This week, Ronovan challenged us to write a story based on the following sentence:
Ticks and tocks of essential time, sink the spirits lower than wine.
To find out more about Ronovan’s challenge click here.
I’m cutting it fine this week, and I have good news and bad news. The good is that I finally managed to finish the story! The not so good is that I couldn’t complete it within the suggested word limit. As it is a suggested limit I don’t feel too bad, although I did double the 500 word target!
As this is the third part, here is a quick summary of the previous installments:
Maddison Wood is a mercenary. She is also a powerful witch, and a member of the Enchanted League. When the Hympe King contracts a virus, and his people begin to get sick, Maddison agrees to help. Her partner in crime, a werewolf named Riley, located the source of the virus – a hympe who imprisoned himself in the shape of a tree (hympe’s are shapeshifters). The Hympe King is the only one who can free the prisoner but, due to an uncontrollable rage brought on by the fever, the team might not be able to contain him long enough for him to focus his power.
Feverish Part 3
Marcus and the siren twins made it in under thirty minutes. All three guards looked exhausted; their expressions grim, their shoulders hunched. Of course, they had the added weight of a king on their shoulders, since they were carrying Tobias – literally.
“We don’t have much time,” Marcus said, and his voice was heavy with fatigue.
Maddison made her way over to the group, with Riley on her heels. The tension was so thick, it was like wading through treacle. Jonas’ words sprang to mind; their commander and chief had a tendency towards the dramatics. Maddison could hear his voice in her head, like an echo of his earlier warning.
Ticks and tocks of essential time, sink the spirits lower than wine.
That mission hadn’t gone so well, and Maddison still remembered the bitter taste of their defeat. But they wouldn’t lose this time. She wouldn’t allow it.
“What’s the plan?” she asked Marcus. “Other than poking the bear and waking his ass up.”
Riley’s low rumble of laughter did nothing to ease the animosity. It was leaking out of Marcus’ pores and, since he ignored her question, Maddison took that as a zero in the ideas department.
By the time they lowered Tobias to the ground, Maddison was out of patience. She didn’t have it in her to argue protocol, or worse, debate over how they would handle Tobias’ condition.
She knelt beside him and focused her power. Her hair shot out, the braid controlled, and as lethal as a snake, her locks wound themselves tight around Tobias’ torso. When she had enough energy focused on her silken trap, she leaned forward to take Tobias’ hand until her fingers brushed the wide band on his finger. Maddison had given the ring to him for protection, to anchor him in the present. It had worked before, and she had to believe it would work again.
“Wake him,” she said to Marcus, and cut off his protest before he could utter a word. “We don’t have time to argue.”
Marcus didn’t like it, she could feel his anxiety, yet she knew he couldn’t deny her connection to his king.
Maddison closed her eyes, pushing out with her mind to find Tobias. ‘How’re you holding up, half-blood?’ she asked. It probably wasn’t a good idea to push his buttons, but it hadn’t stopped her before.
Every muscle in Tobias’ body locked, and she knew he was getting ready to fight the binds. ‘What’s happening?’
He sounded confused, whether from the prolonged sleep or the amount of power she was using, Maddison’ couldn’t be sure. ‘You’re sick, and the virus has put you in a perpetual bad mood, so you need to get a hold on that temper and help us out.’
‘I hurt you.’
Maddison felt her brows draw together, and for a second she thought her brain had scrambled too. Then she remembered he’d drawn blood during their fight; the first indication of the illness. ‘Yes, I still owe you for that one, but we’ll save the rematch for when you’re not feeling so cranky.’
The question came from one of the twins. Maddison didn’t know which one, it took all her effort to hold on when Tobias began to thrash. ‘Stop.’ She directed a blast of power into the ring, and felt it heat beneath her fingers. ‘You need to focus your energy to use your gift.’ When Tobias’ body stilled again, Maddison forged ahead. ‘Your people are sick, Tobias. You have to help them.’
Tobias didn’t reply, but he didn’t move either. So she told him about the hympe who had imprisoned himself in the form of a tree, one of Tobias’ subjects in desperate need for an intervention. She didn’t tell him they were running out of time, or that the hympe was the key to curing him.
She wanted to sag in relief when she felt Tobias’ power dance with her own. He was reaching out, using his entire focus. She didn’t move. Maddison remained locked in place, ignoring the pain in her skull and the exertion of maintaining the connection.
Maddison had no idea that Tobias’ guards were using their skills to strengthen that hold. All three had linked to their king and were helping to ease his growing frustration.
Riley, whose animal half had detected Maddison’s distress, howled in warning. She felt his presence like a comforting hand on her shoulder.
She knew the moment Tobias freed the hympe from his self-induced prison, but there was no pull of relief this time. Maddison didn’t have it in her. Tobias was straining against her, the rage hitting her in great waves as he struggled to regain control. She felt their connection break when he tugged his hand out of hers, and fear ran along her skin.
“Put him out,” Marcus barked, his voice coming from somewhere far away. “We need to get them out of here. Now.”
The second Tobias stilled again, Maddison let go. She didn’t have any choice. She had expelled too much energy and there was nothing left to give. There was nothing left to keep her upright either. If it hadn’t been for Riley, she would have fallen on her face.
Riley’s arms were like steel traps around her, and she leaned into his strength. Maddison even allowed it when he nuzzled his face into her neck. It was a compulsion of the wolf, and a sign of the animal’s affection. Still, she didn’t humour him for long. Her hair flipped out like a cat’s tail and flicked him playfully on the head. Maddison felt his body shudder with a growl of laughter.
“Okay, fur-face, stop slobbering on me and let me up. Our job here is done.”
Riley obliged with a wicked grin. “What about Tobias?” he asked, as she straightened.
“His guards will serve up the cure, and then I’ll serve up an ass kicking for all the shit he’s pulled.”
The rumble of amusement came again, deep from Riley’s chest. “You do know that he’s a king, right. And he happens to rule the League.”
Maddison shrugged. “Somebody has to keep him on his toes.” Then, because she was still feeling a little weak, she rerouted her energy and looked across the clearing. “Let’s get out of here. Make yourself useful and find the nearest portal.”
“Try to keep up,” Riley said in a low taunting voice, and set off at a run.
The burst of challenge was just what Maddison needed. Not to mention the satisfaction of knowing Tobias would be well, and sparring with her again in no time.
Thanks for stopping by.