After Herring finished detailing every detail of his master’s plan, and everything he knew about the Rose Thorn Ring, Etty was overwhelmed. She stood in the grass, stunned, and abashed at herself for forgetting her husband, who might have been in the spirit world too long.
“Herring, remain where you are. I will return in just a moment.” She said, and rushed over to where John was still crumpled on the ground.
Etty wrapped her hand around his arm, frowned, and turned back to Herring.
“Free him from the spell you put on him. Now.”
“I don’t have to. He’ll be coming out of it any moment now. Unharmed, I might add.”
“If he has suffered at all from you dragging him here, I will take it out of you. Do you understand me, you insufferable beast?”
“Yes,” Herring sighed, still unable to move, and feeling every muscle in his legs start to cramp. “I don’t suppose you could order me to change position? I’m cramping.”
“No.” Etty said, and disappeared with her husband.
“Well, shit.” Herring said, to no one in particular. “That was the second stupidest thing I’ve ever done.”
By the time the girl returned, his lower body was on fire with muscle spasms. He moaned, and cursed all of creation, because he couldn’t move to relieve any of the pain. For her part, Etty crouched on the ground, well out of his arms’ reach, and watched him for a minute or two.
“Yes, little Miss Pendy?” He couldn’t keep the venom off his tongue.
“I want you to understand something before I let you go. Don’t look so surprised, I am going to let you go, provided we come to an understanding.”
Later, Etty would remember the conversation, and worry how cold her voice sounded. At that moment, however, all she cared about was making sure Herring would no longer be a threat to anyone she cared about.
“Strike your bargain, and be done.” He snarled, eager to roll around on the ground, and work some of his sore muscles into flexibility.
“Very well. I am the keeper of the Rose Thorn Ring. There is only one keeper, and it has, as you pointed out, claimed me.” She marveled at the golden circle for a moment before continuing. “By my name, my family, and the power I possess, I place two weights upon your soul.”
Herring felt her words like ice in his veins. She was acting with the power of the ring; it terrified him as much as it fascinated him. The fear only increased as every option he might have entertained began to disappear in anticipation of her orders.
“Make no mistake, Herring, this is no bargain, no wager, nor anything negotiable: this is my will. First, you may live as long as you never consider acting against me, mine, or any interest I have. Second, you will forget everything about me, and mine, as soon as I pass back into the mist. Then your body will be yours again.”
While he wasn’t able to resist, he was able to react. Herring screamed at the top of his lungs as Etty’s power etched her orders into his soul. He was still screaming when he noticed now stiff and cramped he was… and wondered what he was so frustrated about that he’d been howling like an abandoned baby.
Perhaps it was the cramps? Did he need more virgins in his diet, or just salt?