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Xarra
01-10-2013, 06:00 PM
Hiya,

I'm looking for someone to beta/bounce ideas of/discuss ideas for, etc, this fiction... This is the prologue:

Pronunciation notes: ï = 'ei' and ș = 'sh' (bloody silly races with silly rules about vowels and consonants, mutter...)

Prologue

Crouched down behind the casks, the dust had quickly swept around her skirts and ankles and into the dark braid around her head turning the rich browns into bitter greys. The Baradgrave had left her in the cramped confines with a small lamp, but the remnants of oil had flickered out like the dying sun what seemed like an age ago, leaving her in the darkness of Hel with the smell of ale wrapping around her and the sound of fighting reaching even down into the deep cellars.

There’d been barely any time for words when the Grave hastily arrived, unannounced, in her chambers and pulled out his dagger to salute her. He’d seemed to hesitate for a moment, reaching out as if to grab her from the chair by the window she’d been sitting in to read The Berjl Cycle. Even now the last sentence she’d read seemed to float across her eyes. Then he’d seemed to remember who she was, pulling back before he’d touched her skin. She was glad he had remembered, Barad had always been one of her favourites.

The guards who had followed him in relaxed perceptibly as he stepped back, although they hadn’t removed their hands from the swords at their waists until she’d signalled them to stand down, taking her own hand from where it had fallen onto her own shortsword. The solid reassuring weight still rested on her hip, the weight firm and real in the endless darkness.

When he’d requested a private audience with her, the formal request hurried and stilted, she’d been intrigued. Barad didn’t rush. He’d helped teach her etiquette from the moment she’d been able to understand she was the Vekkish King-in-waiting until her fifteenth naming day a few moons ago and he’d never been flustered, answering her younger self’s questions with patience worthy of the Vekae themselves.

Only a moment, and her guards were ordered from the room, their objections about leaving her alone with a man dismissed. It was inappropriate after all, regardless of the fact the Baradgrave had been happily bound to his wife for many years. Another moment passed before the man had spoken, but then the words had rushed out of him in a torrent which had her on full alert, the book falling to the stone floor unnoticed.

She’d been at the bookcase before he’d even finished, pulling out the shelves and slipping the back panel away to reveal the passage behind, grateful for the foresight of her ancestors as she reached for the travelling cloak on a hook in the shadowed entrance.

Barad had followed her with small lamps, ensuring she was as comfortable as possible in the tight space, reassuring her she’d be safe, that he’d fetch her once the fighting was over. Both of them knew the words were empty. It would be up to her, and her alone, to reach the tunnels out of the city once the streets were safe enough for her to do so. He’d saluted her once again, reaching out to hesitantly touch her cheek before turning to leave. She didn’t stop him. The customs he’d taught her seemed meaningless in the flickering shadows and cold dampness and executing him for comforting her would only rid her country of a warrior it could not afford to lose. Not now.

“Be safe, Grave Roslan. Your father is proud of you.”

She nodded, knowing he needed to return to hide the passageway before anyone noticed the opening, hoping that the tears on her cheeks were hidden by those shadows, trying to hold on to her bearing until the noble left. Wanting him to stay just so that she wouldn’t be alone.

Then he’d disappeared into the blackness, and she’d watched the dancing pinprick of lamplight drifting up before he turned a corner and he was gone, leaving her alone with her thoughts, unable to do anything but think as her people fought and died above her against the very people who were supposed to have protected them.

From what Barad had told her, her father’s worst fears had come to pass and the Storm Lord had sent an army to remove him from the throne. She had no illusions that if she was found, she’d be either killed to destroy the Kardovic line or, more likely, taken as a concubine for one of the Dragon Lords. From the moment she’d been presented to the Council with braided hair, Iranani’s strange blue eyes had been watching her constantly. She’d always struggled with reading the daraconï’s expressions but his interest in her had certainly increased since she’d formally ascended the Casselgrave seat.

