The Tale of a Mage (part 22)

The rest of the day was uneventful. Nyx and Livia made the most of the remaining time they were not required to feign affection for each other, taking off in opposite directions to explore the city. Izzy and Cassandra returned to their quarters at the castle to spend some much needed downtime together. In the evening, they dined with King Horrik and bid him farewell before retiring for an early night. Unlike the previous night, Nyx was provided with her own bedroom which proved a welcome relief given she was going to need to spend an enormous amount of time with Livia in the following days.

They all rose early and made their way to the kitchens to scavenge up some breakfast. After they had eaten their fill of the castle’s plentiful meats and breads the cook helped them pack fruit and meats of the dried variety for their journey. They thanked her, bidding all the kitchen staff goodbye, before heading down to the docks. Drucilla was waiting for them when they arrived.

“Good morning!” Drucilla beamed at them. “This way she gestured in the direction of a small sail boat.

“Nice ship,” Livia smirked.

“Well, I could hardly sail my warship with a crew of five.” Drucilla climbed into the boat and indicated the others should follow her.

“So, you still have the warship?” Livia sounded sceptical.

“Of course” Drucilla shook her head as if she found the mere suggestion things might be otherwise absurd. “You can put your things in the cabin. She stated once everyone was on board.

Nyx groaned inwardly at the statement. Cabin in the singular. That meant they would all have to share it. There would be no option for Livia and herself to sleep on opposite sides of their room at night. This whole couple thing was going to have to continue for the entire time they were on the boat even when they were sleeping. Livia appeared equally displeased.

“Don’t fret” Drucilla noted their discomfort “You can still have alone time when you want it. Just let me know if you need the use of the cabin during the day and I’ll make sure you’re not disturbed.” Drucilla winked at Nyx. Livia blushed profusely.

“Uh.. thanks.” Nyx mumbled.

Drucilla busied herself preparing the boat for departure and Livia begrudgingly helped her. Izzy and Cassandra took everyone’s belongings to the cabin. Nyx sat down with a sigh. She knew nothing about boats so there was little she could do to assist. Izzy and Cassandra had remained in the cabin presumably taking advantage of Drucilla’s offer of alone time. For the moment Nyx was left with her thoughts. Would she and Livia have to cuddle at night? She wondered. She certainly hoped not.

It was not long before they were underway. Drucilla took up a position at the helm and Livia came to sit beside Nyx. Nyx grimaced for a moment before plastering on a sickly sweet smile. Livia, noting Drucilla’s eyes upon them, reached for Nyx’s hand and gave it a light squeeze. Nyx couldn’t quite mask her frown. Drucilla regarded them quizzically for a moment and Livia squeezed her hand harder in warning.

“Come over here for a moment, dear.” Drucilla gestured for Nyx to approach her. Nyx leapt up eager for an opportunity to distance herself from Livia.  Catching herself, she took a moment to pat Livia on the shoulder in a manner she hoped conveyed affection before crossing the deck towards Drucilla keeping her movement to a moderate pace. Upon reaching Drucilla she fixed her with an expectant stare.

“You’re uncomfortable” Drucilla fixed her with a penetrating gaze.

“I… n-no… uh…” Nyx stuttered “Just a bit sea sick is all.”

“No, you’re not.” Drucilla brushed her fingers down Nyx’s arm in reassurance. “It’s okay. You have nothing to worry about.”

“I don’t?” Nyx inquired.

“Your jealousy is unnecessary.”   Drucilla continued to stroke her arm.

“Jealousy?” Nyx choked.

“It might appear from Livia’s behaviour that she still has feelings for me but I assure you that is not the case. Livia cares only for her pride and I’m afraid I have wounded it deeply.” Drucilla explained, “I pose no threat to your relationship.”

“Um… That’s a relief.” Nyx congratulated herself on restraining an eye roll.

“You sound uncertain” Drucilla rested her hand on Nyx’s shoulder “Please, do not see me as a rival. I would very much like to be friends.”

“Friends sounds nice.” Nyx grinned.

“Wonderful!” Drucilla gave Nyx’s shoulder a squeeze. “Would you like me to teach you how to steer the boat.”

“I would love that!” Nyx squealed, her Livia related woes momentarily forgotten.

Livia watched them with a deepening scowl. This development was not good. Drucilla and Nyx as friends was a truly terrifying prospect. Nyx, as much as she infuriated her, was rarely successful in her plots and shenanigans. Drucilla, on the other hand, was somewhat… competent. She didn’t think Drucilla would be willing to participate in Nyx’s ongoing plot to kill her. That at least was a relief. However, the friendship was sure to result in endless trouble. Not to mention the closer they got the more likely Nyx would be to let slip that their relationship was a ruse. Livia felt a shiver of dread creep down her spine.

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The Tale of a Mage (part 21)

Izzy approached swiftly in response to Livia’s shout. Cassandra followed close behind. Drucilla took a seat at the table and helped herself to more mead. The cup had just reached her lips as Izzy came to a stop directly in front of her. Izzy wasted no time on idle chatter.

“King Horrik wishes you removed from his kingdom.” Izzy looked Drucilla up and down appraisingly “I have been tasked to ensure that happens.” Drucilla rose from the table with a dramatic sigh.

“Captain Drucilla” She introduced herself with mock bow “Do take a seat so we may discuss how I can be of assistance to you, Princess.”

“You can be of assistance to me by leaving this Kingdom.” Izzy remained standing.

“Oh, I’m capable of so much more, Princess.” Drucilla sat back down and took a swig of mead. “I hear you are currently on the run. I hear you are in need of an army to overthrow your mother. I also hear King Horrik refuses to provide one.”

“It would seem you have heard many things.” Izzy’s expression remained unreadable.

“I can provide your army.” Drucilla gestured to the seat across from her.

“Don’t believe a word she says!” Livia glowered “That woman cannot be trusted.”

“Still testy about your father’s ship, love?” Drucilla smirked “I did care for you, you know? I just wanted that ship more.” Drucilla turned her attention to Nyx. “Livia’s father is a famous pirate hunter” she explained. “Many years ago, I appropriated one of his warships. Before that Livia may have been under the mistaken impression I was going to marry her…”

May have been?” Livia stared at her incredulously for a moment before catching herself. “Well, it’s probably for the best” she shrugged “as you can see I have done quite well for myself.”

“Bodyguard for a runaway, Princess? My you have indeed gone far” Drucilla’s voice dripped with sarcasm. “I concede, your girlfriend is cute. Clearly has a penchant for thievery though. You have a type perhaps?”

