Fresh

The crusty, semi-moist feel of drying blood was never a nice feeling on one’s fingers, but Devlin was quickly becoming desensitized to it. The concrete floor beneath her had become sticky from the blood of half-healed wounds, with remnants of her once-beautiful hair clinging in piles. The smell of stale blood was overwhelming. How long had she been trapped here? At least a week, she guessed, with long periods of silence between “visits” from her keeper.

Feeling her way along the chain connected to the collar around her neck, she found where it was bolted into the floor and began twisting it. About two days ago (in her approximation), she had discovered that the bolt holding her down was more forgiving than the rest, and had started working away at it, twisting it and moving it when she had the energy. She hoped it would eventually wear through, and she would be able to work on the rest.

Some of her metal bindings had begun rusting; whether it was a product of her blood and tears, or if the chains were old, she could not say, but she wasn’t about to look a gift horse in the mouth. She didn’t dare let her train of thought tread down the path of wondering how long it had been that her chains were rusting, nor did she think too deeply on how it hadn’t killed her yet. Take what little bright things come your way, Meg used to say, when we were having gloomy days.

Her sense of sight had all but left her, trapped in total darkness, but her other senses had adjusted remarkably well. She heard someone step into her prison now, soft silk slippers brushing rough concrete. Such a small insignificant sound that the lady likely never realized was there, but it gave her away all the same. Devlin stopped stock still, pretending she hadn’t heard a thing.

“Well, now, you are  still awake? Tch. A shame you will not sleep. Dreams would be an escape, yes?” a rasping voice mocked.

“Not an escape from you,” Devlin said bluntly, tired of the baiting games. “I know you’re here to insult me, so why don’t you just get on with it.”

The voice that sounded much like aluminum grating into concrete erupted, “Such impudence! You’ll regret angering me, worm!”

“Oh pfaw. You’re just going to keep me here and give me flesh wounds to feel better about yourself? You would let jealousy over a man bring you to this?” There was no sting to Devlin’s words, just bland resignation. She had cried and screamed herself out weeks ago. It wouldn’t stop her from crying under the merciless onslaught of beatings, but she was past feeling sorry for herself, and past having too much dignity to talk to her assailant. “Who is he, that you would torture another for his attention?”

“Don’t you dare speak of him! He was my first real love! You could never appreciate him for what he is!” the voice rambled on rabidly. Devlin lowered herself down onto the floor slowly, feeling exhausted from sitting up, and let the stream of noise wash over her.

“You are unhinged,” she said quietly, cheek against a sticky clod of hair. “You should let him go, if he does not love you. What you have for him is not love, it is obses–” She felt a heavy foot on her throat, growing heavier by the second. Her eyes bulged from the pressure, and her lungs fought for oxygen. Her hands scrabbled weakly at it, feeling her eyes bulge.

Maybe now is a good time to get some rest, she thought distantly. Yes.. sleep. I can dream happy things there.

No! a small part of her mind shoved that thought of surrender aside. Stay awake. She will not break me. Maybe I can talk my way out like they do in… her thoughts straggled behind, and her vision swam in a blizzard of silver snowflakes.

The weight on her neck suddenly left her, letting sweet oxygen-rich air enter her lungs. She coughed roughly, pulling in as much air as she could between gales as her jailer regained her composure. “If he will not be mine, then he cannot have anyone. And you, I can defile quite easily.”

The girl let out a yelp as a rough set of clawed hands suddenly yanked her up at the waist, pulling painfully on her chained cuffs and leaving her legs dangling. “The appetite of a Chernabog is rather extreme and insatiable, as you’ll soon find for yourself.” New terror bloomed in Devlin’s chest as she felt prodding and pulling at her skin and wounds. No… no! Not this. I’ll take flesh wounds for 24 hours a day for a week over this!

Her chains jangled as she struggled, screaming as teeth bit down on her shoulder. Her kidnapper’s delighted cackle mocked her.

