My Journey

From mind to paper and back again.

Writing Work

I am using this page to upload a current piece I am working on.  I will post new additions to the bottom as and when they are ready xxx I hope you all like it x

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After making her way through High Gate forest Danita decided to set up camp for the night at the foot of the Gateway Mountains.  She would pass into Tavoca tomorrow once rested if she needed to.  It had always been a hard road to travel and humans normally opted to fly from Castle Point airport to the one just outside Tavoca city completely avoiding the Gateway Mountains.  They were too dangerous, the men living there corrupted by their own magic.  They are unable to control it, unable to stop it alone.

Black Widows often track their targets into the mountains and find them hiding amongst the high peaks and the natural caverns formed over thousands of years.  It is no different now, Danita knew she would find her target up there, hiding and setting up a magical ambush.  She settled down under the stars with her sister and fellow Black Widow, Sayitia.

The man they were tracking had been quick to run and since Tanacia had managed to tether a man while he still had powers and word had got out.  She’d made a show of Lucca, took him to the market square and used his powers to attack and capture her next target.  Gossip and rumours spread quickly in any land.  None of these men wanted to be stripped of their powers, even less wanted to be tethered so they could only use their powers when someone else commanded it.

As she stared up at the stars Sayitia pondered the prophecy.  The great battle could come at any time and they had left Tanacia at home alone, a sitting target for any man, much less a man who had both male and female magical genes.

‘Are you sure she’s safe Danita?’

‘Of course she is.  The prophecy talks of a Black Widow not of a trainee.’

‘You and I both know that she already has more power and skill than we do, and it’s still growing.  I’m sure she’s the one.’

‘I know, I know, and with Aeron not being stripped until after I was pregnant there’s all the more chance.’  Danita paused.  ‘But the prophecy talks of someone fully matured.  Not a fourteen year old who sulks when she doesn’t get her own way.’

Sayitia laughed.

‘Like mother like daughter I say.’  She turned onto her side so she was facing Danita.  ‘You spoil her, give her everything she wants.  Hey, you even let her have an extension built onto the manor.’

‘She’s the oldest of my children.  One day she will own that manor Sayitia.  Let her be, she’s done no harm, broken no rules.’

‘And this man we’re tracking, will he be another of her gifts?’

‘No she has Lucca and Hruse, Remi needs someone to practice with.  He’s hers.’

‘Ah and how is Remi doing?’

‘Remi is right on schedule, with Tanacia’s new ability to tether a man with magic she will be able to train against the real thing.  As long as this man can be used with his powers on a stun setting – if you know what I mean?’

‘I’m glad you made the distinction.’

With that the women turned over, closed their eyes and slept.  They had set up an alarm system, no man would enter unannounced.  It was impossible.

 

Tevran carried on throughout the night using his fireballs to light the way through the treacherous pass of the mountains.  The two Black Widows had been close behind for three days since he left the walls of Castle Point city.  He needed to get some distance from them.

As he climbed high into the mountainous peaks he spotted it.  In amongst the crevices there is a hideout for men like him; men being chased by a Black Widow.  He crawled into the tiny space and huddled into the old sweatshirt he was wearing.  The air, like ice caused his breath to come in clouds of condensation.  He conjured one last fireball of the night and lit some branches to keep him warm while he dozed.  Always alert and listening to anything that could signal that the two Black Widows were still following him through the darkness.

 

Danita turned back to her sister.

‘Did it work?’

‘Yes, of course.  He thinks he’s lost us.  He even felt safe enough to light a small fire and sleep.  Up there,’ she pointed, ‘do you see it?’

‘Yes, well done on the spell, I’ll have to remember it for next time I’m up here.  I’ve sent Tanacia an image, she’ll port him straight into a cell in the lock up room and then port us back too.’

‘Good I’d hate to have to carry all this home with me.’  Sayitia nodded towards her rucksack and the mat she’d been carrying with her.

‘You ready?’  Danita asked.  With a quick nod the sisters joined hands and within the blink of an eye they were back at home in the manor.  The wilderness of High Gate forest left behind.  Danita walked across the room and hugged her eldest daughter.

‘Do we have him?’

‘Of course.’

‘Is he the right one?’

‘I think so.  Calls himself Tevran, he still has his magic – he tried throwing a fireball at me.’  She laughed quietly.  ‘It bounced back off the wall of the cell, nearly killed himself.’  She paused slightly.  ‘I want him Mum, can I keep him?’

‘No, let your sister have him.  You can keep the next target you catch.’

‘But Mum –‘

‘No buts, your sister needs someone to practice with, he’ll do fine.’

‘Fine, shall I strip him of his magic?’

‘Not all, leave him with the ability to use his fireballs, only at a reduced level when practicing with Remi, full capacity if she is in danger to protect her.’

‘Anything else?’

‘No.’

‘Okay, I need to spend some time alone with him, get the rules into the tether and strip the rest of his magic.  Do you mind?’

‘Not at all, your aunt and I are going to bed; you can give him to your sister when he has a better understanding of the world.’

‘Okay.  Night Mum, night Sayitia.’

‘Goodnight.’

With that the two women left the room and Tevran in Tanacia’s capable hands.   Even though she was still officially a trainee she knew the ropes, and her spells and potions had much more potency than those of any other Black Widow in the known world.  She pulled up a chair in front of the cell Tevran was in, the bars held more than the man, they held his magic.

‘We need to talk.’  She paused and sat down, the tether, leather looking emerging into view every now and again as she touched certain places but then completely disappearing when she let go.

He looked up at her, resigned to his fate.  He had heard her talking with her mother, nothing more than a gift for some silly little girl.  It was ironic he thought, that no matter where he ran, she had still brought him back to her without leaving the confines of her own home.  No man would be safe now.

‘The rules that govern your life are about to change.  This is my house and I’m good at getting my own way.  My mother thinks you will make a useful training tool for my little sister.  She thinks that if Remi is to practice against real magic she will improve at a faster rate than all the others.  You can keep some of your magic, but your ability to weave spells, to call for objects is mine.  I know you can’t port as you wouldn’t have left on foot into the mountains – it’s a lot easier to move with magic, if you had the chance you would have used it, and I know you had the chance.’  She paused.  ‘When was the last time you ate?’

He shrugged his shoulders in response.

‘The better rested you are, the easier this is for you, the tether does nothing but keep you in check, the removal of your magic will drain you though.  When was the last time you had anything to eat or drink?’

‘I don’t know, don’t care.  If you’re going to do this why make it easier for me?  I’m stuck here.  I don’t want a mistress, I’d rather you take it all and let me go free.’

‘I don’t care what you’d rather, you attacked my mother.  She can do with you what she chooses now she has you.’

‘Ah, but she doesn’t, you do.’

‘And what I’d rather is that I could keep you instead of giving you to Remi.  I’ll have you one day, in the meantime, you need to remember that I rule here, take all orders and instructions from Remi as if they are from me.  If I give you an instruction that isn’t followed, this’ she held up the tether so he could see it ‘will give you a magical shock.  It’s not pretty and I don’t want to have to tell you more than once that if you receive a shock you’ll have more than that to deal with.’

‘Are there any up sides to this situation?  I mean, if I’m stuck here I might as well make the best of it.’

Tanacia nodded.  He wouldn’t need breaking.  Not like Lucca, he’d caused havoc in the house until he realised there was nowhere to go.

‘There are a few, a wage, a warm bed, three hot meals a day and knowing that you’re not on the run would all seem to be fair to me.’  She’d been kneading rules into the tether all the time she spoke, as she moved it to one side and placed it on the floor she picked up a small vial of liquid.  ‘Drink this, and then lie down.  It will take some time for this to happen and it will drain you.’  She floated the vial through the cell bars using her mind and right into his hands.  ‘You’ve already seen how useless your magic is in there, don’t try anything stupid.  I don’t give second chances.’

Tevran heaved a deep sigh and took the small cork lid out of the bottle; it seemed odourless and colourless as he looked at it.  He looked back to Tanacia, sat on the edge of the bed and poured it into his mouth.  He was surprised to find there were only a few drops in the vile and they were completely tasteless.  As a matter of fact, all she had given him was purified water, the magic came from her spell that had been cast over it before he arrived.  He lay back on the bed and looked across to Tanacia.

‘What was that, it tasted like no potion I know of.’

‘That’s because it wasn’t, you drank a spell not a potion.’

As she finished speaking his entire body convulsed, he shouted aloud and then grabbed onto the edge of the bed before the next one came, he felt like he was having a fit of some sorts.  Tanacia watched as he lay on the bed shuddering as the magic left his body.  She felt a need to pull the blackness into her, to use it for her own makings but knew that was her father’s magic doing that.  She opened the cell door, took the tether inside and sat by him, the chair pulled right up to the head of the bed so he could see her.  She touched his forehead gently and transferred some of her magic into him, to calm his body and mind.  Her hand felt like ice to him against the hotness of his head and he settled into the feel of it as his body began to recompose itself.  His eyes felt heavy and he drifted off, in the back of his mind he knew when he woke he would never be free again.

When Tanacia was sure he was sleeping she left the cell and went back to the workstations and picked up a collar, it looked like one a large dog would wear, thick leather band with small silver studs on the outside.  It closed with a small padlock.  She pulled the collar under his neck and fastened it, a wave of her hand made sure it was magically locked.  She worked silently, not wanting to wake him.  As if he knew, his hand came to his neck and he scratched just under the leather band, but never woke so Tanacia attached the tether to it.  As soon as she did, both it and the collar disappeared from view.  He would never be able to remove them, the only person that could was Tanacia and she had no intention of letting him go.  It was ten weeks before he left that cell and she moved him to her rooms.  Just because his magic had left him didn’t mean that his body had adjusted to it.

Lucca was waiting in her bedroom where she had left him over two hours earlier.  As soon as she entered he stood up, waiting.  He paid no attention to the bed behind him, he didn’t want another shock.  It had taken him a while to learn the rules of the house, but then, there was only one that actually mattered.  Do what you’re told when you’re told.

‘See to him will you Lucca, if he wakes let me know.’  He nodded.  ‘You have everything you need, the bed is yours for the night, use the lamp not the main light.’  She pointed across to the single bed in the corner.  ‘I’m going to have a bath, I don’t want to see you in there unless it’s important.’  He nodded again and sat back down on the red sofa under the window.  He wouldn’t get in bed before Tanacia did, she wouldn’t be happy.  Instead he picked up a book off the coffee table and began to read.