“Where is your crew, Captain?” Livia retorted smugly “I haven’t heard reports of them in the area.”

“We parted ways” Drucilla shrugged “a difference in vision. They were satisfied with attacking merchant ships. I had bigger goals.”

“Spending your days drinking in a Dwarven tavern and harassing the locals? You certainly do have high aspirations for yourself.” Livia scoffed.

“How did you know I was a thief?” Nyx interjected, a puzzled look marking her features.

“I have an eye for such things, dear.” Drucilla smiled indulgently before turning her attention back to Izzy “Now take a seat, Princess. We have much to discuss.”

“It couldn’t hurt to listen to what she has to say, at least.” Cassandra looked to Izzy.

“Very well” Izzy sat down in the offered chair. Livia groaned in resignation slumping into the seat to her right. Cassandra took the one to her left.  Nyx remained standing which did not pass Drucilla’s notice.

“Did she spank you?” Drucilla’s eyes fell on Nyx a slight smirk appearing on her face. “She tried that with me a few times…” she leaned closer to and continued her voice just above a whisper “…I liked it. She, on the other hand, was not pleased when I expressed my appreciation by returning the favour.” Nyx almost choked on her mouthful of mead and Livia’s scowl deepened.

“That’s enough personal talk.” Drucilla turned her attention back to Izzy “It’s time for business. I’m sure you’ve heard of the Lost Isle of the Fae?”

“The Isle of the Fae is a myth.” Livia growled

“I assure you it’s very real.” Drucilla continued to address Izzy.

“You’ve seen it then?” Livia challenged

“Well, no. However, I know a reliable source who has.”

“Reliable source?” Livia scoffed “More like a drunken sailor I’d bet.”

“Your opinion is of no consequence.” Drucilla shot Livia a look of mild annoyance “I was addressing the Princess.” She paused for a moment, Livia grunted in response. “Now, Princess. Imagine sailing back to these shores with an army of Fae? King Horrik would surely support your cause then.”

“I’m sure he would if the Fae truly exist” Izzy pondered “I suppose it is worth investigating.”

“What?!” Livia spluttered.

“Do not misunderstand me.” Izzy’s serious stare bore into Drucilla for a moment “I will not start believing a children’s tale on the word of a pirate. I am well aware that we would not be having this conversation if she didn’t stand to benefit in some manner she has yet to reveal. However, there is often a margin of truth within myths, we may discover something of use. We can’t stay here taking advantage of King Horrik’s hospitality indefinitely, and with my mother still hunting us, crossing the seas may provide some degree of safety.  Additionally, it will fulfil our promise to remove her from this Kingdom.”

“Wonderful” Drucilla rose and extended her hand to Izzy. Izzy took it however her expression remained guarded. “I shall go make arrangements for our departure. Meet me at the docks at dawn.”  She threw Livia a final wink before spinning around and making her way out of the tavern. Livia’s expression remained thunderous long after Drucilla was gone. Nyx stood lost in thought a grin splayed across her face. This was going to be fun. Drucilla seemed like her type of person. Whatever she was planning Nyx wanted in on it. By the time they emerged from their respective musings Izzy and Cassandra had already left.

“Looks like you’re going to remain my girlfriend for a while longer” Livia grumbled. Nyx’s grin faded.

“You didn’t say anything about this being a long term thing.” Nyx shook her head vigorously.

“Well, if you would prefer to repay my gold…” Livia began

“Fine” Nyx snapped “but if you expect us to be sharing a room you’ll be the one sleeping on the floor this time.

“Fine” Livia growled, “but you had better convince Drucilla you enjoy my company.”

The Tale of a Mage (part 20)

Nyx pulled herself to a standing position. It took her a moment to steady herself on shaky legs. She gingerly ran her fingers over her bottom. It was so bruised that rubbing with any significant degree of vigour hurt too much. Glaring at Livia she pulled one of the blankets from the bed and made her way to the far side of the room. Slowly lowering herself to lie on her stomach on the hard stone floor, Nyx pulled the blanket over herself.

“You know you could sleep on the bed?” Livia smirked.

“I’m fine right here.” Nyx snapped.

“Suit yourself” Livia shrugged climbing into bed. Soon Livia was asleep. Her snoring filled the room.

Nyx shifted positions trying to get comfortable. Every so often she glanced longingly at the bed. She wouldn’t give in though. There was no way she would be sharing a bed with that sociopath. She heard footsteps approaching the door then a light knock followed by the jiggle of the door knob. Livia didn’t stir. Nyx’s stomach grumbled. That was probably someone bringing the food King Horrik promised. However, getting up to open the door might wake Livia and she had no desire to experience her company right now. With a dejected sigh, Nyx remained in her position on the floor. Soon she heard the sound of footsteps retreating. The day had been exhausting and, in spite of her discomfort, it was not long before Nyx also drifted off to sleep.

When Nyx awoke, it was to the sound of someone hammering on the door. She rubbed her eyes and awkwardly pulled herself to a standing position doing her best to avoid contact between her bottom and the hard stone floor. Livia sat up and scowled at the door, clearly displeased to have her sleep disrupted so abruptly. Before either of them could make their way to the door it clicked open and Cassandra burst into the room.

“It’s time for breakfast!” She chirped.

“Wasn’t that door locked? How did you..” Nyx began.

“I opened the door with magic” Cassandra explained “but maybe don’t tell Izzy that because I’m technically still not supposed to use magic without supervision. This spell was safe though there isn’t really anything that could have gone badly wrong.” Livia chuckled, her displeasure melting from her face. Now it was Nyx’s turn to scowl.

“We’ll keep it our little secret then.” Livia stood and made her way to the door giving Cassandra a light pat on the shoulder as she passed her.

Breakfast was a cheerful event. The hall was warm and the food was tasty and plentiful. After spending so long sustaining themselves on nuts and berries the freshly baked bread, glazed fruits, and roasted meats on offer were heavenly, even if Nyx had to eat them while standing. After they had gorged themselves on as much food as they could handle Izzy pulled herself from her seat.

“We had best go seek out this pirate.” She stated, turning and making her way out of the hall.

“Never asks, only orders,” Livia growled as the rest of the group rose to follow her.

“Reminds you too much of yourself?” Nyx quipped “and here I was thinking you were quite fond of yourself. Although, having experienced your company I’m not entirely surprised that you don’t like you.” Livia fixed Nyx with a glare and opened her mouth to retort.

“We’re falling behind” Cassandra interrupted breaking into a jog to catch up with Izzy. Livia and Nyx huffed in unison and followed her lead.

