Chapter 14: They’re Always Hungry and Mad

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!)

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When Mylia awoke, she found herself in a soft bed under a mound of blankets that itched of electric heat and static.  Daylight had faded and shadows crawled around her.  A sea breeze tang hinted she remained in Ovgarod.  What a day of rescue, new beginnings and terror she remembered and what a strange, inglorious end.  Her nightmare had seemed so real.

“I saw it too, you know.”  Fay’s voice echoed from somewhere deep in the bedroom’s depths.  “The oncoming wave, taller than several buildings, headed directly towards us.”

What does it all mean? Mylia thought her question to the witch who nodded in response.

“The end of the world,” Fay answered.  “But, remember the vision is just a possibility, a single future drifting amid multiple other futures in that black Dyn world.  Our Imperial coders game such futures daily as they use the Dyn to shape the future of our planet.  So, don’t think further about futures, dreams, prophecies…end of the world garbage.  Really, you’ve got more important things to do and so have I.”

She laughed but worry edged her voice and Mylia wondered just how much truth was in the witch’s reply.

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Mylia recalled her beloved Wylds and suddenly, desperately wished to return—her lofty bower of leaves amid swaying fir tops, the deep, red sunsets and myriad of bright birds with their silver voices.  Life was so gloriously simple then.  Even the times of cold and starvation didn’t seem all that bad in retrospect.  The Wylds did not deserve to drown in planetary destruction.  The quiet depths of the cool-sparkled forest glens must remain so for the small, timid creatures and those of forbearance and quiet tread.

There are some things that cannot be destroyed, she thought in sudden dismay and struggled to sit up.

Fay was stationed in her wheelchair, facing the open window.  Pallid moonlight outlined her face and twinkled upon the silver trinkets in her dim hair.  She turned and surveyed Mylia.  “You’ve been unconscious for a few days.  How do you feel?”

Slowly, Mylia stood up, heavily leaning upon the bedside table for support.  My legs are no longer…I don’t know.  They no longer hurt.

“A happy side effect of your rest was that we were able to heal your legs.  To inform you, I did use magic to quicken the process.  I hope this doesn’t offend you.”

A sharp rumble of thunder in the distance startled them both.

“More rain,” Fay’s tone was moody.  “Storms are a daily feature of our Empire…a product of our Dyn overuse in these parts.”

Mylia sighed and an idea struck her.  Now that I am healed, please send me home.  I want to walk again in the Wylds—long enough to remember my speed and strength.

Fay looked at Mylia’s legs.  “Yes,” she said quietly, “I suppose you must have been fast indeed before the accident.”

The hunting trap was not an accident, Mylia glared in return.  Humans have cruel natures.

“Then it was no accident,” Fay repeated with a calmness Mylia found exasperating.  “But it happened all the same and you must do your best to move forward.”

Mylia fell silent.  She was deeply angry.  Life had interrupted her when she never asked for it and now some witch dared instruct her on how to cope.  She was tired of these humans and their schemes.  She longed for her forest—for the beautiful Wylds of the wet, black branches and blossoms so fresh a finger’s touch sent petals curling in moist protest, for deer of blooded necks and dainty steps, and the sun hazy and blue behind morning fog—more than anything else in the world.

Please send me home, Mylia begged to the witch.

Fay frowned.  “When I first rescued you, I may have agreed.  But while you slept, things changed and someone awaits your presence.”  She reached forward and shook a rope dangling on the wall, jostling that hidden bell within the house’s recesses.  “Come, you must get ready.  Morning will soon arrive.”

Several hours later, Mylia stood in front of a mirror and stared at her reflection.  Fay’s boyfriend and live-in nurse, Tom Ledel, had brought yellow silk robes embroidered with pale green and gold flowers.  Mylia took a hot bath, felt remarkably better, and dressed.  Tom gave her a pair of red leather gloves, stuffed to make her fingers fatter like a human hand, and red boots fitted to her very toes  A metal headdress fastened over her head and neck from which a dense silk covering fell to her waist.

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The final touch, several strings of cultured pearls, covered Mylia’s head and wrapped her throat with strands trailing down her back so that no gust of wind could blow away the covering and betray her wyrm self to the world.  A latticework of seed pearls crossed the gap for her eyes so that her gold irises flashed and sparkled behind the strands.

Mylia stared at her reflection and wondered.  This was the finest outfit she had ever worn.

“You look magnificent!”  Fay exclaimed when Mylia presented herself.  “The Prince spared no expense.”

Tom looked as smug as though the outfit were entirely his doing.  “You’d never know her true nature with such finery.  She looks like one of our great ladies of the Palace!”

Mylia knew they were encouraging and so she hummed a little tune; small, fluted notes that jumped around the room like jackrabbits on a spring day.

Fay looked at Tom.  “Yes, well, we should prepare and tell her what to do.”

Tom nodded.  “Do your mind speaking thing, it’s faster and highly private.”

Fay rolled her chair forward to Mylia and locked eyes.

Suddenly, like a door opening, Mylia felt Fay’s presence in her mind.

Mylia, when you were unconscious, Prince Asher arrived in Ovgarod by Dyn travel.  As is his lineage and right, the palace gave him lodging. 

How does he know I’m here?  Mylia thought back with an edge of hurt in her voice.  Had the witch betrayed her for a reward or worse?  Fay met her eye for unblinking eye.

He found out.  I am decent at Dyn coding but you should see the coders who work for the Emperor.  They’re the best in the world.  It’s impossible to hide from them once they decide to find you.

Mylia digested this information and decided Fay was not to blame.  Will you get in trouble for me?

If a further investigation is done, yes.  But the prince says the government will not intervene if you meet with him. 

Mylia thought this was manipulative of the Prince and informed Fay with several angry, glaring thoughts.  What if I say no?  He may plan to recapture me or worse, invoke justice for the death of that foul Titus… And here Mylia cursed for a moment in wyrm language.

Fay shrugged but her eyes were not pleased.  People will do anything if driven to desperation and he is a desperate man.  I think he cares more for the special future prophecy he discovered in the Dyn than making amends for a dead castle staffer he never really cared for.

Mylia remembered Gerard and Prince Asher discussing the prophecy during her time of captivity.  The very future prophecy that sent Prince Asher to the Wylds and led to her unwitting capture.  The future that spelled Prince Asher’s ascension to be Emperor.

“Fay, you should hurry it up.  Please.”  Tom hovered between them with the consternation of an overwrought butterfly.

Fay redirected her attention to Mylia.  Will you meet him? 

Mylia grimaced.  I’m sorry to have brought this to you both.  You were nice enough to help me escape death.  My future shouldn’t hurt yours.

Nonsense.  I’d rescue you again if needed.

Mylia stared down upon her hands.  It was hard to see anything with the encasement of fabric around her body.  Okay.  To help you and Tom, I will see him. 

Thank you, Mylia.  I hope the meeting goes according to your satisfaction.

The door ‘closed’ and Mylia felt Fay’s presence depart and fade.

Beside her, Fay made a great downward motion with her hands and pulled apart the air, exposing a black space.  The Dyn had opened.

Fay pushed herself forward from the chair, falling into the blackness.  A moment later, Mylia saw her spring up on suddenly working legs and motion to her.

Mylia stepped through the odd chill of the Dyn entry and joined Fay in the darkness.

“Watch your step,” the witch said as the door or opening or whatever it was between the dark world and the morning-washed apartment shut.

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“I’m okay,” Mylia said and was surprised to hear the sound of her voice amid the echoing blackness of the Dyn world.

Fay nodded, bemused.  “Yes, you can talk in here.  The Dyn transports your body by moving your mind, all within logical reason, of course.  So, in my mind, I can walk, therefore…” She beckoned to her upright legs.  “Obviously, in your mind, you can speak with me, and I must say, you have a beautiful voice.  I’d be enthralled to hear you sing.”

Mylia grinned. “What else can I do?”

“Nothing beyond the constraints of your nature.  I can’t fly in the Dyn, for example.  You may although I wouldn’t recommend it.  Too visible to the other coders and there’s nothing up there but space and stars.”

Fay walked ahead, eyes on the shadowy, flat ground, fingers making odd motions in the air as though coding something invisible.  Mylia followed, wondering if she could breathe fire.  After all, she was part wyrm and if flight were possible, then—she took a deep breath and thought of fire.

“No!”  Fay frantically hissed, reading Mylia’s plans.  “Do you want to attract every hungry wyrm ghost in the vicinity?  Goodness, Mylia.  I thought you had more sense.”

Mylia pondered this and decided against any and all sudden movement.  “How are ghosts trapped here?”

“It’s a long story.  This Dyn is just another world…a terribly cold and dangerous one folded around ours from the dawn of our planet’s formation.  The spacetime complex of the Dyn lends an eternal time or at the least, a highly stretched out linearity to our time’s progression.  Because extreme lengths of time are the equivalent of a perpetuity or eternity, a type of trapped sentience or ‘ghost’ can be created.  Typically, we get more wyrm ghosts than any other species and they’re always hungry and mad.”

Mylia remembered Fay’s earlier admonition and repeated it.  “The Dyn is not the afterlife.”

