Radix had only one more stop to make. The Water Dread’s cottage. Deep in the heart of the Dread Hideout was the sacred water Dread. One that could move through the outer realms of time to retrieve things or bend fate ever so slightly.
That wicked little Dread had evaded him one too many times. Now her beloved katash was nowhere to be found.
Little Merlinus killed somewhere in the midst of battle. Now his lovely little mate is up for grabs.
Radix wasted no time knocking on the flimsy wicker door.
Changing his form from the non-threatening wizened old man his hair burned to black and his eyes turned a vibrant orange with flames burning inside. He blew the door aside as he approached.
But the purple eyed Dread was waiting for him. Damn her.
She stepped to the side of the flying wicker, kicking up a bucket of water near the door. Using her magic, she pulled the liquid from the bucket as it lifted, redirecting its momentum to douse Radix. Blocking his flame before it could erupt.
His enraged hiss made steam spew from his lips and his pointed teeth. “Just tell me where it is!”
“I will never tell you of the Stronghold, Old Demon.” Her face twisted in a cold smile. “You forget I do not fear you.” She spun and dodged another bout of flames which singed the wall where she had been. “You will have to slit my throat.”
“You have made that offer afore.”
“Many times!” She spat.
“Calisto, Love…” He coaxed. “You know as well as I your mate is lost. You saw him fall.” He tried to kill her spirit.
“Oh, he’s out there, Demon.” She shouted in defiance. “I feel his breath as surely as my own. I can sense the distance and the break in who he is. But he is there. And I can feel him reaching for me even now. Feeding my power!”
The demon quirked a brow. “And what is it you intend to do with that?”
“Lock you out of time and into the realms bordering it, where you may only haunt the edges of life.”
“Oh, do try.” He smirked and twisted his head to the side.
“I think I will.” Purple eyes glinting she gathered wind from inside the cottage until the air grew so thin it was hard to breathe.
“Do try.” He chuckled.
When she pulled every bit of wind and time she could reach, she blasted it at him with the momentum of a hurricane. Tearing the cottage apart and winding them both in its spinning breath.
Radix flattened his palm toward her and turned a finger which drug her across the ripping planks of the floor.
When she tried to use her magic to lock her in place, he ripped it loose. Offering a sensation like ripping her fingernails loose.
She shrieked as she skid across the remaining floor and into his reach. Catching her by the throat and lifted her.
“Enjoy your little spell, Dread.”
“No. No!” She flailed wildly.
He heaved her into the storm, before ejecting himself from the twining winds, to the safety of the trees nearby.
Feet sliding to a stop, he watched the smoky hurricane ripping apart all it affected. Sucking up the mass of black hair, dark cloth and flailing legs. Her blue cape ripped free from her collar and spun in the ferocious wind.
Calisto’s strange eyes glowed purple as she tried to fight the momentum of her own magic.
The spell was cast and now it swallowed her whole.
Radix smiled gleefully and turned his back on her shrieks as the hurricane began receding. The bottom closing and sealing upward, tossing her higher into the sky until it slowly burned itself out. Sealing the world in dark silence. Taking the Water Dread with it.
Little Water Dread gone forever.
Radix smirked before turning, gray robes whirling. He spotted the dark blue cape that the wind had carried to the meadow before him. Grasping it on his way by he returned to the darkness of the trees. Glancing over his shoulder, when he caught shouting from behind him. He glimpsed the huge redheaded barbarian galloping over the field before transitioning to human form to enter the cottage.
Close behind him was the damned tracker.
He led the barbarian to me. Damn that one!
I really must do something about that tracker. He haunts my every step! Radix swore under his breath. Recognizing that had he taken only a few minutes longer his efforts could’ve been foiled by the duo rushing to the Water Dread’s rescue.
Well you are too late! He pushed trees aside and headed deeper into the woods. Determined to lose the tracker today.
And kill him soon after…
WaterRose, Meadow Mountain, Grier (Elsabet captive for about a year)
When finally, he was home, Sebastian experienced bone jarring exhaustion. Taking the corridor, his eyes roved the floor as he mulled over any possible way Chavias might’ve survived the swarm of cimmerii.
Please be alive.
But what if he is?
How can I save him? Bast had given a vow to his brother. Surely there’s a way around it.
Hair disheveled and armor badly scraped, he was covered in dirt and sweat. His step dragging the corridors. He drew a metal sleeve across his forehead to wipe the mud trying to run into his eyes.
His brows lowered in agitation. I could use a washing.
He blew a breath. But not tonight. Tonight, he just wanted to collapse atop his bedding and close his eyes. Too weary to move beyond that.
Then wake. And think…How to save him…
“Where were you?” Elsabet materialized in-front of him.
In a plain white dress, which nearly glowed in the glum hallway. She peered up at him from beneath a thin silver circlet winding her forehead and tucking into her hair. Silver earrings dangled from her small lobes.