 

Tanacia turned the tap on in the bathroom and slid out of her clothes, picking them up and folding them into the wash basket as she went.  She hated untidiness in any room and all the men in the house had learnt to pick up after themselves, and even after the women.  They all feared the shock training that Tanacia had been building into her tetheres since she was young.  Even the older men, tethered without their magic by Sayitia and Danita feared the consequences of provoking Tanacia; she was the chosen one, the first in the sovereignty, when she turned twenty the house would be hers to rule openly.  Danita and her grandparents often indulged her and let her have her own way; she was shocked that her mother hadn’t let her keep this new man.  She would talk to her in the morning after Remi left for school.

As she sank further into the bath she ran through the events of the past year.  Lucca feared her more than any man in the house, yet he had been arrogant at first.  He took the shock from his collar eight times in the first day, trying to remove them and even trying to throw his magic at Tanacia.  She kept him locked in a magic tight cell after that, his arms held to the wall above him to stop any magic being directed at her.  He could only harm himself using magic from his mind alone.  The burns left from the magic of the collar went untreated until he learnt the basic lesson of survival, he needed her.  Five days went by before she’d seen to the first blisters on his neck, before she’d take down any of the magical holds over the cell he was in.  He had been deprived of food and water for the full length of time.  She treated his wounds on his neck and then poured enough water into his mouth to keep him alive.  She put all the holds back up though before she left.  Once rested he started throwing fireballs and lightning bolts again, each time, causing a jolt from the magical collar he was wearing.  Tanacia ignored it and only visited the cell briefly each day to put some water to his lips.

She never spoke to him, just lifted a small glass to his lips looked at his wounds around his neck and to check his arms; above his head they were taking the strain of his full body weight.  Other than her, he saw no one, the cell blacked out.  When she entered he felt temporarily blinded by the light the opening of the door let in.  He didn’t know how long he had been in that cell before she spoke, it could have been five days or five weeks, he had lost track of time.  It had taken just over two weeks before he realised that the magic he threw at the walls was doing nothing other than causing a shock, and further injuries to himself.  And yet every day she came, tended his wounds, cured them magically and then left him to cause more.  He was the perpetrator of his own punishment, all she did was keep him in a state that meant he never killed himself accidentally.

‘What’s your name?’  She asked quietly while checking under the collar he wore to make sure his wounds were fully healed.  He had been shocked to hear her speak; this young girl who treated his wounds and had brought him water seemed to radiate confidence, as if she knew he wouldn’t use his magic against her.  He didn’t reply and she left as usual by reinforcing the holds around the cell.  He had pins and needles in his arms, she never healed them fully, just gave him enough strength to hold himself until she visited the following day.  He concentrated on that feeling until they started to go numb and then let his mind wander.  He didn’t understand why she didn’t just kill him.  It was a few more days before she spoke to him again.  This time he had answered with his name, his voice rasping from lack of use for so long.  She nodded and carried on, leaving him again after tending his wounds.  The next visit he spoke first.

‘Can I have something to eat?’

‘That depends.’

‘On what?’  His eyes were still closed to the bright light.

‘On you.’

She talked to him for a while, never really telling him why he was being held there, just asking small things of him.  She wanted to know where he grew up, what music he liked, that sort of thing.  She talked about nothing and then left, for the first time he was worried that this girl who had been looking after him wouldn’t come back.  She reappeared with a piece of honey soaked bread, fed it to him bit by bit, tended his wounds and then left again.  It seemed an eternity before she came back to speak with him again.  Tanacia had hated it; she had left him alone for three days before going back in with a glass of water.  He didn’t look up at her that night just drank the water and she left him again.  These three day intervals went on for over a month, she’d enter, put the water or bread to his mouth and talk about nothing, until on one visit he thanked her for bringing him food and water, for letting him live.  She smiled and left.  That was when she knew that he was starting to break, she carried it on for another two weeks, talking to him each time she went in, she started to talk about her magic and how good it would be to have someone else to team up with.  After the two weeks, she started to let him down to sit and drink at the small table in the room.

In all it had taken more than four months for Lucca to break, he was glad to see her when she entered the room, she brought him food and water, and had even started to make sure he was clean before she left, always with the promise of another visit if he did well.  Once she knew he was totally reliant on her, she began asking him to do small things.  Perform small amounts of magic inside the cell like casting a light so she could check him over or moving the second chair so she could sit down with him. He had forgotten about the collar around his neck and was happy to appease her by only using his magic for her as she asked him to.

It had taken him that long to realise he wanted her to like him, he did anything he could to make sure her visits continued.  She gave him instructions that he must only speak to her, that she wouldn’t keep coming if he talked to anyone else.  He hadn’t known what she’d meant at first but then a man came, placed a glass of water on the table and let him drink.  He remembered what he’d been told and kept his head down, he didn’t speak to anyone.  Only she had brought him food and tended to his wounds while he had needed it.  She asked him how he felt and if he hurt anywhere.  She cared.  After four visits from this man she had opened the door and asked him about the man who had been to see him.  He was quick to tell her that he hadn’t spoken to him.  She nodded in approval and then held out her hand, there was something curled around it.

‘Sit down while I attach this.’  She gestured to the table.  He sat immediately and didn’t even think to ask what it was, so instead she explained it to him.  He nodded and agreed readily to her being able to keep a check on him and to make sure he didn’t use his magic without her.  When she attached it, he felt warm.  He could feel her on the other end and could tell what she wanted him to do.  He stood and waited by the door for her, happy that he was connected to her and that there would be no more periods of deprivation anymore.  She led him from the cell into her own suite; he would spend some time in her rooms before moving into the room above with her other man, Hruse.  Lucca had been the first man she had broken with magic still intact.  The others had been stripped first and then sent to the police or to the person who had put out a call on them, they got paid a menial wage, never enough to make a fresh start on and were given a place to live with their new owner.  With Tevran, it didn’t take anywhere as near as long, he had resigned himself to a new life as soon as she had captured him.  Ten weeks and he was out of the cell.

Tanacia hated having to break a man down, but she had realised that sometimes it was a necessary part of her training and even more, part of her role as a Black Widow.  She was charged with keeping the streets safe for men and women and she wouldn’t fail them in that.

A few weeks down the line and Lucca was eating with Hruse, they were discussing how much Tanacia was able to tell through the tether they both had attached to the collar around their necks.

‘She knows enough to kill you if she needs to.  Look, she wants you to send a message to everyone else out there.  You’re the first who’s kept his magic; she’s stronger than all the others.  Do you really think she cares what you want?  She won’t let you go without a fight and that is a fight you just can’t win.’  He paused.  ‘It’s not that bad here really, you get a wage and you will get some more leeway to do what you want when she trusts you.  Tanacia isn’t all bad.’

‘Like that’ll ever happen.  I can’t go out of the door of these suites let alone do anything else.’

‘That’s because through that door lies the lock up, and all the potions.  You know that, you were there long enough.  Do you really think she will trust you around magic on your own yet?’

Lucca shook his head.

‘So how do I do it?  How do I earn her trust?’

‘By doing what she has brought you here to do.’

‘How do I do that when I don’t know what it is?’

‘Wait.  Do as you’re told, you’ll know when the time comes.’

Hruse had impressed on Lucca that he wasn’t going anywhere and then Tanacia had taken his trust away again.  She knew he wouldn’t like her after what she did but she had a message to send.  She took Lucca to Castle Point market, making sure his collar was visible and then instructed him to use his powers to catch another man who she had been tracking.  That man had his powers stripped and was sent to the police.  Lucca watched it happen.  Hruse was right, she did have a message to send and he didn’t know whether it was one he liked or not, but Tanacia had asked him to do it so he complied.

She finished sponging herself off and climbed out of the bath, wrapped a towelling robe around herself and moved back into the bedroom.  He was on the sofa, book left discarded on his knee, snoring softly.  She checked on Tevran before waking Lucca up and putting the book away.

‘I’m sorry, I must have drifted off.  I.. I didn’t mean to.’  He mumbled to the ground, not wanting to look up at Tanacia.

‘It’s okay, Lucca.  You’ve done nothing wrong.  I told you there was a bed for you to sleep in; I didn’t expect you to stay awake all night.’  She turned her back on him and slipped into her night clothes then climbed into her own bed.  Lucca never once moved or even looked up at her.  ‘Come here.’  She patted the bed at the side of her.  He hesitated slightly and then thought about is collar before moving across the room.  ‘Are you cold?’

‘No, I’m fine.’

‘Tired?’

‘Yes.’

‘Lie down then.’  He complied but kept his eyes cast down away from her face.  ‘You’re scared of me.’  It was a statement that caused him to nod his head briefly.  ‘Close your eyes and listen.’  She said as she put her hand out to him.  He lay perfectly still.  She sat up, resting her back against her pillows and pulled him closer to her so his head was on her knee.  She rested one hand across his head covering his ear and began to prime herself to use magic.  Lucca didn’t know what to do, this was supposed to be a private moment, when the person was at their weakest.  She began to whisper, but he couldn’t hear even if he strained.  Eventually he stopped trying.

‘Just because I am your mistress does not mean I cannot be your friend.  You know your role here will grow and change to meet my needs, but I never wanted you to do anything unwillingly.  You don’t have to run anymore, you’re safe here.’  He felt her magic seep into his body, warm and comforting.  He lifted his head to look up at Tanacia and she smiled down at him.  ‘I thought you were tired?’

‘I am.’  He said drowsily.  He wriggled in the bed so he was propped up on the pillows as well and then put his head to Tanacia’s chest.  ‘Can I sleep here? It feels… safe.’  He trailed off before she could reply.  Tanacia stroked his hair gently while she held him.  He had passed the final test of trust that she had for him.  He had seen her at her weakest and not moved to attack her.  He would begin to help her more readily now, she would give him more leeway when she was busy with college work and allow him to run household errands when needed.

Compared to Lucca, Tevran had been easy.  The threat alone of the shock from his collar was enough to convince him to follow the rules in the house.  Lucca had been in the house for just over eight months and was quick to take him under his wing and explain what had happened to him to spare Tevran the thoughts of trying to use the little magic he had left.

‘What did she say you could use your magic for?’  He asked Lucca after he had realised he still had his full magical arsenal.

‘She didn’t, I’m only allowed to use it as and when she says, anything that hasn’t been permitted at the time would earn me a shock but I wouldn’t do that anyway.’

‘Do you work with her younger sister too?’

‘No, I’ve only seen her about.  She seems okay, quiet, maybe dwarfed a little by Tanacia.  She’s still learning to use her magic though.  She could be a bit volatile if you approach her wrong.’

‘I was just wondering is all.  Tanacia said I have to follow Remi’s instructions as though they were her own.  It seems I will have two mistresses instead of one.’

‘I just hope for your sake that you don’t get given conflicting instructions.’  Lucca said as he guided Tevran into the main suite.  He felt better for a good night’s sleep and was more at ease in his surroundings.  Tevran on the other hand was still uncertain.  They waited for Tanacia to finish up in the en-suite and then sat with her on the large leather sofa in the main living room.

