Disclaimer: I don't own Narnia or any characters you may recognize from the books or the movies, I wish I did but I don't... I also don't own the Narnian Calendar. It belongs to Elecktrum who was kind enough to let me borrow it for my story. Her own stories are awesome and you should go read them too.
Summary: After being knighted, all Katerina Alambiel has to do is discover her past. But, as her quest leads to some unexpected answers, her simple task takes a dangerous turn as enemies who will use any means necessary to force her to reveal the secrets of her past conspire to place her in an impossible situation: Her secrets or Edmund's life...
Chapter Thirteen: Demons, Part Two
Medea seethed as she stalked through the halls she had altered with her magic. Ignoring how her servants, Creature and Human alike, scattered before her like chaff in the wind, her focus was solely dedicated to thoughts of dark torture intended for those imbecile cousins. If Isak's report was accurate, and her foremost servant had yet to fail her in such a matter, Heikki might have destroyed her chance to pry the secret knowledge she needed to coax from Alambiel's pretty lips now that the girl had regained her memories before Alambiel had even crossed the threshold of her castle. A Cyclops swung open the doors before her and she imperiously swept into the throne room. Her eyes landed on the Sisemaalian mercenary and hardened as she bit out her words, "So, the great mercenary captain who plagues Sisemaal and the Western Wild cannot so much as follow one single and very simple command."
Heikki's black eyes hardened slightly as he retorted, "Strega, you said to bring the woman with white streaked golden hair to you, which is what I have done."
Medea's anger burned white-hot as she managed to make herself loom over the man despite being a little shorter than he was. The fool was deliberately missing the point. "And, the boy?"
Heikki dared to shrug. Medea was tempted to slit his throat then and there, but such a hasty act could jeopardize her plan...if she managed to salvage it from the idiot's personal schemes for revenge. She narrowed her eyes at him and raised a finger to signal Isak when Heikki turned and gestured sharply to the four men who had accompanied him into the room. Medea didn't miss the fact that they had not been among those mercenaries who had originally captured Alambiel and the boy king. The men returned but moments later and tossed two bodies at her feet.
She didn't even need to make the smallest of gestures before Isak was immediately at her side. The Werewolf ignored the way the mercenaries with Heikki stepped back and placed their hands to their weapons at the Werewolf's sudden appearance. Instead, he bent over each body and inhaled deeply. Medea was pleased with her servant when he managed to turn away from Alambiel without indulging his instinct to eat the helpless prey before him, especially since Alambiel's mixed Narnian blood made her a veritable delicacy to the Werewolf. She had trained him well. Isak snarled, "They live, but are very weak. Alambiel may not live long with her wounds untreated and there is still much blood though the wounds are two days old. Same for the boy."
Medea turned a furious gaze on Heikki, which caused his men to step back, the man himself showed no such intelligence. "You played with your poisons again, Heikki. Weakening them so far delays my plans for them for now I must see they are hale enough to answer my queries, which means it shall take all the longer before I allow you and your cousin to seek your revenge on the Narnian woman."
Heikki's jaw tightened and Medea reveled in the fact that she held this man by such a tight leash as his desire to humiliate Alambiel as best he knew how. A vengeance he would not allow himself to be denied even if his cousin, Hendrik, had not been involved. "You promised us the woman would be ours and that we may do to the boy as we wished."
"And, you will, Heikki. But not until I have been granted the information I want from Alambiel and she will not grant those answers as readily without the boy king's presence to remind her of what is at stake if she should refuse me. Now, you had best hope that they recover quickly or it will be your hide and that of your cousin from which I will extract my price of blood." She dismissed Heikki, ignoring the way that mercenary glared at her with open hatred. He wasn't a true threat. He wouldn't dare attack her in her own castle, he couldn't afford to and the idiot was at least intelligent enough to recognize that fact. Medea ordered Isak to carry her guests to their new quarters as she adjusted the schedule they would follow just enough to accommodate the delay necessary for healing them. She would heal them enough to ensure that they both survived the coming questioning, but not to the point that they would be strong enough to attempt any sort of escape. When she had her information, then she would allow the mercenaries to do what they will with both Alambiel and Edmund.
6 Fairdawn 1004
Oreius surveyed the scene before him with a dismay that he was hard-pressed to keep from showing. A glance to his right revealed that Peter had gone pale and was leaning against Faries' side for support, but to his credit, he showed no other sign of the turmoil Oreius knew was wracking him at that moment. After all, Oreius himself could find little of encouragement at the sight of three bodies and more blood than any one person could spill. While neither Edmund nor Katerina Alambiel had been found, the fact remained that there was no guarantee that either one of them were still alive. Aslan help him, but he feared whatever circumstances had resulted in the murdered mercenaries had also proven a fatal turn of events for Katerina Alambiel and Edmund. Turning his attention back to Sherket and Sefu who were returning from their search of the immediate area, Oreius prayed they had found something to confirm both Edmund and Katerina Alambiel were still alive.
