Darkness Calling Ch. 09bymadam_noe©
In this chapter I removed most of the graphic descriptions of sex, in order to focus more on the plot and characters. This decision came after much feedback from readers that they'd prefer it this way. If in the next chapter you want the sex back, please let me know!
She awoke in the bed, alone. It still smelled of him, her, the scents of their magic and bodies entwined in the sweetest perfume. She stretched, cast a small cleansing spell, and rolled over to find her nose buried in crisp paper.
Selene, called to work, emergency situation involving Darkwind. Breakfast is waiting, Sigrid will collect you.
She rubbed her eyes and lay back. She was allowed out. Perhaps she would be able to find a way out, a way home. She needed time, space, air. If she had more time Selene would want to know her father inside and out before meeting Soren, would want time to establish her career, live her life. It was all happening so fast.
"Good morning," a pleasant voice said.
Selene shot up and clutched the sheet to her chest as a plump older woman with a broad smile wheeled in a cart. "Who are you?"
"Madeline Carmichael, but call me Maddy. And you must be his own wife."
She blushed darkly, wondering if she had MARRIED stamped on her forehead. "I'm Selene Rainn."
The woman uncovered a dish and mouthwatering smells drifted towards Selene. "Hmpf, not taking his own name then, are we? Women today are so strange."
"You're human," Selene realized, her eyes widening.
"And what else would I be?" Maddy said, pouring orange juice and coffee. "Fear not, my dear, I know of his own ways, and yours, and it bothers me not. I am a child of nature."
"Wiccan," Selene said with a smile. A bridge between humans and witches, friends of the Witches of the Light. "Thank you. That smells..." She broke off as nausea rolled over her. "Excuse me."
She ran for the bathroom and nearly didn't make it. Dinner came up and she heaved well past it, groaning. When at last her mind cleared enough she used a cleansing and healing spell to recover.
When she emerged Maddy was waiting patiently for her with a robe. Selene realized she was naked and squeaked, grabbing it and wrapping it tight. "Thank you. I'm so sorry, I don't know what's going on."
Maddy smiled. "Your eyes be glowin' bright, so bright your power is new?"
"Well 'tis often a thing to occur, the changes in your body as it absorbs magic. His own said you were a light witch, but you have the colorin' of dark?"
"It's complicated," Selene mumbled and sat at the small table.
Maddy passed her orange juice in a carafe, a small glass, and a larger one of milk. "These will settle you, child. His own left some clothes in your size, said you had little time to pack."
Selene gulped the milk down and it soothed her greatly. "How...considerate."
Maddy snorted. "I was thinkin' 'high handed' meself. Now I'll leave ye be, but I recommend you have some toast."
"Thank you," Selene said, and poured her orange juice as the woman opened the armoire. Inside were Soren's suits but also women's clothes. He'd chosen grays and silvers for shirts, black for pants, and she knew it was to compliment her coloring.
She blushed at the consideration, feeling even more miserable. She hadn't asked for this life, and just now when her new marriage hung so delicately in the balance, her burgeoning relationship with her father could only tear them apart. She felt tight in her chest, her heart ached, and her appetite died.
She dressed in the silver sweater and black slacks Maddy had laid, over lacy underwear Soren had obtained as well, far racier than her usual practical cotton. She brushed out her hair and froze at her reflection.
Her eyes shone with her power, like silver mirrors close to bright light. She blinked and saw the light dim and rise again in the room. The brush clattered to the ground as her head swam.
It was true. She had doubted it, but it was true. Bram and Soren hadn't lied. She was a level ten, and for years she had been denied her rightful place.
Selene wanted to scream, to cry, to shout in glee, something, but she could only grip the vanity with trembling arms and stare.
"It always comes as a surprise," Sigrid said suddenly beside her.
Selene gasped, jumping and turning in time to see the faint green dust fade from Sigrid's transport.
"Sorry I scared you, but we have to get started. You have a short time to learn about your new power, and Jonathon and I will teach you."
"Why not Soren?"
Sigrid blushed. "Well, a witch in her new power with her husband...let's simply say you wouldn't learn much. About magic, anyway," she added in nearly a whisper. "Take me hands, and we'll go."
