The blinding light and the pain were two entirely separate things that happened to occur simultaneously. Of the two, the pain was worse — it was a pain that afflicted my very soul: similar to the flailing of Lewellan’s geas, but from an entirely different source.
I’d been told, more than once, that faerie nobles are connected to the very land they rule over. I hadn’t really thought about what that might mean. That had been a mistake, because apparently one of the things it meant was that I’d just stepped into Archarel’s home. Uninvited.
Fortunately, the agony of having a layer of my aura flayed off passed almost instantly — if it had lasted like the pain when I’d fought Lewellan, I don’t think I would have survived. I think my brain would have snapped.
I gasped in ragged breaths that I didn’t actually need but my body insisted on taking in response to the pain. I’d wound up on my hands and knees. I could feel a cool, smooth surface beneath them — like tiles. At the same time, however, all of the skin on my hands other than my palms was hot. So hot that the backs of my hands itched, and were starting to sweat — which was entirely the fault of the sun, which was still blinding me.
I heard a startled exclamation from Emma while I was trying to recover. It was followed by a more articulate cry of “You!” that made me jerk my head up and around. I tried to shield my eyes from the sun with an arm. I blinked and squinted, but I didn’t really need to. The last time I’d heard that voice I’d been half-blind and burning, too.
“You bitch,” Mr. Eyelids hissed. He was between myself and Emma now — I could tell that much. My eyes were starting to adjust, enough to pick out shadowy shapes, at least. I tensed: Mr. Eyelids was a hulking blur in front of me — or maybe that was a boulder? We were outside, and I could pick out colors now, but details still escaped my seared vision.
Mr. Eyelids didn’t attack me, though. Apparently he had given up hope of that ever working, because the dark ‘boulder’ in front of me suddenly heaved upright into a humanoid shape and leapt backward. I could see other figures moving now, too. I blinked through the water that pooled over my eyes and squinted harder. Mr. Eyelids had leapt back toward Emma. Three or four other fae had grabbed her. And no sooner had I registered that than another seized me from behind.
I immediately freaked out and tried to tear myself free, but to no avail: the fae were more solid here, and as I twisted and kicked I realized I was in the grip of a massive troll — or rather, in the grips. He had one hand clenched around each of my arms. His fists covered my entire forearms and he was lifting me off the ground, giving my feet no purchase against which to push. The troll did pull me close, though, and I kicked him frantically — hard enough that the monster grunted and snarled before Mr. Eyelids interrupted us.
“Stop it,” Mr. Eyelids shouted at me, “or I swear I’ll stake her through the heart.”
I froze despite my panic over being in the grip of a massive, monstrous, male troll. Mr. Eyelids held a short, dangerous looking spear — and he held it pointed at Emma. What now? I wondered. Panic, I answered myself. I kept my heart beating; beating faster. I held my breath, though, not wanting to hyperventilate when I might need to say something to convince Mr. Eyelids not to follow through on his threat.
When it became apparent that I wasn’t going to keep struggling, the troll slowly eased me down to my feet. He didn’t let go of me, but that was still a mistake: setting me down without letting me go meant the troll was looming over me — and while that did nothing good for my nerves, it did put me firmly in his shadow. I still had difficulty looking out into the sunlight, but at least my hands weren’t sweating anymore and I didn’t feel like my eyes were being burnt when I looked around.
The gate had taken us to a place like a cross between an open courtyard and a bedroom. It was open to the sky, with ‘walls’ delineated by columns and brick and arches, but no roofing. The entire place was paved in flat tiles that glinted dully under the sun, and flowering vines and greenery crept up anything it could climb. In the corners of the ‘room,’ white and red cloth had been hung like mosquito netting: the canopies provided an illusion of shade around the edges of the ‘room’ without actually blocking out the noonday sun.
One of the walls had been carved into a vanity, and most of the pillars had vines crawling up them: vines that periodically gave sprout to broad, flat leaves that served as shelves for various knick knacks and decor. And there was a bed, I noticed: apparently, the portal connected from a bedroom on Earth to a bedroom in Archarel’s kingdom.
Emma was struggling with her captors, but not making much noise — I refocused on her and realized she had been gagged and bound at some point. Even as I observed it, something suddenly cinched my arms together. I let out a startled yelp just in time for a gag to appear in my mouth, too.
And that was all it took for terror to completely override any thought of resistance.
Glamours! A tiny part of me tried to hold on to sanity by clinging to that thought. They’re just glamours. That tiny part of me was by far outweighed by the knowledge that I’d just been chained and gagged, though: now I was bound and silenced and being held prisoner by a freaking troll, in a bedroom and my imagination knew exactly where that was going to eventually go.
At least I was too terrified to be turned on. It was a mild relief that I wasn’t that big of a freak. Unfortunately, I was also too terrified to do anything else, too.
My arms trembled from the effort not to try and tug free of the troll and damn the consequences. I only managed to keep from falling victim to my rabbiting instincts because I knew what would happen if I did.