‘How do you feel this morning Tevran?’

‘Okay I guess.’

‘I trust you remember our talk last night?  Do as Remi says or else you will find yourself shocked.’

‘I remember.’

‘Yes, but do you understand?’

‘He does.’  Lucca jumped in.  He shrank back into the sofa at the look of annoyance on Tanacia’s face.  She didn’t scold him though; in fact she was glad he had some of his confidence back.

‘Good.  Now, Lucca, show him upstairs.  Both of you get something to eat and then Tevran, you must be ready at two o’clock.’

‘What for?’

‘Remi.  She gets home from school at three, no doubt my mum will want to see you beforehand to make sure you know who’s rules to follow.  My sister is young.  She needs protecting as much as teaching.  I’m putting her in your charge, make sure she is safe at all times when in the manor and out in the city.  When at school there are people there who will do that for you, during those hours you remain mine.  Understood?’

‘Yes.’

‘Good go.  Lucca when you have finished eating I have some errands for you to run.  Come and find me when you are ready.’

With that she stood up and left the room to make her way through to the main dining room for breakfast.  Lucca pulled himself and Tevran off the sofa quickly and showed him to the main room upstairs.  He made them both something to eat and they joined Hruse at the table.

‘So you’re Remi’s new toy?’  He asked gruffly and then grinned.  ‘Don’t worry they won’t give that much power to an eight year old.  Even if she is part of the sovereigns family.  I’m sure you will remain Tanacia’s for a while yet.’  Tevran nodded but didn’t speak, he was too busy eating.  ‘You’re not going to be another quiet one are you?  I’m fed up of having no one to talk to.’

‘I don’t understand.’

‘This one didn’t speak for two weeks when she first brought him to her suites.’  Hruse motioned Lucca with a tip of his head.

‘No, I’m happy to talk.’

‘Seems like you two will have a lot in common Hruse.  Both brought in to look after one of the sisters.  Made a companion without choice.’

‘That maybe, but look at how much room I have to manoeuvre in – she doesn’t watch me like a hawk.’

‘Well, whatever.’  Lucca replied.  ‘It looks like you’re showing Tevran the ropes today while I’m out running her errands.’

‘So you passed the final test last night then did you?’

‘I suppose I did.’

Lucca stood up and left the table, still wondering what that test was.  He was quick to get sorted and find Tanacia.  Having not been out of her suite other than to go to the market in Castle Point and he hated every minute of that, he felt rather claustrophobic.  When he left the suite he was rather tentative about passing the lock up.  He found Tanacia with her mother talking about Tevran; he would be the talking point of the week the way they were going.  He stood at the door and waited while they talked.

‘I know you think he will be better for Remi, but surely he’s too powerful for her to control this young?  Remember when Hruse first came?  You kept his tether while I was at school, why can’t I do the same for Remi?’

‘Fine do as you wish, I know you’re not going to stop mithering about it until I give in, so yes.  When Remi is at school, he’s yours.’

‘Thank you.  I’ve got college work to do, I have to go.  See you at two thirty?’

‘Two thirty it is.’

Mother and daughter hugged and turned to go their separate ways, it was then she saw Lucca waiting by the door for her.

‘I need you to run some errands today, here, take this list and collect the items on it.  I have credit with all the stores; I’ll pay them at my convenience.  Just bring them back, no detours.  I’ll know.’  He nodded and took the list.

‘These herbs are for potions…’

‘You’ll be fine; just don’t forget what’s around your neck.’

‘I won’t.’  He turned and left before the chance to get outside the grounds was taken away from him.

‘Walk – no magic.  It might not be as fast as porting but you can’t get into trouble that way.  Once you’ve done bring the bags straight back, leave them in the study if I’m not there.’  She shouted after him as he started down the gravel path.  Tanacia turned and went back to her suite where Hruse and Tevran were talking in the main area.

‘Are you two okay?’

‘We’re fine, just going over the rules of looking after Remi.’  Hruse replied.  ‘Don’t want him making any mistakes.  I like this one.’

‘Yeah, me too’ she mumbled.  Hruse looked up but said nothing.  ‘I have a lecture to go to.  I’ll be back just after lunch.  Make sure you both eat, and if Lucca is back tell him to wait in his room for me.  If not, don’t worry, since he’s walking it might take him a little longer to get around town.’

‘Okay.’  Hruse stood and moved to the side while Tanacia passed.  Tevran smiled lightly but said nothing.  He sat back down again when she’d left and picked right back up where he’d left off with Tevran.  ‘She likes you, you know?’

‘Doesn’t seem like it, she’s stripped my powers, put this on me’ he pointed to his neck, ‘and she’s giving me away to her sister.’

‘I wouldn’t be too sure about that last one.  She’s got you during school hours.’

‘So?’

‘She’s had to argue to keep you from her mum.  If you’re with her, you can get away with anything.  When Tanacia fixates on something she does everything in her power to get it, if you’re still here in six years then she will find a way to keep you.  I’m sure Remi will bow out nicely.’

‘And in the mean time?’

‘You make nice, learn what she likes and do as Remi tells you during practice and in the evenings.  Keep your nose clean and you’ll be fine.’

‘If I’m working with Remi for the majority of the time, how will I know what Tanacia’s rules are?’

‘I’ll explain them bit by bit.  You’ll pick the others up as you go along.  You’ll be here five days a week for the next five years until Remi goes to college.’

‘So what do we do until she comes back, and if you’re her, what did Lucca call you, her companion, why aren’t you out keeping an eye on her?’

‘Because, she’s passed that phase.  She can take care of herself now; I stay here and keep things ticking over.  Keep an eye on anyone new; show them the ropes and that sort of thing.  I go out do her shopping and make sure everything is in order.’

 

Come two o’clock Tanacia was home and had eaten.  Lucca came into the room just as Tevran came downstairs to her suite.

‘Put the bags down, sit, both of you.’  She looked to Lucca first.  ‘Did you get everything on that list?’

‘Yes.  It’s all there.’  He passed the bags across to her from his feet.

‘Any problems?’

‘The guy in the herbalist didn’t want to pass over the goods; I don’t think he trusted me.’

‘He didn’t I got a message asking if you were to collect them instead of Hruse.  Anything else?’

‘No.’

‘Good. In that case go and get showered and have some lunch.  You’ll be working with Remi and Tevran tonight.  Put sweats on, she has to practice.  Five until seven.’

‘Okay, I’ll be there.’  He stood up and left.  She turned to Tevran.

‘Are you ready for this?’

‘I don’t know, you’re putting me in charge of your little sisters’ safety.  That task alone is huge.  I know you will take the sovereignty when you turn twenty; we all do, so your sister is kind of a commodity.  To top it off you want me to help train her.’  He sighed.  Tanacia stood up, walked around the back of the sofa and put her hands on his shoulders.  ‘I’m not exactly very good at magic, think about it.  I was in Gateway Mountains, you were here and you caught me.’

‘The difference is though, I’m me and I’m older and more experienced than Remi.  Plus, she won’t be doing anything other than trying to cage you.’

‘You mean I have to go back in a cell?’  Tevran blanched at the thought.

‘No, she will cage you with magic barriers.  Come on; let’s not keep my mother waiting.  It annoys her.’

‘From what I’ve heard today, I’d rather annoy your mother than you.’

‘That’s a good line of thought, you stick with that and we’ll be fine, I’ll take care of my mother.’

They both stood and Tevran followed Tanacia to the lock up.  Her mother was waiting for them.

‘Mum, you’re early.’

‘I know.  Now let me look at you.’  Tanacia nodded and Tevran stepped forwards.  The first thing Danita did was check for his collar.  ‘First day out and no shocks?  That is a good sign.  Tanacia doesn’t like repeating herself and she hates having to treat burns even more when someone hasn’t listened.  You’re doing well.  Has my daughter explained your role to Remi while you are here?’  Tevran didn’t move.  ‘You can speak.  If you are looking after my little girl, you will need to be able to update me on her progress.’  She paused.  ‘So have you explained the rules of the house to him?’  She looked to Tanacia.

‘Yes, and he’s spent the day with Hruse so he knows his duties.’

‘Good then follow me.  Are you coming Tanacia?’

‘Yes, I have the tether.’

‘And I want it to stay that way for at least a month.  You can control him much better than Remi and I want to know that I can trust him.’  Her mother strode out into the garden, Tanacia at her side.  ‘Is that okay with you?  I know you have Lucca to consider.’

‘That’s fine Mum, to be honest, I think Lucca will be okay, he went out and did Hruse’s errands today.  No detours and nothing untoward.  Even with the herbs for my potions.’

‘Do you trust him?’

‘Yes.’

‘Then use him to help you with your work.  You, stand there.’  She pointed Tevran to a spot just outside the front door.  ‘You will never enter this door alone, do you understand?’

‘Yes ma’am.’

‘Good, you do have a voice it seems, ah here she is.’  Danita and Tanacia walked up to the vehicle and greeted Remi as she got out.  ‘We have a present for you.’  Danita said quietly into her youngest daughter’s ear.

‘For me, what is it?  Let me see, let me see.’  Still a child her excitement showed through and it was at that point that Tevran swore to himself to protect her from any harm he could, this little girl who was to be his mistress had melted his heart in an instant.  Tanacia felt it through the tether and smiled.  She beckoned him across to her.

‘Tevran is your present, he’s going to look after you and help you practice against real magic.  Won’t that be great?’  Tanacia asked.

‘You mean he’s mine?  I get to keep him?’

‘When we know you can control him well enough you can keep him, until then, you can practice with him in the evenings and your sister will look after him at night for you.’

‘But if he’s mine, why does Tanacia have to look after him?’

‘That’s the deal, he’s for you, but we have to know you can control him properly first.’

Remi pouted and started to sulk.  Tevran crouched down in front of her and pulled her back pack off her shoulder to carry into the house.  As he did he smiled at her and spoke.

‘The way I see it, the faster we learn to work together as a team, the faster it will be that you get to keep me properly.  We have a training session tonight as I understand it; shall we see how good you are then?  You never know, you might find that you’re sister isn’t looking after me for as long as you expect.’  He smiled again and she wrapped herself around his shoulders in a hug.

‘Thank you Tevran, can we go inside now, I need to get ready for practice.’  He nodded and stood, Remi still wrapped around his shoulders.  He heaved her up and carried her to her own rooms behind Danita.  Tanacia walked closely behind still maintaining a hold on the tether that attached to the shock collar.  When they entered he sat her gently on one of the sofas and put her bag next to her.

‘Shall we see about getting your homework done?  What do you have this evening?’

‘Magic theory, maths, geography and history.’  She replied easily.

