“Where is she!”
The loud booming voice startled Drina awake from the voidless sleep. Several muffled words were exchanged before another roar of the angry male’s voice could be heard.
“I don’t care! I demand to speak with her!”
A small chill ran along Drina’s spine. Sitting up, she looked beside her to Ocan still lightly snoring away. It must have still been early enough in the day, meaning Drina only got a few hours of sleep. Brushing her hair out of Ocan’s face she listened intently to the commotion. With the rest of the exchange muffled, she could only ascertain the person outside was looking for her. The tone of the male was disgruntled, and Drina assumed it could only be one person. Quietly standing up to keep Ocan asleep, she rushed towards the door and snuck outside. Closing the door behind her, Drina’s suspicions were confirmed as Mr. Gafrald growled.
“My dealings will only be through Madam Drina and I will not leave until I have spoken to her. Stand aside and let me pass!”
“Well, I am afraid she is unavailable until later. Come back when my doors are open. I do not take kindly to this intrusion and will call for the guards.”
Lulu’s voice was pleasant yet stern, not budging from the persistence received from Mr. Gafrald. The room Drina and Ocan had slept in was just around the wall from the reception desk, hiding her presence from the front foyer. Pressing close to the wall, Drina attempted to sneak forwards to eavesdrop. Only she was not aware the mutt had been just underfoot, stepping on his paw and causing him to yelp. Glaring at the mutt, her cover had been blown. Stepping out and around the corner, Drina came to face the group. Mr. Gafrald was accompanied by two of his henchmen. His face was red from fury and once they made eye contact, he had pierced his lips. Lulu stood off to the side, clasping her hands in front patiently to allow them to speak. Before she could greet her with good mornings, Mr. Gafrald stepped forward.
“What have you done? Here you promise a show like nonother and instead you cause me hundreds of dollars and bring authorities to bombard the festival sight!”
Drina sighed, crossing her arms lazily in front of her. It was too early for confrontations.
“I promised a Seance, you got one. How was I suppose to know there was a kidnapping? I do what my powers ask of me. You know this is the risk from a gypsy. We found the boy and the townsfolk are happy.”
Gasping from her backtalk, he ground his teeth. Looking to the hound at her feet he pointed accusatory, raising his voice once more. “What about the mutt? You stole property from me!”
Unfazed, she waved her hand at him. “Then take him back. I do not want him anyways. It joined me on the stage from its own will. By all means, come claim him for yourself.”
Mr. Gafrald hesitated, lowering his hand as he looked to his henchmen. With a furious head tilt towards the animal, he slapped the arm of the closest man with a harsh whisper.
“Well?! Go grab it!”
Both the henchmen shuffled, unwilling to be the first one to step forward. Drina knew that even though Mr. Gafrald’s threat was real, it was not his choice if the mutt wanted to stay or leave. Clearly by the defensive position the hound took once the man to his left stepped forward, it was clear it did not want to leave just yet. Slowly and timidly he approached the dog, reaching out to grab it by the scruff. With a snap, the hound barked an unearthly sound, snipping at the hand. The henchmen jumped back in fear, almost tripping into Mr. Gafrald at the sudden lurch backward. It was comical to watch the men argue amongst themselves while the mutt sat only a few feet from her.
“That’s unfortunate. Eventually, it will make its way back once done it’s purpose, I am sure.” Tilting her head smugly, she couldn’t help but gloat. “If there isn’t anything else, I would like to collect my payment later. I will come to your tent at an appropriate time.”
Turning her back to Mr. Gafrald she expected the conversation to end, leaving him defeated to leave with his tail between his legs. Instead, she was greeted with a sinister chuckle before even taking a full step.
“Oh Madam, your not getting your payment just yet.”
Fear paralyzed her from moving. Was he grasping at straws at the loss of his mutt? No way he could deduct the payment from her since he needed to fulfill his end of the deal. Turning to face him, she felt the blood drain from her face at the sight of the contract paper. The flattened paper still held the seal unbroken and fully intact.
“Impossible,” Drina whispered as dread filled her. Indeed he was not lying, the proof in his hands. Pivoting on her heel, she rushed towards him to grab the paper from his hand. Checking the seal first just to make sure, she glared up at Mr. Gafrald.
“Afraid not, Madam. You failed to uphold your end of the bargain. Go ahead, check it. The seal broken by your hand will not erase the name.”
Unable to hide the terror on her face, Drina looked back to the paper. To her side, she heard Lulu’s words under her breath. “Drina... You didn’t…”
From behind her, Hestar joined in beside Lulu. “What’s going on. Why are these people here?”
