Ever woke up in a cold sweat and completely entwined in her blankets. Tievel’s horrific solid black eyes remained etched in her vision even as she opened her own eyes. She could see his ghastly smile which curled up and showed off his obscenely white teeth. In this moment she still felt his serpent tongue tasting across her skin moving from the base of her throat, down across her clavicle bone and slipping lower and lower. His big ravenous hands kept tugging and forcing her where they wanted leaving scratches and bruises in their wake. She felt asphyxiated by the weight of his body. Her arms thrashed as she tried to scream through the gag across her mouth. “Be still, my pet”. His words echoed in a growl through her head. Her skin threatened to vacate her body in revulsion.
Ever sat up and took in a few hoarse gulps of air. Her throat felt like she had been trying to scream for hours, but the scream kept staying jammed. She disentangled herself from the now soaking wet blankets and stood up on shaky legs. The white cloth slip she wore stayed plastered against her body. She wobbled to the front of her tent. Her breathing still came like air over broken glass, and she stumbled trying to get outside her tent.
Winmund, stationed outside her tent, caught her in time. “Be careful, Ever!” he chortled and then saw that she was only in her slip and then the look on her face. He immediately shut up.
Ev’er just stared at him. Tendrils of panic and revulsion roiled through her. Bile formed at the back of her throat.
“Um…What’s the matter? Are you, uh, feverish?”
“Nightmare.” She croaked and then proceeded to vomit near his shoes.
His eyes widened as he leapt back. “Letmegetyouwaterfromthestream.” He moved in to grab her again as she almost collapsed and leaned her against the tree next to her tent. “Stay here, I’ll be right back Princess.” He ran away.
Ev’er didn’t attempt to correct him before he left, she was too busy holding onto the tree fiercely. She feared she’d fall over.
When Winmund brought back the large crude cup fashioned out of a fallen Quaalux tree, she yanked the cup away and took the water in greedy swigs. Twice she choked, once she belched, but she kept the water down.
Winmund’s whole face scrunched with concern. “Uh…Do you need, Akiya?:
“No,” She said between slopping. “I’m ok.”
He narrowed his eyes, but didn’t press the matter, and brought her two more cupfulls.
When Ever felt her throat return to normal, and the tendrils receded, she handed Winmund the cup. “Sorry about that, Win.”
“Quite, alright, Princess.”
“Win.” She glared a little.
“I mean, Evie.” He gave her a small smile. “You ok now?”
“Yeah.” The eyes were gone and so were the hands. Her skin was happy to be with her for now. “It’s just been a long time since I’ve had that particular nightmare.” A nightmare based on truth.
Ev’er’s mind wandered back to the days before she fled the castle.
“Princess, be careful!” Cáel shouted as Ev’er slipped marching up the stairs to see her uncle. He caught her elbow and steadied her.
A rush flitted through her from his touch and she sent a prayer that her pale face didn’t give her away. “Thank you.” She turned to smile at him. It was this stupid dress that made her slip. A forest green silk ball gown stretched over a wire cage to make it round and was covered in rhinestones. I could blind someone in the sunlight. Gold thread made intricate loops and whirls over the skirt and tied on gold roses across the top of the off shoulder bodice.
Cáel’s smile matched hers and lit up his whole exceedingly gorgeous face. His warm copper eyes flecked with brown were brought out by his dark cyan braid that swished by the back of his knees. In most situations they were empty and dark, but with friends they lit up and with Ever nearly glowed. He stood at 6’2 with a sculpted midsection and long sinewy limbs. His flawless tan skin was only interrupted by a swirl of intricate purple lines around his right arm and a matching set along the left side of his face. Her uncle had found Cáel after he raided a butcher shop of an enemy village. He had been the head of her father’s army before her parents died. (She was told they died from a Kex attack when they went flower picking.) Haestingas had killed all the workers in the butcher shop to steal all the meat, and then suddenly heard the cries of a baby. He had planned to kill the infant, but Cáel was a very big and strong looking baby. He took that baby in and had one of the maids raise him to fight. Ever came along a few years later and as she grew up, they became playmates.
Cáel currently belonged to her uncle’s army. He trained some of the younger men in hand-to-hand combat and quarterstaff fighting. Cáel was quite skilled and her uncle boasted of his talents. For weeks now though, he had been secretly training Ever.
Ev’er had to shake her head to clear her thoughts and focus on the task at hand. Her uncle had summoned her to his meeting hall, but as her king. “I must hurry.”
Cáel nodded and let her elbow go. An encouraging smile stayed on his face until she yanked her gaze away.
She lifted the ends of her ridiculous dress and clacked down the hall on too-high green heels. I would kill for a pair of boots right now. She paused to brush away a ringlet that had fallen over one eye. The ladies-in-waiting had spent hours curling her long white lockes and about an hour making up her face. Ev’er huffed and then made it to the door.