Fay nodded and kept walking and weaving the air in front of her hands.  “Correct.  Another strange aspect of the Dyn—humans found we could glimpse the future of our world in certain parts of the Dyn and then, much later, we determined ways to code the future we wanted for our planet.”

Mylia remembered the Prince’s prophecy.  “Prince Asher said the Dyn forecast he would become Emperor.  Is that the actual future then?”

Fay shrugged.  “Dyn coding is all very complex stuff and no one ever agrees to the precise future we want but now our entire world is run by the happenings of the Dyn.  If your prince can obtain control over the general future trend of the Dyn, anything is possible.”  Fay unfurled a slice of blackness, pulling apart the folds like a pair of curtains.  Beyond was that shocking blast of whiteness.

“Catch me when I fall,” Fay said and together, they stepped out of the Dyn.

Mylia grabbed Fay as her legs collapsed and lowered her carefully to the floor.  Staggering upright from the heaviness of the witch’s body, she found herself in a strange place.

Everything around her glittered as though lit on fire—opulence she could never have imagined from her blue treetop bower washed in fresh moonlight.  Gold and fiery gems encrusted the plates and goblets upon the coffee table, settees of purple and crimson velvet lay curved on either wall, heavy with huge portraits of pastoral landscapes, and the floor was a single slab of ebony and cream river marble.  Shards of multicolored light flung downward from a chandelier the size of a car, suspended as it was high above them.

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It was some type of grand sitting room and lacked windows.  As if to recall nature’s existence, a silken cloth flung a bunch of purple grapes upon a small coffee table.

Mylia watched as a heavily-ringed hand plucked a grape and popped it past a huge beard into a mouth that chewed and swallowed.  The hand and mouth belonged to a man with long, red hair and a diamond in one ear.  He wore a tough blue sort of pants material around his legs and a fitted shirt of cotton.  Mylia later understood this to be a denim and tee shirt combination highly popular in the Capital.   She also did not yet realize how casually dressed he was for the obscenely glittered surroundings.

“Mylia, so good of you to join us,” a familiar voice said.

Prince Asher sat opposite the stranger.  He wore his typical black hunter’s outfit but had added a heavy silver chain and shaven his beard.  Mylia felt a stab of pain and gladness to see him and considered this a strange emotion, given the bloody manner of their departure some days prior when she had killed Titus.  She decided to ponder later in safety for now her wits must be present.

Fay sighed and held out her hand in sweet annoyance.  “Will someone be nice and help me to a chair?”

The man in denim jumped up and offered his arm.  When Fay was properly seated by the grape-covered table, she exchanged looks between the man and the Prince.  “Well, here’s your escapee dressed and presentable as you requested,” she said to Asher.  “Who’s your kind friend?”

The man stuck his hand forward to the witch.  Mylia felt a knee-jerk reaction and flinched but then realized he only wished to shake hands with Fay.

“Name’s DJ Sand,” he announced.  His voice stood thin and plain amid a wonderland of arrogance.

The young witch pumped his hand with cursory politeness.  “You’re a DJ?”

“Yea.”

She wrinkled her nose in consideration of this.  “What do you want with Mylia?”

The DJ frowned.  “Who’s Mylia?”

Asher had watched the exchange and said no words.  He only stared at Mylia with a great, unblinking gaze that she found unnerving.  When the DJ said her name, he stood up with some alacrity.

“This is Mylia,” he said and grandly flourished his hand toward her.

The DJ looked her up and down in some bemusement.  “Why’s her face covered?”

Asher lent a secretive shrug.  “Why does any artist do what they do?  She has the only thing you need.  A voice.”

The DJ nodded and bit into a grape.  “I love food.  I literally eat all the time.  It’s remarkable I’m not the size of a sunship by now.”

“As the saying goes, choose a vice for a vice will always find you,” the Prince echoed with a smirk.

“Exactly.  And vices can have the strangest origins,” and the DJ spat a grape pip across the floor.  “Well, I’m here and I’m interested.  Mylia, sing something for me, won’t you?”

Asher nodded to Mylia.  “Please…oblige.”

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Chapter 15 to be released 12/31/18!!

Chapter 13: Elegant in the Starlight

Mylia stumbled back in the darkness, reeling to catch her balance.  Because she was more wyrm than human, her eyes adjusted in milliseconds to her surroundings.

She stood on a flat, grey plain that stretched to the horizon under which a canopy of black night shivered and glinted with heavy stars.  There existed no temperature that she could feel and the air lay still and devoid of scent.  For a dreadful moment, she wondered if the arrows had killed her and this empty place was the afterlife.

Those hands that had grabbed her away from the homing arrows—Mylia remembered and spun around.

A shadowy woman’s form rose behind her, elegant and lean in the starlight, walking away with the grace of a dancer as subtle chimes trilled around her hidden form.  And then Mylia realized the woman made strange gestures in the darkness as though tracing calligraphies with obscured ink.

As she watched, the woman’s hands spread wide and the darkness split apart as though she had opened a curtain.  Brilliant light shone upon them, blinding Mylia’s eyes to slits.

“Follow me, love,” she heard the woman exclaim in a thick, foreign accent, and again those hands grabbed and dragged her forward into the brightness.

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Mylia sank to her knees in fear and confusion, again waiting for her eyes to clear.  When they did, they found the woman lay crumpled before her in a heap of robes and limbs.  Mylia turned to see the last vestiges of the opening into that strange, dark world seamlessly close and zip up the black air into nonexistence.

And she saw that she was in a small room and the air lay heavy with sea and cloud.  The light was also different.  The low afternoon sun slunk orange behind the curtains, speaking of a land that received plentiful day hours, unlike the thin, frantic dawns and long twilights of the Wylds.

“You can stare all you like but do help me up,” the woman said in that syrupy-chunk accent.

She held out a hand and Mylia understood.  Somehow, in that strange, black realm, this woman was able to walk.  Now, back in the real world, she had lost the ability.  Mylia remembered her own, healing legs that had been broken from the hunter’s trap months ago and felt a wave of understanding.

“To the chair,” the woman insisted, faintly gesturing to a chair perched by an open window.  And so Mylia dragged her in a slide of dangling legs and clutching arms, to the chair.  It was difficult going, given her filthy exhaustion from the castle escape but the woman had powerful arms and plunked her body from the floor, swinging herself into a mound of cushions with a sigh of relief.

Mylia stepped away and surveyed her rescuer in proper daylight.

The trilling sounds she had earlier heard now made sense.  A thousand silver trinkets had been meticulously sewn into the woman’s black hair and moved like metal rain as she settled back in the chair with a deep sigh and closed her eyes.

Mylia took in the squawks of bluebirds from silver cages dangling in the white gauze curtained windows that encompassed much of the room.  Outside was a courtyard wall, the grey stones dank with rotten moss and dirt.  A large, wet tree bough flung across the window as though attempting to hide the alley below in which a car rested amid piles of trash on cracked tarmac.

The exterior was quite the contrast from the bright chrome fixtures, grey plush carpet and brightly pattered furniture of the room, Mylia thought.  But this room was again a far cry from the castle.  She wondered where in the world she was and what sort of powerful magic had enabled such a leap of distance.

“They’re pretty living quarters, right?”  The woman had evidently recovered and now sat watching Mylia with hawkish eyes.

Mylia turned, curiosity written across her gaze.

The woman pursed her lips, frowning.  “You don’t speak the human tongue, I take it.”

Mylia knew an answer was demanded but she said nothing.  How could one answer an unknown question?  Any reply would invariably complicate the next inquiry.

“Hmmph,” the woman slowly and thoughtfully said.  She was perhaps in her late twenties, if counting by human years and several black and blue tattoos in a strange, symbolic language glinted and danced upon her darkly muscled arms.

“Come,” she again beckoned to Mylia.  “Come, I won’t bite you, wyrm woman.”

Mylia frowned at the geniality of the woman’s annoyance.  This woman had saved her life and likely felt a debt of obedience was owed.  After all, had not Asher and his mother inflicted such a debt upon her that had culminated in her near death only hours ago?  A small voice told her this was an unfair assumption to apply to a stranger.  However, she remembered the flying arrows toward her body and figured some leeway was allowed her private thoughts.

The woman only fixated her finger to a spot on the plush, red rug directly before her.  “Stand here,” she said, again jabbing at the floor with adamant will.

Mylia did so.

The woman picked up Mylia’s arm, peeled back the sleeve, filthy with the dirt of the moat and the lifeblood of Titus, and pressed her strong fingers into Mylia’s flesh.  “Look at me,” she commanded and her gaze punched Mylia’s golden eyes.

As though from a great distance, Mylia heard a buzzing in her head.  It was as though a very, very tiny bee was trapped somewhere deep in the depths of her mind and trying to get out.

The woman saw recognition dawn in Mylia’s eyes and smiled.  She closed her eyes and her grip strengthened.  Deep, throbbing, the sounds increased, louder and louder until Mylia thought her head would explode.

—And the buzzing stopped.  In the sudden quiet, a voice spoke.

Wyrm woman,” it said, calmly and with great strength.  “I am the witch they call Fay Varna.”

