Summary: Sequel to Prince's Companion, Darkness' Escort continues on with two stories in one, that of magic-less Kayta, daughter of King Daniyl and Queen Dansa, of the human kingdom, and that of unnatural magic-wielder Feryl, son of King Sukan and Queen Aiza. It's a story of balances, and of learning to appreciate oneself, no matter what your talents or magics will be. This also continues the story of the rarely mentioned red-headed twins, Zambo and Aima.
Despite the storm, Father has declared that the traditional Gietfal dinner and after-rituals will be held, as well as your coming of age ceremony. If you so much as hint at not being there, Mother threatens dire consequences. Your robe is clean and hanging next to your bath, which I will have the servants fill two Positions prior.
The white parchment disappeared in a cloud of black fire upon his fist as Feryl threw back his head and stared unseeingly at the carefully painted patterns on the ceiling above his bed. An outstretched arm upon his raised knee, his other leg straight, he had been mentally reviewing what he had packed to ensure that he hadn't forgotten anything before he made his impromptu trip, when a servant had fearfully given him the note from his oldest sister and then practically run out of the room, his arms crossed in a protective gesture against evil. Feryl hadn't even spared the servant a thought, long since used to similar behavior from everyone who was not his family. Instead, he had read the note, and now it drifted to the floor in the form of black ash.
He stalked to the one window that adorned his bedroom, a large pane of thick glass that took up nearly the entire stone wall, which usually let an obscene amount of sunlight into his bedroom. At ten moons of age, he had asked his mother to allow him to put large shutters on it to block the light, for Feryl preferred his quarters to be dark, just like his life was, just as his magic was.
He banged a fist against the glass and cursed at the weather, which had turned stormy just before the sun awoke from its nightly rest. It was the only thing that could have prevented his early departure for the new ruins that had been found in the Southern Continent. His small satchel was already packed and he knew that his horse, Kursed, would also have been looking forward to the adventure that would have, at least temporarily, freed them from the confines of the palace. He had been planning this trip ever since he had turned twenty moons, to avoid the coming of age ceremony that every elf eventually went through. If necessary, he would have a private, solo ceremony when he reached the ruins, so that when the gods turned away from him, only he would be the audience.
Outside, the sky was filled with quickly moving clouds, a mixture of black and gray that forced the mage lights to burn brightly all day, and that refused to let even a sliver of the usual bright gold sky to shine through and offer hope to those that had been looking forward to a day of music, games, and excellent food. A howling wind swept across the gardens that decorated the grounds outside the palace, tearing apart and shredding extensive flower beds, and literally ripping limbs from the nearby forest. The grounds were littered with debris, small scraps of fabric stolen from their laundry lines gave color to the dark shadows that chased them across the ground. As the storm grew even fiercer, it would be foolish for any elf, even Feryl, to brave an after-Harvest storm.
Even as he watched, the storm was growing worse. Small explosions rocked the ground as first lightning punished it bold after bold, and then thunder shook the earth, roaring like a tsunami crashing against a rocky shore. Truly, from the dark safety of his chambers, the storm was magnificent in its fury and destruction, reminding all who watched that nature was the true ruler of the world. He could feel the energy of the storm rush through him and answer and fuel the unrest and anger he felt at not being trapped to attend a ceremony he dreaded most out of all of them. Nothing, but the amazing scene in front of him, could have prevented him from leaving, and his sister knew it.
He opened the stained glass side panes to allow just enough of the wind to stir up the papers off his side-desk and breathed in the smell of the rain as it began to soak his shirt and dripped down his thin face. The wind whipped a short strand of dark blond hair against his forehead and he finally closed the window before the carpet would be ruined and turned away from the storm to enter the small bathing room his sister had mentioned in the note. As she had promised, the formal white robe was hanging so it wouldn't crease, right across from the large metal bathtub, which currently sat empty.
Though the robe was beautifully made, hand-crafted by Tisra, who had made him stay still for three Positions while she measured it perfectly, it only made him dread his coming of age ceremony more. He had requested his robe be made of black silk, instead of the white his sister had chosen, but his family had insisted he wear his father's royal colors of white, with the decorating gold trim that symbolized his father's magic. Even thinking of wearing the robe made him feel like an imposter. Except for his family, most of those attending would probably resent his presence, although he had as much right to attend the Gietfal feast and coming of age ceremony as any of the fifteen other elves who would be participating.
