One Cage to Another Pt. 07

~ So here we go again! We get to see a bit more of Amara’s backbone, and the two of them get a visit from some not-so-friendly elves. ~

Amara blinked once, slowly, and tilted her head as she stared hard at the girl shining in the wall. There were differences, but not many. The girl, Snowdrop, her hair was a rich, dark plum hue and fell in loose ringlets, not soaked to the scalp. Her eyes, unlike Amara’s warm gold, were the blue of sea ice. “…Sister,” Amara said flatly, with a frown.

“Yes, sisters. Twins, actually. Our mother was killed and our father made a deal with both Courts. One of us to the Seelie, one to the Unseelie. One for Summer, one for Winter. So the balance would be kept and we would be taken care of. The Hunt is no place for young children.” Snowdrop’s smile faded. “When the wizard returned the money, with a note that only said the job could not be completed, it alarmed the Seelie King. He sent scouts, and they discovered your burnt home. But things didn’t seem right, so they kept searching. They overheard the wizard and the beast of the moon speak of you, and of your binding.”

“Is my name actually Amaranth?” Amara asked, stressing the last syllable. “I’ve only ever been called Amara…”

Snowdrop closed her eyes and sighed heavily. “Yes, but does that matter right this moment?” she responded, her tone cold as her eyes when she opened them.

“I…sorry, no,” Amara murmured as she looked down for a moment. Then she stiffened, raised her head and moved closer to the wall. “Is anyone doing anything about this?” she demanded fiercely.

“Summer’s first attempt did not work,” Snowdrop said softly, and Amara’s face took on a fallen expression. “Sister, do not give up hope yet. The King has sent another team. The beast was not as careful as he thought, and led the scout straight to the wizard’s home. I’ve been scrying every surface in that place since I was told of your location.”

“He kept me in the study, there’s no mirrors or anything really reflective in there,” Amara said lowly.

“And he has the house well warded. Had I not already declared my allegiance to Winter and begun my training, I would not have had the power to slip through and speak with you.” Snowdrop’s voice took on an urgent tone. “Amaranth, listen. Did you complete the binding?”

“…Did I complete it? I haven’t done anything, no. He did something but-“

“If you haven’t performed your part, given him your mark, then the binding isn’t complete!”

“What?” Amara sat straight up, eyes wide. “But I…I tried to use my magic. I can’t, it’s like he caged it, locked it away. I can still feel it but I can’t call on it!” Her voice broke as her situation bore down on her.

“There’s a second part of the ritual,” Snowdrop said quickly. “Right now, he can keep you from using your magic, but he cannot use it himself You are not just a- a magical battery. You’re also the conductor. Without you completing the spell, he cannot use you to guide the Wyld magic-“

“Which means he needs me to work with him,” Amara said slowly. Her anger flared up and she said “I don’t care how much he hits me, I will NEVER let him use my magic! He’s awful!”

Snowdrop shook her head. “No, Amaranth, the Summer Court will not accept the risk you pose if left bound to him. A human wizard able to control our magic? It’s too dangerous, and unnatural. He could use you against us.” She paused and frowned. “You said that he’s…he’s been hitting you?” her voice reminiscent of the sound ice makes just before it breaks.

Amara’s fierce expression faded and her eyes fell. “He…yes,” she answered, her voice small.

A flicker of anger danced in Snowdrops cool eyes. “Sister, you cannot give in to him. There may yet be a way to reverse the binding and free you. There are people searching the Histories, but they have to find it befo-” her voice faded to silence even as the image kept speaking. Amara shook her head desperately and wiped at the steam that started to gather on the marble and obscure her sister’s face. Water droplets ran down the wall from her hand, but Snowdrop was gone, and the bathroom door slammed open and a furious Kiernan stomped into the room. Amara yelped and ducked into the water, only her eyes peered up as she hugged herself.

“I know someone was here!” Kiernan thundered. “How long were you talking to them? Who was it?” He strode forward and leaned down, his knuckles white from his grip. “Dammit! What did you tell them?”