Mylia watched Fay’s face.  Her lips remained still.  No, somehow this woman, this self-professed witch, was speaking into her head.

You must forgive our people on the borders…the ones who called you a devil and tried to kill you.  They are rough and crude folk who worship ghosts and kill their marred infants.  But they are a remnant of what the early Empire was and not all of us humans are like them.  I welcome you to my home.  You may speak your mind.

Mylia pondered this development with some concern.  Was this how magicians communicated then?  Could Fay read her thoughts?  How similar the conversation was to those she had with the animals and trees of her beautiful Wylds.  Just thinking of them made her realize how distant in memory they had become.

Where am I?

In Ovgarod, the Capital of the Empire.  You have traveled over a thousand miles in the Dyn.

The Dyn.  So that strange, black world they had passed through was the fabled Dyn.  Mylia felt a thrill of fear and curiosity at the thought.  How strange and alien the place had felt.  She hoped to never again enter but a small voice told her that she would return.

You must be a powerful witch, Mylia thought to Fay.  Can you read all my thoughts?

Would I have asked you to speak your mind if I could discern your answers?

Yes and no…perhaps you wanted me to think that some of my thoughts are private when communicating like this.

Fay inclined her head and then those sharp, deep eyes pierced Mylia’s soul.  Can you read my thoughts, right now, right here?

Mylia smiled, refusing to fall for the bait.  If she admitted that Fay’s mind was readable, then Fay could in full rights try to reach into her mind.  And Mylia was feeling uncertain whether such a thing was possible or if she would even care to enjoy it.  In the Wylds, my forest home, if a creature suffers, we offer it care but we do not attempt to save its life for perhaps time has come for it to die and who are we to play with fate?  The same goes for thoughts.  I can read the sufferings and joy of a thousand creatures, feel their emotions thrumming through the forest chords every moment of my waking and sleeping life.  But I do not pry into the specifics of those thoughts.  Us wyrms consider it rude.”

Fay laughed and opened her eyes.  “You wyrms?  You’re not a full blooded wyrm and yet you cling to that species…well, I suppose that it makes sense.  Sometimes, you must claim another identity to be able to grow your own, uninterrupted.”

Mylia frowned, feeling annoyed at such directness and yet, how incredibly relieved she was to be able to converse with someone.  Ever since her capture, she had despaired and trembled in the confusion and silence of her mind, unable to connect on such a casual basis with anyone.  And she had suffered so much as a result.

Fay snapped her fingers and gave a great, angry frown.  “Come!  Leave those thoughts for later.  You can always pick up a sadness to dwell upon if you’re in the mood.  Now, be a dear and ring that bell?”

Fay gestured to a red, embroidered rope hanging from a hole in the ceiling to the floor.  Several other such ropes were visible around the room, cleverly situated by tables, windows, chairs and the bed.  Later, Mylia was to realize their great use to Fay in summoning aid.  But, at this moment another thought preyed upon her mind and she turned to the witch.

I can still hear you perfectly, she marveled.  How is it possible you speak to me and yet no longer touch my arm?

“We have a connection,” Fay laughed.  “I can see that the Prince and his mother tried to connect into your mind.  Oh, they tried  hard indeed, I’ll give them that.  But they don’t consider magic a useful means of education. They could only get so far by endeavoring to make you talk with your tongue and teeth.  I broke beyond the barrier of muscle movement and conversed with your mind.   The only issue then was whether you were smart enough to read my thoughts and you certainly are.  Speaking with you is like running a marathon, not that I’d know.”

Fay gestured again to the red cord.

Mylia still had questions.  But how long will we be connected?

“As long as you want.  You just decide in your mind to not talk to me anymore.  As though you’re closing your lips, your mind ‘switches off’ and I can’t access it until you grant me permission again.  Now, please ring, will you?”

Mylia gave a tug to the rope and deep within the recesses of the dwelling, she heard a bell chime in answer.

“Thank you, wyrm.  What is your name, anyway?”

Mylia.

“A beautiful name.  Does it have meaning?  Who gave it to you?”

I don’t know.  I just woke up one day and knew that I had a name and it was Mylia.

“Hmmph,” Fay said again, “The Sentience of Beasts.  I thought it was a legend.  It doesn’t exactly apply to you,” she added quickly.  “It’s more the seconders….plants and animals.  Fairytales say they can or did talk many thousands of years ago.  Then something happened and they no longer have the ability to think as we do or speak with us.  Besides, talking and having the ability to know yourself apart from others to the point of claiming a name are two incredibly different things.”

I don’t understand.  I speak with them.  Or, I used to.  Every day in the forest.  A sudden wave of nostalgia swept over Mylia and she gulped to contain her sadness.  If Fay noticed, she didn’t show it.

“Well, that’s all fine and good but humans can no longer speak the languages of animals and if we can’t participate in an intelligence, no matter how it’s evolved beyond our knowledge, we don’t consider it intelligent.  Conquerors do not tread lightly, you see.”

Before Mylia could reply, a door opened and into the room bounced a man holding a tray of tea and white cakes.  He saw Mylia and quickly slammed the door behind him.

“Fay?!  Oh, Fay, what have you done this time?”

“Tom, meet Mylia.  Mylia, this is my roommate, Tom Ledel.  He’s a gift straight from the stars when he isn’t scolding me about doing magic.”

Mylia drifted her eyes over this new arrival.  He reminded her of an abandoned stone temple in the Wylds long since taken over by bramble and wildflowers.  And, while he moved with urgent joy, some key emotion, utterly trapped, swam in circles within his smiling eyes.  “Hush, Fay!  You shouldn’t say such things.”

Fay laughed and wrinkled her nose.  “Tom, the Empire’s judicial system wants to catch bigger magicians…to make a name for themselves and set an example, you know.  I’m very small fry.  Sorry, Mylia,” she turned to where Mylia, “This is an old argument and doesn’t concern you.”

Tom placed the tray down before Fay and turned to survey Mylia from head to toe.  “Hmph.  Her clothes are of faded dye and the fashion is three years behind ours.  She’s obviously from the outskirts of the Empire.  Did she come from the Wylds?”

“Yes and what’s more, she didn’t wear clothes at her home.  They were given her by the night farms royal family, you know…the one led by that Prince Asher.”

“I know the Nine Royal Families.  I’m just thinking aloud.  She’s stunted; her throat looks like ours.  Can she fly?”

“Mylia, can you fly?”

No, my wings are too small.

“Tom, she can’t fly.  Keep going with your deductions.”  She turned to Mylia and winked.  “Tom and I met when I was in the hospital the last time.  He moved in with me shortly after.  He’s a nurse, you see.”

“And a bloody good nurse,” he grinned and again, his eyes ran over Mylia’s figure, discerning all details with an odd little grimace she figured was due to the mud and blood splatters upon her clothes and the rug.

Tom again spoke.  “Wyrms are fire-breathers and yet I believe this wyrm could rent a smokers-free apartment with little issue.  Can’t smell a trace of smoke on her.”

Mylia noticed his stare lead to her throat and realized his question.  She shook her head with vehemence.  I can’t breathe fire.

Fay laughed and translated for Tom.

“Why did you rescue her?”  He plumped Fay’s pillows.

“They were about to kill her,” Fay said.

“Savages,” Tom sniffed in disdain and then kissed Fay.

Mylia watched their embrace and wondered to feel strangely at ease within their shared affection.  Fay met her eyes over Tom’s shoulder and twinkled a smile in return.

“No, it was a misunderstanding,” she said to Tom as he began to carve the pale-fleshed cakes.  “They thought she murdered one of theirs.  And she did, but out of self-defense.”

Mylia refrained from correcting Fay.  True, she had killed Titus before he murdered her, but she had also enjoyed it.  He had persecuted her for months.  Killing him gave her pleasure beyond the sheer protection of her body.  But this witch did not need to know the full assault of emotions that possessed Mylia’s inner mind regarding that dreadful fight in the castle cellars.

“You seem to know an awful lot.  Fay, just how long did you spend in the Dyn watching this creature?!”

“Just a couple of minutes each time,  I promise. I couldn’t get past the castle moat…you know I can’t travel in the Dyn over water.  I had to wait for Mylia to leave the castle before I could rescue her.”

“Fay!  I know you’re lying,” Tom handed her a plate with cake and tea, tenderly, although his eyes were firm.  “The Dyn is super addictive for you.  I don’t want to return here and find you gone one day.”

Fay rolled her eyes.  “Yes, mom.”

“Cut the attitude.  I’m serious.”

“I’ll always return to you,” she said in a very quiet voice, “But I like walking and the Dyn lets me do so.  You can’t deny me this pleasure.”

His eyes grew small and sad, but only for a moment and the trapped, bright gaiety returned. “Well, now that you have a dirty and bloody wyrm woman in our apartment, what do you plan to do with her?”

“I told you about the prophecy, correct?”

“Yea, the one about the….” His voice fell softer, “…Emperor?

