Announce: For those who voted 8, if you want could you vote again(not in the poll), the second story you all liked? 8th isn't part of the contest anymore. Thank you very much. No need reading them again because you did once when voted.
Story Competition - April
This poll will close on 04-26-2012
The story to have more than 10 lines
To be older than 2 months( in case you posted on AC)
It can have any kind of plot
Don't insult the author because of the grammar spellings not all have thier language English
The grammars mistake aren't an issue but i don't wan't to see "u". "r" or others like this
A girl named Winnie W. Wynne
This is about a girl which always lost in everything , but should of won in many things her name is Winnie W. Wynne. Yeah her name says she should be on top of everything in her life, but she failed in things that was easy for most.
Well Winnie tried Tennis, She had no love in that. She tried softball, but struck out. She tried basketball, but ended up thinking how foul. She tried soccer, but couldn't get a kick out of it. So she left sports behind and went into trying other things.
Well Winnie went into Art, but couldn't stay in line, well literally she got so upset at she through the tripod out the window.
Then she tried singing, well I would say that window may have shattered if it wasn't already smashed out, and the teacher well you need to go to deaf school to meet her and now she's teaching hand language to new students.
Then she tried to drive, well her own house now house two more doors in it using tarps as doors.
Cause of stepping on the accelerator after she heard the car start as the car was as loud as her voice was and it scared her.
She tried to go into modeling, well that catwalk she was on will never be fixed again. Cause she thought it was Mace Modeling night, She was swinging the mace in a tight fitting black outfit, but she couldn't keep a hold of it cause of how heavy the mace was. Well it went up into the air and hit the sky lights and the light came smashing down right on the edge of the catwalk. When it did the catwalk shot up in the air with Winnie on it, She shot off like a cannon into the balcony where she landed hard seated down, but unfortunately the balcony came loose and fell . Well it was a good thing underneath the balcony was being renovated. Meanwhile the Mace came down upon the competition. (I would think the nurses and doctors in the hospital had to get a laugh out of this cause of them going there probably saying I've been maced).
After that fiasco Winnie never wanted to do anything anymore, many never wanted to see her again, so she stayed home trying to stop being a nuisance to everyone, she stayed home for one day under the covers,, Soon though she realized something I can do, so she decided to do this.
well Winnie went into cooking, She soon realized that she was the best at it, she could boil water. She can spread butter on bread, she could make a peanut butter sandwich. well unfortunately her house burnt down.
But Winnie W. Wynne, or Winnie Won Wynne is now married to a fireman, had several kids one now in sports, one a model,one a artist,one a singer, one a driving instructor, one a cook and one a firemen...though Winnie doesn't want to tell her Secret of her last child cause she uses the child a lot, in fact over works the child. The child grew up to be a lawyer,
Now Winnie Won Wynne is Winnie Won Moore and is happier than she was when she was younger., but she is still unlucky why well she wanted to at least planted a garden that would grow, she tried and struck oil. how unlucky was that, she wanted beauty and got more black in her life. though she is rich, she still wanted to have a flower that bloomed, instead she got a boom. well that landmine put who I can't win on her mind only if she can get the amnesia out of it now. well winnie Won Moore is one of a kind, but is she really?
The cold wind whipped back the dull cape of Michael, the prince of Altair, but he made no effort to move from where he stood, despite the signs of the coming storm. The torrent of rain that would soon fall would be nothing compared to the storm of war that still hung low over his country. For over six years now, Michael had led the armies of Altair into battle against those who threatened to assault his country, but now, things had changed.
The tides of war were beginning to twist as they flowed over his kingdom, and an urgent message had arrived just before dark. Raban, leader of the nation seeking to take away his kingdom had overpowered another neighboring country and was now beginning to gather his military power for one final attack. Unless he was eliminated, Raban would soon burn Altair to the ground, but that was where the messenger had come in. He had received news that a great feast would be held before the final march, to celebrate impending victory. If ever there was a chance to kill Raban, it would be during the feast.
An hour earlier, Michael had met with his council of war and told them of this last chance at victory. Moreover, he had told them his plan, which quite honestly bordered on the insane, but as the prince of the kingdom, none of the council members could oppose him in this, no matter how foolish it might seem. At dawn, he would leave the castle by sea and make his way down the coast to join in the feast. In order to avoid detection, he would travel alone. Not a single one of his men would accompany him, or even know when he left for that matter.
"I guess it's time then." He turned and stepped away from the balcony, returning to the room within. The soft snapping of belts being unbuckled was followed by the gentle swish of bed sheets, where pieces of Michael's armor fell to rest. With each piece that was removed, the illusion of masculinity faded a bit more, until a woman stood in the full-length mirror that was mounted beside the bed. She looked at herself for a moment, and her hand unconsciously moved to the chains around her neck, the chains that had bound her to her dead brother's fate for the last four years. "It will soon be over Michael, one way or another."
As if that had broken her from a trance, the woman slipped through the door beside the mirror and into the bathroom. A basin of water rested in the center of the room, and she knelt to wash her hair. Four years ago, her brother had been killed by an assassin sent by Raban. Without him, the kingdom would have collapsed.
"Miranda..." She whispered her name aloud for the first time since that morning, the morning when she had found her brother's body and buried it herself. From that day onward, she had become Michael, and Miranda had become nothing but a memory.
Since they had been twins, it had been little trouble for her to hide the truth. A little dirt in her hair dyed it the same dirty, yellow that Michael's had been, and with his armor on, she looked to be about the same size. The hardest part had been matching the voice, but after a week of practice and pretending to have a cold, she had gotten it right. His mannerisms had always been similar to her own, and they had both been taught the sword from as soon as they could hold one properly. Yes, the kingdom had needed its prince far more than his sister, or at least it had until now.
After she had bathed, Miranda stood before the mirror again, still amazed by the difference, even though she had been doing this for several years. Her hair was now a much lighter shade of blonde, bordering on white at its tips, where it caressed her pale skin, and without the armor, her face looked much softer. Miranda's fingers glided down her frame, which was muscular, but not overly so. Then, her eyes darted to the dress. Pure white, and accented with soft gold, it hung on a peg across the room, begging to be worn again for the first time in four years.
With a sigh, she slipped into it, and was surprised to find that it still fit quite well, although the chest was a bit tighter than she had remembered. Her fingers played with the lacing on the back, which was a sharp contrast to the leather belts of her brother's armor, but after a moment, she managed to reign it in properly. From the same peg the dress had hung on, she took a matching belt with a sword attached to it so that it hung behind her, hilt pointing to her right. Then, she stepped in front of the mirror one last time to make sure she had done everything right before slipping out of the room and down the hall.
Thunder rolled outside the castle walls as Miranda silently made her way down the corridor. She had made sure that all of her personal servants had the night off so that none of them would see her leave, and she managed to slip out of the castle without attracting any unwanted attention. The city streets were all but deserted at this hour of the night, and the few people that were still preparing for the storm payed her no mind as she made her way down to the docks.
Only two vessels were tied to the pier, where the waves now rose and fell with the storm's growing vigor. The first was a merchant vessel, loaded with all manners of expensive goods that would be on their way to the next city as soon as the weather cleared. At the end of the pier was the other vessel, a smuggler's ship, crewed by pirates, some of the lowest scum that still plagued the oceans, but whether or not she liked it, they were her transport tonight, and considering how much pay they had been offered, she doubted they would be much trouble.
The first drops of rain began to fall as she boarded the ship, making her way across the deck as if she lived there. Men of the crew looked at her as she went by, but dismissed her as no real threat before going back to the work at hand. She knocked swiftly on the cabin door, and an old man opened it to greet her. "I expect you'll be the cargo then?" He asked in a dull voice as his eyes wandered over her figure, pausing only twice, once at her chest and again at the sword.
"Yes, that would be correct."
The man extended a hand to her, and a grin spread across his aged face. "An honor to be doing business with you miss. I'm Gunthor, captain of this fine vessel."
Miranda looked at the weather-worn hand for a moment before taking it with her own and giving it a firm shake, offering her own name in return. His eyebrows rose when he heard it, but the man made no comment, so she dismissed it as unimportant for now.
