Sunday Photo Fiction – Esther

34 11 November 17th 2013

Copyright – Alastair Forbes

This week’s entry is inspired by the Biblical story of Esther, one of my favourites. If you’d like to look at the other Sunday Photo Fiction entries, click here.

I was his favourite from the beginning, but how deep are his affections? Am I merely a replacement for the last one that displeased him, an object he can parade with pride in front of his subjects? When he looks at me, I think I see more in his eyes than lust, and it is hard to imagine those same eyes condemning me to death for my impudence.

I stand in royal garb whilst my people pray in sackcloth. In a few moments, we shall know whether I am a saviour, a martyr, or a coward.

I push open the doors of the royal court, and hush falls over the room. I see the sneering face of Haman before I bow to my husband and King. I see a golden glint reflected on the polished floor. I touch the sceptre the King has extended to me, a symbol of his pardon. My impertinent entry to his court will not be met with death.

I know that I have been saved by the grace of God, now it is my turn to save my people.

Taking Back The Crown – Part Eighteen

Sonya laid her plans carefully. This time they would not be surprised by the enemy.

 On the night of the attack, Sonya transported herself into the bathroom attached to Naria’s old bedroom. She peered out of the door and saw Magdalene sleeping in what once had been the bed reserved for the Queen. She recognized her as the woman who she’d attacked the day she’d came back to the Palace, shortly after the raid.  Sonya knew that Magdalene wouldn’t be able to resist the idea of taking over that room, taking full glory in the fact she’d overthrown the Royal Family. Sonya had no doubt that Magdalene saw herself as the Queen of Litia now, and thought that the bedroom rightfully belonged to her.

 “Magdalene.” Sonya called out, as she walked out of the bathroom. She couldn’t kill Magdalene in her sleep; it would be dishonourable.

 Magdalene suddenly sat bolt upright, and slashed her arm across the air, making Sonya think she had perhaps been awake the whole time. Sonya managed to reflect the attack, sending it into the wall, causing brick dust and plaster to fly across the room. Magdalene jumped out of bed, but Sonya’s next blow caused her to fall the floor. They duelled wordlessly, panting with effort, but Sonya always had the upper hand.

 A messenger came to warn Magdalene of the troops attacking the Palace and Sonya struck him dead within seconds. It wasn’t long after this that Sonya struck Magdalene across the body and she collapsed lifelessly to the floor.

 Sonya grabbed Magdalene by the collar and dragged her corpse out of the room, leaving a trail of blood behind her. As she walked towards the staircase, she heard the noise of intense battle. If her plan had worked, the majority of troops would be in the palace foyer. Sonya wasn’t disappointed. Proudly, she looked on and watched as her army fought with the Rutilus.

 She then took pleasure in the faces of all the dark magicians as they watched their leader’s dead body tumble down the staircase.

Taking Back The Crown – Part Seventeen

 Sonya put all her efforts over the next few months into not only recovering physically, but emotionally from her last encounter with Seta. After looking in the mirror, Sonya concluded it was hardly surprising that Seta had not recognized her. It was a long time before her face did not bear horrendous scars from the disastrous battle in Helena. Sonya was surprised at the number of recruits that remained. They had lost almost a quarter of their number in the battle, but almost everyone that survived remained loyal to the cause. They even had new magicians turn up, eager to fight.

 Linden seemed suddenly reluctant to talk about plans with her. Every time Sonya suggested how they would attack next time, he shrugged her off, saying they needed to be patient. This went on for about five months, until one night, her turned around and put his face uncomfortably close to hers.

  “We need to play the long game.” he began, quietly. “If we had another Litian heir, we’d have more of a chance…”

 “You’re not suggesting…” He put a hand on her hip, making it perfectly clear what he was suggesting. “It’s out of the question.”

 “You’re being selfish. These men are laying down their lives for you, and you won’t even do this to help them?” He stayed where he was, still gripping her with his left hand.

 Sonya thought about it. Was she being selfish?

 “No. The next battle, we do things my way.” Sonya pushed past him and walked out of the room.

Taking Back The Crown – Part Fourteen

For months there were arguments about how they should oust the dark magicians from Helena.

 “We should approach from the North and slowly clear everyone out.” Linden advised. “There aren’t enough of us to split into groups. If all the Rutilus come in from the Back Desert, they’ll be able to pick us off, one by one.”

