This novel is limited to 100 free copies due to its part in Inkitt’s Novel Contest.
Twilight filtered through the trees in the forest. No leaves swayed nor did any animals jump from branch to branch. No living thing ventured where the stillness dominated.
This region known as the Twilight Forest was a place suspended in time. Gargantuan trees covered the surface of the globe, one world among a countless number. Each had a trunk so thick it would have taken days to map their diameter. If there had been a distinction between day and night in that part of the forest which there was not. These trunks stretched seeming infinite into the blackness of the forest’s canopy.
It was still but not silent. There was the slightest rustle of fabric. And the barest hint of breath.
Time was everything and nothing for her as the distinction between day and night did not exist in her prison. At the moment which the forest had been frozen, the moment when she had been brought to her glade, it had been dusk. The light reaching the forest floor cast the violet hue which often proceeds a starless night.
The Lady Crimson’s prison cell was a grove at the heart of the ancient forest. The trees themselves possessed their own magic. They stank of it.
Cloudy light glinted off of her woman’s hair and the highlights danced like flames. The tresses were bound and twisted. Beads strung on strands of thread were woven through it. The glass surfaces of each bead shimmered as it illuminated from within. These were sewn onto the woman’s gown. Its color was a green so verdant that the cloth could have been a leaf shaped to sheathe her form. Its skirts gathered about her calves and mingled with the soft grasses cushioning her bare feet.
And she sang as she waited.
Her title lacked the power of her true name which had been stripped from her intended as an insult. The mantle bathed her in the blood of the ones they said were her victims. Her name had been forgotten as those who knew what she was had used it, first, as a curse, and, then, not at all. The knowledge that it had ceased to exist and there was little hope of retrieving it burned within her. It became a festering rage, a bitterness like a physical infection.
The song soothed though its magic was barred from her. It was a dirge, a requiem for her lost freedom, centuries removed from her. It made her nostalgic though not homesick in the usual way, and stirred her desire for vengeance.
The Wardens of Pathway, her jailers, communicated with the forest through their magic. At their behest, a section of the sentient trees had rearranged themselves into an ever changing maze. These shifts on their massive roots were so slow and subtle to be hardly noticeable. None but her jailers, the Wardens of Pathway were able to navigate the wood using a code. She had never left the grove since her internment, but she could have broken it easily when she was free. She estimated it had been hundreds of years, since the last of forest’s Wardens had undertaken the journey.
And she waited.
She was not the only inhabitant of the forest. Their howls came to her sometimes, a chorus floating on a nonexistent breeze. What existence could one expect to have in such a place? Never changing, never dying.
She was not immune to the madness infecting them. It courted her, a persistent suitor, unwelcome and yet tempting.
Her song quieted.
“What would you say, my lady Caerwyn, Steward of the White City?” The Lady Crimson asked of the figure standing at the edge of the grove. She used her visitor’s title not in deference but in mocking.
Caerwyn was last Warden standing guard over The Lady Crimson’s prison. She was not the only Warden. The others had moved on to duties deemed more pressing, more prominent. Her campaign to capture and hold the red lady was her greatest achievement and disgrace.
She did not mistake her prisoner’s meaning. The Warden’s pride would not let her simply leave. She trained her face to stillness as she answered the question with one of her own, “What do I say to what?”
“I was just musing on the designs of my prison. Its unforeseen...consequences,” The Lady Crimson replied.
Caerwyn betrayed herself in her stance and expression. The echo of a cruel smile alighted The Lady Crimson’s lips. The other woman might as well been wailing her despair. Before Caerwyn could form a response, The Lady Crimson twisted the knife.
“I was thinking about how the poor souls trapped in here with us are not truly alive at all. That they share my domain is evident. I hear their screams, you know? They echo through the trees. I cannot imagine how you must feel as you tend your city of the dead. Do their cries reach you in your tower, my lady?”
The barb struck home. It showed in the stiffness of Caerwyn’s movements as she took a step into the grove. It was clear that she wanted to appear determined, formidable. Her gown was the color of vermilion, well-made with simple but flattering lines. It had the gossamer texture of a butterfly’s wings but lacked the fragility. It contrasted with the silver of her hair. That, at least, was in a sensible plait down her back. Her singular decoration were her wings. They were the purest white like fresh, clean snow, except for the tips which looked as through they were dusted in sky-blue powder. Her silver eyes were flinty as she replied, “I did not come here to discuss the lost ones with you.”
“But I am so bored, and I get so few visitors,” The Lady Crimson lamented.
“Nor is this a social visit. I suspect you know why I am here,” Caerwyn disregarded the complaint.
The Lady Crimson did not know what dragged the Warden from behind the safety of her ivory walls, but her interest was piqued.
