Jasmine slowly came to her surroundings as she awoke. She opened her eyes to see Gareth watching at her. Alarmed, she tried to pull energy from around her as an instant defensive action. She quickly realized that she couldn’t and stopped trying. The look on his tan face was a little odd, she thought. It almost looked as though he was amused.
“Why are you staring at me?” She felt invaded again, a sensation that she was getting used to having around him.
“Making sure you don’t do anything stupid,” he replied in a lazy voice, still gazing at her with his piercing hazel eyes. She thought he looked nearly attractive, for a halfling. He was very masculine with short dirty blonde hair and his face was clearly defined with angles. She looked away before he thought she was staring at him.
She glanced around the tent. “Where are the other two?”
“They are gone,” he said dismissively.
“I no longer need them. I only needed them in case you gave me trouble. You came along willingly. Besides, I’m not having any trouble controlling your magic,” he said simply.
Jasmine hissed, narrowing her eyes. She knew her magic was strong, how could he possibly keep control over it? Gareth breathed in, tasting her anger, but not taking it, a smile of satisfaction spread across his face.
“Settle yourself, little woman,” he said calmly. How could he have such control over himself? Halflings were not creatures that had the ability to harness their control over their need to eat the negative emotions within others. A shiver of apprehension came over her as she realized that this halfling was different. He could indeed control her magic if he could control the urges he must feel within himself.
He felt her energy shift but he didn’t take any. Jasmine pursed her lips, trying to calm her thudding heart. There was nothing she could do to get out of this situation. She certainly could never overpower him, he stood a foot taller than her five foot frame, and his large chest and arms spoke of his physical strength. Without her magic, she was powerless. She had gone with willingly, but still, she felt defeated.
“It’s almost night,” Gareth whispered, closing his eyes. She could tell that he could feel the encroaching darkness within him, just as she felt the earth. She could understand, a little bit. She felt light, he felt dark. It was opposite, but the same. She could feel the night coming too, but not like he could. They walked out of the tent to twilight and the tent disappeared with a snap of Gareth’s fingers, disappearing into the darkness. Jasmine shivered at the energy waves in the atmosphere.
She glanced wistfully around her. She craved practicing her own magic, taking and giving back. The other difference between fae and halflings was that halflings don’t give back what they take. She absentmindedly shook her head. An abomination to the fae race. She felt sadness at what was lost.
“I have an immense amount of self-control, but you must stop changing your emotions,” Gareth growled.
Jasmine immediately started controlling herself. After all, she didn’t know this creature or just how much control he had before he would start draining her energy.
“That’s better. Let’s go,” he said, and started walking through the forest. The scenery started changing as they walked in silence. There was a little less life than in her forest, and Jasmine grieved a little for the loss. She knew the closer they got to the castle, the less life there would be, until everything was dead. The concentration of halflings drained the life out of the surrounding areas.
There were a few dead trees here and there, the bark turned black. She felt the absence of magic in these dead things, and a small ache panged her chest. The leaves were smaller on the living trees, and a little less green. The heavy heat of the night made her sweat and she gathered her hair into a knot at the top of her head. She caught Gareth gaze at her from the corner of his eye when she did this.
“What?” She snapped, the heat making her cranky.
“Nothing. Just that for a fae, you’re attractive,” he smirked.
Jasmine scoffed on the outside, but wondered if he had caught her looking at him earlier. What kind of thing was that to say anyway? Halflings were an abomination, things that were dark and twisted. Jasmine had to admit though, that Gareth didn’t seem as dark and twisted as other halflings. She wondered why he was so different. She could sense a little lightness in him, but it wasn’t much.
“Stop reaching out to my energy,” he said a little gruffly.
Jasmine abruptly stopped reading him, embarrassed. It was intrusive to read someone’s energy, and she sheepishly apologized. She thought she saw the corner of his lips briefly tug upwards, trying not to smile. They trudged along in the dying forest. Through the branches of the dead trees she could glance up and see the stars. She wondered what was out there, if this was all there was in the universe.
Gareth stopped. She was about to ask why when he held a finger to his lips. The question died on her lips. He opened his arms to the air and turned his palms to the sky. He pulled energy from the universe in a way that Jasmine had never felt before. She gasped as he put up a force field around them that glimmered dark purple. She felt vibrations in the earth as it sensed the foreign power. She took a small step away as she saw the raw power emitting from him. He glowed from it. Even with this amazing show of magic, he maintained his control over hers without mixing them with what he was doing now. She wondered why he had put up this force field, but she was answered not long after when she eyes glowing in the darkness.
She gasped, now wanting to be closer to this halfling. Instinctively, she knew that he would protect her. This is why he had brought up the field. One of the eyes stepped forward and revealed himself.
“Give us the fae,” the creature rasped.
“I have claimed her, and I am taking her to the queen,” Gareth responded. “Leave us, or you will face the consequences.” His voice had changed, it was now harsh.
