Fearies Awakening #2: The Goblin

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I’ve had a breakthrough. I’ve spent some time recently collating much of the extraneous and conceptual material I’ve written for my book into one place, the word count has reached about 120,000 and counting if I remember correctly. I’ve spent years and years trying to plan out this book, but something has been stopping me from starting work on it. I think it’s that it’s been SO planned, and I’ve thrown so many plans out, that I didn’t know where to begin, or what it would look like. I know a lot about the characters and the story, but it doesn’t have that central thing that ties it all together. I’ve been trying and trying to figure out what the central crux is, the fulcrum on which the rest of the story will turn.

I still don’t know what it is, but I think now that maybe the only way to find it is to set off on the journey with my characters. The story needs a breath of life. I’ve had such a rigid concept of what it needs to be and what it needs to say that I’ve forgotten to let my imagination wander and try new things. Becuase of that, my writing has become stagnant and unmoving. I haven’t known how to begin. I have a books worth of extra material, outlines, notes, and conceptual scenes, but the book itself has barely even begun.

It’s diffiuclt to write a fantasy story without feeling like you’re pilfering from every other fantasy story. There are so many, and they share so many things, that it’s intimidating to even know where to begin. I had a fleeting idea some time ago that I might try something with different fantasy races, I really like having a lot of races. I’ve thought about so many mythical fantasy creatures have been given makeovers: Anne Rice made vampires sexy and compassionate, J. R. R. Tolkien turned elves from tiny mischief makers into tall, lithe and beautiful magicians. Dwarves, well… I’ve never really gotten dwarves. I remembered playing Magic the Gathering when I was a kid, and the many goblin cards, and I saw David Bowie playing the goblin king, and his is still the only goblin I’ve ever seen who was beautiful or fashionable. I thought it might be fun to try something with that idea.

I made a note to start the story with a goblin, and tried to go to bed, but I needed to get up and write the story. At a certain point I thought well I might as well just get up and do it while it’s in my head. A sudden jolt of excitement hit me. I actually thought to myself, “Am I really doing this? Am I really starting the book, finally, after all this time?”

I did.

It’s a breath of fresh air into this world that has become stagnant, despite how deep I’ve sunken into it. I don’t know where the story will go or what shape it will become, but I’m going to let the story lead me to where that place is. I’m not going to force anything anymore, I’m going to let the world and the characters tell me their story, rather than me trying to tell them what their story is.

The prologue exists already, it’s been published on my blog, I’ll probably post it here on Patreon at some point. Read that if you like, to get an idea.

Here it is. The beginning of the first chapter of my book. I don’t know the book’s name yet. I don’t know this character’s name yet. But I’m happy and excited to learn.

***

The goblin dropped his pack on the ground and slumped wearily against a tree, pulling a handkerchief from within his cape and wiping his hooded forehead. He reached into the pack at his feet, rummaged for a moment, and withdrew a silver canteen. With his long, nimble fingers, he hurriedly unscrewed the lid, and popped the canteen eagerly between his lips, cold water rushing over his tongue and cooling his hot head. He took a breath as he wiped some of the spilt water from his chin.

The weather was still warm for mid Autumn, but cool enough for the cape and the hood. He surveyed his surroundings in the forest: a clearing with a small pond, encircled by trees whose leaves shone in the mid-afternoon sun, in the usual shades of gold and red, with a few obstinate clumps of green leaves still clinging to life. The trail he’d taken went right by the pond, and behind him it led up to the hilltop from where, he expected, a lovely view of the city would be commanded.

The wood was lively with creatures. Blue birds chirped high above and didn’t give much care to what happened beneath, too involved in listening to one another’s choruses. A fox stalked timidly up to the other side of the pond and lowered it’s peach colored head to lap up some water hastily, keeping it’s eyes suspiciously trained on the visitor to the wood. A few squirrels had followed him into the clearing, two watched curiously from a tree branch while another more brash squirrel stood on it’s hind legs in the middle of the trail, staring straight ahead.

