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My Writing

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I studied Computer Science at university.

This required all kinds of mathematics like proof by induction, statistics, a lgorithms etc.

So how on earth did I become  a writer?

The truth is that I could talk before I could walk. And when I spoke it was in complete sentences, or so my parents say. I didn’t stumble over my words. I told people exactly what I was thinking exactly when I wished to. And then one day I picked up a pen.

 

I wish I could say I remember the first time I attempted to write or, something cute like that, but I don’t. What I do remember is spending much of primary school writing stories whenever I got the opportunity, and that habit stuck with me through high school all the way to university. I even had my notebook taken away from me in high school when I was writing in it instead of working.

At the age of 9 I was exposed to Greek Mythology for the first time. Unbeknown to me, it was exactly what I would need to learn about world building. I love the stories of Jason and the Argonauts (Greek: Iason) , Perseus and Medusa, Hercules (Heracles), the tale of Persephone and Hades, and so much more.

Authors like Rick Riordan, Anthony Horowitz, Eoin Colfer, Melissa Marr, Julie Kagawa, Melissa de la Cruz and Meg Cabot all shaped who I became as a writer. But none of them looked like me.

There aren’t many black female authors out there in fantasy. It’s a genre that has been stereotypically been taken over by older white men like George RR Martin.

I got two emails from readers of my short story, More Than Skin Deep. Both appreciated me as a writer, and one even called me a heroine. And for the first time I realised how much of a responsibility it is to be a black female fantasy writer.

So I write for myself, but I also write for other black people, to pave the path for other people like me who want to become writers but are too scared because they see the industry is full of predominately white males.

I write because it is my passion and it makes me happy.

Whilst I’ve been working on my manuscript, I have also found time to draw some of my characters.

Below I’ve posted Empress Aruna. She is the wife of my MC, Emperor Stefan. At the moment she is just a minor character, but her decisions greatly affect Stefan later in the novel, especially since she is Queen to  her own kingdom of Arsinia.

 

Empress Aruna WIP
Empress Aruna WIP
Empress Aruna displaying her sheut (shadow) magick
Empress Aruna displaying her sheut (shadow) magick

 

Cartoon portrait of Empress Aruna
Cartoon portrait of Empress Aruna

All year round, she sang her songs. Some of woes and some of mirth. Through her songs I saw a truth. A truth I simply could not deny.

Winter’s grip was tight as iron. Merciless and unforgiving. But this young girl was not deterred. Unassuaged from my lake.

Through the bitter chill, she saw its beauty. She trudged through snow and walked through sleet. In icy cold, she sang her song. Lilting melodies much too sweet. Much too calm whilst bound by Beira.

Just this once I’d play along. Flute in hand I’d add this timbre. So by my rock I sat and played, watching my girl from a distance. In an instance she would hear.

Oh, but she stopped a while to look around, her bright emerald eyes full of wonder. Her cute open mouth akin to a guppy.

“Who is there?” she cried out. Unremitting, my tune went on. My one and only answer. Were she The One, she would understand.

I allowed a moment of silence before I changed the song. A plume of mist escaped her mouth as she huffed impatiently. As I played my haunting piece, her furrowed brows softened and a shy smile gave way. She took a seat on the snowy blanket. Immersed by the chilling trills, she closed her eyes. So serene she might have been a meditating monk.

I arose from my rock and stepped on the icy lake; the thin sheet fragile as a babe. My nimble feet glided quickly across as the ice cracked beneath me. Relief washed over me when my bare feet stepped on frigid snow. As I turned around I saw that my lake was a fractured beauty— the waters peaking beneath broken shards of ice. Not once had I allowed my melody to stop.

As I approached my girl I allowed a pause. A moment just to appreciate her beauty. Her hair was dark as the depthless seas, her ruddy cheeks in contrast, glowing. My webbed fingers stroked her cold, soft cheek as my eyes consumed her long dark lashes and angular face. She shivered from the contact but did not open her eyes. She could not and she would not— my song had ensured that.

“Who are you?” she asked. More probing questions. Gaps of knowledge to be filled. Could she not hear the truth as I did?

I brought my flute back to my lips, continued where I left off. Calmness returned upon her, smoothing crinkles on her face. She would remember. She must remember.

She rose to her feet, singing the song she had heard many years before.

 

Glittering lake, giver of life;

                A gate to a world you cannot fathom,

                Pure perfection, splendorous.

                There the woes are nevermore.

 

On she went with her song. As I stepped back, she came along. Blindly did she follow, not a worry did she show. As my feet touched ice, a web of cracks did appear. Eyes still closed, my girl placed her feet on that path. Lithely she followed with her dainty feet, careful to avoid the ever-cracking web. How foolish I was to tempt Beira’s cruel nature.

A bright crack tore through the ice, cutting my melody short in my throat. Only could I watch as the cursed ice cracked slowly beneath her feet. Eyes flung open, did her orbs shine—glisten— till my heart smashed, broken, as she sunk into the lake.

For but a moment was I numb, as shards of pain pierced my heart. The absence of her voice forced me to regain willpower, and I flung into the lake.

She was a fallen angel, sinking deep into the abyss. Her ivory hand stretched out to me as her body sank and I grabbed for her, so sure that I could save her.

A high pitched cackle grated through the murky lake and I truly knew that all was lost. I had loved and lost, and damned this dear child also.

The girl pleaded with her eyes at me but she was passed the point of saving and I was all too far from redemption. So I sang a lament for her. I put all the fragments of my soul in it, and hoped for such thing as a heaven for her even as my throat burned with the need to wail my woes. I sang through the cackle, knowing this revenge was that bitter woman’s triumph over me.

And my girl sank, so too with the remaining fragments of my soul.

The end of a life was a natural thing. Yet, how natural could it have been for I, a father, to have slain a daughter?

Wretched thing that I was, I meant to take her with me. Wicked thing that I am, I must be with her.

But soulless as I am, I have no place in her afterlife. And so the divide goes on and on, with only the shadow of a melody to remember her by.

I’ve been exploring with poetry lately and I happened upon a new way of writing. I have dubbed it Glitch Poetry because my first attempt happened accidentally as a result of a technological fault. Not only has the name stuck with me, but so too has it’s method of writing.

http://static.wixstatic.com/media/21e8ac_349a376eb2043acaa87bd93c0ae4e3ba.gif_srz_935_670_85_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_gif_srz

But how did I happen about it, you wonder? I attempted to dictate to my microphone using Dragon Dictation whilst I was in the living room. My housemates came in, continuing a conversation and the microphone picked it up and messed up my story. But the end result was a very strange, abstract sort of poem.

Here is a taste of my writing…

 

Who will serve glitch poetry?

That doesn’t want to be that what is,

These words bring the further and further and further.

I am the sample,

We will cruise-ship your idea about,

No control panel system,

Only evidence is there.

I want the latter. Must squint for locator.

For those of you who wanted to know what happened to Celeste, this is for you. Please leave a comment and let me know what you think of this and whether you want another another chapter, and if you have any specific questions you want answered.
Here’s the story. Enjoy!


