Chapter Eight: The Road Ahead
I can watch Jadis for hours. Awake, sleeping, enraged, or determined. I find that my eyes search for her and settle, adoring every inch of her. From the wild coils of black that adorn her head, to her dark flashing eyes that call to my soul. Her skin is earth and warmth, a song of home. It's a shame, then, that she can never look at me as I look at her. As a Giant I know I'm tall and intimidating, but I've never hated it as much before. Jadis flinches from me still. Or freezes if I come from behind her. When I pleasure her, despite feeling her cum on my fingers and in my mouth, I feel like I'm still miles away.
Jadis is like the sea. Her waves wash on the shores but never reach me, forever shying away at the last moment. Of course we talk, though she eyes me with suspicion. We kiss, rarely, and I still discern tension in her body. After brief consideration I conclude to leave her be. To not push myself on her, and to wait. That's all I can do.
Currently she's talking to Dena and Dong, looking glad to have Elide on the other side of the room. Watching her laugh with others is nice. Pleasant. She never smiled too much in Porro.
"A word if you please," Elide demands, appearing to my right abruptly, "About the journey."
Internally I sigh, deflated, tired and weary. I want to sleep. I wish to dream of Jadis loving me in my dreams, and to pretend it's reality. When Elide frowns at me, I gather myself to stand, knowing better than to make her wait.
"Lead the way, sister," I say, gesturing towards the door, "but first, I need to talk to my wife."
Elide glares at me, but I don't care. I've been sensible in life. Dutiful. Now, all I want and need is Jadis. Walking towards her, I note how when our gazes collide, she stiffens. Feeling even more deflated, I approach slower, reminding myself not to move too quicker or loom.
Her eyes search my face enquiringly, her cute lips parting in question. I try to ignore the heat that strikes me when I see her, but it renders me useless for a moment, and I have to think extra hard before opening my mouth.
"Elide requires my attention. Are you okay here?"
My voice comes out sounding flat and stiff. Her cute lips press together, before she nibbles on her bottom lip in thought. Swearing inside my own head, I try to refocus on her eyes, but then become trapped in them too.
"Elide can wait," I breathe, changing my mind, "Come with me."
Jadis looks startled, casting a panicked look at Elide brewing in the corner. Before she can open her mouth to protest my hand has taken hers, and I'm guiding her away. I'm weak to her. In every single way. Her hand is warm in mine, and I grasp her hand tighter, not wanting to let go. I savour every moment we touch. Moving through corridors I guide her, before finding a quiet corner, and pressing her into it for privacy. Her eyes are wide and panicked still, unsure why I'm so hot and cold. It drives me nuts.
"Are you okay?" she asks quietly, her lips looking soft.
I groan, feverishly trying to grasp a hold on my self-control. Instead of everything I want to do, all the dirty and passionate things that plague my mind, I fold her into a hug. It has its own beauty, a simple hug, and though it doesn't ease my lust it eases my heart. She doesn't hug me back however. I notice it all too much. I'm too aware of her every reaction to me, and after a moment, I let go and step back, trying not to look disappointed. I'm not stupid. I know that it will take years for her to reciprocate my feelings, but we don't have years. I need her to love me now, so that she's less likely to awaken her mother Chrysos and find Peitho. I need her to feel for me, at least a little.
She gives me an odd smile.
"That was weird," she says, uncomfortable, "What was that about? I thought you were still upset with me."
I frown. I thought I had masked my feelings from the night at Dong's rather well. Her bitterness towards me had cut quite deep, but her observation of that surprises me. Considering she doesn't even like to look at me fully in the face, I'm amazed she noticed.
"Ah," I say lamely, scratching my neck, "I didn't think you'd know."
She scoffs, her curls bouncing as she shakes her head and crosses her arms. Adorable. I itch to touch her hair but don't, knowing not to push my luck.
"It was obvious," she states matter of factually, "You wouldn't look at me. Or you would look over me, and not include me in conversations. You went full ice."