The goblin grinned and laughed a little. He was used to this. Wild animals were always intensely curious about goblins, and despite how easy it might be to pass as human amongst a human society, the animals could smell it on him. With his long fingers he reached up and let down his hood, shaking his tawny, lengthy mess of Amber hair from his shoulders, and reached up to pick a leaf from his bangs. He held it in front of him and the squirrel who stood on the ground cocked his head to the side, the goblin smiled and blew hard on the leaf, sending it dancing into the air, and causing the squirrel to turn and run behind a tree.

Leaving his pack on the ground, the goblin made his way over to the pond with only a few strides of his long legs. The fox on the other side of the pond glanced up but didn’t move, the goblin made sure to move as lithely and unthreatening as possible, and was actually surprised when the fox bent down to lap up some more water. The goblin bent from his considerable height down to his knees, reached two hands into the pond, and splashed some water on his face. He could see in his periphery this frightened the fox away.

In the rippling water he could see a reflection of his rather long face, water dripping along the sharp angles of his cheekbones and down his pointed chin. His nose had a gentle upward curve at the tip, but was far rounder than most goblins. Long ears protruded from within his lengthy mess of amber hair, and he made a mental note that he’d need to do some work on them to make himself look passably human before he made it to the city.  His long bangs had been splashed and clung wet to his forehead. His eyes were the caramel color that even in a blurry reflection could still be striking. He cocked a grin at his reflection, then pulled out his handkerchief again to wipe his wife. The poor thing had faded from stark white to a dull yellow from weeks of use on the road. He suspected the rest of his clothes had suffered similarly.

He stood and stretched, feeling his joints give several loud creaks. He placed a long finger on his chin and used the slightly pointed nail to scratch his chin in thought. He briefly considered stopping here to lunch, but no, the city was near enough that he could have a proper dinner, and if the gods willed, a bath. He did not like the muddy baths he’d been forced to take in the great river that ran along his path here. Almost better to stay filthy than to bother attempting to wash and then putting on clothes that were quickly beginning to turn sour from overuse.

He smirked again at his own sheepishness. He’d never really liked traveling.

He turned and marched back over to his pack, where one of the squirrels had taken the liberty of inspecting the open side pouch, and who now had his upper body very well buried in it. The goblin barked a little laugh, giving the squirrel a start as it’s head darted back out, and he reached down to throw the pack over his shoulder. Surprisingly, the squirrel climbed over the pack and onto the goblin’s shoulder, and began to inspect the large folds of one of his pointed ears, sticking it’s little wet nose in and giving it a sniff.

The goblin set off again up the path, and quickly came to the hilltop, where just as he suspected, he found a magnificent view.

The hill dropped somewhat steeply down from here, and the trees thinned out, and ahead of him, set in the middle of a lush valley lined with golden trees and streams that glinted faraway in the light of the sun, was the city. A magnificent old castle stood at the far end of the city, round spires rising toward the sky, grey stone battlements, roofs with dark blue tiles that glinted against the light. The goblin admired it’s classic design, this was the kind of architecture not often seen anymore in human cities. In the distance behind the city were dense forests that climbed up onto mountains, and the sky above was a crystalline blue, wispy clouds fluttering across and the bright noon sun in the center of the sky.

Surrounding the castle were rows of houses with thatched roofs and tile, he could see cobblestone streets, and even from this distance the goblin could see with his keen eyes people bustling everywhere. He cocked his head thoughtfully for a moment, and the squirrel on his shoulder shook its tail. He wondered if perhaps the gatherings had already begun, but he had been quite sure he was a day early. Perhaps it was just a very busy city. Human cities usually had that effect on outsiders: they always seemed to be scurrying about like ants, always in a hurry, never stopping to look around. But that’s just how humans were, and he’d learned to accept it. It was charming, once one became acclimated. Goblin cities — to whatever degree there actually were goblin cities — never seemed to be quite so busy, but then goblins didn’t live very communally.

The goblin shrugged, and a gust of cold wind caught the side of his face and the nape of his neck, causing him to shiver, and he remembered to pull up his hood. He felt the squirrel’s nose poke against the fabric by his ear. He set off downhill, relieved that the journey was finally becoming easier, and also that it was nearly over. His heart pounded in his chest a little with excitement, it had been some time since he’d seen so many people gathered at once. He hoped the trip would prove worthwhile.

