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Alton & Velda Part 36 by Dellani Oakes

alton and velda cover smallerAlton confronts Rialta, killing her. Once she is dead, the castle begins to collapse. Fortunately, her death canceled the magic which held the memories of the women, in check.

The ran down the stairs, losing their balance and running into one another. The were all glad the stair was enclosed on both sides, so no one was in danger of falling to the ground floor.

Revanth struggled to his feet as Astrid ran to him. “My love!” they chorused.

“Let’s get out of here!” Alton yelled as the ceiling on the far side of the room fell.

Once out the door, they found the courtyard empty.

“Where’s Topaz? Who freed her?”

“I didn’t see her leave. I don’t know.”

“I feel her nearby,” Alton said. “She hasn’t left. Come out, you mystic bitch!” he growled. “Let’s have this out, so I don’t have to spend the rest of my life looking over my shoulder.”

The tiny gnome stepped into the archway, blocking them from the outside. “Sure of yourself, wood sprite.”

Alton cocked his head to one side. “Always. Shall we dance?” He gave her a half bow.

“As you wish.”

“Dance? Are you mad?” Revanth said.

“Take the women and run,” Alton said. “Get as far away as you can. They go free,” he told Topaz. “This is between us.”

She moved from the doorway, allowing the other three to leave, but took her place once more between Alton and freedom.

“That was slick, trapping me in earth. You forget, a gnome is an earthbound creature. My magic freed me.”

“Took long, though. I guess you aren’t as tough as you think.”

She sent a runnel of stone his way. The ripple it caused in the cobbled yard nearly knocked him off his feet, but he righted himself. Chuckling, he retaliated, picking up every pebble in a ten yard radius, he pummeled her with them.

“Bastard!” She summoned water from the dry air.

Alton couldn’t imagine how she’d done it. To him, there wasn’t enough water in the air for even a teardrop. He countered every spell she cast, fighting blow for blow with sand and stone. As the castle rumbled to dust around them, he found bigger pieces to hurl at her. Equally matched, they fought for several minutes. Alton knew he had to do something definitive, something she couldn’t, in order to win.

“When I kill you,” Topaz snarled. “I’ll kill your woman. And your friend, and his woman, too! And if you have any living family, I’ll snap their necks like twigs!”

“I freed you, Topaz. I was willing to help you.”

“Fool! No one helps without a motive, a reason!”

“I do,” he said, relaxing his stance. “Because it’s the right thing.” He reached slowly and casually into his vest for his flint and steel. His other hand crept slowly into the pouch at his belt, searching for the bag of dust.

“No one does that!” she screeched, enraged by his calm demeanor. “It’s a weakness, wood sprite. It will get you and your entire family killed!”

As they fought, Alton had slowly worked his way around until the arch was behind him. Most of the castle had fallen down, miraculously not on top of their heads, but the outer wall held. Once he was in position, Alton took a handful of the dust. Flint and steel in his left hand, the dust in his right, he brought them quickly up. With a snap of his fingers, he lit a spark. The dust ignited. Creating a gust of wind, Alton blew it at Topaz.

The gnome’s clothing and hair caught fire wherever the dust touched her. Writhing with pain, she tried to summon water to put out the flames. Air simply fanned the flames higher. With a scream of rage and suffering, she fell to the ground. Soon, she didn’t make a sound. Alton knew she was dead. He turned to leave, but felt himself in a mighty grip, as if a giant hand held his legs. With a roar, a furious wind buffeted against him, wailing and growling through the open doorway. He was lifted in the air, spun around wildly like a top, and was let down like a downy feather. Puffing loudly, he crouched in the courtyard.

“Alton!”

He heard a voice from a distance.

“Alton?”

Someone knelt beside him. Someone with soft hands and a warm embrace.

“My love? Alton!”

“You smell like flowers,” he whispered, touching her cheek.

“And you smell like something ran you over in a swamp,” Revanth said as he approached. “He’s fine, Velda. Let the man breathe.” He helped his friend stand. “Let’s get out of here before it topples on our heads.”

Walking out of the courtyard, Alton stopped. Instead of a barren desert, as it had been earlier, it was a green and verdant land. A trickle of water ran from the arched door, flowing into the shallow valley.

