SEBASTIAN - Forever Knight Ball
The Red Manor, Valley City, Grier Country
The day of the Forever Knight Ball came.
The knights ensured they were close, but none dared arrive until the hour of its actual beginning.
Teverius and Serdephe were the first to arrive.
Unsurprising. Bast thought. Since it was he that suggested I hold a ball in celebration of recent events.
Of what Nora Bishop has been doing.
Sebastian stood outside the rented mansion.
One Worthington doesn’t own. He was very careful of that. Equally as carefully to ensure numerous fountains made a barrier completely around the Manor and it was one decorated with a fountain in the foyer and decorative waterfalls throughout the gardens and surrounding the gazebo. Very well protected.
Sebastian still restlessly paced the perimeter. Catching a glimpse of Rhyers handing off his shoes to a small dark-haired woman and following that with his overcoat.
So he can do the same. He’ll inspect for Cimmerii. That offered Bast some solid comfort.
She’ll come. He could sense it. Knew she’d somehow get word of it. One of us has been leaking information.
Though Bast didn’t know who it was, he intended to find out. Rounding to the back of the house he was surprised to see the back of a man that reminded him very much of himself.
The blonde-haired man gave him a sideways look over his shoulder. Kill beads clattering in his hair as he moved.
A lot of them. Bast realized. One for each man he’s killed.
But Sebastian suspected if that were true, there’d be many more than the beads currently reflected.
A warrior, nonetheless.
“Will you be joining us?” Hope entered Sebastian’s voice.
I’d like to get to know the man. He is my son afterall.
“Not today.” He wore black breeches tucked into worn boots. Standing with his arms crossed. Corded muscle bared by the studded sleeveless tunic he wore. Marked by the moonlight shining off the metal studs.
Intended to deflect blades. Bast knew. Meager armor though.
“I don’t need much.” Savage Jack said absentmindedly. Eyes scanning the edge of the garden.
“You don’t have a woman you wish to dance with?”
“I do.” Savage Jack said thoughtfully. “And she’s never been somewhere like this.” He gave the crimson house an assessing look, over his shoulder. “I think she’d have quite enjoyed herself.”
“Then why not bring her?”
“I’ve heard you’re holding this ball as an invitation to see your valkyrie again.”
“Yes.” Bast admitted in a low voice. “I am.”
“I’m not certain how that’ll go. And I’m not sure I trust that she won’t arrive with an army of cimmerii.”
“She’d never do that.” Bast said confidently.
Savage Jack drew a long breath and looked back into the darkness. “I’m not as optimistic as you.”
In-front of the house, Teverius was greeting the hooded elves.
Pretty Serdephe at his side as he shook the hands of the guests as they arrived. The Huntress was all smiles tonight. Not bothering to hide the deep purple shade of her hair which was coiled around her crown. Turquoise eyes animated as she took in the newness of everything.
Like a child during the holiday.
Elves passed him en masse.
It’s nice to see them. They so rarely come to the surface. He glanced at Teverius. But they do when their King says they can.
A litter of children wove between the adults. Some nearly adults, barely shorter than their parents.
Elsabet is likely creeping in right now amidst them. His eyes were drawn to several figures of the right height but there were so many flooding in, it was hard to tell. Too many hoods.
“Will you go in with me?”
Bast heard the man asking softly. Turning and catching sight of his Captain at the edge of the lawn.
Nora Bishop standing with her blonde hair shimmering in the moonlight. Staring at the Captain in awe as he lifted her hand and pressed a kiss to the back.
“When you said you wanted to show me something, I’d no idea you intended to bring me to a Ball.”
“I wanted it to be a surprise.”
“Is it safe?” She asked.
“We’ll be cautious.” Deragan assured her. “There’s always danger. But Sebastian knows better than any how to conceal us.”
He’s right. The stronghold I built has remained hidden for centuries. But it was still nice to hear the Captain speaking kindly of him.
Especially since I’ve been especially difficult lately.
And he’s losing patience with me. Since the Captain’s last visit to WaterRose, Sebastian had taken great care in apprising the Captain of his every move and encouraging the other knights to do so as well. No more secrets from him.
Bast entered the Ballroom with its elaborate stained glass ceiling. Quite pretty during the day. But even at night it made the candlelight toss a rainbow of colors over the white marble floor.
As promised by the Manor’s name the walls were dark crimson. Offsetting the brilliance of the floor and the countless shining candles.