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Fearies Awakening #1: Green Fire, Black Sky

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Patreon will not allow me to back date a post, so there’s a sequence break over on my Patreon page. This is the prologue, which takes place before The Goblin (the first installment of chapter one). Over here on the blog, you can read more about what started the writing of the book in the next post.

***

            A bellowing screech blasted into the night, slicing the cold air, the sound rattling the tiles on the rooftops.

            Crackling fire. The beating of enormous leathery wings. A green silhouette against the drop of the night sky, a bright white moon shining blue light down on flames of green that ate away at the wood, the iron, the cobbled streets. Fire in every corner.

            Screams, frantic and bewildered. Confusion and the blurry fog of tears in the eyes of men and women, clutching their children, their animals, their clothing, anything they could hold while running.

            A little girl, ragged breath sucked frantically into her chest, her beating heart pounding in her head, her vision a haze of madness, stumbled gracelessly into the street, tripping over her dress, and as she reached down to pluck a dangling ribbon from beneath her slipper, the sound came again.

            A sound like steel twisting against itself, ripping the air to shreds, and a gust of heat blasted over the rooftops, rattling the trees and knocking over the carts. Food strewn about the street was flung up into the air from the force of it, in all corners there were flames, green flames eating the doorways, the signs, the merchant carts. Flowers crackled with green fire in the street.

            The little girl tumbled forward from the blast. She landed flat on her stomach and her nose smacked hard against the cobbled street. She was vaguely aware that there was pain in her head somewhere, and her vision was now tinged with red. She fell helplessly onto her back and looked up into the sky.

            Green embers over green flames, against a black sky, somewhere beyond the veil of smoke there were stars still shining thoughtlessly through.

            She hoisted herself up onto her elbows and drew a breath that she could not quite hear, because all sound was now a hazy din, a high-pitched ringing somewhere inside her head. She looked up ahead, she could hear screaming in all directions, yet she saw only the empty street, its contents turned in on itself, lanterns and silk streamers and placards piled on fruit and toys. The ghastly accoutrements of festivity tossed lazily into a swarm of nightmarish fever.

            There was a figure against the sky, green as the flames. It was not quite solid, and yet it was corporeal. Glowing lights where a face might be, the shape of wings unfurled, and the body a mass of green flame. Beneath the two lights, the flaming shape of jagged teeth as a jaw opened, and the bellowing screech came again, accompanied by a river of flame in all shades of green, ribbons of emerald searing across the wind.

            She held up a hand instinctively to shield herself.

            Flames ripped across the rooftops and into every quarter of the city. In the distance a castle was burning, green fire rising from the windows. Emerald smoke hovered in a humid vapor above the city. A trail of green fire burned down the central path of the city, and struck out at an odd angle, where it led into a square of burning trees.

            Surrounded by flames, a man in dark armor held a child close against his breast, blood spilling across the metal plate and over his fingers, blood drenching the child’s back and his cotton shirt.

            The king wept into his son’s neck, cradling the unconscious boy.

            A woman’s voice shouted over the roaring inferno, “It must be done! He has brought the demon with him, it will not cede until he is dead!”

            “Woman!” croaked the man, “You speak of your son!”

            “My son has been consumed by a devil!” she wailed. The flames cast a flickering shadow onto the stones, that of a slender woman in a thin gown, tangled hair, thin fingers clutching the handle of a long knife.

            The king lay the boy down on the stones. His eyes were still wide, though he saw nothing. His chest rose so gently it may not have moved at all.

            The king’s eyes narrowed as he drew the sword from his side. He advanced upon her and there was a shriek, and the sound of flesh being pierced. The flickering shadows showed a woman run through with a sword, and a thin arm curving around to stab a knife into the man’s back. A guttural moan as they both fell.

            The little boy’s eyes were bright blue, and his gaze held nothing at all, his thoughts somewhere far away from the heat and the fear. Blood pooled around his body, his arm flung to the side and his fingers twitching as if to grasp something that was not there.

