“It’s been three days. What could be wrong?” Caleb said aloud to no one as he paced the floor in his study.
The night was one of the coldest this winter. Temperatures weren’t expected to climb above zero anytime soon. The snow continued to fall in full, fluffy down like blankets with the lake effect machine cranked up on high. No one, not man or mouse left the comfort of their homes when old man winter decided to bear down on the farm. It was times like this when one would start to believe that winter would never end.
Caleb paced his study late into the night as a low burning fire heated the room. He wore pajamas and a heavy bathrobe to fight the sub-arctic cold. Caleb contemplated everything from the recent events trying to solve the puzzle of how to reach Gabriella. When that left him spinning his wheels he would turn his thoughts to more bliss filled future plans. He craved a life filled with understanding, power and most of all love. She would be the one to bring him all of this; if only he could contact her.
“This is driving me insane!” Caleb raged. “This damn weather has everything at a standstill. Hugo and Amanita can’t reach Flower City and I haven’t seen Gabriella for three whole days. I hope I didn’t do something to make her mad at me. Could it be that she’s mad at me for not having the ritual information the last time we met? Even so, that’s all the more reason for her to see me sooner rather then later.”
Frustrated, Caleb flopped down in a chair next to the warm fire. He sat with his legs outstretched and crossed at the ankles; his hands folded in his lap, thinking. The only sounds in the room were the crackling of the wood in the fire place. Caleb relaxed a little watching the fire dance and weave over the logs. The radiating heat toasted the bottoms of his feet. His eyelids became heavy and half open; Caleb soon became entranced by the dancing flames.
The light behind Caleb’s closed eyes slowly grew brighter. The warmth he felt at his feet moved to enwrap his entire body. Caleb opened his eyes, concerned something might be wrong with the fire, only to find he was blinded by the bright light that greeted him. Caleb blinked rapidly trying to get used to the brilliant light, after a moment his eyes adjusted and took in a view he now knew well.
Caleb sprang to his feet searching along the horizon for any movement. He found it not far away to his right. He could already see her, his Gabriella. She had finally returned to him.
Without realizing what he was doing, Caleb broke out into a run. His feet carried him swiftly towards her, his safe place, his warm embrace. He needed her.
He scooped her up into his arms and spun her round and round. She laughed at his enthusiasm.
“I guess absence really does make the heart grow fonder,” she said.
He stopped turning with her and gently set her back on her feet. Caleb placed his hands to her face and looked deep in her eyes, “You have know idea how much I’ve missed you the past couple days. I thought you were mad at me and punishing me by staying away. Please tell me that’s not so. Tell me I haven’t made you mad.”
“Oh you poor, poor thing,” Gabriella cooed. “I wasn’t made at you. You’ve done nothing to make me mad. I needed to rest. I used too much of my power to bring you here. That’s all. I shouldn’t have been so impatient.”
“But you’re alright now, aren’t you?” Caleb asked eagerly. He looked her over from head to toe as if searching for any physical signs of malady.
“Caleb, relax I’m fine. Really. I just needed some sleep to recharge,” she reassured him.
“I just don’t want anything bad to happen to you. Promise me you will let me know when you need to rest.”
“Is there anything I can do to make this easier for you?”
“Yes,” she answered.
“What, I’ll do anything to keep you happy.”
“Get me outta here,” she teased.
“I’m working on it,” Caleb reassured her. “In fact I got the unbinding ritual from Eruditus. I-I, oh no, I left it back in study!”
“Caleb, calm down I don’t understand. What did you leave back in the study?” Gabriella asked.
“I copied the ritual onto a scroll. I thought that if I fell asleep with the scroll it would come here with me. You know the way you gave me the other one, only in reverse. Oh, how could I’ve been so stupid? I must’ve fallen asleep by the fire. And now here I am with you but no scroll,” Caleb agonized. “Please forgive me, Gabriella. I’m so stupid. How could I do that to you especially after everything you just told me?”
“I will admit that I am disappointed to hear that you forgot the scroll. But I must say I am impressed that you figured out how to get the information to me. I knew I would be able to count on you, Caleb. Not only are you handsome but your smart, too,” she praised.
