Friday, August 22, 2008

Chapter Two

Word Count: 3,126

“Princess, this is highly unconventional, not to mention improper.” Xan-Rul kept pace easily with the diminutive Princess as she marched purposefully down the long corridor to the East wing, which held Malik-Tor.

“It may be unconventional or improper, but it is not against the law. It is well within my right to want to speak to my future Companion,” Syndra-Kai said, with a graceful sweep of her arm. The silver bracelets that adorned it jangled as she moved.

“This is true, however, typically, the Chosen one is not being held against his will. I thought you felt sorry for us that were Chosen, yet you are treating him as a prisoner.” Xan-Rul glanced askance at Syndra. Though a veil covered her face, he could feel her start of surprise. She stopped her march and turned to him.

“I do feel sorry for those that submit to the Empire willingly and are abused for it. Nevertheless, this man defied our ways, and I want to meet with him. A man that can inspire so many to listen to his words and follow his advice may be of use to me in presenting my case for ridding the Empire of this ridiculous practice.” Syndra looked up at Xan-Rul. “You have always been a wonderful friend and teacher, Xan-Rul. You would have been a wonderful father, and in some ways, have been as such to me. Denying you that natural right is a shame, and I cannot abide that. You have always advised me to think of ways to rejuvenate our society, broaden our horizons, and think for myself. I want to get rid of this custom.”

Xan-Rul sighed, placing one of his large hands atop her head, stroking her hair through the veil. “And you have been as a daughter to me as well. I do not deny that sometimes I do regret what I have lost, but I am also thankful for the opportunity I have been granted. Were it not for this custom, I might still be living in poverty in the city.”

Syndra shook her head. “But there could have been other ways! We need to educate everyone, not just the wealthy. The class they were born in does not define people. You are a prime example that, given opportunity, even a lowborn individual can make something of himself. Besides, I know quite a few high born nobles that act as though they belong in a gutter instead of where they are.” Her father’s Chief Advisor, for one, disturbed her. Something about the way that man tried to peer through her coverings made her uneasy.

Taking her hand, Xan-Rul pulled her along the corridor again. “Well, you are insistent. Just ponder your own words carefully and think of how you are treating this man. You will be using him, just as the Empire has always used the underprivileged. Be kind, Syndra-Kai. The ways of the palace and the Empire are a mystery outside these walls, and your motives are an enigma to him. Keep that in mind.”

Syndra-Kai nodded, though Xan-Rul’s words were unnecessary. She knew perfectly what she was doing, she hoped. If Malik-Tor was as quick as his writings and the tales of him told, and if he were willing to go along with her plan, all would be well.

** ** ** ** **

Malik-Tor was tied to a chair, waiting impatiently, but for what he had no idea. This was brilliant, he thought to himself. I do everything I can to avoid this trap, and look what happens. He glanced around the room for anything he might be able to use to break free.

It was a well-appointed room, rich rugs covered the floors, and large tapestries adorned the walls. A curtained bed was angled in one corner and a large armoire on the wall beside it. The chair he was sitting in faced a table and the door. Ropes bound his hands to the arms of the chair, and his feet to its legs. The rope did not give when he tested it, and he did not see any ready weapon to hand.

Why would the Princess Choose him? A common rabble-rouser could expect a term in the dungeon, not to be ‘honored’ and expected to be her lifelong Companion. Then again, perhaps that was her sick idea of a punishment. Well, it worked; as it had certainly gotten his attention. He would be damned if she would get what she wanted from him though. She could be the most accomplished whore in all of Lunatia, and he swore he would not rise for her. See her become Empress, then, he thought bitterly.

He had plenty of time to consider his folly. His mind filled with images of what could have been. If only he had come home immediately, he could have seen his father before he died. He could have left the city before the gates closed.
Now he was at the mercy of a spoiled sixteen-year-old girl’s whims. She probably had a brain the size of a pea. Of course, if that were so, she probably would have just picked someone else rather than devising this ingenious torture for him.