Amara closed her eyes and flinched away at first, but at the last question she sat up, turned toward Kiernan, and glared at him. “Until these come off,” she said slowly, holding up one cuffed wrist, “I’m not telling you a single. Fucking. Thing.” Her voice started quietly but grew firmer as Kiernan’s face turned red. “If the ‘situation has changed’, as your friend said, then prove it.” Kiernan snarled and spun, then paced the room as Amara watched him angrily. “What, not going to beat the answers out of me, like you wanted to do with my attitude?” she mocked. Instead of the fear it would have normally inspired, the knowledge that the Summer Court knew where she was gave her courage. And that she had family that was alive…She started to wonder why she had been misled but shoved the thought away. A more pressing concern was the cuffs that kept her weak. With them off, she would heal more quickly.

“Oh, you insufferable bi-” Kiernan caught himself, and grit his teeth. “Fine,” he spat. “Get out of the tub.”

“Fuck off,” she responded flatly, keeping one arm crossed over her chest.

“Gods dammit, I can’t unlock them if they’re soaking wet. It’s a blood seal,” he snapped at her while dark curls fell into his angry eyes.

Amara frowned, then said “Then you leave, and I’ll get dried and come out,” she replied, clearly prepared to sit in the tub till the end of times. Kiernan threw his hands up in frustration and stalked out of the room. Amara listened as he muttered unpleasant things about her, faeries in general, his friend the werewolf, and basically everyone that ever existed. She waited until his voice faded while he walked off to a different part of the house, then rose out of the tub. Water ran down her body and from her hair in streams and steam rose up in lazy spirals from her skin.

The wizard returned to the kitchen, where he had been fixing a simple meal before his wards discovered the breach and alerted him. “Stupid Mark. Three days of peace, but then he shows up and leads them straight here,” he muttered as he moved through the kitchen, and the cabinets slammed shut in his wake. Evening had started to arrive, and he absentmindedly raised a hand and made a simple gesture. Candles flared to life throughout the house, and in back in the bathroom Amara, who had wrapped herself in the bathrobe Mark had set out with the towels, jumped as shadows flickered in the dim candlelight. She stepped out into the hall and looked around nervously. The robe was oversized for her petite body and made her look frail as her fingers finished the damp braid of her hair. Kiernan walked out of the kitchen and down the hall toward her, a covered silver tray in his hands. “This conversation needs to happen in private,” he said, “Both of us are in danger. We’ll talk in the study.” He stepped past her and toward the broken basement door.

“N-no,” Amara stammered, then in a stronger voice when Kiernan turned to glower at her, “I’m not going anywhere with these still on.” She held out her left arm and shook the oversized sleeve back to reveal her hand and wrist. Kiernan opened his mouth to snap at her and she glared at him. “If you hadn’t decided to starve me for three days and then hit me a million times, maybe I’d be up to using the stairs.” She dropped her glare and looked away. “…I don’t think I can make it down them without falling. I feel like I’m about to fall over right now,” her voice low.

Kiernan stared at her, then rolled his eyes and set the tray down. “I could just give you a revitalizing potion to get your energy back u-“

“NO. You want to know who I was talking to, what I told them? I want to have these damned cuffs off.” She met his eyes and frowned in an attempt to look stern.

“This is not how I imagined my evening would go,” Kiernan muttered as he pulled a knife out of his back pocket, flipped the blade out, and then sliced the pad of his thumb open. Blood welled up darkly in the candlelight as he brushed his thumb against one of the runed metal bands on the cuff. It shone a bright, vivid green and Amara winced then turned her eyes away. Kiernan tapped the shining metal and the light winked out as a seam appeared on the cuff, and Kiernan tugged it off, shoving it in a pocket.

“Am I supposed to apologize for not being eager to be your slave?” Amara snarked as Kiernan repeated the process on her right wrist, then moved to an ankle.

“If you’d just accepted being mine, we could have had some fun, at least, before Mark showed up to ruin everything,” Kiernan muttered as he worked on the last cuff.

“We do not have the same idea of ‘fun’,” the faery snapped as she crossed her arms over her chest.

“That’s not what your body thinks,” Kiernan said slyly, then grinned as a furious blush colored Amara’s cheeks at his reminder of her body’s betrayal.

“Listen, you arrogant, insane son of a-” Amara’s belligerent insults were cut off. The front door, so recently broken by Mark and repaired by Kiernan while she bathed, crashed open. The candles’ flames flared up then burned a low angry red.

