After a moment, she raised dark eyes which were sparkling with mischief. She met the violet eyes surrounding her. “Ah, I see. Alright then.” THEN I WANT ALL OF THEM TO KNOW THAT I WANT CLIMB ON TOP OF YOU AND FEEL YOU FILL ME UP AS I FILL YOU UP WITH A PIECE OF CAKE. I WANT TO FEEL YOU PRESS ME AGAINST A WALL AND –
Dulog made a gagging gesture, a pained expression on his face.
SHUT UP, GLUGLUG. YOU ARE SO ANNOYING.
“It’s Dulog! And stop shouting!”
I WAS NOT SHOUTING. I JUST THINK WITH CONVICTION! “Yeah, yeah, whatever you say, Dulong.”
“You are so annoying!” Dulog hissed.
Melody shrugged and stuck her tongue out at the male, who cuffed her. HAHA, IDIOT!
Fenri returned his brother’s sudden and intense scrutiny with one of boredom, even as a deep nausea began to boil in his guts. Why does Dulog and Mother keep staring at me like that? He allowed the thought to venture forth.
Melody, who had been laughing heartily at the abuse, wiped the tears from her eyes with her forearms. She held herself with such confidence that one barely registered the shackles around her wrists. “So, anyways, why was I invited here? And by invited I mean tortured.”
“You were not tortured!” Dulog growled, clearly rubbed raw by her presence.
“Being in your presence is a legit torture. Just ask anyone."
Around her, several of their siblings chuckled, shrugging when Dulog glared at them.
Mother had been watching their bickering with an expressionless face, and now rested her cheek on a hand, an odd expression playing over her severe face. “I know you are a princess of the human realm. I apologize for any harsh treatment my son has given you; he is not the brightest of my brood. It was never my intention for you to be locked up; you were to be an honoured guest.”
The human girl rotated her wrists as the cuffs fell away. “Uh huh. Right”
Dulog, who had flushed at the insult given to him, abruptly frowned at Melody. “Why have we stopped hearing her thoughts?”
A Shiva grin spread over her features as she swiveled her head to gaze up at him. “That would be because I rarely think before I speak, hun.”
The expression on the Queen’s face was priceless before her typical mask dropped into place. Struggling forth, she sighed. “You see, I was made aware that you had gone missing, and had dispatched my brood to search for you. To ensure your safety.”
Fenri started, and then started again when the sound of a ripping seam whispered through the air.
SO FUCKING HOT. I CAN’T EVEN, Melody moaned, her knees pressing together. “Yeah? That’s cool…” she responded absently, eyes locked on the object of her desire.
“Of course, you will be treated as an honoured guest before returning to your father. We want only good will among our species.”
“Oh, no thank you,” Melody smiled at her politely after ripping her gaze away. “I’d really rather not go back to my father, but thanks for the offer. I’d rather foster some good will through other ways.” SEX, SEX, SEX!
Dulog coughed into his hand, his highly unsettled countenance clearly expressing his inability to cope with her.
“One question I had before we proceed any farther, my dear, was if you had seen a gentleman in armour in the past few months?”
Melody blinked. “Yeah, like in every village.”
“No, it would be a very specific type of armour – rather like the one he is wearing,” The Queen returned, gesturing to the black armour standing mutely beside her ‘guest’.
“Ohhh – you mean have I seen any other squan?”
The assembly froze, and all eyes turned towards their Mother to see her response.
For a long moment, the normally imperturbable Queen floundered, mouth visibly falling open. After a long moment, she licked her lips. “I, ah, understand our customs might be different than those of humans…”
“Yeah, I can’t really recall – I don’t have the best memory, you know? All I can really recall is that dark cell.” She shivered in an exaggerated fashion. A sudden rumbling drew every eye to the ceiling, hers included. For the first time, she looked genuinely irritated, her lips compressing into a thin line. “Well, shit.”
Is it time?
I think it’s time! Another gleeful voice whispered. It isn’t time… a third sighed mournfully.
The assembly started en mass at the whispered words. Hands flared open, claws at the ready.
Dulog swallowed, his right hand slowly grasping the hilt of his knife.
I know those voices, Fenri realized before slamming his mental wards up again at his mother’s sharp glance.
She said to hold.
Do you think it will be long?
Not long now – can you feel him coming?
I can feel him coming!
HEHEHE…COMING. A symphony of wispy laughter resounded at her coarse joke.
Mother was standing, the guards were at the ready, but Melody ignored them all, tracking an invisible force through the ceiling and down to the wall, then the door. As it opened, she stomped her foot, chest rising from the force of her inhalation. “ADEMAR, YOU PIECE OF SHIT, WHAT THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU ARE DOING HERE? DIDN’T I TELL YOU TO FIND GISELLE, YOU USELESS PIECE OF SCRAP METAL?”
The squan she was bellowing at merely strode into the room, using a forefinger to mime rubbing at his ear. No need to shout, of course I found her.
Her entire demeanor changed, and she clasped her hands together, bouncing on the balls of her feet. “Oh good, I am so glad! Did you have freaky sex, and free her?”