“What has happened?” Alton asked, gazing at their surroundings.

“It must have been ensorcelled,” Velda replied. “My mother….” she shivered when she remembered Rialtia.

“More likely Topaz,” Revanth replied. “For it turned after she died, not after your mother did.”

“She gave me no choice,” Alton said. “I didn’t want to, Velda.”

“Rialtia was never an easy person to love,” she replied. “Had she not been my mother, I might have ended her myself.”

“How are we going to get home?” Astrid asked.

“First, we’re going to find somewhere to rest for the night,” Velda said, with a glance at the sky. “But not here, if you please. Where is the nearest town?”

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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Alton & Velda Part 35 by Dellani Oakes

alton and velda cover smallerAlton frees Revanth from the dungeon. After helping him upstairs, he decides to go free the other prisoners.

Revanth shrugged, shaking his head. “Why not? Where’s Topaz?”

“In the courtyard, finding earth magic not to her liking.”

Chuckling, Revanth eased his sore body into a more comfortable position. “I don’t suppose you’ve got any healing magic?”

“Not much.” He muttered a few power words and touched Revanth’s shoulder. A cascade of golden sparkles jumped from his hand. “Well, never did that before! It must be the magic here. It’s strong.”

“Go. Help the others. Then we’ll free the girls. For the moment, they should be all right.”

Alton nodded, dashing back down the stairs. Searching the cells, he found a few other prisoners, in much worse shape than Revanth. He gave each a healing touch, leaving their cell doors open. As he headed to the stairs, he saw the stronger helping the weaker.

“Why are you prisoners?” he asked one of the men.

“The blue bitch liked a bevy of men. When we failed to please, we ended up here. Are you here to kill her?”

“Only if she makes it necessary. She’s my lover’s mother.”

“Hope she’s nicer than her dame,” the man replied.

“Much. The female gnome is upstairs in the courtyard. Touch her at your peril.” With that, he scampered back up the steps.

He found Revanth still seated where he’d left him, looking the worse for his ordeal.

“Where are the girls?”

“I’ll show you.” He stood, gasping as he clutched his groin. “Gods, it hurts worse than before.”

“Nothing to take your mind off it. And the magic heals quickly, but it isn’t always gentle. I’m sorry.”

“Up the stairs, to your right, then right again, and take the staircase to the spire.”

“I’ll be back as soon as may be.”

Revanth nodded, easing into his chair. Alton ran up the steps, following his friend’s directions. He found the spire, but was greeted by blank walls. Puzzled, he turned in a slow circle.

“There’s nothing here!” he sent mentally to Revanth.

“Magic. Close your eyes and follow your nose.”

Doing so, Alton found Revanth’s room first. He discovered Rialtia huddled on the bed, wrapped in iron chains. The time had not been kind to her. Iron acts like poison on fae, and she had been chained up for nearly two days. Alton couldn’t help but strut in, cocky and self-assured. He knew it was foolish, but he hated her with a passion unequaled. Seeing her thus brought down was pleasing to him.

“Met your match, did you? Stupid cow. You shouldn’t under estimate your opponent.”

“Neither should you,” she croaked, making a magical gesture with one hand. She mumbled words of power and Alton felt a sharp pain in the back of his head. Her hand twisted and it felt as if someone had stabbed him with hot metal on the inner thigh. “You came for her,” she whispered. “But it’s too late. She doesn’t remember you.”

Alton flung his dagger at her, hitting her square in the chest. The pain in his head and leg ceased as Rialtia slid to the floor.

“Then I will win her heart again,” he declared. “I will always come for her, no matter how far. She is my life. And you, twisted, evil witch that you are—you’re dead.”

Rialtia’s death rattle shook her body as she slumped against the bed. The iron chains rattled, tangling around her. It was then he heard he screaming and felt the tremors of the building beneath him. Of course, the castle was her magical creation. With Rialtia dead, how could it stand?

“Velda!” he bellowed. “Where are you? My love!”

“Alton? We’re here! We’re chained.”

Following her voice, Alton rushed to their cell. The hidden door was visible now, since the magic was collapsing. Throwing the bolt, he ran into the room. Velda stood a few feet away, chained with bronze instead of iron. Astrid was bound by iron. Neither woman looked her best, but they hadn’t suffered like Rialtia.

