The Woods: Chapter 9

The Woods Chapter 8

She entered the bedchamber to find it empty.  Ileana frowned a moment before a sound in the garden drew her attention.  A smile came to her face as she looked out the window.  Keffer and Thomas were both stripped to loinclothes, sparring with quarterstaves.  Keffer was fey, stronger and faster than a mortal man, and he had a greater reach than Thomas.

And yet it was Keffer who was losing the match.  Thomas caught the satyr’s ankle with the staff, taking Keffer off his feet.  The butt end of Thomas’s staff stopped a couple inches above the satyr’s throat.  A killing blow, had Thomas intended it as such.  Her husband tossed the staff aside before offering her lover a hand back to his feet.

“Ileana.”  Keffer caught sight of her watching them.  “My apologies, I took the liberty of untying your pet when I realized he was awake.”  Thomas glared at him.  “I also fed him, watered him, and took him for a walk.”

“Then I beat him with a stick.”  Thomas rolled his eyes.

“Thrice.”  Keffer nodded, smiling.  “I thought I’d save bathing him for when you returned.”

“Hmmm…”  She extended a hand, running it down Thomas’s chest.  His body had just a trace of sweat, and there were a few bruises starting to form from the duel to add to the ones she’d left on him the previous evening.  Ileana gestured for them to follow her to the bath chamber.

Inside the steaming room, she directed Thomas to sit in one of the shallow pools.  Then she stripped off her robe before selecting a soap.  He smiled when she joined him in the pool, a smile that only widened when she sat down atop him, straddling his lap.  His arms went around her, caressing her as she began to wash him.  “You taste of woodsmoke.”  His voice was soft.

Ileana hesitated, then nodded.  “In two week’s time we will travel to my father’s castle.”

Thomas was silent for a moment before meeting her eyes.  “Where Nicolas dwells.”

“I hope that Nicolas will see reason, and speak with me.”  She ran a hand down his chest.  “Since you are…”  She shrugged.

“You intend to use me as a hostage.”  Thomas raised an eyebrow at her.

“If it stops Nicolas from engaging in hostilities, yes.”  She brushed his hair back.  “If he resists my reclamation of the castle, I will be forced to imprison him.”

“Let me speak with him.”  Thomas leaned back a little.

“I intend to.  But first, we must actually get inside the castle itself.  Otherwise Nicolas could hold it against us.”  She smiled at him.  “I’ve arranged a place of safety for his family.  Whatever does happen, they will not come to harm.”

“Thank you.”  He returned her smile.  “Nicolas is a good man, and a wise man.  He will listen.”

“I…”  Strange, how much had changed in just the past few days.  “I remember him fondly.”  She settled back a little in his lap.  “He visited our library, a few months before you and I were wed.”

“He brought you the silk.”  Thomas nodded.

“It…”  Her eyes widened.  “Then it really was from you?”

“Of course it was.”  Thomas blinked.  “Who did you…”  He tilted his head at her.

“I…”  She leaned in to kiss him again.  “After everything, I told myself you probably had some servant handle the letters.  But they were you.  It was always you.”

“There was never another, Ileana.”  His voice was soft.  “Even after…”  He bowed his head.

“Thomas…”

“Who could compare to the daughter of the wind?”  He ran his fingers through her hair.

Her own fingers tangled in his hair as she pulled him to her for another kiss.

Continue reading The Woods: Chapter 9

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Stone and Fire: Chapter 21

Liam ducked to avoid hitting his head on the entrance to their quarters.  Even inside, standing upright his hair just brushed the ceiling.  He started to turn toward Adaeze only for her to shove him forward lightly.  He smiled, but obeyed the direction.  Her hand on his shoulder guided him to his knees, and he bowed his head, awaiting her next command.  “Put your hands behind your back.”

As soon as he obeyed, she secured his wrists with a simple leather strap, buckling it into place.  She fixed a second strap just below his elbows, then a third just above.  Adaeze had been nervous about binding him while they were at sea, but he’d reminded her that he’d know if there was any danger.  Her hand traced up his back, then she wrapped it around his throat and pulled him back against her.  “Whatever am I to do with you?”  She smiled down at him.

“Anything you’d like.”  He returned her smile.  “I am yours.”

Continue reading Stone and Fire: Chapter 21

The Woods: Chapter 5

Keffer caught her arm and yanked her off the bed, pushing her against the wall.  “Enough, Ileana.  You’re killing him.”

