The party part 2
| Decorations hung on the walls of the audience chamber. Untouched pastries lay on platters, bereft of hungry mouths. Stringed instruments remained lifeless behind their music stands. In front of the oaken throne, a masked man and a Noblewoman stare at each other.
Constance stared at the heart-shaped mask with the crossed lightning bolts. The heavy armor twitched, eager to answer the call of adventure. A pair of metal batons twirled in his hands.
He's angry, but I don't know how to fight. Mother raised me on words and not the martial way. "I want to find Clara and Midgely as much as you do, but..."
The batons sparked in anger, and a deadly voice echoed behind the mask. "Midgely and Clara are my friends. We don't leave friends behind if we can help it. You can walk with me and trust my skill, or I'll tie you to my back. You have five seconds, Damn Girl."
"What about me? Would you do the same for me?" I've earned the right to be selfish, whether he knows it or not.
"Why wouldn't I. You're the Damn Girl."
"What does that mean?"
A gauntleted hand rubbed the steel mask on the forehead. "Are we going or not?"
Why does he avoid those questions? "Lead the way." Clara bowed.
A chirp echoed, followed by "Voice input ready."
"Playlist one." Silverbolts distorted voice growled. He started to run straight on Constance. "I'll explain everything later." He took her in his arms and bolted down a hallway.
Paintings and sculptures became a blur as the armored hero began his search. A growling voice sang in harmony amid heavy drums and an unidentified stringed instrument. A third voice, clear and pleasant, caused her skin to erupt in goosebumps.
Is Silverbolt singing along? Why would he do that? Father used to sing with his comrades as they marched into battle. Is this a war cry of some kind?
Four guards stood with their pikes at the ready. "By order of..."
In a single motion, Constance was on her feet, and her fingers closed around the black steel baton. "What are you doing?"
"When I tell you to swing, swing that baton with everything you've got, okay?" Silverbolt took her by the hand. "Do you know how to dance?"
A dance? He's mad. The black mane of Constance trailed behind her as Silverbolt pressed her against his breastplate. He spun her out in front of a guard.
"Swing," the distorted voice bellowed. A pike clanged off a wrist guard.
The black baton sped towards a surprised guard who took the blow right in the face. The pike clattered to the ground. Constance's slender form felt the power of Silverbolts armored embrace once more. He spun her away from wild thrust. An armored hand caught the pike while the other swung Constance towards the exposed opponent.
"Swing." Her momentum added to the blow and knocked the guard off his feet. Silverbolt held Constance close and turned. A pike bounced off the hero's backplate, and he snatched the baton from her hand. Two more guards joined the fray.
"You're doing great, the enemy is piling up, and we have to switch tactics." Silverbolt reached for the meteor hammer. "Do what I say when I say it, okay?"
Not a word escaped the lips of Constance when she nodded. He gently took her hand, links of chain slid across her waist, and bound them together. Constance felt her pulse quicken, her breaths grew ragged and shallow, and a primal instinct tugged at her mind. I will never forget this moment for as long as I live.
Their movement sent the weight in motion. "Ready?" Silverbolt asked.
"Yes," There is something oddly romantic about this.
A flash of silver and weight began to unwind. Silverbolt ducked them under it and released a snap kick, and a guard fell. Silverbolt spun her body, and the links pulled them back together.
The pair dipped and twisted while the meteor hammer carried out its deadly purpose. When the last guard fell, the chain rewound itself around them and pressed her against his breastplate. Without thought or warning, delicate hands lifted the mask, and ruby lips pressed against the stern lips of Silverbolt. I don't care anymore. I know what I want. and nothing will stand in my way.
Her hand rose and caressed his face. One kiss revealed what the hero hid from her and removed all doubt in her mind. A small shock gave the moment more power. Silverbolt went to speak, but two fingers pressed against his lips before they slid the mask back down, "This moment is mine. I don't care what it means to you, but to me, it's everything." He gave her ten long seconds. I know how you feel now. It's just a matter of time.
The broken nosed guard was the first to regain his senses. A steel greave caught the defeated protector in the gut. "Where is Midgely. I won't ask again."
The guard hawked and spat on the metal boot. "Lord Schaefer pays my salary. He bought medicine for my sick children. He helped pay for my wedding. I will not dishonor my master."
"You're wearing chainmail. That's unfortunate." An electrified fist started a slow descent towards the metal links. "Now, the longer I press my hand against your hauberk, the more your flesh burns, and your protection will become a part of you in the worst way."
