After a teasing week of warm weather, winter had returned to the large town of Drasberg to once again cover the buildings and streets with a pristine layer of snow. It was a beautiful sight as a light flurry of snow fell from the dark clouds and floated through the tall trees of the forest, an amazing scenery which Seifer assumed his seer could never properly imagine. It was a great shame to him that one beauty would never be able to appreciate the other.
"Ready for another try?" he asked with a stretch.
From his seated position on a fallen tree, Squall glared up at the blond with tired eyes, the mix of gray metal and blue ice shining bright with anger and frustration. The sour look, however, was ruined by snowflakes sticking to the dark eyelashes and flushed cheeks, the minor addition making the man appear youthful and innocent.
"Come on, Squally-boy. We're not done until you score a point against me."
With obvious reluctance, Squall stood up and brushed back lengthy bangs from his sightless eyes. He then stepped forward into a defensive stance and raised his wooden practice dagger to chest level. Pleased that the seer wasn't giving up yet, Seifer grinned happily while twirling his practice knife with his dominant hand. He walked forward at a casual pace, letting the blind man judge his position by the sounds of his steps in snow. Just before he was within range, the fighter tossed the knife to his other hand, and then lunged at the waiting man. Despite his delayed attempt to dodge, Squall was poked in the arm for easily the hundredth time that day.
His eyes closed tightly, the seer growled out a curse as he shoved the hand aside. "I'm tired of this."
Starting to feel his own frustration, Seifer stepped back with his eyes narrowed in thought. "I didn't think it'd be this difficult for you. I mean, you know all of the basics by now, and the way you... Wait a minute here, are you listening to those voices of yours?"
"What else am I supposed to do?" the brunet answered tersely.
"So that's our problem," the fighter said in a humored tone, nearly laughing. "Squall, you don't need to use those parasites. In fact, you shouldn't try to depend on them. They'll only slow you down."
The seer pressed a hand against his face, his expression one of angered disbelief.
"I know what I'm talking about here, kitten. I've seen how you're able to shy away from people before they can touch you, but during these spars, you've been wasting precious seconds while waiting for those voices to tell you what to do. You don't need them, so tell them to shut the fuck up."
Squall looked over at the blond, the cloudy eyes showing his uncertainly to trust the man's words.
Deciding to prove a point, Seifer raised his practice knife to shoulder level, and with a large step forward, he slashed in a wide downward arc. Stormy eyes widened just before the brunet leaned back with a half-step, causing the wooden blade to barely miss his midsection. The seer's surprised expression quickly shifted to one of anger as Squall lunged forward and tackled the larger man to the ground. Once able to regain lost breath, Seifer found himself pinned to the forest floor with a practice knife pressed against his throat and snow down the collar of his shirt.
Laughing lightly, Seifer wrapped his arms around the brunet. "Told ya so."
With fast and hard breaths misting in front of his face, Squall seemed bewildered and a bit frightened by his successful counterattack. The wooden knife was dropped to the snow-covered ground, and his ice-cold hand took its place on the fighter's neck. "Did I hurt you?"
"No more than I've hurt you in the past month. It's about time you got some payback," Seifer replied with a pleased smirk. "Though I should scold you for breaking rule number one - never lose your weapon. What if there was another attacker right now?"
The seer smiled faintly. "I'd let you handle him."
Scoffing in mock annoyance, the blond said, "Sorry, I only rescue damsels in distress. I don't have time for boys, even if they're fucking gorgeous. You'll just have to save yourself. So repeat after me - don't--"
"I know, I know," Squall interrupted. "Don't drop my weapon for any reason."
"Good boy," Seifer murmured while leaning up for a chaste kiss, but apparently the seer had other ideas since he pressed forward and forced the larger man flat on the ground as their kiss deepened. While the tongue play was helping to keep certain parts of the fighter warm, the snow at his back refused to let the man savor the rare moment properly. "Alright, you got your point against me, so let's move this to our nicely warmed bed."
With a mischievous grin, Squall rested his body fully against the prone man.
"Uh, in case you didn't notice it, kitten, I'm lying on snow here. And believe it or not, it's a lot colder than you are."
In an uncaring tone, the seer asked, "How many times did you jab me with that damn stick today?"
"Hey, I was forced to do it in the name of training. The old man Kinneas used to knock me around all day long until I learned the right way to hit back. I swear that I was only thinking of you the whole time."
"I have bruises."
"And there's healing balm in our room."
Breathing a chuckle, Squall asked, "You're determined to get me into bed, aren't you?"
"Well, technically I don't need a bed..." Seifer corrected as he moved his hands to soft leather pants and squeezed the encased ass such that the seer reflexively grinded his hips forward.