Bast felt a weight against his leg and peered down to see a child smiling up at him. He looks nearly like my Sebet.
The boy had a round face and yellow hair. Big round eyes were brown instead of blue.
“Hello, Young Man.” Bast knelt.
Bast tilted his head questioningly.
“The King of the Castle of Water.” The boy said breathlessly. “I’ve heard tales of you down in the tunnels. We all have.”
“Has the nickname travelled so far?” He chuckled.
“You leave goods in the tunnels for us, year-round. And you once kept a powerful valkyrie in your magical castle.”
“Now that,” Bast tweaked his nose. “is wholly true. And she was the most fair of any creature you’ve ever seen.”
“I heard she was vicious!”
“Most beautiful women are.” Bast gave the boy a brilliant grin.
“I’m going to get my friends.” He said turning as if he couldn’t drag his eyes from Bast.
“You do that.” Bast was laughing. Shaking his head as he rose. But without the distraction of the boy, he felt it.
The surge of power swelling through the Ballroom like a heartbeat. Furtive glances at the edges of the Ballroom revealed the other knights lowering their heads and skimming the room as he was.
We all feel it.
We all know she’s arrived.
“Isn’t he lovely?” A young brunette standing next to Elsabet remarked. Following Elsabet’s eyeline. The younger woman clasped her hands before her and lifted her shoulders in exuberance. “So charming!”
“He’s the King of the Castle of Water, afterall!” The girl shot Elsabet a look. “Didn’t you hear them?” The brunette gestured to where Sebastian had been speaking to the young boy.
“He never comes down out of those mountains! At least not where anyone can see him!”
Sebastian was turning. Shaking hands with people he knew. A bright grin on his face and blue-green eyes dancing with merriment. A white silk shirt was stark against his gold skin. His hair was loose around his face in shining waves to his shoulders.
“He’s magnificent. Look at that hair. Like the mane of a lion!” The girl gushed. “I’d give life to his young.”
Elsabet shot the other woman a dark look. Feeling her eyes flaring red.
The girl backed up a step. Stuttering. Expression fearful.
“Don’t scream. Who are you?”
“Name is Mary, Mum. Daughter of Bronwynn.”
“Charming.” Elsabet said coldly. Forcing her eyes to return to blue. “Who are you to him?”
“Nothing.” Mary sighed heavily. Her entire body frowning. “Wish me was. Wish his valkyrie would stay gone forever so the rest of us could have a go at him.”
“A ‘go’?” Elsabet turned fully to face the girl.
“Well that creature has kept him long enough. And he’d not have any of us. And look at him. Just look! That’s a man that should be with a woman willing to love on him all his days.”
“Perhaps.” Elsabet’s hard look returned to Bast who was maneuvering smoothly around the Ballroom.
A cluster of children surrounded him. And he knelt in the center of them. Laughing as they showered him in hugs. One small child lifting a wooden figure from his pocket to show Sebastian who crooned over it.
A tiny redheaded child bounded through the group to tug his hair. “Uncle, Sebastian?”
He twisted. “Yes, Liasa?”
“Could I have a sweet bread?”
“You’ll have to ask your father, Little One.”
The girl groaned and her shoulders slumped. “He’ll say no. He says I replicate when I’ve had sweets.”
“He may be right.” Bast looked around furtively then whispered to her.
She skipped away cheerfully.
“What do you suppose he said to her?” Mary asked breathlessly.
“No, doubt he told her she could have the tiniest piece. Knowing full well, she’ll snag one as big as her face.”
“How do you know that?”
“It’s his way.” Elsabet said coldly.
“You sound as if you hate him?” Mary was shocked.
“What do you see when you look at him?”
“He is patient with the little ones. Kind even.”
“And generous.” Mary remarked.
“Always that.” A half smile almost pulled at Elsabet’s lips. She crossed her arms over her breasts and the expression died on her face. She tugged her hood lower over her face and ensured the cloak was still too big to accurately frame her figure.
“He was holding this ball to lure her here. You know that?” Mary asked.
“Who?” Elsabet gave her a sharp look.
“He wants her back, I hear.” Mary frowned. Thoughtfully tapping her lip.
“I doubt she wants back.”
“Perhaps she doesn’t have a choice.” Mary met her look solidly. Pointing down at her. “She’s right here.”