The guard's resolve didn't waver. "The job came with risks, and I accept them. Lord Schaefer will care for my family."
With a quick tap, the guard fell into the world of dreams. "You're not worth the effort."
"Why did you spare him? He works for the enemy."
Silverbolt nodded and started to shake the other guard. "I am not a killer. He wants the best for his family. Should he die for that? I didn't have parents. His kids deserve a father."
Constance's heart softened at his words. "You are nobler than I expected." Her tone was quiet and dignified.
"Stop looking at me like that." The second guard began to groan and shift. "Welcome back. Where is Midgely?"
Midgely was in good spirits when Silverbolt tore the cell door off the hinges. He saw Constance and turned to Silverbolt. "Did something happen in my absence? She could light a room with her glow."
I am so screwed. "I'll tell you later. Let's worry about Clara."
"She's on the second floor. We should hurry. Her mother is unstable at the best of times." Midgely charged ahead and took the lead.
"We're going to need a little more than that, Midgely." I've had enough surprises for one day.
Constance stood in front of Silverbolt, put her hands on her hips, and in the most regal tone said, "You may carry me now."
"We shouldn't keep Clara waiting, and I could hold everything up." she shot him a sweet expression and batted her eyelashes at him.
Wow, that expression is annoying. "I'll carry you if you stop that. It's creepy and weird." He held out his arms.
Constance squeaked with delight and nuzzled into his shoulder, soft breaths tickled his neck, and a contented sigh came from her lips. "You may proceed."
Silverbolt caught up to Midgely in a matter of seconds. He smiled and pointed to the stairs. "There might be guards."
"We'll handle it, isn't that right, Silverbolt?" a soft hand touched his bare skin.
The hairs on the back of his neck stood on end. "Constance, can we pretend lives are on the line?" Silverbolt growled.
"You're right. There's plenty of time for that later."
Midgely was on the verge of laughter. "Are congratulations in order..."
"My fist will congratulate your face if you don't get moving. We have other things to do once we get Clara." Such as scouring this place for clues. Rexwords transformation is cause for concern.
A few minutes later, a smooth iron door barred them access to Clara. Silverbolt felt the door. "I can't break it with my fists." He looked at the hinges moored to the stone wall. "But I can shatter stone with the meteor hammer."
Constance stood in front of him with expectant eyes. "When do we start?"
There's that look again. Stop it"I have to do this solo. The strikes have to be precise, and I need to focus, a small charge at the right moment. Next time, okay?"
Constance pouted and turned her back to him. "Have it your way. See if I let you carry me again."
The meteor hammer shot out, "A little taste of the meteor hammer, with a lightning chaser." The charged weapon shattered the stones with ease. Silverbolt pressed the mass of iron above his head and tossed it down the hall with ease.
"How strong are you?" Midgely asked in shock.
A modest tone came from behind the mask "I pressed four thousand pounds once. It took everything I had, mind you." The meteor hammer found its home, and the black batons were now in his fist. "I'll go first."
Clara threw herself in Midgely's arms and kissed him. "I knew you'd come." She saw Constance and smiled. "Thank you."
"What's your mother's name?" Silverbolt pushed past the happy couple.
"Idina. Good luck getting her out."
The room was musty and filled with black mold and rotting boards. Long rusty links held Idina in place on the bed. White waxy skin, sunken chocolate brown eyes, and a visible bone structure gave Silverbolt pause.
Idina can't stay here, but moving her may kill her. A cracked end table held three bottles. Each one had a familiar-looking compound. The stench of vinegar came from the uncorked bottles. He held up a vial and said, "How often is she dosed."
"Is there a problem?" Clara asked.
Constance smelled the bottle, "Ew, what is that?"
"It's a drug called opium. Highly addictive if you're not careful." He shook the contents, and Idina pulled the blanket over her head.
"No," a childish voice said. "No more."
Clara rushed forward, "Mother..."
Silverbolt caught her. "Stay back for the moment. Grab the bottles. We may need them later." He knelt next to Idina. "I am not going to make you have anymore unless it's necessary, okay?"
Idina's eyes peeked out from the blanket. "Promise?"
"I need to know how often they were giving it to you. Can you tell me that?" Let it be recent. Please let it be recent.
"Three times a day for the past year, why?" Idina asked.
Shit. Detoxing Idina is going to be difficult. "We'll talk about that later. Does your husband have any hiding places in your house?"
Idina pressed a finger to her cracked lips in a childish way. "The playroom behind the fireplace downstairs. He hates it when people go poking around there."