Peter straightened at their approach, the slight tightening of his mouth betraying how he both desired and dreaded the Leopards' report. Oreius stepped closer as Sherket offered her report. "Your majesty, General, our initial suspicions have been confirmed. There seems to have been some sort of falling out among the mercenaries and most of the blood belongs to the three dead Men."
Oreius saw Peter stiffen slightly before he asked, "Most?"
Sherket flattened her ears and her lips curled in a half-snarl, "The rest of the blood is belongs to Katerina Alambiel...except for a very small pool of blood that I'm certain is that of King Edmund's."
Oreius tightened his grip on the pommels of his swords at the news while Peter paled even further and cleared his throat once, twice, before he managed to get his next words out. "Did you find anything else?"
Sefu stepped a little closer, brushing his shoulder against Sherket's, as he rasped, "Yes, your majesty, the mercenaries split up after whatever happened between them in the aftermath of King Edmund and Dame Sepphora's attempted escape. Two horses went straight north, back along the trail of the original horse and rider, while the other mercenaries took their horses at more of a western angle."
Oreius frowned slightly then asked, "Which group took Dame Sepphora and Sir How?"
"The two horses that went north, one carried a single rider while the other carried two based on the depth of the tracks...and I found blood in the tracks belonging to them."
Oreius stared at the dark blood staining the ground only a few feet away as he silently wished that Katerina Alambiel had been successful in her attempt to allow Edmund to escape. It would have been easier that way, but instead her plan had failed and now both she and Edmund were injured...badly. Forcing his focus back to the Leopards, he kept his voice low as he asked the question that would determine their next move. "How many days are we behind each group?"
Sefu and Sherket looked at each other then Sherket raised her head and called, "Vardan!" Vardan Windwolf trotted forward and Sherket nodded toward Oreius and Peter, "You checked both trails, Vardan, tell us how far ahead they each are."
Vardan growled, "The two horses are two, almost three full days ahead of us, based on the pace. But, the larger group set a slow pace. There are only one and twenty of them, majesty, yet for some reason they are merely a day ahead of us."
Oreius waved for Ardon to join the small gathering then he looked down at Peter and silently asked forgiveness since he knew his words would be most unwelcome by the eldest of the Royals. "Your majesty, we must follow the larger group."
Peter's head jerked up and his blue eyes speared Oreius with disbelief. "What? Why?"
"We need more information before we can proceed directly to a witch's castle, especially one with mercenaries attached to it. Something happened to cause those men to be killed. Something more than just Dame Sepphora and Sir How's attempt to escape. The mercenaries in the larger group can provide us with that information, I am certain of it."
Peter shook his head, "How do you know? How can you possibly know that, General?"
Oreius didn't hesitate as he quietly replied, "Because, Sir Wolfsbane, neither of them had been injured until the day the rider from the north joined them. We already know that Taisto was the one in charge of this group and even Paavo managed to testify that he heard only good things about Taisto back when he was a member of the Sisemaalian Army. I would not be surprised to learn that the injuries Dame Sepphora and Sir How apparently suffered were directly related to whoever the rider was. And, Taisto may be willing to do more than provide us with the information we need. We will follow the larger group."
Peter twisted around to stare at the blood-stained ground then he spun back to face Oreius. "And, what of Edmund? What of Katerina? Following the larger group isn't going to help them! We're essentially abandoning them to whatever Heikki and Hendrik plan to do with them. We can't do that. They'll torture Edmund and then kill him. I can't let that happen!" Oreius opened his mouth to speak, to reassure Peter, but the High King never gave him a chance as he suddenly stepped closer to the Centaur. "And, what about Kat, Oreius? Are you really willing to just leave her with Hendrik and his cousin, who frankly terrifies me more than even the added factor of the witch. We know what they are planning on doing to her. They are going to torture her, they are going to rape her, and then they will eventually kill her. She trusts you. She depends on you. And, you're just going to leave her?"
Peter's tirade ended as abruptly as it began as the High King looked away from Oreius and took several deep breaths in a clear attempt to calm himself. Oreius remained silent for a moment as he forced himself not to show how worried he was that everything Peter said would come true. He reached out and placed a hand on Peter's shoulder, which he could feel tremble slightly even through his armor. He squeezed gently as Peter raised his left hand and wrapped his gloved fingers around Oreius' vambrace. Oreius kept his voice low as he spoke, "Peter, I have no intention of leaving either your brother or Katerina Alambiel in the clutches of their enemies any longer than it will be necessary to find them. We will find them and we will rescue them both. However, we must go after the larger group first. I know it is hard, believe me, if I could find any other way, a way that would allow us to follow the rider who took them safely, we would do it. We will not leave them in harm's way for any longer than can be helped. We will find them, I promise."
