Her eyes pass across the landscape, green as leaves, deep as an underground lake. She rises, river water flowing from her silver skin in shimmering sheets, and steps onto the dry bank. The full moon dapples her skin, making leopardish patches against the shadows. The air is clear and the stars are like diamonds in the firmament. The atmosphere is crisp and electric, and she half-smiles approvingly. It is a good night for hunting, yes indeed.
She gazes across and up to the small village cradled between two hills westward of the river, two hills that rise gently and roundly like motherly breasts. Lights flicker faintly from the village, holding the night at bay where their glow lingers. Even from a distance of several miles away, she can feel the muted ripple and hum of human lives, human movement. A sensation rises within her somewhat akin to hunger, and she steps westward a step or two, frowning thoughtfully. A brief, one-handed gesture, and her aspect changes slightly: the slitted pupils of her eyes are now more humanlike, her skin has a rosier hue and her hairy, goatish legs are now straight and smooth. She is now also fully clad, garbed in the style that the locals wear - denim jeans, snugly close to her skin, and a shirt cut loosely, tucked into the jeans. A pair of leather boots mould to the shape of her feet, and her flowing silver hair is gathered up and back in a silver band.
Her steps become more purposeful, and she moves closer to the settlement. She approaches a rough road, and with a close smile, steps onto it and continues toward the town. Presently an old man on a rickety bicycle passes her, heading out of the town. She considers him as he passes, but decides to let him be. She is in the mood for something more vital, something younger. A little later a car passes, a modern car made of the plastics and synthetics she cannot abide. A pity, as the four adolescents it contained would have done nicely. Still, the night is yet young.
She waits a while longer, and before long an ancient utility draws close. She extends her percipience - a young man in his mid-twenties, his mind bright with thoughts of the friends he is to meet in town. Yes, he will do nicely.
She bends her will to him and draws his attention to her, as she has done so often. As she slips into his mind, she observes the maelstrom of emotions: fears, doubts, joys. Down the centuries, mortal minds have not changed in their nature - ever they are weak willed, malleable, unfocused. She permits herself the luxury of recollection as she bends this new morsel to herself, considering others of this kind.
She has not been in this part of the country for long - perhaps a couple of months. For the last two or three decades she has hunted the big cities, which although polluted and poisonous offer size and anonymity. Lately she has tired of lurking in artificial lakes and stagnant reservoirs, and has returned to the wild places she much prefers. The pickings are much leaner here, but the clean water and clear air are worth it.
With a start, she feels the youth's mind slide out of her spell - she must have let her concentration slip too far! But no, as she intended, the utility draws over to the side of the road, and the youth leans over to open the passenger door.
"Would you like a ride into town, ma'am?"
My, my; she thinks. Such old world courtesy! She hasn't heard that in quite a while!
"Most assuredly I would," she says with a shy smile and an incline of her head. She has long since discovered that shy-and-demure is a pose that most young men find disarming and unthreatening, and so she weaves it into her glamourie. The young man, as so many before, is charmed by her quiet voice and dazzled by her smile. Delicately she steps up into the cabin of the vehicle, fumbles the catch of her seatbelt, and glances at the youth from lowered eyes. A surreptitious probe indicates that he is receptive to her, as she expected. Time to set the trap.
"I do hope I'm not imposing on you too much," she says. " I have no wish to take you out of your way."
"Well, I don't know," he says with a grin. "You haven't told me where you want to be taken yet."
She glances down at her hands, and back up again, catching the youth's eyes. "Well, actually, I'm not sure."
He looks at her quizzically.
"I'm supposed to be meeting people here next week, and I need somewhere to stay until then. Can you suggest anything?"
The youth glances at her with a wry look, and then returns his gaze to the road. Is he slipping from her glamourie? She extends her power and wraps it around him. He appears thoughtful, pauses and says tentatively "Well, I think there's some space in my spare room. Would that be of any use to you?"
A flash of anticipatory glee blazes through her. He is well and truly hooked! "I wouldn't be getting in your way?"
