I didn't post the second part yesterday because I got butt-hurt almost nobody bothered to read Part I.
(Particularly after I worked so hard on making it "presentable" for blog consumption; taking time out of my Nano writing to do so...)
I'm over it now. We're all allowed to vent furiously over what feels like futility from time to time. I had my tantrum and I'm back to not really giving a fuck. *wink*
So, here's the Second Part of Chapter One- a day late:
(the completed chapter is really long, so I split it into parts. You can read Part I HERE.)
Chapter One: Part II
He squinted his eyes, trying to adjust them to the darkness of the passageway. The young prince held his arms out in front of him, into the black, feeling around for her hand but finding only cold stones meet his fingertips.
The air was thick and stale, making it hard to breathe. He could smell her though. That faint scent of rose-oil from her hair was like a trail in the darkness for him to follow.
“Kailet?” He whispered, barely above a breath, “Kai, I can’t see.” A small soft hand enclosed his grasping fingers tightly, and she gave a gentle squeeze of re-assurance.
“I’m here. Come on, let’s keep going.” Her voice floated and echoed down the long winding tunnel ahead as she pulled him through the passageway behind her.
Caven forced himself to take a deep, steadying breath and tried not to gag on the noxious air as it filled his lungs. His father’s castle had a myriad of secret doors and passages, unused and forgotten for many years. This particular stretch of darkness and stone had been sealed shut for countless decades before the two young royals had unexpectedly discovered it.
They wandered through the darkness, hand in hand, until she was satisfied they weren’t being followed.
“How is it you always manage to get me into these situations?” Caven whispered into the dark.
“You know you’ll be bored without me.” She answered, pausing as she patted her hands carefully over her ample skirt, searching for the small hidden pocket sewn into the seams.
Caven barked out a heady laugh, “You’re probably right.”
“Ah, there it is!” She said happily, easing the small concealed recess open with her fingertips to secure the velvet pouch from its hiding place. The moment the pouch fell away from the smooth round stone contained within, the darkness melted into the shadows, revealing the narrow brick and mortar passage in front of them.
“A sunstone?” Caven whistled appreciatively as the faint glow of the pebble-sized stone illuminated the way ahead.
“My mother gave it to me - in case I ever find myself in a dangerous situation.” She said.
“Being alone in the dark with me is dangerous?”
Kailet’s lips pulled up into a knowing smirk, “I don’t know. Should I be on my guard?”
Caven stared down at the dust - inches thick - that covered his boots, avoiding her gaze as his cheeks warmed over the thought. No one had been in this passage for perhaps fifty years or more. Kailet slowly turned, and Caven caught a flash of white teeth as she pointed into the darkness ahead of them. At first it appeared to be a dead end - until she lifted the sunstone higher and Caven saw the large wooden door blocking their path ahead.
“Where do you think it goes?” Her voice held that sharp note he knew all too well…
“Quit being such a nippling, Cav! Look, someone left the key in the door. No harm in taking a peek. Besides, no one has been in here for decades.” She huffed, “It’s not like anyone will notice.”
Caven nodded without another word.
The key turned easily in the heavy iron lock. The door, however, was much more resistant. Its hinges creaked and moaned as Caven shoved against it with all his strength, gradually shuddering forward to reveal the small hidden chamber on the other side. A secret room at the end of a secret passage.
Kailet lifted the sunstone as high as she could, casting strange shadows on the wall as they entered. Caven suddenly felt cold - as if a block of frozen fear had settled in the pit of his stomach.
“What is this?” He breathed, his eyes panning over the faded murals on the walls and the dusty, broken furniture scattered across the floor. It looked like someone’s long forgotten private study; the walls lined with old dusty bookcases and broken bits of furniture.
“Cav, come have a look!” Kailet was standing beside a large ornately carved desk, dark as the blackest night. It had been made completely of Blackwood, the surface pristine and smooth beneath the thick layers of dust and debris. Each leg was an intricately detailed waterfall that descended in miniature waves to the floor, pooling into perfectly round rain-puddles at their feet.
Blackwood was priceless and rare. A finger-sized sliver could cost a fistful of gold in the market, let alone a piece this enormous. The desk was made of a solid piece. Not a single joint or groove. It was hard as steel and impervious to all but such extreme heat it could make molten stone. The wood couldn’t be carved, and it couldn’t be worn down, making the only way to mold it with such detail by ancient means of magic.
The Blackwood forests of Parth had been burned to ash during the Great War. There were no trees left to harvest, and the Enchanters who carved them with their power had all been banished beyond the Lands of the Three Sisters for almost five hundred years. Pieces like this desk were practically mythological.
Kailet tapped Caven playfully on the tip of his nose, breaking his hesitant reverie.
“Did you know my mother’s throne is made entirely of Blackwood?” She teased, sensing the source of his discomfort, “She said it was formed almost a thousand years ago by an Enchanter who compelled the wood to carve dragons into itself - just by looking at it.”
“You think an Enchanter made this?” Caven’s mouth suddenly went dry. That sense of cold was growing stronger, spreading across his skin in a tingling wave. Just the mere thought he could be touching something formed by the magic of an Enchanter made him feel lightheaded and nauseous.
Caven took a few uneasy steps away, pressing his hands together behind his back. Kailet rolled her eyes at him as she set the sunstone on the surface of the desk. It lit up her face from below, casting dark shadows behind her over the low stone ceiling. Caven could only see her silhouette and he tilted his head, examining her unabashedly in profile.
“No one has seen an Enchanter in over a hundred years, Cav. For a warrior prince who is destined to lead a King’s Army you seem to have a yellow spine.”
“What color is your spine then?” Caven snapped indignantly.
Kailet laughed, turning to face him with her imaginary weapon - a gnarled bit of stick, pointed tauntingly at his chest. She leaned in, poking him for emphasis, and Caven swatted her make-believe sword away.
A flick of her delicate wrist sent it flying back around towards his gut, but Caven dodged quickly, his arm swooping low to grasp a length of broken chair-leg from the floor near his feet to shield his head from her third attack.
“It’s red.” She laughed cheerfully, tapping the side of her make-shift sword against his with practiced accuracy.
“Like your hair?” Caven smirked, spinning around and tapping hers in return.
“Like blood and fire.” She tapped again, harder, and again. “You know you can’t beat me.” Caven used his stick to lift hers into the air and lunged forward, trying to catch her in the belly. Kailet had already spun around, locking her foot behind his ankle and knocking him off balance. He reached out and grabbed her wrist with his free hand and they both landed backwards into the dust. The small stone chamber echoed with laughter.
Kailet propped herself up on one elbow and turned to face him, “I wonder how much we’ll have changed by the next time we meet...”
“Two years? I can hardly stand the thought of it.” That cold lump had found its way into his belly again. His insides felt heavy.
She sighed, her eyes far off into the shadows, “I hope you don’t change. I don’t think my heart could take it.”
To my fellow NaNoWriMo Scribblers:
Hoping you're all speeding through those daily word-counts and swatting away those pesky non-writing distractions (unlike me ha!) Keep those stories going. Go go go!
*shakes her pom poms and makes dramatically cheerful faces until you feel uncomfortable and get back to work*
Good Luck To All!!!
For those of you scratching your heads and mouthing "NaNoWriMo?" with a puzzled expression:
NaNoWriMo is a month long event where both fledgling and professional writers alike commit to writing 50,000 words within the month of November (30 days). It is a shortening of "National Novel Writing Month" and has participants all over the world.