Chapter 6: She Did Not Hear His Voice on the Winds

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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Onward, the company rode until the two moons rose and the horses, weary and tiresome, kicked the gravel and flapped heavy lips at the cold.  Mylia listened to the nickering beasts and watched through the heaving of her veil, her bound wrists turned silver under the moonlight.

Some years later, she entered the grand halls of the Imperial Academy, clad in silk and prestige, and learned the names of her beloved moons.  Isol, Moon of Sorrow and Ridven the Warrior, prophesier of the planet’s end and beloved of all who traveled by night.  During those years, she studied the heavens under famous academics eager to know her and join her elite social circle.  It was then she learned the chemical makeup of stars, their wavelength mathematics, the heat maps measuring their twinkling latitudes around the galaxy and piercing through the atmosphere of this world.

 

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Snow Scenes

But on this night, Mylia only felt instinctual joy for the heavens—a joy soon to be interrupted.

The Servant detached her from the mule and tied her up in a tent.  Judging from the prickly scent of old blanket and the echoed heaves of cloth walls fluttering beyond her grasp, she knew the tent to be empty.  Which was an excellent condition, given how she planned to run away. A swift grab with her tied hands, and the veil flung away into a heap.  With an awkward wriggle of bound limbs, the wool dress soon followed and she lay naked of clothes—shivering but free—among the heaps of blanket on the stones.

Food awaited her.  A pitcher of water and a flayed rabbit curled upon a metal plate beside a cold bread hunk.  Gerard had kept his promise and caught her meat.  Mylia wolfed down the meal.  The bones stuck in her throat and the loaf was squashed and dry, but her snarling belly outweighed such annoyances.  Lacking clothes but feeling satisfied and full, Mylia felt her old wyrm self again and set to work escaping.

She first tried to pry open the walls of the tent, but her rope tied to a stake holding the tent center and repeated tugging failed to free her.  Even lying on her stomach and reaching with all her pain-ridden strength, she could not touch the tent walls.  So, Mylia flung an ear against the stony ground and listened with all her strength.  Crisp steps rang upon frozen ground outside as the hunters hurried to set up the camp, settle the horses and prepare dinner.  Already the flinted spark of fires hummed through the ground and the horses stomped their hunger and demanded oats and hay.  Again and in a fit of anger, she tried her bonds but they remained firm.

Tired and cross, she lay down and rested for a time.  A dreadful, guilty pang struck her.  She could not escape and felt such failure suggested on a primal level that she did not want to be free.  Surely, if she truly wanted to leave, she would try to run away until she won or her life ended in the attempt.  She considered this choice with some angst.  Give her a minute of freedom and away under the night sky, she would flee, for the Wylds and her home.  In that fitful moment of bliss, her legs would lurch forward, unbroken, and her wings, unfurl upon the vast, swift skies.  She softly mewed as a tear slipped down her cheek.

What a dream it was.  Mylia, beautiful as the daylit stars, flying above the earth as a shadow of sapphire and silver, her great wings beating the ice winds, careless and free!  But, she was small and shaped more human than wyrm and her wings would never carry her home.

The next few days passed without event.  She stayed upon her mule in the back of the troop and felt her injuries slowly mend.  Gerard sometimes rode beside her, judging by his scent, but he did not speak much.  When he did address her, the words remained casual and inflicted with announcements of approaching weather.  The Prince was absent and this concerned her greatly.  She never heard his voice on the winds that swept over their caravan.  Nor did she discover the scent of pine and snow that accompanied his presence.  She even listened for the militant stomp of his stallion.  But, he did not appear and she thought one of the villages had delayed him.  She even wondered if he had left the hunting party for other means…another hunt in the Wylds, perhaps.  Another wyrm to bring home to his castle lair, alive or dead.

Every day, she ate bread and rabbit and soon discovered the happy sensation of a full stomach.  The food was like a pillow stuffing her belly and all the angry hungers of yesteryear now lay silent, grimly blinking upon this strange guest.

But she had other pains to remind her of captivity.  Her forehead remained a swollen lump of pain and fluid and her broken legs ached at every jostle of the mule’s step.  Once, the Servant and medic adjusted the splints and washed the bruised skin.  Mylia knew many oaths from listening to the voices that howled amid the cold sweep of wind and snow upon the Wylds.  She snarled every oath in a melodic litany as the men refastened her legs straight along the wood.

