4. Forming Bonds

Chapter 4

Forming Bonds

            I wasn’t worried for no reason- or rather it wasn’t because of Satel that I was panicking over Cegil’s absence. It was a sick welcome to have the distraction, but there was nothing good over the thought that something could be wrong. It wasn’t like my guardian to be gone for this long, but my hands were tied at the moment.

Once they figure out that I was gone from my cell, the authorities would probably search for me. I couldn’t wander about like before anymore. Not only that- I wasn’t about to leave the room in my state of undress. My nightwear consisted of a white, long sleeved nightgown that reached to my ankles. It had a square neckline hemmed with lace that covered enough of my chest to be considered decent, but the material was thin. It was perfect to wear to bed during the heated nights of the Wastelands, but it wasn’t good for searching around town.

Running around in a nightgown in public was highly improper. …Though it was funny that I actually cared about that. It wasn’t so much that I cared what others thought about me- it was just that I didn’t want to give the impression that I was some loose woman. That was an invitation to other men that it was okay to seduce me.

But my worries ended when the door suddenly opened and Cegil came in. He did appear a little worried, but then he let out a deep breath and seemed more relieved when he saw that I was in the room.

“Where have you been?” We asked at the same time. My voice was louder but his undertone of concern was greater. There was an awkward pause between us as we tried to figure out who should speak first. I wasn’t in the mood to reveal what I had been up to the past few hours, since doing so would make me think about Satel again, so I decided to take the careful approach.

“I-I actually went out to look for you, you know. It’s not like you to disappear like that,” I admitted carefully, trying not to outright accuse him of anything. He stared at me for a long while to evaluate my mannerisms before he walked over to his bed and sat down. It was near impossible to lie to him since he knew me so well. That’s why I chose not to mention anything else other than my initial reason for leaving the room.

“Where else did you go?” I flinched at his question- he seemed to know more than I was aware of.

“To the tavern…with Satel,” I muttered the last part quietly and hoped he wouldn’t be too upset with me. He had warned me to stay away from his brother and now I understood why- Satel was worse trouble than I am.

Cegil crossed his arms and that was the only sign I got that he was disappointed and suspicious of me. “I heard that a young girl had been apprehended for the murder of an Earl. Seeing you here made me think it was not you, but now I am not so sure. What did you do at the tavern?”

Ah, so that was why he was worried- he wanted to make sure I wasn’t that girl. But unfortunately, I couldn’t ease his fears. “It’s not so much what I did, but what Satel did. I was just arrested the a result.”

“…I feared you would say something of the kind. That falcie has no regard for his allies or family members- he simply does as he pleases,” Cegil said after a long sigh. I was relieved that he didn’t think I was at fault, but I still felt bad that I dumped all of these problems in to his lap. “I had gone to the jail to confirm if you were the ‘girl’ everyone was whispering about, but you had already escaped. How did you get out without anyone’s knowledge?”

“Well…um…” I began as I tried not to blush, “Satel came back and helped me out…”

There was another pregnant pause. Cegil didn’t seem to like what he had heard and his brows furrowed slightly. “At what cost? He rarely grants favors without expecting something in return.”

“Er…” That was all I managed to get out. The last thing I wanted to tell him was that some man managed to con a kiss out of me. The whole magic of a ‘first kiss’ was lost to me so I didn’t really lament over that. I had a reputation of being ‘untouched’ to keep and Cegil’s opinion of me mattered. It was true that I had little choice at the time and the kiss was only a barter to get out of jail, but I didn’t want to admit that Satel outsmarted me or give any impression that I liked it in any way, which I didn’t.

…But as much as I wanted to believe that it was nothing, I still felt my face grow hot as I recalled the feeling of him pressed against me in vivid detail. To my inner embarrassment, Cegil caught the blush on my face, too. Thankfully, he chose not to call me out on it.

“Do you owe him your life?” he wondered, making sure that I wasn’t in a serious debt with the younger falucite. I shook my head and watched as he sighed again. “Then I suppose he asked for something insignificant. You do not have to tell me what.”

“Yeah…insignificant…” I muttered hollowly. Whatever Satel did to me didn’t really feel that unimportant. I wasn’t sure why I was even feeling this way. When I started to remember that moment, I felt warm inside- and a little jittery. Was that a normal reaction to a kiss?

I quickly pushed it all from my mind and tried to focus more on Cegil. He still hadn’t told me where he had gone. “Where did you go earlier? Were you looking for that informer?”

I regretted asking that from the moment the words left my mouth. I knew better than to inquire about his personal business. My guardian pursed his lips some and refused to say anything. It was always like this- if I tried to pry in his past or his business, he would distance himself away from me for a while. In a way, I understood why he did it- if anyone asked about my past, I would remain tight lipped as well. There were too many sad stories to tell and I just didn’t want to remember any of them.

