Kaleb is an Erien Tale story by Terri Pray, set before The Dragon Prince - which will be re-released this month.
Artwork by Samuel Pray, created using Daz3D, Photoshop and Filter Forge.
“Rune magic,” he growled, his gaze narrowing before he turned and stalked away to the other side of the large chamber. It always came back to the forbidden rune magic, a hint here, a clue there, yet try as he might he could never find more than a few crumbs of information.
“My Lord?” A soft voice, female, tempting and so very familiar, drifted in from the doorway. “Is there something I can do to help you, sire?”
Kaleb tensed, pausing in his pacing to turn and look at the woman. “No, begone woman. I have no need for you here.”
With anyone else it would have sent them scurrying away to seek a moment of safety from his wrath but not this one. No, this female had been with him far too long. Not human, not fae, but something else, something older and yet she had never revealed those secrets to him. Was that the only reason he hadn’t rid himself of her? That she still held onto something he found of interest?
How long had she been in his service?
Fifty years? Sixty?
Mortals and their time keeping, a foolish thing and yet it had somehow wormed its way into his life.
“You spoke of rune magic, my lord.”
“I told you to leave.” He snarled and turned his back on her. Why did she stay? She had to know he would become angry or frustrated and then she would become a target for his wrath.
When had he last done that? Last enjoyed the sound of her tears, her pleading or…
Damn the woman, did she have some unholy hold over him?
What else could it be when he had failed to break her or dispose of her after so many years?
“I know of rune magic, sire. Many of my people did, at least they did when I lived among them.” Her soft voice pushed at him, urging him to turn toward her. “It’s one of the reasons you killed most of them.” She took a step into the room, the long whisper soft lengths of her garb fluttered around her legs with the movement. “It’s why you took me for your own.”
It had been one of the reasons. Her natural magic and interest in the darkness had been others and then there was her spirit. Oh, how it had called to him when he had first laid eyes upon her nearly naked form as she’d danced along the cliff face, her bare feet finding a safe step with each twist of hip or energetic leap. How long had he watched her before he had wiped out the rest of her people and dragged her back to his home?
Not that it mattered.
“Yet you kept that information from me.”
One delicate shoulder lifted in a shrug. “You offered me nothing but pain or death in return for that information, my lord.”
“What makes you think that I will give you anything else now?” He growled and took a step toward her. “Perhaps that is why you speak of it now. Have you grown weary of life, of your time with me and now seek the oblivion of death as a means of escaping me?”
She laughed, the sound rich and mocking. “Oh, my lord. You know you won’t kill me. No, if that had been your plan I would have been dead years ago. No, you want something else from me, more than the knowledge of that magic.”
Did he? Was there something else she could offer him or was this yet another one of her games? Ah, her games, the small tricks and manipulations she delighted in. Had she been of fae blood he might have been able to offer her something more than her life in the darkness. Yet she was something else, an older race that few knew anything about, even among his kind. No, that wasn’t entirely true. They knew, but they forgot, the information was hidden in shadows, fog, darkness, things that…
The rune magic.
“What about them?” She rested one hand on her hip, cocking it out just enough to draw attention to the lines of her body, the soft curves and swells that would draw the attention of a mortal man, and perhaps many a mortal woman as well.
“What are they?”
“What were they, you mean.” She smiled and ran the tip of her tongue over her full bottom lip.
Was she the last of her kind? He frowned, reaching back through his thoughts, through the knowledge that was a part of him and found… nothing.
“What have you done to me, woman?”
“Me, done to you?” Fire flashed in her eyes. Not the emotion that could portray such things, but true fire. “You took me from my people, Kaleb. Destroyed my home, my family and now you want me to offer up information to you?”
Fire. How was that possible. This was his home. She shouldn’t be able to draw on magic here, not unless he willed it and yet there it was. Small flames, real flames, danced where her eyes should be. Power rippled across her skin, sparking from the tips of her fingers before she laughed and shook her head, moving through the room toward him and then away to the far side of the room.
This was why he hadn’t killed her. She hadn’t permitted it. She wasn’t human, wasn’t fae, wasn’t any race he knew or understood.
“Old one. By all that’s… you’re an old one.”
She smiled, flashing teeth that showed more than a hint of points. “Am I, my lord?”
How else could she have survived her time with him? Yet that didn’t explain how it had been so easy to destroy the rest of her people. The old ones, a race that had claimed Erien as their home long before the birth of the first dwarves or elves, had died out generations ago. Only the dragons had been around long enough to remember the old ones in depth yet it didn’t add up.
“They aren’t dead. Your family I mean.”