Of course, he replied irritably as he fended off several attackers. However, for some reason when she found out where you were, she really, really wanted me to come rescue you.
“Awww…” Melody rocked side to side and grinned up at Dulog. “I love my bestie, isn’t she so nice? That’s my brother,” she added with smug pride as Ademar ripped through the ranks of people separating them. “I love him to bits!”
I never wanted to come back here, Melody! Ademar sounded truly upset. She was the last person I wanted to see! We need to go, now!
Melody swiveled to eye the Queen, mouth dropping open into a little ‘o’ of understanding. SHE WAS HIS CONSORT.
Fenri and Dulog gaped at their mother, shocked at the lack of denial on her face.
“Sorry about all your people being maimed and killed.” She raised her hands helplessly, lips drawn back from her teeth in a ‘what can you do – squans, eh?’ gesture. “Anyways, it’s been a hoot.” She began backing away. “Again, I really appreciate the offer to get a lift to my daddy-o’s but, you know – we are estranged and all so that would be pretty awwwwkwarrrrrrd,” she added, sing songing the last word. “I think I’m gonna go now, though…past my bedtime and all that.”
The Queen had risen to her full height and was staring at Ademar with undisguised loathing and fear. “You!”
Get away from her, Melody! We need to go – NOW!
“Trying, Ademar!” She retorted. “Problem is there is kind of a battle raging around me right now!” Turning, she blew a kiss over her shoulder at Fenri, who still stood with that odd, frozen expression on his face. “Bye, handsome! Come find me when you want some some-some!” GOD HE IS SO HOT…
Mother glowered at Fenri, swooping towards him, all pretense of urbane civility extinguished from her features. “That wench is your mate, isn’t she!”
Fenri gazed up at her dispassionately, his body practically on fire. Every nerve ending hurt like he was holding his hand too close to an open flame. “No, Mother,” he choked out.
She curled her fingers around his throat. “Lies! Destroy Ademar, now!”
He did not have to think about it to understand the consequences of such an action. He did not deny her request, but his hesitation was enough.
Mother leaned close, teeth bared at his eye level. “Prove it – if you do not care about her, you will not object to destroying Ademar! If you are her mate, you will be unable to do it, and all three of you will die. The choice is yours.”
Fenri turned his gaze to where the small human was darting her way towards Ademar, face alight with joy. She shouted something to him, and the squan actually laughed in return. Memories of his siblings being destroyed over the decades for this very suspicion pushed at the edges of his consciousness. He had to do it. There was no other option. He could not even think this through, or risk something leaking through his shields to Mother.
Raising a trembling hand, he began the invocation.
At the sudden trembling in the air, the little witch paused to stare back at him. “Ademar, what is happening?”
The fear in her voice, directed at him, cut Fenri more surely than a knife. He grunted, but pushed forward.
Ademar met her wild gaze, shoulders slumping. Melody, you need to escape and find Giselle – I left her at the lake at the edge of the woods.
“Sure, sure, but you are coming with me,” she snapped as she tried to maneuver closer.
Sure, sure….he echoed with no conviction.
“I’m serious, Ademar! Giselle won’t be happy unless you go back! She’s been waiting forever for you!”
Giselle needs her friend. She will be devasted if anything happens to you.
“And you think she wont be upset if her mate gets killed? Again? Why aren’t you running!” She screamed at him as a dull glow began to form around his armour.
Ademar rubbed a gauntlet down his face, demeanor sagging. Fenri’s got me trapped, he replied with a deep resignation, his voice whispering over her skin. You have to get out now, little sister. Protect my mate.
“No, no, no! Stop it!” The witch whirled, tears pouring from her eyes, to stare at the halfling with his arm extended. “Why are you doing this?” Whirling away, she darted towards the squan, only to be deterred by the line of bodies between them. “Giselle wouldn’t want this, fight back!”
A humourless chuckle escaped him as the glow around him increased. You know, you’d think that – but I don’t think I could do anything Giselle didn’t want. I think…she wants you. I will always provide for my mate. Turning his head towards the queen, his tone took on a distinct sneer. You were never my mate.
The witch whirled to face Fenri once more. “Please stop this, you don’t have to do this!” Her hair had begun to toss like boughs in storm, iridescent green pinpricks of light surrounding her. I HATE YOU!
Fenri staggered, hand clawing at his chest, but did not lower his raised hand.
“Ademar!” Melody shrieked, hands clawing at her own chest. NO NO NO NO MY BROTHER! NO, HE IS MINE! MINE!
Oh, now is the best part of today! The voices chattered excitedly before suddenly turning sinsister. Kill them?
Yes, kill them all.
She doesn’t want us to kill that one?
She doesn’t want us to not kill that one...
That one is that one.
She – oh.Surprise seeped into their conversation. Do we do that?
We could do that.
Let’s do that!
Fenri collapsed, his perspective skewing as he dropped. Everything seemed to happen all at once:
Melody gave a shriek that he had never heard the likes of before.
Ademar exploded into a dark cloud before dissipating.
The Queen began laughing.
