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Alton & Velda Part 41 by Dellani Oakes

alton and velda cover smallerThe war is now over, thanks to the companions. Revanth and Astrid stay in her father’s castle, though his uncle takes his army home.

“I promised you something,” Astrid said later that night after dinner. She and her friends had gathered in the solarium to talk.

“What’s that?” Alton asked.

“I made Velda a promise that once we returned, I would help you find a place to call home. Papa has agreed that anywhere which meets your needs, will be yours. So, tomorrow, we will ride about the kingdom, and see what we can find; a place of water and trees, where you can live.”

“I would like that,” Alton said. “We have wandered far too long. This is most gracious of your father.”

“You have saved us all more times than can be easily counted,” Astrid said. “You gave me back Revanth and saved my parents and our home…. You are a hero, Alton, and will be treated as such.”

“To both our peoples,” Revanth added. “Not to mention, that fire trick is pretty handy. How did you manage all that? I didn’t think you had that much power.”

Alton sighed, bowing his head. “I must confess, I didn’t, until I killed Topaz. Somehow, her energy didn’t dissipate with her death, it filled me instead. I now channel her power within me.”

“Aren’t you afraid that you’ll become a target for someone like Rialtia?” Astrid gasped.

Alton shrugged, shaking his head. “You saw what I can do. And you still worry?” He smiled, leaning forward. “And what of you? Dropping fireballs with just a word. That, my lass, is impressive.”

“But at what cost? It might have killed me if I’d continued.”

“Only because I wasn’t there to help you. I think if we work together, along with Velda, we will make a formidable team should anyone come hunting.”

“What of Revanth? Can he help us?” Astrid asked, taking her husband’s hand.

Alton made a disgusted face, trying not to laugh. “Certainly, if there’s oats to eat. The magic in him is so weak, it’s practically nonexistent. But since he’s a good fellow, we’ll let him join us.”

He winked at his friend. There was more to Revanth than the others knew, and he intended to keep that a secret as long as possible. Were it known that the Crown Prince and his wife could wield magic, there might be some who’d be tempted to come along and test it.

The following day, they rode out early, making a breakfast on the crest of a sunny hill. Below, in a shallow valley, they found the perfect spot for Alton and Velda. There was a deep, clear pool with a rushing stream leading to and from it. It was surrounded by trees, who housed a group of wood sprites. These folk welcomed them happily, little caring that Velda was a naiad. The water nymphs were delighted to see her and made her feel right at home.

“We’ll build a home here,” Velda decided. “It needn’t be large, just for the two of us.”

“There will be more one day,” Alton said with confidence. “I promised you children, my love. I shall give you children.”

She grew very quiet, not believing, but not wanting to lose hope, either. They made plans to come back in a few days, and start building their home. Already, Alton had plans, and he shared them with the wood sprites and naiads, but would not tell Velda anything.

“It’s a surprise.”

That night, there was a feast, and they all stayed up late, drinking, dancing and having a wonderful time. A messenger came from Olster that he was safely home, and confirming that he and his sister-in-law would visit soon.

Gathered once more in the solarium, the women sat apart, making plans for the new home, and even talking about a place for Revanth and Astrid to live nearby. The men sat together, sipping wine and talking quietly.

“How can you be so sure that you can give Velda the children she craves?” Revanth asked.

“It’s something little known about my people,” Alton said. “And I swear you to the greatest silence here.”

Revanth nodded solemnly.

“You know we gad about, my folk—especially the men. As much as we share our seed, we’d have saplings hither and yon. You wouldn’t be able to piss without splashing one of us. So….” He leaned closer. “We men can make ourselves infertile by eating of a special herb. Until we make a commitment to a special woman, we don’t allow ourselves to beget children.”

“But you could have done this at any time?”

“Until she was ready to commit, to accept me as her husband, I didn’t want to. How would you feel if you had to walk away from your child? What if she grew angry, pushed me away? How could I do that to my son or daughter?”

“I take your meaning.”

“I quit taking the herb after taking Topaz’s power. If she’s not already with child, she will be soon. Speaking of which…. I hope you’ve got a room for a babe chosen.”

“A what? A—do you mean?”