After he had given her a tour of the ship and told his men to prepare to sail, Gunthor led her below deck and opened a door, motioning for her to enter. "You'll be staying in these quarters until we arrive. My first mate is inside, he'll help you with anything you need."
Miranda offered her thanks and stepped into the room to be greeted by the smell of something cooking in a rather large pot. A young man was bent over beside the stove, tossing in fresh wood, but he closed the grate and looked up when she entered. She expected him to give her the same once over as the rest of the crew had, but instead, his eyes froze on her face. To be honest, it looked almost as if he had seen a ghost. She raised an eyebrow and he blinked a few times. Maybe he'd gotten smoke in his eyes or something.
Still looking somewhat disturbed, he stood up properly now. "Greetings, and welcome to my quarters."
Her gaze hardened at his words. The captain had said she would be staying here, but he hadn't mentioned a roommate. "And you are?"
"Ah, sorry." He bowed over at the waist in an elegant movement, almost fit for someone at royal court. "My name is Dante. I'm the first mate and the ship's cook."
"A cook is the first mate?"
He gave her a bemused smile and replied. "Well, if we had to eat anything the rest of the crew calls cooking, we'd all starve to death." A smile tugged at the corners of her mouth, despite her efforts to stop it. "Perhaps now you'll share with me your name miss?"
"It's Miranda." She answered flatly, but his eyes widened again.
"That's a cruel joke miss. Did one of the crew tell you to say that?"
Now it was her turn to look confused. "No, it's actually the name my mother gave me. Why would one of the crew ask me to say that?"
The man's expression was now somewhat pained, but he answered her. "I knew another woman with that name once." He looked lost in thought, but he pulled the lid off of the stew to give it a taste. "We promised each other forever when we were children, but forever ended for her at the end of a blade four years ago."
A series of memories played before Miranda's eyes. The first was of a servant boy in the kitchens. They had often played together as children, and as they had grown, the both of them had learned to cook from the friar at the castle. A few months before her brother's death, the boy had left the castle to attend to some family matters, but had promised to come back when he was done. He had promised to come back for her. The news of her death must have been the reason he had never returned.
Four years had passed since then, but she could still see that boy in the face before her, and she silently cursed her luck. Of all the times to come across a fragment of her past, why did it have to be now? The man didn't seem to have realized who she was though. Maybe he wouldn't. She could only hope that was the case because she had no time for her past, and even if she succeeded in her mission, that didn't mean she would have a future either.
For two days, she stayed in the galley, talking with him as he prepared the meals for the crew and helping out whenever he asked. A pair of hammocks hung against the far wall, where they slept at night. She had taken the one on the bottom so that she could make sure he didn't try to do anything funny during the night, but he had made no attempts of the sort. The morning that the ship arrived, she rose while he was still sleeping.
As she began to leave, he called out in a dream. "Miranda..."
With a sad smile, she leaned over and kissed his cheek. "Goodbye again my love, this time for good."
Miranda silently left the ship and slipped into the crowd, making her way through the streets. She knew where Raban would be, and had every intention of getting there before he did so that she could prepare. Suddenly, the crowd parted around her, and she bumped into someone.
Miranda muttered an apology, but as she turned to go, she found her arm caught in a strong grip. Before she turned around, she knew who it would be. She didn't know how, but she just knew it. The hand belonged to her enemy. It belonged to Raban.
"Well, what do we have here?" He gave her a greasy smile and waved for the two men tailing him to stand down. "I think I've just found a lady to accompany me for tonight's festivities."
Miranda wanted nothing more than to pull away, but in her head, the gears were turning. This could actually be her chance to make quick work of him. "I'd love that sir." She tried to be enthusiastic, and apparently he bought it.
"Then how about we go somewhere a bit more private for some pre-party fun?" Without waiting for an answer, he pulled her through the crowd and into an alley. Of course, his two lackey's followed, but it didn't matter if she died. Raban just had to die first. For several minutes, he led her through the streets, until they reached a part of the city where he thought no one would disturb his 'fun'.
He turned to the guards, most likely telling them to leave them alone for a bit. That's when Miranda made her move. Her sword flashed out of its sheath and towards Raban's back, but one of his men saw the motion and pushed him aside, getting cut down in the process. Miranda cursed her luck again as the other guard and Raban both drew their swords.
The remaining guard swung at her, and unable to dodge it, she raised her own sword to block. Using that chance, Raban moved in at her side. She saw the killing blow coming, but there was nothing she could do to stop it, just like there was nothing Raban could to do stop the kitchen knife that suddenly sprouted from his forehead.
The guard looked down at Raban in shock, and Miranda took that opportunity to fillet him from nose to navel and let him fall at her feet.
Dante's arms locked around her shoulders from behind, and Miranda made no effort to escape as he whispered in her ear. "I already lost you once, never again."
"You were awake?"
Dante didn't answer, he just pulled her closer.
A week later, Michael stepped out on a balcony to greet his subjects. A pirate that he had brought into the palace after returning from his mission stood beside him, and at his command, began unstrapping Michael's armor. Piece by piece, it fell away, exposing Miranda, who stood in front of her subjects in a flowing golden dress.
The last pieces of armor to be removed were the chains from around her neck, the chains she had worn since her brother's death. Dante's fingers moved to the lace of her dress, and she caught his hand before he could pull. "What are you doing?"
He gave her an innocent smile. "You mean I can't take off the rest?"
She pulled him over and planted a kiss on his lips. "Later..."
The Shade of a Tree
The faint trail unwinds between brittle branches of long-dead trees and dense, thorny brush. Dark, rotting leaves form a spongy layer underfoot, absorbing all noise. Any unlucky travelers following this path will not have even the sound of their own footsteps to keep them company.
Abruptly, the fog clears, revealing a gap in the landscape ahead. From right to left, far as the eye can see, the dry corpse of a riverbed interrupts the forest. A deep, narrow crevasse slices through the center of the ditch, and lazy swirls of chill vapor creep out of the inky blackness. In their wake trails the foul stench of decay.
From each side of the ditch, tree roots reach across, separated lovers struggling towards one another’s embrace. The twisted cords of wood weave tightly into two thick arms, which narrow as they approach the center of the divide. At the point where the straining tree roots meet, they complete a solid structure crossing the misty chasm below.
A woman stands on the bridge thus formed, the graceful lines of her figure contrasting with the twisting vegetation all around. Gnarled branches stretch their knotted fingers towards her slim, elegant form. She clasps in her hand the young tendril of a vibrantly green vine, which sways gently from an unseen source high above. Strands of grey moss, dripping from the surrounding tree branches, veil the rest of the path.
“Greetings, Stranger,” she says. “You must choose now whether to take this detour, into an adventure of unpredictable peril and unknown rewards, or to continue on your quest - to destroy the evil empress and rescue the servant maiden who is the land’s true queen.”
You pause in surprise, and consult the stained map of the Realm, which cost you so much hard-earned gold at the last village.
“Hey, there’s nothing here about any detour!” You fumble through several printouts scattered beside you on the couch. No mention of a detour was ever made in the cheat codes and tips provided by fellow Realm-travelers, both on-line or real-world. What was the right choice: to go on the detour, or to pursue the quest? Why didn’t anyone tell you about this?
Wait a minute! Maybe you’ve stumbled on a secret part of the game, that nobody else has found yet! Who knows what combination of completed tasks and unlocked runes has unlocked this rare opportunity, but there’s no way that you’re going to miss out now. The controller almost slips through your clammy fingers in your haste to accept the challenge. “Oh, yeah,” you gloat in seventeen-year-old enthusiasm, imagining how your friends will react, and you click the button.
Crumpled printouts rustle behind you, as you lean back on the sofa cushion. The cut-scenes introducing this new, unforeseen part of the game are going to be awesome! The sharp corners of the papers poke through your T-shirt uncomfortably, and you turn halfway around to move them, your eyes still glued to the scene unfolding on the monitor.
Suddenly, you realize that the cushion you’re sitting on is damp, and getting wetter. “Crap!” You jump up to look for the soda which you must have knocked over, and suddenly everything gets blurry. Uhh ... you scrunch your eyes tightly shut, trying to ward off the dizziness. Not a good idea, standing up fast after sitting in one position for hours. You put a hand out to steady yourself.
