Kara’s story continues…
Part 1 can be found here.
And a completely unrelated story, starring her and Mun, can be found here.
Writing Prompt: A Druid’s Spell – part 2
Killian found himself staring at the witch again and looked away before she could catch how fascinated he was by her. She was of average height, with hair the color of cinnamon. When the light hit it in a certain way, he caught red and mahogany tones that begged to be touched. Her eyes were large, and a deep chocolate with flecks of gold. Absolutely fascinating. Her lips – when not laying out their plans for the evening – had a natural downturn that he longed to tease into a smile. His eyes traveled down her athletic frame…
“Killian. Have you heard a word I’ve said?”
“Of course. You want me to go with you to Randwolf Castle so that you can speak with the Ancient residing there, and you don’t want Montgomery to know why we’re there.”
“Right.” She crossed her arms over her chest and he realized his gaze had wandered again.
Throwing her a lopsided grin, he said, “And I believe you mentioned a party.”
Pulling out a cellphone, she began swiping and typing, pulling up information. “Yes. Nym has managed to convince Catherine Hart to let us go with her as guests. She already had an invite and owes the guild a favor.”
The guild had called in a favor with him as well. He had needed their help a few years ago with a zoning issue in his territory and had been forced to ask for their assistance. Roric, the bastard, had insisted on a favor owed rather than the standard payment.
Killian now felt the desire to thank the man as it had brought the lovely Kara to his doorstep.
However, he sat back in his chair, thinking of the ramifications of assisting the guild. “Montgomery knows me. How am I to pass as a guest of a woman I’ve never met and would have no reason to meet?”
A lovely blush colored her face and neck. “Actually, you’re going as my guest… my, um, date. I met Catherine Hart a couple years ago during a case. It was easy to construct a chance meeting at a restaurant. She did a great job of spontaneously inviting me to attend Montgomery’s gala with her tonight… for nearly half the restaurant to overhear. I did an equally good job of asking if my boyfriend could come too.”
Fully grinning now, Killian leaned forward in his seat. “Boyfriend? That sounds promising.” He quickly backed down at her frown though. No need to put her on the defensive. “Roric was very confident that I would agree.”
Finally a smile! Again, he found himself frozen, wanting to just look at her. She shook her head. “Confident enough, that I’ve even brought you a suit.”
He raised his eyebrows in surprise. “How could he possibly know my size?”
Again, a wry smile tugged at her lips. “That would be the work of the amazing Nym.”
“Ah.” That explained it. The woman was Roric’s assistant and a very very good one at that.
As confident as Roric was though, he still hadn’t agreed. Vax Montgomery owned a very large castle within his domain as Warden of Estrom. Killian had to monitor, and protect, the lands from the Burning Bluff to the Black Ridge Mountains. Druids, for the most part, took no sides in the dramas and clashes of those in their domain – so long as those clashes didn’t do unnecessary harm to the land and it’s inhabitants. At the same time, he and his order understood that conflicts ebb and flow – sometimes the currents cause violent, deadly, waves; and sometimes the currents calmed and soothed. To involve himself at this point was… well, pointless. Some people had died, but people died all the time.
He stared at Kara again as she played on her cellphone. Then again… if he didn’t help, he would probably never see her again. That was unacceptable. He was drawn to her and wanted to explore the reasons more. “Okay. I’ll take you to speak to the Ancient.” He paused, “On one condition.”
She looked up, surprised. “I thought you owed the guild a favor?”
“I do. But that just means Roric can try to call it in, not that I would agree to the first thing he came up with. He can ask for something else later.”
Frowning, she huffed, “That’s not how that works.”
Leaning back in his chair, he crossed his arms and watched her from hooded eyes. “I will fulfill my obligation if… you agree to a real date.”
Her jaw dropped open in shock. “With you?”
He wasn’t sure if he should be offended or not. “Yes. Of course, with me.”