Alton touched the side of his nose and winked.

“How do you know?”

“Two heartbeats. These pointy ears are good for something other than tracking game.”

Revanth’s family came as planned and both young couples renewed their vows before the family priest. The guests had brought gifts for all. Velda found herself in possession of more trinkets and gadgets than she’d ever dreamed of. Her favorite gift was from Astrid’s parents. They’d had a necklace crafted from river crystals in shades of blue and green. In a collar shape, each piece dangled from a silver chain in irregular droplets like rain.

That night, Alton was extra attentive, seeing to it his wife lacked nothing—not food nor drink. He danced with her, leading her around the dance floor as if his feet had wings. Later, in their room, he made quiet, gentle love to her, caressing her body with assiduous care. As they lay together later, he cradled her head on his chest and smiled, for he heard not just two heartbeats, but three. Laying his hand on her belly, he sent a gentle wave of golden magic to protect their children, and help them grow. Smiling to himself, he kissed Velda’s brow.

“I promised, my love. I promised.”

THE END

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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Alton & Velda Part 40 by Dellani Oakes

alton and velda cover smallerRevanth asks his uncle to end the war and retreat. Just Olster agrees, a burning missile is launched from the castle. Several more hit, but suddenly one goes out, then another, before they hit.

Looking around for Alton, he spotted a pale, terrified face at the edge of the camp. “Astrid! My love!” Running over to her, he tried to hold her, but she shook free. “Astrid!”

“Here comes another,” she whispered. “No!” she commanded, pointing at the fiery ball. This went out, falling with the others.

Haggard and weak, she stumbled. Revanth rushed to her side, catching her as she fell.

“My love! Stop. You’ll kill yourself.”

“I must. I can’t have you hurt,” she whispered.

Another fireball flew straight toward them. It stopped in midair, spinning wildly until it went out. It crashed to ground like the rest. Alton stood outside the tent, leaning on the standard pole. Teeth gritted, he pushed himself upright.

“Fugging stop!” he bellowed at the night, pointing both hands at the castle. The flaming orb was in the catapult, ready to fly, but it went out and the catapult didn’t release. “That’s it, Astrid. You and I are going there now, to see if we can put a stop to this nonsense.”

“Not at night,” Velda said, emerging from the trees. “They’ll kill you at night.”

“She has a point,” Revanth agreed.

“Then, I suppose, it must be light enough for them to see us.” Alton twitched a hand at the pile of pitch covered orbs. They burst into white flames, but were not consumed. The night grew bright as noon. “Horses!” Alton bellowed.

“Four of them,” Revanth commanded a nearby sentry.

“Only two. You aren’t going and Velda will stay here to make sure you stay put. I won’t put you in harm’s way by taking you to the enemy camp. Stay here, watch after your uncle.”

“But Astrid!”

“Will be fine. I’ll protect her.”

“Alton—!”

His friend pointed to the blazing balls of pitch. “Do you have any doubt I can do as I say?”

Instead of speaking, Revanth kissed his wife, hugging her close. Velda did the same. She could feel the energy thrumming through Alton’s body.

“Be careful, my love. Such power can consume….”

“I know, my sweet. Don’t worry. For the first time in my life, I feel as I’m supposed to feel.” He kissed her deeply, and went to meet the man with the horses. Helping Astrid mount, he saluted Revanth and followed her up the hill to the castle.

They were met at the gate by a worried captain of the guard. “Princess! We saw you coming from the enemy camp. Are you all right? Have you been held hostage?”

It took some explaining, and repeating, because no one wanted to listen to the entire explanation. Everyone wanted to ask questions. After Astrid repeated herself three times, Alton had had enough. Fingers to lips, he whistled sharply.

“Be still!”

Amazingly, they were. Adopting an imperious demeanor, Alton ordered the men about.

“Take us to King Hels and his lady wife. The Princess owes you no explanation.”

“Of course, my Lord. Begging your pardon, Sir,” the captain bowed and scraped.

Leading them personally to the king’s quarters, the captain took up a post outside. Alton suspected he intended to listen. That was fine, as long as he was quiet about it. The king and queen were in their dressing gowns, having been woken from a deep sleep when the first of the missiles went out.