Instead of the nearby recliner your dad won’t let you sit in (because he’s afraid you’ll knock over a soda - Oh, double crap!), your fingers touch a rough, uneven surface. Your eyes fly open, only to see that the recliner - and couch - are no longer there. Your hand is resting against the dry bark of a tree, and a bush’s stiff, unyielding branches are prodding the backs of your legs. Good thing you wore jeans and not shorts, a small part of your mind observes calmly.
The rest of your mind is freaking out. No living room, no furniture, no video controller ... all that remains is the glow from the large-screen TV. You squint through the haze at the images on the screen, then realize that you’re peering through a gap in the trees. Before you stretches a natural bridge of interwoven tree roots, spanning a smelly, dusty ditch. A woman stands on the bridge, holding a green vine.
“My name is Inara, and I will be your guide. Follow me,” she instructs, and walks away across the bridge, slipping through the dense foliage on the far bank.
- Three Years Later -
The moonlight gleams wetly on the damp stones of the courtyard. It has been months since you were above ground, and despite the urgency of the moment, your eyes devour the sight of the night sky spread before you. The alien stars of this land always make you uneasy, but this night, they are veiled from view. Wispy clouds, herded by the cool wind like sheep by a shepherd, linger above as if reluctant to move. They finally disappear, behind the high, stone walls of the mansion that looms ahead.
The unusual moisture in the air, released by the Allied trees from their treasured, secret reservoirs, has allowed the rare clouds to form. Without the fleeting shadows of the clouds, this desperate effort would be hopeless. Even so, this mission is doomed, if the second part of the plan has not succeeded.
You peek out from behind the stone wall bordering the mansion property. Peering across the space between your team and the imposing building which is your destination, you breathe a sigh of relief. Quivering tree roots, slick with mud, snake across all surfaces of the courtyard. Less visible are the still, silent, human bodies littered across the empty space. The Mercenaries have held up their side of the bargain.
In exchange for a generous share of the precious water hoarded by the Allied rebels, the Mercenaries finally agreed to arrange the assassination of the guards and watchmen protecting the Usurper’s stronghold. The rogue guild of killers for hire would unleash the suppressed growth in their oaks, maples, and vines surrounding the enemy’s land. The plants’ cells, burgeoning with forbidden life, would obey their instructions without hesitation. What were a few fragile humans to the trees, except wasted, thin-skinned canteens of moisture?
You shudder, recalling many terrifying encounters with the trees of this world over the past three years. They were nothing like the benign shade-providers of your past life. It was fortunate that Inara, the woman on the bridge, had looked after you, until her untimely death six months ago. Inara had even introduced you to Ren, a favor for which you will be forever grateful. Moisture tickles your eyes and you blink, hard. Not wise to waste water here, with the Mercenary tree roots still vibrating with growth. It’s time to proceed with the next step in the plan.
“Ren,” you murmur. “We’re all clear.” A soft tap on your shoulder indicates that your companion understands. Muffled footfalls betray your team’s otherwise silent progress as they spread across the courtyard, approaching the imposing building cautiously.
There is no soil here; the plants had once been wiped out for acres around. Yet with unchallenged tyranny comes complacence, and ever so gradually, tiny weeds have been allowed to take root in the cracked flagstones. Tonight, those unsupervised weeds responded to their cousins’ violent growth spurt, and now giant plants are nestled firmly up against the walls of the mansion. Hmm, how to take advantage of this unexpected development?
With a quick exchange of silent gestures, you indicate that some of your team members will use the vines to scale the walls. They will enter through the previously impregnable fourth-floor windows. As they race forward, Ren returns to your side, short dark hair shining in the moonlight. Those deep brown eyes hold a look that surprises you. Their open, unguarded expression, which first caught your heart, is inexplicably overshadowed by sadness.
“What’s wrong?” you risk whispering. A swift shake of the close-cropped curls and a bright flash of smile tell you that the trouble, whatever it is, can wait until after this night’s work is done. Although two years younger, Ren sometimes surprises you with an unexpected, mature side. Side by side, you wait for the signal, then the rest of your team speeds with you through the opened front doors of the mansion.
– A Short While Later -
“I knew it was too easy,” you mutter, low enough so only Ren can hear.
The initial shrieks and screams that accompanied your assault have almost died out. The survivors have been silenced and restrained, pushed into a small, windowless room for safekeeping. Your team is nearly intact. One young woman, who suffered a wound through the chest, will almost certainly not see the sunrise. Her brother and she are now spending their last moments together in a make-do infirmary, sharing sweet and funny memories that he will treasure forever.
You had a heart-stopping moment of your own when, in hand-to-hand combat, Ren was nearly forced over the top wall of the mansion. Drawing on years of training, however, your beloved friend had used the enemy combatant’s force against him, flipping the man over the sickening drop. Your eyes had met and sparks had flashed. Ren had pumped a fist in triumph, then turned to a new opponent.
Now you are gazing into those eyes again, but the sparks are extinguished. They are brimming with tears, instead. You stand together in front of a glowing doorway, which both of you refuse to look at, but which you know means the end of everything you have come to share. A few of your other team members have joined you in the tower, but they are thoughtfully ignoring you, conversing quietly about the events of the past hour.
- Several Minutes Previously -
All the enemy forces had fallen or surrendered, except for your target, the Usurper himself. Somehow, he had detected the initial infiltration into the mansion and escaped to this narrow tower in the center of the building. When you arrived, your troops had just broken down the door, so you were able to see what happened next.
The tall man had chanted the last words of an incantation, and a glowing rectangle had suddenly appeared in the middle of the room. You could see through the doorway, and realized that it was a passage to another world. A split second later, you recognized the couch, the recliner, even the game controller, dropped among scattered sheets of paper.
You gasped in disbelief, and the Usurper caught your eye as he placed one foot over the threshold. His thin, dry lips parted in a soft laugh. “You can’t touch me now, for I am already between worlds.”
A growled curse alerted you just in time. You grabbed the arm of one of your men, who tried to charge the hated man escaping through the doorway. You were unable, however, to stop the fighter’s outstretched fingers from connecting briefly with the Usurper’s arm. A loud pop and explosion of light caused everyone to back away, and your subordinate stared in horrified disbelief at the smoking, charred appendage that had once been his hand. Two of his mates quickly grabbed him and hustled him to the care of the medics.
The Usurper shrugged, a faint smile hovering over his lips. “He was warned ...”
“Bastard - !” Fists clenched, you took a step forward, furious at your inability to act against him.
The smile widened. He gestured at the view through the glimmering doorway. “The passage will remain open for a minute or two after I pass through. Follow me if you will. Excepting the ability to return here, I have no power or influence in YOUR world. You could easily defeat me there - if you can catch me, that is. How tragic, though ... You’d have no way to return to the life you have so annoyingly made in MY world.”
At these words, you heard Ren’s sudden intake of breath, in anguished comprehension of the choice you now faced. Looking past you, the Usurper leered knowingly at the one who was always by your side. A wicked light gleamed in the tyrant’s pale eyes as he resumed speaking.
“Of course, you could always stay. You could try to enjoy this shallow victory, won through treachery and deceit. You and your lover could spend the rest of your pitiful little lives in each other’s arms. As you can see, however, time will pass much more swiftly for you, here, than for me, there.” He glanced at the living room tableau through the luminous door frame. In the three years of your absence, nothing seems to have changed in your home world.
“You will live a long, full life,” he continued, “but as you age, despair will consume you.” The man’s voice deepened and grew in volume. “For know this: I will eventually return here, to take back what is mine. And when I do return, you will not be able to raise even a finger against me.”
With that, the tall figure of the Usurper disappeared through the doorway, leaving you gazing at the living room you had left behind three years ago - a lifetime ago - where no time at all had passed for your family or friends.
You heard a breath catch, and a muffled sob, and you whirled to take Ren in your arms. “He’s lying, he must be,” you hissed angrily, helpless anger pulsing through your body. “I’ll stay, we can find a way to beat him ...”
Ren’s eyes met yours. “You can’t be certain.” That loving voice, grown dearer than life itself, reminded you of the single minute remaining. One minute - to decide your future.
- Back to the Present –
“I knew it was too easy,” you mutter, low enough so only Ren can hear.
