Read Soul Bound Online

Authors: Courtney Cole

Tags: #Fiction, #Fairy Tales; Folk Tales; Legends & Mythology

Soul Bound (9 page)

BOOK: Soul Bound
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“I’m quite certain that I am,” she replied calmly.  “And I’ve had years to come to peace with it.  I am honored, princess, truly.  When I was a child, it scared me, I will admit.  I used to lay awake at night and wonder when it would happen and how.  All night long I feared that it would happen on the morrow.  But time went by and I emerged each day unscathed. And then when I grew old enough, I came to realize the great honor that had been bestowed upon me.  Your mother told me how my life would save yours, how she would forever be in my debt.  It is the highest honor.”

“How is it the highest honor when you will be dead?  I mean, if this is true,” I hastened to add.  “Because I don’t believe it.”

She looked at me solemnly.  “Why would it not be true, Empusa?  I have dreamed of it my entire life.  I saw your face years ago when I was but a child.  You looked just as you do now.  That is no coincidence and it isn’t something that I could have conjured out of my imagination. Your mother sent me the visions to prepare me.  Serving the goddess is a great honor, Empusa.  Giving my life for her… that’s the highest honor.”

“I can’t speak of this any more,” I murmured.  “I do not wish to think of it.  I can’t believe it is true.  Let us just enjoy our baths.”

“Very well, princess.  I do not wish to trouble you with unpleasant thoughts.  I apologize.”

“It’s not a trouble, Branwyn,” I assured her.  “I just don’t like to think that your words are true.  I don’t want you to sacrifice your life for mine.  I am no more important than you are.”

“That is where you are wrong, princess,” she said quietly.  “You have a purpose in life that is vastly important.  My purpose in life is to help make sure that you attain it.”

I fell silent.  The air around us was pregnant with meaning, unspoken thoughts, emotions and even my confusion.  There was a lot swirling through my head and I wanted time to process it.  So instead of speaking further, I simply allowed myself to enjoy the hot water, the breeze brushing the hair off of my face and the birds chirping in the background.  After a good twenty minutes, I spoke in a murmur to Branwyn.

“This was a good idea, Branwyn, thank you for bringing me here.”

No answer. 


I opened my eyes to find her staring at me with wide eyes, her mouth clamped tightly closed.

“Branwyn?  What’s wrong?” I asked in confusion.  Her eyes darted to a spot above my head and I twisted around in my seat to look, the rocks beneath me grinding into my bare legs.

“Hello, Empusa.”

Apollo, the god of the sun and Brennan’s father, perched on the banks behind me.  Blood was smeared on his arms and legs and his face was dirty, but even in spite of that, he was breathtakingly beautiful.   Honey-blonde hair that reflected glints of light, warm hazel eyes, perfectly proportioned features, well-muscled limbs.  He was staring at me now and he wasn’t smiling. In fact, as that realization dawned on me, a few other things occurred to me as well.

The sun had stopped shining.

I was sitting naked in front of Brennan’s father.

Apollo was holding a golden, sharpened dagger in his hands.

This couldn’t be good.



Chapter Nine


“Did you truly wish to become part of my family?” Apollo asked slowly, unfolding himself from his crouch and standing to his full height.  “Did you truly think that would happen?”

He twisted the dagger in his hands, turning it over and over as he spoke.  The hilt was jeweled, each gem catching the light as it moved. I shifted my gaze to Apollo and stood from the water. 

I forced my mind away from the fact that I was as naked as the day I was born and that the water streaming down my body was catching the breeze and causing me to chill.  Neither thing was important. 

I focused on the dagger in Apollo’s hand because
was important.

“You know you can’t kill me,” I pointed out slowly.  “That would take Zeus’ sword. Your little knife is most certainly
Zeus’ sword.”

Apollo’s lips stretched into a beatific smile.  The beauty of his face, even though he was threatening me, was literally breathtaking. 

“Little Empusa,” he said condescendingly.  “Of course I know that.  But, this little knife will prove to be quite deadly to your friend.”

He motioned with the dagger toward Branwyn, who was still completely overwhelmed from being in the presence of a god.  She literally shook her head back and forth silently, unable to give voice to words. I struggled to remain calm.

“What purpose would you have in harming Branwyn?  She’s nothing to me.” I fought to keep a poker face, trying to remain impassive as I hoped that my words didn’t hurt her.  I needed Apollo to believe me.