Racing forward, Queen Sarai hugged and kissed her daughter. The king’s reaction was far less overt, but he was just as glad to see her.

“You are well, child? He didn’t—harm you?” her mother asked, ducking her head.

“No, Mama! I love Revanth. We’re married. So, you see, all this fighting is unnecessary. We can go back to the way it was—only with us together, not apart.”

“You’re what?” The Queen wasn’t happy. “To that rapscallion? How has this happened?”

“Mama, Papa, I love Revanth more than my own life. He has saved me from harm more times than I can count. He and Alton came to save me and Velda when we were prisoners….”

This took more explaining. Alton grew weary of all the talk. He wanted the matter settled, over, done. There had been too much killing and he’d had his fill. Not only humans were suffering through this. The animals, as well as the magical folk, were being harmed. When they army cut down trees to build their siege engines, they killed the dryads who were a part of them. The land and water ran red with blood, saturating it for years to come. After, perhaps, twenty minutes of talk, he cleared his throat.

“Astrid?”

She understood what he wanted and nodded. “The war is over, Papa. Declare it to your men. Release any prisoners. Let Prince Olster go home with his injured, and call it a draw. No loser, no winner. Revanth and I have gone through so much to prevent this war—yet here it is anyway. For me, Papa. Stop it for me.”

King Hels sighed heavily. “For you, my daughter. I should have stopped it before it began.”

“It’s my fault,” her mother sobbed. “I pushed and goaded. Queen Melisande and I should have allowed you to wed whomever you like. I suppose it’s too late now to hope that you’re still pure.”

Astrid laughed, kissing her mother’s cheek. “Not for many weeks. I am happier than I have ever been, Mama. I love Revanth, and he loves me. And, unless I am very mistaken, he and I will welcome a tiny prince or princess in a few moons’ time.”

“Already?” Sarai smiled, taking her daughter in her arms. “What are you waiting for, Hels? Send a messenger to Olster. Now! And invite my son-in-law to visit. A baby!” Clasping her hands, she started babbling about plans for nursery, leading Astrid toward a chair.

“What a night,” Hels said.

“Indeed. This is a good thing, Sire. A fine thing.”

Alton rode out with the messenger, only to meet Revanth with one of his own. The leaders were sent for. By dawn, king and prince were seated in a field near the burning mound of pitch balls. The queen had sent out breakfast to them and their generals, who gathered there.

“Will those ever go out?” Revanth asked Alton.

“Any time I like,” his friend replied. “But they give a festive air. Besides, it’s cold and I don’t have a cloak.”

After many hours, an agreement was drawn up and Prince Olster’s army broke camp. Revanth stayed with Astrid at her father’s castle, but his mother and uncle would return in a month’s time to celebrate their marriage. A huge party was planned. The queen would have liked another wedding, but settled for a formal blessing by their priest.

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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Alton & Velda Part 39 by Dellani Oakes

alton and velda cover smallerAlton and Revanth enter the camp where Revanth’s uncle is laying siege to Astrid’s castle. They meet his uncle Olster, who appears to be wounded.

“Revanth!” He tried to stand, but pain shot through him. Falling back onto the cushions, he gasped for breath. “Leave us!” he told the sentry. “Send word to his mother.”

“Yes, sire.” The man bowed and left.

Alton knelt by his uncle’s side. “You’ve had a bad time of it, My Lord.”

The prince’s glance would have withered the ears of a lesser fae. “Do you think so, boy? Who is this, Revanth?”

“My friend, Alton. He’s hardly a boy, Uncle. He’s older than both of us together.” He knelt by the bed. “And he’s a good healer, despite what he says to the contrary.”

“May I, Highness?” Alton asked, holding up his hands.

“Why not? I’m dying in any case.”

“I beg to differ. Even without my help, you are not. But I imagine you wish you were, just to make the pain stop.”

The prince snorted, but it hurt him. Gasping, he held his side. “Do what you must.”

“Give me some wine,” he ordered Revanth.

“You really think that’s wise? Won’t it hamper your powers?”

“It’s for your uncle. Drink it all, sire. Then get him something to bite down on. This is not gentle, but it’s quick.”