Blushing furiously, she gaped at him a moment. “But why?” She didn’t wait for an answer. “I mean… you must have dozens of women lined up around the corner. Why am I your stipulation for helping the guild?”
He looked at her quizzically. “Have you never been asked out before?”
She looked taken aback, then held up her hands as if warding him off, but she was looking at them oddly. “Not really… I usually do the asking. Most men are afraid of me.”
Feeling suddenly angry at no one in particular, he stood and grasped one of her hands, pulling her to her feet. The matter of fact way she had said that bothered him. “Well, I’m not afraid of you.” Still clasping her hand, he pulled her closer. “Perhaps you should have reason to fear me.”
Leaning in slightly, he liked the way her eyes widened and her breath hitched. She didn’t pull away though. He definitely saw interest in her eyes. Gaze dropping to her lips he realized he wasn’t going to wait to kiss her. She may not know it yet, but he knew her, and in his mind she was already his. Right then he saw no reason to wait.
He bent his head when he felt – more than heard – a faint burst of movement behind him. Suddenly a set of very sharp teeth sunk into his shoulder. Yelling, he leapt back from Kara, trying to knock the creature away and calm it by reaching out with his senses at the same time.
He heard her shouting. “Mun, no! Stop it!” His calm was not working, so he sent a small burst of lightning through his shoulder. The creature suddenly let go and flew between him and Kara. He found himself confronting a very angry fera imp who was chittering threateningly in his face. Even had he not been a druid, he would have understood that the imp was warning him away from the witch, who he considered his human.
Wincing from the pain in his shoulder, Killian held up his hands in a calming manner, and reached out with his senses again. At the same time, he sent a wave of understanding and agreement to the creature. Kara on the other hand, continued to berate the thing from behind.
“Mun! That is no way to act! What has gotten into you! If you can’t behave, you have to stay home!” She weaved a spell in her hands, but didn’t release it.
Abruptly calming, the fera imp flipped upside down in midair and grinned widely at him. “Mun?”
Letting her spell dissipate, Kara dropped her hands and grasped the imp by his tail, tugging none to gently. He continued to grin at Killian, ignoring her. “Atamun. He’s my… friend. I think.”
“Your friends with a fera imp? That’s impressive.” His interest in her skyrocketed. He knew he was drawn to her, but he wondered now if she had a bit of druid in her. To befriend a fera imp was extremely difficult. They could be very friendly, but they were also flighty and didn’t stick around long. This one had been around long enough to form some sort of bond with her.
She glanced his way, then gasped. “Oh! Damn it Mun! Look what you did!”
She moved closer to him and began weaving another spell. Atamun floated to her shoulder and settled with his tail wrapped around her throat. Killian read the nose and ear twitches as well as the images and impressions being sent to him. “Ah.” He gave a shallow bow to the imp. “Thank you.”
Looking confused, Kara approached him with glowing hands. He translated for her. “Atamun says you are going to heal me and he will allow it.” He could heal himself, but liked the thought of her magic flowing through him. He couldn’t help the curve of his lips when he saw the glow in her hands. Even better. Her spell required she had to lay hands on him to do the healing.
Sitting so she could reach his shoulder better, he and Mun spoke. Because animals used body language, Mun “spoke” with tail, ear, facial, and body twitches and movements; along with the occasional squeak, sigh, and grunt. Killian could answer in English for Kara’s benefit, but seeing as how he was questioning the imp about her, he didn’t exactly want to let her in on that. For the most part he responded with his druidic powers to send and receive impressions.
Realizing she was being left out of the conversation, Kara squeezed his shoulder a bit harder than necessary in her healing. Glancing at her face, he caught the look of irritation she tried to hide. He held back his smile, but just barely.
The gentle flow of her magic warmed his shoulder and he realized he liked that she was healing him, taking care of him. Mun snorted. He thought Killian had been living alone too long.
“Perhaps you’re right.”
Unable to control her curiosity any longer, Kara asked, “What’s he saying?”
“He says you definitely owe me a date now that your pet has bitten me.”
