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       Slumber, p.11

         Part #1 of The Fade series by Samantha Young
 
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  I almost roled my eyes at his rehearsed insolence.

  “Bird,” Tiger continued, “Is one of the Glava.”

  My jaw dropped. “Another mage?”

  “Ye said it yerself, I’m a colector. I found Bird when he was five years old.”

  I almost launched myself at him and was surprised to find Wolfe’s hand on my wrist, squeezing it in restraint. “You mean you took him!”

  “Semantics.” Tiger waved me off. “Bird, show them what ye can do.”

  His eyes laughing at me, Bird turned and looked at the Cael gypsy girl. She gave out a frightened yelp as we watched as her hair floated up into the air, strand by strand. She began to whimper and the two women beside her laughed and scooted away from her as first one arm popped up into the air and then the other. Finaly her entire body rose from the log as if propped up by unseen arms. Panic suffused her and she began thrashing and screaming as she rose steadily higher, terrified tears streaking her cheeks. “Stop!” She shrieked. “Make it stop!”

  None of the gypsies around me seemed too distressed by the sight, although I noticed a few on the other side of the campfire glare at Bird in disgust. I too was disgusted. I felt sick at the sight and was just about to reprimand them when Wolfe snarled, “You’ve had your fun. Let her go.” Bird arched an eyebrow at Wolfe’s demand and then looked to his father. Tiger was smiling at Wolfe. “The boy thinks he’s a hero.”

  “Please,” I added, pleading with my eyes. Tiger frowned and then nodded at his son who dropped the girl. She fel with a hard thump onto the log and let go a howl of pain. “You bastard!” I yeled, forgetting myself.

  “Now, now,” Tiger admonished and seemed to share a look with Vrik. “Ye’re right, son, perhaps she would do better for ye. I’m not sure Bird can handle her spirit.”

  “Then give her to me.” Vrik reached a hand out and wrenched me to him. I was completely taken aback by the claim as so far he’d been relatively unemotional, even when he was threatening me with disgusting acts.

  “No!” Wolfe lunged for me, but was dragged back by the two gypsies. They held him fast and tight as he violently resisted their hold.

  Bird shrugged. “She’s not much to look at papa. I don’t care if ye give her to Vrik.” Vrik ran a hand down my cheek so softly I trembled, fighting the urge to be sick as these men decided casualy which one would rape me. “I didn’t see the appeal at first either, but the more she snaps and snarls at ye, the prettier she seems to get.” He chuckled and then ran a hand down my waist and around my hip and down to squeeze my bottom painfuly. “Plus she’s luscious enough to bear healthy children.” I winced at his manhandling, afraid to look at Wolfe who was struggling and cursing at them al.

  “I’ve changed my mind.” Bird turned to his father like a petulant little boy who had just discovered the toy he had given away did something interesting he hadn’t known about. “I want her.”

  “Very wel,” Tiger agreed. “We’l do the handfasting on the morrow.”

  Marriage! I began to struggle in Vrik’s arms who growled, “Papa, she clearly doesn’t want him, give her to me.”

  “I don’t want any of you!” I screamed, fighting against him, but he wouldn’t yield. “You can’t do this to me!” Tiger strode forward and puled his hand back. I braced myself. His palm cracked across my face with a slap hard enough to rol my eyes back in my head. Harsh heat shot up the left side of my face and my eyes watered at the sharp needles of pain. “You’l be given to Bird; the Glava marries the Azyl.” So that was Selena’s game, I slumped, teling me I would marry one of the Glava. Old, manipulative witch.

  Suddenly a shriek echoed around the campfire and I opened my eyes to see the fire in the centre of camp roar high, high into the night as if it had been jerked awake from a deep sleep. The gypsies stumbled away from it, fleeing the site as the flames licked out at them like arms trying to snatch them back into the death of its embrace.

  Wide-eyed I looked to Wolfe and found his eyes narrowed in concentration. Bird screamed and Vrik let go of me as a wal of fire encircled his father and adopted brother. Slack-jawed, ignoring the blazing heat stroking my skin, I stared at Wolfe, feeling the crackling of his magic . His magic? His magic!

  Wolfe was one of the Glava?!