Selene slipped hers in, in complete trust, and within a blink they were in a large room. It was a conservatory, a round room with domed glass. There was an explosion of plants all around them, most of them magical, and Selene breathed in the heady scent and dropped Sigrid's hands.
"Inspired by you," Jonathon said, slipping in the French doorway.
"Let's get started, shall we?" Sigrid said.
By dinner time Selene was exhausted. The husband and wife had put her through the paces and her head ached as much as her body.
They had started slowly, meditating, and then Selene learned to sense her power, close her eyes and imagine it as if it were some great angelic beast inside her. She learned to control it so it wouldn't leak to others, she learned to call it in full. She learned to disguise her glowing eyes from humans, and some conjuring tricks.
Soren's animal had been a bunny, Sigrid's was a hawk, Jonathon's was a horse, and Selene's was a butterfly. She let it flutter around the room sniffing happily at plants, and when she closed her eyes she was the butterfly, flying on pure magic, wild and free.
She conjured food from the kitchen for lunch, papers from Sigrid's office back west. By dinner time she was exhausted, but happy.
"Very good!" Sigrid said, and hugged her close.
"Excellent, the most proficiency I've ever seen in a first day's lesson," Jonathon said with a smile. "Of course you would be astute, since your fa..." Sigrid elbowed him, cutting him off.
Selene sat up on the bench and blinked. "It's okay, you can say it. My father is old and powerful, I should have some advantages."
Her teacher shifted on the opposite bench uncomfortably. "It's probably best if we don't speak of him. Oh, excuse me, I have to get dinner ready. Jonathon will keep you company dear, until Soren gets here."
Selene watched her go, and when she was gone pounced. "Why does everyone hate Bram Darkwind so?"
Jonathon's lush mouth thinned, and he sighed. "Soren and Bram have been enemies since Soren was born, but the true rift began between Bram and Soren's father."
"Why?" Selene scooted forward, eager to learn more.
"No one really knows. Soren's father didn't have much power, but shortly after he married Soren's mother he gained more. The first thing he did was challenge Bram to a duel."
Selene gasped. "But...that's insane!"
Jonathon nodded and toyed with an aloe leaf spearing by his shoulder. "It wasn;t to the death, Bram is reputed to be immortal so he could never agree to the legal contract of a duel to the death. Soren's father was defeated, and nursed his wounds. His hate was strong, and he instilled it in his children."
"Does anyone know what the fight was over?"
He shook his head. "No one truly knows, but the gossip mongers will talk, and they said it was something to do with Soren's mother. She has sworn this is not true, and both men have kept quiet. I doubt even Soren knows why."
"So there's no real reason to believe my father is evil. Why he might even-"
"Selene, there are reasons, but it's best Soren tell you of them, not I, and not Sigrid. I wish I could tell you more, but all I can say is there are always two sides to a story. If Sigrid or Soren knew I was saying this, they'd flay me alive, so you must promise to keep it secret." When Selene nodded he continued, "Ask Soren, but also ask your father. I know he'll try to contact you, but it's your choice when you respond. It's time someone discovered why this bad blood exists. Soren never had a chance to iron it out, his father is a harsh, forbidding man, and he programmed Soren from birth to hate Darkwind.
"I wish it was an easier path for you, but we can't fight our destinies."
Selene swallowed. In her heart she knew her father was not a bad man, but there was little she could do about it. If only she could reach Soren, if only.
"There you are," Soren said suddenly and Selene jumped. Jonathon, more used to the silent comings and goings of level tens stood. "You're welcome to stay for dinner, Sigrid and I have enough for four."
Soren turned his turbulent eyes to Selene and she noted fatigue around them, strain in his bearing. "I think we should dine alone, if that's all right with you," she said to him.
He nodded. "Selene will be back tomorrow. Thank you again for your help."
Jonathon smiled. "My pleasure. See you in the morning."
Selene gave her hands to Soren as Jonathon left the room and gasped as her husband jerked her against his chest and crushed her mouth in a deep, searing kiss. When she pulled back, breathless, they were in his home.
"Oh," she said, lightheaded, and he let her go with a smile of confidence.
"Maddy's made dinner. Let's eat quickly, I've missed you."