One morning, the Servant brought black gloves and pulled them upon Mylia’s hands, stretching over her shackles.  Mylia was surprised at how well they fit.  She considered this a new approach of the humans to keep her wyrm figure concealed for the Servant, finding her skin free amid the blankets after a night’s sleep, had angrily demanded she remain dressed around the clock.  Mylia disagreed but when she removed the gloves that night, she found that her hands glowed a deep shade of twilight blue while her upper arms remained grey.

Mylia held her hands to her face and marveled at the bewitching color until it faded to match the dim shadows.  And that was how she learned that heat could be contained for indefinite periods of time if such heavy coverings were worn.  After that moment, she fastidiously kept the gloves save for when she removed them with her teeth to stare upon the beauty of her skin.  This experience later helped precipitate her extravagant love of huge furs, heavy velvet gowns, hot baths, roaring fireplaces and electrically heated wood floors, but Mylia did not realize it at this time.

They rode through several villages and once, a large and noisy town.  Mylia remained blinded by her veil, but the fast-changing smells and racket that assailed her delicate ears helped her understand the changing environments.  She could not have guessed from her leafy bower amid the snow and mountains just how many people were alive.  It seemed the world swarmed with this species of the third breaking.  At least, there were no more attacks upon her.

Now that she remained wrapped from head to foot, she was mostly left alone.  In fact, she noticed even the Servant treated her a little better as he gave her food and cared for the mule.  Because she wore human clothes—that she needed human clothes to prevent attacks—seemed to indicate on a deeply moral level that she was less of a wyrm.  She knew that the difference was fundamental; her blood ran cold while they were mammals and her features and body were thousands of years advanced beyond their genetic makeup.  Yet, eyes were easily tricked and she felt glad to have disinterest replace the hatred of preceding days.

Only the older hunter, Titus, the one that dragged her through the camp like a dead thing and laughed while she had starved, never ceased hating her.  She could feel him walking by her tent at night and feel his burning gaze towards her during the day, disgust radiating from his body in sour waves.  She hoped to never have him touch her again.  If he did, her claws would remove his eyes or she would die in the attempt.

They traveled for several more days, perhaps eight or a dozen.  Mylia found it hard to keep track since she measured time by the fall of the moons and seasonal leaves.  Once, they crossed a river.  She later learned it was called the Ringold and fed into four major rivers that created great corridors of traffic for the Empire’s trade and allowed world travel for commoners who lacked passcodes into the Dyn realm.  She felt the pebbled grass change from under her mule’s tread and noted they were on a road of sorts, made of large, hewn paving stones.

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Marco Zaffignani

Mylia marveled at how closely fitted each stone was into the other.  The bridge was built centuries ago.  She could smell the multiple years packed into the layers of cement, gravel and circular pebbles that created a strong, flat structure for the road upon the rough landscape.  Deep beneath its stones, there lay the celery stench of human skeletons; workers who had died so the bridge could rise.

And the water!  This was no slurpy, moss-banked stream lurching down the mountains.  The river was vast, encrusted with jagged boulders that smashed the pounding water into frothy, roaring waves.  Her small nostrils flared, attempting to find traces of fish or river birds.  But, no, the stream lay devoid of life for the waters ran too fast and banks veered too steeply.

It was upon the bridge that Mylia picked up another scent.  Prince Asher had been here and riding his horse, judging from the commingled scent of spiced fir and snow and beast that lay aged upon the chill air.  She followed his trail across the clattered bridge.  And she wondered as a thrill sparked her soul in memory of his touch upon her face.  He cared for her life and of this feeling, she grew more certain with every passing step upon the fitted stones.  But, his voice remained silent and his presence, unfound, and then, a strange event happened.

As Mylia’s mule clattered off the bridge, all scent of Prince Asher vanished.  She rapidly sniffed the air, craning far out of her saddle, but no answers met her sparking brain.  No fresh mud upon the river banks spoke of his departure into the water and his presence was gone from the trail as though he had lifted into the sky or the world had zeroed his very body into nothingness.

Mylia was utterly confounded.  Prince Asher had appeared at the bridge and crossed it upon his horse.  And then, he had vanished.

