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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Diamond Elf - Chapter 34

Chapter 34


     Gabriel paced his room. It had been three days since he’d left Chelindra with the Emperor, and he hadn’t heard from – or of – her since. If the messenger he’d sent to Jacen – since he still wasn’t openly the official heir to the throne, and trying to contact the Emperor directly would look suspicious – didn’t return soon, he was going to go pound on his father’s door. Secrecy be damned!
     Finally, someone knocked on the door, and Arden carefully checked to see if it was friend or foe. Deeming it safe, he opened the door to reveal Jacen.
     “She’s fine, and you will see her soon!” Jacen spit out, and turned to leave.
     “Wait! Where is she?” Gabriel wanted to know.
     Jacen hesitated. The Emperor was getting old, and he knew Gabriel would be his employer someday. If he wanted to keep his job in the future, he had to balance out his duty to the current Emperor, with courtesy to the future one.    “She’s… currently taking a bath, and after that, she’ll be in a cell where you can visit her for a bit.”
     “A cell? Chelindra is a high-ranking prisoner! By rights, she should be in a luxury suite!” Gabriel protested.
     Jacen shrugged. “That’s not up to me.”
     “Take me to see my father,” Gabriel demanded.
     “No. Sorry, but I can’t. Just be patient for a little while longer, and I’ll be back to take you to her.” Jacen left the room before Gabriel could say anything more.
     Meanwhile, Chelindra was using her newly discovered talents to turn the water in this relatively small tub warm and bubbly. There were four guards standing around the tub with orders to keep their eyes on her at all times, and four more guards standing around the room with orders to keep an eye on everything else. The guards were there to prevent her escape, and also to protect her in case anyone else tried to harm her.
     Incidentally, there were eight more guards out in the hall as added protection. This was mostly incase she tried to escape. Everyone knew that there could be a hundred times as many men, and it wouldn’t stop her, but at least the Emperor felt he was doing something to show his might.
     “Could you hand me that scented oil?” Chelindra asked a guard. 48 hours in the oubliette had given her time to meditate and atone for her sins. She gave her mind over to the Gods, and allowed them to mentally torture her all they wanted.
     They figured that if she wanted to be tortured, they had no reason not to, so they showed her exactly what Gabriel went through… Twice. The first time, she was Gabriel, and that was horrible enough. The second time, she was John the sadist. The twisted pleasure she felt as she abused the love of her life was enough to drive her nearly insane, and she screamed for at least three hours straight.
     When Jacen finally came to get her, he stared down into the 20 foot deep pit filled with about 6 inches of excrement and other waste, and saw that she had completely rolled around her temporary prison, and had done something to her hair that made it look like it was standing straight out in all directions. He lowered the wooden chair. It dangled at the end of two sturdy ropes that were tied to it in a way that made it impossible for the chair to flip and dump its burden.
     When Chelindra stood up from the chair, she looked Jacen in the eyes, and informed him. “You will give me a bath, and you will also provide me with a variety of scented salts, soaps, and oils!”
     Jacen looked in her eyes, and by the fire he saw there, knew she was serious. She didn’t ask for food. She didn’t ask for anything to drink. She demanded a bath, and honestly, Jacen couldn’t blame her.
     Chelindra didn’t even question the guards. She simply enjoyed the bath, washing away the horrid stench with one tub full of water, and replacing it with a variety of much more pleasant smells in a clean tub of water.  This particular oil smelled like dirt.
     “Ugh! You can put this one back, and hand me a different one,” Chelindra said.
     The one guard who had been designated her helper, accepted the vial from her, and smelled the rest. “This one smells the best, I think.”
     Chelindra accepted the vial, and passed it under her nose. “Ahhh! Lovely. Yes, this will do, thank you.”
     “You know, if you need any help, I would be happy to lend a hand,” the guard – Balian – offered.
     I’m sure you would! Chelindra mentally rolled her eyes. “Thank you, could you apply this to my back?” She leaned completely forward to expose her back.
Just as Chelindra had decided to enjoy his soothing touch – in a completely non-sexual way – Jacen returned to check on her progress.
     “Fool! Are you trying to get yourself killed?” The head bodyguard demanded.
     “No sir! I was just helping out is all,” Balian justified his actions.
     “You may see it that way, but if you got even the tiniest bit fresh with her, she would have killed you before you realized she had moved!” Jacen berated him.
