Lines of Fire (The Guild House - Defenders Hall)
The older woman’s eyes opened. “A bondmate’s duty is to see to her mate’s comfort. You will understand once you wear Petan’s bracelet.”
“I won’t.” Kalia drew a deep breath. She wouldn’t tell her mother how she planned to flee rather than be bonded to him.
“You must. When Robec is named Swordmaster he will need a strong Right Hand. Your father believes Petan will be the one.”
Kalia rose. “I won’t argue with you today.” She walked to the door. ‘Rest and regain your strength. I’ll send someone with broth, citren and kafa.” How long would the recovery take this time? After her mother’s last visit to her mate, a week had passed before her mother’s lines had brightened.
Her hands tightened into fists. Tomorrow was the day of choosing. On the day when the returning patrols celebrated Ingathering, her father would allow Petan to name her as his bondmate. If she must duel, she would. Better to die beneath the blade than be milked of her essence by a man she believed was evil.
Kalia left the area where the women who either weren’t bonded or didn’t live with their bondmates stayed. She raced along the corridors until she reached her father’s office. She tapped on the door and wished for once he would listen. Could she convince the Swordmaster that a bonding with Petan would mean her death? Did her father care?
Petan was a leech. Just the other day his touch on her arm had drained some of her lines of fire. She shuddered. Just like her father changed her mother’s lines.
An image of the pale wiggling creatures used by the Healers to clean wounds made her stomach lurch. Rather than essence, the creatures removed dead tissue from wounds.
Thankfully she had pulled free from Petan before he had stolen more than she could spare. During her mother’s days with the Swordmaster, her father stopped before depletion occurred. Petan wouldn’t. He was greedy. The deaths of his former bondmates told her the truth of his nature.
She knocked louder.
When her father called, Kalia stepped inside and paused before the desk. “I have something to say.”
The Swordmaster’s mouth curved into a smile. His eyes remained cold as bits of green glass. “I’m sure you’ve heard what will happen tomorrow. Secrets are few in the Hall. As you suspect, Petan will claim you as his mate.”
Kalia stared at her father. She dare not cave to his demands. “I heard but I didn’t believe you would do this to me. I will refuse.” A shudder shook her body. She forced the words past her tight throat muscles a second time. “I will refuse.”
He rose and pressed his hands against the mahogany desk top. “You will do as I command. You are my daughter. Your bondmate will stand as your brothers’ Right Hand when he takes my place as leader.”
Kalia quieted her desire to attack her father. She needed to remain calm. “Find another mate for Petan. He has killed his last two mates. Will you see me become the third?”
With a quickness she hadn’t expected he moved around the desk. “Those foolish young women refused to give him what he needs. You are stronger and were bred to do this, just as your mother was.”
So he knew of Petan’s tainted lines. Kalia drew a deep breath. Her fisted hands hung at her sides. “I will refuse. That is my right. I’ve read the archived records. From the first days when our people came to this land mates were to be freely chosen. She backed toward the door.
“You will obey.” He stalked toward her.
“I would rather die by the sword.”
She didn’t expect his reaction. Like a striking snake his hand lashed out. The blow landed on her face hard enough to send her back until she collided with the door.
“Do not defy me.” He fisted his hands. “I will beat you senseless but you will accept Petan. Go to your chamber and prepare for tomorrow. Do you understand?”