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 two weeks!)
Prince Asher had experienced many different horrors in his life of thirty odd years. But overwhelming shock smote his fearful, arrogant mind when the wyrm woman in robes and big, gold eyes, her tail tucked demurely between her ankles, spoke for the first time.
Her name was Mylia and she said it aloud.
And it was horror at first. After all, humans were taught that wyrms were monsters of no genetic superiority. “If they actually had brains like us, imagine what they could do!” was the consensus around the world. This sort of thinking encouraged the popular sport of killing wyrms and using their ghosts as gladiators in the Dyn world’s famous arenas for, lacking souls and now bodies, they were fit only for human entertainment. But the Dyn, a complex ecosystem of spacetime and bad dreams, bound to the real world through the might of human invention, is to be explained later.
Asher was a mentally ambitious man and knew general opinion was both changeable and likely incorrect. And his horror faded to wonder and then joy.
A joy that reminded him of hope. One impossible thing proven otherwise meant the world now offered him a cornucopia of equally likely futures. Everything was his for the taking, courtesy of Mylia’s verbal thrust into the unknown.
She had said her name. The crack of the barrier separating wyrm and human echoed round the world. Although, for a long while after, people did not know the barrier was gone and behaved exactly as before. After all, a learned trauma was easier to compartmentalize and shove aside, veil in history books and whispers in the dark.
Asher stared at her. “Mylia,” he repeated, his voice soft in rare awe. “Asher,” he pointed to himself, “Mylia,” and his hand motioned to her.
Meanwhile, another set of entirely different thoughts ran through Mylia’s mind. A connection had been made between the syllable she had pressed from between her teeth to the glittered joy now stamped upon the Prince’s face. Somehow, this strange action of her throat, one-part singing and the other, verbalized intention, had pleased him more than anything she had ever done before. And she was glad for his joy at her behavior and then concerned that she cared at all about how he felt. But what she planned to say to him remained unheard for someone knocked on the door.
Gerard entered. “Mother said you called for me?”
Asher’s face dropped into the regal chill he typically wore. “Yes, I have a task for you.” He stood and walked to a cabinet and rummaged in the papers.
Gerard shrugged and snuck a glance at Mylia. “How’s the lesson going?”
The Prince closed the drawer and returned with a scroll in his hand. “Her name is Mylia.”
“Oh, she told you?” Gerard’s eyes darted between Mylia and his brother. “That’s remarkable. What else do you know about her?”
Asher shrugged. “Only her name but other words will soon come. When I go to the Capital, I need you to do something for me.”
“Is that the prophecy?” Gerard indicated to the scroll.
“I should have gone with you that night into the Wylds.” The younger man’s voice dripped with accusation.
“Nonsense. I would never have put you at risk. I needed this,” Asher shook the scroll, “And I got it. You must lock it up in this castle where no one can find it, not even me. It is utterly important the prophecy remains hidden until the appropriate time.”
Gerard nodded and tucked the scroll into his jacket but Asher stayed his arm.
“Thank you for doing this,” Asher said. “I owe you a debt.”
The other man looked annoyed. “I’m your brother. Of course I’ll help.”
Asher inclined his head in thanks and resumed his seat, but his eyes were hard upon his brother.
Gerard walked to the door and paused. Turning, he stared at Mylia again and she read concern within his gaze.
“Look, I’ve been meaning to discuss this with you.” Gerard cleared his throat and addressed Asher. “I don’t think you should take the wyrm to the Capital. They claim premium upon wyrm flesh in the Empire’s brighter lands. She could be easily kidnapped and butchered by any Dyn worker or magician. You know what they do…sell the body parts and send the soul to the Dyn to eternal torture.”
The Prince gave Gerard a sharp glance. “Gerard, please do not introduce this conversation. Mylia is not human…she is so much more. There is an intelligence and strength that we have only begun to realize—”
“Titus says the only reason we have a living, breathing wyrm in this castle is because you plan to use her…to use Mylia…to make money.”
The Prince looked aggravated, although Mylia saw he concealed it well. The mention of Gerard’s father, Titus, the commoner lover of Lady Edith, did not please him but only the slightest drop of the eyelid gave away his thoughts. Only, she was observant and noticed.