She started to protest, and his hand touched her breast.  A wave of sensation flooded through her, driving all else from her mind.  Ileana staggered when it stopped, catching and holding Keffer for support.  It took her several tries to catch her breath.  “My father was not a traitor.”

“I am well aware of who and what your father was, Ileana.”  Keffer pulled her into a hug, holding her tightly.

“He was lying.”  She clung to him.

“He told the truth as he saw it, precious heart.”

“Kef—”

“Is it his fault he was deceived?”  Keffer looked down at her.

“That doesn’t excuse that he lied to me then.”  She glared.

“No.”  Keffer nodded.  “It does not.  You were his wife, and should have been his first loyalty.  He broke the laws of sacred hospitality.  You are not wrong to be angry.”  He tilted her head up.  “But some of your anger is misdirected.  Tell me, precious heart, is it the knife or the one who wields it that holds responsibility for the cut?”

“Why would they…”  She shook her head, and let Keffer guide her to a chair.  “Why would anyone seek to hurt my father?”

“Greed for his lands.”  Keffer shrugged.  “And sheer ignorance.  How few among the mortal realm would believe such as I still exist?  Your family has performed its sacred duty well these past centuries.”

“And now it’s his family holding the castle.”  Ileana sighed.  “Nicolas.”

“The man who tried to save your sister.”  Keffer raised an eyebrow.

“I…”  She sighed.  “I need to think.”

“Take your time, precious heart.”  Keffer rose, then bent and picked up Thomas, slinging the unconscious man over his shoulder.

“Where are you…”  Ileana frowned.

“Forgive me, dear one, but I do not think it is in his best interest to be within your line of sight.”  Keffer shrugged.  “I will return him to you when your rage no longer controls you.”

Ileana sighed, then nodded.  She took a deep breath, and then rose and began to pace.

Continue reading The Woods: Chapter 5

Stone and Fire : Chapter 9

Jurgen glared at his wife.  Diantha ran a hand through Rozenn’s long red hair before leaning in to kiss the pretty little bed-slave.  Rozenn responded to her touch eagerly, her hands already on Diantha’s body.  “Blood and ashes, let me go.”  He yanked at the restraints keeping him secured to the bed frame.

Continue reading Stone and Fire : Chapter 9

The Woods : Chapter 3

Refusing to let him dress had been petty of her, she knew that.  Yet the look on his face when he realized he was going to have to be stark naked in front of a dozen of her dinner guests had been hilarious.  Her friends weren’t making it easy on him either.  He sat next to her, hunched in front of the table, trying to keep what modesty he could.  Janna trailed a hand across his shoulder, leaning in behind him as she poured wine into Ileana’s cup.  Then she ‘accidentally’ dumped half the flagon of iced wine into Thomas’s lap.  He yelped when the cold liquid hit him, but managed not to jump out of his seat.  Several of her guests made disappointed sounds.

The slyph produced a towel.  “Here.”  She grinned.  “Let me get that for you.”

He caught the towel.  “Thank you, but I can manage.”

“No, really.”  Janna licked her lips.  “I insist.”

“I have the matter under control.”  He tugged at the towel, but Janna didn’t release it.

“It is a big mess.”  On the other side of him, Keffer picked up his napkin and started toward him.

Thomas immediately released Janna to catch Keffer’s wrist.  “I appreciate the…”  He trailed off when Janna started reaching into his lap again, and caught the towel with his other hand.

“Maybe he just likes being wet and sticky.”  Tsara laughed.

“Well, then…”  Keffer pulled his wrist free of Thomas and set the napkin back down.  “If that’s the way he likes it.”

“Hmmm…”  Janna shrugged, then pulled the towel away before going back to her seat.

Ileana hid her smile behind her wine cup.  Then she set her glass down.  “Thomas.  Would you be so kind as to go to the sideboard over there…”  She pointed.  “And fetch me another roll?”

His glare was luminous.  Then he shoved his chair back, stood, and stalked toward the sideboard.  Several cheers accompanied the action.  He grabbed a roll and brought it back, holding it out to her.  She smiled.  “And could you put some butter on it?”

Continue reading The Woods : Chapter 3

Ash : Chapter 9

He still hadn’t spoken.  Magda sighed.  She thought back to what Stephan had said.  He’d been right about the collar.  Maybe he was right about other things.  She stood.  “Ash, come.”

Ash followed her into the bedroom, then climbed up on the bed.  He curled up at the foot of it, as he did every night.  She switched off the overhead light, leaving the one on her nightstand glowing.  Then she laid down.  “Ash, come here.”  She patted the bed next to her.

