He didn’t know how long he’d been there. Aleida would occasionally give him some strange tasting substance to drink, but she wouldn’t speak to him. This suited him just fine. With every drink he took, the effort to speak became near impossible. He had noticed he was getting less and less from her, and it was now easier to open his eyes.
His thoughts were constantly turning toward Morgan. Was he alright? Was he safe? Was he even still alive? Did he even really want to know the answers to his questions? As long as he didn’t know, he could imagine that Morgan was well and safe.
Suddenly, the door to the Menatia Chamber slammed open and he raised his head as best he could to see a disheveled, seething Basil.
Basil slowly made his way to the small table before the bed and stooped to pick up an ornate dagger. Every step he took toward him, Beau could feel the power radiating from the blade. It almost felt like a vibration, the magic was so powerful. Beau couldn’t believe such a magical object could even be held, and yet, there it was, now inches from his face. Basil leaned threateningly over him and roughly grabbed a handful of Beau’s silvery hair.
“How long have you known?” he growled.
“Known what?” Beau whispered.
Basil tightened his grip.
“How long have you known what I am?”
Beau frowned slightly and tried to shake his head. His mind felt so foggy, it was hard to process what was happening.
“I don’t. . . I don’t understand.”
Basil leaned down, the dagger dangerously close to Beau’s face, and whispered, “I’m a Hybrid. Don’t lie and tell me you didn’t know.”
He shoved Beau away from him forcefully.
“Ninety-three years and not a peep from anyone. It’s impressive really,” Basil turned around and waved his fingers toward the door. Beau heard footsteps and the sound of something being pulled across the stone floor.
“But, we’re not here to deal with hidden secrets. You’ll pay for that later,” Basil said as he looked at the small group entering the chamber. “I’m not completely heartless, you see. I’ve brought what’s left of your little toy to you. He should be here when he loses you forever, don’t you think?”
“No,” Beau whispered. He mustered what little energy and strength he had to pull himself out of the pillows surrounding him. There, on the floor, between the boots of two Elven soldiers, was a bloody and broken body. A Human maid stood close as well.
He couldn’t speak more. He hadn’t the energy. Tears began falling steadily down his cheeks. Tears that only months ago he would have welcomed. Now he truly understood why his people fought so hard against emotion. It hurt.
“That’s all? His name? Can’t you give him lovely little platitudes? Can’t you tell him how much you love him? Can’t you tell him everything will be alright and you’ll both be together forever? Pathetic,” Basil sneered. Basil ran the blade through Beau’s hair, spreading the shorn locks around him.
“The Zeluria likes to have a taste of you before its magick fills you.”
“Basil, no matter what you may think, I will be no more a part of you than I am now.”
Basil narrowed his eyes.
“Once upon a time, dear cousin, there lived a lovely Elven maiden. She made a lot of very bad decisions and fell in love with a man not of her family’s choosing. Please, stop me if you’ve heard this one.”
Beau did know this story. It was a tale he had spent many a night telling to a very young Basil. The story of the Tabad Ra, and what it meant, what a hopeful ritual it was. But, he couldn’t focus on Basil’s voice. He didn’t think he had any feeling left in his heart for the man anymore. Instead he focused all his energy on Morgan, motionless and moaning on the floor.‘Morgan, please, I know you can hear me. Ever since our stay at Lindenwood, I’ve had the thought that you could hear me this way. Please, say something. Please let me know if you are all right.’
Waiting was an agony.
“The young Elven maid decided to run away from her people to be forever with this lowly man, but her plans were discovered and they were both captured by her father, the king.”
‘I am okay. I hurt.’
Beau almost cried out from the joy. Maybe things were not so bad they could not recover. Maybe this wasn’t the end.‘I am so sorry. I. . . I hurt you needlessly. I was trying to save you from this. ‘
‘Beau, it doesn’t matter. I love you and I know you love me, but you must promise me one thing.’
“They tied her down with enchanted rope and disfigured her lovely face with an enchanted dagger, the Zelura. Much to their dismay, the markings they had used to make her unwanted, showed upon her suitor’s face as well.”
‘They have my sister. Protect her, because I cannot.’
“So, for many centuries, Elven men and women undertook the ceremony to see if the one they loved was truly meant for them. And eventually, the ceremony of Tabad Ra devolved into more of a political power play. You see, it’s very painful, and only one or two ceremonies ever had the desired effect. But, it was discovered that whoever wielded the knife ended up with a certain sort of power over the recipient.”‘I promise.’
‘Thank you. Always be with her, as I will be with you.”
“You really should close your eyes. I would hate to end up blinding you.”
Aleida began a low Elven chant, and Beau watched as the blade lowered and dug into his skin, dragging down over his eyebrow and into his cheekbone.
