Author Notes: Revamped Chapter 1! Now a Prelude!
.: Prelude :.
The Last Town
There once was a little town. So little in fact, that most neighboring towns preferred calling it a village. As small as it was however, people were happy here. Every morning shops opened, bread was baked, women bought groceries, men went to work, those who could afford it waltzed around the better part of town, showing off the things they had bought from the much larger town miles away whilst drunkards stumbled out of Inns, beggars begged and the gamblers gambled. Nothing was ever out of place in this merry little town – at first glance to any outsider, it was as picturesque as any other small, tucked away settlement. Upon looking closer however, the keen-eyed would notice several things amiss.
All young women who turned eighteen were bound with Genedora Vines; the vines that were said to ward off evil spirits. These vines were carefully dried and woven together to form finely woven ropes that were wound around the girls for an entire year until they reached the age of nineteen. Even then, most women kept some form of the vines with them at all times by sewing milled vines into their corsets or putting them in pouches along with other herbs.
But perhaps, most peculiar of all, the people absolutely refused to venture into the woods that surrounded the little town – most of all after sunset. Although the woods were thick and dense, there was nothing particularly ominous about them. But the Matriarchs of the towns would tell you otherwise. Local lore warned of Demons. Evil spirits and creatures – minions of the King who ruled the forest. All feared him but no one, not even the bravest of the town's men, would dare to face him.
For all of his evil, it was well known that because of him, their crops were always prosperous year after year and though all around them townships fell in the wake of invaders, they remained untouched. When war spread throughout the country like wildfire; the town was ignored and overlooked – despite its prime location. One of its borders touched the sea and its port was always busy with trade. Merchants here always found fortune and except for the King, the town had never been threatened in all of its existence.
The King promised protection to the town so long as they gave him one of its daughters every twenty years. In addition to his protection of the town, he would provide for the family whose daughter was given away.
Years and years ago, this same protection stretched over dozens of little towns and competition between towns for the giving away of daughters was fierce – for whichever town whose daughter was chosen, received the full boon of his blessings.
Over the many centuries, the giving away of daughters every twenty years became less of a curse and more of an honor to the families. Their daughters provided wealth. Their daughters provided protection.
But over the decades other towns faded away, forgotten and lost to the forest forever, the King destroying them: scattering the people of these towns until nothing remained. He spared just one.
It is here, that our story begins.
The King stood in a tower looking down at the village below him. It was a great distance between his castle and the village but it did not matter. He could see it just as if it were a few meters away. The people lived on in happy ignorance. He watched the children play in the main square – little flashes of color flitting around like dancing moths or dragonflies in the heavy summer heat. He looked down towards his garden.
Littered below were the stone bodies of the women who had lived with him the past few centuries. Daughters of the little town beyond. Their faces contorted in fear and pain. The King's face, had it been visible for it was covered by a white mask that was smooth and plain save for two eye holes; was blank and emotionless. He kept his colorless eyes trained on the grounds below him and suddenly the backdoors that led to this garden burst open and out flew Vivienne, his current "companion". He heard her cursing and screaming indecencies up at him and she turned to look up to where he stood in the tower. He merely looked on.
At the sight of him, her knees buckled and her expression changed. She was pleading now. Begging for forgiveness. He backed away slowly from the balcony he stood in and retreated back into the tower, Vivienne's shrieks following him into the darkness.
Like thick, murky oil, he glided down the staircases down to the back of the castle and out the open backdoors. His eyes fell upon Vivienne. Stone had replaced her flesh, and there she was: forever kneeling, forever head cast down in resignation; hair covering most of her face and velvet gown billowing around her. The King touched her pale marble shoulder and for a moment, the paleness receded and flesh showed beneath his fingers, still warm. As he touched her, the paleness continued to fade away till almost all of her arm was no longer marble.
But upon pulling away, she once more was completely stone. The freckles that lightly dusted her arm, glistened for a split second longer before she was nothing but rock. A perfect dark limestone and marble sculpture; eyes cast down to forever gaze upon the single treasure she had stolen and had caused her demise. He looked on at her tiny marble hands, clutched around the treasure.
He turned away. She had not lasted long. Very few went beyond a few months with him. Behind him, overgrowth seemed to already envelop Vivienne's form, like she'd been there forever. Like she'd be there forever.
Moving back into the darkness of the castle he did not glance back. It would be nineteen years more before his next Taking. It did not matter. Loneliness was nothing new to him. And besides, he had all the time in the world.
Author Notes: More information on the story (including faq's), here: thylaslain. livejournal. com/22086. html (remove spaces)