Kiernan grabbed the collar of the robe Amara wore and yanked hard. She cried out in surprise as she jerked to the side and hit the wall, then slumped to the floor. The wizard flung his hand out and yelled “Espejo!”, and a swirling green orb appeared where Amara had been standing. It lengthened and flattened into an shining silver oval, just as a blast of green-white flames hurled down the hall. The magical fire slammed into Kiernan’s spell, then seemed to vanish, sucked into the wizard’s floating mirror. Amara stared, wide-eyed, as Kiernan flexed his fingers and the flames reappeared and stormed out of the mirror, hurtling toward a slender elfin figure at the end of the hall. A scream rent the air as the assassin’s magic consumed its own caster and Kiernan cracked his knuckles, his shoulders tense.

“That…that was aimed at me,” Amara whispered. “I thought they were trying to kill YOU. Snowdrop said-“

“Snowdrop? Who the hell is that? ” Kiernan snapped, then shouted “I know there are two of you still out there! You bastards always work in a set of three!”

“She, she said she was my sister, that Summer was sending a team…” she responded with a shaking voice.

“They sent the team to kill YOU. Me, they want dead for the insult of stealing you. You, the King wants you dead because you’re a liability,” he said as two shadowy figures moved into the dim red light of the hall. Kiernan raised his right hand and dark green magic danced and glowed around his fingers. “Get to the study and lock the door. They won’t be able to reach you there.” The figures advanced, and wore hooded cloaks of white with green trim.

“Our king has an offer to make you, wizard,” one said as he reached up to lower his hood. “He will forgive the insult you dealt .” The assassin looked calmly at Kiernan, then at Amara. “Give her to us so that we can erase the threat, and you will be allowed to live.” His hair was silver and tied back in a set of intricate braids that gleamed like blood in the warning light of the candles.

“She’s of no use to me dead,” Kiernan said bluntly while he made a fist, the magic gathered tightly around his hand.

“She will not be allowed to live while so-bonded to you,” the assassin’s voice was cold as Amara shrank back against the wall.

“The spell is irreversible,” Kiernan’s voice was flat. “And I’m not letting you kill her.”

“I told you, there is no reasoning with humans,” the other assassin murmured. “He would rather risk death than forgo the power she will give him. We need to kill them both.”

Amara stood up and bolted for the basement door, only to trip on the too-large robe and hit the ground hard. The elf who removed his hood spun and took aim, then let loose another volley of those same green flames that had just burned his comrade alive. Amara screamed, rolled, and barely missed being burnt to death. The flames plowed into the floorboards where she had been moments before, and burned brightly. One end of the robe’s belt caught the flames, which spread quickly. Amara screamed and rolled around trying to put them out.

Kiernan snarled “Trampa!” and threw his fist open. The glowing magic left his hand and reappeared under the feet of the assassin who had attacked Amara. The elf cursed and tried to jump away, but the green glow had spread to his legs, and then his waist, and he was ensnared and unable to move. Kiernan gripped his fist tight and growled “Devorar,” and the elf began to scream as the green glow brightened while it spread over his body and devoured him. Kiernan grinned as he turned from the pile of green ashes to face the next assassin, then his face froze at how close the elf was. Red and green light from the candles and the flames danced over the blade he had drawn and aimed at Kiernan’s throat. The wizard shouted “Shit!” while he raised his arm to a defensive position. The hooded elf leapt into the air, faster than the human, but was denied the killing blow as Amara sprung up from the floor and slammed into him with her shoulder with a wordless shout.

The assassin and the faery girl hit the wall in a tangle of limbs and cloak. Amara had stripped the burning robe off and looked up to see the elf about to stab Kiernan. She had jumped without a second thought, and now regretted her impulse as the assassin snarled and wrapped his hands around her neck. “Stupid little fool!” He squeezed, his thumbs pressed into her throat. “We will not let the humans use you against us!” Amara gasped as he pinned her to the floor and strangled her.

“And I won’t let you kill her,” Kiernan snarled from behind the assassin. The wizard’s boot landed solidly against the elf’s head, and the hands around Amara’s throat slid free. She choked in breath after breath and her chest heaved as she rolled away, tears on her cheeks as she touched her neck where a bruise started to form. The assassin shook his head and reached for his blade when Kiernan shouted “Rayo!” with his index and middle fingers of his right hand pointed at the elf’s back. A bolt of evergreen lightning shot from his fingers and scorched a hole through the assassin’s body. It left a smoking, charred hole in his torso and he fell flat to the ground, lifeless.

Kiernan looked over at the naked Amara, who held her throat and stared around at the chaotic destruction of the hallway, disbelief and shock etched in her eyes. She slowly looked up at Kiernan and whispered “That’s what my sister was trying to tell me…she’s trying to find a way to reverse the spell before…before the Seelie Court kills me.”

