Possess Me Ch. 09bytitania123©
Thank you so much for being as patient as possible while I worked on this chapter. Sorry there hasn't been any sex in a while, but hopefully, our characters will get back to that soon. As always, please leave feedback about what is working and what is not, and vote if you liked it!
Thank you for all your amazing support!
White silk flowed around her fingers, deep like the thickest hay, but softer and more pliable. Her fingers followed the brush, over and over they stroked through, down and out to the ends. Her eyes were not focused on the pretty sight, and her ears were not open to the words the woman spoke. Her mind was weightless; nothing that floated in lasted long. But still she continued her chore attuned to nothing but the gray fog.
It was warm fingers over her hand that finally stilled her movement and drew her eyes to the mirror of the vanity. Josephine's questioning face reflected back, her blue eyes sparkling in the light of the sun filtering through the small window.
Brynna realized she had spoken, most likely to ask a question. "I'm sorry, my lady, what did you say?"
Josephine smiled gently. "I asked how you like living here?"
Brynna nodded. "It is very nice here. Everyone is very kind and helpful." She focused her attention back on her mistress's hair. It was brushed to polished gold and ready to be pinned. Though another maid had been helpful to show Brynna the complicated plaits Josephine liked to wear her hair in, learning was not easy as her mind seemed muted and mumbled, making her fingers clumsy and unskilled. But Josephine was patient and always responded positively to each attempt. Over the past two weeks, Brynna had had plenty of opportunity to practice, and though she did improve, she stepped back and sighed in disappointment. She should be better than this.
"Thank you, Brynna, that is lovely," Josephine complimented her. "After my dinner, I would like to sit in front of the fire in the great hall and embroider. Please bring my things to me then."
"Yes, my lady," Brynna said and watched the beautiful woman two years her junior, walk to dinner with her husband. Brynna busied herself over the next hour by straightening Josephine's clothing. When she had refolded a particular shift for the fourth time, Brynna looked around the room with a vague feeling that she was meant to be somewhere, be doing something...but she couldn't quite remember.
She opened the large trunk containing Josephine's gowns, but found nothing there to spark her memory. She rummaged through the wardrobe, but again, nothing reminded her of her purpose. She stood in the center of the room, a thoughtful finger to her chin as she turned about, trying to grasp and hold onto a single thought, but none stayed.
"Brynna, what are you doing?" Josephine's curious voice came.
Startled, Brynna turned to see Josephine standing at the door, her head cocked to one side. "I'm sorry, my lady, I've forgotten what I was doing. I know I needed to..." again she turned, looking for what she had misplaced, or set aside, or whatever it was.
Josephine walked slowly in. "You were to bring me my embroidery after dinner, but that was nearly twenty minutes ago."
"Your embroidery? Ah, yes, so I was. I am sorry, my lady." Josephine's observant eyes watched as the flighty girl went to unpack the requested items. They walked in silence to the sitting space in the great hall. Together, they sat before the warm fire, each attending to their own tasks.
Occasionally, Josephine's eyes wandered to the beautiful woman who had fallen into her life. She knew Brynna was smart, kind, and eager to help. She also instinctively knew that the skittish, forgetful, slow-learning thing she had witnessed the past fortnight was not who she really was. Josephine had not quite determined if the change was due to an injury she received in the river, or if there was something deeper, darker, causing her mind to implode.
Brynna remained unwilling to speak of her life before, but only gave sad little smiles whenever Josephine would ask a question that hinted for knowledge. While she had been recovering, Josephine had been awoken one night to cries. Following them to where Brynna fitfully slept, she found her wrestling in her covers moaning sadly. As she reached out to the distraught figure, Brynna spoke in her sleep. It was a name, spoken in agony, and Josephine could not quite tell if he was the cause of her pain or the desired relief of her suffering. When she had awoken her, Brynna could only sob onto her shoulder, uncontrollably, heartbrokenly.
The pain that tormented her sleep was easily visible below the surface of her waking hours, too. It was in her voice or gestures, or reactions. It was in the dullness of her eyes, the slowness to smile. Josephine became convinced that Brynna could not heal alone and set it as her mission to save the lost beauty.
