Chapter 1

Chapter 1

A Chapter by Nicole
"

Though the setting and scenario of this story has evolved a lot over the years, Silvanus has never changed. He is as he's ever been.

"

Chapter One

 

            The days felt the same; each time the sun traversed over the skies, staring down at a world that cried out for deliverance. But there was never any answer. Never. Not for the commonfolk. Not for the aeterni nobles locked away in their halls of stone. Not for anyone. Not anymore.

 The air was hot and thick with the ocean’s breath, each gust of wind smelling strongly of salt and sand. She brushed her tangled bangs away from her face, licking the salty spray from around her mouth. The ocean wailed its waves against the jetty, toiling and hissing over the rocks and throwing up sprays of roaring water. Each time the spray fell over her, she licked her lips, tasting the salt that made her skin sticky and her hair coarse. She sat astride one of the enormous black stones, the strong wind whipping at her dark hair and tangling the end of her muddied brown dress. Her face was flawlessly pale, despite the glare of the sun that sank below the waves before her, wrapped as it was in scarves of purple and orange. And again she felt very small against the world. The ships and small wooden skiffs bumped and moaned together at their ropes, swaying with the rising tide. On the far horizon she thought she could see the white rustling of sails, but who could tell from this distance.

“Liviana?”

She turned to glance over her shoulder, long hair of curled brown tangling over her face and neck as she smiled. Harmonia came toddling over the rocks towards her, awkward as usual and keeping her fine white skirts and petticoats held up in both hands so as not to dirty them. She dressed far more delicately than her sister, her dresses kept clean of mud and grit and her hair tied up in ribbons. Liviana did little with herself but it seemed to suit her strong oval face and fearlessly cold blue eyes. She rose from her perch, grabbing up her leather working apron and tying it back about her waist and neck. “Father’s going in for the night, then?” She asked, arching slender dark brows as Harmonia stumbled and squeaked at the staggering height and the roaring ocean so close by.

“He didn’t get even a half mark the way through the tack for General Sladen.” Harmonia admitted, her small frail face piteously sorry and concerned, “His hands hurt him still, I worry the fishliver oil does nothing for it.”

Liviana stepped artfully past her elder sister, picking her way along the rocks on steady bare feet and grabbing her hand in passing to drag her along back to the coast. “Go back home to him, then. See that he takes more and leave the lock undone for me.”

“Oh Livi,” Harmonia protested, shaking visibly as her sister drug her along the steep, jagged rocks that were slick and smooth with the wear of the waves, “he wouldn’t have you going out there and finishing it for him. If one of the night guards should catch you…”

“They won’t.” Liviana said matter of factly, “People over dramatize the skills of drunken men tired from our sun and wind.” She stepped upon the sandy shore, helping Harmonia down and meeting her eye to eye. Harmonia was far more petite and fair, having hair the color of the sun-bleached sand and eyes like the waves upon it. Livi worried for her going back alone. Already the guards looked upon her with hungering eyes. “Hurry on before the sun sets.” She urged, turning away to begin a jog down the beach towards the city’s streets.

“You’re crazy!” Harmonia huffed after her, setting her hands on her hips and shaking her head. But she made no other protest, turning to make her own prints in the sand towards their stone cottage that stood only a mile or so away against the dunes.

Liviana shut her eyes, feeling the push of the wind on her body and the pull of the waves under her feet. It wanted at her, needing to drag her out to where the sun was little more than a sliver of gold peeking over the waves. But its burn was fierce on her skin and she relished it, her hair brushing her naked arms and neck. It felt wild and overpowering; no wonder the commonfolk begged for its mercy and swift judgment for their oppressors. But the sun heard nothing but the waves, or so she believed, a silent god who only watched. There would be no deliverance from it.

Her bare feet struck the worn cobblestones, set loosely in the sandy earth, as she slowed her pace and wandered into the city streets. Saltwhine sat along the coast, hugging it and guarding it as it always had. The city itself had stood for hundreds of years, sinking slowly into the sand that it was built upon. The buildings were carved from the same black stone as the jetties and were worn smooth by the salty winds. Thatched roofs made from the saltreeds had to be replaced nearly every month, wearing out quickly under the sea blown storms. The people looked as bent and worn as the sparse trees, skin worn rough and dark by the sun and sand. Women wrapped their faces in scarves to protect from the elements, but as night came on and the winds began to settle, it was no longer necessary. Still, Liviana drew her deep purple head shawl from a pocket in her apron and wrapped it over her face and hair. Only blazing blue eyes stared out at the city’s darkening streets. The Lighter had begun to shuffle from street lamp to street lamp, climbing his ladder and lighting the oil wicks inside the little glass boxes. It cast a dull orange glow over the black cobblestones.

A pair of night guards ambled down the sidewalk on the opposite side of the street, bellowing at each other’s jokes and swooning under the effects of their ale. Their thick iron armor clanked with every step and each bore a sword upon his brass belt. She curled a lip beneath her shawl and turned away, quickening her pace to round the corner and start down an avenue of shops, the lamps here already lit though all the doors were closed and locked tight.

She drew into the doorway of her father’s shop, beneath the eve of thatched saltreeds where an iron sign reading “Leatherworks” swayed and creaked in the soft night breeze. She pulled a key from her apron, slipping it into the lock and pausing suddenly. Down the avenue someone shouted and gargled. With it came the clank clank clank of iron armor. She grimaced, pulling farther into the shadows and turning to peer around the corner. A trio of night guards were swaggering down the street towards her, barely able to keep themselves upright in their intoxicated state. Her brow furrowed deeply as they stopped at the blacksmith’s door, beating on it relentlessly until the young man opened it, wearing his black trousers and night cap. Behind him she caught a glimpse of his wife, not but three years older than herself, staring with wide eyed horror at the night guards.