“Do you truly know me?” he said, stopping a foot out of range.

“I know you. You are my Alton, the man whose perfect form enticed me away from home.”

“And you are my beautiful Velda, the love of my life.” He took her hands, kissing her.

“Not to interrupt this touching reunion,” Astrid complained. “But wouldn’t you like to leave before the place collapses around us?”

“Of course.” He grinned. “Stretch the chain across the stone there and pull,” he told the women.

They did as he told them. With several strikes of his sword, he severed the chains. It didn’t do his sword much good, but their freedom was more important. There would be other swords, there was only one Velda.

“My mother?” Velda asked as they ran past her cell.

“Dead. I’m sorry.”

She hesitated. The castle shuddered and their room fell away.

“Time for grieving later!” Astrid screamed, grabbing them by the hands.

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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Alton & Velda Part 34 by Dellani Oakes

alton and velda cover smallerAided by the puka, Alton discovers Marigold’s true name is Topaz. He also discovers where his friends are being held, and that the women won’t know him.

Topaz shrieked, her eyes blazing at him. Laughing, Alton went inside. The few servants he met, scurried out of his way.

He stopped one of them with a gentle hand on her arm. “Mistress Rialtia is a prisoner. Mistress Topaz is wrapped up, at the moment, so I’m in charge. I’m Alton, and I need help with a few things. Do you think you and the others could assist me? When I’m done, you can go.”

“Go? Where?”

“Home. That’s if you want to. I can’t imagine a forest nymph like you enjoys being in the desert.”

“Not at all. You’ll release us?”

“Yes. But first, I need to get my friends free.”

“The black haired one is in the dungeon. This way.’

Alton followed her, wary for attack. Not everyone was going to like the new regime. He expected resistance, and wasn’t surprised when he got it. It didn’t come from the nymph. She was, as Alton suspected, ready to leave and wanted to get her part done as soon as possible. However, Topaz must have friends among the guards, because he was attacked before he got across the courtyard. Already, two men were trying to free the gnome from her binding, only to get trapped themselves.

The men who attacked him, had more sense than to touch him, but that made them no less dangerous. One had a crossbow, another a pike. He’d crossed the courtyard, and entered the great hall, when a bolt smacked into the door beside him. More annoyed than anything, Alton merely slammed the door shut behind him. That’s when the pikeman struck, coming at him from behind a tapestry. He got tangled in it, but slashed his way through, rushing Alton.

The nymph screeched and ran in the opposite direction. Alton had no choice but to draw his sword and dagger. Against a pike, it was minimal protection, but his fast thinking saved him from a worse fate. His dagger in his right hand, sword in his left, he caught the pike, crossing the blades to prevent an upswing. For a few precious seconds, he had the man trapped. It was all he needed to kick sharply, connecting with the pikeman’s knee. A satisfying crack, followed by a yowl of pain, and the pikeman fell to the floor. Alton snatched up the pike, throwing it across the room, burying the tip in the door. A yelp from outside told him the tip had gone through, surprising someone on the other side.

“Anyone else want a go at me? Or would you rather go home? I’m here to end this, you fugging lumpties!” he bellowed as he searched for the dungeon steps.

After much trial and error, he finally found what he was after. The spiral stair was long and dark at the bottom. Taking a torch from up top, he carried it in his right hand. Sword in his dominant left, he trotted down the stairs. Listening carefully as he neared the bottom, he heard the usual moans and groans one anticipated in a dungeon. There was also the crack of a whip, followed by muffled curses.

“Revanth! Is that you, my friend?”

“Alton! Make this idiot quit hitting me, would you?”

“Gladly. Where are you?”

“Ahead and to your right.”

The sounds had stopped, but Revanth’s curses hadn’t. Seconds later, Alton burst into the room, torch and sword in hand. A gnarled gnome held a whip which was hardly big enough to qualify. He was short, scrawny, wizened and probably the oldest living creature Alton had ever seen, next to Old John. He brandished the whip at Revanth, then at Alton. Revanth was suspended by chains from the ceiling. His shirt was removed, his boots gone. His back was covered with welts and he looked mad as a wet hornet.

With the tip of his sword, Alton forced him closer to Revanth. When the gnome was in range, the warrior prince wrapped his legs around the gnome’s neck and squeezed until the gnarled old coot fell on the ground.

