Return (Clandestina)

Lord Dorian, Steward of Piques, sat across from Duc Felicien, who had been his childhood friend so very long ago. They had been playing in a creek in the woods when the younger boy disappeared at Springfinding. Dorian himself could barely remember it, but the after-effects had been grand. The duc and duchesse had held out hope for several years, every great change in season bringing with it a wish that their only son would return, but the hope faded as time went by. The steward at the time, his father, took over more and more duties as the grieving couple found themselves unable to. With their deaths came an end to the noble line of Piques. Until now.

It seemed as if only a fraction of the time had passed for Félicien, though. He was still young, a boy, and Dorian’s own children could now be his peers.

“How long were you there?”

“Ten years. Or maybe a hundred,” Félicien replied with a shrug. That those two measurements were vastly different did not seem to bother him. “Time flows, but rarely at a steady pace. How long has it been in this plane?”

“Sixty years. Exactly. You disappeared at Springfinding and today is—”
“The first day of our Midspring, yes,” the young man interrupted. “The celebrations began last night. We escorted those out who would help prepare this plane for Spring, and I went along because I reached my majority.” He smiled and his grin broadened as he added, “I came to cause some mischief, but it seems I have brought much of it with me.”

“It is less you,” the steward said, “and more your return, that has us all..”

“In a tizzy?”

“..Yes.”

The boy was enjoying this far too much. But he was, after all, still a boy. He was too young to be an adult in Piques, but a fée’s majority was at the start of puberty. So he was fourteen or fifteen. That he considered himself fée was also disturbing.

“Well then,” Félicien said, spreading his arms and leaning back in his chair, balancing on the hind legs in a way that should not be possible. “I can always put things to right by just going back—”

“You cannot. You are the rightful Duc of Piques, you have duties.”

“I, duties?” His chair slammed down and Félicien laughed. A dangerous glint entered his eye. “You say this land is mine to do with as I desire?”

“In a way.” Dorian tried to chose his words carefully. “I have been handling the affairs since your parents deaths, but there has been no duc for many years. You have been returned to us, please, perhaps you may take some time to be here. Do this for me.”

“You? And who are you to me?”

“Dorian Louis, your steward. And a friend, from when we were young. It was on an adventure together that you were lost.”

“Dorian Louis,” Félicien repeated softly. A chill went down the steward’s back as he realized he had told someone of Faery his whole true name.

“Very well, then.” Félicien inclined his head. “On our friendship, I shall stay a time. Perhaps there is a reason I have returned after all.”

“Thank you.” Tension eased from his shoulders and Dorian leaned back in his own chair. This would be difficult. He was tempted to let the heir go back, make Ophion continue his duties as planned, but it would be wrong to deny the land its proper ruler. A steward was all well and good, but they were not the duc.

A soft knock had both looking over to the door. Dorian bade them enter and a young girl in rich clothes came in. His daughter, Ophélie.
Out of the corner of his eye Dorian saw Félicien stand and bow to her (more than he himself had gotten).

His daughter curtsied in kind, and then gave her attention to him. “Papa, forgive the interruption, but I was told to come give you aid? Brother has already left.”

“Ah, yes, well- my dear, this is His Grace, Félicien, the rightful Duc of Piques. If you would be so kind as to show him around his home.”

She turned now-curious eyes to Félicien and smiled. “Of course. Your Grace, if you would like to follow me.”

“Thank you, mademoiselle. And thank you, Dorian.”

“I am not the duc yet, am I?” Félicien asked as they left the room. “Surely there must be some sort of ceremony.”

“Well, yes, but as both of your parents are deceased, it is your title already. Though you do not seem of age, so perhaps the actual duties shall not fall to you for a while yet.”

“I am sixty-four,” the boy said proudly. “At least, I was born sixty-four years ago. But I feel not a day over fifty.” When she looked back to him, unsure of how to take his words, he laughed once more.

“And how old are you?” Félicien asked, walking beside her, focused more on her than the path they were walking.

“Fourteen years and a month,” she said. “The month is important.”

“Of course it is.”

“Now, I will show you around the domain and tell you what I know. Brother shall help you after, he knows more than I as he is Papa’s heir, but is not home right now.”

“Oui, mademoiselle, as you say!” Félicien stepped out in front of her, walking backwards while facing her. She tried to ignore him, looking over his shoulder, but it was difficult.

“Your name, my dear?” he asked, having studied her from head to foot. She was pretty, with chestnut hair that was pinned up, and almost-violet eyes.

“Ophélie, though you may continue to call me Mademoiselle.”

Félicien grinned. “Ah, but if I understand this, I am your duc. I may call you as I please.”

“And I am your guide for the day. Without me you shall be lost and confused and the cause of much trouble.”

“I like being trouble.”

She stopped at this and he continued for a few paces before hitting a stand that held a decorative vase.

“Like that?” she asked, as he whirled around to make sure it did not fall.

