The Last Descendant Ch. 03byElianna©
Entrari awoke to feel a warm, soft body pressed against his side. For a moment, he couldn't remember who snuggled against him and why he'd allowed it. He usually didn't make it a habit to sleep with a woman; it made things less messy down the road. Blearily, he opened an eye and stared into the dimly-lit chamber, moaned and closed his eyes again, nuzzling back into the pillows miserably.
It was only his third day in this god-forsaken kingdom and already hated the dark castle of Hartstak. The granite walls were dull and gray, the castle was drafty, and the affinity the people had for torches instead of candles was depressing. How he missed the white stone of Haladon, the twisting spires, the formal gardens and fountains. Everything about this rotten place was wretched, forbidding and barbaric.
The woman stirred, sighed softly and cuddled against him.
He breathed deeply catching her slight flowery scent. At least she smelled good.
Entrari opened an eye to stare at her but suddenly froze in recognition. His heart pounded and his spirit soared. The events from the previous night flashed before his eyes, but their levity was replaced with the overwhelming sense of elation.
He'd found her! After all these years! She was his!
Before leaving on this last crusade, he'd decided to give up on his Druid dream. Sure. The girl from his dream was incredible; her strange silver-black hair and gray eyes were a rarity in Haladon. Her body was slender, but her curves were lush. Those lips...Gods! He'd had fantasies about those lips. But after waiting twenty-five years, he'd decided to make his marriage a political union and forget about love, dreams and fantasy.
He ran his fingers through her hair and caressed her satiny skin. She was even more incredible than he'd ever imagined. He caressed her cheek and her neck, running his fingers down her shoulder, delighting in the smooth texture of her pale skin. His hand strayed along her collar bone and down her clavicle to her chest caressing the top of her breast.
He moaned to himself. He could imagine his lips latching onto the dusty rose nipple and his questing hand twitched at the thought of cupping that soft breast while he feasted upon her.
"So now you'll rape me?" the girl said in a cold voice.
He started and almost pulled away guiltily, until he reminded himself that he was the one in charge.
"You're mine to do with as I please," he returned, "and right now, I'm doing what pleases me." To prove his point he cupped her breast and pressed his raging erection into her hip.
"Is that why I'm here?" she snapped bitterly. "To please you?"
The disdain in her voice made it sound like sex with him was the most despicable act imaginable. Entrari stared at her in amazement, hurt and rage. He was the Imperial Prince of Haladon; the most powerful man in the West. She should be begging him! The woman of his dreams, would deny him? Unacceptable.
"That's right, princess," he growled angrily. "Your job is to see to my pleasure."
"The only pleasure you'll get is that of a conqueror. You touch me and I'll scream and fight," she returned.
"I know a few spells to stop that," he threatened.
He rolled on top of her quickly and latched his mouth against hers, silencing her with a demanding kiss. He groaned. Her lips were just as soft as he'd dreamed they'd be!
She squealed angrily into his mouth and desperately tried to move her head away. He growled a warning even as he continued to consume her mouth, and wrapped a hand in her hair to keep her from moving. For a moment he lost himself and simply lived out his fantasy. Her lips, her body, her taste! Suddenly her struggling body went limp beneath him, and her frightened whimpers of protest ceased. He opened his eyes and looked at her face. She'd closed her beautiful gray eyes and he could feel her body shuddering with trembling breaths.
For a moment he wanted to shake her and demand her attention, but he took a deep breath to chill his temper and his lust. He rolled off of her cursing angrily and climbed out of bed grunting a little at his still-aroused and over-sensitive body. This woman would be the death of him. He turned back to look at her, noting that she hadn't moved, but tears were leaking out of her eyes and running down her temples into her magnificent dark hair. He stalked off in irritation, throwing on his robe, cursing Druid treaties and dreams.
Eventually, she seemed to get control of her tears, and quietly got out of bed, donned her robe and washed her face in the basin. She took her brush and sat down in the same chair she'd occupied the night before and quietly picked through her tangles, sniffling occasionally.
