The Seduction Plan Ch. 02byPlainJane12©
I couldn't sleep at all that night. --Until I decided: No, we just weren't doing it. Simple.
Say his plan worked. That would mean just watching him wipe out the resistance. Not that they'd been super useful anyway, but they were basically on my side and it would be bad form on my part to let them die.
Then again, his plan might not work. Then where would we be? Who knows what would happen on Gravlor's Peak? I mean, he could die. --Which certainly would be a plus. But, I could get killed in the crossfire.
Was there going to be crossfire?
Point was I decided that I would just tell him. No.
The next morning I woke up late.
I got dressed quickly and ran down to the spell room. The Master of the Realm was already working, or perhaps still working among the bubbling potions, dissected animals, and dusty old tomes. His dark hair fell down around his eyes as he fiddled with what appeared to be a little brown box. He knew I was there and glanced up at me; but it was strange, he had a dark look in his eyes I didn't see very often. --And it had never been directed at me before.
He had always seemed to enjoy my company; he was a lonely guy. I also always felt like maybe having someone around when he made his decisions, helped to keep him from doubting his decisions. --That used to worry me, because it meant I was helping him do horrible things. But the truth was I had always been more interested in my revenge for the dead than I was in the problems of the living.
"Dor. You're late."
"Yup," I replied, pulling on my protective gloves. "I'll get started on more of the Portglan juice," I said, before throwing in, "And uh... no."
He straightened. "No?"
"No, we're not going through with the uh... plan."
He smiled, and I tried to pretend I didn't see it by pulling ingredients out of the cupboard. "Which plan?" he asked.
"The, you know, seduction plan," I replied, concentrating very hard on examining all the labels on the bottles.
"Ah. Is that the official title? I was thinking 'Mission: Code Red.' But I kind of like 'The Seduction Plan.' Has a nice ring to it." He set down the box.
"You named it that first. Last night. And I'm telling you, no." I couldn't look at him directly, this was too awkward. But I realized he was slowly walking across the room.
"It's too dangerous; I already told them no, and they'll be suspicious if I suddenly change my mind," I said. As he came around the corner of the table where I stood, I finally looked him in the eye, and said, "You didn't see my reaction, Eric. I laughed at them."
"Because it's a ridiculous plan!"
"You don't have to yell; I'm right here, Dor." He took a breath, then said, "I guess we'll have to do something to convince them you're in."
"Like what, Eric?"
"God, you're moody," he replied offhand.
"You would know!"
Suddenly he was right next to me. He grabbed one of my arms, and I didn't know why. I don't think he knew why either -- he was angry and didn't know what to do with it. "You've been trying to kill me," he growled.
My eyes filled with water then.
I guess I thought he finally knew -- for real, and he'd finally get rid of me. I refused to blink though; no tear-stained cheeks of regret for him or for me. I did my best and that was good enough.
But he didn't kill me. He looked at me for a long moment, then he pulled me into a hug. --Twice in less than 24 hours.
He spoke into my hair, laughing a little, manically, "I'm sorry; it's just you're mad at me for spying on you and you still haven't apologized for trying to kill me."
No. And I hadn't planned on it.
"If you don't stop hugging me, you won't ever get an apology," I replied. "Get off."
He chuckled at my reaction and let go. "You never did tell me how they got you to do it. What did they threaten you with?"
"They said... they would... make sure you knew, that I was one of them... Whether I was or not." Oh, I was a terrible liar. "And," I added, for the hint of authenticity I was clearly missing, "The thing is, I am related to... royalty here. They know that, and they would make it look like I wanted to take the throne."
He looked at me like I had said something hilarious. "You're related to royalty? You couldn't have been that close to the throne -- real royalty would have sent assassins, not been an assassin."
"Right?" I said, returning to my work.
"I remember when you first showed up here," he said. "You were the most wretched, ugly girl I had ever seen. -And such a raging bitch."
"No one had acted that way with me for, gosh... centuries."
Yeah. Okay. He said things like this sometimes -- exaggerating the length of his life by a thousand years. "Clearly, you needed it," I replied.
"Clearly I did," he said. "Why don't you want to do the plan, Dor?"
"Oh my... Look," I began.