“I can’t be all that smart. I left the scroll behind.”
“I know how we can fix this,” Gabriella offered.
“How? You name it and it will be done.”
“Well, why don’t you tell me what you remember for now? That will at least give me some idea of what we should expect. And then let’s plan for us to meet again in two days time. That way you can carry the scroll with you on the second day. If you do that then I will be sure to receive it. Okay?”
“That sounds like a great plan. But I still have one question.”
“Oh, what’s that?”
“Is there anyway for me to contact you? I mean, isn’t there some way I could get a message to you?”
“Hmmm. I’m not sure. I’ll have to think about it. But for right now, why don‘t we find a nice place to sit and talk?”
“I saw a small mound at the edge of the woods back a little ways,” Caleb offered. “It is covered in grass and should be a soft place to rest in the shade.”
“That sounds lovely,” she replied and grabbed his hand as they walked down the beach.
“I can’t tell you how relieved I am that you’re not mad at me.” Caleb said again, his mood lightening in her presence.
The beach he has come to know well, was just as pleasant as before. The gently blowing breezes caught the edges of her long hair and made it dance as they walked. Caleb drank it all in like a starving child. He wanted to burn her in his mind. He wanted to be with her. Alone at night in his room he ached for her.
What is this spell she has over me? He thought as they walked on in silence. I haven’t known her long at all and yet my body and soul long for her. I never thought it would be like this. I’ve heard that when the right one comes along you’ll know it. But I always thought Betty was full of romantic nonsense. No one falls in love like that. But here I am with her and I just can’t get enough.
“A nolt for your thoughts?” Gabriella asked.
“Hm? Oh it’s nothing.”
“Funny. It didn’t look like nothing. You looked like you were somewhere else.”
“I a, I was just thinking about what a nice place this is,” Caleb lied, not wanting to share his true feelings yet.
“Here we are,” he said turning her attention from him. “Isn’t it a nice spot?”
“Come sit next to me,” she said picking a spot on the soft ground.
He did as she asked.
“The ritual seems complicated,” he started. “It calls for a cleansing of the space and for a “willing giver”, whatever that means.”
“A willing giver is someone who freely gives their life for the ritual,” explained Gariella.
“I thought as much,” he replied. “Got any friends?”
“I may have something up my sleeve. Do you remember what we need for the cleansing?”
“It said something about candles of black, water, sage and salt,” he offered.
“No doubt an elemental cleansing of the alter space,” she informed him. “The candle represents fire. The water is for water of course. What is important is the source of the water. The sage is usually burnt to represent air and the salt is for pure earth. Is there anything else?”
“There is a cleansing of the willing giver as well but I’m fuzzy on the details. Sorry.”
“That’s ok. What else do you remember?” She probed.
“Oh, that’s right!” Caleb exclaimed. “There was a most unusual ingredient for the Goddess Hekate.”
“Let me guess,” she interrupted him. “It’s lavender honey.”
“Yes! But how did you know?”
“Whenever the Goddess Hekate is invoked she requires the payment of lavender honey. It’s her thing.”
“It almost sounds as if you know her on a familiar level,” Caleb teased.
“No darling. I’ve just been around a long time. But enough of all this talk.”
“Enough?” Caleb questioned suspicious of her change in mood. “I thought you wanted to get out of here? Don’t you want to know more?”
“I do, to both questions,” she answered, then laid back on the ground. She tucked her arms under her head to cradle it.
“You’ve done well, Caleb. You’ve given me enough information to start making some preparations. So now, I just want to focus what little time we have left here on you.”
Hearing the tone in her voice deepen slightly, made Caleb excited. He liked it when she played coy with him. He stretched out on his side on the ground to face her. He cradled his head on his bent arm and laid his other hand on her stomach. She felt warm and soft. The fabric separating their skin was so thin and shear that it was hardly a barrier between them. He caressed her belly then let his hand travel down to her thigh.
She inhaled at his boldness, and looked deep into his eyes. She could read his want in his eyes. He desired her, and that is what she wanted. She would use everything she had to get what she wanted, even if that meant using her body.