And greenery roared to life in every corner of the hall, flailing and injuring anything within its reach.
For his part, Fenri couldn’t seem to get enough air. He lay gasping and twitching in agony as the vines tore through his siblings, his vision a mixture of encroaching darkness and foggy film. His lungs burned, and his stomach roiled as if he had eaten turned food. It was one thing to have known he was going to cause her pain – it was another entirely to experience it. It was as if someone had reached into his chest with their claws and plunged it deep into his stomach.
We are not happy with you, one voice whispered in his ear. Displeased.
We said that already.
With an effort, the halfling snagged one of the vines closest to him. His grasp was far too weak, but it momentarily stilled. “Why aren’t you killing me?” He demanded in a choked whisper. “I’m the one who did it - she wants me dead. I can feel it.” I want to be dead, he realized, his will to live fading. His eyes dimmed further, the vines shrugging off his hold to lash out at Dulog. The only response from whatever…power made those voices, was a sweltering summer season that lasted forever, clouds coming and going with no rain falling. So he was to suffer, not die? Struggling to sit up, Fenris sought her haunted eyes. The skin around his eyes tightened with pain, the edges of his lips pulled back with strain. “Melody?” He croaked, before his throat closed and he began coughing.
The forest witch was motionless, hunched over, hugging her middle as she stared at the floor, heaving gasps of pain wracking her small frame.
To his left, Mother fended off the sudden rush of one of the other squans – a revolt? Somehow, he could not bring himself to care. The room darkened around the edges of his vision, until only Melody stood at the end of a dimly lit tunnel.
“Melody…” Fenri groaned again weakly, unsure of what to say or do. All he could do was sit in dumb horror as she slowly raised her face, straightening. Her minx like expression, gleaming eyes and twitching nose, was gone entirely. Her expression instead was severe. Her lips were compressed into a thin, dour line, and her normally lively eyes were flat and unseeing. Or at least, she showed no recognition, no spark, when her eyes fell on him. It was as if she was a complete stranger.
Ignoring the utter chaos around her, she pivoted slowly, firmly upright, and strode out of the hall.
Glancing at Mother, who was still under attack, and at his siblings, who were fully occupied in defending themselves, Fenri staggered to his feet and shuffled after her. It felt like every bone in his body had been crushed under some great weight, his knees wobbling and often threatening to give out entirely. His insides felt as if someone had been punching him all night, and there was a great, gaping void inside him.
If any of Fenri’s siblings had taken note of his quiet departure, they would have seen tears soundlessly streaming from his pale eyes, his entire face a rictus of anguish.
How could he have missed all the signs so completely? He had bungled every meeting in the worst possible way – he had shown the worst side of himself at every opportunity. He could not help but cringe at the memory of his tempers, his derision, his mistrust. As for Ademar – well, Melody had proven she would do anything to protect him, even lie to her mate. And as far as she knew, Fenri had retaliated by destroying him. His entire purpose in life was to please her – his instinct should have guided him correctly….
The witch walked with an eery calmness and confidence through the halls towards the gate. Many of the guard squan were missing, and those that remained ignored her entirely - and of course allowed Fenri himself to pass unmolested. All of his suppressed emotions and thoughts burst forth, and the half breed found himself screaming silently on his exhalations, mouth open to the sky as wave after wave of pain and guilt crashed over him. How would she forgive him?
Even while fuirious with Ademar, bellowing beratements at him, her small face had burst forth with a joy Fenri had never seen. A sick twisting in his guts began, a sensation he distantly realized was jealousy. What had she said? Something about him being her brother. The halfling was aware that human culture, unlike Shiva, strongly denounced the killing of family. And she had said…he swayed at the memory, eyes closing.
She hated him.
Unfortunately, it was not the word itself which had him ready to take the closest sharp object and carve out the pain in his chest. Stupid, stupid man. No wonder he had been obsessed with her from their first meeting. No wonder that he had thought that she had placed some sort of spell on him. And no wonder that he had been gaining weight – his entire purpose in life was to please and provide for his consort. Even without actively knowing, he had been trying to do things that pleased her.
Yet somehow had hurt and offended her to the point she loathed him. That feeling that had blasted over him as she screamed for her brother…he shuddered, claws flaring across his chest again. Blood dripped from the slash marks. He was flawed; his human blood must have diluted his instinct. Even knowing, deep in his bones, that his actions had saved her did not mitigate his churning self loathing.
The chubby man stumbled forward once again, unaware of his surroundings as Melody opened the smaller gate and strode through.
They had been walking for what felt like hours. The sun has stopped filtering through the trees, and instead a gloomy half light had descended upon the two travellers. It was when dusk had almost fallen, and after many fits and starts, that Fenri was able to summon the strength to speak.
The forest above their territory, thick and dense, yielded before them effortlessly. Of course, it was her magic that cleared the way. Following behind, it was clear from her swaying chestnut hair that her head never turned to the left or right. She simply walked forwards at a steady pace, arms swinging. She seemed drawn to a point in the distance with unrelenting confidence, entirely uncaring that her mate stumbled along behind her.