“Yes, struggle,” came a rumbling voice behind her. Her whole body tensed as something wet and soft trailed down her spine, over gashes in varying stages of healing. She gasped as it found a fresh one, and lingered along it, pushing into the wound. “Yes, very fresh indeed.”

She squeezed her eyes shut as it continued down her back. No.

~—~—~

Meg sauntered arrogantly into the anteroom to Byron’s court, a waiting area of sorts. She had taken just enough time to clean up her hair and get dressed into a lighter, yet no less fanciful, dress — she had allowed one lady’s maid to help her today. Appearances were important to Byron, but most of all, they were important to his courtiers.

Ignatia stood at his door looking as menacing as any of the Fall’s bouncers, and scowled as she recognized the Sapphire Prince heading her way. The Fire Fae quickly schooled her face to a semblance of calm cold. “Do you wish to see Lord Byron, my lady?” she curtsied deeply.

With a flip of her beautifully coiffed curls, Meg answered gravely, “I do. It is an issue of utmost importance, and he will not like to be delayed in hearing this news delivered. It concerns him greatly.”

Ignatia frowned, her thin lips pulling her freckled cheeks downwards. This was not normally how courtiers trying to get in addressed her; they were typically self-important, self-centered, and impatient. She could sense her mood, and as high and mighty as she had dressed up to look, those Sapphire eyes had a haunt to them. Whatever this was, it could be dire. “I will look in on him, my lady.”

She opened the door and slid into Byron’s audience chamber silently. His alabaster features were set in a frown, his jaw propped up against his hand. “My Lord?” she asked quietly.

“What is it, Ignatia?” Byron replied, voice cold.

She winced, feeling an immense guilt that she could somehow have prevented his mood today. She was not sure what could have happened between last night in her bedchambers and this morning, but he had been in a foul mood ever since. “Lady Sapphire wishes to see you, My Lord. It sounds dire.”

Byron flicked uninterested eyes toward the anteroom, “Fine, let her in. Give us some privacy, I suppose. She needs guiding.”

Ignatia left quickly, and Meg entered, silk skirts swishing. She gave a beautifully executed curtsy just long enough for Ignatia to leave.

“Byron, I have an idea,” words tumbled out of Meg’s mouth as she hastily straightened. “I need you to piggyback with me.”

Byron blinked once, then twice, “I beg your pardon?”

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A Pale Memory

In her rooms, Meg stared into the low flames and embers, a forgotten glass of water in her hand. She was beyond frustration and mourned their efforts tonight despondently. The Thrall they were looking for had been disposed of, gone from this world like a lame horse that had been put down; she mentally digested this fact with no small amount of disgust.

But who had pulled his strings? It would be difficult for her to ask about any single Thrall, and it would conflict with her new guise as an arrogant Awakening Prince. It was her tool, her public tie to Byron that would enable them to be acquaintances, and she could not compromise it until she knew she could step out of those clothes and return to her normal life. Her normal life with Devlin.

Her mind spun its wheels. Were Thralls generally loyal to their masters, or did other Fae take advantage of them as well? She unsure of the etiquette concerning them, and neither Corwin nor Lucian had been able to offer much insight on it. She had noticed that, at times, they were considered public servants, ordered about by anyone at the Cup who deigned to make use of them, and at others, they were considered very personal property. Perhaps there was something here that could be of use to her, if only she could think through this maze! She had no patience for political intrigues, friend in danger or no.

She suddenly realized that something was slipping in her hand, and tightened her grip just enough to prevent its fall. Aware of the glass in her hand now, she took a sip expecting water, and coughed when she inhaled strong alcoholic fumes. Her glass of water had been replaced by yet more rum, and she hadn’t even noticed. She shook her head to clear away the dark mood that had settled on her, and glanced ruefully over at the two Fae in the corner of her rooms.

Corwin and Lucian stopped their conversation to look over at her, then gave each other disconcerted looks. Their discussion had turned to that odd feeling in the ether that they had detected all evening, that ever-present radio static that spiked occasionally to gum up the power that they had grown so accustomed to in their long centuries. Lucian narrowed his muddy green eyes in thought. “How d’ye feel, lass?”

