She stared into the long white palm of the Sorcerer, bony fingers reaching for her. The clutch inside her chest was excruciating.
An impulse came over her urging her to run up the spiral before the Sorcerer could lock her in the Caverns, and she nearly gave in to the call of fear.
Then the scent of lilies wafted in her nostrils, the melodious voice of her mother singing in her mind.
“I will be with you always.”
And the girl knew her heart was safe as she placed her hand in his.
The Sorcerer reached inside the neck of his robes and pulled out his own stargaze.
But the only colors were blue and white once the candles’ flame touched the crystal facets. The essence swirled around her, making the girl shiver.
She tried to pull her hand back, but the Sorcerer kept his hold on her.
“Push out your breath,” he said.
She had no choice.
The air was drawn out of her when the Sorcerer inhaled long and deep. He didn’t stop until she was drained.
Otherwise the girl felt nothing when she gave up her heart, just the emptiness inside her once it was gone, and a gnawing similar to the one that consumed her when she’d feasted with him two days before.
She blinked and her hand dropped to her side.
When she looked again, her heart rested in the hand of the Sorcerer, motionless and silent.
For once, she found the lifelessness of her heart reassuring when he tied it up in a black velvet bag and placed it on the highest shelf carved in the Cavern walls.
Then the Sorcerer turned to her with a smile and nodded to a corridor leading away from the main hall to what must be his bedroom chambers.
The black walls glowed from fire torches which lit the way.
He beckoned her to follow with a wave of his fingers, but the girl stared at his back sauntering to the hallway and didn’t move.
The Sorcerer noticed and turned around.
“You already made your choice, Girl. It’s too late to change your mind now.”
“Didn’t you promise to teach me the arts of seduction?”
“Yes, and I will. So?”
“So, you know I find you repugnant. Don’t you?”
The Sorcerer raised his brows and shrugged.
“Make me desire you,” the girl taunted. “Isn’t that what seduction is?”
She didn’t expect to evade the Sorcerer and the decision she had made, but her stomach lurched when he smiled.
His long yellowed teeth gleamed.
“As you wish.”
He pulled a large vial from his robes.
The girl thought the liquid must be melted rubies for when the Sorcerer held the vial to a torch it lit up the jewel tones.
He snapped his fingers, calling forth the shadowy servants from the black stone.
They carried a large iron cauldron between them, which they set down before their master, smoke billowing from the center.
The Sorcerer circled the pot, muttering in a language the girl had never heard.
Then he spilled one drop from the vial and the brew inside the cauldron roiled, engulfing the Sorcerer in fog.
As thick as the cloud was, the girl could see the silhouette inside.