Excerpt from Chapter 69 of HOPE
"Before we start, in your bag is a satin outfit. Put it on!" He stepped back, closing his eyes, pulling his chin down towards his chest. 'How could she know what was in his bag?' "Or would you prefer the vermillion gown with all the petticoats?" Eldrick's eyes snapped open as Sycamorea stretched, emphasizing her shape, her breasts noticeably accentuated. "The choice is yours. But you are not getting any lessons until you change. I believe you said you were on a time constraint?" she giggled while absently twirling the ends of her hair around one finger. "I am afraid that until you have mastered this you will not be getting back on the road," she leaned back placing her back to the wall. He stood up straighter, lifting his head, thrusting out his chest, and crossing his arms. Did she understand what she was asking? Or didn't she care? Here she was standing there sunclad, expecting him to strip and put on something new. Was there a purpose or just her own perverse pleasure? He ground his teeth until his jaw ached. "Look, I don't know you. Nor do I trust you." He clenched and unclenched his fists repeatedly at his side. " I want to know what this is about," His voice was cold enough to freeze a forge fire. "Before I do ANYTHING!" Watching her change from commanding to meek sent a shiver down his spine. Her mercurial nature had him looking towards the door. She gave a huge sigh, "Eldrick, this is so that you learn to control that power you have, before you destroy the world. I told you my name earlier, it is Sycamorea, in case you have forgotten or weren't paying attention." Reaching down behind the stool she pulled a shift from the bag nestled there. "I see sexual tension isn't going to work," sighing she threw the shift on, smoothing it down. "I know of no one who can train you," she looked down at the floor. "Neither does your master." "Why me? Why now? I don't have time to waste." Recrossing his arms across his chest. "Why you? I have no idea. Why now? You have already used it untrained twice. If you remain untrained, you will be at the mercy of the magic, not the one to control it." She made to approach him then stopped. "We need to work together." Stepping back he opened the distance between them. She passed a shaky hand across her forehead. Her face lost all colour. He wasn't sure why she would be afraid. There had to be something else going on here. "I am sorry," Sycamorea whispered, as her hand shot forward. He found himself laying on the floor. His head and his chest aching. Opening his eyes to take in the room sent pain, like lightning bolts shooting through them and into his brain. He could hear screams ringing in his ears. Only to realize they were his own screams of pain. He lay there trying to regain his breath. The pain diminishing slowly as he remained motionless. He couldn't understand why there was no one coming to check up on him and Sycamorea. Wait where was Sycamorea? He didn't want to send his senses out for fear of the pain. He couldn't call out, nor could he move to find her. Well, now he was truly stuck. What was going to happen to Sergei? He had the tea in his bag. He tried to move his arms. They could move without pain. Trying to roll over sent his body spinning back into oblivion. He woke to Sycamorea tapping his shoulder. She stood over him with a glass of fruit juice. "Here, drink slowly. You have been out for three days." Her gentle tone sent a shiver through his body. "Petal would hover over you until I had to send him away," with her free hand she brushed her hair out of her face. "You have powerful shields for someone who does not radiate power. I spent a day unconscious myself. What did you do?" She gestured to the room. Looking around the room and seeing the shattered remnants of the bottles, jars, and staves, he choked on the juice. "That wasn't from you," her voice mellow. "I had to drain them to protect myself. The backlash of my own spell was enough to destroy my shields. A backlash that shouldn't have occurred." He could feel the heat rising in his chest. "I didn't do ANYTHING!" His hands began tingling with power. Sycamorea screaming, dropped the cup. He saw her backing away with quick jerky steps, her eyes wide and bulging. 'Could she sense the magic in everything? Can she...' his mind went blank. Standing in front of him were three glowing figures on a small hillside, the Fae village in the background behind them. He couldn't make out any features though he felt he should know them. The medallion and ring began emitting an uncomfortable amount of heat. He took slow steady breaths trying to calm his mind and relax his body. The words, 'Follow your heart and listen to your dreams', reverberated inside his skull. His anger was replaced by compassion, his world dimmed. Opening his eyes he saw her huddled in the corner, as far from him as she could get. Her shift sticking to her body where her sweat had soaked through it. She was shaking like a leaf. He was the cause of her fear but had no idea how to alleviate it. He could feel the tears forming in his eyes and his stomach clenching at the thought of causing someone else pain. This was not who he was. He was still a healer in training and felt the need to comfort her, but feared to approach her. His mind raced. He felt impotent, powerless, and out of his depth. He couldn't leave without doing something, but he felt there was nothing he could do. The tears were now rolling down his cheeks freely. He sat up slowly, pulling his knees to his chest, and burying his face in them. He couldn't do anything other than to sit there, rocking and crying. "Why are you crying?" the tentative voice was quiet. "I.. I thought you were going to kill me." He froze, as cold sweat trickled down his back. Looking up to face her, he saw she was in a similar position. Fear still showing clearly in her moist, glistening eyes. His voice caught in his throat. Try as he might he couldn't utter a word. He watched as the tension slowly left her muscles, a little at a time. She began pulling her shift away from her body. Every time she unglued it from one spot it stuck in another. Standing, she tried to pull the shift away, only to have it cling to her every curve. The moist fabric had turned translucent. Reaching down she grabbed the hem and removed it completely. He buried his face again as he could feel the heat rising to his cheeks. 'Why do I always react this way. Because I want what she has and that is not an option. Why do I even bother? This world would be so much better without me. I wouldn't be able to harm anyone or cause them to flee in terror. I have already failed my Master. Sebastian is still in the hospital, I can't even help him. Well, I do have a pair of very sharp shears in my bag. Hell, I have a bloody knife on my belt'. Reaching down for his knife, he grabbed the horn handle and drew it. Raising it, he laid the blade across his wrist. "ELDRICK NO!!" 'I hope this is quick but there is nothing to do but get this over with'. With one quick motion, he added pressure as he dragged the blade across his wrist. He bit down on his lip to prevent the scream that threatened to escape. The tears rolled down his eyes as he silently wished the world a farewell. He could feel his energy draining away with the blood. With every heartbeat, it was that much harder to remain conscious. The room swam as his eyes lost focus. He felt his body slump over into the warm pool of his own blood. "Master, I am sorry, I....."