Caleb leaned in for a kiss. He loved the way she kissed, so deeply and passionately. She tasted sweet and smelled of the sea air, fresh and yet salty. It was a heady, intoxicating smell. The smell lingered on his clothing when he returned home. Soon he won’t have to leave it behind. He won’t have to leave her behind. He would free her and they will rule the world together.
That thought enhanced his excitement and he kissed her more passionately. He embraced her tightly in his arms tangling his legs around hers, there on the beach. He was drunk on her.
They grew breathless from kissing. She started pulling at his clothing, trying to free him from his bonds. He helped her unbutton his pajama shirt while they kissed. She pushed the shirt down his arms until he became entangled. Caleb had to break the kiss to free his arms. He rose onto his knees to remove the rest of the shirt. Then threw it off to the side and looked down at Gabriella.
Her hair was tussled and her skin was flush from her excitement. He could see it though the sheer dress she wore. Her cheeks were rosy and her lips swollen from their kissing. The added color in her cheeks made her eyes sparkle even brighter. She was breath taking and he drank the sight of her in.
She reached for him running a nail down his firm chest. The sensation sent shivers over his body. He smiled wickedly at her and leaned in to kiss her again.
Gabriella held him back with a hand on his chest. She sat up onto her knees and playfully pushed him to the ground. Now that he was on laying on his back she sat leaning against his side.
Caleb reached to brush a strand of her hair tenderly from her face. He let the silky strands slip through his fingers. She leaned over him surrounding them in a curtain of her long blonde hair. Gabriella playfully nipped at his lips with her teeth and when he moved to kiss her again she pulled away.
Caleb reached for her intending to embrace her but his arms went through her. He was shocked. He looked from his empty hands and arms to her. She was still there in image and weight. She looked solid but again when he reached for her his hands went through her like she was nothing but air.
“Gabriella, what’s going on?” He asked panicked.
She didn’t answer. She didn’t move. She sat there on the ground looking down at him like a movie on pause.
Caleb got to his feet. He walked around her; trying to touch her from different sides but still she had no mass.
“Gabriella!?” He called out.
Caleb walked back to the beach not sure what to do or where to go. He looked up and down the shore line. There was no one there. The breezes still blew gently the waves still rolled but there were no sea birds. The only sounds were the gentle waves as they caressed the sand and the rustle of leaves in the light breeze.
Caleb returned to her and once more tried to touch her. Again his hands went right through her. He fell to his knees and buried face in his hands. What could this mean? How could this happen? What could he do? Filled with despair he called out to her, “G-a-b-r-i-e-l-l-a!!”
“What do you think you’re doing?!” Demanded Queen Phyce. She found herself back in the palace. Queen Phyce was in her alter room where the gazing pool was kept. She stood from the her cushioned chair to stand in front of her prostrated servant Carra.
“Please, my Queen don’t be mad,” Carra pleaded. She remained prostrated on the floor at the Queen’s feet, not daring to make eye contact.
“I had him right were I wanted him. Why would you dare to interfere?!” Queen Phyce raged. The sound of her voice echoed off the walls in the chamber.
Carra still prostrate on the floor flinched at the harsh tone of the Queen.
“I-I am sorry my Queen. Please forgive me but I didn’t want you to do something you would hate yourself for later,” Carra confessed as tears started streaming down her face. She was thankful that her Queen could not see her weakness.
“I should have you whipped mercilessly for your interference and your impudence! Do you have any idea how badly you could have messed this whole thing up?” Demanded Phyce. She bent over and took hold of Carra’s long braid. Phyce wrapped the braid around her hand until she had a firm hold of Carra at the nape of her neck.
Jerking Carra’s head up in a painful angle to face her, Queen Phyce spat the words, “You foolish little twit! Now he will think I have abandoned him! And instead of gathering the needed items and preparing the space, he will worry and fret about me. Has your minute brain gone soggy?”
Carra didn’t move. She didn’t say a word for fear of Queen Phyce’s reprisal.
“I can’t take your jealousy anymore Carra!” Queen Phyce said as she continued her tirade, painfully pulling Carra’s head back further by her hair. She leaned her face in close to Carra. Carra fought to keep her composure, to not show fear or emotion of any kind.