  He reached out, not even looking at me and puled me to him, his arms encircling my waist as I was puled back into him, his chest to my back. Another fire shot up around Vrik and his men, another around tents. Wolfe, stil holding me, strode forward and grabbed the girl from the Caels who sat immobilised in shock on her log. He ripped her out of her seat and holding our hands he began running, a wal of fire blocking the men so we could escape. Wolfe headed towards the house where two horses grazed. The girl seemed to come out of her daze at the sight.

  She ran towards the mare and jumped up into the saddle like an acrobat. She grabbed the reins expertly, turning the horse to the west. Her terrified eyes caught Wolfe’s and they swam with gratitude. “Thank you!” She yeled and then kicked her heels against the mare’s flanks and bolted out of there.

  “Where is she going?” I yeled against the noise of the chaos behind us, stil shocked numb and cold despite the heat of the fire at my back.

  “Back to her clan,” Wolfe grunted. “Come on, Rogan, move.” He vaulted up on the stalion and then reached a hand down for me. I just stared at, stil not believing what he had done, how powerful he was.

  “Rogan!” He yeled and puled at my arm. Shaking myself of my stupor I reached for him and let him pul me onto the horse. His arms came around me, squeezing me tight as he took hold of the reins and pushed the horse into a galop, heading north east.

  Chapter Fourteen

  We rode in complete silence, pushing the horse to his limits to get as far away from the Iavi as we could. Wolfe had been right, we were very close to the border and soon, just as the stalion’s coat was beginning to sweat, we came to a stop on a hil and gazed down a valey into the distance where the glass factories of Vasterya shaded the border. It had grown much bigger since I was a child; lots of dark, crooked buildings surrounding the factories, like a smal city. This was the rookery.

  “We need to be extra careful here,” Wolfe said quietly behind me, his voice pinched tight with tension. He dropped the reins, and I turned awkwardly to see what he was doing. He was shrugging out of his emerald military jacket. He threw it on the ground behind us.

  “Won’t you be cold?” I asked, shivering a little myself.

  He shrugged. “Doesn’t matter. From now on I don’t want anyone to know who we are until we’re returned to the Guard.” Seeing wisdom in that, I nodded and let him move the stalion forward. I stil hadn’t asked about the magic. For the first time I felt real and true anger toward Wolfe, not angry at him because of whom his father was, but hurt and angry at his own deception. No one knew that like Syracen, Wolfe was one of the Glava. An immensely powerful one if I was to go by the destruction he had caused to get us out of the gypsies’ grasp. I stiffened as I realised why I was angry.

  “You alright?” Wolfe asked softly behind me and I nodded, trying to ignore the heat of him at my back and the way my body wanted to relax into his.

  I was angry because somewhere along the way I had stupidly begun to trust this man. Stupid, stupid, stupid! How could I? Were the nightmares, the memories, that huge gaping hole in my heart, not enough to remind me not to trust a Stovia?!

  I stewed in silence, feeding off Wolfe’s tension as wel. He was probably waiting on tenterhooks for me to ask why he had hidden the fact he was a mage. Dear haven, what awful vengeance he must have been planning! And yet, that was so in contradiction to the man I had come to know.

  Stop it! I yeled at myself. I didn’t know him, I didn’t know him at al, and it was that sily kind of… girlish thinking that was going to get me kiled.

  ***

  One minute we had been in the country and the next we were inside the wals of the town, of the rookery. The change in atmosphere was intense, slithering over
me and clinging to my skin in sickly chils. There was a malevolence here, echoing in the way people hurried past us, not even glancing at us, their heads down as they determinedly rushed to get home or inside out of the dark, dank streets. The streets weren’t kept clean. Urine and waste mixed with the smoke and smels from the glassworks. Houses and shops were shabbily constructed, souless and frightened looking buildings jammed together in crooked rows. There was little light here, street lamps sparsely spaced between streets.

  I could feel Wolfe’s shock at the state of the place, his shock as great as my own. This was unbelievable.

  “How could Markiz Solom Rada let this happen?” I whispered solemnly and turned to see Wolfe warily eyeing a boy who was staring at us too avidly.

  “I don’t know,” he bit back, “We should have been told. We would have stopped this.”

  “What wil we do?”

