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!)
“You were ordered to put her by a fire,” the Prince exclaimed. “Where is my brother? I told Gerard to watch her.”
A mild soap smell drifted past Mylia and, under her veil, she sensed the Servant draw near.
“She’s dangerous. Struggled like a mad fish all the way down. Tried to bite me, what’s more.”
“How can you be afraid of a tied-up little wyrm?” The Prince snapped in return. “Our farm boars are more deadly and you herd them.”
The Servant tried to further protest but the Prince must have looked furious for his voice faded into feeble mutterings.
“Enough. I’ll speak with you and Gerard later,” Prince Asher declared and lifted the cloth from Mylia’s face. The gloom outlined his features poorly but she recognized the same concern he had carried from the attack days before. “At least the medic should be commended for his duty. Her face has improved under his treatment.”
And then his leather-clad arms lifted her from the cold torture of the paving stones. She gasped in relief and pain as her body weighed fresh aches into her bones. “Be still, I’m not going to hurt you,” the Prince warned, his breath hot on her face, but Mylia did not struggle.
The deathly cold of her cell had turned all movements slow and terrible. She did not know if wyrms could die from severely low temperatures but she felt her heartbeat lurch and thoughts drift into the arena of hallucinations that battled for oxygen to the brain.
A strange, cloying idea entered her mind and latched with great ferocity. The Prince had saved her from that hellish prison deep within his castle, saved her from the attack those days back, and as such, was now her savior, to continue helping her in future times of need. And Mylia whimpered and snuggled her head within his steady grip as her golden eyes stared in adoration upon his shadowed face As her vision began to warm and her thoughts clear, she realized he had changed somehow; but the rooms were dark and her mind too weary to discern the reason.
He carried her up several passageways and along a dim corridor lined with dying lamps. The Servant padded behind, a cloud of unease and muttered glances for anyone who may have seen them. And then a door was unlocked and she entered warmth—oh, heaven and stars above!—and felt the downy puff of soft fabrics collapse under her body.
She lay on a massive bed piled in furs and blankets in a small room with a fireplace at one end and a shuttered window and closed door which the Servant guarded. Red and brown carpets were flung across a stone floor and a dirty chandelier spat hot wax from several candles. Above the fireplace hung a painting of what she later understood was a train; a machine of speed and purpose with tracks snaking away into brushed purple hills.
And she noticed the Prince was indeed altered—filthy and exhausted. Black mud clumped his boots and smeared the leather of his fitted hunting suit. His cloak fell heavy with crusted snow, and his leather sleeves were torn, exposing bruised forearms. Even his face, angry and creased in weariness, lay rimed with dirt and sweat in the low firelight.
He noticed her wonder and broke away his gaze. Taking her bound hands, he refitted the ropes to be more comfortable and tied the ends to the bedframe. She whimpered against the constraints in hopes he may change his mind.
“You must be tied,” he said, each word lay punctuated in command. “This is for your own good. The Wylds are many leagues away and you would be killed before you reach them.”
“Prince Asher, the wyrm does not understand you,” the Servant sullenly replied.
Mylia did a movement that other men had done in response to the Prince’s commands. Her head inclined and eyes dropped to the floor in a subtle bow.
The Prince gave a loud clap and she was surprised to see his glad face.
“Did you note that?” The Prince turned to the Servant who stared at her with shock. “This wyrm may understand more than we realize. Remember, the humans were so busy slaughtering the wyrms all those centuries ago that we know little of their genetic makeup or intelligence.”
The Servant looked skeptical but the Prince only turned to check her bonds with firm, quick fingers.
“I want her brought to me in the morning,” he commanded. “For now, I have a duty to attend to.”
When the men left and the door closed, Mylia immediately prowled the bedroom, turning over the blankets and sniffing the fireplace, eager to explore and understand. The room was simple and bare of interest. She had returned to the bed for sleep when she heard it.
The first piece of coherent language since all those days of her travel from the dim forests of the Wylds. It was a thrilling tone, hallowed as a full-throated blackbird lifted upon a green dawn. The voice spoke to her in no language but its song painted grand vistas of summer and joy…Vast apple trees carved a summer sky still lit by a lingering moon. How swift the sun rose upon fluttered petals—a field of daisies clustered round a thatched cottage with green eaves.
For the first time since her capture by the nets and hunters all those nights ago, Mylia found a need to sing. To sing was for what she could not see. What she no longer felt.
She swiftly crossed to the window and flung aside the shutters. Beyond, snow blue to the night horizon, stretched the frozen breadth of the Prince’s lands. But the music lay closer and her eyes fell downward to the source. Upon a rocky jut in the yard below, a young man sat and held a hollowed stick to his lips.
It was Gerard. He played the flute that spun the apple tree vision and Mylia rested her hand against frosted pane, tasting with great delight, every note of his song. Who knew the humans were capable of such language, she thought, and a great desire arose within her mind to reply.
Parting her lips with a slight gasp, she sang forth a return. Snow began to fall, swift and gentle through the evergreens as her music sparked in silver admiration. And Gerard, alerted by her song, looked upwards and sighted her. She saw a quick smile pierce his eyes and the rippling volley of notes swept her soul into the rains and snow that slept the castle far into the wheeling night—
His music stopped.