Mr. Eyelids had sworn it, after all.
I looked at Emma, who was just as helpless as I was, and tried desperately to figure out what I was supposed to do next. I looked around for anything I could use; my vampire-enhanced vision jumping from detail to detail throughout the room.
That was when I realized the bed was occupied. Katherine was sleeping on it. I let out a muffled exclamation: Katherine was sleeping through this mess?
Mr. Eyelids noticed where I was looking and stepped into my line of sight. “Yes,” he said. “This is your fault. I was bound to this… this witch because of you. For delivering Megan to him, Lord Archarel awarded my lady with a position in his court and the immortality she craved. And for failing to capture Megan the first time, he chose to punish Katherine by hexing her into eternal slumber — and me by leaving me bound as her familiar.” Mr. Eyelids seemed to be practically frothing by the end of his explanation. “Do you know what it is like, being bound to someone who is dead to the world? To be trapped here, unable to do anything or see anything, with only those of my old followers who still owe me enough to visit me in exile? Do you know how galling it is to spend those debts just to relieve the boredom?”
I glared at Mr. Eyelids, but didn’t reply. Mostly because I was gagged, but also because I didn’t really want to give him the satisfaction of hearing my words muffled into meaninglessness. He was pissed because he was bored? If I could have, I would have offered to trade him for being terrified. Or, maybe I could’ve faked being a badass and offered to terrify him like I had Pipsqueak and Bonbon. Or…
All of the things I could’ve said ran through my head with no where to go. My autopilot seethed — or rather, I seethed because my autopilot was being stymied. Apparently being forced not to let things out was a pet peeve of mine. Who knew? I hadn’t: I’d never really been able to keep my autopilot in check, after all. I narrowed my eyes angrily at Mr. Eyelids, trying to glare daggers at him. If I could use the shard of Megan’s soul to cast glamours, maybe those metaphorical daggers would actually skewer him.
They didn’t, of course. They didn’t even appear: it seemed glamours remained beyond my abilities. But that didn’t matter, because the attempt had made me realize something.
Megan. She was in this world. So was Melvin. I tried to call for them — either of them, but my words were rendered incoherent by the gag. Frustrated, I tugged against the troll’s grip in a vain effort to free an arm and tear the gag out. I really wanted to see Melvin chop Mr. Eyelids in half again, I realized. Interestingly enough, now that I had come to terms with the fact that I’d wound up in one of my worst case scenarios — bound, gagged, held prisoner by men who hated me — I was less afraid than I would have expected.
It was like the dread was worse than the actuality, I guess.
In any event, now that I’d started trying to find a way out of the situation I was in I kept at it. Since I couldn’t do anything else, I reached out with my mind, scanning my leylines to see if there was anyone I might be able to rely on for help. I reached out to Melvin and Megan along their leylines and shouted at them like I’d shouted at Pipsqueak when I’d warned him not to come back to earth. I didn’t actually know if they could hear that, though, or if it was just me yelling in my head. I tried to find someone else. Someone closer, maybe: like Bonbon or Fumiko, or even…
Or even some other random faerie who might owe me a debt I could cash in on for a rescue.
After all, there were a lot of those.
Especially since all of the fae who owed me had retreated to this world after I’d ambushed Pipsqueak.
And those fae were Mr. Eyelids’ old followers.
In fact, some of them were those of Mr. Eyelids’ old followers who’d owed him enough to come visit him in his exile.
I felt my eyes widen. I stopped struggling. The troll who held me for Mr. Eyelids? He owed me. So did the faeries who held Emma. All I had to do was find a way to tell them; to force them to acknowledge the debt, and then they would be mine. I screamed impotently into the gag. Tears of frustration started to slip from the corners of my eyes.
Mr. Eyelids laughed. “Oh, Abigail. Have you given up?” He smiled. “I should hope so: there’s really nothing you can do from here. I don’t know what you were thinking, coming uninvited to a realm that belongs to your enemy — but I’m glad you did. I would like very much to torture you myself. Can you imagine an eternity with you as my only diversion from boredom?” He smiled, a jagged-toothed grin that brought the terror I’d managed to work past back up to the fore. “I’ve thought about it, I can assure you. I’ve thought about it a lot. And do you know what I decided to do first?”
Mr. Eyelids stood, smiling at me — taunting me with the fact that I couldn’t reply.
“I decided that the first thing I would do would be to make sure you knew just how horrific that would be,” Mr. Eyelids said. “So you would be able to appreciate just how bad it was when I told you I’d come up with something worse than torturing you myself.” Mr. Eyelids licked his lips: I could feel him siphoning off some of my fear. Just a taste. Just enough to make sure I was as scared as he wanted me to be.
“That’s right,” Mr. Eyelids purred. “I’m not going to torture you. Instead, I’m going to earn my freedom by giving you to Lord Archarel. And then he can torture you in my stead.”