The group left the bridge behind.  An excited rustling and chatter rose among the men for they were within the Prince’s lands and soon to be home.  Mylia heard the lowing of cattle and sheep upon the moors and smelled the spice of freshly tumbled snow.  Yellow and brown leaves crunched amid the frost under her mule’s hooves and she noticed a new pep to the animal as it recognized the warm manger that lay ahead.  Mylia almost felt happy until she remembered her future lay unmade.

That evening, under Isol’s blue moonlight, they arrived at the castle of Prince Asher.  The sounds and scents alerted Mylia before all else.  Stoked furnaces dimly roared deep within the stone turrets and tiled rooves and a heavy, golden scent of roasted fat hinted of the sheep and goat that had flamed for dinner.

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B&N Blog

And she eagerly sniffed the other mingles of food both known and new.  Hot wheat rolls and gravy-dunked potato and buttered carrots and thick creams and herbs fresh from a greenhouse garden.  The heavy, sweet, wild-honey odor of mead drifted from underground cellars, punctuated with the sharp aroma of red wines so succulent, she could almost see the frosted grapes squashed into silting wines, waiting in their cool, dark lair for hands to drag them forth and gulp them down.  And Mylia trembled for the scents spoke of human desire and she did not yet know her placement within that feeling.

The hunters cantered under a large stone gateway, and she caught a flash of brown waters under the drawbridge, and then they stopped in a wide courtyard.  Mylia waited, listening to the band of hunters dismount and tether their horses, shouting to each other as people gathered around them.  It was a long, lonely moment and she was almost glad when the Servant approached and gripped her mule’s harness.

Mylia knew it was the Servant for she smelled the man’s familiar, mild soap scent as he led her mule down one of the narrow passageways between what must have been tall buildings and made of stone, judging from the echoed ring of hooves upon the cobblestones.  Through her veil, she saw the world darken and knew they were inside a building—the first building she had ever entered!—descending a curving path, as the air chilled and sounds faded.

A great fear swept her brain and she knew she must escape.  Mylia took a deep breath, sucking in mouthfuls of veil and tried to pull it from her head, but to no use.  She felt the Servant’s slight touch on her face, readjusting the cloth tighter.  She viciously snapped for his hand, knowing that she must have come near to removing the headgear.

“Hey, Titus, come help me with her!”  The Servant shouted.   The odor of metal and leather arrived, punctuated by firm crunches of footsteps and Mylia felt a familiar grab upon her neck and a frightfully strong, recognized force pull her off the animal.

“You need to take a firm hand with the wyrm,” Titus said and threw her into a heap.

Mylia snarled and floundered in the cloth and bonds.  The fall upon the stones had jolted her leg fractures and shuddering bolts of pain thumped her brain, leaving her in agony and unreason.  But, the Servant and Titus said no more as they fixed her bonds and left, their steps ascending upwards.

Mylia pressed her ear to the floor to listen.  Unlike the peacefully buzzing, chatty forest systems full of gossip and news, this huge building echoed with the vast stillness and impregnability of stone and dead wood beams.  There must have been ivy growing upon the exterior walls and roof, for she heard a faint and yet alive babble of squeaky voices she recognized as crawling, vine-like plants.  But their voices were soft and held an accent she did not understand.

Mylia explored the lengths of her rope and discovered a curved iron handle bolted into the stone wall.  She tugged with all her might, but soon collapsed, tired and snarling, to the ground.  There, she lay and wondered when and how she would die.  Her claws made thin rasps upon the stone.  She would be ready.  As for Titus—a growl curdled her vocals and the air stiffened in reply.

The cell darkened and grew colder as night pierced the world’s atmosphere.  Mylia shivered.  The past days of relative warmth from her cloths and nightly tent had quickly taught her body the meaning of fresh cold.  Now, she expected a warmth only possible through human trappings and ministrations.  And she wondered if therein lay their final trap.  She would forget her freedom not through need but desire.  Bound and wrapped, Mylia could only lie amid the cloying blackness of her prison.  And so, she waited…and waited…and waited.

Just when she thought her mind could not exist another moment, footsteps echoed nearby and then Mylia heard the rasping scrape of leather upon stone as the Prince knelt beside her and harshly gripped her head within his hands.

Chapter 7: September 16
Chapter 8: September 23
Chapter 9: September 30
Chapter 10: October 7
[…]

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