When the wine was gone, Revanth got a strip of leather for his uncle to bite on.

“Hold him down,” he ordered his friend.

Doing as he was told, Revanth held onto his uncle. He was stronger than he’d been a few months ago, partly from being a horse, and partly from living rough. When he had his uncle pinned, Alton put one hand on the wound, the other on the man’s head. Forcing the healing energy from him, he felt it flow into the prince.

Back arched, Prince Olster screamed, writhing in his nephew’s grip. Guards came in, but stood watching as red and gold flames danced over their leader’s body, flickering over his wounds as they healed. When it was over, Alton fell to the floor, landing in a heap. The guards helped him lie down on a nearby cot and got food and water. Revanth knelt by his uncle’s side, amazed to see the wounds almost completely healed. Prince Olster and Alton slept a long time.

When he woke, Olster talked extensively with his nephew. Alton continued to sleep unimpeded. Revanth checked on him from time to time, but he was in a deep slumber.

Revanth told his uncle of his adventures, glossing over Alton’s powers. He wanted his uncle to believe that the wood sprite’s skills lay in healing, not in destroying. For some reason, that was very important to him. Though he loved his uncle, he was not above using Alton, if he thought it would help him win.

“I think that Astrid and I should approach the castle tomorrow….”

“No. They’d kill you on sight,” Olster warned.

“Then you should retreat.”

“No.”

“Uncle, there is no need for this war. Astrid and I are married. Whatever argument there is between you, it can end. We won’t be marrying anyone else. I love her more than my own life.”

“You’re a spoiled princeling,” his uncle grumbled. “You’re hardly old enough to make up your own mind.”

“I’m twenty years old. I’ve been a man, by every standard, for five years now. I have loved women, killed men, probably sired a son or two.” He didn’t mention that this last was probably with naiads. “I’m fully capable of deciding who I want to marry, and I have done so. Tomorrow, you need to decamp and head home. This war is over nothing.”

“We have been insulted!”

“Is our honor worth so many lives? We saw a soldier, hardly more than a boy, in the medical tent, his guts dangling from his body. Alton couldn’t save him, so he gave him a peaceful death. Is honor worth that boy’s life? He could not have been more than fifteen.”

Olster puffed out his cheeks, pouting and frowning. “Give the order,” he muttered.

“Thank you.”

Revanth ducked through the door to give the order, but saw a glimmer of light from the castle wall. Raised on a motte, it was easy to see. The glimmer grew brighter, ducked and disappeared.

“Did you see that?” he asked a guard.

“See what, Your Highness?”

“That! By the gods!”

The flicker grew even bigger, rising rapidly as it shot in to the air.

“Take cover!” He ran back into the tent, yanking his uncle onto the floor. He pulled Alton down with them. “Wake him!” he commanded.

Olster did what he could to wake the sleeping wood sprite. As Revanth got up, Olster was slapping Alton in the face, bellowing his name.

Dashing out into the camp, Revanth saw the missile hit near the latrines. Exploding when it landed, it sent men and tents flying. Not long after, another thudded nearby, scaring the horses. Those who could wrench free, did, screaming as they ran away. Desperate and worried, Revanth watched as yet another flaming missile came their way. This one stopped at the height of its arc and went out, falling harmlessly to the ground. It bounced and lay still. A flurry o f activity at the castle, showed that this had been noticed. The next burning missile met the same fate.

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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Alton & Velda Part 38 by Dellani Oakes

alton and velda cover smallerThe companions have married, and head home to Astrid’s home, which is closest.

As they rode, they saw signs of fighting. The woods were burned in places, fields churned up. Homesteads were gutted and damaged, livestock killed, crops destroyed. A day later, they found a battlefield. Standards of her father’s army, and Revanth’s, littered the ground. Mounds of corpses had been piled up and loosely covered with dirt and stones. No one had tried to give them a proper burial.

Disgusted by this treatment, Revanth asked Alton to raise earth and cover the bodies before they were all torn apart by scavengers. Alton didn’t hesitate. He and Velda, who used her air magic, covered the bodies, while Revanth carved markers from stone.