Voice hoarse, he began. “Dee…I mean, Melody…I am so, so sorry. My Mother, that is to say, the Queen, does not tolerate…some things…and I had to do what I did. I know it may sound like an excuse but I had to make a decision quickly – if I had not…done what I did, she would have killed all three of us.”
There was no response, and after several more stuttering attempts, Fenri lurched forward to grasp her left hand. “Melody, please, there is something important I need to tell you…please look at me, please answer me!”
The human paused, turning her small face towards him with her brows knitting together. “Unfortunately, that cannot be done.”
Fenri grunted, pain lancing through him.
“It seems, brother, that my sister has done the unthinkable.”
Lilac eyes flew to meet chestnut, and they shared a long look before Fenri began shaking his head. “No – no. There is no way…” He pressed his hands to his face, tears forcing their way from his already burning eyes once again. It felt like he had no more tears left to give.
Ademar sighed. “Giselle will be furious.” He turned his flat gaze to Fenris once more. “You must have known that your mate was not to be gainsaid in anything.”
Unable to speak through the lump in his throat, it took several moments for him to respond. “I only just realized she was my mate.”
The other man nodded Melody’s head. “Of course – which is why you chose the action you did. Lilith would have undoubtedly killed us all, and forced you both into squan form if her suspicions were further aroused. It was the only course of action left open to you.”
It was odd to hear the formal speech in her lighter tone. “You…she…” He swallowed convulsively. “Is she…gone?”
The other man sucked on a tooth for a moment, grimaced, and ran a finger along the nub where his fang would have been in his old form. “I do not know. I was…surprised when she wrote my glyph onto her very bones, making her own body my vessel. I assume she is not dead, as you are still alive. As her mate, you would seek death as soon as she died. And her plants seem to be rather active, still.”
True – although his instinct seemed to be as flabby has his half human form. What if she was d - his throat closed at the idea, his mind shying away from the unthinkable. There were so many questions to be answered – why had she done this? How did she know Ademar’s glyph? Instead, the only one that mattered tumbled from his numb lips. “Does…does she hate me?”
Blinking - her? his? - head tilted, considering. “Human hatred is not the same as ours. She is fiercely protective. She was displeased, that is for certain. You forced her to chose between her mate, and her sister and brother.”
Licking dry lips, the chubby man shifted his weight. “And you? Are you furious with me?”
Ademar looked startled, his brows flaring upwards. “Why would I be furious with you?”
It was odd, talking to one of the most infamous criminals in recent Shiva history. “Well…there is the matter of me destroying you.”
Small shoulders lifted in a shrug. “I was already dead. I am now, ironically, alive. My sister always made her own choices - and I cannot regret the opportunity she has offered. My biggest concern is how Giselle will react.”
“Your consort?” Fenri hazarded, feeling unaccountably shy in the other man’s presence.
The former squan inclined his head, heavy chestnut locks falling about his face. Irritated, he swiped at them several times. “Correct. I am conflicted; she will be pleased that I was not destroyed…but without knowing if Melody is safe…” he shrugged again, a look of unease creasing the corners of Melody’s mobile lips. “I do not know how she will react. I will have to trust my instinct to guide me.”
Oh, if only he had done that sooner! “Do you object to me following, and talking as we go?”
Ademar shook his head, flicking his wrist in a sally forth gesture. “You are her mate; I would expect nothing less. As long as you do not attempt to hurt my consort, we have no issues. Attempt anything, and I will destroy you.”
It was said in such a matter of fact tone, with no change of expression, that the other man’s pupils contracted in response. “I would expect nothing less,” he echoed in a subdued tone. As they continued, Fenri noticed with gratitude that the other man had slowed his pace to accommodate his new companion. “Before…I destroyed you, I thought I heard that you were Mother’s mate. Is that true?”
A deep sigh completely deflated his current feminine form. “I thought so at the time. I was so eager for it to be true, so flattered at the attention she paid me, that I believed it to be true. It was not until I met Giselle that I realized how wildly wrong I had been. Of course, that was centuries too late. By then I had given Lilith my seed, been murdered, and existed as a squan for longer than I care to admit.” Dark, considering eyes sought his in the gloom. “Can you make light? I truly did not realize how blind humans are at night. I would hate for your mate to be injured.”
The idea of his consort becoming injured sparked the tinest flame, igniting his depleted magic. A smallglitter of light left his fingertips, and Fenri shivered weakly as the last of his magic drained out of him.
Ademar regarded him for several long moments. “You were not a bad commander,” he said in a musing tone. “You were not needlessly rude or cruel. Though, I cannot recall much of my existence as a squan before you arrived.” With a raised brow, he gave a lopsided grin. “Perhaps that is the reason I was able to retain my sanity?”
Had he been a good commander? Casting his mind back over the years he had been commander of the squan, Fenri could not recall doing anything blatantly unnecessary. Other than that one incident with the humans that Mother would never forgive, it had been relatively smooth. Of course, some squan had gone…wrong, and needed to be dispatched. In the grand scheme of things, however, he thought he had been level handed. “Why did you leave the capital? And how did you come to find Melody?” He inquired next, still baffled at the outcome of this past year.
