Esmay's Sacrifice

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"The Gods have spoken, Murcod!" Amena, the Queen of the Pixies, paced the throne room, deftly stepping over the tree roots which veined the floor. Her eyes shone with a fanatical light. "Our salvation does indeed lie in Darag-Leigh. Our time of magical famine in Adven is almost over."

"You gather this solely from Esmay's visit?" Amena's consort sat in a plain stone chair, to the right of the throne. He gestured to a serving girl standing by the door. "Bring me wine."

The girl poured a red liquid into a stemmed glass, etched with designs of dragonflies. Some slopped onto the serving table. The girl's dusky blue skin paled, and she glanced at the Queen, who didn't notice. Murcod did, but he only motioned for her to clean the mess.

Amena stopped before him. "The Gods delivered her to us. Lucian Rosen has been looking for his wife and daughter, and we found her. We give him Esmay and the child, he completes the sacrifice, and when he rules Darag-Leigh, he will allow us entrance to the Realm."

"You hold too much faith in Lucian Rosen. He is an impulsive fool."

"He is our ticket out of Adven. Once Arden is gone, there will be no stopping us." Amena turned to the serving girl. " Get me Jorlo."

Hiding the wine-stained towel in the folds of her skirt, the girl left and within seconds the Pixie charged with being her Messenger hurried through the door. Thin and of small stature, the man appeared perpetually frightened. "Your Majesty?"

"I need you to take a message to Lucian Rosen, in Darag-Leigh, in the Realm."

"The Realm? I thought the Pixies..."

Amena quirked an eyebrow at him, and he pressed his lips shut.

"You will take a guide. I need you to tell Lucian I know where his wife is, and I understand this information is quite valuable to him. Tell him I would like to meet with him as soon as possible to discuss the situation at hand, before Esmay disappears again."

"Yes, Your Majesty."

Amena nodded. "If he tries to brush you off, you must make him understand Esmay is very frightened and may not stay nearby for long. When you return, report to me immediately, regardless of the time. I want to hear what Lucian's reply is."

###

Esmay scrutinized the faces of the crowded parking lot at the base of Devil's Tower through the front window of her rental car. Once satisfied no immediate danger lurked nearby, she slipped out of the car and zipped up her fleece jacket. Lakota legend related the Great Spirit raised the ground which formed the monument to protect young Lakota girls being chased by bears. Hopefully she would find her, and her daughter's, salvation here as well.

She strode down the concrete path to the Pixie dwelling. Aspen trees lined the way. They'd already lost their leaves to the chill in the air, and their white bark stretched upward like ghostly sprites. Her eyes continuously scanned the forest for one of Lucian's creatures. She knew he'd been searching for her, which was why she'd left Hazel with her cousins. The memory of her daughter, so tiny but determined even at two months of age, brought a smile to her lips. She was the only good thing her marriage to Lucian produced.

A shift of shadow caught her eye, and she jerked to a halt, suddenly aware of the isolation around her. Where had all the people gone?

A figure stepped from behind a tree, backlit by the sun. "Hello, Wife."

The cold snarl inhabiting those two words froze Esmay's heart.

"Wh-what are you doing here."

"A little birdie told me. One of your flock betrayed you."

Esmay shook her head. It had to have been the Pixies. No one else knew where she was. Tears sprang to her eyes, the betrayal a raw wound. Why?

Lucian stalked toward her, a feral gleam in his eyes. Esmay backed away and glanced over her shoulder. One of Lucian's servants blocked the path behind her.

"I won't let you harm Hazel." Before Lucian could get any closer, Esmay darted off the path and sprinted through the forest, away from Lucian her only destination.

The sound of footsteps pounded behind her, and a hand circled her wrist, jerking her to a stop so hard her feet slipped from under her. She dropped on her back, and screamed as her shoulder dislocated. Lucian straddled her rib cage and leaned forward. She screamed again as her shoulder snapped from the weight.

"I don't even have to keep you alive long enough to find out where Hazel is. I already know. I'll just enjoy killing you." 

"You can't...know." Sobs tore from her throat.

"All right, maybe I don't." He wrapped his hands around her neck and pressed against the front of her throat. Esmay gagged, and clawed at him with her good arm. "I know someone who does. And that's good enough."

A sense of floating came over Esmay. The moans and grunts she made as she suffocated seemed to come from someone else. She fixed her thoughts on Hazel, and tears ran out of the corner of her eyes. Lucian was wrong. No one but she knew where Hazel was, and when she was dead, Hazel would be safe.

She stopped fighting, and watched the prayer cloths tied in the tree branches flicker in the breeze, waiting for the Great Spirit to come claim her.

###

Amena shoved back the hood of her cloak and glared at the man half-hidden in shadow. Frosty air pinched the tips of her blue, pointed ears.

"How stupid could you be! What were you thinking?" she said, through gritted teeth.

"Watch your tongue when you speak to me. Pixie Queen or not, I won't be insulted by a woman." The part of his face Amena saw twisted with rage.

"And I didn't risk this trip to Darag-Leigh to be yelled at by a hot-headed human. Answer me this. How smart is it you killed Esmay before knowing where the child is?"

"You stated you knew where they were."

"No, I stated I knew where Esmay was. Now we don't get to be friends, and it's all your fault."

"What is that supposed to mean?"

"If you'd waited to kill Esmay until after you spoke to me, we would have found the child and could have reached an agreement beneficial to both you and the Pixies. Now, to get what I want, I must tell Arden about the travesty you've committed."

"You're out of your mind!" The anxious frown that creased his eyebrows pleased Amena. He feared discovery, and so she still controlled his future. All was not lost.

"We can still reach an agreement, but the Pixies need to be assured of your cooperation. You must agree that when you are leader of Darag-Leigh, the Pixies will be there with you, and I won't have to tell Arden anything. The Pixies will help you find your daughter, so you will become ruler. She must be near our dwellings."

"Threatening me is not the way to obtain my cooperation." While tense, the man's voice had lowered several decibels.

"I'm not threatening. I'm just making sure we understand each other. You know, Lucian, a gentleman would invite their guest inside, instead of making them stand in the cold."

With a growl, Lucian stomped over to one of the hidden side doors of Rosen Manor and jerked it open. "You want to be seen in my home?"

"You don't need to worry." She smiled as she passed by him. "I can handle myself."

Without any effort, she arranged the illusion of being a petite, blond-haired woman, the kind Lucian frequently bed. Her thoughts lingered there for a moment as she drank in the sight of Lucian's full lips, and tight muscles. A seductive warmth lit her from the inside, but she took a deep breath to clear the desire. She'd come back later for some fun, and Lucian would never know. Right now she had business to attend to.

"What do you think of this disguise? Is it to your liking?" She leaned forward so her breasts brushed against him, and lightly stroked his earlobe with a finger. He didn't need to answer. The throb of his pulse, which quickened under her fingertip as she caressed her finger along his neck, told her what she needed to know. "Aaah, now that's definitely better. Let's go somewhere we can finalize our...business...together."


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