They made their way back down the cobbled streets. The city was much more lively during the day. Citizens filled the streets going about their daily business. Children sat near store fronts playing games with sets of brightly coloured stones. Before long they reached the tavern. Izzy immediately began questioning bar staff while Livia sat down at a table and gestured to a barmaid to bring her a pitcher of mead. Nyx glanced in her direction with raised eyebrows as the young dwarf returned with the order.

“This table is the perfect location to keep an eye on everything happening in this bar Livia smirked, “I wouldn’t be doing my job very well if I allowed a threat to the princess to go undetected.”

“Of course,” Nyx shook her head derision dripping from her voice “You’re just very dedicated to your job.”

“Indeed” Livia pushed a cup in Nyx’s direction. Nyx scowled for a moment before snatching the cup. Drinking mead was a far better way to spend the day than searching for some pirate at Izzy’s orders. She had never agreed to be Izzy’s subject yet she seemed to feel she had the right to continually tell her what to do. Screw Izzy, she took a large gulp of the mead. She glanced back in Livia’s direction in time to see the colour drain from her face.

“What?” Nyx snapped, her eyes following Livia’s stare. In the doorway stood a human woman. She was clad in leather armour. The jewelled handles of two daggers protruded from her belt. On each wrist, she wore several gold bangles. Her black curls were tied back and gold hoop earrings hung from her ears. Her sparkling hazel eyes were fixed firmly on Livia as she began to cross the room. Livia jumped to her feet with haste and wrapped an arm around Nyx’s shoulders.

“What the f…” Nyx spat out a mouthful of mead

“Convince her you’re my girlfriend and I’ll forget about the gold you owe me.” Livia cut Nyx off with a frantic whisper.

“Fine…” Nyx forced herself to smile as the woman came closer.

“Livia it’s been ages.” The woman took Livia’s cup winking at her before bringing it to her lips, taking a large swig. “Ah, nobody makes mead quite like the dwarves.” She handed the cup back to a scowling Livia. “I’ve missed you Liv.” She ran her fingers down Livia’s arm.

“I’m sorry, who are you?” Livia pushed her hand away.

“I see your new girlfriend bears some resemblance to me. That’s certainly telling.” The woman remained unfazed by Livia’s hostility. “I’m Drucilla” She extended a hand to Nyx. Nyx took it, her smile genuine now. She liked Drucilla she decided. This did not pass Livia’s attention and a look of alarm appeared on her face.

“Izzy!” Livia shouted, “We’ve found your pirate!”

The Tale of a Mage (part 19)

Nyx began to panic as Livia dragged her down the hall after Malcolm. She couldn’t have told anyone where the room Malcolm delivered them to was located in relation to Izzy and Cassandra’s room, the walk had passed in a blur. Images of her previous encounters with Livia’s ire invaded her mind and a shiver of dread crept down her spine. Livia, on the other hand, was in an excellent mood as Malcolm stopped at a second door.

“Would you like me to escort the other one to her quarters?” Malcolm turned a questioning gaze in Livia’s direction.

“Yes!” Nyx looked hopeful.

“No” Livia shook her head “The little elf stays with me tonight.”

“As you wish” Malcolm started off down the hall back in the direction of the dining room.

Livia pushed the door open and marched through it pulling Nyx in behind her. She let go of the rope, locking the door behind her. Nyx took the moment as an opportunity to distance herself from Livia, scampering to the other side of the room. Satisfied they would not be interrupted Livia turned and fixed Nyx with a predatory grin.

“I have been looking forward to this, little elf” She began to stalk towards Nyx at a leisurely pace. As Livia came closer Nyx backed further away. It was not long before her back met the wall. Heart pounding in her chest she glanced frantically from side to side searching for a means of escape. None presented itself.

“You should have learned by now” Livia chuckled “you can’t escape from me, little elf.” Livia lifted Nyx’s wrists and began to loosen the rope. There was no need to search her for weapons as they had all been taken from her after the attack. “I could leave you tied for this” she explained, “but the more you try to fight the more fun this is for me.”

“Fuck you!” Nyx spat “I would have succeeded in killing you if Izzy and Cassandra hadn’t interfered.”

“Don’t worry, little elf.” Livia slipped the rope from her wrists and took a rough hold of her arm, digging her fingers into the flesh hard enough to bruise. ”I haven’t forgotten. In fact, that’s one of the things we will be addressing tonight. In addition to the loss of my gold of course.”

Livia dragged a struggling Nyx across the room. The closer they got to the bed the harder Nyx fought to free herself. She kicked and tried to hit Livia with her free hand. As a last effort, she lowered her head and sank her teeth into the hand that gripped her arm. Livia hissed in response but maintained her hold. Sitting down on the edge of the bed she hauled Nyx over her lap. She pushed up her skirt and yanked down her underclothes before beginning to deliver a barrage of vicious smacks. Nyx squealed in protest and tried to roll off Livia’s lap. Her efforts were to no avail as Livia wrapped an arm around her waist to hold her in position, delivering several slaps to her upper thighs to emphasise her displeasure, before redirecting her attention back to Nyx’s bottom.

“Regretfully, Izzy has instructed me not to injure you.” Livia advised Nyx with a dramatic sigh “However, she said nothing about hurting you and I am definitely going to hurt you.” Nyx growled in response. “Three bags of gold!” Livia snarled “Do you know what I could have done with three bags of gold?” Nyx had thought Livia was already spanking as hard as she could, she had been wrong. As the smacks intensified tears began to fall.

“Crying already?” Livia sneered “You do know I’m only just getting started? You tried to kill me. You’re going to be in this position for a very long time.” Nyx cried harder at that. She had known, of course, but hearing Livia say it somehow made it worse. Livia’s palm continued to fall scalding Nyx’s soft flesh. Nyx wiggled, clawing at the bedsheets. Perhaps, if she couldn’t roll off Livia’s lap she could pull herself forward, escape that way. Unfortunately, that plan only succeeded in eliciting a chuckle from Livia. “Be smart, little elf.” She drawled “Even if you manage to get up you’re not going to escape the room before I catch you. Don’t make things harder for yourself…” She paused for a moment “…or do.  It could be fun… for me.”

Nyx tried to calm herself, Livia’s statement was true she wouldn’t be going anywhere this evening and the less cooperative she was the worse this was going be. It was difficult though, she felt like she was being dropped butt first into an active volcano and Livia wasn’t even near done yet. She continued to grip the sheets until her knuckles turned white, focusing on the pattern of her breathing in an attempt to divert her attention from the pain. She was not terribly successful.

