Silverbolt lets his guard down a little
|A shadowy presence entered the quiet room. Asleep in a bed was a gaunt woman. Sweat beaded her brow, and she screamed in her sleep. Her body craved the compound designed to keep her prisoner and incapacitated.
A pair of fiery blue eyes watched the bone-thin frame sleep. "Idina, wake-up. He's waiting for your forgiveness."
The pale face tossed back and forth against the goose down pillow. "No. No more. I don't want Lord Schaefer back."
Cruel laughter and hot breath sat next to Idina's ear, and she shuddered in terror. "He misses you, and he wants to make up for every misdeed. He promises power and a life free of fear." Inky tendrils formed a clawed hand, and the white fangs glowed in the dark. "Take my hand and embrace a new life." The shadowy hand held up a vial. "Come with me and find peace."
Idina gripped the hand and smiled maniacally, "Take me to him."
The night air was warm, and a thick blanket of darkness covered the ground below. A lone figure dressed in silver armor stared off into the distance, deep in thought. How do you catch a pooka? Mahala said I have to capture one, rough it up, and tell it to find the old one. I'll do it if I have to, but I'll try another way first. Assuming I can find one, the last two nights have been a bust.
"Something on your mind, friend?" Granville's deep baritone boomed from the balcony door. Granville leaned with his back to the rail and let out a relaxed breath. "Gabe said you might need someone to talk to."
Silverbolt leaped onto the railing and walked back and forth. He probably means the damn girl. "Just musing over the pooka." He scratched the back of his head. "What was it like when you met Mahala?"
A smirk appeared on Granville's face, and he chuckled. "There's a question I didn't expect to hear from your mouth."
"Don't remind me."
"I didn't stand a chance against Mahala. She walked into my life and made herself comfortable before I could blink." Granville laughed at himself. "I was annoyed at first, but grateful the day we became man and wife."
I feel better knowing I'm not the only one. Silverbolt walked along the black iron rail perfectly balanced. "The Damn Girl rattled my cage the first time we met. I don't give attention to my emotions. So when they surface, it wreaks havoc with my brain."
Granville patted him on the back. Gabe came out and joined them. "Is there where the gentlemen are hiding? May I join you?"
The batons slid back into their holster, and the meteor spun lazy circles at the hero's side. "You're always welcome, Midge."
Granville embraced his son. "You choose your friends well. I was about to ask our shiny friend how he came to be as he is."
"Listen, I would love to tell you. I think someone else needs to hear it more. I'll fill you in later." Silverbolt leaped off the rail and headed inside.
Constance, Madame Cuttle, Mahala, Clara, and Sophie sat around the table with a steaming pot of tea. Delectable treats and sweet smells surrounded the women while they conversed.
"So he knows what's under the gauntlet? Why does he not embrace it?" Sophie's voice sounded offended. "What does he have to lose. The man has nothing?"
"Speak of the devil, and he shall appear." Madame Cuttles' index finger directed attention to the mass of metal. Iron greaves, wrapped in silence, approached them with purpose.
There's a first. Silverbolt is coming to me. I wonder what's on his mind. Probably something related to Lord Tuxley, no doubt. "We are taking a break from our enemies. Unless you have something else to say, please leave." Constance used her regal tone and imperiously pointed toward the door.
"We don't know much about each other, and I did say we should be friends. I was going to look for a pooka, and I thought of you? Why doesn't that make sense? Anyway, Mahala said they come out at night, and its pretty warm, not as warm as I am right now. You didn't need to know that. Anyway, it's a nice night, and I'd like some company if you're up for it. Wow, I am bad at this."
The assembled women tittered behind lace-covered hands. I love this shy and awkward person in front of me. How could I say no to such a sincere effort? "I believe I can find some time for you." She turned to her companions. "If you'll excuse me..."
"He must ask my permission. You are my daughter, and I would expect no less from any young man," Sophie said in an iron-clad voice.
Silverbolt looked at Sophie and then back to Constance. He looked at Madame Cuttle, who nodded. "I've used up all my stupid vouchers for the evening. Asking her was hard enough," the masked mouth growled.
"Is she not worth the effort?" Sophie countered.
