|Posted by Christie V Powell on May 11, 2019 at 5:05 PM|
This is the opening of "The Spectra United" from Brian's point of view.
Brian's aching back rested against a hard wooden floor. Griffin’s body was draped awkwardly across his chest, unnaturally still. Brian wasn’t sure if his brother was awake or not until he heard his mind-voice. Morning. He’ll be here soon.
‘He’ meant Captain Berk, their Lectran captor. Maybe he won’t talk today, Brian answered.
He always talks.
Brian couldn’t argue. The captain came every morning as their paralysis wore off. He’d let them eat and move around for a few minutes, controlling then with electric shocks, before shoving drugs down their throats. Then he’d sit and gloat. The boys were only alive because they were bait. Sooner or later, the princesses would come for them. The captain detailed the treatment the girls would get when they were caught: drugged, helpless, and immobile in the soldiers' power. No wonder Glen had escaped instead of trying to free the brothers. He had to warn the girls away.
Footsteps interrupted the stillness. They were too soft for Berk, who wore boots. Keita, no! Brian sent her. Who else would enter a splintery attic barefoot? The footsteps didn’t falter. Keita, I mean it! It’s a trap. Get out of here!
She can’t hear you, Griffin sent him, and you’re giving me a headache.
A small hand touched his forehead. His body tingled, and Brian tried to force his voice to work. He couldn’t move yet, but her touch was negating the drugs. Any minute now. Any minute...
A crash broke the stillness. The hand withdrew. “Nice try, Princess,” Captain Berk’s voice said.
Brian forced his eyes open but saw nothing but the dusty rafters—his neck wouldn’t move. The vibrations in the floor beneath him told him she was fighting back. What was she doing?
“Not much of a fighter, are you?” Captain Berk taunted.
Something popped. Keita cried out. Brian thrashed and finally, finally, his body responded. He climbed to his feet. Keita was lying against a broken wall, unmoving. Captain Berk moved toward her, unhurried, confident with every footfall. Brian lunged. Captain Berk was caught off guard. Instinctively he ducked Brian’s charge, but the motion drew him near the hole in the wall. Brian’s shoulder caught the man’s chest. He staggered backward, lost his footing, and fell. They were higher up than Brian realized, for the man’s scream took a long time to cut off.
Keita’s hands twitched. She wasn’t drugged—probably paralyzed by Berk’s lightning. Brian ran to her. Her bright green eyes fixed on his face. He read her emotions: awkward and embarrassed at the situation, but beneath that, quiet confidence. Whatever she was doing, coming alone into their prison, she had a plan and she knew what she was doing. Brian let himself relax. He could trust her plan too.
|Posted by Christie V Powell on April 9, 2019 at 3:50 PM|
Keita Sage jogged through the strange city, following the gashes in the hard-packed road made by the runaway carriage. Here and there she came across a clothing trunk, burst open and half-empty, its load of gaudy clothing strewn across the dusty street. A young man clambered down from a nearby roof, eyes wide with shock, but he was alive and well enough to move.
She almost passed her guide. Teague Pensier huddled in a gap between two weedy buildings, eyes peering out of his hiding hole as though another carriage was going to squeeze through to hunt him down. Though they were the same age, tears streaked his dirty face and dripped onto a formal embroidered jacket.
“I hate carriages,” Teague mumbled.
“I was thrown off almost right away,” Keita said. “Did you see anyone hurt?”
“I couldn’t see Reid.” This thought seemed to galvanize him. “Have you seen Reid? We have to find him.”
He charged out of the murky shadows, his torn slacks flapping a bit at the knee. Keita trailed behind, trying to watch for Teague’s little brother and oncoming traffic at the same time. Half-high brick walls lined the street, leaving little room for escape if another carriage bolted by. Her own kingdom had its share of walls—not of brick and concrete, but sheer cliffs piercing the sky to emphasize their words: “You stay here!” This kingdom, on the other hand, had nothing but walls. Little walls to cage in these tall, cramped houses, bigger ones in the richer neighborhoods, and a huge one of concrete around the largest home of all, the Muse mansion where Teague and his brothers lived.
And speaking of Teague’s brothers…
Teague yelped. He spun around, jacket edges flapping, and nearly fell over. Reid burst into laughter, leaning against a wall to support himself. His bright clothes, shining face, and the hint of red in his blond hair stood out like a beacon against the gray city street.
“Man, I got you that time!”
Teague brushed the dust off of his coat and stood tall. “That is not funny.”
Reid was still laughing. Keita loved teasing her brother and cousins like that. But they weren’t here. The urge to laugh died, and she turned her back on the boys to examine her surroundings. They’d started out travelling west—that was all she knew, and only because they’d been able to glimpse the Great Mountains behind them, peeking out between the cluttered houses. She couldn’t see them now.
Teague’s smile died. Now he peered down the dusty lane as though he could see the carriage ahead. “Anyone hurt?” he asked Reid.