I clench my jaw, feeling caught out. She's very observant. Looking at her, this small but fierce woman, I realise I'm fucked. Royally fucked. She has me walking on eggshells and can apparently discern when I'm upset. Coughing, I adjust my braids, straightening up. Her eyes regard me with a clarity that's discerning.
"I was upset," I clarify, feeling my face heat up, "Because I know you don't like me."
Jadis cocks her head at me, raising an eyebrow. Stuttering, I struggle to expand.
"We're civil, and can work together, but you in general don't like me, and I understand that."
Her eyes narrow, scanning my face sharply. Why is it that she only reads my face when she's annoyed with me? Why can't she read my face when my eyes are pleading to touch her from across the room?
"I like your fingers," she tells me, humour lurking in her eyes.
I breathe in deeply, trying to quell my lust.
"My fingers," I echo, deflated, "Is that it?"
The words had tumbled out my lips before I could stop them, and Jadis looked befuddled at my words. I shrug, mind racing to backtrack, but her facial expression alters, and I feel my stomach drop.
"There really isn't anything else, is there?"
My voice is too emotionless, too clinical, and Jadis isn't denying anything. She stands much too still, her gaze now stuck to my feet. My lust dissipates like fog into the room, fading, and I now feel unbearably shit. I knew our first time was sheer luck. Our second time was prompted by Dena's Lust spell. Without luck or spells, why would Jadis want me? Despite how I said I knew she didn't like me, I still hadn't thought it completely true. I had hoped there were embers of like there, but if all I'm good for is making her body feel good, how will I ever reach her heart?
Suddenly unable to wait for an answer, I find myself moving, turning away from Jadis and back towards the hall. She doesn't go after me.
Upon entering the hall, Elide catches my expression before faltering. My sister may be harsh and icy at times, but her sisters are her love. She approaches me carefully. Others in the hall pay no heed to us, unaware my heart had just been stomped on with spiked boots. Dena, however, caught my eye briefly. She was the only one besides Elide who noticed my expression. Her mouth turns into a small 'o', acknowledging the pain see she's there, and then she turns back to Dong. Both of them then turn to look at me.
"Are you alright?" Elide asks me, blocking them from view, "Where is Jadis?"
I don't answer, feeling too much to open my mouth. Too many feelings itched across my skin, distracting me, and a hot flush was threatening to take over my flesh. My breathing begins to feel shallow.
"I need to get out of here," I whisper, "Now".
Elide had opened her mouth to answer, brimming with concern, but time slowed. Dena walks out from behind Elide, her black hair brushing my sister as she walks around her. Her hand lifts, presses to my armour, and we're engulfed in light.
It crosses my mind that this is teleportation magic. The green and purple weaves of light that circles us is blinding, locking everyone else out before they blur into nothing. There's a spinning sensation, like gravity has glitched, making it feel like my stomach is casting circles inside me, and my feet feel like there's nothing underneath. I grab Dena's hand, noting the red of her irises blazed from the lights, reflecting them. She smiles, as if to say we were okay, and then the weaves of light threaded out, casting thin strands into the air and fading to nothing. We're hit with the harsh chill of the night, with the waves crashing on the rocks. I reel, looking up the length of land towards the Aouren Estate. It looked so small from here.
"You looked like you needed to escape," Dena states factually, stepping towards the sea, "Did you get your heart broken?"
She looks at me from over her shoulder, her profile illuminated by the moon. I realise she's waiting for me to speak.
"I did," I say, feeling vulnerable, "I know her feelings about me, but never expected it to be so obvious."
Dena turns away from the sea, her face dropping into shadow. The moon is a halo around her.
"So you want her to pretend?" She asks, her words cold, "How is that any better than me casting spells to persuade Tielo to love me?"
I flinch, knowing where she was going. It's not any better. Not at all.
"Then how do you live?" I question her.
My desperation slips into my voice, and the question hangs in the air like a curse. She blinks at me slowly, before turning back to the sea quickly.
It's quiet for so long. I stare at the moon, seeking answers. I wish for answers, clues or anything. A way for Jadis to be able to love me. To gaze upon me with more than discontent and panic. I had prayed on the night we were wed. I had prayed for love and harmony.
"It hurts, doesn't it?"