‘Mum, why don’t you help with the magic theory, Tevran can help with the rest afterwards.’  Tanacia said quickly.  Danita sat next to her youngest daughter on the sofa and Tanacia pulled Tevran back out of the room.  ‘The one subject you are not to help her in is magic theory.  We can’t have her tainted by black magic, do you understand?’

‘Yes, so what do I do if she has magic homework?’

‘Send for me or my mother.’  He nodded.  ‘Go back in, help her with her homework and make sure she is in the training centre by five.  You have just under two hours to finish up, get changed and get there.’

‘Okay.  Is Lucca meeting us there?’

‘Lucca and I will both meet you there.’

He nodded and left to go back to Remi.  Danita came out a few minutes later.

‘She seems to have taken to him.  Do you trust him with her?’

‘I trust him with Remi, besides I still have this.’  She held up his tether and smiled.

 

It hadn’t been long before Tanacia had to pass Tevran over to Remi permanently; he was more than willing to take orders from her, look after her and listen to her troubles, even helping soothe them away.  He still went across to her suites during Remi’s school hours, helping her with any targets she had been passed from the police who kept her on a permanent retainer in case they ever needed help.  She was already earning an above average wage for someone who worked as a Black Widow, and she only worked two or three days a week at the most, the rest of her time was spent in college.  It was understood that no matter how she did in college she would take over as sovereign of the state and rule, however, she still wanted people to like her on her own merits rather than the fact that she had been born into both sets of magic in her family.  She was the most powerful Black Widow in her family but she knew she couldn’t take her seat until she was twenty and out of school and training.

Lucca had been invaluable in helping Tanacia catch her targets and over the course of the five years she had tethered two other men, both had accepted it willingly over being stripped completely of their magic.  Tevran worked at keeping her diary and making sure she was up to date with college essays and other work.  They had formed a bond quite different to the one he had with Remi, he was able to communicate with her silently through the channel of the tether which he couldn’t do with Remi.  She knew his thoughts and had never pushed him away from Remi; he knew she really did want someone to watch out for her, he never forgot what Hruse had said though.  One day she would move him away from Remi and he wouldn’t have a choice in the matter.

When Tanacia had passed Tevran over, she carried on as normal, he knew though that she was taking on too much and said so to Remi one evening while they were training together.  It wasn’t long before she said something to her mother who agreed whole heartedly.  She didn’t want anyone else tethering with magic in the house by her two daughters, they had more than enough to deal with and didn’t need the chore of breaking someone else in, Lucca had been nightmarish and although he had changed, she didn’t think that either had the time while they had so much college work to do.  She suggested that she tether a young boy she had caught, she was nineteen and would need someone full time soon anyway, and it made perfect sense.  That was how Aldor came to the house.

Whilst caged he’d asked her to strip him completely of his powers straight away, said he didn’t want them, that he was fed up of being miserable.  When Tanacia asked him what she was going to do afterwards he shrugged his shoulders and said he didn’t care.  He was totally defeated and she could tell.  Only nineteen herself she was still in college four days a week and was working all weekend as it was.  She sometimes got her priorities mixed up and forgot about college work until it was due, or even completely.  She stripped Aldor’s powers quickly still amazed at the black lines left on the neck after forcing the magic out of a man; they always looked like a spider web.  She had him floated onto a bed, restrained by his arms and legs until he came around.

His head didn’t lift and Tanacia was quite worried about him.  She sat down next to him and took a deep breath.

‘What do you want to do?’

‘I don’t know.’

‘I’ve had an idea.  It might work I don’t know.’

‘You want to help?’  The voice was small and incredulous.  It was as if he had never had anyone help him in his entire life.

‘If I can.  I need to know what you think though.’

‘Okay.’

‘I need some help with work and college, at the moment I’m run off my feet and don’t know where I’m up to.  I need someone who can keep a diary, keep my potion materials up to date so I don’t run out and generally help out.  It might mean going to the shops for me, or listening to a read through of an essay,’ she thought back to the essay on her desk.  ‘I need someone who can answer the calls though and take down as many details as you can about the powers, whereabouts and looks of the target.  Keep my diary up to date and make sure I don’t get over booked.’

‘There’s a problem with that.  I can’t read and write.’

‘Your school standard should be fine.  There isn’t any major detailing.’

‘I never went to school; my mum dropped me and left me.’

That was why he seemed so vulnerable she thought.  He’d been on the streets since being a baby and no one had ever bothered with him.  No wonder he looked at her like she was stupid when she offered to help.

‘Okay, we can sort that you know.  Would you like to learn?’

Aldor shrugged and dropped his head.

‘I can help you, but only if you want to be helped.  If you want to learn, I can get you a place in school, you can learn to read and write, some maths, history and geography, even the basics of magic theory so you could help prepare my potions.’

‘What would I need to do for you though?’

‘I told you earlier.’

‘But I wouldn’t be able to do all those things straight away.’

‘No but you could do some straight away.  Any help is better than no help.  It’s up to you.  I’d have to collar and tether you so you were able to stay in the house; my Grandma wouldn’t have a young man in the house untethered unfortunately.  Since you haven’t any powers though it shouldn’t cause you too much of an issue.’

‘So what difference will it actually make to me?’

‘You’ll have your own room, attached to my suite, you’ll be fed and have clothes.  You’ll get a small wage and some freedom.  You won’t be able to do little things though the biggest would have been to use magic, without my permission.  Because you don’t have your magic it’ll be more making and using potions without my permission.  I’ll always know where you are and how you are so you won’t get away with saying you’re feeling poorly when you’re not or saying you’re going somewhere and going somewhere else.’

‘Okay.  I’ll do it.’

‘Let’s wait until after dinner.’

Tanacia stood and went just outside the door; the tethers had been left outside – magical strings attaching man to woman with no barriers.  Unable to see the tether unless you’re attached to it and the string passing through solid objects meant it didn’t get in the way of anything or anyone.  She picked them up and brought them back inside.  As she did she gave a tug on them, within minutes all four men were at the door.  They knew she could look after herself and they relaxed when they saw she was okay.

‘Glad you could come, Aldor here will be joining us, show him to the table for lunch and brief him on the rules.  I don’t want to be late.’

‘Where’s his tether?’  Hruse asked gruffly.  She smiled at him, a look a daughter gives a father, he was still looking out for her.

‘He’s got no magic, I’ve stripped it from him, be off with you, I’ll sort that out later.’

Hruse had been with her since she was around five years old; her mother had broken him, and then set him to work as Tanacia’s companion.  He followed her everywhere, even to school and watched for her safety just as Tevran had done for Remi.

She had collared and tethered Aldor that night and he remained with her since.  Happy to keep her diary up to date and enjoying school he had decided he wanted to train to be a teacher.

 

At the end of that year she graduated college with a first degree.  She was finally classed as an adult.  She moved into her new role effortlessly, having been working whilst studying she knew what state of affairs Castle Point and the surrounding lands were in.  The police still had her on a retainer to catch men who were proving difficult for other Black Widows to contain.  Her magic meant that she was taking on two roles, one of a leader and also as a Black Widow.  She had been handing out rulings at court for two years already and didn’t find it interesting, she had too much else going on in the lands to worry about human crimes, instead, she appointed two other Black Widows whom she trusted to fulfil the role for her only consulting her if it was really necessary.  She knew that in Gateway Mountains on the edge of Tavoca there was a much bigger threat.  The prophecy could come true at any time and she had been keeping an eye on the troubles on the boarders.  They were getting worse and more and more people were looking at her to put a stop to it all.

After her graduation and coronation she decided to spend a day out shopping with her mum and younger sister.  She took five thousand credits out of her safe and sent them both an image.  Lucca as always was ready and waiting when she reached the main door, he was still able to anticipate what she wanted through the feelings in the tether.  Danita was waiting with him.  Tanacia checked on the rest of the men through their tethers and then asked where Remi was.  She often felt that she should take her younger sister with her out of guilt, but today, she just wanted a girly day out.

‘Where is Remi?’

‘Don’t worry.  She’ll be with us shortly.  She’s finishing a job and meeting us in a minute.’

‘A job?’  Remi wasn’t old enough to work on her own yet, normally a girl didn’t work alone until they had come of age at twenty.

‘We stripped a guy down earlier on to basic powers.  She’s tethering him.’

‘Is she keeping him?’

‘I think so.’  Danita looked up and nodded.  ‘Looks like it, she’s bringing him with us.’

Tanacia didn’t think it was such a good idea for her to do that, the guy looked exhausted and didn’t look very co-operative.  She wanted a day out in peace.

‘Why don’t you bring someone else Remi?  Give him a break, let him sleep.’

Remi looked from Tanacia to her mum and back. Danita was nodding slowly in agreement.

‘Take him to your suite, honey and let him sleep.  Bring Tevran with you instead.  You can keep his tether with you, don’t worry, he’ll be safe.’

Remi nodded and pulled on the poor guy’s tether, tightening it without realising.  She was trying to lead him to her suite but he was struggling, tired and confused he wanted out.  Tanacia could tell Remi was also a little unsure of what was supposed to happen, Tevran had been tethered for her, this was the first time she had done it herself and the man still had basic magic, she would have to go through with her how to break a man over the next month if her mother didn’t.

Tevran came into the room as his tether was touched, jacket in hand.  He shook hands with Lucca and the pair began to talk, the main topic was sports.  Some things remain the same no matter what planet you’re on.

The small group made their way down the road to the shopping district, Lucca and Tevran resigned to the fact that they were likely to get all the bags from Remi and Danita.  Tanacia was particular and carried her own no matter what.  It was lunch time when they got there so they headed straight to the eateries.  They were guaranteed a table in any restaurant; the family had helped them all at some point.  The decision was made to go into a little cafe on the corner and within a few seconds they were seated and had ordered.  Lucca and Tevran seated at opposite ends of the table rarely relaxed on outings like this, in the open it was difficult to tell whether the men in the crowds had powers or not, the mark of being stripped not always visible.  Some wore collars which were more obvious and took them away from Lucca’s suspicions, they were tethered.  The waiter brought out drinks and soon returned with warm meals for all five of them.

Conversation drifted from work, to Remi’s schooling.  It didn’t take long for them to start talking about the man she had tethered that morning.

‘Does he have a name?’

‘He won’t tell me.  He’s been stubborn as hell about it.  Doesn’t seem to be able to accept that he’s been tethered and there’s nothing he can do about it.  Weird because he seems so peaceful at the moment, especially compared to you Tevran.’

Tanacia could feel it as well.  Lucca was completely on edge and he’d hardly touched his food or drink.  She tried to comfort him through the tether, something that Remi hadn’t yet learnt to do.