Biting off a soft moan, the brunet quickly sat up. "Not here, bastard."
With a satisfied smile, Seifer watched as his seer stood up and brushed off snow from his clothes. Looking up from his prone position, the fighter had an excellent view of light snowflakes fluttering around the movements of the blind man. The pale skin of his face was lightly flushed from the cold, the faint color intensified by the contrast of dark brown hair glittering with ice and drops of water. Squall then breathed into cupped hands, his stormy eyes crossing in an endearing fashion.
"Hyne, you're beautiful."
An odd, stunned expression crossed the attractive face before Squall frowned and looked in the direction of town. "I'm cold."
"Then we better remedy that as soon as possible." With a loud grunt, Seifer stood up from the frozen ground, and after quickly collecting the dropped practice knives, he wrapped an arm around the waist of the smaller man. "Let's go make you warm again."
As they walked silently through the forest, Seifer receded into his thoughts and worries about the future months. The day the blind man had his last vision still dominated most of his thoughts, but despite his concern, he rarely brought up the topic with Squall and only when relating to the tournament in Correna. It was difficult for him to hold his tongue about the matter, especially when the seer was having terrible nightmares, but Seifer knew the stubborn man wouldn't give him anymore information than he already had. Questioning him would only cause Squall to retreat into himself, and after so many months of drawing the man out, Seifer wasn't willing to risk losing his lover over an argument he already knew he couldn't win.
Sighing out a misty breath, the green-eyed man gazed up at the dark clouds and decided that he would simply have to be patient and wait for the future to eventually reveal its mysteries to him. Just like any other common man. With another sigh, Seifer wished that he could truly think of himself as a 'common man', but after everything he had seen and done...
Vaguely leaning against the seer, the Hero finally surrendered to the fact that he had a destiny to fulfill.
"Ow, damn it!" Seifer said before stealing the damp rag out of the seer's hand. "I'm already injured. Does it bring you some kind of warped pleasure to make me bleed even more?"
Taking a fresh rag out of the bucket of cold water, Squall muttered, "You made less noise when you were given these wounds."
The blond promptly stole the wet cloth before it could touch his skin. "I'm clean already! Can't you just heal me and call it done?"
"I'll say when you're clean enough," the seer stated with his hand held out for the rags.
"You can't even see, idiot. I'm telling you that there's nothing left but skin, and that will be gone soon enough if you don't stop scrubbing."
"I promise you that I'm clean," Seifer said, his voice slipping into a childlike whine.
Sighing, the brunet explained, "A man tainted with the blood of werewolves bit your leg. I can't heal you until all of the poison has been drawn out."
"Whoa, a werewolf? No one said anything about fucking werewolves in this tournament. Wait, what the hell am I saying? Werewolves don't exist. I mean, sure, the guy had quite the set of canines, but... a werewolf?" When the blind man offered no assurance to the fighter, Seifer said in a far less confident voice, "If he was really a werewolf... and he bit me..."
"You will be fine. I'm nearly done," Squall said softly.
The cloths were finally returned to the seer, who then promptly resumed treating the wound below the man's knee. He focused his energy into the fairly small injury and pulled on the darker blood he could feel within the muscular leg. It was unfortunately painful to the fighter and caused the injury to bleed heavily, but it was necessary to remove every drop of the infected blood before it could travel to the man's heart and begin to change him. Luckily the opponent was apparently a young werewolf, thus his poison was weak, but it had still done its damage.
Seifer dropped his hand to caress his fingers through thick hair. "It's annoying how you keep calm no matter the situation. It makes it impossible for me to know when I should be panicking."
"That's the point," Squall muttered before tightly squeezing the wound. The fighter hissed out a curse, but no longer argued against such treatment. Darkness finally flowed from the injured leg, and the seer quickly wiped up the mess before whispering a minor healing spell. He then sat back on his heels and sighed in relief that no long-term damage had been done to the blond.
"Shit, it was actually black... and I swore it was moving..."
Squall shrugged, not knowing what it should have look like, but being able to feel the tainted energy of the blood, it didn't surprise him greatly that it may have appeared to hold a life of its own.
After a few more moments to collect himself, the fighter leaned forward from the wide rim of the fountain, and with his hands firmly wrapped around the slim arms of the seer, Seifer stood them both up. Squall swayed slightly at the fast change in position, but strong arms moved around his backside to help steady the blind man. Several months back, the brunet had surrendered to his desires for the persistent fighter, but in that lost battle, Squall never realized that he had crossed some line which made him pathetically touch-hungry when it came to the man's heated caresses. And so, while his face showed his disgust for his weakness, the seer pressed his body against the larger man and breathed in deeply to get his fill of the spiced edge to the fighter's bloodied scent.
