Who Are You Talking To, Harpie?
“Is he dead?” Elsabet climbed back up the stairs, head cocked. Intrigued.
“No. He’s lost. They can’t find him. How are you talking to me so long?”
“What do you mean?” Elsabet lifted a brow.
“People only lower their guard long enough to talk to me for small spans before the tipping of energy changes.”
“I’m not of your people.” Elsabet lifted her chin.
“I’ve no people anymore.”
“What are you?”
“A Water Dread once. But now, I don’t know…”
“I thought they were extinguished when Battlings took the Divide into Paladine Land.” Elsabet cut in.
The other woman’s expression showed admiration. “How old are you Girl?”
“Who are you?” Elsabet countered.
“I’m Calisto, Water Dread, Timebender. Who are you?”
“I was Serenade long, long ago when there were still Dreads in Paladine Country.” Her voice was tinged with pride as she lifted her chin to add. “I was the first of the Valkyrie.”
“I think I know that story…” Calisto studied the floor thoughtfully. “That’d make you at least two hundred or so.”
“And you?” Elsabet didn’t deny it.
Calisto shrugged. “About the same. My conceptions of time are slightly skewed now that I’m trapped outside of it.”
Elsabet’s confusion was written across her face.
“Would you tell him something for me when you see him?”
“Who?” Elsabet cocked her head.
Calisto gave her a look that clearly indicated she thought it quite clear.
“I prefer not to talk to him.”
“If you didn’t enjoy him so much, you wouldn’t try so hard to dodge him. He simply wouldn’t matter...” Calisto countered.
“Definitely. But magnetic just the same. With a raw animal appeal that’s nearly irresistible.”
“You say that with admiration. Why? How can you stand him? He’s crass, always making innuendos.”
Calisto’s purple-blue eyes widened. “Is he? Usually its women speaking such to him. I’ve never heard Bast do so. Are you saying he flirts with you?” There was nearly envy in her tone.
“He taunts me.”
“Mercilessly.” Bast emerged from the shadows at the other end of the corridor. His body slashed in darkness but his face clear. Turquoise eyes flaring with interest. “Who are you talking to Valkyrie?”
Trying to charm someone new into saving you? Or a secret form of communication?
Calisto cut in to answer. “Tell him Raese is staying in a mansion for a ball. Somewhere green where trees have pods and just now turn yellow.”
Elsabet gave her a confused look.
“Who do you speak with?” His head moved to assess her.
Tell me now.
She gave him a quick look. Her head going back to Calisto as she spoke again.
“He’s the only one still looking for my Raese, when everyone else has given up. I’ve no choice but love him for that.” Already Calisto’s image faded, beginning to quake.
“Where are you going?” Elsabet asked.
“Your energy has changed.” Calisto sobbed. “You’re no longer at ease.” She reached for Elsabet but there was a sound like broken glass and her agonized scream. And she was gone.
“Who are you talking to, Little Harpie?” His tone turned dangerous.
Don’t toy with me.
“There are no women in my castle, save you, Elsabet.”
And Elengard. The elf that tended WaterRose when Bast was away, she only traversed from the hut in the bailey. She doesn’t live in here.
Startled, Sebastian grabbed Elsabet’s shoulders. “You saw her? What did she say?”
“Are you so interested?” Elsabet lifted a haughty brow.
He felt her quiver slightly. Her body stiff.
Bast calmed, gently releasing her. “What’d she say Little Harpie?”
“Don’t toy with me!” He gave her a warning look. “Did she speak of him? Of course, she did! What’d she say?”
Realizing Bast’s urgency was towards the missing man rather than about the shadow herself, Elsabet relented.
“He’s at a mansion ball. Somewhere green with pods.”
“Pods?” Bast looked pained.
Elsabet spoke carefully. “Where trees have pods and just now yellow.” She nodded.
“The Paladines or the Isle of Wight! Good woman, Elsabet!” He pressed a fast kiss to her forehead.
She gasped, but before she could react, he was down the stairs in a flash.
“Where do you go!” She leaned over the railing, calling down as she eyed him in the dark foyer below.
“I’ll miss you, Elsabet.” He gave her a smiling salute from the lower landing. “I may be gone awhile this time. But I’ll bring back strawberries.” He grinned facetiously.
I may find him this time!
“It’d be a courtesy to me if you’d stay put, cease trying to escape, so I may see you again. I miss your face when I’m away.”
She snorted. “How long?”
So, you know how much time to formulate an escape? He was slightly wounded.
“I don’t yet know. But I’ll travel...Weeks. Perhaps months.” He said warily.
She bit her lip so hard he caught the scent of blood. Trying not to say anything further. Finally, she disappeared from view, stepping back from the railing.
“Yes.” She said quickly, flying back in a swish of skirts.
“I won’t be leaving Quandary behind.”
“He’ll be gone too?” Hearing the agony in her voice made him wish he could leave the bloody panther behind.