Hello!

For those new to #FirstDraftFriday, this is a weekly feature on the blog where I post the first draft of a work in progress. Feedback is welcome and appreciated! (Remember, this is a first draft, not polished draft, so please be kind..) 🙂

The title for this story is Dream The Dark, and it is planned to be a novella.

You can catch up here:

Intro and backstory to #FirstDraftFriday

Dream The Dark 1.1

Now, on to the next part…

Thanks for reading,

elle

xx

1.2

 

Whoever—or whatever—this creature was, it was a wasted bit of thing. It rocked back and forth on its knees, muttering to itself when it wasn’t chewing on…something I sincerely hoped were its nails.

I tiptoed into the parlor, wondering if it was just a wayward ghoul, or if it too just wanted to hide from my mother.

I perched daintily on the edge of one of the twin wingback chairs. Where I sat, the chair became…more. Wherever I touched, really, became more vibrant. The chair I sat on bloomed to a stately red. Its mate situated opposite in the room was still a swath of gray.

The thing hadn’t acknowledged my presence. I cleared my throat. “You are far from home, are you not?” Speaking clearly and distinctly was always a good bet, especially when I didn’t know what the creature would be.

The thing froze. It slowly turned its head so that it looked at me, a single maroon eye visible between the greasy strings of its hair. If it had another eye, I couldn’t see it.

The trill of fear came back, pooling as a big knot in my stomach.

“Far from home? You would know, Brightling.”

Brightling was sometimes a name for those who lived outside the Fold. Not common, though not unusual. But, it was also my lesser title at the Dark Court, one that any could use to address me and still be a sign of respect. It was a step up from the other names given to me outside of my mother’s hearing.

There wasn’t a doubt in my mind that when he used the term, he referred to me specifically. The knot of anxiety in my stomach quickly tightened into a mass of fear, but I refused to show it to this…thing.

So he knew me. He would know then why I was here. What part of my agreement was to the Dark Court if I wanted to live outside of the Fold.

Hunt down the troublemakers. Send them back into the Fade.

It still hadn’t moved. Not one bit. He peered at me from his crouched position.

My gut instinct roared at me, warned me that the most dangerous predators were the most patient and would lie in wait while the prey would be lulled into indolence.

So it thinks I’m prey. We’ll see what it thinks in a minute.

It didn’t give me a minute.

In the span of heart beats, it moved like the slip of shadows, not even waking the still air between us as it moved in to strike.

Before I had time to blink, before I could even dodge or parry the blow that never fell, ribbons of living shadows, folds of black and void, shot out and bound the interloper. Darkness wound its way around its wrists and moved around its middle, ending around its mouth before it could speak anything that could have been a curse. It wriggled on the floor in front of me like a black larval worm.

A blur of shadows grew shape from above the squirming and contained interloper. It steadily formed and gained shape as if it were walking toward me from far away, even though the portal was only a few feet away from where I sat.

From one blink to the next, the blur became a distinct outline, and then suddenly a man in full body armor appeared from the seething dark and strode into the parlor.

Of all the guardians of the Fold, he was the last one I expected to see anywhere this close to the Fade. He was also the one I wanted to avoid most of all, especially after the way I had left nearly three years ago.

Enver.

All of the words left unsaid between us filled my throat and lungs, squeezed my chest until I was left with nothing but a gasping cough by way of greeting.

He cocked his head at me, assessing me with a critical eye from head to toe for possible injuries. “Did it hurt you?”

I still couldn’t speak. So instead, I shook my head once.

He nodded curtly. Then, took another, slower appraisal of my body. This time, less clinical and detached, and a whole lot warmer.

The muffled screeches of the bound thing on the floor gained my attention. I looked at it, bound and nearly distilled. Its maroon gaze found mine, and promised murder.

I shrank away from it and stumbled into Enver. His hand found my back, steadied me, and I drew strength from his warmth. Indulging for just a moment in his touch, I stepped away from him.

I braved a look at Enver, and met his gaze immediately, his black eyes burned with a thousand questions he was too polite to ask. Then again, he never needed words to speak.

The magnetic pull of him was overwhelming, and I was the first to turn away. Even after all this time, he just needed to be there, and I would fall into his gravity.

I kept my hands firmly at my sides, trying not to fidget at my clothes or my hair. Or think about how I must look in the clothes of the shadow realm.

A crackle of thunder sounded from the portal, which looked like a mere smudge of shadows hanging in the air, and soon, a troupe of guardians spilled out into the parlor.

The older man with a mane of restless red hair was a particularly welcome sight. “Well now boy…it’s a good thing you’re quick.” Rufus glanced at me first, then the bound creature. “Let’s get this troublemaker back to where it belonged, shall we?” Rufus patted him on the shoulder.