“…I suppose that is what I was doing,” he finally admitted in a quiet tone. I was amazed that he had said anything at all. “I was mostly trying to see if anyone would approach me. We have deviated very far from the path, so if Satel is correct and I am being led, then those pulling my strings should be panicking.”

“I see…” I replied before I decided to push my luck a little more, “Did anyone come to you? …You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to.”

“No,” he answered as he shook his head. “I do not mind telling you. I trust you and know that you are capable of keeping secrets.”

Sadly, it didn’t occur to me that the reason Cegil kept me out of his business before was because of trust. At the very beginning, he wouldn’t have reason to believe that I could keep things to myself. I wondered when I proved myself to him- I could’ve been more involved in his life if I had known.

“Unfortunately,” he continued while glancing at me, “I cannot give you too much information for the time being- at least not until Satel loses interest in you. He could easily trick you into revealing too much and I would not like to have him involved at all.”

“……Hey!” I shouted after a while when I caught the implication. “I won’t let some slimy bastard like him manipulate me for anything!”

“Yes, because you did such a fine job before when you were arrested for the murder of an Earl,” he muttered humorlessly as he began to lie back on his bed.

“D’ah!” I grunted as I hung my head in embarrassment. There he went patronizing me again! But I suppose I had to concede to Cegil’s concerns this time since he had a point. I was used to outsmarting and tormenting other humans, but Satel was out of my league. My only experience in dealing with falucite was Cegil, and he didn’t act anything like his younger brother.

I decided to leave it at that. Cegil was here and he wasn’t in any foreseeable danger- and I was safely by his side. But… I frowned some as I settled into my bed and thought about my current situation. “What are we going to do now? I’m a fugitive and I doubt I’ll be able to get out of town easily. Should we actually leave now before it’s too late?”

“It would be pointless to leave now. There is nowhere we can go at this hour and it is too dangerous to sleep outside,” he responded before he started to think. “…You need not worry about our leaving. I have a plan…though I fear you will not like it.”

In other words, he wasn’t going to tell me what it was or why we’re taking it. I let out a sigh and told him that I understood the plan before I got up and blew out the lamps. I trusted Cegil and knew that even if I didn’t like the plan, he was only doing it for my own good. Besides, he could’ve been planning to punish me with it since I did disobey him.

Though unfortunately, it wasn’t intended as punishment. He was actually digging my grave without even realizing it.

********************

“What? I don’t owe you a thing!”

I stirred at that sound and found myself waking to an argument. It took me a while to realize that there was another person in the room with us. I kept my eyes closed and listened in as Cegil’s voice took over.

“But you do. You invited us here as your guests and you should care about our well being while we are here. But thanks to your inconsideration, Dantia is unable to freely walk out of the city. Her safety is your responsibility as a host to your territory- or have you forgotten your manners?”

Heh, Cegil was a master at sending others through a guilt trip when they’re wrong. …He’d done it to me dozens of times. It wasn’t until I heard a masculine hiss of displeasure when I realized who the other person was. Satel.

“Tch! Fine. What do you want me to do?” he muttered in an irritated tone. My eyes shot open and I found myself sitting up to make sure I was hearing right. Did Cegil really make him see reason and forced him to help us out?

My action caught their attention and soon they were both staring at me. I noticed that Satel was standing at the end of my bed and had a deep frown on his features until his eyes met mine. It didn’t take long for his expression to soften into one of his mischievous looks as his lips quirked into that familiar grin.

“Morning ‘Tia, did you have pleasant dreams?” he wondered nicely before his eyes darkened into a near seductive appearance, “I know I had some pleasurable dreams last night.”

I wasn’t too sure what he was implying, but I didn’t like how he was looking at me. I let out a growl before I flung back my covers and quickly got out of bed. I noticed his eyes glanced down to view my exposed legs before my nightgown covered them again. I was about to storm over and give him a piece of my mind for what he did to me last night, but Cegil blocked me before I could. I glared at the blonde falucite while he smirked back at me. Wait a moment… did he call me by a nickname? Why? Was my name not short enough or something?

“I am aware of your grievance with Satel, but I must ask you to bear with him for today. He will be taking you to Vildine while I head there on foot,” Cegil explained before Satel crossed his arms and gave him a look of disbelief.

“Why there of all places? That’s even further away from the homestead.”

“It is my business and you need not be involved,” my guardian replied with a sharp look to his eyes. He then inclined his head and added, “Not unless you wish to discuss more about the elders and the Daedeleth clan.”

“Ah, touché,” Satel replied with guarded features before he toyed with the brim of his über hat in an annoyed gesture.

For all I knew, they could’ve been discussing a lot of things while I was asleep, but I found myself not caring. I was more concerned with the fact that Cegil was making me go off with him despite his prior warnings that I should stay away from his brother. How was I to be sure that I wouldn’t end up in prison again, only this time in Vildine, and without my guardian around to bail me out?

“Are you really telling me to go with him- alone?” I inquired of my guardian to make sure he was thinking it through.

