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Absent Lights

By Stephanie Diedler All Rights Reserved ©

Fantasy / Romance

Blurb

In the days of old, four of the twelve Zodiac signs would assume human form and dwell for a year in the cities dedicated to them; Aquarius received the coastal city of Pearlborn, Libra, the forest/field city of Thorndale. Aries, the desert city of Amberview. Capricorn, the fortress city of Castlewall in the Northern Mountains. All Eliean wants is to become a trader and see the world. Having grown up in the coastal city of Pearlborn, all she knows is the Ocean. When she finally gets the chance to fulfill her dream, she takes it. However, she gets more than she bargained for, Strange dreams, voices only she can hear and a mysterious ring that, once worn, can never come off. Eliean is plunged head-first into a world she didn't know existed. A world of magic, pure evil, jealousy, romance and cruelty. Her eyes are opened to things she believed only existed in stories and legends. Never in her wildest dreams did she ever believe she would meet those to which her homeland are dedicated.

Chapter 1

“Eliean! Hurry up! We haven’t got all day!”, I lift my gaze and look out across the city square where my best friend Mason is impatiently gesturing for me to get a move on. I’m surprised at his use of my full name because usually he calls me Elli or El, he must be really impatient, for what reason, I have no idea.

“What’s so important that you had to interrupt one of my conversations?” I demand as I reach him. Market day was only once every two weeks, when the traders came back from the capital and that was my only chance to talk with them and ask questions, so lets just say I was most certainly not very happy about one of these conversations getting interrupted, even if it was by my best friend.

“So!”, I demand when he didn’t give me an answer. Sighing in frustration, I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and tried for a gentler tone. “Mason”, I tried again, my voice softer, “Was there something you wanted to show me?” He simply looked at me as though he were studying me, it was a while before he answered.

“No, I didn’t want to show you anything, I simply wanted you to hurry up, because, lets face it, you were taking pretty long”, a mischievious grin spreading across his slightly tanned features. He dodged the halfhearted swing that I had aimed for his head.

“That’s only because it was so interesting”, I retort with a grin of my own.

“I don’t get it, I really don’t”, says Mason as we make our way through the city streets.

“Don’t get what?”, I ask confused.

“Your fascination with the traders and wanting to become one. What’s with that?”, He sounded truly bewildered.

I shrug my shoulders and move aside as a group of people walk past, “I’m curious that’s all, I want to know what else is out there and meet other people and I believe that becoming a trader will be my best shot.” I say this as though it’s the most obvious thing, to me it is.

We turn left and arrive at the city’s sea-facing walls. Mason and I, along with a few thousand others live in the coastal city of Pearlborn. It is the second oldest city as well as the second largest. The city itself is very elegant and beautiful, the city gates are carved out of white marble, which is found in abundance here. The gate itself is made out of two marble mermaid figures, one male, one female, they both hold up a sign into which is carved the name of the city. The figures sit on a carved wave which acts as a pedestal. Our city’s wealth mainly comes from the pearls that are retrieved from the ocean on a daily basis, we export them just as they are or in jewelry. It is not very hard to find work here, the main occupation in the city being pearl diving, my father and Mason are both pearl divers, it is a dangerous job but the groups that go out are all well trained and excellent swimmers. The houses and buildings are all elegant and very well built, and although elegant they are still fully functional and practical. There are only two classes in Pearlborn, the very wealthy or well-off middle class (my family is the latter). Our city is dedicated to the star sign of Aquarius, it is said to watch over us and legend has it that at the appointed time every year, the constellation takes on the form of a human woman and comes down to earth. I’ve never seen her but according to what we learnt at school, someone did see her a long time ago, that person then carved the statue of her we have in our city shrine, a replica was made and placed in the city square. The original is human-size, she is an average height and quite slim, her long hair, presumably blonde, cascades down her back, she is very beautiful and envied by many girls and young women in the city. The statue holds a water pitcher that has a steady stream of water flowing from it. Her gown is elegant and flowy, just like the water.

The sea-facing walls of the city are carved from the sea-cliffs which are white marble and have streaks of mother-of-pearl running through them. Being so near the ocean, we are all taught how to swim at an early age, I for one was taught how swim before I could walk. All of us have fair hair and sapphire-blue eyes, our skin is slightly tanned. I like to think that we are quite friendly and helpful. As a whole, we are quite artistic, evidence of that can be seen throughout the city in the sculptures, fountains and all the buildings. We are also perfectionists and I’m not entirely sure whether that is a flaw or a good thing.

“Earth to Eliean”, Mason’s voice cuts through my thoughts and I turn to look at him, slightly dazed. This always happens when we come to the sea walls, I always go a bit distant and tend to drift off, no wander really that I’m frequently told that my head is in the clouds, because most of the time it is.