‘I hate it when you do that Remi, it really makes me nervous when you talk about how I’m feeling like that.’  Danita could see the tension in the guy’s faces and stood to pay.  Lucca stood with her and followed her to the till.  Tanacia had asked him to, silently of course.  She was able to look after herself and Tevran and Remi were there too.

‘Would you feel better if we left here Tev?’  He nodded and smiled, a glint returning to his eye.  Tevran was the same age as Tanacia and when Remi was at college he was normally left to help Tanacia with her targets.  They got on well and had a mutual respect for each other.  Remi frowned as she heard the shortened name though, it sounded daft when she said it and she was once again feeling a little dwarfed by her big sister.  ‘Where do you fancy going first Remi?  It’s your choice.’  Brightened a little by being given the choice of shops Remi chose clothes and they were off within a minute or two after their mum had paid for the meal.

Bored in seconds by the clothes but still on edge Tevran and Lucca stayed within a metre of the girls, not letting them out of their sight.  Both could feel the use of magic and knew it was dark magic.  Lucca had told Tanacia and felt she had brushed him away, she trusted his judgement but he forgot that she reacted more to the tether than Remi.  Whereas Tevran had needed to say something, Lucca hadn’t really and one thing Tanacia hated more than anything was being told something she already knew.  She was keeping her eyes peeled as well as looking at the clothes.  His worry was that the magic was coming from more than one direction and he didn’t know which was worse, that he couldn’t pin point it or that she hadn’t answered him.

After half an hour of walking around the same store they were ready to pay, after looking at all those items it was strange that they’d only selected a couple each.  Tanacia paid for all of them as a congratulations present for Remi doing her first tethering.  The magic was close now and Tanacia could feel it in the air as well as Lucca.

‘Mum, Remi, why don’t you have a look in a few more clothes stores?  I just need to check something with Lucca.’

‘Is everything alright honey?  What can you feel Lucca?’

‘It’s nothing major mum I just want to have a look and if need be I’ll call Aldor to send the others from the house to cage the target.  I’ll only be a few minutes.’

Danita looked to Lucca and he nodded silently.  Tanacia kept him quiet through the tether.  Prevented him from blurting out that that strongest magic he had ever felt was round the corner and he was worried.

‘Okay, I’ll send you an image as we go into each store.’

‘Thanks mum, we won’t be long.’

With that the group split, Tevran stayed with mother and daughter and Lucca went with Tanacia.  As soon as Danita and Remi were out of ear shot he began to talk.

‘Why did you send them away?  I’ve never felt so much magic.  I don’t think we can handle him on our own.’

‘Calm down Lucca, take a breath.’  There was a light laughter on the edge of her voice.  ‘I’ve asked Aldor to send the others, they’re on their way.  I felt the magic about an hour ago and asked him straight away.  They should be here soon.’

She took him by the hand, aware that he was worried and not sure what they were going to do, she felt like she needed the encouragement as well.  They walked around the corner and into a wall of black magic, the stench was disgusting, the smell of rotting meat prevailed in the carnage and everything looked like it was in a black and white movie.  Tanacia surveyed the area and felt Sergei tell her where they were, it seemed they were on the other side of the wall.  They needed to get together.  The shopping centre was a square with one side left open for a small market.  They were at the corner of the market at the moment.  She told Sergei to stay still while she got to him and pulled Lucca back around the corner and began walking towards the opposite end of the shopping centre; she had decided the best way was around.  The destruction would have to continue for a while.  The pair took five minutes to get to Sergei and Karis.

‘There are six men in there Tanacia; no wonder there’s so much magic in the area.  Someone must have organised the men.  It’s the only way; they wouldn’t have decided to work together off their own backs.’  Karis was worried and she could feel it from him, he was very protective over her, but was quite nervous and shy.  She still felt like she needed to protect him even though she had two other men with her.

‘I can’t even take one day off.’  She sighed to herself.

‘So it seems.’  Lucca commented behind her.

She put her head around the corner to look at the carnage taking place.  There were spells bouncing left right and centre.  All dark magic, all corrupt.  She could taste each piece of magic as if it was something she was supposed to savour.  This was something she inherited from her father, instead of savouring the dark magic, she understood and reacted to it.  What worried her was that the upper echelon of this group seemed absent.  She would take each man one by one and cage them, perhaps get some information from them.  Then she would strip their powers.

She directed her men around the area to different parts of the main square.  They knew their job and wouldn’t use magic unless Tanacia was threatened.  She was good.  She could take care of this herself.  They would cage and hold the men – that would be it.  Not a word was spoken as she gave directions, not even by Tanacia.  Within minutes she shot her first spell, aimed unwaveringly at a man who was enjoying holding a waitress upside down with his magic, groping her without any shame.  The distaste was obvious on Tanacia’s face as the man fell and so too, did his magic.  The waitress was caught skilfully as she fell from his clutches.  She floated the woman back to the pavement the right way up and set her down.  The man was expertly confined by Sergei and she moved on to the next one.  Slightly worried about how easy that had been she knew that this was being staged to draw her in.  She wanted the ring leader, and no doubt would go after him; unfortunately she didn’t know who he was.

The next man was blasting windows apart on different shops, not caring about people in his path, fireballs aimed indiscriminately across the square, she blocked his fireballs and one bounced back off the shielded window, without time to do anything, the fireball hit the man and his body turned to ash amidst his screams.  Oh well, she’d lost targets before.  This wouldn’t be the last.  The next thing she knew was a fireball coming from Lucca; she felt the drain on his power through the tether as soon as he released it.  She was slightly confused, the only way he could have used any power was if she had been in danger, following the path the fireball had taken, her gaze rested on the body of a man, he was knocked out.  Lucca hadn’t made the fireball strong enough to kill.  It wasn’t permitted.  She smiled at Lucca and threw a potion at the next man, terrorising the public with lightning bolts, one woman trying to get from one side of the square to the other was stopped every couple of seconds by a bolt from his hands.  He was playing games with her.  The man’s powers stopped immediately and he collapsed caged within seconds by Lucca.  The men whose power she stripped on the street would be left with the police a couple of blocks down at the station.  The rest she would have sent home.  A jet stream of acid charged past her face, the man behind it knocked to the floor by a woman who she knew, yet hadn’t realised was there.  She was a Black Widow as well.

Tanacia smiled and threw two more potions and the last man was stripped of his powers, he dropped to the floor as a man glided off the roof. He had a grim determined smirk on his face as he took a bow and then blinked.   Tanacia said a spell as he did, all that it caught was his jacket though.  The rest of him disappeared from view and the area.  She knew who her main opponent was now.  Dumbstruck, she had let him get away.  The five remaining men were restrained and were being taken to either the police station or back to the power rooms at home via teleportation.

She asked Aldor to make some more stripping potions and tethers.  He’d become a master with the potions since she had started teaching him, he always had her stores full of everything needed and was efficient.  Lucca and her other men had stayed with her.  Karis and Sergei had both been tethered willingly, choosing that over power stripping.  The three accompanied her back to the crafts store where her mum and Remi were waiting for them, they’d only been gone twenty minutes and the bags had piled high on poor Tevran.  Karis took some off him and the four made a protective circle around the women.  Lucca was just to Tanacia’s right hand.

The taste of magic had left the air for Tanacia and she was starting to settle into the routine of shopping even though she knew she had to go back to the house and start questioning when they had finished.  The grit from the ash and fireballs was still under her nails though and she felt scruffy.  Happy with the minor outcome of capturing four and killing one man she decided to buy herself something new.  She tried on an entire new outfit, shoes, coat and bag included.  A pair of tight fitting black jeans accentuated her legs and hips, a lose vest top brought in at the waist and baggy over the chest emphasized her fine figure, boots making her look taller and the colours making her stand out, the greens on her top bright and bold.

She came out of the store happy in her new clothes.  Lucca smiled at her and then took his place.

 

Once she’d done shopping her mind turned back to the mystery man, well dressed she wondered who he was and how he’d managed to bring the men together like that in the town square.  She’d never seen that done before, normally the magic was so consuming that all they thought about was using it for their own ends.  To satisfy their incessant thirst for magic they used it as much as possible indifferent to the risks to themselves, their callous nature meant that they didn’t think about getting caught, they just followed the thirst.  She shook her head and the group began to walk back towards the Manor, to where Tanacia and Lucca both knew that there were two men waiting to be questioned and stripped.  Lucca knew that Tanacia wouldn’t tether them, it was too dangerous, she didn’t know what powers this new man, this new evil, had.  No she wouldn’t risk it, she’d question them and then strip them, once done she’d send them to the police.  They could deal with them.

As they entered the gates to the manor, Aldor and Hruse were waiting for them, Tanacia had signalled on ahead to let them know.  Hruse took her bags from her and walked besides her to her suite, she gave Danita and Remi a brief squeeze each before peeling off to the suite at the back of the house.  A silent nod thanked Tevran for looking after them while she had been gone.

‘Have they said anything?’  Tanacia spoke as soon as her mum and Remi were out of earshot.  Still surrounded by her entourage she looked from Aldor to Hruse waiting for an answer.

‘One has.’  Hruse took a deep breath before carrying on.  ‘He keeps saying ‘the day will come’ whatever that means.’

‘Nothing else?’

‘Nothing.’  Aldor shook his head to emphasise the answer.

She nodded and continued into her main rooms, the living area.  Hruse put the bags down at the side of the sofa and stood back, waiting.  Lucca went straight to his own room, as did the others, they all wanted to shower and change.  She loosened the tetheres now she was back in the house with them and sat down.  Aldor was pacing nervously up and down outside the door, he would never be so rude as to do so in her suite.

‘For goodness sake, Aldor, come in and sit down, you’re making me nervous.’  He sat down and talk immediately moved to that of the men in the lock up.

‘What are you going to do?  One of them is quite old you know.’  Hruse was ever protective and liked to be forewarned so that he could plan ahead.

‘Question them, and then strip them.  If one of them is too old then that’s a risk I’ll have to take.  I can’t chance them going back to this new power.’

‘Your diary is filling up you know.  Are you going to have time or do you want me to clear some space and field them out?’

‘Have the calls come in today?’

Aldor nodded in answer to her question.

‘Then somehow, they’re all linked.  Keep them in, if I take out his followers, eventually I must be able to get to him.’

She stood, startling Aldor, still nervous.  She didn’t need the tether to know.  He had never seen anyone stripped of their powers since she had stripped him of his own, and never seen an elderly man, too old to be stripped have it done to him.  He wouldn’t see these either.  Hruse could assist once the potions were made.  Tanacia walked to the lock up to the cells that the men were caged in, followed by Aldor and Hruse a pace or two behind out of respect for her.  Lucca met them at the lock up room.  Sat outside, he daren’t enter alone.  Only Aldor was allowed to do that.  The potions and spells were kept in there and he could be tempted to use them.  Although his tether would shock him if he did use them, unless the power was used against Tanacia or her family it wouldn’t stop him.  Aldor was safe.  He couldn’t use the spells and the tether prevented him from making potions without permission, let alone using them.

