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       Slumber, p.2

         Part #1 of The Fade series by Samantha Young
 

  I heard the sound of flesh hitting flesh, of Kir grunting. No.

  “No,” I groaned, lolling limply in Stovia’s grasp. “Stop.”

  “Will you find the Dravilec.”

  I couldn’t. “No.”

  “Lash the boy to the nearest tree. He’s going to pay for Rogan’s disobedience.”

  My heart lurched in my chest and I shrugged around Stovia to watch through blurred vision as they dragged a bleeding, crying Kir to the nearest tree trunk. They ripped at his shirt. One of them produced a horse whip and Kir whimpered in terror. I felt vomit rush up my throat but I willed the acidic show of weakness down.

  “Stop,” I murmured weakly. “Stop. Don’t hurt him. I’ll do it.”

  I looked to Stovia. He watched me closely. Seeming fascinated. Then he nodded at his men and they quickly drew Kir’s cloak over him and dragged him back to the horses. His right eye was already swelling shut and I imagined my left eye was much the same.

  “Tut tut, Rogan,” Syracen whispered, bending down to gaze at me face to face. “You’ve just shown me your weakness. I imagine I could have battered you into an oblivion of agony and you would not have given in. But you won’t let someone else be hurt because of you. Interesting. And useful. Now find me the Dravilec.”

  I was gripped with nauseating shame as I took the guards through the winding, quaint, peaceful village. By now, we had made enough noise to rouse people from their homes, and they gathered on their doorsteps nervously, as their eyes took in the Royal Guard and the two beaten children with them. I came to a stop at the doorstep of a shop. An apothecary.

  “Here.”

  Syracen smiled at me, his eyes brimming with pride. I hated him. “Yes, it is. Thank you, Rogan.” He pulled the rope by the door and a brass bell rang loudly. We heard hurried footsteps and then the door was thrust open by an older man, tall and imposing.

  “Can I help?” He queried, warily.

  “I am Vikomt Syracen Stovia of the Rada. May I come in, Mr Rosonia?”

  Rosonia’s eyes widened but he nodded, his oil lamp casting his profile against the shadows of the wall. Syracen turned back and nodded at two guards who strode forward to follow at his back. Sadistically, he pushed me past the threshold of the door. He wanted me to witness this.

  Once inside, Rosonia stood with a stout, middle-aged woman, who looked frightened, clutching her robes tightly around her. Two girls stood behind them.

  One, a tall, attractive girl, possibly in her early teens. Clutching her hand was Valena. Small and frightened, her large dark eyes too big for her face.

  “I come bearing sad news.” Syracen stood before them, intimidating and powerful. “The Kral is dead.” The Rosonia’s gasped at the news.

  “Yes. I am afraid it is true. Princezna Haydyn is now alone in the world, the weight of carrying the load of Dyzvati too great for her young shoulders. As the only mage upon the Rada I felt it was my duty to seek whatever her highness needs to aid her in her mighty responsibilities.”

  “What can we do to help, My Lord?” Valena’s father asked eagerly, his eyes full of genuine sadness for the Kral.

  “There is very little magic left in our world. But I’ve been collecting the strongest of the magic. Here,” he put his deadly hand upon my shoulder and I fought not to shudder, “Is one of the Azyl, thought to be extinct. But she found you well enough.” I saw how Mr Rosonia and his wife gasped at my appearance. “What happened to the child?”

  “One of my soldiers. He has been dealt with,” Syracen lied smoothly. “But you have in your keeping someone who could help my little Rogan.”

  “Mama.” The elder girl looked frightened now, drawing Valena closer. “Don’t.”

  They knew why he was here.

  “Valena.” Mr Rosonia exhaled heavily. “She is one of the Dravilec then?”

  “You had your suspicions?” Syracen asked.

  Valena’s father merely nodded.

  “She is needed. Your daughter is needed by her people.”

  “You want to take her?” The mother now spoke up, her voice trembling.

  Syracen smiled. “She will be well cared for at the palace. And you may visit. She will be taught by the Royal Dravilec how to use her power. She is strong.

  I could taste her energy from Sabithia it was so strong.”

  The Rosonia’s stood in silence for a moment, mother and father questioning one another with their eyes. Finally, Valena’s father turned to Syracen and nodded. “You may take her, my Lord.”