"Stubborn until the bitter end," Seifer muttered before licking and biting the ragged tip of the brunet's ear.
"Now isn't the time for this."
Humming out his understanding, the blond moved lower to attack the sensitive flesh of the seer's neck. "But when I win, you'll give me a nice prize, yes?"
Squall shivered at the rough tone of voice, though didn't reply. He wasn't certain that he could form a response to such a question even if pressured for one. Fortunate for him, the announcer began his overly imaginative speech about the championship match and the two opponents.
"Fuck, it can't be time already," Seifer growled out before lightly biting the exposed neck. "I swear that there is a conspiracy against me having my wicked ways with you."
Pushing out of the loosened hold, Squall resisted the urge to tell the fighter to forfeit the match and return to Drasberg with him. "Don't get distracted. There will be time later for such unimportant--"
"Come here and wish me luck," the blond interrupted, his arm quickly wrapping around the lean waist and then jerking the blind man forward for a rough kiss. Soon parted from the brief joining, Seifer patted the knife at the brunet's lower back hidden beneath his shirt. "Don't let anyone touch you while I'm away."
"Leave already," Squall ordered, thankful that he couldn't see the undoubtedly smug expression of the fighter.
"Alright, alright. I know when I'm not wanted." And with the crunch of boot on sand, Seifer made his grand entrance into the main arena.
The blind man moved closer to the open archway and leaned against the smooth stone as he listened to the shifting cheers of the spectators in the coliseum. It was the only way for him to 'watch' the matches and hope that the audience was at least in partial favor for the blond fighter. The battle seemed to start off hard and fast judging by the gasps and encouraging yells from the stands. Squall smiled softly, knowing that Seifer had a great amount of stamina compared to most men. If he could last the first several minutes of the fight, the rest of the match would be a simple case of cleanup.
Focused on the sounds of the coliseum, Squall didn't noticed the footsteps behind him until the faint ringing of metal made him turn around sharply with his dagger held before him. The two sets of footsteps stopped in place, and after a stunned moment, two deep chuckles echoed in the stone passageway.
"And what do you plan to use that for, blind man?" one of the men taunted with a sneer clear in his voice.
Easily masking his fears, Squall asked, "What do you want here?"
The other stranger stepped forward. "A certain 'friend' requests your presence."
"I have no business with your mistress."
"A-ah, she said that you might be expecting us. Well, if you knew about us coming here, then you should also know that we aren't allowed to take 'no' for an answer."
"Not my problem," the seer stated while rising his blade higher.
The snapping sound of cracked knuckles made cloudy eyes shift to the other man. "Oh, it will be your problem, blind man. Our boss has no issue with you being damaged upon delivery."
From the arena, an abruptly loud cheer echoed through the stone passageway, which the brunet hoped meant that Seifer had finally claimed first blood against his opponent. But the fight was far from over and Squall doubted he could protect himself from the beldame's lackeys for the length of the match. Even so, the blind man was determined to follow Seifer's order and not let either men touch him before the Hero could arrive.
From his defensive crouched position, Seifer mentally scoffed at the cheers of the surrounding spectators. They knew nothing except that he had made a fairly deep slash along his opponent's forearm, thus scoring first blood in the match. In reality, the cut was a meaningless scratch to the behemoth of a man. Over a head taller than Seifer, the bald man had a bulky, muscular build which would easily intimidate most men into hiding. In his meaty hands, he handled a huge great axe as if it weighed no more than a wooden staff, and Seifer swore he could feel the ground shake every time the wide blade would impact with the earth.
But more troubling to the blond was the chill in his blood whenever he gazed into the coal black eyes of the man. There were no discernible pupils or irises, just eyes of pure darkness. And despite the tanned skin of the man, dark veins were still visible all over the large body. A sickening sensation started to build within Seifer the longer he fought the giant, and the green-eyed man became certain that Hyne had never intended for such a man to exist.
With black eyes focused on Seifer, the grinning giant lifted his arm and licked at the small measure of blood in a clear sign that it meant nothing to him. Pushing back his heated anger, Seifer didn't fall for the taunting tactic and waited for the man to resume his barrage of rapid attacks with the swinging great axe. The blond fighter learned early on that it was nearly impossible to move in close to the giant when the axe was in motion, and so he chose the boring but logical strategy of waiting for the bald man to tire out.