“That ... That’s ... where you came from?” A hint of wonder underlies the strained voice.
“Yeah. It’s nothing special,” you mumble. “Not worth leaving you, anyways.” Like it or not, the decision is being made, without really even thinking about it, and you detest yourself for that. “Oh, Ren! Promise you won’t hate me, when we’re both old, and looking back ...”
Your throat closes up, and words won’t come. Tears do, however, and they pool in your eyes, blurring your view of this amazing person who has come to mean so much to you. When the water overflows, running down your face, Ren lifts a finger to capture the precious liquid.
Ren places the wet finger onto your lips, then leans forward and gently kisses the moisture away. “I promise.”
A calm resignation settles in, with the sure knowledge that regret will come later. For now, however, you have decided, and it’s time to move on.
- To Be Continued –
When Princess Ahena finally was able to close her eyes to sleep all she saw were blood and corpses, blood being spilled by that beast. She could see his blood stained claws taking the lives of her bodyguards and especially, there in the emptiness of that nightmare, she could see those eyes: those evil, hateful eyes. Containing her weeping the princess woke up but those eyes were still there, glowing in the darkness; looking at her with the same wrath that he had taken the lives of more than 20 people in front of her.
—“I thought I told you to go to sleep. Don’t make noise!” a dark voice said quietly but firmly.
Frightened, Princess Ahena turned her body and feigned to sleep. This was the first time she slept outside of her spacious chamber. The first time she slept without her lady-in-waiting standing next to bed watching until she felt asleep. That night, Ahena wasn’t even sleeping in a bed, this time she was in a dirty hole in the middle of the forest, alone, in the middle of the night with that killing beast. She could feel the cold ground through the piece of cloth Beast had given to her to sleep on, the cold wind also hit her, specially on her feet since she had lost her footwear somewhere in the forest. Her once beautiful dress was now tear to pieces and her magnificent necklace, a present by her grandmother, is now gone, lost forever in the forest. Princes Ahena couldn’t believe all the horrible things that happened to her today, her day. This night was supposed to be one of the happiest experiences of her life, the night of her engagement party with the most important knight of the king: Sir Trent Lehman; the bravest warrior of the kingdom and the worthiest men in the world of being her husband.
Only some hours had passed since the carnage that afternoon. Everything started in the morning when she left her summer house to go to Sir Trent’s mansion for the party; it was almost a dream: the beautiful dress she was wearing, the marvelous jewelry she got from her mother; the dreamy carriage. Everything was perfect. She never suspected the danger when orders were giving to take the forest route. She was so immersed in an idyllic dream that the forest she always feared as a banned land didn’t perturbed her fairy tale. Everything happened in one second, the hell came to them in one second. The cart entered the forest and after some minutes she started to hear shouts and laments, without stopping to think what that could be, she came out of the cart just to see Beast cut the neck of one of her soldiers. Originally there were twenty soldiers that Sir Trent had assigned to protect her, now there are only five standing in front of the cart holding their lances; she could see one soldier running through the forest. One of the soldiers attacked Beast in a quick movement, but all he accomplished was Beast’s claws through the chest. Miss Ross, the princess best friend and chaperone, started to weep and tried to escape, but Beast didn’t concede her more than just a few seconds of life. It was too much for Princess Ahena who passed away. When she woke up she was being carried by the beast around the forest. Terror paralyzed her; she didn’t scream or tried to get free. Finally they got to the hole where they spent the evening.
Night was a terrible thing inside that forest. Since princess was a kid she had heard a lot of stories about the “Grey Forest”. It wasn’t only the savage race of beast people who lived in the forest what scared her. There were also some other terrible stories. The giant Golems, rock monster who eat children and cattle; or the tribe of witches that bewitched complete towns and kingdoms were also part of the stories that were told to the princess when she was a little kid. But the one that scared here the most were the Tasisdis; ethereal beings in the form of ghost that haunted the forest. These monsters were responsible, or at least that’s what they told her, for uncountable abducted people and they would follow people outside of the forest to haunt their dreams until they’d lost their mind.
Finally, princess Ahena decided it was impossible for her to sleep, she would try to escape but the Grey Forest was an obstacle even bigger than the killing beast that had her prisoner. She stood up and walked a few steps; Ahena got outside of the burrow where she was lying and, standing next to a tree, she saw Beast talking with another of his race. This other beast-man was taller and had a long white beard and hair. They were talking but she couldn’t hear any of their words, moved by curiosity and wanting to know the real reason why she had being abducted Ahena got nearer, when she reached her head to try to hear she saw the old beast man suddenly vanishing in thin air while other two beasts appeared, this time a young beast man and a beast boy. They weren’t standing like the old man but moving up and down in the air and talking loudly.
—“Tasisdis”. The princess shouted and tried to run away. When Beast caught her she had run several meters.
—“We have to go, they are coming for us” he said coldly at the time he was picking her to his shoulder and started rushing around the forest. This time the princess wasn’t passive, the fear for the Tasisdis but also the image of her beloved Sir Trent coming to her rescue, moved the princess to kick and punch and scream at the beast who was carrying her.
—“Please let me go, let me go. I don’t want to be with the Tasisdis. Please, I have nothing to do with you. Let me go” Was her constant moan. Finally Beast threw her to the ground in front of a tree. Beast’s face was that of fury again, the same face he had when he killed the men that guarded Princes Ahena. Pointing his sharpened claws to the Princess, Beast said with a low but enraged voice:
—“Tasisdis? That’s what you humans call what you have done? They are the spirits of my ancestors, no monsters. So shut your mouth or I’ll rip your tongue out”
Fear paralyzed the princess again; she didn’t have the strength to continue with her useless struggle. Beast continued talking: - “Listen, at dawn the forest won’t protect us anymore. I’m going to take you to the Forest castle with me and you will help me get what I am looking for even if I need to kill you”. They moved around the forest in circles avoiding the sorldiers, Beast carrying Princess Ahena on his shoulders. They kept doing so until the sunrise.
While light was filling into the dark forest, Beast and the princess, who now was walking by her own feet but taken from the back of the neck by the left hand of Beast, were getting near the Forest Castle. The lugubrious castle was located in a wide clearing of the Grey forest, it was surrounded by a tall wall and, although its height, it wasn’t visible from far away. Princess Ahena had heard about the Forest Castle: That it was the last bastion on the war between the kingdom of Ciclare and the Beast-people. She also knew it was forbidden for normal citizen to get near the castle and that a great numbers of Ciclare’s soldiers were stationed there. “That’s why Beast needed her? To get inside the castle? Will he use her as a shield against the arrows and swords of the soldiers?” Many question raised in the princes head while Beast threatened her to break her neck if she ran or screamed.
Beast and the Princess were at a certain distance from the castle when a large group of soldiers got out of it. They formed around and one of the soldiers who seemed of higher rank talked to Beast from afar:
—“You may come in, Sir Trent is waiting inside”. The soldier said.
Soldiers instantaneously opened a path for them to get to the entrance of the castle while Beast kept walking towards the huge steel door at a slow pace. Princess Ahena’s heart jumped the moment she heard that Sir Trent was there, and she would have smiled if the right hand of Beast wasn’t pointing its claws to her throat. When they were inside of the dark castle, the steel door slammed with an echoed sordid sound. After a few seconds of darkness, Princess Ahena’s eyes got used to the light and were able to see the soldiers with their spears and swords on their hands; she was still trying to identify her surroundings when she saw Sir Trent standing behind the soldiers on the standing of a staircase
—“Trent!” was all that Ahena was able to shout before Beast covered her mouth with his hand. Ahena’s eyes filled with tears to see how Trent just raised his hand and shouted “attack!” before turning his back and walk upstairs accompanied of three soldiers; at the same time the dozens of soldiers started their attack. —“Bastard. Come here and fight!” Beast cried loud at the time that he pushed the princess to a corner and faced the soldiers.