When she caught Brynna staring vacantly into the flames with her needle stilled in her hand and eyes unblinking, she called to her. Brynna did not respond immediately, but slowly blinked and then looked around, seeking what had disturbed her. It took her several moments to focus on Josephine, before she quirked her head and asked, "My lady?"
The behavior stirred Josephine's heart. She had never seen such detached behavior and was baffled by the lack of attention Brynna displayed. She decided to test a theory. "Brynna, tell me, who is Malik?" she asked in a soft voice, her eyes looking over her embroidery. When she chanced a glance up, she was lost at what she saw, knowing that the placid, pale expression did not reveal what the young woman felt.
Brynna gave a little shake of her head, almost too small to see. The menial tilt of the corner of her lips a stony façade encasing a deeper turmoil. "And where did you hear that name, my lady?" she asked stiffly.
Josephine treaded carefully."You. When you were first recovering, you used to cry out in your sleep. You occasionally spoke his name. Who is he?" she prompted gently.
Still, Brynna held her sickly, stiff smile. She turned her eyes back to her needle, her hand trembling as she attempted a stitch. The silence only broke with the crackle of the wood being consumed by the great fire. The hall stood dark except for the light that escaped the firebox, their shadows blending into the darkness the fire could not dispel.
"A man," she said lowly, at last, as if it was the only answer she could provide. No elaboration on his relationship to her, no description of his character, no word about his role in her current situation. Nothing more was proffered, and Josephine knew it was sealed away in a tomb, buried among both the sacred and profane.
"Is it possible...that you...love this man?" she pushed, knowing he was the key to her history, the thorn to her wound.
Brynna's eyes were once more captivated by the fire. "Love? Who is he to me that I should love him? Love? There is nothing to love." Josephine was struck by the deep-cutting rancor in Brynna's voice. It was a tone unfitting her nature, a telling sign that a great evil had been done to her new friend. In a newly, heartbroken tone, Brynna continued, as if in thought to herself, speaking to the fire, to the darkness, to any in the openness that would have ears to hear. "I died. Did Holt not say so himself? That he pulled me from the river and I breathed not? I died. I had to die to be free, and yet...how do you escape what is in you? Burnt in your heart?" She shook her head slowly, despondent and helpless. "There is no escaping what is inside. There is no freedom from those things, is there?" She turned huge, water filled eyes to Josephine.
Josephine drew close, laying a comforting hand over Brynna's trembling arm. "I am sorry, there is nothing I can do to erase this hurt from you. But you are safe here. Your life can begin anew, and in time, the pain will pass. I promise, you'll see."
Brynna looked at her skeptically. "Do you think to cast a spell over me, my lady, turn me invisible for the time he arrives at your keep? He has already found me once, and he will find me again, even here. Even in your service. There is nothing that can stop him."
"Found you? How has he?" Josephine asked, sitting straight in alarm.
"At the inn, my lady. He was there the morning Holt and I left. He was inquiring of the other guests. His man saw me, though he let me slip by. His kindness to me will not hold forever, nor will it be enough to turn the trail cold. It is only a matter of time," Brynna said in defeat. She was resigned to the knowledge he would find her, he would demand of her, he would take her back and chain her soul in his cold keep. Her ruin existed, it just had yet to occur.
"No," Josephine said in soft resolution. "I will not let him," she said with a conviction that echoed through Brynna, stirring her memories of when she was brave, when she was strong.
"You cannot stop him. No one can." She breathed a deep, shaky breath. "Please, let us not discuss it further. It will not extend my time or hide me in freedom."
Josephine sat back, watching the empty girl with an expression of suppressed horror. Was she truly waiting for this man to come and force her back? Steal away her freedom? She narrowed her eyes in scrutiny, once again discerning correctly that her spirit of weakness stemmed from a belief in the unavoidable, inevitable coming of destruction.
The hour was late, and she knew Brynna still tired easily. She dismissed her to retire for the evening and watched the beautiful, but spent form walk towards the stairs, her figure slowly disappearing into the black of the room, the light of the fire unable to reach her to cast its glow over her.