Mun squeaked sharply in disbelief, then sent an impression of laughter. Glad the imp had a fera’s typical sense of humor, Killian winked at him. He hadn’t wanted to offend with the pet comment.
Pulling away, Kara crossed her arms, one eyebrow arched. “Did he now?”
Killian stood and rotated his arm, glad when there wasn’t even a twinge of discomfort. “Yes. He also says the date is in exchange for my assistance tonight. In reparation of his bite… you owe me a kiss.”
To his delight, she threw back her head and laughed. “You are determined.” They were still standing close, and he leaned down, intending on pressing his advantage.
Her breathing hitched and her smile faded, but she leaned forward. He couldn’t believe his good fortune! She was as attracted to him as he was to her!
Lips a mere breath apart, she whispered, “Translate for the tree, and we’ll settle up with the rest later.” Mun snorted again for good measure.
Standing upright, Killian glanced at the imp and sent him a clear message to go away. It bounced right back at him; Mun’s way of saying the same thing to him.
Reaching up to loosen the tail around her throat, Kara smiled up at him, falsely sweet. “Do we have a deal?”
Deal? Of course they had a deal. He had known from the moment she’d knocked on his door that he’d follow her anywhere.
Crammed under a desk with a hot druid and a hyperactive rat was not how Kara thought she would spend her evening.
The warm press of Killian’s body heated her whole right side and she squirmed, trying to put some space between them. He frowned at her in the gloom and mouthed for her to be still. Mun sat on her feet, clutching the fabric of her dress tightly. He had his head cocked, listening to the couple at the other end of the room as they teased and talked; but he absently stroked the fabric of the dress as if he couldn’t stop touching it. Which he hadn’t since the moment he popped in on her and Killian as they made their way through darkened rooms trying to find access to the gardens.
Normally one could access the gardens from the ballroom. However, when the first remodel had been done on Randwolf castle, half of the second floor had been converted into the ballroom. There was a balcony overlooking the gardens so that guests could get some fresh air and enjoy the view, but it didn’t have any access to the grounds below. As a result, they had been forced to sneak out through a servants entrance and fumble their way around pretending to be a couple intent on finding some alone time.
That had truly unsettled her. For all his teasing, he hadn’t kissed her. Not yet. But he had certainly touched her and handled her as if they were a mischievous couple. Hands on her hips, her lower back… her ass a few times! She could feel the heat from her continuous blush, but she had to play her part too. Besides… turnabout was only fair. So maybe she had leaned into him a bit too often, giggled up at him like a loon, and maybe ran her hands over his chest and stomach one too many times. But he had started it!
She glanced at him out of the corner of her eye. He too was listening to the pair at the other end of the room, but she sensed he was also acutely aware of her beside him.
She still couldn’t believe she was on an assignment with him. She had never been so attracted to someone in her life! The second he had opened his door to his log cabin – Which contrary to what she had assumed, was actually mostly glass, to let nature in as they say – she had been powerfully drawn to him.
He had a natural, rugged, look going on that she liked. She’d always loved a bearded man; but she found that one with deep dark brown hair that he had shaded with just a touch of dark green and the sides shaved close, was even better. He was slim, but she could sense his strength, not to mention the power contained within him. His eyes were a pale shade of green that seemed to see right through her.
She liked to think she wasn’t so transparent, but he had sensed her attraction to him right away. Or maybe he felt just as drawn to her?
Though he was so hot she found it hard to breathe when she looked at him, she couldn’t do anything about it. She’d never been a one-night-stand kind of girl, and after tonight she’d probably never see him again. He lived three hours away from New Vanhelm, where she lived and worked. As the druidic guardian of Estrom he had a responsibility that would make travel out of the area difficult. And she certainly couldn’t imagine leaving her home or the guild to explore a possible relationship.
And why was she thinking about this anyway? There had been some flirting, yes, but to be having feelings for a man she had literally just met was ridiculous!