The tall blonde girl stood before an oak table laid out with dozens of wine glasses. She was expected to polish all of them until they gleamed blindingly in the light. It had been a week since her mother had been burned alive by the master of the house, and a week since she had spoken. Celeste’s mother had paid for her crime, which had really only been a misunderstanding between herself and the young mistress.
I should have been the one to pay with my life, she thought to herself. My mother played no part in it.
The door opened and Celeste turned to face the guests. Her eyes opened wide when she made eye contact with the master of the house and another young man. She quickly averted her eyes and curtsied.
“Oh, it’s you,” the master said. “I had hoped the other one, Wilhelmina was here.” Celeste did not reply. It was neither her place nor her right to speak unless given permission. And even then, she had been unable to. The doctor had put it down to stress and shock. Although Celeste should have been imprisoned for her crimes, if not executed, the young mistress, Daphne Lully, had seen fit to keep her around to gloat about her mother’s death.
“Oh, but she is quite a fair specimen,” the guest replied. His voice was soft and clear but his words cut her like a knife. I am a person, Celeste thought. But she kept her silence all the same. Then she realised that the voice was familiar. No, it can’t be. “Might I take a closer inspection?”
“Of course.”
Celeste kept her eyes downcast as was custom for slaves when close to a superior. The man walked closer to her and with every footstep, her heart thudded that much louder. When he was right in front of her, he lifted her chin slightly.
“Look at me,” he said, and she was helpless to deny him. His eyes were green this time but as he gazed at her, the colour darkened, replaced instead by the obsidian pair that she had first been greeted with.
He combed through her short blonde hair, placing loose strands behind her ear. Behind him, Celeste’s master coughed to get the guest’s attention.
“It would be ill-advised to take that one,” the master said. “She still needs to finish her obedience classes, which she won’t pass until she starts speaking again.”
“She is a mute?” Quinlan asked, brow raised a fraction. But his gaze didn’t waver from Celeste’s.
“Only for the past week. The doctor thinks she went through a traumatic experience.”
“Yes, I imagine losing your mother is rather traumatic,” the faery spat. The amused expression Celeste had seen the first time Quinlan had visited was absent as he whirled around to face Celeste’s master. “Wouldn’t you agree?”
“I… I’m not certain I know what you’re talking about,” Master Lully stated.
“Of course you do. But I haven’t time to mess around. You will give me this slave and I will give you exactly what you deserve for her. I want the paperwork as well, of course.”
“Two hundred drachmas then.”
“For the crimes which she stands accused of and her obvious behavioural problems, she cannot be worth more than fifty.”
Master Lully’s lips pressed together and his brow knitted in anger. “Now, see here! This is a talented slave. How many slaves that can play the flute as well as she can are few and far so I will not accept anything less than two hundred.”
Celeste couldn’t be certain that her master knew who he spoke to. Certainly no one would speak to the Unseelie King in such a manner. But here he was, face red with fury, defying one of the most powerful beings in all the realms. Just as Celeste had done, for all the good it had done her.
“I’ll amuse you for the time being and offer you your two hundred drachmas.” Quinlan said. “Shall we shake on it?” He offered out his hand and Master Lully looked at it apprehensively, eyes narrowed at it as if it may have been a trap. But then he nodded and he shook the faery king’s hand.
“Deal,” he said. “Would you like to come with me to draw out the paperwork?”
And just like that, Celeste’s fate was left in the hands of the Unseelie King.
“I’d ask that the slave come with us so I can search for anymore defects I might have missed,” Quinlan said.
“Whatever for? You already said that you would purchase her.”
“I would ask that you remove her tracker.”
“That is against the law,” Master Lully said, eyes narrowed. But Quinlan only smiled back.
“And so is killing a slave. There are procedures to be followed. Even slaves are permitted a trial.”
“Are you a Peacemaker come to arrest me, or a customer here to purchase my slave?”
“The slave will suffice,” Quinlan said. The two eyed one another for a drawn out moment. Master Lully appeared stiff, his back erect, as though he may have to strike at any moment. In contrast to him, Quinlan appeared the picture of calmness. What did a faery king have to fear from a mortal Spellman?
“Come with us,” Master Lully said, pointing at Camila.
Celeste followed Master Lully and the faery king to an office. It was sleek and modern but it had a cosy feeling to it thanks to the electronic fireplace. Master Lully went through several of his drawers and came out with a device.
“This will remove the device in her rear,” Master Lully stated. “Come here,” he told Celeste.
“Be certain that it does,” Quinlan said.
Celeste walked towards her master and allowed herself to look directly into Quinlan’s eyes. A light amusement appeared there as though her insolence did not bother her. A crack rang through the room and moments later, Celeste felt a stinging sensation on her cheek. Master Lully had slapped her.
“Do not gaze in the eyes of your superiors, slave.”
“Please refrain from harming the merchandise,” Quinlan said.
“Until you pay me and sign that contract, she is mine to do as I wish.” Celeste ground her teeth together to keep her from doing something she knew she would regret. “Bend over,” Master Lully ordered.
Fear seeped its way through her then but she barely hesitated as she did as instructed. Her master lifted her dress and shame overwhelmed. Shame. What a useless emotion when your own flesh belonged to another. Her underwear was next and at this display, true panic overwhelmed her.
“Be sure to remind this one who the master is. I’ve heard of young men like yourself who wish to keep these base-born slaves as lovers and paramours.” Celeste felt something cold cup her behind. Cold heart, cold touch. He slapped Celeste’s rear then and she cried out. She knew it was not the force of the slap but rather the sheer humiliation of the act itself. “Slaves are lower than dogs. They have no loyalty and they must be kept under control by whatever means necessary.”
Tears welled up in Celeste’s eyes but she forced down the sobs that threatened to erupt from her.
“Care to hurry this along?” Quinlan asked. “I am not so fond of mongrels, myself but be rest assured,”— there was a tug at Celeste’s hair and she was forced to peer into those dark orbs – “she will know who rules over her.”
The faery king released her and her head sagged and she was staring at the floor again. Something cold touched her rear and a sharp pan pierced her there.
“The tracker has been extracted. You may dress, slave,” Master Lully commanded.
Celeste was more than relieved to dress herself, but whatever sense of modesty she might have had had been peeled away. As she pulled down her tunic, she saw her master give the tracker to Quinlan. He sat behind his desk and took a piece of paper from the printer.
“This is the contract,” Master Lully said. “You will pay the agreed two hundred drachmas.”
“Indeed,” Quinlan said. Celeste watched him play with the tracker. It appeared to look like a small coin, flat and round. Celeste detested that such a thing had been inside her, marking her as the property of someone else.
“Remind me your name again, please? Quinlan was it?”
“Yes.”
“An old name, that one,” Master Lully said. “And what might your family name be?”
“My kind is not so keen on family names. You can make out the contract to King Quinlan of the Unseelie Court.”
Master Lully stared at the fey for a moment, and a nervous smile appeared on his face. A light chuckle followed. “You’re not serious?”
“The fey do not lie.” And then he let the Glamour drop. His hair and eyes darkened. The feature of his face sharpened, and a dark aura seemed to unfurl from him. “What are you waiting for?” Master Lully only stared at him, with his mouth hanging open. Quinlan stepped closer to the Spellman, causing him to reel back in fear. “Write it!”
“Of course, of course!” He reached for a pen and quickly scrawled out something on the paper. “If… if you could sign here, please?”
“Will you not be needing payment first?” Quinlan asked.
“No, no! Take her.”
“I wouldn’t wish to rob you. After all, we had an agreement.”
Quinlan raised his hand and a symbol shone over Master Lully. It might have been some ancient language. Celeste did not truly know. But that symbol held power in it and she could feel it deep within her.
Dozens of coins appeared from a void around the glowing symbol. Celeste watched as the drachmas pierced their Master Lully’s flesh.
                Master Lully’s growl should have scared Celeste. Inside, however, she felt a sense of joy. That is what scared her.
                More coins rained down on Master Lully, and blood poured from the wounds. His bright pleading eyes were seared onto Celeste’s memory but Quinlan showed no remorse.
                “One hundred and ninety five drachmas,” Quinlan said. “Now, I’m sure I’m missing something.” He tapped his cheek and then appeared to have a light bulb moment. “Five missing drachmas.”
                “Please…” Master Lully groaned.
                “I’m not certain you should have the right to live. Perhaps I will ask the girl.” The faery king turned to gaze at Celeste then. “Should he be permitted to live?”
                Celeste’s mouth was dry. She knew not what the right thing was in that moment. Everything seemed to blur into one. Her humiliation and anger. Her grief and malice. Count Lully would be her master no more.
                “No,” she said. Quinlan only nodded and a coin penetrated Count Lully’s heart.
                “Two hundred drachmas, in full,” Quinlan said. Then he took the contract and signed it. “I promised you that you would belong to me, and now at last, you do.”
                The faery king turned around to look at her, but instead of cowering to him, Celeste forced herself to raise her chin.
                “I will never belong to you.”
                “According to this contract, you already do, deary. And trust me when I say that I will make good use of you.”