Fay nodded.  “When I was last in the Dyn’s Pillars, I read many things in their riddles.  I discovered an anomaly linked to the Emperor and in that quirk or call it what you will, I found the coding for Mylia’s future which led me to her castle.  There, I was able to spy on her until I could attempt a rescue.  She is highly special in the years to come and I don’t yet know why.”

Tom sighed and turned to Mylia, “Do you know what she’s talking about?”

Mylia frowned, uncertain where the conversation was going.  Fay and Tom talked as fast as the birds in the windows sung.  She suddenly missed the Prince and perhaps even Edith.  They had been kind to her in their own way.  And their Twilight home brushed off the Wylds into their minds.  She felt more aligned with the Prince than these strangers with fear in their eyes and flippancy upon their lips.  She wondered what would happen next and did not answer Fay’s question.  A low, throbbing fear had begun to whisper on the edges of her subconscious.

Her eyes sunk closed and slowly, as though she stood on the shores of a wide, black ocean, she saw a line of massive waves, each taller than a building, rising towards her.  Low and furious hung the charcoal sky and red lightning stabbed the heavy mist that clung to the pebbled shores.  On either side of the bay rose massive, rock watchtowers flashing thin fires into the deep.

“But we need to be serious.  If she’s linked to the Emperor, then we’re harboring a future evil.  Don’t you think we’re testing luck already, what with you being a witch and all?”

“Tom, you work at Doctor Thrall’s hospital.  I tell you, I’ve spied on her and she’s already tested every law when it comes to blending legal and magical healing.  What I do is nothing compared to her experiments and tests.”

“But Thrall is connected to the Emperor and I’m just one of her many employees.  Fay, I have to be paranoid since you never are.”

“Now you’re being silly,” the witch responded.

“Not really.  Maybe you should just take her back to her Wylds and let her go.”

But Fay was no longer listening to him.  She studied Mylia with sharpening eyes.  “What’s wrong?”  She asked, abruptly leaning forward.

Closer the first wave raced, rearing its head as a cobra does to strike—crashing down upon Mylia with the full force of foul-tasting sea water…water so cold she felt the flesh stripped from her bones.

Mylia fell and remembered no more.

Chapter 14 to be released December 16!!

Chapter 5: Nine Leagues to the South, a Broken Castle Rose

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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amandadana

Mylia’s instincts, honed by years of climbing trees, flipped into action.  Before her pupils registered the incoming missile, before the wallop to her forehead sent red pain shrieking through her body, her wrapped hands grabbed the saddle bow and her body curved under the impact, avoiding a fall from the startled mule.  She foggily gazed at the rinds scattering the road, thick, black insects crawling within the decayed pulp.  Then, her eyes furiously narrowed in search for the thrower.

A farmer stood within a nearby melon patch, ripping another rotten melon from the vines.  When he saw her look up, he shouted something obscene and threw.  This time, the mule stepped backwards and the fruit harmlessly cracked apart on the road.  Mylia held firm upon the saddle bow and snarled with every gleaming fang she possessed.

She was not alone.  Gerard and Prince Asher swiftly rode horses towards the farmer.  At the sight of charging horses and armed men, he yelped and dashed away, leaping over the vine-strangled ground.  Gerard made to pursue him, but the Prince grabbed his arm.

“No, Gerard.  Do not cause trouble.”

From the flashing anger in Gerard’s eyes, Mylia could see he welcomed that sort of trouble and she bared her sharp teeth in agreement.  If she had just a moment with that melon slinger, she’d make him squeak all types of music.  Then, came the pounding headache and she thought of nothing else for a long moment.

“The wyrm frightens the villagers,” a hunter said to another.

“Can you blame them?  Wyrms are wretched beasts,” another hunter replied and made another religious symbol over his breast.

“Enough talking,” the Prince snapped at them.  “Do your duty and guard our captive.”

Mylia shrank upon the saddle as the two hunters reluctantly circled their horses around her mule.  Neither made eye contact with her.  It seemed they were doing their best to pretend she did not exist.  Gerard and Asher continued to fervently speak in low tones.

Mylia considered the fleeing melon-flinger, his coat snapping in the breeze as he jumped into a distant wheat field, still shouting curses over his shoulder.  A long time ago, she stumbled upon another wyrm in a muddy clearing of cindered pine.  The wyrm, disbelieving they sprang from the same species, had challenged her to a fire-breathing competition.  When her lungs only produced air vocalized in crystal song, the wyrm had kicked and beat her for hours.  The intention was more obvious than the bruises that lingered upon her skin for a dozen moons afterward.  She was not a real wyrm and thus embarrassed all the other wyrms with her presence.

Except, this was worse.  The human, who even now ducked behind a metal silo with a last, jangling oath, hated her not as a malformed wyrm, but for daring to be born a wyrm at all.  As if there had been a choice in the matter, Mylia thought.  More keenly than ever, she felt the injustice upon her species smite deep within her intelligent, cool wyrm heart.  Even the songbirds had worshipfully gathered around Mylia when she sang, whistling a chorus to her notes before she ate them.  And, whether their brains were small or her voice, entrancing, they always followed her from treetop to dale, twittering and dancing upon the winds.

Mylia sniffed and raised her head, proudly silent, even as the bruise darkened her temple.  These men could never know that she suffered.

But, Gerard had turned his horse and galloped to several other hunters.  The Prince approached Mylia, his horse sharply clopping upon the stones.  He appeared sterner than yesterday, and the head of the wyrm no longer thumped against his saddle.  She wondered what he had done with it.  Perhaps, and her eyes narrowed in wrath, he had eaten the tongue, eyes and brain before discarding the skull upon the roadside.  And she bared her lips in fury at the thought, not caring if it were true.  The gathered hunters placed their hands upon weapons but the Prince angrily waved them aside, drawing his horse to a stop beside her.

Mylia noticed that his boots fitted to his leg and were toed with engraved silver.  She heard the thump of blood within the black stallion and noted the reeking disgust within its prancing neigh. It was a horse bred for war, she thought with a flash of awareness.  Its father’s father had trampled her dying kin many years ago with steel-clad hooves.  As for the Prince—

Brimming with all the prejudice of ancestral memory, she met Prince Asher’s eyes.

Mylia often wondered why humans did not collect the eyes of the dead and preserve them.  It was a superstition, she reasoned, the idea of capturing the soul of the person rendered sightless.  In the Wylds, eyes were just another form of nourishment, to be scooped out with a claw and a sucking plop and eaten like a fat, squishy tomato.

And his eyes were darker than waters flowing upon obsidian rock in a moonless night.  Mylia imagined their taste as fir-shredded mist or the subterranean blackberries that grew beside volcanic fissures deep under the mountains.

She softly growled, eyes narrowing to golden slits, and prepared for his anger.

The Prince raised his hand, carefully, out of fear, she supposed, and removed his riding glove, revealing a surprisingly white hand powerfully cut with sinew and bone.  Before she could register this strange ritual’s purpose, his fingers grazed her forehead.

Her pupils widened upon the sudden warmth of his hand upon her skin.  Mylia had never felt such tenderness upon her skin and her mind fluttered and quickened to process this new information.  In the Wylds, affections played secondary importance to survival.   Her wyrm tongue did not possess the words she sought to understand this touch.  The feeling it evoked—safety and care and belonging—yes, she had felt a similar feeling once before when spying upon a black panther guarding its mewling cub.  She wondered if humans had a name for such behavior.  Many years later, she discovered they possessed many, all equally beautiful in sound and confusing in action.

And then his hand withdrew and the Prince pulled on his glove with a blunt, professional air.  “Fortunately for you, the damage is minimal and bruising should be gone within a few weeks.  I will have the medic give you a healing drink suitable for a creature of your cold temperament.”

Mylia only stared at him.  The warmth of his touch lingered upon her forehead and still there had been no pain.  No trickery or knife plied—no trap—

But, Gerard had returned from arguing with the hunters.  He approached the Prince and there was fear in his voice.  “Brother, the men say she is bad luck.  They want her gone.”  He looked over Mylia’s wounded forehead and grimaced.  “Nasty knock there.”

The Prince beckoned the few remaining hunters to leave them.  Only when the men were out of earshot, did he turn upon Gerard with quiet wrath.  “I have never cared for the words of my vassals.”

“They think she’ll take vengeance for the other dead wyrm.”

Asher scowled.  “They’re fools.  Wyrms do not seek revenge for their species.  They’re solitary creatures.  Haven’t centuries of war left no record within the commoner’s mind?”

Gerard shrugged, “Some of us commoners studied the wars.”

“I didn’t mean you, brother.”  The Prince’s voice grew soft.

“Yes, you did.  You never trust me.  I know you left camp alone for the Wylds that night.  I saw you return.”  He paused at the Prince’s warning glare and then continued, “Seriously.  You risked your life and soul.  I should have gone with you.”

“I could not endanger you.  Mother commanded me to keep you safe.”

Gerard grimaced.  “I’m eighteen!”

“Her orders, not mine.  And this creature is the best fortune to ever befall our house.  We must take care of her.  The men will obey my command or I shall deal with them harshly. Now, grant me a favor.”

His brother nodded but Mylia sensed obstinacy within his tight grip upon the reins.

