Shaking things up a little.
|Lord Tuxley wiped a tear from his eye. and slammed his fist on the wooden armrest of the throne. He motioned for Rexword to come Closer. "Tell me the tale one more time."
Pointed fangs moved up and down as Rexword spoke. "Lady Constance transformed into a hybrid of some kind..."
"Constance is no hybrid like you or me. I grew up with Lord Reynard, so we can't attribute the change to him. Lady Sophie must be an Inherent. As we all know, Inherents stem from the first inhabitants of Rathmore, the Faerie."
Rexword placed his Sombrero on the chair next to him. "Anyway, my sources tell me Lady Clara killed Niemiera. Lord Schaefer is loose in the city. Given his proclivities, I suggest we put him six feet under as quickly as possible, as the trail will lead certain allies to you."
"No, we'll offer him refuge and keep a tighter leash on him. The last thing we want is another uncontrolled being running around."
"How do you plan to catch him?"
"I'll join this time. Right now, we have nothing to lose. I want to meet our shiny friend man to man?"
Rexword bared his fangs in an evil grin. "I look forward to working with you. We still need another member, someone with some power behind them. Silverbolt controls the Old One."
Lord Tuxley looked triumphant as he held up a golden bridle. "With a golden bridle, can make the creature ours. Prepare the mask of Faun. It's time we took control of the situation."
Rexword wore a pleased expression and said, "At once, my lord."
The mass of metal and leather slept on the chair outside the door of Lady Constance Reynard. Steel gauntlets gripped the heart-shaped mask with the crossed lightning bolts. Soft footsteps touched the ears of the man named Silverbolt. First, they paced in front of the chair in indecision.
"Come on, don't be a coward. Just ask him," a female voice said.
Cowardice seemed to have the upper hand because the footsteps faded into the distance and then grew closer a few seconds later. The restless pacing went on for a few minutes.
A slender hand shook the Superhero, "Silverbolt, I need to talk to you about something. Something I don't want anyone to know."
The steel grey eyes opened and focused on the young woman in front of him. Lady Clara Schaefer sat on the floor and leaned against the wall. She tugged at the blonde hair, and her sorrow-filled face was red and puffy from the torrents of tears.
"Can't sleep?" Silverbolt handed her a handkerchief he kept on him for such occasion.
The brown eyes flashed in anger. "The Midgely's have been nothing but supportive, and Gabe said it doesn't change how he feels. Why don't I feel better?"
I remember feeling like this after the Addle house. "I forgot to warn you about the guilt. All the kindness in the world won't chase how you feel away. The key is to forgive yourself." Silverbolt stared at the distraught young noblewoman.
"I want to be like you...
"No. It's too much risk, and everyone will hate me if you get hurt."
Clara glared at him and pointed to the door. "You're teaching Constance."
She's determined. I'll give her that. "Constance has powers. She has no idea how the abilities work or what they do. She could be a danger to herself and others."
"So I have to have powers for you to teach me?"
"No. Once you're behind the mask, it's hard to put down. What about Gabe?"
Clara leaned against the wall while she sat. "I love Gabe with all my heart, but I've lived for everyone but myself. My parents cast a nightmarish shadow over my life. I want to step out of it."
I am going to lose this argument, and it will put me at odds with everyone. Silverbolt growled and stood. "You can easily do that without throwing yourself at danger."
"I've always wanted to be a warrior. I hate being a noble. It's nothing but an endless stream of forced smiles and pretending things are okay." Silverbolt could see the fire behind Clara's eyes. Her jaw clenched in determination.
Constance is not going to like this. "Let me talk to Constance about it."
"She's involved already..."
Aren't we presumptuous? "Yes, she is. However, I don't want to look like a total ass clown in front of my fiance." Silverbolt took his seat once more and glared at Clara.
Clara's eyes popped out of her head, and both her hands covered her mouth. "You asked her?"
"She said yes." A smile spread across the hero's face.
"Aren't you two already married?"
"Yes and no. Yes, the goddess married us in her eyes. No, it didn't feel like it to either of us. I want all our friends to be there."
Clara sighed and rose from her spot. "I'll talk to Gabe about how I feel at once." The aggrieved young woman left the hall.
Breakfast won't be boring. I hope Constance understands.
Constance hadn't slept. Silverbolts proposal had her mind in overdrive. What will I wear today? My outfit and hair should represent my new status. She perused her gowns and chose a red satin dress that showed off her shoulders and the nape of her neck. Perfect.
