Instead of blabbing on and on, I'll just step aside and give the blog over to Rhi.
Welcome back Rhi! :D *waves and whispers* Hi Black :D
Flight of the Elementals Scene 2 of 4
One of the story aspects in “Blacker Than Black” is a mystery. Working that facet of the plot arc to a proper and satisfying climax and resolution at the end of the book was a challenge for me as a writer. This is because Black’s story is not one that was plot-outlined in advance. Its development was entirely organic, which created some challenges. One of those was determining what sort of ending best suited both the story arc and the nature of the characters as explored thus far in the story. I worked a number of different scenes, exploring possible actions and decisions; this is one of those.
“The council is arriving, monsieur.” Garthelle's butler drones from the doorway, sounding marginally bored. When I glance over, he winks at me.
Garthelle eases up from the couch, movements deliberately slow as he steps toward me. Surely he isn’t concerned with spooking me, not after the way we met. Ridiculous.
His yellow gaze plays over my face, studying my expression, reading my emotions.
Maybe he's going to try and make me stay here.
Not that I have any desire to witness a repeat of that first evening here in Dragulhaven.
Lines of strain bracket the corners of his eyes. A muscle twitches in his cheek, and the faint sound of grinding whispers through the silence.
Makes me want to laugh, but I squelch it. The sound would probably have an uncontrollable edge of hysteria in it. Not good for my image. To say nothing of my safety.
Predators get high on the scent of fear.
His nostrils flare and he takes a step back. Extends his hand toward me, palm up.
“It's time to meet my family, mon noire. Turnabout's fair play?”
I spare a glance for the bedroom door. When I look back at him, the lyche’s lips are curved into a sly grin.
“Well, if you insist.” I intend the words to sound sarcastic, but my voice is too low. Husky.
Garthelle's eyes flash, body stiffening visibly as I step toward him and take his hand.
He grunts and tugs me after him in the butler's wake, the tattoo of his footsteps even managing to, somehow, sound curt and impatient. His aura is pulled tight against his skin, reminding me of the way a nervous person crosses their arms and hugs themself. Defense mechanisms.
Understandable, but I'd much rather feel the reassuring brush of his warm energy invading my personal space.
Does that make me needy? Shadows flicker over his profile as the light fixtures pass us, silent markers of our progress toward the foyer.
Strong bones, flat planes. Smooth, ivory skin.
Don't think about tasting it again. I feel my face flush anyways, a tide of tingling heat up my neck into my cheeks.
Garthelle glances at me, smiles and shifts his fingers, threading them through mine. His aura expands, engulfing me so swiftly that I gasp. Chills race up my spine, heat pooling in my gut.
When we step into the excessive space of the foyer, he doesn't pull away. Doesn't retract his aura. I bump my shoulder into his, grateful. The energy bleeds around me like a warm blanket on a cold winter day, easing the chill of tension from my muscles. I feel myself relax into him, legs going limp. The desire to curl up in a ball inside that sensation is intense. I have to make a conscious effort to push away slightly. Remind myself who's about to walk through those heavy wooden doors that the butler is pushing open.
With my pathetically inadequate knowledge of lyche society and culture, I'm not certain what I expect to see. My heart slams against my ribs, adrenaline spiking through my veins.
The tap of steel on stone whispers into the foyer on a breeze of warm summer air; cadence firm but wrong.
No echo of footsteps accompanies the entourage as it spills into the chandelier-lit space.
There are nine of them.
One, slightly to the front, the others arrowed behind him, flanking four to each side.
He holds a cane, its tip flashing the glint of metal as he grounds it against the tiled marble flooring.
Skin-hugging denim and a thigh-length jacket tailored from calfskin are the last things I expected. Brown. Everything about him is brown. His skin is the hue of raw cedar, worn dark and smooth with age. His hair is like stained wood, cut crosswise to the grain. Shades of mahogany, oak, white pine, walnut. His body is lean and lithe like a willow tree, despite the gimp in his right leg. It's not twisted – not a birth defect. A young sapling, its main branch damaged in a windstorm one season too soon.
“Bien remplies, Garthelle. I only wish the circumstances were more pleasant.”
If not for the embrace of Garthelle's aura, I'm certain this lyche’s mere presence would have slapped me to my knees. As it is, his gaze flicks toward me for a brief moment and the air seems to lose all trace of heat.
Even the breeze blowing in doesn't ease the chill.
“As do I, le Haut.” Garthelle steps forward, his grip on my hand a vise, giving no quarter. No possibility of parole. I sneak a glance at him as he stops barely a foot away from the brown man. A smile curves his lips, an easy twist of pleasure and delight. “I truly did not expect you to attend this ... issue in person.”
The brown man's movement is so swift, I flinch. And feel weak with relief – and stupid – when his hand clasps the back of Garthelle's neck. Garthelle returns the gesture, leaning in to touch his forehead against his fellow lyche.
Their auras bleed together, cautiously. Entwining at the spot where their skin touches. A polite exchange. A demonstration of trust, fidelity, solidarity.
I am so out of my depth, I feel like I'm trying to cross the Pacific Ocean. Via breaststroke.
The brown man straightens, hand dropping back to his side. His gaze drifts my direction, slowly. The gravitas in his dark chocolate gaze almost drowns me.
“My ...ma moitie. Black.” His palm feels damp against my skin. “Black, this is the Haut of Modere Circle. Monsieur Delaterre.”
“Votre ... moitie? I really must hear this story,” the man says, glancing at Garthelle. His tone is heavy, undeniably thick, but beyond my ability to read. Then he lifts his hand, reaching for my neck.
Every muscle in my body tenses. Garthelle's grip tightens on my hand, his aura doing the same against my skin.
“Etre doux, je vous supplie,” Garthelle whispers, gaze boring into his superior.
His forehead bumps mine, palm cool and dry against my nape like soil between the roots of a tree, his fingers gripping firm and relentless into my tense muscles. I couldn't pull away if I tried, but the fear surging through me rules out that option. I couldn't move if a nuclear warhead detonated in my back pocket.
Confusion warring with an edge of panic, I clench my free hand in a fist against my thigh and stare into his eyes, chocolate with flecks of amber, streaks of midnight. His aura swims around my temples, a gust of wind stirring my hair along my jaw. Chills run down my spine in anticipation of pain.