Another day of travel brought them to the outskirts of the castle land. It was obvious that a vast army had passed by recently. Fresh manure and trampled ground, gave evidence to a large force. Soon, they heard the sounds of siege engines slinging stones and battering the walls of the castle. A group of dwarfs, laden in chains, were digging at the base of the wall. An overseer with a wicked looking whip, was in charge. If a dwarf faltered, down it came on the hapless back.

“Who commands your army?” Astrid asked Revanth.

“My father’s brother. I don’t see his standard, but that means little. Often when he travels with the army, he doesn’t fly his standard, for reasons of safety. Nor did my father. If he’s here, his tent will be centered and surrounded.”

“You and I will go look,” Alton announced. “Velda, please take Astrid to the grove of trees, find a stream. Ask the dryads and naiads to protect you. Whatever you do, don’t look for us. Is that clear? Send forest animals, or ask the trees and grasses. Promise.”

“How can I, my husband? My love?”

He took her hands, kissing them. “Because I am your husband, I ask this of you. I want you to stay in safety. Please.”

Reluctantly, she agreed. Arming themselves, Alton and Revanth headed to the battleground.

“You go first,” Alton said. “I’m your squire. Play the Prince to the hilt, and they will not doubt you, though you look like a beggar,” he chuckled.

“And you look so much better, I suppose?”

“Not at all. But I’m not supposed to look as good. Sword on hip, hand on pommel and don’t forget to swagger.”

Revanth swung his buttocks like an ample hipped woman, making his friend laugh. As they approached the outskirts of the battle, a sentry stopped them.

“Who goes there?”

“I am Revanth, son of Queen Melisande. Nephew to Prince Olster and heir to my father’s throne. Is my uncle here?”

The sentry blocked Revanth when he tried to advance. “How do I know you are who you say?”

“Take me to Prince Olster. If I’m not, you have the satisfaction of killing me. If I am, and harm comes to me—I would not wish to be you.” His smile was disturbing.

The sentry motioned to someone else to take his spot. “Come with me.” He led them into the camp at a quick pace.

They passed a medical tent where men lay dying—some screaming, others still. One young man lay with his guts hanging out. He was completely unattended. Flies crawled on his entrails as he whimpered. Alton stopped, holding up a hand to Revanth.

“You can’t heal him, surely?”

Alton shook his head, face solemn. “Can you watch him die by inches?”

“Do it,” Revanth said softly.

Alton went up to the boy. “I’m going to take your pain away.”

“Am I dying?”

“Yes. I can’t stop that, but I can make it not hurt. May I?”

The boy nodded, gritting his teeth. Alton laid a hand on his head, another on the open gut wound. The sparkles that cascaded from his hands were not gold, but a cold, icy blue. The boy relaxed, his breathing slowed, and he died. Closing his eyes, Alton made a sign of blessing over the mangled body. The surgeon thanked him with a silent nod, which was returned.

“Can you heal others?” the surgeon asked as Alton turned away.

“Sometimes.”

“Can you heal any of them?”

Alton glanced at his friend, who nodded, inviting him to enter the tent.

“I’ll try.” He passed from bed to bed, touching and whispering. “Be prepared,” he told the surgeon. “It is not easy, nor is it clean.”

“But if it works, saves lives….”

Alton went out quickly. The pain and grief resonated strong in the tent, hammering at his calm exterior. He followed the sentry in a daze. Revanth helped him with a hand at Alton’s elbow. The royal tent was not as elaborately decorated as Alton had thought it would be. Slightly bigger than the others, it was the same muted rust and green of the others. The standard out front was small and low to the ground. No flags or banners flew, heralding Prince Olster’s presence. Alton thought under the circumstances, that was wise.

“I beg your pardon, Highness. A man claiming to be your nephew, waits without.”

“Show him in,” was the gruff reply. “And if it’s not Revanth, cut his head off.”

“As you wish, your highness.” He gestured to the two friends. “In you go.” His hand on his sword, he stood between them and the exit.

Prince Olster reclined on a bunk padded with cushions and furs. He did not rise when Revanth entered, but his eyes widened.

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

Alton & Velda Part 37 by Dellani Oakes

alton and velda cover smallerAlton confronts Topaz, besting her in battle. After her death, the desert becomes a verdant plain once more.