Abruptly Livia stopped. Nyx glanced over her shoulder in confusion she hadn’t expected it to be over this soon. She certainly wasn’t about to complain but it made her somewhat apprehensive. Livia got up pulling Nyx to a standing position. Just as she began to allow herself to feel relief she felt rough hands, pushing. She fell face down over the side of the bed. Livia let go of her and reached for her belt. Removing it in a swift motion she doubled it over and swung it through the air experimentally. Panic rising again Nyx attempted to crawl forward across the bed. Livia seized her by the ankle and tugged her back into position, pressing a hand against her back to hold her in place she lashed the belt down, putting as much strength into it as she could muster. The strokes fell in rapid succession. At first Nyx screamed, renewing her attempts to escape with a frantic fervour. She lost track of how long the merciless whipping continued. Eventually, as her voice grew hoarse and exhaustion set in. Her screams dissolved into pitiful sobbing. Her struggles ceased as she lay accepting the only person with the power to stop this was Livia, too tired to continue useless fighting. At last, it was over.

“Little elf?” Livia’s voice penetrated through her misery “You had better find a way to get me my gold. Otherwise, we’ll be doing this again.”

The Tale of a Mage (part 18)

“Isolyn” King Horrik chuckled “You have grown much since I last enjoyed your company. I have heard news of your escape from your mother’s castle. It seems she is in quite the frenzy over it. You and your friends are welcome to stay in my kingdom for as long as you would like. Should your mother arrive here seeking you my people will protect you. However, I cannot risk my people in a war that I may not win. We are safe within these walls. Your mother’s magic cannot touch us here. Should we assist you in your aims it could mean the end of Dwarven society. That, I cannot allow.”

“I understand” Izzy dipped her head in acknowledgement “We thank you for your hospitality.”

“You are most welcome” Horrik beamed “I do have one favour to ask of you. There is a human pirate who has been making a nuisance of herself in the shopping district. I have sent my sentries after her many times however she has proved rather slippery. If you and your companions could handle the problem for me I would be much obliged.”

“Consider it done.” Izzy bowed once again.

“Excellent!” Horrik clapped his hands together “You and your companions should join us for dinner.”

“I thank you for the offer” Izzy smiled graciously “but my companions and I are weary from travel and would like to retire for the evening.”

“Of course,” Horrik inclined his head “Malcolm will show you to your rooms and see that food is delivered to you.”

“We are most appreciative. Enjoy the rest of your evening.” Izzy gave Horrik one last bow and followed Malcolm out of the dining room the rest of the group trailing behind her.

They followed Malcolm down several interconnecting corridors before he paused in front of a door.

“This room shall be yours for the duration of your stay, Princess Isolyn.” He gestured towards the door for emphasis.

“You have my thanks.” Izzy smiled. “Come along, Cassandra. We need to talk about the incident at that village.” Izzy pushed the door open and strode into the room Cassandra following apprehensively.

“Okay, then. You keep following me.” Malcolm glanced in Livia’s direction. Livia nodded and complied tugging Nyx behind her. Nyx cast a last imploring look at the closing door. She could feel that tonight would not go well for her.

“I’m not even sure where to begin!” Cassandra squirmed in response to Izzy’s disappointed tone. She sat down on the side of the bed beginning to fidget as Izzy started to pace. “You know I love you, Cassandra.” Izzy paused fixing her eyes on her agitated girlfriend. Cassandra nodded. “What were you thinking, Cass?” Izzy sighed.

“I wasn’t thinking” Cassandra whispered “It had been so long since I had been to a town. I was just excited…”

“You have a magic wielding Queen and the entirety of her army out searching for you.” Izzy gently lifted Cassandra’s chin to make eye contact with her. “You do not have the luxury of failing to think before you act. When you and Nyx decided to have a little night out not only did you put yourselves at risk, you put Livia and myself at risk, but worst of all you put a village of people who are innocent in all this in a dangerous situation.”

“I know” Cassandra burst into tears “It won’t happen again, I promise.”

“That is absolutely right,” Izzy sat down on the bed next to her “It will not happen again. I’m going to make sure of that.” Izzy took a firm hold of Cassandra’s arm and gently guided her over her lap.

“I’m really sorry, Izzy” Cassandra sobbed “I won’t do it again. Please don’t…”

“I know you’re sorry.” Izzy rubbed her hand in circles on Cassandra’s back. “I’m sure you’ve learned from the experience and won’t do anything exactly like this again. However, you might forget to think before you act again creating a different but similarly dangerous situation. I cannot allow that to happen. I am going to punish you so in the future you remember to think about the potential consequences of your actions. Besides…” Izzy stroked Cassandra’s hair. “You still feel terrible about the fire. Being punished will make you feel better.” Cassandra nodded and buried her face in the blankets.

Izzy removed her hand from Cassandra’s hair. Cassandra sobbed harder at the loss of contact. Seconds later Izzy’s hand fell on her bottom with a crisp smack. Cassandra left out a startled yelp and continued to cry. Several more swats fell as Izzy settled into a rhythm working her way back and forth between both cheeks, ensuring no part of Cassandra’s bottom remained un-smacked. She spanked hard enough to cause discomfort, to reinforce her disappointment, but not hard enough to bruise. Cassandra was already sorry, there was no need to provide an excessive punishment. Izzy left a few seconds between each smack allowing Cassandra to feel it’s full effects before delivering the next. After the first few rounds of smacks, Izzy paused.

“I won’t lose you, Cass.” She pushed Cassandra’s skirt up and pulled down her underclothes.” Her palm landed on Cassandra’s bottom again. She didn’t smack any harder than she had before but it hurt much more on a bare bottom.

“I’m sorry, Izzy. I’m so, so, sorry…” Cassandra’s sobs increased in volume and she reached a hand back to cover her bottom.

“I know, love.” Izzy took Cassandra’s hand in her own, their fingers interlaced as Izzy guided it to the small of her back. Izzy continued to hold her hand as she recommenced the spanking. “I have already forgiven you and once this is over you will forgive yourself too. As your future queen, I command it.”

Cassandra did her best to hold still, show Izzy she accepted this, knew she deserved it, but it hurt. Cassandra was unaccustomed to being spanked. She could barely remember her parents. For most her childhood, prior to being taken by the queen, it had just been her and Nyx. Nyx was hardly a disciplinarian.  The more Izzy spanked the more Cassandra squirmed. Every so often Izzy would pause to readjust her position. Her bottom burned but it was certainly not as bad as burning to death would have been. God, she hoped no one had died in that fire. The spanking felt never ending but, on some level, she welcomed the pain. At last, as she began to feel she couldn’t possibly take any more, Izzy stopped and started to rub her back once again.