“Is he dead?” Revanth asked as Alton undid the cuffs which held him.

“No.”

“More’s the pity. I hoped I’d cracked the pissing bugger’s neck.”

Alton examined his friend. The wounds were scattered around about halfway up his torso both front and back. “This doesn’t look too bad.”

“He’s short, isn’t he,” Revanth said in a matter of fact tone. “Doesn’t even come up to my hip.”

Shrugging, Alton helped his friend stand. “So?”

“So—he’s got no reach much above the knees. Think, man!” He bent over, hissing.

“Oh, the dear gods. He didn’t—” Alton hissed as well, covering his balls with one hand.

“No, but that doesn’t mean the little prick didn’t try!” He kicked the gnome in the head and was delighted to see him bleed profusely. “The girls are upstairs, but they don’t know me. They called on Marigold to lock me up!”

“Her real name is Topaz. Might come in handy, knowing that.”

Revanth nodded his thanks.

They limped up the stairs. When they were near the top, Alton left Revanth, doing a quick check for trouble. He didn’t find any. The castle had a deserted air, for which he was grateful.

“I suppose I should go back and free the other prisoners,” he remarked casually as he helped Revanth sit.

“Might be nice of you.”

“You’ll be all right here?”

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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ABIGAIL’S WINDOW BY SUSAN LYNN SOLOMON

Susan Solomon

ABOUT THIS FAB NOVEL

Abigail Bender lost her only love at Gettysburg in 1863. One hundred and fifty years later Kaitlyn Novacs, teetering on the edge of a breakdown after the loss of her one love, encounters Abigail’s spirit in a quaint Canadian inn. There’s a connection between these women, Kaitlyn feels it the first moment she sees the ghost but refuses to admit it. She is forced to accept how closely her fate mirrors the ghost’s when through Abigail’s window she witnesses the ghost’s life and death. Still, there’s a secret Abigail withholds from Kaitlyn. Will discovering that secret come too late to save Kaitlyn from Abigail’s fate?

Abigail's window

WHAT READERS ARE SAYING ABOUT ABIGAILS WINDOW!


Amazon Customer

5.0 out of 5 stars

GOOD BOOKS MATTER!!!!!!

May 16, 2019

Format: Kindle Edition

Even in this digital age there is nothing to compare then picking up a book like Abigail’s window sitting in a comfortable chair on a rainy day with a hot beverage by your side and immersing yourself into a story that grips you from the beginning until the very end. A little history a little romance a little intrigue everything that you want to get away from the Monday and world that we are in I’m so glad that I let Abigail‘s window Take me away for a little while and I can’t wait for Susan Solomon’s next book to do the same thank you Susan please keep writing

David M. Hoffman

5.0 out of 5 stars

A genre-busting read

July 13, 2019

Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase

Ghosts, history and the power of love. Something for everyone. Buy it, cry a little, smile a lot

WANT A SNEAK PEAK ?

Chapter One

Face in the Window

As I stepped from the rental car, I saw the lace curtains pulled aside in a second floor window. I felt eyes stare down at me. My jaw dropped. Had it followed me here?

Ronnie Hoffmann glanced at me over the roof of the car. “What’s wrong now?” she said.

I stood, blinking.

With a shrug, she turned to Andrea O’Rourke, who popped the trunk and lifted out our suitcases.

When I looked again at the window I saw a woman, but not quite a woman. She appeared to be… transparent. Shuddering, I turned my back to the house.

Yeah, I’m cold too, Katy. Get your suitcase.” Ronnie took off her thick-rimmed glasses and brushed a strand of hair from her eyes. Though only in her early thirties, her long black hair showed streaks of gray.

I wrapped my heavy coat tight around my chest but didn’t move. I hadn’t wanted to come to Niagara-on-the-Lake, hadn’t wanted to leave my apartment. After what I’d been through, I never wanted to venture out again. Ronnie had refused to let me become a hermit.

You waiting for April when the snow melts?” she called to me.

I lifted my eyes to the window. The curtains were closed. Feeling as though the woman continued to watch me, I shrank back against the car door. “Somebody’s… up there.”

Andrea clicked her tongue.