“Brooding gives me a headache,” she said with a weak laugh. “But the alcohol helps. No wonder Jack Sparrow loved his rum so much.”

The two men exchanged a glance, then settled their elbows onto their knees, leaning towards her, as if getting ready for a very serious talk with a small child. “Now, Meg…”

Some spark flared inside her, impatience and temper mingled together into some terrible uncontrollable tantrum that she only barely managed to contain. “If you’re going to have a talk with me about my alcoholism over the past day…”

“Child, I sunk into wine when I lost her,” Corwin stumbled and could not bring himself to say the name of his beloved. “The good stock, at first, then I gradually sunk into cheap brandy and anything else I could get my hands on. We Fae do not have total immunity to drugs and alcohol; when we wish them to take us into oblivion, we can let it happen.”

“Aye, lass. Devlin, she is not lost to us yet,” Lucian said gravely.

“We don’t even know that! She could be…. For all we know — !” she choked, unable to voice those things. “I haven’t been..” Me? I haven’t been myself? I haven’t been able to manifest who I truly am? I haven’t been who I should be? What would she say if she were here? What would Tear say?  Her mental facilities were in shambles. “I… I want to go home, Corey.  For the night, so I can think.”

She held out one hand expectantly while she downed the rest of the sweet burning liquid with the other. Standing, the three of them vanished into the flickering silhouette of her chair.

~—-~—-~

She stood at the doorway to Devlin’s bedroom, hand resting on the doorway. Never before had she felt any reservations about bounding in and interrupting whatever Devlin was doing on her  computer. Her room had always been full of light and warmth. Now, it sat cold and lifeless; her computer turned off, the windows shuttered, the fireplace dark.

Dragging her feet, Meg walked to the bed and gingerly sat on it, hating to disturb anything here. Her friend’s disappearance had turned the room into a sacred space for her, becoming all she had left of her friend. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, inhaling the scent of lilies and jasmine.  Past the point of tears, her eyes were solemnly dry.

She laid down on her side, curling slightly, and warming a spot on the blankets, much like a cat would. Her tired eyes slid shut, the tension in her muscles released, and her mind sank into the sweet oblivion of sleep.

A canyon, a rift, a large strip of land completely torn out of the earth. That was all that was between her and the shining beacon on the other side. She knew that that light would warm her again, and she was so cold!

The Garnet Prince stood next to her, fervently searching for something, panicking.

There! Look across the gap! Why aren’t you looking? Turn around! All you have to do is turn!

Byron started weeping, clutching sadly at the gaping hole where his heart should have been.

Skip.

Byron walked, carrying her on his back, her legs looped through his arms. “I will carry you,” he repeated in a self-assured litany.

No! Turn around! We’re walking the wrong way! The light is back that way!

Meg startled awake, and found herself sitting in Devlin’s bed with the comforter wrapped all about her as if she had built a nest. “Piggyback. PIGGYBACK!”

Lucian poked his head in, “Lass?”

She wrenched free of the ensnaring sheets and grabbed Lucian’s hand roughly on her way out the door. For a split second, she thought about just jumping clear over the banister and falling straight down into the foyer, but thought better of it just in time to round the corner and patter down the stairs and skid to a stop in the dining room against a carved column.

“Corey! I — what are you doing?”

Corwin was a disheveled mess with bloodshot eyes; she’d caught him in the middle of pouring himself a very tall glass of brandy. “Having breakfast, dear. I gave some thought to what you said last night, and decided that alcohol would soothe my mind, so I have been drinking steadily since you went to bed,” he replied determinedly.

“Not now, Corey,” she pleaded, “I need you to be strong right now!” She feared the worst, that he had sunken back into depression. Heat spiked in her as she suddenly grew angry at him, and at herself. What use was it feeling so helpless and despondent when it wasn’t getting you anywhere? Now was not the time!

“Child, listen to me. You were right,” he said very patiently, and gave her a very meaningful stare. “Alcohol does soothe that strange feeling away.”

