Valle : Book 2 of the Heku Series by T. M. Nielsen - HTML preview
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“Damnit,” Allen said, smiling.
“Want to go out today?” Emily asked and took his hand.
She grinned at the name of Allen's horse. It had fit when he was an unbroken colt, but now as a gentle stallion, he was the perfect horse for a small boy.
She led him out to the hallway and frowned, there were no guards at her door. She knew the cavalry was out on a mission and off of her bodyguard duty for two more days, but she'd had random guards posted outside of her door since the cavalry were made lieutenants.
Emily walked Allen through the palace, feeling a sense of freedom. She didn't pass any heku on her way out and then she remembered the council was meeting today. They were swearing in a new Chief Enforcer, someone named Damon. All she knew about him was that he was another one of the Old Ones and Chevalier had known him for a long time.
Emily picked up Allen and threw him onto her shoulders as he giggled. He loved to ride up there. She walked the short distance to the stables and looked around, still no heku. The stable was empty also, except for Patra and Damnit.
Emily slipped a bridle on Patra and let her out of the stall. She kept glancing behind her as she put on the saddle, cinched it, and then put Allen up by the horn. Emily slipped her foot into the stirrup and swung herself up behind him. She wrapped a hand around Allen's waist and held the reins with the other and then clicked her tongue, heading the mare out slowly.
Emily had seen the rolling hills to the west of the city but hadn't had time to explore yet. She tapped her heals against Patra and the mare broke into a trot. The city was quiet during the day. Most of the business was done in the protection of the night. She could still hear people talking from behind their doors and once in a while she caught sight of a curtain pulling to the side. She was a little irritated by the peeking but knew she was an odd sight for them.
After many turns and a lot of dead ends, she finally found her way to the green hills. She grinned and broke Patra into a gallop. She loved the way the wind felt through her hair, and she could hear Allen laughing. It was good to get the painted mare out on the open grass. She'd been working hard getting the cavalry ready and hadn't gotten to stretch her legs in a while. The afternoon passed slowly as she explored the hillside and talked to Allen.
As she topped one of the hills, Patra reared angrily and Emily tightened her grip on Allen. She calmed the mare down and then saw what spooked her, someone was walking toward them. She watched as he got closer and her brow furrowed.
“Emily?” she heard him ask, and she tightened her grip so hard on Allen that he began to complain.
“Tim,” she said, watching him. She hadn't seen the man since her time as a prisoner for the Valle when he was sent to try to break the bond she had with Chevalier. The last time she saw him, he was fading in and out of consciousness and in pain from her torture.
He stopped a few yards from her and smiled, “I see you had a boy.”
She nodded and pulled the reins, forcing Patra to take a step back, “What are you doing here?”
“I'm a donor, didn't you know?” he asked casually.
“For the Equites? What happened to the Valle?” She didn't trust him at all.
“I'm a donor for whoever needs me. I'm making a call in Council City.” He slid his hands into his pockets and ran his eyes over her.
“I suggest you go back where you came from.”
He frowned, “You aren't still mad, are you? That wasn't my fault! They forced me to do it.”
“I don't care who forced whom, you don't belong in this city.”
“Don't be mad, Emily, please. I've wanted to apologize for a while now, but didn't know where to find you,” he said, taking a step toward her.
Emily pulled Patra back another step, “Come near me and I'll have this entire city on you in an instant.”
“I don't doubt that, I've heard that your husband became an Elder.”
“You heard correctly.”
“I really cared about you, you know that right?” He smiled slightly.
“Oh sure, you let them torture me.”
“No I didn't, they would take me away until it was time to let you go, I had no say in it.” He desperately wanted her to believe him.
“But you knew, the entire time you were helping them.”
“It's right, I knew, but I wasn't helping them.”
“So you weren't trying to break the bond with Chev?” she asked, raising an eyebrow.
“Ok, so maybe… but I cared about you and I fought to get back to you when you were in restraints.” He slipped his hands out of his pockets and reached out for the mare.
“Get back,” she said, warning him.
He pulled his hands back, “Don't be like this, it's been a long time and now that I've found you, I want to apologize.”
“Get lost, you aren't welcome in the city,” she said again.
“I am welcome, I have a donor appointment with some heku,” he said, taking a step to the side.