Another ghost?” Ronnie slammed the car trunk closed. “The Niagara Inn isn’t any more haunted than your apartment.”

My friend knew what haunted me. She had helped to pull me through a breakdown seven years ago. She didn’t believe a ghost caused it then, and didn’t believe one pushed me toward the edge this time.

I pointed to the window. “Don’t you see her?”

Ronnie didn’t bother to look. “Probably another guest.”

The stiff Lake Ontario wind had turned Andrea’s face almost as red as her hair. Looking around the empty parking lot, she said, “Can’t be another guest. No one but us is stupid enough to travel in this weather.” She hefted her suitcase. “Yap out here if you want. I’m going inside.”

Shivering, I examined the bed and breakfast Ronnie had brought me to for a long, girls-only weekend. Pale behind the falling snow and surrounded by skeletons of azalea bushes and a row of evergreen hedges, the Niagara Inn rose two stories above what appeared to be an ancient brick foundation.

Come on, come on. I’m about to turn into an icicle,” Andrea complained.

More like a cherry popsicle,” Ronnie said.

Yeah, whatever.” Our redheaded friend turned and stomped off through the snow.

The wind rushed up to encircle me. In its howl, I heard a familiar laugh. This disembodied sound had chased me since my teenage years. I looked at our car, now coated with a thin layer of snow. I had an urgent desire to get in, drive back across the border to the Buffalo airport and fly home to Manhattan. Though the laughter also haunted me there, at least in familiar surroundings I could almost ignore it.

While I thought about fleeing, the lake wind pushed me toward the house. I held fast.

Ronnie grabbed the sleeve of my black faux-fur coat. “Come on!”

I pulled away. “I can’t… the laugh.”

You’re hearing it again?”

I nodded.

She took me by the shoulders. “You’re not being haunted, Katy. What you hear is just in your head. How many times do I have to tell you that? Now get inside before we both get sick.”

When I still resisted, she gave me a tight-lipped stare—her way of saying, Kaitlyn Novacs, get over yourself.

Ken and I were here for our anniversary five years ago,” she said. “This is a beautiful place, not some crappy dump with cobwebs your warped mind is turning it into. Now move!”

I gritted my teeth and took a deep breath. Nothing in this house could be worse than what I’ve been through, I thought.

The wind howled again, louder this time. It might have been telling me, You think so?

Ronnie’s grin wrinkled her eyes. “What an expression. You look like an Eskimo searching for the nearest dogsled. Wanna rub noses?”

I grabbed a handful of snow from a bush and flung it at her. Then, feeling a rush of warmth for my best and sometimes only friend, I hugged her.

Yeah, yeah, I love you too,” she said. “Now can we get out of this storm?”

With her hand propelling me forward, I slogged through drifting snow from the parking lot to the Niagara Inn’s door where Andrea O’Rourke waited.

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Alton & Velda Part 33 by Dellani Oakes

alton and velda cover smallerAlton finally arrives at the prison in the high desert. Revanth greets him at the door, urging him to come inside. Is it really his friend, or something else?

“Where’s Revanth? For you are not he. Firstly, he’d have told me immediately about the girls, not insisted I come inside. Nor would he have complained about my tardiness. He’d have been glad to see me, regardless of how long it took. And not the least, he can stand full sun without being burned. So—whoever you are, you have explaining to do.”

Alton grabbed the Revanth look alike, tugging so that the man’s hand hissed and sizzled in the sun. He watched as the skin blistered and smoked.

“I can stand here all day,” he explained conversationally. “The sun doesn’t hurt me. In fact, my nut brown skin likes the sun. So, unless you want to lose a hand, speak.”

“All right!” The man shook Alton’s hand off his. Putting the blistered skin in his mouth, he licked it. His eyes caught the light, the color oddly muted, the pupils strange.

“You’re the puka!” Alton snarled, cursing loudly. “Where are my friends? What have you done with them?”

“Enough, wood sprite!” an imperious voice rang out from inside the courtyard. “Come inside and see for yourself.”

“I’ll stay out here, thanks. Who might you be?”

“You can call me Marigold. I am mistress here, now. Rialtia is—indisposed.”

“And my friends?”

“Cared for.” The diminutive gnome carried herself with a swagger—as much as a three foot gnome can do that. “Come in.”