Sending a silent prayer to any Vekae listening that Lokir had cast neither fate for her, she settled down to plan her escape. It was inevitable the upper cellars would be searched, but once they had been, her presence wouldn’t be noticed when she took the tunnel there to the outskirts of the city. From there she would travel south to Baerislan and begin to plan how to reclaim her throne. And it would be her throne if the Daraconï took the city, they would not, could not, risk leaving the king of a proud warrior nation alive to rebel against them again.

The journey to Baerislan would be hard, and there would be little chance, even if Lokir was watching her, she’d be able to trade on her name or what would be left of her status once the Daraconï’s victory was known. It would be best to stay to the coast and travel on ships, surely there would be warriors willing to aid her as long as they were at sea and away from Uramïşi’s reach.

It seemed like cycles later the sounds of fighting died down above her, the battle horns finally fading to a silence.

Cassel had fallen.

She felt the tears dripping over her cheeks, but now was not the time to give in to mourning, no matter how much something unnamed inside her was breaking and crying, no matter how much she wished to raise her voice with the howling lament which already would be sweeping across the city. The best she was able to do was to brush a hand over the casks and floor and blindly sweep the dust over her eyes and lips, touching the dirt covered finger over her nose and ears before tracing a circle on her forehead. It wasn’t the traditional ash, but it would do. For now.

“We do not see you. We cannot hear you. We do not scent you. We cannot feel you. We cry to you. We remember you. Hel guide you to Lighen’s arms.”

The lilting words soothed her as she drew up memories of those who had gone before her. Her mother, Queen Brethan, dying to spring sickness soon after her tenth naming day. Her brother Alrick, who’d been the Casselgrave before her, dead in a raid on the eastern country of Xian, far across the sea. Freann, the Whestgrave’s daughter, who she had only met a few times before news of her embrace by the dark Goddess had reached Cassel. And now her father.

For a long mark she allowed herself to relive the memories, letting them wrap her in the warmth of remembrance, transporting her out of the dank darkness to happier times. Then the chill of the cellar permeated her skin once again and she couldn’t hold back a shiver, breaking the moment and causing the comfort of the past to drift away, leaving only the reality of the present. Nestling into her tiny hole, she sighed silently as she brushed the wetness from her face. She needed to continue to plan, mourning could wait.

A slow creak on the stairs woke her out of a light sleep and she bit her lip to stop the pain of frozen limbs startled into movement from turning into an audible cry although she cursed inwardly. Thandag’s bloody hammer, it appeared the invaders were going to search the lowest of the rooms.

Her heart shouted at her to stand proud and face whoever dared to take Cassel, even with only her dagger and her bravery, but that was the certain way to ensure Vekjlan would never be free under a Kardovic King again. So instead she ignored her legs aching as she curled herself even tighter into her hiding place, barely daring to breath as she tugged the dust covered cloak further over her, praying to all the Vekae the searchers would ignore the small bundle of cloth behind the musty pile of old beer barrels.

Under the fabric she saw the flame getting closer, hurting her eyes after so long in the darkness.

Her breath stopped and the world was silent except for her heart beating in her chest and the movements of the searching shadows.

Then light burned her sight and she blinked up to meet the split-pupils of Iranani.

“So, you were hiding here, my girl.”

“You dare speak to me in that manner?” Covered in dust, her hair and clothing dishevelled and dirty, she struggled to her feet, the insolent tone of the daraconï’s words fueling her sudden anger. “I am Grave Roslan of Vekjlan. Not girl and never yours.”

“But you are now mine,” a new voice added, calm and cold and she tore her gaze away from the Advisor to where another man stood, moving into the lamp’s warm illumination which a cowering woman was holding to one side. “And your name is Torïya.”

Placing a hand on her dagger, she managed to push her painful limbs into one of the defensive poses her guards had drilled her in since childhood. She would never be a daracoya. “No.”

The daraconï moved further into the light, laughter darting in the bright blue gaze. “My proud Torïya, don’t you know who I am?”