“Ride with her until our castle.  I do not want further abuse to befall her and I trust you, as you well know.”

“Okay.  And what about when we get home?”

“Then…then, the world awaits,” Asher swiftly grinned.

“But wyrms cannot travel in the Dyn like us,” Gerard frowned.  “How will you take her around the world?”

“I’d prefer to avoid the Dyn altogether.  You know the Emperor spies upon every code used therein.  But, worry no more for I have a plan, brother.”  And with that command, the Prince shook the reins and galloped his horse to the front of the company.

Gerard sighed and then looked over Mylia with some approval.  “You’ve not whimpered and that knock could’ve felled me.  You wyrms are made of hard stuff.”

She gazed back, no understanding his words but feeling the need to communicate.

Yet he only clucked encouragingly to her mule.  The company moved forward at a slow lope and soon left the village far behind.  Gerard and Mylia stayed in the rear with the baggage animals.  When they started, Titus beckoned to Gerard to join him.  Gerard only shook his head and slightly laughed.   Titus grimaced in a pitying sort of way and gave another loathing stare at Mylia before turning around and ignoring them both.

A medic trotted back to join them and poured a beaker of thick, gloopy liquid for Mylia, pointing to her forehead to indicate it would help her heal.  She gripped it in her bound hands and carefully sniffed the interior.  For the strange, lumpy texture, there was virtually no smell.  The medic beckoned her to drink and with a single gulp, she downed the fiery water.  A strange warmth blossomed from her stomach and Mylia felt tendrils crawling up her spine and into her head, making her feel both dizzy and extremely alive.  She grimaced and was about to fling away the beaker but Gerard rescued it.  The medic held up a large linen cloth and handed it to Gerard.

“Is that really necessary?”  Gerard asked.

“The Prince asked that the wyrm conceal her face until we arrive at the castle.”

“Oh, give it here,” and Gerard angrily snatched the cloth.  Mylia watched him place the cloth around her shoulders, pulling the hood far over her face so that she could barely breathe from under it.  Instant claustrophobia struck her and she wrenched off the cloth, glaring at Gerard, baring her teeth in wrath so that he reined in his horse, falling a few steps behind her.

She tried to speak then, tried to articulate the hatred she felt at having her senses blocked off, her eyes covered.  Hers was a life wild and free!  And she was not the inferior species.  Yet only a stream of thin, angry notes spilled from her lips, cracking the ice-cold air.

Gerard took a sharp breath, overwhelmed by the sudden majesty of vocals.   “What a voice.  I swear…I’d give anything to be naturally talented like you.”

She glared in answer with a haughty grandeur that far aged her young wyrm soul.

The medic laughed.  “Spare your words, young Gerry.  You’re speaking to a beast.”

“I think she understands me,” he replied, somewhat embarrassed.

The medic cackled and Mylia grinned a mouth of fangs at him until silence met her ears.

“Look here…er, wyrm,” Gerard addressed her, “You should cover your face.  It’s for your own good.” He scooped up the cloth from the ground on which it fell and clicked for his horse to again approach her.

Mylia turned her head away but she understood.  This time, she waited as he clumsily half-pulled, half-draped the cloth over her head and slung the loose ends around her neck.  Mylia shivered at the loss of sight.  For a moment, she felt the quick urge to retch in fear.  How desperately she longed to again see the world.  Only when the wind blew, did the veil lift to reveal the body of the mule and the pebbled ground below, smoothed by seasonal ice flows.

Gerard spoke and she swiveled her head to his general direction.  “I’d mistake you for a lady save for that tail of yours.”

Indeed, Mylia’s tail thrashed like a cornered cat, the furred tip just visible under the heaps of robe.  And she grew afraid.  Her lack of sight posed a severe disadvantage and her hands were so tightly bound, she had no recourse but to grip the saddlebow against the mule’s tread.  Save for the occasional shriek of bird wings high overhead and the stink of tired horses and men that left a hollow ache within her throat, she had no other senses to rely upon.

Mylia remembered the rich, dark shades of the Wylds, thick loam reaching to her knees, ice waters twinkling down the cragged mountains, and that fresh perfume of cinnamon and pine, sighing through the waving treetops under a night sky shredded with stars.

She must return as swiftly as possible before homesickness suffocated her.  But, nine leagues to the south, a broken castle rose from the winds and snow to which her destiny lurched with frightening speed.

Chapter 6: September 9
Chapter 7: September 16
Chapter 8: September 23
Chapter 9: September 30
Chapter 10: October 7
[…]

 

Chapter 4: Headless Wyrms Dressed in Princely Gear

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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The hunters tied Mylia within a tent for the night and threw her a haunch of roasted meat.  One sniff and she recognized wyrm flesh.  She pushed the steaming flank away, bile rising in her hungry throat.  The meat was not from her huge, old wyrm pal.  No, some other wyrm had fallen prey to their guns and daggers, and not willingly, given the wounds suffered by Prince Asher and his men.  A strange pride for her stricken fellow wyrm heaved her chest and violently fluttered the tendrils of her heart.  Then, she remembered the wyrm was dead.

Mylia refused to suffer the same fate.  She could hear the hunters dine upon the choicer meat chunks, stomp upon fresh snow and swap jokes around the fires as they longed for their thatched homes far over the rocky plains, tired of this leering, black forest.  She knew they were glad of their fortune.  Only a few days in the Wylds and they had caught two wyrms.  Home called them.

And she was also tired.

Tired of thinking, reasoning and trying to understand this brave new world of men and fear.  Mylia recalled her beloved trees shredding the cinnamon spiced winds, leaves and twigs thrilling together under drifting snow.  How she longed for the good, wholesome meat of her songbirds.  Sweet flesh, tender from berries and dew water, and those crunchable, white bones.

She huddled within her woolen robe, courtesy of the Servant’s finishing administrations, and gazed around the tent.  The cloth walls shuddered like puckered cheeks and the dim lantern bobbed under heavy winds smiting the camp.  Her wrists were fleshed raw from repeated endeavors to escape the confining rope now lashed thick and strong around the tent’s central pillar.  Only her furred tail lay free, long and elegant as a yawning mink, upon the carpeted tent floor.

Perhaps, she would sleep for a while before again attempting to escape.  She felt exhausted to the marrow and even her brain, typically swift as a lark, begged for sleep.  Hugging her tail tight in her arms, she curled into a soft, drowsy ball.  If only to be a proper wyrm, equipped with fiery breath and a body powerful enough to break rocks and trees with one blow!  But, as sleep claimed her, a little thought drifted across her mind.  If she were born a proper wyrm of fire and mud, she’d be dead.

** ** **

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HoodedFigure

That night, a man left the camp and ventured into the forest.  His face lay shrouded deep within a hood and his black cloak slapped and curled around his tall, cautious form.  He did not look back at the string of dimly lit tents but plunged into the towering firs with an abandon that spoke either of great resolve or madness.

No one saw him depart—or return hours later.  Not even Mylia, for all her cunning, for her thoughts were heavy with sleep and sorrow.  Yet, his secret mission caused the world’s future to shift a fraction sideways, an effect which later compounded to unforeseeable extremes.

At first, no one noticed this shift, not the great Dyn coders of the Outer Realms and Imperial Academy scholars or the Seers of Healm and Slyvan witches.  Not even the Sanurim Most Profound dwelling in their sand swept city of Lados and watching the stars, recognized the initiation of this shift for it was too far away and unimportant.  When they did, it was too late.

If someone had watched the man depart into the woods, if they knew the company gathered in the snow with a musical wyrm trapped within their midst, they may have placed the identity of the man.  That richness of fabric, purposeful, long stride, and those clever, black eyes—surely, it was Prince Asher.

** ** **

Mylia woke to the sharp jangles of harness and shouting men.  The lancing dawn light cut the shadows of the tent, highlighting the pile of cloth that kept her skin a temperate grey. And she remembered—today, she left the Wylds for human realms.

Stark panic struck and Mylia flung herself against the constraints but the tight bounds cut into her raw flesh until beads of clear blood dripped from her arms.

Footsteps crunched upon the snow outside and a tent wall burst asunder.  Titus stepped towards her, hands reaching for the rope.  Mylia considered pouncing on him, but no, two other hunters joined him.  They hauled her outside, wriggling like a grounded fish in her human robe, and threw her upon a pack mule, a splinted leg to either side, strapping her firmly to the saddle bow.

Mylia immediately pressed against her constraints, but they remained firm.  She considered the fleshy haunches of the creature below her.  If she could just get a claw to pierce that flea-bitten hide, the mule may turn frantic and bolt for the trees—

Some men kicked dirt upon the fires of last night’s feast as others stripped down the remaining tents and piling up baggage to the several mules around Mylia.  They mostly avoided her, although Mylia caught their quick glances of hatred and confusion.  She briefly wondered if another wyrm had ever ridden a horse before.  Likely not, she supposed, or not for a moment longer than it took the wyrm to remove the delicious head from its body. At least the woolen robe fastened around her body and legs gave some warmth from the biting winds.