“Sorry”, I shake my head as though to clear it, “did you say something?”

“Yeah, earth to Eliean”, that grin is back, lovely so he’s in that kind of a mood today, brilliant! I playfully punch his arm.

“Funny man”, I pause for a bit before speaking again, “I was just thinking about what life must be like… as a trader or a sailor or anyone that travels, I mean, they must see and experience so many things and see such amazing sights and places that we’ve most likely never even heard of!” My voice gets louder as I get more and more excited, my smile is so wide I fear my face will crack in two. I pause to catch my breath and see him watching me with an amused expression, “What?”, I squeeze my eyes shut as it dawns on me, “I went off on a tangent again didn’t I ? Well judging by your expression I guess I’m right”, he comes up to me and puts his arm around my shoulders like he always does, he’s taller than me so he has to look down when he speaks to me.

“I like it you know, when you go off like that", I think its safe to say that I was not expecting that, not at all. I look up at him confused.

“You do?”No one has ever said that to me before, I’m usually stopped when my eyes go distant.

“Yeah”, he replies, “true, it’s not exactly normal, but I like the look you get when you talk about something you like, I like the way you really get into the topic-”, seeing my bewildered expression Mason cuts himself off, “Wait no! That’s not how I meant it!” My expression loosened a bit and I blew out a sigh of relief and a small nervous laugh.

“Phew, thank goodness for that because you’re like my older brother and all”, my eyes are fixed on the crashing waves below. Neither of us spoke for a while, it even became a little awkward and that never happens with us.

We silently made our way home. I noticed with surprise that the sun was about to set, goodness! Time really has flown past me today. Mason and I live across the street from each other, we say goodbye and part ways in an awkward manner that I don’t like and am not used to. I dare not look over my shoulder in case he’s doing the same thing. Before I lose my resolve, I open the front door and quickly step inside, shutting the door soundly behind me. Looking up, I’m greeted with the sight of my mother standing a few feet away from me with an odd expression on her face. “Mother? Is everything alright?”, she narrows her eyes as I come closer.

“I think that question should be for you El.”

I back up, “Umm, yeah, everything’s fine, why do you ask?”, in my mind I already knew the answer, I don’t usually come into the house like that.

It didn’t look like she believed a single word, “are you sure?” I nod hastily, wishing my face wouldn’t resemble a tomato every time I avoided the truth. To my immense relief, she doesn’t press the matter.

People say that out of my mother and father, I take after my mother the most. I don’t see the reasoning behind that because honestly, it can’t be said that I have a similar shade to her with regards to hair because the whole city has shades like that. I guess what they mean is that my facial features are similar to hers and that I have similar habits to her. My mother is very beautiful, no doubt about that. Her hair is a little shorter than mine (mine reaches to the small of my back), all of her movements are graceful (something I’ll never manage, no matter how hard I try), she even has perfect teeth, her skin is free of the usual ailments that plague other people that are close to her age, I must have inherited her skin because I do not have a singe zit or pimple for that matter and I tan easily.

I follow her into the dining room where my father is waiting. Our dining room is very beautiful and is one of my favourite rooms. The dining table is a work of art, it is carved from one piece of wood, not sure what type exactly but its dark and looks amazing. The legs are carved so as to resemble trees with their branches spreading out to support the table top. The chairs look a little similar, there are only three and since we don’t usually have guests, my parents didn’t think it necessary to have more made. One of the walls consists of three floor-to-ceiling windows with ornately carved stone frames and faces towards the sea, the other three walls are painted to resemble the ocean, all three are painted in such a manner so that it looks like its one big painting instead of three individual ones. From the ceiling hangs a small chandelier, its candles give off a warm glow.

My father looks up when we enter the room, he breaks into a smile when he sees us. I run up to him and embrace him and snuggle in when he hugs me back. After a few minutes we break apart and he kisses me on the forehead before we turn towards the dinner table where my mother is watching us with an affectionate smile. Dinner is quite uneventful, to say the least. We each talked about our day, the good bits and the bad bits (if there were any). After dinner I say goodnight to my parents and head up the stairs to my room.

My room is really a work of art. It is not a big room, average really, it’s a good size for me, I wouldn’t want it any bigger. My bed is carved out of a singular piece of wood, the four legs are carved to resemble trees, their branches supporting the base of the bed. The headboard is carved in the image of our star sign in human form. Her arms are spread out and from her hands hang small ornate lanterns, which I light every night. Her hair is loose and spread out and creates the rest of the headboard, her head is slightly bent forward and she is smiling. The foot of the bed resembles a tree with spread out branches, it has little holes in between the branches where I often put small candles. The four corners of the room are painted to depict the four seasons, in each corner there is a tree carved out of stone, the branches of these trees spread out along the roof and act like rafters. The main light is stained blue glass and is in the shape of a clam shell. A balcony is situated on the wall opposite the foot of my bed. The floor-to-ceiling doors are patterned stained glass in different shades of blue, the doors have ornately carved wooden frames with handles carved into the shapes of conical seashells. The balcony itself is carved white marble in the shape of mermaids, their tales being the supporting columns, their arms and hair making up the rails. Its not a big balcony, its made for one person to sit comfortably, all I have on it is a small three-legged table and a chair.

