As Tanisia couldn’t move, Barnabas relaxed a bit and sat opposite her. Now she could take a good look at his new host. Nothing as dashing as the previous one but still quite presentable. Well, you don’t stumble upon a handsome viscount very often. He also looked her over rather thoroughly.
“I see you take good care of my lovely Helen’s body. I approve and let me add that it really suits you, dear Tanisia. Those blond curls…I would say, dashing,” he said after a while.
“Cut that crap, Barnabas. What do you want?”
His mouth twitched a bit.
“Oh dear, how such a lovely woman could you be so…abrupt?” His voice was mockery incarnated. Tanisia tried to stir but without much success.
“Let me go and you will see abrupt, pal.”
Barnabas gave a silent chuckle and then got serious again.
“As you know very well I can drag you, litteraly drag, mind you, to the Supernatural Court and have you executed after a very short and perfectly legal trial for a magical murder attempt. You are at my mercy, Tanisia; There are plenty of witnesses of our previous skirmish and I have a proof of your nefarious activities you had left in the tomb of my ancestors. You were in such a hurry that you quite forgot yourself – always a bad move, permit me to say. Returning to the topic at hand… after a moment of deliberation I decided to give you one more chance to redeem yourself. Are you interested or should we proceed to the…er…unpleasant dragging part?”
Tanisia blinked several times but she really had no choice. If he had a proof…oh well…she might have forgotten this and that…she was so happy, so elated after those months of being imprisoned inside an old body…
“I am all ears, your Kindness.”
“Good. These are my conditions. You will live at my house, magically bound to me, and serve me for one year. During that year your task will be to replenish my magical treasure trove. You see, I need you because I am definitely poorer, all your fault of course, and I do not intend to remain so any longer. With your help I might become the most powerful warlock rather sooner than later. Mind you I take only the best artifacts, the very best, no common-or-garden baubles for senile idiots. I need 77 of them and it will be up to you to locate and bring them to me. Every month you will present me with your booty and I will decide whether they are up to scratch or not. If you manage to collect 77 artifacts of the most potent nature during that year, you will be free to go and I will drop all the charges. If you fail to do so…as far as I remember the crime of a magical murder attempt can be persecuted for the next 100 years after the deed.”
Tanisia groaned and closed her eyes. If she was a weak female she would faint just to be free a little bit longer. One year of pure hell, hardship and servitude…or execution. Speak about a rock and a hard place. She knew she had no choice. She knew it was her only way out and she had to try. Barnabas, seeing her inner turmoil, smiled nastily.
“Are you feeling unwell, Tanisia my dear? I am awaiting your answer and my patience is wearing thin. Make your choice: yes or no?”
She gritted her teeth and scowled in most unladylike manner.
“Your silence meaning…”
He pretended surprise but it was a very amateurish act. He knew the outcome from the very beginning. Only a complete fool would reject such a chance and Tanisia has never been that foolish.
“Oh, great. Now just a few more questions and it will be over. Or rather it will start anew. Anyhow…please answer loud and clear. Do you, Tanisia Mooney, accept your bondage to me, Barnabas Oak, for a year out of your free will?”
“Yes I do.”
“Are you going to serve me and do my bidding without any ulterior motive no matter what I ask, when I ask and how I ask?”
“Yes I am.”
“Do you renounce any nefarious violence and ill will directed at my person, no matter in what form, includding aiding and abetting any other sentient being, enemy or friend?
“Yes I do.”
“Lovely. I suppose that covers most important issues.”
A sudden flash emitted from Barnabas fingers and Tanisia was shortly blinded as it coiled around her neck and then turned into a fine gold necklace. The necklace was seamless, without any clasp or other fastening, not to be removed…she knew its purpose only too well. Now she was magically bound to Barnabas Oak, a warlock, as long as she wore it and if she tried to break the bondage she would die instantly. Oh well…just a year of hell…
Barnabas smiled, rubbing his hands.
“How lovely to have a slave again. Now then, dear Tanisia, pay close attention, your first order is coming. I would like you to find and obtain this little painting for me.”
Tanisia looked and held her breath. Barnabas was showing her a copy of a small watercolor or ink sketch in rather subdued hues with some…ugly, nasty, rabid, pox-ridden fallen angels. Oh no. Her former self kicked in at once – she couldn’t stop herself asking:
“Barnabas are you mad?”
As soon as she uttered these words her new necklace became definitely hotter, heavier and more uncomfortable around her neck. Not unlike a boa constrictor made of metal.
“Are you trying not to obey your master’s direct order, Tanisia? Right after the bondage and an oath? I would call you mad,” Barnabas answered with a sneer.
” No, I am not disobeying you but do reconsider. I just know what this painting is for. It is dangerous as it supposed to give its owner an upper hand over some fallen angels which are depicted in it but it’s pure madness as they are…”
Barnabas stopped her mid-sentence with a deceptively mild gesture. When they looked at each other, however, there was nothing but steel in his grey eyes. His voice was not so gentle any longer either.
“Welcome to your new life, Tanisia. Pure madness is exactly the thing you might expect from now on…and please, dear girl, no more lectures about magical objects. Believe me, they bore me to death because I do know what there is to be known about them. It might sound stupid but I know it all. If, however, for some unfathomable reason I am ever in need of your opinion I will ask, be sure of it. Now, collect your things and let’s go home. You might start looking for this trifle tomorrow morning. Here, take my arm. Tonight we shall celebrate, smile and be merry.”
He opened the door and bowed slightly like a real gentleman helping a lady to go outside. Tanisia retrieved her carpet bag without much enthusiasm and went out of the shop, taking the arm of her enemy, smiling through her tears.