Love as a Form of Binding Ch. 11byTaLtos6©
**Toby can't just go out and seize his destiny single-handedly - or even with the aid of his two stunning consorts. He needs at least a little help from others and the older demoness knows this. It's why she's making some very careful and delicate choices for him. Yester Castle is the place that she's chosen for him to begin. O_o
Lewis Crowe walked near the overhang of the trees at the edge of the wood looking for fallen branches. At this time of year, he liked to use the hearth in his little cottage. He did that for a couple of reasons, only one of them practical. He lived on a small pension and he hated to spend much on heating the place, for one thing, and for the small effort of hunting for what fell from the trees naturally, he had a warm fire to gaze into around Christmastime. It wasn't much, but it was something. It was his job anyway. He received a small income to keep the grounds of the place tidy and he was allowed to keep what deadfall wood he could cart off.
He stopped for a moment to tie his long gray hair back. He'd been a laborer on the shipping dock of a printing firm for most of his adult life, never going anywhere or having a reason to. He supposed that he'd fulfilled his father's prophesy and had never amounted to much in a lot of ways. Then again, he's never had much to work with, being only five feet three inches tall. The younger workers at the place where he'd worked had liked to call him 'The Gnome' behind his back. Well they thought that he never heard them, but he did, of course. He'd been hearing that since he was in school. When the place had closed down, Lewis had decided to take early retirement, since he couldn't find anyone besides the people from the historical heritage foundation who would hire him.
He didn't mind much. He'd lived near the ruined castle since he'd moved there twenty years before. All that he had to do was clean up the grounds now and then, keep an eye on the old place and report in periodically if anything worth calling about occurred -- and of course, nothing much ever did, other than a bit of vandalism by the local youth now and then.
He had a passing thought of the woman that he reported to and for some odd reason it had come to him that she was the only other non-Scottish person that he knew. It had been a completely random thought to him and he wondered idly if that was why he fancied her a little. He threw the thought away after a second as what it was -- a random notion. Not many people gave him a thought, but he'd never cared where a person might be from. It was absurd to him.
He just liked her, not that he had a hope of a similar thought in return from her. Like everyone else, that woman never spared him a thought. He only thought of her now and then because she was the only female that he had any interaction with at all, other than perhaps a clerk in a shop now and then when he actually broke down and purchased anything. He had no way of knowing it for certain, but he was correct. That woman never thought about him at all, other than to see him now and then on her rounds for their employers, the heritage foundation. He didn't know much about her, and he only saw her once or twice a year if she came to perform a quick inspection.
He didn't know much about her, and of course, she didn't know much about him.
No one did, really.
But Lewis was a little special. He'd learned from the old folk tales that his mother and his aunt had told him about all manner of the magical folk who had once lived "not too far off in the woods" wherever man and made his home long ago. He'd added to that from the old books that he'd collected as well. He could quote chapter and verse on any topic from brownies to trolls, not that anyone ever asked him to.
In actual fact, that woman did know about the lore that Lewis carried in his mind. She just hadn't had the need of any of it yet, and so she didn't give him much of a thought, other than how well he did his job.
He finished tying back his hair and noticed a few thicker branches not far off. He smiled. There was enough right here for several evening's worth of heat once it had dried out if he was thrifty -- and Lewis was nothing if not thrifty. He'd banked quite a lot of his wages over his life. He lived alone -- as he'd always done in the little cottage in the woods that he'd found by accident and bought long ago. He pushed his wheelbarrow in that direction.
If Lewis hadn't been quite so preoccupied with his thoughts, he might have noticed a couple of changes in the old ruined castle. But he hadn't been looking and that suited the tall demoness who'd been watching him from the window high up in the tower.
She'd read his thoughts and from that, she knew of the woman who had a small office near another ancient castle, and it made the tall one wonder if that one might suit her needs a little better. She spread her wings and flew off, fading out of sight not long after.