“You should not be with him for long. He will only take you to Vildine and leave you alone for the rest of the day. I should be there shortly after noon so get a room and stay at the inn until I arrive,” he ordered calmly, knowing that I would obey. The fact that he was telling me what to do was an act of discipline so that I would repent for my foolish actions last night. I would be free to do as I please any other time.

“Why do you have to travel alone? Can’t he teleport you, too?” I wondered, hoping to spare myself with having to spend even a minute alone with the guy.

“Yeah, Cegil, why do you want to go alone?” Satel queried after me with a smug look. Damn. I didn’t mean to give him any cannon fodder to hound my guardian with. I didn’t think Cegil would have any other ulterior motive behind his actions. But I had to admit that there were a number of other ways to get me out of town without having to be separated from him for the entire day. For instance, why couldn’t Satel just teleport me outside of town?

But then Cegil dispelled any reason to suspect anything was amiss when he raised an eyebrow and inquired, “Would you teleport me there?”

“No,” the über hat falucite replied in a scoff before he glowered at him. Cegil then gave a light shrug to tell me that was the answer to my question. Figures that the reason would be because Satel was such a jerk… but if that was the case, then why was he willing to take me anywhere? If he ‘owed’ us, as Cegil insinuated, then doesn’t he have a responsibility to help his brother out, too?

“I do not mind if Dantia traveled with me, but I would rather avoid having her travel in the heat of the desert again,” he explained in answer to Satel’s question. “She is strong, but she is still only human.”

“Hmph, more like you’re trying to take advantage of me. Whatever.” Satel shrugged dismissively before he grinned at me. “At least I get a lovely traveling companion for the day.”

I glared at him as a warning to not try anything funny. I didn’t care if he gave me all the money and alcoholic drinks in the world- there was no way in five hells that I was going to let him trick me again.

“You are not to harass her or trick her into playing your games. Simply take her to Vildine, escort her to the inn, then leave,” Cegil reminded him sternly. The younger man scoffed again and stared at the taller man with half lidded eyes.

“How ironic. You’re beginning to sound more like father,” he said with a sneer. That seemed to be the figurative slap to the face for Cegil as he let out a genuine, unsuppressed glare. I was surprised that he was actually expressing something and had to wonder what his relationship was like with their father. I wasn’t sure if there was bad blood or if Satel actually committed a faux pas.

“Hmph. I am surprised you even remember him. You were barely twenty when he and mother passed away,” Cegil responded rather coldly, earning a guilty look from his younger brother. …So their parents were already dead. Maybe he was actually very close to his father and the mere mention of it hurt Cegil badly. I could relate to that very well…

“Alright, I’ll take care of her,” Satel muttered, sounding desperate to change the subject. He then turned to me and wondered, “Ready to go?”

“Does it look like I’m ready?” I growled as I gestured to my nightclothes. “Get out so I can change- both of you.”

I couldn’t believe they forgot that I wasn’t decent… Then again, I couldn’t believe that I allowed Satel to see me like this. I should’ve shoved his ass out the moment I got up. Satel was the first to leave, his braided hair swished behind him as he moved at a relaxed pace. Cegil hesitated and leaned close to me so he could talk to me privately.

“I truly do apologize for this, Dantia. In no way am I using you as a distraction nor am I trying to hide anything from you. Vildine is very far away from here and I trust that Satel would watch over you should something happen- even despite the fact that I told him to stay away,” he informed me while bowing his head. Yeah, I believed that- Satel would most likely do the opposite of what others told him. Great…that meant he was going to bother me all day.

“Don’t worry about it. I trust you- I just wish I didn’t have to deal with him for a while,” I reassured him before I gestured for him to go. He then informed me to knock on the door once I was presentable again.

I tried not to think about it while I was getting dressed, but there was something in Cegil’s last words that disturbed me a little. He was acting as if he was expecting something to happen and that he was making sure that I would be cared for in the worst-case scenario. I desperately hoped that wasn’t the situation- he did, after all, indicate that he wanted Satel to watch over me. Elit forbid!

But no, Cegil wouldn’t lie to me. He said he wasn’t hiding anything from me so maybe he was just being prepared. With everything that had been happening since we’ve come to the Wastelands, almost anything could go wrong. …And Satel’s presence was definitely not improving anything. I wasn’t sure what his involvement was in all of this, but I was getting the impression that he wasn’t someone to trust.

I grumbled some as I searched through my travel bag. I only had a limited number of trousers and dresses, so I’d often had to wear the same thing several times before I could get them washed. It wasn’t really a problem until we started walking around in the Wastelands- because of the heat, my clothing started to carry a stench faster than usual. There weren’t many inns that offered to clean laundry and most towns and cities had an ordinance that limited the use of water per day- understandable since they had to conserve the precious liquid.

