The Storm Prince

This week I spent a lot of time editing, and quite a bit of time rewriting. Sometimes, I spend a lot of words fixing words I have already written. I guess that’s the hazard of being a writer. You’re always hunting down perfection, and most of the time it eludes you. So what I end up with is a chaotic bunch of stuff that doesn’t seem finished because it flatly is not. My point is that this week I am posting something completely different from what I posted last week.

This little piece is from the beginning of a novella I am calling ‘The Storm Prince.’ Some of you may have read my first novel, and if that is the case, you will recognize these characters. For about ten chapters the heroine and the hero are seperated from each other. The main novel is from Karen’s point of view. This novella is from Beri’s. Please let me know what you think, because since this is a spin-off sort of story, I may be willing to post this here in its entirety.

So. Without further ado.

All of the air left the room when she appeared, half hidden behind her mother. For a moment his heart beat hard against his lungs, emptying them, stunning him. She was dressed in a pair of jeans and her favorite purple hoodie. Her braided hair hung in a long rope the color of chocolate and honey. Wild curls escaped near her face. Her skin was that peculiar gold that spoke of human blood and sun. Her eyes, wide and rimmed with long lashes, looked at him with grief and doubt while her full, pink lips parted over the pearls of her teeth with her surprise. He knew her mind. They told her he was dead, and she had surely missed him. She had always been fond of him. He reminded himself that whatever importance she held in his mind, in hers he was a childhood friend. He could never be more. The law, morality, forbade it.

But in the horror that was the nighttime wood, in the freezing rain, with his belly empty as it had never been in his short, pampered life, she was his paradise. There were Fey who had only to think of the Summerlands to remember happiness. For him, peace was her warm thigh pressed against the outside of his own when she sat beside him. The way she smiled. The way she covered her mouth with her hand when she laughed.
He spoke to her mother first because he couldn’t say her name without losing his careful control. If he did, his voice would crack, or it would be too full of need. Everyone, she, would know with just that one word that he was both a pervert and a criminal. Human, he told himself. She is human and her mother is an exile. Her mother cut him to prove who he was, and when she was certain of him she held him. He could not help weeping. His father, his sisters and brother, were dead. His city was conquered. This little comfort was all he had left, the kindness of a Sidhe who had loved him as well as his own mother but could not be welcomed back to their homeland. Then her mother released him to hold his youngest, last sister. He had to look at the girl, had to meet her eyes. He had to somehow hug her like her friend would. Control.

Tears streaked her cheeks; she reached out for him. Almost reluctantly, he pulled her near. She wrapped her arms around his waist and held him against her with desperate strength. His thoughts, his reluctance, abandoned him. She was warm and small, trembling against his chest. His heart expanded out, filling his throat. He had never thought to feel joy again. He buried his face in her hair, breathing her clean flower smell. She shook with sobs.

Be clever, he told himself, say something witty before someone finds out what you are. But he had no voice. He could only whisper. “Ah! You thought you were rid of me.”

She didn’t respond. She reached up and took the sides of his face in her tiny hands, and before he could react she kissed his skin, his cheeks, his eyelids. Her lips were hot brands against his cheekbones, trailing flame against the outer edge of his bottom lip as she kissed his chin. She pressed her body so tight against him he could feel her heart beating, as if the distance between them was too great for her. He was frozen, paralyzed. If he turned his head a quarter inch he could take her mouth.

“I thought you were dead,” she wept, “I really thought you were dead.”
Her eyes met his own, and they were full of light and flickering shadow. With sudden wonder, he realized he knew the expression on her face. Females had been in love with him before. It could not possibly be true, could it? He did not have the courage to kiss her, though her oft-memorized face told him she desired it.

“Karen,” he breathed, and brushed her hairline with his lips instead. His voice was rough with emotion. “My heart. How I have missed you.”

Beriani Quinitar awoke from sweet dreams to find himself in such pain he wasn’t sure where the hurt started and his mind began. He heard a rasping, agonized cry and realized it was his own.

A cool hand brushed his brow and someone whispered, “Ssh, my heart. All is well.”

He pried his eyes open to find his mother standing over him, pale hair coiled fashionably atop her head. His mind fought through the fog of unconsciousness as he tried to remember where she had come from. His search had been for his mother, and he could not remember completing his quest. Beri remembered standing on the edge of the Lake of Dark Dreams, and he remembered the spinning shaft of a Sidhe arrow taking him in the side. He gasped and struggled to sit. The pain was too much and he collapsed back against what, he suddenly realized, was a featherbed stacked tall with down pillows.

“Karen,” he breathed. “Mother, where is she? Is she well?”

His mother shushed him again and rearranged the pillows behind him. The room was dimly candlelit. “Quiet, my son, and rest. You have been near death this night.”