The woman sat in an office looking over a page that she'd printed on her printer at her home the evening before. She'd done most of the work using her graphics tablet. The print was only something to use and sketch on if changes or additions came to mind. She looked to her notebook, filled with cryptic notes to herself to check on some spelling before she wrote down a few lines under the illustration, copying and checking with the utmost care.
When she was done, she checked once more time and as she looked over the artwork before deciding on the coloration that she'd use in the final version, she mouthed the words to herself a time or two as she worked. It wasn't even really a conscious act to her. She was so busy concentrating now that it was just something that she did.
The demon landed on a building in the middle of the town of North Berwick. Remaining invisible, she shook her head to clear the words that she'd heard and felt. It had been thousands of years since anyone had prayed to her, hoping that the weather that she caused would leave them alone. She looked around, trying to remember the last time that anyone had attempted an evocation. It had been a long time ago and it had ended badly for the hopeful summoners, thinking that all that they had to do was to summon her and bind her. She couldn't be bound, but she could be irritated enough to force them to do awful things to each other before she killed the "winner".
The time before that, she remembered, it had been a priest who had commanded her to show herself in a temple filled with his followers, so she did. He pointed to her and bellowed his words of command for her to kneel. She'd smiled and tilted her head as the doors sealed themselves shut. He pointed and shouted again so she seized him and began to gnaw off his limbs before making him slide wetly along all of the walls and the ceiling -- driven by her pointed finger while she stood in the middle of the place. When she grew tired of that, the people stampeded for the sealed exits as she walked through the temple, slaying every one of the priests of the cult. When she'd killed the last one, she'd looked at how the followers had trampled each other and then she'd turned everything to dust, building and people, before she'd walked away through the now-deserted marketplace outside.
She'd never been a goddess, had no desire for the role, and what prayers she'd heard long ago had been nothing more than an annoyance, since the weather was what was needed when and where she'd caused it.
She'd never been the sort who could be forced to appear in response to an evocation. Some fools tried now and then and if she appeared at all, it was because she'd been irritated enough to want to crush the cause of her provocation in much the same way as a human might squash a bothersome mosquito.
To hear a vague call like this, well, ...
She was long past this nonsense.
But her mood lightened after a moment, knowing who it had been and wondering a little at the timing of this. Details about the one at the other end of this came to her and only added to her smile. The demoness wondered how it was possible for a human to want the things that she felt about her. She took off again after a minute.
This was someone who she had to meet.
Sharon Rizzo looked out from her office window in a bit of a rotten mood. If there was anything that she loved in her life, it was history. She could live and breathe the subject, but at times like this, she questioned her life choices. Sharon did have one other area of history which had fascinated her since she was a girl of about ten; she'd always had an interest in the supernatural and researched it about as much as she gleaned other historical facts. She'd moved to Scotland after completing her degree, and that had led her here years later.
Now she had what might be termed a 'multi-facetted job' if one was being charitable, and one facet was sitting here on the off chance that someone might get it into their heads to come and visit the old place so she could take their admission and give them a bit of a talk about the castle's history if they looked interested. Of course, anyone with a brain wouldn't want to visit it in late December. Besides, it was close enough to Christmas that even ardent castle goers found their thoughts elsewhere. That was one of the reasons why Sharon was here today, sitting in the small visitor center.
Like a lot of people, Sharon had fallen in love with wild and windblown historic places. But most of the time, those same places blew enough cold and damp wind up your skirt to help you past that romantic foolishness pretty quickly after a while. Sharon also had a background in graphic design, and had published a few books of what might loosely be termed as mildly erotic engravings relating to her rather 'demonic' dreams and nightmares. Knowing that she likely faced a boring day, she'd gotten her reports done in a hurry and was using the slack time to work on a few ideas for a coffee table book of demon sketches.
Her hand drifted down unconsciously to the denim covering her thigh and she caught herself with a barely spoken and whispered curse as she remembered the cause of the automatic movement with a frown.
