Here’s today’s snippet of LIONHEART.
This section continues Chapter Four, and includes a very short Chapter Five.
And as always, this is draft material and things are subject to editing (and possibly deletion), so please don’t share.
Hope you enjoy!
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Chapter Four, concluded
I don’t get it, she thought. When all the members of the Dark Court spoke about Oberon, it was with a combination of love, pain, and respect, as if he was some kind of missing goddamn hero. How could they love this? It felt like a monster contemplating a slaughter. Oh Shaw, what have you gotten yourself into now?
“Wow, do I feel welcome,” she muttered.
The puck appeared to miss her tone of sarcasm completely. “You should. When Annwyn and the troops arrive, storms will rage through the city until ice shards drive through glass and midday will seem black as night. You will want to shelter in place when that happens.”
Surprise took her over. “What’s the difference between our arrival and theirs?”
“Me,” Robin said simply. “Maybe because I was the last one he saw before he fell to his sleep. Maybe because he gave me orders that I’m supposed to follow. No one knows for sure.”
The puck’s odd wording snagged her attention. Fell to his sleep. It sounded ominous, like falling to his death. “Well, I’m glad I took you up on your offer to bring me. I had no idea just getting to him was going to be so difficult. What would happen if we split up?”
“I suggest you do not leave my side.”
Oh, no worries about that. She had no intention of doing so.
By the time they came up to it, the palace was almost anti-climactic. It was, she decided, very palace-y— A large sprawl of a stone building with crenellations along the top, turrets at each end, and rows of columns and arches along the front.
A long scar along the ground that bordered the front of the building might once have been an operational moat. Now that area was nothing more than a frozen smear. The design seemed almost Moorish and looked both attractive and defensible.
Many years of doing her job had taught her one thing: to grab any chance she could at getting her needs met while she could. As they approached the building, she dug into a pack and pulled out a piece of jerky to chew while she considered what came next.
“Would you take me directly to him?” she asked.
The surprise was back in his voice as he said, “I thought we might rest? It has been a long journey for both of us.”
“I know you’re tired, and I am too,” she told him. “But from everything I was told Oberon was supposed to be unconscious, yet his Power feels aware, and it appears to be reacting to stimuli. I would rather introduce myself to your king right away, in case he might be aware enough to take it in.”
“He is asleep.” The flat, uncertain note in the puck’s voice persisted.
She explained, “Comatose patients can be more aware than people think. Sometimes they report hearing voices and conversations that occurred around them while they were in their comas. I would like to know if it is possible to get some kind of idea that Oberon has accepted my presence, because I don’t want to be attacked by some freak of weather while I’m trying to sleep.”
“You make a good point,” he said after a moment. “We will go to see him straight away.”
They had reached the wide, icy palace steps. When Robin drew to a halt, she slid off his back and dragged her packs off with her. Stiffly she bent to unbuckle them while the puck shapeshifted. As she pulled them apart, one of his thin strong hands came into view.
Wordlessly he took the pack that was the lighter one now that she was wearing the cloak. He had born her weight plus both packs through the night, so she wasn’t about to complain. She straightened and shouldered the other one. Then she followed him into the palace.
Inside, it was grand and abandoned. Normally she would have poured over every detail with intense fascination. Now, she had neither the time or the energy. Grand hallways, wide stairwells, and corridors all went by in a blur.
The sense of being watched by the dark Power intensified until the tiny hairs stood up on the back of her neck. Every Wyr sense she owned was screaming: Danger. Run.
But she did no such thing. She followed Robin down a wide, richly appointed corridor to a set of double doors made of a glossy, very dark wood. She almost expected Robin to pull out a key. Instead, he merely turned the knob and pushed the door open to a deeply shadowed room.
Oberon was in there. She knew it. She could feel it in the goosebumps raising on her arms and legs. This was the culmination of her long journey.
Here, the presence of the dark Power was almost unbearably intense. It felt like a thunderclap about to break against her skin. She half expected lightning to shear across the dark interior space.
Robin was looking at her as if he expected her to do something. So she did.
Setting down her pack, she sat down carefully in the floor at the edge of the doorway. Then because she was who she was, she multitasked and pulled out a bag of the high calorie, high fat trail mix.
Shaking some into her hand, she popped it in her mouth. After chewing and swallowing, she said, “Your majesty, my name is Dr. Shaw, and I have traveled a very long way to meet you. I am here to help you if I can, but I won’t attempt to do anything against your will. If you understand what I am saying, please give me some sort of sign that you consent to an examination.”
Then she paused. Nothing happened. Her wary gaze shifted sideways to Robin who had squatted by her side. The puck stared at he intently. She tilted the bag of trail mix toward him.