I frown, realising Dena had spoken. She's still looking out to sea, motionless.
"Yes," I tell her.
"Do you think it's wise to want more than what she's able to give?"
"No," I tell her.
She turns around again, picking up a rock. She examines it, before throwing it at the sea. We hear it smack the waters surface, and the sound makes me jump.
"Right now, all your effects are like that rock. All your desires, wants and needs; they're that rock. They'll do nothing but sink. Jadis doesn't want your feelings right now. She has too much going on in her ocean right now. Your love is a huge rough rock in her calm waters. Don't poke the snake, remember?"
I remember my words from the banquet hall. How I had told Elide that Jadis wasn't a threat. It's true. Most snakes don't bite unless provoked, and I don't want to provoke Jadis.
"Don't poke the snake," I confirm, sounding grave, "What about your snake?"
Dena bristles, before picking up a larger rock. She threw it overhead, easily, and it slaps the water so loudly that it reminds me of glass breaking. The rock is so large that it still juts out the waters surface.
"My snake bit me," she answers darkly, "And I don't even blame him. I didn't just sink through his ocean. I tried smashing it."
I frown deeper.
"You tried to smash his ocean?"
Dena shakes her head angrily.
"I think it's a metaphor or something."
My skin prickles as a particularly cold wind sears through me. Looking at Dena, I wonder if she's cold. She's still wearing what she was wearing in the tower, but she doesn't look affected at all.
"We should head back," I tell Dena finally, needing rest, "Thank you for bringing me here and letting me breathe a moment. I needed it."
Dena nods sharply, turning and pressing her palm to my armour again, but she hesitates.
"Do you think my snake will ever stop biting me?" She asks, holding herself incredibly still, "Or will it keep biting me out of self-preservation?"
I grasp her hand, wanting to provide comfort.
"Only time will tell," I reply, for I didn't know the answer for sure.
She looks up at me, her red eyes large and shining like red glass. Her white skin, pale like moonbeams, glowed with beauty and youth. Master Tielo Eastern is a fool not to notice her beauty, but is still wise to create distance between them. Dena had, after all, poked him with a rather large stick.
"Maybe we both need distance," she tells me, "Perhaps you should go to the Queen on your own?"
I contemplate. Queen Heirtane, once King Heirton, had specifically asked to meet Jadis, and considering our friendship, I wasn't about to break my promise as Army Commander.
"Or perhaps break up the journey between you. You could leave first, and she will follow. It would be a chance for you both to cool down," Dena offers, suddenly looking older and more wise.
I nod, relaxing.
"That's a good idea," I relent, sensing Dena's magic start to unfurl around us again, the green and purple weaves winding upwards from our feet, "Keep her safe for me?"
Dena looks stunned for a moment, surprised I was asking her to look after Jadis on my behalf. She nods, touched.
"I'll keep her safe," she confirms, and the light explodes around us.
We're thrown back into the banquet hall. I'm unsteady on my feet briefly, and Dena has to reach out to steady me. She's part Vampire for sure. Her strong hand stops me from toppling over, and I thank her. However, casting my eyes across the hall, I sense we've interrupted something big. Elide and Jadis are at the centre of the hall, both tense with gritted teeth.
"Tell your 'wife' that she's never to talk to you like that again," Elide demands, her eyes burning with rage, "And then tell her she's not welcome anywhere near me in the future, because I despise her."
Baffled, I look between them, but I know what has to be done. Distance. As Dena said, distance is probably the best thing for everyone right now.
"We'll travel in separate parties. Me and Elide will leave tomorrow, and Jadis will travel with Brina, Dong, Pig and Dena in three days time."
Elide glares at Jadis, her lips curling. I've never seen Elide so angry. Her face is normal stone, but right now it's so twisted and red with anger that I'm concerned.
"You filthy fucking Dragon," she snarls, her words running cold through my veins, "I don't accept your innocent attitude. The apple never falls far from the tree."
Jadis doesn't say anything, her jaw locked and her eyes glassy. The room is stunned into silence, and to my horror, some of the maids and guards wear the same expression as Elide. How had I never noticed? Why isn't Jadis reacting?