Peter sighed then nodded. After one last squeeze, Oreius released his sovereign's shoulder and looked down at Vardan. "The Western Wild is well known for beasts, so mercenaries in a hurry will not look twice if they should happen to spot some of those beasts in the distance. Vardan, take your pack and set up a relay along the trail left by the northbound horses. Catch up with the rider if you can, or at least provide a set trail to the witch's castle. If you reach the castle, take care not to be spotted as she'll probably have Fell Beasts in her thrall and they will be able to tell the difference between you and a dumb wolf."
Vardan bowed his head then summoned his pack with a long howl. As the Wolves raced north, Oreius continued his instructions. "Sherket, organize your Cats to catch up with and surround the westbound mercenaries. I want them stopped by this time tomorrow at the very latest. Ardon, have one of the Gryphons fly back to the patrols waiting in reserve and relay the orders that they are to proceed to the rendezvous point as fast as possible. Sir Peter Wolfsbane." Oreius paused until Peter met his gaze then continued in the same stern tone he used during training. "I am ordering you to eat and drink, otherwise not only will Alithia know of your refusal to take care of yourself, but I shall also send word to your sisters. All of this will be in addition to informing your brother of your actions in the matter when we have rescued him."
Peter smirked faintly then nodded before wandering to where the main body of soldiers waited. Sherket, Sefu, and Ardon immediately left to carry out their own instructions. Oreius let his gaze wander from one area of bloodstained ground to another, and then he walked over to the area Sherket had reported Katerina Alambiel had been kept before the rider took her. They had lost more time than he had intended and he feared Katerina and Edmund were paying the price. Oreius half-turned to check on the soldiers who had been assigned to bury what was left of the three mercenaries, but stopped when something glinted on the ground. Leaning down, he pulled a piece of jewelry free of the dirt it had been half-buried in. He felt the band of dread tighten its grip around his heart when he realized he was holding Katerina Alambiel's necklace. Pulling a cleaning cloth out, Oreius carefully wiped off the dried blood and mud coating the broken chain and the two pendants. When it was finally clean, he ran a calloused thumb over the two pendants as he had seen Katerina Alambiel do countless times over the years. He remembered how he had once asked her what the cross pendant represented.
Katerina Alambiel smiled as she rubbed her thumb over the two gold pendants before she answered, "The cross refers to how Aslan manifested Himself in the other world."
Oreius nodded, "So, it does symbolize something specific?"
"Yes, it symbolizes many things, but most importantly it symbolizes sacrifice, love, and faith."
Oreius nodded again, but didn't say anything. After all, he did not have to ask if it was important to her. He could see it in her eyes.
They hadn't spoken of it again after that Sixthday conversation, but Oreius knew the necklace was one Katerina Alambiel never took off, not once in the nearly three years he had known her. The fact that the chain had been snapped did not bode well though he refused to dwell on the matter. He couldn't dwell on it, not at that moment. Pulling out a spare handkerchief, Oreius wrapped the necklace in it then stuffed it into the inner pocket of one of his travel packs. He would return it to Katerina Alambiel...and he would also have to find her a new chain to replace the broken one, not that he minded so long as he did have the chance to do so. The plan he had chosen to follow was risky, but he hoped it would work. If it didn't and they were unable to bring Katerina Alambiel and Edmund home alive, he would never forgive himself. Oreius sighed softly as he turned to check with Ardon and to get Alithia's opinion on what exactly the amount of blood present in the area meant for both Katerina and Edmund. One way or another, the merit of his plan would be determined on the morrow. Aslan, please let this plan work out as I hope it will. Help us to reach Edmund and Katerina Alambiel in time. Hold them within Thy paws until we can reach them.
The first sensation that came was one of overwhelming coldness. Odd, it's Fairdawn. It shouldn't be this cold. Opening his eyes, Edmund was surprised to see an eerie blue light illuminating the high ceiling above him. He shivered from the cold again. His left shoulder ached horribly, probably from when Heikki had driven the sword through it. He supposed he should be grateful to still be alive, but he would find it easier to be grateful if he were not...wherever he was at the moment.
Edmund groaned as he shifted only to stop when he realized he couldn't move his feet. Struggling to sit up, he was stunned to see his feet were chained together and the chain was attached to the floor...the ice-covered floor. He couldn't stop himself from gasping as he looked around the room. It was completely covered in ice from the floor to the walls, save for the places where frozen iron bars had been put in. He knew this place. It had haunted his dreams every night for the first two years he had been in Narnia. He was back in the dungeons of the White Witch.