Continue reading Ash : Chapter 9

Ash : Chapter 8

Magda stopped the car, and stared up at the small house.  For the first time in decades, she was grateful she hadn’t been able to bring herself to sell the place.  Twice a year she came up, checked on things, sealed it back up tightly.  She’d missed the last check.  She sighed, then looked over at the young man watching her from the back seat.

He hadn’t spoken since they’d found him.  He’d respond to his name with curious looks or a barking sound, but trying to coax actual words out of him had just resulted in him whimpering and cowering like a beaten dog.  She’d managed to get him to wear a pair of sweat pants, though they were too short for him.  Trying to take the collar off had just made him whimper and cringe.  What the hell had those bitches done to him?

“Ash.”  He looked up at her.  “Ash.”  She gestured to house.  “We’re here.”  He made an inquisitive whining noise.  Magda opened the door and got out.  She’d only gone a couple steps before she heard Ash bark at her.  She frowned, then sighed before going back and opening the door for him.  She wasn’t sure if she felt more frustrated or sick at the fact that he started crawling after her instead of walking.  Stephan had a point.  They’d have taken Ash to the psych ward.  And with his father dead…  She wondered if he even knew.

It took her a couple tries to get the generator started.  Ash followed her though the house as she looked around, crawling after her as she checked each room.  Everything was dusty, but usable.  Better than she’d expected from a place she hadn’t set foot inside in almost year.  She turned the well on, then waited until the water ran clear.  Ash stared quizzically at the glass she offered him, and reluctantly she poured the water into a bowl and set it down.  He drank it before following her into the living room.

When she sat down on the couch, he hesitated before crawling up next to her.  To her surprise, he curled himself into a ball and laid down with his head in her lap.  When she just stared at him, he whined softly, and she could feel him start trembling.  Slowly, she brushed her fingers through his hair.  “It’s alright, Ash.”  She felt him start relaxing.  “You’re safe here.  I won’t let anyone hurt you.”

Continue reading Ash : Chapter 8

Ash: Chapter 7

She looked over the rifle Stephan had set on the table, then raised an eyebrow.  “So, when you said elephant gun…”

“I meant my grandfather literally hunted elephants with it.  And rhino, water buffalo, etcetera.”  He shrugged.  “Classic mighty whitey.”  He poked the box of ammo.  “No silver slugs though.”

Magda nodded.  “Can you shoot it with a busted arm?”

“It’s more my shoulder going to be an issue, but yes.”  He nodded.  “I can get off a couple shots, at least, though I might need some stitches replaced afterward.”  Stephan looked up at her.  “Did you get what you need?”

“I did.”  Magda looked away before looking back at him.  No matter how this ended, her life here was over.  She’d already hidden away the things she couldn’t bear to lose.  “You know if you come with me, then even if this works…”

“I know.”  He smiled.  “You’re my partner, Mags.  I’ve got your back.”  He looked down at the gun.  “And you have saved my life twice recently, so I kind of owe you.”

“There are two of them.  Lisa will be stronger and faster.”  She took a deep breath.  “She’ll also be focused on me.  Any idea what the other one looks like?”

“Name was foreign.  Sima, I think Lisa said.  When I asked who Sima was, Lisa said she was her roommate.”  Stephan frowned.  “That’s all I have.”

“She’ll be holding Ash.  So…”

“Mags…”

“He’s just a kid, Stephan.”  She shook her head.  “A pup.”

“I know.”  He took a deep breath.  “Just hoping I’m still a decent shot with this thing.”

“Alright.  Let’s go set our trap.”

Continue reading Ash: Chapter 7

Ash: Chapter 6

Magda gave a frustrated growl and banged her hand on the steering wheel.  She’d left the paperwork on her desk at him.  Dammit, and Stephan’s girl was bringing him dinner.  She really didn’t want to interrupt her partner’s date.  He’d accepted the restrictions she’d put on him readily enough.  He’d accepted all of it readily enough.  It was nice, having a person she could rely on.  She spun the wheel and started heading to her house.  Maybe she could sneak in and grab it without him even noticing.

Continue reading Ash: Chapter 6

Ash: Chapter 5

“They found Sarah.”  Magda sat down heavily next to the hospital bed.

“Not among the living, from the look on your face.”  Stephan gave a small shake of his head.  “You should have gone after her instead of carrying me back to —”

“Yours was the life I could save.”  Her voice was quiet.

“I know.  I’m not being fair, I…”  He banged his head back on the pillow.  “She shot you with my gun, and Sarah died.  I should have trusted you and just let you go do your thing.”

