The human King Kilian was the first to rule over the rocky flatlands of the eastern lands of Dyron. The Kingdom, named for its first ruler, is a warring nation of humans. The practice of magic is punishable by death.
The heavy iron door swung open slamming against the stone wall of the small cell. The deafening boom echoed through the cold moss-covered room. Small fragments of dust and stone showered down from the ceiling. The cell was not a large space, only measuring six by four strides. A mixture of piss, mud, sweat, and blood covered the stone floors; causing a foul odor to fill the air. The light that flooded into the cell only highlighting the filthy state of the prison. An empty stone plate, that once held stale bread and molded cheese, lay discarded on the floor next to an overturned wooden cup.
Amongst the dirt and grim, sat a petite, statue-like girl. She looked to be no more than twenty years of age. Her eyes were sunken in and her cheeks were hollow. The sharp structure of her collarbone stuck out above the rags she wore. With her back pressed against the stone wall, she sat with her legs crossed and her eyes closed. Dirt covered her face and her body. Her midnight blue hair, matted with dirt and oil, fell to her waist. From under her hair, the sharp-pointed tips of her ears poked out, marking her as fae.
Lady Railynn Ashelin Tal had come to expect the daily guard visits. Being a prisoner of Arden did little to quiet the wildness that lurked inside her. The horrible prison was known for breaking its captives. Even the makeup of the walls, made from both iron and stone, was made to hold and weaken those blessed with magic.
Railynn had grown used to hearing the screams of the other prisoners echoing through the halls of the compound. Some were screams of pain, while others were the screams of madness. Iron would do that to a fae. Its ability to strip them of their magic drove them insane. Even thinking about it made the ever-growing emptiness inside Railynn yawn open wider.
To humans, Arden symbolized their strength or perceived strength. It showed their ability to overpower magic. To the fae, it represented hopelessness and death. Real monsters once plagued the dreams of fae children. The real monsters were Skinwalkers - who skinned their victims alive and wore them like clothing. Monsters made of shadows and darkness, like the Shades or Wraiths. Even those monsters were tortured and held here.
Railynn lazily opened her eyes. Staring down at her shackled wrists, she stifled a groan. Raw red marks bloomed on her skin under the iron bracelets. She held back the urge to rub at them. Her magic and strength were gone. When they first shackled her, it felt as if her magic had been muted, but some of it still remained. Over time, the iron siphoned off the remainder of her magic, leaving only whispers of it behind. It felt as if a part of her had been severed. It was more than sadness at the loss of her abilities, it was heartbreak.
Shadows danced in front of her as the human guards in the doorway moved in the torchlight. There were two, but Railynn showed little interest in them. Railynn had never realized how much she hated torchlight. It was like a mockery of the sun. The little light and small amount of warmth it gave off only made her long for the feeling of sunshine on her skin.
Railynn looked at her fingertips as if, by willpower alone, she could force her claws to emerge. They did not. She was practically human like this. Practically, but not completely. Her senses, while muted from the amount of iron, were still sharper than that of a human. However, Railynn felt cut off from the world. She was so cold, tired, and hungry.
They locked her in a cell with no windows; to prevent her from knowing just how long she had been there. From listening to the guard rotations outside her cell door, she knew it was midday. She did not need a calendar to know that the winter solstice passed a week ago. She knew snow already covered the red dirt ground outside. She also knew that on the other side of the thick wall she leaned back against was freedom.
At night, she would press against the wall and listen. Sometimes, she would hear the distant howling of wolves, running in the wilderness beyond the prison walls. She could picture them, standing with their faces to the moon, declaring their freedom to the world. She longed for that freedom. Even if death was the only way she would obtain it.
For weeks now, she had pretended to be small and helpless. For weeks she had stored every wisp of magic that floated through her. Waiting till the right time to use it. When the guards would bring her daily meal, she did not move. The only sign that she was still alive was the empty plate she left for them to retrieve each night. Her guards had grown relaxed around her and their visits had become more and more frequent.
“Get up,” the guard’s gruff voice graded against her nerves.
