Back for the conclusion of Firechild Chapter One, I hope?
Humor me? Authors may have thick skins, but that's only cause our egos are so very, very fragile - like a firework coated with a layer of hardened glass in some cases.
I can't properly expresses how insanely I'm laughing after typing that last sentence. It's embarrassing, really...
So, here's the Third Part of Chapter One:
(the completed chapter is really long, so I split it into parts. You can read Part I HERE.)
Chapter One: Part III
“It doesn’t bother you? Being married off for a sum of gold, or some political alliance to secure trade routes, or—”
Kailet sat up fully, placing both of her hands over his mouth before he could finish, “Getting married is not really a subject I want to dwell upon. At least we’ll get to see each other at my Betrothal Ceremony in Coren.”
Caven pulled her hands away from his mouth, holding them tightly in his. “Two years…” He nodded, “…until I see you again.”
His hands were clammy and cold, and hers were slightly sticky from the honey cakes they’d eaten not long before.
“Maybe this is the last time.” He took a deep breath, inhaling the scent of her hair – rose-oil. She always smelled of rose-oil. “It’s not like your future husband will let you sneak around dark passageways with me and play pranks on your Governess when we’re feeling restless.”
That made her smile and Caven couldn’t help but stare unblinking into her eyes when she did so.
Dark blue. So dark it looked like the Ocuate on a peaceful night, when the stars were reflected, twinkling on the unblemished surface - an endless sky above an endless sea.
Another deep breath.
Caven closed his eyes and leaned forward to press his lips against hers. Her mouth was slightly sticky too, but soft. When the moment stretched too long, he heard her cheerfully giggle though she hadn’t pulled away.
The young prince slowly opened his eyes - and then he screamed. Her dark blue eyes, so deep and mesmerizing, had become gaping empty holes staring back at him.
Her lips were pale, almost a shade of blue as she spoke.
“What’s the matter, Caven?” It was not Kailet’s voice, but something else. It hissed and moaned at the same instant, a chaotic assault on his ears as the creature formed a strange mixture of words with the princess’ deformed lips.
Caven scrambled to his feet and backed away from her in horror. A small black-scaled serpent slithered and coiled around her thin, porcelain-white neck. The young prince’s breath seized and evaporated at the sight.
The snake and the wraith-child both stared at him with empty expressions as Caven pressed himself desperately into the large wooden door at his back.
“Wraith…” He whispered. “Goddess cursed!”
The creature tilted its head to the side, mimicking Kailet’s most casual gestures, “Was it just like you remembered?”
“You’re not Kailet.”
His whole body shook and trembled. Suddenly, Caven couldn’t breathe. His arms became too heavy. He tried to lift his hands to his throat, gasping and struggling in his terror, but he was petrified under the creature’s void-like glare. His cheeks blazed hot, and his eyes blurred from unshed tears - but he was too afraid to blink, too afraid to look away from the grinning horror kneeling before him with Kailet’s lovely face.
The creature slowly rose to its feet. The black snake slithered down Kailet’s neck and disappeared into the collar of her now tattered dress. Caven coughed and wheezed, struggling to fill his lungs as the air grew thick with smoke… or perhaps there had been smoke there all along.
The creature with Kailet’s face was burning as it stood in front of him - its arms stretched wide as the flames engulfed her, licking greedily at the wooden rafters and beams over their heads.
No. Not ablaze. The creature was made of fire!
Caven shook his head in denial as he watched it burn, ash swirling between them like snowflakes in a winter storm. She took a step towards him, and Caven could smell the hot sour scent of burning flesh wash over him in a staggering wave. The black snake had re-emerged from beneath her ample skirts and it too was made of solid flame, setting small bits of debris on fire as it slithered the distance between them, hastily moving up the prince’s boot to the bend of his knee.
