Below is a short story connected to my series in-progress Darkness Falls. Compulsion is set a few years before Darkness Falls. This story will only be available on this blog (and perhaps published in magazines), giving you more insight into the series. I hope you enjoy the story and please leave your comments below! I would love to hear what you think!
What was once a formidable castle was now a forgotten ruin. Centuries of disuse had allowed the dark tower to fall into almost complete disrepair and Dorian’s heart mourned for its loss. The Dark Sovereign’s reign had ended abruptly long ago but the evil still lingered within its confines. The evil is what had compelled Dorian to return to this once hallow place.
The throne room, once a place that demanded immediate and unquestioning obedience, was now barely acceptable as living quarters, but he could not afford such luxuries as he was used to. A more urgent matter required his attendance. Comfort would have to wait.
The most important matter, which he had attended to before anything else, was to cast complex illusionary spells surrounding the castle. He could not risk someone accidentally stumbling across this place. Of course, Dorian could easily dispatch the person, but that would create curiosity and curiosity was his worst enemy now.
Even more pressing was the matter at hand: The prophecy. He scowled. The prophecy itself was not difficult to interpret but it did not give him clues as to who he was searching for, just what he or she were required to do. Which is exactly what he must change. The prophecy did tell him the location, although it had taken him many years to find the proper place. This castle was filled with evil; the most saturated of places in the world. It was perfect.
“Darkness falls upon the flower, doom for her this final hour, …great is the blackened tower…hatred moves her to the test,” Dorian muttered to himself, thinking over the prophecy once more. The prophecy told him the person he was searching for was a woman. He had debated this for some time, trying to determine if the prophecy only referred to the flower as a ‘her’ simply because Nature is female or if it meant the person was in fact female by gender. Eventually he had to conclude the prophecy had meant a woman. It made sense. Women gave life; it was in their nature to give, making his goal more difficult. If he wanted the world, he would have to destroy her very nature, turn her into something else entirely. Such a change would require much more than simple charms or small events. No this woman will have to endure much and be unable to recover.
And that is where Dorian would come in. He would be her Dark Savior.
He shook his head and cleared his mind, reaching out with his magic to find someone that felt different. Most people had some degree of magic, but it was limited. Mostly that was due to a lack of training. Even with training however, most people would not be much higher than a Shield.
In this case, Dorian was looking for someone with the untapped power of a Seer or Creator. A Seer could look into multiple futures, determine the color of one’s soul, and more. The Seers kept many of their powers a secret for fear of manipulation. Any potential Seers were forced into the Covenant and required to swear an oath to their leader.
A Creator was arguably the most powerful in the ranks of magic. This person could create a living creature from nothing. Many people believed them to be Gods, which was partially true. Creators come from the bloodline of Gods. For this reason Creators were rare. These children often died during childbirth because their power was too strong and unable to confine their power to themselves. The mothers tended to die along with the child in a literal explosion of trapped power. Quite tragic. But, this fact made Dorian’s task at hand far easier, which he greatly appreciated.
His fingers reached out over miles and miles, feeling the tingles of slightly touched people, and every once in a while, very powerful persons. None of them were enough. He took his search north, racing over the warm waters to the island of Viridiana. Something was there, pulling him toward it. Farther and farther he stretched looking…and then…there! He plunged down and saw a house radiating power. He dove into the house and saw a family. The mother was touched but at the most she was a Shield. The father was extremely powerful but his power was untapped energy. A Caster at the least, a Seer if he wanted. Dorian wondered absently how he had escaped the Seers grasp but the small bundle in the mothers’ arms was what attracted Dorian. She glowed the brightest and almost hurt to look at. She was the most powerful he had seen in a long time.
The child had a full head of bright red hair, fair white skin, and bright intelligent blue eyes. Her face was full of light and laughter but then her attention was taken away from her parents. She looked directly at him and Dorian felt a shove. He was so taken aback he was unable to protect himself and suddenly he was on his back, somehow tossed from his throne. He gasped for breath and sat up, his back and ribs aching but already his magic was healing the bruises.
He found the child. She would be his. He smiled.
* * *
“Must you go now?” Azrea asked, holding Evander’s small bundle in her arms. Her eyes looked as though they might spill tears any moment, tears he may not have the strength to fight. He smiled warmly and kissed the forehead of his tiny, precious daughter.
