This novel is limited to 100 free copies due to its part in Inkitt’s Novel Contest.
Orange and red flames flared to life in sharp, hot burst across the dark, vacant field; cutting off any chances of escape as a small, three-year-old girl ran as fast as her short legs would allow, fear burned in her soul as strongly as the fire itself.
An ebony beast that was as dark as the starless night sky, hid among the cotton-like charcoal clouds, sending forth immense gales of embers as the child tried desperately to avoid being burned alive.
A dragon! Her tiny mind shouted at her, doing her best to forget they were supposed to be extinct.
A small boy roughly her age, lagged not far behind, having great difficulty keeping up. His breath was coming out in short, sharp gasps as he stumbled along the brittle grass. The young boy tripped over his own feet and fell hard, reaching his hand out for her.
She hesitated briefly, debating whether or not to go back and rescue him. But there was no time for helping anyone but herself as the beast prepared to launch another assault, its mouth glowing as brightly as fresh blood.
A cloaked figure, barely visible among the clouds, sat upon the back of the giant beast, encouraging it to continue its assault on the helpless children in a language she did not understand.
Terrified, the little girl pressed on, a sharp pain developing in her left side as her breath came out in sharp, broken puffs of air. She looked back over her shoulder, her foot catching on a thick root that was jutting out of the dirt, sending her sprawling to the hard, unforgiving ground, her head cracking open painfully on a rock.
Dark, red blood seeped out of the open wound on her head as she tried feebly to hang on to consciousness, the world fading in and out as sparks of black and white danced in her vision.
Her eyes started to burn from the tears that threatened to escape, her throat raw from the smoke that choked her lungs as she let go, slipping silently into darkness as the beast released the fire that had been building in its throat.
Valeena’s bright blue eyes opened slowly, seeing nothing but darkness as the dream slipped out of her mind like sand through her fingers. She had fallen asleep safe in her own comfortable bed, where no foul dragons or flames could reach her.
It was a dream, she knew, or thought she knew, as she stretched her arms above her head, but it always felt so painfully real. Valeena sat up, her hand rubbing absently at the spot on her head that is struck in her dream feeling only a thin scar.
Valeena usually is woken up from the dream after her head hits the ground, like an alarm pulling her back into the world of the conscious. Other times, however, the dream continues in broken fragments, like a picture being torn in pieces, of her tiny body being carried up to the iron gates of Star Kingdom. Very few times she was able to catch vague images of the castle, looming in the distance like a shadow in the night.
Valeena had worked up the courage to ask the woman whom she called mother, Queen Maylee, the ruler of Star Kingdom, about the dreams, hoping she could shed some light on them; to find out if there was anything real within the images.
“That is absurd, dragons. They have been extinct for at least one hundred years! Now, do not speak of such foolishness again!” The Queen had barked angrily, waving her fat hand in the air, a sign that Valeena had been dismissed.
Valeena realized that sleep would elude her as it often did upon waking from the dream, as she made her way slowly onto her stone balcony via the double doors that separated the balcony from her room.
Valeena’s room was on the right-hand side of the castle on the fourth floor. Her balcony sat to the left of the stables, the foul, sour scent of horses filling her room on hot days.
Valeena lived in the heavily guarded castle that was part of the Star Kingdom, located northeast of the omnipresent shade of Evil Forest. The castle, a very plain four-story rectangular building with two towers on the backside and one resting on top, sat on an island that appeared to be a muffin rising out of the sea. An underwater mountain range sat beside the castle, stretching its way back to land, the peaks fading completely under the sea as it reached the shores.
Star City itself stretched outwards on a peninsula, ending daringly close to the borders of Evil Forest. It was attached to the castle grounds via a large stone bridge that ended in a closed iron gate that was constantly under guard, no one from the city ever entered the castle.
Tonight the sky above was a rich, dark, ebony slate, void of any light save for the occasional lightning bolt that would rip across the dark canvas in bright, brilliant sparks. Thunder rolled in the distance, holding the promise of rain. The scent of the sea hung heavy in the air and Valeena inhaled it deeply, tasting the saltiness. Valeena leaned her arms on the cool, stone rail, surveying the angry gray ocean waves below.
