They swung down from their steeds in unison. If possible, they all seemed even more intimidating off the massive horses. Each one was easily head and shoulders taller than myself, a rather remarkable feat since I was both slim and tall.
One more reason why I found these four men unsettling. I was accustomed to looking down upon my subjects and others. Always having the advantage of superior height. Why, even that insipid King Basil was barely taller than my elbow.
Yet these men. All tall…threateningly so.
Enough was enough. While they may seem otherworldly, they were still mere mortal men. They would be no match for the dark force once I called it down upon them.
Raising my arms, I prepared to summon the dark force to do my bidding.
Just then, each one of the men reached into their saddle bags and pulled out a large, black crystal, the likes of which I had never seen. Curious, I watched as they slowly circled me, tossing the black crystals into the air and catching them easily.
So distracted was I by the obsidian prisms as the sunlight danced off their polished glass-like sides, that I failed to become alarmed when they surrounded me.
By the time I noticed, it was already too late.
Raising my arms again in haste, before I could even chant the special call, they raised their own arms and sent the black crystals smashing into the ground.
Each one splintered into a thousand black shards as a violaceous cloud emerged from the wreckage. I watched in confused fascination as the smoke snaked and twirled upward. The tendrils interlaced to create a cage around me.
Letting out a shriek of outrage, I curled my fingers into fists as I sought to burn their hearts from within their chests.
Raising my arms, I cried out for the dark force.
“What form of torment is this?” I demanded, pulling my lips back to bare my teeth.
“We haven’t begun to torment you,” warned one of the men.
I shrieked in response as I once more tried to use my powers.
Swiping my arm through the purple smoke only caused a piercing sensation on my skin. Having never felt the like before, I could only assume it was pain. As an enchanted creature, I had always been immune to such sensations.
I was trapped inside this dark sorcery cage.
In horror, I watched as each of them slipped a long, black leather whip from their saddle horns. They slowly untwined the braided leather, each raising his arm high to crack the whip above his head.
Once more, I tried to summon the dark force but was denied.
The air was rent by the cracking of a whip as the thick, black leather strip closed around my raised wrist. Another snap and my other wrist was imprisoned in leather.
“I shall see you damned for this!”
Pulling on my arms with all my might, I was no match for their strength. Two of them encircled my purple mist cage, wrenched my arms down and close to my body. Another whip snaked around my middle, further strapping my arms down. Contorting my body to the left and right, I could not break free. In desperation, I called out to Hrafn, but he did not come to my aid.
With my body strapped in leather, the men stepped through the purple mist, seemingly without harm. It must be some sort of enchantment to bind only my powers.
The one with the gray hair grasped my chin and forced my head back to meet his dark viridian gaze.
“Will you submit, and do as you are bid?”
Jerking my chin free, my eyes narrowed to slits as I inhaled deeply. “Hear me now—”
A heavy hand was dragged across my lips, quieting me.
“We’ll take that as a no. Come, Troylus. It grows dark. We must secure her in the dungeon before the sun sets.”
The kingsman with gray hair, Troylus, nodded his head before leaning down and placing a shoulder to my middle. Slung helplessly over his shoulder, my arms bound and the blood rushing to my head, I could only listen and watch. Waiting for an opportunity to escape.
“You speak the truth, Gripir,” answered Troylus. “Regin, ride ahead and prepare the fortress for our return.”
The one with the tawny hair nodded his assent and disappeared on his horse through the trees.
The dark, quiet one approached me as I lay prone over Troylus’ shoulder. Running his hand down the long, silken length of my straight, black hair, he pulled roughly on the ends. I hissed, the sharp stab of pain alarming.
“This one will not submit easily, my brother.”
Swatting my backside, Troylus ignored my shriek of protest and said, “Which will make breaking her all that much more enjoyable, Gripir.”
For the first time since the dawn of the first sun, a queen of the fairies was carted out of the forest against her will…by four mortal men.