Slowly, his feral gaze never leaving her face, he reached into the bag and took a handful.
She turned her attention back to the shadowed room. “Sir, I have to ask you again, do I have your consent to examine you? Give me a sign, Oberon, or I’m going to go away. I was led to believe you were unconscious, but you’ve got too much raised Power to be completely unaware. I’ll make things simple for you – do you want to live, or do you want to die? Because you’re headed for death just fine on your own, and you don’t need me here for that.”
She ate some more trail mix while she waited. Mm, chocolate.
Disappointment made her shoulders sag. Okay then. Pushing to her feet, she said, “I’m going… going…”
Just as she was about to say gone, the unbearable intensity in the Power shifted. It didn’t go away, but as she assessed it, at least it no longer felt like it was going to ram like a spike down her throat.
Suddenly magic arced like lightning, and light flared in round witchlights positioned around a spacious, richly appointed bedroom. The figure of a large man lay on the bed. His shape was a dark, heavy shadow against the crimson and gold bedcover.
She was going to ignore the fact that she had almost jumpted out of her skin. She and Robin stared at each other, eyes wide.
“All right,” she whispered. “I’m going to take that as a consent to enter.” Even as she spoke, an unusual case of anxiety attacked her. Stepping inside that room felt like walking into the open mouth of a giant.
“I will enter with you,” Robin replied softly.
“Sure, okay,” she muttered, unimpressed. Oberon liked Robin.
Pushing to her feet, she left her pack in the doorway and slowly walked inside.
Then lightning bolts hit her after all, as several realizations struck at once.
He was a big, hard behemoth of a man. It was difficult to tell with him lying down, but she thought he might easily be the size of one of the gryphon sentinels, if not larger. He sprawled in a casual pose on the massive bed, as if he had had just lay down for a nap.
She glanced around her at the rich, but plain masculine furniture and the luxuriously thick rug underneath. Her mind flashed through rapid calculations.
A fortnight in Lyonesse roughly equaled six months on Earth, and on Earth Oberon had been in a comatose state for two hundred years. Four times two hundred—that meant he had been unconscious in Lyonesse for eight hundred weeks.
It was silly to think Lyonesse might have fifty-six weeks to a year just because Earth did, she thought, but for the sake of compiling a completely useless statistic, let’s say there were. Oberon had been in a vegatative state for almost fourteen and a half years.
The entire room, even Oberon, should be coated with a layer of dust, but everything was pristine. His muscles should have wasted, but they hadn’t. He looked fit, vital, and his skin was deeply burnished. He had a mature, sensual face with a short-clipped beard, and thick, packed muscles wrapped around his long, masculine frame.
It was a hard face, a dangerous face, with an outrageously sensual mouth. The severe cold invaded even this room, but he wore nothing except a pair of black pants and black boots. A sprinkle of dark hair dusted the broad muscles of his chest and arrowed down to disappear into the hem of his pants.
Looking at him outside the sterility of a hospital examination room felt invasive and intimate. Every detail struck her like bullets and burrowed underneath her skin. She felt invaded just by looking at him.
But none of that delivered the sucker-punch.
That blow came when she took her first breath after stepping into the room. For the first time, she breathed in his scent and reeled.
Oberon was Wyr.
He dreamed of killing the bitch over and over again, caught on an endless loop.
Isabeau, Queen of the Light Court. Satan personified. She had a beauty like a rotten peach whose perfect, blush skin invited, but when you bit into the flesh poisonous worms spilled into your mouth.
He didn’t want her merely dead. He wanted her utterly crushed, completely destroyed, and then violently executed. He wanted her aware of her own destruction so when she sank into that final darkness she would know she had lost everything she had ever cared about and everything she had ever wanted.
Just as he had.
His hands squeezing around her neck. His thumbs gouging out her eyes. His sword sliding into her body.
Somehow in his dreams, it was never really satisfying, never really enough. Never really finished. Somehow, she always slipped away to come at him in another fashion.
And so he had to kill her again while kingdoms fell and life devolved into a single sick feeling in the gut, because everything was always in a crisis, and all that remained was rage.
Until a woman started speaking to him.
At first it was meaningless background noise to his death-filled dreams. But then it intruded, and life gained a definition beyond that sick sense of crisis in his gut.
Now there was a second thing.
There was the sound of her voice. Her, the woman. He had never met her before, but suddenly she came to be there, and she spoke to him, the words calm, bright, and crisp.
Sometimes there was silence and the killing dreams returned, but then the woman came back. If he had been awake and really aware it would have driven him crazy.
Because she talked, and talked, and talked.
Then he no longer dreamed about killing Isabeau. Sometimes, he dreamed about figuring out ways to shut that talkative woman up.
Copyright: 2018 Teddy Harrison LLC
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