“You did trust me to do my thing, Stephan.  I should have been honest with you sooner.”  She swallowed.  “I knew I’d be putting you in danger by taking you with me.”

Silence fell.  Stephan took a deep breath.  “Talk to me, Mags.”

“I’m not sure how much you will believe.”  She looked away.

“I know what I saw.”  He shrugged.  “And they’ve got me on some really good drugs at the moment, so…”

“Ash was alive and at that location.  I went to his house, took a couple of this things so I’d have his scent.  He was in that vehicle with Sarah and the…”  Magda growled.  “Bitches.”

“They didn’t find him?”  Stephan raised an eyebrow.

“No.  I lost the trail at the campground.  They stole another car.  He was with them then.”

“Any chance he’s…”  Stephan frowned.  “Not sure what I’m asking here…”

“He’s not a werewolf.”  She put a hand on his arm.  “Neither are you.  The stories get that part wrong.  It’s not a contagious thing.”

“That…”  Stephan slowly nodded.  “Is one hell of a relief to know.”  He frowned.  “Then why hold onto him this long?”

“Good question.  I don’t like any of the possible answers.”  She leaned back.  “Vincent bought your story.  Thinks we were going to get the ranger and just happened upon the car.”

“And got attacked by someone’s pet bear?”  Stephan shook his head.  “That’s a terrible story.  I was in shock when I came up with that story.”

“The teeth marks in your arm kind of backed it up.”  Magda shrugged.

The silence returned.  Stephan exhaled.  “You’re a werewolf.”

“Yes.”

“Magda.”  He looked up at her.  “You’re a werewolf.”

“Yes.”  She nodded.  “Figured that out when I turned sixteen.”  She considered for a moment, and then met his eyes.  “In 1644.”

“Yeah.”  Stephan took a deep breath.  “I’m gonna need more drugs.”

Continue reading Ash: Chapter 5

Ash: Chapter 4

Ash shivered a little in the night air.  The temperature outdoors was starting to drop a little at night.  Autumn was coming.  The notion made his stomach twist.  It had been the beginning of summer when he’d been abducted.  It wasn’t outright cold yet, just cool.  And he hadn’t been allowed to put on clothes since his had been taken from him.  Sima might have allowed it, but Carol had objected strongly to the idea of him being allowed any clothing at all.  He shivered again.

“Are you cold, Ash?”  Sima petted him.

He made a small whining noise.  The collar hadn’t been activated in a while, but the last time he’d attempted to speak had netted him another two days in the box.  She unhooked the leash from her chair, and started walking him back to the building.  He started to follow his mist…  Sima.  Her name was Sima.  He was a cop, not a dog.  She led him into her room, and patted the foot of the bed.  He climbed up and curled into a ball.  She laid down and went back to her book.

It was getting cold.  It was past July, then.  He’d missed his father’s birthday.  The big five-oh.  He felt tears prick the back of his eyes, and blinked them back.  His friends were likely going on with their lives, now.  Making plans for the upcoming semester, starting new jobs.  His father had wanted him to meet someone who worked in the filing room.  A nice girl who’d supposedly made the cookies to die for.  Not so subtle hints about settling down and starting a family.  What was his father doing now?

They hadn’t been laying there long when Sima suddenly sat up.  “Oh, I almost forgot.  I got you something in town.”  She went to her dresser and took something out of her purse.  He looked down at what she set in front of him.

A bright blue plastic squeaky bone.  Her hand ruffled his hair.  “A new toy for my good boy.  Do you like it, Ash?”

It was a bright blue plastic squeaky bone.  It was a dog toy.  Her hand tightened in his hair, pulling the strands just a little.  “Do you like it, Ash?”  There was an edge to her voice now, a small note of threat.

The toy squeaked when he bent down and picked it up in his mouth.  He squeaked it again.  Sima smiled, and her grip on his hair once again became a pet.  “I knew you’d like it.”  She settled back down with her book.

His name was Bernard Rudolf Achterberg.  He was not her pet.  He was a cop.  He was not a dog.  The box was cramped, and dark, and painful.  He just had to pretend, so she didn’t put him back in the box.  He settled back down on the bed and began chewing on the corner of the bone.  His name was Bernard Rudolf Achterberg.  He was not her pet.  He was a cop.  He was not a dog.

Continue reading Ash: Chapter 4

Ash : Chapter 3

There was a scent on the wind.  The same as the car.  Magda started to follow, then got whiff of a more familiar scent.  She stopped in her tracks.  “What are you doing here?”

