Let’s be honest. I am wretched at typos, breaking syntax and leaving holes in my stories until about the third draft.
The following is no exception.
It is from bits and pieces of unfinished chapters I’ve been playing with. Still, it has enough completion that you shouldn’t become confused or lost to what is happening.
Nodding forest of sunflowers with the last rays of amber light filtering through their golden-tipped petals. Their heavy heads shook violently as a slender figure emerged with what seemed a pillowous mound of laundry. Only then did I see beyond the looming stems of sunflowers a small clearing of paved stones on which baskets of fabric fluttered overhead on thick rope. A skirt of raspberry cotton bloomed in the wind, twirling in the wind and exposing the silhouette of the girl. In the failing light her pale hair appeared tinted green, darkening to a grassy hue as large locks slithered down her shoulders, framing a graceful face and a lithe body. Herr fingers flickered quickly, pinning a thin white shift to the line and hiding further view of her.
Rising stiffly, my eyes glanced down at the sister shift grazing over my skin. A wet lump, stained in ugly brown streaks of blood lay abandoned on the floor beside me. A feeling close to sadness enveloped me as I thought of the long evenings sitting cold and frigid in the corner, painstakingly sewing every stitch. Another thought tumbled forth: I would never have to wear these again. Not only because they were beyond mending, but because Connor was gone. Sailing far away with the rest of my life and the entire lot of pretty skirts and blouses sewn for my hope chest could be burned or buried for all I cared. Glancing down at the shift, the intricate netting of softened fibers knotted into lacy scallops seemed to shimmer. Walking slowly and a little painfully, I saw it again. An abalone-toned shimmer glistening along the hem as if some celestial thread had been woven into the cotton.
The hem was not the only intriguing thing in the room. For a maid raised among the most sought after artisans in three lands, I had never seen such fair craft. Swallows and finches sang from blossoming pear branches along the mantle, their carved bodies sanded smoother than water, the delicate tables and long-legged couches mirroring with slight alternations of owls and robins. The thick rug beneath my bare feet held a tree stretching forth branches in ochre, scarlet and varying shades of gold. Even the flowers profusely arranged on every smooth surface seemed more brilliant and beautiful than any living thing I had ever seen.
What was this place?
“She has lost a great deal of blood.” Through the doorway of the kitchen, Vervain glided through, holding a handful of muddy bog plants in her fist and then disapeared toward the sink. “She is lovely though, which is saying much considering how pale and beaten she is. Tallen will have to eat his words about an ogres when he lays eyes on her.”
The response was droned over by the rushing of water from the sink’s spout, but I could tell it was male.
“Too soon to tell. Her memories move too quickly and fragmented to form sense beyond what she told herself.”
Creeping closer towards the open archway holding the kitchen to this room, I gasped. Leaning against the warmth of the stove, nearly a head taller than Vervain’s own tall form, stood a demon in the shape of a man, only too tall and broad with skin matching the greenish waters of mountain creeks. Thin tips of his fore teeth curved over his bottom teeth, touching his deep voice with a barely decernable lilt, and his eyes…stared unblinking at me.
Bells tolled in my head as blood swirled into my ears, splattering gooseflesh across my bare arms. This was him. My supposed angel of death who had lifted me from a watery tomb and carried me here—oh sweet saint! Was this Hell then? Would any second the smell of lavender and this strange lovely place crumble to reveal rotting stank and hellfire? Lurching terror gripped me, leaving my thoughts to spree in a whirl of panic as my eyes, unable to look away, stared back.
“Thorn?” Vervain said, placing the lid on a pot. “Thorn, you’re growling again. What is it, darling?”
I heard it then, not even realizing what I was hearing, a quiet yet growing purr rippling from his chest as his eyes, those dark, dark eyes dilating into burning embers.
“Thorn,” Vervain insisted again, before following his line of vision until her own gentle eyes rested on me. “Oh no,” she breathed. “Thorn, no, sweetheart. Don’t you dare! Thorn, Thorn!”
