I open my eyes to the sound of shuffling. As I stare up into the ceiling, my dream comes hurtling back to me. There was a tall black tree by a waterfall and for some strange reason, I was hanging from a tree branch for my life. I was holding onto the branch so tightly my hands went numb. Then the tree started speaking to me, telling-- no, urging-- me to let go. The tree began to sway until I was dangling at the edge of the waterfall.
My grip started to loosen up. And, one by one, my fingers slipped from the darkened bark. I was falling to my death. But, then, something saved me. I was standing at the bottom of the waterfall as it came crashing down around me. The thing is, I was completely dry. The water wasn’t even touching me. I turned around to see identical copies of myself. I was looking at myself from someone else’s eyes, and it was kind of weird.
My surroundings changed once more, and I found myself standing in front of a set of bars. High up above me was a large golden box with strange symbols surrounding the keyhole. There was a barrier between me and the bars, though. One that shocked me every time I tried to touch it. Something deep inside me stirred when I looked through the bars. I began to feel agitated and filled with an unwanted longing for Aszurya’s darker side.
Something hits me in my side, taking me out of my reverie. There is a set of clothes lying next to me. Pacing back and forth, Aszurya mutters to herself, a long streak of red falling through her long jet black hair. She stops her persistent walking and stares at me for a long second.
“Huh, I thought you would’ve tried to leave without me.”
“I would have.” Aszurya’s stare quickly becomes a glare as she continues to pace back and forth. “But you decided to obtain a super strength in your sleep and bar me against your body.”
That might explain the talking tree. I’m not going to try to give her an explanation. I don’t want to feel her wrath at this very moment. Struggling to sit up due to the pain in my side, I look through the clothes she threw me. There’s a set of gear, pants and a jacket, and at the very bottom, there’s a black shirt made out of fishnet material. I begin to pull off my T-shirt and dress in the clothes provided.
“Why do you keep pacing around?”
“I’m thinking… trying to figure out how to proceed.”
“Can’t you just stroll in there like you own the place? I’m sure you’ve gone back to see the bone queen a couple of dark times.”
I receive another deadly stare and decide to stop taunting her. It takes some effort for me to not burst out laughing in her face. Once I have changed my clothes, I stand up and stretch the grogginess from my bones.
“Come on. Let’s go.”
“Do you have everything planned out?”
Aszurya shakes her head and walks out of the cottage. The sun is now beginning to rise and it’s certainly beautiful. The way the red streaks the dark blue, before slowly slipping into a bright yellow. It reminds me of the times I spent playing at night when I was younger.
I watch in content as Aszurya stands in the field of her namesake. The wind blows through her long hair and the light of the sunrise baths her bronze skin in a red-orange glow. She looks stunning even when she doesn’t want to. The mural Alaric painted for her in Vistosa comes to mind, and I begin to wonder if this is what the warlock had in mind. This scene before me is almost the same as the beautiful wall, which many admire at a time.
The air pressure begins to rise, the sound of energy splitting the air crackles around us. Right before Aszurya and me, the atmosphere begins to pull apart. It’s nice to see such a familiar gyen, yet, it also confuses me. When Aszurya was in my room at Head-Quarters, she told me how gyens required movements, yet she was as still as a rock.
“How did you do that?”
“Come on. We don’t have all day.”
I follow Aszurya’s orders and walk through the portal. Aszurya lands right next to me on the porch of a large house. The porch is made out of a strange off-white material, just like the door, which I soon come to realize is bone marrow. I grimace at the thought of how many things had to die for these items to be made. Aszurya doesn’t seem to be fazed by the danger and death hanging around us.
She steps forward and presses a button which I presume to be a doorbell. A strange ringing sounds off from inside of the house but is dulled by the sound of a guttural scream. I look up to see a few dark creatures with wings and tails flying high above us.
It is then, and only then, I realize this place is different from what I am used to from this realm. The sky is dark, bereft of stars, and bonfires surround the dry cracked pale land. The trees are sparse and bare, giving the area an eerie vibe. I don’t think this is Obsidian anymore.