Meg could not stop the incredulity and confusion from showing on her face. She turned to Lucian and realized that he, too, was inebriated to the point of swaying slightly while standing still.

“Lass, he’s right.” He put a hand on her shoulder as if willing her to understand some deep meaning — though she half suspected that he was using her to steady himself. “The alcohol does something, it dulls that noise.”

“The buzz.. it goes away when I drink,” Meg turned slightly, staring at the glass in Corey’s hand as she turned her thoughts inward. That awful intruding static was there, preventing her from focusing on the ether, along with an ache that was likely the result of yesterday’s rum.

Taking hold of Corey’s glass, she sipped back the brandy and had to stop herself from coughing it back up. Criminy, this stuff is nothing like rum. How did grandmama drink this stuff every night after dinner? She took another sip, then another, trying to find some way to drink with the sole purpose of not tasting it much at all.

Ten  minutes of silence, sipping, and intent staring off into nothing later, the stuff was roaring through her veins and she could tell. Yes, it’s going away. I can feel again. She closed her eyes and pushed her senses out into the ether, feeling her surroundings. She felt Lucian and Corwin strongly in the room with her, felt the ether swirling and pooling, and let a little sigh escape from her lips.

“If I may…?” Corwin reached a hand out for his brandy and Meg sheepishly surrendered it back to its owner, then turned to find herself something more enjoyable to drink. “I must be the worst guardian in the whole of this human world. I’m encouraging a young lady of high standing to bring herself to the lows of drink,” he said ironically, pressing his eyes to his palms.

Lucian slapped his back enthusiastically and laughed, “Don’t ye worry, Corey, she’s handled worse. I’d like t’see her handle some of those stuffy history classes while full of rum. Last time she did that, she corrected the professor so many times, he’d had her tossed out as a delusional delinquent!”

“That is not encouraging, Lucian!” Meg blushed while putting a stopper back onto a tall decanter of rum which, she guessed, Lucian had procured during the night. “We need to go see Byron, right away. I think he can help us.”

“You’ve had an idea?” Corwin asked.

“Better than that. I had a Foretelling.”

Just as Corwin’s eyebrows shot up, the doorbell rang, announcing a blurred figure on the other side of the pane in the door. A few knocks followed, then a polite voice implored, “Corwin? Meg?”

“Aidan?!” Meg leapt out of her chair and ran for the foyer, flinging the door open and throwing a hug at him. The boy took the assault as best as he could, stumbling back a bit. Meg immediately backed away, “Oh Aidan, how are you feeling? You shouldn’t be up and about!”

He ran a hand sheepishly through his hair to try and put it back into place, but it had been growing out for a while, and flopped back in protest. “Well, I came to see if you’d found Devlin yet. Beccah and Ren have been fending off an influx of Unseelie and Byronites as of last night. Apparently, they think the Fall is the latest trend for court socialites. I’d heard a few of them talk about catching a glimpse of the Sapphire Prince like she was some high and haughty statue, so I thought I’d come see you this morning.”

Despite his good-natured determination to help, it was obvious that he was still weak from the Druidic rites of only two nights ago. Watchers were imbued with the ether upon initiation and acceptance into the Order, giving them increased speed, agility, and healing capabilities. Despite that advantage, not even a Fae would be fully recovered in such a short time from that particular event. His skin was pale, and eyes tired, but he was awake and well.

“You’re a dear, Aidan,” she grasped his hand gratefully, afraid she’d bring him crashing down if she hugged him again. “Your arm! How is it?” She raised his arm up to get a good look; the scar on his wrist had improved, and was now just a pale memory of what it  was only two nights ago. Magic was capable of many things, she was a lot less surprised than she would have been two years ago.

“Well enough, though it was strange to wake up and be told that I’d been asleep for over 24 hours. Beccah almost had me scrub out the barracks by myself with a toothbrush for being out of commission for taking such risks,” he said with a lopsided grin. It sounded far too much like something she actually would say.