“And what is this new charge you are leveling at me?”
“Nothing as of yet, not that it matters, because you never will leave here. Your sentence will never be ended. Not for the rest of your long life,” the other woman replied.
“I have escaped before, haven’t I? Another of your oversights, if I am not mistaken,” The Lady Crimson retorted.
“It won’t happen again,” she said pretending to ignore the jab.
“As you say.”
“I’m not here discuss my failings with you. They are well known to me.”
The Lady Crimson shifted her legs. When she did the tiny vines which had twined about her gown at her feet and calves snapped like firecrackers. She crossed the clearing to where Caerwyn stood. The broken vines littered The Lady Crimson’s passing and clung to the fine fabric of her clothing. She was of a height with her visitor, and took full advantage of it. Her eyes of carmine pierced The Steward of the White City with their malicious glint. She smiled, “Then, are you here to add to them? I doubt you’d need any help with that.”
“The Tome of Ithiro’s has surfaced,” she snapped using the force of it to free her proximity.
The Lady Crimson set her game aside, “It was found?”
“No. The power is bleeding out...from somewhere. It is only a matter of time before we find where you have hidden it.”
The red woman laughed, “No, you won’t. If you can detect its magic, then, you are much too late.”
Could it be the plan she had set in motion so long ago was about to come to fruition? She kept an amused expression on her face.
Caerwyn offered no reaction.
“Ah, I see you were hoping I would tell you a secret. A hint to find it before more ragged refugees stumble up to your gates. That’s why you came to see me. I do not hate to disappoint you, my lady steward, but I cannot tell you where to find something I hid even from myself.”
Her waiting was at an end.
Catherine Kopf: Wow! This was a really great story. I really enjoy reading fantasy, so it didn't take long for me to become invested in the book and its characters like Jacob. I really liked your writing style, and it seemed to flow very well. The descriptions that you used for your world were also created n...
Stephen Warner: To start off, I am thoroughly impressed. The writing style is somewhat unique, and the plot seemed to move at a nice and steady pace. However, I was not expecting this to be a vampire book! I am usually not one for novels about vampires, but I was pleasantly surprised! You wrote with such grace a...
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 ...
maewilde25: I am so in love with this story!!! captivated me till the very end, there wasn't a dull moment. Didn't particularly enjoy the lay out and some bits of info was missing along with how a 21 year old man amassed so much wealth that needed to be explained other than that and a few spelling errors, th...
Marijana1: The melancholy present throughout this story has the power to influence and etch into the minds of the readers, to stay there and refuse to leave even after they have finished reading the story. This is a deep, powerful story, making the readers wonder about everything – about love, about their e...
Hali McGowan: when will the third book be done? I am absolutely hooked. I red the first two books within less than a week. I'm itching for the third one. The plotline is absolutely wonderful. I've never been much for sci-fi ish books. but you've got me hooked on this series
Mourn8220House: When first reading "Avarice," I thought it would be another fairytale but I was taken back the author's approach and choice of ending. There is little to be said for the story and overall plot besides the sudden twists and speculation, other than that I do not want to ruin a fantastic tale, you m...
Shweta Somwanshi: I just chose to read this out of nowhere and now I can't stop. Hats off to the author who made the reader swoon away with words so beautifully! I loved how I was able to imagine everything so explicitly because the writing was simple and easily comprehensive with a touch of complexity somewhere b...
Alani Foreigner: I absolutely loved how you created this story. It isn't like the other cliché stories I've ever read. I had just started reading it yesterday and just had to finish it. The main characters are grotesquely awesome and I fell in love with them. If you're into fantasy and stuff I can guarantee that ...
Bri Hoffer: I couldn't put it down!! The characters are all incredibly likable, and it's so descriptive you can see, smell, and feel thier surroundings. Great story, and very well written. I cannot wait for follow up stories. there were a few grammatical errors, but nothing that I could move right over.
ynez2005: I LOVE THIS BOOK SOOOOO MUCH!!!!Though you really need to make another book,more Princesses!!! Whoooo!!!Girl Power!!!Mabey it could even be Devona's BFF???That would make it even better!!!Plus can you pleeease make Akki come back,together with Thea and Authur amd the whole family is back!Other th...
colt: i love your books! all of them! i am so happy for you! when i first read your book i thought "this seems really interesting" and i just got hooked had to have more, i wondered if you had a sequel to the first one, and you did, i was so excited that i had to start reading it. your series left me t...
Sara Grover: Being that this is your first story and I assume first draft, a lot of little mistakes are common, we all have made them; little things like your instead of you're, missed capitalization, missing punctuation, etc. As for the plot, I have a lot of questions and I did leave comments on certain sect...