     “Aw Jacen, you flatterer! I probably would have warned him first,” Chelindra chuckled. She stood, and rubbed the oil on her lower half.
     Jacen narrowed his eyes in suspicion.
     “Can I have a towel please?” Chelindra asked. She used her magic to swirl her hair up and off her neck. It formed a sort of messy makeshift bun.
     Jacen handed her a rough but large towel, and she used it to rub the excess oil off her skin as she stepped out of the tub.
     “Are you done yet?” Jacen inquired.
     “Almost,” Chelindra stood sawing the towel back and forth all over her body for a few moments, and then tossed it to the floor. “Who has my clothes?”
     Balian, the helpful guard, located them, and handed her a piece at a time. The rest of the guards couldn’t quite suppress a groan of disappointment that the show was over. Chelindra laughed.
     “You do know that these guards are a bit too distracted to stop me, right?” She remarked. “This is an instance where having women trained as soldiers and bodyguards might come in handy.”
     “Not likely, they’d have no chance of overpowering you,” Jacen grunted. This was actually a lofty compliment coming from him, but Chelindra opted not to push his buttons just yet by pointing that out.
     The guards escorted her to the cell assigned to her. It was small but relatively private, and had a bench that passed for a cot, and a few strips of cloth that passed for blankets. The only window was a fairly large barred one on the door, so she would have nothing to look at but the guards, and they would be able to see what she was doing at all times.
     This is actually a luxury suite compared to the oubliette. Has less vermin and pests too. Chelindra sat on the cot, and closed her eyes.
     “Do you plan to feed me?” She wondered.
     “I think so,” Balian answered.
     By this time, Jacen had made his way back to Gabriel’s room. Gabriel sat pushing food around on his plate, and was looking a bit on the thin side again.
     “Come on,” Jacen ordered, and observed the pile of uneaten food on his plate. “And bring that with you.”
     A few minutes later, Gabriel followed Jacen along a corridor that clearly demarked the end of the pleasant palace hallways, and the start of the ones most people hoped to never see. Arden followed as he was not supposed to let Gabriel out of his sight, ever. The trio walked through an astonishing labyrinth of tunnel-like hallways, and finally ended up in a large room full of men.
     “Nothing new to report, sir!” The head guard saluted, obviously a trained soldier.
     Jacen gestured for the soldier to stand at ease, and instructed, “Gabriel is allowed full access to the prisoner at any time for however long he wants. When he wants to leave, he may do so, and one of you men will need to lead him – and Arden here – back to the palace proper, you hear?”
     “Yes sir!” They chorused.
     Jacen nodded at Gabriel, and left. Arden took note that this room housed a total of 24 men, and that they apparently had a rotation where 16 men would be on duty at all times while the other 8 rested. That meant that Chelindra had a lot of men here doing nothing but guarding her. He shook his head at the waste, but said nothing.
     Gabriel had no attention to spare the guards, or anything else. He only had eyes for Chelindra.
     The helpful guard didn’t wait to be asked, and unlocked the cell for Gabriel. He relocked it after Gabriel stepped inside.
     “You brought me food?” Chelindra grinned.
     Gabriel handed her his plate, and she tucked into it with gusto. Gabriel gave her some time, but then his curiosity got the better of him.
     “What did they do to you?”
     “They tried to torture me, but a fat lot of good that did them,” Chelindra chuckled.
     “Torture you how?” Gabriel pressed for more details.
     “Oh… they whipped me, beat me, drowned me, lit me on fire, crushed me with a 2-ton boulder, and then struck me with lightning. That one actually hurt,” Chelindra informed him, and then snickered slightly. “I thoroughly exasperated the torture master. He vowed to break me, but all he managed to do was piss me off. I was told his throat did not collapse, and that he will recover in due time. Pity…”
     Gabriel gaped at her. She was joking at a time like this?! “I’m serious Chelindra, I want to know.”
     “I just told you,” Chelindra replied seriously.
     “That bastard! I’ll kill him!” Gabriel vowed.
     “Which one?” Chelindra queried.
     “The Emperor!”
     Arden cleared his throat. “I have been strictly forbidden from allowing you to kill the Emperor.”
