Chapter 23 ~
Aidan opened his eyes to find himself seated; Unoaidh was standing before him and Gideon who was sitting in the chair next him. At the snap of the Queens' fingers, a quiet procession of six of her handmaidens entered the room.
"You will need to enhance your strength for the fight tomorrow. You will feed from my servants before you go to ground. While you sleep I will work with my huntsmen to track where Aeron is and report back to us what he and his men find." Aidan opened his mouth to object only to be silenced by Unoaidh's hand, "I will have no argument on this Aohdan. Before dusk we will meet back to here to discuss what I have learned and to formulate our plans. By nightfall we will be ready to move."
As the Queen finished her words she snapped her fingers once again, prompting the women to move forward and line up next to Gideon and himself. Gideon smiled rakishly at the first in line, holding his hand out to her, "My lady," he offered with a wink, the faerie blushing as she sat in his lap. Gideon kissed her affectionately before saying, "Thank you." The faerie pratically swooned at the handsome knight before gathering herself, seductively pulling her long golden hair to the side, offering her neck.
"My lord?" the quiet voice causing him to look up into the silver-eyed servant in front of him. He hated the idea of drinking from these women, but he knew the Queen was correct that he would need all the strength he could get.
"Come here child," he sighed motioning for her to sit in his lap. She did so immediately her head bowed, "Thank you for your service, it means everything to me."
"Yes, my lord," she answered as he took her hand, kissing her wrist before taking her into his mouth.
Lisbeth woke to the sound of a door closing. She looked up to find a young girl carrying a tray of hot tea. The woman paused briefly when she saw Lisbeth looking at her, she curtsied slightly, "Mistress," before she brought the tray to the bedside. The woman quickly and quietly released Lisbeth from the cuffs that kept her bound to the large bed, helping her to sit up right before placing the tray at her lap.
This certainly was not what she expected to wake up to. A Spanish inquisitor perhaps, but not a meek slip of a Latina girl calling her "mistress."
"Lisbeth," she said quietly.
"I am sorry, ma'm?" the girl asked, never raising her eyes.
Lisbeth reached out to lift the girl's chin, admiring her dark features, "My name is Lisbeth, if you please. And you are?"
"Inez, Mistress," the girl smiled back. Lisbeth figured it must have been a very long time since someone actually addressed the girl directly without barking an order,
"Inez, that is a lovely name."
"Thank you, ma'am." The girl said as she began to pour Lisbeth's tea. "I am to prepare you for Master Aeron's dinner." Inez said as she set the pot back on the tray. Lisbeth must have jumped because the girl immediately corrected herself, reaching out for Lisbeth's hand, "as a guest, Mistress, as a guest."
"Of course, thank you." Lisbeth sighed heavily as she picked up the cup, thankful to have something to do other than look at the girl's concerned face. She concentrated on not making her hands shake as she lifted the warm sweet tea to her mouth.
She closed her eyes thinking back on Aidan's last words to her, "Try to pay attention to what is around you, try to give me as much information as you can. Aeron doesn't know I can dreamwalk, he won't know you are able to tell me things, use that to our advantage… I am coming for you, I will not lose you, but you have to fight for me…"
She looked up from her tea to see Inez coming back into the room, laying out a dress for her, "Inez, I would like to go for a walk before dinner. Would that be possible?"
"No, Mistress!" Inez answered back in shock at the suggestion, "I am not to let you leave the room."
"You don't have to worry about me running off. I am sure this place has a swarm of guards. I doubt I would make it very far if I tried to run."
"It's not the guards you have to worry about out there, it's the Masters wolves. They'd tear a man to shreds if allowed. You don't want to go out there, Ma'am."
"Oh, sounds frightening, I suppose your right."
Lisbeth continued to drink her tea, watching the girl go in the attached bathroom, the sound of water running, Inez returning with a large terrycloth robe.