The four went into the room together.  Aldor made the two potions, one to strip a man of his magic and one to kill as quickly as possible.  He knew he needn’t be in the room, that Tanacia would rather he wasn’t there and wanted to be out as fast as possible.  He didn’t want to delay the inevitable.  It didn’t bother him that Tanacia didn’t want him in the room, he knew it was her way of protecting him and bowed out gracefully.  The potions on the table, he nodded to Tanacia and left.  He would wait in his own room as instructed the year before by Lucca as he explained the day to day running of the Manor, Tanacia’s very few rules and her likes and dislikes.  She didn’t like men hovering around; he knew he should go back to his room.  Back to the studying, but like a child, something drew him to stay, to press his ear against the large heavy oak wood door in hope of hearing something on the inside.  An answer to why she wanted to protect him maybe.  No.  The door was solid and once shut it sealed everything out.  No sound could penetrate, neither could any light.  No holes to press his eye against, he huffed and dawdled back to his own room.  To the studying that awaited him.

Meanwhile, Tanacia, Hruse and Lucca were trying to get some sense out of the two men in the power rooms, one was determined not to speak and after ten minutes Tanacia got bored.  The power stripping spell was pushed through the air into the man’s blood stream, one of her more powerful telekinesis tricks.  It was definitely useful when the man wouldn’t drink it himself.  She waited for the man to collapse and caught him with her force field through the barriers.  Within the blink of an eye he was restrained on a small bed, unconscious, quite normal for someone his age.  She turned to the second man, his ramblings quietened by the spectacle of watching someone’s powers stripped, he was mesmerised by the appearance of the spider web on the man’s neck.  She was in a no messing mood and it showed.

‘What do you know about the suited man?’

One look at Tanacia’s face and the words poured out.

‘M, Marchones, he’s from Tavoca.  He’s been killing off Black Widows like you.’

‘Not like me at all.  No other Black Widow has my powers.  What can he do?’

‘He has great powers, and promises.’

‘Powers first, promises later.’

‘He has many, he can freeze time, and he is able to fire acid from his hands, make energy balls and even electro kinesis.’

‘And he can blink.’ She mumbled.  ‘Promises.  What promises does he make?’

‘He promises to share the power he takes from the Black Widows.’

‘So he has a way of absorbing power?’

‘He must do.’  The old man’s head dropped, realising he had told her everything when he had vowed to say nothing, all for a share in her power.  The most powerful Black Widow family on the planet.  Trust him to get caught.  He couldn’t go back out there now.  Marchones would kill him on sight.  He would know.

Tanacia floated the power stripping power and the death potion in the air, mixed both together and looked at the old man.  He looked resigned to his fate.  She passed the potions into his blood stream and watched as his eyes opened sharply in pain and then closed as suddenly as they had opened.  He dropped and she caught him with the force field.  He was dead.  She laid him down on the floor and left the room allowing Lucca to use his powers to turn the body to ash, and scatter the man to wind.  Hruse stayed with him to make sure it was done.  She took her notebook out and began writing.  Everything the old man told her had gone in there.  As soon as the men came out of the room she looked up to Lucca, he nodded.  It had been done.  She nodded her thanks and brushed his shoulder with her hand.  She knew it was something he hated doing but she trusted him to do it properly.

Tanacia left and went back to her own suite, Lucca and Hruse followed as far as the stairs which they climbed to their own room.  She sat on the edge of the bed, pondering the day’s events, trawling through spells and potions in her mind wondering if she could take out this new man.  He had been bold in appearing in her town, especially when he knew she would be out in the shopping area.  He had to have co-ordinated it for some reason, it was no coincidence that these men had banded together to wreak havoc the day she had decided to go out.  It infuriated her that he had got away and she was determined to find a way to track him, even if it meant going all the way to the Gateway Mountains.  Her mother wouldn’t agree to that though, she would tell her that it was unsafe for the sovereign to chase after a new power alone. She needed to find another way.

She pondered over the tetheres she had, each man doing different things.  Lucca was asleep, tired from the drain on his magic, he had been so ready to defend her that she was proud of him.  Hruse sat talking with Sergei in the main room; she could feel their banter as they jested.  Karis had gone back to his own room after showering, as always, he felt slightly betrayed by Tanacia after using his magic to capture another magical man.  It was as if he sometimes longed to be back on the other side, on the run.  Aldor was always doing the same thing, if he wasn’t making up potions for her, he was studying.  At the moment he was studying a new book in the main room, his back to the others as he trawled the data highway looking for answers to one of his self-assessment tasks that the book posed.

Tanacia decided that Lucca had the best idea and lay down, she hadn’t expected to need her magic during the day and so hadn’t primed herself for its use before leaving.  She felt drained and needed to get her energy back, she closed her eyes and began running through the day’s events, looking for a way that she could have captured him or at least found a way to track Marchones to his hideout.  Eventually she began to dream and found herself in the dining room, alone with a girl she didn’t know.  It was at that point that Marchones struck.  He ported himself into the room, knocking over a tray of sweet deserts as he landed and immediately began to throw fireballs across the table.  The other girl ducked away from the onslaught, but Tanacia was too stubborn.  Adamant she would find a way to stop him, she returned the fight with her own magic, pushing him into a corner.  She moved forward ready to port him into one of the cells in the lock up that would be able to confine him but she was too eager.  He grabbed her and blinked out of the manor and into the darkness, she knew she was somewhere in the Gateway Mountains but as she had never travelled through them, she was at a loss to know where.  Everything went black as a fireball hit her on the side of the head, and then the blackness turned to a searing red as the pain struck.

She was jostled awake by Hruse who was trying to find out what had happened, how she had managed to burn her face and who she had been fighting.  They had felt the danger through their tetheres and every man had raced down into her suite ready to defend her.  There had been no one there though; she lay alone, unmoving on her bed.  As she opened her eyes she put her hand up to her face and felt the pain again.

‘Ouch.’

‘Tanacia what happened?  How did you get that?’  Hruse demanded.

‘Marchones.’

‘But you were sleeping, how can something like that happen in your sleep?’  Aldor asked from the back of the room as Lucca held his hand over her face, healing magic seeping through and soothing the burn.  He wouldn’t be able to completely heal it but it would stop the pain at least.

‘I wasn’t dreaming, I think it was a premonition.’

‘You’ve never had a premonition before Tanacia.  Why would they start now?’  Hruse asked still holding her up to Lucca’s hand.

‘I don’t know, my power hasn’t finished growing yet, maybe this is a new addition, though I hope not because it hurts.’

‘Could he have implanted it into your subconscious?’

‘I don’t know how strong he is, is it possible, yes.  Could he do it?  I don’t know.’  She paused as she pulled herself up to full sitting position.  ‘What time is it?’

‘A quarter to eight.’  Aldor responded quickly.

‘I need to get ready for dinner, I can’t keep everyone waiting.’

‘Actually…’  Lucca muttered.

‘I know, I know, actually I can.  That doesn’t mean I’m going to.  It isn’t nice to be kept waiting.  No matter what the reason behind it is.’

 

The next few days followed as normal, the security at dinner was a little stricter but the days remained the same.  The women spent their days out hunting men who were causing mayhem, and even killing at the beck and call of Marchones.  Most of them were easy to catch, strip or even kill if necessary, but all had one thing in common.  Once they had been caught they would rather die than talk, Marchones had them all terrified that if they said anything and then made it out of the house alive he would kill them anyway.  Lucca had a lot of work to do in that time, as did Aldor with calls and images coming in every couple of seconds.  There were that many jobs that although Remi was helping out, and Aldor was mixing potions as well as taking calls, the women of the family were overworked and it wasn’t getting any easier.  Tanacia decided to take on a trainee Black Widow, a girl she’d been working with at the training school they ran in the holidays, at eighteen she was a fast learner and came from a good family.  Her name was Hylissa, she had excelled so far in holding men in a force field whilst they were caged.  Something that Tanacia wasn’t always able to do dependant on what she was using her power for at the time.  The calls were coming from all over Rathe, the market district, the housing district and even the police were sending calls in on a daily basis.  The town was in utter despair.

‘I wish I could just get on with my life and not have to worry about men, about evil.  It seems I spend that much time thinking about work that I never really think about myself anymore.  I’ve not been out for days to do anything other than take out a target; the only things I’ve written were the new spells that I’ve used and potions that I’ve made.  I’ve hardly spoken to my family.  Things just seem so hectic Lucca.’

He nodded his head and handed her towel across the bathroom, she’d called him as she got up, wanting to know the days tasks before she even left her suite for breakfast.  Indeed, before she was even dressed.  He could see the stress she was under, a young woman, having to make the decisions of a Black Widow much older and wiser than she, the only issue was, no one else had the power to use the decisions once made.  She was the one, the chosen one.  He felt sorry for her in a way, even though he knew that she could handle herself, she seemed somewhat vulnerable as if she had the weight of the world on her shoulders.

‘That’s because I do feel like that.’

‘Pardon?’

Lucca was rather confused at the apparent response to no question.

‘Oh sorry, I thought you were speaking, obviously not.  But I do feel like I have the weight of the world on my shoulders, it’s as if everyone on Rathe is looking to me to capture and tether this guy.  I’ve done nothing but think about him for days now.  Ever since that dream I had…’  Her voice trailed off as she began to think about the dream again.  She finished towelling off and walked back into the bedroom to do her hair and make-up.

Whilst she was sat at the dressing table wrapped in a large bath towel, deciding what make-up to use, Lucca ran through the calls already in so far.  Once she finished dressing she was quick to eat before Hylissa arrived so she could brief her before going out on the first call that the police had put in to the family.  There was a gang of magical men causing havoc at the Accident and Emergency room in the nearest hospital.  She didn’t want to leave Hylissa unprotected so handed Sergei’s tether across to her; he would look out for her while she helped Tanacia during the day.  When they arrived, there were body parts and blood strewn across the floor.  Doctors and nurses were all huddled behind the main counter where there was a glass window, bullet proof for protection, although it did little to protect them from magical outbursts.  She was quick to contain all of the men and port them back to the lock up into individual cells just as Lucca and Tevran had been years before.  Once the chaos had been stopped, she spoke to the doctors and nurses, told them to get everything cleaned up and open as normal, she was going after Marchones.  She relaxed and ported them back to the manor where her mum and Aunty Sayitia were waiting in her suite for her.

‘We were worried; we saw the images on the holographic news.  Was it him?’