Liviana bit hard against her lip as the armored men drug the blacksmith from his doorstep, two of them falling upon him to drive angry drunken fists into him while the third stole through the door and shut and locked it behind him. She heard a scream from within, shut her eyes tightly, and fumbled with the lock to her father’s shop. She flung the door open, slipping in on knowing feet into the darkness. Her hands found a sword where it hung in its sheath just to the left of the door. One kept for emergencies. She seized it, sliding back out the door and shutting it tight behind her. Her jaw set grimly, she struggled to contain her rage, watching as the two guards that had lingered in the street still wailed upon the downed young man. The sword slipped easily from the sheath and she prowled silently around behind them, keeping to the shadows until she stood not but three feet away. One chance to strike, then she would be exposed. Her heart hammered in her breast, mind screaming in question as to what she was about to do. It was reckless. It was vain. But the solid thrumming of her heart, hot with adrenaline that burned through every vain, would not let her flee.

She raised the blade above her head, plunging it down and driving it into the back of one night guard’s neck with both hands. He barely managed an alarmed gurgle before slumping forward with a heavy metallic clunk. Liviana gasped, eyes wide behind her shawl, jerking the short sword free from its scabbard of muscle and bone as the second guard raised fury-laced eyes up towards her.

“B***h!!” He roared, stepping menacingly over the two bodies that lay sprawled in a growing lake of blood. She curled her lips at him from behind her shawl, raising the blood-soaked sword towards him threateningly.  But it was a meager threat. The guard drew the sword from his belt, a long blade of evil black metal, and she felt her hands tremble as he centered murderous eyes upon her. “You’ll pray for death before it comes to you.” He snarled, sensing her fear and preparing to prey upon it.

The door to the blacksmith’s house burst open as the second guard, re-buckling his belt and breeches franticly, stormed out onto the avenue, “What the hell is going on out here?!” He spared no time, even in his drunken state, to decipher what had happened and drew his sword as well, moving to stand on the other side of Liviana with a matching wicked smile.

She stared between them franticly, heart beginning to drum in her chest as she struggled to keep from dropping the blade in terror. They barked and snarled on either side of her, as savage dogs that drooled and foamed for her blood. She shuttered, clenching her teeth together and squeezing her eyes shut. For the life of her, she couldn’t remember why she’d not listened to the wiser part of her. Why not accept the way things were as her father begged her to. Why not bow and bend to these men, keeping herself and her family safer in doing so. She opened her eyes again as their heavy clunking footsteps rushed towards her over the street stones; because it was wrong. This wasn’t the way things were supposed to be.

A clash of metal rang in her ears as she felt someone slam into her and send her falling hard upon the stone street. Her eyes focused above where a darkened figure stood over her, gripping the naked metal of their blades in bare hands and holding two guards at bay as they bore down with all their strength. The figure growled, a deep inhuman rumble from somewhere beneath the robe’s dark hood. The guards bore down upon their hilts harder, half in shock that someone had stopped their strike with nothing but bare hands. With an inhuman push, the blades were forced back, sending the guards scrambling and tumbling off balance. He looked down at her from beneath the cowl of his abyssal robe, nothing visible of his face or form other than two eyes glowing like emerald moons. They stared, unblinking and narrowed, for what might have been years.

She shivered, staring up with her mouth open in shock and awe, until her mind caught up with what had happened. A scream escaped her lips and she scrambled to escape, fleeing into the avenue on frantic bare feet. Whether or not the stranger had followed, she did not turn to look. Her feet barely struck the ground as she ran; pumping her legs faster as she rounded corners and darted through alleys, winding and twisting a complex route to dissuade anyone from following her. The eyes still burned in her mind, blooming from beneath the dark hood and staring at her, penetrating through flesh and bone with fires of brilliant green. She clenched her fists, realizing she still held her father’s old sword, and ducked into an alley way to stop and catch her breath and hopefully her thoughts. She pressed her back against the wall of one of the stone buildings, taking down her shawl and gasping for breath as she leaned over to rest her hands on her knees. A man? It appeared so. The figure had been tall, or at least it had seemed that way. A slighted worry about leaving the stranger alone with two armed night guards crossed her mind, but she shook it away. He had stopped both of them…at once…with his bare hands!

She stood straight again, the air about her becoming strangely chilled and sharp. Her blue eyes widened and she turned to glance down the alleyway, finding it empty save for a collection of boxes sitting outside the meat-carver’s door. The lanterns here had not been lit yet and the starlight washed over the cobblestones, stretching long shadows over the ground. All was silent and utterly still. But the hairs on the back of her neck began to prickle, standing up one by one as a breath of wind, light and delicate, puffed over her body. It chilled her to the bone and she spun to face the other way; no one. She was alone. But it certainly didn’t feel that way.

A quick glance over her shoulder back to the way she had come and she saw him then; a different figure from before by size and shape, but draped in the same black cape and cowl. She staggered back a few feet, her father’s blade slipped from her hand to clatter to the stone, barely taking a second to see a ghostly pale hand reaching out from beneath the black folds to extend towards her. She spun and ran, scarcely thinking as she began a headlong sprint out of the city towards her father’s house.



© 2010 Nicole


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Nicole
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Added on December 3, 2010
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Author

Nicole
Nicole

Wichita Falls, TX



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