            There was a clicking of boots, the slow steps of one solitary figure, a mass of black cloak and long dark hair against the bright green of the fire. A man knelt down by the boy, his unkempt hair dangling over his eyes.

            “Little prince,” he whispered, “Life has more for you yet than this.”

            The man’s gloved hands scooped the boy up in one fluid motion, and his cloak whipped behind him as he walked directly into the green flame, and through it.

            Green sparks fell over the dying bodies of the husband and wife who lay gasping on the stones. Green sparks whirled up into the night sky.

            There was silence, but for crackling fire and a thunderous, croaking growl.

Fairy Files: The Genealogy Of Lucas Ballanheim

Originally, Lucas' physically appearance was based on Isaac from Golden Sun. As of now his exact appearance is a little up in the air, but he still wears a scarf, though it's more reminiscent of Lightning's clipped-on side scarf from Final Fantasy XIII

Originally, Lucas’ physically appearance was based on Isaac from Golden Sun. As of now his exact appearance is a little up in the air, but he still wears a scarf, though it’s more reminiscent of Lightning’s clipped-on side scarf from Final Fantasy XIII

Fairy Files is an attempt for me to get down in one place all of the ideas for my novel. It isn’t an official guide, or a companion that would be accurate to the final book, since the book is still to be finished. The novel itself, called at different times Fairy Tale, The Fairy’s Awakening, or having no title at all, has undergone so many changes that not all incarnations of the story were lasting or best for the story, but I want them to be recorded for my own memory as much as anything else.

Lucas Ballanheim has been the central character of this story from the beginning. The entire story began when I was watching Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood and was really fascinated by the character of Hohenheim. I really love it when a character is so superior in magical ability that they can create earthquakes standing in place or do other incredible feats with their vast unseen reserves of magical power. I started to think about a young character who would have similar power to Hohenheim, and initially I called this character Hohenheim, mostly brainstorming about him in the shower. Eventually I decided on a first name of Lucas; I was reading a Star Wars novel called Outcast at the time and I had the sudden realization that obviously George Lucas must have named the character Luke after himself, a fact that I’m sure even the most casual Star Wars fan must have already observed, but one that slipped by me. A lot of really obvious things get past me in life because I’m usually looking for deeper meaning and missing things on the surface; I think this is the reason why I’m often caught by surprise by incredibly inane plot twists that are easily foreseeable and surprise no one else. It’s also what had discouraged me in the past and made me think I’m no good at coming up with plot twists, I think as I’ve grown I’ve learned that the way I twist a plot is more subtle and detailed, so there aren’t as many huge reveals, or at least I don’t know that there will be.

Lucas Hohenheim was initially my main character, and I had given him a best friend named Hephaestion and set him in a kingdom called Alexandria as the prince. I chose the name Alexandria because of my inspiration with the city of Alexandria in Final Fantasy IX, and of course that fictional city is named after the real city of Alexandria set up in the real world by the conqueror Alexander the Great. When I was a teenager I remember my brother watching the movie Alexander, and I was really interested in a character named Hephaestion played by Jared Leto who had been Alexander’s best friend from childhood and was also his lover. I was even more interested to learn that this is in fact based in history, and that there is a lot of evidence that the real Alexander was indeed Hephaestion’s lover, so I wanted to have a parallel there in my story. I like to try and recognize gay romance when it occurs in history in places you don’t expect it: apart from Alexander and Hephaestion, my other favorite historical romance is King David (yes, that King David, the one from the Bible) and his lover Jonathan, whose sex scene is all but spelled out in the Bible itself, but Biblical scholars trip over themselves trying to explain it away as a close friendship. And this dealing with a character as notoriously romantic and sexual as David.

Anyhow, I had very little in the beginning apart from some names and some ideas. I knew that Hephaestion (for the first couple of years I erroneously spelled his name “Hephaestian,” and then kept it that way for a while after discovering the correct spelling, before finally converting) was Lucas’ romantic interest, and I had a vague concept of the two being joined by a forest goddess in a kind of faux-wedding ceremony bonding a guardian (Hephaestion) and his charge (Lucas). At this early point in the story not much else was concrete, and I had to mull over a lot of ideas before the plot came even a little bit into focus.