“Are we still in Obsidian?”
Aszurya shakes her head and looks down at the porch made of bone marrow. “Obsidian has realms connected to it by rifts. Most of those rifts were destroyed or blocked when you were taken away as a result of the realm’s instability. Usually, the connected realms could be accessed by any type of portal, but the ones which are blocked can only be accessed by a few. Anyone can use the Byake, but not many can use it to jump from realms because of the amount of strength it uses.”
Loneliness burrows itself deep in Aszurya’s eyes as she finally looks up to scan our surroundings. I can’t help but feel bad for whatever pain has just risen inside her.
“This place used to be so beautiful and prosperous. The trees were always full of leaves and the sky was so blue. But like the other realms that were shut off from the crystals… they blackened beyond the point of regeneration. Even the animals and creatures that lived here have either died or become savage and engulfed with a certain darkness that appeals to my demons.”
Though she probably didn’t mean to, I feel responsible for this. I can just imagine a beautiful meadow filled with beautiful creatures. I want to fix this but with everything that is happening right now, I wouldn’t have time for it. Before anything can be said between the two of us, the large front door opens up to reveal a familiar beauty with grey hair and pointy teeth.
“Ah, you have arrived! Come in!”
We are ushered inside the large house and into an enormous living room. The walls are painted a dark red, almost like dried blood, the curtains a similar shade of red. The Bone Queen steps closer to my companion and places a hand on her shoulder.
“We were very surprised when you requested to see us. The last we heard, you dropped off the face of the realm with a lover. I couldn’t possibly fathom why you would come back so soon.”
“Well, an important time is rolling around quite soon. Isn’t that right, Princess.”
A tall man with striking features enters the room, approaching the two women and kissing Aszurya’s hand before taking the queen by the waist. To my surprise, Aszurya stays stock still even with all of the physical contact. She nods her head, keeping her eyes trained on the man in front of us.
Intriguing can barely describe the man before me. His eyes are like ink, his hair alabaster, and his skin like chocolate. He wears a freshly pressed black pinstriped suit with a black bow tie. I am uncomfortable with the way he looks at Aszurya. It is almost as if two had something going on I didn’t know about. Though, I wouldn’t be surprised. This is Aszurya I’m talking about.
“Join us in drinks of merriment. Scrumptious meals have been prepared in advance though not with the account of an extra mouth.”
“Something came up, but it doesn’t matter. Matters can be solved since all are present.”
Queen Myra claps her strange hands, one slightly burnt just as it was when we first met her. Something in resemblance of a black blob appears next to me, startling me.
“Perrigan, champagne should be acquired at important times.”
“Will do, Mistress.”
Just as quickly as it came, the blob by the name of Perrigan disappears in front of my eyes. The gentleman gestures for us to follow him into a separate room. The drawing room is just as eerie and red as the living room except the walls look wet. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was freshly painted with the blood of the two’s victims.
“What was that thing back there?” I whisper to Aszurya when our hosts are not looking.
“One of the indigenous creatures of this half-realm. It’s called a Yort and it’s usually blue but as I said before this land was blackened when your mother dragged you away from Obsidian.
“I assume this is your future partner, son of Raymond King, the next Escorter of the dead, Theodore King. Alaster is the name, excitement surges in your presence.”
I grimace at the way he says my name. From what I’ve heard, this Alaster Black guy is nothing but trouble. Seems like he’s just like his wife. But, what is up with the way he looks at Aszurya? And why would she all of a sudden go to a guy like him? She’s powerful enough to surpass him. I think.
“Black, advice is needed for a particular situation I’m dealing with.”
“Oh, please, Princess, call me Alaster. What situation might this be?”
“I need to awaken someone’s dormant abilities.”
“I presume this Siethen is the one next to you, correct?”
Aszurya nods her head. Seeing the way Black looks at her, makes me protective and possessive with Aszurya. I wrap my arm around her waist and pull her closer to me on the sofa we sit in. I level my gaze with the man seated across from me.