  I gasped in outrage. My parents had died rather than see me in the hands of this slithering beast of a man. I wasn’t the only one outraged. The elder girl shrieked and grabbed Valena to her, refusing to let her go. Valena screamed and cried; terrified, confused, not knowing what was going on. Mr Rosonia managed to wrench Valena free. He let his wife take her upstairs. She returned quickly, Valena dressed snug and warm, but still crying. Her mother hugged her, quiet tears rolling down her cheeks as her daughter clung to her. Her husband came over and pulled Valena away, ignoring his elder daughter who sobbed in a ball on the ground. He kissed Valena’s cheeks, choking back his own tears, promised he would see her soon and handed her into the arms of Syracen Stovia. Immediately, sensing what only children could, she began shrieking and beating at him to get away. Careful to hide his disgust, Syracen reached down and thrust the squalling six year old in my arms. I pressed her close, ashamed for my part in all this. Valena stopped struggling, and instead looped her little arms around my neck, her legs around my waist, and bawled into my shoulder. A memory of my little brother doing the same not too many weeks ago when he had fallen from a tree and cut his leg flashed through my mind and I squeezed the girl closer, as if I alone could protect her.

  Stovia hurried us out of the house and we walked a distance away to the bridge that would take us out of the village.

  “Lieutenant Sandstone,” Stovia called quietly, and the soldier trotted forward on his horse. “Take Valena. I can’t carry the two on my horse.” Sandstone dismounted and tried to pry Valena from me. The girl began to shriek, her tiny hands gripping to my cloak, my hair, refusing to budge. And even though I winced at her tight hold, I refused to hand her over.

  “That’s enough,” Syracen grunted. He pushed Sandstone out of the way and gripped a hold of Valena, bruising her small arms as he ripped her from me.

  I cried out as his arm swooped down, his hand cracking across her face. I rushed at him in a rage, beating and pushing at him. I was pulled off by the soldier.

  Syracen, to spite me, hit Valena one more time. Sobbing, furious, I fought against the soldier only to be beaten by the pummelling fists of the Captain of the Guard. The next thing I knew, Kir was in the fray, hitting and punching at those who tried to hurt us. I no longer felt pain though. I was too angry. Too immersed in my fury to feel anything else.

  Finally, I was pinned to the ground by the Captain and as he stared down at me I noticed his eyes for the first time. They were blank. Empty.

  “Captain… After we leave the village, I want you to take two of your men and burn the apothecary to the ground. With the Rosonia’s inside,” Syracen demanded from somewhere to my left.

  The Captain nodded robotically, and it was then I knew. With the evocation of the Dyzvati weakened by Princezna Haydyn’s grief and age, Syracen’s magic was able to penetrate it. He was compelling the soldiers to do his awful deeds.

  I was lifted to my feet, my heart heavy and despairing.

  Syracen appeared before me, holding Valena close, her little cheeks red from his slaps. “Now you can live with the fact you just had Valena’s family killed.”

  My despair must have translated to my face for Syracen laughed gleefully.

  “Don’t, Rogan.” Kir struggled against a soldier, his young face mottled with anger. “He was going to have them killed anyway. Don’t let him make you think you did it.”

  Syracen curled his lip in disgust. “I’ve had enough of you. Sandstone!”


  The whip appeared in the soldiers hand and Kir was pushed into the dirt.

  “NO!” I screamed, my heart lodged somewhere in my throat.

  “NO!”

  “NO!” I bolted upright in bed. The sheets twisted around my body, my skin clammy, my hair stuck to my neck. Immediately, I sensed I wasn’t alone. Turning slowly, I saw her sitting in an armchair by my bed.

  “You were having a nightmare again.” Her soft, gentle eyes were sad. “More memories?” I nodded, feeling choked, the nightmare stil keeping me in its hold. “More memories.” Haydyn sighed and slowly drew to her feet. I watched her float across my large bedroom suite and pul the heavy brocade curtains back from my windows. I winced at the sunlight that streamed in, too bright, too adamant, wiling my bad memories away whilst I steadfastly anchored myself to them.

  “I told you I’d speak to Raj to see if he had a tonic to help you sleep without the dreams.” Raj was the Royal Dravilec, Valena was his apprentice. I shook my head. “I told you no.”