A soft knock at the door drew him out of his musings as one of the palace servants, a young black-haired elf with shockingly white skin, entered the room. His eyes were carefully averted, and he wore the star-shaped pendant that supposedly protected the wearer against any evil. Not surprisingly, after his secret had been made public ten moons ago, every servant he saw wore one. Carrying a large pail of boiling water, the servant silently began to fill his bath, probably coaxed into the task by his second sister Alexia, or more likely, threatened, and unable to find someone else unto whom to pass the task.
Ten moons ago, he would have attempted to strike up a conversation with the elf. Though royalty, his family was friends with most of the palace staff, helping where able, and inquiring after the staff's families. Throughout the moon's time, there would be several small intimate parties held in gratitude for the hard work and loyalty the servants showed his family. After every servant he tried to talk to after his magic had been tested ran away or tried to shrink away, he pretended they didn't exist, and they tried to finish whatever small task they had to do for him as fast as they could with no contact from him. If not for his family, he would have thought himself invisible, or a ghost merely floating through the world of the living.
Feryl glanced at the clock and noticed that it was indeed two Positions prior to the ceremony's beginning. Tisra knew him too well, it seemed. She had sent the note to him half a Position ago, knowing he wouldn't have time to disappear, or escape his mother. Moving aside so that the servant had room to maneuver, a grin tugged at his lips as he thought of the strongly opinioned Queen Aiza.
A fierce fighter, and freely spoken woman, the queen was a wonderful mother, giving all she could to her two daughters and one son. Her emotions ran strongly, and sometimes they ran hotter than the Hell fires the Khunans warned against, and other times, they were cold enough to freeze a man's heart. She loved as she did everything else, with all her heart and soul, and Feryl couldn't think of anyone with a better mother. However, he could also remember many swats whenever Alexia had gotten Tisra and him into trouble. As with everything else, his mother had a quick to boil temper, which was controlled only, it seemed, by their calm, silent father, King Sukan.
As the servant fled from the room, Feryl traced his finger down the elaborately embroidered golden sun Tisra had decorated both sides of the robe with, his father's symbol, as well as that of the god Mormacok. Previously a prince from Earth, King Sukan was the rock in their family, always fair and rarely changing his decisions once made, he could calm their mother down with just the touch a finger or her name. He shared his love for his family with his wife, never failing to take time out of his busy schedule to eat with his family or help his sisters study, or have a discussion with Feryl about what Feryl thought of this situation or that. The king ruled his kingdom the same way, ruling with a fully connected mind and heart, his declarations were rarely thought unjust. Always level-headed in a crisis, and compassionate for those who needed compassion and mercy, he was as loved by the elves on Doran as if he had been born as one of them, instead of marrying into the elfin royal house.
Usually, if they were in trouble, Feryl and his sisters would immediately seek out their father, before their furious mother could get her hands on them. With his mother, all punishments were dueled out in the training fields, which often resulted in many bruises and sore limbs that lasted for a full Mark. However, Father could usually convince her that a lecture and a Fall of helping out one of the palace staff would be a better lesson. Sometimes, it almost had felt like a game to see whether the child in question would find Father first.
Tonight, however, Tisra had warned that his mother would be the one punishing him if he dated not show, and instinctively, he knew his father would not step in to save him. Though, as of the coming of age ceremony, he would be thought an adult elf, he knew his mother would not hesitate to demand to see him on the training fields, and despite his tremendous skill with any weapon she could toss at him, his mother had an instinct for fighting that could only be a born talent. Failing to show at his own coming of age ceremony would embarrass not only his family –even his grandparents would be there- but also the kingdom. Failing to show would only confirm in the minds of all who attended the fact that he should have not lived past his tenth birth anniversary.
Suddenly, the mage light in the bathing room was too bright for his eyes, though it was a much dimmer light than those found throughout the rest of the palace, and he fled to his private library and leaned against one of the smooth stone archways that supported the elaborate ceiling. Here, it was dark and cool, and forbidden to anyone but himself, and therefore, was his sanctuary whenever he needed to get away from everyone, especially his family. But he couldn't get away from his memories, not even here, though he could try to block them through the meditation a brave tutor had showed him, one of only two elves who had volunteered to teach him everything a future prince needed to know.
