Isellta ran as if he could outrace the memories in his head or the hands all over his body. But, of course, he couldn’t. They flashed through his mind. They grabbed and pinched and punched and twisted his body.
There was no escaping them.
He tripped and fell hard on his hands and knees. He bowed his head, panting and trembling.
Mark Caten smiled. His hands were on her neck. Pressing and squeezing. She couldn’t fight him off. She couldn’t breathe. She was afraid. She thought that maybe he would kill her this time. Black spots danced before her eyes.
Preyuna’s eyes glinted hard and sharp with anger. He was terrified. She was going to hurt him. He knew that she was going to hurt him. She was going to grab him. She was going to punch him. He knew it. He just knew it. Because she always did it.
Isellta stumbled to his feet. His legs were trembling so much. He didn’t know if he could make it back to her room. It wasn’t that much further, but it seemed like it was at the opposite end of a football field. There was too much space. Nothing for him to grab onto for balance. No one to hold onto for support.
“I can do this.” Isellta fixed his gaze on Preyuna’s bedroom door. “I am a tree. My legs are trunks. My feet are roots. I will NOT fall.”
He flared out his wings and haltingly walked forward.
The memories didn’t let up. They kept assaulting him.
Even though his face burned with shame, Isellta continued onward. He tripped and stumbled a couple of times, but he used his wings to catch his balance.
Slowly but surely, he made his way to Preyuna’s bedroom. He stopped outside her door.
Normally, Isellta would have hesitated before entering the room. But he was a man on a mission and it was a mission he was determined to complete.
He opened the door and entered.
Eschia happily fluttered her wings as she searched through Preyuna’s closet. She had woken in her room with the certainty that her queen needed assistance. Maybe it had been intuition. Or maybe Preyuna had slipped that thought into Eschia’s sleeping head. It hadn’t really matter to Eschia either way. Her queen had needed help.
So, she had come to her queen’s rescue.
Turns out that it was a very mild albeit important rescue: Preyuna needed to get dressed.
Eschia had leapt to the challenge.
There were so many clothes to choose from. Some were from home. Others were from the nearby clothing store that specialized in fey clothes. There were rich burgundy gowns with golden trimming. Wine-colored velvet. Royal blue and liquid silver. Delicate lace. Shimmering lace. Gowns bedecked with thousands of small but well-faceted crystals.
But there was one dress in particular that stood out from the others and that was the one Eschia was hunting for. It was a simple peasant dress. The gown was a warm beige, bordering on pale blush. The outer corset was a warm shade of autumn brown with antique gold grommets. A half-skirt of that same autumn brown hung from the right side of the corset around the back to the left side. A hooded neck wrap completed the look.
It wasn’t very fancy or elaborate, but it looked so pretty with Queen Preyuna’s crimson and silver hair.
The bedroom door opened. Someone stumbled loudly into the room.
Eschia stopped her search and checked to see who it was. “Oh.”
It was Isellta Mal Hoven. He was dressed in blue silk pajamas. No naked viewing this time around…unless one counted his bare arms and legs.
“I’m surprised you came back.” Preyuna gifted him with an “I am the Queen. You are my lowly servant.” look. “I thought for sure—”
He sank to his knees and bowed his head. “Please. Please. I won’t do it. I promise. Just please. Make it stop. Take those—” His feathers bristled and flattened in irregular patterns. “—memories away. I won’t…I promise I—” He covered his face with his hands.
Eschia was intrigued. So very intrigued. But she had a job to do. She went back into the closet and rummaged around for that one particular dress.
It took her a lot longer than she’d anticipated, which frustrated her. There was something very intriguing going on between Isellta and Preyuna and she couldn’t eavesdrop on it. They were both being too quiet for eavesdropping.
She almost gave up and grabbed some random dress. It really was hard to go wrong with Preyuna’s selection of gowns. But then! She found it!
Eschia took the gown off the hanger and carried it into the room. She raised her eyebrows in surprise at the sight before her.
Queen Preyuna knelt in front of Isellta with her hands folded neatly in her lap. “Look at me, Isellta.” Her voice was all warmth and softness.
“Can’t. Memories. Oh. Ohh! Hands. Hands…all. All over me. Ah.”
Eschia didn’t move. As much as she wanted to get Preyuna dressed, she did NOT want to interrupt this intriguing little drama.
“Tell me, Isellta.” Preyuna said. “Do you understand?”
“Do you understand why I don’t want you to offer yourself to Mark Caten?”
Eschia nearly dropped the dress from the sheer shock of it all. Isellta wanted to offer himself to Mark Caten? WHY? Why Mark Caten? Is Isellta even okay in the head?
“Yes.” he whimpered. “Please. Oh! OH! Please! Please! I can’t. I can’tIcan’tIcan’t…”
Preyuna gently pulled him into her arms.
“I won’t ask him.” He flattened his wings against his back. “Please. I promise I won’t. I don’t want him to…I don’t want…I don’t..”
“It’s okay, Isellta.” She laid her hand on the back of his neck. “Do you trust me?”