I was hoping to get away with wearing my sage green dress another day, but thanks to the new blood stains, I had to change into my last clean dress. It was a pale blue color that almost had a grey tint to it and it was in the same button up design as the other. Unfortunately, it seemed that my old green one was going to be permanently ruined. I was going to need to save up money to buy a new one…

When I was done, I went over to knock on the door and then wandered over to the bathroom to do my ablutions. I heard their voices in the other room, but I ignored them- though it was hard when I heard a particularly loud complaint about how long I was taking. It wasn’t as if I could help it- humans had to clean themselves or else we’d stink. I wasn’t about to irritate Cegil’s sensitive nose with my humanly smell.

Unlike most children, I had not had access to sweets, so I maintained a healthy set of dentition. They were nowhere near as sharp as a demon’s, nor were they strong enough bite through stones and soft metals like the falucite, but I was grateful to have what others would consider perfectly straight teeth- I wouldn’t be able to eat my tough meats or hard cheeses without them.

I did dawdle a little by making faces at myself in the mirror- a favored pastime where I would practice looking intimidating or hideous to others. I had a slightly petite nose that was hard to wrinkle the right way without making myself appear cute instead. I hated being young and occasionally adorable…

I emerged from the bathroom feeling a little more refreshed as I headed back over to my travel bag to retrieve my bottle of perfume. At first I hated having to wear the stuff, but I didn’t have much of a choice. I only used a few squirts a day for Cegil’s sake and I only purchased light fragrances that didn’t over power the nose.

The men had quieted down when I reentered the room and seemed to watch me as I pulled out a hairbrush and began to work on my hair. Since I often had my hair back in a braid, when I let it down it turns wavy. It would probably be naturally straight if I ever left it down long enough, though.

“I shall leave now,” Cegil announced, seeing that I was almost ready to go. “Please be gone before the maids come to clean the room- and stay out of trouble.”

“Okay, I’ll try my best not to do anything noticeable,” I promised him before he walked out the door, taking the room key with him. I was then left alone with Satel. At first it was eerily quiet as he stared at me from his spot against the wall, but I just continued to go about my business and started to braid my hair.

“Leave it down. You look lovely that way.”

I paused and glanced over at him. He was actually being earnest in his request- there was no grin on his face or anything that made me feel like he was trying to secretly insult me. I numbly looked away and wondered how I could respond to that. I never really received compliments like that before- I was more used to men trying to tell me how much they wanted me in bed with them.

But then I remembered that this was the same man that left me to get arrested and tricked me into kissing him. I easily fought down the blush that was threatening to surface and forced a scowl on my face. “I can’t have my hair down- it’ll get in the way.”

Suddenly I felt my strands slide out from my fingers by some invisible force before something tightened slightly at the back of my head. I carefully reached back to find that my hair was braided and that the end was already tied off with my favorite velvet burgundy band.

“There. It’s braided,” he announced in a proud tone as he lowered his hand. For a moment, all I could do was open and close my mouth as I struggled what to make of the kind gesture. Why was he not acting like his usual manipulative self all of a sudden?

“Th-thank you,” I eventually managed to get out. I knew my manners, but I didn’t think I’d have to practice them to him of all people.

That darn smirk soon reappeared on his face as he pushed himself away from the wall and made a dramatic shrug. “Finally! I got some gratitude from you. I was beginning to think you would never forgive me.”

I was flabbergasted a second time. Did he only say all of those things to get me to forgive him?

“Don’t think for a moment that I’ll forget about last night!” I yelled, sneering at him as I turned to stuff my nightgown and other items into my traveling bag. “I’m not some floozy you can kiss whenever you want. I only did it to get out of jail.”

It was Satel’s turn to be stunned now. I caught his eyes widening for a second before he shook his head and appeared a little upset. “Wait- you’re angry over the kiss? I thought this was about the Earl.”

…Actually, I had forgotten about him. I couldn’t really stay mad about that for long- otherwise I’d be a hypocrite. I’d be lying if I said that I hadn’t framed some of the dumber members of my race for crimes that I committed. Though the charges I’ve racked up were nowhere near a murder conviction. In the end, my grievance with that came from the fact that I was the ‘idiot’ this time.

“Forget the Earl! You humiliated me last night-”

“Over a kiss?” He interrupted me in an incredulous tone, “I didn’t think it would be that big a deal unless…”

Suddenly an enlightened look came across his features as he figured something out. “You’ve never been kissed before, have you?”

“What’s it to you?” I shouted, embarrassed that a squeak managed to get out. I then furiously shook my head. “It wouldn’t have mattered if I had been kissed before- I was still forced into it.”

“…But did you at least enjoy it?” He wondered in a strangely concerned tone. Why was he suddenly bothered that I wasn’t a willing partner? Did he really think I would suddenly be okay with it despite the fact that he had to coerce me? I couldn’t even tell if I enjoyed the kiss since I didn’t know the difference between a good or bad one.

I pulled the strap of my bag over my head and let it rest across my chest. When I faced the falucite, I was a little shocked to see how much this was bothering him. He actually appeared a little confused as he thought over my lack of an answer.

