A distant bell tolled midnight. Eric was ready.
He mounted Whisper, checking for the third time that night that he had the pouch containing sleep-inducing powder and the vial of memory-suppressing potion he had concocted using herbs of which most people did not know the more mystical qualities. Yes, Eric was fortunate enough to have a warlock for a father. And thank goodness, for without these magical compounds, he would be unable to accomplish his task. The latter was to stop the angelic Corinne from feeling obliged to return to the manor once she awoke, for Eric could not rescue her only to see her walk back to her unjustly awful life and had no intention of keeping her prisoner in his home.
He rode slowly and silently, occasionally drinking from a flask of brandy which served to soothe his nerves. Within the hour he arrived at the manor, a frightening featureless black shape against the landscape which reminded Eric of how daunted he really was by this act of kidnapping the resident of an aristocrat’s home.
Quietly dismounting and taking deep, steadying breaths, Eric reminded himself of why he was here. Thoughts of Corinne swept away the image of the hanging block which awaited him if he was caught.
He tied his mare to the trunk of a nearby tree and cautiously approached the building. Before he reached it, he noticed a figure standing in the shadows, unaware of Eric, holding his body to keep in the heat the chill air wanted to steal from him. A guard.
Eric gulped nervously.
But he took a pinch of the turquoise-coloured powder in his pouch which almost resembled silver in the moonlight and called out to the man.
“Excuse me, sir.”
The guard started and spun swiftly to face Eric, drawing out his sword. Eric blew the powder in the guard’s direction and on inhaling it, the man instantly collapsed, beginning to snore lightly.
Eric went to the man, laid a hand on his brow and was kind enough to murmur a magical chant to warm him: “May Hearth, the gentle, generous heat spirit, envelop you in comfortable blankets; may he keep you alive tonight.”
Eric encountered no other guard until he arrived at the manor’s doors. The guard with the keys was soon slumbering too and Eric was inside.
Sitting on the marble floor of the foyer whose coldness numbed his backside he closed his eyes and spoke a spell to locate Corinne. He rose with images of her bedchamber and the route in his mind and he made his way to her, his footsteps muffled by the animal fur on the sole of his boots.
Once beside her sleeping form, he lightly sprinkled sleeping powder below her nostrils where she would inhale it. He saw the effects instantly as she breathed a soft sigh before her breathing became deeper and the rise and fall of her bosom slowed.
He gently massaged the oil-like potion into the skin at her temples. He lifted her easily into his arms and carried her, having wrapped her in thick furs, out of the manor, locking the door behind him. He kept Corinne suspended in mid-air while he placed the keys as close to the guard’s skin as he dared in order to hide them from other men who genuinely intended Lord Dachshund harm.
Eric left the grounds of the manor at a speed which betrayed the anxiety he continued to feel, Corinne’s form propped against him on the saddle. He had only had to put one more guard to sleep before he had reached Whisper, which was good because he’d started to worry that he was leaving Dachshund Manor dangerously unprotected.
Eric and Corinne arrived at his cottage unscathed. He was overwhelmingly relieved by the success of his mission and could also barely suppress his ecstasy at the fact of which he could finally be absolutely certain: Corinne was safe. Inside, he laid the lady in his freshly-made bed and moved to the living room before he allowed himself the luxury of sleep. He dreamt about Corinne’s splendid beauty, which he had miraculously prevented from distracting him while he rescued her.
How comforting to know that Richard could not touch her.