She sighed deeply as she longed to touch those forbidden waters. Her blue eyes glided upwards as the clouds began to cry a soft staccato of cool drops of refreshing rain upon her creamy, white skin. Her jet black hair that contained faint tints of royal blue highlights was lifted off her shoulders by a sweet, salty, gentle wind.
The cool breeze moved her hair from around her forehead, revealing a blue, rain drop shaped crystal that was planted firmly in the center of her forehead. The interior of the crystal swirled with several shades of blue, as though it held a storm within. Valeena had never met another soul with a crystal, making her feel like an outsider; alone.
Queen Maylee forced Valeena to wear a polished silver band that was fitted snugly over the crystal and twisted around her head in braided loops. Four other gems, each a beautiful shade of blue, adorned the metal on either side, making the one on her forehead appear to be nothing more than a simple, yet beautiful decoration.
“So you do not appear as odd as you are!” Queen Maylee had spat rudely when the band was first introduced to Valeena sometime around the age of five, attenuating the excitement she had felt growing in her heart.
“Does Princess Aurory get one?” Valeena had asked solemnly, startled when Queen Maylee’s response was cruel laughter.
“Heavens no, she does not need such a silly thing! No, Princess Aurory gets this lovely gold tiara with real emeralds and rubies. Not a band made of silver and bits of cheap colored glass.”
Valeena had turned to the spoiled, fat baby, noticing for the first time that she looked nothing like her sister, nor the Queen herself. The royal family all were short, and plump with medium length, sandy blond hair over light, tan skin. Their eyes were an olive green color, with flecks of gold in them, placed in large, round faces to match their ever-expanding bodies. Freckles were splashed on their cheeks like sparkles from the sun.
Even King Star, who had died a mysterious death just two weeks after Princess Aurory was born, looked nothing like Valeena. He too had been a short, balding man with a round waist, his eyes a deep green. A single, albeit faded, painting of him hung in the hallway leading to the second floor, the only painting of him that seemed to have survived the years. A wine stain was visible on the bottom left corner of the massive painting from when the Queen had hurled her glass at a terrified maid and missed.
A majestic, two-headed storm bird circled through the rain, its large emerald wings skimming the reflective surface of the ocean, searching for prey hidden in the gray-green waters. It called out softly, a hauntingly beautiful sound reminiscent of a whale singing in the night.
Reluctantly, Valeena entered her room via the large glass, chocolate colored double doors and sat on her canopy four poster bed; throwing herself back against the faded blue pillows. The curtains were a lovely shade of pastel blue, her blankets and pillow case a darker ocean blue. The frame of the bed was the same chocolate brown color as the door. Across from her bed sat a chipped vanity table with a large, oval mirror that she sometimes threw a scarf over.
Valeena was restless, she wished that she could walk the castle floors, just to stretch her legs and think. But it was forbidden. Princess Aurory, however, had free reign of the castle; she could wander where ever, whenever she liked, save for the dungeons, but she had no interest in walking down the stairs anyways.
Valeena, on the other hand, was very restricted on where she could travel to in the castle. She could only enter certain rooms, and the second floor, which contained the Queens chambers and the library, was entirely off limits.
Valeena had worked up the courage to ask the Queen roughly five years ago why she was not referred to as Princess Valeena, and once more the Queen responded with cruel laughter.
“For you will never be Queen you fool.” The Queen had said it so simply, as though it were blatantly obvious. Princess Aurory was five years younger than Valeena and was barely five years old at the time when Valeena asked.
“But, is not the eldest who is next in line for the throne?” Valeena questioned as confusion crossed her lovely face.
“Why do you enjoy testing me? Of course not! It is whomever I decide, and Princess Aurory seems far more suited to running a kingdom than you!” Valeena was then shooed away with threats of being locked in her room for a month if she bothered the Queen with such nonsense again.