The guard barely glanced at her as he opened the door and announced, “Ever to see The Great King Haestingas.”
Great? HAH. Ev’er put on her political face and walked toward the grand cherry wood table in the center of the room. A feast had been laid out along with wine and ale. Uncle must be planning a large meeting or some sort of celebration. Everything smelled delicious, but an undercurrent of copper tanged the air. Blood had spilled in this room a few times.
The room’s stone walls were covered in paintings and tapestries depicting battle scenes from her uncle’s reign. Most of them were thick with red and guts. Her uncle liked the gore. An overly large painting of her uncle standing in battle armor with a sword in front of him hung on the far wall. The artist accurately captured his eyes which are the color of purple bruises and the fall of his white braid. Candles in ornate iron sconces hung evenly spaced along every wall and gave the room a cheery glow.
When she reached the table, she was surprised to see another man sitting there.
His black eyes narrowed in his ghost pale face. It was all hard planes and severe angles. Ever thought he could cut someone with his cheekbones. A deadly looking scar crossed almost diagonally across his face, barely missing his right eye. His shoulders were too broad and his arms too big. More scars covered his bare arms and a few peaked out of his billowing white shirt. He looked like he’d been cobbled together by a demented scientist. He bit his thin lower lip and a hungry glow slid into his dark eyes.
Ev’er tried not to shudder.
“Princess.” Her uncle’s voiced boomed in the silence.
She wrenched her eyes away from the unknown man and looked to her uncle.
He crossed his burly arms over his chest, or at least he tried too. Haestingas looked like he had swallowed a Kaai Demon or two since that painting was crafted. Whole. His chin jiggled when he spoke. “This,” he uncrossed one arm covered in battle scars to clap it on to the other man’s shoulder. “Is Tievel.”
Tievel stood up and towered over her uncle, which at 6’4 was impressive. The white shirt covered the top of his gray pants made out of Taalik hide and they left almost nothing to the imagination. He held out his hand.
Ev’er held out her hand gingerly and averted her eyes from his crotch.
Tievel took it roughly and laid a kiss to the back of it. She looked back at him to be polite and as his lips pressed against her, his eyes rolled up to watch her. The look in his eyes seemed to be telling her he wanted to have her for dinner instead of this feast.
She kept her face blank, but inside she was screaming in horror.
He held her hand a little too long before dropping it.
Ev’er had to control herself before she wiped her hand on her skirt. She clasped her hands behind her back which inadvertently thrust up her breasts.
Tievel looked at them like he might start to drool.
Ev’er relaxed her posture and moved behind one of the tall chairs. She cleared her throat. “Why is it that you’ve summoned me, uncle?” Maybe if I remind him of our blood relationship he will make this quicker.
“Ah, yes.” Her uncle chuckled to himself. “You know for quite some time there has been a dwindling in our numbers.”
“Yes, uncle.” Of course Ev’er knew this. Every year, less and less babies were being born in Bledgore Realm—her uncle’s kingdom. Rumor had it that the cause was her uncle’s ruthless running of the land, but no one obviously would confirm this for fear of death. He had also not taken on a Queen which hadn’t happened in 2,000 years.
“Well, I’ve called in the royal Harbinger because she said she’s had a prediction that someone among us is very fertile.”
Ev’er’s eyes widened, but she waited for him to continue.
“She’s gone through all of the villages, the maids, the cooks, and your ladies-in-waiting. So the only logical conclusion is it must be you.” A smile broke across his wide face and somehow lit up his bruised eyes.
Her mouth fell open and she blinked a few dozen times. Nothing but static ran through her mind.
“Bring her in!” Haestingas bellowed.
A moment later the door creaked open and the staccato clacking of heels could be heard behind them.
Ev’er turned to see the woman entering and was surprised. She had been picturing a ragged old woman full of as much wisdom as she had wrinkles.
A very tall, likely 6’3 which was unusual for female faeries, lithe young woman was walking toward them. Her violet hair piled on her deeply tanned head in complicated curls and braids. Her flawless face rivaled Ever’s beauty. Silver eyes were lined in orange glitter and her full mouth was painted goozaa berry red. Fiery orange silk clung to her curves in almost inappropriate seduction and fell to her ankles. Her deeply tanned breasts fought the top of the dress and seemed like they’d win at any second. Black stiletto heels that looked like they could double for weapons in a pinch carried her towards them. She gave Ever a cursory once over and then curtsied deeply. “My King.” Her voice sounded softer than the silk she wore and had an edge of a Kex’s purr to it.
Her uncle looked most pleased. “Tievel, princess, this is Myat, the Harbinger.”
Tievel—whose eyes had been glued to Ev’er—looked Myat over in appreciation and then nodded. “Myat.”
Ev’er nodded as well and managed to give her a pleasant fake smile. “A pleasure to meet you, Myat.”
Myat stood up. “Oh, the pleasure is all mine, Princess.” She purred.