But it was too late.
A force reeled in my chest, silently screaming at me to run as he slowly stepped forward, coming closer and closer, never taking his eyes from me. They were hypnotic, his eyes—terrifyingly bright yet memorizing…almost wonderous. Again, a tide of strength surged through me, pushing me to run. Run away, quickly. Just go. Go! Yet those eyes—searing down at me..
“Thorn.” It was almost a plea. His shoulder while his chest rose and fell unnaturally quick and a strong hand touched my face. “Slow down your breathing and back away slowly, very slowly.” Her voice finally seemed to resinate through, breaking the unblinking hold of his eyes and we both stared at her. “Good,” Vervain soothed, softly and very firmly, removing his hand from my face.
“Please, for both your sakes, walk towards the window as slowly as possible.”
My skin felt stretched almost unable to fight the inner urge to run, to hide…or fight. Quick pulses tingled deep within my chest with the thought. I had been taught, long ago before my father had taken in Connor, countless hours on the cold grassy slopes behind the smithy, but my hands knew the feel of a heavy pot better than the smooth steel of a sword, and his intimidating height…I’d have a happier chance resisting a winter’s torrent.
Vervain pushed gently on my shoulder. “Please,” and this time my feet headed her incessant mand. Back stepping several feet until my thighs whacked the casement of the open window. The throaty growl lowered to no more than a vibration in his chest, and relief soaked Vervain’s ethereal features. “Oh, thank the seasons. Whew, I thought for a moment that…” she trailed, her skin paling to a pale gray. Half turning, to the window my vision was hidden by my hair suddenly flying up. Wind tugged at the thin nightdress, billowing the white muslim like sails before taking hold of my hair and whipping the ropey mess into my eyes again. A sound similar to a thunder crash ripped through him and my body was thrown to the floor under his weight, light dancing beneath dark eyes. Screaming breathlessly as his teeth raked into my hair, twisting knots and ripping several strands.
Vervain’s voiced pierced through my cries. “Thorn! Oh, blooming nightshade. Iris come quick.”
???Pleasure curved a smile across his fanged mouth, ripping back a memory of a similar smile. It was all I needed. Fear fled instantly replaced by a bubbling anger beyond my control. Without thinking, my head jerked up hitting his lips perfectly and splitting the smooth skin. His weight went slack in surprise. Squirming out from beneath him and stumbling to my feet, the room was twirling.
Laughter, eerie and cold, and most decidedly non-human. “You prickly little Thistle.” He grinned, catching my wrist in his massive hand and lowering his head to whisper into my neck. “You smell more gorgeous angry than afraid. Your blood waiting to escape your lovely, soft skin.”
He was toying with me. A single squeeze and my bones would splinter between his fingers. “What are you?” I screamed, yanking my wrist away only to have him catch it again, tighter this time.
He grinned, his pointed foreteeth completely exposed.
I swung wildly. An insane look of tolerance blinked through his dark eyes as he caught my other hand, using the unstable momentum of my thrashing to pull me flush. His face disappearing to inhale my hair, the strange vibration in his chest growing toward near deafening, consuming him. The curved smile vanished now, replaced by a maddening look of hunger, and suddenly I knew this was not a demon desiring my maidenhood, but a creature wanting to feed and feed he would. His arms sought my waist and I was lifted. Bare feet beat the air, occasionally striking his left thigh, but it had the same effect of a petal whacking an oak tree. More strands broke when his teeth glided through the tips of my hair and a disgusting slimy thing lolled beneath my ear, and my stomach lurched realizing that the slug-like thing traveling down my neck was his tongue.
“? you,” a hoarse whisper growled. His teeth sank and I screamed, too hysterical to even cry. Rivulets of warm blood stained my shoulder and I must have swooned, aware of blood draining and the blurrish mass gripping me so tightly…
“Gross,” he gagged and I was dropped, landing on a human tangle of arms and legs. Two bright blue eyes blinked at me through a swarm of pale hair—the girl hanging the laundry to dry.