Valeena sat up, shaking the memories out of her head, knowing that she would not be able to fall back to sleep tonight. The walls in her room felt as though they were starting to close in on her as she climbed to her bare feet once more, walking on the rough carpet out of her room and stepping once more into the shower of refreshing rain.
Valeena felt her heart jump as she spied a large wolf-like creature sitting silently on the castle wall, its eyes watching her.
Valeena was intrigued by the animal as the wall it rested on was, at least, fifteen feet high and as smooth as cut glass; the Queen demanding it be polished to a shine at least twice a month. There were no rocks or trees near the wall that could have aided the beast in reaching the top as they all had been removed for the construction of the wall.
“You had better go or the guards will shoot you,” Valeena informed it, enjoying the cool night breeze that was tangled in the rain. The scent of salt water and the damp earth was like slipping into tranquility, taking her soul away from the castle. The Wolf merely blinked those yellow eyes as Valeena spoke, oblivious to the danger it faced sitting there.
Valeena suddenly felt foolish speaking to the animal as the rain continued in light, misty drops. She could not help but look out towards Evil Forest, hoping to see the legendary Night Demon. The demon was well known throughout the lands of the Zula continent, striking terror into the hearts of all those who believed it.
The people who lived in the cities close to the forest believe very strongly in the presence of the Demon, who was said to be so foul that Hades himself did not want him and locked it in the forest. At sunset city gates were locked tight and no one is allowed to leave or enter. A clock tower sits in the center of every town, village and Kingdom chiming at sunset to remind the citizens that it is time to go indoors.
“Leave the castle at once.” A husky voice whispered in the chill of the night, slicing into Valeena’s thoughts and pulling her mind back to the castle. Valeena, who had never felt cold a day in her life, felt a chill run down her spine.
“Wh-who’s there?” She stuttered; the question being drowned out as a loud clap of thunder rolled across the heavens. Valeena strained her ears for a response, searching the storm for the owner of the voice.
The grounds were empty of people, as the stable hands had turned in for the night; the horses were locked away safe from the rain. Not even the guards who were supposed to be walking the grounds were out. They were most likely huddle together gossiping or drinking making sure to stay out of sight.
Valeena involuntarily turned her blue eyes back towards the wolf, who was still sitting on the wall with its head tilted slightly, its yellow eyes boring into hers.
“You are in danger.” And with that, the wolf leaped swiftly off the wall towards the ocean and out of sight.
The next morning, Valeena could not stop her mind from circling back to the creature or the haunting voice that had chilled her soul. She was positive that the husky-like voice had belonged to the wolf, but that was absurd, wolves cannot speak!
Valeena had allowed herself to become too deep in thought that she did not notice the fat foot that stuck out in front of her, causing her to trip, her hands slapping painfully on the polished white marble floor as she fell to her knees.
“Can you not even walk like a decent human being?” Queen Maylee demanded her voice dripping with rage, as she stared at Valeena as she pulled herself up off the floor. No one offered a hand to help her back to her feet as embarrassment burned on her cheeks.
“But-” Valeena started to say, watching Princess Aurory as she sneered from behind her round mother. “I will be more careful,” Valeena said with a heavy sigh, knowing it was best to just accept the blame that wasn’t hers.
“See that you do! I have an important visitor coming today and I do not need you ruining things!” The Queen spat, her voice rising in anger, her olive eyes burning into Valeena’s, who looked away in defeat.
Valeena always hated the Queen’s wardrobe; she always wore extravagant dresses with puffy sleeves in hideous patterns.
Today, the Queen had chosen a royal blue dress with flares of greens and purples on it, making her appear to be an over-sized, angry peacock. Valeena had to stifle a giggle that dared to escape as she pictured the Queen flapping her fat arms like the bird she resembled. She began coughing instead, thankful the Queen had her back to her now so as not to see her smile.
“Your Majesty, Sir Thanos is here to see you.” One of the guards announced suddenly, standing at attention, his face stern. His eyes hiding the fear he felt as the Queen was known for striking the guards for no apparent reason.