Breathing in, he silently chanted the sun's blessing until he had to let the air out, chanting the moon's blessing in his mind, his eyes closed, his body supported by the cool archway. In, and he mentally visualized his outward senses shutting down; out, and he began to search with his inner eye to assure himself that nothing had changed since his last meditation. In, and he submersed his mind with the rhythm of his heartbeat; out, and he merged deeper until he was just a soul suspended in darkness.
Few could reach him when he was this deep in a trance, and he reveled in it, for here, he could breathe easy and ignore the stresses that occurred outside, at least for a short time. He could explore the shifting cloudlike limbs that he swept through the darkness of his mind. Here, he learn more about his body, by following a cell through his bloodstream, or help his body heal from the latest torn muscle from a recent bout on the training field. He had spent many tutoring sessions marveling at the complexities of his own being, from his deceptively fragile skeleton, to the way his body sustained itself through forcing him to breathe and his heart to beat.
A soft humming thrummed rhythmically in his mind, and he could hear the rush of the air as it moved in and out of his lungs, pushing pure air through his bloodstream so that he could continue living. Combined with his steady heartbeat, it created a beautiful, soothing harmony that he could listen to for many Marks, perhaps many Phases. He could feel his mind beginning to escape from whatever had been bothering him before the meditation.
Suddenly, the black around his soul twisted and reached for him, capturing him as easily as a spider caught a moth, no matter how he moved to avoid it. It swam and twirled around him, adding discordant notes to an otherwise perfect melody. It was a much a part of him as his heart, and yet he despised it more than the elves it had caused to mistrust him. This was the reason even Khunans had told his parents it wasn't safe to continue to let him live.
Angrily, he thrust himself away from the black threads that had woven around his soul, disturbing his peace, and jerked himself from the trance he had been in. Frantically, he glanced at a nearby clock and sighed in relief. He had only been that way for a quarter of a Position, fifteen clicks. Moving away from the wall, he found himself shivering and in disgust, he drew a cloak from the back of a nearby chair and tied it around him. Every time his magic had to remind him that it existed. He could never escape it. He moved back into his bedroom, to sit next to the window, where the storm still howled in its fury and he could feel an echoing howl rise in his throat, which he choked back.
According to the Khunan who had delivered him at birth, he was thought a miracle when he was first born. His mother had experienced extreme complications during Alexia's birth, and should not have been able to even conceive again, much less give birth to another healthy baby. However, three moons later, Feryl was born without any issues, and for ten moons, he had grown up a regular prince, with his dark blue, almost black eyes, and dark blond hair that had caused the palace staff to dote upon him, much to his siblings' disgust.
Then, at ten moons, as was customary, his magic was tested, so that a proper tutor could teach him how to use it. Many expected him to have the same natural magic as his father, for his sisters had inherited his mother's powerful nature magic. Khunan Waleing had taken him into a separate room for the testing, and Feryl could remember sitting there, upon the high testing table, both proud he was old enough to be tested, and excited to find out what magic he possessed. He couldn't wait to show off to his sisters, who were known to tease him for not being able to name his magic.
It wasn't until the suddenly pale-faced Khunan stated doing the same test for the fifth time that Feryl started suspecting that something was wrong. Thinking the Khunan just couldn't find his magic, the young prince had thought to help the priest and conjured up a fireball, as he had seen his father do several times. However, whereas his father's fireball was a brilliant gold however, his seemed to be the complete absence of light. As soon as the ball of flame was conjured, Khunan Waleing threw him off the table and fled out the door, locking it behind him and leaving Feryl confused, hurt, and frightened.
Thinking that perhaps it was a cruel joke his sisters were playing upon him, Feryl had crept to the door, expecting to hear his sisters, especially Alexia, snickering, and had put his eye to the small keyhole. Instead of his sisters, though, the agitated priest was conversing with his frowning parents, and what he heard hit him like sharp daggers.
"He's a monster, Your Majesties." The priest went on to call him the reincarnation of the murderer of over six hundred elves from twelve years before his birth. He possessed the very same unnatural magic that had almost killed his father and all elf-kind. To even attempt to extract the magic from him, however, would kill him, as it was his only magic, and no elf could live without magic. The priest had gone on to explain the test results, and to remind his parents of that one horrendous day so many years ago. Somehow, that magic had been reborn within their only son.
