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This is one of the first short stories I have ever written, so please excuse the few rough spots. I am still working on revising and updating it, just for the practice, really. I would appreciate any thoughts or ideas you have that may help.
Firelight danced on the walls, illuminating the room in a soft glow of warm light. The farthest corners of the high ceiling were bathed in shadow where the light could not reach, making the room look as if it had a dark, mysterious sky of its own. It was silent except for the sound of the logs as they broke and fell under the steady anger of the flame. The breathless wood sent up a sudden rush of dancing sparks as it shattered.
An old woman sat silently at a table near the blaze. Her eyes followed the dance it made but her mind was much farther away as she watched. The red and yellow fire reflected in her black eyes turning them into a blaze of color. Her spirit had matched that too once. She had been like the flame was now, so brilliant, so alive, and so vibrant as it thrived in its own life. But that was long ago. All she had now was memories.
But those were memories that must be preserved. Those people that still needed to thrive had to know what was coming to them. They would call her an old and delirious woman. They might even laugh at the story that she gave them. But privately some of them would be uncertain too. She was old, older even than they thought. But she was no one’s fool. Her mind was as strong as ever, and even though her vibrant life had faded to a steady smolder she had gained some little bit of wisdom in return; and more importantly, knowledge.
Slowly, carefully, she picked up the feather pen that lay on the table in front of her. This hurt, to bring those memories to the surface, to think of what might have happened, what did happen…what could still happen. Pain, that was what memories were; beautiful, restful pain.
It started on the night that the King was killed. It had been a dark and stormy winter day and the night had been no better. Lightning played dangerously near the castle towers and the rolling thunder plunged its massive voice into the very foundations. The rain was so thick that only the vaguest of shapes could be seen through the torrent.
King Vear had been in a foul mood all day. He was a wild sort of a man who much preferred studies of strength to the more subtle, but no less challenging, studies of the mind. He was quick tempered but by no means was he slow witted. He was tall, muscular, and handsome in a rough, untamed way. He ruled with an iron fist, dueling out punishments with a vengeance, but his rule was tolerable to live under....to a human. He reminded one of a bear, wild, untamable, headstrong, and with a bite that could kill.
This evening, the King's temper was roused by the howling of the wild outside that trapped him in. It had been like this for days, nothing but the steady beat of rain and sleet, and the beast was sick of his cave. The evening wore on while he simmered in frustration. Finally when midnight drew near he sent everyone away from the hall. Throwing himself into a chair he proceeded to glower at the dying embers of the fire. The still of the night asserted itself and only the occasional, distant thunder penetrated its silence.
Vear lost track of time in his sullen brooding. He did not know what time it was when he suddenly felt instinct tell him that he was being watched. He sprang to his feet and swung around to face the shadowed figure that stood regarding him.
Vear frowned. He relaxed slightly but his shrewd gaze never left what he could see of the man. He wore a black cloak that covered him in shadow and he stood just outside the ring of light that the fire made so that his face was hidden. He was no servant, but he was not a noble that Vear recognized either.
The man obliged, throwing back his hood to show his face as he moved gracefully into the light. He was as tall as Vear but his eyes and hair were a deep, absolute black that contrasted and yet complimented his fair skin. He seemed calm and relaxed and Vear didn't like that at all. Most people were afraid of him, especially those that knew him well. He liked to be intimidating and it annoyed him that this man didn't seem be troubled by that fact that he was in the presence of royalty, and temperamental royalty at that.
Seril woke up with a scream, the image of the knife sliding into her brother's chest vivid in her mind. Servants crowded into the room in less than a moment and anxious questions buzzed in her ears. Her dreams plagued her most nights but she had learned to control her reactions. She had hid them from everyone she knew; they were the one secret that she had truly never told anyone about. But this one had been different. She half fell out of her bed and stumbled for the door, ignoring the inquiries and comments of the bleary eyed servants. She stumbled into the corridor and started running as fast as she could. She could almost feel the bewildered looks that were cast after her as they followed, still half asleep, but sure of their duty. She had to get there in time! But somehow she knew that she was already too late.