Another thought occurred to him. Perhaps she had Chosen someone else, and was just toying with him? He much preferred that thought. He wished he could free his hands, his nether regions were tingling, drawing up at the thought of what she intended to do with them if that was not the case. He could handle imprisonment; it would not be the first time he had been in chains. This playing with his mental state, on the other hand, was just not acceptable. The girl was obviously diabolical.

A sound outside in the hall caught his attention. The key turned in the lock, and a tall, muscular man entered. His head had been shaven bald, except a single long lock in the back, bound by a silver band. His chest was bare, except for an embroidered vest of dark blue velvet, decorated with silver crescents. He wore dark pants of a heavy material, and tall black leather boots. This was Xan-Rul, the Royal Chancellor, and the Companion of the former Empress, Syndra-Kai’s mother. Being a eunuch certainly had not hindered him at all, Malik thought. Xan-Rul was probably one of the most powerfully built men Malik had ever encountered, and he himself was no small man either.

Both men said nothing at first, just taking in the measure of each other. Malik knew he looked the worse for wear, having caught a glancing blow to the cheek and another to the chin as he had resisted the guards who brought him in. His hair was in disarray and his clothes quite torn and dirty.

Xan-Rul spoke first. “You have done a dangerous thing today, Malik-Tor. I have read your writings, and heard of your travels. I had thought you a wise man, and would not have thought you might betray your own country this way. To defy the order of the Empire that every Eligible be present for the Choosing shows a clear lack of intellect, and I do not see stupidity in your eyes. I will give you the chance now to speak on your behalf and explain your actions.”

Malik cocked his head to the side and gave Xan-Rul a direct look. “Let me just make one thing clear. I will take responsibility for my own actions in not appearing today. I do not agree with the custom of Initiation, and I chose not to participate. So be it. I did not, however, intend to divert anyone else from the law. I spoke rashly, and for that, I will apologize, but if you are going to keep me here, then you should go arrest everyone else that did not appear today as well. Their actions were their own, and I did not conspire against the Empire.”

Xan-Rul considered this. “People are easily led when their heroes speak to them. You have traveled far, Malik-Tor, and people respect what you have to say. You should be more mindful of your words and their effect on people.”

“So I am free to go then? Let me out of these ropes,” Malik said. He felt relief that he was being let off so lightly.

“I am sorry, but I do not have that power. Princess Syndra-Kai has declared that you are to be her Chosen one, and she will not be swayed. Dusk has fallen, and the ceremony is over. She cannot Choose another.”

“What?!” Malik struggled against his bonds again, the tendons in his arms and neck standing out from his tanned skin. “She cannot do this! I wasn’t even in the Hall today!”

“She most certainly can do this. Any single man between the age of 18 and 25 is Eligible. Being in the Hall is merely a formality; you need only be in the City to be Eligible. The gates and ports close three days in advance to be sure candidates are available to the Princess. All she need do is name you, and you are Chosen.” Xan-Rul looked at him pityingly.

Malik felt his stomach lurch, and his manly parts tighten even further. “I won’t do it,” he whispered.

“If you do not, then the Princess is shamed, and can no longer become Empress. The honor will go to one of her cousins, who more than ready to usurp her, I assure you,” Xan-Rul explained.

“But her father can change the law, get rid of the custom,” Malik argued.

“Only an Empress, not a Regent, can change the law.”

Malik slumped in his chair. “I won’t do it. I don’t care.”

A soft voice carried to him from the door. He had not noticed in his struggles that it had opened. “The punishment for failing to carry out your task is death.” Syndra-Kai stood in the doorway.

Malik’s head jerked up at the sound of her voice.

“Please leave us, Xan-Rul,” Syndra-Kai said.

Xan-Rul left without a word, closing the door behind him. Syndra took the time to consider the man before her.

He was certainly a handsome man; even the bruises he had incurred could not disguise the straight lines of his nose and jaw. He had dark hair, hints of auburn deep within its folds. Fierce yellow eyes glared at her, as if they could burn through her protective veil. She could not tell how tall he was, but he was broad in the shoulder, and his powerful chest heaved with his struggle to control his temper. She imagined he was about the same height as Xan-Rul.