Everything was falling apart before Drina. Breaking the seal open, she unraveled the paper. There was no mistake that it was the original the moment she saw her name on the bottom line. Staring at the page, her hands trembled while she tried to make sense of everything. How could she not have completed the contract? She did everything she was supposed to. They agreed to a seance and nothing more, yet how was the paper still here? Once a blood bind was completed, the paper would turn to ash leaving nothing behind. It was a way to know true fulfillment was complete. Until then, she was bound to him. Mr. Gafrald allowed it to sink in before leaning forward, whispering into her ear.
“Whatever ghost you provoked, it is now bound to you. The seance is not complete until you untie the spirit from this plain.” Pulling back, he touched the side of her face, tracing his finger lightly down towards her chin. Gripping it lightly, he tugged Drina to look at him. “Didn’t your mother teach you this?”
His words were venomous, sinking deep into Drina’s skin. Lifting her hand to strike him, a sudden jolt of pain stopped her. Mr. Gafrald took a step back, looking at her hand with confidence.
“I guess not. With an oath unfulfilled, you are now my property. This is very fortuitous for me. I get two mutts for the price of one.”
Dropping her hand, Drina stared helplessly at the floor. What has she done? How was she going to free herself from his enslavement? Closing her eyes, she accepted her fate. Drina needed to pay the price for her mistake, there was no fighting this.
“I… I have no choice.”
Hestar broke from Lulu’s side, looking about everyone with teary eyes. “No. You can’t take her!”
Lulu grabbed firmly at her arm, pulling her back to her side. “They can and will. She made a deal. There is nothing we can do.”
Unable to understand, Hestar frantically looked from Lulu to Drina, seeing her defeat.
“Drina... No! What about Ocan?!”
Pulling Hestar’s arm hard, Lulu dragged her towards the common room. “Ocan isn’t going. She isn’t bound by the contract. She can stay here until Drina serves her contract out.”
Drina felt the cold icy stab of Lulu’s words hit her heart. All she wanted to do was protect Ocan and instead, she let herself become a slave. The pain hurt worse at the small meek sound of her sister’s voice calling out from behind her.
“Why are they taking her? Lana where are you going!?” Lulu ran to stop Ocan from running to Drina’s side, grabbing her around the waist while still holding strong to Hestar.
“Hush girl! Don’t make this worse for her!”
Mr. Gafrald laughed humorlessly. “Lana is it? Such a display. Let’s be off, the money lost isn’t going to recover itself.”
He turned towards the door as a sharp tug pulled like an invisible string on her chest, pain crushing at her heart. It was a tether that locked her to him, making it impossible to fight unless she chose death. Opening her eyes, she could only follow. The sounds of sobbing behind her from Ocan and Hestar caused a separate kind of pain to swallow her chest. There had to be a way to finish the contract without being taken slave until the spirit’s bound was broken. An idea slammed her hard, causing her to gasp out loud. Stopping in her tracks she felt the crushing of her heart tighten from the short distance placed between her and Mr. Gafrald
It was enough for him to stop and slowly turn to glance back at her with irritation.
“Let’s make a deal.”
Mr. Gafrald stroked at his chin. “Why would I make another deal with you when you currently already have one broken?”
Drina swallowed hard, knowing it was not going to be an easy persuasion. “Call it a contract amendment.”
With a cold stare, he considered for a moment. “Alright, I will listen.”
“After the full moon, the full effects of the vail weakening still lasts for the next few days. Give me three days to break the bond with the spirit and fulfill the contract.”
Mr. Gafrald scoffed. “And what do I gain out of this?”
“You keep the money I made and take credit for helping dispatch a plaguing specter. Saying it was all your idea and that you take responsibility for assisting in abolishing such a hindering force will repair your reputation and gain you more respect. Think of the fame it will bring your band for being so honorable. Not to mention removing all suspicion that you may have caused it just for profit.”
Looking to his henchmen, he squinted out of the corner of his eyes at her, still unconvinced. “And if you don’t manage to finish in three days?”
Drina sighed heavily. “Then I serve out my term for 5 years as your slave willingly. It will be more than enough to pay back the dues lost and tenfold. My power is for you to use and profit. And at the end of the service, I leave empty-handed. Nothing gained and nothing lost.”
“Lana, don’t!” Ocan screamed out before her mouth was covered by Lulu’s hand.
Mr. Gafrald weighed the options carefully, taking calculated steps forward until he was inches from her face. Extending his hand in front of her, he held her gaze.
Rolling the contract up once more, she placed it into his hand. The moment the paper touched his hand, the pressure around her heart released. With an unhindered breath, Drina inhaled deeply. Leaving the contract in her hands, Mr. Gafrald stormed out of the building, his henchmen heavy on his trail. Safely knowing he was not coming back, Drina’s legs gave out as she crumpled to the floor.