The Prince rode past her, tall and proud on a black horse, shouting orders.  Beside his saddle bounced a massive, wrapped bundle, jagged in areas and wet underneath with a clear, dripping liquid that Mylia immediately recognized.  It was the head of the slain male wyrm that had been caught and eaten yesterday.  Why did he keep the head and what horrors did he have in store for her in the world beyond?

Mylia threw her head upwards and howled to the skies.  The hunters turned in her direction, and she saw both open admiration of her voice and mockery for the plight she was in.  And she hated them all.

She cried to the peeling morning light, the shuddering black shadows cowered within ice-crusted evergreens, the deep, subtle tread of creatures both large and ferocious, prowling within the forest gloom, and all the birds of the air and fish in the rivers.  Her voice lifted drop by melodiously-golden drop, a harp for the winds and starlight.  She sang for her broken legs and lost freedom, for a word of kindness and a gift of love.

And they answered.

A great flock of songbirds sprang out of the snow firs and sallied into the crisp morning air, spiraling in great, gyring circles above the forest edge.  The sun’s rays glittering on their pale plumage so that it seemed a massive halo anointed the dark trees, framing, beyond, the snowy, cragged tops of the mountains that marked the edge of the Wylds and known world.

Yet, for all their flurried, eddying movements, the birds were silent and Mylia grieved for their lack of song.  She no longer desired to eat their flesh, now that she was bound and stank of human and they circled like crows over carrion.  She stopped her song and crumpled into a small, quiet heap upon the mule.  With one accord, the birds disbanded and fell into the waving tree tops, leaving the morning stark and chill.

Mylia noticed the staring hunters and, again, a strange awareness of her effect upon humans made her tail curl into her arms.  Gerard whispered to the Prince and he nodded in return and her quick mind found a deeper secretiveness to their actions.  Humans were complicated folk and moved in hierarchical packs.  These brothers kept aloof from the other hunters and she sensed their royalty was only half the reason.  It was in this moment that Mylia picked up a thread of the purpose that had driven Asher into the forest but she did not yet know its meaning.

They galloped away from the edge of the forested Wylds, leaving nothing in their wake save a huge, trodden circle of ground from where they camped the few nights before.  Mylia watched the forest shrink behind her, the tree line receding under the stamp of stony plains.  It was only when the dipping heave of the hills concealed the last vestiges of grey fog upon iced trees that she turned around and gazed upon the misted, barren lands ahead.

At noon, the Prince signaled a brief halt for lunch.  Mylia raised her leaden head from the mule.  She was tired of the incessantly bobbing, maned neck, the slow canter that rocked dull pain into her broken legs bandaged to their splints, the headache from starving for two days.

She had managed through an hour of wriggling in her bonds, to jab a claw into the mule’s neck, but the animal dove into a prolonged bucking which nearly broke her back.  It took several hunters to calm the animal and she noticed Titus speak foully of her to the Servant.  The Prince merely watched and sipped from his canteen.  She cursed them all with the foulest of wyrm curses.

Yes, she was furious, hungry, sore, and still very much a captive.  She growled as Gerard approached and lifted her off the mule to the grass.  There, she crumpled into a heap and wondered at the world spinning around her.  She felt distinctly ill and glared at the mule who only rolled the whites of its remarkably dumb eyes within her general direction.  Mylia snapped her fangs and the mule looked quickly away.

At the head of the retinue, she saw the Prince speaking with several men.  He once turned and stared at her for several minutes but made no attempt to approach.  Mylia shivered and wondered what he intended to do with her.

Gerard knelt down beside her with a lumpy package in his hands.  “I will hunt for you tonight,” he said, “but you need to eat before then.”  He unrolled the cloth wrapping to reveal a small, crusted loaf of wheat bread.  Mylia grabbed the loaf between her wrapped hands and shoved it down her throat in several massive mouthfuls.

His mouth dropped.  “Well, that saves me having to catch rabbits for your every meal.  I knew you wanted to eat bread the other day, but no one listened to me.”

Mylia could tell from the intonations of his voice that he meant well.  So she carefully licked her fingers clean of crumbs and held out her hands, palms upward, for more bread.  He grinned and stood up.  “Sorry, lunch is over.  We’re back to riding until dusk.”

They passed through several villages, dotted about on the grasslands like sporadic clusters of mushrooms in a field.  They had puffing chimneys, white plaster walls stained with smoke, and narrow, muddy streets in which milled shaggy goats and cows with spiraled horns.  The villagers were as she remembered from the shrine ceremonies, save their faces were unpainted and they wore heavy wool clothes of grey and brown.

For the first time in her life, Mylia saw human younglings.  Like the adults, they all stared at her.  Some shouted foul remarks within her direction as they ran alongside the cantering horses until falling away into the distance, out of breath.  The adults mostly shrank behind white picket fences or ran into their houses and slammed the doors shut.

Mylia did not blame them.  Most of these people had never seen a live wyrm, never mind one riding a horse and dressed like a human.  It was enough to upend their folklore of the past several centuries.  Now, when autumn frights were told in the darkening twilight, the stories would include headless wyrms dressed in princely gear, galloping fiercely through the night upon coal black steeds.  Perhaps that would make the mule feel better about having her on its back, she thought, with another glare at its stupid, ducking head.

It was only as the sun plunged within inches of the horizon and they approached the fourth village, that Mylia was attacked.

This village was larger than most and, unlike the foraging aspects of the people beforehand who seemed to rely upon grazing stock and cultivating wild grains, these people appeared more urban.  Their buildings were square and flat-rooved, and the streets were straight and broad.  A large building rose in the center with bells clanging within two steepled towers.  Metal fences edged the main cluster of buildings and several men walked the parameters with guns in their hands.  Stretching for miles into the distance and spotted with grain silos, rolled fields of pale wynter wheat, a staple crop of the Empire.  For indeed, the village was an official Imperial outpost but Mylia only learned of this fact much later.

The hunting party approached, riding upon the broad avenue that cut through the wheat fields and village.

Mylia sniffed.  The air was thick with the strong wheat scent that she knew for so many years as she flung her body through the snowy firs to find some new waterway or flowered mountain dell.  She was suddenly, violently homesick for the Wylds.  Her head drooped low to the mule’s neck and she breathed deeply, trying to calm the raging torment within her skull.  She could smell the ripples of sinuous muscle moving under the natty fur, the pulsing red blood and the sour hint of hoof disease that suggested the poor beast had only a few more years to live if untreated.

The mule turned and gave her a careful look and their eyes met in mild understanding.  She could tell the mule disliked for its rider but knew no other reality.  Just as she had always lived her forested life with no concept of this strange world in which she now rode.

Leaning forward, she quietly sang a few, sweet trills indistinguishable to the human ear, consoling the mule for its lost freedom and lifespan.  And the mule picked up its ears and pranced, shaking its mane like a young foal.

Mylia sat up, feeling a lot better now that she knew her communication ability remained unbroken.  Unlike the Wylds, where conversation with the flora and beasts flowed through her like electricity and blood, this part of the world lay heavily tainted by the third breaking and needed more direct, verbal communication—

The rotting melon came flying out of nowhere and smacked her head, bursting foul juice over her face and neck.

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

Chapter 3: You Fiend!

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Shutterstock

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
[…]

Chapter 2: They Sought the Monsters of the Forest

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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The trees hissed a warning of the trap, a slender string arching across the loam, but, too late!  Something struck Mylia’s ankles, intense pain shivered through her legs, and she flung upwards to swing, dangling and bound within a strongly corded net.

And that was how Prince Asher, second in line to a minor royal house and sole owner of a small plot of night-farm upon which only rocks and pines grew, found one of the greatest singers the world had ever seen and remade his family fortune.

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Mylia screamed, long, fluting sounds that made the winds sigh as deeper, richer pitches shuddered the ground and chorded epiphanies of flight and sorrow cracked the atmosphere, each note a twinkling, clear drop of gold within the cresting dawn.

It was an unearthly voice, the hunters reasoned, rushing to the sprung trap, and surely magical for no human could sing with such splendid rapidity, such duality of expression and beauty.   They flooded round her pale wyrm body, cut by the netting, and wondered upon the golden, fluttering, owl-like eyes that fearfully studied them in return.

Then, her gaze alighted upon their crossbows and guns.  Mylia fell silent, her eyes closed and she waited for the end.

Through the crowd he strode, tall and imperious.  The hunters excitedly chattered, gesticulating to her swinging body as though to provoke a response from him.  His hand raised skyward and the everyone fell silent.

“What strange and glorious bird have we found?”  The Prince said and his voice, trained with rigor and command, made her eyes again open.

Prince Asher moved with the slow ease of a man sure of himself and his surroundings.  He wore black leather carefully wrapped and cut around his body for optimal ease of movement.  It was an expensive garment and must have taken years to make; she had never before seen anyone else wear clothing so like a second skin.

Mylia stared at him and wondered which breath would be her last.  She knew royalty were cruel and cunning.  She was certain that he would smile even as his pistol plugged her gut with lead.

“It is a female,” said an older hunter to the Prince. “Note her coloring is drab and plain for better hiding in shrubbery.  Males have bright red and gold plumage and massive, fluted gills around their jaw and throat for fire.”