Dark brows knit together, and Ademar cast him a considering look. “Don’t you remember? You sent me to find her.”
The world around her was dark. It took a moment of opening and closing her eyes to realize that there was no change either way, and after a long moment, she sat up. It was an odd sensation, because although her ‘body’ moved when she commanded it to, there was a distinct lack of physical sensation to her present existence.
Staring into the darkness, Melody wrapped her arms around her knees. She had no idea where she was, but she sincerely hoped that the spell had been effective. When she had seen Fenri’s hand rise, a darkness sucking in the surrounding light, she had acted instinctively. There had been no thought required, no weighing of options. She had resigned herself to any fate when she originally chose to protect her brother, her sister’s soul mate. Doubling down had not seen that far of a stretch…
Heaving a sigh, she forced herself to her feet. The oddest sensation was not the lack of a physical body, it was the distinct lack of plant – or any – life around her. Her earliest memories had been of the bustle and chatter of growing things around her, and had been an ever-present companion every moment of her life. Even when locked in her cell as a child, or in the Shiva dungeon, the whispering sighs of sleeping plant life had been ever present and ever ready. The landscape her was deafeningly barren as she strolled forward, arms crossed behind her head.
Which was interesting, and a bit offputting. Without plant life, her already barely functional magic was pretty much useless. And without a physical body, and with none of her belongings, none of her prepackaged spells would be effective. There was no point of walking, because she had no destination and there was nothing to be seen – but her feet had always blazed the path to her future, and so she walked.
And as she walked, Melody wondered what her brother and sister were doing. The idea of Giselle being out of that tower brought a grin to her face, and the idea of her plump friend being well loved and sexed made her grin widen to Shiva like proportions. Giselle deserved a bright future – and with Ademar beside her, she was pretty much guaranteed one. Even if her father came after her…well. One didn’t mess with a Shiva consort. Unless they wanted to end up dead, dead, dead.
Not to mention that right about now, the male was inhabiting a smoking hot body.
Because if her companions had done their job correctly, Ademar would be able to use her body as a vessel. The indescribable pain of them writing the glyphs on her bones made a shiver of remembered agony, as did the feeling of her soul being cut away from her body. That momentary pain would be worth it, however. She had meant it every time that she said she would do anything for her friends, her life siblings. If Melody could give Ademar back his life, and give Giselle her freedom and the love she had always deserved…that was worth it.
As she meandered forward, Melody noticed that tiny pinpricks of light began to float around her. They softly flickered in and out, rather like fireflies. Raising a hand to capture one, she –
Found herself staring at the Queen. Or rather, a much younger version of the Queen. Her hair was a rich, velvety wine colour, and her large eyes were no longer half masted by age.
It was rather disconcerting to realize she was unable to move, and her perspective and eyes seemed…off. In fact, she felt off entirely.
Smiling, the Queen placed a hand on her cheek. “Ademar, my love. I am so pleased that we have found each other. We have a bright future ahead of us.”
Without any prompting, her arm raised to run a knuckle gently down her consort’s face. Dangerously sharp dark claws curled away from the soft skin of her face, careful not to cut her. Why didn’t she feel anything? This was not how she had envisioned her instinct to be. Reaching blindly, she cast about for what would make her consort happy. Finally, she settled for an assumption. “As am I, Lilith. I have waited my entire life to find you. I cannot wait to embark on our future together – with you as Queen.”
It was apparently the correct thing to say, given Lilith’s brilliant and predatory smile. Internally, she sighed with relief, though uneasiness still coiled tightly in her belly. Her belly? His belly. This was Ademar – she must be seeing this from his perspective and feeling the emotions he had felt at the time.
As a human, she would not have been able to smell the unique scent that came off Lilith’s skin, nor seen her with such clarity in the dim light. It was also interesting to feel the innate physical strength that Ademar once possessed – although not muscular, there was a deep strength and agility to the feel of his muscles. And his magic –
She would have whistled, had she had a body of her own. I’m not jealous. You’re jealous!
What was most interesting to Melody, however, was the distinct lack of rage she had felt when dealing with him in squan form. He was definitely not a man to be trifled with – he seemed hard and unyielding, but nothing like before. After? Bah.
Instead, he was filled with a deep-seated unease. The sort of feeling Melody had gotten when she had made a bad decision, and every fibre of her being screamed: THIS IS NOT THE WAY! With the knowledge that only retrospection provided, the witch finally understood the hesitancy that Ademar had when speaking of his past consort.
He hadn’t been in love – he’d been in lust. And desperate to convince himself that the Queen, who aggressively declared them mates, was correct.
Speaking of lust, it was a distinctively different sensation to have an erection than a case of the lady throbs. As the Queen – Lilith, pressed her form into his, she began consuming his magic. It flowed seamlessly from his body into hers, and he parted her dress, pushing aside his unease as she bent beneath his body.
Gasping, Melody released the memory fragment, metaphysical cheeks burning.
Naughty, naughty Ademar!