"I mean, you went through with plenty of plans when it was possible that I could have died."
"Obviously it wasn't possible, because you knew about them."
It suddenly occurred to me then, that I would never be able to kill him. He would always be waiting and ready.
"But you didn't know that," he said.
If I couldn't kill him, I couldn't stay. Could I? No, there was no reason to be there. It would mean doing the opposite of what I had always done, always strived for. I would be helping the man that murdered my life.
He continued, "Now, I have a plan that will put an end to all this deception and you don't want to do it." He drew a finger along my wrist. It startled me; I hadn't realized I had just been standing there thinking, nor had I realized he was standing right next to me again. "I know I'm strict about you helping with the work and contributing to chores and... I thought it about it, and I realize we do a lot of things I like to do and not a lot of what you like to do."
I rolled my eyes. "Gee, I wonder why they call you Master of the Realm."
"I really started thinking about it when I first realized what had been happening. But I'm going to change, Dor. I'm going to be a better friend. We'll do things you like to do. --Like, twice a year?"
I rolled my eyes and smiled at him. He laughed at his own joke.
"But, if you could just do this. Dor, it can't be that hard to fake a little bit of feeling, can it? I mean, I haven't been so horrible that you really have wanted me dead, right?"
Yes. Yes you have.
It's been a long time since you did the things that made me feel this way. But feelings like this don't die.
"Whatever. What do you want me to do?" Maybe I could spin the situation somehow. Who knows? Maybe he would die on Gravlor's Peak.
He let out a breath I didn't realize he had been holding. "Great. That's great. And I have the perfect plan."
This was not the perfect plan.
Geez. So far I had only been worried about Eric trying to kill me. But after this, I'd be surprised if the resistance didn't come after me too.
We were going to play-act in public, him falling in love with me.
People don't just fall in love over an afternoon!
I tried to point this out to him; that in fact, he had been my constant companion and closest friend for over a decade now and we hadn't fallen in love. His plan didn't make a lick of sense.
But, there I was. Sitting in the main marketplace just off the river, waiting for him to finish business with one of the local officials he had appointed just after taking over the planet. I looked down the road for the rabid horse.
Oh, didn't I mention the rabid horse?
So according to Eric, everything he ever read suggested that people fall in love with people who rescue them.
Yeah, nothing determines compatibility like a good save.
Anyhoo -- originally he thought he should save me from something. Except he worried that would make more sense if we wanted me to fall in love with him. Big worry, right? So then he thought I should save him from something.
But he's kind of invincible.
So why would he need saving?
Then he decided that I wouldn't know it was him. I would just see someone in danger and save them, only later discovering it was the Master of the Realm.
So then he magicked up a rabid horse that would run through the city, and he told me that he would be in disguise. He didn't tell me what the disguise was going to be, just that I would know it was him. And that I should rescue him from being trampled or eaten by the rabid horse.
And that's about when I heard the screams and some pretty unexpectedly loud galloping.
A shadow fell over the walls of the businesses on my side of the street.
It came around the corner, and I couldn't believe it.
Eric was a serious dumbass.
This horse was more the size of an elephant than a horse, and its skin appeared to be bubbling; it left a strange green froth in its wake. The few peasants out on the street immediately scattered in terror, looking for a place to hide. I stood, grabbing the dagger in my vest that would kill the thing.
It opened its mouth. Did it neigh? No. The thing roared.
Eric was a fucking idiot.
...I briefly thought about letting this abomination kill Eric, and then I remembered -- wait no, wouldn't work. Eric would survive and then be pissed with me.
The horse-thing came barreling down the street, and I quickly tried to guess which person on the street was Eric in disguise. Would he wink at me? Wear his favorite color? What?
I started toward the horse-thing myself, knowing that I would have to deal with it anyway, even if I couldn't find Eric -- that bastard. I pulled out my knife and began the words that would empower the blade further.
The horse-thing began to charge.
Out of the corner of my eye, an old man with a cane began to leave one of the taverns. He froze at the sight of the horse, and dropped his cane in surprise.
The horse's attention was drawn by the noise of the cane bouncing on the street and then rolling away.
Then it looked at the old man.
My words wouldn't be ready.