“Look- this conversation is over,” I announced in exasperation. I was desperate to move on and put it behind me- the sooner he teleported me to Vildine, the better.

“No, no… this won’t do,” he whispered to himself before he brought his gloved hand and gently chewed on the leather covering his thumb. Oh please- did I really bruise his ego because I didn’t fall head over heels for him or something? I was in no mood to deal with strange behavior.

“Hey! I’m ready to go now,” I called out to get his attention. It was a little disturbing to see him stare at me like he had never seen me before. It wasn’t like we’ve known each other for a long time, but this sudden change was far too bizarre for me to consider normal.

Satel didn’t say anything as he walked over to me and grabbed me by the arm. Before I knew it, I was outside at the entrance of some town- Vildine, I hoped. I was relieved to find that it was a small town and that the people were happily working outside like there was nothing wrong. I wasn’t sure how far this town was from Osel, but it seemed it was nestled close to the edge of the Wastelands.

I could see an overcast of clouds in the sky, proving that it was possible for this place to get some rain. They even had some grass growing in the shaded areas, close to homes. It appeared more like a simple country town, unlike the other places I had seen out in the Wastelands. Their houses were made of stone, but their roofs consisted of planks of wood or thatched with dried grass. I glanced behind me, out the town gates, and found that there were plateaus and other tall rock structures, proving that we were fairly far north. Perhaps we were past the canyons that separated the northern tip from the rest of the dry plains.

I was about to head in and search for an inn, but I noticed that Satel was still holding my arm. I tried to shake him off, but he refused to let go. It was then that I noticed the feral look in his eyes under the brim of his über hat. He was completely tense and his jaw was clenched as if he was angry.

“Kiss me,” he ordered in a growl when I glanced up at him questioningly.

“Wha? In your dreams!” I snarled as I tried to yank my arm from his grasp. My actions only made him grip me tighter to the point where I was going to bruise. I decided that I had enough of him and his weird mood and readied my free fist to hit him.

He easily caught my wrist and forced me to face him before he leaned down to where our noses were touching. “I’m not letting this go- I need to know the answer so I can make sure it wasn’t all a mistake.”

What in five hells was he talking about? How was kissing him going to answer anything? And why did I have to do it? If he wanted it so badly he should… wait, no… If I finished that thought, then I would have to admit to myself that I wanted him to kiss me again. Instead of asking him about his request and why he was so adamant about it, I chose to give him a taste of what I did to the other men who insisted on being pushy with me. Satel was going to have to learn that when a lady said ‘no’, it meant ‘no fucking way!’

“Let go o’ me now before ah do somethin’ ah’ll regret,” I threatened in the darkest voice I could muster. I knew that I was skirting around a dangerous situation and that if I did follow through with my threat, my life would be on the line. I couldn’t really explain the shiver that suddenly ran through my body when his lips quirked up in a cruel smile. It was definitely not a shiver of fear, but I couldn’t think of what else it could be.

“Do it. I dare you.” The challenge was set and it was my choice- either I obeyed his command or fight to my death. I wished Cegil were here to help- why didn’t I persist harder in trying to convince him to let me travel with him? I would rather attempt to survive the heat than be killed by a raging falucite.

It was official- I was an idiot. The smart choice would’ve been to kiss him and get it over with, but instead I reared my head back and knocked it against his. Hard. I ignored the massive headache I had just caused and tore away from him while he was still stunned. I then chose to make things worse by kicking him in the stomach to shove him away from me. When I was sure he was far enough away from me, I turned and ran. I wasn’t sure where I could go that would be safe, but I wasn’t that stupid to just stay put and let him kill me.

There were a few people who glanced at me curiously as I made my mad dash down the main road, but I didn’t dare call out for help. There was no human alive who could possibly save me- and I wasn’t about to trust in one either. Suddenly my legs felt like stone and I couldn’t move anymore. I ended up frozen in the middle of the street and realized that Satel must’ve cast some spell on me. It didn’t take long before I could practically feel his arrival behind me. His mouth was near my ear and I shivered again as I felt his hot breath against my skin.

“I suppose I should’ve known better than to dare you. I had forgotten that you’re not the type to respond to intimidation- though I had thought you were smarter than that,” he commented next to my ear. “Why throw away your life over a mere kiss?”

“I have my pride,” I replied in answer to his question. That earned me a bitter chuckle.

“You humans and your foolish pride. What good is pride if it only hurts those around you? Do you think Cegil would want to come here and find you dead?”

…I hadn’t thought of that. Would Cegil miss me if I died? But… did that mean Satel was going to spare me? Or maybe he was giving me one last chance to change my mind. I hated the thought of losing to him, but I should value my life more. It was just a stupid gesture he was asking for- not like he wanted my virginity or something.

But… I wasn’t going to cave in that easily. “If you want a kiss, then fine. What do I get in exchange for doing it?”

“Heh, you’re in no position to make demands,” he replied as came into my limited vision. I couldn’t even move my head all I could do was follow him with my eyes.