Asher finally spoke. “Your father misleads you. You have seen the horrors of wynter in these lands. The large game have long left these lands. Our crops fail and sicken with drought and pestilence. Even Yuletide had rationed food despite our merriment. My time on the borders of our lands led to several executions and all to deal with stolen food.”
Gerard looked ill. “They were starving. You had no right to kill them.”
The Prince’s eyes were hard. “They know the rules. The day we bend our law for pity or sentiment, is the day our vassals murder us in our sleep. Revolution has occurred in the country before. We still have pockets of Mals surviving here and there. Quiet meetings in the dead of night and suddenly, the post office or train station is torched to cinders. People have tasted of freedom, for better or worse, and they will never forget.”
“But, they were fathers and brothers, good men!” Gerard was angry now.
“Yes, and for that, I am aggrieved,” the Prince calmly replied, his eyes of ice.
Mylia, caught between their argument, found it astonishing that two men could go from gentle terms to a fury within minutes. Surely, these humans were unpredictable and dangerous beyond anything she could imagine.
The door swept open and Edith entered. One look at her quarreling sons and she turned and quickly closed the door behind her.
“Gerard, Asher, what is going on?!”
Mylia watched the family swap meaningful glances.
Edith swept her hands upon her hips and glared. “Well? Speak up. Gerard?”
Gerard glowered at Asher, his fury turning his face red. “Asher has been playing with life and death. I asked you to let me go with him to the borders. I would never have allowed him to murder those men.”
Edith laughed and swept past him to a chair. “Is that all? Gerard, everyone knows the laws of this land.”
“Just because something is legal does not mean it’s right!” He exclaimed.
Edith’s eyebrows curved upward.
“I offer apologies, my Lady Mother,” Gerard muttered and formally bowed to her.
She regally dipped her head in acknowledgement and then sighed. “My dear son, our people expect punishment when they disobey. Take that away from them, practice mercy, and they will turn on you as the timid oppressor. Then you and Asher will feel the end of the sword and your mother beg for scraps on the street.”
Asher turned from the window. “Enough of this argument,” he said. “We have other details to discuss.”
Gerard made as though to continue but thought better of it and sat down.
Edith followed suit, sweeping her purple robes around her with aplomb. “Asher, what is it?”
Asher motioned to Mylia who sat silent with her eyes downcast. “I will spend several more lessons with her before we leave. Gerard will stay with you and guard the castle until my return next year. Will you be safe?”
Mylia listened to the tone of his voice and suddenly realized what terrible fear he kept suppressed within his cool tone. She felt sorry for him even as she felt herself drawing closer to Gerard as a beacon of kindness. For the Prince was too clever and unpredictable.
His younger brother grimaced. “I know the real reason why you go to the Empire’s Capital and it has nothing to do with making our fortune or even this wyrm.”
The Prince looked at him with care. “You’re wrong,” he said. “Mylia has everything to do with it.”
“I saw you go into the Wylds that night. The prophecy will only bring you bad luck, brother!”
Edith’s quick eyes darted between them. “What prophecy? Asher?”
“Mother, when we captured this wyrm, the Prince entered the Dyn and found a prophecy that says he’ll be Emperor one day. He recorded it in that scroll.”
Edith’s face turned to stone. “Gerard,” she hissed. “Some things should never be said aloud. You never know who listens.”
Gerard shrugged. “Sorry.”
The Prince shook his head. “Mother, you knew this was to happen. The Dyn has revealed that it is my fate to take over the world and become the next Emperor.”
“But why mix her up in it?” Gerard gestured to Mylia. “She’s just a wyrm from the Wylds. How can she be expected to behave as you will have her?”
The Prince shrugged. “Because I’m better at persuasion than you,” he said. “And, I never let anyone forget their place.”
Edith clapped her hands. “Enough, enough. There are too many people who will happily end your friendship. No need to assist them in the task. Gerard, go now. Asher, I will have a word with you.”
“Gerard, will you still do as I ask?” Asher’s cold voice cut into the air.
His hand upon the door handle, Gerard turned. “Never, not for all the arguments in the world, could I betray my word or harm a family member. I’m hurt you would even ask.”