“Nah. It stopped not long after I got thrown.”
“We can find another,” Teague said, though he turned green at the thought. “Then we can finish our tour and get back home.”
Home, Keita thought, with an irritated glance in his direction. This was not home. She studied the crowded street. Half-high brick walls separated the houses. Tall windows gawped at the wide street while hiding their insides behind rough woven cloth. Gaudy flowers of some unknown species lived in pots on the front steps, the only sign of life in sight. How much better the foreign city would look with even a single tree!
An explosion of noise rushed up behind her. She turned to look, but another force tugged her backward. She fell sideways, hit the nearest wall, and tumbled headfirst into a patch of gravel on the other side.
For a second she lay there, stunned. Then she felt a pair of hands on each of hers. “Oh no. Oh, no. Keita? Keita, you’re okay, right?”
If she were injured, Reid’s poking wouldn’t help.
“Of course I’m okay.” She clambered to her feet. Nothing seemed broken, though a piercing pain warned that she’d cut her face, and her hands stung where they’d scraped against the gravel.
“It wasn’t crashing too, was it?” Keita peered up the street, but the carriage was long past.
“Nah,” Reid said. “They took the corner a bit fast, though, considering somebody might be standing here… which we were.” He smirked in an ‘I think I’m funny’ sort of way, and drooped down again as no one laughed.
“I don’t like this,” Teague said. “I vote we get back to the mansion before anything else happens.”
Keita forced her voice to keep casual. “Are people often run over in Castalia?”
Teague and Reid exchanged glances she couldn’t read. “Bbeing royal can be dangerous,” Reid said finally. “Even for spares.”
The two younger boys were spares. Keita, betrothed to their older brother and heir to the throne, wasn’t sure if she counted. No one seemed to give her much notice—though, as she’d been avoiding everyone except these two boys, that didn’t mean much.
“We should’ve requested an escort,” Teague said.
“You have one,” Keita said. “Me. Now come on.” She turned off of the main road and began striding down it.
“One problem there,” Reid called after her. “The mansion’s the other way.”
|Posted by Christie V Powell on March 13, 2019 at 3:00 PM|
Footsteps in his domain. A stranger in his territory. The beast rose.
The locals feared this place. They spoke of a black shadow, like a wolf but broader in face, scrawny as death. Mostly it did no harm, for it was slow and confused, but there were nasty rumors. Sometimes it came to itself, and then it attacked. Not to eat, or to defend, like a real beast. The few survivors spoke of a flash of recognition, of awareness, in its crazed eyes. Then it pounced, and victims had visions of doom and despair that rendered them so helpless that the did not care as jaws slashed, blood flowed, life ebbed. All feared the shadow-beast.
The boys in the slums, far from its territory, had little to fear. They had mothers to threaten them into good behavior with its image. Yet, for Mark, the story had a strange allure. As a child he dreamed of taming it. As a youth he dreamed of controlling it. And at last, as a man, he went looking for it.
The beast knew the second the man set foot among the hills. Clarity returned to his mind. He remembered, if not who he was, then what. The man's scent was familiar. The physical images of memory were long gone, but he knew that scent. Silent paws made no mark on the mountain earth.
Mark knew he was being watched. He saw and heard nothing, but he felt its presence. He felt no fear. Boys who survived the slums learned to conquer fear.
A shadow emerged from the brush. At first Mark thought it was a dog. Then he realized it was only a man, crouched on the earth, a man in ragged velvet that might once have been finery. The man stood, and his eyes pierced into Mark. "Who are you?"
"Mark, leader of the Shrikes."
"A human then?"
"As far as I know."
"Yes, human. I see it on you." The man straightened, brushed off his clothes, examined the scenery. "I gave up," he muttered. "Perhaps I should have fought on. I did not know the full cost of giving up. Well, I will not forget it now."
He faced Mark again. "Take me to your home. I must recover. I must study. Then we will plan."
Kieran, the man who had been a beast, fit well in Mark's world. He did not challenge Mark's leadership, but as he became influential in the gang, things changed. The men learned new techniques. They learned how to examine an enemy and find his weakness. They learned control, and subtly, and became the most feared gang of Grayton.
Kieran did not remain with them long. He had a land to survey. He changed his name to Donovan and practiced his old skills. His enemies had won, and their descendants reigned. And they did it poorly. The primitive Sprites claimed a space in politics beside the most prestigious Muses. The rulers were weak, pleasure-seeking, powerless. Keiran's kingdom was split in pieces. Two of them had nobodies for rulers, unrelated to any old ruling families. And yet they stood beside the others, and even the old families had gone soft and weak.
He would have to fix it. The first step was to clear out these new, weak kings. He would find new leaders—from the old lines, if he could. If not, anyone he could control would do. He must put the kingdom back the way it was supposed to be.
|Posted by Christie V Powell on August 8, 2016 at 12:25 PM|
The smell hit her first, rank with decay and death. A man with no foot sprawled across the ground in front of them, changing his own bandages. Two children were lying a few feet away, wrapped in blankets, their faces covered in red marks. Keita scanned the camp for a sign of a well person—surely someone was taking care of these people. She saw no one.
