~A few days before Diana's rescue~

He watched with a satisfied grin as her powerful body at last went limp on the cold slab of stone. Her divine screams still echoed powerfully in his ears even as he now leant over the prone figure. Long fingers caressed the tangled curls of fire before tracing the graceful curve of her face, serene in broken unconsciousness. His gaze fell and traveled along the muscular body, nude save for the blood, both fresh and dried. His gaze rose to his assistant. Umber eyes narrowed at the younger man.

"Release her now. I will finish with the preparations." His sharp voice snapped the younger man out of his awed silence and into action.

"Yes, master." The younger man released the cuffs imprisoning the woman's bruised wrists and ankles. "The bath is warm and drawn, master, need you anything else?"

He shook his head and waved the other man away. When they were alone, he lifted the limp body in his arms. His gaze again fell upon the resting face.

Such peace...

With a soft murmur of liquid words, he ordered his own clothing to vanish from his powerful frame.

If I had only seen her resting as she is now, I would never have believed the warrior spirit that lurks within could even exist...

He lowered himself into the heated water, paying no mind to the fragranced steam that rose from the surface. The young woman he cradled in his lap, supporting her with one arm as he took up a soft sea-sponge in his free hand.

Yes, my Queen...my love...you are at last mine...all that remains is to cleans you of what was to make room for what is meant to be...

With that last thought, he murmured a soft spell to keep the water clean as he passed the sponge over her body. The blood and grime washed away to reveal pale flesh. Horrible burns, gashes and bruises joined the scars crossing the porcelain skin painted with bright dragons. The water remained crystal clear and gently fragranced as he cleansed her skin. If anything, the blood and grim purified the water; the charged magic turning it holy.

This is what will be used to purify that accursed man she brought into our clan...

He allowed his eyes to rove over her tortured body, a smirk curving his lips.

Perfect...even injured, she is flawless.

The cleansing murmurings transformed into those of healing. He shifted her in his lap so her back was leant against his chest, and her head rested upon his shoulder. The matching dragons twining around their arms flickered to life, as did the ones etched into his chest and back.

Her skin was like cool silk under his hands as he past them over her slumbering face, along the graceful neck. The cold flesh grew warm as their magics intertwined; her dragons danced to meet his. Just as his hands moved over the twin swells of her breasts did she convulse in his arms and yank herself from the healing.

Her breathing came in short bursts, her eyes, wide and pale green, stared at him. Terror and pain swam in the confusion. He could see something else deep within fluttering like a gravely injured bird.

His eyes narrowed as she pressed her back against the edge of the small pool. I will not lose you after such work.

"Diana," he murmured soothingly, even as he stalked the bird within her mind, his own like a snake. "My love, what is it?"

Battered hands gripped the edge of the pool. The satin of her voice only a torn whisper. "No..."

The bird flared its shattered wings. Broken legs desperately stumbled as they struggled to keep the body facing the dark serpent.

He moved closer to her, fragranced mists swirled in his wake. "I will not hurt you..."

She weakly pushed at his chest once he drew close enough. "Don't..."

The bird ineffectively drove the cracked beak at the serpent's eye.

He closed his hands around her wrists and pulled her tightly against him, locking his powerful gaze upon her weak one.

The snake imbedded fangs into feathered flesh.

Half formed words died at her lips.

The bird stilled.

He smiled and pressed his mouth to hers.

His triumphant laughter echoed in her head as he had his pleasure with her body.

She heard only the laughter. She felt only the laughter.

When finally he dressed her in the slip of a gown, blue tinted fabric so thin it hid nothing, the laughter gone, and left her in her dark room, there was only empty confusion.