She padded over to her flower pots and picked out some stephanotis flowers for her hair. I have waited a long time to put these in my hair. Mother started growing them when I was born and then passed them on to me when I was old enough to care for them. All the engaged girls wear them to announce the good news.
She tied a single braid in the middle of her hair and wove the white flowers into her dark silky air. She pulled the ruby choker from the velvet-lined box and centered it around her neck. Hopefully, my husband-to-be notices the effort I put into my appearance.
She walked regally to the door and took a deep breath. The door swung open on noiseless hinges. Silverbolt stood, sat back down, and stood again.
"You are a vision in red. Not that you don't look great all the time. Your ensemble seems to push the envelope..." Silverbolt never got to finish. Constance pulled him into her arms and kissed him. He released a small shock that caused her to tingle all over.
I will never get tired of his lips on mine. Constance laid her head on his shoulder and caressed his face. "I was worried you wouldn't notice."
Silverbolt held her close. "I always notice. Whether I voice it out loud is another matter. For instance, I resent being the ugly one between the two of us."
Constance buried her face in fiances shoulder and giggled. "You're making me blush. Shall we go to breakfast?" She noticed Silverbolt looked uneasy. "What's on your mind? You look conflicted."
The pair hooked arms and strolled towards the dining room. "Clara wants to be a superhero. She also wants me to train her." A strong hand clasped the necklace. A pale light flashed and replaced the Clothes with the armor.
Why would she give up being a lady? "What did you say?"
"I didn't feel right making that decision without you. I told Clara you, and I had to discuss it first."
"It's your life, Ethan. I have no objections unless you have more to tell?" I like this new Ethan. He was right to discuss the matter with me.
Silverbolt stopped at a bench and sat. A baton spun around his fingers while he talked. "She talked about walking away from Gabe. She wants to live a life unfettered by the rules of nobility."
"How do you feel about training her?" He doesn't like the idea at all, I can tell. He hasn't spun the batons for a while.
Silverbolt spread his arms wide and shrugged. "I don't know what I think. On the one hand, she is going to do it with or without my help. I would feel better knowing she had people watching her back."
I feel the same way. "What's the argument for not doing it."
"It's easy to get lost behind the mask and the lifestyle that comes with it. I became Silverbolt because I had nothing else in my life and nothing to lose but my life. I don't want to encourage her to an early death."
Constance put her arms around Silverbolt and caressed his face before she kissed him softly. "Well, I'd feel better knowing you had someone to watch your back out there. I have no interest in being a superhero. We both know the Old One is unreliable."
"So you're okay with it?"
"Yes, but what of Gabe? How will he feel about it?" Midgely will take it hard. He's been in love with Clara since he was young. To suddenly lose her will be devastating.
"We're about to find out." He rose and offered a hand to help Constance up. "It's going to get worse before it gets better."
There was a dark cloud hanging over the table when Constance and Silverbolt arrived. Gabe looked like someone punched him in the family jewels. Granville, and Mahala, narrowed their eyes at Clara. Who seemed impervious to the anger directed at her. Sophie and Madame Cuttle looked uncomfortable with the situation.
Silverbolt looks ready to turn things upside down. Constance felt a certain sense of pride when her champion stood at the table head.
He took a deep breath. "We have several concerns on the table today. One of which is finding a new base of operations. Anyone have suggestions."
Granville and Mahala got up, "Sorry, due to the inconsiderate actions of certain people," Granville glared directly at Clara, "we find ourselves unable to support..."
Constance tapped the Parasol on the ground in frustration. "What about the people who have no defense against Lord Tuxley and his minions? Are they to suffer because someone displeased you?"
Mahala shoved her husband aside and marched up to Constance. "We are always displeased with how society treats Gabe. Clara shattered his heart with her need to be like him." She pointed an accusatory finger at Silverbolt.
"I tried to talk her out of it. I know where the road leads, remember? However, Clara is my friend, and I refuse to turn my back on her. Hate me if it makes you feel better, but I didn't ask her to take up the mask." Silverbolt glared at Clara and shook his head.
Gabe Midgely looked miserable as he stood. "I stand with Silverbolt. I love Clara, no matter what. I will support her through this difficult time as her friend. Perhaps time and the All-Mother will see us together again."
Granville and Mahala stood in stunned silence. "Son..."
"I don't want someone else, and I'm willing to wait until Clara is ready to explore that aspect of her life again," Gabe said in a defiant tone. His eyes stared at Clara with blind devotion.
