Court of Sorcerers – Part 4
This is Part 4 of this short story. You can read the beginning by clicking here.
They had accomplished two goals with one potion: they had confirmed the effectiveness of said potion, but also sowed distrust between the King and his court astrologists. Everything was going according to plan. But now, Elyscia had an invitation to answer.
“My love,” her fiance greeted her with a kiss. “How are you, lately? I feel as if I haven’t seen enough of you.”
She smiled lightly. “I have been busy with wedding preparations, but I am glad of your invite today.”
“Tell me, how can I help then?”
“Well, I went to see Alvius, the court astrologist, and he has given me the best dates for the wedding. Perhaps you can ask the Priest which of the dates would work for him? And find musicians who are also available?”
“Certainly,” the Duke answered, as he took her hands in his. “I’ve also thought of something else to free up some of your time.”
“Oh?” she raised an eyebrow and grinned.
“Come, let me show you.”
The Duke pulled her through his home, which was a good walk considering it was practically a palace. Her hand ran along the gold trimmed banisters, as they went up the stairs. Portraits of former Dukes of Devonshire lined one of the hallways. Finally, they stopped in front of a set of mahogany double-doors.
Nicolaus opened the doors with a flourish. Inside was a beautiful workshop: tables with cauldrons, crucibles, vials of various ingredients, and the finest tools. Everything was brand new and of the highest quality. Elyscia gasped. She could’ve never imagined having such a workshop in her wildest dreams. But what Nicolaus said next shattered those dreams.
“I can help you collect anything you might wish to keep from your shop, and you can close it down and continue your work here.”
Elyscia laughed nervously. “But Darling, surely you don’t want my customers showing up at our home when they are in need of my services? I will still need to keep my shop.”
The Duke looked down on her as if she was a foolish child that he found adorable and amusing. “You are going to be a Duchess, my love. A Duchess cannot be a midwife.” He took her hands and laughed. “You will want for nothing. You don’t have to work anymore.”
He said it as if he was delivering the most wonderful surprise, as if she should be pleased giving up her life’s work, just giving up on helping people.
“I’m not closing my shop. I want to keep working,” Elyscia said, eyes flaring.
Nicolaus dropped her hands.
In her shock and anger, she had let the mask of the adoring fiance slip, but this was one thing she couldn’t bear. Not for anything.
For once, Elyscia was conflicted about her plan. They needed the Duke on their side, but she wouldn’t allow him to destroy her life’s work. They would have to move up the plan. She could call off the engagement, as soon as they accomplished what they set out to do. She told Renout as much.
She had been worried about his reaction, thinking he might have the same view of her work as a midwife, but he accepted her request to move up the timeline without trying to change her mind. As the head of the court alchemists, he had no time for other work, but he told her that many other court alchemists had other occupations and hobbies that they were passionate about.
“You’ve no hobbies, at all? I don’t believe that,” Elyscia said.
“Well, none that are time consuming,” he replied, turning back to his work.
She got up from her chair and moved into his line of sight. “What non-time-consuming hobbies do you have then?
He sat down his pen with a sigh. “I read, of course.”
“What good would any magician be that didn’t?”
He nodded once in agreement. “I occasionally practice archery.”
Elyscia laughed merrily. “Archery? Are you any good?”
“I’d wager I could beat you, and your Duke,” he replied with a smirk.
Elyscia looked down at his hands, noticing the calluses for the first time. She ran her fingers over them. She snapped her eyes to meet his. “I accept your challenge, the one against me anyway.”
Renout blinked. “You want to shoot against me?”
A slow smile grew. “Yes, let’s go now.”
Renout wasn’t one to back down from a challenge, especially one he made himself. He gathered two bows and quivers full of arrows from his room, before meeting Elyscia in the palace yard. She stood across from the targets, staring at the sky. The sun was beginning to retreat, and the colors were beautiful. Almost as mesmerizing as Elyscia.
She turned at his approach, flashing a grin before she took the bow he handed her.
“We won’t have much daylight. We’ll need to be quick,” he said.
“I think we can take our time,” she replied, her voice hinting at some game she was playing. There was more to this meeting than an archery contest.
“Ladies first,” Renout said with a sweep of the arm.
“I’m no Lady.” Elyscia stepped back to make way for him with a sly smile.
Renout’s eyes trailed her for a moment, before he turned to the target. He nocked an arrow, pulled back the string, and fired. It hit near the center of the target.
Elyscia whistled. “You’re quite good.”
She had a swagger to her steps, as she walked up to face her target. It had Renout momentarily worried. She copied his prior movements and took her shot.
It barely hit the bottom of the target.
A shocked laugh bursted from Renout. Elyscia began laughing too.
“I fooled you didn’t I? You really thought I was going to be good at it.” Her eyes twinkled with mischief.
“I guess I’ll have to give you some pointers,” he replied, walking towards her. “Raise the bow again.”
Renout stepped behind her, wrapping his arms around hers, and adjusted her position. There was just enough light now to see the target. “Like this,” he whispered in her ear. He felt her give a shiver against him. “Now, let go.”
She released the arrow, and it struck much closer to the center, this time. She turned to face him, the bow the only thing separating them. The last of the light faded away.
They were now alone in the courtyard, in the dark.
Renout took the bow from her, his hands grazing hers, and laid it aside. Without a word, she closed the gap between them, looking up into his eyes. That step was permission enough for him.
He bowed his head and kissed her. Her arms slid around his waist, as her lips responded to his. One hand went into her hair, the other rested in the crook of her neck. The kiss was slow and deep. It felt like the moment he first made a new discovery. Elation, surprise, a thrill bubbling up inside.
No woman had ever made him feel this before. This feeling that he chased after so desperately in his work. He hadn’t known it could be found here, in something as simple and magical as a kiss. He imagined it couldn’t normally; this woman was unique. What was between them was something extraordinary.
What do you think of the story, so far? Would you have been happy at the Duke’s offer to quit your work and be a Duchess? Let us know in the comments! Ready for more? Click here for the conclusion to the story!
Thanks so much for reading!
-Clever & WTF