In a short time, the deep and sincere beauty of Brynna had captured Josephine's heart. She did not view the lifeless body pulled from the freezing rapids as a weak, pathetic thing. Rather, she saw the courage behind the quieted life, the fierce ability to pull from the binding ties, despite the ripped flesh left behind. She knew in the deepest part of her, that this young woman was brave and strong. And her present spirit of impotence was not her natural state. Josephine wanted to believe that Brynna was wrong in her estimation of this Malik's ability to find her and that she would eventually heal and become dazzling once more. Though she tried to ignore it, a soft swirling of warning came that this man was more dangerous than even Josephine could imagine and more powerful than Stilwell could protect her from.
She closed her eyes, flesh-hued gold filtering in through her eyelids. The small stirring of fear pushed the compelling need to run and hide deeper and deeper until Josephine was convinced that it was the only course of action. She sighed darkly, angry with herself at her faltering courage. She knew what she must do to ensure Brynna's safety from her tormentor. She only wished she was strong enough that it was not so.
If Brynna's pursuer had already found her at the inn, Josephine knew he could easily track her to their keep. His arrival could come at any moment. She left straight away to her chamber and sat at her little writing desk. Pulling the stiff parchment from a compartment, she began to furiously scribble her plan. She woke the young messenger and gave him her precise, urgent instructions. He left within a quarter of an hour, flying off into the darkness of the early night, destined for points beyond their region.
Josephine paced restlessly the following morning. Her presence to and fro in front of the window barely registering with Brynna that something was amiss with her mistress. Josephine had noted the further decline of health and vitality of the woman who was beginning to feel like her ward. Brynna had eaten nothing of substance in the past two days and her color was considerably drained, even for the early winter months. Josephine only prayed that her plea for help would not go unanswered and that Brynna would soon be bound for the safest haven Josephine could provide.
Just as she was sitting down to her luncheon, the young messenger returned. Josephine leapt from the table, only fleetingly thinking of how fortunate it was that Stilwell was not there to witness her unladylike and suspicious behavior. She knew this was the very type of history he had wanted to protect her from. If he knew of Brynna's past, even the very little Brynna had shared, he would no doubt insist on locating this man Malik who seemed to have some sort of tutelary right over her and demand she be returned. She was quite fond of her husband and did not wish to be disloyal or disobedient. But she could not abandon Brynna, and she could not let anything interfere with protecting her, even her well-intentioned husband.
She met the rider in the corridor leading from the back courtyard to the inner storerooms off the main kitchen. He gave a simple, 'my lady,' as he handed over the folded and sealed parchment. Josephine tore it open and devoured the words with a fluttering stomach. It was as she had hoped; Brynna could leave immediately. She instructed the young man to run to the stables and have a carriage prepared.
With the letter clutched firmly in her hand, she walked to the small sitting room Brynna was working in. Her quiet, dull form sat in a chair before the fire. She had been left to embroider the bodice of a shift for Josephine, but the piece remained blank as Brynna sat staring out the window glazed over with snow and ice. Josephine approached and touched her shoulder.
"Brynna, you must come with me."
"My lady, is there something I can do for you?"
"Yes. Firstly, not to argue with anything I am about to command of you. Now, come along." She led Brynna out to the stables where the driver was securing the horses to the small carriage. "Brynna," she said turning to the woman who was growing in confusion. "If you are correct, about this man I mean, then you cannot stay."
She saw Brynna's face quickly grow in fear. Did she mean to turn her out? "But worry not. I have set about to find you a secure location that you can live in peace. Hopefully, given time, you will mend." She reached out and squeezed the trembling girl's hands. "I am sorry you could not stay, that I could not protect you here. But we shall not be separated forever. I hope to visit you soon. Now, please do as you are told," she said with a voice gruffed by emotion. She grabbed Brynna and hugged her tightly.
Brynna was ushered forward into the small conveyance before furs were thrust upon her. She could hear Josephine's voice instruct the driver and then she was away, dashing from the keep in great fury. Brynna adjusted herself, sitting back more comfortably and tucking the piles around her to seal out the cold.
Brynna sat in the dark box, dimmed by the heavy curtains drawn to keep out the winter's breath. Her body thrummed from the excitement of being rushed away in great haste and secrecy. Through her mind ran an unorganized array of thoughts, feelings, and images.