“Ah, good, see him to my conference room. And I ask for no disturbances!” The Queen demanded, looking firmly at Valeena who coward slightly, awaiting punishment.
“Queen Maylee, how great it is to see you!” A smooth accented voice rang out, echoing off the bare walls of the castle. “You’re looking just as lovely as ever!”
Valeena turned and for the second time in her life, she felt a cold chill run its fingers through her body. She had never seen this strange, obviously blind, (he had told the Queen she was lovely after all) man before, and yet, he looked so familiar.
He was tall, with long, oily, black hair that was pulled back in a sleek ponytail. He had a thin goatee that ended with a curl on his pointed chin and narrow almond eyes. A scar ran up his right cheek, barely missing his eye, and stopped above his eyebrow. A tattoo of strange writing was visible on the back of his thin neck.
On his body, he wore a high collared ebony cloak with an embroidered red dragon on the collar over a rusty red, button up, silk shirt that was tucked into black pants that puffed slightly from the knees down. On his feet were pointed-toe boots in a deep brown. He walked with a commanding force and had an air of superiority about him.
He passed by Valeena without so much as a glance, leaving the scent of spice in the air as he followed Queen Maylee into the conference room after casual pleasantries were exchanged. He even dared to touch his lips to her fat, pimple infested cheek. Valeena tried not to gag and looked away instead.
“I am sorry, Aurory, but you are not able to attend this meeting either.” Queen Maylee told her daughter who had been following close behind, sneering at Valeena. The Queen gently placed a hand on her daughter’s shoulder to stop the child from entering the room.
“Mother?” Princess Aurory resembled a fish gasping after it has been plucked from the water. It was not often she was told no, or that she was not allowed to do something.
“I mean it!” Queen Maylee informed her firmly, the doors shutting in Princess Aurory’s fat, breakfast stained face.
Valeena watched silently as the stunned Princess stood outside the heavy, brown doors, not able to fully believe what had just happened to her.
A guard very timidly, yet gently, placed a hand on her shoulder and steered her away from the door before taking his post there. Princess Aurory jerked his hand off of her and resumed her natural, unpleasant demeanor, kicking the guard in the shin.
“She is treating me as though I am you!” Princess Aurory finally shouted her pudgy hands in tight first as she refused to look towards Valeena.
“We shall see about this!” She then turned on her heels and marched out of the castle, surprising Valeena who only had ever seen Princess Aurory move that quickly at meal times.
Valeena wondered briefly what the Princess could possibly be up to, but her mind kept returning to the wolf like a shark circling its prey.
She had always felt deep in her heart that the castle was not safe for her. The flames of fear were fanned brightly one night when Valeena was ten and she had asked Queen Maylee if the crystal can be removed from her forehead.
She wanted desperately to fit in and be like the other children she was forbidden to associate with or even see out in Star City. She hated the attention she received from visitors and wished she could take the gem off.
“Not before your sixteenth birthday, I am afraid. That’s when it will be full grown. If you die before then, it dies with you.” The Queen then became very angry, shouting at Valeena to go to her room and to not ask her about the Crystal again.
A few nights after the incident with the Queen, Valeena had overheard a private conversation between Queen Maylee and a mysterious woman dressed in silk robes that covered her face. It seemed the woman came to the castle often as none of the guards nor soldiers had stopped her as she entered, heading to the conference room as though she lived there. Valeena had been on her way to sneak food from the kitchen and had paused outside the conference room doors, curiosity getting the best of her.
“Is there any other way? She is growing far too slowly!” The Queen had asked the gypsy, her voice dotted with impatience.
The woman’s voice was cold and soft and crackled like dry leaves. “Because it is attached to the main artery and removing it before her sixteenth birthday will cause her to bleed to death, killing the crystal as well. There is no way to speed the process, as I have told you before. But never fear, once the crystal is fully grown, you can harvest it freely, sparing the child if you wish.”
Valeena had been too horrified to listen to the rest of the conversation. Instead, she had fled the castle, running blindly into the night, hot tears streaking her creamy skin.
