Oh, I had been sure the previous part had been posted last week. So, I am a little late with showing something new here at least once a week, sorry.
To make up for it, I'll tell a bit about my experiences with the Critique Circle in a few days.
You won't find any relation to a prompt in this part, too. On the other hand, I finally worked out how to use the last prompt I chose from my cheerleader-friends and how this story will generally proceed and conclude. Yay! :)
-> the beginning
-> previous part
"Yes, you need a protector - and I would be honoured if you would accept my services for that task." This time he held her gaze, but she could read nothing aside from what she already knew in his brown eyes. He gave only a little bow to signal that he was aware of the magnitude of this offer. It would have been expected that one would bow and show deepest reference to the seer, but Alexander and Valeria were too equal now and too closely bound already to justify or require such a display of respect and humbleness.
"You don't know to what you are committing yourself." She scooped up a handful of the magical flame with a fluid movement. By her silent command it turned silver, with a core of dark purple.
'Almost like a flower.' For an odd moment could not help but loose himself in the beauty of it.
If her intention had been to frighten by this display of her power, it didn't work at all. In contrast to what his future wife seemed to believe, he was very well informed about the possible consequences they were about to face.
Alexander slowly blinked and lifted his eyes again to meet hers. The flame did not scare him, but it had to accept him. Anyone who made such an offer had the right to be tested. Few ever contemplated it, and less dared to risk their sanity or even their life in the attempt to bond with a seer. As far as he knew, it was customary to explain the risk and cost and make sure the applicant had no illusions about the gain.
Without breaking the eye-contact, he removed the glove from his right hand. The pale light from the flame on Valeria's open palm made her expression even more unreadable than it had been before. He silently vowed to himself he would learn how to see past her mask.
The thought that he might not survive this day never occurred to him. This was what he really had came for. He could not fail. Grimly, Alexander ignored the idea she might want him to fall victim to her magic. It was only one possible explanation why she did not waste any more time in preparing or discouraging him.
Fascination and ambition reflected on his face when he reached through the sizzling manifestation of a seer's power to grasp her wrist and in return felt her fingers settle on his own skin. The flame didn't get quenched between them, but instead immediately took in the offered flesh. Liquid silver crawled over their joined arms, originating from the magical fire as well as her markings. No description on old scrolls could have prepared him for that, and he noticed that his eyes had wandered.
'Don't get trapped by the magic. Welcome it. Don't fear it. Don't be greedy.' This was his mantra and his shield, enforced by his will to gain command over her power and the resolution to pay any price for it, until the latter wavered.
Alexander worked hard to hold Valeria's gaze and pass the test, without noticing how he got lost in it. The bond strengthened more and more every second. He could no longer tell where his arm ended and her skin began. Their heartbeats had aligned themselves and vibrated through his whole body. Vaguely he wondered if he still was master of his own thoughts. And suddenly he found he didn't care much if she could read his mind – if only he could know her plans, wishes and worries, too. How else could he protect her properly, after all?
'She is concerned about something. No, she seems sad. And I think it has something to do with me, the way she looks at me.' The magic which was connecting them now had granted him his wish.
It was a moment of gain and loss. He realized he could see past her calm, unemotional mask, and was sure she had learned something unsettling about his future. Her eyes widened with a knowledge that had not been there before. The ritual had weakened her self-control. Curiosity and temptation made her dip into the magic which was weaving their lives together. It was forbidden to touch it, for fear of influencing what might come. And yet, she wanted a glimpse of what lay ahead. In the instant she became aware of him seeing right through her, she struggled to regain her discipline.
'What does she know? Has she seen Rianne? She has to tell me! Or can I still influence our fates?' Alexander's thoughts raced. When it was clear, Valeria's mind was shielded from him again, he concentrated on showing the magic what he really wanted.
Suddenly pain shot through every fibre of his being. It had been mentioned in the scrolls, albeit no description could do it justice. He gritted his teeth against the ice that seemed to fill his veins as the strange magic seeped into his body. A thin sheet of sweat betrayed his struggle against the feeling of hot lava in his lungs and down his spine. All the while, his fingers only twitched slightly, hardly increasing the grip on Valeria's hand. Concentrating on his heart's desire gave him the strength he needed. His free hand, however, would bear the bloody marks of his nails, if he ever was able to unclench it again.
Although still not completely married, they were forming a bond that was so much more stronger. Part of her power was now in him. Not enough to show, like on her own skin - but enough to make him her loyal and capable protector. He would know when she needed him - until death set them free again. In turn, she would be aware of any threat to him or their shared path without much of an effort. She still would not be able to see her own future, but their close connection would provide the next best thing.
The flame had tested if their fates could be weaved together like that. It would not allow a seer to bind herself to someone whose lifespan was meant to be short or who lacked the true will and strength to be a protector.
Valeria knew now why the future had been concealed from her, whenever she had tried to see the day of the Traveller's arrival and what lay beyond it. The silver-flames which had sealed their magical union had only just began to form these paths.
To be continued ...