“I'm pretty sure I outrank whoever it is your appointment is with, and I say you aren't welcome.”
He looked toward the city and then back to Emily, “Don't be like that, Em, I won't be in the city for more than an hour.”
“Then what? Return to the Valle with information on council?”
“I told you, I'm not with the Valle.”
“Oh right… and I'm supposed to trust everything you say.”
Tim smiled and looked at Allen, “He's beautiful, Emily.”
“I'm not kidding, go away, right now,” she warned again.
“I'll do what I want, you may be the wife of an Elder, but you're still mortal, which means to them… you are nothing.” He grinned and winked at her.
“Emily?” she heard from behind her and turned just as Tim peered around her.
Tim's eyes grew wide when he saw the seven mounted heku. He glanced to the sides, unsure which way to run, but soon found he and Emily surrounded.
“Are you ok, Lady Emily?” one of the cavalry asked.
“This man, I know him… he works for the Valle, even helped them kidnap me once,” she said, smiling at the terrified expression on Tim's face.
“That's not true! I … well… ok so I was there… when the Valle had Emily, but I don't work for them,” he said, fidgeting nervously.
“Let's see what the Elder has to say about that,” one of the cavalry said before moving his horse toward Tim and slipping out of the saddle.
“That's not necessary, I was just leaving,” Tim told them, moving away from the advancing heku. Tim felt a strong hand on his shoulder and he gasped, “Please, I didn't come to hurt anyone.”
The guard looked at Emily, “What do you want us to do with him?”
She smiled, “Take him to Chevalier, see if he can talk his way out of that one.”
The heku nodded and pushed Tim ahead, walking back into the city. One of the other heku took the reins from his horse and the cavalry followed them. Emily watched them go and then sighed when they turned around.
“We'll need you to come with us,” one of them called to her.
She figured it was useless to try to get more time out of the city and followed them in, talking to Allen about anything he pointed at.
One of the guards fell back and matched Emily's pace, “Where's your guard?”
She shrugged, “I didn't have one today, apparently.”
“Did you not have one, or did you skip out on him?”
“Hey, I don't need the attitude,” she snapped, “I didn't have a guard when I left my room, so I decided to take Allen out for a ride.”
He nodded, his eyes straight ahead.
“I suppose you are going to tell Chev that you found me out here.”
Emily and the guard by her fell behind the others, she wasn't in any hurry to get back into the stuffy palace. When they arrived at the stables, the other horses were put away and the rest of the cavalry was gone. She took her time putting Patra away and helped as Allen carried the bucket of oats to her feeding trough.
“Welcome back,” Sam said, peering around the corner. Allen ran into his arms.
“Are we all set for the training next week, Sam?” she asked, shutting Patra's stall.
“Yes, we are,” he told her and threw Allen into the air and catching him. “We have those new horses coming in tomorrow.”
She nodded, then watched Sam and Allen until she heard the heku clear his throat, “Let's get inside, the Elder wants to speak to you.”
She frowned, “I hate that.”
“What?” he asked as he ushered her toward the front door.
“How you all can talk to each other from far away, it's kind of annoying.”
He smiled, “It comes in handy.”
“Yeah I bet,” she said, her mood turning.
She had been so happy out on the open fields with Allen. Now she was heading in for another round of fighting. She was tired of fighting with Chevalier, it seemed like all they did was fight, then make up, and then fight more. She suddenly had an idea, what if she didn't fight with him tonight? What if she agreed she made a mistake and took whatever punishment he doled out?
Emily smiled, she knew it was perfect. It would alleviate a fight, yet she knew Chevalier would be skeptical. The palace door opened ahead of her and she felt the guard right behind her. He led her to the fourth floor and into the council chambers. She'd been there once before, but this time it didn't seem nearly as intimidating.
All thirteen chairs were filled this time and she looked closely at Damon, sitting in what used to be Chevalier's chair. He was younger looking but had dark brown eyes and short, cropped brown hair. Leonid and Maleth were watching her, smiling, but Chevalier was scowling. Tim was on the floor in front of the council, down on his knees. The rest of the cavalry stood around the walls, and the one with her moved into position beside them.
“Step forward, Lady Emily,” Maleth said, motioning her forward.