He watched her sit before the empty fireplace shivering miserably for several moments and then sighed in resignation. Something about seeing her in distress made his heart ache. He had this strange urge to help her, to comfort her, and to hold her. He took several logs from the stack beside and placed them in the firebox. He knew he should lay kindling and the like, but she was shivering and he was impatient. He whispered a word and a happy fire burned from the logs, instantly giving off heat and warming the small sitting area. He rose and soaked up the warmth, not realizing that he was a little chilly, too. The girl continued to pick through her tangled tresses being careful to avoid his eyes.
One of his bodyguards brought breakfast, but she didn't touch the food, and he was too impatient to coax it out of her.
"It is time to get dressed," he said standing. "I have much to do."
She opened her mouth to protest, but then she seemed to think better of it and closed it again. She stood silently and followed him.
He went to the wardrobe and sifted through her dresses until he found one that pleased him.
"Wear this," he said tossing her a deep blue velvet gown. Her eyes flashed as she caught the gown, but again she remained silent. She laid the dress on the bed and went to the drawers pulling out the corset and slips she would need wordlessly again and then unbuttoned her dressing gown.
Entrari couldn't help himself, he watched her shed her clothes again. As she bared more creamy skin to his eyes he almost groaned. She was far more beautiful than he'd ever dreamed. He almost called for her to stop as she slipped on her chemise and her slips, but he knew he'd never get anything done if she didn't put her clothes on.
He smiled at her in satisfaction when she was finished. The deep blue velvet seemed to accentuate her pale skin, and make her gray eyes stand out.
"I've got a long agenda, today. You will remain by my side or in my sight at all times," he said firmly. "If for once you are not in my sight, I will be forced to take more drastic measures to contain you." He looked sternly in her eyes. "If I command you to do something, I will command you only once, and then I will bring my power to bear to force you. Do you understand me?"
"Good," he said. He took her arm gently but firmly. "Let's go."
Elenna didn't struggle, even though he literally dragged her through the halls of her own palace. It felt strangely surreal to walk in her home as a prisoner. As they passed rooms and hallways, she recalled who dwelt there, what would be happening in those rooms and a horrible pang of sadness hit her. The only home she had ever known was empty. It was the makeshift command center for an invading force bent on subduing the wild barbarism of her people. Somewhere the decapitated body of the mad king was rotting away, and the once-joyous halls were now silent. Everything she had fought so hard to maintain for the past five years was gone in only a day.
Several guards stood before two large wooden doors. It was the grand entrance to a formal dining room, but as they opened the doors for their prince, Elenna saw that the splendid room had been changed into a war room. Now maps were strewn about upon the tables and high-ranking officials poured over them conferring with each other on matters of conquest and subjugation.
"Your Highness," said one of the officers to the prince in their language bowing low to him.
"What....girl...here?" he asked curiously. "Is she...princess?"
"She is a Druid," the prince explained. "...Druid treaty." he replied.
Elenna bowed her head trying not to appear as though she was listening to the conversation. Her mother had taught her the language of Haladon when she was little, saying that it would be important later, but then she had died at the hands of the maddening king. From that moment on, Elenna shunned the language, the very sound of it bringing pangs of sadness and making her weep for her mother. That was nearly five years ago. She was surprised she could still understand so much.
"She speaks Semanic," the prince continued to his general. "Find a chair and ...out of the way."
The general nodded and took her arm a little more roughly and dragged her to a chair in the corner of the room where she would be out of the way, but not out of the eyesight of the prince.
"Sit," he commanded sharply.
She did as she was told.
Then they proceeded to have a council. Elenna bowed her head and struggled to listen, more for the sake of understanding the language than to hear of their plans. She gathered that they had mostly taken the city, though several small sections had barricaded themselves and were giving the forces a run for their money. For the most part, the people were surrendering peacefully, and most of the Druids had remembered to put the sign of peace upon their doors to avoid attack.