And who wouldn't want another yeast infection at this festive time of year? Oh yeah, she thought, this on top of being alone and not being able to make it home to Philly for Christmas. Just freaking awesome.
That was the other of the reasons why Sharon was here today, sitting in the small visitor center. She'd given the rest of the staff the day off, since she sure as hell had no other place to be or travel to.
She sighed, pushing her long blonde hair behind her ear. Sharon was a thin woman who stood five feet eight inches tall, and referred to the image in her mirror as the stick girl from Philadelphia. She thought of her tiny breasts as fried eggs in waiting, and at forty-one, she didn't think that there would be anyone now who'd want to explore that territory before the waiting was over.
She didn't know why, but she almost wanted to cry for a moment. Nothing like the holidays to make you feel the want of another person who might love you, she thought to herself. She thought back and realized that she hadn't had anyone like that in her life for almost three years now and he'd been a cast iron dick to her more often than not. She decided to close up a little after lunch and go home. At least she could be miserable in comfort.
She turned to go back to her desk, and in that instant, she thought that she saw something just passing the edge of the doorway in the hall. Sharon was surprised. For one thing, she'd left the staff parking gate closed and knew that there were no other members of the staff on-site today. For another, she had a clear view of the visitor parking area and there were no vehicles there and there hadn't been even one all morning. The third thing on the list was that if she'd caught a glimpse of something or someone passing there, they'd made absolutely no sound. The building was a converted office trailer, and the floor creaked if one so much as farted.
There was another possibility, though it caught her off-guard for a moment.
Tantallon castle had long been known (or rumored) to be haunted. She heard reports about once a month from startled visitors who told of seeing one of the several supposed ghosts of the place, though the supposed sightings had all been in the castle proper, not in the visitor center where she was now. Still, she reached for the handle on her top left desk drawer. She wanted to get her camera, in case she could actually see the apparition -- if that was what it had been.
But the camera wasn't where it was supposed to be and Sharon had to look down to see it. As her hand closed over the camera, Sharon was even more startled as she realized that she was no longer alone in her office and she looked up.
The woman standing across the desk from her smiled pleasantly for a moment and then she looked very apologetic when she saw how the blonde had jumped in shock at her appearance.
"Oh, I'm very sorry to have startled you," she said politely in a faint and unrecognizable accent, "I was looking for the castle curator and I saw the sign on the door."
Sharon was looking at a tall woman, dressed almost as though she'd ridden here on horseback, though Sharon supposed that her outfit might be more suited to tromping through the moors just as well. She had long, gently curling dark brown hair and the eyes which regarded her in a hopeful and friendly way were almost golden. To Sharon, she looked astoundingly beautiful and was maybe forty-three at a stretch. The overall effect left Sharon feeling a little confused and off her stride.
"Well that's me," Sharon smiled, recovering a little, "How may I help you?"
The woman regarded her with what looked to her to be just a little more than polite interest, and in fact, there was suddenly a lot more to it for the other woman in a way. She seemed a little confused herself for a moment. "I um, I have some questions relating to the castle's history obviously and its structure, particularly the ground level chambers in the north range near what's left of Douglas Tower."
The golden irises drifted away from Sharon for a moment to rest on the illustration that she saw on her desk. "Is, ... is that a drawing of a demon there on that drawing pad?"
Sharon would have felt a need to cover the drawing ordinarily. One could never tell how something such as this might be interpreted. A finished book of glossy printed illustrations for sale in a shop was one thing, since it could be looked at and put down if desired, but in a curator's office, it was something that might be seen as something else by one with a narrow mind and a desire to make a complaint. Sharon felt surprisingly confident in the woman's company for some reason so she only shrugged.
"Yes," she said, "I sometimes publish works pertaining to the subject. It's a pet hobby of mine and it helps to pay the bills once they're published and for sale. Do you have an interest?"