Killian shifted next to her, bringing her back to the present. The desk they had all dove under was huge, bigger than Roric’s actually, but it was still a very tight fit for two grown adults and an imp who was currently edging his way towards the opening. His eyes were fixated on the golden tassels holding back the curtains of the windows across from them. Nose twitching, he sniffed the air and let go of her black brocade dress with a last caress of the material.
A hand shot past her and gripped Mun’s tail, preventing him from leaving their questionable shelter. Unfortunately, Killian’s action caused his arm to brush the side of her breast. A frisson of electricity shot through her, and she gasped… out loud.
Conversation abruptly stopped at the other end of the room. A male voice rang out, “Is someone there?”
The three of them froze for a split second, and then Mun abruptly popped out of sight just as Killian moved to breathe against her ear, “Don’t move.” He then muttered an incantation under his breath. He didn’t need to worry about her moving. With his arm still across her, pressed against her breast, and his warm breath fanning her ear, she hadn’t moved an inch.
She felt an unnatural shiver run down her spine and then spread over her whole body. Though she wasn’t sure what had happened she recognized the feel of magic and realized he had cast a spell. She felt a moment of envy that he hadn’t had to sign a spell and could simply use an incantation. Then a man rounded the desk and walked back and forth clearly looking for someone.
He didn’t bend over to look beneath the desk, but he should have been able to at least see their legs and know there was someone there. His eyes passed right over them.
Looking around a bit more he went back to his partner. “I don’t see anything, but lets get back to the party.” A second male voice agreed, and a second later they heard the pair exit.
Both of them were experienced enough to wait a few more minutes to make sure they were truly alone again. Killian then pulled back to gaze down at her and she felt his spell dissipate. Feeling warm at his closeness, she barely recognized her own hoarse whisper. “What spell?”
Whispering too, he breathed, “A low level invisibility spell. Fast to cast, but you can’t move or it breaks.”
“Oh.” Well that was a lame response. But the tension was growing between them and she couldn’t think straight. The air became charged and she couldn’t look away from his shadowed face. He was going to kiss her. And she was going to let him.
Angling his head, Killian leaned forward into her. She raised her face to meet him. Even though they had just met, she felt as if they had been waiting for this moment forever.
This was it. She held her breath in anticipation.
A loud squeak caused them both to jump, hearts pounding. Turning, they saw a widely grinning Mun hanging from curtains, one of the golden tassels hanging from his tail.
Breathing a sigh mixed with relief and frustration, Kara scrambled out from under the desk, closely followed by a clearly frustrated Killian. “Mun!” Hissing at the unapologetic imp, he pulled on the tassel attached to Mun’s long tail but didn’t try to take it. “I told you to go home!”
Apparently Mun must have responded, for after a moment, Killian continued, “We were fine. I can handle anything we find at a simple ball.”
There it was again. The reminder that he understood Mun on a level she would never be able to. Her mood ruined, she ignored their apparent argument and strode to the windows. Aha! They were casement windows, able to swing open, and large enough for her and Killian to slip through.
As she worked the crank, she tried to figure out why Killian’s ability to speak with Mun bothered her so. Mun annoyed her so much she couldn’t imagine his being able to actually talk to her would be any better. He’d probably just demand more cupcakes.
Finally easing the window open she looked over at the still arguing dynamic duo. She could tell they were having a good-natured ribbing, not an actual argument. If one didn’t know he was a druid, you would think Killian was having a one-sided conversation with himself.
Still a little miffed over their quick bond, she rolled her eyes and stepped onto the windowsill. The ground was a little bit of a drop, but only by a few feet and, even in heels, she easily landed on the manicured grass. She had barely landed when Mun popped in front of her, tassel swinging crazily. She felt a bit mollified to know he had immediately noticed her absence. She felt even better when at the same moment, Killian poked his head out the window and waved at her to move back and allow him to jump out.
So they hadn’t been as absorbed with each other as she had thought.