Pain flooded through his body, stinging and burning. It felt as though his entire being were filled with fire. He had resolved to never scream, not for Basil. He would enjoy it too much.
Instead a sharp scream was emanating from Morgan. He made out the silhouette of the maid running to his side and holding down the thrashing man until suddenly, he stopped.
Aleida looked sharply at Basil.
“What is going on?” she asked.
Basil shook his head. “Girl, what’s happened?”
“His face, it’s been cut. I don’t know how,” she said. “And he’s not . . . he’s not breathing. He’s dead.”
Bryony had been crying for hours. Her head was pounding and her throat was raw. Her body was still shaking and heaving from the dry sobs escaping from between her lips. All she wanted was to go home and sleep in her bed and have her mother tell her that she’d just been having a nightmare, nothing more. The truth was, her mother was dead and this wasn’t a nightmare. She had listened and screamed as she’d heard the horrible sounds coming from her brother. Whip cracks and wailing had been her accompaniment until, suddenly silence. And that silence was worse than any scream could have been. She didn’t know if Morgan was alive or dead or even if he was still in his cell. She didn’t even have the wherewithal to look up when she heard the distinctive tapping of footsteps.
“My dear child, what has been done to you?”
She jerked her head up, hope shining in her eyes.
“Daddy!” she cried out and ran toward the bars of her cage. Cassius reached toward her and did his best to embrace her. She hadn’t called him by Daddy for years.
“I wanna go home. When can I come home?”
He sighed. He knew this was the first thing she would ask and he knew the answer was not going to be easy for either of them.
“My dear girl, I need you to keep being strong. Everything is out of my control and it’s been decided that you have to stay here.”
“But, why? I didn’t do anything wrong!” Once more, tears began falling down her cheeks. “I don’t care if I sound like a spoiled rotten crybaby! I want my bed and my room and Hector! He’s coming for me, he said so himself, and he doesn’t lie! And he won’t know where I am if I’m not home!”
The child was well on her way toward some sort of breakdown, Cassius knew she couldn’t take much more. He’d never felt so helpless in his life and he didn’t know what he could do to make her pain go away. He moved away from the bars and sat dejectedly upon a wooden stool and watched his beloved daughter cry.
“Tell her why, Cassius.”
Cassius looked toward the doorway and repressed a cringe and a scowl.
“What do you want Basil?”
“I want you to stop lying to your children. Tell her why she has to stay. Tell her what you agreed to, before she was even born.”
“Why are you really here, Basil? You didn’t come all this way for this.”
“No, I’ve come to inform you that your son’s sentence has been carried out. The boy is dead.”
“No, Morgan,” Bryony whispered. She wasn’t sure how much more she could handle.
“Now,” Basil said, “tell her why she cannot go home.”
“Why?” Cassius asked, “So you can gloat at her misfortune? No time even to mourn?”
“Now or later makes no difference. You’ll have still been a liar for the duration of her life and her brother’s. Did he know?”
“Stop it!” Bryony shouted. “Stop! What are you talking about Basil?”
The room was quiet for a moment. All she could hear was the sound of her breathing.
Finally, Basil turned away from her father and addressed her.
“You’re not allowed to ever return home. My uncle owns you, and your father agreed to it.”
“What?” The word really did no justice.
“Basil, don’t,” Cassius said.
“Don’t you think she should know? Don’t you think she should understand what is going to happen to her? What’s expected of her?”
Before Cassius could answer, Bryony asked, “What do you mean, your uncle owns me?”
Instead of Basil answering, Cassius spoke up.
“He means what it sounds like. Vargus owns you and is the master of your fate from this day forward,” Cassius placed his head in his hands. He had always known this day would come, but he had never prepared for it. “Before you were born, before your brother was born, your mother and I made a deal. We made a deal to keep our children safe from all the Elves in Elven Glade. We signed a contract stating our first born would only interact within Human society; any subsequent children would become wards of the land when they reached a suitable age. I walked away from my position at court and was allowed to legally marry your mother.”
Bryony stood there, blinking and breathing. She looked first to her father, slumped on the stool and then to Basil. A horrible realization dawning upon her.
“Suitable age? Suitable age for what, exactly?”
“Breeding,” Cassius whispered.
Bryony collapsed onto the floor.
“Bryony!” Cassius called out and rushed to the bars.
“I . . . I can’t. Please, please go.” She pushed away from the hand reaching toward her. It was too much to process. Her mother and brother were dead, her father had given her away before she’d even existed, and she was trapped behind bars and alone.
She didn’t know how long she was alone on the floor. She didn’t know when her father left, but she knew that he had when the door to her cell opened and she realized Basil was beside her.
“This will all turn out . . .”
“All right?” Bryony hissed. “I may be upset, but I’m not a fool.”