 

So it’s taken me quite some time but I have finally written a sequel to my short story “The Price for Honour”. I had dabbled a few ideas in my head, such as having the next part in Stefan’s POV in order to humanise him, because let’s face it, Kailì thinks Stefan is some sort of demon. In the end though, I thought we should stick to Kailì’s POV since we’re already emotionally invested in him. 

This surprisingly only took me one night to write but I was up until 2AM so I sincerely hope you enjoy it. Please read and review 😀

Here we go…
 

My knuckles were bone-white as I gripped the dagger. My hand gave off tremors of fear as I approached my father’s prone form. I had waited at the edges of darkness within his chambers. Prince Stefan’s Shadow Magick had been a big help but it had been a long while until the restless king had succumbed to sleep. It seemed fitting that his sheets were blood-red silks. Red and gold, colours of royalty.

            I couldn’t believe what was expected of me— what I was planning to do. Would regicide truly help the people?
            My father’s body turned towards me as though he could sense my presence. Fear spiked in my chest but he remained very much asleep.
            Most people looked calm and serene in sleep. My father did not. The war had taken its toll on him and his usual scowl was plastered on his face, a sheen of sweat pouring from his forehead.
            I raised the dagger and as I placed it above his throat I saw a flash of my own reflection—dark jade eyes stretched wide in bewilderment.
            I still had one other choice left. It was not ideal, but I doubted anyone would particularly miss me. I was the Wúlì prince, after all. I could still do the honourable thing and embrace death.
            My eyes flitted across the room. With the exception of the flickering candles by the bedside, the majority of it was bathed in shadows. For all I knew, Stefan might have been there watching me. Would he stop me before I took my own life?
            Images of half burned corpses rushed through my mind. Glass eyes and gaping mouths; charred skin and impaled limbs. I could not allow this city to burn, but I would not be a traitor to my country.
            I gasped as I plunged the dagger into my heart. I barely registered my father’s snort as a pain racked through my spine.
            A few more moments passed but death did not come. The pain only intensified and my body shook violently. A dry cough erupted from me and I collapsed to my knees.
            A loud clap echoed through the room, speeding in tempo as the sound neared. Then a roar burst through me as the dagger was forcibly removed from my chest.
            “I didn’t think you had it in you, Wúlì.” The cold voice sounded vaguely impressed. “What an inspiring performance that was.”
            “How… what?” I asked. I couldn’t understand why no blood stained my chest. Even as I traced the skin beneath my garments, I felt no wound. “Alive.”
            “That remains to be seen,” Stefan answered.
 As I rose my head I saw Stefan’s icy glare darken, his eyes blackening all over. When he blinked, the blackness disappeared but my fear did not. He had threatened to paint the walls with my blood once before. No one would be able to stop him from doing so now.
“Do you love your father?” he asked me.
“No,” I said. I rose to my feet and took a deep breath as I saw darkness encompassing nearly the entirety of my father’s bed. It taped over his mouth but his eyes saw the full horror of what occurred before him.
“But you would not kill him,” Stefan noted.
“Do you kill everyone you dislike?” I asked. It was unwise, but I was going to die anyway. What did I care for being careful now?
“You love your father. That makes you the ideal candidate to sacrifice him to my goddess.”
Ice formed in my veins. The prince wanted a blood sacrifice? He was truly more sickening than I had thought. A psychopath, or a warlord I could fathom— a religious zealot I could not.
“That dagger is not so plain as it seems, is it?” I asked.
“Of course not. I had feared you might wish to take matters into your own hands so I ensured that it would be capable of killing only one person— your king.”
My father attempted to break free of his bonds but he was nothing more than a helpless, writhing form. Consumed by Stefan’s darkness, even the king of a great nation was helpless to the demon prince.
“I won’t do it,” I said. “I may not be able to stop you from killing my father, but I won’t do it myself.” It might have made little difference to Stefan, but I would not taint my soul this way. Not for the first time, I wondered if he even had a soul.
“You truly have forced my hand,” he sighed. Then the darkness came for me.
The darkness crept up my feet and into my ears and eyes like acupuncturist needles. Why did the guards not hear my screams? My throat burned from it.
Stefan approached me when I stumbled to my knees, handing me the dagger once more. I took it without a second thought. In that moment I knew my will was not my own.
“The goddess does not require the sacrifice to be done willingly. The blood of a king will be purpose enough.”
“You… demon,” I said. But my voice was like broken glass.
Anger flashed across Stefan’s composed demeanour. Did the soulless care how others perceived them?
“This is the will of the goddess,” Stefan whispered. “This is the will of my queen.”
I was beside my father’s bed a minute later. I had tried to fight it but my willpower was quickly draining. So much darkness. So much pain. It engulfed me, and I radiated it.
The dagger was above my father’s throat once more and I gazed into his fearful dark eyes. I had seen so much emotion reflect from those eyes. Lust. Greed. Anger. I had never imagined such fear from such a man.
There was a time when hope emanated from them. There was a time when he thought I would be the next great king; one who would lead this nation to a Golden Era like none before. But that was before I was announced a Wúlì at my Interpretation Ceremony. I had spent nearly a whole year trying to get that hopeful gaze from him once more.
I would not let it end like this. I would not be immersed by the darkness.
A pressure built in my stomach and chest. I felt as though my heart would burst. Tears fell from my face as the dagger nipped my father’s throat.
A light breeze past through the room and a small relief came through my chest. But I continued struggling for my willpower. One clean swipe to the throat and my father would be gone forever. Another corpse to add to the many that had already perished to Yolanda’s madness.
A force tore through the room and I stumbled back and crashed to the floor. I threw the dagger away from me and it flew in an arc and swerved, miraculously hitting Stefan between the eyes. It was a shame that the dagger was cast to kill only one person.
He removed the dagger, a wince passing through his face.
“How?” he snapped. “How has a simpleton overcome my power?” Anger bled through into his words but he sounded more like a toddler having a tantrum than a demon.
A gust of wind brought me to my feet. Understanding came to me slowly but surely. The pressure in my chest had fully alleviated and with the windows shut firmly, it meant that this force could only have been brought on by one individual.
“I am many things, prince, but I am not a simpleton,” I spat. I raised my hands and hoped that the air around me would bend to my will. Wind tore through the darkness binding my father, ripping it like paper.
I turned to look at Stefan and he had visibly paled. No hint of a smile broke out on his face. It was two against one.
“The power of an Elemental Warrior, hidden within a Wúlì,” Stefan said. “The gods must be playing a new kind of game.”
“Your goddess does not favour you this day,” my father said. He was on his feet now, but Stefan paid no attention to him. His eyes scrutinised me with an intensity that still unnerved me. Just because the odds seemed to be in my favour did not mean he was powerless to stop us. Whatever these gifts were, I was still nothing more than a novice.
“This is nothing new,” Stefan intoned. “The goddess never favours me.”
The Terrahgonian prince unsheathed his sword and swung it towards us. Dark arcs of energy flew at us, hitting me straight in the chest. By the time I got to my feet, clutching to my chest, I saw my father fighting Stefan, sword on sword.
My father was sprite for his age, but the two seemed evenly matched. They parried and dodged each other well, as though it were a choreographed dance.
I allowed a gust of wind to blow into Stefan but he raised a wall of darkness that my winds were unable to penetrate. From this side I couldn’t see what was happening but it was not long before I heard my father grunt in pain and a heavy body collapse.
“Father!” I yelled.
The dark barrier came down and Stefan absorbed it into the sword. He was panting and his snow white hair was askew.
“I had hoped to avoid this,” he said. “But you have forced my hand.”
A silent scream wrenched through me. Darkness filled me but the pain did not subside. Surely my eyes would burst, or my heart would give out. I felt as though something was being torn from me.
“Do you feel that?” Stefan asked. “It’s the pain of your soul being undone. It is the agony of your very being becoming unmade.”
One final tug and I collapsed to my knees once more. Stefan chuckled.
“You belong on your knees now, Prince No More.”
I forced myself to raise my head and gasped in horror as I saw a being formed of shadows stood over me. It walked away and took the dagger Stefan offered it. I looked behind me and realised that my own shadow was indeed missing.
The shadow creature knelt beside my father’s slumped body.
“Away from me!” he yelled. It was futile, of course.
“In the name of Luna, the Triple goddess,” the shadow said. Its voice was my own, but somehow distorted. It seemed colder, deprived of any emotion. “I offer her this tribute as sacrifice.”
 I forced myself to watch as the dagger neared my father’s throat so I would not forget this moment if I ever survived. A guttural choke came from my father’s throat as blood seeped from it.
“The goddess has accepted the sacrifice,” the shadow announced.
“Like a lamb to the slaughter,” Stefan stated. “Now the only loose end is the Wúlì.
I had so little fight in me left that the word bore little offence. I was sapped of all strength and energy. What little hope I once had had now dwindled away.
“Kill me,” I whispered. My head fell to face the floor as though my neck could no longer hold its weight.
Footsteps approached me and I sensed Stefan kneel in front of me. A hand clasped my chin and raised it. I looked at Stefan straight in the eyes for but a moment before my gaze past through it.
“Yes, I can give you that. Would you like that?” He stroked my cheek with his thumb. “But death would be a comfort to you. I’m not certain you deserve it.”
“Please,” I cried out, grasping his cloak in my fist. “Mercy.”
“Yes, the goddess is known occasionally for her small mercies.” A thread of hope hung over me for a moment. “But my power comes from a crueller god. And with your power, you may yet prove of some use after all. You will live, my dear Wúlì, and you will live knowing the true extent of your failures. The death of your father. The massacre of this city. And the assassinations of all the noblemen and noblewomen of Kratul.” My body wracked into sobs before I was able to supress it. But I was a prince no more. What need for princely pride? “You have a life ahead of you filled with sweet pain. That is my mercy to you.”
Then he inhaled into my open mouth and darkness submerged me. 
           