Lucky, lucky Giselle!
Giselle started at the sudden crackle of a branch, blonde head whipping to the side. “Hello?” part of her cringed at the feminine warble of fear in her voice – she was a powerful water witch, damnit! The other part of her was still completely overwhelmed by the sights and sounds after the deadened quiet of her tower for so many years. Clearing her throat, she straightened her plump shoulders. “Ademar, is that you?”
To her surprise and pleasure, it was Melody who slowly stepped into the dim firelight. With a pleased cry, she pushed her heavy body upright and lumbered over to her best friend, throwing her arms around her tightly. “Oh my Gods and Goddesses! Dee! I am so happy to see you!”
Her friend raised her arms with some hesitation, petting Giselle’s thick mass of hair.
“I honestly thought I would never see you again!” she cried, happy tears streaming down her face and obscuring her view of her friend.
Dark brown eyes met lilac, and normally mobile lips thinned over her blonde head.
“When Ademar told me that you had been taken captive I knew that we needed to come right away! I wanted to go with him, but he wouldn’t hear of it. I knew he could do it! Oh Dee, I can’t wait to get caught up on everything!” Pausing to wipe her eyes on her sleeve, she shot a watery grin at her best friend. “Cat got your tongue?”
For a moment, her mouth worked. “Giselle, I…”
“I know, I know, I changed a bit.” Heat raised to her chubby cheeks, and she held her arms out to the side. “I leaned into it a bit too much. I’m sure I’ll lose some of it over time. I mean, it’s been so long since I exercised that Ademar had to carry me here in his armour. I was sure that there was no way that I could fit, but it magically resized to accommodate! Oh, Dee, he makes me so happy!” Her blue sparkled in the firelight, and they darted behind her.
Melody now looked distinctly uncomfortable, but pleased at the same time. “Giselle – ”
“I see you brought a friend – is that the guy you mentioned before? He must be. He is so your type.” She winked at her friend, head turning a bit as she cast her gaze about. “Speaking of our loves – where is Ademar, is he lagging behind?” A ripple of unease throughout her body resulted in the sound of thunder, and a hot breeze suddenly whipped through the small camp site.
The sense of unease morphed into a sense of dread, and she swallowed, plump hand flying to her throat. “Don’t…don’t tell me something happened to him!”
Her friend’s mouth, which had been about to open, shut, and her cheeks puffed out, a look of frustration crossing her normally genial features.
Now truly nervous, she placed her hands on her shoulders “Tell me what happened, right now!”
“I found Melody she had been held captive and I was in the process of freeing her but my vessel was destroyed but not before Melody enacted a spell which allowed me to inhabit her body and I do not know if she lives or is dead!” Panting, she stared at her. After a long inhale, there was a long exhale. “I am sorry, my love. There was no time to discuss, or protest…”
Blank incomprehension met her – his? - rushed explanation for a long moment. Slowly, painful realization and pain spread over her soft features. “Ademar?”
He ducked her friend’s head in acknowledgement, a deep fear lurking in the familiar yet unfamiliar dark, serious eyes. “Yes.”
That grim expression should have given it away, Giselle realized. “Is Melody…gone?” The words were muffled by the plump hand covering her mouth in horror.
The stranger, who had stood silently behind them during their exchange, spoke up. “We do not think so. Her magic is still active, and…I am still alive.” Despite his words of assurance, his expression was deeply haunted, and confusion stamped itself clearly on his knit brow. Multiple deep slashed crossed his chubby chest, as if he had been trying to rip his own heart out.
The wind picked up, and the sounds of thunder grew closer, causing Melody – nay, Ademar, to raise his head with a considering glance at the black dome above them.
Giselle, numbness spreading through her body, gazed at him for a long moment. No wonder her sister had been so attracted to him. Unlike the whip thin, severe features of a full Shiva, this one was softened by his human heritage. His fangs and ears were less pronounced, his nose wider, his cheeks fuller. Although perhaps that fullness came from the excessive weight he carried, which was displayed to an unflattering extent through his too small and torn clothing. His words slowly seeped through the fog which seemed to have overtaken her. “You…she is your…mate?”
“My consort, my mate, yes.” He nodded, blinking rapidly.
Turning her stunned gaze back to the body of her friend, she stared at her lover. “Who…who tried to killed you?”
“That would be me. I destroyed him,” Fenri announced hoarsely, sparing Ademar the trouble. At her dangerous expression, he swallowed, spreading placating fingers. “The Queen was going to kill her. I had to save my mate. I had no choice. I am sorry…”
To her surprise, Ademar was nodding in full commiseration. “How can you say that!” She snapped, shoving him back a step.
He allowed her shove, lowering his hands to his sides. “We will do anything for our mates,” he said simply, raising his eyes to meet hers. “I had resigned myself to destruction; I know how important Melody is to you, and if my last moment was providing you a future together, I was willing to give it.”
With a small shriek, she shoved him again. “So you were willing to just die and leave me?” Thunder boomed directly overhead, and a lance of lightening struck the lake with a thundering crack. A moment later, the lake exploded upwards in response, the violent rush of water thrown upwards by some invisible force.