Basil smiled slightly. The girl had spirit, he’d give her that.
“No, maybe not all right, but tolerable maybe, someday.”
He stood up and pulled her to her feet. Her knees buckled, either from exhaustion or weakness, he didn’t know, but he caught her and held her before she hit the ground.
“I’m sorry,” she said.
“If there is one thing you must learn about living among Elves, it is to never be sorry. They will have no sympathy for you. Have none for them.”
He seemed like he wanted to help her, but she couldn’t figure out why. He was a stranger to her, but here he was, holding her like a child, and carrying her away from this place. She didn’t know where, and she didn’t care.
“Basil?” she asked.
“Yes, my dear,” he said. Innocent little terms of endearment would be a nice start to getting her to trust him completely.
“Will you promise me something?”
“Please, don’t try to hide the truth from me. Be the one person I can trust here.”
He smiled down upon her and felt her small fingers gripping his shoulder tightly. The poor girl was almost taking the fun out of it all.
“I would be happy to keep that promise.”
It was quiet and warm. Beau realized he was no longer in the Menatia Chamber. He heard the sound of a skirt rustling, and felt something warm pressing lightly against his face. He must have passed out in the Chamber and he had no memory of being taken away.
He kept his eyes shut and asked who ever was around to hear him, “Where am I?”
“Oh, Celeste, he’s awake!” He heard his mother’s voice. He slowly opened his eyes, afraid the light here would also be blinding. His mother sat next to him on a bed and a young servant girl stood by holding some sort of jar.
“What is that?” he asked, his voice hoarse.
“It’s salve. Some sort of old world remedy for your wounds,” Imelda said. “What magic cannot heal, herbs can. The Tabad Ra wound usually requires both, at least for the pain. Are you in pain? Does it still hurt you?”
She brushed his hair from his face and he could see she was fighting tears.
“Your hair,” she said. “I shall send for a hair dresser and we’ll try to fix it.”
“Don’t be upset mother. We both knew this wasn’t going to have a fairy tale ending.”
“I did hope it would, for you at least.”
He was tired, so tired, and he let his own tears flow.
“I can’t pretend I don’t feel anything. Not anymore,” a loud sob escaped his lips. “They killed him. Basil and Aleida. They are the cause of this and I don’t think there’s anything I can do. Murdering the person I love most in this world is legal.”
Imelda leaned over him and held her son as he cried. He may not be able to keep his emotions in check now, but he would soon enough. For now, she would let him grieve. She looked at Celeste and nodded slightly, indicating the girl should leave. Servants were notorious for gossiping, and, while she knew this would be common knowledge soon, she had no desire to feed the rumor mill.
When his tears lost their intensity, she pulled away and spoke to him in as frank a tone as she could muster.
“I know this is difficult. I know you will never get over what has happened, and I’m not so evil a person to ask that of you. What I will ask of you is something you will detest much more.”
She looked away from him. Even she could not stomach what Vargus had planned.
“Your father . . .”
“No,” he said.
She took a deep breath.
“It is repugnant, I know, but so much more has happened than what you are aware. He means to marry you to the Casald girl, and it will happen. He means to see you provide an heir to take your place when both of you are gone, and it will happen. He wants to bring what is left of the Alau family to utter ruin and if you cannot be bothered by anything other than your sadness, it will also happen. Cassius’s daughter is in our charge now, considered little more than a piece of property by Vargus. Will you, in your misery, feed her to the wolves as well?”
He sat quietly for a few moments. He remembered. He had made a promise.
Imelda rose from the bed and headed for the door. She turned once to look once more at her son.
“I will always do what I must for you. Please think upon what I’m asking. The girl is young and lost and alone. I know you feel you are as well, but she needs you. She needs a friend here. This place will break her.”
He watched her leave, and he felt more tears threatening to fall.‘How can I help her, when I couldn’t even help Morgan?’
“Are you kidding me, Greta?” a young, incredulous man asked.
“No,” Greta said. “We risked a hell of a lot to get him out here, alive. You have to help him.”
“Greta,” said the Elven soldier standing next to her. “Give the boy a break. Look at what this guy looks like. I’d be surprised if he makes it through the night.”
“Miles, if anyone can heal him, she can.” She turned to look at the young man. “Well?”
“Why? Why this guy?”
“Look at his face,” she said.
“What about it?”
“He has the Tabad Ra,” Miles said. “And he’s a Hybrid.”
“So, I take it that means you’ll help him?” Greta asked.
“I think that means I have to. Load him into the wagon and help me bring him to the house.” He looked at the bloody mess of a man at his feet, barely breathing.
“What’s his name?”
“Morgan. His name is Morgan,” Greta said.
A/N: Oh my good lord! A whole year in between updates! I hope this was worth the wait and I promise it won't happen again.