“We will have her! She will belong to us!” The halfling pulled the darkness into itself and shoved the energy into the field surrounding Jasmine and Gareth. It was a hard hit, and Jasmine felt the vibrations echo off of the field. She hoped it wouldn’t break, and it seemed like eons until the attack of energy finally wore itself off and stopped. She breathed a sigh of relief. Gareth’s field was strong, created by the stars above, rather than the darkness. She marveled at the power, and hoped to ask him about it once they were out of danger. She questioned why they wanted her. It seemed like everyone was after her.
Gareth pulled from the darkness this time, and stored a massive amount of power in his body, letting it build. Jasmine could feel it without trying. While he was building his magic, another attack hit the shining violet bubble they were in. She felt confident in it now, knowing that she would be safe. Even with the number of eyes peering at her from the darkness, she knew that Gareth’s power surpassed theirs. Maybe that’s why they had attacked with so many of them; they needed the combined power to stand up to him.
He finally released the power he had allowed to build within himself, and she was shocked at its brutality, even though she had felt it. She heard the shrieks of the halflings shrouded in the dark as the attack hit them. Even though he had just released the attack, he started gathering energy again. She was stunned at this. Wasn’t he getting tired? He let go of the second attack, and she could see them retreating. There was only one pair of glowing eyes left.
“We will be back,” the creature hissed, before running off into the night.
Gareth didn’t take down the field. Instead, he stood there, with his hands clenched. She knew this was not the time to ask questions or even speak. She stood there silently, watching his chest heave with his breathlessness. It seemed like a long time before some sense of normality returned to him. Jasmine felt like hours had passed. He snapped out of his trance.
“Are you okay?” She heard the weary note in his tone, understanding that he was more tired than he showed.
“Yes,” she said in her soft voice. With trepidation, she asked, “Why did they want me? If the queen had already sent for me, and you’re here, why are they after me?”
Gareth looked into her eyes, and she could see the faint glow of some remaining energy in his eyes. They looked wildly attractive to her, but she stopped that thought in its tracks. Why was she thinking this?
“It’s not something we are going to discuss right now, but I will tell you, given time.” He took down the field, and she felt the rush of power go back out to the universe. She gasped. He had given it back! He smirked at her and raised an eyebrow, as though challenging her to speak her thoughts. She narrowed her eyes and he laughed. It was odd hearing a halfling laugh. From what she remembered, they didn’t have any kind of sense of humor. This creature was proving to be something that wasn’t expected. His laugh was actually pleasant sounding. Then Jasmine frowned, displeased at where her thoughts were going.
“Let’s go, we’re behind schedule now,” he said, looking amused. He turned on his heel and she followed, wanting to complain of weariness. She couldn’t help but notice how different he was from even the halflings that had just attacked them. They were cold, and she felt a bit of warmth coming from Gareth. She frowned to herself as she realized she was actually starting to like this creature. She knew she should feel disgusted, but somehow she wasn’t. She warned herself to be careful around him, even though she trusted him with her life now.
Gareth was a man of few words as they walked. It had been so long that Jasmine had conversed, mostly only with Sampson. She felt a pang of sadness for her poor beast, slain in the grass, by the cottage she knew she would never see again. She knew though, that if she started conversing with this halfling, she would like him even more. She felt that fact in her bones.
Jasmine felt dawn coming on, as did Gareth. With a snap of his fingers, the tent appeared once again. She felt him pull from the heavens again as he created the same violet force field around them. She shivered at his power and he grinned at her reaction. She turned on her heel and entered the tent, sitting on one of the beds with her arms folded across her chest as she fumed at him. Not only for showing off, but also for controlling her magic so tightly. The longer she went without it, the bigger the ache within her grew. She felt in emptiness inside, one that she had been avoiding trying to feel.
“I’m sorry,” the sentiment rattled her from her thoughts. She hadn’t realized he was inside, watching her. “I wish I could let you use a little bit, but I can’t. I hope you understand that. You came with me willingly.”
“I know,” Jasmine sighed, lying back on the bed. “That doesn’t make me feel any better about it. I didn’t have a choice.”
She heard him breathe in, as though he was going to say something, but he paused. “I….can’t really tell you anything, right now. For that I apologize. But, for now, you’re just going to have to trust me.”
She pondered his words for a moment. “Okay,” she acquiesced. “But it had better be soon you speak up, because this secrecy is killing me.”
Gareth laughed. Jasmine gazed up at him. He was looking at her with a sort of hunger, but it was just barely on the surface. He didn’t let it show for long, but it had been there. She bit her lip, wondering what was happening.
“I promise, you will know. But I think you do trust me, because I could see it when you let me protect you tonight.”
Jasmine said nothing, only nodded once and turned to her side, trying to fall asleep, knowing his eyes were on her.