“This will not stand. It can not be allowed to go unpunished. With this one foolish act you’ve undermined my power and authority!”
Phyce released Carra forcefully shoving her to the ground again. “You’ve become to bold and will be severely dealt with.”
Carra remained prostrate facing the floor. She listened to Queen Phyce’s foot falls; they led away from Carra to some place behind her. A moment later the doors to the room opened. Carra knew the Queen was speaking with her guards outside the door but she couldn’t make out what was said.
This time the foot falls Carra heard were louder and heavier. That meant the Queen had sent her guard to deal with her. A guard stood on either side of her. They each took an arm and helped her to her feet. Carra hung her head in shame. She knew they heard everything the Queen had said.
“Hm, hm, hm. My how the mighty have fallen,” commented Nodon.
Nodon was as tall as Gee. He skin was pale in color. His hair was a silvery white with shades of light and dark gray running through it. It sparkled like silver in the tight braid that fell over his left shoulder and ended just above his navel. He had deep silvery grey eyes that matched his hair.
“You’ve really done it this time Carra,” Gee said. “The Queen wants you retrained. She says you don’t know your place as a servant.”
“Yeah,” snorted Nodon. “Then you get to service all of us in the guard.” He happily informed her as they walked out of the room.
There are five levels to the palace including the dungeon. The very bottom of the palace was were prisoners were kept in the dungeon. The next level up on the first floor the court servants and guards quarters are housed.
The court servants cook, clean and are responsible for attending to the everyday operations of the palace.
Above them on the second floor, are the common areas such as the throne room for greeting dignitaries, and banquet halls of varying sizes. The third floor holds bedchambers for visiting guests along with the pleasure rooms.
In the pleasure rooms, servants are trained in proper etiquette and the arts of pleasure by Master Hedons. In the pleasure rooms, one can have any and just about every fantasy fulfilled.
Servants here are often humans the Kelpies have carried back as offering to the King and Queen. The humans are some of the most beautiful to behold. If an offering is accepted, then they are given the gift of underwater life.
The gift is bestowed when the King or Queen kiss them. Their kisses are imbued with the magic of the breath of underwater life. When purposefully kissed, the breath of the King or Queen enters the body and is absorbed by the lungs. The lungs change allowing the body to breathe underwater. The magic spreads throughout the body from the lungs changing other organs adapting them to the requirements of living in water.
The newly changed servants are given to their new trainer. Known by the title of Master Hedon. The Master Hedon will teach the new water sprites how to serve the royal family. There are at least two Master Hedons in a room. One is male and the other is female. Each servant is trained in the ways of pleasuring both sexes.
The top floor or fourth level of the palace is were the King and Queen live. There are a couple sitting rooms for special guests of the royal family, a nursery, the alter room, the bedchamber and treasury. There is only one entry to the fourth level. That entry is always guarded by a pair of guards on both sides of the gilded door.
Nodon continued to taunt Carra as they made their way to the third floor, “You’ve made many angry at you during your time with the Queen. I’m sure they’ll relish the chance to pay you back for the indignities you’ve caused.”
Carra didn’t say a word in her defense. She knew he was right. It didn’t matter that, like them, she was only following orders. If she showed any defiance now it would surely provoke a harsher punishment. It would serve nothing but to prove to the others that she thought she was better them all. They would make her pay dearly for that kind of arrogance. Around here, one was only as powerful as they were wanted. And right now Carra wasn’t wanted by her Queen. She may never be requested back to the Queen’s side again.
“Lay off, Nodon,” Gee demanded. “Carra doesn’t deserve this and you know it. Besides once the Queen calms down she’ll be sending us back to get Carra for her.”
“I don’t think so. I’ve never seen or heard the Queen so angry in all my time. And I’ve served as one of her elite guard for almost twenty years now.”
“But even so, she’s never been as attached to a servant as she has Carra.” Gee reminded them, trying to boost Carra’s mood.
“Huh, I still say that doesn’t matter. In fact, I’m so sure she wont call for Carra again that I’d be willing to place a wager on it. What do you say, Gee? Are you so sure that Queen Phyce will call for Carra that you’d be willing to bet on it?” Nodon challenged.