“I must.” His hand pressed gently against her cheek. “I have been gone too long already. The crew is becoming restless and we need the funds…especially now. Winter will be on us soon and the waters will freeze. Then we will have all winter long, my love.” Azrea scowled, but managed to make it completely adorable and he pulled her into his arms, taking care the baby was comfortable. He breathed in her scent, nuzzled his face into her hair and kissed her forehead. She tilted her face upward and he kissed her silky lips. The kiss was much longer and more passionate than he could afford. He could feel the need rising once more and fought the desire to lead her back into their home. Already he was late to sail.
He pulled away from her and smiled. “You are a temptress,” he said, grinning. She shrugged as if to say she couldn’t help it and he laughed. “I love you.”
Her face grew serious but soft. “I love you too Evander. Please be safe. And don’t be late!” Her eyes filled with tears again but she refused to let them fall. He admired her resolve and stroked her cheek once more.
“I wouldn’t dream of it, my love. I’ll be back sooner than you think.” Evander bent to kiss his tiny daughter once more and she let out a coo of joy. His entire body rushed with warmth and the deepest love he had ever felt. It broke his heart to leave her so soon but if he didn’t neither him nor his crew would eat for the long winter. With one last look he mounted his horse and galloped away.
Azrea watched him leave, her heart swelling with grief. It was always difficult to watch him leave, but it was so wonderful when he finally came home. She worried constantly of course. It was next to impossible to send him letters. She wrote him a letter a day regardless and kept them for him in a special box. The night he returned, after they made love, he would sit by the hearth and read each letter, his lips moving soundlessly as he took in her words.
Few of the letters spoke of the day-to-day occurrences. Many more of them were poems and songs. And he read each and every one, praising her gift of prose. After he finished each letter he would carefully fold and return them to the chest and, more often than not, he would return to bed for another passionate embrace. She loved those nights the best. It was on one of those nights she conceived her beloved little girl.
Azrea looked down at her daughter. She looked so much like him; her hair red as fire and her eyes as blue as the deep ocean. Rowan reached out her small hand to Azrea and she grasped it lightly in hers smiling down at her. Her little Rowan seemed to grasp what had happened, although she was no more than three months old. By the time Evander would return, she would be almost a year. So much he would miss. She knew Evander hated to leave but she also knew it could not be helped. He was the captain of an important merchant ship and the only one who could sail the seas without risk of piracy. He had the protection from both Kings, making the Isle of Viridiana a neutral and protected island. The safest place for Rowan to grow, thanks to her husband.
Evander had become wealthy at a young age, inheriting some money from his father before him and investing all of it into the best merchant ship money could buy. Evander had then acted as Ambassador to both kingdoms and had somehow negotiated a wary peace. It had been seven years since then and Evander was the most reputed merchant sailor in the world. He single-handedly saved the island from sure destruction and secured its future. Had the Island a system of kingship, the villagers would have hoisted him upon their shoulders and declared him so. But Viridiana was a place of equals. Every person was respected and each allowed an opinion and vote in the goings on of the Isle, even women. For Evander’s efforts though, he was granted a high seat on the Council and a large estate. He welcomed both and immediately asked Azrea to marry him. Azrea’s heart warmed with the memory.
Someday Evander could retire and they would enjoy the many years to come. Someday. Azrea walked back inside her home, readying herself for the long, sleepless nights to come.
The thundering on her door woke her instantly. Azrea reached under the bed for her dagger and crept to the doorstep. Using her limited powers she looked through the door. It was dark and raining outside but she could make out the shape of a man. He was clutching his side and looked terrified, on the verge of fainting. Azrea threw open the door, flinging the dagger to one side as the man tumbled inside the house. She caught him with some difficulty and half-helped half-dragged him to the couch by the hearth. She lit the fire with shaking hands but soon it was roaring. With practiced skill, she removed the mans’ sopping clothing, piling them on the floor to deal with later. She gasped when she saw the wound.
His side was grievously injured, the wound was deep. Dark blood flowed quickly from him and his face looked ashen. She had seen wounds like this before, of course, but outside of a battle field it was an oddity. “What is your name?” She asked but the man seemed delirious. He kept babbling about a prophecy and then repeated flower over and over.