Eventually I decided that it would be too obviously derivative to keep Lucas’ last name Hohenheim, so I modified it to Ballanheim, which is what is has remained. In various versions of the story, Ballanheim is either not his true name or a name he’s adopted, but that’s the name that’s stuck with him. Often I get ideas for characters based on small details: Bronwen’s entire character seemed to be formed around her name and then around the idea of a red coat similar to the Red Mage outfit from Final Fantasy, Lucas was inspired by the name Hohenheim and it’s connections to the magical abilities of the alchemist from which I borrowed the name, Imogen’s entire inclusion in the story at all came from the fact that when I briefly tried to write the story using RPG Maker, I liked the character sprite of a witch, and so I made her a party member. Small details end up creating complex characters. Hephaestion’s entire identity was simply based on the fact that I wanted Lucas to have a gay relationship with a naming parallel to the Alexander and Hephaestion of history.

In one early concept scene, I attempted to switch the focus of the story to another character named Oliver. Oliver comes from an entirely separate story centered around vampire mythology that I began when I seventeen, and the original version of which is now lost. I also tried to combine Lucas’ story (at some times called Fairy Tale or The Fairy’s Awakening) with yet another story I never really finished called Jared and Cornelia, and early concept scenes show these connections as well. At one point Lucas was going to be a member of the main cast with Oliver at the center of the story as a human dealing with mages, vampires, and gods. This idea never really continued after the initial scene I wrote with Oliver speaking to Lucifer in the underworld (in fact I barely remembered the scene at all and had to go back and check to see just who the narrator of the scene was, I’d forgotten it was Oliver and assumed it was an unnamed protagonist).

I can’t say exactly how Lucas evolved at exactly when, but eventually I wrote the first version of my opening scene, which has been re-written several times. I wrote it by hand in a notebook and I don’t actually know what happened to that notebook but I’m hoping I still have it somewhere. The scene primarily consisted of Lucas standing, naked in front of a mirror, in his own room while he telekenetically whirled flames around the room and around himself. I got the idea for him closing his eyes and reaching out with “mind fingers” to grab the flames from reading Anne Rice’s depiction of how Akasha and other vampires in her story used an almost physical extension of their mind to set other vampires aflame. I remember it being important to me that Lucas was naked in that opening scene because I wanted to describe him in intimate detail: the light blonde hair covering his stomach, his penis and his testicles, his thighs and of course most importantly his face, the eye and hair color associated with which have been changed a hundred times and even now I’m not sure what exactly Lucas looks like. He probably has dirty blonde hair and blue or green eyes (they can’t be brown because one of Hephaestion’s defining characteristics is that he has brown eyes to match his curly greek-style chestnut hair). As for his reason for being naked, it’s because I like to describe things that I don’t often see described in other books, things that make scenes feel more realistic: you don’t ever really read about a character idly scratching their nose for absolutely no reason relevant to the plot, or pulling their undergarments out of their but, or masturbating just because they wanted to masturbate and not to drive a specific romance. I’m drawn to the idea of a naked and beautiful prince in front of a mirror more than I am of a clothed prince, so that’s what I went with.

I knew from the beginning Lucas was a prince, but a comment early on from someone pointing out that a blonde-haired blue eyed prince with magic powers seemed incredibly cliche, and that comment has stuck with me and always bothered me a bit because it’s absolutely true, but if I alter something about Lucas I want it to be because it’s true to his character, not just because I was following a (valid) criticism. He’s remained royal in some fashion or another, and only incredibly recently (within the last two days) did I consider changing his status to that of a governor’s son. It’s important that he be wealthy and a little spoiled because that’s an important part of his character; he has to survive in a wild and untamed world without the comfort he’s accustomed to, and he has to be continually surprised by the new places and people he discovers, so that I and the reader can continue to be surprised.

