|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 March 17, 2017 at 7:00 PM|
The great wall of the Summit, the last place for Spectra royals, filled Keita’s vision. Her feet were numb, worn raw too long for pain. Her legs shook, her lungs shook from the acrid smoke she had left behind, and streaks of green crossed her maple-brown skin. Some of her family and friends were inside those walls. Others, too many, were not. Inside was safety and companionship. Outside, the Stygians were hunting—yet her fear was as numb as her feet and only the fire inside still lived, the fire that said the Stygians must pay for what they had done.
Two hours ago, she had cringed behind a ridge above her valley home. Fire enveloped the trees so that the slopes glowed red. Black dots that were her people ran, their cries piercing the distance. Her siblings were fleeing. Her father could not. Her cousin, once her tutor, now a Stygian, stood silhouetted against the flames, the cause of it all. Maybe she should have challenged him then, but the fire roared toward her and she had forgotten everything, everything but the devouring flames.
Two days ago, she crouched among boulders with the Castalia princes. Two figures broke their conversation, peered into the rocks. “They’ve heard us.”
“I’ll get him.”
“Too late. The word is out. Tell the others to start now.”
They ran. She was in horse form then, better able to carry the boys. Two were communicators—as she ran, their thoughts flew faster, warning their people, their parents, their brothers stationed in the other kingdoms… but they could not contact her home. She left them at the Summit’s doorstep and took off, the two hundred miles separating her from home flying beneath her churning legs.
Two weeks ago, she discovered the princes in their mansion library. “I hope the Stygians aren’t as smart as you are,” she’d said. She’d meant it as a compliment, but none smiled. An open history book lay before them, and they had been debating how five determined, powerful people might take over the continent.
“What I’d do is find a Stygian for each kingdom and attack simultaneously. And I’d assassinate all the royals so no one could fight back.”
Two months ago, she heard the word ‘Stygian’ for the first time. She had sneaked out of a Summit council, determined to leave before her father could betroth her. In kestrel form she flew over the mountain crags, until she saw them. Five dark figures crouched in a ravine. They knew what she was. She barely made it inside the walls. The kings didn’t believe her. Only the princes told her what she ought to have known all along. Stygians were once Spectra, but sinister oaths gave them the abilities of all six Spectra clans. Only the united strengths of the kingdoms could defeat them: a near impossible task among such different people.
Now she stood before the summit walls, chest heaving. She would be the last to arrive. Her anger eased as she remembered she could not defeat the Stygians alone; she must hope that enough royals escaped and waited now behind the walls. She took a deep breath, squared her shoulders, and climbed the wall.
|Posted by Christie V Powell on September 30, 2015 at 2:05 AM|
The Spectra have lived in separate kingdoms, based on their abilities, since before written history. The relationships between the various clans changed frequently, but for the most part, they kept to themselves. The Sprites were last to choose a king and unite the various settlements in their kingdom, only a few years after humans first entered the Sprite kingdom.
Everything changed in the year 111 after human discovery. Before then, Stygians, which are Spectra that have taken oaths which give additional abilities, attacked small settlements, but never on a wide scale. In the year 111, a Stygian managed to conquer first Castalia, and then Merlandia and the Cole Kingdom. A few survivors escaped to the other clans, which banded together in the face of this great threat. Once the Stygian was defeated, the Spectra leaders began meeting together yearly. In the year 126, they built a hidden retreat at the center of the continent. The walls of the hidden place were created with Spectrite, a substance manufactured by all six abilities combined, and which repels Stygians. The location and the yearly meeting were both called the Summit, and the meetings continue to this day, with each leader bringing an heir, a custom begun in the year 157.