He gestured to Constance, "You're coming with me." He looked over at the distraught Midgely and Clara. "Pack some things and hitch up a carriage, wagon, or saddle some horses. We need to get out of here soon." He pulled Clara and Midgely close. "Have a dose ready, just in case. I'll explain everything later, now go and be quick."
Constance fell into Silverbolt's metallic embrace, and he raced down the stairs. "Why do you still need the bottles?"
They began to look for the switch to the fireplace. "Three doses a day, for a year means she's addicted, not by choice either. Where I come from, we have medicines to ease the withdrawal symptoms. If we cut her off, the withdrawal might kill her. We may have to ween her off of it."
Every life matters to you. I can't say its unattractive. Constance pulled a candlestick and heard a click. The fireplace opened, "Over here."
"I'll take the lead if you don't mind." Silverbolt peered into the narrow hall. "Hang back about fifty feet. It will give me plenty of room to scrap and keep you safe." He stalked into the passage, batons raised and ready for action.
Cobwebs permeated the area, and the musty smell mixed with smoke curled the nose hairs. I learned more about you tonight than I did in a week. "What is your deal with parental figures?"
"We're getting close the hallway is starting to widen out." Silverbolts hand signaled her to stop. He padded his way over to her. "If you weren't listening earlier, I didn't have any parents. I know how important they are to a child." he stalked towards the secret room again.
Constance shuffled behind and stopped just shy of the door. He treats me differently now. "Thank you for your honest answer."
"All clear. You can come in now."
The playroom smelled like death. Thick red blotches surrounded the drain in the center. Thick manacles attached to a table lay in the center. A collection of guard helmets and chainmail lay in the corner.
Silverbolt looked around the area. "Lord Schaefer is a serial killer. I wonder if he's a trophy hunter."
"What is a serial killer?"
Silverbolt explained it as best he could, and Constance covered her ruby lips. Thankfully Silverbolt has some experience with such people. "What's our next move?"
"See if he hid a journal or manifesto. Not all of them do, but Lord Schaefer strikes me to be the journaling type.' A quick search revealed nothing. "We'll have to come back later and give the house a good toss."
"Why not now?"
"Idina's condition is fragile enough. She needs full-time medical attention. If I'm right, she'll want to live for the next while. I think Midgely is going to propose soon." He turned and headed back out to the foyer.
How sweet"You think so?"
"You can only dance around it so long."
How long will you dance around it? I'll wait until you can't take anymore and then accept your paltry proposal.
As Silverbolt suspected, Idina couldn't bear the withdrawals, thanks to her poor health. Midgely stayed at the school to support the love of his life. Silverbolt slept outside Constance's room on a cot, as any attempt to sleep elsewhere would activate the strange bond between them.
At breakfast, Constance was the center of attention. He had enough memories from the night before and didn't feel the need to revisit them.
"Do you mind if I sit?" Madame Cuttle asked.
"It's your house, not mine."
A grin pasted itself on her face before she sat down. Madame Cuttles plate clinked softly against the floor. "How are you feeling?"
"Like I got screwed."
"Constance doesn't think so. Serenades in the hall, daring rescues, a dance by candlelight, a passionate kiss. Who knew you had it in you. Constance tells the story in such a lively fashion."
Silverbolt banged the mask against the table. "It didn't go down that way. They escaped. Its only a matter of time before they resurface, but how many will suffer for it."
Madame Cuttle patted his hand. "People are suffering all the time. You can't stop it. Whether it be from sword or sickness, you can only do so much." She paused and grinned a little. "Has your situation righted itself?"
"Nope, we are still doing the 150ft thing." I thought I was right. What went wrong? "Is Sophie on her way?"
"Yes, I have sent messages to the Midgleys family and Constance's. They should be here by tomorrow. Don't you want to sit with Constance? I have it on pretty good authority she wants you to."
Next, I'll cut my hand and jump in a shark tank. "No, thanks."
"Is there a reason?"
I am going to regret this. "Lord Schaefer and Rexword got away. I'm pissed off. I used to hit the streets to gain some perspective. The current situation prevents me from doing so, adding fuel to the fire. She doesn't need to see that."
Madame Cuttle leaned back in shock, and her emerald eyes stared at him with a pillow-soft expression. "I have it on good authority she wants to experience it all with you. I believe Constance said, after last night, how could the future possibly disappoint? "
Dear Silverbolt, do you remember that time I told you to put the shovel down. It wasn't an invitation to bring a backhoe to finish the job. Now she's under your skin and made herself comfortable. So lets throw out the escape plan and see how long we can prolong the inevitable.