One after another the soldiers were falling dead, victims of the powerful claws of Beast. The soldiers kept trying to stab or slash Beast but the result was always Beast’s claws tearing the soldiers’ bodies, the terrible eyes of Beast intimidated the soldiers while he was defeating one after another. Suddenly, an arrow hit Beast’s left leg. He quickly stood up and continued the massacre, only getting some scratches on his arms and back. Soldiers were pretty much decimated when more arrows flew, this time they were several arrows that would also hit the princess who was on the corner of the large room, astonished in front of the sight of the battle. She didn’t even saw the arrows coming at her threatening her life, all she could see was Beast’s body standing in front of her. –“I need you alive” was everything Beast said after he was hit by four arrows in his back. She didn’t notice the arrows until he turned again to go to finish the rest of the soldiers before they could shoot again. At the moment the last soldier was hanging on Beast’s arm struggling for his life and Beast, who was covered in blood and wounds, was about to kill him when a voice coming from behind was heard.
—“Beast! This war ends today”. The voice of Sir Trent Lehman who was standing behind the Beast, near the staircase resounded in the whole room filled with hate. Princess Ahena contained her crying and tried to run to the side of his fiancé, but the sight of what he had on Sir Trent’s hands stopped her. Next to Sir Trend were three soldiers, each of them had a tied hostage. The one on the left end had an adolescent beast girl, the one in the center had a beast woman and the one on the right had a little beast boy. Trend had his sword on the right hand and on the left hand had a baby beast, crying. —“Now Beast, you will surrender and only you’re son will not die today”. Sir Trent said at the time he put the sword on the baby’s neck.
—“Trent!” The princes couldn’t believe what she was seeing. —“What are you doing?!” The princess cry traveled around the room slowly but finally the knight answered. —“Ahena. This is a war, and that beast is the last enemy”, Sir Trent stated, —“We have been waiting for a chance to finish him, the last beast man. And now thanks to you, Princess, this war has finally ended.” The beast had put the soldier in the ground and had finally decided to surrender. —“We kept these monsters captive for months just to lure him, but you, my beloved Princess Ahena, was a better bait than them” Sir Trent finished this sentence with a small bow and rising his right hand as a reverence.
From the windows of the palace the sunlight was just starting to light room, but for an small instant the whole room was bright, it was the sunlight reflected by a sword which was threw by the Beast and that would have beheaded Sir Trent if he wouldn’t have dodged it. The knight felt to the ground still holding the baby beast and his sword. As a lightening Beast ran and just as fast he killed the soldiers holding the other three hostages. The scared Sir Trent tried to stand up, but opportunely he was pushed down and the baby beast was taken from the knight’s hands by Princess Ahena who got a cut on her arm from Sir Trent’s sword. She took the baby to Beast despite Trent’s complaints and swearwords. Beast thanked Princess Ahena and taking the baby put it on the arms on the best woman. —“Take him and this other two kids. Go to the forest, run”. The beast woman refused at the beginning but at the end she took the kids and left the castle.
Beast’s eyes were turned into two flames of hatred. Trent was already standing up and attacked Beast with his sword. Beast took two, three slashes and hit him back with his powerful claws practically destroying his left shoulder and neck. Sir Trent was sent back and hit the wall falling to the ground. The murderous intent of Beast was easily guessed on his whole body, he wanted to kill the knight more than anything else. —“No” a shout was listened in the empty hall. Princess Ahena stood between Beast and Sir Trent. —“Don’t kill him. I beg you”, Beast stopped for a looking at the fragile woman standing there, he could have kill her with a single blow but he didn’t. —“I’ll see he pays for what he has done. You have to live with your kind. Please go and live…” Princess Ahena couldn’t finish her last phrase. A metal blade went throw her chest, piercing her heart. Sir Trent was holding his sword behind princess Ahena and kept pushing until his sword pierced Beast chest in a single movement. Both, Princess Ahena and Beast died, stabbed by the same sword as if they had shared, at the end, one single heart.
The silence of the forest is broken with the sound of leaves being crushed with each step of a regular visitor. A young lass wearing a long hood and carrying a bouquet, walks through the forest like an ethereal wraith.
She stops at a grave marker and removes the leaves that have accumulated over it with her slender hands. Slowly she stoops down and removes her hood, revealing golden blonde hair that shines like the sun and a face that would put to shame any flower. Placing the bouquet over the grave, she spoke.
“Dearest Mother tomorrow is my wedding day to the Duke of Mont Claire. I would have loved to meet him first and get to know him, but Father is in such a hurry. He says he can no longer wait and watch his daughter reject every suitor.” She laughed.
“To be honest, I’m very afraid. I have never seen the Duke. I don’t know what he looks like but I heard he was kind hearted. Yesterday, I received this beautiful medallion from him, see?” She held out a small oval shaped medallion with two large red and white diamonds. “It’s quite exquisite, noh?”
Silence and then tears fall down from her eyes dripping into the pendant and into the soil.
“Mother, I’m so scared. I won’t be able to paint anymore. I won’t be able to play tag with Elise and Loren. I won’t be able to see you anymore.” She sobbed for quite a while, her cries being absorbed by the trees of the forest.
Moments later, the sound of hooves approached. This alerted the lass and as quick as she could, she wiped her tears and fixed her face. She stood up and in a flash, a young boy arrived with two horses.
“Lady Katherina, your Father calls for you. The carriage that will bring you to Chateau Mont Claire has arrived.” The boy said with a hint of sadness.
Katherina smiled wearily and took from the boy the reins of one of the horses. But before she rode, she turned towards the grave and whispered; “Goodbye, Mother…”
Katherina woke up to the sudden stop of the carriage. It seems they have arrived at the Chateau. It was already morning. It had been a long journey. She opened the side door and waiting outside was statuesque man whose features were as beautiful as the sculptures of Michael Angelo.
“Good morning, my lady. I hope your journey was pleasant.” He said as he held out a hand and helped Katherina down from the carriage.
“My name is Antoin, Duke of Mont Claire.” He declared as he kissed her hand. Electricity surged through Katherine which resulted to her taking her hand suddenly.
So as not to seem rude, she curtsied and said “It is my pleasure to meet you My Lord. I am Katherina from The House of Leroux.”
Alexander laughed. “Please rest easy my Lady. I will not eat you. Why don’t we get you ready for the ceremonies? Your father should arrive in a few hours.”
Again the Duke held his hands out and this time Katherina did not hesitate to hold it.
Katherina wasn’t able to eat anything during the dinner. Everything that happened the whole day was such a blur. The ceremony, the elegant wedding dress, the diamond ring that matched her medallion, the man she married, all of these seemed like a dream.
Looking through the faces of the guests, she saw her father glance at her with a wide smile. He must be very proud to successfully managed her daughter to be married to someone of high ranking.
The night came to past quickly and soon the couple was in their bedroom ready for their first night. Katherina sat on the side of the bed, anxious, fidgeting with her night gown. The Duke approached her, placing his hand on her shoulder. Again, there was that wave of electricity coursing through her body. The Duke slowly leans in closer to her face. She closed her eyes and felt his lips… on her forehead.
Katherina opened her eyes, her face so close to his. The Duke smiled “You should rest. You must’ve been tired from the long day. I’ll go down to the library and do some paperwork. Goodnight, Duchess of Mont Claire.” He went out the door. Katherina sighed. Was she unappealing? She was too tired to argue with her thoughts. She lay on the bed and fell asleep; waking up the next morning expecting her husband to be beside her, but he wasn’t. This saddened her more. He was not even there to join her during breakfast.
A few months have passed and Katherina enjoyed her stay at the Chateau. The Duke was kind enough to give her a set of drawing and painting tools saying that he would very much like to see her work. The two of them would have meals together, go horseback riding along the plains or simply stay by the riverside with the Duke fishing and Katherina making her sketches. But that is all that they did. As if they were only very close friends, the Duke never showed any romantic affection for her.
Katherina was in love with the Duke, that much was certain. But in these few months he has not made any advances on her except kisses on the forehead every night. He never did try to claim her lips, nor held her hands while they walked, nor held her in his arms for an embrace. What was it that she lacked as a woman that the Duke would not even sleep in the same bed with her? Yes, she knew that every night, even though he promises to follow, he does not even sleep in the same room as her. Was she undesirable as a woman? Was she not beautiful enough to be loved as more than a friend? There were times Katherina cried herself to sleep because of this.