Stephan shrugged.  “You left the station.”

“It’s the weekend.”  She turned toward him.

“We’ve got a missing cop, and you decide to actually take a weekend?”  He shook his head.  “What’s going on, Magda?”

“Needed to clear my head.”  She twitched a shoulder.

“So, you pick the jogging trail that was the recent site of a couple joggers getting mauled by a bear?”  Stephan raised an eyebrow.  “What, are you planning on challenging it to a fistfight or something?”

“Mood I’m in, I could take a bear.”  She hesitated.  The scent was on the wind, but with Stephan here…  If it was what she thought it was, it was more danger than her partner could handle.

“Talk to me, Magda.”  He gave her a concerned look.

And if she didn’t follow the trail now, she risked losing it.  “Walk with me.”

“If you want.”  He nodded.

He didn’t say anything when after a while she led him off the trail, following her nose.  The scent cut across paths, taking shortcuts.  Didn’t comment on how weird she was acting, or why they were going through the woods in the middle of the night.  He just followed, trusting that she knew what she was doing.  And he kept his eyes peeled, watching her back as she followed the scent.

They came out at a parking lot.  Despite the hour, there were two or three cars still there.  She followed the scent to one space, and then nothing.  Whoever it was had gotten in the car and driven away.  She crouched, but the treads all overlapped, rendering any pattern too indistinct to be useful.  With so many vehicles, there was no way to tell for certain which scent was the right car.

There was a wolf hunting in her territory.  She took a deep breath, and looked up at Stephan.  He was just watching her.  “At the warehouse —”

“The woman looked like she’d been torn apart by wild animals.”  Stephan nodded.  “You think it’s like one of those weird cartels where they’ve got a pet jaguar or something?”

Relief filled her.  He’d made the connection on his own.  Wrong, but it gave her something to build on.  “The thought crossed my mind, I mean…”  She shrugged.  “When was the last time anyone saw a bear out here?”

“Where’d you learn to track?”  He looked around, frowning as he observed the lot.

“My dad used to take me hunting.”  It was close enough to the truth.  “Not sure I picked up enough of a trail to go on, but…”  She slowly nodded.  “I think the cases are related.”

“Let’s go have a word with the rangers, see if any of them spotted anything odd.”

Continue reading Ash : Chapter 3

Ash: Chapter 2

They led him into a different room.  Ash took a quick look around, but once again so no windows or other means of egress than the door itself.  There was a bed in the room.  It was starting to become obvious what they intended, but what he once would have thought of as a pleasant fantasy was quickly unraveling in the face of reality.  Carol pulled him toward the bed.  He started to balk, and felt Sima place the prongs of the prod in the small of his back.  “Be a good boy, Ash.”

He followed Carol, then laid face down as Sima directed.  The prod was handed to Carol, who kept it pressed against him as Sima walked to the foot of the bed.  She unfastened the ankle restraints.  He fought the urge to whimper as she spread his legs across the queen-sized bed, securing his ankles to the posts.  She removed his left wrist from the cuffs and secured it to the bedpost, then secured his right wrist to the remaining post.

Then she started tightening the ropes.  A few moments later he was racked across the bed, the ropes tight enough to strain his joints.  He could barely move.  “Are you comfortable, Ash?”  Sima petted his hair.

Continue reading Ash: Chapter 2

Ash : Chapter 1

Lisa smiled as the man on the tattered mattress moved slightly.  She rose, and walked over to look down at her prize.  He shifted again just a little, and then his eyes flew open and he began thrashing at the restraints.  His hands were cuffed behind his back, and a second pair of cuffs secured his ankles.  The third set had been used to fasten the other two sets together.  “You’re going to hurt yourself it you keep that up.”

He shifted to glare angrily in her direction.  Whatever he tried to say was muffled by the rag she’d stuffed into his mouth.  She smirked, then removed his ID from her pocket.  “Bernard Rudolf Achterberg.  That’s quite a moniker.”  She ran her thumb over the badge.  “You don’t really look like a Bernie.”  He had a muscular, athletic build from what she could see.  Definitely not the type she’d expect from such a frankly nerdy name.

Muffled grunts were all that answered her as he continued testing the cuffs.  She shrugged.  “Or a Rudy, for that matter.”  His eyes narrowed.  She licked her lips.

“He looks a bit confused.”  Carol chuckled.  The man on the mattress squirmed, trying to look over his shoulder at her.  Carol was leaning near the door, watching with some amusement.  “I’ll bet he’s a Berg.”