Emily sighed and then stepped up to stand behind Tim, though she didn't even look down at him.
“Are you injured, Lady Emily?” Maleth asked her, concerned.
“No, not at all.”
“We aren't here to find out what you were doing outside of the city walls alone, though, we would like to stress that it is not safe for you outside of the palace,” Maleth said, glancing quickly at Chevalier.
“Ok,” she said curiously.
“It was brought to the council's attention that this mortal was involved with your capture by the Valle last year,” Maleth motioned toward Tim.
Tim looked up at him and then turned to Emily, his eyes pleading.
“Yes, he was. He was the one I was accused of torturing,” she said, slipping her hands into her pockets.
Leonid looked down at Tim as he lowered his head.
“Do you believe him to still be Valle?” Leonid asked her.
She thought, “It's hard to say… but I did warn him not to come into the city.”
“Did he say why he was heading in?” Leonid asked.
“He said he had a donor appointment.”
“Was he, at any time, a part of your torture at the hands of the Valle?” Maleth questioned, scowling down at Tim.
“I don't know, he was there, and he knew he was supposed to break my bond with Chevalier.”
“Tim,” Leonid asked, “Where were you when Emily was tied for long periods of time to the bed?”
Tim looked up, “I was taken away, I swear. As soon as I was let back into the room I let her go.”
“What was your purpose?”
“She was right, I was supposed to break the bond with her heku,” Tim said softly.
“I didn't hurt her, I swear,” he said, pleadingly.
Leonid said something to Maleth and Chevalier, too softly for Emily to hear, and when they turned back, Chevalier stood.
“We have no proof that you left the Valle, therefore, you are to be imprisoned in the Council City prison for ten years,” he said, glaring down at the mortal.
“No, please,” Tim yelled before standing up and turning toward Emily. Two sets of heku hands were on his shoulders in an instant.
“Please, Emily, don't do this. I wasn't mean to you,” he said, pleading.
“It's not my place to question the Council,” she said, smiling sweetly at him. She saw Chevalier frown out of the corner of her eye.
Tim was hauled out of the council chambers by two of the cavalry guards. Emily turned to leave but was called back.
“Yes?” she asked, looking up at them. She went to cross her arms but instead relaxed them at her side.
“This is Chief Enforcer, Damon,” Leonid said, pointing out the new member of the council.
She smiled at him, and then looked back to Leonid.
“He has asked for a demonstration of your abilities,” Leonid said, and Emily gasped.
Chevalier growled, “That request wasn't approved.”
“No, I won't do it,” she said, wide eyed.
“It was merely a request, Child. I am interested to see what you can do,” Damon said, raising an eyebrow at her.
“I'm not a child,” she said through clinched teeth.
“Very well, we won't force you,” Maleth said, “Your talents are a mystery to us all and I, myself, am curious to see the Winchester ability for myself, if you ever wish to show us.”
Emily turned and noticed the shocked look on the faces of the cavalry. Apparently, they hadn't been informed of her heritage.
“Lady Emily,” Maleth said again, and she turned to look at him. “Today will start the cavalry's new position as your guard. Two at a time as discussed.”
Emily cringed and then smiled, “Of course.”
She saw Chevalier's eyes narrow as she left the room with two guards behind her.
Emily walked into her room, leaving the two guards outside of the door, and walked over to where Sam and Allen were sitting at the table. She sat down and scooped some of the macaroni and cheese onto her plate.
“Are you ok?” Sam asked, watching her.
“I'm fine, why?” she asked and smiled at Allen. He was covered head to toe in cheese and smiled broadly at her, he had Chevalier's smile.
“Nothing,” Sam said and pushed away from the table, “I'll go to the stables.”
Emily watched him leave and turned back to Allen.
“Es Daddy?” he asked, digging into his plate with his hands.
“I'm sure he'll be here soon,” she said before taking a bite.
The rest of their dinner went smoothly and then Emily ran Allen a bath and sat him in the water. Allen immediately began to play and splash, the water instantly turning orange.
“Emily?” she heard Chevalier call to her. She sighed, when he called her Emily, it usually wasn't a good sign.
“In the bathroom,” she called to him as she gave Allen a shampoo Mohawk.