Lucas parentage has been pretty consistent. I knew that my villain was going to be a character whose name I still haven’t exactly pinpointed, but he started as Braeg Ballanehim, then became Elliot Varner, and sometimes a reversal of Varner Elliot. I still haven’t decided what his name should be but for the most part I refer to him as Varner. Varner is some kind of important figure, the de facto leader of Alexandria, because the royal family has no power. He’s also Lucas’ abusive father, but this fact is concealed from everyone with few exceptions: Hephaestion is the only person Lucas has ever told, and if Varner knew he would probably have Hephaestion silenced in some way or at least threaten him to keep him quiet. Lucas is the prince, but there is no king and queen. Why this hasn’t made Lucas king, when he’s been of young adult age for the entirety of his character’s development, I couldn’t tell you. He’s just the prince. His mother died in childbirth and his presumed father the king has died in a number of ways and never been important to the story, because his real father is Varner.

In the version of Varner’s story that I like best, he was a councilman for Alexandria who began an illicit affair with the queen, whose name I’ve never decided on. The queen had never produced an heir for the king, and as these things go it was of course assumed that she was barren, when in fact there were complications with her own body as well as the kings, she had become pregnant once before but lost the child quickly, and had never conceived since. She also didn’t have sex with the king often because she wasn’t particularly interested in him and only consented to it when he made an advance on her. The queen has always been a good-hearted character, though I imagine her marriage to the king was done without her consent and she’s lived a troubled life because of it. She and Varner began an affair and she became pregnant with his child, which delighted her and quickly became news, everyone assuming that she and the king would finally have a son. Varner, though at this point not quite the angry psycopath he would later become, was unhappy with this turn of events for a few reasons: first, because he had great plans in mind for Alexandria and hadn’t though about bringing a child into the world before but would be completely against it if he had not already transformed Alexandria into the vision he had for it; second, because he did not want his child being assumed to be the son of the king, a man he loathed. Though he felt guilty about it, he convinced himself that the most prudent course of action was to terminate the pregnancy, but didn’t want to directly hurt the queen in the process, so he sought out a potion from a witch that would kill an unborn child.

As it happens, the witch who gave him this potion would turn out to be the adopted mother of Imogen (a character later to become one of the main cast but at this point not yet born), an old woman alternately named Phoebe or Samantha, and she agreed to his request without much disapproval. Varner slips her the potion and to his surprise it has exactly the reverse effect on her: the queen is invigorated by the potion and the baby is more healthy than ever. The queen also exhibits some slight magical ability, such as making flowers bloom or bringing life to things she touches. She may also have exhibited the fabled White Magic (or healing, life-giving magic), which is something that will be important elsewhere in the story, but which I’m going to assume parents of mages can perform a limited amount of while growing the life of a magical child within them. Furious, Varner goes back to the witch, and after threatening her he learns from her that the only way the potion could have failed would have been if the child itself was magical being, capable of absorbing the magic within the potion that would ordinarily have killed the child. Not knowing about the history of a group known as the mages, Varner assumes the child is a descendant of witches, and though it’s within Phoebe’s power to make a potion that can kill an unborn witch, she at first refuses, but relents when Varner threatens to kill the children she watches over in her secluded home in the forest. Phoebe weeps when giving him the potion, confessing that for a witch to kill another witch, especially an unborn, is a sin of the highest order, and he mocks her hypocrisy by pointing out that she had no problem giving him a potion to kill an ordinary unborn child with no inherent magic. Phoebe attempts to dissaude Varner from using the potion by reading his future against his will, seeing that his child is a son who will become a great leader one day.