Boy, I hoped that old man was Eric in disguise. -Because if he wasn't, he was screwed.
The words weren't going to be ready, but I couldn't let the horse get a bite out of the old man, Eric or no. I started running toward the horse-thing, only briefly thinking, "Why in the world am I running TOWARD a horse-thing?"
And that's about when I heard someone yell, "Dor!"
I threw the knife at the horse, and began to look back.
I caught sight of Eric's eyes under the hood of a holy man's cloak, yards behind me. He looked frightened. Odd, that.
When I looked back at the horse-thing, the knife was sticking out of its neck, and it was staring at me, clearly pissed.
You might ask how I would know that a horse-thing was "clearly pissed." Believe me, you can tell.
It opened its mouth and roared again.
I pushed the old man out of the way. And I think I knew I was going to get hit so I closed my eyes.
I couldn't move.
Ever have those nightmares, where something's happening and you just can't move? Your body twitches, like it works -- teasing you into believing that you have some control, that your effort matters.
I couldn't even open my eyes. Slowly I began to realize that I hurt like hell from my shoulder to my eyes. I could also smell the fact that I was home, I think down in the spell room.
Or maybe I was crazy.
I heard strange words. ...Sounded like a spell.
Boy, everything hurt.
Something soft tried to part my lips. But my jaw was stuck, locked together by the same thing keeping my limbs still -- pain, maybe?
Something held my nose shut.
I was going to pass out. I couldn't breathe.
Now something was back to pulling my lips apart.
"Dor, oh..." And I wasn't sure, because this really hadn't happened before, but... someone kissed me. -Quick and hard.
I moved then, my head turned. Too much -- I was confused. Who was there? Something grabbed my shoulder where the pain was! I tried to scream, but my throat was dry and it only hurt more.
Liquid spilled into my throat and I started to choke.
"Dor? Come on, you're alive. You're alive, you're alive, you're alive. I said the words. You've taken the potion."
My eyes began to open.
Eric was crying on my chest. Damn this was a weird dream. I heard him say, "I didn't kill you, I didn't kill you."
My hand lifted and patted him on the back reflexively.
He looked up at me.
My head felt heavy, and I sort of let it fall to the side.
I was lying on one of the tables in the spell room. It was covered in blood. I was covered in blood. --As well as some green, frothy stuff.
"Dor?" he asked.
I wanted to reply. But my face really hurt. I reached up to touch it, but he stopped my hand.
"Don't worry," he said, anxiously, earnestly, "I'll fix it. I swear, I'll fix it." He paused, like he wasn't sure what to do. Then, "Just, just go to sleep. Go to sleep," he said.
Now I was warm, too warm and I couldn't move again. But I felt so much better. I suddenly knew what had happened. It had to be those damn apples all over again. Eric used to give me healing apples at the drop of a hat, until I began to realize how addictive they were. In my early twenties I had told him, no more.
Right now I felt like I had eaten three dozen in one sitting.
I opened my eyes.
It seemed like I was in a cocoon.
I was wrapped in blankets.
I tried wriggling out of them, and I almost did. Then I figured out what was stopping me. A large, thickly muscled arm curled around the blankets near my shoulder. A bare knee pointed like an arrow just a short distance beyond, sat in similar fashion around my blanket cocoon.
Eric was wrapped around the blankets.
I pushed some of the blankets away from my face to get a better look, and that's when I realized he was not dressed.
I slid back into the cocoon, eyes wide. I hadn't seen anything, thank the heavens, but...
I then noticed that I was not dressed.
I covered myself, just in case the three layers of thick blankets weren't going to cut it, and closed my eyes. "Hey, Eric?" I asked, my voice a tad high.
He mumbled in his sleep and pulled the whole bundle of me and blankets tighter.
"Hey, uh... Eric... You awake?"
"Uh huh..." he said.
"Pray tell, oh Master of the Realm. Why, exactly uh. Are we naked?"
No answer. No movement.
"Gee sorry, Dor," he suddenly said, rolling me over and suddenly looking closely at my face as I scrambled to stay covered. "I guess when you have to dip your half-dead friend in a whole bathtub of potions just to keep her alive you don't worry too much about clothes."