"You must have your hands full what with taking care of all those guards. They must run you ragged around this place. I hope I am not adding to your troubles, Inez." She smiled sweetly at the young servant.
"It's not so bad mistress, I prefer to wait on you then those men anyway. The evenings are easier anyway with the Master being awake, most of the men leave at night. So I only have to serve the 12 or so that are left."
"Wow, 12 guards! I think I should listen to you when you say I should not leave my room."
"Yes Mistress, please don't leave." Inez looked at her with pure fear in her eyes.
"Inez? What is it, I won't do anything to get you hurt, I promise," Lisbeth said to the trembling Latina and she meant it.
"It's not me I am worried for…"Inez looked around as if searching for someone else who may be listening before she inched closer to Lisbeth's ear, "the Master has my family. He may kill me quickly but I can't risk what he would do to them."
Lisbeth's heart broke for the girl, and she swore not to ask any more questions that may get the woman or her family murdered.
"I understand Inez, believe me I do."
"Now Misstress, your bath is ready," Inez said pulling the covers back reaching for Lisbeth's hand, "I am sorry but I will have to leave the door open. I am supposed to stay and watch you but I will just wait by the door. Please, remember your promise?"
"Yes, Inez, I will behave."
Lisbeth sighed deeply as she lowered her sore body into the water. She was surprised she did not hurt more than she did; her muscles were only just slightly sore. "I guess that is why he made me feed from him," she thought to herself. At the memory of his wrist at her mouth, the taste of copper flooding over her tongue, she felt a something flutter inside of her. She recognized it as the same feeling she had when she saw Aidan at the beginning of the party. "What is happening to me?" she thought as the flutter returned, the force of it multiplied. She lowered her hand to her belly, running her hand along the area that would not seem to settle down. She gasped when something moved inside her, pushing back against her hand, like a kitten's head nuzzling her hand. She moved her hand, looking down in shock to see her skin move, a long thin line rising just under her skin, slithering across her belly like a snake. "Jesus, Mary and Joseph!" she cried out.
"Ma'am? Are you alright?" Inez poked her head around the corner.
"Yes, yes," she said to her trying to catch her breath, "I just bumped my head. Sorry."
She placed her hand back on her belly, the movement returning, and she felt her heart grow and pound as though it would burst. She closed her eyes, trying to reach out to Aidan, praying he could hear her.
She was so happy to find herself in his room, looking out to see his chair, the rug, the fire burning as always in the fireplace. "Aidan?" she called out to the empty room, "Aidan, where are you?" She began to cry, why would he show her an empty room?
She felt a slight nudge at her hand. She looked down to see a small heart shaped face looking back at her. "Well, hello there," she smiled at the small child.
It took a second for her to see that the face looking back at her was a carbon copy of herself save for two small differences. The child's hair, although the same fire red as her own, hung straight and fine compared to Lisbeth's thick uncontrollable curls. The child's large expressive green eyes blinked at her, her eyes glimmered the same as Aidan's when he was at his happiest. "Aidan's eyes, she has Aidan's eyes," the thought crossed her mind before it all clicked into place.
She bent down quickly lifting the small version of herself, swirling her around into her tight embrace. A light tinkle of a small giggle lifting into the air as she spun herself and her daughter around, landing in the chair. She cradled the girl in her lap as Aidan had her so many years ago, laying her head on her chest, stroking her long silky hair. She rocked back and forth, tears flowing down her face.
She was unsure how long she sat there weeping before she felt the girl's tiny hand come up to wipe away her tears.
"No words for me yet? Mmmm, little one?" Lisbeth asked the child. The little girl put her index finger in her mouth, sucking on the tip quietly shaking her head back and forth.
"That's alright, little one, I didn't like to talk very much either." She leaned down, tickling the sweet cherub in her lap; the child's face lighting up and the giggle echoing off the walls. Lisbeth knew then and there she would do anything to protect this angel. She would lie, scheme, and debase herself to survive this night. She would kill if she had to, but she and her child were going to survive this place.