"Oh no, it won't be a problem. I'll move some boxes out, and there'll be plenty of space." She nods approvingly.
She notices that the rough road has smoothed considerably, and that they are in fact entering the village. The warm glow of streetlights fills the air, competing with the silver moonlight. Two or three people move through the interplay of glow, and she feels the murmur of their minds as they go about their business. She loves the feel of human minds, vague and unfocussed as they are; they have a kind of intensity that comes of mortality. Now if humans could keep that fire and live as long as her kind, then they might have the time to develop real power, might amount to something. She is amused by the concept, and plays with the thought.
The utility turns a corner into a side street, and makes its unsteady way down a distance until it reaches an old, sprawling house. The house is surrounded by ancient gum trees, which in the moonlight seem to reach arthritic and spidery fingers toward the road. The house appears run down, paint peeling off the veranda and gutters overflowing with dried leaves. The youth guides the utility into an overgrown driveway, lined with yellow-flowered shrubs, and she feels a flicker of power run through her. What was that? She extends her senses, but can detect nothing. Perhaps she imagined it? No, she doesn't think so, but she is not inclined to waste much contemplation on the issue. She has more interesting things to consider.
The youth opens his door and slides out of the driver's seat to the ground in a smooth motion. He skips lightly around the front of the utility and opens the passenger door, bowing in a courtly and elaborate fashion to her as she unfastens her seatbelt and climbs out into the driveway. Appetite rises in her, and she studies her companion with hungry eyes. Slim of build, bright of eye and ready of smile - he is an appealing morsel. She watches him closely and observes that he moves easily, gracefully, with a comfortable assuredness of manner she does not expect in one so young. His body is rich with vitality, life-essence - he has the vigour of an adolescent, she is pleased to observe. She decides that she chose exceptionally well this time. He glances at her, notices the intensity of her gaze, and grins boyishly.
"Welcome to my humble abode!" he says cheerfully and with a flourish. She notices desire rise in him and subtly encourages this by moving closer to him. He opens the front door and holds it open for her, inviting her in. She brushes past him, pausing slightly as she does so with deliberate carelessness, and is gratified to feel the tension rise in him. She catches his eye and smiles momentarily, looks away. He moves a step or two along the hallway, and she draws the front door closed behind her. He passes a couple of closed doors and opens the door at the end of the hallway, revealing a room full of boxes and clutter.
"This is the spare room," he says. "We'll have to rearrange a few things, but you should find it quite comfortable when I set up the spare bed." She smiles at him, and together they move boxes and furniture to clear a space. In a moment or two an area is clear, and he reaches into a huge old wardrobe to remove a folded contraption of tubes and springs. It unfolds to make a camp bed of curious but stable-looking construction, and the youth sets it in place. From another corner of the chaos comes a rolled-up mattress and some bedding, and shortly all is prepared.
"Have you eaten?" the young man asks her. She shakes her head, and adds that she isn't particularly hungry at the moment. He offers again, she declines, and he says "Well, at least let me make you a cup of tea. I would never be able to live it down if I didn't at least offer a guest of mine that much hospitality!" Reluctantly she agrees - a cup of tea won't kill her, and dissent will break the glamourie she has set so carefully. He leaves her sitting on the camp bed and steps out to make the tea. She considers briefly, and follows him into the kitchen. The kettle whistles on the stove, and he pours boiling water into a teapot. Steam wells up in sweet smelling clouds.
"What sort of tea is that?" she asks him. "It smells interesting." She moves close to him, brushes against him again.
"It's a herbal brew. You won't find this in the shops - I learned it from my grandmother. if we let it stew for a while it'll taste a lot better."