She hadn’t realized she’d moved until she heard Brian’s warning. She bit her lip. He was right—if she healed these people, they’d join the other camp, and stories about inhuman healers would spread like wildfire. Humans couldn't know about Spectra, she knew that, but how could she just stand here when she had the power to heal them?
Amala charged into the crowd, searching for her father. Across the camp, a boy staggered in, pulling a cart. He stopped, dropped the crosspiece, and helped a frail old man out of the cart. Next he lifted out a small child, and another… how many people fit in there?
The older boy looked up. “Did you come back to help?”
Keita couldn’t speak.
“Some people come help. But they get sick too. I’ve lasted longer than most. That’s my dad. My mom caught the fever, and then my brothers, and my sister’s got it…”
The little girl in his arms was listless, her face red under the dirt. Her eyes were open, though, and when her brother stopped talking she focused on Keita, as though the girl knew she could make a difference. How could Keita not help?
Suddenly Brian whipped the pack off of his back and began digging through it. He pulled out the ragged toy Lucy had given to Keita. “You see this?” he asked.
The girl and her brother nodded.
“Well, this ball is magic. If you touch it, the magic can make you better.”
Keita stared. “What are you talking about?”
Better to have them believing in magic toys than people, right? he asked silently.
She held the ball out to the girl. “Try it.” Weak fingers stretched out, and as they brushed the worn fabric they bumped Keita’s hand.
The suppressed power burst from her. The boy cried out and leapt back. His sister dropped from his arms. She yelped, but it was a strong cry. Then, her eyes full of wonder, she climbed to her feet. Her face was not so red, and her gaunt cheeks had filled in. Her brother stood. “It works,” he breathed.
Before Keita could blink twice she was surrounded. The people pushed and shoved and clung to each other, and her energy jumped from contact to contact. The camp was no longer silent. It rang with shouts and cries and laughter.
The sun was sinking. Keita had not realized how long she had been working. The last drop of sunlight disappeared and she sank to her knees. “Thank you,” she told Brian. “I think… I will be happy later. Right now a rest might be nice.” And she dropped.
|Posted by Christie V Powell on October 10, 2015 at 7:55 PM|
Brian and Keita meet for the first time, from Brian's pont of view. --CVP
Brian could have sensed the three girls’ emotions even without his abilities. They fidgeted, kicked at the ankle-deep meadow grass, looked anywhere but at him. Their brothers, who had come to the annual meeting in the previous years, called the Summit the dullest place on earth, even after Brian told them that boredom was a sign of a dull mind. The girls were not bored. They were uneasy, angry, even scared, but not bored.
Brian grabbed a coin from his pocket and flung it into the grass between them. The nearest girl, Keita Sage, leapt backward. Her bright green eyes fastened on his face, and for a moment she looked like she might attack—or just bolt into the grass and never be seen again. But the look faded, and she quickly turned away again.
“Would you like to play a game?” Brian asked.
Zuri, who he’d met last year, met his gaze. “I’m willing to try,” she said.
He pointed to the coin. “The person who best lifts that into the air and holds it steady wins.”
The new girl Carli, who had been staring wistfully at the surrounding walls, turned toward him. Her expression was still dangerously angry, but a hint of a competitive smile haunted the corners of her mouth. She raised her arms, and the tops of the grass began swirling, pointing this way and that. A sudden wind broke off blades and sent them swirling in circles, faster and faster, until the coin was swept upward. It rose to shoulder height, tumbled about by the wind. Carli gave a satisfied smile. The winds dispersed, and the coin dropped.
“Does that count as steady?” Zuri asked.
Carli scowled. “You do it then.”
“I didn’t mean to criticize,” Zuri said, but she stepped forward. Like Carli, she raised her arms before she began, but instead of rushing wind, a stream of water shot from the ground, launching the coin into the air. Brian didn’t flinch as droplets sprinkled his legs and arms—he’d seen her brothers do the same. The coin floated for a moment, held up by the water, and then it fell.
Brian looked at Keita. “Want a turn?”
Her eyes narrowed. “You go first.”
He hesitated, but saw no way out of it. He bent down, picked up the coin, and held it flat in his palm.
For a moment the girls stared. Than Zuri began to laugh. “That doesn’t count!” Carli cried.
She sputtered but couldn’t seem to come up with an answer.
“So, Brian wins?” Zuri asked.
Keita’s expression was as hard to read as all Sprites, but something in her eyes was twinkling. She dug her bare toes into the earth. For a moment nothing happened. Then the grass stems began to change. Brian stepped back as they thickened, stretching toward the pale mountain sunshine. Keita stepped forward, took the coin from his hand, and set it on top of the hardened grass stalks. It stayed, unmoving.
“All right,” he said. “You win.”