“It’s over now” Izzy’s tone was soothing “you did so well, Cass.” Izzy gently lifted Cassandra from her lap and wrapped her arms around her. Cassandra clung to Izzy, still crying but more softly now.

“I love you, Cass.” Izzy brushed her lips against her forehead.

“I love you too, Izzy.” Cassandra mumbled, squeezing her even tighter.

The Tale of a Mage (part 17)

Much to her chagrin, Nyx remained bound for the remainder of their journey. The mood remained tense as the days passed. Nyx and Livia exchanged glares at every available opportunity. Cassandra, being the forgiving type, attempted to engage Nyx in friendly conversation however she maintained a certain wariness which hadn’t been present prior to Nyx’s attempt at murder. Nyx responded to her attempts at reconciliation with a series of half-hearted grunts not quite ready to forgive her sister for failing to take her side. Each time Cassandra appeared slightly more dejected but she kept trying none the less. Izzy was the only member of their party who did not appear at least somewhat agitated having reassumed her air of impassivity.

Izzy continued Cassandra’s magic lessons every evening when they made camp. The muted yet increasingly frequent squeals of excitement which Cassandra emitted throughout the lessons indicated to Nyx she was finally mastering basic protection spells. However, the effects of said spells were not apparent to Nyx.

Livia had begun teaching Cassandra to use a sword insisting a hunted woman needed greater means to defend herself than just magic. The two were getting along sickeningly well which was proving highly detrimental to Nyx’s plans to show Cassandra of how monstrous Livia truly was. Nyx watched Cassandra giggle in response to something Livia had said with a groan of disgust. Why did Livia have to be so nice to her? Not to say that Nyx wanted Livia to hurt her sister however one would think she could be at least be a little gruff with her, show her true colours on occasion, do something which would make Cassandra at least a little mistrustful of her. It was quite rude of her, really, to come between Cassandra and herself by being so… agreeable. It was difficult for anyone not to be kind to Cassandra though, Queen Cerise excluded of course. She was just so sweet, so naïve. She seemed to bring out almost everyone’s protective instincts. Nyx continued watching her with a sigh. For the moment, as she spoke to Livia she looked happy. Nyx’s refusal to engage with Cassandra was starting to take its toll. The expression which appeared on Cassandra’s face with each rebuff resembled that of a kicked puppy. As angry as Nyx was at Cassandra’s betrayal she was becoming increasingly angrier with herself.

It was late in the evening four days after the incident with the arrow when they finally reached the Dwarven Kingdom. Mountainous stone walls reaching towards the sky greeted them as they arrived at the gates. Nyx craned her neck to see the top of the walls. Sentries marched back and forth along the walls’ summit maintaining vigilant watch over the forest beyond. The light of their torches shone down bathing the group in warm light.

“I wish to speak to King Horrik.” Izzy shouted to the sentries nearest the gate. The group waited in silence as the sentries mumbled amongst themselves. At last a stout dwarf with a long orange beard peered down the wall at them.

“And who the bloody hell are you?” He barked his eyes squinted in suspicion.

“I am an old friend of your king.” Izzy met his stare with a calm intensity. The dwarf took a step backwards and the mumbling recommenced.

Several minutes dragged by as the mumbling began more heated. Just as Nyx was beginning to suspect their journey had been for nothing the gate rumbled open. The orange bearded dwarf clambered down a set of stairs which were carved into the wall.

“I’m Malcolm” he held his hand out to Izzy who grasped it firmly.

“Isolyn” She indicated in response. Malcolm’s eyes widened in recognition.

“I shall escort you to the king however if I find you have lied about the nature of your relationship with him I shall see you regret it. These walls are enchanted to suppress magic. Your sorcery will not help you here.” Malcolm let go of Izzy’s hand and started off down the cobbled path.

“Well, it’s a good thing I’m telling you the truth then.” Izzy headed after him and the rest of the group followed her lead.

They made their way through winding streets. Livia tugged Nyx along behind her by the rope which bound her wrists. Nyx took in her surroundings as they walked. The streets were lined with small stone houses. Lights flickered invitingly in the windows and Nyx shivered, the thought of a warm fire intensifying the chill of the crisp night air.  They passed rows of shops and a tavern from which the sounds of lively music and boisterous chatter emanated. The streets were filled with the aroma of spiced meats wafting from the many food carts which lined their sides at random intervals. Many citizens paused to survey the unfamiliar travellers in a combination of confusion and curiosity.

Before long they reached the palace. The building was fashioned from exquisitely carved marble blocks. Gilded domes topped its many towers, sparkling in the light of sentry torches. Nyx momentarily contemplated her chances of getting away with climbing up and chipping some of it off. That was a lot of gold after all. She quickly dismissed the idea. The palace was crawling with sentries. Enormous doors swung open to greet them and Malcolm led then inside. It doors lead straight into the royal dining room. The walls were lined with roaring fires. Nyx sighed in contentment in response to the warmth. The room was filled with long tables. The tables were laden with meats, breads, and pitchers of ale. At each table sat twenty dwarves conversing cheerfully as they indulged in the offered food and drink. At the far end of the room was a table elevated upon a dais. At the head of that table sat a dark haired dwarf his head adorned with a golden crown. Izzy marched swiftly towards the dais. Malcolm matched her pace. She paused only once she stood before the king.

“King Horrik” Izzy bowed “you once told me you believed it would be to the benefit of your people were I to rule in place of my mother. My travel companions and I come to you today to request your assistance in achieving that end.” Nyx stared at Izzy incredulously she had thought they were here to seek sanctuary. This was the first she had heard about an attempt to overthrow the queen. She groaned. All she had wanted was to rescue Cassandra. What had she got herself into?

The Tale of a Mage (part 16)

They travelled all through the night and into the next day stopping only once for a quick meal. It was dusk by the time they finally made camp and the group was exhausted. Livia set off in search of food. Nyx glanced between Izzy and Cassandra making sure their attention was otherwise diverted before picking up her bow and heading after Livia. It was apparent she would never best Livia in outright combat. Livia had greater strength and better training. It was time for Nyx to make use of her personal strength, stealth.