He could remember seeing his mother furiously denying the accusation and his father, shocked, trying to calm her down before she killed the Khunan. Even his father lost control, though, when Khunan Waleing dared to suggest that Feryl be "put to an eternal rest" before the unnatural magic grew back to its full strength. The Khunan was dragged away by palace guards and sent to the Northern Continent, but even as his parents tried to hide their fear and the knowledge of the magic, the servants began to treat the young prince with great caution and fear.
Over the next three moons, he would be tested eleven more times, all by different Khunans. All said the same thing. Feryl possessed a murderous magic and therefore, his birth had been a curse. As a curse, and possessing a magic that was stained with the blood of many innocent lives, it would not be right for Feryl to be kept alive. Each time, both is parents, and then his sisters, fought against the order of priests. Under no circumstance would Feryl, who had yet to cause any harm, excluding the normal harmless pranks of any elf his age, be sentenced to death, despite the horror that lived inside him. Instead, if any tutor would step forward, Feryl should learn to control his magic before it controlled him.
Feryl, now, at twenty moons of age, could feel the unnatural magic rising in him like a hungry beast who knew its host was weak and uncertain. It was truly a living thing as it urged him to cause trouble. As a caution, he had urged any servant to knock and wait several minutes or until he okayed them to enter, so that his magic wouldn't catch him unaware and swallow a non-living magic like it had done so many years ago. He had done multiple studies of his magic, using himself as a test subject, to add to the great Chronicler's library any information he could upon the unnatural magic. Perhaps it was a way to prove that he was more useful alive, or perhaps it was to escape the fearful glances the elves around him shot his way. Feryl had spent most of his last ten moons within the warm walls of the library, or the cool darkness of his chambers.
Several tests had resulted in him crumbled on the floor, agonizing in pain as his magic punished him for the latest attempt to rid himself of it. He sought a way to destroy the magic within him, preferably without killing himself. All the texts pointed to the fact that he wouldn't escape such a maneuver with his life, and he felt it a fitting end to the royal family's curse. There was little written upon the unnatural living magic, or even its opposite, the natural living magic. Under the disguise of world tours to expand his education, he also sought out rare bits of information on the two magics and upon speculations of how to kill it, or even why it would have been reborn within him. So far, all he knew was that only natural magic could destroy it, and he knew his father, who had destroyed it twenty two moons ago, would not dare use it upon his son, not even for the good of the kingdom. Feryl had hoped that this next trip, to the newly uncovered ruins of an older elfin society, would yield results to him. He would have to put that off until tomorrow to see if the storm would abate.
A bolt of lightning struck mere feet away from his window, momentarily blinding him, but not causing any damage, thanks to a strong protective spell he had wrapped around him; a necessity after multiple assassination attempts upon his life, as he had grown older. Every moon, he felt the magic merge more completely with his soul. According to his father, for the magic to be at full strength, he had to allow the magic to be completely merged with him, and he would have to find a bond mate. He had avoided all female elves as his magic had started reaching out to bond, and believed that he could continue to avoid them, for he wouldn't force any elf to live in fear of him, or to have children who would also potentially inherit his magic. Preventing the magic from fully merging with him, however, would be more difficult.
At the coming of age ceremony, the merge would be complete, no matter how hard he tried to fight it. He didn't know how he would face those attending, several relatives of those his magic had once killed. Other than his sisters and his parents and grandparents, Feryl had no other friends to lend him support. Too many remembered the true Gietfal, the Great Sacrifice, the War of Living Magics. No friends would be there; he had none. None would associate with him.
The clock tolled half Position, and he jerked from his stance against the window. It was time to prepare, despite his own protests. With a frown, he extinguished a nearby mage light, his magic swallowing it and exulting in having completely destroyed that one small source of magic. A last longing glance outside and he moved back to the bathing room, where his tub stood full of steaming water, a small spongy luxuriant soap sitting upon the ledge. For some reason, that little gesture of kindness brought his anger to a head, and the soap burst against the door from the force of his throw, leaving him drained and sullen, on a day where most were filled with exuberance.
Outside, the storm clouds shifted slightly away as a sliver of dark moon was uncovered.
I'm already working on the second chapter, and hope to update sometime next week...hopefully some reviews will be waiting in my email, for I don't want to make this sequel "suck" as was mentioned by a reviewer when I first proposed the idea of a sequel to Prince's Companion.