Varner feels conflicted about slipping the queen the potion. He was unsure of himself the first time, but this time, upon seeing the effect of the last potion, and wondering exactly how this new one might affect the queen herself, as well as learning a few details about his unborn child, he can’t help but feel love for the baby and doesn’t want to kill it. He steels himself, believing it’s his duty not to bring a child into the world as it is now, and gives the queen the potion. Rather than killing the child, it causes her to go into labor with the child early, and Varner hides himself in a wardrobe in the queen’s chamber as he witnesses the birth of his son. The queen begins slipping away during the birth and her handmaids go to bring a physician, but Varner bars the door and prevents entrance to her room, going over to the bed and speaking with her before she dies. She smiles and asks Varner to take care of their son. He attempts to confess his actions to her but is too late even to tell her he loves her, and she dies. Heartbroken and enraged, Varner slips out the window as guards and physicians break into the queen’s room. A wake is held that night for the queen, and afterward Varner sneaked into the king’s chamber and murders him, refusing to allow the king to raise Varner’s child.

Varner soon after meets the baby for the first time, and witnesses the child exhibiting faint magical ability. Feeling conflicted over his love for the child, he considers the baby to be the cause of the death of the woman he loves as well as a forestalling of his own plans to become ruler of Alexandria. Conflicted by a mixture of innate love for the child, his grief over losing the queen and his further love of the child for being all he has left of her, an anger at the child for ending it’s mothers life, and ultimately profound anger at himself for bringing the whole situation to pass, Varner offers to adopt the child in his capacity as a councilman and the offer is seen as generous and selfless, so it’s allowed. The prince remains living in the castle but Varner is to be his surrogate father (though he is of course the child’s actual father). He is allowed to name the baby and gives him the name Lucas, and begins to hate the boy as a means of covering up his own guilt. Lucas is given the last name of Ballanheim, the name of the fallen king.

more to come…

Naked

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“My heart is a chamber of darkness
My voice echoes in fear
I have lost all hope but still I call you
Hear me and grant me reprieve
Summon me from the night
Give me life.”

Chapter 1

He was naked.

His hair was a bright auburn that tinged itself with blonde, his eyes were a milky swirl of silver and blue. His body was lean and unintimidating, dusted with fine blonde hair across his belly and his legs and between them in a concentration above his groin. His face was something like handsome, though there was an emptiness behind his eyes. He stared forward but he didn’t seem to exist at all.

It wasn’t me.

This person was not the embodiment of the voice in my mind, this person was not my soul personified. But it was my body. And it stared back at me from a reflection in glass, like a stranger meeting my gaze. I didn’t entirely believe the reflection, I was sure that I’d still never seen my own eyes.

Dim light at the edges of my vision swirled about behind the figure in the mirror. Fire was moving through the air. I could feel it prickling the inside my head, I could feel it breathing. Fire, individual flames moving through the air in a rhythmic dance, slowly, breathing, breathing, breathing.

I closed my eyes. I almost imagined there were lights dancing in the darkness of my eyelids. I could feel the light from each flame as it danced along the air in a current that swirled around my body. I reached out with some kind of limb I didn’t understand and snatched the flames from candles that were placed in a circle on the floor around me. Come up, join the others. I pulled the flames from the wicks and they kept burning. They kept breathing. The little flames joined the larger ones in the silent song the fire sang, and they grew, breathing, hotter, and hotter.

Footsteps clicked in the hallway.

The flames whisped out, not one by one, not unanimously, some dying faster, but they all fell into sparks and died in the air.

The door to my bedroom was opened.

“Good afternoon, Lord,” said a friendly and companionable voice. Trust him not to knock before he enters. “I’d advise against standing about in the darkness without any clothes on, it’s unbecoming of royalty.”

The young man to whom the voice belonged strolled easily past me and pulled open two huge, thick velvet drapes, and sunlight burst hungrily across the floor and onto every surface of my room, and flooded my eyes, so that I saw a glimpse of the boy of with the light brown hair illuminated so brightly he seemed to change, and just as my eyes closed I could almost swear I saw someone else in his place, but I couldn’t place it, and my eyes were stinging, and the thought was lost.

“Honestly, you’d think you might remember you have a schedule,” said the young man impatiently, ruffling the drapes and smoothing them before turning and marching across the room to shut my door behind himself. “I leave you alone for one morning and you start having séances in the middle of the afternoon.”

I sighed and shook my head, “Eric, you know I can’t handle doing anything royal without you,” I said.