“Not for two days’ travel,” Alton said. “But we can find a place to camp. We may not have much, but with the magic between us, we’ll fare well enough. And I’ve got my food pouch.”

They walked as far as they could, but the men were in a lot of pain. They stopped by a newly formed pool. All of them disrobed and lowered themselves into the water. It was warm, swirling around their aching, dirty bodies. The women drank their fill from upstream, as the men bathed and swam. Then the women cleaned up, washing their clothing as well as their bodies. The men dunked their dirty clothes, and laid them out to dry on the ground. Walking around naked, they built a fire, setting out a meal.

The women, dressed in damp shifts, joined them. After they ate, Alton fashioned shelters with his magic, making two comfortable huts from earth and grass. He and Velda took one, and soon were happily enjoying one another’s company.

Though he would have liked to be engaged the same way, Revanth had to clear his conscience. He sat by the fire with Astrid, holding her hands.

“What’s troubling you, my love?”

The words spilled out, the entire sordid tale of how he’d bedded three naiads in order to get information to save her.

“I broke my promise to you, Astrid. I lay with not one woman, but three! I accept any punishment you wish to give me, but please, I beg you, forgive me.”

“Was there any other way to get the information?” Astrid asked in a calm, practical tone.

“No, none. We had nothing else to bargain with.”

“Could you have saved us without their help?”

“No….”

Astrid took his hands, pulling him to sit beside her. “Then I forgive you. I love you, and though this doesn’t make me happy, you did it to save us. It was a noble thing to do, even if it was ignoble at the same time,” she teased. “I love you, Revanth. And I forgive you.” She held him close, stroking his thick, raven locks. “There is something you’ve forgotten, my love.”

“What’s that?”

“Where were we when this debacle began?” She smoothed this beard, caressing his lips with her thumb. “You were in my bed….”

“So, I was. And we had made a promise to one another.”

“Yes, we had.”

“Do you wish to collect on that promise, my beautiful Astrid?”

“I do. Although we aren’t married….”

“Does it matter? We will be, just as soon as we can find a priest.”

He carried her into their hut. As he kissed her, he remembered Oonah, and how he had been her first lover. With her, there would be many more. With Astrid, he would be the one and only. That thought excited him more than any other. Softly, gently, he made love to her, bringing them both to climax with a cry of pleasure. Long into the night, the voices of them, and their friends, echoed in the wilderness.

By morning, they had finally fallen asleep. It wasn’t until midday that they all emerged from their huts, hand in hand. A quick meal and they were on their way once more. The traveling didn’t take as long now that the land was green and wooded, instead of desert. They made it back to town in less than a day and a half.

After taking rooms at the inn, they went to find out if there was a priest in town who could marry them. Stopping by Nils’ stable, they asked him. Surprised to see them, he gladly took them to the village church. The priest was happy to perform the wedding of the two couples, and did so forthwith. He married Revanth and Astrid first, with Alton and Velda standing up for them as witnesses. While they were entered into the registry, the other couple waited.

“Are you sure this is what you want?” Velda asked for the third time.

“I’m positive.”

“You won’t stray?”

“Not for a second. Though it’s in our nature, we can control ourselves when it’s important. There is nothing and no one more important to me than you. And in time, our children.”

Velda burst into tears. “But that can’t be, Alton. I’ve told you. No one has ever heard of a naiad and sprite having children.”

“Believe it, love. I will father children on you, though they may not be naiads. I promise.”

“How can you be sure?”

“I feel it. Trust me.”

She didn’t commit to that trust, but didn’t argue either. The priest married them next, pronouncing them wed by the laws of god and man. Afterward, they celebrated at the tavern, where most of the town joined them. They stayed up long into the night, drinking and dancing with their new friends—many of whom were Velda’s half brothers. The naiads, disturbed by the noise, came to see what was going on, and joined in the celebration.

They stayed two more days in town, before taking to the road once more. The horses Alton and Revanth had purchased, had returned when he let them go, so Nils gave them back. Riding with the women behind them, they set off for Astrid’s home, which was the closest. It took nearly three weeks of steady travel to get to her home.

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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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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