One winter day, Katherina took a walk into the forest near the Chateau. She wanted to sketch the snow covered scenery by the river. As she found a place where she could sit down and begin her sketch, she heard two people talking just a few meters away. She recognized instantly the voice of one of them and the other was a woman. Katherina stood up and hastily ran to hide behind one of the large trees nearby.
Clutching her pad against her chest, she heard the two people spoke. Although she could not make out what they were talking about, she was very much aware who the other person was. It was her husband and he was meeting a woman unknown to her. How long has he been doing this? No, she had no right to question him. He was after all forced to marry her. He must’ve had several women that had kept him company. Marriage constrained him from doing so. But the pain Katherina felt was heavy. She wanted to see who this woman that has been seeing her husband.
As she took a glance from behind the large tree, the scene she saw triggered a heavy flow of tears. The woman held Antoin tightly towards her; her lips locked with his. They held each other tight. For a moment, Katherina was frozen, crying, she covered her mouth as not to let out any sound of sobbing. She went behind the tree again, as if regaining strength, she hastily ran back to the Chateau, almost tripping over some rocks.
She locked herself inside her room and cried till she fell asleep. For two weeks she avoided talking to the Duke. She barely even ate anything and if she did, she did not join the Duke in any meals. Antoin would take notice of course, but Katherina would always try to avoid him, however, saying she was not feeling well and such. She would mostly stay in her room and paint the scenery outside her window over and over.
The next morning, a courier came containing a summons from the King of France, asking the Duke of Mont Claire to join the Crusades. He obliged to the summons and then entered Katherina’s room. She sat in front of a blank canvass. Her was face forlorn.
“My duties have obliged me to join the Crusades. For how long I would be gone I do not know.” Antoin spoke, before continuing he went closer towards her, kneeling in front of her and reaching for her hand. “I do not know what has caused your sadness these past few weeks but I guess I am at fault for that. I would like to resolve this problem before I leave. Knowing that I might not be able to return, I don’t want to leave my wife with any negative feelings.”
Katherina, could no longer stop her tears. “My Lord, I only wish for your love. But I know I can’t have that. I am not one who holds your heart. And so, instead of wishing for your love, I wish for your safe return.”
Pain stabbed at Antoins chest. He hugged her tightly “I’m sorry. I was such a coward for not being able to be a good husband. I was scared and did not know how to approach you as my wife. I apologize in every way I’ve hurt you. I have loved you from the first moment I laid eyes on your face and the fear of hurting you was the one thing that held me back ” He embraced her tightly and that night they shared their first moment as husband and wife.
The next morning, Antoin was prepared to leave for the Crusades. Katherina could only stand there unable to stop her husband. The pain of being left alone was unspeakable. The tears just kept flowing. Antoin held ran his fingers across her cheek, wiping away her tears. Katherina tried to speak looking into the Duke’s eyes “My Lord, please return safely.”
Antoin held her hand and gave her a pinky swear and it sent electricity travelling up Katherina’s body. “I have always believed that in the red strings of destiny. But the two of us have something much stronger than that. Ours is a chain, an unbreakable one, we will never be truly apart and no being will be able to break this chain.”
For seven years the Duke was gone and no news was ever heard of him. Katherina took care of the Chateau and spent every day painting in her room. She waited for Antoin, despite the many words going around that he may be dead. Her Father even insisted that she remarry. Many suitors came to ask for her hand in marriage but she did not yield firmly believing that her husband will return. She will not even consider it. Not one of them was able to give her a pinky swear that could send the same force of electricity as Antoin.
One day, a wanderer came to the Chateau asking to see Katherina. The servants tried to stop him and even threaten him but he did not budge. Katherina heard the commotion and ordered that the man be allowed to enter the Chateau. The man stood before her. His face covered in a thick beard. His eyes showed great sadness. Katherina’s heart started pacing faster. Slowly she raised her hand, holding out her pinky finger. The wanderer did the same and intertwined his pinky finger with hers. Electricity.
It was the Duke. Antoin has finally returned home for her. Tears fell from both as they tightly embraced each other. Finally they were together once more. Katherina was able to sleep peacefully for the first time in 7 years. But when she woke up the next morning, Antoin was not beside her. She searched everywhere even at the Riverbank. She did not know where else he could be. Was everything that happened a dream?
When she returned to the chateau, one of the servants was there waiting for her. The servant looked at her with so much forlorn. The servant bent down and began crying. Katherina was breathing more heavily. She ran inside finding Antoin’s lifeless body clad in full armour. It’s like the whole world started to crumble. She slowly made her way towards Antoin and lay beside him.
She found out that he died on his way home seven days ago and his body was found laying on the road three days later. He only came back to see her one last time. To keep his promise even in death, never breaking the promise he made with her. Katherina lay there beside him and forever held his hand.
What could he say about love? The damned word has been thrown around so much that the meaning of what it was intended to be doesn’t mean anything anymore. And now this silly little chit wearing a ridiculously large red ribbon in her hair is making a fool of herself, standing in a room full of knights and nobles, professing her so-called love to some unfortunate soul. Really, he felt embarrassed for the poor bastard.
Laughs of amusement echoed around the room as the girl stumbled over her words, apologized, and started again from the beginning. He watched as her face and neck turned beet red with embarrassment, and suddenly wondered if the rest of her would have that same beautiful blush under a different kind of emotion.
So maybe he may have spoken too soon. The poor bastard may not be so unfortunate after all. He finally allowed himself to really get a good look at the girl since she started this farce. She was housed in a color of deep red—like a harlot would wear; he smirked—with a golden floral pattern. The gown clung to her in places a man would like to put his hands, then puffed and fanned out at the bottom. It was the fashion now-a-days even though he didn’t understand why, but it did allow him to play with his imagination. Were her hips wide? Was her bottom shapely? Or was she like the trunk of a tree—absolutely flat. He couldn’t tell much just by looking at the top half of her. She wasn’t flat, but she wasn’t not-so-flat either. The fact was, if she was or wasn’t, he’d never find out. It just wasn’t fair!
And then she said the words that both saved and nearly damned him. “Sir Maverick! My beloved golden knight who’s face—I mean fierce, um, ness! Um… I-I’m s-sorry.” And then she started again. Dear lord, she started all over again. “My dear Golden Knight! You don’t yet know me, but more than the air I breathe, I love thee. I love thee more than the Song Bird’s melody that fills my heart with such joy. I love thee more than…” Her words were lost, drowned out by the sudden uproar of laughter.
And still she continued to speak.
By God, even as mesmerizing as she was, he would put a stop to this. Now.
Could anything be more embarrassing? Linette thought as she finally came to the close of her declaration. She supposed a little embarrassment for now couldn’t hurt as long as she reached her end game, so she waited for the laughter to die down and for Syx Maverick to take her in his arms. She really didn’t mean to call his name (really, what kind of name is “Syx”?), but out of the 47 wealthy “Golden Knights” that Gaia found acceptable and controllable, Maverick was the only name she could remember. As the Sixth son of the infamous Duke of Halsberry she should have been proud she remembered his name even with the exception that his father holds no respect for him and he has no inheritance, but then again…
“You will stop this at once!” a deep, male voice whispered a tad bit harshly in her ear as he yanked her back against his body.
Offended, she jabbed her elbow against his side which caused him to curse. “What’s your problem?” he grunted. “You touched me,” she replied matter-of-factly. “I’m about to be a married woman, and the only man allowed such liberties is,” she jabbed her finger at his chest, “Syx. Maverick.”
“I am Syx! Maverick!”
Linette had a hard time remembering names; she didn’t think about adding faces to the names. She looked around for guidance from Gaia. Did he see her shock? Does he know this is all an act? Did her moment of confusion just ruin everything? It must have for Syx turned away from her to maneuver his way through the crowd to the door.
“Syx!” she called out, panic seized her. “Syx, my love, wait!”
The room quieted, amusement and anticipation was heavy in the air.
“My love, call me yours,” she whispered.
He stopped even though all his senses screamed at him to leave. This could only end one way if he stayed here—badly. His gaze slid to his father surround by his fellow battle-hardened nobles and wondered what was going on inside the old man’s mind. His Grace was in his cups, he knew, and being so made him crueler than he was sober.
Father and son made eye contact, and with that, Syx knew he was damned. Again. Jacques Maverick’s face looked distorted with evil, twisted amusement that usually meant he was about to make someone’s life a living hell. Right now, Syx was his only target in sight.