Beri’s small effort had exhausted him. Beside the bed, his mother rose and moved away from his side. He watched her pour water from a jeweled pitcher into a crystal goblet and bring it back. He remembered lying on the hard earth with a tree root digging into his spine, afraid to move should he dislodge the girl sleeping against his heart. How had he come to be alone in this luxurious bed? His realized his mother had not answered his question. He studied her face and found Mother’s expression blankly pleasant. It was a rather empty expression, even for her. She must fear there are spies nearby, he realized with alarm.
“Where are we?” Beri asked. He quickly arranged his face into a similar expression to the one his mother wore. If they were prisoners in an enemy castle, he had already shown too much weakness, wounded and disoriented or not. His mother held the glass up to his lips and he tried to look dignified as he pulled cool liquid into his parched mouth.

“We are in the Summerlands,” Mother said pleasantly, as if the notion made her happy. For a Sidhe tending a son who had nearly died the night before, she seemed much too cheerful. He knew her behavior was a signal to him, a warning. “We are given sanctuary by the glorious Queen of Light.”

Beri felt his heart clench with sudden fear, but he smiled with as much relief as he could fake. The Queen of Light and ruler of the Summer Court had exiled her daughter, Karen’s mother, for marrying a human man. Her laws were absolute: a Fey who loved a human would be charged with treason and exiled. The first words out of his mouth, concern for a human girl, had been as damning in this court as a confession. On Earth his wickedness would be forgiven. Here, in the heart of Summer, he could not allow himself to slip. It didn’t stop him from worrying about what those who hunted them might have done to Karen.

Mother said, “I am pleased to be again in your company, my son.”
He paused briefly to consider his response. The Queen would expect a son to have affection for his mother. If she intended to use it against him somehow, she would already have the plans to do so in place no matter what he said. “I am also pleased to have found you,” Beri masked his tone in the nothingness of court emotions. “I was concerned you had been taken by ogres. And my sister? Is she well?”

“Your sister blossoms at court like a flower in the sun,” Mother said, smiling again. “I am pleased to find your health returning so quickly.”
She ran her hand over his brow again. He looped his fingers around her wrist and tugged her down, close enough to whisper, “Mother. Please. What has become of Karen?”

Mother looked frantically around, and Beri felt her magic brush his senses as she turned it out for some clue about whether they were really alone. Beri followed her example and sent a burst of his own out across the moving air currents of the nearby area. To his relief, he sensed no other bodies disturbing the patterns of the weather. Mother shook off his hand and sat back down beside him.

“Beri,” she said, “Your father, when he was king, allowed things in Avalon that we found very progressive, yes?” Beri knew what ‘things’ she meant: the exiled Princess Mirya and her human husband, Martin, had been allowed in his father’s court, and their half-breed children, Karen and Julian, had been fed at the royal table. Beri nodded. “Progressive is in the eye of the beholder. Our beautiful Queen of Light considers such things to be an abomination and your father to be a heretic. There are those who have become concerned that his remaining children are hopelessly tainted by his ideals, and that you will never make a king at all because of his influence. I cannot tell you what has become of your little pet. The Queen has placed a geas on my silence because she wishes to see your reaction first hand. She would know the extent of your father’s damage to your morality.”

“Pet?” Beri spat. His mother flinched from the harshness of his voice. “You held Mirya’s babies while they cried, bathed them, changed them. How can you call them animals and me immoral for my regard? When my father was alive you agreed with him! Now that he is dead, his beliefs are nothing to you and people you loved are pets?”

Mother’s face flushed blotchily. “Your father is dead now. Three of my children are dead. I am immortal and I was not made for grief.” Her voice broke on the last word. Beri didn’t know if her pain was worse than his because of her immortality, but he knew he had never heard her voice so near tears. Her tone dropped to a whisper: “I cannot be the mother of an exile as well, Beriani.”

Beri met his mother’s eyes, heart pounding. She knew. She knew he had done something worthy of exile. He had never told her, never told anyone. He found himself unable to formulate a reply.

“There are those who would slander you,” Mother continued, but she looked away from his gaze and he knew that she did not believe the slanderers were wrong. “You are the rightful High King of Faerie, Beriani Quintinar. But now your sister and I are little better than handmaids. If you hope to regain your throne, you will need an army. Queen Aynia has one. She must not believe lies told against you, do you understand?”

In his memory his father whispered, If you would serve this crown you must learn to lower your head. Beri did not want a crown, he never had. But it was his duty to fight for it. He had disappointed his father so many times while he lived. Could he defy his father’s memory, too? Could he reject a crown for a half-human slip of a girl? He had fallen so desperately in love. Even his father would think he had let it go too far.

“Admit your affection if you must,” Mother said. “The girl was amusing to you. Sometimes useful, I suppose. You have always been soft-hearted. Some people develop affection for puppies. To have some emotion for her seems only natural.”

Anger flared in him, but he tamped it down. His mother was trying to protect him, he knew. She was preparing him for what he would face when he met the Queen of the Summer Court. Tightly, Beri nodded.
“Yes, Your Majesty,” he said, feeling his lies prickling over the surface of his skin, “Some emotion must be natural for anyone.”

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1 Comment »

  1. chalaedra Said:

    Very nice.


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