She nods her assent, draws his gaze to her, pauses. He looks back at her, smiles. She reaches out to him with deliberate tentativeness and places her hand on his arm. He glances at her hand, then her face, and in a sudden motion draws her to him. As they embrace then kiss, the hunger rises in her, almost too strong to deny any longer. She could take him now, but it will so much more satisfying to wait that few minutes longer. Mortal life force takes on a different flavour during the act of love - it becomes more focussed, more accessible to one of her kind. If she waits until the moment of climax until she feeds, a lot of the internal guards and wards that all mortals unconsciously protect themselves with will loosen and slip for a moment, allowing her to enter his deepest parts and partake as she will. Yes, it is worth waiting a short while.
The young man seems to become more impassioned. She responds, moves her hands lower. He gasps hoarsely and suggests that they adjourn to somewhere a little more comfortable. She smiles triumphantly (if only he knew it!), and he picks up the teapot ("Wouldn't want to waste it!") as they move, still entangled, into his bedroom. They fall onto the bed, and continue their explorations of one another. She fumbles with his belt buckle, unzips his jeans and attempts to lower them. He grins, shifts slightly to take the weight from his hips, and slides them down. After removing both his jeans and his footwear, he sits up, saying "Let's do this in the proper order, then!" She tosses him a puzzled glance. He smiles, and unbuttons her shirt. Piece by piece, he removes her clothing, and last of all the silver clasp in her hair, letting her shining locks free to flow down her back in a shining river. She reaches to unbutton his shirt, but he brushes her hand aside gently.
"Not so fast, my sweet," he says, reaching to the bed head to a brown glass bottle. She throws him a questioning look, and he says "Massage oil of my own making. You should enjoy this - I'm a good masseur, if I do say so myself."
It will do no harm to take things a little slower than she intended, so she acquiesces and lies face down. She turns her head to watch him, and observes him pour golden oil into a cupped palm.
"This is to warm it," he says, placing the other palm over the top of the oil. "There's nothing more offputting than icy oil on warm skin. Don't you agree?" She nods silently and attempts to appear relaxed. Hunger rises once more in her, but it will not do to show this. She closes her eyes and he spills the warmed oil onto her back between her shoulder blades. She feels his warm hands smooth the oil in circles on her skin, spreading it from the nape of her neck down to her buttocks. He has a pleasant touch and she starts to enjoy the sensation, rather to her surprise. A sense of warm relaxation spreads through her and she allows herself to flow with it. There is, after all, no hurry. The night is yet young.
For some long time his hands continue to make smooth patterns in the oil on her back. This is pleasant. She finds the urgency of her hunger receding, and a delicious drowsiness spread through her. A thought drifts through her mind that perhaps unwinding this much in the middle of a hunt may not be wise, but she disregards it, confident of reclaiming the situation shortly.
Presently she realises that the youth has finished smoothing the oil into her skin, and is in fact sitting next to her, waiting for her to notice with a wry smile on his face. She rolls over onto her back, sits up, reaches to him to unbutton his shirt. This time he lets her, and as he shrugs the garment to the floor behind him, leans over to her and embraces her. They entangle once more, lips welded together and hands painting patterns on each others' skin. The youth draws his lips away from hers and starts exploring her neck and shoulder with his tongue. She moves against him, feeling an unaccustomed degree of response to this decorative, mannerly young man. He lifts his head again, this time raises his eyebrows questioningly. She bows her head in assent and shifts slightly beneath him. He lifts a little and enters her slowly, carefully. She raises herself against him, taking him into her fully.
They start slowly, but the tension builds until they are driving hard, one against the other. He is quivering, his motions a little spasmodic. Any moment now... She reaches into herself to the well of her strength, readying herself to hurl it into him at the moment his defenses drop. But what is this? There is a wall there, she cannot reach her power. She tries again, worried. Once again, a barrier prevents her, making her unable to drain the youth who spasms in her, oblivious to all except sensation. She starts to panic. What is happening? It is beyond her experience. She reaches in once again in desperation - no, her power is not hers to command. She is helpless, like any mortal.