Azrea put her hand over the wound and concentrated her energy on the wound, searching for the deepest mark with her magic. Something pinged and with magic fingers, she pinched the vein closed. She imagined a tiny needle and thread and began sewing the vein closed. It took her thirty minutes before she was certain the man would live. He had lost quite a bit of blood, ruining her couch in the process, not that she much cared for it in the first place. She was only a Shield but she was considered a powerful Shield among the islanders. Still, his wound had been so severe she had not been certain….The man would live, though. Some color had returned to his face and she studied him closely. She was sure she had not seen him in the village near the harbor. It was possible he was from one of the villages deeper in the island but she doubted it; his pallor, his hair…no he was not native to her land, which made him a possible threat.
She considered her options. If she forced him out now he would probably die from infection. All her work to save him would have been wasted. She would have been better off not to have opened the door in the first place. No, she could not just toss him aside and with him injured she was doubtful he would be able to cause her any harm.
Azrea found extra blankets and clothing she thought might fit him well enough until she could dry and mend his own clothes. She bandaged his wound and laid a sleeping spell over the man. He certainly needed the rest. Come morning she would find out what sort of man he was.
* * *
Azrea was feeding Rowan when she heard the man groan. She tucked Rowan back into bed and laid a quiet spell over her daughter. Normally she would not do such a thing but it would not bode well for her if the man was dangerous and learned she had a daughter.
Azrea came into the room and knelt by the man’s side with a cool cloth, wetting his brow. Slowly, he opened his eyes. Shock registered and then disappeared. It looked as though he was recalling last night. Azrea smiled warmly and waited for him to ask the proverbial questions. “Where am I, who are you, what happened?” But instead he surprised her.
“You must be Azrea.”
She narrowed her eyes. “How do you know my name? I am quite certain you are not from this island.”
“My name is Dorian. I was travelling here to meet with you. I thought you might be able to help me. While I was making my way here a group of bandits drew upon me and stole my horse. I’m afraid I have never been much of a fighter.” He laughed and then grimaced. Azrea was not convinced.
“You’re lying.” Her gaze was level with Dorian, if that was truly his name. There were no bandits here. Still, if he was lying, how had he received such a serious wound? Surely someone would not do this to themself.
As if reading her thoughts Dorian said, “Do you honestly think I would do this to myself? I was dying! Well, I am dying.” He said softly and looked away.
She looked at him quizzically and laid her hand upon his. “You’re not going to die. You will survive this wound, although I must tell you it was a close thing. You will be fine a few weeks’ time.”
“You misunderstand. I have a sickness…in my brain. None of the Shields I have seen can heal me. No one will help me. I haven’t the coin to pay anyone else and now…I have none at all. I’m afraid I cannot even repay you for extending my life.” He looked away and Azrea’s heart filled with compassion for the man.
“I have no need of coin. I will do my best to help you but if others cannot heal you, I don’t know that I can.”
“But you are willing to try?”
“Of course.” She smiled and the man breathed a sigh of relief.
* * *
Weeks passed and it seemed Azrea was no closer to healing his sickness than the other Shields, though she consulted all her books and exhausted all other avenues. Azrea was at a loss and knew not what to do. The sickness inside his mind was great but there seemed to be no origin point. She could feel the sickness with her magic and all attempts at healing him was met with cold, nonchalance. It was as though the sickness knew she was incapable and laughed at her.
Azrea stood in the soft blue grass, gazing at the sky as though the answer may come to her from the clouds. The only answer that revealed itself was one she had known from the first time she felt the sickness. She could not heal him. The man would die.
She made her way back into the house when she heard her daughter laughing from her room. Dorian was not in sight. Azrea ran into the room and saw the man holding her daughter in his arms, his finger locked in her tiny little grip. She was smiling brightly and the man looked…he seemed enraptured. Then he turned to Azrea with a look of awe on his face.
“I believe your daughter has just healed me.”
“What?!” Azrea asked, incredulous. She stepped forward and snatched her baby away from him, making sure she was unharmed. “How dare you touch my daughter!”
“I apologize, but she called to me.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Reach with your magic; see if you can feel the sickness.” Azrea did and pulled back instantly. The sickness was gone, completely eradicated.
“How is this possible?” She looked down at her daughter and for the first time felt the great power she held within her.
“Azrea,” Dorian said calmly, feeling the panic beginning to overwhelm her. “Why don’t you sit down.” Azrea nodded and took a seat, her knees trembling. Dorian took a deep breath. “There is more that I should tell you that I did not before because I was not certain…but now…I am certain this is the child.”
Azrea shook her head. How was this happening? “I don’t understand anything you are talking about!”