Terien's head snapped around as the muffled scream echoed through the castle. He muttered a curse as he yanked his knife free and the body fell to the ground. Someone, somehow, already knew. How? But no, it didn't matter. It just meant that he was shorter on time now; a lot shorter. He muttered a curse as he flew toward the door. In another second he was out of the hall and gliding silently through the twisting corridors, as noiseless and unsubstantial as one of the many shadows.
Seril flew down the last length of the corridor, spurred by the sight of the guards slumped down by the door. They were dead; it was obvious at a glance. She burst into the hall and skidded to a stop, staring down at the form that lay on the floor. Her brother, Vear…murdered. The red blood was already pooling on the floor, soaking into the patterns of the rug. He was lying on his back and his hand was flung out towards the dying flames. His face, for once, was expressionless.
Seril dropped to her knees as the uncontrollable tears flowed down her cheeks. She squeezed her eyes shut in an effort to block out the image but it was no use. The dream rose up again in her memory despite her efforts to block it out. A small corner of her mind was dimly aware that the servants were running into the room, waking the palace, calling for the healer. She could see the image again of the dagger that sank into her brother's heart. She could see the startled, wild anger in Vear's eyes. She could even see...the killer.
Without warning she staggered to her feet and fled out another door, following the path that she now knew the man had taken. No one noticed her go in the confusion but that was just as well. She didn't know how she knew so much but she didn't care. It was enough for now to be able to just know. She had to find him. He had to pay.
Her path led her through the massive building and finally to a small side door that led into the gardens. She slipped through, shivering as the wind drove the stinging rain into her skin. Her feet were bare and the cobblestones and mud numbed her feet almost immediately. Gritting her teeth against the cold she wrapped her arms around herself and plunged forward heading for the stables. He would be there, she knew it.
She slipped inside and shut the door carefully behind her. She was soaked to the skin and the water made her hair cling to her neck and face but she ignored it, not bothering to wipe it away. It was oddly quiet compared to the fury outside. The only sound was the rain drumming on the roof above and the soft breath of slumbering horses. She took a deep breath to steady herself, squared her shoulders, and walked slowly forward.
And then she spotted him. He was standing against the far wall, frozen still and wary, watching her. He held the reins to a huge black stallion in his hand that he had apparently just led out of the stall before she had entered. She halted abruptly a few feet away, and stood glaring at him. She realized that she had no weapon and she was certainly outmatched considering that he had managed to kill someone as skilled as her brother. But she had to try. Anger and pain burned at her chest giving her courage. She looked at him carefully with the look of a wolf sizing up its prey. A sudden flash of lightning lit up the room for a second and Seril caught a glimpse of his face. It was sleek and angular in the sharp light and his black obsidian-colored eyes and hair made his skin seem almost unnaturally pale. She had seen him briefly in her nightmare but she had barely noticed that he was handsome. More than handsome, there was something about him that was...captivating.
For as long as she could remember Seril had been rigorously trained by master swordsmen. Vear had insisted that she know how to defend herself properly. She could match even the best of Vear’s solders despite her smaller and lighter frame. She was grateful for the rigorous hours now as she lunged herself at her brother’s killer. She moved quicker that most could even follow as her fist struck out at his face. In the split second before her blow fell she saw the elf’s eyes widen slightly in surprise. There was an almost imperceptible blur of motion and the next thing she knew the ground was rushing up to hit her and her arm was pinned painfully behind her back.
She didn’t have time to answer before he shoved a damp gag into her mouth. It seemed to Seril that it took hardly more time for him to tie her up and drop her into the now empty stall than it did for him to knock her to the ground. He didn’t say another word as he quickly mounted and disappeared into the blinding storm.
|Forsaken: Part 2 Dangerous Company||Dave the Dragon|
|Forsaken: Part 3 Anger's Tide||When the Green Moon Shines|