She heard Chevalier come in and stand against the counter behind her.
“Daddy!” Allen reached up for him.
“After your bath,” he said, and Emily couldn't help but notice that his voice was tense.
Emily hurried and finished Allen's bath and then pulled him out so she could dry him off with a towel. He escaped from her grasp and ran naked to Chevalier, holding up his hands. He picked Allen up and hugged him closely.
“Damnit,” Allen said, smiling.
“Yes I heard you went riding today,” Chevalier looked at Emily.
“Ay go?” Allen asked, shrugging.
“I was at work,” Chevalier told him and handed the toddler back to Emily.
Emily took him into his room and put on his pajamas. She sat in the rocking chair and shut her eyes with Allen cuddled against her chest. It was almost 30 minutes before he was asleep and she laid him in bed and went back into the bedroom, shutting the door quietly.
Emily walked up to Chevalier after he sat on the bed and she straddled his thighs, sitting on his lap facing him.
She decided to preempt his speech, “I won't do it again, I'm sorry. I wasn't thinking, and I know it was reckless.”
He frowned at her, “What are you up to?”
“What?” she asked, watching his eyes.
“What happened to 'I can protect myself'?”
“I can, most of the time, but as we ran into a mortal, that pretty much put he and I on even ground. I'm sorry, Chev,” she said sincerely.
“I still want to know what you're up to.”
“I'm not up to anything. I noticed I didn't have a guard and Allen wanted to go for a ride. I've seen those hills for a long time and I just wanted to let Patra free for a while. I should've considered the danger first.” She ran her hands around his neck and kissed him softly.
“Aren't you going to complain about Tim's sentence?” he asked, watching her carefully.
“No, it's not my place,” she said and laughed when he tensed.
She shrugged and began to kiss his neck softly.
“Oh I get it… you are just trying to avoid a fight,” he said and shivered slightly.
She nodded and kissed along his jaw line.
“So it's not that you actually believe what you're saying, you're just trying not to get me mad?” He used his hand to lift her face so she was looking at him.
“There's no good way to answer that. I don't want to fight. I'm so beyond tired of fighting.”
“I am too.”
She laid her head against his shoulder and wrapped her arms around him. She pulled closer to him when she felt his strong arms slide around her waist.
Emily pulled back and looked him in the eye, “Do you want me to show the council?”
“Show them what?” he asked, pushing the hair back off of her shoulders.
“Not if you don't want to.”
“Do you want me to though?”
He sighed, “They really do want to see.”
She bit her bottom lip, “I have one condition.”
His eyes were wide, “You'll do it?”
“If you meet my condition.”
“Ok… what is it?”
“I get to pick who.”
“Did you have someone in mind?”
“No, but I want to know what they did and if it warrants ashing them,” she said, scooting off of his lap.
Chevalier reached over and pulled her back onto his lap and brushed his lips against hers, then smiled, “It's a deal. They've been chomping at the bit to see you in action.”
She thought for a moment, “Ok, tomorrow I'm going to go outside and get some sun. Bring me the files of your worst offenses and I'll see if I like any.”
He raised an eyebrow, “You're going to get some sun?”
Emily laughed, “It's actually good for some of us… Allen's looking pale and I could use some of that Vitamin D I so love.”
Chevalier looked uncertain.
“Hey, thought you were going to calm down with the jealous streak.”
He sighed, “You're right, I am.”
She kissed him and scooted off of his lap again. He growled and tried to pull her back.
“Nope, not tonight,” she said before grabbing a nightgown and disappearing into the bathroom.
“Why's that?” he asked, concerned.
She came back out a few minutes later, “Because… I need a trip into a real city first, unless you plan on knocking me up again.”
He thought about that while she laid down, and then he curled up next to her, “I'm not following.”
She raised an eyebrow, “I'm out of birth control pills.”
“There are pills for that?” he asked, shocked.
Emily laughed, “Of course!”
“You mortals think of everything,” he said, turning out the light.
Books in The Heku Series
Book 1 : Heku
Book 2 : Valle
Book 3 : Encala
Book 4 : Equites
Book 5 : Proditor
Book 6 : Ferus
Book 7 : Eternity of Vengeance
Book 8 : Ancients and Old Ones