Chapter 3: You Fiend!

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Mylia, a singing wyrm-human monster, is rescued from the bleak Wylds by a poor, ambitious Prince and surgically fashioned into a popstar to help him overthrow an ancient Empire. Under her new identity, she must navigate scandal, fame, deadly court intrigue, and even love in a rags-to-riches tale for the ages. (A new chapter every seven days!)

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Mylia knew that humans believed in a world for those who died.  A place filled with immortal beings who sometimes meddled in the affairs of this one.  Humans erected stone shrines on the forest edge and left bowls of cracked wheat and heavy wine for these immortals.  Sometimes, they sacrificed a goat or pig, slicing open the pink carcass and catching the blood in wooden troughs.

She used to watch them walk in from the twinkling villages, their robes ghostly flittering in the gloom, white face paint masking their frightened eyes.  Her belly was always thankful for their food and but, after watching multiple ceremonies from the dim treetops, she never discovered the practicality of their beliefs.

For whatever reason, be it a human deity or good fortune, she had been spared the hunter’s bullet and now she must consider her escape before the hunters returned.  Mylia explored the parameters of the pit, letting her gaze wander over the sooty, vertical sides, steeped in the familiar slime which oozed from the Wyld’s deeper earth layers.

She knew from experience that even if she escaped her bonds, the slippery walls would send her crashing to the ground.  She moved and gasped in pain.  Her legs were certainly broken.  And her wings, useless!  A feeling of utter horror washed over her.  She had always relied upon her cleverness and speed.  Now, she sat amid dead coals, trapped for the first time in her existence.

Some hours passed and she felt the air darken and heard the flitter of bat wings high overhead against the peeping stars.  Night drew near.  Her skin grew whiter with cold and fear.

Far in the distance, the snap of banners and clop-clop of horse hooves signaled the return of the hunting party.  Voices rose on the wind, triumphant and tired.  She huddled down and clasped her knees to her chin, shivering from the cold and the shimmered rush of adrenaline.  Even the stars above her pit scintillated and waxed small under black clouds.

Perhaps, she would never see the stars after this night.  For, when they broke her body with knives and fleshed her skin so death came, her essence, that which made her mind and powered her nerves, would vanish.  Mylia did not believe in an afterlife.  She hissed and ran her tied-up hands through the muck, noticing how the soot and slimy mud broke upon her claws, sharpened from climbing multiple trees hardened to stone from the frost.  At least she would go down fighting!

Again the humans peered over the pit sides.  She stared upon their shadowed faces and wondered why the Prince was not with them.  She briefly debated whether they had found the old wyrm for several of the hunters had bandages red with blood.

Two hunters grabbed the rope and hauled her up and she clenched her jaw against the hideous fire that shook through her dangling, bound legs. There was a brief argument among the men and she realized their hesitation was from fear of her.  None of them wanted to be the unfortunate human charged with carrying her.  She grinned sharp teeth at them.  She could smell their fear.

Titus approached and crouched before her.  Grabbing her bindings in one fist, he looped her hands to a rod and swiveled so that her arms were helplessly tied behind her back.  “You bite and I’ll kill you,” he said and, strong fingers cruelly gripping her neck, hauled her along the filthy ground.

Mylia screamed at the agony splintering through her spine with every movement but her cries went unheeded.  Titus dragged her limp, flopping body, past the wary eyes of hunters, to the central tent.  It was as large as a house and lights glimmered around the shadowed bodies of hunters within.  Mylia understood.  Perhaps, they had caught no wyrm from the day and she was to be sacrificed!  She craned her face upward, studying her tormenter as he paced through the ruffled, wet leaves.

One bite to remove his hand and she would die a few minutes later, defenseless in her tight bonds.

And Mylia wanted to live—live and leap from tree to tree, singing for the birds and starlight, for her full length of allotted life upon this world, until the earth consumed her tired, happy body, and her voice fell silent forever among the wildflowers.  No, she could not die tonight.  She gritted her teeth.  She must not die!

A single heave from Titus, and she fell into the tent, landing in a crumpled heap of mud and pain.

Prince Asher turned from a table upon which lay strewn a handful of maps.  He looked tired and his right forearm held a bandage.   Other hunters sported similar bloody bandages.  He saw her and viciously swore.  “Titus, you fiend.  What have you done?!  I told you to keep her unharmed.”

Mylia did not fully understand the Prince’s speech and figured this rage lay directed towards her for humans loved cleanliness and her cinder-covered body had made a mess of the carpeted floor.

Titus appeared angry in return.  “The wyrm is dangerous, Asher.  Remember, she is a monster.”

“Let me be the judge of that,” coolly replied the Prince.  Again, he eyed her body.  For the briefest of moments, she felt that somehow, she was on display for his gaze and deep inward, a growl started in her throat.  A growl that dissipated into several crystalline notes of song that hummed the night air to sleep before she closed her lips and the sounds ceased.

Again, she noticed how the hunters watched her, mouths and eyes open as though struck by some blight.

Mylia felt hope tremor within her body.  These humans did seem to be in a murderous mood.  Perhaps she would live out tonight, regain her strength and escape in the morning.  She raised her great, golden eyes to their staring faces and examined each in turn, reading and wondering at the shifting emotions within each gaze.

One hunter barked a short laugh.  “I could listen to her voice forever.  She can’t meet my wife.”

“If your wife heard you say that, she’d turn into a wyrm herself and cook your ears off,” another hunter laughed.  A few sniggers flittered round the room.