The youth rolls off her, spent and breathing heavily. He looks at her, smiles sweetly, and says "Thank you. That was delightful." After a moment, he props himself up on his elbow, looks at her again, and says "I have something here for you." He rummages in the shelf on the bed head. "Just let me find it...ah, here it is!" Before she sees in the dim light what it is the youth has in his hands, he is reaching toward her. He clasps a strange gold collar on her neck. "There! I think it suits you so well, don't you?"
She stiffens as the gold touches her skin, and then goes rigid as the clasp is closed. This is no love-gift! It is a spelled collar, a collar for binding. Her frozen and inaccessible power is shattered, now totally beyond reclamation. Her head whirls, partly with fear and partly from the effect of the collar. Her body becomes numb, nerveless.
She hears a sound, realises the youth is singing. She looks at him through haze and dizziness, and sees that the youth is a farmboy no longer. This is a mage in the fullness of his power, and the song that he is singing is a rosad, a binding spell. She howls and tries to tear the collar off, but it is too late. The words of the rosad penetrate her shrieks, and she realises that she is being bound to his will for full one-and-twenty years.
A hand clamps over her mouth, and she finds herself silenced against her will. His voice, deeper now, speaks with a tone of dry mirth. "Hysterics won't help you, Glaistig. I've been hunting you for the last five years, and now you are well and truly caught."
His hands release her, and she slumps, sobbing, into the crumpled bedding. He sits by, a hand on her shoulder, until the weeping eases. She raises her head, her eyes red and swollen and dark with anger.
"Why?" Hardly more than a murmur, but with the fierce intensity of a caged hunter.
"I used to live in the city, you know," he says, conversationally. "Didn't like it much, but that's the way of cities. Used to spend my spare time in the city parks. They can be very picturesque in an artificial sort of way, especially at night. And at night, all sorts of creatures come out that you don't see during the day." An amused glance at the helpless glaistig. "You were careless one night. I saw you come out of one of the lakes in such a park, and I was intrigued. I made myself inconspicuous with a glamour, and followed you as best I could. Lost you eventually, of course, but I knew that you were there."
He pauses, pours himself a cup of the now-cold herb tea on the bed head. He sips it delicately, puts it down. "Where was I? Oh, yes. I studied you for a couple of years, learning your habits and patterns. You are a creature of habit, you know, as all folk are who have lived as long as you have. I studied you, found out what you are. I suppose you could say that I hunted you as you hunt your victims." A chuckle. "I think my hunt lasted a little longer than yours, though! I nearly lost you when you left the city. Fortunately for me, you left a victim where he could be found, and it made the daily papers. The police didn't know what to make of it, of course, but I read the signs and knew where your new hunting ground must be. So I moved to the country, rented a house on the outskirts of town, and set my trap for you."
He sips his tea again, this time waiting until he has finished the cup before continuing. "Would you like some? It's really very nice. No? Oh well...I knew you would be out hunting tonight. You only ever hunt under the full moon, and you seem to favour certain kinds of night. Clear, starry, cold. Not to mention the fact that tonight is midsummer eve, and you haven't hunted in several months. Yes, I was certain you would be out tonight. All I had to do was wait."
She snarls inarticulately at him, but the binding will not let her harm him. Shaking with anger and frustration, she asks him "But what do you want of me? What do you get out of this?"
He smiles at her softly, no hint of malice.
"You. When I saw you step out of the lake, I was intrigued. I had heard of entities such as yourself, but never seen one. Fascinated as I am by mysteries, by creatures that live in deep water and dark holes, I had no choice but to follow you. And what a challenge! I have heard of few folk who survive the attentions of a glaistig - certainly no one who has succeeded in binding such a one.
"You draw me like a moth to the light. You are subtle, mysterious and dangerous. I can think of no better way to test my mettle than against one such as you. And I think that as you get used to the idea of my presence, you may not find it so onerous. I will ask little of you but to allow me to approach you without fear, to allow me to learn your ways. And if, at the end of twenty-one years, you wish to leave, then you are free to go."
He pauses, and once more that wry smile of his flickers across his features.
"But I think you won't want to."