As promised, here's a new chapter less than eight months after the previous update - enjoy!
Bo automatically leaned forward, and had just opened her mouth to ask Dyson if the same old man who'd abducted her and Kenzi had sent him back in time too when the look in his eyes stopped her cold. After the Norn took away his love for her, she'd gotten used to him looking at her without the affection that used to light up his eyes whenever his gaze fell on her (or at least she had told herself she was getting used to it), but this was different - the look he was giving her now wasn't just cooler than before, it held no emotion at all apart from a hint of curiosity, like he didn't even recognize her...
Then, as the shock of seeing his face again wore off, she began to notice other details - like the fact that his hair was longer and pulled back in a bunch of braids that just brushed his shoulders, as well as the subtle accent in his voice as he thanked Hengist and collected his payment - and everything clicked into place. This must be Medieval Dyson. Wow, I knew he'd been around a while, but the freaking Dark Ages?! Damn... And except for the hair, he's exactly like the Dyson I knew in the twenty-first century! I hope I still look that good in a thousand years.
Medieval Dyson took his bag of money and walked off without a backward glance, and Bo slumped back in her seat as another realization hit her. Even after he lost his love for her, her Dyson was always there when she needed him, but since this Dyson clearly didn't know her from Eve, he probably wouldn't be inclined to help her out...which meant she truly was on her own.
With his winnings in hand, Dyson made his way to a table at the very back of the hall and took a seat, pulling a tankard of ale toward himself before turning to speak to the table's only other occupant, who was the closest thing he had to a friend in this accursed place. "Good fight today, Lancelot; with a few more like it, it won't be long until we have enough coin to leave here."
Lancelot didn't seem to hear him; his eyes were fixed on the woman sitting at Hengist's side across the hall, the corners of his mouth turned down in a slight frown.
"What's the matter with you?" Following the direction of his gaze, Dyson said, "Don't tell me you're upset that you weren't the one who caught the Lady Morgana's eye. I'll admit she's a rare beauty, but there'll be others."
"That is not the Lady Morgana," Lancelot said flatly, ignoring his attempt at levity.
"Really? Well, that makes sense; I don't imagine a man like Uther Pendragon would take a fae as his ward." He hadn't been in this part of the continent, where humans vastly outnumbered fae rather than the other way around, very long, but word of the king of Camelot's legendary hatred of all things magical had already reached his ears.
At that, Lancelot finally took his eyes off Hengist's captive and turned to face his dining companion, surprise written plainly in the arch of his eyebrows. "That woman is fae?"
Dyson nodded. "I could smell it on her."
Lancelot's features then fell into a pensive frown. "I wonder how Hengist came to have a fae in his clutches while believing her to be King Uther's ward."
"No idea," Dyson replied with a shrug, "though I doubt he'll be pleased when he tries to ransom her back to her guardian, only to find that Uther's ward is safe and sound." Although he hadn't had much reason to smile lately, he couldn't stop himself from grinning wolfishly at the thought of the brutish warlord's plans being thwarted.
In contrast, Lancelot's frown only deepened. "No, he won't...and then she'll likely suffer the same fate as everyone else who displeases him, unless we stop it."
Dyson's eyebrows shot up, and he put his tankard down with a thump that almost sloshed out some of the ale. "Us?"
"You would not let an innocent woman be thrown to those beasts, would you?" Lancelot demanded, gesturing to the cage where they had fought earlier, which now held a pair of wilddeoren that were feasting on the losers' bodies.
Personally, Dyson wasn't so sure that the mysterious woman needed rescuing - of all the bizarre human customs he was discovering now that he lived among them, none was more baffling to him than the humans' insistence on treating their females like fragile, helpless creatures who needed protection from men and should, in turn, be subservient to them. In the fae world, women were just as likely to be formidable fighters as their male counterparts; in fact, his former pack had learned a great deal about the art of war from Ciara's clan, which was led and, for the most part, defended by their women. Still, he knew Lancelot wouldn't give him any peace until he agreed, so he said, "All right then, we'll break her out tonight, after everyone's asleep."
This suggestion seemed to appease Lancelot, and Dyson was allowed to finish his drink at last.
When Hengist finally had his fill of leering at her, Bo was locked in a cramped, dirty cell, with two guards posted outside for good measure - apparently Hengist was serious about protecting his investment. She would have preferred only one guard but, deciding that two was a manageable number, she put her escape plan into action. Tightening the laces on her corset to emphasize her cleavage and taking off her cloak so it wouldn't impede the view, she sauntered over to her cell door and tapped on the bars to get the guards' attention. "Hey, guys. Wow, it is really cold in here... How would you boys like to come in and warm me up?"