  “I have a few coins I kept hidden, the Iavi didn’t get them. We’l find somewhere with lodging so we can eat, rest and send a message to the Guard in Ryl.”

  “Wil they stil be there?”

  “Yes. They’l send some men out to search but they won’t move perchance we return to them. I’l tel Lieutenant Chaeron to bring the men and meet us in Caera at Vojvodkyna Winter Rada’s home, as planned.”

  I gave a brittle nod, thinking his plan sound, and wondering whether he’d go through with it or decide to take his vengeance whilst the Guard was gone. He could kil me, and thus Haydyn would die, and then he could blame it on the Iavi. I winced at the thought. Even to me it sounded a little melodramatic. I sighed, deciding to trust him. For now. “We need to get a move on. We’ve already lost too much time.”

  “I know.”

  Wolfe eventualy had to stop and ask someone where the nearest inn was. We were pointed in the direction of a drinking tavern we were told had rooms above to rent. There were stables behind the tavern and we secured the horse, handing over coin to the stable boy who kept guard over the clientele’s horses.

  Shivering now, the night growing later and later, we headed into the tavern. Eyes immediately swung to us, conversation growing hushed. I was surprised when Wolfe’s hand slid into mine, jolting at the fissures of pleasure that shot up my arm at the feel of his rough, warm fingers entwining with mine.

  He gave a slight shake of his head, his blue eyes startling in the light of the barroom and warning me not to make a scene; to just go along with him. I responded with a subtle nod and he relaxed a little, leading me past the chairs and tables, ignoring the other patrons completely. Noise level rose again as we approached the bar, and the huge burly barkeeper came over to us, a wide grin appearing in amongst his massive ginger beard.

  “Wel good evening. What can I get you?” He was al friendly smiles. I relaxed a little at this warm welcome, such a jarring contrast to the streets outside.

  Wolfe nodded congenialy back at him. “Good evening. We would like a room if you have one available.” The barkeeper’s eyes lit up, I gathered at the thought of earning the extra money from renting a room. He looked me over before turning back to Wolfe with a wink.

  “Aye, I’d be wanting a room too, if I were you.”

  I flushed red, despite being used to overhearing such talk amongst the Guard and servants back at the palace.

  Wolfe squeezed my hand and shrugged at the barkeep. “My wife and I are tired, we’ve been traveling a while,” he lied and I knew it was for my sake and my sense of propriety, a sense of propriety that seemed a little misplaced considering everything we’d gone through. “I’d like a room and some food sent up. Also, we had a little mishap on the road. You wouldn’t have some clean clothes we could buy from you?”

  The barkeep’s grin grew wider. “Not a problem, lad.” He reached under the bar and brought up a key. “Room 2 is available.” He pointed to stairs hidden in the shadows of the back of the room. “Just up there. I’l have my wife bring you a dinner plate and some clothes.”

  “And some hot water,” I interjected, desperate for some kind of bathing.

  “Of course. That’l be three and twenty.”

  I tried not to gape at the outrageous costs, knowing we were deliberately being ripped off because of how desperate we looked. I looked at Wolfe but the only sign he gave of being annoyed was the slight tension in his jaw.

  “Two and twenty,” he haggled and I raised my eyebrows as the barkeep laughed.

  “I don’t think so, lad. Three silver pieces.”

  “Two and fifty.”

  The bar keep shook his head stil laughing. “Wel you are a funny one, lad. Alright, two and ninety.” Amazed, I watched as Wolfe shook his head again. “Two and seventy.”

  “You’re robbing me.” The barkeep shook a finger at us, stil seeming amused. “But fine.” Wolfe handed over the money and took the key, and he almost dragged me out of the barroom and up the stairs.

  “Are you trying to pul my arm out of the socket?” I snapped as we stumbled up the stairs and onto the landing. Stil Wolfe refused to slow down until he had the door open. He hauled me inside, slamming the door shut with the heel of his boot.

  “I was trying to get you out of the bar before I had to fight those bloody men over you.” My eyes widened at his comment as he strode towards the fire in the room and set about lighting it. The room was smal, with only a double bed - I noticed with a strange thump of my heart - but it was clean. “What are you talking about?”