Malik, unfortunately, had nothing to fit the impression her voice gave him. She was tiny, probably only coming to the middle of his chest; that much he could tell. Her voice was velvety smooth, reminding him of the purr of a kitten.

“I would rather die than submit to a custom I do not agree with,” Malik snarled in her direction.

“On that, we agree, Malik-Tor. That is why you are here. I need your help.”

“You don’t need my help, Princess, you could have Chosen any stud to service you.”

Syndra-Kai jolted at his crudeness, but she was undeterred. “Hear me out, I have a proposal for you.” She had lowered her voice. Her hands appeared from beneath her veil, and he saw slender and elegant arms adorned with a multitude of silver bracelets. “I will do something for you that is forbidden, so that you may see my sincerity.” With those words, she lifted the veil that covered her face. Violet eyes caught his and held.

She was beautiful. Not just in an everyday sense, she had an ethereal quality that defied belief. She had golden skin and lips that were red and full. Waves of soft, curling black hair fell around her shoulders. Her features were proud, high cheekbones, aquiline nose, and high forehead. Her eyes held the most power, however.
They burned purple fire, sparkling with the light of the lamps on the wall. He was ensnared in her gaze, and reluctantly, he felt himself relaxing.

She dropped her eyes and the spell was broken. He shook his head to clear it. “A proposal, you say?” Malik felt as though he sounded drugged, but she appeared not to notice.

“Yes. Xan-Rul told you that if you do not agree to meet this obligation, that I cannot become Empress.”

Malik nodded. He could smell the sweet scent of her skin as she moved about the room. It was an intoxicating blend of jasmine, honey, and her own unique womanliness.

“My cousins are foul things; they do not care what happens to this country if it means more power and money for themselves. I would not have one of them rule in my stead. I think it might interest you to know that I have no liking for what lies ahead of us than you do. I feel the same as you, despising this custom and what it does to innocents.”

This did indeed surprise him, and he became truly curious at what she intended.

“All we need to do is provide proof that I have been deflowered, and I can become Empress. You do not have to stay with me if you wish. I will relieve you of obligation to become my Companion.” Syndra-Kai glanced up at again.

This time, he was struck by her youth. In truth, she was still a child, naïve to the ways of men and women, and clearly unrehearsed in the potential power she held as a woman. Her eyes met his without guile, and in their depths, he saw some of her fear at her own words.

“Princess, I do appreciate your sentiments, but I cannot just let you castrate me and then set me free. Moreover, if you think that your father, the Chancellor and all the guards would just allow that, then you are mistaken. The moment we emerged from the bedchamber, they would have me unmanned. It is the whole point of the thing, to formally bind us, noble and commoner.”

“What if I could guarantee your escape? I would no longer be a virgin in the eyes of the Empire, and you could live free, as a whole man.”

Malik considered this. His family had no need of him, the only reason he had ever come home was to see his father, and he had missed that. It would be no great hardship to him to continue to roam the world. Yet he felt drawn home due to a higher calling. The land of his birth cried out to him, asking for his help in returning it to its former glory. Was this how he was to help his country? To live forever as its enemy? He could never see his family again; never see the view of the Lunatian Gulf at the rising and falling of the sun.

Perhaps this young girl filled with idealistic dreams was the answer, was what his country needed, not him. He looked at his hands, roughened from years of travel by land and sea. What did he know about running a government anyway? She had been trained for this all of her life. All he had was ideas, and an ability to get people to listen. She would be Empress, all-powerful ruler of the wealthiest nation in the world, and with no one to oppose her will. He met her eyes again, praying something in their violet depths would tell him what to do.

She met his gaze unwaveringly, her conscience bare for him to see. She meant what she said. She would do what she had to do if it meant having the opportunity to make her country better. What he saw in her eyes shamed him, and he felt guilty that he was more than willing to sacrifice a life at her side in favor of what made him think of himself as a man. He still could not bring himself to fathom a life where he would feel incomplete; he would never feel whole as a eunuch. So he agreed.