The younger man looked tempted, but the older one, who appeared to be in his fifties, grabbed his arm to keep him in his place. "Sorry, your ladyship," he said in a mocking tone that didn't sound at all remorseful, "we're under strict orders not to touch you. Hengist says we can't expect your guardian to pay for spoiled goods, see?"
Right, I forgot I'm in a stupid antiquated society that still puts a ridiculously high premium on virginity. If only I could tell them that ship sailed a long time ago...but that wouldn't be a very Morgana-ish thing to say. Stymied, at least for the moment, she sat down on the tiny bed and wrapped her cloak around herself like a cocoon - she hadn't exaggerated how cold it was in her cell, but the covers on her cot smelled so musty that she suspected they were full of mold.
After an hour or so, when the older guard left to visit the latrine, leaving the younger, more naive one alone, she decided to try again. "Hey - hey, you!"
He looked up and acknowledged her with a grunt.
Refusing to be put off by his lack of manners, Bo said, "Since we can't share body heat, can you at least bring me an extra blanket? If your boss is worried about Uther not paying for damaged goods, I doubt he wants my toes to freeze off."
"I don't think anyone cares about your toes," the guard scoffed.
"But Uther will probably want to marry me off someday - that's what kings' wards are for, right? What if my future husband has a foot fetish?"
The guard blinked, apparently at a loss for how to respond to her admittedly far-fetched argument.
Bo sighed. "Just go get me a blanket, will you?"
With a shrug, he got up and lumbered off to the nearest storeroom. Bo tapped her frozen toes impatiently while she waited for him to come back, hoping his older, sharper partner didn't return first and talk him out of fulfilling her request - but no, the younger one made it back first, with a ratty, moth-eaten blanket over one arm. The second he came close enough to push it through the bars, she pounced, grabbing a strap on his leather armor and dragging him even closer so she could draw out his chi while her other hand fumbled with the ring of keys on his belt, pulling it free just as he collapsed.
After three tries, she found the key that unlocked her cell and let herself out, pausing to take a short sword from the unconscious guard - at least she hoped he was only unconscious, though she didn't stop to find out - before making her way down the row of cells as stealthily as possible, pressing herself against the wall opposite the barred doors and keeping to the shadows as much as she could.
Just as she reached the stairs leading out of the dungeon, two men emerged from the darkness; by the time her brain registered that it was Dyson and the man she'd seen him eating with after the fights, she had already lunged forward with her sword raised. Luckily, Dyson's reflexes were just as fast, and he was able to bring his own blade up in time to parry her strike.
Bo didn't try to attack him again but still kept her sword at the ready, reminding herself that even though his face was almost as familiar to her as her own, the man who wore it was a stranger. People, after all, were shaped by the events in their lives, and Medieval Dyson was missing more than a millennium of the experiences that had made her Dyson into the man he was. "What are you doing here?"
Dyson gestured to the man beside him. "Lancelot here thought you were in trouble and insisted that we should free you, but you seem to have the situation well in hand. I'm Dyson, by the way."
"And I'm not Morgana," Bo informed him, relieved that he'd told her his name so she wouldn't have to worry about slipping up and revealing that she already knew it when they weren't supposed to have met yet. "My name's Bo."
"It's a pleasure to meet you, Lady Bo," Lancelot said politely.
"Now that we all know each other," Dyson began with a touch of impatience, "we should leave before we're caught."
"We should," Bo agreed. "I've already knocked out one of my guards, and the other one seems to be taking the longest bathroom break in history, but he'll probably be back soon."
They turned back to the stairs, but no sooner did Lancelot put his foot on the bottom step than the aforementioned guard appeared at the top, grumbling about his digestive issues...only to stop short at the sight of them. For a single heartbeat, all four of them froze, staring at each other; then the guard whirled around and began running back the way he'd come. Dyson bounded up the stairs, easily overtaking the man and snapping his neck, but not before he yelled out, "Hengist! She's escaping!"
"Shit," Bo said worriedly as Dyson threw the body aside. "Do you think anyone heard him?"
"Let's not wait around to find out," Lancelot suggested. "Come on, we can escape through the tunnels."
He led the way to the main hall - where they were met by a wall of men with swords pointed straight at their hearts. As more of Hengist's forces rushed in to surround them on all sides, the warlord himself pushed his way through their ranks. "Did you really think," he demanded, his beady eyes narrowed dangerously as he glared at Dyson and Lancelot, "that you could steal away my prize and claim the ransom yourselves?" Turning to his men, he barked, "Seize her, and take them to the cage!"
"No!" Bo tried to fight back as the bandits crowded in around her, forcing her away from her companions, but they were hopelessly outnumbered; before she knew it, her arms were wrenched painfully behind her back and Hengist was grasping her face in his meaty paw, turning her head so she could see his men shoving Dyson and Lancelot into the cage, tied to one another with their hands bound.