He turned back around a bit sheepishly. “Yes, just like that.”

“Well then, if you shall follow me?”

He returned to her side, taking her arm and gesturing with his free hand that she should lead the way.

“And your name?”

“Félicien Faunus.”

“Is that your true name?”

“Of course not.”


Pierre’s parents weren’t really characters whose stories I had in mind for a long time. But when I started to elaborate on backstory things began to come up. I am falling more and more in love with Faery and its land and people- something that I didn’t have as a part of Clandestina not that long ago. My favorite part is the messing with time- Félicien has aged only about 10 years or so, but a lot more time has passed for Piques. Time to forget what it was like to have a duc, time for the distrust of fée to simmer. And Félicien does not even care much at all for politics, and from the earlier Scene you’ll know he disappears in another thirteen years to leave Piques alone again with Ophélie’s death. Pierre is inheriting a lot of baggage. Fortunately he takes after his mother and finds people and politics interesting, even if sometimes he’s selfishly busy with dark magic.

 

Young King (Lanceophor)

She sat on her throne, alone in the chamber that was her power, and might well soon be her grave. The revolution had invaded and was now in her royal city. Her husband had been slain two days past and with His Majesty’s demise there came a weakening of the already weary troops. With her death the usurping would be complete.

She had sent away her ladies-in-waiting, not wishing their blood on her hands. Perhaps they would be able to flee, or would be spared. And so there was no one to comfort her as she let her tears flow. Who would dare call it weakness at this time even if there were witnesses?

They were trying to break into the room. A large bang hit against the great barred doors and made everything shake. She swallowed, took a deep breath, and smoothed her skirts. Her hands shook. As calm as she tried to appear, she was still the queen, it was all false. Her heart hammered in her chest and if she did not focus on breathing she would pass out.

She was going to die. She and—

The doors burst open. A swarm of bloody soldiers filled the room and she saw the bodies of her guards on the floor behind them. They seemed to expect more here and for a moment looked around before all turned to her. She raised her chin and stayed seated on her throne, her pearls catching the light, and crown high on her brow. The man in command began to walk to her, not sheathing his weapon. Finally she could not stand it and cast her eyes down to her lap—she knew his face, he had been one of her guards years ago before civil unrest turned into civil war.

“Stop!”

At the voice all in the room obeyed. The queen looked up to see a boy standing in the broken doorway, his hand was outstretched and commanding the men, even the captain. He was young, fourteen if a day, the queen thought, and yet there was blood on his clothes. Had he held a dying friend, or caused a spraying wound in another?

“Father has fallen,” he announced, and with that the queen knew who he was. The young lord, son of the rebelling nobleman, she had thought him too young to have come with his father and their men to this last stand.

In reply the men turned and bowed to him, many falling to bent knee including the captain. The boy seemed surprised but quickly shook himself of the feeling, nodding and drawing himself up to full height.

“You will end this immediately. Any more death after this moment will be considered murder. We have won. Go spread the word. Now.” Weapons were sheathed, or dropped, and the group of men that would have killed her left without giving her another glance.

He saw her then. His eyes widened again in surprise, but he tried to school his emotions after a moment. The time he would have spent being taught decorum was instead dominated by harsh war.

He walked through the room to her, stopping before her throne and bowing to her from the waist. “My Lady Kore.”

“Lord Aidoneus,” she replied.

He straightened, wincing, and for the first time she wondered if the blood on his clothes was his own.

“For the sake of our kingdom,” the boy said, “my father began this war against the king. We have slain kith and kin. But now he and His Majesty are both beyond this world. We no longer need shed blood or sow hate. I will be crowned in the upcoming weeks. To ease this transactions and help our people would you do- do me the honour of being my wife?”

She blinked at the boy. She was twice his age. In another life he could have been her son.

“Of-of course,” he continued, stammering but not pausing, “you will need time to grieve—” And you time to grow, she thought, “—nothing shall be forced upon you.”

“I accept.”

She finally stood and stepped down from the dais. The relief was apparent on his face and even a small smile touched his lips. He made to speak, but instead swayed dangerously, and more of his clothes began to stain as blood continued to seep from an unseen wound. She rushed to catch him.


I know very little about this story, but this scene has been in my head for quite a while and I finally got to writing it down. I’m sure there will be some changes in the story proper once I let myself work things out in detail.

I wanted to play with age and gender and expectations here- the older woman and young boy, yet he is the one who is more mature and hardened while she has had a relatively easy life as queen. The age gap is extreme, inappropriate even, save for the historical/fantasy setting.

Vampire

I suppose it was bound to become a chore. Was it not a bother to go out and hunt as an old man, even if as a young one all you could think of was to the best horse, your hounds, and how you would finally find the white buck?

Still, I was hungry, and so I followed the two girls from their evening entertainment. They walked together, believing themselves safe in each other’s company, only ten minutes from the apartment.