And so, it was in the middle of dodging the strikes of the heavy blade when Seifer felt the drop of pressure from around his chest. Green eyes went wide at the sudden loss of the seer's protective hold, and in a foolish move, Seifer glanced in the direction of the arena entrance where Squall had been left behind. The sharp whistle of a blade cutting through air reminded the blond fighter of his situation, and he barely managed to raise his sword to block the great axe before it could lop off his head. Even so, the force behind the attack drove Seifer back a step before he fell to the ground. Without pause, the blond was rolling on the hard ground before he smoothly regained his footing, just in time to witness the fall of the heavy axe blade onto the sword unavoidably left behind.
With a loud clang and bright sparks of white, the silver blade was broken in two.
Green eyes unblinking, Seifer stared at the destroyed weapon which had protected him for several years and through uncountable fights. More importantly, it was the silver blade which Squall had sacrificed his body and pride to give the blond fighter the type protection he greatly needed. The cries from the stands began cheering for the large man to finish off the match, but Seifer hardly heard those cries as his lips twitched into a malicious smirk.
Sliding a foot back, the blond fighter squared off to face the grinning giant. The bald man chuckled deeply as he approached with his axe swinging to gain momentum. His eyes bright with angered energy, Seifer let himself be slowly driven back as he waited for the giant to go in for the kill. Eventually the great axe was swung wide, the tip of the ragged blade tearing a hole in Seifer's shirt as he leaned back from the attack. Then in a rapid move which the bald man had done several times before in the match, the axe was redirected to swing in the opposite direction with little lost in power. The tip once more tore through cloth, and took a slice of skin as well with the counterstrike, but Seifer smirked broadly at the move he had been waiting for.
Launching forward, the blond fighter grabbed onto the long handle of the great axe, using its momentum to help him topple the giant. They dropped hard to the ground, and given his opponent's surprise that an unarmed man had attacked him, Seifer had the greater control over the weapon and pressed the handle up against the thick throat. Already suffering from lost breath after the fall, the giant wasted several confused seconds before he began his struggle, but Seifer remained firm with a nearly insane gleam to his eyes. The meaty hands left the weapon in an attempt to reach up and strangle the man who was slowly killing him, but seeing the move, Seifer sharply pressed all of his weight against the handle, the resulting crunch of the broken windpipe making him sneer with pleasure.
Seifer didn't move for a long time as he stared into the dark eyes of the man. There was no regret for his death, the blond fighter knowing previously that only one would be alive by the end of the match. Instead, a sense of pity burned within his chest. Reaching out, he placed a hand over the man's face and whispered a barely remembered prayer of sending. With the final word, Seifer jerked back as liquid-like blackness seeped from the man onto dirt and then was sucked completely into the ground. When nothing further happened, Seifer hesitantly reached forward to pull the eyelids down over normal brown eyes.
With that done, the blond fighter immediately remembered the lost pressure around his chest, the presence of which signaling the seer's constant worry about his safety. But Seifer wasn't given the chance to check on the blind man as he was forced through the awarding of his hard won prize. Uncaring about the proceedings, the blond practically stole the purse containing his winnings from the announcer's hand, and then sprinted to the entrance of the arena.
His voice was still echoing in the stone passageway by the time his eyes adjusted to the dimly lit area, but still the blind man was unseen. So focused on looking for his seer, Seifer jumped slightly when he kicked something against a wall. Green eyes stared at the bloodied knife for several seconds, the blond briefly trying to convince himself that the hilt of the dagger didn't look anything like the one he had bought for Squall only weeks earlier. But denial was pointless. He picked up the knife, his eyes narrowing at the dry feel to the blood. Though recognizing the sign that too much time had passed, Seifer ran through the passageway towards the exit, willing his exhausted body to move as fast as possible. Reaching the open archway, the blond stumbled to a stop and leaned against stone as green eyes desperately searched over the crowds of people, but there was of course no sign of the blind man.
Slumping down to the ground, Seifer pressed the base of the bloody hilt against his forehead and closed his eyes tightly. "Never drop your weapon, Squally-boy. Never..."
~ > < ~
Seated in a small carriage, Seifer stared out the hazy window, but saw nothing of the passing buildings and people in the dimming light of early evening. He was seething with anger, and it didn't help him any that he couldn't burn off that heated energy while trapped in the confines of the carriage.
Squall had known. The seer knew that he would be kidnapped by the beldame and he had never spoken a Hyne-damned word about it. What was worse to Seifer was that in all those months since the lengthy vision, he had continually sworn to Squall that he would never fall for the sorceress' trap of requesting a meeting, that nothing would get him to walk willingly into her territory. And every time, the seer would reply, "Such is your choice," in that deadened voice of his. The bastard knew.