     “Spoil sport!” Chelindra nearly sang. Now that she was full, and Gabriel was with her, she could withstand anything. She was even a bit happy. As far as she was concerned, she had made her penance, but she was willing to stay longer in order to convince the citizens of the Empire that she was truly sorry.
     “I’m fine Gabriel. I’m not even scratched. There’s no reason to kill the Emperor… yet,” Chelindra assured him.
     “Not gonna happen!” Arden near sang back.
     Chelindra laughed. “Oh, I like him!”
     A draft caused Gabriel to shiver.
     “Are you cold? Here,” Chelindra offered to wrap them both in the strips of material that were supposed to be her blankets. Once they were bundled, she allowed just enough of her magic loose to warm him.
     “I haven’t been able to sleep without you,” Gabriel confessed.
     “Neither have I, but ironically not for the same reason. I turned my mind over to my Gods, and they punished me as they saw fit.” Chelindra shuddered.
     “What did they do?” Gabriel inquired.
     “You know those nightmares Princess Amara suffered?” Chelindra countered.
     “Yeah,” Gabriel swallowed to wet his suddenly dry mouth.
     “Now I’ve had them too.”
     “Oh Chelindra…” Gabriel was stunned, and stroked her face. “Why would you let them do that to you?”
     “I didn’t know what they would do, but I am glad that I… I now know exactly what you went through. It was eating me up not knowing… only guessing.”
     “Can you blame me for not wanting to talk about it? John nearly tortured me to death!” Gabriel exclaimed.
     “Shh… love,” Chelindra soothed him. “I don’t want you to suffer. I’ll never bring it up again.”
     “The thought of them doing that to you…” Gabriel nearly cried, his voice quivering.
     “They couldn’t!” Chelindra assured him. “They tried everything they could think of to hurt me, and nothing worked.”
     “You didn’t mention rape…” Gabriel pointed out quietly.
     “I let them know rape was not an option. No one dared, and the one that came the closest to touching me there… Well, I kicked his chin and now he’s dead,” she sighed. “Another death to atone for.”
     Gabriel chuckled. “Chelindra, you killed a professional torturer, I think even his Gods will forgive you for that one.”
     Chelindra shook her head. He doesn’t understand. “Can we just go back in time to the day we first met? I promise you, this time I will take you by the hand, run away with you, and forget the world even exists. I’d bring you to the Elven Realm, and we could live our lives happily there forever.”
     Gabriel stroked her cheek. “If we did that, then you would not have married Aeryc; you would not be carrying this child.”
     “I would be carrying your child instead!”
     “But what of your kingdom?” Gabriel asked. “Our child would not carry enough Elven blood to rule.”
     “So let someone else rule for a few thousand years!” Chelindra burst out.
     “What about the Empire? What about Arminta? We would not be experiencing peace for the first time in centuries without you,” Gabriel reminded her.
     She sighed. “I know…”
     “You keep mourning the slaughter of those men, but you did what you had to do,” Gabriel gave his opinion.
     Chelindra stared at him in shock. “Are you saying that when you are Emperor, you will do what you have to do, even if thousands die because of it?”
     Gabriel gaped at her. “Gods no! I sincerely hope I can make better choices than that!”
     “Exactly! That is why I am so upset! Why didn’t I make better choices?!”
     Gabriel pulled her head onto his chest, and remained silent. There was nothing he could say. He held her until her breathing returned to normal, and she looked up at him.
     “Kiss me,” she whispered, and he complied.
     “This is better than an opera,” one of the guards whispered to another.
     “I know,” another quietly agreed. “I just wish I had something crunchy to snack on.”
     “That’s forbidden love right there,” drawled a third guard.
     “Did you know he was the Emperor’s son?” A fourth guard asked in a tone he thought no one unintended would hear.
     Arden glared at them, “Not one word of this escapes your lips, or rest assured I will inform Jacen that the leak is right here in this room.”
     They all nodded.
     Chelindra and Gabriel had plenty of experience kissing without the intention of going any farther, so they entertained their audience for at least an hour before they snuggled up, and fell asleep.
     Arden glanced around again, and sighed. There was nowhere for him to get some sleep, so he guessed he’d have to sleep sitting up by the wall next to the fire. The fire was in a hearth designed to keep the guards relatively warm without making the prisoner too comfortable.
     He settled himself, and ordered the guards to wake him if his charge decided he wanted out of the tiny cell.


Go To Chapter 35

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