Yeah, he should leave. Right now. Come on Syx, one foot in front of the other.
“My love, call me ours,” the wench called again, louder this time. Her voice, so soft, slid over him, held him captive in a fist that refused to open. “Call me yours. Now or later for I intend to be your wife!”
Once again, her words damned him. He looked back at his father who fell out of his chair laughing, pounding his fist against the floor, throwing his head back to roar his amusement. The laugh would sound joyous to anyone who didn’t know Jacques, but Syx knew better.
“Damned if I thought you’d be the first of mine to get married, boy!”
“I have no intention of getting married, father.”
“Oh, but you are. I approve!” he shouted. “I will it and it will be so! What’s your name, girl?”
“M-my… my n-n-name? It is, uh. My name is L-Linette, your Grace.” She gave an awkward curtsy that made Syx flinch and a chorus of chuckles to go around the hall.
“Yes, you Grace.”
“Come now, mouse, you no longer have a right to be shy. You’re already getting my son, but I’m still curious about what house, what power you’re bringing to my name.”
He gave an exasperated sigh, then turned to look at Syx with that twisted amusement of his. “You really know how to pick ‘em, don’t you,” he said as if Syx was the one that started this whole mess. “What house are you from L-L-Linette?”
“The house of Eversly, your Grace.”
Jacques stood, shocked.
“Eversly? Eversly you said? You’ll have to forgive my shock, Linette, for the last time I was at the house of Eversly, their daughter was sickly, practically at death’s door, yet here you stand. Declaring love for my son who you’ve never met.”
Linette gulped so hard it hurt as she looked around at the puzzled faces. It had never occurred to her that they’d mistake her for Eversly’s daughter. Yes, she was from Eversly, but no, she wasn’t the woman that was basically a living corpse. She felt sorry for Lady Avery—the woman trapped inside her own body. Wanting to die yet being denied that right by her parents. How sad that is.
“I’m afraid that’s my fault,” a feminine voice that sounded a lot like Gaia announced.
“Since when are you friends with Eversly’s daughter, pet?” Gaia’s “husband” asked suspiciously.
“Darling, you know I grew up next door to Eversly. Why, Linette and I are practically sisters. Though they have bared the doors to you, they would never dare do such a thing to me. I make her too happy,” she smiled up at him before she turned to me. “In fact, it was the stories I told her of Sir Maverick—the very man that saved your life—that gave her reason to survive. And look at her, love! She’s gorgeous! A great man he is to make sure you came back to me alive and well!”
Gaia’s husband nodded his head in approval. Linette never understood how Gaia could lie so easily. She even sniffed a bit and made fake tears to emphasis how relieved she was.
“Doesn’t anyone care what I want or think…?” Syx’s defeated words reached her. She must have been the only one who was paying attention to him; everyone else’s attention was on the living corpse—herself. Suddenly feeling guilty, she was left standing there, watching as he turned on his heels and walked out.
“Syx,” she breathed as her feet carried her after him. “Syx, wait! Am I so bad? Is there someone else you love? Stuff like this happens all the time!”
“It does not happen to me!” he yelled, wheeling around to face her, his fist slamming into the wall beside her face. “I go unnoticed; this doesn’t happen to me.” His breath was heavy; his eyes trailed down the front of her body before making a tortuously slow ascend back up. His eyes lingered on places that made her fidget. “Syx?” “It would wipe that smile of my father’s face if I were to be happy with you,” he whispered as his face inched closer to hers. “Have you ever been kissed, Lady?”
“No,” she whimpered.
“Would you like to be… kissed, Lady?” He ran his fingertips up her cheek, down the curve of her jaw, over her lower lip as his eyes compelled her to say yes. “Yes?”
“Yes,” she said, and as his lips covered hers, she forgot about her deceit and Gaia’s fortune hunting plans. She forgot about Syx being nothing more than a tool to living comfortably. She forgot about him being one of 47 golden knights who can go to war one day and never come back. Now, she thought about his strong arms around her, his hand fisting her hair, tilting her head to the side to take more of him. Linette knew she was drowning, but she didn’t know if that was a good thing or the beginning of something terrible.
Because everyone thought Linette, the daughter of a cook and a maid, was the living corpse of Eversly, Lady Avery, Jacques’ plans to have Syx married to her as soon as possible got pushed back until the Maverick family could arrange everything with Lord and Lady Eversly. The problem with that is the fact that she wasn’t Eversly’s daughter, and when they arrived at Umberg Hall, everyone would know it. Not to mention Gaia’s happy ending would be ruined with her “husband.” What would happen to them then? It didn’t take a magician to know that Syx would never forgive her for the deceit, and her parents would be cast out in shame.
Linette shook her head in denial. Things weren’t going as planned, but perhaps she could change Syx’s mind about postponing the marriage if she made him fall in love with her before Jacques and his family headed out next month. Gaia would find someone to marry them. It’s not like an event such as this would go unnoticed, but if he can love her enough to see past her deceit—
“Well, that was certainly interesting!” Gaia’s sing-songy voice interrupted her thoughts. “I thought you were going to ruin everything. Darling Linette, why on earth would you want to make them believe you were Avery?”
She actually looked a bit disgusted, Linette wasn’t sure if she should be offended or not. It’s not like it was her idea in the first place, and she told her so. “Why on earth would you suggest I be put through this nonsense? You know I’m not good at lying. Syx is going to find out sooner or later that I’m not Lady Avery. And what if he’s to go to war and never come back before we get married. Then what?”
“You’ve forgotten that there’s still 46 other options,” Gaia replied, flapping her hand about as if that action would make all their problems disappear. “Syx is as dispensable as my current husband. If he were to unfortunately die before you could rob him blind, grieve for a day or two, and then move on. But let’s be realistic. Syx isn’t smart enough to figure anything out. Now, I’ll be heading out to Umberg Hall in a couple of days to make the usual drop off and I’ll come up with something before Jacques arrives.”
Gaia laughed at an inside joke. “I rather like Jacques Maverick, don’t you?”
“No, actually, I don’t…” a low masculine voice called out.
Linette eyes widened. She didn’t even bother turning around to see whose voice that was; she could feel the weight of Syx’s stare on the back of her neck. She should have known better than to talk about such a thing in the open where anyone could come across them. Gaia should have known better!
She whimpered as he pulled her against the hard length of his body. Dear lord, she was going to die by the man she wanted to love. It’s over; it’s all over before it even began.
Gaia panicked, her feet carrying her home to her husband as she thought of a way to save her Linette. She messed up. She knew Linette was going to ruin everything, but she didn’t think it would be so soon. If her friend would have just kept her big mouth shut, things would’ve been fine. She would have gone to Umberg Hall, come up with a way to make sure everything went smoothly, and within a year, she and Linette could have moved on. But now Linette could possibly die. If Gaia didn’t move fast enough, she would die.
She ran into the clearing where she finally spotted her husband and she screamed for him. She screamed for all she was worth. He turned and opened his arms to her which caused her to jump into them. “My love!” she cried. “My love, it’s Syx. He’s gone mad! Out of nowhere he attacked me and dragged Linette off. I swear it! He had murder in his eyes! I swear it!” Her husband grabbed her by the shoulders and shook her. “You’re not making any sense, pet. Calm down.” “I cannot!” she panicked, thinking quickly. “I’m pregnant, you hear me? I’m pregnant with your son and he attacked me. Do you not care? Do you not love me? You know—everyone knows—that he has no intention of getting married and his father has no respect for him. He must have snapped. You must… you must kill him, my love. For me and you son, and Linette (dear lord, it might already have been too late)!”
At her husband’s grim look, she knew she’d get her way. He’d get his friends to see his way and kill Syx, Linette would be saved and they’d disappear. She’s already collected enough currency from her husband that it’d be ok if they lived on their own. She prayed nothing went wrong. What would she do if she didn’t have Linette? The girl as a bit thick in the head, but Gaia loved her. And so she waited there for her husband to return with Syx’s head and a safe Linette.