 

I’ve been feeling unwell since Thursday so please bear with me. I actually wasn’t going to post anything but I found this lying around and thought I’d might as well post it. It’s probably the shortest piece I’ve ever written and I’m not certain that I’m truly pleased with it. It was more of an experimental piece. I have another longer story quite similar to it that will be coming out in an anthology book my university is publishing though. I’ll tell you the details later. 

Anyway, here is the short short story. Please leave a comment 🙂 —


You look at me with eyes glazed like glass. Though your bag is packed, you shall never pass. I gave you all, my trust and love. My love for you was my downfall. Yet here you stand within my thrall. You’ll be my puppet for the night. Your eyes so bright, they’re quite the sight. It almost hides the spite within.
                I broke the rules to be with you, my love. I watched my immortal string cut short. My fellow fey thought me quite foolish. “When you’ve found love, you’ll understand”— at least that’s what I would once retort.
                I take your hand, pull you towards me. You too are strong, you try to flee. But can’t you see, I won’t let you go? It’s quite the blow for me to know you yearn for one that is not me.
                How could I think to control you? It was your wildness that did once excite me. The fight within that did incite me.
                You scream profanities in my face. Dimly I feel the trace of my remaining heart that beats hard like thunder; that once did beat steadily before you tore our love asunder.
Verily I say unto you, stop screaming. Surely I must have been dreaming to think you would ever obey.
                All hope is lost, I feel I must say goodbye. I search my pocket and drink a clear vial. As it burns in my mouth I pull you forward for our last kiss. I force the vile content past your luscious lips. Surely you have all manners of objections but you bite them back.
                In a manner of minutes, all will be over. The rooms spins around and I am on my knees mumbling apologies. None touch your leaden heart, we’ve grown too far apart. You won’t take my hand even as my life fades away, despite your promises to always stay. It matters not for none shall have you if not I. But I am fey and you are not. Our love was doomed. All hope is lost. 

And on that happy note, please leave a comment to let me know what kind of story you want me to write next. I’m open to all sorts of suggestions provided that they have some sort of fantasy element. Others of you might be more specific and ask me for a sequel to another of my previous short stories. By all means, let me know!

So I’ve been having quite some fun writing short stories to build up my character’s back stories before the events of what I hope to be the first novel in the series. This short story introduces a completley new character I’ve only recently thought up of. It is also the first story I found necesarry to write in first person. Please let me know what you think and tell me if you want to see this character at some point in my novel. At the moment I’m planning to keep him for a sequel rather than the first but I’m open to suggestions.