One pulled out a cellular telephone and began to read it as she walked, managing to avoid stepping from the curb with the help of her friend. They giggled and chattered about whatever was being read, but I ignored them.

As they were passing an alley (I thought it would be a lovely place for my meal), someone else stepped from the shadows. I stopped and waited, watching.

“Hey, sorry, but can I borrow your phone? Mine ran out of batteries, I can’t call a cab or my parents.”

“No problem!”

And without any sense of self-preservation they moved to the young man. I believe the second young lady thought something was off, she seemed to hesitate, but social norms precluded her from acting because, after all- it would be rude to just assume.

He used a knife with some efficiency, slashing the throat of the first woman before grabbing the second. A hand to her mouth muffled her scream and a warning made her stop struggling. It seemed the one he held was the main target, the second just a mistake to be cleaned up.

“Perhaps I may be of assistance?”

I stepped out into one of the dim street-lamps, raising a hand. He held the girl closer to his chest and pressed the knife even harder into her throat. A trickle of blood made it’s way down her collar.

“Oh, please, don’t spill her blood all over the ground. It would be a waste.” I bent over to pick up the fallen girl, already dead, most of her blood painting the sidewalk. Her phone was thrown as she fell and was by the trashcans.

A pity. Brushing off her wound I sniffed and tasted- no, no good. Too much was gone, what was left was bitter with a spike of fear and pain.

“I hope you have more finesse with that one,” I said, dropping the first girl. “You could have at least left me one.”

He had paled while watching me, but had not said or done anything else. When I turned to him he tried to gather up his courage.

“So you’re a wei– vampire?” I had heard the insult before he swallowed it. For not finishing the word I let him keep his tongue.

“Yes, I am. Now, let go of that poor girl, she’s frightened to death. Look, she’s soiled herself already. Surely that is not what you’re hoping to happen.”

He glanced to the girl, who had curled up as much as she could, trying to twist away from him and as far into herself as possible. She had indeed wet herself, and now shook in silent sobs while trying to keep breathing against his gloved hand.

“I wanted to just… I love her,” he said, “you know? I’ve seen her every day for three years at the cafe and she’s moving to a different town, another college somewhere, and I just.. hey, Sarah, I’m sorry, I mean, I don’t want to scare you.”

“Good man,” I complimented as she seemed to relax ever so slightly. The knowledge that this wasn’t a random murderer was often helpful to victims, even if it did not usually help their survival in any way.

“May I help? Perhaps I could solve all of your problems.”

“How do I know you won’t take her instead? Or kill us both?”

I held my hands out in a gesture of peace. “I give you my word.”

“Your word?” He scoffed at the term and my patience grew thinner.

“Yes,” I said. “My word. I promise she will stay with you.”

He nodded, begrudgingly, and I wanted to tell him to speak up when he was spoken to by his betters.

Ah yes, this is how one found themselves reinvigorated. A child, a pupil. In teaching one could relive the mayhem of youth.

“Good. Now, first, let us get her comfortable.” I held out my hand and he let go of the girl–Sarah. She jumped away from him, tripping over her friend’s body, before she let out a shriek and collided into me.

I wrapped my arms around her, hugging her rather than restraining her. “Sarah,” I said into her ear, “my dear Sarah, shh. It is alright. Would you like to change out of your clothes? They can’t be comfortable.”

She was shaking, but did whimper something of a ‘yes’ so I took that as consent.

“Turn around,” I ordered the man. He stood there a moment, bloody knife still in his hand, unsure if I was going to take her away. I held back a sigh- of course children were often stupid and had to have everything explained to them.

“You are not her husband, or betrothed. You will not see her naked. Now turn around.”

“Neither are you!”

Rebellion. Oh, fun.

“I am over two hundred years old, you are both infants in comparison. Are you suggesting a father helping to change his daughter is doing so with lustful thoughts?”

“N-no.” He turned around without another word, finally accepting my tale and authority. Whether it was my tone, or the fangs that I had allowed to flash in annoyance I was not sure.

“Now, Sarah,” I said. “You and your friend are about the same size, yes? Have you ever borrowed each other’s clothes?”

“Yes. Emmy and I have similar styles, I’m actually wearing one of her favorite…” she stopped talking to look at the body of her friend and her shuddering body became one frozen in fear.

“Shh, don’t mind her. It was just her time to go.” I stroked her hair as I spoke and whatever mystical properties kept me alive and in need of blood also began to calm her. It did not matter how absurd my statement was, if I was saying it it was alright.

“Yeah.. and she was being a bitch earlier.”

I laughed. The tension gone she looked down at her pants and wrinkled her nose. Undoing a button she slipped her pants from her, then her underwear, and stood half naked while unsure of how to get the clothes she needed from the a still-warm corpse.

I did it for her, in a flash having taken off the bloody jeans that, while not much better, were still preferable to piss.