The man took a deep breath and the air around him changed. Azrea didn’t understand the sudden atmospheric change but he suddenly seemed taller and his eyes lit with a fire. “I believe your daughter is the child of a prophecy that has been waiting to be fulfilled for many centuries. Her fate will determine the fate of the world.”
His words echoed in the small room and Azrea did not doubt him for an instant. “What is this prophecy?” She asked, clutching Rowan closer to her breast as though she might protect her form this new danger.
“The prophecy speaks of a girl who will wield great power and, with her actions, determine the fate of the world. Rowan must be protected, Azrea, at all costs. What I need to ask you is no simple thing…Let me take your daughter. I can protect her from those who would harm her and force her into darkness-“
Azrea stood, clutching Rowan ever tighter. “You will never take my child,” she hissed. “I don’t know who you are, really are, but I do not trust you nor do I believe you!”
“I only want the best for Rowan-“
“You are a liar! Get out of my house!” The power of her shout forced Dorian to take a step back, but no more. He gathered his strength about him, his appearance changing from an easily trusted man to his true form. His eyes turned to liquid silver and his skin paled to deathly white. His fingernails lengthened and sharpened into ivory claws. He grew two feet, giving the appearance of constant agony in his bones.
Azrea fell back against the wall in fear. “What are you?” She asked.
“I am the Shadow,” he growled, his voice dark and gravelly, the kind of voice only a demon could possess. The Shadow reached out for Rowan but as his claws neared Azrea and her child and blinding golden light sparked into existence.
“What is this?!” The demon shrieked as it tried to break through. He slashed with his claws, causing golden sparks to fly but the shield would not budge. Azrea had never created a shield so strong before. She looked down at her daughter and felt the power emanating from her. Somehow Rowan knew she was in danger and had reacted instinctively. Not even Creators well beyond Azrea’s years had been able to develop such strength.
With a final shriek the Shadow stopped its attack. “Know this, Azrea,” it growled, “I will come for her. She will be mine and not you nor her nor your precious Evander will be able to stop me!” Before her very eyes the demon disappeared in a flash of black smoke.
Azrea let out the breath she hadn’t realized she had been holding and slumped to the floor, silent tears coursing down her face. She looked down at her sweet, sweet little girl as understanding dawned on her. Rowan was indeed special. The demon had not lied about that. It may not have lied about the prophecy either. Her little girl was in terrible danger and she knew not how to protect her.
For the first time in her life, Azrea was truly afraid.
* * *
The room was dark, lit only by a few candles. The strong smell of incense hung heavily in the air. Old withered hands hovered above the bundle in the center of the table, a white chalk line encircled the child, with symbols were written around the tiny child. Dorian recognized these symbols. He grinned and continued to watch silently in his astral state, muting his power so as not to attract attention.
Her red hair curled on her forehead as the old woman reached down and plucked one tiny red-gold strand from her head. The child made no sound, only watched with an intense curiosity and an intelligence that greatly surpassed perhaps even the old woman looking down upon her.
“Your child is extremely rare, my dear,” the woman warbled. “My powers are great but hers are raw and unchecked. She may understand even now what we are planning to do. She may not allow me to bind her powers.”
A tall man with fire-red hair put his arm around Azrea, hugging her close. “What do you mean she may not allow you to bind her powers? How is that possible?”
The old woman stepped close to Azrea’s husband, stretching her hands out to him. She closed her eyes, humming and then gasped, stepping back. “Your power is great Evander.” His eyes widened in surprise. “You didn’t know? Peculiar…Your daughter has enough power to bring someone back to life without risking her own. You understand?”
“What?” Azrea said, shocked. She looked up at her husband for comfort and found his own eyes filled with the same shock and disbelief. The woman turned around, focusing on the child on the table.
“Now, my dear little girl, I must do something very important and you must allow me to do this, you understand?”
The little girl stared intently at the old woman and then nodded as though she understood. The old woman smiled and set a hand hovering just above the child’s forehead and moved it slowly up and down her body, muttering under her breath. A golden light began to shine, encapsulating the little girl. The light began to fade, being replaced by a soft blue light. It settled onto the child and glowed green for just a moment and then faded away. The old woman let out a sigh of relief.
“It is done.”
Dorian smiled and drifted back to his own body. “You have made a grave error, Azrea,” Dorian said to himself. “And soon, you will know my wrath.”