Nyx slipped between the trees, keeping out of sight. She kept her footsteps light, treading soundlessly, eyes never leaving Livia. Before long Livia paused at a bush laden with scarlet berries. Nyx watched for a moment as Livia plucked berries from the bush laying them out on a piece of cloth. Once she was certain Livia did not suspect she picked up an arrow, fitting it into the bow. Slowly, she pulled back the drawstring. Lining up the shot she paused for a moment to take a deep breath. She only had one chance to get this right. Exhaling she let go, the arrow sailed through the air plunging into Livia’s back. Nyx waited with bated breath, watching as Livia struggled in an attempt to pull herself to a standing position. She was wounded but she wasn’t dead yet. Nyx would soon rectify that. She picked up another arrow and prepared the shot. She drew back the drawstring once more. However, her plans ended there as she found herself frozen to the spot, unable to move an inch, not even enough to release the arrow. Nyx’s heart pounded in her chest as she struggled against her invisible restraints.

“Have you taken leave of all common sense?” Izzy’s voice penetrated the fog of panic. “Irrespective of your feelings towards her I would have thought even you could recognise we need Livia. Neither you nor Cassandra are particularly skilled in combat and Cassandra has a long way to go before her magic will be of use to us. While I am skilled in both magic and the use of a sword my magical reserves have their limits and there are only so many soldiers I can fight at once. Livia’s skill set could well save our lives.”

Cassandra dashed past Nyx, falling to her knees at Livia’s side. She fussed as she examined the wound.  Cassandra turned to face Nyx, eyes wide.

“Nyx, how could you? You could have killed her!” Cassandra’s eyes flickered back to the wound, aghast.

“Well, that was the idea” Nyx muttered under her breath doing her best to ignore Cassandra’s horrified gasp.

Cassandra turned her full attention to Livia’s wound. Pulling a knife from her boot she gestured for Izzy to join her.

“I need fire.” The statement was made in a clipped tone. Izzy nodded and a small ball of fire appeared in the air just above her hand. Cassandra plunged the blade of the knife into the fire and held it there until she was satisfied it was sterile. She nodded to Izzy and the fire flickered out.  Ripping the fabric of Livia’s shirt from the area of the injury Cassandra tentatively cut into the flesh, she flinched at Livia’s pained grunt but continued widening the wound until the arrow could be pulled out without doing further damage. Once the arrow was removed Izzy took over placing her hand over the wound. A warm glow emanated from Izzy’s hand. When she finally lifted her hand she revealed healthy flesh. The only remaining evidence the injury had occurred was Livia’s torn and bloody shirt and the arrow on the ground beside her.

“Um… could you undo whatever you did to me?” Nyx grumbled. Izzy spun around to face her. Covering the space between them in quick strides Izzy snatched the bow from Nyx’s hands.

“Your actions have put us all at risk.” Izzy’s icy gaze bore into her “I have had to use magic both to restrain you and heal Livia. It can take up to twelve hours for magic energies to fully regenerate which means my abilities to protect us should a threat present itself tonight will be inhibited.”

Nyx sighed with relief as the spell was lifted and she found herself able to move again. That relief, however, was short lived. Izzy pulled a length of rope from her cloak and tossed it to Livia.

“Tie her up.” Izzy instructed, “It’s clear, for the moment she can’t be trusted.”

“With pleasure” Livia grinned.

“What?” Nyx choked “No! Cassandra, don’t let your girlfriend do this to me.”

“You could have killed her Nyx.” Cassandra whispered averting her eyes.

Within seconds Livia’s hands were on her, gripping her arms pulling them behind her back. Nyx struggled as Livia positioned her arms with one forearm resting on the other and began to weave the rope around them securing them to one and other. Livia made no effort to be gentle and Nyx whimpered slightly as the rope cut into her flesh. Once Livia was satisfied with her work she seized Nyx by the arm and began hauling her back in the direction of the camp. Izzy followed while Cassandra stayed behind to continue gathering berries.

Nyx struggled the whole way back to the camp. While denied the use of her arms she still had her legs and she made every effort to kick Livia. Livia ducked out of the way with ease chuckling in response to her efforts. Upon reaching the camp Livia pushed her to the ground at the base of a tree.

“Could you toss me more rope? There’s some in my pack.” Livia glanced in Izzy’s direction. Izzy nodded, reaching into the pack she pulled out the rope and handed it to Livia. Livia secured Nyx to the tree and stood taking a moment to grin down at her.

“Oh, I’m so looking forward to reaching the Dwarven Kingdom, little elf.” She smirked. Nyx huffed in defeat. She couldn’t believe she was back in this position. How could Cassandra allow this?

The Tale of a Mage (part 15)

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Nyx gulped, her heart rate spiking as she met the guard’s menacing gaze. “This woman is clearly ill and I was just removing her necklace for safe keeping. There are a lot of shady people around here.” She nodded with what she hoped was sincerity.

“I see…” The guard sounded unconvinced “you were simply taking a stranger’s valuables to be helpful…”

“Of course,” Nyx nodded “I’m an honest woman.”

“I don’t think so!” The guard snatched the necklace from her hand and seized her by the arm. “I’m taking you to the guard captain.”

“I am highly insulted by your insinuations!” Nyx struggled, eyes scanning the room for Cassandra. Cassandra stood twenty meters away looking petrified. Nyx stared at her expectantly, willing her to cast the sleeping spell again.  It seemed Cassandra caught on as she waved her hand in the air once more. This time, however, did not go so smoothly. The guard did not collapse into sleep. Rather a sizable fire sprung up at his feet.

The guard shouted in alarm letting his grip on Nyx loosen. Nyx wrenched herself from his grasp and darted through the panicked crowd. Taking hold of Cassandra’s hand, she dragged her out of the tavern into the crisp night. The other patrons streamed out of the tavern with them. Nyx was pleased to note the guard carrying the unconscious woman. She was a thief, not a murderer. At least not under the majority of circumstances. For Livia, of course, she would happily make an exception. In the commotion, it was easy to slip away. Glancing back over her shoulder Nyx grimaced at the amount of smoke billowing from the tavern. It seemed the fire was spreading. She dragged Cassandra into the cover of the trees to the sound of shouting as the rest of the town guard arrived to extinguish the fire.

“What was that!” Nyx hissed at Cassandra. “I thought you said you knew how to cast the sleeping spell!”

“I do!” Cassandra protested “Mages have limited magical reserves. Being inexperienced mine are more limited than most. I already used a lot during training this evening. When your magic is reaching depletion, things can go wrong.”

“So, that’s why Izzy doesn’t use her magic very often even though it could make our travels easier?” Nyx inquired.

“Exactly” Cassandra whispered back. “If she uses too much magic for small things she might not have enough if there’s an emergency.”