The rancid stench was coming from his own body being scalded away by the snake’s constricting hold upon his leg. Caven dropped to the floor. The pain and the thick, choking air made him weak and overcome. He felt himself slipping away. With what remained of his strength, Caven forced his eyes to focus on the burning figure of Kailet as it faded from view. The creature smiled at him with a strange look of longing as it all went dark...
Caven sat up from his bed drenched in sweat. He pulled the damp woolen blankets away roughly, tossing them to the floor with a frustrated grunt.
The ship rocked slowly, the deck above eerily silent. The young prince listened to the sound of his own breathing, willing his heart to slow and calm from the night terror. He gradually rolled over to lay on his side, and the bunk creaked from the shift in his body weight.
“Your Highness?” Jimlyn’s deep voice whispered from the darkness. The man rose in his chair, ever vigilant on his charge.
“It’s nothing. A memory. A nightmare…” Caven sighed. There was a momentary crackle and spark, then the cabin was suddenly visible. Jimlyn set the lantern on the bedside table and pressed the back of his hand against the young man’s forehead.
“Fever dreams. Do you want me to get the Mender?”
“No. I’ll be fine.” Caven tried his best to smile and reassure him, “How long until we reach Coren?”
“We should reach the capital city by morning, provided the wind continues to favor us.”
“Good.” Caven sighed, rubbing his hands together absently.
Jimlyn’s eyes crinkled at the corners with a hidden grin, “Eager to see the young Princess again?” Caven’s light green eyes widened sharply, and Jimlyn laughed, batting him playfully on the shoulder. “Surprised that I know? The way the two of you carried on when you were younger, the entire court cast their lots for you and she.”
“What are you talking about?” Caven covered his face with the back of his arm and tried to roll over out of view, but Jimlyn’s knowing laugh when he did so made him sit up and cross his arms in defiance instead. “The Betrothal Ceremony isn’t until tomorrow night. Until then, it could easily be either one of us.”
Jimlyn boomed a sharp snort in amusement, “You needn’t be so anxious. I’ve heard your brother has his sights on another Lady for First Consort.”
“Wouldn’t stop him from trying to claim them both. How many wives does my father have now?”
“He still only favors your mother. Don’t think Prince-heir Haegan, or his vile schemer of a mother, will ever let you forget that! And don’t expect him to allow you any privilege he cannot have himself - including women. It is his birthright as heir. You must be on your guard.”
“Heir? He was born a mere three months before I was—”
“And his mother is the King’s First Consort. That makes him future King and you a threat if he isn’t convinced of your loyalty to his reign. You will lead his armies and you will stay away from his wives…”
“Either way - at least Kailet will be returning home with us to Tyr.”
“Don’t sound so hopeful. If she chooses your brother, then she claims his First Consort. It’s a powerful move - the smartest move. Her heirs will be Kings.”
“And if she chooses me, she won’t die of boredom watching him fawn over himself all day in the mirror.”
“It’s good you’re so confident. She’ll see you the better for it.”
Caven rubbed his weary eyes, “Do you think father is still awake? I wanted to ask him something before we arrive.”
Jimlyn nodded, “I saw Vidar outside his cabin only a short while ago. I’m sure he’s roused.”
Caven straightened his nightshirt as he rose from the side of the bed, combing his fingers through his rumpled white-gold hair. There was a clear hesitance to his manner, and he turned towards his friend and mentor with a half-hearted shrug as he headed for the door.
“Good luck.” Jimlyn called after him, “A man always needs it in matters of love and politics.”
Caven laughed and shook his head as he pushed out into the narrow hall below deck, “I’m just a throwaway prince, trying my damnedest to keep my head firmly attached to my shoulders.”
That concludes Chapter One. Thanks for making it to the end... unless you skipped ahead, in which case... uh, thanks anyway.
To All The Diligent NaNoWriMo Scribblers:
Hoping you're speeding through those daily word-counts and swatting away those pesky non-writing distractions (unlike me ha!)
Good Luck Everyone!
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.