The Prince frowned.  “Indeed, but all wyrms breathe fire.  Why does this one forebear?”

The older man drew closer and Mylia felt his sharp eyes drift over her face and throat.  “This creature is malformed.  See, there are no gills around her throat and look how small and pinched her wings are.   But, don’t worry.  She’ll happily rip you open with those claws.”

Mylia snorted a blast of harmless air in their general direction.  She did not need to understand their words to know the full weight of her useless genetics.  Without the ability to breathe fire, she was simply a broken creature at the mercy of their blades and bullets.  Her eyes would have moistened in tears, save she preferred to focus on survival and she doubted the hunters responded to pity.  If tears could help her escape, she’d utilize them like a crocodile.

The older hunter again spoke.  “Prince Asher, this creature is a scout.  Wyrms are clever beasts.  They send their smaller, weaker members to draw us into their trap.”

Mylia didn’t understand his words, but his tone was unmistakable.  She bared her teeth and hissed a fluid symphony of hate at him.

The hunter grinned at her anger, but she saw his hand stray warningly to the knife at his belt.  “We should kill her so we can hunt other monsters with the blood.”

“Titon, why silence such a voice?”  The Prince rejoined.  “Not since the days of my ancestor’s court many centuries ago has such a singer ever compared and this voice, harshened by the wynter, is still far superior.  Strange that such a pure and beautiful sound was not found in a human.”

Titon scratched his beard.  “The world breeds odd results but a wyrm’s still a wyrm, in my humble opinion.”

“Look how her limbs are formed; two arms and legs like ours attached to a similar torso. The eyes are larger than a human and her tail and wings are that of a wyrm, but the resemblance is cursed uncanny.  And she is small…” the Prince continued, walking around Mylia’s hanging body.  “This wyrm is but a youngling.   She has never experienced the wars of her ancestors.  Why, she could be mistaken for a woman upon a dark night.”

“A dark night indeed,” rejoined Titon and several others laughed.  One man stroked a strange, religious symbol on his chest.  Protection against the evil unknown.

Mylia had seen such an action from the farmers and villagers who scurried into the fringes of the forest, trembling against the crushing darkness as they gathered fallen branches, mushrooms and other edible plants to stock their hearths and pantries.  She wondered at the meaning behind such strange formalities.  At the day’s end, cunning always won over claws and teeth or even such gestures as the man had made.  She decided the meaning to be an extension of their language.  After all, wyrms blasted smoke rings from the mountain ranges to confirm their arrival to the other beasts of the forest.

The Prince drew closer until he stood an arm’s breadth away from the dangling ropes.  Mylia stayed very still.  There was something different about his manner.  Here was a human who cared about life, she thought.  He would not slaughter needlessly, not that her skin, grey and free of scales, could fetch much of a price in the Empire’s markets or even beautify the walls of his palace.

Mylia breathed and suddenly wriggled but the nets held firm.  How she longed to escape!  To break out, bound over the hills and leap through the trees, free and wild, lost forever in the great, snowy expanses of the Wylds.

His black eyes drifted cursorily over her long, slender limbs, her smooth throat, the strong claws upon her fingers sharpened from climbing, small ears and those useless, small flaps of wings now crushed in the netting.  He seemed to examine a specimen and yet with not an unkind stare, only a curious, discerning one which sought to discover meaning in her.

The Prince turned away.  “Cut her down and tie her up.  Two of you will stay behind to guard her while we hunt.  I will consider what to do with her upon our return.”  For a long moment, his eyes matched that of Titon and the surrounding men.  “Have the medic fix her legs and then leave her be.  I want her in the same shape when I return tonight.”

Mylia screamed again but this time out of pain for her jangled limbs as the hunters lowered the bundle, wrapped her wings and arms and securely tied her legs.  They lifted her between them, her long, furry tail scraping the ground, and slung her into a small pit in which the last embers from a breakfast fire lingered and glowed.  There she remained, covered in filth and blood from her wounds as daylight quickened overhead.

No one came to see her.  Only buzzards circled far overhead and slim clouds whipped and scuttered across the dim, blue sky.

It took a while for Mylia to recover from the agony of movement enough to sit up.  In the distance, she heard the trumpets and thudding gallops of the mounted hunters as they sought the monsters of the forest.  Soon they would return.  Perhaps, the Prince’s refusal to kill her was a trick, perhaps even now, she lay marked for some dim and terrible punishment.  Some fireside sport of pain and death under dark skies.

In the centuries since the last war, the Empire had devised many terrible weapons against which even the cleverest, strongest monster could not stand.  Guns, bombs, poisons and Dyn traps.  Even magic was used.  Well, perhaps the very biggest and oldest wyrms, so terrible that when they flew, whole villages fell under shadow and their fires could torch a block of trees—perhaps, they could fight the human’s technology and sorcery.  But, such beasts had not been sighted for centuries.  Long ago, they had crawled deep under the mountains, devouring the dark creatures that within until they fell into long and terrible dreams.

Mylia felt certain if she ever met one of those great, old monsters, even though the same blood, flesh and pain connected them, so far had their minds fallen into despair, that even she would be a snack and nothing more.

Titon appeared on the edge of the pit.  He tore at a large loaf of bread and stuffed handfuls into his mouth.  A younger hunter joined him.

“So, this is the singing wyrm,” the younger man appraised Mylia with wide eyes.  He was heavyset with straw-blonde hair sweeping to his shoulders.  “She’s filthy!”

“Of course.  She’s a beast,” Titon replied.

Mylia sniffed the bread and softly mewed in the back of her throat.  Yes, she’d eat bread, she was so famished.  She had tasted bread before.  A village girl came upon her swinging in a tree, dropped her sack and bolted for safety.  Mylia had gracefully flung herself upon the sack, gave a swift rip, and the contents spilled across the ground.  Her delicate hands rummaged through bits of yarn, gathered mushrooms, a handful of dried berries, a knife, and a strange, squashy lump of something that smelled a little like the wynter wheat breezes from her hammock tree.  She tasted the bread and found the texture unpleasant but not remarkably awful.

“I wish I had been there when you caught her,” the other declared.  “Asher said her voice is amazing.  And, look at those golden eyes!  You can literally see the rage.  Is something wrong with her legs?”

“You should leave her be.  Wyrms are vicious.  Best treatment is dagger sticking.”  Titon laughed and finished the bread with a gulp.

Deep in her throat, Mylia gave another pleading whine.  She was hungry indeed.  So hungry!  Her hunger consumed every little bit of her body, gnawing upon her stomach and intestines with jagged, sharp little teeth.  She knew that wyrms ate human flesh in moments of starvation but she heard human tasted sour, unlike the succulent, red muscles of an herbivore.  Mylia sat and nibbled on her furry tail like she usually did when food grew scarce in the Wylds.

“We should give her something to eat,” Gerard insisted.

Titon bellowed in laughter.  “Wyrms can last for weeks without food.  Come on, Gerard, let’s find something to drink before she bewitches you.”

“I thought wyrms weren’t magical,” the blonde man’s inquiry faded as he disappeared from the mouth of the pit.  Pallid sunlight dimly glared over his retreating shadow.  With a slight pause, Titon followed.

Mylia growled.  She did not know the human language but her instincts were honed.  Somehow, the young one tried to help her and the older one wanted her dead.   The pain in her legs swiftly grew excruciating.  The bones were certainly broken.  She lay down among the deliciously warm, fiery embers and considered her options, namely, how to escape and at once.

Chapter 3: August 19
Chapter 4: August 26
Chapter 5: September 2
Chapter 6: September 9
Chapter 7: September 16
Chapter 8: September 23
Chapter 9: September 30
[…]

Chapter 1: Mylia Meets the Prince

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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Deep in the tangled black forests of the Wylds, where wanders go mad and the sun droops low in the sky, there lived a monster named Mylia.  She never chose her name for this was what the Prince called her years later when he visited her gauze and gold draped bower, where she ate the raw flesh of birds and used their bones to pick her teeth.

Mylia was famous.  If you were to walk down the clustered streets of the Empire’s mountain capital, Ovgarod, bumping into people and avoiding the honking cars, you will see her name and shrouded face gilded upon advertisements in the square of every marketplace and café bulletin board.  For she was one of the greatest singers who have ever lived.  People shouted her name when they dealt a death thrust in duels, hummed her songs to crying infants, inked her likeness upon their flesh and the concerts—oh, the concerts!  Fireworks and flames bursting across the night sky, writhing, green-veiled dancer hordes and one free drink for the first thousand attendees, courtesy of Mylia’s public relations team, Quincy & Bookers, LLC.

Everyone loved Mylia but no one knew who she was.  Mylia was a wyrm, a creature of fire and mud, birthed after the world’s Fourth Breaking many centuries ago.  Most wyrms are massive creatures, the combination of dragons, bats, dinosaurs and your worst, slithered nightmares.  They can torch a car with a single breath and when they walk, people raise fearful eyes to the sky and wonder where the thunderstorm lies.  Yet, wyrms are slow and steady, hunting for food and avoiding the sun which dries their skin and hurts their eyes.  Ever since they clambered from the cracked, bubbling earth and peered upon the grey skies of Eshliuwa, people have hunted and killed them, clubbing the youngsters into pulp and herding the larger ones over cliffs to fall to their doom.