He was prodding at my eyes, and testing them by moving his fingers around in front of my face. He opened my mouth and moved my jaw around, peering inside. "Next time," I replied, pulling my face out of his hands, "Worry."
"You've been asleep for days," he said.
"Have you been crawling in here naked every night for days??"
He looked at me, shocked. "I never left."
Oh screw this. "Okay, get out."
"I mean it. I need to get dressed. We've lost days now, right? That's what you're saying. You haven't been out to reinforce the wall energies or replace army units or scare the locals, in days? Do you even know what the result of that freaking horse thing was? Was anyone fooled? A single person?"
His eyes narrowed. "You were supposed to run to protect me. If you had, I could have better protected you from anything that went wrong."
"You mean the plan? You could have protected me from the plan? -Because it was pretty wrong to start with."
"Did you even want it to work? You ran off to protect that old man, didn't even wait to see..."
"You wouldn't tell me what the disguise was! I thought it was you!"
His eyes changed then.
I looked away, and added, "I mean, I didn't know for sure. It's not like I had to worry about you anyway."
"I'm an idiot," he said.
"I noticed." Then I suddenly realized that his arms were still around me, that it was only the lucky positioning of the blanket that I couldn't see more. "Why are we still naked?!?"
He laughed. I suddenly felt stifled, warmer. Clothing had materialized around both of us, and I quickly moved to get out of the blankets. I struggled to get off the bed, and suddenly felt woozy.
He caught my arm before I fell.
"You're not better yet," he said, worried, picking me up and depositing me back on the bed.
"No, we'll stay here."
I shook my head, pained though it was. "No, you at least have to get back to work. I'll lie down for a minute and join you later."
"You know, I'm the Master of the Realm here."
"Okay, well, when your palace falls down around us and the resistance kills us both, I'll comfort myself with the fact you're the one in charge."
He leaned in and kissed my forehead.
I found myself lying down then.
I went to sleep.
I was early. Crap.
I was never early to meetings with the resistance.
They were going to know I was off today.
I still kept getting flashes of memories of the horse stomping on me before just before bursting into flames -- it was giving me headaches. --That and the fact I had no idea where this meeting was going to go.
"She's alive!" Bolthos gasped, gaping on the other side of the bar. Dartix ran over and hugged me around the waist like a long-lost grandmother. I was surprised, and a little touched.
"I saw you dead," Dartix murmured. "Dead, by the horse."
"She'll be dead by you, Dartix," Saymar said, pulling him away gently, "if you squeeze her any harder." Saymar nodded at me, looking concerned. "Are you okay, Dor?"
"Yeah. A little sore, still."
The three of them slid into the bench across from me. Their faces were different than usual. They looked a little awed.
"What happened? He whisked you away, but everyone said it was too late. And you've been off the radar for almost a month," Saymar said.
"Healing up. I'm not sure what he did, but he saved me. It hurt, but I'm still alive."
Dartix's eyes widened. "He didn't kiss you, did he? -Like in the fairy tales?"
I laughed then. So did Bolthos and Saymar.
Maybe this wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. "No, Dartix. I don't think so. But I guess I was in a coma for a few days, so who knows."
Saymar's face suddenly darkened.
"What?" I asked.
"The pr- ..." he began, before stopping himself. "You shouldn't be in that position. It's dangerous."
"We all know the dangers."
"This is different. Before, you were in control of all your faculties."
He started to say more, but I held up a finger. "Wait, wait, wait. Last time I was here, you wanted me to seduce him. Now you're worried he might take advantage of me?"
"We wanted you in control," Saymar replied. "That's all we ever wanted. You said it yourself; who knows what he did while you were hurt."
"Saymar, the guy can make people drunk at will." Saymar's face turned from angry to outraged, but I continued, "News to me, too. But it doesn't matter. He's... he's..."
Not like that? Not into me? Eric had been adamant about what I was supposed to do: make it clear he wanted me. But Saymar had pulled the conversation into an odd direction. Somebody probably knows how many times the local people had tried to coerce me back into hiding for my own good; I had lost count. I didn't want to juggle in the issue of whether I should be living with the Master of the Realm, along with everything else that was in the air of this conversation.