Before Asher could reply, Gerard had stormed out and slammed the door.
Mylia looked from Edith to Asher in dismay. Whatever was going on did not bode well for her.
Edith looked at Mylia. “Asher, you are worse than Gerard. Some things must never be said. And that wyrm to witness—we do not know yet know her level of awareness.”
Asher nodded. “She needs to hear my plans. Mylia likes and survives on strategy.”
Edith raised an eyebrow. “You mean to say in a few hours you’ve made more progression than I have in weeks?”
He sighed. “Mother, humans, as you and I well know, love patterns. The framework of our reality is established upon the connections we put on events, objects and people. Mylia and, I suspect other wyrms as well, holds an advanced form of such logic within their DNA. Us humans…we have to think hard to strategize and only some of us are any good at it. We use feelings…emotions…empathy for our fellow human to excuse our regrettable lack of foresight. But for wyrms, strategy is second nature.”
Edith studies Mylia with hard eyes. “All the more reason to be aware of her, my son. You don’t know what she will do when in a new environment such as the Capital. And, you have to take a train to the Capital. You can’t risk putting Mylia into the Dyn, even for a moment. You know what can happen to wyrms there.”
“If we travel by train, then so be it. The villagers already speak of the she-devil in the castle. You’ve protected her well, but not everyone is as well inclined as we have been. Even my loyal men tell me of bad omens they have seen since the wyrm’s arrival. No, if we are to be successful, Mylia is fortune’s key. Without the benefit of her voice, we could spend a century doing what I will accomplish in a handful of years.”
Edith stared at Mylia. “You are certain of this plan to rule the world,” she slowly replied. “If it doesn’t work, we will all die for treason.”
“But if it does, you can only guess the outcome.”
“You never told me your plan and I am your mother,” Edith said a little too sharply. “I know what prophecy you obtained and I say it’s nothing but a fairytale.”
“Exactly. And you will tell them such if you are questioned. But millions of people do believe in such things and it is over them I dare to rule.” He stood up. “Now I have things to attend to—”
Edith blocked his path to the door. “Answer me this. Will you pursue ambition in the Capital or bring us some money so we can survive the winter?”
“Mother, how can you think so poorly of me?”
“I had to deal with your father for years and his ambition cost his head.”
“But I am not like my father.” The Prince curtly bowed and left the room, closing the door behind him with a soft click.
Edith angrily spun on her heels, grabbed a painted vase on a table, and hurled it across the room to smash the wall. A thousand ceramic fragments shattered like an exploded snowball across the room.
Mylia watched the older woman gaze ahead with stone eyes even as her chest heaved angrily. Finally, she seemed to have spent her anger for she grew calm and took a deep breath. Turning, she saw Mylia staring at her, eyes huge with curiosity and fear.
Edith grimaced and straightened her dress. When she spoke, her tone was clipped and highly formal. “Wyrm, if you are as gifted as my son thinks, then intuition tells me that you will become a special player in the highest level of politics. But, if you don’t learn to be like us…if you don’t learn to be human…then you will eventually die, along with whatever dreams you hold dear.”
Mylia did not need to know the words to understand the threat. She felt like a snarl was in order but Edith’s voice held strangely triumphant undercurrents of pain and she kept her silence.
And Edith rang the bell to summon the Servant to take Mylia back to her room.
Shortly thereafter, Mylia and the Servant walked through the castle halls as flaming sconces burned shadows onto the walls and windows seared under the red evening light.
She had much to think about and longed for the silent emptiness of her bed to curl under the blankets, close her eyes, and dream her confused mind back to orderliness and into the light of a new day.
Such a hope was not to be for something happened that Mylia did not expect. The Servant led her left of the hall, through a door she had never entered and down a curiously narrow flight of stairs.
Mylia drew back, unnerved. Something was wrong. Very wrong.
He retaliated by shoving her along, his grasp a stranglehold upon her arm, towards a door at the hallway’s end.
She struggled, but he was far stronger. She was not yet human enough to know screaming could summon aid and this ignorance nearly cost Mylia her life.
For the door opened and another voice spoke from the shadows of this strange room. One she knew well and loathed. It was Titus.
To be continued in Chapter 12, released on November 18!