  “You’re the only one who ever says no to me.” Haydyn sauntered back to sit on my bed. Her pale hair shone almost silver in the sunlight, her beautiful face teasing and serene. “I wonder why I let you.”

  “Because you love me,” I stated matter-of-factly as I pushed back the covers to get washed and dressed for the day.

  “Yes, I do.”

  The statement was so melancholy I spun around to face her. It was then I saw it. That gloom in the back of her eye, in the slight dark purpling under her eyes. It had been appearing more and more over the last few weeks and I didn’t like it. “Something’s the matter.” Haydyn shook her head. “Just tired is al.”

  “Perhaps we should speak to Raj about a tonic for you.”

  She didn’t look convinced but as always, to appease me, she nodded. “Perhaps.”

  I grimaced when I realised she was fuly dressed for the day. Most times when Haydyn came into my suite it was stil so early she was in her nightclothes. “I overslept?”

  Haydyn grinned. “Haven forbid, but you did.”

  I roled my eyes at her teasing. “You know I hate oversleeping. It muddles up my entire day.”

  “I know. That’s why I let you sleep.” She grinned unrepentantly. Sometimes she realy was like an annoying younger sister. “You need a little ruffling up now and then, Rogan.”

  Making a face at her suggestion I was too straight-laced (which we both knew to be as far from the truth as possible), I puled on the servant’s bel to let them know I was ready for my morning bath. They would come to me as quickly as they would Haydyn. After al I was her best friend, her family. I had been ever since I had been brought to the palace eight years ago by Syracen Stovia. I was only eleven years old at the time. Haydyn was nine. At my arrival, Valena was quickly ripped from me and given to Raj. Kir was taken to live with Syracen and his family. And I was left at the palace with Haydyn.

  Both grieving for the families we’d lost, it hadn’t taken long for us to find solace in one another.

  Haydyn’s mother had died in childbirth, leaving Haydyn alone with her father. The Rada had pushed and pushed him to take another wife, to have more children, but he had loved Haydyn’s mother too dearly. He couldn’t bear the thought of making someone else his Kralovna. That left only the Kral and his baby daughter. Two peas in a pod they were, Haydyn told me. Inseparable. She had depended on her father for everything in life. Love, comfort, affection, friendship, advice, security. With him gone she was adrift. And I happened to be the float she grasped on to in his passing. She demanded I be put in the suite next to hers, where I had roomed ever since. I was to be given the run of the palace as if I were royalty. And I was. In return she looked to me for love, comfort, affection, friendship, advice and security. I feared my presence was hindering Haydyn to become the truly independent leader Phaedra needed, but I gave her my strength because she was the only family I had left. And because, after a number of years of begging me to tel her why I screamed in my sleep, I told her what Syracen Stovia had done to my family, Kir’s and Valena’s. There was only my word against his. By then I had been at the palace for four years. Kir had run away only a year after our arrival and Haydyn had grown strong enough that Syracen didn’t chase him for fear of disrupting the peace. And Valena couldn’t remember anything before being brought here. And of course Syracen hadn’t done anything violent or untoward since his return because Haydyn’s evocation overpowered him.

  But she believed me. And she made the Rada listen to me. She ordered that al twelve members of the Rada travel to Silvera to judge Vikomt Syracen Stovia for his crimes. Even if the Captain of the Guard had not come forward and confessed what he remembered doing under the compulsion of Syracen, I knew Haydyn would not have stopped until he was punished. She was only thirteen. But I was her family. And I was not to be hurt.

  I pledged my everlasting loyalty to Haydyn that day.

  The Rada were disgusted by Syracen’s methods and ordered him imprisoned in Silvera Jail – a lone prisoner. He didn’t take the news wel. I remember the sweat beading on his forehead and the nosebleed he sustained as he fought to break through Haydyn’s evocation. Powerful as he was, he was strong enough to reach for Haydyn to use her as a shield in order to escape. The Captain of the Guard did his duty, however, and kiled the threat to the Princezna’s life. His death didn’t ease my grief. But I felt freer than I had since the death of my family.

  The servants arrived and Haydyn took her leave while I helped the girls fil the bath with the hot water. Like every morning they swatted at me to stop.

  “The Handmaiden of Phaedra shouldn’t be doing servants work.”

  I grunted at the nickname I had been given many years ago. It made me sound like something I wasn’t.