What is my mother doing? Doesn't she realize how much it took to get him to this point? Still, a part of me wants to know how it turns out. Crystal blue eyes watched armored hands grip the table until the wood started to snap.
"Lady Sophie Reynard. It would please me to take a walk with your daughter this evening. Providing she wants to join me." Two chunks of table banged together on the floor.
Before Sophie gave a response, Constance grabbed the hero's hand and dragged him away. "It's good enough for me." It would be silly to pass up an opportunity like this.
Silverbolt looked down at her. "How do we lure a pooka?"
Constance locked her arm around his. "We need to make a stop in the kitchen."
As it turned out, the pooka had a thing for cream and other sweet treats. Constance sweet-talked the chefs and procured a few cream pastries. Silverbolt found some rope to set a snare.
Silverbolt covered her shoulders with a cloak. "Just in case you get cold. I stole it from a hook near the entrance. I know you have trouble keeping warm."
Is he fussing over me? "Ethan, you don't have to fuss over me..."
A low growl came from behind the mask, and the eyes flashed an electric blue. "What did you just call me?"
I think I crossed a line by accident. "I called you by your real name. Did I offend you?" She pulled a lock of hair away from the crystal blue eyes.
Silverbolt held his silence for thirty seconds and sat on the metal bench near the snare. "I permit you to use it, but only you. Ethan Argent was a child filled with hope who wanted a normal life."
"The Addle house."
Constance turned to face him and propped her head on a slender hand. "How did you end up there?"
Silverbolt sighed and shook his head. "We have no kings or queens where I come from, just elected officials. Kids with no parents or home get put into a system that has mixed results at best. The government pays these people to care for them. We all wished for a forever home."
"What is that?"
"Foster kids tend to get moved around a lot. A forever home means the family decided to keep you. Frank and Nellie Addle looked like a loving couple on the outside the walls of their home. Inside was a different story."
I love talking like this. "The Addles weren't, I assume?"
"No. They'd invite those who prey on children to their home and charge them money for the pleasure of the day. I was good looking enough for them to hold an auction. A giant Nordic man named Ruben bought my time."
Constance stared at her boots for a moment. I don't know if I want to hear the rest of the story. "What about your powers?"
Silverbolt sighed and used a baton to draw in the dirt. "I was careful to keep them hidden. I didn't want good homes to turn me away, and I couldn't risk the bad ones knowing either." He paused and lifted the mask. "Ruben thought he won the lottery. He liked to beat his victims, which was a huge mistake. I lost it and took my anger out on every adult. Some lived, and some died. Ethan died the moment he took a life. After that, Silverbolt took to the streets." His finger shot to his mouth and pointed to the snare.
A rabbit with jet black fur and glowing red eyes sniffed at the pastries. It shifted forms and became more bipedal with shaggier hair. The red eyes shone with intelligence. A single foot stepped in the snare, and the three-foot creature hung upside down from the yew tree.
"Quick before it changes form." Silverbolt sprang into action and raced toward the snare without hesitation.
The trap depended on the pooka being heavy enough to weigh the tree down. There are two problems with the plan. One, yew trees are quite springy. Two, pooka are shapeshifters who don't like traps, as anyone would.
Constance watched in horror as the creature shifted form to a mouse. That poor creature has no clue what's about to happen. The yew tree snapped back and launched the tiny woodland spirit like a stone from a catapult.
"Shit." Silverbolt took Constance into his arms. "Keep your eyes peeled. It landed somewhere up ahead." A few hundred feet later and they found the jet black creature with its leg in a twist.
The fiery red eyes were terrified, the mouth chittered and chattered something unintelligible. Silverbolt studied the leg. Constance gently stroked the soft fur. "How is it?"
"Dislocated and not broken." He looked at the creature and sighed. "I am going to fix you, but it will hurt something fierce. After that, you'll be alright." Silverbolt laid the pooka down and raised the leg. "Hold it down."
I sure hope this works. Constance stroked the rabbit's face and tried to comfort the creature as best she could. "We never meant to hurt you."
A loud snap made Constance retch. The creature stiffened and then relaxed. At first, it chittered angrily at the pair until it stood. The pooka stared down at its leg, wiggled it, and then smiled.