She put on the clothes and thanked me.

“We have been here long enough,” I announced, after the boy– he introduced himself finally as Jeffrey– had turned around. “Now, Jeffrey, where would you going to take Miss Sarah?”

“To my house. My basement.. I made a room for us down there, got contractors for a kitchen and.. thought I’d keep her there, keep her with me.”

“Yes, keep her with you, wishing to save her. Wouldn’t you like that, Sarah? To belong?”

“I would, yeah. It would be nice. That’s why I was leaving anyway, I didn’t belong here..”

“Of course you did! You belong with me!”

She shrunk away from him at the outburst, but after looking at me for confirmation, she gave a shrug. “I could try being with you.”

I moved over to Jeffrey, Sarah holding my hand as we went deeper into the alley and behind the homes.

“You, Sarah, shall be with Jeffrey. And you, Jeffrey–” I turned his head so he looked me in the eyes. “You shall belong to me. You will do as I say, act appropriately for your station, and never tell a soul of anything that has happened or will happen.”

“Yeah, ok.”

I smiled, my fangs peeking out again. We had gone a few blocks, far away enough not to be the first seen, but close enough to hear police sirens. There were none.

“If we may stop a moment before we continue to your abode, Jeffrey,” I said. “I am still quite hungry.”

I pulled Sarah closer and she stepped into my embrace without question. Jeffrey opened his mouth to complain, but I held up a finger and shushed him. “I shall not harm her.”

He swallowed hard but stayed silent.

I ran my hand through Sarah’s hair again. It was short, a bit spiky. She reminded me of a woman I had known in my youth.

Even without asking she tilted her head to the side, forehead resting on my shoulder, exposing her throat. I bent down and bit.

The first mouthful was honey. She made a small squeaking noise at the initial puncture but stayed still and allowed me to drink my fill. I needn’t much and took less than humans asked for in donations to aid others. I pulled away and licked my lips before pulling out a handkerchief so she could press it to her wound.

“Thank you.”

“You are most welcome.”

She smiled up at me and I made a swift decision at her adoring look. I bit my own finger and placed it between her lips. She made the same squeaking noise as before and my heart warmed.

“Hey!” Jeffrey seemed to have finally lost his patience. “Why are you doing that? Won’t that–”

With my free hand I grabbed his collar and lifted him into the air.

“Why yes,” I agreed, looking back to the girl that I was nursing with my blood. “That would make her my daughter. I believe I prefer her to you.”

“You said she’d be mine! You gave your word!”

“I said that she would be with you. I never specified the arrangement.”

I turned to Sarah, who was taking in the world around her as her body changed and became something immortal. It was early, the change would take place over the next few days in great intensity, but already her senses would be sharpening. She would also be hungry.

“You said you’d help. How is this helping?!”

I chose to ignore the accusation as he twisted in my grip. It was no use.

“Sire?” Sarah was looking to me, taking me in, the knowledge of our kind filling her brain and instilling lessons into her flesh like instinct.

“Sebastian,” I corrected. I would not be that strict with my dear daughter. “Though you may call me whatever pleases you. If I object I shall say so.”

“He wanted to take me, to keep me and hurt me. Please don’t let that happen.”

“Of course not, dear. He is your pet, you may punish him as you see fit. Are you hungry?”

At her nod I threw Jeffrey down. She silenced him as he had her, a hand to his mouth, though she crushed his jaw with the grip. I did not correct her.


It’s been a while since I’ve written a Scene and posted it here. I’ve been busy with Delphinium and marketing, but I thought I owed y’all something.

I actually wrote this around Halloween for a reply in reddit’s Writing Prompts subreddit, so it doesn’t really fit the season, though you can imagine snowfall if that helps 😉

I didn’t add a realm to this Scene because it doesn’t really fit that well in the Noctuina we know (I don’t think I’ve ever posted something in first person either). It’s more Urban Fantasy than I’m used to as well. But lately I’ve also been thinking about the timeline of my world and how, while slow, technology does advance in some realms. Maybe it’ll get to a point where it’s more like our time and I can write versions of Urban Fantasy in Noctuina? And how will the people who grew up, who lived, through the medieval eras deal with modern life?

I have two mostly-finished Scenes in my folder that, for some reason, don’t feel right, so they haven’t been posted. I’m sorry about that. I’ll give them a look over and try and find what I have to add in for them to click. I think one needs a change in setting, and the other maybe some more backstory.

Wolf Girl (Astrarctia)

She should return to the woods. She’d lived in this town for five full moons, longer than she usually stayed in one human place, but she had been comfortable. Another like her lived here and though she had not met with him he felt like family. It was more than she usually had and she had not wished to give it up.

But they knew. She did not think it was her that was caught, but it was a warning she could not ignore. If a ringian had not already been sent for one would be soon.