“What about it?”  Lisa walked over to crouch near the mattress.  “You a Berg?”  She reached out to touch the collar of his uniform and he managed to pull away.  The sounds he was making were most likely curses, and he was openly glaring at her now.

“So, tell me, what did he pull you over for?”  Carol raised an eyebrow.

“I was doing five over.”  Lisa smirked.  “Couldn’t risk them running my ID and his trainer was going to do it ‘by the book’ instead of just telling me to slow down and go on my way.”

The man on the mattress started making cursing noises and pulling at the cuffs again.  “Hey, now.”  Carol’s voice was sharp.  She sat down on the mattress and grabbed his forearm.  “Knock it off, you’re already bleeding.”  She shook her head and looked up at Lisa.  “You’re going to need better restraints.”

“Wasn’t exactly planning on taking a prisoner.”  Lisa shrugged.  She reached forward to brush her fingers through the man’s dark blond hair.  He immediately pulled away and growled something from behind the gag.  “He was just a bit too pretty to pass up.”

“What happened to the other one?”  Carol examined the prisoner’s abraded wrist.  The prisoner managed to pull his arm away.

“Double tap.”  Lisa shrugged.  “Once I had this one in the trunk the old man had outlived his usefulness.”

More sounds came from the captive.  Carol reached up, grabbed his hair, and yanked his head back.  “I suggest you start considering how to preserve your own life.”

“So, which is it?  Berg, Rudy, or Bernie?”  Lisa leaned forward and yanked the gag out of his mouth.

“Fuck you.”  He spat the words at her.  “You murderous bitch, I —” He struggled, but with Carol holding him by the hair Lisa had no problem shoving the gage back into his mouth.

“He’s not very cooperative.”  Carol made a tsking sound.

“That can be changed.”  Lisa smiled.

Continue reading Ash : Chapter 1

The Woods : Chapter 1

Ileana gave a slow shake of her head at the captive.  Despite the bonds being unnecessary, Vula had overindulged in the ropes.  The young man’s elbows were secured to one wooden pole, and his hands were secured to another.  The particularly cruel part was that his knees had been bound to the same pole as his wrists, and his feet to the same pole as his elbows, nearly bending him in a circle.  Additional ropes formed a harness over his chest and shoulders, going between and around his legs.  Another rope encircles his throat, tight enough to put pressure but not quite enough to strangle him outright.  He’d been blindfolded, with the blindfold used as an additional restraint to pull his head backward.  An inch and a half thick wooded rod had been jammed between his teeth like a bit.  It had been secured tightly enough that there was a thin trickle of blood coming from both corners of his mouth.  The poles had been placed atop two wooden beams, forcing his already strained joints to support his weight.  All he wore was the ropes.

She drew a knife from the scabbard on her hip as she walked over to him.  His breath was coming in short, painful gasps.  If she left him like that for a few hours more, he was likely going to die.  She considered just making herself comfortable and watching it happen.  At the moment, though, he was unaware of her presence.  Possibly even unaware of her continued existence.  And that was unacceptable.

There was a sharp intake of breath from him as she laid the tip of the blade against his cheek.  Even if he had any wiggle room, actual struggling had been beyond him for some time.  She slid the knife between rope and skin, then cut through the bound that held the dowel in place.  She had to tug it slightly to get it loose from his teeth, and he worked his jaw a moment when it came free.

His body was dirty in places, but sweat had long since evaporated and he was unable to produce more.  She found herself wondering if it would be dehydration or suffocation that killed him if she walked away now.  It was likely the bonds had already done serious damage to his body.  That, however, she could repair.  If it suited her.  Leaving him a crippled wreck had its own temptations.

“Water.”  She nearly jumped at the sound.  His voice was cracked and hoarse.

Even a small amount of water could keep a man alive for a long time.  How long could he survive, bound like that, if she watered him?  Her gaze went to the wood laid beneath him.  Vula’s idea, no doubt.  Fire was usually her first suggestion to dealing with any problem.  Ileana walked to the nearby table and picked up a silver cup.  She filled it with the cool liquid from the spring, then took a carved wooden spoon before returning to stand in front of him.  His mouth was dry, the lips cracked.  It looked painful.  She smiled.  She put a spoonful of water, a few measly drops, into his mouth.  It was barely enough for him to swallow.  She gave him another before setting the cup aside.  “Your name.”

“More.  Please.”  There was pain in his voice.

“I asked for your name.”

“Thomas.”

Continue reading The Woods : Chapter 1