Surprise, and a deep unease flitted over the the freckled face. “I…knew you loved her more than me. I knew it would make you happy.”
Plump hands spread like talons, and limpid blue eyes hardened to stone. Rain thundered down, immediately soaking all three of them. Raising a single index finger, she shoved it into Ademar’s face. “YOU ARE AN IDIOT!” She screeched over the deafening downpour. “YOU THINK I WOULD BE HAPPY WITH EITHER ONE OF YOU DEAD?”
Ademar threw a speaking glance over his shoulder at the other man. The combination of ‘help!’ and ‘did I miss something?’ made the other male snort.
“Don’t look at me,” Fenri grumbled as he stepped closer to him. “My instincts are all wrong when it comes to my mate.”
Transferring her rigid middle finger to the half breed, the water witch stood still for a moment, then burst into tears and flung himself into Fenri’s arms.
The other male crossed his arms over his chest with a scowl.
Confused, Fenri caught her heavy form and sent a frown over her head, awkwardly patting her back. “Are you going to stab me, now?” he asked, wincing as her tears burned his chest. When had he gotten those lashes?
After wailing for several moments, Giselle straightened and took Fenri’s face in both hands.
The male looked down at her with a wary expression, eyes flicking to Ademar.
“Melody and Ademar have told me a bit about Shiva consorts. What do you feel when you look at me?” she asked, tone now soft, controlled. In response, the rain lessened to a trickle.
“Sister,” Fenri replied promptly. “You are sunshine and warmth. Your presence quenches the thirst of the earth. You are beautiful.” As the words tumbled forth, he blinked in surprise. When the woman laughed long and low, her eyes crinkling up at him, he could not help smiling back.
The water witch’s lips twitched. “Of course you’d think that, as Melody’s mate. And what do you feel when you think of Melody?”
For a moment, the male spoke no words. Instead, his bemused expression slowly shifted to one of rapture, the strain around his eyes falling away, an expression of hope and longing crossing it. “Home.” The single word throbbed with meaning, and he closed his striking eyes, a single tear running down his face.
When Giselle turned to look at her lover, ensconced in her friend’s body, he nodded agreement, an expression of jealousy lingering around the corners of his mouth. “Are you jealous?” she teased. “Is that a pout I see?”
The male nodded again, but his expression lightened when his mate hasted to him and buried herself in his arms. Lust began to burn the satisfaction from his eyes as her soft form nestled close.
Turning her face to observe Fenri, the plump woman extended a hand. “Come here.”
The male regarded her with a guarded expression. “Why?”
An expressive roll of her eyes followed. “Gods and Goddesses, Fenri, get your ass over here!” When he approached, stilted, she snatched up his hand and placed it against her soft cheek. “You are all idiots. You’re an idiot for trying to kill my Ademar, you’re an idiot for thinking I love you less, and Melody is the biggest idiot at all for always acting without thinking!”
"I don't care what happens to me, as long as we can recover her," Fenri murmured, surprised at the outpouring of warmth from the woman whose mate he had just tried to destroy.
Entwining her fingers with both of theirs, she let out a heartfelt sigh. “But it seems we are a family, now. I can’t hurt you without hurting Dee. And I think you will have more than enough punishment once we find her. She doesn't take kindly to those trying to hurt her family."
Fenri cringed, and Ademar shot him a look of mild sympathy even as he nodded his agreement with his mate. It was nice, he realized, to be so understood.
"Tell me more about how this whole squan thing works. There has to be a way to recover her.”
I'm definintely forgetting some of what happened, but the characters are so sharply drawn that it is easy enough to follow along. But yes, when it is all done I'm thinking it would be good to go and read the whole thing over again
Consternation was the first emotion Ademar felt when he opened his eyes. This forest was all wrong, and he immediately leapt to his feet. Having held an immaterial form for centuries, he was immediately aware that he was no longer on the physical plane.
Instead of the densely packed forests of his homeland, the foliage so dense that some areas rarely saw sun, this forest was eerily verdant. Species of plant life which would never grow side by side intertwined as they grew from sapling to tree, and other species sprouted up immediately as they fell to the earth.
Casting a brief glance about, he quickly satisfied his intial impression – Giselle and Fenri were not here. Nor, to his surprise, was Melody. Only the verdant greenery abounding around him gave him a hint that of what was going on.
Sliding his tongue over his fangs, the male stretched to his full height. Part of him sincerely wished Giselle could have seen him in his original form. His instinct, however, cautioned otherwise. She was not, and might not ever be ready to see his original form. Though, her acceptance of the half breed was a distinct change from her initial reaction to him. Not that it mattered – his original form had long sine decayed into dust.
Speaking of the half breed…Ademar toed one of the vines closest to him. That was definitely not an accident. In the past several centuries, Lilith had managed to dispose of the old citizens, replacing them entirely with her own brood. It took the social term of brother and sister and changed it into a literal form.
