Monday, October 13, 2008

Chapter 32 (of 43)

XXXII

Al’bert woke feeling very odd. It took him longer than normal to become aware of his surroundings, and when he did, there was a tree root uncomfortably beneath his arm. As coherence began to grasp him, he saw Alice was standing above him, and gazing towards the west. How he knew it was the west in the middle of this forest, he wasn’t quite sure, but when one gazes like that, they’re always gazing towards the west.

Her skirts moved slightly in the wind and he noticed every rustle and bend of the fabric as it was very close to his face. Not only did he find it very bizarre that they were both fully clothed upon waking, but he couldn’t remember what happened last night… at all.

He leaned his head back and closed his eyes, focusing on what he could remember, certain that there had to be something still within his powers of recollection. He knew he had nearly lost his mind kissing her, but after some time of that, it all faded away and he couldn’t find it no matter how hard he tried. Opening his eyes, he shifted his arm off of the offending root and tried to sit up, whereupon he was struck with a sudden bout of disorientation that turned his sight to black and filled him with nausea.

He must have groaned or made some kind of noise involuntarily, because when his sight cleared, she was kneeling beside him, looking down into his face. She didn’t appear very concerned, only interested, and for some reason that chagrined Al’bert. She studied his face until, gradually, her lopsided smile came back.

“Are you ill?” she asked him blandly.

He was still catching his breath from nothing and attempted to sit up again, for Al’bert was nothing if not a stubborn man. This time he made it, brushing her off and collecting his senses with as much orderliness as he could manage. His head throbbed in time with his pulse, and he felt unusually weak.

Alice waited patiently near him, on the ground.

He looked at her and said, “What did you do to me?”

She blinked.

“What do you mean?”

“I feel terrible and I can’t remember anything!”

“You forgot everything?” she said, with a casual interest in her nails. “That’s a shame.”

“Yes, I forgot everything!” he began, but could only muster the beginning of an accusation. “Because you…”

“Because I…?” she asked him, then leaned close, across him, and kissed him.

It didn’t help matters that he really did enjoy kissing her. Besides that, he didn’t know what it could possibly be that she did to him, and so began to wonder if he’d hit his head on a root or something instead.

“Did I… fall or something?”

“Hmm,” she replied, kissing him again, languidly. She tasted him, forcing him to lose his thoughts like seeds scattering in the wind and took her time with it until she finally murmured, “Yes.”

That was enough for Al’bert.

From that moment forward, time began to move in a pleasant, lilting line. The group began to track Sangwine, but cautiously, for Al’bert wanted to observe him first and since he was providing everyone’s paycheck no one raised issue. The only person he really had to deal with was Fang.

To: Overlord Fang, of Darkness et al

Regarding the mission to finish the sojourning prince, I have gathered:

- one wizard: elements; golems; illusion; material manipulation

- one thief: paranoid yet effective; small and swift

- one warrior: half-ogre; nearly seven feet in height; spectacularly strong, and

- one healer: effective; also proficient with knives

I don’t believe this will take very long. How is the battlefront?

Regards,

Le Comte Al’bert du Fromage

- - - - - - - - - -

Al’bert –

The battlefront is spectacular. You should be here, that is if you could finish that already. If you could only see what it is Zedwig does with the other mages; it is scarcely to be believed. His power continues to astound me… I can only think of where I will use it next. We are victorious, but Sangwine’s continued life nicks at me. Finish it, now. End it, Al’bert, and then come back to me.

Fang

On receiving this letter, Al’bert had been surprised at the sudden familiarity with which Fang addressed him, but, having known Fang all of his life and being fully aware of the severe swings in mood which he had always been subject to, he shrugged it off. His mind was far more occupied with observing Sangwine, who thought he was entirely alone despite all the people surrounding him, including a thoroughly cloaked Al’bert.

Al’bert had to admit to a sort of sordid fascination over Sangwine, who had always been a deliriously happy individual, and was now thrust into possibly the worst circumstances imaginable for someone like him.

They were in a smallish town, one that had three or four taverns to it, and this wasn’t the one they were staying at. In fact, none of the others knew he had actually found Sangwine at all. Regardless, there he was, sitting alone at a table and looking ridiculously obvious. Al’bert pitied him.

“Is that him?” Alice whispered into his ear.

He was shocked by her sudden appearance, although he didn’t really mind her whispering in his ear like that at all. He would have to convince her to keep this a secret from the others later.

He gave a nod meant for her, and glanced over to see her regarding him critically.

“He’s beautiful,” she said, and Al’bert felt irritation tinge through his insides like a needle. However, she had stated it as fact, not as admiration. At least there was that. He made a mental note to work on her diligently, because the balance of power in this relationship wasn’t nearly as lopsidedly tipped in his direction as he would prefer.

“How are you going to kill him?”

She asked that question as if asking him what color he was going to wear. It made him shiver, and he began to wonder who she was. He looked away from her.

“I don’t know.”

There was some silence between them.

“Do you think I could meet him tonight?” she asked.

“No.”

“Why not?”

He really had to get control over her. He had to.

He took her wrist in his hand and turned her to look at him. He kissed her wrist once, on the inside, and she knew. She knew and it burned him, raking his ego with claws and sinking it downward in flames. He recoiled at the sensation’s unfamiliarity, and at the humiliation with which it spoiled him.

It was more than Al’bert could bear, and so he used it on her. Only a little: it was a twinge that he could scarcely discern, but her eyes opened slightly wider in response, and she began to pull back, away from him. He tightened his grip on her wrist, wondering if it worked differently on humans than with elves, and tried again, more than before, until her breathing quickened. He kissed her wrist again.

“Stop that,” she whispered at him, and he began to think she might know exactly what it was he was doing. He decided to feign ignorance to the last. His ego was on the line, after all.

“Stop what?” he asked her warmly, and sent more into her until she sighed. Her eyes focused on him with a strange mixture of anger and admiration, and he knew which came from what source.

It wasn’t what he wanted to have done with her, but he had no choice, really. He preferred who she was, and he generally preferred not to use it at all, but she’d constantly given him the feeling like he was trying to tame a wild horse all the while being trampled into the dust by it and he’d had enough. There were more important things to worry about. There were limits. He had limits.

Her wrist relaxed in his hand and her posture changed until she looked as if she were almost pleading with him, yet she said nothing. He sighed, and then kissed her.

Sangwine rose and left, and neither of them knew it.

No comments: