THE WATER WITCH AND THE BLACK DOGS
EPILOGUE: RED RIVULETS
Theirnan looked up as the door to his rooms opened, putting the book down on the little table next to his leather chair. Standing, he stretched his back, wincing slightly at the pull on his still healing abdomen, and walked over to the tiny window to look out across the fog covered moors. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the servant—a youngish woman—carry a heavily laden tray into the room. One of Lord Teraill's guards accompanied her, until she put the tray down and started setting out Thiernan's lunch, at which point she gave him a nod and the guard left them. He locked the door behind him.
Thiernan sighed, leaning against the cold, gray stone wall, and watched her set the table.
"What's on the menu today?" he asked, crossing his arms.
She kept her head down, stringy blonde hair hanging limply around her ruddy face from beneath a loose cap. "Lamb," she said softly. "Sprouts and carrots."
"Ah." He patted his belly. "A meal fit for a prisoner."
She snorted softly, and continued to set the table, placing a carafe of red wine in the center.
"You don't believe I'm a prisoner?" he asked, walking over to look over her shoulder. He could see a curve of pale white skin between her neck and shoulder; it looked inviting. She said nothing to his question, so he continued.
"But I am a prisoner," he said, gesturing around him to the large, well furnished set of rooms he was being kept in. "Just because the accommodations are nice doesn't mean that door isn't locked behind you when you leave. Or while you're in here with me." He smiled slightly, and touched a finger to her neck.
She flinched and quickly stepped to the side, shaking slightly when she moved to set out his plate.
"You know," Thiernan said, following her around the table, "I haven't seen you before. Typically, that ass Teraill only sends in hags or men."
"Lord Teraill is a good man," she whispered softly. "He would not take well to you touching me."
Thiernan touched her bare arm, and she flinched again. "You don't have to tell him," he said. She looked up at him then, her gray eyes baring a delicious amount of sheer vulnerability. He stepped closer…and she quickly dodged around to the other side of the table. Grabbing the carafe of wine, she poured a large goblet of it while he watched, enjoying the way her arms moved and trembled. Some of the wine spilled on the table.
He clicked his tongue. "Shame," he said, picking up the goblet. "Waste of what I'm sure is perfectly mediocre wine." He took a large sip. "I may have to report you for that." He smiled. "Prisoner I may be, but I am still royalty. A certain quality is required to serve me, and you seem to be failing at providing me with what I need."
She had stopped moving when he drank the wine, her eyes on the goblet in his hand, and he realized that she no longer appeared quite so vulnerable. Instead, she looked like she was waiting for something.
And then he felt it. The tickle at the back of his throat. He looked down at the goblet. Something white and powdery flecked the surface of the wine. Instantly, he dropped it, the metal goblet bouncing and spraying red wine across the floor.
"What…" He coughed, pressing a hand to his chest, which was starting to burn. In fact, everything had started to burn. "What have you done?"
"You took him," she said then, and her eyes were like stones. "You threatened the life of my baby daughter, unless I let you take him. But even then, I only agreed because you promised….you said you would not harm him. You'd just have him for a few hours, and I'd have my little Galeshin back."
Thiernan backed up, knocking over a chair and then tripping over its legs, landing him on his back. He was struggling to breathe now, hands at his throat, trying to get some air in his lungs. The wine had spread, sliding down the flagstones towards him in tiny rivulets, as if still trying to reach him.
She strode around the table, until she was standing directly over him, staring down at him with disgust.
"You killed my little boy, fed him to that monster so you could capture her. I was told he died screaming and you didn't even try to help him." She knelt into a crouch by his head. "Now you're going to die, and you're not even going to be able to scream."
Thiernan was gasping now, catching slivers of cold, blessed air, but not enough…never enough. Black spots started to fill his vision. He felt the wine splash on his fingers as he flopped about, trying to escape this death.
"You must understand," she said then, her gaze mapping his face, as if needing to memorize it, "I don't take any joy in this, but I had to make sure. I had to make sure that you could never hurt anyone's family ever again."
He closed his eyes, it hurt too much to keep them open.
"And the saddest part is," she whispered, her lips near his ear, "no one will avenge your death, Prince Thiernan. Because no one cares."
In his head, Thiernan screamed and screamed and screamed.
Thank you all again, seriously, for reading and following this twisty and turny story along. Next time, I promise fewer villains!
A few notes, in case you're curious. I chose Mercia because Mercia was real, and, if the maps are to be believed, it looks like it might be around Lincolnshire? -Ish? Peak District, maybe. I'm sure someone will correct me in the reviews if I'm wrong.
Originally, Bayard was only supposed to have two sons in this story (my own Thor and Loki). As I think I already mentioned, he ended up with four because of the fairy story about the horse carrying four princes on his back.
The four sons also came about as a result of watching the Hollow Crown series this summer on BBC, which was incredible (Tom Hiddleston, guh…). Anyway, Henry IV, had four sons - Hal (who becomes Henry V), John, Humphrey and Thomas. Pieter is based partly on Humphrey, whom just about everyone loved for being a lover, a scholar and a smarty-pants. Renaud is more like John—strong, capable and a fierce soldier (though he did burn Joan of Arc, so…maybe not the best comparison). Thiernan is not Thomas. Thiernan is just Thiernan. No idea where his name comes from, or his personality.
Pieter's name is from Chevalier Pierre de Terraill (also the name of the absent lord at the end who owns the castle Thiernan is imprisoned in). Terraill owned Chateau Bayard, and has ties to Avallon. The real one.
I think that's it. Google Image Peg Powler if you want to see some truly horrific imaginings of what she looked like. There's a fantastic black and white charcoal one on a forum site that matches my image of her. As for the Black Dogs…next time you see one in the street, give it a pet and a scratch behind the ears. It's always good to have them on your side, I figure. :P