“That’s all very well,” he replied in a tone of trained annoyance that bordered between that of a disrespectful child and an overbearing mother, while strolling over to the drapes and unlocking the window latch, “But I’ve been your attache for two years and you’ve still to learn a thing about acting like an adult.” He whipped the window open and a chill that was not the breath of winter but not quite the sigh of spring whistled in and caught my bare legs, causing me to shiver and cross my arms in something like embarrassment.

Eric was already flinging open my wardrobe and grabbing undergarments, tossing them lazily on the bed behind him, though they landed in perfect order. I glanced below myself at the ring of burned out candles. The wicks weren’t black, still white. The fire had barely touched them. I wondered for a moment what Eric thought I was doing, he was too smart not to guess something.

But then, you don’t often guess that your master can wield fire with his mind. And if you do guess it, you probably don’t ask questions.

I sauntered over to my bed, which Eric suddenly noticed was completely unmade and almost rolled his eyes as he went to tuck the duvet back into the corners of the mattress. “One day you will learn to be something like self-sufficient,” he said in that same parental tone.

I realized that I was chuckling softly, standing there naked and looking like a fool, while Eric ran around behind me cleaning up my messes. He’d already managed to lay out my day’s attire on the bed and swept behind me to grab the candles from the floor. “But I can always rely on you, can’t I?” I asked.

“For a time,” said Eric, setting the candles down quickly and in neat order on a dressing table in the corner that I scarcely used for anything, “But you’re nineteen years old and you may be royalty, but you should still learn to take care of yourself. What will you do when I’m not around?”

“You’ll always be around,” I said defensively, grabbing a pair of short cotton briefs and slipping them up my legs.

“I wasn’t around until a couple of years ago,” he replied, “When the Chancellor appointed you a much smaller contingent of factotums,” Eric was already pulling a silk shirt over my head while he spoke, and I abliged him like a child who resented the act of being dressed, “Now I need you to try and act something near stately today, and tonight when we’re done with business you can pull off your dress clothes and roll around on the floor like a stubborn child.”

I giggled. I enjoyed Eric’s admonishment, because it was playful. He was incredibly skilled at his duty, he was loyal and trustworthy, and life had been a little easier to understand since he’s come into my life. His fingers worked at the buttons of a jacket he’d pulled onto me, and he clipped a green silk scarf onto the neck to trail behind me. “Do you have to add the scarf?” I asked.

“The accouterments of rank, lord,” he said kindly, “You’ll learn to live with it, one way or another.”

“You really do dote on me,” I said.

“And you dance upon my nerves, little princeling,” he said, “But I am older than you and you know to listen to your elders.”

“You are exactly seven years older than me, and as I see it you’re barely an adult yourself,” I replied.

He leaned in close to me and raised his eyebrows. “I set out my own undergarments in the morning, my lord,” he whispered, and he winked.

As breeches were hoisted upon my waist and a pair of stately black shining boots buckled and strapped at my feet, I stared back out the wide window that opened almost from floor to the grand tall ceiling of this vast chamber where I lived most of my time. I thought for a moment I could almost see something out there in the vast cloudless sky, like a small bird or maybe a large fairy tale pixie, but whatever I thought must have swam into the light of the sun because my eyes were stinging again and I looked away.

“Do try and behave yourself, Lord,” said Eric in a tone that sounded nervous, “And remember to rise when they say your full name and title.”

I rolled my eyes and announced it in a mock ceremonial voice, “Noble Heir to the Throne of Alexandria, fourteenth in the line of royalty since His Eminence King Hamlet, prince Lucas Ballanehim.”

“You’re the FIFTEENTH of the line since King Hamlet, Lord,” corrected Eric.

“Well I never met my father,” I said with an arrogant swivel of my head.

“And neither did I,” replied Eric, adjusting the belt about my waist and buckling it, “But I still know to stand when my name is called, and keep my mouth shut when appropriate. Learn from me.”

“Are you afraid I’ll get myself in trouble?” I asked

“I’m afraid you’ll get us all in trouble,” Eric said, and he almost yanked me forward and toward the door, “The conclave begins in less than an hour, so please, for me, practice being quiet while there’s still time.”