“You want me to kiss you willingly. I don’t care if you keep me under this spell all day- I’m not going to fully cooperate unless you make it worth my while,” I told him while trying to sound sure of myself. I wasn’t completely positive that he would still spare me if I insisted on compensation, but if he were really serious about killing me, then he would’ve done it already. Besides, at least I would be choosing to go through with it by my terms.

Satel gave me an appraising look before he crossed his arms and wondered, “Very well- what do you want?”

That was a good question- I wasn’t sure I was going to get this far. There were many things I could’ve asked for, but all I could think about was Cegil and how he seemed to have a lot of issues going on lately. If I could make Satel reveal his intentions, then it could be one less thing Cegil would have to worry about.

“I want you to tell Cegil what he wants to know about your clan elders and all that other stuff.” He seemed surprised that I would request such a thing, but he still ended up shaking his head.

“I couldn’t do that even if I wanted to. I don’t know everything- and what I do know I can’t tell unless he proves himself. Until he goes home and makes peace with the family, I can’t trust him with family secrets. Is there anything else you could want?” he inquired as he stepped closer to me.

He seemed to be telling the truth and I had no reason not to believe him. I distinctly remembered him asking Cegil to go home several times after being asked to reveal any information. It did fit with what he just told me and I couldn’t pressure him any further on the issue. I instead tried to think of something else he could do for my guardian.

“What about your personal goals? Don’t you have your own motives that involve Cegil or could interfere with what he’s doing? Could you tell him any of that?” I wondered, hoping I could at least get that much out of him. I wasn’t sure if it bothered Cegil, but I couldn’t stand his shady nature in addition to the other crap going on. If Satel was willing to give out that information, then I’d feel like I could trust him a little bit more.

The falucite made a face before he dropped his arms and rubbed the back of his neck. “…I could, but I’d rather not.”

“Then that’s what I want,” I replied quickly before I repeated the deal, “In exchange for one kiss, you must tell Cegil about your hidden agenda.”

He had to be pretty desperate for me to kiss him if he agreed to it, but I didn’t care anymore. I was now in a position where I was going to win either way. I wasn’t going to change my mind so he would have to concede to my demands or give up on me altogether. Satel soon let out a sigh when he came to a decision.

“I would only have to tell Cegil? You don’t want to hear it?” he clarified to make sure he understood my demand.

“Just tell Cegil- he’s the one who’s stressed out because of you and whatever else is going on.” I tried to sound condescending, but my voice fell a little flat and sounded more like sarcasm. Thankfully, Satel didn’t confuse my tone as a jest.

“I’ll do it… but are you sure that’s what you want? You don’t want anything for yourself? I could give you the world if you asked for it,” he offered, sounding very serious. I doubted he could really give me the ‘world’, but I got what he meant. With his powers he could do almost anything for me.

“Not interested,” I responded flatly. For all I knew, he could’ve been hoping that I would be greedy and change my mind so that he wouldn’t have to reveal anything to Cegil. Besides, I knew better than that. A wise man once told me ‘Ne’er take anythin’ bigger than yerself- ye’ll only get crushed by the weight’.

He raised an eyebrow in disbelief, but I didn’t care what he thought- I wasn’t relenting on my price. He soon agreed to my terms and I suddenly jerked as the spell he had on me vanished. I automatically started rubbing at my arms to make sure everything was still in working order.

Some part of me wanted to insist that he talk to Cegil first before I followed through with my end of the deal, but I knew that it wouldn’t be possible. He wanted his kiss right then and there. At least I could take solace in the fact that falucite were honorable and didn’t go back on their word. I gave a nervous glance to him and found that he was giving me an expectant look.

My eyes darted around the area and found that no one was paying attention to us. Perhaps they couldn’t see us because of some illusion Satel cast. Still, I didn’t like the thought of being out in the open for it. I let out a frustrated sound before I reached out and grabbed the sleeve of his coat.

“I’m not doing it out here!” I hissed before I pulled him with me.

********************

I wasn’t sure what I was thinking. I had ordered a room at their small inn and pulled Satel in with me. It was another small, two-bed room with a table and a window for Cegil to look out of. The walls were a pastel green and the wood floor was a light golden brown. There was a little more space than the room we had in Osel, placing enough distance between Satel and I for the time being.

I knew it was a private enough place for what I had to do, but the implications of bringing a man who wasn’t related to me in some way into my room made me feel like I was about to do something …naughty. I stood near the bed I claimed as I reminded myself that it was just going to be a kiss.

It shouldn’t be any big deal- people kissed all the time for various reasons outside of love and affection. It held almost no value in humans other than to prove that someone was close enough to be in their inner circle. Sex was the true deciding factor that implied one was in a serious relationship…unless one was a harlot.