“I guess that makes sense.” Nyx nodded thoughtfully. She led Cassandra on a round about route through the woods weaving back and forward through the trees to ensure they were not followed. They kept a brisk pace. While the guards were currently occupied with the fire it was still better to be cautious. When they finally arrived back at the campsite they were both out of breath.

“We need to leave now!” Nyx whispered as she shook Izzy awake. Izzy surveyed her suroundings in sleepy confusion. She glanced between Nyx and Cassandra and sniffed the air a look of suspicious concern dawning on her face.

“Cassandra…” Her tone was warning “Why are both you and Nyx awake and why do I smell smoke?” Now that the adrenaline of the initial panic had worn off Cassandra burst into tears.

“Nyx, what if someone gets hurt?” She sobbed “We should go back, see if we can help.”

“They’ll be fine!” Nyx snapped “The guards are taking care of it and we can’t go back they’ll be looking for us.”

“You didn’t?” Izzy, now on her feet, fixed Cassandra with an incredulous stare. By now Livia was also awake. “We agreed we would stay out of the town.” Izzy’s eyes remained trained on Cassandra who squirmed under her intense gaze.

“You and Livia agreed!” Nyx pointed out “Cass and I didn’t get a choice.”

“I’m disappointed, Cassandra. Once we reach safety you and I are going to have a very serious talk.” Izzy ignored Nyx’s comment.

“But what about Nyx?!” Cassandra protested “She was there too! It was her idea!”

“Nyx is not my girlfriend.” Izzy replied in a mild tone. “Besides, I’m sure that Livia will be more than happy to deal with her.

“I will indeed” Livia shot Nyx a menacing grin.

Nyx gulped. This situation was getting worse and worse. Not only were the handful of coppers she had managed to acquire throughout the night insufficient to pay Livia back for the loss of her gold, now it appeared Izzy was going to give Livia free reign to punish her. This was not going to end well for her. She needed to come up with a plan and quickly.  Izzy was unlikely to consider them safe until they reached the Dwarven Kingdom so she had until then to find a way to dispose of Livia. She had to be smart about it this time. She couldn’t afford to anger Livia any more than she already had.

The group packed their things hastily. Cassandra paused a few times to cast worried looks in the direction of the town. When she did Izzy hurried her on with an icy stare. Once their belongings were packed they set off into the night. Cassandra remained teary and for once Izzy’s ire was apparent. Livia appeared uncharacteristically cheerful, likely contemplating her plans for Nyx once they reached the Dwarven Kingdom. A shiver of dread ran down Nyx’s spine. She retreated deep into thought. A plan she most definitely needed a plan.

The Tale of a Mage (part 14)

The arduous journey continued. By day they trekked through the forest. In the evenings, they camped. They continued to feed themselves on whatever they could scavenge, hunting was not an option as with no fire they had no means to cook the meat. Nyx was not asked to keep watch again which suited her just fine. Now she had a plan to rectify her mistake her guilt had subsided and she enjoyed the extra sleep. Cassandra’s mood perked up considerably as the days following the theft passed. Nyx’s interactions with Livia, however, remained tense. Izzy continued Cassandra’s magic lessons, however, as far as Nyx could tell, they failed to produce improvement.

At last, as they set up camp on the third night after the theft, Izzy announced they had reached a town. Izzy, it seemed, mentioned this to warn that the group should be especially careful. More people meant a greater risk of trouble. It took little deliberation for Izzy and Livia to agree, the group would not be entering the town. The discussion on which route they should take to bypass it, however, was decidedly more heated. Nyx nodded along, not fully listening. Eventually, a decision was made but Nyx didn’t hear what it was. She was too busy plotting. She would wait until the others were asleep and then sneak into town.  Getting past whoever was on watch would pose a minor challenge but Nyx had faith in her stealth abilities. She could pull it off. By the time they realised what she was doing she would be back with more than enough gold to finance the rest of their journey, perhaps even enough to repay Livia.  Sure, she had never stolen quite that much in one go before, but stealing was stealing the mechanics would be the same.

They followed their usual evening routine, although to Nyx it felt like everything was taking exceptionally longer than usual. As they finished dinner Cassandra announced she would take the first watch of the night. Nyx smirked slightly at that, this was going to be much easier than sneaking past Izzy or Livia.

Nyx retired to her pile of furs feigning a yawn. As Izzy instructed Cassandra in the magical arts Nyx lay beneath her furs digging her nails into her palms to keep herself awake. When the magic lesson ended and Izzy finally went to bed Nyx waited an extra half hour just to be sure.

Confident Izzy and Livia would now be asleep Nyx took a deep breath and crawled out from beneath the furs. She cast a quick glance at Cassandra. Cassandra remained oblivious. Sitting with her back to Nyx she continued staring into the trees. Nyx plumped up the furs to give the appearance she was still beneath them before setting off in the direction of the town.

Nyx had covered about 50 meters when she felt a hand wrap around her arm. She spun around her eyes meeting Cassandra’s.

“Nyx?” Cassandra queried at a whisper “What are you doing?”

“Um… I…” Nyx stuttered. This was not going as planned.

“Are you going into town?” Cassandra’s grip on her arm loosened slightly.

“Well, I just thought that maybe if I could get us some gold…” Nyx’s voice trailed off.

“Can I come with you?” A hopeful look dawned on Cassandra’s face.

“Uh… sure.” Nyx was taken aback by Cassandra’s request. She wouldn’t have thought Cassandra would disregard Izzy’s instructions but she wasn’t about to pass up a chance to spend time with her sister.

“This will be so much fun!” Cassandra whispered excitedly. “Do you know how long it’s been since I got to go to a town.” Nyx nodded indulgently.

“Just remember we are going for business…” Nyx began. Cassandra’s face fell slightly. “That, of course, does not mean we can’t have a little fun while we’re there” Nyx added with a smirk. Cassandra beamed.

Nyx and Cassandra continued in the direction of the town. Soon buildings began to appear, at first sporadically and then clustered closer together. Cassandra squeezed Nyx’s arm in excitement. When they reached the town tavern Nyx gripped Cassandra’s hand and pulled her inside. Nyx surveyed the tavern, eyes falling on a group of particularly drunk patrons. Perfect, she thought making her way over.

“How are you this evening?” She enquired plunking herself down at their table, beaming at the man to her right.

“Much better now.” He leered. Cassandra stood back watching warily from a distance. Nyx continued smiling, nodding along with feigned attentiveness as he attempted to regale her with stories of his work in the mines. She trailed her fingers down his arm deftly reaching into his pocket with her other hand, snatching his coin purse and tucking it into her tunic. She then excused herself moving on to her next target. She repeated the action with several more patrons before pausing to check how she was doing. She and Cassandra huddled in a corner counting the coins she had stolen so far. Unfortunately, they were mostly coppers. Nyx sighed, she was going to have to aim much higher if she wanted to acquire enough money to actually be useful.

