was a mistake.” Rhyers commented from down the hall upon glimpsing the rare wrath written over Bast’s face.
Even Rhyers took a cautious step back. “You best soothe your ire, Friend, before…”
Yes, I’m quite aware. His mouth whitened.
We both know what’ll happen if I change here, in the castle. He gave Rhyers a quick look that had the tracker backing up further. Giving him space.
Taking a moment to calm his indignation and shock, Bast wrenched the damp tunic apart. Tearing it loudly and jerking it free from his breeches to toss it to the floor. In a wrinkled clump.
“You tried to kill me?” His brows lifted. “A little excessive, don’t you think?” He queried, face changing, elongating. Gold horns twisting from his scalp and body jerking violently.
Inhaling sharply, she took a stumbling step back. Putting out a staying hand. The talons retracting back into regular fingernails as she waved him away.
His predatory eyes followed her. But the horns wound back down. Retreating into his skull.
The same thing had happened as she carried him over the trees a fortnight past. Bast saw the recognition in her eyes. But he was currently busy trying to control his transforming body.
“Bast are you well?” Rhyers called from down a corridor to his right.
“I’m fine.” Bast said stiffly.
Cool the heat. He willed himself. Penetrating turquoise eyes locked on Elsabet. They slowly spiraled from the pupil out into gold.
WaterRose quivered. Energy rolled over them.
“I’ll be in the library if you need me.” Rhyers judiciously left.
Elsabet fled down the corridor.
“Oh, no you don’t!” He roared.
Her body jerked as though she’d hit the end of a rope. Tightness around her waist cinched and she was jerked off her feet. Falling to her backside.
The rug slid underneath her. She was skid backward toward him.
Now he was annoyed. Watching her coming back nearly within reach.
Her fingers became talons again. She lunged with a wild shriek, using all her force to drive them into the wood flooring. Coming to a dead stop, she launched herself to her feet. Dragging claws from the boards. Breathing heavily, she faced him across the hall. He felt the roots of magic she planted. Invisible rope won’t budge her now.
Her chest heaved with her breaths.
He stayed human as he faced her. A brawny golden giant. But only a man, nonetheless. His eyes vivid gold, sparking in the shadows of the hall.
Tilting his head, he acknowledged she was a formidable foe. “Are you not as intrigued by what I am, as I am you?”
“You merely want to destroy and leave?” His voice lowered. He clenched his fists reflexively. Fighting the motion rippling under his skin. The creatures inside him writhing.
“Leave laughing.” She added.
We’ll see who’s smiling soon enough.
You don’t want to be my enemy.
“So hateful.” His chin lifted as he eyed her.
She quirked him a dark half-smile as though he’d complimented her.
“I’ll give you tether, Little Harpie. But its length depends on you. Behave and you get more to roam.”
“Who are you to collar me?”
His tone was honeyed. “Well, obviously I cannot trust you, as you are. Fantasies of eviscerating me and all...”
“More of a goal, really.”
My, my, she’s quick witted.
Where have you been hiding?
“Good luck with that little goal, Harpie.” He tossed at her, with a dismissive wave. He turned and strolled the hallway with the bearing of a king despite his half-clothed state.
She gave an animal snarl. “Coward.” She muttered. “You can’t face me as a man?”
Whipping on his heel his boots knocked the floor in a fast stride back at her.
Tightening her body, she stood fast, despite that every muscle in her screamed the desire to bolt.
Waiting for me to strike her? He honed in on her thoughts. Shocked at what he discovered. Fear of being physical hurt despite her power, despite her strength, despite her courage. A basic fear of being outmanned and bodily harmed.
Something a human woman learned long before she became a formidable valkyrie.
As he moved in the torchlight, she saw his chest jerking. Glimpsed the black and gold markings twining over his torso. Elaborate enough to draw her attention.
“Wh-what are those?” She gestured to his chest.
As he closed in, his toes nearly tramped hers. He leaned to put his nose in her face. Reading her fear, he didn’t touch her.
“I’d not strike you, Harpie.”
But someone did. When she was only a tiny human woman.
“Every man will strike a woman with the right provocation.”
A wild breeze tore down the corridor, disturbing his hair from the side of his neck where she saw gold scales crossing his shoulder and climbing the column of his throat. Glinting in dim torchlight like precious coin.
“Do you challenge me, My Lady?” His voice was quiet.
“Remove yourself from my person, Lord.” She offered his title with equal derision.
“I’m not in your person.” The mocking note in his voice incited her further.
“And if I shan’t?”
She was livid.
Something scraping along the floor drew her attention. She barely caught the movement of something small and dark slipping from shadow to shadow behind the gold lord. Looking for all the world like a miniature version of the gold creature Sebastian became.
“My name is Sebastian.” He grated through gritted teeth. Averting her attention from the creature creeping behind him.
Shaking her head dismissively she lifted her gaze to meet his squarely.
Let her think she imagined it.
“What is it you want?” She demanded.
Relaxing, he smiled arrogantly. Opening his mouth to answer, he was cut off.
“You shan’t have that.” She gave him her back in a flash of white tunic and tan breeches. Several glances over her shoulder revealed her fear he’d hit her in the back.
Why would she think I’d do that? He frowned. Hitting someone in the back is the ultimate act of cowardice.
He noticed distance from him, eased her. He called after her. “Sleep well, valkyrie.”
“Now you call me what I am?” Her pride chaffed.
“I can go back to calling you my Little Harpie, if you wish?”
Her nose wrinkled, and lip curled but she did her best to hide the effect of his goading. Reaching the end of her unseen tether she was yanked off her feet.
He felt the jerk as well. Head lifting, he swept the air with his hand. Gold flecks dissipated as they fell. Their glitter fading in the dark.
The pressure around her waist relented.
She edged along the wall, seeing she needed to get around him to get back up to the second level .
His eyes watched her scooting between picture frames. He didn’t move. He heard her considering fleeing again.
“Go to bed.” His authoritive command floated to her like an echo in these walls.
Without conscious thought her feet turned and took her to the stairs and up into an empty chamber. At least allowing her to refuse the one he’d designated for her. This one was closer to the end of the corridor.
She picked a room on the second floor. Wondering if his room was on the same level. She entered it carefully.
In-case it belongs to me. He knew.
She found it empty. Closing her eyes made the candles near the bed light as well as the fireplace spit to life. A lift of her arms generated a burst of energy. Dust lifted from the coverlets and mantles, abandoning chairs and the bedside table to hover a moment. She tossed her hand, which made it vanish. The valkyrie viewed her handiwork by the firelight and gave a quick nod.
She spent the remainder of the night grunting as she tried to flex her wings. Trying to become the valkyrie again was useless. His magic bound her in the flesh of a woman, restricting her power.
“Bastard.” She muttered to herself.
“Sweet sentiment. Thank you.” Whispered through the chamber like a freak wind. Spinning she brightened the firelight to fully illuminate the room.
It was empty.
“I heard you…” She demanded. “Are you spying on me always?” She demanded.
Not always. He didn’t answer but his mocking laughter wafted to her.
“I’ll make you pay.” Rage filled her bones. She made the vow over and over.