However, I had to remember that Satel was no human and that a kiss to him could mean more. Cegil never really mentioned anything to me about falucite courting rituals or how one created bonds with another. For all I knew, this could’ve been a way for falucite to establish friendships with one another or a test of trust. Though it didn’t help that Satel was leering at me like we were going to do something more than kiss…

He was standing by the door and casually locked it as if he thought someone would come and interrupt us. The gesture didn’t help my nerves any. I soon took off my travel bag and tossed it on my bed before I called him over. It was better to get it over with as quickly as possible.

Satel wasted no time crossing the room and then stared down at me as he waited for me to make the first move. I almost glared when I realized the difference in our sizes. He was nowhere near as large as Cegil, but he was still a good amount taller than I was- my nose was even with his chin. He wasn’t making any effort to bend down for me so I fisted my hands into what little of his shirt and vest that was showing through his coat and pulled him down to my level.

At first I smashed my lips against his roughly, betraying my inner frustration, before I eased up a little and attempted to be gentler. He eagerly opened his mouth for me and I hesitantly moved my tongue to explore him like he did with me last night. I wasn’t really sure what I had to do- I mostly copied the same actions he did before. But soon it didn’t matter as he decided to take over.

His hands had been hanging lifeless at his sides, but they soon wrapped around me tightly to keep me from escaping and to hold me up a little so he could have better access. His tongue began to rub against mine more persistently, trying to encourage me to move a certain way. I had wanted it be quick, but it appeared that it was up to him how long the kiss was gong to last. I eventually relaxed, closed my eyes, and then gave him full control.

Since I had stopped trying to figure out what to do, I found that kissing him wasn’t so bad. He had a rather familiar taste to him that had a sweet tang to it. I wondered if that was natural for him or if he had eaten something beforehand. That strange giddy feeling started to well up in me again before I felt myself grow warm. It wasn’t really an unpleasant experience, but it still concerned me that I was feeling anything at all.

I was vaguely aware that Satel was gently guiding me backwards and I nearly gasped into his mouth when I felt the back on my knees come into contact with the edge of my bed. My heart began to pound when I felt us both falling unto the mattress. He angled his mouth even more firmly upon mine before he kissed me rather passionately. I realized that this was going too far and tried to push him off me, but he squirmed above me so he could free his arms and capture my hands.

That funny feeling was starting to build up rapidly and the warmth soon turned into strange heat that seemed to pool in my lower belly. I was starting to have a difficult time breathing and tried to compensate by forcing more air through my nose. Satel soon had my hands pressed against the mattress on either side of my head as he shifted again to hover above me on his elbows.

But when his lower body pressed down to rest against mine, something sparked through me. I couldn’t even describe what it was- it was like a warm wave crashed over me and it felt really, really good. A low moan resounded from my throat and I felt like I had to press up against him to feel that sensation again. But he chose to break off the kiss at that moment to look down at me with a very smug and pleased expression.

“That’s all I needed to know,” he noted in a husky tone, responding to the noise I had made. Slowly, but surely, the fog in my mind began lifting and the good feelings that had been building up were replaced with anger and embarrassment. I realized that this was only to boost his damned ego. He was only upset over the thought that some female wouldn’t respond to him!

“Jackass,” I hissed as angrily as I could. I hated how breathy my voice sounded just then.

“Now, now, no need to get feisty,” he cooed at me as he rubbed his nose against mine. I couldn’t even get another word out before he invaded my mouth once again. I tried to turn my head and keep away from him, but he simply let go of one of my hands and forced me to face him again.

I was about to use my liberated hand to try and push him off, but he suddenly froze and I felt his body grow tense. He quickly raised his head and furrowed his brows as he carefully glanced over to the side. It was then that I sensed something, too- I could hear screaming in the distance as well as a few snarls and growls. Satel slowly rolled off me and stood up so he could walk to the only window in the room.

I followed after him, curious to see what was going on. Because the window was so narrow, I had to lean against his arm so I could see out- it wasn’t a pretty sight. Several lesser demons, led by a few of their greater counterparts were ransacking the town and slaughtering everyone in sight. It was rare to see monsters come into human settlements since humans could easily fight back in groups.

Since I wasn’t a native to these lands, I wasn’t sure what type of demons they were or what unique abilities they had, but I could clearly see that they weren’t starving. They appeared to be killing the villagers for the fun of it, which was a terrible waste. Humans were a precious food source to most monsters so it was highly unusual to see this behavior.

“Why are they doing this?” I found myself asking before I could stop myself. I suppose I should feel some righteous fury at seeing my own kind being slaughtered, but I had a hard time sympathizing. For all I knew, these humans would probably shun and sacrifice me like the people of Port Sibest. I wasn’t about to avenge people I didn’t know personally, let alone hate a race of demons for what they’ve done.

But I wasn’t completely apathetic- I couldn’t stare at the dead bodies without feeling nauseous. I didn’t particularly want anyone to die, nor did I enjoy watching the slaughter. I ended up turning away to stare at the dark red ascot around Satel’s neck so I wouldn’t force myself into a trance to ignore what was going on around me. It was a strange defense mechanism I had to protect me from trauma and to prevent me from having flashbacks. It was more problematic than beneficial since all I did was go into shock and became useless for a few hours, but I could stop it from happening if I focused on other things.