“There’s a lady over in the corner who’s wearing a very expensive looking necklace?” Cassandra suggested in a hushed tone “If I cast a sleeping spell on her you could take it.”

“Are you sure you can do that?” Nyx asked with uncertainty.

“Yes,” Cassandra nodded. “That’s one spell I can actually cast, I put a rat to sleep once. I’m sure I can do it! Please?”

“Okay,” Nyx agreed. Cassandra waved her hand in the direction of the aforementioned lady who collapsed, head falling to the table at which she was seated. Nyx weaved her way through the crowd. Reaching the woman, she gingerly reached for the clasp of the necklace. She took her time, slowly easing the jewellery from her neck.  Once she held it in her hands she took a thorough look at it. Cassandra was right it looked extremely expensive. It was gold, each side was set with seven rubies. Between the two sets of rubies was a diamond about half the size of Nyx’s fist. For a moment, Nyx was elated, then she heard a voice behind her.

“Just what do you think you’re doing?” Nyx spun around to see a member of the town guard standing before her, sword drawn. “We don’t take theft lightly around these parts.” The guard’s eyes flickered to Nyx’s unconscious mark. “Don’t take poisoning lightly either.”

The Tale of a Mage (part 13)

Nyx awoke with a start as something collided with her ribs. It wasn’t exactly violent but it wasn’t gentle either. Her eyes snapped open. She squinted through the darkness unable to make out the shape of her assailant. It was not difficult, however, to deduce who was responsible. Livia’s boot prodded her again.

“Your turn to keep watch, little elf.” She smirked, as Nyx whined in protest. Satisfied Nyx was now awake Livia turned and made her way back to her pile of furs on the other side of the campsite.

Nyx pulled herself into a sitting position, grumbling under her breath, and wrapped her furs more tightly around her body. While Izzy’s spell was still in effect, sheltering the campsite from the wind, the night had grown colder. Nyx yawned and turned her face upwards. The thick canopy above blocked out the light of the moon, obscuring its position. Nyx wondered what time it was. Most likely early morning if both Izzy and Livia had already taken their turns on watch. She also wondered how she was supposed to keep watch when she couldn’t see anything. She supposed she would just scream loudly if she heard any strange noises. Then fighting in the dark could become Livia and Izzy’s problem.

She sat in silence straining to hear anything that might indicate a potential threat. The forest, however, remained quiet asides from the usual forest noises. The wind still blew through the trees in the areas left unshielded by Izzy’s spell, however with less strength than it had earlier in the day. The sound of the wind combined with the chirping of crickets interspersed the occasional hoot of an owl. It was kind of peaceful, relaxing in fact. As the sounds of the forest washed over her Nyx’s eyes drooped. She shook her head, trying to refocus, stay awake. The longer she sat in the darkness the stronger the drowsiness became. She fought to keep her eyes open but it was becoming increasingly more difficult. Everything looked the same regardless of whether her eyes were open or closed and closing them felt so much better. Slowly the sounds began to fade into silence.

Nyx awoke again to the sound of shouting. She forced her eyes open. The soft light of early morning overwhelmed her senses and she blinked several times. The first thing she noticed, when she finally managed to keep her eyes open, was Livia pacing back and forth cursing. The contents of their packs were strewn across the forest floor and Cassandra was frantically rifling through her own bag throwing items in all directions.

“What’s going on?” Nyx mumbled rubbing the sleep from her eyes.

“You!” Livia bellowed, stalking in Nyx’s direction. Nyx leapt to her feet, veering out of the way as Livia lunged at her. Nyx glanced questioningly at Cassandra who ducked her head and continued rummaging through her bag.

“It would appear we were robbed during the night.” Izzy’s eyes met hers, her face unreadable. “An event which could have been avoided were there someone on watch.”

“Oh…” Nyx blushed profusely, keeping her attention on Livia in uneasy anticipation.

“You owe me three bags of gold, little elf!” Livia snarled. “And you had better believe…”

“You can exact your pound of flesh once we reach a safer location.” Izzy interjected.

“Fine” Livia snapped “but she had better get me my gold or I’m going to hurt her… badly.”

“Mine’s gone too.” Cassandra glanced up dejectedly. “So much for buying supplies at the next town.” Cassandra began to pick their possessions up off the ground and repack them. Nyx assisted her in silence. While she didn’t care about Livia and Izzy’s opinions of her Nyx felt bad about upsetting Cassandra. She had to think of a way to fix this.

Once their belongings were repacked they had a quick breakfast then headed off once again. The day’s journey should have been an improvement over that of yesterday. The sun was shining and the wind had died down to a light breeze. The mood, however, was subdued. Livia’s feet fell against the forest floor more heavily than usual as she fumed in silence, a murderous scowl painted on her face. Cassandra pouted. The extent of Izzy’s feelings on the situation remained unclear although Nyx couldn’t imagine she was pleased. Most of the gold had been hers after all.

As the day drew on Nyx’s guilt intensified. Evading the Queen and her armies was going to be challenging enough. She must be aware of Izzy’s betrayal by now which would mean members of the royal family would be joining the hunt. If they still had the gold they could have used it to bribe bystanders for their silence and maybe even gain assistance from lower level members of the army. Without it, this was going to be much more difficult. Nyx’s failure had put her sister in further danger, unnecessarily. Not to mention the only thing standing between her and an irate Livia right now was Izzy who didn’t seem entirely opposed to her taking revenge.

The mood had not lightened by the time they made camp for the night. This time Izzy sent Cassandra and Livia to gather food, presumably concerned that Nyx and Livia might kill one and other if sent unsupervised into the woods. Nyx was momentarily relieved before realising she would have to set up camp with Izzy. The princess still unnerved her more than she cared to admit. Still unable to light a fire, and lacking the need to shield the site from the elements it didn’t take long to put a campsite together. When Cassandra and Livia returned, the group ate in silence.

As soon as she finished her last bite of food Nyx retired to her pile of furs. She was vaguely aware that Cassandra was practising her magic with Izzy again but this time she didn’t watch. She wracked her brain for a solution to the problem she had created. Finally, it came to her. Cassandra mentioned a town, towns had people, and people frequently had gold. When they reached the next town, she would steal them more gold. Nyx drifted off to sleep feeling proud of her superior problem solving skills.