She sat in the chair he pulled out and felt his magic tug at hers. No matter what emotions lay heavily between them she felt an irresistible pull to him, and sighed when he stepped to the other side and sat.
"How was your day?" he asked, and picked up his utensils.
Having skipped breakfast Selene was ravenous, even after lunch. The steak was tender, the potatoes creamy, the vegetables fresh and snappy. She sighed over her first bites, and opened her eyes to see him watching her with sensual longing.
A shiver wracked her and she took a deep breath. "I learned much. Meditation, sensing my power, controlling my eyes, and my animal."
His smile stole her breath. "May I see?"
Nervously she sat back with a blush, closed her eyes, and called it forth. The butterfly burst ghostly from her chest and fluttered around the room, coming to float in front of him.
Soren's eyes glowed like prisms with inner light, and his lips parted as he stared at her butterfly. "Selene, it's so beautiful."
He lifted his hand and the butterfly, with a mind of its own, landed on his finger. She felt his touch as if it were on her body, and he shot her a look that could only called naughty.
"How does this feel?" He asked, and stroked a finger over the delicate wings.
She gasped, feeling as if great hands of his power stroked down her back.
He rubbed the insect's belly and every nerve ending on her front caught on fire. Her fork clattered to the plate, and she closed her eyes against his low chuckle.
"Selene," he whispered and her name was an endearment.
She opened her eyes and they were in the bedroom, on his bed, naked. The butterfly followed and flew into her chest with a burst of magic. He loomed over her, the most beautiful man she'd ever seen, and her heart shifted, something liquefied inside her, and she raised her arms.
"I need you."
Reading her mind, Soren smiled and took possession of his bride.
Afterwards Soren brought the food to them, and she found herself comfortable, if distracted, eating naked in bed with him. He told her of his grueling days, of politics becoming more and more divided between dark and light, and made her laugh with the inane comments of career politicians.
He made dessert into a sensual treat she wouldn't forget, and both of them lay tangled together, sated, craving the touch of skin to skin.
When she felt confident by the contented buzzing of his mind, she took a deep breath, rolled onto her side, and met his smile with steely eyes. "Why do you think my father intends to hurt me?"
The smile and pleasure dropped from his face and mind, and all she felt was an icy feeling of fear from him through the connection. "Selene-"
"No, no more high-handed 'this is for your own good so trust me' crap. Talk to me like an adult. Talk to me like your wife."
They both sucked in deep breaths at her first true recognition of the marriage. In spite of, or perhaps because of, Soren sat up and scooted back against the headboard. "Selene, he is a dangerous man. He's campaigned twice to enter the Council On Magic, once after defeat claimed the right to the head seat. He's petitioned time and time again to leave the Church of Darkness, but that failed too one no one recognized it.
"He's been implicated in heresy, rape, kidnapping, and murder. He's never done a single thing to refute that."
"That doesn't mean it's true! Gossip is simply that; gossip."
"Selene, you don't know him. He tried to kill my father!"
She burned to tell him, remind him it was a duel, but she had given Jonathon her word of secrecy. "Have you, or anyone in the COM or the Council of Tens, even tried to investigate these rumors?"
"Years ago, but they were turned away. The very men whose wives he seduced, and they were murdered. All of them murdered."
"You honestly think the head of the Church of Darkness would kill dozens of level tens?"
"He's immortal, the only one who could do such a thing."
She shook her head. "I've lived amongst the humans for so long, I know our nature is the same as theirs. Murder takes less brawn than brains, anyone is capable of it."
"Selene, this is all so old. This happened when you were a child."
"And so were you."
He stared at her for a moment and she tried with all her might to read his mind, but he locked her out. "Selene, don't let some fantasy of a loving father blind you to the truth. We can't help who our parents are, we only have the power to change the future. Now get to sleep."
He hauled her into the crook of his shoulder and though their bodies fell into perfect sync, their minds were an ocean apart. Selene felt him fall into sleep long before she felt the need, but then she felt it.
Her father was calling.
"Selene. Your eyes!" Bram cried and crushed her into a hug. Despite the warnings, the burning questions, she felt his bony frame and worried.
"Are you eating enough?"
"When you don't need to eat you find you don't often eat,": he responded with a warm smile, and ruffled her hair.