“No. Thanks anyway, I’d rather not. Seems that folks go in there, and don’t come out. I’ll take my chances out here.”

“Meanwhile, your friends remain inside.”

“Yep. But soon, I’ll figure out a few things. Then we’ll see if that doesn’t change.”

“You fool, I have more magic in my little finger…!”

His chuckle made Marigold shudder. It was a terrible, mirthless sound. Alton smiled, but the mirth of it didn’t reach his eyes.

“Dear Lady, no one likes a braggart.”

“I speak the truth.”

Alton shrugged. “No one likes smugness either. Is it your power I feel around here? Delicious. Sort of spicy, with an aftertaste of loam. Earthy….” He smiled wickedly. “I like earth.”

As he spoke, the sand crept up her legs, pinning her in place. The fake Revanth also tried to move, but couldn’t.

“You evil wood sprite! Why, I’ll—mpht!” A glob of sand filled her mouth, muffling her words. Her hands were pinned to her sides as the sand rose from her feet to enclose her in an earthen cocoon.

“Do you intend to give me problems?” Alton directed at the puka.

It stepped aside, hands raised. Alton trapped it, too, but left its mouth free.

“But if you try anything, I’ll fill your lungs with sand. Do you understand?”

The puka nodded. “She’s strong.” He tipped his head at Marigold, who was going red in the face. “And if she gets free, she won’t hesitate to kill you.”

“Then she’d better not get free.”

“Do you know how to find a gnome’s weakness?”

“Her secret name.”

It was the puka’s turn for a mirthless laugh. “If you release me, I’ll tell you hers, as I leave.”

Alton paused. To know the gnome’s name would give him power over her. However, if the puka was wrong, he might have signed his own death decree. Easing the sand down, he allowed movement of the hands. From the knees down, the puka was trapped.

“The name first, then I free you.”

“How can I trust you?”

“I’m not the one who captured you, forced you to work, or mistreated you. But I’m holding more cards than you.” He tiled his head. “Well?”

“Topaz,” the puka said.

Marigold’s eyes widened, and she screamed. It was a horrible sound, muffled by the sand over her mouth.

“Excellent. Topaz, when I release you, you will do my bidding. Do you understand?”

She nodded, glaring at them both.

“Good. You can go,” he said to the puka. “But if you come back, the end will be ugly. Hey. Why’d you tell me?”

“As big a bitch as Rialtia was to work for, this one is worse. Don’t release her until you must. And don’t trust her, because she’s a bigger liar than the naiad. Your friend is in the dungeon,” he puka said, taking his own aspect once more. Built like an albino horse, he tossed his head. “And the ladies are held upstairs in the north tower. But they won’t know you. Rialtia took their memories when Revanth imprisoned her. I think, however, if you ask very nicely, Topaz will help you in any way she can. Won’t you, Topaz you iron hearted bitch?” With those words, he disappeared in a puff of fetid smoke.

“So, Topaz,” Alton said, walking a little nearer, but not so close that they touched. “Your magic is very tasty indeed. I imagine that’s why Rialtia held you for so long, and how she became so powerful. Probably, it’s how she found you to begin with. That much raw energy is asking for someone to siphon it. Now, that someone is me.” Smiling nastily, he leaned a little closer. “Don’t worry. I won’t make you do anything worse than she did. In fact….” He winked and leered at her. “You might even enjoy it.”

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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Alton & Velda Part 32 by Dellani Oakes

alton and velda cover smallerRevanth manages to imprison Rialta. However, when he finds the women, they are under a spell and don’t recognize him. Marigold has him captured and goes to see to Rialta.

Slinging the door to Revanth’s cell open, Marigold confronted the helpless Rialtia. Hissing a curse, she pointed at the naiad, who clutched her throat, eyes rolling up in her head, as she collapsed on the bench. Convulsing, she twitched and shook. With a nasty smile, Marigold watched for several minutes until the seizure eased. A snap of her fingers, and the tremors began once more.

“How does it feel to be helpless, you vile harpy? To have your body do things you don’t want? Because someone has power over you. Evil. Vicious. Cruel. My children are grown, my home gone, my husband married to another. Because of you. May you rot!”

The door slammed shut and she stormed down the stairs looking for Revanth.