‘He wasn’t there but we can assume it was.’  Tanacia sank into the sofa and curled her feet up underneath her.  Hylissa sat in one of the bean bag chairs and waited to find out what their next move would be, she accepted a cold drink off Lucca without hesitation.  Tanacia signalled for everyone else to sit and she moved over on the sofa so she could rest her head on Lucca’s shoulder.  She felt herself relax into him.  Her mum looked on, saying nothing.

‘What do you plan to do about him?’

‘I don’t know, I need more information, I need to question the men in the lock up, find out what they know.  They might even know what his next move is.’  She sipped at her drink obviously thinking.  ‘Where are Remi and Tevran?  Are they safe?’  Lucca stiffened at the mention of Tevran, she had never given up on taking him back from Remi and he knew he would no longer be her favourite when that happened.

‘They’re fine; she’s in her suite studying.  Tevran is helping her.’

Tanacia nodded.

‘What would you do Mum?’  She asked quietly.

‘That doesn’t matter, what I would do wouldn’t suit you as we work so differently.’   Sayitia nodded in agreement.  ‘What do you think the best course of action is?’

‘I want to know more.’  She stood up and pulled Lucca with her.  ‘I’m going to speak to the ones in lock up, everyone else wait here and make yourselves comfortable.’  She was quick to grab a notepad and pen off the side and pass it to Lucca as she left the room.  The men weren’t going anywhere in the cells but she didn’t want to be alone with anyone who could attack innocent people who were already injured.  She couldn’t trust them.  Lucca would keep an eye out for her and take notes at the same time, she wanted to know as much about Marchones as she could, including whether he was planning any more attacks and where he was hiding out.

The first of the men she spoke to was unwilling to respond to any of her questions, his arms pinned against the wall he was continually trying different spells to break the cuffs on him.  Eventually Tanacia gave up, forced a stripping potion into his blood stream and moved on to the next man.  He had grown used to the darkness and snarled when she opened the door flooding the cell with light, she pulled it to and Lucca used a small energy ball to create a more suitable light, allowing his eyes to adjust the man look around from Tanacia to Lucca and back and then to the door.  She started slowly asking him basic questions such as his name, age and how long he’d been working with Marchones.  He was happy answering her until he heard Marchones name mentioned.  At that point, he clammed up.  Lucca left the cell and came back less than a minute later carrying a black leather collar similar to the one he was wearing.  He passed it to Tanacia who fastened it around the man’s neck.

‘Let’s start again, what is your name?’  He shook his head in dismissal and received a shock from the collar.  ‘I don’t like repeating myself.  Name?’  He shook his head and tensed as the collar shocked him a second time.  ‘You know I can do this all day?  You’re the one who is going to struggle.’  He looked up.

‘It’ll kill me first.’

‘No, it won’t.  I’ll just keep on healing the wounds the collar causes.  You’re only hurting yourself.’  She paused. ‘Name.’

‘Thari.’  He sighed.

‘Age?’

‘Twenty four.’

‘Tell me about Marchones.’

‘He’s going to kill you.’  Tanacia untethered a fireball at the man which hit him square in the chest.  As he screamed she healed the wound and repeated the action.  Within ten minutes he was hanging limp, he had no energy to hold himself up.

‘I’m not going to ask you again.’

‘What do you want to know?’

‘Where’s his hideout?’

‘In the Gateway Mountains above Onyx pass.’

‘Describe it to me.’

The questioning lasted over three hours before Tanacia could pinpoint Marchones hideout, she knew how many men had been there, what some of the powers she could expect were and how heavily it was guarded.  He had even spilt Marchones plans to attack the manor.  Tanacia stood and went on to the next man, eventually she had spoken to all of them, their stories matched and she was expecting the attack on the manor to be moved up in Marchones timetable, he must have known that she would get the information out of his men.

 

The night had set in quickly while she had been questioning the men in the lock up, Lucca was tired and he knew Tanacia was as well.  She wasn’t going to rest though, he knew that she was going back to plan her next move to get Marchones.  When she entered her suite everyone was waiting for her, even Remi and Tevran had joined the others in there.

‘Have you eaten sweetie?’  Danita asked as soon as she walked through the door.  Tanacia didn’t answer but went straight into the study where the main conference table was and started to go through her notebooks.  ‘Lucca?’

‘No she hasn’t.’  He paused.  ‘She’s not stopped.  She’s been using her magic for eight hours straight.  She has to rest.’

‘And so do you.’  Danita replied.  ‘Sit down, tell us what happened.’

Lucca hovered at the edge of the room close to the door to the main study.  He was torn; he knew not to argue with a member of the family but didn’t want to annoy Tanacia.  He had seen what she had done to the men in the cells and didn’t want to be on the end of her bad mood.

‘She needs to eat.’  He said and turned to go to the kitchen to make her something.  Within seconds Tevran was following him down the corridor.

‘Is she okay?’

‘Drained, what are you doing?’

‘Giving you a hand, you need to eat too.  I’m sure you don’t want to eat alone.’

‘I’ll eat with Tanacia, she won’t mind the company.’

‘Are you sure?’  Lucca nodded.  ‘What happened down there?’

‘She wanted answers, she got them.’  He paused.  ‘Look, I really don’t want to talk about it.  I’m sure she’ll let you know what was said when she has worked out a course of action.  For now, other than letting her work, there isn’t anything anyone can do.’

‘Okay.  Well at least we can make sure she’s had a decent meal.’  Tevran started pulling pans down off the side while Lucca prepared it.

Meanwhile Tanacia was in the study going over the same notes time and time again, looking for a way in passed the guards and magical alarm system that Marchones had been cleaver enough to install.  She couldn’t see anything new, any way around them.  He would know before she was there, the alarm would be raised and there would be an all-out battle, she wanted to avoid all out warfare at all costs.  She didn’t have the magic to fight a full gang of men, and she didn’t know that there was a way to trick them or outsmart them.  This fight would be magic against magic, nothing else.  Her strength pitted against Marchones, nothing else.

She looked up and nodded thanks at Lucca and Tevran when they brought her meal in and moved the notepads to one side.

‘Can I eat with you?’  She nodded, she was exhausted he knew, he didn’t need to see her face, it was pulsing through their connection.  ‘Thank you.’

‘I need your advice Lucca; Tevran, can you send Hruse, Aldor, Sergei and Karis in?  I want to talk to them all.’  He nodded but left sulkily.  ‘I don’t hold your tether Tev.’  It was all she said but it was enough of an explanation for either of them to understand why he was being excluded.  As soon as he was out of the door, the others came in and sat down.  ‘I have an idea…’

‘Eat first Tanacia, talk later.’  Hruse cut her off.  ‘We’re not going anywhere but I can see the pair of you have had a long day.’  She frowned but said little else until she finished eating.  Lucca was much slower, pausing and thinking while the fork lay forgotten in his mouth.  He was worried.

‘Since he has a magical alarm system and has over forty men there with him, I can’t just walk in to his hideout.  We need a way in, and those men in the cells want a way out.’  She laid out her idea in front of them and waited for the ambush of comments about it being too dangerous, or risky.  For once, they didn’t come.  ‘You think it could work?’

‘With a few tweaks.’  Lucca said.  ‘But let us sleep on it, you need time to recharge, you have been using your magic all day and never had a chance to prime yourself for it.’

‘As have you Lucca.’  She snapped; she hated being treated like a child.

‘There is a difference between a small light for the cells and…’  he trailed off, he wasn’t going to describe what she had done, the memory was bad enough.

‘We all need to sleep some, can Hylissa stay in your room tonight to save her going home late just to come back first thing in the morning?’  Sergei asked.  Tanacia nodded and stood, she stopped before opening the door though.

‘Nothing of this to anyone.  I don’t want people trying to stop me.’  She opened the door and stalked through to her bedroom, beckoning Hylissa on the way.

 

Tevran dodge the flame aimed at him and kept running, his hand burning from holding the other man’s tether.  He knew it was something that he shouldn’t do but he knew it was the quickest way to get him to Tanacia so she could stop him.  It was only seconds later that he burst into her room; he never passed the threshold though, she had it warded.  Her magic held him mid stride, he was unable to move or speak.  The same happened to the other man as he tried to rush in as well.  Tevran still didn’t know the name of this man, after a day of asking and questioning him, Remi had given up and let him sleep.

‘There is only one way you two could be running through the house in the dead of night uncontrolled.’  Tanacia said as she fastened her dressing gown around her, Hylissa was sat up in the spare bed, not wanting to intrude on something that she clearly needn’t be involved in.  This wasn’t an attack by Marchones, but Remi’s pets running loose.  She knew Tanacia wouldn’t want any interference.  ‘Where is my sister?’  Tanacia held her hand out and the air around Tevran stirred.  He saw the tether solidify as it touched her hand and then disappear altogether.  ‘Only one?’  She lessened the magic around his head.  ‘Speak.’

‘I have hold of the other, it was the quickest way I could think of to get it to you.  He’s been causing havoc with his fireballs, most of them aimed at me.  Remi let go no more than twenty minutes since.  I don’t know where she is, she wouldn’t talk to me.’

Tanacia knew he was telling the truth, although at one point it seemed that Remi had told her and Tevran everything, she had started to hold things back more recently.  Tanacia pulled the magic from around him and caught him as he fell forwards, still in mid stride.  She took the other tether off him and guided him to the sofa.  His hand had blistered with the burns from holding the other man’s tether but he never once mentioned it.

‘I should leave this as a reminder that you should never pick one of those tethers up without being told to – even your own.’  She paused and looked at him, his eyes were looking down at the floor.  ‘I suppose your intentions were good though.’  She placed a hand over his and he relaxed into the cool touch of her healing magic.  ‘Do you know his name?’

‘No.’

‘Well if Remi can’t control her pets properly I will.’  She mumbled before speaking to Tevran again.  ‘Go and make yourself comfortable in the spare room, send Lucca down and then get some sleep.  I will call for you in the morning.’

‘What about Remi?’

‘I’ll deal with Remi when she is back, she knows better than to leave you two unattended and without telling anyone where she is going.  Now go to bed.  I won’t be answering anymore questions tonight.  Understood?’

He nodded and left, he knew he had overstepped the boundaries.  When Tanacia heard a second set of footsteps coming back down the stairs she smiled inwardly.  She could hear Lucca grumbling at being woken in the middle of the night.  He barely even glanced at the man stood in her doorway unmoving; he knew she warded the bedroom at night.

‘I have a job for you Lucca, I want a cage small enough that he can only sit, no wider than he is.  Warded of course.’

‘Okay, where do you want it?’