  Wolfe snorted. “These people have been left to live in squalor for too long. We should have known about this. Instead we sit on our plush cushions in Silvera, thinking the world outside happy and adoring and at peace. This isn’t peace,” he spat, pointing outside the window as he turned to glare at me. “Where have we been, Rogan? We’ve let our people come to this and we dare to look down our noses at them. Those men haven’t seen anything as fine as you in a long time and I was making bloody sure we were out of there as fast as possible before they took it upon themselves to have you.” I shuddered at the thought. “I didn’t notice.” I shook my head wearily, faling down onto the bed. “I look a mess.” Wolfe sighed and looked away, provoking the fire to life. “Wearing rags you would stil carry yourself like a lady. You have the skin of a lady.” Ignoring the sily flutter in the pit of my bely that he had noticed anything about me, I tried to enforce our old dynamic and retorted stupidly, “I’m not a lady, Captain.

  I’m a farm girl.”

  Wolfe stood up and strode towards me, his eyebrow arched. “You’ve been raised a lady, Rogan. That makes you one.” I roled my eyes at him, but before I could retort with some smartass comment a knock sounded on the door. The barkeep’s wife arrived with two barmaids. They left us food, clothing and hot water, and quickly left, the girls throwing wide-eyed looks at Wolfe, hiding giggles behind their hands. Clearly, they too had never seen anyone like Wolfe before. After al, he realy was a Lord, and carried himself like a gentleman. He didn’t seem to notice their attentions and as soon as the door closed he locked it. Without realy looking at me, he picked up the dress they had brought me and threw it towards me. “Get cleaned up and dressed. There’s a screen behind you.”

  I tried to quel the flutters in my bely at the thought of stripping naked in the same room as Wolfe. Determinedly, I walked around to the back of the changing screen.

  “There must be some stationary in here,” Wolfe muttered and I heard him puling at drawers and rummaging. At his sound of triumph I suddenly felt a relief that we could get a message to the Guard. It had been a number of days since we’d been taken in Ryl and strangely I missed the comforting presence of Lieutenant Chaeron and the rest of the men.

  A crash sounded from downstairs and I jumped, my dress faling to the floor. “What on haven…?” Wolfe grunted as yels folowed more crashing. “Tavern brawl.”

  A tavern brawl? Dear haven, we were far away from home weren’t we. “Oh,” I managed and tried to relax at the sound of Wolfe’s pen leisurely scratching against paper. If he didn’t seem too concerne
d then I wasn’t going to be.

  My undergarments were in desperate need of a wash and I peeled them off with a sigh of relief. I’d just have to leave them here and make do with the rough blue dress the barkeep’s wife had brought me. It would scratch my skin but I’d rather that than have to put dirty undergarments back on. I draped them over the top of the screen, vaguely aware that the scratching of pen against paper in the background had stopped. Taking the cloth and hot water I gave myself a quick scrub down, trying to be fast so the water wouldn’t be too cold when Wolfe got around to using it. After a moment or so I thought I heard Wolfe make a strangled sound and then the scratching of pen against paper started up again.

  “Nearly done,” I told him, thinking perhaps he was getting impatient with me. I drew on the blue dress, a demure, work-worn thing, but it was clean and surprisingly not too rough against my skin. I’d be colder without my undergarments but I thought perhaps I could get Wolfe to procure a cloak for me.

  When I stepped out Wolfe was staring at the screen as if in a daydream.

  “You better hurry,” I said taking my undergarments off the screen and roling them into a bal. “The water’s getting cold.” He nodded, his lips pinched tightly together, and he brushed past me, barely sparing me a glance. I arched an eyebrow at his behaviour but said nothing, having now given up on trying to understand anything about Wolfe Stovia.

  Speaking of which…

  I tucked into the food that had been left, my trembling stomach glad for the energy boost, and waited as Wolfe, once clean and changed into a rough looking pair of trousers, shirt and waistcoat, ate his meal. Then I couldn’t stand it anymore. We were both sitting by the fire, enjoying the peace of the moment, and I couldn’t stop myself from ruining it.

  “So you’re a Glava?” I asked quietly, even though there realy was no question of it.

  Wolfe stiffened immediately and turned slightly to glare at me. When he made no reply I grew irritated.

 
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