I open my door, which is once again shaped like a tree, the trunk in the middle (my room has double doors), with branches spreading out along the wall. I sigh wearily, luckily the moonlight shining into my room is quite strong because I have very little energy left and I can’t be bothered to lower my seashell light to light the candle. I slowly make my way over to my wardrobe, this too is a work of art, the double doors have intricate carvings of mermaids, one on each door, both are facing out with their tails meeting at the bottom. The wardrobe itself is built in, the doors had to be made to fit the arch-like entrance. Changing into a nightgown, I climb into bed and lay on my back and stare up at the ceiling which is painted to look like the night sky, complete with the four star signs of our land, Aquarius, Aries, Capricorn and Libra. After a little while, I curl up on my side and drift off to sleep.

My dreams usually make no sense what-so-ever, they are usually full of random bits and pieces. Tonight, however, was an exception…….

I look down, I was wearing a dark brown leather tunic, so dark it could have black, it fits well in all the right places and was drawn in at the waist with a belt. I wore black leggings with knee-high black leather walking boots. My hair was in a plait that hung down my back, quite a few strands had found their way loose and framed my face, black finger-less gloves cover my hands which are looking a little worse for wear. The nails are chipped and there are numerous scratches and bruises. The boots are scuffed and the tunic is torn in various places, the leggings are torn and show skin that has deep gashes in it.

I take in my surroundings, I’m standing in what I think is a throne room, black and silver draperies hang on the walls with a symbol that I’m not familiar with sewn onto them. The ceiling is a high vaulted one and along intervals hang wrought iron chandeliers with candles that, despite being lit, give off a certain chill. I’m standing on a carpet, or at least that’s what I think it is, it stretches to the far end of the room where it goes up a short flight of black marble steps and stops at the foot of a very ornate throne. Along intervals leading up to the throne, torches of eerie yellow light give off a cold glow despite their colour.

My eyes drift back to the throne, where a young woman, who couldn’t have been much older than me, occupied it. Her hair was black, like midnight. I could see that it was long from the way that it hung past her shoulders, her fingers, long and slender like the rest of her body, tapped rhythmically against one of the armrests of her throne. She was wearing a long silver dress that seemed to flow around her form like molten metal. She was too far away for me to able to tell what colour eyes she had.

My eyes were then drawn to four figures that were kneeling in front of her, part of me wandered who they were while the other part told me that I already knew. Two of them were male, the other two female. One of the women had knee-length white-blonde hair, but it had lost some of its shine due to the dust and debris in it, the other woman had long dark brown wavy hair that reached just above the small of her back, her arms, from what I could make out, were slightly tanned and had a pattern of bruises and shallow gashes. My gaze shifted to the men, one of them, presumably the youngest of the four, had short dark brown hair, so dark that it might as well have been black. His skin was pale and his arms were made of well defined muscle, he wore black. The second male, his hair was a dark blonde and skimmed his shoulders. His skin was lightly tanned and just like the young man beside him, his arms were all well-defined muscle. He wore black leggings that had seen better days, he too wore boots, his were combat boots where mine were walking boots.

Cautiously I made my way up the aisle, up towards the throne. In my right hand I held a bow, a quiver of arrows strapped to my back. I stop just short of the kneeling figures, my breathing is shallow and quick.

I’m focusing on my breathing when a chillingly calm voice and distinctly female addresses me, “Well well, if it isn’t the mortal”, her tone held a note of mockery that sent quivers of anger through me. She descends the steps and comes to a stop in front of the young man with the short hair, she reaches out and trails a slender finger along his jaw, for an unknown reason this angers me even more. She bends down and looks him in the eye, “She came just like I said she would, even though you said she wouldn’t, but alas”, she sighs dramatically, “she didn’t listen, not even to you”. Her expression becomes one of mock sadness.

He turns to look at me, his eyes were a dark brown and filled with confusion and pain, his lips were slightly parted as though he wanted to say something, the bottom one was split, a deep gash ran the length of his bicep, it looked raw and quite fresh. He eventually found his voice and when he spoke I wished he hadn’t because his tone held tinges of anger, confusion, pain, fear and a tiny tiny bit of affection. His eyes held mine in a gaze that I couldn’t and didn’t want to break away from, he was so beautiful, so perfect, his well defined jawline was now clenched tight as though he was trying to keep something in. Then he said something I did not expect.

“Eliean”.

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