Ev’er immediately disliked her.
The barest hint of a smirk flashed across Myat’s face. She must have seen the contempt Ev’er tried to hide.
Haestingas didn’t seem to notice. “Please, Myat, have a drink or some fruit and then you can begin.”
“Thank you, my King.”
Ev’er really did not like the way Myat said “My King.”
Myat walked over to pour a glass of wine and took a delicate sip before setting it down. “Refreshing.” She leaned across the table instead of moving around and showed too much cleavage as she reached for a green graap.
Suddenly Ev’er could have stripped naked and did a little dance for all the men were paying attention to her.
Myat bit into the small fruit and some of the juice ran down her chin. “Oh my!”
Tievel slammed back into his seat and her uncle was in danger of cracking the table in his grip.
Ev’er made a disgusted noise. Men.
Myat ate three more graaps and drank the rest of her wine. “Thank you ever so much, My King.” She gave him a tantalizing smile full of tiny white teeth. “Now, to begin.” She pulled out a gray pouch from somewhere and walked toward Ever.
Ev’er turned to her and stood still.
Myat pulled an odd looking circular object on a gold chain from the pouch. It had complex gears and pieces forming strange patterns Ev’er couldn’t quite get her mind to wrap around. It glowed an eerie green when Myat held it in her hand. “This is an Obex.” She smiled. “It helps me tell the future.
Ev’er just stared. What in the name of Arron?
“Give me your hand please, Princess.” Myat held out her empty hand.
Still staring in awe, Ev’er complied.
Myat held Ever’s hand in her free one and then held up the Obex with the other. She let it drop to hover over Ev’er’s hand at the end of the chain. She whispered, “Baanparad.”
For a second nothing happened and then Ev’er nearly went blind from the burst of light. When her eyes cleared, she could see Myat had looked away.
She gave a sheepish grin. “Sorry, Princess. Forgot to warn you.”
“Not a problem.” I’m sure you did.
“You can watch this time.” She gave a soft chuckle that sounded like tinkling chimes. “Baanparados,” Myat whispered.
The glow was considerably less this time and then the Obex began to move. The gears and other pieces rotated and shifted slowly at first and then they began to move so fast they blurred.
Ev’er stared intently at it.
After perhaps two or three minutes, although Ever would swear it was an eternity, the glow died down and a bubble floated up. Inside the bubble were malformed shapes. Then suddenly the shapes changed and clarified.
Ev’er gasped. All the little shapes, there must have been at least 5, had formed into babies.
“I knew it!” Myat cried out in triumph. That was the loudest Ever had heard her.
“By my goddess Melaena, is it true?”
Ever jumped when her uncle spoke. She had forgotten they weren’t alone.
“Yes, My King.” Myat seemed ever-so-pleased. “At least five babies. Very fertile indeed.”
Her uncle laughed and the plates and glasses shook. “Excellent!”
Tievel stood once again. A cruel looking smile cracked across his face. “This is most wonderful news, My King.”
“Oh! But the best news is to come for my darling niece.” He chortled.
Ever slid her glance sideways. “Uncle?”
“With this good fortune I have cemented my decision”
Ev’er did not like the sound of this. “May I ask what decision, uncle Haestingas?” Please don’t tell me.
“Why to arrange your marriage to my good man, Tievel of course!”
Surely she had misheard him. “Excuse me?” She was so surprised she left off any title.
Her uncle didn’t seem to notice. “It’s perfect really. He is one of my greatest warriors and Myat has already foretold he will sire many children. So in two weeks’ time we will have a wedding and then by the end of the winter we will have a baby or two! Hazzah!” He clapped Tievel on the shoulder and then shook his hand heartily.
The two men laughed and Myat got caught up and giggled.
Something shattered in Ev’er’s head and the edges of her vision blurred. Then her eyes narrowed and her voice could freeze a lake when she spoke. “No.”
Her uncle laughed and then saw her face. “No?”
“No, My King.” Ev’er repeated.
“That’s right, I am your king. You will not tell me no. You will obey all that I say and all that I wish! You have no choice!” His voice grew louder with each sentence until Kaai Demons may have cowered in fear.
Ev’er just looked at him in defiance. “I won’t do this. Mama and Papa would have never allowed this.”
“Well they’re dead and I’m in charge!” Everything on the table rattled and Myat’s wine glass vibrated off the table and shattered on the floor.
Hot tears burned angry tracks through the thick make-up on Ev’er’s face. “You can’t do this.” She cursed herself that her voice wavered.
“By Melaena’s tits I can’t!” He used the power of his mind to chuck two plates at her.
Ev’er ducked the first plate and turned away so the second hit her square in the back and sent her sprawling across the floor.
A maid rushed to her aid and helped her up.
Ev’er’s palms stung and she looked down to see scrapes from the stone floor.
Myat gave her a cruel smirk as Ever exited the room.