  After they were gone, I let myself wake up as I soaked in the tub, and became irritated at having lost a few hours in the day. I hurried out of the bath, toweling my long hair dry and plaiting it. It hung heavy and damp down my back, the end brushing the bottom of my spine. Quickly, I dressed; my clothing as fine as Haydyn’s; a dark rose dress of the finest velvet. I hadn’t ordered any of it from the seamstress. Al my clothing was chosen by Haydyn. Haydyn loved clothes and jewelery. I put up with it because appearances within the palace had to be upheld.

  “Ah good, you’re dressed.” Haydyn barged into my room without knocking. Lord Matai, second lieutenant of the Guard and a young Vikomt of good family, was Haydyn’s newest bodyguard. He hovered over her protectively even when it was just her and I.

  I smiled indulgently at her behaviour and then noted the slight strain on her face. “What’s happened?”

  “Nothing. I think.” She shrugged elegantly. “Jarvis and Ava have requested me in the Chambers of the Rada.” I hid the instant worry that caused me. His Grace, Vojvoda Jarvis Rada, was the highest ranking member of the nobility of Sabithia and the Chairman of the Rada, as wel as the Keeper of the Archives. Her ladyship, Grofka Ava Rada, was a widow and the only other member of the Rada who lived in Sabithia. They were both good people, and they loved Haydyn dearly. But Haydyn relied too heavily upon their opinion, and oftentimes they forgot that Haydyn even had a voice. Particularly Jarvis, whose responsibilities and position – especialy that of Keeper of the Archives, the very exclusive control over mage history (meaning no one but he was alowed entrance into the archives until his demise, and then only his appointed successor would have the privilege) - had given him an inflated sense of self.

  It nettled me. But it wasn’t my place to speak for her. Like a frustrated parent I wanted her to become aware of her own voice and independence by herself.

  “Wel then.” I threw both Haydyn and Matai a blasé smile. “We best go and see what they want.” Chapter Two

  “Ah, Princezna.” Vojvoda Jarvis stood to his feet, Lady Ava at his side. He bowed deeply whilst Ava dipped as low as she could into a curtsey. “Looking beautiful as always.” Jarvis smiled kindly at Haydyn like a doting grandfather. His eyes flicked to me and he
gave me an expressionless nod. Jarvis and Ava were always uncomfortable around me. I knew it was because they were ashamed of what Syracen had done to my family.

  Ours was a strained relationship.

  “Your Grace.” Haydyn gave a shalow curtsey. “My Lady. I trust you are both wel.”

  “As wel as can be, Princezna. We do not have good news, I’m afraid.”

  Haydyn and I shared a worried look and I folowed her as she took her seat at the head of long Chambers table. I sat on her left, facing Ava. Jarvis took the seat next to the Grofka.

  “What’s wrong?” Haydyn asked quietly, afraid of the answer. I watched that gloom creep into her eyes again, and I could have sworn she swayed in her chair. I was just about to reach out for her when she seemed to shake herself awake. I withdrew my hand.

  Jarvis cleared his throat, his expression grave. “I must ask first of al, Princezna, whether you are feeling wel? Are you in good health?” Like Haydyn, I was surprised by his question, and as she stammered out, “Of course.” I could have sworn she was lying.

  “Why?” I asked, even though I shouldn’t. Admonishment wasn’t likely, however. Everyone was used to me.

  Ava’s eyes were wide with anxiety. “Because it seems as if the evocation may be weakened somehow.” Haydyn gasped, “Weakened? Weakened how? It can’t be. I’m projecting the evocation at ful, as always.”

  “We’ve been receiving reports over the last few weeks from the rest of the Rada. The most anxious of them being Vojvoda Andrei Rada, Keeper of Alvernia. The province is worsening; the uncivilised loutish behaviour of the mountain people grows steadily closer to his city in the south. He fears the people of Arrana may become contaminated by the aggression of the northerners and grows agitated by Silvera’s ‘negligence’, as he cals it.” Haydyn threw me a concerned look. “I had no idea things were so bad.”

  “There is more,” Ava told her.

  “Yes,” Jarvis continued. “I’ve had word from Pharya. A rookery has sprung up on the border of Vasterya in the towns near the glass works. Gangs of thieves and smugglers are disrupting import and exportation.”

 
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