The carriage came to a slow halt and there was the sound of movement from above before a boy eventually opened the door for Seifer. With green eyes narrowed in suspicion, the blond stepped out of the carriage and eyed the large stone building before him.
"The Lady is waiting for you, sir," the boy stated in a shaky voice, no less afraid than when he first approached the fighter with the beldame's message.
Seifer glared down at the boy, tempted to push him once again for information about Squall, but there was the good chance that the youth truly knew nothing about the events of that afternoon. Sighing in frustration, the blond tossed a silver coin at the boy, and ignoring the superfluous thanks, he strode up to the set of large doors. Before his knuckles could connect with wood, the doors opened wide to reveal a lovely young woman of dark brown eyes and short brown hair.
"Mr Almasy. Thank you for deciding to join us this evening. I'm pleased to finally meet you."
Green eyes locked onto the attractive face of the woman, her bright smile making his heart flutter at the thought that he had pleased her. With a hungry curl to his lips, Seifer took a step forward to be closer to the brunette, the action causing his necklace to shift beneath the collar of his shirt. The touch of silver against his skin triggered a chill throughout his body, and after a violent shiver, Seifer meet the curious gaze of the woman and found his attraction for her gone.
A quiet growl left him. "Don't mess with me, witch. Where is Squall?"
The woman frowned. "Squall...? I'm sorry, but I don't recognize the name. Though my mistress may have answers for you. She would like you to wait for her in the dining room," the brunette stated, inviting him inside with an elegant wave of her hand.
Seifer hesitated, knowing that it was a terrible idea to set one foot into the obvious trap. But with a small smile, he decided that he already had a history of stupid choices, so what was one more mark against him which Squall could happily scold him about.
Following the brunette who held the grace apparently natural to sorceresses, Seifer eyed his surroundings and mapped out potential escape routes. While no one was visible, the blond felt the presence of several others in the small mansion. It was awkward walking there with his side bare of a sword, but Seifer felt confident as he traveled further into the trap. He felt protected. Green eyes widened slightly as he realized that the familiar pressure had returned around his chest. It was vague, barely felt, but it was there. His lips curled into an unbelieving smile as he thought about Squall protecting him when it was the seer who needed rescuing.
"Just through here," the brunette said as she opened a door for the fighter. "I'll inform my mistress that you have arrived."
Seifer stared into the dark brown eyes before he stepped forward and placed a hand against a pale cheek. The woman smiled happily, a flicker of conquest glowing in her eyes. The fighter's returning smirk held no humor as he leaned in close such that he could feel her breath against his skin.
"Why do you let her control you?"
Dark eyes widened as the woman tried to backup, but Seifer had already moved his hand behind her neck in a rough grasp and kept her in place. With a hint of panic in her voice, she ordered, "Release me."
"This power of yours doesn't have to be dark. Why do you let her twist your spirit into something that it wasn't meant to be?"
The young sorceress whimpered under the tightened hold and jerked away from the larger man to be freed of his hold. After staring at the blond fighter with a panicked expression, the woman turned sharply and ran down the length of the hallway, showing little of the grace she had earlier.
Seifer watched the woman's retreat until she disappeared around a bend, and then with a tired shake of his head, he decided that he was steadily going insane. He didn't know why he had to harass the young sorceress like that, but it had felt right. Just like it made the sickness in his stomach go away when he had spoken the words of sending to the defeated giant. Sighing quietly as he walked into the dining room, he chose to not think about it further until he could speak with Squall.
With the decision to stand rather than taking a seat at the long table, Seifer leaned against the wall next to the doorway and awaited the appearance of the beldame. Anxiety and restlessness didn't make for a good mix as he waited in silence, but holding the silver pendant of Hyne, Seifer found some peace as he thought about Squall's habit of stroking the necklace whenever they laid naked and exhausted in bed.
The second entrance to the dining room opened soundlessly, but the movement caught the attention of the blond fighter. Whatever he had imagined the beldame to look like, Seifer hadn't considered that the sorceress would have the same otherworldly beauty as the other sorceresses he had met. She was supposed to be the 'beldame', an old hag who wouldn't be a problem to resist. Instead, the black-haired woman had a regal beauty and arrogance about her as she glided into the room. Her pale skin and natural grace were intensified by the flowing black dress she wore, and when her golden eyes gazed into green, Seifer was positive that he would've been a lost man if it weren't for the pendant clutched tightly in his hand. He could feel her power seeping into him, assuring him that it would be best to surrender to her will, but Seifer was able to maintain his own mind.
"My, you certainly have grown since the last time we met," the beldame said, her low voice both seductive and cold. "But you're still just a child despite your size. A boy playing the courageous hero."
His teeth clenched in anger, Seifer hissed, "Where is Squall?"