Edmund squeezed his eyes closed. Please, Aslan, let this just be another one of my nightmares. He let out a deep breath then opened his eyes again. The ice, the chains, the iron bars, the exact same eerie blue lighting, it was all still there. He hung his head, breathing out again, watching as his breath hung white in the air. He couldn't believe he was somehow chained up in an exact replica of Her dungeon. Kat was certainly going to have something to say about their current run of misfortune.
Kat! His head jerked up and he twisted around, ignoring the sharp twinge of pain in his shoulder as he focused instead on scanning the shadows of the room for any sign of Katerina. His breath caught as he remembered how badly Heikki had injured her. What if...what if she had succumbed to her wounds? He fervently prayed that was not the case. Yet, he had to admit the gruesome thought that if she were already dead, at least Kat would be safe from Heikki's obvious intentions for her. Aslan forgive him, but that was how he felt about the matter.
He thought about calling her name to see if maybe Kat was just out of sight as there was a far corner on the other side of cell that was completely cloaked in shadows. However, just before he opened his mouth, he heard the grating groan of an iron gate being open. He went stock still as he watched in growing disbelief and horror as he made out a shadow being thrown against the right side of the tunnel wall, which looked like a woman with a crown and something in one of her hands. It was not possible for him to be seeing what he was seeing. Then, the shadow's owner became all too real as she flung open the main gate to his prison cell and entered with an Ogre following about a foot back. She stood before him terrible in her icy glory, her white dress and furs exactly as he had seen them the last time he was in her dungeon, her blond hair was the same as was the crown of ice, and there in her hand was the wand he had destroyed at Beruna just over four years earlier. Jadis. She couldn't be there and yet he could hardly deny what he was seeing. She looked at him then, pierced him with her dead eyes, and a cold, mocking smile flitted across her lips as she spoke in that voice that had haunted him for years since he had first heard it in the middle of a wintry forest. "Edmund, dear, it's been far too long, don't you think?"
Katerina opened her eyes and saw only darkness. She blinked again but the view didn't change. She winced as she shifted her weight too far onto her left leg, she had nearly forgotten that Heikki the way-creepier-than-his-sick-cousin scuzzball had done a stab and slice to her thigh. She wished she could forget the way his fingers had run over her skin. She didn't think she had ever wanted a bath so badly just from the mere memory of his touch and that awful look in his eyes. Remembering the blow he had dealt her, she raised her right hand to touch her pounding temple then paused as she felt a distinct weight on her wrist that was accompanied by the clanking sound of a chain hitting its own links. Of course, I'm chained, wounded, and in the dark because why would this be in any way easy?
Moving carefully, Katerina felt her way down the chains attached to the manacles on both her wrists to where they were attached to the floor by stakes. She frowned as her fingers brushed over wood as she felt around the base of the stakes...she had expected to be greeted by stone. Wrapping her fingers back around the metal stake, Katerina shifted her weight again as she braced herself on her good leg then pulled as hard as she could. The stake didn't budge, but she couldn't say the same thing for her prison. Katerina automatically stretched her arms out for balance as she felt her prison sway. She flinched when both hands made contact with solid wood well before her arms were fully stretched out. She struggled to keep her breathing calm and regular as she pulled her left hand back from the wall then tentatively reached up. She bowed her head when her palm hit the ceiling almost immediately. There was no chance that she would be able to stand up.
She was alone. She couldn't see her own hand in front of her face. She was chained inside a small, wooden box. Katerina never considered herself to be a true claustrophobic, but she was struggling not to panic as she realized the extent of her current situation. And, she didn't know where Edmund was or if Heikki had even kept him alive.
Trying to ignore the growing urge to scream for help that wasn't coming to her in the next few moments, Katerina groped along the seams of her tiny prison. Praying against hope that she would find some sort of catch or a release that would at least open a grate for light. She needed light. She hated being in the dark like this, it was too close to what the Monster had enjoyed doing as part of his torture. She didn't want that demon of her past haunting her when she already had a plateful of trouble to deal with, she wasn't even sure if she could handle it in addition to Heikki and Hendrik, not on her own at least. She froze when she heard the sound of door being slammed somewhere outside...she couldn't tell for certain but she thought it had come from below the box. Then, she heard the distinct sound of metal striking metal and gears groaned. The chains actually lifted in the air and she rose as well as the box suddenly plummeted. Aslan! Cabhair! Help!
A/N: Please Read and Review! Okay, so now we're getting to the truly interesting part of the story. I'm going to go ahead and warn y'all now that there will be a lot of mental torment and a good bit of physical torture will be referenced as well, so sensitive readers be warned, there's a lot of angst ahead. Click on the big blue button below and let me know what you think of this chapter and my ability to insert a cliffhanger into each section this time. ;)