Without further a due, please Enjoy this short story…
By night I watched the flames rise high, tearing all that I knew and loved apart. Never before had I seen such desolation. No child should have had to go through such a thing, but as the night wore on and I saw life snuffed out all around me, I knew that I was a child no longer. My innocence was gone with all the innocent that suffered. And it was my fault. It was all my fault. But I knew that I could put things right. I had to.
            Later that night, when the enemy forces were gone, I went to my father’s chambers. The grand doors to his rooms were guarded by two sentries. The bearded men blocked my path as I approached.
            “Who goes there?” the one at the left demanded. I removed my hood and his hardened expression faltered. “Prince Kailì, what are you doing here alone?”
            “I’m here to see my father,” I said. They looked at each other wearily.
            “You father has asked not to be disturbed,” the other guard said.
            Whilst normally I would not disobey my father’s wishes, this would be an exception.
            “You will open this door at once,” I snapped.
            “We are under direct instruction to,”— the words died on his tongue as the door behind him began to open.
            “Your Highness, we were just telling the prince that you do not wish to be disturbed,” the first guard explained.
            “It’s quite alright. Come in, my son.”
            I walked in with my father and he went to sit on his bed. I kneeled before him in supplicance.
            “Father,” I began.
            “I know why you are here,” he said. I looked up to see his saddened, fatigued face. This was not my father. He was usually so upbeat and cheerful, and yet here he looked haggard. I suppose it made sense. We had lost so many good mean in the previous battle against Yolanda. If only he had listened to me. “You want me to surrender to that witch, Yolanda.” My eyes widened. Calling another person a witch was an insult not taken lightly. It was what the mortals had called our kind that once dwelt in their world, back in the times of the witch hunts when our lives ended at the stakes.
            “It is the wise thing to do,” I said.
            “Kratul is rich and plentiful, we may still gain allies from Kazarai,” he replied. “Our fate is not yet sealed.”
            “But at what cost? Kazarai has little love for our nation and Alasiya will not intervene. Please father, we cannot win this war.”
            “Enough!” he yelled. He rose from his bed and went to his mirror cabinet. “Do you know what surrendering would mean for this country? For this family?
            “I will be prince no more, and you will no longer be a king. I understand this, and I know that Yolanda may still slay us. But you swore as king that you would do all that you could to protect this country and right now what is best for it is surrendering before any more innocent lives perish. Please father.”
            “You will get out this instant! I need not the council of a useless Wúlì filled with nothing but cowardice.”
            Then he turned away from me and I knew that this discussion was over.
That night I could not sleep. In my dreams I was visited by the spirits of the dead. They screamed as they burned alive or choked in the gas that the enemies had dropped on them. I had been given a mask and was taken to a safe underground bunker but I had seen enough for the memory to be permanently ingrained into my mind.
            As I sat on my bed, I saw the shadows begin to swirl around me. Either the dead spirits were giving me a personal visit, or an enemy was about to attack.
            I grabbed the sword I kept by my bedside and stood to prepare for an attack. The shadows began to dissipate and I saw a face emerge from the shadows. The boy pulled back his hood and pale blue eyes stared back at me. But it was his stark white hair that caused me to scream out.
            Shadows extended from the boy and entwined their way around my mouth and I was silenced. The boy scowled at me and looked at the door, but no one came for me.
 Determined not to be the coward my father thought me to be, I swung my sword at the shadow tentacle. My sword went through the shadows as though they were made of mist. Unable to speak, I could only look on it terror as the white-haired boy used another tentacle weaved of shadows as a whip to grab my sword. He threw it to a distance and it clattered to the ground.
             “I understand that it is your desire to surrender to my mother, the queen,” he said.
            “You are Prince Stefan?” I asked. Yolanda had no other son, and the prince was infamous for the power he wielded over the darkness. In my land, the mortal slaves called him a demon in the guise of a boy.
            “My mother will be happy to call a cease fire should you convince your father to surrender. If not,”— he tilted his head and a glint of menace filled his eyes— “she will burn this city to the ground and have all the members of your nobility slain. What say you?”
He withdrew the shadows wrapped firmly over my mouth and I couldn’t help but glance at my sword for a moment. Too far away to grab. I locked eyes with the prince and he raised his brows at me as though to challenge me.
            “I know that,” I replied. “But I can’t convince him. He won’t abide by it. He thinks it’s cowardly.”
            “And you?”
            “I think it is the right thing to do for our people. But my father only seems to care about his image.”
            “I have an idea,” he stated. “Come with me as my prisoner and I will bring you forth to my queen. Once your father hears of you capture, I am sure he will cooperate.”
            “I can’t be certain that he will.”
            “Why is that?”
            “My father does not love me as a father should… not since my Interpretation Ceremony. I am what my people call a Wúlì— a Powerless. I am not gifted with magic.”
            “That is a pity,” he stated. Nothing about his tone implied a trace of sympathy and though I certainly did not need it from him, the way he pursed his lips made me uneasy.
I could almost feel the options he was calculating through in his mind. With his power, he could take me away or murder me here as a warning to my father.
“You are his only son, correct?” the Dark Prince asked of me.
“I am his only legitimate son,” I corrected. Perhaps the clarification was not necessary but it was difficult to forget the number of bastards he had sired, given their large count. I still could not forget that my father had stated that the only good that had come from this war was sending his bastards out to the Front Lines.
“You said that he does not love you as a father should. Is there one that he cherishes more than you?” Truth be told, it was more like a string of women.
“The only things my father loves are his crown, his cock, and his wealth,” I remarked. “In that order.”
I sealed my lips together. What was I saying? True, it was no secret that the king loved bountiful breasts and rouged lips, but it was not my place to speak out against it, yet alone to the Crown Prince of Terrahgonia. I was to be bargaining with him; finding some way of saving my country.
“And does that not simply rile you up?” the prince asked.
“Yes!” I cried out.
“Your king would see every last soldier dead before he gave up his crown willingly,” he stated. “Now what kind of a king is that?”
“A selfish one.”
“Indeed. And I would not see this great city burnt to the ground because of an arrogant pig playing at being a king. But there is little I can do here to circumvent the inevitable. Kratul is your hands, prince.”
I looked down at my hands as though they might provide the answers I sought. Kratul was in my plump, clammy hands.
The anger within me churned like a cauldron. I was immersed in it; a tidal wave of repressed loathing, laced with a bitter sadness and a spark of rage. And a hunger. A deep hunger for revenge on the one who had hurt me all these years.
“What must I do to save this kingdom?” I asked.
A small smile appeared on his thin lips. His hands reached to shift his cloak, revealing a sword, and daggers strapped to his belts. My father would have longed for a son who could truly wield a sword. It was a weapon designed for the valiant, he had always said. The fiercest and bravest. Though I owned a sword I was not gifted in this. Perhaps my father might have loved me if I were.
Prince Stefan removed a dagger— a simple thing with no embellishments or decorations of any kind.
“Before dawn,” he began, “you will enter your father’s chambers and you will slaughter him in his sleep. When they crown you, your first act as king will be to surrender to Terrahgonia.”
 He tried to pass me the dagger, but I only stared at it in wide-eyed mortification. The fire of hatred for my father died a little, its embers fading as dread coursed through my bones.
“I…”
“Think very carefully before you answer me, prince.” His tone was even. There was no anger in it, no hatred or inflection that could suggest arrogance. Even his facial expression appeared bored and blank. Perhaps what the slaves said was true; he might very well have been a demon in the guise of a boy.
“I can’t…” I began to say.
“Kratul will fall with or without you,” he snapped. A shadowy vine grabbed the dagger from his hand and launched it towards me. I stumbled back and collapsed to the ground. The cold digger kissed my neck and I felt a small but sharp prick as the weapon pointed at my throat.
The prince kneeled beside me and I saw a darkness swirl in his pale eyes. Other than that, it was not anger that greeted me, but a cold indifference. I think I would have preferred the anger.
“You have the chance to save countless others,” he told me. “All that is required is the spilt blood of a stubborn old man. You would be a hero.”
“I would be a traitor,” I snapped.
“They need never know. My word on that.” I ground my teeth together but gave no answer. “Since you seem to want to cling on to your honour, I could let you die with it. If you do not swear to kill the king, I will spill your blood right here, right now, and use it to paint the walls as a warning.”
My blood roared in my ears and my eyes stung with emotion I sought to keep in check. I was the prince of this realm and I was sworn to keep it safe no matter the consequences.
“I will give you but ten seconds to make your mind,” he warned.
To save the realm, a hard choice was to be made. A life was to be given. My father’s life. Or my own.

Heya! Remember those short stories I promised? Yeah, well, here is one I wrote quite some time ago. It is actally a sort of Origins Story for my one of the characters in my novel in progress, Weaving Moonlight. You won’t know which one right away though, becauase I’ve changed her name to avoid spoilers. Anyway, here we go:


She woke up at the crack of dawn—same as any other day. Sweep the floors, scrub the floors, and then help out in the kitchen. Avoid irritating the mistress. Take a few gropes and pinches from the master. This was her life.
                Celeste was becoming a woman and the master of the house was noticing. He’d had an eye on her for a while now but he’d yet to corner her in private. Thankfully the mistress was keeping an eye on her too, and she’d not allow him to dishonour her with a good-for-nothing mortal slave girl. There was little Celeste’s mother could do about it either. If the master wanted Celeste for himself, there was little anyone save the mistress could do. That’s just how it was when you weren’t a person. You were property.
                One of Celeste’s few moments of solace was playing her music. She had a natural affinity for playing the flute and this made her valuable indeed. Most slaves didn’t have such a specialty but the Lully’s had made an exception for Celeste in order to encourage their own daughter to take up the instrument. Celeste had been a playmate of sorts, and was now the girl’s handmaid.
                “Slave!” The short, sharp shriek came as a shock to Celeste. Daphne was not to be in the East wing. It was the slave’s quarters.
                “You’d better go and attend to the little mistress,” Nancy, the cook said. Celeste nodded and headed out the door to find Daphne. She bumped right into the young mistress, who gasped in surprise.
                “You are so clumsy!” she yelled.
                “My apologies, mistress,” Celeste said, lowering her gaze.
                “As you should be. Where were you? I awoke and had to run my own bath.”
                “I had to work in the kitchens this morning. It’s understaffed and I—”
                “I haven’t the time for your pathetic excuses. I’ll make sure you are flogged for this.” Celeste winced. She still hadn’t fully recovered from the last flogging. Protesting would only make it worse, of course. “I still need you to do my hair. I can’t clip it right and the cousins will be here in a few hours.”
                “Of course. After you, mistress.” Daphne turned away, flicking her bright coppery hair in Celeste’s face.
                When they arrived in Daphne’s extravagant room— with its polished floor, queen sized bed and balcony overlooking the back garden— the young mistress insisted on having each strand of her hair brushed three times. Today was a special day for her. Today she would find out her special power. Some Spellmans were able to find out at birth but this was rare and so most had to wait until their thirteenth birthday.
                “I hope it’s nothing stupid like being an Empath. My aunt Layla was an Empath and it drove her insane you know. Though of course father says it’s because she lost her baby and being an Empath she felt it more acutely— the disappointment from uncle Michel and grandmother. I want to be something special— maybe an Oracle or a Technopath. Some Technopaths end up rich creating state-of-the-art technology, you know.”
                “I’m sure you will be special no matter what your power ends up being,” Celeste said. Special needs, of course, you little brat! She thought. But Celeste’s mother insisted that everyone was special in their own way, and had encouraged her not to hate her young mistress. They were the same age, Daphne and Celeste. Unfortunately Daphne treated her younger, often being patronising and rude.
                “Well of course I’m special— father always says so— but I don’t just want to be any special person. I want to be the special person. I want to do something worthwhile, like marry the prince.”
                “Of course,” Celeste answered. After brushing the last strand, she looked at Daphne through the mirror, envying the way her hair curled so wonderfully. Her own blonde hair was thin and flat. With the exception of a few silvery strands, it was completely unremarkable.
                “If you were not mortal, what kind of power would you want?” Daphne asked. Celeste found the question disarming. The young mistress rarely asked for her opinion, and when she answered, she was often ignored anyway.
                “I’m not sure. I haven’t thought about it.”
                Liar.She had thought of it often. She had thought of being an illusionist once so that she could trick the Lully’s into freeing all the slaves and getting revenge on them for all the horrid deeds they had committed, like getting rid of her father.
                “Well of course you have!” Daphne insisted. “All of you mortals envy us because we are gifted and you are not. That’s why we own you.” Celeste gritted her teeth. “That’s what father says. Surely you must have some idea of what you would want to be able to do.”
                “No.”
                Daphne snorted. “Well, I knew you weren’t gifted, but I didn’t think you had no imagination.” Celeste ignored the comment and continued on to clip Daphne’s hair up the way she knew she would want. She wanted to look sophisticated today to show that she was growing up. “Maybe you’d like mind control so you could convince my mother not to sell your mother.”
                Celeste dug the clip into Daphne’s scalp by accident and the other girl screeched.
                “Oh my gods, I’m so sorry!” Celeste yelled.
                Daphne rose from her seat, clutching her head in one hand. “You did that on purpose! You attacked me.” She pointed at Celeste with her other hand, her pale grey eyes sparkling with hate. “I’ll have you flogged within an inch of your life!”
                “Please, I didn’t mean it. You surprised me. I didn’t know my mother was being sold, and I flinched accident.”
                Daphne refused to listen, already backing away to the door. “I’ll not believe another word you say.” She opened the door to leave, but Celeste ran towards her to shut the door before she could move another step. “If you touch me, I swear by the gods—”
                “Please,” Celeste insisted. “Don’t tell the master or the mistress. It was a mistake. Please.”
                Daphne looked at her— genuinely looked at her for once without distaste or loathing. She gave Celeste a small but uncertain smile and nodded. “Alright. I believe you.”
                Celeste sighed in relief and let out a tear. “Thank you.” She stepped aside from the door. “Would you like me to—” Daphne ran out the door before she finished her sentence.
                “Father! Mother!” she cried out. “The slave tried to kill me.”
                Celeste collapsed on her knees then, her body wracking out sobs of fear and despair.
                They’re selling my mother. I may never see her again, just like I’ll never see father. She wished that a black hole would suck her in right then. She wished she wasn’t such a helpless slave, her life at the mercy of a wicked master. Oh, to be free…
The flogging that was inflicted on her that night was much worse than the last. Celeste had tried so hard, wailing and cursing that the master had stuffed her mouth with something dirty in order to muffle out her cries. She lay there, topless, tied to a post in the dark. She was in the barn with the horses, waiting for the master to take pity on her and allow her inside. If she remained like this, her back could become infected. And then maybe I’ll fade into oblivion at last, and join father. She had witnessed the brutality of the flogging that had been the death of her father years ago. He had tried to way the master from hurting Mother. It had all been for nought. Celeste now knew what he had wanted with her mother, and knew that he had had his way with her.
                And one day he’ll have his way with me— if I don’t die here first.
Celeste awoke to feel a smooth hand caress her cheek.
                “Celeste, wake up.” The voice was low and sombre— gentle but authoritative.
When Celeste opened her eyes, she found herself face to face with a vision of ethereal beauty.  His dark eyes lit up a little when he realised she was awake. His close proximity startled Celeste, and she tried to back away, forgetting that she was still tied to the post.
“Oh, you poor thing,” the man said to her. “It is simply terrible that they have resorted to treating you like a beast. What crime have you been alleged to have committed?” The man tilted his head at a peculiar angle, stroking her face all the while.
“I… The master’s daughter thinks I tried to kill her.”
“Ouch. Now that is a serious accusation.” His tone was disapproving, but his lips gave way to a cold smile.
“I didn’t though. I didn’t try to kill her.”
The dark haired man narrowed his eyes, keeping his eyes fixed with hers. She felt exposed like this, reminded that she was still topless.
“I believe you,” he answered at last. “But I suppose it doesn’t matter what I believe. What will your master do with you, I wonder?”
Celeste was reminded of that monstrous glare, and that vicious smile as her master continued to whip her. She’d been whipped harder for cursing.
“I don’t know,” Celeste said. She looked at the floor, noticing the man’s nice leather shoes. He must be wealthy to have shoes like that.
The stranger lifted her chin so that Celeste’s eyes met his once more. “A torturer will be sent,” he answered. “They will do unspeakable things to you and I am here to make a deal with you— a faery bargain.”
He’s a faery! Celeste thought. That explains his otherworldly beauty— his sharp features and musical voice.
“I might be regarded a simpleton, but I know that faery deals are dangerous.”
“That they are, deary.” At least he was admitting it. Faeries couldn’t lie, after all. “You have a choice now. Die at the behest of the Lully’s, or come and live with me.”
“As what?” Celeste screamed. “Your pet? Your whore?”
The faery gave her an unamused glare. “Forgive me if I offend but you’re a little bit underdeveloped—” he pointed towards her chest “for my tastes.” Celeste blushed scarlet and looked away. “But I do mean for you to be mine. You have something very special in you that I need.”
“What might that be?” she asked.
“Your music, of course. I have heard you play and it calls out to me from my home and it is a lovely sound I will not have silenced by your death.”
“That’s it?” she asked.
“You obviously do not understand just how talented you are,” the faery said. Celeste only shrugged. “You haven’t much time to decide, young mortal.”
“If I agree, will you take my mum too?”
“I couldn’t…” he looked away from her as if to think about it. “No, I simply couldn’t.”
“Please! I can’t be separated from her. Not after my father—”
“Died?”
“Yes!”
“Celeste, you will know loss—it is the way of the world. Mortals are fragile and not all belong where I come from. You would do your mother a disservice by bringing her with you.”
“Why? What would happen?”
“Where I am taking you, you will live forever. In my experience, forever is too long a time for a mortal. Their minds cannot take the pressure of such a thing.”
“Then why me?” she asked.
“Because you are special. You are destined to do great things.”
Celeste snorted. “I’m a mortal. There’s nothing special about me.”
“A wise faery once told me “We don’t let prophecies align for us in the stars; stars wait for us to prophecy what will be.”
“Who told you that?”
“My father— a long time ago.”
Celeste stood then, looking at the faery full on, despite her state of undress. “Then I prophecy this: If you want me, you will have to take my mother too, because I am not leaving her.”
“You are testing my patience, deary.”
“And you are testing mine.” Celeste fully expected to be slapped for her insolence, and she saw the faery grit his teeth in anger, but he did not raise a hand against her.
“Fine. Have it your way, but you must swear to be faithful to me.”
“And you must swear to uphold you end of the bargain.” The faery smiled at her then— wicked and deadly. “You know my name, but I don’t know yours.” The faery came closer and ripped the ropes holding her prisoner.
“Yes,” he replied simply. Celeste waited a moment as the faery removed his top and gave it to her to wear. The scent of it was of nature— pine needles and grass.
“What is your name?” she finally asked.
“I am Quinlan, King of the Unseelie court.”
Celeste’s eyes opened wide in shock. A faery king was interested in her music. She knew then that it didn’t really matter what she said to him. If he wanted her to play for him, she would do so, faery bargain or not. The Unseelie king was infamous for his cruelty and his wit. He would have her.
“Ah, it appears my reputation precedes me.”
“Considering it’s about several centuries old, I reckon it does.”
“You think me so young? I’m not certain if I should be flattered or insulted.” Celeste had no answer for that. “Come on. Let us be off.”
“I… I’m not coming with you.” The words tumbled out before she could stop them. Quinlan snapped his head to face her again, his eyes steeled in anger.
“And why is that?”
“Because I don’t trust you.”
“My dear child, who said anything about trust? You will come with me of your own volition, or you will regret your mistake dearly.”
“No,” she said. “I’ve heard the stories about you. You take children every now and then and they are never seen again. Their bodies show up decades— sometimes centuries later.”
“Really, these rumours are quite distasteful. What need do I have for children?” He stepped dangerously close towards Celeste then. “They come to me. They dance with my court and then they never want to leave. When they die, I send them back to where they once belonged.”
Celeste heard a blood-curling scream, and smelt something foul burning. The scream went on and on.
“Terrific!” Quinlan exclaimed, obviously annoyed.
“What is that?”
“We were too late. That is your mother, burning outside for your crimes.”
“What? NO!” Celeste ran towards the exit, but she was intercepted by the faery king. “You lied to me! You said they would kill me!”
“No. I said they would make you pay. I said they would send for a torturer who would do unspeakable things to you. This is their form of torture, but mark my words, you will be next.”
“Let them then! Let them!”
“I can’t do that. One way or another, you will belong to me.” He stalked off, leaving her a quivering mess in the empty stables, wondering what fate awaited her.