Her feelings of jealousy frustrated her. She had never had a friend or boyfriend that had made her feel this way before. She had friends that were like family, but she’d never been jealous of their friendships with others. And though she’d had a few boyfriends over the years, she’d never felt threatened by other women or even their time with their own friends. This was the first time she had ever felt the emotion; and it was over an imp who was half friend, half pet… and a druid she barely knew!
Killian leaned closer than necessary to whisper at her. “Keep to the shadows and follow me.”
What the hell? He knew she was a guild hunter, right? She should be the one telling him to stick to the shadows and follow her! Swallowing her ire, she crouched slightly and followed the irritating man. If he thought she wouldn’t bring that up later, he had another thing coming.
Mun settled heavily on her shoulder and wrapped a tail around her throat for balance. She absently tugged on his tail a bit to loosen his hold and weaved a pattern for stealthiness. A brief glow suffused her hands before fading quickly and she felt the spell wrap around her. It would muffle her steps and make it hard to see her as long as she “kept to the shadows”. A handy spell when one needed to get around quietly in noisy heels.
They quickly made their way to the center of the courtyard. For someone who was supposedly involved in demon summoning or some other nefarious activity, Vax hadn’t posted any guards to roam the grounds. Either he was innocent, or he was very confident in his abilities to protect his secrets.
Stepping through an ivy covered, stone archway, they came upon the central courtyard, dotted with flower beds, small fountains, and benches. Stone pavers lead to the center where a massive oak reigned over all.
She’d never seen a tree so huge! Not just in height either! The trunk was so fat it looked odd compared to some of the branches. And some of the lower branches were so large and heavy they skimmed the ground. Aside from the sprawling branches, moss grew on many of them, giving the whole thing a furry look in the dark. It looked like Vax and previous owners had the tree trimmed from time to time to keep it healthy; they could see where some limbs had been removed. For the most part though, it looked as though the tree was left to grow as it willed.
As they moved closer, she looked up at it’s canopy… and up. And up. She could see now why Killian referred to it as the Ancient.
Mun vanished from her shoulder and popped in front of the trunk, tassel glinting in the moonlight. He then popped in and out at various points as he happily investigated this new curiosity.
Killian led her right up to the massive trunk. He looked around the area one more time, making sure it was still empty and then placed one hand on the tree as he spoke in the druidic language. She didn’t understand it, but she could tell he was casting a spell. After a moment, he stopped chanting and removed his hand.
Bowing respectfully to the tree, he angled towards her. “Kara… the Ancient has agreed to speak with you.” He cocked his ear as if listening to something, then spoke again. “She says you have a beautiful spirit.”
Startled, Kara was momentarily thrown. “Oh! Well, tell her I said thank you.”
A lopsided grin pulled one corner of his handsome lips. “You can tell her yourself. She understands most of what you are saying as she senses your thoughts through your spirit. I will assist if she needs additional understanding as well as to translate her messages to you, of course.”
She really was going to be talking to a tree.
Clearing her throat she moved a bit closer to the trunk. Not sure where to look to address the Ancient, she bowed her head in a small nod. “Um, thank you. I… like your leaves.”
Teeth gleaming in the dark, Killian chuckled and gestured for her to continue.
Pulling out her cellphone, Kara quickly pulled up the picture of their suspect. Then unsure what to do, she showed the screen to the trunk and then to a few branches for good measure. “We were hoping you could identify this man. We need to know if this is Eukithor. A demon who resided here long ago.” A choking sound came from behind her.
“Kara…” Killian paused when she glanced over her shoulder at him. Looking horrified, amused, and irritated all at the same time, he simply gaped at her a moment.
Annoyed, she frowned at him. “What?”
Pinching his forehead, he ground out, “Trees don’t see like people do. You can’t show it a picture.”
Her heart plummeted, but he continued. “The Ancient isn’t going to be able to answer your question.”
Her gaze swung back and forth between the tree and her phone, where the suspect mocked her with his frozen grin.
Shoulders drooping in defeat, she let out frustrated huff. “Well, fuck.”
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