Alton was at an impasse. He’d lost the scent of Revanth, but caught enough of a hint on the wind, to know the general direction. The trouble was, the fair lands had ended and a desert sprawled before him. The harsh sun on the bright sand nearly blinded him. A child of cool woods, this sand and heat were almost too much for him. However, sand was dirt, wasn’t it? After reaching that conclusion, he stopped by the edge of the desert, running his fingers through the sand. Sending out questions, he waited for answers. If Revanth had been carried across, the creatures and plants of the sand would know. Constructing a hut of sand, he waited.

His thirst grew and a line of small insects showed him where to find water. Moving the sand aside, he created a well and lifted it until he could drink from the cool water below. Leveling out the sand, he made an oasis, leaving it as a gift for the inhabitants of the deserted land.

After a time, the wind brought him answers. His friend had gone to the northwest, steadily, directly. He was trapped at a castle built from living stone. Impervious to moisture, it graced the air, but sealed out sand. All life avoided it, choosing to take the chance of skirting death, rather than a sure end in the castle. Removing the horses’ saddles and tack, he took what belongings he could from the saddle bags, and let them go .With trepidation, he set out at dusk, seeking—something.

Night fell, and with it a deep cold. Glad he’d taken the bedrolls, Alton wrapped one around himself as he trudged along. Wishing for the companionship of the horses, he cast about with his mind. Finding a pack of jackals on the hunt, he dropped back into his own mind. Casting out once more, he touched something, but what? It might have been Revanth, but he wasn’t sure. Seeking more deeply, he thought he touched Velda. Recoiling, he realized he’d touched her mother’s mind instead. Filled with lust and longing, as well as the murderous, insane images of herself with—a horse? No. A black haired man—Revanth.

“Ew!” he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.

The idea of Revanth with Rialtia filled him with disgust. However, he realized it was a part his brother was playing. Rather than interfere, he joined his energy with Revanth’s, doing his best to help his friend seduce Velda’s mother. There had to be something seriously wrong with that reasoning, but he knew he had to help keep Revanth safe.

The sun rose and the heat began almost immediately. To shade himself, Alton raised a shell of sand. It took a little while to perfect, but he firmed it beneath his feet and scooted himself along. Strangely, the magic didn’t make him tired. He felt revived and rejuvenated.

“There must be a source of power nearby,” he murmured as he skimmed the sand. “A very strong one.” Tapping into it further, he used it to guide him to the castle where his friend was captured. Did he dare hope that there lady loves were also here? It made sense. If this was Rialtia’s stronghold, why have them anywhere else?

Finally at the door, he shook the sand from himself, thanked his various companions, and eyed the edifice. Power unlike he’d ever felt, thrummed inside. Its energy seductive, sensual, exciting, he gave himself over to pure pleasure for a moment, before raising his hand to knock. Before knuckles touched wood, the portcullis rose, and the heavy door swung open.

“What took you so long?” Revanth said, motioning his stunned friend inside.

“Um….” Alton stopped at the door, toes on the line between inside and out. “Took me so long? I’ve walked the fekking desert! Two days travel in this heat, not to mention a day or two before that.”

He wasn’t entirely sure of the passage of time, but it had been more than two days, and less than a week—or so his inner self told him.

“Are the girls here? Have you saved them? What’s going on? Where’s Rialtia?”

Revanth opened the door wider. “Come inside and see for yourself. It’s a tale worth telling.”

Struck by the peculiarity of it all, Alton paused. “Were you captured?”

“Yes, I woke to find myself in chains.”

“But now you’re free.”

“Some quick thinking and good luck….” He struck a pose. “Here I am.”

“And the girls? Are they free too?”

Revanth’s face clouded. “Yes. But—you need to come inside.”

“Why? If the girls are here, let’s go. I’ve found a way to cross….”

“Just come inside!” Revanth lunged forward, grabbing at Alton.

The wood sprite jumped back and Revanth’s hand seemed to sizzle in the dessert sun. Gasping and cursing, he stuck his hand in his mouth.

“Damn you, wood sprite! Come inside!”

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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Alton & Velda Part 31 by Dellani Oakes

alton and velda cover smallerRialta comes in to see Revanth. He manages to lure her close, binding her with his chains.