Dena marches forward, her hips like a pendulum. Her hand raises, almost looking like it was about to caress Elide's cheek. However, with the flick of her wrist, she slaps Elide so hard the sound echoes loudly, eliciting gasps and whispers.
"Is that anyway to talk to the Army Commanders wife?" She asks pointedly, her face looking bored, "Is your behaviour acceptable in any way here? Hmm?"
Elide stammers for a moment, her rage baffling her tongue. Dena slaps her again, harder, causing Elide to falter and withdraw, her hand pressed to her cheek.
"Is this the right cause of action? Did the Army Commander make herself unclear earlier? Do not poke the snake."
Elide looks at me, her fury demanding I say something, but I don't want. She has undermined me for the last time, and she's insulted my wife.
"I'm sending you to Castle Fortune," I tell her sternly, "You will remain there for six months. Upon your return I expect you to grovel for forgiveness, and to never talk to Jadis like you just did again."
Elide screams. It tears from her throat like a battle cry.
"You're so fucking blind," She wails, "I'm your sister. Your oldest sister. How dare you talk to me like this, and only to show favour to the Dragon to try and fulfil a legend. We should be putting her in the dungeon. Not marrying her. Not feeding her, or taking her to the fucking Queen. We need to deal with her now."
I feel my own anger brewing, and gesture towards Jadis.
"Does she look like a threat!" I shout, my words blaring louder than hers had.
Reluctantly Elide looks past Dena and glares at Jadis. I see no remorse in her eyes as she looks at the tears threatening to spill down the cheeks of Jadis. I only see contempt.
"Go to Castle Fortune, and anyone who feels similar to Elide may follow her. I have no need for narrow-minded, cruel people in my employment or company. And this," I snarl, fixing Elide with a dark look, "Is the last time you undermine me. You are my oldest sister, but I am Army Commander here, not you."
She staggers back, realisation creeping into her eyes.
"Quoia," she pleads, "Quoia, I'm looking out for you."
I wave her off, silencing her.
"You don't get to call me that."
I motion for guards to escourt her out, and I watch as she goes reluctantly. Maids and guards follow, obviously believing Elide to be right. Jadis watches, silent. It's like her faith in people is dwindling as she watches . The very people who had welcomed her the other day are the very same people leaving.
Ardwen and Arla, and then Yeona, are amongst the handful that remain.
"I can magic up a spell to keep on top of housekeeping duties," Dena tells me, retrieving a book from a bag, "And a barrier spell to help protect the estate."
Dong makes a noise of surprise, stunned.
"The fuck just happened?" He marvels, his eyes stuck on the door where everyone had exited.
"We found out who has our backs and who doesn't."
"Sequoia, you need to employ better people. Did you even do a background check?"
Glaring at him to shut up, I step towards Jadis, but stop short when she moves away. She's shaking. She's shaking and grasping onto Pig, who, during the confrontation, had come to her side. If I could promote a Nightmare Crawler, I would. I turn to Dena.
"I'd like to employ you as my assistant manager," I tell her, "I can trust you to keep things running smoothly."
She nods in confirmation, shocked and touched once again. She holds herself well and is proactive. I can trust her to keep the estate safe as I travel to the Kingdom.
I turn to Jadis again. She's still holding herself stiffly, grasping at the wisp at Pig's back.
"I'm going tomorrow," I tell her, not expecting a response, "I'd like to have your party follow in three days. Is that okay?"
She turns to look at me. Her dark eyes look flat and lifeless with bad feelings, her undereyes looking shadowy. Tiredly, she sighs.
The rest of the night is restless. Dena is busy organising things with Dong, and the remaining staff are delegating duties. Jadis had locked herself away in my bedroom with Pig, and I let her. For now, I think she needs to be alone, especially by me. She's just had a hall full of hatred aimed at her and needs to recuperate.
I myself need to recuperate from banishing my sister to Castle Fortune. It's not a bad place. Just cold. It's cold, high in the mountains and barren. They send people there to keep them safe. People of interest. People like the sisters of Jadis.
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