Elenna was glad to hear it. She was only a woman she knew that she was well-liked and most of the people knew that she had been running the kingdom behind her father's back. It was she who had instructed them not to resist and she who had commanded them to reveal themselves to the oncoming army. Many of those who were afraid now regretted it as they marched in chains, their houses forfeit and their belongings taken.
She was also pleased to hear that the inhabitants of the palace had escaped and they were nowhere to be found, despite the thorough search of the soldiers of the surrounding area. She could feel many of the prince's officers look at her thoughtfully, as they spoke of such news, but she kept her head bowed and her face unreadable. It was wiser to appear as though she was a brainless but beautiful girl. Long ago she had learned this defense against her father, who in his madness had a more astute eye than the wise would have guessed. Then she would sit in his presence with her semblance of youthful innocence and inexperience, slightly tinged with fear.
She realized that with this prince and his generals, she played an even more dangerous game. If they knew even half of what she had done, they would hang her in the square, or perhaps decapitate her and lay her body beside her father's. Druid treaty or no, she was still the enemy.
She looked at the prince thoughtfully. Why was he bothering to spare her? Obviously, it was not for sex. He'd had his opportunity last night and again this morning, but for some reason he'd stopped himself both times. He seemed as miserable with her around as she did around him. The prince looked at her, feeling her eyes upon him and she turned her head away quickly.
He terrified her. The Imperial Prince of Haladon's name was spoken from one end of the continent to the other with a tinge of dread. No one defied him, no country had withstood him yet, and no one had ever denied him anything he desired. He was reputed to be a powerful sorcerer, nearly as powerful as his father was, and that was a feat, for he was quite young as sorcerers went. His mother was supposed to be a Druid, though Elenna could not sense much about his power in that area. He obviously didn't bother much with the faith on a daily basis. He was probably like most Druids who went through the motions when it suited him. She trembled to think of her powerlessness in his presence. Suddenly she had a terrible desire to escape. She couldn't endure another evening with his arms about her, sharing his bed.
She wondered curiously if he could catch her if she ran. After all, she knew the lands better than he did, and she had the friends and the resources to flee. The thought had merit. Especially since she figured it was only a matter of time before he sated his passions with her body. She considered her options for escape thoughtfully.
Once again he looked at her, as though he could sense her eyes upon him, and feel her thoughts. This time she did not look away at once, but as his eyes met hers she found that she couldn't endure his gaze. His expression was stern and commanding and his green eyes were suddenly very intent. After a few seconds, she once again looked away.
He was the sorcerer prince of Haladon. There would be no escape.
After another hour of discussion and reports, the council meeting seemed to end, for most of the generals and officers rose and bowed to the prince and then departed. The only men who remained were the prince and the older general who had rather harshly dragged her to her chair in the corner, and of course the Imperial bodyguards. The two spoke quietly with each other for a long time in whispers, their soft voices and her limited knowledge of the language making it almost impossible to decipher what they were discussing. Elenna felt strangely uncomfortable sitting alone in the huge room with the two men speaking in whispers out of her hearing, and out of her control.
"What are you doing, Your Highness?" asked Tesca quietly when all the other officers had left.
"It's a long story," he replied.
"That girl is more than she seems," the general said. "I was watching her face as the officers reported," he continued. "She's good at hiding it, but she can at least partially understand what we are saying."
"Are you sure?"
The general nodded. "There were a couple times when they reported that I caught a slight glimmer in her eyes that she was pleased by the report, and she couldn't hide the smugness when Khedan said they were still unable to find the escapees from the palace." He took the prince's arm quite seriously. "She's young, yes, but I would be willing to bet you that girl was running this kingdom. There is no way they could have stayed so unified under the rule of the slavering madman you killed two days ago."
"She is far more cultured than I have heard is common for women of this land," agreed Entrari.
"If what you say is true, and she's a sorceress and a Druid, you should be careful. She could kill you in your sleep," said the general darkly.