Where was she going? She knew not, nor what Josephine's plans entailed or how she would live her life. Once again she was leaving without saying goodbye to friends, without clothes or belongings, without any connection to her previous life.
She was leaving a home she had hoped to love. Though she had always known he would find her, she had allowed hope to crest at the edge of her heart that she had finally found a home. But in the end, it had been Josephine who had sent her away.
Brynna had been too stunned by Josephine's pronouncement that she was to leave, and with such authority, that she failed to ask. Brynna was warmed and comforted by her sincere concern for her safety and knew that she acted only for her benefit. Wherever she would land, Brynna knew it would be infinitely safer than in the cold keep of her former master.
She closed her eyes and bit her lip, scolding herself for thinking of him. In the past month since her escape, his presence never left her. He filled her dreams with longing and her days with unbearable pain. She didn't understand how she could be so devastated by his actions and yet want him to comfort her all at the same time. She wanted to forgive him. She wanted him to beg. She wanted to run him through with his own short sword. She wanted to forget. She wanted him to love her in return. And yet...and yet she knew he never could. He was not a person of love, of gentle feelings. He cared not for her and never would.
The spasm of pain drew tears. Brynna sighed heavily, attempting to keep the tremor of tears from controlling her. Slow, rolling waves of despair crept through her, seizing her being. Over and over her mind cycled from pain of obscured origin to desperation for all to be different than it was. How was she to bear a life of such acute agony? The box became too hot, stifling her in panicked heat. She flung back the drape and breathed the biting cold in, its icy lace fingering along the wet lines of her face. She slowed her breathing, eased the frantic pace of her mind. She slipped into slow, even waves of thought.
The cold had settled in his bones, driving straight through his being. He told himself the pain in his chest was a result of three weeks of hard riding, little food, and even less sleep. The trio had ridden to the edge of the great black forest and beyond, always searching for the lost girl. Near the end of a month being away from home and constantly cold and tired, they sat hunkered at a small table at the back of an inn. Saul and Brom ate the potato-heavy stew while Malik pushed his food around between coughs.
Brom and Saul exchanged wary looks, both certain that his present course of behavior would likely lead to his continued decline in health. When Malik fell into particularly violent coughing spell, Saul finally spoke up. "Sir, perhaps it is best if we..." but he stopped as Malik raised his head. Saul turned his eyes back to Brom for help, but Brom knew it would gain nothing to tell the master to quit his obsession and return to the warmth of his keep.
Malik did not let the conversation die away, however. "Best if we what?" he asked in a slightly menacing tone.
"Well, sir, it has been almost thirty days since we last saw her, and without a clue after, well..."
"What are you trying to say?"
Saul, full of rightly-placed fear of Blackwood attempted to not anger him with his suggestion. "Perhaps it is best we returned."
"And give up the search?"
"By this point, I do not think it is favorable to find her, if she is even alive and-"
"She lives!" he thundered as his fist crashed down upon the table, quaking the bowls, upsetting a goblet of wine. His outburst incited another round of coughing. But this time, the coughing did not stop. To gain leverage over his drowning lungs, he stood to lean against the walls, but the sudden rise stole his equilibrium, and his head flashed into listless inebriation. His flushed face scanned the dimmed surroundings. He watched as everything grew even darker before the jarring feeling of falling to the floor came as his last registered sensation. And then all was quiet.
Malik awoke with a boggy feeling of fatigue and sore body. His mouth was dry and his throat not able to swallow. His hot, sick flesh yearned for her cool, comforting hands, but he had no voice to ask her. His eyes felt sewn shut, but he struggled until they slitted open, the dryness of the room instantly making him shut them again.
"Dr-drink," he whispered in a rough croak, smacking his lips together. With eyes still closed, he heard shuffling around him, felt the bed dip with the weight of someone leaning on his mattress, and then the cold, hard edge of a goblet pressed to his lips. He drank the heady drink until he gasped for breath. "Brynna," he whispered, reaching out for her hands. But the hands he found were not hers. They were not thin and graceful. They were older, softer.