Mylia thought it curious that such emotional connectivity existed between humans.  It was similar to how she could stand amid the forest and converse with the trees and smaller creatures without making a sound.

“What do you plan to do with it, Asher?”  Gerard spoke, his voice a whisper.

In response, Prince Asher snapped his fingers.  A servant ducked into the tent and squawked in surprise at seeing the monster slumped on the floor.  Mylia shrank from them and gazed upon the Prince.  Some deep instinct told her that he stood as the only link standing between her and torment.

“Clean her up and keep her somewhere warm.  And get a medic to set her legs before she ends up paralyzed,” he commanded and turned back to his maps.

And thus ended her meeting or trial or whatever the strange event had been.

The servant carried her into the back chambers of the Prince’s tent where a fully stocked bathtub lay puffing steam and luxurious scents from the cream petaled flowers—peonies—strewn upon the water.  The servant did not remove her bonds, something which angered her greatly, but his hands were timid as he lowered her into the clouded liquid and sponged off years of dirt, soot and filth from her tender hide.

For a moment, she struggled at the feeling of hot water.  It was a strange sensation to her and extremely alarming, even as the feeling grew powerfully delicious.  She did not yet know that her inability to breathe fire made her dependent upon external heat to stay healthy.  But sunlight was rare in the Wylds and warmth only found deep within the bowels of the earth, near bubbly, red volcanic trenches where she never dared roam.

The servant dragged her out of the bath, laid her upon the carpet and gingerly patted down her heated skin.  There, coated in soap foam and steam, Mylia noticed something strange.

Her body, typically ranging between white or ashen tones, had darkened to a deep, twilight blue.  How shockingly gaudy and regal her skin and more beautiful than the sun and stars or even the songbirds she loved.  She was the color of the deepest, spring-fed mountain brooks gushing through frosted boulders.  The color of the night before dawn, so brilliant that even the morning stars dimmed under her splendor.

Even her tail fluffed sky blue.

The servant stared upon her in awe.  Suspicion entered her mind.  Their true plan had been revealed.  Heat made female wyrms as brilliantly colored as the males, perhaps even more so.  Perhaps they would use this as a weapon, put her out as bait to grab better wyrms—

Mylia’s golden eyes glared in deadly precision upon the servant and he retreated before her bared teeth.  But, even as her mind raged with fear and causation, her beautiful skin faded to pasty grey and she shivered in the sudden cold.  She sighed and slumped upon the rugs in a pile of scrawny flesh.  The sudden movement sent jarring stabs of pain through her twisted limbs but she only mewed.  She was growing used to pain.

The servant gingerly draped a few blankets over her bound form and she thought it odd that a human endeavored to keep her warm.  It was a strange departure from her earlier treatment in the fire pit and she did not trust them.  Wyrms were not so changeable in nature.  They hated or loved forever and rarely mingled the emotions.  These humans shifted moods so easily, she could imagine each body possessed by a fleet of capricious ghosts.  There was no predicting what they would do to her next.

A medic arrived, thrusting aside the curtains, his eyes alert and professional upon her twisted limbs.  With the servant’s help, he placed her legs onto wood splits.  Mylia gasped with agony as they pulled each limb straight and lashed the knees and ankles to the wood.  It felt unnatural for her legs and she tried to complain but her voice only created several chorded, minor notes, sweet as a lark floating in a heavy dawn.  She did not understand why their eyes welled up in tears and fearful wonder at her sound.

Before she could further protest, Prince Asher stepped into the room.  He gazed upon her in curious delight and complimented the medic for his work.  The servant made to remove her blankets, but he gestured for them to step back.

“Do you not understand,” he said, “With similar attire, she could pass for a human.”

A hunter joined him, the younger man who had inquired whether Mylia was hungry.  “We are ready to depart, Asher,” he stopped and stared at Mylia’s cloaked body.  She cast her eyes upon his broad face and studied the emotions there to read shock, surprise, and even awe.

The Prince nodded, his gaze remaining on her cloaked form.  “Excellent, Gerard.  Let us be gone by morning light.”

So, Gerard was certainly his name.  Mylia didn’t have to know the human tongue to recognize the possessive intonations of the word now twice applied to him.

“What do you intend to do with her?”  Gerard asked.

“She returns with us.”  The Prince replied.

Gerard grimaced.  “You care explaining to mother why we’re bringing an apex predator home—alive?”

“She’s no predator,” the Prince breathed, his eyes never leaving Mylia’s gaze.  “She’s something else…something special.  Either way, she smells like humans now.  She won’t last a night out there, even if her limbs were healed.  We either kill her or find another use.”

“Well, you always were the clever one, brother.”  Gerard bowed himself out with a grimace.

The Prince turned to Mylia.  “You do not understand our speech but you will learn in time.  Under my protection, you will not want for food or comfort.  But should you ever hurt a human,” he grabbed the servant, swiftly pressing a hunting knife to the other’s throat to indicate to her what he meant, “I will kill you myself.”

Mylia’s lip curled.  She understood.  It had not taken long for the humans to show their cruelty.  Even the Prince’s velvet glove concealed a blade.  She was a captive until they decided to kill her.

“Good,” the Prince released the servant who scuttled backward, clutching his throat.  He sheathed his dagger and beckoned to Mylia.  “Be sure to rest and feed her well.  We journey home when dawn breaks the sky.”

Chapter 4: August 26
Chapter 5: September 2
Chapter 6: September 9
Chapter 7: September 16
Chapter 8: September 23
Chapter 9: September 30
[…]

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