"Don't!" She cried and ducked from his hand, and for a long moment they were just father and daughter.
Looking around she realized they were in the study, surrounded by his books. They had an ancient scent to them, the feel of thousands of years, hundreds of witches had caressed the pages and left their essences.
"Would you like to see your mother?"
Every question and demand flew out of her mind. Her legs weakened and she sank to the chair, sitting on top of ancient spell books. "More than anything," she whispered.
He came to stand beneath her, and with whispering words of a spell she'd never heard, a woman formed in front of her.
She was whip-chord thin, startlingly beautiful, her hair was so light blonde it was nearly white, and her eyes glowed the same silver as Selene's.
Selene's reached for her, but her hand passed through the ghostly one offered in return, and she began to weep. Bram fell to his knees and wrapped his arms around her.
"She crossed over long ago to wherever it is we go. I could not call her back, no matter how I tried. Even I cannot cross death, no matter how I wish.
"She is so beautiful, Selene, and you remind me so much of her. But I am proud you have my hair and nose, your mother would be too."
Selene sobbed harder, lost in pure emotion, and clutched at him as if he were the only solid thing in the world. That this was a dream escaped her, that these were not his real arms nor her real tears inconsequential.
All that mattered was the pain unfurling inside her, loosened by Soren's lover, unraveling with her father's.
"Honey," he said into her hair. "It kills me to see you hurting like this. If I could take it all back, if I could have saved your mother and given you the life you deserved, I would. If it cost me my own life, I would."
She felt his sincerity, and gladly accepted the handkerchief he pushed into her hands. "Tell me about her."
He sat on the desk which knocked four dusty books to the floor, scattering even more. "She was an only child, lonely. Her mother, your grandmother, died when she was small, and she'd been lady of the house since she was young.
"I asked for her father to attend a meeting of the minds, a research group on bridging the gap between our two silly religions. She came instead, and when I saw her, I knew.
"She shone like a candle flame in the dark, she wore all white, looking so pure, so angelic, I thought my heart would stop. That night I broke vows I had held for hundreds of years, and together in our love, we created you, the best gift of my long life."
Selene felt the natural discomfort when their lovemaking was alluded to, but the love he spoke of enraptured her. "How long did you have?"
"She went into hiding eight months pregnant. I never got to see you born. I sent her with a priest of mine who swore to protect her. They hid you, for that I am so glad, and he died defending her, defending you. I owe that man everything."
The image of her mother smiled at them both, and Selene felt her chest wince, aching at the conversation. "Tell me about you, about your life."
He caught the hint and the image wavered and disappeared.
"I was born in what the western Humans would call the year three hundred, on the island of what is now called Mann. My father was a warrior, my mother a priestess of the human religion. Back then we lived amongst the humans, pretending to be of them. Back then we traded secrets with them, their magic of nature, ours of the essence beyond.
"We were dying out, we were not as we are now. Witches were sterile, becoming greatly so. More and more were finding their soul mates amongst the humans, and we gathered in the final days of our kind.
"Until then we saw our power as a balance, light and dark, strength and nurturing, masculine and feminine, all contained within the self. When a witch mated with a human, however, the tendencies the offspring showed leaned heavily to one side or the other.
"The great argument then was whether or not to simply let ourselves die off, intermarry with humans, become one, or take this new breed of offspring and start anew. It was decided a new religion, one of ours and not the humans would rule if we chose to separate ourselves. Two religions, dark and light.
"I found this unnatural, I found this an abomination on nature, our maker. But I was outvoted. By then I was the youngest of the old ones, the wars between our factions had killed off most of my brethren and the elders were fading away.
"Now I am the last, and my long life comes only from the secrets of the balance, the marriage of light and dark within."
"So this is not how it has always been?"
He nodded. "I am the only one who knows, and when I argue, when I explain, they call me a heretic, and evil-doer. I ran for the Council On Magic on your mother's request, and lost. I ran again in her memory, and lost. I challenged the head to a duel and was outcasted, but I knew he had been the force of my suppression.
"When I grew weary of ever succeeding, when I grew weary of finding you, I tried to leave the church. No one recognized it, and so I have retired to my rooms in my ancient homeland, awaiting the end of the world.
"But now that I've found you, I have so much to live for."