He smiled again.

“I know that you’ve tried for many, many years to avoid harming mortals,” he smiled encouragingly.  “And that is commendable.  Because of that, I know that you will choose to do the right thing now.”

At just that moment, Branwyn managed to shake off her fear enough to move.  She lunged from the water, trying to scramble over the slippery banks of the brook.  Before she had managed, it, Apollo smiled in her direction and lifted his free hand.  In response, Branwyn flew into the trunk of a nearby weeping willow tree, crashing hard.  The long, spindly limbs of the tree immediately wrapped around her, holding her fast. The vine-like branches quickly covered her entire body so that only her frightened eyes and part of her mouth were showing.  Apollo returned his gaze to me.

“And what do you consider the right thing to be?” I asked him calmly. 

Goosebumps were starting to form on my naked flesh.  I knew that I could conjure clothing in a mere second, but I didn’t want to give him the satisfaction of thinking that he affected me or made me self-conscious.  For good measure, I jutted my chin out arrogantly as I stood naked before him.

He threw his head back and laughed.  “You’re a feisty one,” he observed.  “No wonder Brennan is taken with you.  I can see the attraction.”

In a flash, before I could even blink, he was standing behind me.   Leaning in, he nuzzled the side of my neck.  I held completely still, not breathing, not moving, not even thinking. 

“I can certainly see the attraction,” he repeated.   He smelled like the sun, like Brennan did.  He looked enough like Brennan to be his twin brother.  But that’s where the similarities ended. 

Brennan still saw the world through young, fresh eyes.  Brennan was able to see the good in everyone.  His father looked at life through the jaded eyes of an Olympian who had lived for eons.  He was studying me now as though I was something that he could dissect, something without thoughts or feelings.  He was completely detached from emotion.  It was terrifying. 

He cocked his head.

“So you just figured me out, then?”

I met his gaze.  “What do you mean?”

“You just came to the conclusion that my emotions left me long ago.   I am hardened to the world.  It’s quite alright, moon princess.  I know that.  And I prefer it this way.  Emotions can sometimes cloud your vision while mine is crystal clear.”

He stepped away from me and I took a deep breath.

“And what do you see?” I asked him.

“I see a girl who is letting her emotions run away with her. They are forcing her to make poor choices.  She could easily have it all, if she simply makes the right decision.”

“And what is that?” I asked.  Although, I already had a good idea what he was going to say.

“Leave Brennan to me.  Give me your word, sworn in blood, that you will never reunite with him and I will give up my arguments to Zeus that you should be sent to the Underworld or killed.  I will stand firmly in your corner which means that nothing will stand in the way of having your curse lifted.   All you have to do is leave Brennan alone.  Forever.”

My heart constricted at the mere words. 

“I can’t,” I breathed.  Physical pain assailed me at the very thought.  “We can’t be apart now.  Not now that we’ve found each other.  You don’t understand.”

“Don’t I?” Apollo cocked one perfectly sculpted golden eyebrow.  “This was the very reason that Zeus created soul mates.  We are distracted in trying to find them and once we do, they are all we think about.  We bear no threat to him when we are distracted.  You are playing right into his hands, princess.”

“I don’t care,” I told him in agitation.  “I don’t wish to usurp his throne.  That is not a concern that I have.   I only wish to have my curse lifted.  I want to live in peace with Brennan.  That is all I want.”

“How sweet,” Apollo remarked drily.  “I appreciate your loyalty to my son and I’m sure he does as well. But it isn’t necessary any longer. I’m here now.  I’ll take it from here.”

“No,” I said firmly. “Brennan loves me as much as I love him.  Why do you want him so much?  You only just found out that he was yours.”

“So, you admit that he’s mine?” Apollo asked smoothly.

“I admit that he’s your son.  Clearly there is no denying that.  As far as now, no.  He is not yours to keep.  He is mine and I will fight until my dying breath for him.”

Determination filled me up and I stuck my chin out again.  Apollo laughed.  “You’re like a small wet kitten with your dander up, princess.  You are no match for me.  Surely you realize that. Just concede now and you’ll still get what you want the most:  your curse lifted.”

I leveled my gaze at him.  “You still don’t understand.  That’s not what I want the most anymore.  I want to be with Brennan.  That will always trump everything.”