‘They do not care if I lived or died, I am nothing more than a host body for the Crystal!’ Valeena thought, just before she was caught by two soldiers and drug kicking and screaming back up to her room.
Valeena shook her head to clear her mind of those thoughts as she sat down on a red marble bench that was facing the beautifully sculpted fountain. The fountain was of two dragons, one black, the other red, their bat-like wings outstretched, tails intertwined and mouths open spilling water into the round basin bellow.
Queen Maylee was madly in love with dragons, she claimed they symbolized power. All the guards and soldiers had a red dragon wrapped around a black star on their armor and uniforms. Statues of dragons were placed all throughout the castle and kingdom. Even the ebony rugs that lined the floors had red embroidered dragons on them.
Princess Aurory returned moments later, looking quite irritated and winded, stomping her fat feet, her face flush. “They are talking about you of all things.” She snapped, smacking one of the dragon statues, acting as though it did not sting her hand.
“I’m hungry!” Princess Aurory shouted loudly, her voice full of rage as Valeena turned to the princess casually.
“Are they?” she asked, trying to remain nonchalant as fear nestled into her soul. A sly smile formed on the Princess’s plump face as her eyes sparkled in delight revealed Valeena had failed.
“Why, yes they are. They are speaking about how you are a threat to the Kingdom!” Princess Aurory was obviously enjoying this new development so much that for two seconds she did not notice the timid servant rushing towards her with a lovely plate of assorted sweets.
“How am I a threat?” Valeena wondered perplexed, watching as Princess Aurory’s smile falter briefly as she realized that she had left the area too soon and had no more information to offer.
“Go listen for yourself!” She spat at Valeena, grabbing the plate of sweets roughly from the nervous servant, spilling a few of the treats onto the floor.
“Ugh, I hate chewy cookies!” Princess Aurory cried, dropping the plate on the floor, the fine china shattering to pieces. Princess Aurory then proceeded to jump up and down on them, picking up a handful of cookies and throwing them at the retreating servant.
“I-hate- CHEWING!” she yelled, her round face becoming blood red as her foot slipped out from under her, causing her to fall on her plump rear and onto the mess.
Valeena shook her head at the childish display. She knew that Princess Aurory would not be reprimanded for her bad behavior. The servant had returned with a dustpan and was apologizing over and over, reaching down to pick up the shattered mess, telling the brat she could cut herself on the sharp edges.
Princess Aurory swatted at him wildly as she windmilled her arms, smacking him hard in his face, leaving an angry red hand print. The servant fled again, dropping the dustpan and rushing back into the kitchen away from the spoiled brat. Princess Aurory screamed until her face was red, her voice hoarse and tears were streaming down her ugly face.
Valeena knew better than to attempt what she was thinking, but curiosity got the better of her. She rose casually from the bench, leaving the Princess to scream alone and made her way to the large, intricately carved castle doors and out into the bright mid-morning sun.
The day showed no sign of the violent storm that had plagued the land the night before. The sky was a clear brilliant shade of royal blue, with soft, white, cotton shaped clouds floating in the soft, sweet breeze.
Valeena walked on the perfectly manicured green lawn, ducking under every window ledge she passed until she found the one she was looking for.
For such a secret meeting, she was surprised to find the window slightly ajar. It seemed careless, something the Queen was not known for being. The scent of spicy incense floated harshly through the breeze.
Valeena clapped a hand over her mouth so as not to choke on the pungent odor. A servant probably had opened the window to spare them from this vile attack.
“There truly are others?” The Queen’s excited voice drifted out to Valeena from inside the room. “But where are they?” Valeena could not hear any other voices, only the Queen’s loud, obnoxious tone.
“If you do not know where they are, then why have you come here? Your information is useless to me!” The Queen shouted angrily. There was silence, as though she were speaking to a ghost.
“I asked that I not be disturbed!” The Queen shouted; her outburst followed by a thump as Queen Maylee threw an object at the intruder. “Valeena is what?”