The full moon had been last night, and unlike months before many had hid in their homes from late afternoon, when the moon first appeared in the day-sky. As a born werewolf she could change shape whenever she wanted and was not even forced to by the moon, so she had not dared shift. She had wanted it, desperately, and felt dizzy and on edge all night, but she sat with the other urchins and homeless of the town in the meeting hall and tried not to bring attention to herself. They were told they had been brought to the hall for their own safety, but more likely it was to make sure they were human. She stole a cap to wear over her white hair and did not look up, hoping her amber eyes would seem hazel in the shadows. She had not slept at all.

Now it was dawn and she felt safe enough to leave. She would eat, hide things she could not take, and disappear. Once she was far enough in the forests she would shift and find a place to curl up and sleep. If she was lucky she would run into a pack that could take her in for a time, but she had been a lone wolf before.

She had caches all over the town and she went from one to another. Most had food, meat she had caught or stolen and then packed in snow, and some had clothes. One had a knife she had found in the woods. She ate the food and left the clothes- maybe some of the other urchins would find them and use them. She would not need them with her fur. The knife she wished she could take, it was a good quality, but would be useless with her teeth and claws.

Every moment she stayed was another moment she was in danger. Some of the shops were opening for the day, people were beginning to leave the safety of their homes, and all would be wary and on the lookout for a werewolf in their midst. She decided she had eaten enough and abandoned the last few caches, heading towards the woods. It would be best if she was not seen, even though she had ‘proven’ her humanity. It would be foolish to be seen going into the forests the day after a full moon.

Voices stopped her. She froze behind the thick trunk of a tree and listened. They were speaking to each other and it did not seem they were looking for her.

“Go!” a woman sobbed.

“Quick, son.” A man’s voice, gruff with emotion.

“But if I leave they will know!” The third voice was of a boy.

“If you stay you will die.” The man again.

The wind picked up and blew towards her, bringing her a wealth of information. The man and woman were married, and the boy was their son. He also had the scent of wolf and blood on him.

She peered around from her hiding spot. The boy had a hand wrapped in bloody bandage, and his clothes were torn and ragged. This was not the werewolf she had scented before, though, this werewolf seemed to have shifted for the first time last night, not even aware enough about what was happening to take his clothes off.

She began to walk to them slowly, but the boy turned to her as the wind changed direction again, and now gave him information about her. The parents looked at her too and the mother’s eyes widened in fear. The father moved towards her, as if he could silence her and protect his son. If she was a human girl who heard what was being spoken, and then told the town it could be death for all of them.

“She’s one too,” the boy said, figuring out what her scent meant, moving to stop his father.

“Was she the one—”

“No,” the boy said quickly. “It was a male, a man, that..” He moved his hurt arm. His father took a step back, but did not look away from her.

“I’m Inisaira,” she said, reaching them. “Aira. I was leaving after last night.”

“Ander,” the boy replied when his father said nothing. “I was too, I guess. I… changed last night.”

“We want him safe!” his mother said. “Please, help us. Take him far away!”

How could she turn him away? He was was taller than her by a few inches, older than her,but she had certainly been a werewolf longer. She had felt safe enough just knowing a werewolf was in the same town (even though she now thought horrible things about the wolf that had bitten a child). This could be the start of her own real pack.

She began to take her clothes off. The man turned away, but the mother and boy did not. She was still young enough that it was not unusual to be naked in the summer months. Of course this was winter.

“Hurry,” she urged Ander, throwing her shirt on to the ground. “We will run faster as wolves. Your parents want you safe, that is more than I’ve seen in some other places.”

Once they were both naked, the boy looking more uncomfortable than her, she nodded to him. Good, he was listening to her. “You were bit, but you can still turn into a wolf if it isn’t a full moon. You need to mean it- say a prayer to Luna and picture yourself shifting.”

It took him a few minutes to change. Aira was a wolf in only a moment, and she observed the boy while he concentrated. Finally his limbs began to move and fur sprouted from his body. The mother gasped and she hid in her husband’s arms, but the father did not look away. Ander crouched and then fell in the snow, but quickly his new form appeared, one accustom to snow and the forest.

He stood, shaking off the snow that clung to his golden fur, the same color as his hair. He was an older puppy, like Aira, neither yet adults as people or beasts but needing to act without guidance from adults.

They regarded each other in this second form. Their scents filled the air and both knew even more about each other than when they had scented each other in human form. Ander knew she was a born werewolf, the alpha, and that she was tired and worried, even if she tried to hide it. She knew he was bitten a few days ago, the bite tearing when he shifted last night and reopening wounds. He was worried too, even afraid, but was determined.

She took a step to him and looked up into his eyes. He tilted his head in confusion, and then slowly bent his head in understanding. He licked her snout, crouching before her.

Brother, she said, nudging him. Beta.

Sister, he agreed, nuzzling her face. Alpha.