Full lips painted dark red curled into a mockery of a smile. "As that little protection charm of yours must tell you, your precious seer is alive and conscious. But he has nothing to do with this meeting."
"I came here for Squall."
"And he isn't a part of the arrangement I wish to offer you." Waving a hand toward a chair, the beldame said, "Please, have a seat and we can speak over dinner."
Seifer smirked viciously, unmoving from his position against the wall. "I'm not hungry, and I don't feel like talking to the bitch who wants me dead. So give me Squall and I'll consider letting you live another day."
The sorceress smiled with little humor. "I won't deny that I tried to kill you in the past, but I was hasty in that decision. To my shame, it was my former protégé, Rinoa, who made me see your other potentials. And as my messenger should have informed you, your life won't be threatened here. Though, if you refuse my offer, I cannot guarantee your safety beyond the city limits of Correna."
"Where is Squall?"
"He isn't for discussion," the woman stated tersely, her fake smile faltering for a brief moment. "Tell me, child, have you ever looked closely into a mirror. Have you ever seen what amazing eyes you bear?"
"No, and I don't give a fuck. Where--"
"You are a chance existence," the beldame interrupted. "Mixed with the taint of green, one of your eyes has the dull gray of cold metal and the other has the yellow glow of sunlight. It's such a lovely duality which wasn't visible when you were younger."
"Gee, I'm so glad that you find my eyes noteworthy," Seifer stated with acidic sarcasm.
"It is a sign of your power, boy. Do not mock it." The sorceress moved slowly around the corner of the table and stood with her arm draped over the back of a chair. "I have always known that the spirit of Hyne resided within you, and I attempted to take your life because I have made the pledge to prevent that heartless god from piecing himself together. But only recently have you shown that another divided spirit thrives with your body - the blessed spirit of the Goddess, Altemehsia."
Hesitating as he glared at the beldame, Seifer said, "I'm not interested in your tales, woman."
She smiled as if to say she knew differently. "Not even the prophets foresaw your coming. Or maybe they did, but refused to believe that a person could survive with eternally opposing forces trapped within mere human flesh."
"Is there a point behind this nonsense?"
"I wish to make an alliance with you. Only you can help me resurrect the Goddess, and with Her return, you will have more power, more fame than you could possibly imagine." Stepping forward, she continued to say, "People on this world have suffered long enough without the proper guiding hand. We can help them. Rather, I believe that it is your destiny to save them, and they will praise you for their salvation."
His eyes locked onto the intense golden gaze, Seifer nearly lost himself in her overwhelming attraction and tempting promises, but then the edge of the silver pendent bit into the palm of his tightened fist and reminded him of his situation. "Enough. Where is Squall?"
The beldame paused in her approach and frowned vaguely. "What do you care about that man? Do you believe him to be an innocent? He has killed me once and severely injured me numerous times. I have the right to my revenge."
"Not when he belongs to me."
After a stunned moment, the sorceress smiled with renewed composure. "If you insist on having that man... For some infuriating reason, that seer refuses to die properly, and I am fairly certain that he will live even after I have satisfied my desire for vengeance. And so, I will make this pledge to you - loan me your power, and once your true destiny has been fulfilled, I will present the seer to you myself." In a low, soothing voice, she added, "Accept this offer, and I promise that you will be able to protect him from any harm."
Hesitating once more, Seifer found it mildly ironic that the power to protect one man meant more to him than the strength to reign over many. But then he remembered the night when Squall had wakened from his vision-induced dream and begged Seifer to never surrender himself for the single purpose of saving the seer. It was a rare moment when the stoic man had allowed his panic to overtake him, and was thus forever burned into Seifer's memory.
"And already you're breaking the deal before it began," the blond fighter stated as he leaned up from the wall and stood tall. "You see, I can only cause him pain and misery. How exactly can I protect him from myself if I will never let him go?"
Golden eyes narrowed. "He has warped your mind."
With a smirk, Seifer replied, "A-aw, is the big bad witch upset that a blind man is better able to manipulate me?"
"If that is the truth, boy, that you don't fear my influence, then why do you continue to grasp onto that trinket and hide behind its protection?"
Sharp green met the glittering eyes of the sorceress. "What, this trinket?" Uncaring about the threat before him, the fighter jerked on the light chain such that the clasp snapped open and slipped off his neck. Without second thought, he threw the pendant at the woman, and using that as a distraction, he proceeded to reach back and grab the dagger hidden at his lower back. The sharp cry of the sorceress was unexpected, and Seifer smirked at the sight of the dark red burns where the necklace had contacted with the fair skin of her face. Not wasting the given opportunity, the fighter drew out his blade and rushed the disoriented woman.