His brows lifted at the welcoming sight of her. “I thought you hated my presence here?”
His eyes roved her face, searching for something he knew he wouldn’t find.
Some grain of humanity still in her.
“Sometimes.” She looked from side to side. “But other times it’s rather nice to know you’re here. It like there’s not another soul in this place when you’re gone.” She admitted.
She was lonely. I so badly needed to hear that. Unable to resist, he caught her stiff form and drug her to him. Wrapping thick arms and stinking armor around her as he drew her close. Finding a narrow thread of comfort in the feel of her soft skin and the welcome smell of her hair. As he tucked his face into her forehead. Holding her close as if he could steal her strength.
“What’s wrong?” She asked urgently. Her arms at her sides, and body stiff.
He resisted the urge to tell her of Chavias. I lost him.
“So, you long for my presence, do you?” A teasing note entered his voice, as he murmured into her collar. It was a valiant effort to mask his pain. To keep from spilling his insides for her haughty judgement.
“I’d not go as far as that.” She scoffed. “What captive longs for the presence of their captor?” As his grip loosened, she drew a long step backward.
“You. Apparently.” He grinned hollowly.
Ignoring his flirting she asked. “Where have all the servants gone? I’ve not seen hide nor hair of them.”
“Hoping to persuade one to free you, were you?”
Her florid blush was answer enough. Filling him with disappointment. “They’re only here on occasion.” His hands fell, and he walked around her.
“Why did you miss me?”
“It gets lonely here.” She said dismissively. “What occasions are they here?”
Turning back to her he cocked his head, merely looking at her.
“Suit yourself.” She moved to pass him, but he caught her arm.
Eyes flashing red she glanced at his hand then slowly up to his face.
“Have you never told someone you missed them?”
Pain flashed over her face and for a moment he regretted the question. Obviously, she has. Something tightened in his gut.
Who had she missed so much her pride allowed her to speak the words?
“Where did you go so long?” She asked in a weak voice.
“To help my brethren.”
“Is that always where you go?”
“Yes.” He said simply.
“There are more like you?”
“You’re not giving much in way of answer.” She glared at him.
“Perhaps not, but at least I answer.” He eyed her meaningfully. “And I’m honest.”
She tugged her arm lightly and he released. “Go ahead and flee Little Valkyrie.”
“I don’t flee you, Lord Bodane.” She said as she walked away.
“You run in terror.” He said before correcting her. “Sebastian.”
“I’ll never call you that.”
“You will.” He called down the hallway. Finding himself smiling despite the pain he suffered from the last couple days. He veered into his chamber as she continued down the hall.
The hateful little thing has some power over me. To make me smile even now.
How she’d laugh, if she knew.
Christophe Rhyers, a man with pale eyes and long black hair stepped from the shadows. So quiet he scared the life out of Elsabet who stood glaring hatefully down the corridor at where Sebastian had disappeared.
Rhyers clucked in his cheek and was shaking his head. “Would it’ve killed you to offer him a little reassurance?” Disapproval was written over his face.
Her brows descended as she gave the man her full wilting look. “What business is it of yours?”
“He’s my friend.” Rhyers gestured down the corridor. “And he asked you for so little. Something he desperately needed.”
“Why are you here?” She demanded but a brief flash of guilt crossed her face as she took in the man’s chiding.
“I followed him back here to make sure he was okay. He was quite unwell just a short time ago…” Rhyers stared down the corridor as well. Listening for the sounds of Bast shedding his armor in his chamber.
“Can you not feel his grief?” Rhyers murmured.
She stiffened. Her chin jutting.
“He lost someone dear tonight.”
“Would it have been a woman at his side while he wore armor and was covered in blood and mud?” Rhyers’ waspish tone made his derision obvious.
She grudgingly shook her head. “Likely not.”
“Definitely not. He lost a brother tonight. Yet he came straight here, and his face lit at the sight of you. He asked you for a smile, for some bit of brightness. And you gave him cunning, manipulation and sorrow. What a horrible little creature you are.” Rhyers shook his head and spun to walk away.
Elsabet’s eyes darkened to red as she watched the man’s back, but she made no argument with his words.
“Offer the man a bit of comfort!” He tossed over his shoulder.
“He isn’t mine to comfort!”
“He’s as much yours as everyone else’s!” Rhyers spun on his heel to glower down the corridor. Aware Bast likely heard his words, but too angry at the wench to care.
“But you are the one he seeks when he needs some warmth. Not all of us that’d gladly give him brotherhood. He shows us only courage and strength. But you,” He pointed a judging finger at her. “You offer only spite.”
He was gone before she could summon a fitting retort.
Even Sebastian sitting quietly in his chamber was astounded at the wise words of his friend. Elsabet hadn’t been the only one Rhyers enlightened tonight.
After his momentary astonishment, Bast blew out a long breath and his head fell to his filthy hands.