Railynn let her self slowly look over the disgusting guard. He was a burly man with pale skin, covered in red blotches from the cold air outside. His thinning light-brown hair stuck out from his head as if he had been in a windstorm. His round belly pulled at the buttons of his too-small uniform - stained with whatever he ate for lunch that week. The younger guard wore his black hair cropped short. His dark skin looked almost golden against his brand new purple and gold uniform. It was still clean with slight creases in it from being folded. The heavy wool cloth hung from his body like a child playing dress-up with their older sibling’s clothes. The over-weight guard stepped into the cell and Railynn bowed her head to mask the predatory smile that slipped across her face. If she was lucky, and the guard was stupid enough, her plan just might work.
The red-faced guard wrapped his hands around the chains that bound her. With a pull, he forced her to her feet. The chains looped into the ceiling and up into a pulley system. The system made it easy for the guards to restrain even a newly ironed fae with little effort. A memory flashed through Railynn’s mind. She closed her eyes to hide the amusement in them and bit back her smile as she thought of her first day in Arden.
It took four armed guards to drag her into that cell and chain her in the iron shackles. She managed to wrap her chains around the neck of one of her captors. She used his own knife against him. His lifeless body had hit the floor before the three other guards could even draw their swords. Railynn just gave them a lazy smile and let the weapon slip through her fingers and clatter to the floor. She could still feel his sticky red blood that splattered across her face. She licked it off her fingers as she raised her hands in surrender. Despite what humans foolishly chose to believe, fae did not drink blood or eat human children. But the look of disgust and horror on the remaining guards’ faces made it all worth it. That was the first guard she killed in Arden, but he was not the last.
“Good morning Princess,” The guard sneered as he took a step closer.
Railynn ignored him. She knew what he wanted to see, so she gave it to him. Let him think she was weak and broken. Let him believe that she was finally driven mad by the iron. Her body was almost limp as she was pulled her to her feet. She looked at him with unseeing eyes. The click of the chains locking reverberated in her bones. Railynn did not react.
Her centuries of her training took over. Slowly, Railynn burrowed down, down, down into herself. She focused on the gentle clinking of the chains holding her arms above her head. She breathed in and out slowly, allowing her body to relax. It would hurt less if she did not brace for the punches. Her mind floated away, leaving only a husk of a girl remaining in that cell. She did not even feel the first blow to her gut. She barely registered any of the beatings until the guard pressed a small iron blade to her neck. Railynn’s empty eyes cleared and locked onto the guard’s feral grin.
“Finally, a reaction,” the guard chuckled lightly.
He stood just inches from her face. His hot rotten breath clouded her remaining senses. Railynn adjusted her self so that she was no longer limply hanging, but standing on the balls of her feet, toe to toe with her captor.
Oblivious to the shift in her stance, the guard laughed in her face, adding just enough pressure to the blade to cause a small line of warm red blood to appear at its edge. She wanted to roar at him. To rip out his eyes with her massive claws. Her fingers itched with the memory of a power that was no longer there. Leashing the anger that boiled inside of her, Railynn looked up at him. She kept her eyes empty and emotionless.
“Aw, come on Lady Death, is that all you have got?” He mocked her with the title she had once worn with pride. Shew was Lady Death, Daughter of the Demon commander of Leona. It was a name whispered by her enemies in fear. When she heard it whispered by the other prisoners, it was a prayer on their lips. She found strength in that knowledge. For the first time her title was inspiring hope. Nothing this human could say would change that.
The guard reached out and traced a finger down her cheek before wrapping his hand around her neck. Railynn only lifted her head a little as he squeezed. It was not hard enough to cut off her air, but enough to make breathing uncomfortable.
“I like it better when you fight,” the words were low and breathy in her ear as he pressed his body against hers. He handed the chains to the younger guard who now stood just behind him with his eyes glued to the floor. The brute traced his fingers down the side of her chest before reaching up and grabbing her breast in his grimy hands.
Railynn could not stop the low growl that formed in the back of her throat. He bared his yellow teeth at her as he pinned her to the stone wall with his body.
“There you are,” he sneered as he lifted her off the ground by her throat.
“I have never had a fae princess before,” His cruel smile told her all she needed to know. He had done this before, done this to others. Others who were too weak to fight back. Her blood heated as it pumped through her. She did not look to the boy that was now refusing to look her way. He knew what the red-faced guard was going to do too.