Silverbolt stepped forward and spoke in a clear tone. "I know you have no reason to help us, but hear me out. If you could tell the Old One I want to challenge him, I would appreciate it."
Then something strange occurred. The creature held out its hand and chittered. Silverbolt shook it. The pooka seemed pleased by the gesture and waved before it vanished into the thick foliage.
I love his warrior side, but this softer side is far more attractive. "What should we do next?"
"I could teach you to defend yourself?"
"Are you kidding? People will talk." Constance said. A slender hand covered her ruby lips in shock. "What will I get in exchange?"
"What do you mean? You'll have the ability to defend yourself."
Which is desirable, but you need to give something too. "If I am to learn something about your world. Then it's only fair for you to learn some of mine."
Silverbolt narrowed his eyes behind the mask and leaned forward. "What makes you think I'll do it?"
Constance thrust her chest out and stood straight up. Delicate hands slid to shapely hips, while midnight hair flipped over her shoulder. Determination poured from the crystal blue eyes in what would be later called the Damn Stare. "Because I'm the Damn Girl."
They locked eyes, steel grey against the bright crystal blues. "Name your price," Silverbolt growled.
"In exchange for teaching me self defense, you will learn to be a proper gentleman. I would like to see you without the ironworks. Forgive me if it sounds a bit bratty, but I would like to show you off." Constance's face reddened at her words.
"Ethan, I think you are someone of great worth. Underneath all the battles and your hardened exterior is a man who cherishes life..."
Silverbolt covered her mouth. "Are you trying to ruin my reputation? People could've been listening."
Constance sighed. "Do we have a deal or not?"
"I'll do it. I don't care if you talk like that when we're alone. When we are in front of people, you can't say stuff like that."
"It's a superhero thing. I promise to work hard if you do."
Silverbolt motioned towards the door. "We'll give it a couple of days, in case the old one responds to the challenge."
A slender arm locked with the armored bicep. "Why wait?"
"I expect the fight with the Old One to hurt. Which reminds me, Madame Cuttle needs to know the gauntlet's thrown, and I'm waiting for a response."
I don't know if I should be worried or happy now. "Lead the way."
Madame Cuttle was all for the warning, with a single hiccup. "It will mean more coming from you, Silverbolt."
In the lecture hall usually reserved for classes for the younger Nobles who came to learn the feminine arts as Madame Cuttle called them. The Heartshaped mask stared out the fancy hairstyles and gowns and groaned.
Madame Cuttle sashayed down the aisle. Every young woman watched her. The heeled boots made next to no noise as she walked. The once frizzy hair was now the picture of elegances and billowed down her back like fire. Posture and poised embodied the headmistress's form, while her gown floated like a ghost. She owned the room without question. Not a word fell from the young lips.
"Ladies, I am sorry to pull you away from your leisure time, but someone has an important announcement. I expect you all to hear him out uninterrupted." She paused to ensure all ears were listening. "Please welcome Silverbolt."
Not a hand clapped, nor voice spoke when Silverbolt stood behind the podium. "I promise this won't take long. I have challenged the old one and now await the response. I have no idea what to expect or what will happen. Now lets talk about what to do if you see the old one."
Several older Nobles shot him waspish looks. "Perhaps we could talk in private about..." A gorgeous blond asked.
"Yeah, I don't know who you are, but stop drinking from the fountain of stupid. This conversation doesn't need to be private."
The blonde grinned seductively, "I can imagine you can..."
"Tell you to fuck off? You bet I can." He paused and looked around the room. "Does anyone else wants to test me? No? Good. Now back to the subject at hand."
The rabbit pooka raced down the trails of the woods. The old one lived in the center and hated to be bothered unless it was necessary. The mass of shaggy electric blue fur lay on a soft bed of green moss. The titanic horns kissed the ground.
The pooka poked and prodded the massive beast. The large head lifted and groaned. The stupid pooka always disturbed his sleep, usually over trouble they caused. This one chittered excitedly and told a confusing story. The Old one sighed and held his annoyance back until the small creature finished.
A warrior sought his help and was willing to challenge him for it. Unlike the other challengers, this one didn't rough up his small charges. The old one lifted a piece of broken antler from a previous season and dropped it in front of the pooka.
The pooka nodded and took the antler in hand and raced back down the trail.