“Oops,” she chirped. “Here he comes again” and with that she prostrated herself on me.”
“Move Iris,” he roared.
“Nope. You’ll have to eat her later.”
“Come any closer and I shall whip my hair at you,” she warned.
Disgust crossed his face and he stumbled back as if in pain. Straining to hold himself back, his shoulders heaving his eyes flickered strangely. “What in the name of nature have you done to me?”
“What have I done?” Iris snorted defensively.
“Not you. Agh,” he groaned as the shreds of my hair fell through his useless fingers. “Oh nightmare, I can’t breathe.”
The maiden’s eyes narrowed briefly before a stab of guilt seemed to soften her features. Half-rising, her hand touched his arm. “Thorn, did you…well you know?”
“I—I don’t know.” Glancing down at his hands, he seemed suddenly aware that he was streaked in blood. “Is—is this hers?”
“No, of course not. It is from the other ravished maiden.” Her tone dripped in sarcasm.
“Sit, Thorn.” Vervain commanded, the air suddenly producing her on the floor next to us. “Don’t stir. Iris dear, go sit by your brother, but not close enough to make him more ill.”
A disappointed grunt and the girl lifted herself from me.
Soft hands a softer voice cooed, gently removing hair form my face and pressing a bandage to you shoulder. “Shh,” she sang again. “You’re safe now.”
“No, I’m not,” I coughed, pushing her away and trying to rise. “How am I safe? He is right there. Leave me alone. Oh mercy, I’m going to—“ Nausea swelled in my throat and I barely stumbled to the window in time. Gagging vomit over the casement, blood pounding in my ears, my legs suddenly buckled.
She caught me. Half-lifting me to the couch. “Drink. I will explain, but I can’t now.”
“No. What bloodless coward do you think I am? Stay away whatever you all are or–”
“Head down.” She ordered a splintered secret before the second rise of bile cramped in my throat. “Drink. I promise I shall explain, but you must drink.”
Where had the teacup come from?
“I am not thirsty.”
“You’ll feel better,” she insisted. The rosy pink liquid smelled intoxicatingly like yellow peaches.
Her smile was indulging. “Would you drink if Iris drinks first?”
A burbled giggle came from the adjacent couch. “So if you fancy poison, I’ll drop first. She took the painted teacup freely, sipping half its contents. “Oh no, help, help,” her hand went dramatically to her throat. “I’m dying. Alas! Woe. The end is nigh…”
“Iris. This is hardly the time to tease.” Vervain scolded, taking the teacup away. “Here, now drink. I’m going to dress your shoulder and mask your scent.
Pure peach slipped down my throat, and something else that was floral and sweet without being cloying. Shreds of nauseua and panic miraculously fled, although my shoulder still throbbed when Vervain’s lithe hands applied a cold cream to the broken skin, and then liberally doused me in what smelled like twelve lavender bushes.
Can you still smell her?” The question directed at the male creature by Iris.
“Some.” His voice was human again, the intensity completely drained form him. Sitting as they were, I saw the likeness between him and Iris. Dark lashes feathered intensely green eyes and sharp-tipped teeth, although on the one called Iris it simply lended an ethereal quality to her beauty whereas he resembled a creature born from nightmares.
“A handsome nightmare?”
What? No! Where had that thought sprung from? He was a monster, one that had tried to eat me quite literally.
Every movement straining each muscle fiber until I simply gritted my teeth and stood. The floor reeled for a moment and then slowed, soothing to a complete halt. Beyond the casement, Iris sat cross-legged in a froth sea of chamomile with a giant fluff of fur on her lap. The fluff twitched as a tiny comb glided smoothly through the long nutmeg-hued hair, pausing when two slender ears suddenly perked.
“Hush, hush,” Irirs chirped to the giant rabbit, quickly stroking the long with her fore finger while her other hand continued combing. “Soon we will be done and I sing you a sing b