Clara's eyes glistened with tears before she ran off. Gabe went to go after her, but Madame Cuttle held him back. "Give her some space and time. Her entire life fell apart a couple of days ago. Let her try to make sense of it on her own."
Mahala and Granville left despite their son's words. "We need time, as well," Mahala said as the pair walked to the door.
Madame Cuttle massaged her temples. "I assume You wish to continue Silverbolt?" She pointed to Constance, "Is there is a story behind her all-consuming glow?"
Right or wrong, I want people to know. "Ethan asked me to marry him last night. I accepted, of course.
Gabe looked over at Silverbolt and smiled. "Congratulations, but isn't it redundant at this point?"
Sophie giggled and embraced her daughter. "Hush, Gabe. These two wish to make things official in the eyes of family and friends. I think it's brilliant, although someone didn't ask for my blessing."
Here we go again. Silverbolt growled low. "Are you displeased, Lady Sophie?"
Sophie finally let her daughter go, and Constance found her breath again. "No, I am pleased with the match. It was the last thing I expected out of you."
"Fair enough. Can we get back to business?" The remaining people at the table nodded. Now, where was I? Constance looks so hot right now. I wonder what's underneath that dress. Stop that. "Our new base needs to house the old one..."
Madame Cuttle raised her hand. "There's a funny story about the old one. He's missing."
Everyone at the table stared at the Headmistress. Constance pointed and laughed. "You're joking. He serves Ethan. To leave would violate the goddess's terms."
If it were anyone else, I wouldn't believe them. Madame Cuttle wouldn't joke about something this serious. "How would you do it?"
Madame Cuttle steepled her fingers and leaned back in the wooden chair. "A few items can control an animal with minimal effort. A golden bridle is one of them. Another is the horn of Cernunnos. One blast from the horn will bewitch any beast."
One shining moment on top, and we are back on the bottom. "How easy are those items to obtain?"
Sophie took a break from chatting with Constance to answer. The horn vanished years ago. A golden bridle quite obviously requires gold. The process is expensive even by noble standards."
"Tuxley," Silverbolt hissed. "But why take him? He barely listens, and he eats all the time." Even if the overgrown hatrack barely listens, he's a veritable disaster on hooves when angered. His size alone is enough to make the most seasoned fighter crap his pants. "Never mind, The Old One is a walking battering ram and arrow catcher."
"Let's go to the city and check out what we have for real estate," Sophie suggested.
It's the only thing we have going for us right now. "Let's go."
Lady Clara Schaefer walked through her father's study without any cares or worries. Once upon a time, she feared the room and the harsh punishments her father dealt out with steel hands. Now it was hers, and hers alone.
She opened the book titled "The Horned One" and pulled out an odd-shaped key. At the other end of the study was a door with a stag head on it. On the other side of the door, dense foliage and a narrow path to the stone altar. A horned deer skull lay in front of the altar.
She placed the horned deer skull on the altar, along with a yew sprig and a clutch of nightshade berries. "I, Lady Clara Schaefer, request an audience with the lord of the vast forests and animals. I wish to be his faithful servant..."
"Liar," an ethereal voice said in a harsh tone. "You desire to become a great hunter to exact revenge. Lucky for you, I find the idea intriguing."
The Horned Gods spectral image stood before her. Ivory antlers jutted out from his head like sharpened blades, and deep green eyes glowed brightly. His bare chest rippled and flexed beneath the simple leather battle harness. A long bendy staff was clutch in the sharp nails.
Clara fell to her knees. "Forgive my trespass..."
"Are you a hunter, or are you a helpless noblewoman?"
"A hunter. I want to be a hunter." Clara said with fierce determination. She rose to her feet.
"In exchange for my help, you will have to do an occasional favor for me. I will make sure it's within your skill level. It will not break the laws of your overcomplicated society."
"How will I know if you call upon me?"
The god clapped his hand to his forehead. "I am the god of the hunt. I'll find you and give instructions. Do we have a deal?"
Every fiber of Clara's being shouted, "Yes."
The Horned One seemed pleased with her enthusiasm. "Now, let us figure out what will suit you best. No two hunters are alike." His hand touched her head. "I see you are not motivated by revenge alone. You have all the raw material to be one of the best, perhaps the greatest. Do you pledge your life to me?"
"Yes, for the power to fight back."
Cernunnos grinned. "I shall grant it."