She looked to his front paw. He had taken off his clothes but had forgotten about the bandage. It was now lose and twisted up in his fur. She bent over and grabbed an end in her mouth, pulling and shaking her head until it came loose and she dropped it. When his wound began to bleed and he whined she licked at it until it stopped.

She glanced to the parents and gave a nod so they would understand. The father nodded back, and then mother tried to hide her tears by picking up their clothes. With a meaningful look to Ander she dashed off into the underbrush. He followed.

 

Scene 7

Working on Scene 7, ‘Wolf Girl.’ The main character is Inisaira, one of my first characters from way back when I was 13. Her story has been a constant in my mind for years, and I’m glad to be getting back to that realm (and werewolves, I love werewolves). Charting the timeline is helping me sort through 13 years of memories, old ideas, and plots that no longer work. Like with Clandestina I have several generations of stories there (I love a family saga).

I’m thinking Inisaira’s story might be the second series I begin properly (alongside Pierre and Lizzy’s), but much of that is still in the air. Plus I want to write the short-story ‘Dear Friend’ (which is in yet another, third, realm) which seems too long for a Scene, but shouldn’t break 10K. I might put it up for 99cents or even free from the start. I have six or seven main realms where many of my stories take place, and many many more minor realms that I don’t know enough about yet, but plan to work in. Remember, Noctuina has 256 different magical realms, with different cræfts, bestia, and histories.

Delphinium is coming along well too, I’ve been at the beach this last week and that helped with a lot of thinking and plotting. I’ve actually updated Larkspur with the opening scene of Delphinium, and an author’s note near the start.

‘Wolf Girl’ should be up tonight 🙂

Hanging (Clandestina) [Rough]

The professor was not in the classroom as the students walked in to Anatomy. There were instructions written on the board in large letters (each student was to pair up with two others, choose one of the corpses laid out, and disassemble as much as possible, labeling each organ and its function. For extra credit they could find out the cause of death) but that was all. They had done this, or similar, exercises several times before under the watchful eye of their teacher, but today it seemed to be a test of how well they could work on their own.

Pierre Salvador stood by himself while most of the group paired with friends. Piers had finished his studies already, leaving for home a few weeks before, not needing the extra time in surgical schooling. The princeling therefor found himself alone more often than not now that his only true friend here was gone. It did not bother him much, he preferred working alone, but it was not pleasant. Possibly his status was scaring others away, or perhaps something about him radiated with Mora’s cræft? He had never looked into the problem.

At the end there weren’t enough students for an even number of triads and Pierre stayed alone. He noted that one group had four students, and he should have at least been paired with one of them, but it let it go. There were also not enough bodies either so another group would be useless. He could make a fuss, or join one of the groups to observe, but he had better things to do. This was something he knew well already, and Mora has asked he kill a man for her.

He made to leave, minding to tell the professor later that he was feeling ill and to either get the assignment dropped or allowed time to remake it, but the door opened as he was walking towards it.

Two men in guard uniforms entered,  a covered tray between them. They saw Pierre, apart from the others and the eldest, and addressed him.

“Monsieur! We are here to bring a body for the students. He was just hanged and sent here immediately for their observation.”

“Merci,” Pierre said, taking the wheeled slab and flipping over the white sheet. Beside the angry blue bruises around his throat he seemed asleep. His skin was still warm.
The prison guards said something and left a moment later after receiving no reply, the princeling having stopped paying attention to them. The corpse took his whole attention. The man was still in tattered rags.

He did not feel like a corpse, not in the same way the others had, but he had not spent extensive time with very many bodies. Perhaps they felt different based on their type of death?

Most of the others had abandoned their chosen body to come observe him now. A fresh corpse was rare, and never this fresh. Those unlucky enough to get the last body often had to deal with the stench of decay.

Pierre held out a hand and someone obliged him by handing a scalpel over. He cut into the torso only for blood to spurt onto his hands and clothes.

“Merde!”

“He’s still alive!”

If the bright lively blood had not confirmed it, a moan from the man and his eyes opening did. One of the youngest boys fainted. A few turned to help him, even more turned away entirely, but Pierre continued to watch in silence. He had seen men die before but every experience was new. Had he been dead and come back through a miracle, or had the doctor on staff at the prison merely not done his job?

Someone finally yelled out that they would run and get a professor and the door slammed on his way out. Pierre bent over the body and touched his pulse. The neck was bruised and swollen, presumably by the hanging that hadn’t managed to snap the spine, but it throbbed a slow heartbeat. He wrapped a the rest of his hand around the windpipe. No one was looking at him, no one dared looked up to see the eyes of a man who had been pronounced dead. He squeezed, and there was a gargling noise before the heartbeat stopped.

The door burst open and their professor had returned.

“Away, away,” the surgeon called, shooing his way near the body opposite Pierre.

“Your Graceful Highness,” he addressed Pierre respectfully. “What seems to have happened?”