“Bad news, that, since it can’t be done,” Kiernan said, then stepped away and picked up the tray. On his way past the smouldering robe he snapped his fingers, and the embers fell dark.

“But it isn’t complete yet!” Amara protested as she rose to her feet. “I know that means you can’t use my magic yet, I just have to tell them-“

“They won’t care,” Kiernan said flatly. “To them, as long as you’re alive, there’s a chance that I’ll subdue you and you’ll complete the spell. They believe you aren’t strong enough to resist.”

“That is INSANE. Of course I’m not going to finish it! You’re monster now, you would be even worse with Wyld magic at your use!”

“I’m not entirely horrible. I mean, I did save you from being burned to death,” he pointed at calmly as he moved through the debris toward the stairwell.

“Only so you could force me to be some- some insipid sex toy and steal my magic!” she shouted, outraged.

“Minor detail,” Kiernan called over his shoulder as he descended. Amara followed hesitantly. The dim red light of the candle flames made the basement appear shadowy and dark, and she already disliked the idea of returning downstairs. “Besides, I need your cooperation now. I have a plan to get the Seelie King to back off and let us live.” He walked quickly down the hall and opened the door to his study. Amara eyed him mistrustfully, then suddenly seemed to become aware of her nudity. She flushed, crossed her arms over her chest and turned to the side. Kiernan sighed and vanished into the study. He stepped back out a few moments later with a dark green silk robe, trimmed in dove gray, in his hands. “Try not to get this one set on fire. It was expensive.”

Amara reached out and took the offered garment, a wary expression on her face as she turned from him to put it on. Kiernan paused to enjoy the view. The contrast of the rough, dark silk against her smooth, pale skin was mesmerizing. Her accelerated healing had come into play, and now even the darkest bruises left from earlier had healed. He watched as she tugged the fabric up over the curves of her ass, past her tiny waist, and onto her delicate shoulders. He coughed as she tugged her braid free and then hurriedly tied the robe closed and turned around, then followed Kiernan into the study. He shut the door and locked it; the handle glowed briefly before the light faded. He sat down in his leather chair and took the lid off the tray. “The bowl is yours,” he said as he picked up sandwich: roast beef, pepper jack cheese, spicy mustard, pumpernickel bread.

“I…alright,” she responded quietly before she picked up the bowl and the silver fork next to it. She sat down on the couch and curled her legs up underneath her, and eyed Kiernan. “So…this plan, where we don’t die. What is it?” her voice uncertain.

“We get an audience with your father, the HuntsKing.” Kiernan said, then took a large bite of his sandwich. He chewed, swallowed, and let out a groan of satisfaction as he took another bite. Amara pursed her lips in impatience and poked at her food, then took a bite. It was a fruit salad, and it tasted fresh. Her stomach cramped as she swallowed, then began to hastily eat. After a couple of minutes, Kiernan set his remaining bit of sandwich down and poured himself another few fingers of whiskey. He took a sip and looked at Amara. This robe was also far too large, and it only emphasized the difference between her petite, slender form and his taller, stockier build. “We convince your father that you coming with me was voluntary,” he continued and took another sip. “Get him to believe we are in this together…a sort of elopement, if you would. Perhaps he will step in and persuade the Summer King that you and I aren’t a threat. You being kidnapped and manipulated, possibly used against them, they can’t accept that risk. But if you tell them the binding was willingly done, out of affection, maybe they won’t see it as a threat. You’d be exiled, of course, but we both get to live.” He finished his drink and set it down, then clapped his hands. “So! We go talk to your daddy, convince him we’re lovers, he’ll use his influence to protect his daughter, and no one dies! How’s that sound?”

Amara set her empty bowl on the table and finished the grape she had been eating. She looked down at the floor for a moment or two, then raised her gaze to meet Kiernan’s. “It sounds…completely stupid,” she said quietly. “Your plan all hinges on one thing; me lying and saying that I went with you on my own.” She narrowed her eyes at him. “You assaulted me, molested me, kidnapped me, and beat me. You’re a cruel bastard and I obviously don’t love you.” The scorn in her voice was almost palpable. “You’re a wizard, you should know that if a faery knowingly speaks an untruth, we lose our immortality, and our magic. Your plan needs me to lie, and I can not lie.”

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