‘Here, I have plenty of questions to ask yet.’  He nodded and concentration registered on his face before a silver bared cage appeared in front of him, she could see the magic woven through out, holding it together and warding it from use of magic within.  He was good, she hadn’t said anything about her magic needing to go into the cage, but it would allow her to if necessary.  With a wave of her hand the man was moved from the doorway and slotted inside the cage, Lucca had got the size just right, there was no room for any movement.  ‘Do you want to wait here until it is done Lucca?’  He looked unsure of the right answer.  ‘You’re holding the cage, if you want to go back to bed seal it off so it remains.’

‘But, what about you and Hylissa?’

‘I will reset the wards behind you, there are two of us, we can protect ourselves – you know that well enough.’  There was an unspoken hint that she had managed to capture him without any help, yet he always felt like he owed her his protection.  ‘Go on, be off with you, I want to get some sleep tonight too, and I’m sure the same can be said for Hylissa.’  He nodded and left, still grumbling about being woken in the night.  He knew better than to say anything in front of Tanacia but it didn’t stop him mumbling as he went back upstairs.

After she had set her wards around the bedroom again she sat on the sofa, Hylissa was watching from her spot on the spare bed.  She had never seen a man broken before but she had a feeling she was going to see it now and wanted to be able to remember as much as possible, she would have to do it herself one day, maybe not while he still had his magic but the ability would be needed to keep any man in line.  The cage lifted off the floor and floated just in front of her, if not slightly lower than she was, Hylissa made a mental note to ask why.

‘I don’t do well when I’ve only had a little sleep, I get cranky.  I’m only going to ask a question once and I want an answer straight away.  You don’t want to push me tonight.’  She paused and looked at the man, he was still held in her wards.  She lifted the magic from his head and left everything else bound.  ‘Name?’  It was a demand.

The man never moved, his eyes held hers in plain defiance, as the electric current that she passed through the silver bars burned into his flesh.

‘If you are not willing to tell me your name, I shall give you one. Dain.  I like that, it suits you.’  Hylissa nearly choked as she caught her breath, Tanacia paid her no attention.  ‘Maybe one day you can work this name off and go back to your old name.  Maybe.’  She loosened the rest of the magical bonds and he slouched slightly as she did.  ‘That shock was a mere pin prick to what I can do.  Tell me, why did you chase Tevran through the house throwing fire at him?  Has my sister taught you nothing of manners?’

‘I’m…’  it was a mumbled response and Tanacia didn’t catch anything passed the first word.

‘Speak louder.’

‘I’m sorry, it won’t happen again.’

‘You’re right it won’t.  Do you know what Dain means?’  She looked into his face searchingly.  He shook his head.  ‘Hylissa?’

‘It means dog in the old language Tanacia.’

Tanacia smiled as his eyes dropped to the floor.

‘Thank you Hylissa, and a dog always has a master, or mistress.  I am yours.  Remi will learn as well, do as you are told and you will be rewarded.  Break a rule, do something wrong or ignore a command and you will be punished.  Do you understand?’

‘Yes.’  His eyes never lifted to look at her.

‘Yes what?’

‘Mistress.’

‘Good.  Now tell me what you know of where Remi is.’

‘Last I knew Mistress she was in her room, then she let go and I don’t know what happened after that until the other man took my chain.  Then I started to throw fire, I wanted to get out.  I don’t know where she went.’

‘Watch what happens if I let go of one of the tethers I hold on to.’  She let go of Sergei’s and within seconds he was in the room wanting to know if everything was okay.  ‘Everything is fine, just a demonstration.’  She picked the tether back up and he left.

Hylissa watched Sergei as he left, with a longing look in her eyes.

‘In future this will only be released if there is something wrong.  A dog that can’t work alone needs a leash to keep him safe.’

‘Yes Mistress.’

‘Tell me, what do you know of Marchones?  It wasn’t happenstance that brought you here.  What have you told Remi about him?’

Dain launched into telling her everything he knew.  One shock was enough, he didn’t want anymore and he didn’t want to remain in the cramped cage he was in.  By the time he had gone over everything twice she knew where Remi was.  The sky outside was filled with a pre-dawn glow and she knew it was time to prime herself for the large amount of magic she was going to need throughout the coming days.  She told Hylissa to do the same.  Dain sat watching but never spoke, although he couldn’t see any movement, he knew she still had hold of his tether and knew what he was thinking.  As she got up to get washed and dressed she called for Lucca and the others to come downstairs once they were ready.  She was waiting for them when they had finished getting ready; that was never a good sign.  They were late.  Without any preamble she told Lucca to let Dain out of the cage and show him where he could get washed and changed.  He smirked at the name she had given this new man but never spoke until he had him following into the male suite upstairs.

‘So is it your fault we’re all in trouble this morning?  What did you tell her?’

‘Nothing.’ Dain followed and started getting undressed, Lucca stayed to make sure he was quick, he saw the burn marks on Dain’s back and hissed.  ‘What?’

‘She never healed you after last night?’  Dain shrugged.

‘I suppose she thought I needed a reminder, it hurts like hell.’  He stepped into the shower and turned the heat down.  It was the first time Lucca had known her to allow a man to walk around in pain.  She normally healed so he could do a better job if for no other reason.

‘What’s your name anyway?’  Lucca asked over the noise of the shower.

‘Dain.’  The way he spoke was final, Lucca nodded and turned away from the wash rooms, he went to wait in the common room.  When Dain came out rubbing his hair with a towel he handed him a set of clean clothes and waited for him to dress.  ‘It didn’t used to be, but I don’t want to be on the end of anymore bad moods.  I’ll tell you when she says I can.’

‘So you’re happy to be a dog until she says?’  Lucca struggled to hide the contempt in his voice.

‘Wouldn’t you?  You jump to her every command, I’ve seen it.  I’m sure if I bide my time I can work off any wrong I’ve done.’

‘And if you can’t?’

‘Then I accept it.’  He put the towel on the sofa and stood up to leave.

‘Not before that is away.  Start as you mean to go on at least.’  Dain nodded and put it back in the wash rooms before they made their way back to Tanacia’s suite.  She nodded approvingly as they came back in.   Aldor raced passed them as they arrived, he was headed to the lock up.  Lucca knew then what she was going to do.  Sergei was sat talking to Hylissa and Karis and Hruse was nowhere to be seen.

‘Is this necessary Tanacia?’  Tevran asked.

‘You think she should be allowed to put herself and the entire family at risk without any repercussions?  Go and find my mother and Sayita, tell them I need them here as soon as possible.’  He stood up and left, dragging his feet.  ‘Quickly.’  With a jump, he started to move with a purpose.  ‘Sit down Lucca.’  She looked to Dain to see if he followed suit.  He stood immobile and waited.  ‘Good, come through, I want to have a look at you.’  He looked back to Lucca who shrugged before following her to the bedroom.  ‘Lie down on the bed, face down.’  She said as she closed the door behind her.  ‘Take your top off, I can’t do anything if that is in the way.’  He did as he was bidden and she ran her hand across his back, her fingertips brushing the burn mark.  ‘Do you still need a reminder?’

‘No Mistress.’  As soon as he spoke he felt the chill of magic seeping into his wound.

‘What magic did she leave you when she attached the tether?’  Tanacia asked when she had finished healing the burn on his back.  ‘I might have a use for you today my pet.  That’s the only reason I’m healing you, it won’t take much to leave another like it, do you understand?’

‘Yes Mistress, your sister left all my magic intact.’

‘Then tell me what you can do.’

‘I can port, use fireballs and can make things from water Mistress.’

‘Hydrokenesis is a rare talent.  You won’t use any magic without my express permission unless you are using a shield to defend yourself.  Any unauthorised form of attack will be punished.’

She left him to put his top back on and follow her back into the main living area of her suite.  Hruse and Karis were back waiting with Lucca and Sergei, Aldor was still in the lock up mixing potions for her and Tevran was on his way back to her suite with Sayita and Danita.  When everyone was sat down she told what she thought Remi had done.

‘Did she tell either of you?’  Both women shook their heads.  ‘Then I’m keeping these two.’  She nodded at Tevran and Dain.  ‘She needs to learn a lesson.  I am the head of this house now and she has endangered everyone in it.  We have to move on Marchones now, earlier than I wanted to, we will have to work together with the number of men he has there, even if I am to defeat him alone according to the ‘prophecy’’.  She spat the word.  ‘I don’t need all those men as distractions.’

‘So you have found a way through his alarm system and passed the guards?’  Danita asked.

‘Dain has showed me a way that could work.  I want you to tether the other men in the lock up that still have magic for some extra help.  It’s up to you whether you keep them afterwards.  If you don’t want to I am sure there are plenty of jobs at the hospital that they helped destroy.’

‘How long until we leave?’

‘As soon as everyone is primed and you have tethered the others successfully.’  Danita and Sayita both stood and left.  ‘Sergei you will work with Hylissa today, she needs someone to back her up while she is fighting.’  He nodded.  Hylissa accepted his tether as two serving men entered with breakfast on a heated trolley.  Tanacia caught the look that passed between them but left it unmentioned, she had other things to worry about.

As soon as everyone had finished eating and Danita and Sayita returned with the other men, she ordered Dain to port them all to the foot of the pathways leading to Marchones hideout.  It was a small pathway and if the guards saw them there would be no room to fight in more than twos.  She knew carnage would ensue so she set about taking the guards silently and porting them back home to the lock up before they had any chance to make a noise or raise an alarm.  She knew Marchones would know in about fifteen minutes when they were supposed to check in with him and let him know the pass was still clear but until then she had the advantage and she was going to use it.  They all crept up the pass and fanned out around the cavern careful of being seen or making any noise, there were at least another twenty men inside with Marchones.  Dain carefully undid the magic in the alarm system making sure there were no traps set around them before they moved.  Tanacia gave a nod and silently they moved into the mouth of the cavern, darkness swept around them from all sides and the silence descended.  Tanacia felt the wrongness of the magic that had been used inside the cavern but she felt the wrongness of the situation, Tevran touched her shoulder gently before shaking his head.

‘Search the entire bloody cave.  I want to know where he has gone.’  She threw a ball of light into the middle of the cave so everyone could see each other.  There were tunnels peeling off at odd angles still shrouded in the darkness.  ‘You never mentioned them.’  She tilted her head as she spoke to Dain, he wrung his hands.

‘They weren’t here when I was.  I told you everything I knew.’

‘Search them in twos.’

The guards had been a decoy, he had left them to their fate willingly to stop her from following him, Remi was nowhere to be seen and she felt the unspoken words from everyone.  Marchones had Remi somewhere and they didn’t know what he had done to her.  Even worse he had a way of taking a widow’s magic.  Tanacia didn’t want to think about that.

She waited as they came back told her where the tunnel led and if there was anything of any significance, the only thing that was noted from each of them was thins lay strewn across the floor as if they had been left in a hurry.  It seemed he had grabbed Remi and run.

 

******************************************************************


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