“Release me.”

“Oh, no. You’re going to call your servant and then you’ll release me. And, if you’re very smart, you’ll let the human woman, and the naiad go as well.”

“How did you know?” she gasped, realizing he had discovered her secret. “Why do you think they’re here?”

“I smell them,” he purred next to her ear. Nipping her throat with strong, white teeth, he allowed himself a moment to enjoy the svelte, lithe body next to him.

“There is no way a human has that sense of smell!”

“I’m no mere human. Don’t you recognize the man your daughter, Eleion, turned into a horse? After all, you were there, orchestrating the entire thing.”

“How—?”

“My sweet Rialtia, you betray yourself at every turn. I’m no longer the foolish boy you tricked. I’ve learned a lot in the last few months, not the least of which is your scent. You’ve plotted this from the beginning, but for the life of me, I can’t imagine why. If you wanted revenge against Alton, why go to all this trouble? If you wanted to capture Velda, it would have been easy to send the puka after her. Why this bizarre, and unnecessary, fiasco?”

“To test him!”

Revanth blinked hard, leaning forward to better hear her, though she was as close as his skin.

“He stole her from me, deflowered her, then proceeded to break her heart time and again. How can a man do that to the woman he loves?”

“It is the way of his people….”

“Weave a different tale, you wily tongued serpent! Way of his people be damned! He’s slept with more women than—!”

“Than you have men? I doubt that. He’s not nearly as old as you. Though, you are still a verdant peach of a woman, and a man would be fortunate to have you. Shall we?” He tipped his head toward the bed.

“Leave off your silken lies. What will your princess think of you, a man who sold himself, while supposedly faithful to her.”

“I sold myself to help her. And it was worth every moment, just to give you this.” He kissed her long, hard and deep. His hands worked quickly, manipulating the chains, releasing himself and trapping her. “Even a human may work a little magic,” he said, twirling the metal pick between his fingers. “Now, if you’ll excuse me….” He tucked himself back into his britches and walked to the door.

Rialtia opened her mouth to say words of power to trap him. All that came out was a hoarse croak. Gasping, she clutched her throat.

“That’s the nettle juice I rubbed on my lips. Takes a little while to work, but it’s quite effective, isn’t it? Don’t worry, I don’t think it’s enough to block your airway. Conjure up a little water. Oh, sorry…. There’s not any of that about.” He rushed from the room, slamming the door.

Taking a few steps to the left, he searched for the outer door to Astrid and Velda’s cell. He knew it had to be close to his, but somehow, the witch had camouflaged it to look like a blank wall. Instead of looking with his eyes, he closed them, listening with his mind. Hand against smooth stone, he felt along the wall until it dipped, and he felt wood. With his eyes open, it looked like a blank wall, but his hand could feel a metal bolt in brackets. Going by feel, he released it, and the door swung inward. There, seated on their bunks, were Astrid and Velda. Their eyes turned to the door, but showed no recognition. Revanth rushed to the shelf where Astrid sat, kneeling at her feet.

“My love, is it really you? Have I found you at last?” Clasping her hands, he kissed them.

Astrid stiffened, eyeing him dubiously.

“Astrid? It’s Revanth. Darling, I….”

She snatched her hands away, drawing herself up angrily. “Excuse me, good sir. What is this name you call me? Who is Astrid? Do you know this man?” she appealed to Velda.

“I never saw him before. Go away.” She made sweeping motions at him.

“But, my love! Astrid! What madness is this?”

“Guards!” Astrid screamed. “Help! Marigold! Help!”

Seconds later, the gnome appeared with two burly guards.

“My lady, what troubles you?”

Astrid pointed at Revanth. Marigold’s topaz eyes raked him from head to foot. A slow smile spread across her features.

“You’ve trapped her, then?”

“I’m sorry?”

“Rialtia? She’s chained up?”

“Yes—but….”

“Good. Take him,” she told the guards. “In your cell?” she directed at Revanth as he was muscled down the hall.

“Yes….”

With a tilt of her chin, Marigold gave a command. “I suppose I should thank you. I’ve been that bitch’s slave for the past fifty years. Take him below. Find him somewhere—cozy.”

“Yes, mistress.”

“Now,” Marigold said. “You pay, you filthy hag!”

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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