"You might say that," the woman grinned, seeing what from her vantage point was an upside-down illustration which held some significance to her. She caught the penciled words below it. "You're very good," she said with some admiration, "Please, could you tell me where your works are published later? I think that I'd very much like to obtain some -- if the rest of it is like this."
Sharon smiled, "I'd be happy to, but aren't you here to see the castle? There's no one here today, and I'd be pleased to show you the places here that you wish to see. It's pretty blustery out there, but I could stand the walk to the main part up the path." She held out her hand, "I'm Sharon --"
The rest was forgotten as the other woman took her hand. Sharon was surprised at how warm and friendly the hand that grasped hers felt to her. "I'm happy to meet you," the woman said, "I'm Lily."
They looked at each other for just a second and then Sharon grabbed her jacket as well as her set of master keys and they were off, walking along the long path to the castle with the sea wind whipping their hair around. Sharon was surprised to find that she still held her camera in one hand and slipped it into her pocket as they walked and she spoke of the history of the place and what had happened to bring it to its current state.
The halls in the northern range echoed with the footsteps of the two women who found that they had quite a bit in common and quite enjoyed each other's company.
"Why are you interested in this end?" Sharon asked as she admired Lily's rear profile, "There are rooms and chambers in better shape at the other end."
"This end has the remains of Douglas Tower and the prison below it," Lily said, "and also, there are these workrooms and the cellars below them."
Sharon was puzzled, "But the remains of the only cellars are where the great hall used to be."
"Well," Lily said, "I guess that I had it wrong," she smiled, though she knew that she didn't. There were cellars below where they stood -- she could even see the faint outlines of the access doors that Sharon couldn't.
Sharon pulled a thin thermos from her inner jacket pocket. "I've got some tea," she smiled, "I'd be happy to share."
Lily nodded thankfully, "I'd love that, Sharon," she said, "there's nothing like standing in a castle with open window holes and no fire going to put a chill into you on a day like this."
Sharon poured into the small cup and held it out to Lily. "True enough. This was once the bakehouse and that means that it was likely never cold while the castle was in operation. I sure wish that it was going right now."
Lily nodded in agreement before she took a sip. She looked over the rim of the cup at Sharon and saw a lot of what was in her personality, things such as her likes and dislikes, faint hopes and dreams, as well as her deepest longing wishes, some of them incredibly recent and as yet, unrequited. She made a bit of a decision then and slid the tip of her tongue deeply into the hot tea for a moment before handing the cup across to Sharon, who hadn't seen what she'd done.
Sharon noted that Lily had only sipped half of the small cup's contents and was pleased that Lily wanted to share it this way. She smiled and topped up the cup before taking a sip herself. Lily looked over and smiled, seeing the closed wooden door at the end of the room behind Sharon. The door had been a recent addition, made in the last ten seconds.
Sharon had a warm feeling just beginning in her belly and she handed the half-empty cup to Lily, who grinned as she held it so that Sharon could refill it with the last of the tea. She held it up in a little toast before she took another sip -- and slid her tongue into the contents once more.
"Thank you so much for sharing your tea with me," Lily smiled, "I wanted to mention something about your drawing," she said as Sharon took the cup, "It's rather accurate for a sketch of a storm demon from what I saw. You must have done a lot of research to learn about that."
Sharon smiled as she sipped the last of the tea in a rather deliberate way. She hoped that Lily had the same thoughts as she did. She was almost certain of it from the way that they'd shared the tea, though she'd seen nothing of the way that Lily was preparing her by dosing the tea with her saliva.
Sharon felt just a tiny bit odd as she felt the warmth of the baking fire and stepped a little closer to it unconsciously. "I have a few old texts," she said, "and a lot of reproductions of old texts. There's not all that much to be found concerning the specifics of how the types of demons look -- or are reputed to look. For my purposes, I use what I can find as the basis if I can and add my memories of any dreams that I may have had to that. In the case of the storm demon, it's all from my dreams."