"Do you know where Daddy is?" Lisbeth asked. The child looked back at her unsure, then squished her little face, her eyes squeezed tight in effort before springing her saucer shaped green orbs open. She removed her finger from her mouth, smiled and shook her head up and down. She turned herself to climb off Lisbeth's lap, tugging at her hand to communicate that Lisbeth should follow. She led Lisbeth to the familiar wooden door, waiting patiently for it to be opened. On the other side, she did not find the hallway she expected, but rather she found herself back in Constantine's home.
Quickly the girl increased her speed, dragging Lisbeth down a long hall and into a study. In the room she found the group hovering around a table set in the middle of the room. She saw Aidan, Constantine, Gideon, and the most beautiful silver haired woman she had ever seen. Beside the woman was a large man who wore all green and had a quiver of bows slung over his shoulder. All of them were watching a small tweed covered man with round spectacles as he pointed something out on a map.
"We think the best entrance will be here." Breandan pointed. It is the fastest portal we have to the area, it will put you a quarter kilometer away, but that should also give you an element of surprise.
"I have archers already posted along the perimeter," Cord, the Queen's huntsman said, "They are my sharpest shooters, they will provide cover for you as you approach the main house. My spotters say there are at least 6 guardsmen patrolling the outer grounds and 2 snipers found here and here. There are also surveillance and motion sensors."
Aidan was concentrating on the map in front of them barley noticing the slight tug at his pants. Instinctively he looked up at Breandan wondering if he was near by, but the librarian was at a second table pulling thru papers, looking for technical specs of the surveillance equipment. Who would think that faerie folk kept manuals of modern equipment in their resources? The tug came again only harder and more urgent.
He looked down to find Lisbeth's child like image looking back at him. "Lisbeth?" he asked reaching out to the small heart shaped face.
"No, but she's beautiful isn't she?" he heard Lisbeth's voice behind him.
He spun around to face the woman he loved standing behind him, his mouth dropped open as he stood in shock; only moving when the tug returned, but now on his hand, the child's small fingers just able to wrap around his smallest finger. He bent down to the child, "Hello," She child smiled before darting away to hide behind Lisbeths' legs.
"I think she's a little shy," Lisbeth smiled.
"How… How are you here?" he sighed, relief flooding him.
"I'm not, your dreaming," Lisbeth pointed to the group behind him. He turned back to see himself leaning against the table his head bowed, eyes closed.
"Aidan, we don't have long. I came to tell you, there are 12 guards at night, and some vicious pack of wolves, I don't know how big, but they are something to fear. I am suppose to join this Aeron at his dinner table after he rises." Lisbeth spoke quickly, the little girl pulling at her arms to be lifted up. Lisbeth lifted her up, kissing her check, guiding the girl's head to her shoulder, "She's tired, we can't stay much longer," Lisbeth said, rocking the child back and forth, tilting her head to rest with the child's.
"Don't go, don't go." Aidan cried out, crossing to them with just enough time to have his fingers brush against the girls fine hair.
"Hurry Aidan, hurry," Lisbeth's final words were all that was left of them as they disappeared.
"Aidan? Aidan?" Gideon called out to him, shaking him slightly at the shoulder.
"What!" he yelled back, a single tear running down his face.
"Are you okay, what happened?" Constantine asked.
Aidan looked up at Uonaidh to see her all knowing eyes, "I saw her, she is beautiful, Aohdan."
"Saw what, saw who? Lisbeth?" Gideon asked, his voice urgent with worry.
"My daughter." Aidan answered, wiping the tear from his face, straightening his shoulders, a fierce wave of determination locking him back into the task before them, "Lisbeth says there are 12 guards, she will be in the dinning hall, and apparently there is some pack of wolves. Knowing Aeron they will be practically rabid in nature." Aidan looked up finally when he realized no one was talking. "Well come on! Let's figure this shit out so we can go save my family!"