Unfortunate for him, the beldame recovered quickly with her golden eyes glowing and a single hand raised with white light arching around her pointed finger. The overwhelming magical attack struck Seifer barely a step in front of the sorceress, but it didn't stop him despite the blinding spell burning throughout his body. As he pressed forward, the silver dagger slid into her exposed chest and instantly ended the magical attack. Able to see once more, Seifer sneered at the wide-eyed gaze of the sorceress and shoved her forward onto the table top. As she struggled to remove the knife, the blond swiftly knelt down to retrieve his necklace. Wrapping the two ends around his fists, he rounded the table and placed the chain under the woman's chin. Upon contact, the silver burned through pale skin and drove a weak whine from the sorceress.
"I don't need you to take what is mine," Seifer stated, and then pulled the chain tighter until the woman no longer struggled.
Feeling shaky, the blond stepped back slowly from the body and stared at the lithe figure while he tired to regain his composure. Seifer knew the sorceress wasn't officially dead until she was beheaded, but the moment of heated passion had already past, and he knew that it wouldn't be wise to take her head despite his fervent desire to end her existence. The time he beheaded the younger sorceress was still fresh in his mind, and the fighter knew it would be stupid of him to chance falling unconscious and leaving himself vulnerable in the beldame's house. He couldn't afford that when only Hyne knew what type of danger Squall was in. And so, temporarily leaving his dagger behind to ensure the sorceress would stay dead, Seifer hurried out of the dining room and began the search for his seer.
Lying limply on wood, Squall had the terrible urge to scream until he had no voice left. Instead, the only sounds in the room were the constant drips of water and the quiet whispers of a swinging blade as it gradually dropped lower and lower and lower. Even the voices were forced into silence, the entire building warded to prevent the demigods from interacting with that plane of existence. It had been that way for hours or days, Squall didn't know, though he wished the beldame was less patient with enacting her revenge, and less creative. Earlier, she had told him in graphic detail the numerous deaths she had planned, leaving the blind man with plenty to imagine as he awaited his first death.
And yet, those thoughts were nothing compared to his memories of the lengthy vision which hadn't stopped plaguing him since they arrived in Correna. Everything had already played out as shown in the vision - the months of training, the invitation to the tournament, Seifer's easy rise through each stage, and Squall's eventual kidnapping. But the seer spent little thought on those events as it was the end of the vision which tormented him. In the blurred images, Seifer had come to the stone room but did nothing as he leaned relaxed against a wall and watched the slow death of the brunet. Time and time again, Squall had dreamt the same images and was forced to see the betrayal and pain clear on his face as the heavy blade of the pendulum sliced through his abdomen, and Seifer had done nothing to prevent it. He did nothing but laugh.
Squall tried to force away the echoes of that laughter from his thoughts, once again telling himself that it hadn't been Seifer. Something had happened such that the spirit of a sorceress had taken over his mind and body, but the seer was never shown that important piece of the future. For that reason, it was impossible to warn Seifer against that path, not knowing if to advise him against one action would lead him into a worse situation. And so Squall chose the coward's way out and mentioned none of it to Seifer, placing faith in the man to know his limits, while denying his own superstitious fears in connection with speaking about that future out loud.
Cloudy eyes snapped open at the call of his name, but he couldn't reply. After his initial surprise, he figured that it was a trick by the beldame to use the deeply toned voice and raise the brunet's hope that the 'Hero' had come to save him.
"Squall! Damn it, are you down here or not?"
"You know where I am," the seer muttered bitterly, annoyed by the pain in his chest that the voice sounded exactly like Seifer.
"Squall?!" An abrupt clang echoed loudly. "Ow! Fucking shit, that hurt." After a few more unintelligible curses, the deep voice rang out once more. "Come on, Squally-boy! Where are you?"
"Seifer..." the blind man said in disbelief, but then smiled softly at the thought that the man had the habit of doing both the impossible and the incredibly stupid. "Here!"
In short time, there was another louder clang as a nearby door flung open and smashed into a wall. The fighter hissed out a pained curse, which was soon followed by a far louder and cruder remark as he most likely got his first look at Squall's situation. Seifer rushed to the seer's side and proceeded to do something which finally brought an end to sound of the swinging blade. Eventually the bindings at his hands and feet were removed with some difficulty, but aside from his faint relieved smile, Squall didn't move despite being freed.
A rough hand brushed against his face. "What's wrong? Did she hurt you somehow? Fuck, a few of these bruises look really bad."
"It's not that. A paralysis spell must have been cast on you and it redirected to me," the seer said, unconsciously leaning into the warm touch. "But it's already wearing off."