After all, humans were the most powerful and populous species on the planet and they wished to maintain their supremacy.  The massive, fiery wyrms with their penchant for meat threatened the survival of multiple villages and then, as they migrated towards warmer realms, the great cities.  Battles were fought and the wyrms drew dangerously close to the Empire’s Capital on several occasions.  After nearly a century of fighting, the remaining wyrms were driven deep into the snow-wrecked forests of the Wylds, far on the borders of the Empire where the sun shines a few hours a day and villagers are known for wynter cannibalism.  There, the species faded into whispered stories until they became rumors, then myth, and finally, forgotten.

But, wyrms have long lifespans and deer, elk, wildcats and other large animals are easy to roast and eat.  They did not thrive, but they lived on deep under gloomy elm and pine, preferring the black shade of sunken valleys to craggy mountain peak.  It was in the Wylds that, several hundred years later, Mylia entered the world, a howling, fetal slump dirtying the mud and snow.

While wyrms typically are large, Mylia remained the size of a high-backed chair or a smaller adult.  This was likely due to her extreme youth.  In the eyes of the wyrms, she was a mere child for she was born several centuries after the wars and massacres.  She never knew her parents nor desired to discover them for wyrms are reptilian and lay eggs, neglecting their progeny upon hatching.

She remembered the warm, sulfurous fluid surrounding every inch of her being, the terrible, itching desire to crack the creamy shell and burst forth upon the cold, windy world.  How tall the trees that swept over her, filled with black, brown and grey songbirds, the crisp wind and brilliant skies.  How sharply flung the smell of pinecones and frost that thickened the air, encrusting the broken eggshell with ghostly fingers.

She breathed air into her nostrils, feeling a deep, warm fire hum like an angry bee within her belly.  Fire that came forth in the strangest, whispering cry.  There was no flames or smoke as with the other wyrms, only that perverted sound, half whistle and half howl.

And above and around her, the songbirds came flocking, singing in reply.

It was in this moment, on her first birthday and entrance into this world, that Mylia knew she was different.

Many years later, she tried to determine how her genetic makeup transformed her fire-breathing abilities into the potent gift of song.  Perhaps her mother abandoned squatting the egg before it hatched and that brief intermission of cold upon the laid egg altered Mylia’s body, stunting growth and reforming her vocal cords.  But at this stage in her life, the mystery did not need solving for no one existed who cared.

Mylia’s biggest grievance over her physical alteration was the annoyance it posed in everyday living.  Because she was small, the world was gigantic.  Other wyrms lumbered through the forest, crushing trees with a single blow…trees that took several hours for Mylia to climb in pursuit of the little birds.  She had an inexhaustible appetite and could devour a few dozen birds a day.  But those were rare days indeed.  She quickly learned her voice attracted birds, along with a plethora of less savory creatures.  Sometimes, a few lizards and mouthfuls of bark stuffed mute her grumbling belly.

Once, she discovered a large, slain carcass of a wyrm.  A deep, instinctual urge rose within her and she ate his leg before the other, victorious wyrm arrived to devour the remaining body.   She was ill for days after that feast, writhing in agony high upon her leafy nest.

The other wyrms hated her for being small and fire-less.  Her size and voice reminded them of humans and their litany of persecution throughout the centuries.  If she bumped into a wyrm, she quickly learned to run away.  She ran because she lacked workable wings; hers were useless little skin-flaps that dangled from her back and unfurled into pathetic banners.  She consoled herself with knowledge that wyrms rarely flew anymore but preferred to walk the forests to stay hidden.

Mylia was very swift on four legs and could disappear and hide in all manner of crevasses throughout the mountainous forests.  This was thought of as skullduggery and wyrms hated such “sneakiness”.  Some even challenged her to an open fight.  Mylia mostly avoided such quarrels and kept her own company.  She loved sitting in the big, rocking treetops, cradling her long, beautifully-furred, silvery tail like a human infant, smelling the swift, eastern winds from the Empire’s night farms fragranced with the cinnamon-sweet smell of wynter wheat, the eddying flaps and jitters of moths and birds rising from the scruffy, dark leaves, or the sweeping caw of a great eagle high above her head.

And the sun.  How beautiful it was, rising as a dim, yellow bulb in the east to make a swift arc across the horizon before plummeting in red and purple fire, rotating her world into many hours of darkness before the next morn.

She composed songs to the sun, odes based on its beauty and star-fire.  She sang them in the sunrise and when night descended, she hummed her verse to the great, black sky above, stabbed as it was with a billion stars.

It was on such a night that the Prince arrived and forever changed her world.

He swept in from the east with a hundred retinue and enough equipment to last for weeks.  You see, the mountains of the Wylds were known for their great hunting and attracted many visitors.  The Empire’s royalty came for the love of sport, poachers and mercenaries found trading value in the pelts and flesh of large game, and then there came those even less savory…those practicing magic and seeking dark herbs, blood and bone for their spells.

Mylia knew about the dangers of humans for when their steps cracked twigs upon the edges of the great forest, swiftly news of their arrival rippled through beast and tree like a great electronic message, immediately alerting all the inhabitants throughout the multitude of forests and mountains that danger had arrived.

The smart beasts and prey slunk into hiding, their eyes big and hungry for no food would be found that day.  Those eager to taste human flesh and wreak havoc upon the species that plagued them for so many years, ventured forth and sought out the visitors with gleaming fangs.  Sometimes the humans won, sometimes a shredded carcass and darkening patch of crimson staining the forest loam was all that remained of the adventurous human.

Magical folk were especially hated for they often left the body drained of blood like a vampire, ripping away eyeballs, teeth and claws for their potions, while the precious meat was left to rot.  The forest always consumed the dead, for such is the way of the world, but the disrespect for death was seen as a great affront to the inhabitants, including Mylia.

Royalty was the worst.  They slaughtered every great beast they found, hacked and removed the limbs from weeping trees, and then, satisfied of their sportive bloodlust, departed the forest with the heads of the slain stuffed into bags, leaving burnt pits surrounded by crushed grass.

When the Prince arrived, Mylia was deep in slumber and bad dreams.  Then, deep in the forest, she heard the echo of dark fear and the night sounds fell silent.

She sat up and hissed a warning.  Her hiss, a pure, twinkling note within the mid-spectrum of the musical scale, struck the tree and she watched it shudder in reception, leaves curling up in dread at the impeding axe.  Thick was their march inwards to the forest, before noon, they would be at her tree.

Mylia scuttled down the boughs, her long, grey leather limbs and clawed fingers moving with great rapidity, tail strategically maneuvering the air currents for optimal balance, until she leapt upon the loamed floor and flung her pointed ear against the ground to listen for news.

A million root systems from a million trees shot forth messages, conveying news.  “Yes, it was a large company and they planned to stay for a while, judging by the lazy relaxation in their voices.” Then anger blossomed forth amid the roots. “They are cutting down a few trees on the forest edge and preparing fires.  Farewell, our brethren!”

She raised her head, waiting for the grief to diminish, then listened for more.

“The Prince brings several great hunters and they plan to venture forth in the morning into the forest.  Let all beware!”

“Let all beware!”  The cries rippled away, fast as a bolt of lightning, over hill and valley, up craggy mountain and across gushing river, for miles upon miles around.

On and on, to arching, black trees echoed the warning, to flying and skittering folk of the night, bats and owls, mice and lynx.  “Let all beware!”

Deep under her feet, Mylia felt the thick, heavy tread of a great wyrm lumbering deeper into the forest to find a hiding place from the hunters.  He was a leviathan of a beast, crawled from the very breaking, getting larger and larger with each successive year until his head combed the tree tops and his gargantuan feet pounded large pits across the land.

Since the encroaching wynter sent strong, cold winds blasting through shivering leaves, Mylia had shadowed his tracks.  Food was growing increasingly slim and occasionally small creatures fell into the pits created by his mammoth feet and she jumped right in for a meal.

With the Prince only miles away and hunting by morning, she must distance herself at once from him.  Of all the creatures in the forest, he was most liable to be caught.  She was very fast; a few hours of running and she’d be so deep within the mountains, not even the Prince’s fastest horses could reach her.  Yet, he had proved a good source of food for her and with snow about to fall, she knew not when her next meal would arrive.

Within her agile mind, Mylia began to hatch a plan.  There were other wyrms in the forest and she could lead the Prince away to them, sparing the large wyrm for her survival during the long, cold wynter.  Humans were predictable and hasty.  They’d jump to her plan and abandon the old, slow wyrm in favor of better, faster game.  And Mylia knew she was very fast indeed.  But what she didn’t know was the peril of traps.

Mylia approached the camp, slowing to let the roots and trees whisper advice and secrets to help best navigate and mislead the encroaching humans.

Chapter 2: August 12
Chapter 3: August 19
Chapter 4: August 26
Chapter 5: September 2
Chapter 6: September 9
Chapter 7: September 16
Chapter 8: September 23
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