“How much are we talking?” Gee asked his interest peeked. Nothing would make him feel better then to not only prove Nodon wrong but take his money at the same time.
“Oh, I don’t know….how about 10 gold ganolts,” he offered.
“10 gold ganolts!” exclaimed Gee. “Are you outta your friggin’ mind? That’s a months salary.”
“I guess you don’t really believe in what you say. Your just full of hot air. Or is it that you’ve got a thing for this used piece of trash here.” Nodon goaded. He gave Carra’s arm a hard shake.
Nodon’s treatment of Carra infuriated him. Carra didn’t deserve to suffer his horrible wrath. The jerk had major issues when it came to females. Gee resolved to take the wager.
“Alright, you got yourself a bet. I’ll wager 10 gold ganolts that the Queen will call for Carra to return in under a week.”
“I’ll wager 10 gold ganolts that the all knowing and wise Queen will not call for Carra at all for a week.” Nodon said setting the bet. “On the minute past one week, I win the wager. We can have Master Hedon Torro hold the money. She’s honest enough.”
“Fine, you do have the money?” Gee asked, not fully trusting Nodon.
“Of course I do,” answered Nodon as they reached the door of pleasure room four.
Gee opened the doors allowing Nodon to lead Carra in the room. Carra walked in in front of Nodon. He lead Carra in by the wrists; her arms were pulled behind her back and up to keep her from struggling. She was bent over from his hold with her head hung low. Her long braid fell to the side and over her shoulder further obstructing her face.
There were twenty water sprites assigned to training with Masters Hedon Torro and Maddox. They were paired up and spread about the room involved in various training exercises. The water sprites didn’t break training to take in the distraction. They knew the punishment would be severe. Masters Hedon Torro and Maddox stood firm, arms crossed with whips in hand as they oversaw the entire room from their platform in the center of the room.
“What have we got here fellas?” Master Hedon Torro asked as she watched the two guardsmen bring in their burdon.
“The Queen has commanded that you retrain this one,” Nodon informed her. “She is very displeased with her haughty nature. Once she has completed the training, the Queen wants her to service the guard.”
“Who do you have there?” Torro asked as she bent down trying to get a look at the girls face.
“Carra, Master Hedon Torro,” Gee answered simply.
Torro shocked at hearing Carra’s name ran over to her and embraced her friend. “My Gods Carra, what did you do?”
Carra said nothing, all she could do was hang limply from Nodon’s grasp.
“Release her Nodon,” Commanded Torro.
He obeyed her command and let go of Carra’s wrists. When he did, she fell to the floor on her knees taking Master Hedon Torro with her. Torro held onto Carra keeping her from hurting herself. She stroked Carra’s hair tenderly consoling her.
“You shouldn’t show her such affection. It’s wasted on trash like her.” Nodon said as he kicked at Carra’s leg.
“You’re dismissed,” Torro commanded through clenched teeth, fighting her rising anger.
“Watch yourself Nodon,” cautioned Maddox. “You shouldn’t make enemies needlessly.”
“Yeah, whatever. I’ve got big plans for that one when my number is up,” warned Nodon. He turned from the group and walked back toward the door to leave. “So, prepare her well,” he finished as he left them, closing the doors.
“He is such an arogent s.o.b.,” Torro said still holding Carra.
“Unfortunately, he’s not the only one,” remarked Gee. “By the way Master Hedon Torro, would you do me a kindness?”
“You don’t have to be so formal Gee. What is it you need?”
“I have a bet against the big jerk and we need someone to hold the pot. I don’t trust him.”
“Say no more, if I can be apart of taking his money and knocking his pride down a couple notches then count me in. What’s the bet anyways?”
“It’s that the Queen will call Carra back in under a month once she has calmed down.” Gee informed her.
“And, how much is the pot?” Torro asked.
“10 gold ganolts.”
Torro whistled at the steep bet. “I definitely hope you’re right. That’s a high price to pay. It also makes me that much more curious to find out what my girl here did.”
“I think it’s best if the two of you talk about it.” Gee said. “I really do need to return to my post.”
“You’re right, I don’t want to get you into any trouble.”
Gee quickly left the room to return to his post in the queens room.