“Everything’s perfect,” she mumbled as she bit into her thumb. “My plan is perfect, I am perfect—he’ll come back…”
A light fog begins to develop in the night lighten up by a luxurious Victorian style mansion. The mansion grounds lack any noise at all unlike the mansion itself which has the silhouettes of people moving about casually chatting amongst each other. At the top floor of the mansion a dimmer light is seen in only one room. In the room is a little boy who is seated on the floor and an old man who is sitting in a chair by a dying fireplace. Getting up from his chair the old man carefully places more wood into the fireplace, before prodding the rest of the charred pieces of wood away from the edge. Settling back down into his chair with a groan the little boy looked up to the old man. The little boy in a sleepy voice asked “Tell me one last story Grandad?” As the boy asked the old man nodded his head as if expecting the question. He expected the question because his grandson asked it to him every night they were together. “Of course, Albert; I am afraid to say that I am too tired to make one up though.” Scooching in closer Albert looked up towards his grandfather with undivided attention. “Well then, let’s see. How about I tell you the story of how your Grandad got this mansion?” Albert didn’t care what story his grandfather told, the little boy loved every story his grandad told.
“Back when I was your father’s age I used to be a writer…” The old man begins his story. The apartment that begins his story always fascinates Albert as it is smaller than the room they sit in for story time. Sitting in a simple wooden chair sits a young man tapping a pencil against his cheek. He often did that when he couldn’t think. Entering with a bag is a young woman who begins clicking with her tongue at the young man before saying “You know that you always forget which end is hitting your face, Richard.” Putting the bag down on the table the woman walks into the tiny kitchen before Richard answers her. “Sorry dear. I just hit a bad block today.” The woman turns back to the bag and patting him on the shoulder retorting with “Oh you mean the block from last week?” Sighing Richard hangs his head before nodding. With a small smile for her alone a knock at the door interrupts their conversation. Richard gets up and answers it. A young man in peculiar looking attire is standing there with a small note in his hand. The man looks to Richard and asks hesitantly “Excuse me sir, but is there a Helen Frost living here?” Hearing her name being called the woman steps in beside Richard and greets the man “Yes, I am Helen.” Glancing up at Richard, Helen wonders what the young man was exactly doing looking for her. “I have a message here for you.” The young man holds up the small note and hands it to her. “It is from a Miss Elizabeth Frost. Have a nice day.” The young man lightly tips his hat heading off. Helen holding the note lightly went pale and dropped the note. Richard embraced her and asked her what was wrong. She replied faintly “My father is dead. I need to go back home.” Holding her tighter Richard whispered in her ear “It will be okay. I’ll go with you.”
“Your Grandmother didn’t always get along with her mother, Albert. You see, she didn’t want her daughter marrying a writer. She always saw her daughter running her salon with her as a mother daughter team.” The old man explained to Albert. After more than a day’s worth of driving, Richard and Helen arrived at her father’s law office. His business partner would read his will among friends and family. Helen asked Richard to wait for her across the street at a diner. Wishing her luck with a kiss Richard reluctantly went into the diner to order something to ear. Taking his latest novel with him Richard spent nearly all of the few hours in there worrying about Helen instead of his novel. When she finally walked out of the office she went straight over to the diner, but Richard was already there waiting by the door wondering what happened. “My mother was quiet surprisingly enough. What really surprised me though was why. Apparently dad left me an old mansion… I remember playing there when I was little. I was a little afraid of it though.” Shocked wasn’t the right emotion for how Richard felt right then. Helen continued on with “We should get going over there to see it. Mr. Waters said that there were a few things needed attending to there so we’ll have to spend a couple of days there..” Grinning slightly Richard said “Beats a hotel.” Helen laughed lightly and led Richard back to the car.
“I thought it was rather funny how clean the mansion looked when I first got here. Even after all these years the mansion hasn’t changed in the slightest.” The old man said to Albert who was looking ready to curl up on the rug and sleep. The mansions interior looked as if someone had just cleaned it that day. All of the furniture was still there and a basket to welcome Helen. It took both of their breaths away on first sight. Helen who had some idea of what the place looked like had a small advantage over Richard who was stricken with it’s gleam. The first night they were there was like a dream compared to their tiny apartment. In the morning Richard asked earnestly “Why don’t we live here?” Helen looked around the foyer before saying “It is a little much, but after spending a night here I can’t help but have fallen in love with this mansion.” Hugging Richard they began to make plans about how to move their belongings. “Oh, but before I forget Mr. Waters needs some of my dad’s old documents. They are probably in the basement. Could you get them for me?” With a nod Richard went down into the basement looking for the boxes. The basement itself had a very old feel to it. What had to have been ancient lamps hung on the walls that used oil instead of electricity. After nearly searching every box Richard found four stacked on top of each other by the corner. Lifting up all four at once Richard lost his footing and fell backwards into the corner. Hitting his back against the wall which left a dent in the wall itself Richard got him off of the wall and heaved himself up the stairs before putting down the boxes and rubbing the spot where he hit his back. Bringing himself to the top floor of the mansion Richard found what he was searching for, Helen’s father’s study. Sitting down at the desk something clicked inside of him. Richard brought out his novel. He hadn’t had too much work done in it for some time now. Taking out his pencil Richard brought the eraser head against his cheek once before being struck by inspiration. Writing again after so long had Richard ecstatic. It felt like he had just put pencil to paper when Helen came into the study asking him down for supper.
“I think something in me knew then how special our mansion was. I didn’t know exactly how special though until later.” The old man said to Albert, now barely able to keep his eyes open. That same night Helen and Richard got into an argument. “You said you were coming to dinner.” Helen said to Richard while pouting. Helen really didn’t mind that he didn’t show up, but she had to ask him why he didn’t show up. “I’ve hit a break through! It’s like… everything is falling into place.” The pout still on her face deepened because Richard wasn’t paying attention to her still. “What about your place with me?” She asked him a little playfully. “What about it?” Richard couldn’t remember anything else about the argument. Only its start and its result; He remembered wanting her to be gone. When in mid-sentence she stopped. Now looking up Richard looked around the room for Helen. Helen looked at him teary eyed and stormed away. Rubbing his weary eyes Richard decided to call it a night and went to bed vowing to make up with Helen in the morning. The morning came, and Helen was gone. Richard didn’t suspect anything then, so he waited for her to return home from whatever it was she was doing. Exploring the house Richard was drawn to the basement eventually. He looked around the contents of the boxes down there and found a few things rather interesting. When he went over to the corner where the boxes were yesterday he touched the dent in the stone wall lightly. The cool stones looked much stronger than he should be able to dent. Tracing a crack he felt a slight puff of air.
“I shouldn’t have gone down there…” the old man said to Albert who was now fast asleep. Finding a heavy stand lamp Richard hit the stone wall. Behind the wall a loose stone echoed bouncing down. Hitting it harder the wall gave way to a small passage that must have been sealed up by whomever Helen father had inherited the mansion from. Taking one of the lamps on the wall Richard cautiously inspected he passage way. The passageway was small, but it led to a natural stone staircase that seemed to keep going farther than his eye could see. Richard walked down the stair case and looked around. The staircase went down far into the earth, and more than once did Richard think about turning back. “Down there I found out where Helen went.” The old man said. Richard came to what looked like an underground ravine. A ominous mist swirled around the bottom obscuring it from his sight. When he looked up he saw nothing but pitch black. In front of him lay a rock bridge leading to the other side that looked as if it could support him. The bridge arched over to both sides that looked like it had been carved by hand. Standing on the highest point of the bridge Richard looked over to his right side and saw a little white light. Turning to look at that light it grew immensely until it enveloped him. “After that I knew everything… It chose me somehow. The mansion did.” Looking down at Albert who began to fade away like smoke in the wind the old man sighed “It made her leave for me. It creates what I want to happen.” Standing up now as his younger self Richard looks downcast to the floor “With it I live outside of time all by myself. I am only able to imagine a fantasy inside of it.” The lights down stairs wink out one by one, leaving only the dim light of the fireplace to light the beautiful Victorian mansion before it to vanishes. In its place is weather beaten Victorian mansion that has seen better days. Beside the gate is a candle and a photograph of Richard. After returning home that day Helen looked around the house for Richard. When a few days past Richard reported was missing. They never found him. Helen, her children, and even her children’s children left a candle by the gate in memoriam to Richard.
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