I posted this short story over on Movellas for a short story competition and now that the winner has been announced and it’s all over, I thought I’d post it on my blog for the rest of you to have a look and criticise it a bit. Try not to be too harsh, lol. 
This story occurs before my novel in progress, The Guardian Legacy, but it is not a direct prequel because it is from the perspective of a minor character. 
Here you go- Enjoy! 
Fear gripped his heart as Erin bolted upright, finally awake. The scream came out involuntarily, and it was a moment before he realised that it was coming from him. The sorrow of a bereaved father with ink black tears had done much to unnerve him. The dark, shadowy eyes had been a maelstrom of emotions; rage giving into hatred, laced with the bitterness of heartbreak. But it was a dream, and surely nothing more. Yet there was that unmistakeable sense of kinship, as if he had known the man. He had spoken indiscernible words, and roared silent screams: A dream with no sound.
            It was not long before someone knocked on the door and entered to help him. He expected a servant, but instead it was his dearest friend, Stefan. The rays of moonlight that dared enter through the drapes illuminated his stark white hair. His blue eyes twinkled with concern, and he ran to Erin’s bed and held him.
            “Ssh… What is the matter?” he asked.
            Erin was at a loss for words. He shook in Stefan’s embrace, a cold sweat passing through him. He attempted to speak but his words were nonsensical, his breaths sharp and shallow.
            “Okay, you are going to need to breathe. Come on. In. Out.” Stefan aided him in breathing exercises that had him feeling like a silly child afraid of the bogeyman. He could faintly hear the chugging of the train, and he had to remind himself that he was on his way to Stefan’s palace.
            When Erin was calmer he finally spoke. “I had a nightmare.”
            “That much I gathered. This is the second time tonight, Erin. Are you sure you are not being plagued by a Mara?”
            “How did you know it was the second time? I told David—”
            “To keep a secret from his prince?” Stefan asked. “Not a particularly well thought out plan.”
            Erin shrugged his shoulders, embarrassed but hoping to pass for uncaring. “I didn’t want you to worry.”
            “You’re my brother. Of course I’m going to worry, and rightly so.”
            Erin still liked that word. Brother. Not bound by blood, but rather by oath, the two were inseparable. Well, they had been as children. Now, as they were growing into their trades— Stefan, the prince and future king, and Erin, still seeking his trade— things had changed dramatically.
            “Good to know that the Prickly Prince still has emotions,” Erin said.
            “Prickly Prince? I suppose that is better than what the mortals call me.”         The number of mortal slaves in the kingdom of Terrahgonia was starting to exceed the number of Terrahgonians, and needless to say, they were not the prince’s biggest fans. “I would still feel better if you would see someone about this. Perhaps you should see a therapist, or some sort of healer if it is a Mara possession. I don’t think that Aten symbol you have outside your room is a particularly good ward against faeries.” It was no secret that Stefan had a disdain for religion in general.
            “Can I borrow your Dream Catcher?” Erin asked.
            “Of course. Try and get some sleep. I’ll be back in a moment.”
            When Stefan returned, he turned on the light switch and set up the Dream Catcher. He touched the centre with his index finger and black mist encased the dream catcher, and then evaporated.
            “Okay, it’s activated.”
            “You know, your shadow magic will disrupt with the symbol of Aten outside my door,” Erin stated.
            “Do you want the Dream Catcher or not?”
            Erin bit his lip nervously. “Yes. I’ll take down the symbol myself.” Having an argument over their religious differences this late would not do. “Thanks.”
            Erin reached his hand towards Stefan’s, but the prince flinched away before he could reach it.  
            “What’s wrong?”
            “When I held you earlier, I sensed something strange,” Stefan admitted. He let the words hang in the air for a moment until Erin became impatient.
            “Yes, and what was this strangeness?”
            “I’m not sure what it was. I felt an intrusive presence. It was all I could do not to knock you unconscious.” The fact that he could have threatened Stefan was a shock to Erin. Stefan had power most Terrahgonians could dream of. How could Erin have come close to overstepping his magical defences?
                        “That is very strange,” Erin finally agreed.
            “Don’t worry about it. I need to go do some meditation.” Stefan stood up and switched the light off. In the pale moonlight, he was but a darkened figure. A true Guardian of Darkness. “Sweet dreams.”