With a wry smile, she tugged him indoors and herded him into the kitchen where both Fae had resumed drinking rather heavily, yet remaining perfectly civilized. “Ah, m’boy, I hear you were quite the noble hero the other night!” Lucian clapped his back with a knowing glint in his eye.

“I just did what I had to!” Aidan replied. “We had no other choice,” a dark look settled over his normally kind eyes. “She’s not back yet, is she?”

“… No, lad.”

“Do we know why she’s been taken, at least? A ransom or anything? What did you see in the Circle, Meg?”

Meg led him to a chair and sat him down wordlessly, then found her drink and her own chair before she started speaking. A hard frown appeared on his face as she recalled the events after they left him in Shana’s care. He was baffled that Byron had enough attachment to her to help; like most others, he took Byron to be a pompous self-indulgent twit, who just happened to be cruel as well. He laughed with delight when she told him of their posturing the previous night at the Cup, understanding now why the new crowd at the Fall had been so taken with her. “Someone must have pointed out that you liked hanging out at the Fall and thought they’d flock to see their newest celebrity in her own setting.”

“I’m not pleased at being made into some kind of pompous celebrity, Aidan. Devlin had better appreciate this when we finally rescue her,” Meg took a sip of rum.

Aidan raised an thick dark eyebrow at the three of them, sipping (or slurping) away at their choice of alcohol. “A bit early for that, isn’t it?”

“Well, the Lady Sapphire here has discovered that alcohol keeps out this … buzzing, that has been spiking the ether lately. At times, I feel as if I cannot grasp the shadows when the buzzing grows too loud,” Corwin admitted.

“It feels remarkably similar to a hangover after a late night of cajoling and rum, is what it feels like,” Lucian said.

“We were just going to go see Byron, actually,” Meg stood, remembering where their conversation was before Aidan’s appearance. “But before we do.. Lucian, do you ever remember a past Sapphire being able to show other people Sight?”

He shook his head regretfully, “Nay, lass, but that’s not to say it isn’t possible. Sapphires have always been known to be able to See, but I have never seen that gift shared with others. I have known many Sapphires, but I have not known them all.”

Aidan frowned, “Well, if we need a guinea pig, I’ll do it.”

“No, Aidan. I didn’t get to tell you earlier, but thank you. What you did was selfless and noble. You’ve given more than anyone could ask, and I would not ask you for more,” Meg drew herself up as she spoke, looking and sounding every bit a Prince. “But you may accompany us to see Byron. I have had a premonition, and I want to see if it means what I think it does.”

Corwin extended both hands out resignedly, sardonically stating with a straight face, “Your shadow taxi awaits.”

I, like many many other people in North America, have a smart phone. A Nexus 4, to be exact. I love it greatly; it kept me in touch with all my friends, reminded me what little items were on my to-do list for the evening, and let me play ridiculous little games. It’s an understatement to say that I was devastated when it decided to just slide off my counter and fall face-first onto the tile floor one day. Continue reading Adventures in Splintered Screen Syndrome

Theatrical

Meg was no stranger to theatre. Contrary to her rather practical nature, she delighted in pretending to be something she absolutely wasn’t. There had been a few occasions where she had convinced Devlin to come out of her shell and perform on a stage, but the poor girl was too stagefrightened to do much more than recite her lines meekly for an audition. She was not a typical Light Fae, that one.

But Meg… well she had Lucian for an acting coach.

The front door of the Cup opened wide, and she glided in with her chin held arrogantly. She was no longer… Meg, simply put.

Continue reading Theatrical

My inspiring and dear friend over at Sea Dreams and Time Machines just posted about the February Month of Letters Challenge. I love handwritten letters and notes in a way I didn’t think anyone would really understand, so imagine my surprise at discovering that there was an entire month devoted to letter-writing!

I’m already planning a small list of people to send notes and letters to. If you’d like to be one of them, drop me a message, and I’ll see how much I can improve my letter-writing skills by the end of it (that’s right, no planning out letters ahead of time on the computer, or using a pen corrector)! We’re already a few days into February, so I should be able to send off a batch tomorrow!

Looking forward to hearing from you all!

x.