Without protest, Enver moved away like the obedient guardian he was, but his fingers trailed a promise on my shoulder that our conversation was not finished.

He definitely had a gift of speaking without words.

“You did well, Katarina. Thank you for coming.”

I massaged the bridge of my nose, where a headache started to bloom. Damn, I wish I had gotten that coffee. “And why did I come, Lord Rufus?”

He sucked his teeth at me, annoyed at the formality.

I didn’t want to be rude to Rufus, but the draining adrenaline left me weak and shaky. “Why was I even summoned here? This wasn’t a mere haunting that I could help fade.” I peered at him out of the corner of my eye. After all these years, I still couldn’t look at him directly. He had always been the stalwart warrior, a forbidding presence hovering behind my mother. That he was also my mother’s consort didn’t make our meetings any easier. At least from my side of things.

“Though I enjoy our times together, Katling, I wouldn’t have wasted your time or energies on something so little. The haunting had probably left before you even got here. It was coincidence this other creature was here when you came. We’d been tracking it. In fact, I had thought to beat you here, knowing the oracles had summoned you.” He slumped with a sigh.

I let his explanation slide. It wasn’t like him to not think of every eventuality, including assuming that there may have been unwanted company here, and planned appropriately.

Rufus was saddled with a lot of responsibility, but I had never seen him tired before. Age hasn’t touched his profile, but his grim look, and set in his jaw made him look his many, many years.

I shook my head to clear these thoughts away. Who was I to judge him and his strategies?

Rufus sat down on the ottoman that paired with the chair I sat on. “Here, now. The oracle sent this in with me for you. Said you’d deserved it.” He unstoppered a bottle and handed it to me.

I automatically wrinkled my nose in protest, coming with a hundred excuses to turn down what he offered. It was probably one of those super vegetable drinks that involved squeezing as many nutrients as possible into eight fluid ounces. But when its steam wafted up, filling my nose with the intoxicating scents of coffee and caramel, I lunged for it. When Rufus made like he would hide the drink into his many folds, I pinched his arm, then snatched it from him.

I took three deep breaths, letting the magical vapors of coffee sink down into my soul. I drank it down like I’d been wandering a desert for days. After, I sighed happily, thermos empty, drunk on the afterglow.

Rufus watched this whole production, and was no doubt bewildered by my behavior. I didn’t exactly practice courtly manners during my down time.

“I’ll never understand what you love about the drink.” He took the empty thermos and tucked it away. When I opened my eyes, the house was blazing with bright color. It was alive and vibrant as it wasn’t before. “Well whatever it is I’m glad it makes you happy, Katling.” He nodded at the surrounds.

I eyed him, and even he looked more revived. Perhaps it was merely a trick of the light that he had looked so worn and tired before.

The other guardians had the thing firmly distilled and moved. However, they still didn’t manage to hide the open lust and greed that simmered in its eyes. It would have taken its time with me, those eyes said…it would have taken its time to drink me down.

<<I would never have let that happen.>>

The thought thundered in my mind unexpectedly, filling my body with the warm pleasure of spring rain. I shivered in response before I could control it, and shut him out of my mind. It had been a long time since Enver and I shared our psychic connection.

“Well then my dear,” Rufus said, a little too brightly, “shall we be off? We have trespassed on your time long enough, I think.”

“That’s it?” I asked still a little befuddled.

“That’s it!” Rufus extended his arm and I took it automatically and stood. I was happy I was steady on my feet.

I glanced at the place where the creature had been. A pile of bones rested in the middle of the rug in front of the fireplace, gnawed and whittled down. I suppressed the shudder of revulsion.

“Uhm, OK?” Rufus was normally complaining that he didn’t see enough of me. Yet, now I had the distinct feeling that he wanted me elsewhere. He draped his big hand across my shoulders, and walked me firmly out of the house.

“I wanted to escort you home. I haven’t seen you in a while. Say, I’ve been curious: what exactly does ‘rush hour’ mean? Are there time benders in the shadow realm, now?” He asked each question in rapid succession.

“No, but that would be cool.” I allowed myself to be diverted. Rufus was a skilled warrior but silver-tongued he was not. He was obviously hiding something. I let myself be led away, knowing that there were other ways to get what I wanted. Patience was the key.

I felt Enver’s gaze on me, knew it from the warmth that radiated from my back where he had touched me before, but I didn’t turn around, and I kept a firm lock out of our shared psychic thread.

I hadn’t expected to see him again. Or ever. And I for sure wasn’t ready for the conversation he promised.

 

End Chapter One

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