“Of course they are. You killed them. Every single one of them. Walked through the dead and laughed about it.”
Rune magic. They had used rune magic in order to portray their deaths and hide themselves from his presence. No, not just from his but the rest of his kind. How was that possible? He was a god. His family were gods. Their powers were stronger than anything else on the face of Erien, yet there she stood, fire and power rippling through her body, her very being.
“What is my name, my lord?” She took a step toward him, then spun on the tips of her toes, the gossamer of her skirt lifting with the movement. Lithe, strong legs bared in that moment, hips rolling as she danced. The same dance she had performed along the cliffs before he had claimed her.
His body responded, hunger and need roaring into life. His hands clenched. Oh, it would be easy to take her, to press her to the floor and part her thighs as he had done so many times before, yet that was what she wanted. What she craved but why.
“My name, my lord, do you even remember it?”
“Of course I remember it.” Gamia. Was that it? Yes, that was the name she had used. “Sweet, tempting Gamia.”
She tipped back her head, a merry stream of laughter spilling from her ruby lips. “That’s one of the names I am known by but it’s not the name I was given by my family.”
Had she kept even that from him? “What is it then?”
“Oh no, my lord. That’s something I will never share with you. No matter how loud you scream.”
He reached out for her, seeking to tangle his fingers in her hair or dress, yet she darted away, laughing once more. A merry sound that struck deep, biting into his flesh and soul alike. “It will be you who will scream, pet.”
“Will I?” She tipped her head and continued to keep out of his reach as she danced around the chamber.
How many times had she played this game with him? He shook his head, trying to reach past the fog that he now knew was there within his mind. She had done this to him. Built a wall between himself and his memories, his power. Had she fed from him? Taken strength and energy from him? He scowled. Had she used him? “Where are they, the others of your kind?”
“Where you will never find them unless they wish to be found. Just as I wished to be found by you that day on the cliffs.”
Why? It made no sense. He had been searching for something, following a trail that had led to the village. A small place, perhaps fifty people in total yet there had been no children. Odd, why hadn’t he thought about that before. All the bodies had been adult men and women, older than his pet and…
“You begin to see it, don’t you, which means my time here with you is drawing to an close.” She paused, touching a small pendant she wore about her throat. Silver and gold, hanging from a slender silver chain.
When had he given her that?
“You will not leave unless I choose it.”
Her image flickered, vanishing from her sight only to reappear in the doorway. “I come and go as I please, my lord, as I always have.”
No, that wasn’t possible. His magic, his power, he was one of the gods themselves. So he had buried himself here, in his home, his dimension since… since he had taken Gamia as his new toy.
“What have you done to me?” He snarled and prowled his way toward her. “How is this possible.”
“Oh, you know the answer, my lord. You’ve always known, you just didn’t want to admit it.” Gamia or whatever her real name was, vanished again only to reappear behind him as he turned toward the soft sound. “You’re afraid of the answer, dark one but then again you never did like to admit when you have made a mistake. Strange that such an intelligent being can act in so foolish a manner.”
She was provoking him, that much was obvious, but the why remained hidden.
“Come here.” He gestured to a spot at his feet. “Now.”
“Oh, I don’t think so. I believe the time and place for that little arrangement has long since passed us by. Don’t you?”
Bravery or stupidity? It didn’t matter. He was Kaleb, Lord of Vengeance. No mere mortal could be allowed to defy him and live.
Power surged through his body as he moved, his magic, energy, whatever another might call it, answered his summons as he launched himself at the woman.
She flickered and vanished out of sight even as he struck where she had been but a heartbeat before. Kaleb struck the floor, the breath knocked from his body in that moment before he rolled back up to his feet and turned. Gamia. Where was she?
Shadows flickered across the floor, up the walls and toward the only door in or out of the room, yet the woman was no where to be seen.
“Goodbye, sire.” Her voice drifted across the room from everywhere and nowhere at the same time. “I will not try to persuade you not to hunt for me, as you will continue to do so until something else distracts you, but it won’t matter. You will not be able to find me.”
“Gamia!” He howled.
Silence was the only response.
Kaleb’s hands clenched into fists as he walked toward the door.
She was gone, his pet, his prize, she’d walked out - no, she had vanished without his permission. Something that shouldn’t have been possible yet it had happened in front of him leaving nothing behind but…
His eyes narrowed on something on the floor. A small, glittering thing that beckoned his attention. He frowned and walked across the room to the open doorway to scoop it up.
It dangled on a silver chain now tangled around his fingers and for the first time he felt it, something she had hidden from him during her years in his home.