“Monsieur, he still seemed alive when I started to cut. His blood flowed and his eyes snapped open. He made a noise as well.”

The professor was nodding, placing a stereoscope to the man’s chest, then neck. After a minute though he shook his head.

“Well he is not alive now. Do not worry, it is nothing you did, merely a dead man hanging on to life as tightly as he could until no more. See, he is malnourished, dehydrated, and was through a trauma. Let us merely call it a delayed hanging and leave it at that.”

Done with the analysis he nodded to himself again, wrapped the stethoscope around his neck and looked to the student.

“Well?” the professor prompted. “Back to your stations, there is still an hour and a half left in the course.”

Students shuffled back to their chosen bodies, one group’s left alone as the two boys who were paired with the one who fainted helped him to the side.

“I will go check on Raoul,” the professor said to Pierre. “You may continue with this body but I understand if you wish to skip this class.”

“Non, merci professor, I will be fine.”

He lined the slab up in the back of the room with the others, on the leftmost side with his back to everyone else. He finished taking off the man’s clothes.

“He would have lived.”

The voice in his ear was female, and Mora suddenly stood by him wearing what only could be called a women’s uniform in the style of his own, though the students were all male at this University. Her hair was tied back in a deep crimson ribbon, and his wings were furled close to her back, but still there.

“With medical attention,” Pierre agreed. Attention a class full of students could have begun to provide until someone with more knowledge arrived. But the man was a prisoner sent to death. He would have only been executed once more. This was in a way kinder.

Mora looked to him and made to say something, but stopped instead. She smiled and then disappeared, off to greet the dead man’s soul in her plane.

Pierre had the feeling she had been about to inform him of the man’s innocence, a mistake in the roi’s judgement (for the roi was the duc in this land as well). But even if that were true it would no change the sentence. The roi had spoken. Pierre merely complied.

——-

This scene is very rough. I wrote it in two days, the bulk one evening with the ending tagged on the next morning. I *had* to finish writing it because it just wouldn’t go away. But now that it’s out I can’t find it in myself to edit it much. It isn’t ready for any official publication, and I don’t think I will put it up over on wattpad until I get around to fixing it, but it may offer a good overview as to what a rougher draft of my stuff looks like. So I’ll post it with the Rough tag and when I get around to fixing it up I’ll relabel it. Might be useful to compare and contrast later for me too.

 

Eglė (Clandestina)

I’d like to mention before you read on that this is a graphic piece involving gore and death.

——-

Ophion stopped to set up camp. After tending his horse and starting a small fire amid a circle of stones he walked around the clearing to stretch his legs. He had been riding for three days with little sleep and both he and his horse were exhausted. Today would be an early night and tomorrow likely a late morning, but they needed to rest. It would do no good to his patients if he could not take care of them.

Mora, The Lady of Death, had been visiting him ever since this plague began. She spoke to him of power he could gain, power she would give, to turn the tide against the illness that ravished the land now for months. The spirits were angry, she told him, restless and in need of discipline. There was only so much she on her own could do, but if he helped her…
A hiss broke through his thoughts. Looking down he saw a small garden snake amid the dead branches. It was late winter, almost spring, but perhaps he had woken the animal from its rest, or it wanted to move closer to his fire. He stepped aside to let the serpent pass, but it only stared at him.

He could kill the snake.

Not that he had anything against it, he was fond of snakes in fact. But to begin practicing necrocræft one chose, killed, and resurrected a creature to become their Familiar. Mora had told him before he left the last town that he was ready if he desired.

The last few weeks have been difficult. He had lost more patients than he saved, and it was no guarantee the stable patients would stay that way after he left to yet another town, another tragedy. It was a dark magic, this necrocræft, one punishable by death in the kingdom of Triumphe. But there was already so much death here. If there was any way to prevent some of it, even if at the end it cost him his own life, would he not do it?

Mind made up he went to rummage through his bags. No point in delaying this. He would sleep after, letting himself rest after the journey and the magic he was about to try and perform.

He wanted to kill the animal with as little suffering as possible. He had medical tools in his bag, but they were either small knives or a large saw, and trying to cut the head off a serpent with something used to cut through bone was overly harsh. Finally he settled on a cooking knife. He would have preferred something a bit larger, but it was the closest thing he could find that would do minimal damage.

The snake had only moved a few inches during this time, crawling over towards the fire. It did not seem to mind him, and did not even turn its head when he knelt down on the cold ground beside it. His horse, several feet away, was not paying him any attention, probably already sleeping while standing.

Ophion took a deep breath. It was just a small garden snake, barely as long as his arm. It could bite him and slither away if he was not careful, maybe spook his horse if she woke, but it was not much of a threat. He put his left hand before the snake’s head and waited. Still no alarm from the creature. He moved his hand closer, then touched the top of the head. Its tail flicked but nothing more.