 “No, we need to take them by surprise. If we take Magdalene, the leader, before she can call them in, they might just leave us.”

 “Your highness, I appreciate you are concerned, but I have experience in these matters. You must trust me.”

 Sonya walked out of the room, frustrated.

While the plans were discussed, Sonya spent time teaching new recruits everything she knew about magical combat. She was even taught new things by those who had studied different methods under trainers from other lands. In the end, Sonya had her own style that she was comfortable with, but she never stopped feeling guilty about her incomplete training with Seta.

 She made friends with Orika and, six months after moving to the camp, confided in her about the Training Ground and the circumstances in which she left. She neglected to mention her feelings for Seta, but Orika understood and comforted her.

 “Why not go back and explain properly? He might want to fight with us.” Orika suggested.

 “For a group of magicians who train in combat, they’re very anti-conflict. They don’t get involved with other people’s wars.”

 “Maybe in general, but he might not be.” she pointed out. Sonya was doubtful. It was best to leave Seta and those painful memories behind.

Taking Back The Crown – Part Twelve

Sonya visited Linden’s camp every night while she completed her training with Seta. As time ran only slightly slower in the Sprite World, she survived on very little sleep. Seta noticed her fatigue, but she gave him no hints as to why she was tired. To keep secrets from him, to put this emotional distance between herself and her mentor, saddened her. However, she had many distractions.

 Linden had been correct in his assumption that magicians would be more willing to fight with a member of the Royal Family at their side. The numbers grew quickly, and there was barely enough room for all of the recruits. Eventually, they created a concealed camp on Litia’s outskirts, one that was much larger. This made things much easier for Sonya, as the time difference meant she could get more rest.

 After weeks of patrolling Litia’s outer districts, they had not seen anyone, Rutilus or human. They came closer and closer to Litia’s capital, Helena. Only when they reached the edges of the capital did they come across small groups of Rutilus. Most of the time, they hid. When the time came to attack, they wanted to be prepared and they wanted the element of surprise. On one patrol though, they were seen by a female Rutilus. They captured and restrained her in an abandoned home.

 “Your efforts will be in vain!” she hissed. “We are all faithful to Magdalene. If she calls us you’ll have our entire race to contend with!” She spat in Orika’s face, broke her bonds and sent an attack flying across the room. Linden yelled out as it hit him in the face, cutting deeply across his cheek. Sonya quickly reacted, using her magic to trip the Rutilus before she could escape.

 Sonya executed the Rutilus that night. It was the first time she had killed anyone, and was shocked to find it so exhilarating. Having the power to rip someone’s life away was terrifying, but Sonya had no regrets. It needed to be done.

Taking Back The Crown – Part Eleven

Collected my first year results from my university tutor today. After convincing me that getting a 2.1 instead of a 1st was not the end of the world, he asked me what I had planned for the summer. I ended up telling him about NaNoWriMo, and now I’m really looking forward to it.

 “Your highness, I can’t tell you how relieved we are to see you again.”

 Linden Hayber was red-haired, well-dressed and handsome. His dark eyes surveyed Sonya. She met them, and they looked at each other in silence for a few seconds.

 “Is there any news of my mother or grandmother?” she asked.

 “Unfortunately not. I only have bad news. The information we have gathered suggests that both Trin and Naria have been trapped in some kind of netherworld, the entrance of which lies in the Back Desert. We have been told there is very little chance of them escaping.”

 “I have faith in them. They will find a way.” Sonya replied, stubbornly.

 “We have no way of knowing.” Linden stroked his chin. “Where have you been?”

 “Somewhere safe. Trin told me not to leave until she came back for me…” Sonya found herself reluctant to talk about the Natetic training ground.

 “She probably did not envisage these events. She couldn’t have known. You are in the right place now.”

 “How many people are here? What is your plan?” Sonya asked. Starved of information about Litia for the past four years, she was now eager for details.

 “We’ve been trying to gather troops for a long time now,” He gave a short sigh. “About two years, and we have thirty recruits.”

 “Only thirty?” she replied, sharply.

“Things will undoubtedly change now. We had assumed you had been taken by our enemies, along with Trin and Naria. With you here, things are different. People will fight if you are leading them.”

Taking Back The Crown – Part Ten

So, we are half-way through. Hurrah! I’ve increased the number of overall posts to twenty, and am struggling with literally just the last line of the thing. Everything else is written and ready.