Erin’s journey had been long, but luxurious. He had been given an entire coach to himself on the train, and although he and Stefan been a little late, it would never have left without them. As ward of the queen, Erin had known extravagance most of his life, and the day they arrived at the Stefan’s palace, he was unsurprised to see a woman in his bed, waiting to give him his heart’s desire. He supposed this was Stefan’s way of helping him forget his nightmares. He would have sweet dreams tonight.
            Erin could barely conceal his devilish smile. Stefan, you dog. His friend had done well this time. Her voluptuous figure was well exhibited in her intricately designed black lace dress. Her tanned skin and raven black hair was a stark contrast to his own pale skin and red hair. They were Yin and Yang.
            He didn’t say a word as he unbuttoned his shirt. He merely gazed into her dark eyes. Dark eyes and black tears. He shook his head. It had been a dream, nothing more. He did not wish to remember it but forgetting was not an easy task. The same nightmare had plagued him, on and off, for the past month— a nightmare of a man sobbing black tears. There had been other dreams too, but those had made more sense. They appeared to be memories of his early childhood. How it was that he could dream of such things remained unknown.
            “Here. Let me.”
            Erin was jarred out of his musings and wondering, as he realised that the woman was now in front of him, pulling on his shirt. He did nothing to resist her, wanting her sun kissed skin to be touching his. His lips met hers and a tremor rippled through his skin as images of a young girl in chains appeared in his mind’s eye, causing him to reel back. Then he saw that same girl looking healthier and a little older, doing target practice with throwing knives. She hit the targets every time: between eyes, the throat, the heart, and stomach. Mila Sharma was a trained assassin. And she was there to kill him.
            In that short kiss, Erin already knew a fair deal about his would-be-killer, but would it be enough to save him? He tried not to tremble at the revelation.
            “Now how is it that my brother was able to acquire such a ravishing beauty?” he asked. He reached out a hand to touch her hair, avoiding skin contact. She didn’t seem to notice.
            “Brother is it? He told me that but I did not understand the endearment.”
            “It is not a mere endearment,” he said. “It is truth.”
            “My humblest apologies. I did not mean to offend.” She lowered her head in suppliance.
            “You need not worry.” Erin lifted her chin and forced himself not to flinch as more memories came flooding. They were memories of vigorous training regimes. Mila had a huge arsenal of skills at her disposal and if the dagger beneath her dress was taken, she was fully capable of killing him with her bare hands.
            “Who said I was worrying?” she asked with a smile. “Come.” She pulled at his arm and he could not help but be drawn to her. There was also the necessity of getting a hold of that dagger before she did.  
            They landed roughly on the bed, with her on top. He cursed himself for allowing her the upper hand. Beautiful and deadly, he thought. What a brilliant combination. Perhaps another kiss… Erin gave into his dark cravings, meanwhile searching beneath her dress, on her right leg with his adventurous hand.
            “You seem rather… ravenous,” she mused.
            “Quite.”
            Her hand tightened on his wrist and he knew the dagger was close.
            “Perhaps something a little bit higher would be more to your liking.” She placed his other hand to her breast, yet still over her dress. His hand yearned to touch flesh but the repercussions of what disturbing knowledge he might gain from further contact made him hesitate. The one thing that spurred him onwards was the need for that dagger.
            How do I reply to such a question? he wondered. Her voice was so soft, so sultry that he might do anything that she asks. Almost as if it is coated in something more sinister. Her voice was charmed. He knew that now. If he remained weak-minded, he would do anything that she asked. Perhaps she will have me slit my own throat. Erin complied and cupped both hands over her breasts.
            No. I must not be weak. I must be strong and fierce. Like Stefan. Sometimes when he found himself in a tough situation, he would ask himself what his friend would do. When he needed strength, Stefan was always there, in one form or another. Right now, he knew the prince and future king would not be so weak as to comply with the demands of a seductress, whose only true promise would be the kiss of a dagger.
            “Perhaps I should be the one telling you what is to my liking.” Erin placed his hand back as it was, now scouring for the weapon, whilst distracting her with a heated kiss of desperation. He seized the dagger and quickly flipped the assassin so she was beneath him. The cold dagger was pressed against her throat within the blink of an eye, but she did not flinch. Instead she laughed.  “Are you seriously laughing at the man with the dagger right now?”
            “You think a little thing like that will keep you safe?” she asked. “It isn’t checkmate until one of us is dead.”
            “Fine. Are you volunteering?”
            “You don’t really want to kill me. I can see it in your eyes. I’m sure you believe that you are already a man, yet you are clearly still so naïve.”
            He pressed the dagger a little further; just enough to draw a few drops of blood.
            “You don’t know me.”
            “I know your kind,” she retorted. “Rich little things that think they own the world. I might have ended up like you myself, had I not ended up in slavery instead.”
            “I don’t care about your sob stories,” he growled. “Who sent you?”
            “Well, I can’t tell you that.”
            “You try my patience.” Erin pulled viciously at her midnight hair but he did not gage much a reaction, save for the clenching of her teeth.
            “Is that so? That can’t be the only thing you are impatient about?” Slowly, she reached out to stroke his face, touching his lips with her thumb. Simultaneously, she somehow managed to massage his most private of parts with her leg.
            “Stop,” he snapped.
            “But you don’t want me to.”
            “No. I don’t…” He could already feel something hazy come over him. There was no doubt about it— she was a Silver Tongue. Well, he was not quite as weak as she thought.
            Erin pulled her head back with her hair. “If you hypnotise me again, so help me, I will cut out your tongue.” She clenched her teeth at the threat, giving him a venomous glare.
            “My, my. Aren’t we assertive?” Erin hated how she taunted him even as he held a dagger at her throat. He knew he should just finish the job and get it done with. “I suppose this is the part where you kill me.”
            Her eyes were remorseless and vacant. Does she want me to kill her?
            “Not if I don’t have to. If I release you, do you swear not to kill me?” Her only response was a cold laughter. “I don’t want to kill you, so you must swear it.”
            “Kill me,” she whispered. “I’d happily embrace death.” This threw him off, and it was just enough time for the woman to grab his hand and shove the dagger through her heart.
            Erin gasped in shock and before he knew it, he was yelling her name. “Mila! Mila!” He shook her even as she lay limp on the blood covered bed. His hands trembled in astonishment. What kind of assassin took her own life like that?
            Just as he was about to get out of the bed, her hand caught his wrist and she whispered, “Boo!”
            Mila was on top of him before he could comprehend what was happening. He landed hard on the marble floor and she pulled the dagger from her chest before making a swipe for his throat. He rolled away just in time and tried to kick her legs from under her as she stood up. Mila jumped at the last moment. Erin attempted to get to his feet but she kicked him in the chest, causing him to stumble back to the ground. She was on top of him in an instant, punching him in the jaw. When she appeared satisfied, she held the dagger at his throat.
            “Checkmate.”
            “Please. You don’t have to do this,” he begged. Her dark eyes were emotionless. “I know you carry a great burden, and I know you’re not as heartless as you believe yourself to be. Please. All I ask for is mercy.”
            “You know nothing of my burden, of my pain.” That is where she was wrong. As she had assaulted him, so too had the memories of her life. Mila was cursed never to die. What had once been a blessing of sorts was now a torment.        “I know that what the kitsune did to you was awful, and that you feel betrayed.” Genuine shock flashed through her face.
            “How could you—?”
            “I don’t know, but I know that killing me will not help you achieve your goal. Please. Let me go, tell me who sent you, and I will owe you a debt.”
            “How will I know that you will not simply betray me?” She asked.
            “I am a man of my word,” he said.
            “Forgive me if I seem hesitant to believe you.” Her voice was slow but pronounced, and the sneer on her face made him believe as though this was the end. She would finish him, here and now. “Still… You might be of some use to me.”
Erin’s heart sweltered at the prospect of being permitted to live. Still, he was not certain why she had had a sudden change of heart.
“I’ll do anything,” he responded quickly.
She nodded her assent. “I shall make a blood oath with you. I will spare you life and tell you who sent me after you, and you shall owe me three favours.”
            “Three?” he asked, astonished.
            “Well, I suppose your life is worth more than one simple favour. You are within your rights to refuse, of course.” Of course, if he did that she would surely kill him.
            “Fine. I will do as you wish.”
            “And if you do not, your life will be forfeit,” she warned. “I advise that you keep this meeting between us a secret.”
            “My brother hired you as a prostitute. How secretive can that be?”
            “You know what I mean. But now that you mention it, I suppose it would be somewhat suspicious if we don’t do the deed.”
            Erin was not certain how she could think of such things so soon. He wanted to be as far away from her possible, yet at the same time, he was strangely aroused. 
            “Would you like to word the oath yourself?” she asked. He nodded in response and spoke the words that would seal his fate.
            “I, Erin of House Arnette swear to pay you three favours in return for my life and the knowledge of whom you were sent by.”
            Mila took his hand and cut his palm with the blade, and did the same to her own.
            “By blood we seal this oath, and by the power of the Shrouded god may this man be cast down if he breaks it.” 
            “I do not believe in the Shrouded god,” he interjected.
            “Yet you believe in Aten. How can there be shadows without light?” There was no answer to that.
            The shadows around them began to move and weave together, slithering in front of them. A dark swirling vortex appeared beneath them and Mila held out her hand so that drops of her blood poured into it. She moved Erin’s hand so that his blood dripped into the menacing funnel.
            Shadows began to coil around each of their hands and pain surged through Erin’s arm. Just as suddenly as the shadows had appeared, the funnel closed and the shadows dispersed back into their respective places. Erin found that his hand was healed, but Mila’s was not. He inspected it more closely.
            “The Shrouded god favours you,” she stated as she gazed at his hand. “He heals you but not me.” She touched her chest where blood still lingered from the self-mutilation. “You have a gift, Erin.”
            “And what might that be?”
            “You know things others cannot. Tell me, what did you see when you touched me?”
            Erin wanted to keep that knowledge to himself. Knowledge was power, after all. “I don’t have to tell you anything.”
            Mila pursed her lips and he was afraid that she might break the oath. Can she die if she did that?
             “In time I am sure you will grow into your power.” She said. “You have more than you know.”
            What could she possibly know about me?
             For many years, Erin had been ridiculed as the powerless boy in a world filled with magic. He had grown up in the shadow of his friend, Stefan. To think that he might be gaining a power of his own, at last, was nothing short of a miracle.
            “You’re playing mind games so I’ll tell you what I saw,” he snapped.
            “So you did see something,” Mila mused. She allowed herself to smile, but it was small and her eyes were still dispassionate. “You could be a Clairvoyant.” She walked closer to him. “A very powerful one indeed. I sense that your ka is strong.” That could not be right. Erin knew he had a weak mystical spirit— far too weak for even the smallest of magicks.
            “Is that why you didn’t kill me? Because I could be useful to you?”
            She closed the gap between them, and then she was stroking his coppery hair with her fingers. “That is perhaps the smartest observation you have made so far.”
            “What do you want from me?”
            “You shall know, in time.” She pushed him back on the bed and he lost his balance, landing on the soft, silken sheets. She removed her dress and beneath it was another laced attire. Black lingerie with various weapons attached to her body. Weapons she could have used but had decided against utilising. “For now, how about we simply enjoy each other’s company?” Before he could protest, her lips were crushed against his and he forgot what there was to complain about.