Elsabet gasped and turned to run the edge of the Ballroom under the shadow of the pillars, but slammed into a hard chest and a grip on her upper arms.
“I know.” The deep voice vibrated through her.
“No!” She looked up at him horrified.
“Did you think I wouldn’t know the moment you walked in?”
“Don’t take me back.” Her breathing was ragged, and her hands trembled.
Afraid. He loosened his grip to talk to her which proved a mistake.
She twisted away from him and pushed through the crowd. Bumping into a mountain of a man. Her gaze trailed up the impossible height of a glowering redhead. Arms the size of tree trunks crossed over his chest in disapproval.
“Mardichi…” She nodded in greeting. Forcing her voice calmer than she felt.
“Elsabet.” He mimicked her hello. Unravelling his arms but she ducked his reach and veered to her left. Spotting a head towering above the rest. Yellow-blonde hair free around his face. Tunic worn and his face somewhat dirtied.
“Acharius.” She nodded toward him. Keeping some distance between he and she.
Well out of his reach. Sebastian was working his way around the Ballroom and out the front door.
Elsabet was so panicked she didn’t notice.
Acharius nodded in greeting and took a step toward her.
Rotating to flee, Elsabet met the harsh look of the Captain.
“Elsabet…You should cease this game. It’s unwise.”
“Not my game.” She gave him a huge eyed stare. Before jumping sideways and rotating along his back as he turned to watch her.
“Get her.” He said impassively.
“Who is she?” The woman next to him shot him a look. Clutching his arm.
She only made it a few more steps when Sebastian stepped into her path.
“Elsabet.” He tilted his head down in warning.
It took her a moment to realize it wasn’t Sebastian but his twin. “Alazareth. Please make them stop.”
“It’s not my affair.” He countered.
“Then let me leave!”
“I can’t do that.” He stepped to the left to cut her off as she moved to go around him.
Lucien Sabias materialized behind him. Like the others, he was a head taller than everyone in attendance.
The knights were easy to spot but somehow they’d still managed to close ranks around her.
“Elsabet, no one wants to hurt you.” Lucien pleaded. “Please don’t hurt anyone else.”
A tall slender man bumped into her shoulder and she looked to her right and up.
“Teverius.” She grimaced.
“Glad to see you too, Little Sister.”
“I’m not your sister.”
“You’re a sister to all of us.” Deragan countered from behind her. “As I told you before.”
“What are all of you doing?” She looked nervously around her. Seeing them closing in. “I’m not going back!”
She ducked and pushed through people and came upon some immaculately polished clothes and followed up the tall slender length. Recognizing every stitch in perfect placement.
“I’m surprised you’re wearing shoes.” She grumbled.
“Elsabet. It’s good to see you.” Rhyers commented. Giving her a warning look. “We’re surrounded by people. This is a celebration.”
“Of what?” She sneered.
“Don’t make it ugly.” Rhyers shook his head at her.
Seeing no other recourse. She screeched.
Making them all cover their pained ears.
Elsabet crouched. Brown wings lifting her cloak as they lifted around her. Exposing the tunic and breeches she wore.
She’d already had her wings out in fear of this. That’s why she wore the cloak. Sebastian recognized. Looking down at her from his higher vantage point.
She launched up. Flapping only a few times and throwing her arms up to shield her as she busted through the stained-glass window.
“Captain!” Alazar called but Deragan had already noticed.
The glass hovered in spinning shards. Everything slowing to painstaking moments.
As Elsabet came through the fragments, them nicking her as she surged upward.
Sebastian’s lightning grip caught her upper arm. Making her spin. He twirled with her. Letting her momentum expend before pulling her against hm. “Not so fast.”
“How!” She raged. Arms pinned to her side in his vise grip.
“I know you.” He grinned down at her. Uncaring that her eyes were blood red. No white nor pupil visible. “When cornered you’d go only one way.”
He stood on the walkway encircling the large window rising from a dome over the Ballroom.
The shards of glass were now slowly lowering and stitching back together like puzzle pieces.
The Captain’s doing.
Elsabet struggled against him. “You’ll not take me back.”
Her wings swung and lifted them both.
Bast laughed. “Taking me for a flight?”
“I’ll drop you.”
“Oh?” His blonde brows rose. “How’d that go the last time?”
Both of them unaware of the man’s shadow against the trees near the garden. Watching them so keenly.