Entrari laughed. "Tesca," he said smiling. "Do you think I'm a fool?" He looked at the girl as she sat with her head bowed and her hair tumbling about her shoulders, playing with the folds of her dress. "It's quite obvious she's been running the kingdom, most likely deceiving her father to do it, too. It was she who helped our ambassador only a year ago, if you remember." The prince smiled at his friend. "I realize the danger, but even though I am the Imperial Prince of a growing empire, I'm not stupid enough to violate the Druid treaty, especially when the Archpriest requests me to spare her."
"The Archpriest?" Tesca said whistling in amazement.
He nodded. "I'm not about to disobey that kind of request. We'll leave it up to my father to decide her fate."
The general laughed. "You realize that you're going to be sleeping with the enemy for the next eight months of your life!"
Entrari looked at her and then arched his brow suggestively. "It has its benefits, Tesca."
The general laughed heartily and clapped the prince's shoulder warmly.
Elenna looked up a little startled by the older general's outburst. She was definitely uncomfortable around him.
"Elenna," the prince called to her from across the room.
She looked up at him.
"Come here," he said in his own tongue.
She looked at him curiously. He was playing with her. He was testing to see whether she would admit to partially understanding his language. She looked at him with a practiced stare of curious incomprehension.
The prince laughed again and she noted the general hand him a small coin.
"Come here, Elenna," said the prince laughing still, though now he repeated the command in Semanic.
Obediently she rose and walked towards the prince and his general.
"She will slip Your Highness," said the general to his friend.
"Ha!" laughed the prince. "You don't when your house ... madman, Tesca."
The prince rose as she approached and the general beside him rose and bowing to him, departed.
Once again Elenna was alone with the prince, and his bodyguards.
"My general thinks you can understand our language," said the prince to her.
She remained silent.
"I think he's right," he continued. "You are far more educated than your people give you credit for."
Elenna said nothing. She didn't know what she could say.
He looked at her curiously. "Tell me," he said. "How is it that you learned to control your power? I thought magic was forbidden in this land."
Elenna bowed her head and remained silent. She knew better than to speak of her lineage and of the awesome power her mother had passed on to her. Even though the queen had died when her daughter was only fifteen, she had been secretly teaching her the ways of the Druids and the art of Sorcery since she was only a toddler. Elenna didn't know from whom her mother had learned it.
"You don't need to be afraid to speak of it, Elenna," he said noting her bowed head. "Magic is common among my people. You won't be burned as a witch in my lands."
She looked at him, her eyes uncertain. "You will take me from this place then?" she asked him. "You will take me to Haladon as your prisoner?"
"That's the law of my people," he said to her.
"And your people will pass judgment upon me?" she asked.
"My father will, yes," he said.
"And isn't the penalty for resisting you death?" she pressed.
He looked at her seriously, slightly surprised that she knew his laws so well. "Usually this is the case," he conceded.
"So what's the difference between my people burning me as a witch and yours executing me for being the daughter of your enemy?" she asked. "Either way isn't my life ended?"
"Perhaps," he said, "though I have great influence upon my father's judgment."
She bowed her head. "Then what are you going to do with me, your highness?" she asked, afraid to look at him.
"That I haven't decided," he admitted. "You're pretty enough, but I your presence tries my patience."
"And so for now, until you get sick of me, I'm to follow you like some dog?" she asked a little bitterly.
He shrugged. "If it makes you feel better to think of it that way, my dear," he said.
She did her best to control herself and how hateful she suddenly felt towards him. She loathed this man!
"Come," he said, "it's time for lunch." Once again he grabbed her arm and pulled her through her own halls.
Today the prince did not eat alone, nor did he sit with her. Instead he bade her to stand beside his chair like a serving maid and wait upon him. His generals, including the older man who had remained after the council to speak with the prince seemed to approve, and soon they were all calling upon her to serve them.
Elenna hated them all for it. As the daughter of the king, she served no one! And now she was treated as some kind of servant, fetching wine and serving the prince and his generals like some kind of well-trained pet. They delighted in her humiliation and her servitude, the beautiful daughter of their fallen enemy subdued to fawn upon them and obey them. By the time the lunch was over, she was almost in tears.