He raised the knife and placed it close to where his thumb rested over the snake, just above touching the neck. At least at this angle he was not looking the animal in the eye, and maybe the snake did not see the blade. Would it matter? Did snakes have any concept of knives or how they could kill?

Another deep breath. He pulled his hand back and then slowly let it descend so that it would be in the same place. He did this two more times, making sure his aim lined up. The forth time he chopped through the animal.

Blood. The tail seemed to jump away, twisting and writhing while what seemed like a never-ending stream of blood poured from it. The head just sat there under his hand. He backed away, falling into a sitting position in the grass. The blood quickly flowed up to him and began to stain his clothes. He was used to blood, especially during this plague, but this was too much. This was the amount you would find in a person, though perhaps someone young..

The body of the snake stopped moving only to begin growing. Scales became skin, the tail split in two. The head changed as well, growing larger and with hair so soaked in crimson that you could not tell what color it was supposed to be.

A child. The snake that he had beheaded had transformed into a young girl right before his eyes. She lay in a pool of her own blood, eyes open and staring straight at him.

“Oh, God.”

Mora appeared, already kneeling in the blood. The Lady of Death looked kindly to the child and took off a large shawl to cover her body.

“Ah, dear Ophion,” The Lady said softly. She took the head onto her lap, stroking back the girl’s hair. She made no move to close her eyes.

“I killed a child,” he whispered. Shock had frozen him to his spot and he watched the display like it was a performance. If he allowed himself to grasp the reality he would go mad.

“A fay child,” Mora corrected. “Living in these lands outside of Triumphe, but still within Clandestina. There is wild magic in the air here. She is not fée, but perhaps her parents are.”

“What do I do?”

At this the Lady looked up at him, puzzled. “You bring her back, of course.”

The Lady placed down the girl’s head and moved her body so she cradled the child. Her dark clothes were stained even darker, and the blood shone on her pale skin. Taking the severed head she placed it back on to the neck. With a finger she drew a circle around the girl’s throat, where the severing had taken place, drawing in the blood.

Once she pulled her hand away there was still a corpse, but at least it was in one piece.

“Here,” she said, laying out the child.

Though it was said as a suggestion he obeyed as if it were a command. He crawled through the blood and looked over the girl. The shawl covered her from collar down. She was ten, eleven years old at most. It was hardly the first time he had seen a dead body, but never had he caused it. Even losing a patient after doing all he could was nothing to compare to this.

But he hadn’t known. It was a snake, just a snake. Some other realms had shifters of form, but not this one!

Wild magic, Mora had said. Untamed spirits that probably leaked from Faery into these lands.

“How?” he asked, as if he could harm her further. She was dead, what else could he do to her? But he did not want to hurt her any more. God, oh, God, why had he done this.

“Take your own blood,” Mora said. “Have her consume it.”

“But, but you said I needed an animal, My Lady. This is a child!”

“So you will leave her like this?”

He turned around to pick up the knife he had used to kill the child. The child. He did not even know her name. He did not even know her hair color, so stained was her body. He needed to wash the blood out of her hair. He needed to clean her up, give her some clothes. He needed to return her to life and never again do anything this sinful.

The kitchen knife was covered in blood, none of it his own. He found a clean patch on his attire and tried to wipe it away.

His own blood. Blood for blood. If he slit his own throat would that be enough? What did he have to give to bring this child back from the dead when he had been the one to put her there?

“A severe injury,” Mora said in reply. Had he spoken aloud or was the Lady more knowing than he thought. “One that may, without proper care, risk your life.”

He raised the blade to his throat, but changed his mind and lowered it again. If he did not live long enough to even try the cræft it would be useless. Instead he moved the knife to his wrist. He was not a surgeon, but he understood the body. If he cut deep enough this might kill him, but it would take some time.

He cut again. More blood. He put his wrist above the girl and blood dripped around and into her lips.

Before he could ask what next he felt her. It was like his body housed a second soul, filling his chest and making him light and dizzy. A heartbeat that should not exist began to thump in his ears. He reached out, with both his mind and his hand, and through the planes of existence found the girl’s soul in the land of the dead. She waited for him, smiling, and so very curious about the magic he was doing. Without hesitation she placed her hand in his and suddenly reality was around them again.

The soft thump of her heartbeat still filled his body as his own began to slow. He was still bleeding from the wrist, adding even more red to this clearing that looked as if a massacre had taken place. Before he lost consciousness he saw the girl open her eyes and smile.

—————–

I had not expected such a long and graphic scene when I began this. I knew Ophion had killed Eglė as a snake, thinking she was just an animal, and she turned into a girl after her death. He then, as you may know from Larkspur, adopts her as his daughter. This incident is mentioned off-hand in Delphinium, and I plan to expand of this even further in a novella called Famula. It is during the time of a great plague and in his desperation he begins to study necrocræft. Unlike Pierre, who is fascinated with death, Ophion is trying to do for good reasons. But dark magic is not to be played with.