Given the amount of effort the female had gone to, to dispose of all other than her bloodline, it was interesting to see Fenri as a halfbreed. There was no way for two distinct species to breed and create a halfbreed…magic must have been involved. Which of course begged the question as to why she had gone through all that effort. Perhaps an experiment? A sterile group of citizens, even if they found their consorts, could not produce the offspring required to truly supplant her.
The good news, despite any tangents his thoughts might travel down, was that he was not in the void of darkness that had originally been his home for the past several centuries. That in and of itself was an improvement.
The question was why he was here, and not awake in Melody’s body.
Turning to observe his surroundings, the tall male sighed and ran a large hand through the dramatic shock of hair that was almost ruby in its undertones. He would wager that Melody was probably awake; that was good. Giselle could affirm that her friend was unharmed. Perhaps the witch had been able to concoct something that allowed them to share her form by turns?
Or perhaps his freedom had simply been a transient moment, and his cage was simply to be of a different hue for the rest of eternity. Regret stabbed him deeply, and his eyes closed. He had thought that being able to touch his mate’s delicate skin, to feel her feminine curves, to taste her lips, and to smell her crisp scent just once would be enough.
Apparently, he had developed an addiction, for those minor details absorbed nearly half his consciousness.
His heart had thundered, his blood had raced – and if he had had a male form, he was sure he would have had a raging erection. Giselle had laughed and laughed when he had finally admitted that he thought he perhaps had to urinate, because a sticky substance kept sliding from him. Though even the act of urinating as a female had been dramatically different…
Stooping, he peeled back several roots to see what was underneath. To his surprise, an image flickered below the surface, and he leaned closer to examine it. Only to discover –
That he was face to face with a male who looked quite similar to Melody herself. Except rather than looking down on the human male, he had to tilt his head quite far back to make eye contact with him. His heart thundered with fear, even as a dull hope burbled up, that perhaps this time she could please him. “Yes, Fathew?” Why was he unable to pronounce words correctly?
“It is time, daughter. Do you see those men, on the hill in the distance?” The male placed a rough hand on his shoulder to turn him. “I need you to do what you did to the others.”
Ah. This must be a memory from Melody’s childhood. Ademar could actually feel her face screw up, and she fisted a large handful of fabric on her grubby shirt. “But Fathew, I don’t want to! I don’t wike doing that…You said I wouldn’t have to do it no more!”
The sound of his anger retort was nearly drowned out by the sound of familiar chortling laughter. It brought a sense of calm, and she took a deep breath, suddenly feeling less alone.
We are here to help.
We can help with anything.
But I don’t want to hurt anyone anymore… Melody projected her thought back at them, discomfort churning in her belly. She hated the sounds of the screams, the smell.
Everyone, another agreed.
Everyone? Even me? The thought was both enticing and horrifying. Would it hurt? Or stop the hurt?
You are already dead.
So are you!
Her father shook her, his large hands tightening on her shoulder. “Either you will be useful, or you will be put back in your cell. Do you want to go back into your cell? Back into the darkness? Or will you be a good girl and help? If you don’t help, more people will be hurt and killed – and it will be all your fault.”
Of course she didn’t want to have to go back to her cell! And of course she didn’t want anyone else to get hurt - it was horrible! But - I don’t want to have to hurt anyone ever again, Melody whispered. Ever since the voices had come to visit her, her days and nights had seemed far less lonely. They were always there, and they seemed to like her.
That’s ok – you won’t have to! The strongest voice reassured her. That’s right. We can do it for you!
You will share your power with us –
And we will share our power with you!
Troubled, Melody chewed on her lip and surveyed the field of men on the other side of the glen. From this distance, she could not make out anything other than ant like shapes moving about the hill. They seemed so far away, and so innocent. How could they hurt anyone, when they were do far away?
Are you bad people? She finally demanded. Her father’s voice was rising, his grip tightening painfully.
Of course not, several voices hastened to reassure her, laughter in their undertones. Have we every hurt you?
Or done something to make you cry?
Have we hurt your feelings?
Or struck you?
Have we locked you in the dungeon?
Or told you that you are stupid, useless?
Or have we kept you company?
It was true – they had treated her better than her father, or the schoolmaster, or anyone. They had always been there for her. Nooo, she dragged the word out, chewing on her lip again. You’ve always been there…You’ve been nice…
We can even make your father go away forever…
She shook her head violently.
…or not, your decision…
If I say yes…do you promise to be my friends? Forever and ever? It would be nice, to have friends…
Dozens of skeletal hands were proffered, appearing out of the darkness in her mind’s eye. We have an agreement, Melody Justeen. Friends – now and forever.
Tentatively, she child placed her hands in the large ones offered, looking up into the darkness at the glowing eyes above. You look kind of scary – you should try to look less scary, because you are my friends, she said, and a smile broke across her freckled face. Her face fell, and she shivered. Please, don’t let me hear them scream…
Forever, the voices echoed in unison, laughter rising to an inferno, blocking out the sounds of screams as vines whipped from the earth, grasping and tearing like the hands of the dead.
Ademar lurched backwards so hard, freed himself from the vines with such force, that he sat directly onto his backside with a grunt.