Valeena’s insides jumped at the sound of her own name, and she knew that Princess Aurory had told them she was here spying. The brat new Valeena would sneak away and had more than likely staged the tantrum.
Valeena broke out into a sprint, darting back up towards the castle’s main doors, away from the Queen’s window. She knew she would never make it back to safety in time, deciding at the last second to quickly sit down on a stone garden bench that was resting near a beautiful red rose bush, just as the Queen and four guards dashed out of the castle doors.
“What do you think you are doing?” The Queen demanded as spit flew out of her ugly lips. She stomped her fat feet over to Valeena, her round face burning with rage.
“I am simply getting some fresh air,” Valeena said innocently, trying her best to breathe normally as her lungs burned, her heart pounding out a solo in her ears. The Queen narrowed her olive eyes at Valeena.
“You may have all the fresh air you want from your balcony for you are not to leave your room until my visitor has gone.” Queen Maylee informed her as she spun on her fat heels and began to waddle back up to the castle, dismissing the guards with a flick of her wrist, one of them flinching having thought she was about to strike him.
“Even if,” The Queen began pausing for a moment to look at Valeena. “He chooses to stay all week.”
Elizabeth Robbins: 4.5 starsAs far as apocalypse stories go, this one took a new direction. I'm glad someone finally addressed the need for a vampire apocalypse! This is sort of a multi-genre festival of delights. With hints of forced societies, vamps, hunters, romance, apocalypse, government conspiracy, and thrill...
ga1984: I really enjoyed it! Characters were deep and plot was pretty complex. A bit on the violent side but it doesnt detract from the story. Very dark but situations make sense. Ends kinda abruptly and later chapters will need some editing work. I'm assuming there's more in the works?
Alice Liu: Whoa! I've been wondering how would the Maurauders react to Harry's life and here we go! YOU ARE THE BEST! All the characters are consistent with their personalities shown in the book! I love how you compare Lily with Molly and it's definitely true for her being a mother! I wish Peter comes have ...
Schaelz: I was intrigued from the second I started reading, and it kept my interest the whole way through. Chelsea has a way with words that will enchant you until the very end. She is very poetic with the way she mixes genres and keeps you on the edge of your seat. The main character is also very relat...
Lauren Suzmeyan-Raine: I'm so glad you found a place to post your stories. I was horrified when I saw yours had been taken down, they are definitely the best 'reading' stories I've ever read. And I've made it my business to read every one I can. Well done.Lauren
ernbelle: When I first started this story I was a little unsettled by all of the information that appears in the prologue, and wasn't sure if I would continue. However, I am very glad I did. The plot was very well thought out and really interesting. There were not any page breaks or markers to acknowledge ...
Hawkebat: Playing both Kotor I & II and Swtor I found the story line interesting and it held me until chapter 35 Very good story and plot flow until then, very few technical errors. I felt that the main character was a bit under and over powered, as it fought for balance. The last few chapters felt too f...
MavisMcQueen: "To Live Again" is a well crafted, highly engaging, heart vibrating tale surrounding our favorite Elven King. The author will keep you engrossed until the very end and by that time you will feel so strongly for Clara and the other characters that you will never want it to end...like ever. Thrandu...
Tiffany Thomson: This story is not something I would normally pick up and read but I'm so glad I did, I wasn't able to put it down and my husband was yelling at me at 3am to put it down and go to bed (just waited for him to doze back off before picking it back up) I really hope Natalie brings out another book eit...
Deleted User: This is a very clever story in the style of 19th century (and turn of the century) Gothic writing, very reminiscent of Stevenson's The Body Snatchers or even of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (less so of Frankenstein itself, since the author is more minimalist than Shelley's florid, Romantic rhetoric). ...
FreakyPoet: "you made me laugh, made me cry, both are hard to do. I spent most of the night reading your story, captivated. This is why you get full stars from me. Thanks for the great story!"
Sara Joy Bailey: "Full of depth and life. The plot was thrilling. The author's style flows naturally and the reader can easily slip into the pages of the story. Very well done."