Blisters

Laying where she had collapsed on the cold concrete and tufts of her own hair, Devlin wept silently for her many bruises, scrapes, and open wounds. Her captor seemed content with giving only flesh wounds so far, perhaps intent on keeping her alive to feel the pain, rather than snuff out the light of her life. She remembered feeling thankful that this would have been regarded as light torture, compared to those who had been put to the question in the old wars. Fae healed, but that didn’t mean you couldn’t maim them over and over again. But here, in this prison, she was unable to heal, and it was likely that was a-purpose, too.

No matter how hard she had looked, she had seen no light, no way for her to escape or even find strength. She had had the faint hope that if her captor had something — anything — which gave off light, she could use it; but of course, that would’ve been too easy.

Continue reading Blisters

Waking a Second Time

Kozmina exited a room in a far and forgotten corner of the Cup, straightening her dress and smoothing out her lace. She walked on, back to her rooms, without looking back. She saw no one on the way, but she was certain that someone would have taken note of her distinct lack of an entourage of scraggly Thralls dressed in their dolls’ outfits.

A good many things went through her head right at that moment behind her chilly mask. She lamented the disposal of her entire entourage of twenty, but there was really no telling which ones had betrayed her — human minds were so delicate and easily manipulated that digging for an answer would likely have killed them anyway; it would simply be easier to start again from scratch. Certain magicks could scar a mind beyond repair, and it was unlikely her contenders had been gentle with her property. While she was mildly annoyed at the time she would have to waste, she was also somewhat pleased at the opportunity; her old ones had been showing too much wear lately anyway. This was not the first time she’d had to put her pets out to pasture, and she was looking forward to picking up some prettier ones this time around. She had had the largest entourage of those at the Cup, and she fully intended on quickly building back up to that.

Continue reading Waking a Second Time

Ice

Without a sound, Byron materialized from the shadows behind heavy drapes in a corner of Ignatia’s sitting room. She had served him well enough that she had earned a suite of rooms for herself, which included a sitting room to host any guests she might wish. To his knowledge, no guest had ever set foot in here but him, and he hardly counted; he was her lord, and he was free to tread in the very rooms he had bestowed upon her.

Muffled sobs reached his Fae ears, and irritation flared. He knew very well Ignatia’s jealousies and prickliness, and he had ways to use those feelings to his advantage, but it did not stop the feeling that he was babysitting her. She was still young, and he hoped that a few more years of service would cool her temper. She was not his first servant to have fallen in love with him, and he was far beyond feeling guilt by now about such trifles.

Continue reading Ice

Eyes and Ears

With sharp orders, Byron had had a suite prepared for the Sapphire Prince, who, he suspects, very nearly just Awakened to her fullest potential. He had felt the growing spike of power coursing through her, and was ready to accept her response to whatever damning knowledge about him her Awakening would have brought. He dared not show his disappointment (and relief). Her small form on his red carpets was of great concern however.

She was close, so very close, to finding where Devlin was, and the wrenching stabs he felt when he realized that she had not quite succeeded left his chest feeling like a hollow cavern.

Under a tight gaze, he watched Lucian carry the auburn-haired girl away; Corwin made a fair, if quick, bow before ducking after them, “Thank you for your hospitality, my Prince. I will report to you once she is awake.”

Continue reading Eyes and Ears

Magnetic

Irritably, Meg sped up her search and began flipping through books haphazardly, knocking some aside as she dug through the piles.  Byron’s deep frown watched her from above, matching Corwin’s frown as his eyes stared off into nothing.  Lucian continued flipping through the contents of the ones Meg set to one side, chuckling at times, and groaning at others.  She moved onto the next if she failed to get any impressions from the first initial touches.

From the edge of her vision, a blue corner caught her attention.  Something about it seemed almost magnetic, like the flesh of her palms were drawn to it in some way when they got close enough. She slid a whole stack of books aside to uncover it, and thanks to Lucian’s quick reflexes, she did not have to apologize to Byron for dropping any of his prized books.

Continue reading Magnetic