Now her own eyes had adjusted, the golden lightning bolt dangling from one of the newcomer’s ear, and the cascade of glittering silver from the other shone in the darkness. The earrings framed the thin face emphasised by the lamplight casting shadows over the angular planes of his cheekbones. Shoulder length pale hair swept over broad shoulders covered by a stiff thigh-length coat with a high collar cinched closed, similar to the one Iranani wore, The cut and fabric was, however, finer than the Advisor’s, panels of various colours of what appeared to be embroidered blue silk inset in the pitch black material as it fell over night dark trews. He wore no sword belt. Combined with the arrogance which the daraconï wrapped himself in like a cloak, the interloper could only be one man.

Uramïşi.

“No,” she repeated, lifting her chin proudly, forcing her voice to stay calm, refusing to give him the satisfaction. “My name is Roslan.”

Iranani started to move towards her, only to be stopped by the raised hand and amused smile of the Storm Lord. “She has lost her father and her right to govern in one short day, and yet she still defies us. Let her have her anger Iranani, she will learn when she is home.

“Come, Torïya.” He turned smoothly, his hand sweeping round to indicate she was to follow in his wake

Every lesson in etiquette which Barad had taught her told her that she should obey. Every lecture on law told her that he had the authority to tell her to do whatever he wanted. And every bone in her body refused to follow the tall man as the woman carrying the lamp walked behind him meekly.

The other daraconï raised a slender brown eyebrow towards her, picking up his light from where it rested on a cask and mockingly gesturing in the direction of the stairs Uramïşi was ascending. “Shall we. Torïya?”

She lifted her own eyebrows, summoning her pride to her. Iranani she knew how to deal with. “I would have thought you’d know my name by now, Advisor.”

“And Uramïşi-hano has granted you a new name, and a position which you do not deserve, Vïkiya." The last word was rolled over the daraconï’s tongue in the lilting accent of his race and he had never seemed more remote than then; his body half bowed in a parody of respect even as his foreign eyes met hers. “You should be honoured. Now, as it seems that you will not obey willingly...” He straightened, the fingers of his outstretched hand abruptly whipping round in a spiral.

The air froze around her, pinning her where she stood.

Unable to move, unable to even speak, all she could do was watch, screaming denial inwardly as the man disappeared behind her with a polite smile. before he hefted her into his arms with as much care as a sack of wool.

~*~

Torïya couldn’t help the frown from forming, casting a shadow across her face. Human eyes. Daracoro eyes. She had so hoped to give Uramïşi a daraconï child.

The infant even had the dark reddish hair of Vekkish birth. Thank Aşi she wouldn’t have to raise it, a daracoro would be given it in a few sendays to raise as their own.

Looking down into the eyes of the babe in her arms a small part of her suddenly ached at the thought someone else would be her child’s mother. For the first time in over a half-cycle, the memory of her own mother swam out of the past, slipping past the harsh lessons she’d been given on becoming the perfect daracoya for the Araşi-hano. Before she realised it, all disgust at the innocent round pupiled gaze faded away and one hand slipped out to brush at the soft cheek of her son. Hers. Vïkiro or daraconï, he was hers and she loved him.

“Lighen guide you,” she whispered, struggling to recall the Vekkish words as she checked the daraconï midwife would not hear them. “And Thandag protect you. My son.” She drank in the sight of the boy’s wrinkled features, unable to stop the slight smile at his gurgling attempts at sound.

The footsteps announced the arrival of the Hano, and she looked up to meet the bright blue eyes of Uramïşi, the regret at the child’s features returning as he rested a hand on her shoulder and glanced at the newborn’s eyes with distaste.

“I’m sorry, my Lord, I have failed you.” The daraconï words flowed naturally now.

“I am sure that next time you will give me an heir, my Torïya.”

She leaned into the gentle touch, grateful for the light soothing words as the midwife approached to take the infant and she gave it up easily as Uramïşi’s lips touched hers. The child would be fine, it would grow up happily as daracoro and she would be able to watch from a distance.

Everything was right.

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Yes, it probably could do with refining - I use long sentences! But it gives you the idea... It is going to have 2 male characters, and they may well fall for each other (eventually...) but it's very much going to be a story of a bard who ends up kind of accidentally ending up a hero...