“Yes. You see, I’ve never dealt with a dormant Siethen before but I understand you have…”
Alaster nods his head slowly before licking his lips seductively. I become ultra-protective, even going as far as nibbling on Aszurya’s pointed ear. She just sits there, taking everything I do to her lightly. Her attention is still focused on that sinister man. His attention is now on me, though. Right now, I’m itching to wipe that damned smirk off of his face and prove who gets the ‘princess’. I haven’t had violent thoughts like this in a while, but this guy brings out the worst in me.
“I have, your predicaments differ from mine under circumstances. I’m not sure how long he’s been in Obsidian but if he’s been around you, I believe your energies should have triggered his own. You, having such strong powers, should have caused his own to overflow. You are suggesting you’ve seen and noticed nothing?”
“Well, he understands and speaks Daelic quite fluently but that could be because it was with him since birth. But, he has acquired the speed, though he’s still considerably slow, and a bit of strength. Otherwise, he is as human as ever.”
“Miss Death-Rose, darkling, there are rare moments when one who’s fallen even deeper than it’s own roots retains a different mask.”
“Myra, my love. If it were so he wouldn’t have been named the next escorter. Raymond would have been forced to have another child when the princess was born.”
“He should have had another child as soon as she left.”
I growl softly in Aszurya’s ear, giving her a warning. She nudges me with her head before looking up at me with her bright eyes.
“Princess, I do believe you should look somewhere else for assistance as our circumstances differ so much. I do apologize for such an inconvenience like this but I do hope you will still join us for our dinner.”
Aszurya nods her head and the strange couple stands up. Just as Aszurya begins to leave her spot at my side, I grab her waist and turn her around to look at me. Catching my hint, she gestures for our hosts to leave us for a moment.
“Did you plan on not bringing me here?”
“They weren’t supposed to know you are in Obsidian and don’t have your powers. Unfortunately, you resemble your predecessors too much to truly keep you under wraps.”
“So what if those two found out I’m in this realm. Nadia already knows and was bound to tell her sister.”
“No, it isn’t.”
Aszurya’s eyes narrow but her lips form a straight line. She steps back, severing our physical contact. I follow suit and walk into a grand dining room. Surprisingly, this room is not shaded in red, but an off-white. The long table centred in the room is made out of bones along with the chandelier above. No wonder she’s called the bone queen. She must be obsessed with bones. Her court was the same way.
We have a seat across from each other in between the hosts. As soon as we are seated, Myra claps her hands and a few Yorts appear with champagne glasses and ivory cloches. I wonder where this realm’s ivory supply comes from. I doubt there are elephants here.
Four cloches in total, each Yort sets down their items where they were instructed. My cover is lifted to reveal a delightful waft of smells. I lip my lips and begin to dig in. Myra and her husband, Alaster, strike up a conversation with Aszurya but the whole time her attention is on me. I stick my tongue out and I know instantly I’ve brought out those dimples under her mask.
I grab Aszurya’s waist and hold her against my body as soon as we portal back to the cottage. She lets out a beautiful laugh as I brush my lips against her sweet spot.
“I suppose you would survive a famine, King.”
“And why is that?”
“Well, you would have no problem resorting to cannibalism.”
My careless attitude slips out of my grasp as her words weigh down on me. The food, resembling such humane delights, might have been humane. No, she’s just toying with me. Though, it would explain the looks she gave me and the chewiness of the meat.
“You’re just joking.”
“Maybe,” Aszurya says with a smile as she slips away from me. “Go home, King.”
I begin to protest but she’s already inside the cottage. I hope I didn’t eat any… one. Those bones are going to haunt me for the rest of the day. I may never eat another thing in this realm. I’ll become a vegetarian if I have to.
I walk away from Aszurya’s cottage and begin my journey back to Alaric’s apartment. Maybe, everyone there can take my mind off the recent cannibalistic acts.