 “You seem distracted, are you alright?” Seta asked quietly. He and Sonya were eating their evening meal in the dining room, surrounded by the gentle hum of other people’s conversations. Sonya replied that she was fine, but it didn’t stop Seta from looking concerned. Sonya changed her story.

 “Actually, I have a small headache. May I meditate alone in my room tonight rather than doing our usual exercises?”

 “Of course you may.” Seta was mocking her unusually formal tone.

 Once upstairs, Sonya changed again into her black robe. She warped straight to her old holiday home.

 On the path outside, Sonya shielded her eyes from the dazzling sunrise opposite her. She could hear the sounds of people laughing. The gates to the front of the house were open. She slowly walked up to the doors.

 “Hey! You’re too young to be around here!” A wiry, middle-aged woman walked towards Sonya from the left. Sonya turned and she stopped suddenly, her mouth going slack. Her wrinkled eyes looked Sonya up and down. “It can’t be…”

 “I’m here to see Linden Hayber.” Sonya said, calmly. She hadn’t known what to expect, whether they would even recognize her or if she’d have to convince them of her lineage. There was a pause before the woman complied.

 “Follow me.”

 She opened the doors and led Sonya through familiar hallways, up one set of stairs, and to a door that had been painted white. The laughter and voices of many men and women could be heard through the other walls, but this room seemed silent. She rapped on the door with her knuckles.

“Who is it?” an imperious voice answered.

 “It’s Orika. There’s…” She broke off and looked at Sonya before turning back to the door. “…Someone here to see you.”

Friday Fictioneers/Taking Back The Crown – The Captain’s Diary

Image

Copyright – Managua Gunn

I saw the picture this week, and coincidentally, it kind of fit in with today’s scheduled post for Taking Back The Crown, the not-so-mini-series I’m posting. I thought about doing a kind of two-in-one post, but 1. That would be cheating and 2. There were no 100 word segments of the post that made real sense.

I decided to create a diary entry for one of the characters instead.

If you wish to take part in Friday Fictioneers, click here.

29th July 1922

 More disappointment today. I could not convince Dareth Vitch to assist us in the fight to reclaim Litia. I should not be surprised. It has been 20 years since Litia fell and the Royal Family disappeared.  Most people have made new homes and livelihoods. I cannot feel the same way. London will never be where I belong.

Linden’s efforts to gather troops for battle are admirable, but I fear we will never have enough manpower to purge Litia of the demons that possess it.

I continue to hope and pray for the Royal Family.

Captain Lineus Bayford

Taking Back The Crown: Part One

This series is based on one of the back stories within TBAM. It’s split into nineteen parts and I’ll be posting each part daily, bar a couple of days when I’m away. I really loved writing certain parts of this story. I felt that Sonya’s character wasn’t explored a lot in TBAM, but this series should hopefully show how she became such a ruthless leader, and you’ll get to see her softer side. Be warned, this series is a bit more violent than my other work on here.

Blood, bone and brain matter were suddenly dispersed across the ornate circular table. The bang that had preceded this had come suddenly, in the middle of Naria’s speech. She’d been about to give a toast, to Sonya, congratulating her on reaching her tenth birthday. Not that reaching your tenth birthday is much of an achievement when you’re almost immortal, but it meant that Sonya’s official training would begin. She’d already done combat exercises and developed her magical abilities, but she’d never used them against real enemies. She’d never seen anything like this, or felt anything like Naria’s still-warm flesh splattered across her face.

There were shrieks and cries and everyone rushed towards the ballroom’s exit. Ladies tripped over their brightly coloured gowns in their attempts to escape. Windows smashed and tall, red Rutilus appeared. They poured in through the window frames, dropping down into the chaos. Another group of them must have waited outside to ambush those who ran through the ballroom doors. Party-goers were silenced mid-scream as the Rutilus used their magic to cut throats. Scarlet pools gathered on the stone floors and streaks appeared on the marble pillars. Trin was trying to fend off five at once while Sonya looked on, numb and shocked, at the senseless violence.

Suddenly, Trin grabbed Sonya’s arm and she felt the usual warm sensation as they transported. When the darkness lifted, a heavy drizzle was falling on them both. Water on the ground reflected the moonlight.

 “Sonya, wait here. I’ll come back for you when this is over.” Trin said quickly. “Don’t go back to the Palace until I come for you!”

Before Sonya could even reply, Trin had vanished.