“And you would sacrifice everything for that?” Apollo was incredulous and then shrugged his shoulders.  “That just illustrates my point, my dear, of how emotions cloud judgment.”

“My emotions enhance my judgment at times,” I told him.  “Feeling strong emotions increases my determination and drive.”

Apollo nodded thoughtfully.  “Good point.  I will give you that.  But that doesn’t negate the fact that emotions will always cloud your judgment in the end and prevent you from making a rational choice.  You cannot argue that, princess.”

“I wouldn’t dream of it,” I answered. “But who says that rational is the best option?”

Apollo shook his head, a slight smile on his lips.  “You speak in circles,” he said.  “And I grow tired of it.  There is no way you can win the game, do you realize that?  You are growing weaker by the moment.  It is apparent.”

I swallowed, because he was right.  Everything within me grew weaker, my heart, my soul, my spirit.  I needed a soul to feed me.   I’d already known that for days now.  Even as I clenched my fists in frustration, I could feel my fingers shaking.  My weakness would soon overtake me if I didn’t feed.  And there was no way I could face-off against Apollo in this condition.

“And therein lies the problem, doesn’t it?” Apollo observed politely, as he read my mind.  “You must either feed on one of these healthy priestesses, these women who have taken you under their care and trusted you, or you will die.  If you don’t feed your curse, you will not be able to finish the game.  You’ll never have a life with my son.  What a quandary.”

I gulped in air, trying to force it into my lungs so that I didn’t hyperventilate.  He was impassive and calm because it didn’t affect him. But me… but me….
but me.

Even my thoughts were stuttering and my shoulders slumped limply. It affected me.  I had never in my entire existence fed on a healthy mortal, not even one time.  It would break a stead-fast, iron-clad rule that I had made for myself.  If I crossed that thin silvery line, it would turn me into the monster that I tried so hard not to be.

Apollo read my thoughts, a crease forming across his forehead.  “You do surprise me, Empusa,” he mused.  “You have a surprisingly pure soul.  It truly is no wonder why my son is drawn to you.  Not that it matters.”

He smiled again, matter-of-factly.  “You have a decision to make here today.”

It seemed that the wind stilled and even more clouds billowed over our heads.  My fingers went numb and my heart slowed as I listened to the melodic sound of his voice.  A decision.  I knew I wouldn’t like it. 

“No, you won’t,” Apollo confirmed.  “This is your decision.  It is yours to make.  You can choose how your sister dies.  I can kill her.  Or you can.”

I gasped as what little strength I had left abandoned me and my knees went weak.

“For what purpose?” I demanded breathlessly, shock rendering me almost speechless.  “Why would you kill her?”

“I don’t need any other purpose other than wanting to force your hand,” Apollo said calmly.  He was so detached, so emotionless.  I never wanted to become like that.  He smiled a little at my thought and leaned toward me.

“No, you wouldn’t want to be like me,” he agreed.  “You are too soft inside.  Now what is your choice?  Shall I kill her or will you?”

My stomach clenched tightly and I looked at Branwyn.  Her green eyes were calm now and she held still, no longer fighting her restraints.  Apollo was blocking her thoughts from me, but I could see them in her eyes. 

She believed that this was her fate, that she was meant to die for me.  I could see it in the tranquility that I found on her face.   I gulped. Was she right?  Had my mother truly allowed Branwyn’s birth simply so she could serve me in death?  It was an unthinkable thought, yet I had it.  It was there, hanging in the front of my mind, and I was unable to ignore it. 

Because it was true.

The knowledge welled up in me.  Whether it was fair or not, it was a truth.  Branwyn’s entire life had been arranged to serve me in this moment.  I didn’t know why, but sometimes that’s how life worked.  The why was forgotten or never understood at all. 

Branwyn stood still and strong, her eyes calm and accepting.  She was willing.  She knew that without a soul, I would die.  And I knew in that instant, that she would have offered hers to me even if she was not bound against the tree.  If I hadn’t been put into this situation, I probably wouldn’t have taken it… which was probably why this situation had come about.  As Apollo had said, to force my hand.  He thought he was calling the shots, making me do something I didn’t wish to do. But my mother had foreseen this long ago and had arranged for a plan to save my life. 

BOOK: Soul Bound
11.06Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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