“Bardon, I don’t think...” the younger guard stepped forward. As he did, he forgot about the chains. His grip loosening on them. As the first chain clicked back, Railynn’s frown turned into a feral grin.
With a solid pull of her arms, the gears of the pulley slipped on their tracks. The chains fell to the ground around them. The sound, of iron on stone, was deafening. The guard holding Railynn flinched and lowered his arm just enough for Railynn’s feet to touch the floor. Air rushed back into her lungs as a calm focus filled her mind. In a blur of movement, her arms came down against the guard’s wrists. His grip ripped from her throat. His eyes widened in pure horror. He was unable to do anything but watch as she attacked.
Her body had an eerie grace to it as she moved, like a ghost floating just above the floor. She was beaten and malnourished but still strikingly beautiful.
Grasping the guard’s shoulders, Railynn used the leverage of his own body against him. She brought her knee up, slamming it into his groin. The man doubled over in pain. The boy was scrambling to collect the fallen chains. Before he could, Railynn grabbed a length of chain and quickly wrapped it around the red-faced guard’s neck. She pulled hard enough to bring the guard to his hands and knees. Her heal slammed down on his outstretched hand. The guard roared in pain as he clutched his broken hand, the same hand that had traced her body. Railynn locked eyes with the boy again as she cocked her head to one side and smirked.
The guard, kneeling before her, clawed uselessly against the metal links. Without breaking eye contact with the boy, she leaned down behind the guard and whispered in his ear.
“I’m not a princess,” her breath tickled his neck and ear as she spoke the words.
Then, the chains around the guard’s neck were gone. He fell forward, gasping for breath. The boy, who loosely held the chains, loosed a breath of relief. The guard began to cackle as he spat on the floor and began to stand.
“Fae bitch. You are pathetic! You will regret that! Who do you think you are?” The guard spat. Railynn just cocked her head and smiled. She was a cat playing with a mouse. She had never planned on letting him live. With a solid kick to his back, the guard fell back down onto his knees. Before he was able to react, Railynn’s hands grabbed his chin and the back of his head. In a single quick jerk to the side, the guard’s neck made a sickening snap. Railynn let go, and the guard’s lifeless body fell face-first into the stone floor.
“I am Death,” she hissed her answer, at the body on the ground. Railynn turned her attention back to the young guard. He stood frozen in fear, just inside the door to her cell. The boy was shaking so hard the chains held loosely in his hand clanked together. The distinct smell of fresh pee wafted towards her as the inside of his pant legs darkened. She had no anger towards him. He was only a kid, forced into a war that he never asked for.
Railynn cocked her head to the side as she studied him. He was young. Too young. He had probably been drafted as a soldier the minute he turned sixteen. The boy slowly backed away from Railynn, like she was an animal about to attack.
Railynn bared her teeth in a silent growl that sent the boy running from the room. The chains that bound her to the ceiling fell to the floor as he fled. Railynn could hear his cries for help as he ran from her. The sound of his boots hitting the stone floor growing quieter the further away he got.
Railynn did not hesitate as she grabbed the chains that now freely dangled from the ceiling. She pulled at them with the little strength she had left. The iron links did not budge in their tracks. A cry of desperation pierced through her as she pulled harder, but the chains stayed secured in their tracks. The anchor at the end prevented her from freeing the chains from the gears. She let out a silent sob before sinking to the cold stone floor. All the power she managed to store was gone. Using the heel of her foot, she gave the guard’s body a sharp kick. It only moved a small distance away. Slowly, she began to let her body relax. Her muscles screamed in pain from sudden use. She could feel blood trickling down her back from where old wounds reopened.
With the chains holding her back, she could only make it to the threshold of her cell door. The air from the hall was crisp from the winter chill. It burned her lungs as she breathed deeply. The mocking light of the torch in the hall barely provided any warmth. Regardless, she moved closer to it, drawing in what little comfort it offered. Her plan was in motion and nothing could stop it.
Hey everybody! Thank you so much for reading the first chapter of Lady Death! Please add this to your reading list so you can receive updates when ever I upload a new chapter! Your comments are what give me the motivation to keep writing! I love reading your reactions and thoughts. They only make me a better writer! :)