"Alas, Lady Morgana, it seems your gallant saviors are about to meet an untimely end," he said with a throaty chuckle. "Release the wilddeoren!"
As the gate began its creaky ascent - the same gate through which Bo had seen a pair of giant rats appear earlier that evening to devour the corpses of the men who'd lost in Hengist's cage fights - she felt desperation bubbling up in her chest, drowning out all rational thought. The man in the cage might not be her Dyson, and his friend was a total stranger to her, but they had still risked their lives to help her even though she meant nothing to either of them, and she couldn't bear watching them die for it - especially not in such a gruesome way as being eaten alive by giant rats, and certainly not for the amusement of a disgusting pig like Hengist.
Her eyes - which were now glowing blue - flicked toward the fat warlord, and her desperation gave way to rage at the look of eager anticipation on his ugly face. Stupid bastard; he thinks he's so powerful with his little pets, but he and the rest of these pathetic mortals are nothing compared to me! I should crush them all like the insects they are!
Moving surprisingly fast for a man of his size, Hengist whirled around to face her, his bloodthirsty glee replaced by astonishment; at some point, she had begun speaking aloud without realizing it. His eyes widened when they met the azure inferno of her gaze, and he reached for the sword at his hip, but it was too late. Bo simply opened her mouth and pulled...and throughout the entire hall, Hengist and all his men froze as their life force poured out of them and flowed into her.
They all collapsed when she finished feeding, including the one who held her arms. Freed from his grasp, Bo stalked the short distance to where Hengist lay and kicked the mountain of a man onto his back so she could see his face. He was too weak to move, his breath coming in feeble, wheezing gasps, but somehow still alive. Bending down, she took his chin in one hand as he'd done to her and forced him to look into her eyes one last time.
"Did you think," she growled softly, "you could hold me prisoner and kill my allies? Fool - only I will choose who lives or dies." Leaning in so that her mouth was only an inch from his, she sucked out the last dregs of his chi. Hengist's eyes bulged, and his body thrashed weakly before going limp, his lips curling into the grotesque grin that marked a succubus' kill. Bo didn't waste a second mourning his well-earned demise, but went straight for his sword belt, freeing his blade from its scabbard. With it in hand, she stood up and turned to face the cage, only to find that her new allies were faring better than she'd thought.
While she incapacitated Hengist and his band of outlaws, Dyson had sharpened his nails into claws, easily shredding through his and Lancelot's bonds, then quickly stripped off his clothes. When the first wilddeoren entered the cage with its nose twitching eagerly as it sniffed the air for prey, he launched himself at it and shifted in midair, coming down on its back and sinking his teeth into its hide.
Meanwhile, the other oversized rodent advanced on Lancelot, who backed away as he looked around for something he could use to defend himself.
He spun in the direction the shout had come from just in time to see Bo throwing Hengist's sword to him; sticking a hand through the bars, he caught it, then pulled his arm back in and thrust the blade into the wilddeoren's shoulder. The animal squealed as he stabbed it twice more in the side before falling to the ground, its wounds finally taking their toll. Once it was down, Lancelot gripped the hilt in both hands and drove his blade through the top of the creature's skull, killing it instantly.
In the same moment, Dyson finally managed to bite down on his wilddeoren's short, thick neck, severing its spinal cord with a snap of his powerful jaws. The two of them then took a minute to catch their breath and savor their victory, before the scrape of metal caught their attention and they looked up to see Bo opening the cage. This should have come as a relief, but the fact that her eyes were still blue gave them pause.
"Come," she commanded in that strangely deep, echoing voice. "All the fae will bow before me, and you will be my lieutenants. Kneel to your queen."
Lancelot shot a glance at Dyson, who shrugged his furred shoulders and let out an uneasy whine. He'd suspected from the start that there was more to this damsel in distress than met the eye, but he'd never dreamed that she was capable of draining the life from an entire roomful of bandits, and he certainly hadn't expected her to start acting like a megalomaniac. Now it appeared that she was far more dangerous than he ever could have guessed, and he and Lancelot needed to act fast if they wanted to avoid the same treatment she had given Hengist. His black and gold eyes shifted to the sword in Lancelot's hand; then he bounded through the open door of the cage, his tail brushing Bo's skirt as he darted past her.
Frowning, she turned to see where he was going...and the world went dark as Lancelot slammed his sword's hilt into the back of her head.
Sorry there was no romantic reunion this time - this seemed like a good place to cut it off, whereas carrying it on long enough to reunite Bo with Merlin and Morgana could've easily doubled the length, and thus possibly the wait time as well. Next chapter, I promise...plus we'll find out how Dyson and Lancelot got to be buddies, because who doesn't love a good bromance?