Gerard leapt up and she followed his gaze—
Three men marched into the yard, another three men behind them. These following men held long large poles or sticks of wood and metal in their hands. Asher rounded up the procession, heavily wrapped in his cloak. He sharply gazed at Gerard and Mylia noticed his face burn with anger.
Gerard shouted and the fury of his voice shivered her spine, but the Prince only turned away and beckoned to the men with the sticks.
Mylia then noticed the three leading men were tied together hand and foot. The sticks-men prodded the tied men to the castle wall and then stepped away. Mylia pressed her face to the glass, eager to see what the tied men were doing but they were beyond her sight.
Asher said something for she noticed his lips move. The men raised their sticks like guns—for they were guns—and fired.
Red blasts shattered the night.
A movement from the castle wall, and Mylia saw three bodies fall into the snow.
She looked for Gerard but he was gone. Only a parted door in the castle wall gaped upon blackness within.
And Mylia realized she trembled for the music and gunfire. These humans and their monstrous ways. So quick to impart violence and still touch life with dreaming hands. Caught and afraid, her body sank into the floor.
Upon the floorboards, curled within her dress, biting her lips to prevent their quivering and knowing her fright could only still with time, she felt sleep crawl past her fear.
That night, Mylia dreamt of skies warmed by sunlight and fire.
** ** **
Morning light seeped through the window and she woke in immediate terror. The Servant stood over her where he had placed a large bowl of cooled grits upon the bedside table. She had grown soft. Never could someone ever sneak upon her bower in the Wylds. But these thoughts faded upon the sight of the food.
Before the Servant’s wide eyes, Mylia threw herself to breakfast, using her bound hands to shovel the porridge down her throat in massive gulps. When the bowl lay empty, she nudged it towards the man with a soft whine in her throat. She wanted more food but all he heard was a lilting melody, delicate and fragrant as white blossoms upon the wind.
The Servant fussed with her bonds and Mylia slumped to realize there would be no more food for a while. She grimaced as he tied a short rope between her ankles with enough length for her to take short steps. Her hands were also firmly bound and only her tail fell beyond the hemline, long and beautifully furred upon the ground. Mylia wanted to cradle her beloved tail against the cold and filth but her bonds gave no choice in the matter.
The Servant pulled a cloth over her head and fixed the ends. She wondered if captivity would always blind her but a gauze segment had been stitched into the fabric and her vision was free, although hazy. Of this small benefit, she was grateful.
The Servant opened the door and led her through a passageway, then down and up several stairs. Mylia hobbled as best she could. The castle lay blue in early morning light and echoed of the silence that accompanies a heavy snowfall and the lingered slumber of those tired before the face of another day’s work.
A young woman passed them within a stairwell. Her grey dress was similar to the Servant’s jacket and Mylia figured her to be another castle worker. The woman looked her up and down, first as a stranger, and then with a gloating knowledge.
Mylia had seen such a look before. Many wynters ago, when she was just a wyrmling child, she followed a black panther who tracked a deer. The panther knew Mylia was on her trail and gave her the slip, disappearing into the trees during a stormy night when heavy rain dampened Mylia’s senses. The next morning, she found the panther bent over a devoured deer. The panther raised its head, jaws bloody with purple guts, and that same, gloating look from her yellow cat eyes. It was rare for a creature from the second breaking to outwit a fourth breaking wyrm and Mylia snarled in outrage. But the panther only hissed and plunged into the carcass with furious gulps and Mylia left, her belly growling with hunger. After that event, she learned to climb trees to outrun the large cats.
The young woman gave a small laugh. “Is this the Prince’s new plaything?”
“Mind your own business, Lolli.” The Servant pulled Mylia to keep walking.
Lolli smirked, undeterred. “He likes them tied up these days, does he?”
“You have dishes to clean,” the Servant replied. “Who Prince Asher entertains is none of your business.”
“Edith does whatever she wants and no one says anything.”
“You’re not the Lady Edith,” he said.
Lolli playfully stuck out her tongue but her face burnt with anger as she sauntered up the stairwell and vanished from sight.
They left the stairs and entered a narrow, stone hall lined with doors. It was a castle stung with poverty and neglect, Mylia suddenly realized, noting the dust webs and dead beetles, the furniture of rotted wood and faded cloth. The rooms stank of cold leaves swept by winds across the pavers as the Servant and Mylia crossed a banquet hall. Clustered iron chandeliers, filthy with rust, dropped from the vaulted ceiling in which slung a few bats, their wings twisted into a chrysalis for the day’s nap. A row of paneled wood doors faintly gleamed with the scent of wine and roasted sweetmeats from the kitchens, while the other stone wall held an entrance door, partially open upon a cobbled yard in which the leaves drifted in.
Mylia’s eyes glittered for she knew this door was the way to freedom and the Wylds. But, she had no further time to ponder. The Servant pulled her into a side corridor and they halted before a wood and iron door upon which he knocked.
“You may enter,” echoed a soft, beautiful voice from within.