In a move which surprised the brunet, Seifer lifted the smaller man into his arms and kissed the corner of parted lips with bruising force. "Hyne, I'm so angry at you right now."
Having no response to the statement made in a cracked voice, Squall rested his head against a broad shoulder and let the man do as he wanted.
"We're going to talk about this later." And after far gentler kiss, the fighter began walking. "We have a larger problem, anyway. I kind of killed that beldame of yours, but I didn't behead her yet. At this moment, she's sitting upstairs with my knife sticking in her chest. Well, that is, she should be there, unless somebody touched her."
"You... defeated her...?"
"Hey, don't sound so amazed."
"You defeated her... and then left her alone for her followers to find? With your father's dagger in plain sight?" Squall asked heatedly, his hand clenching into a tight fist.
"What the hell else was I supposed to do? I had to come find you, and that knife is keeping her dead. I didn't have very many choices, kitten, and you should be honored that you came first."
The seer bit his lower lip to hold in more pointless words which would insult the man's intelligence.
"And I wouldn't be too worried about her underlings," Seifer stated as he stepped oddly and someone groaned with serious pain as the person was kicked. "I came across the guys who stole you from me, and man, did you fuck them up. I'm so proud of you."
As anger ebbed away to slight embarrassment at the praise, Squall pressed his face against the fighter's neck. "Take me to the beldame."
"I want my damn blade back, so that's where we're headed." In a distracted voice, he added, "And hopefully her other little protégé is still hiding from me."
As they then traveled in silence through hallways and up staircases, the seer focused inward and tried to purge the curse from his body, but it was a terribly slow process with the voices still blocked from his mind. And it didn't help that other thoughts were distracting him. Seifer had defeated the beldame. While he must have somehow caught the woman off guard, it was still an incredible feat which gave Squall his first taste of true hope for the future. The Hero had gotten stronger just as he promised in his youth.
"This is the place," Seifer said quietly while awkwardly opening a door. "A-aw, and lookie here, our favorite bitch is still napping. So, now what? I really don't feel like beheading her considering what happened the last time I tried that stunt, and me being unconscious won't help to get you out of here. But if I remove the knife, will she come back to life?"
"Not immediately," Squall replied distractedly as he considered their options. "Can you write?"
"Only my signature. Why, what do you have planned?"
The seer sighed. "Never mind. We don't have the time to bother with it. Just remove your dagger and slice her throat to ruin her vocal cords. Even with the help of another sorceress, she won't be able to cast spells for weeks."
"Are you certain? I mean, if you want--"
"What I want is to leave before we're noticed."
With an exasperated sigh, Seifer gently set the blind man on the floor and propped him against the wall. Walking away, the blond said, "It seems stupid to have her powerless like this and not finish her off somehow. She won't be as careless the next time we meet."
The warning Squall was about to speak concerning the dangers of beheading the sorceress was cut off with an unintentional whine as the first vision in months assaulted the seer. The images were too blurred and jumbled to make any sense to the brunet, but there was the sense of safety within the unfamiliar setting. There was also something about the silver sword, its pieces becoming greater than the whole, but the faded images snapped to black before the seer could understand what they had to do in order to reach that future.
Gasping for air, Squall wasn't surprised by the strong arms wrapped around him and the soothing whispers spoken into his ear. It was practically a common occurrence, and sadly a welcomed reaction by the blond to coddle him. But already exhausted from stress and injured from the earlier beating, the destructive vision was one step too far for the blind man.
Fighting for consciousness, Squall breathed out the single word, "South."
After a long moment during which the seer thought he hadn't been heard, Seifer shushed him softly. "I heard you. Go ahead and rest. Leave everything to me."
Unable to find the energy to speak, the blind man nodded vaguely and held on long enough to feel the fighter lift him easily into the air. As the large man walked with his natural stride, Squall was quickly soothed by the swaying motion and slipped into an unexpectedly peaceful slumber as he placed his trust onto Seifer.
Author's Whining -- Well... that was an utterly pointless chapter, wasn't it? *laugh* At least Seifer got another bag of gold to splurge on his kitten. But now there's another 'side quest' coming up. Bleh, I think I'll try to make it into my favorite 'explanation chapter' about the choices Seifer will have to make... once I figure them all out. Anywho, despite this extra stuff coming up, I think I finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. It's far, far, far ahead, but I never knew how to get there before, and now the winding path has finally opened up for me. For people wanting guestimates, there are going to be at least six more chapters to this evil story. *pout* And I'm blaming this on the people who wouldn't let me kill off Seifer like I originally planned when I thought up this story a full year ago.