“That’s what I’d like to know,” the falucite muttered in reply, “I can smell that one of them is mated to a member of the Daedeleth clan, but I can’t see why she would-”

Suddenly we could hear a crash from within the inn and assumed that some of the lesser monsters were breaking in. Satel cursed under his breath before he rushed over to my bed and grabbed my travel bag. “We have to go, ‘Tia. I can’t be seen in another clan member’s territory.”

I didn’t have time to think about what he had just said when his arm found its way around my waist and I was pulled against him. We vanished just as the door to my room was broken down by spotted dog-like creatures.

********************

Falucite were the only creatures in the world who could transform a female of the human or greater demon race into one of their own. It wasn’t quite a full transformation- the girl would still technically be a member of her original race, but her lifespan would be extended and she would begin to age as slowly as her mate. This was to compensate for the fact that female falucite were so few in number- the species had to reproduce somehow.

So based on what Satel told me just before our escape, I was able to figure out that we were in the territory of a falucite from the Daedeleth clan and the attack on Vildine was most likely led by the mate of said falucite. …But wasn’t this Daedeleth clan Cegil’s enemy or something? Why did he want to go to a village that was in their territory? …And why couldn’t Satel be seen in that territory? Did he anger someone in their clan? Or was his and Cegil’s clan at war with them? Unfortunately, I didn’t know anything at all, as the über hat falucite soon discovered as he tried to question me.

He had teleported us several miles away from Vildine, close to a large rock formation that offered shade from the heat. We were far enough away to where the clouds over the town couldn’t reach us and the sun was starting to beat down its overbearing rays upon the parched land. The rock was pretty much a lopsided column about fifteen feet high and almost eight feet wide. I was sitting on top a large boulder in its’ shade, while Satel paced around as he tried to figure out the mystery.

“If I had to guess, I suppose Cegil was hoping to travel along the border between clan territories in order to keep in close contact with any informants and to keep a certain distance from the homesteads of both clans,” he guessed to himself, acting as if I wasn’t there. For the time being, I didn’t mind listening to him ramble. At least he wasn’t trying to insinuate that Cegil was some traitor and that he deliberately sent me to the town to get killed.

I honestly believed that Cegil didn’t know that this would happen. But Satel had a feeling that the giant falucite was expecting something- otherwise why did he entrust my care to the likes of him? I hated to admit it- but Satel had a point. Cegil did prepare for everything and even used reverse psychology to ensure that Satel would stay close by me out of defiance to his brother.

But regardless of our different thoughts, there was only one person who could clear it up- Cegil. We had no choice but to wait for him. The falucite teleportation magick was limited- it could only allow the falucite to travel to places they’ve been to before and it worked by summoning the images of the place they wanted to go. Even if Satel had walked the path before, there was no telling how close or far Cegil was at this point.

I squinted my eyes as I glanced back toward Vildine. I was able to see what looked like rising dust in the haze of the heat. “What’s that?”

Satel also gazed in the direction and cursed. “They’re headed this way. Get down!”

I obeyed his command without really thinking and let him guide me by the hand to a narrow niche in the rock formation. We were both able to fit in and were well hidden from anyone who could be traveling on the old dirt path. It wasn’t long before the thundering of several paws on the ground was heard and a stampede of monsters rushed past our position and headed down the path. Thankfully, a demon’s sense of smell was nowhere near as keen as a falucite’s, so Satel and I remained undetected by them.

“They’re heading into our territory,” the platinum blonde noted with a glare before he shook his head in disgust. “Dolig’s mate is overstepping her bounds…”

I didn’t know what that meant and I decided not to think about it since it had nothing to do with me. I was more concerned by the fact that they were headed towards Cegil and I was worried what would happen if they crossed paths. Would they try to attack him?

But just then, another horrid thought came to mind. I remembered hearing Cegil mentioning that the informers ‘must be panicking’. Was this somehow related? “You don’t think they know Cegil is out there?”

Satel’s frown grew deeper as he reflected on my question. “That’s a possibility. In fact, it might even be likely that they knew you would be in that town.”

That was a sobering idea… Could I really have been the reason why Vildine was attacked? If so, why? Was someone trying to hurt Cegil through me? …Had he even done something to anger someone?

“There’s no point in staying here- might as well chase them down and see if they’re after him,” Satel announced he carefully shifted out of the niche. “Follow if you want- otherwise, stay here and I’ll come back for you.”

I watched as the falucite began running down the path in the direction where the monsters were headed. I could tell already that I would have a difficult time keeping up with Satel and I knew it would be near impossible to run in this heat. But I was more concerned for Cegil than for my own health and soon followed after him.

I probably wasn’t going to be of any use, but I knew I couldn’t just stay there and do nothing.

To the Next Chapter

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