“How can you guarantee my escape?” he asked. He watched the joy spread across her features as he agreed to her plan. She explained that there were hidden passages throughout the palace that had been unexplored and forgotten. Some she had discovered as a child, others she read of in books outlining the building of the palace centuries before.

“I will arrange for the Initiation to be done in my quarters. There is a passage leading from my rooms that joins with others, and outside the city walls. It will be long and dark, traveling beneath the city, but it is possible; I can show you. When it is discovered in the morning that you have fled, as long as it is perceived that you have performed the required service, you are no longer required to be here, except as tradition, not law, demands.” She glanced down; shy once more.

“Princess,” Malik said. Syndra looked up. “There are ways; you do not have to do this. We can make it seem as though we have lain together, for others’ benefit.”
She blushed profusely, a charming stain of color on her cheeks. “Yes, I know. I thought to speak to you of that… later,” she said.

“Oh.” Malik nodded. “Very well, then.”

“So you are in agreement, you are sure?”

“I see no other way out of our joint predicament. You have a sound plan, and I have seen the truth of it in your eyes. I am your Companion until then.”

Excited, she rushed forward and threw her arms around him. Her scent surrounded him, and aside from his earlier intentions, he found himself becoming aroused at the brush of her breasts against him through the draping folds of her clothing. Her hair drifted around them as she pressed her cheek to his.

Blushing again, she apologized as she backed away. “I am so sorry, that was forward of me, and highly improper.” She struggled to put her veil back in place to cover her face.

“It is quite alright, my star. Were I free at the moment, I likely would have returned the favor.”

“Oh! I’m sorry!” She went to the door, smoothing her layers and regaining her composure before opening it. “Xan-Rul, please remove his restraints. I do not think Malik-Tor will be leaving us.” She turned back to him, and though he could not see her face, he felt her eyes burn him again. “I will see you in two days time, Malik-Tor.”


Anonymous said...

Good stuff. The more you write, the better it gets.


Gina said...

Agreed, this is getting better as it goes along. It takes a lot to get me into a story from the start and you have captured that. Can't wait to read more.

Arielle said...

Making a table of contents is really easy, all you do is add a link list from blogger's little gadgets. You can title the link list whatever you want to title it and then you just add the links for each of the chapters and name them like, chapter one and chapter two, etc. So for the first one, you'd put in this link and then name it Chapter One. As you add links, it will automatically add each new link to the top of the list, but you can use the arrows to move the links up and down. Whenever I add a new link, I always just add it then move it down to the bottom. You can add multiple link lists as well, like I did for book one and book two.

I haven't read the chapters yet, but I will do so tomorrow. I'm too tired tonight to even focus on the screen for very long. >.<

Hope my information helped. If it confused you or it doesn't work, just let me know and I'll help you!

Kestrel said...

Ok, thanks that does help alot! I was thinking that might have been how you did it, but I wanted to ask first...
I hope you get some good rest!

Anonymous said...

Joie! I found a really great site for writers. They're a magazine-journal that publishes avant-garde genre writing, lots of stylized short stories, narrative experimentation, etc. "Indie" stuff. And...they pay upon publication.

I'm going to submit some of my private stuff. Take a look at my site, click on the link (on the right side) "Websites For Bizarro but Talented Writers."

Arielle said...

Just to let you know, the table of contents isn't working. Try using
For chapter One and
for chapter two and they should work.

I read both chapters today and I love it. It's clean and polished and I feel like I'm reading a true book, but I'm not because I can only read two chapters! I hope you post the next chapter soon. Are you posting on certain days?

_-*Kristen*-_ said...

I am loving this story as it progresses. Good job! I hope another chapter comes out soon.

Kestrel said...

Thanks for letting me know about the table of contents, I'll see if I can get it fixed...
I'm glad you are liking the story so far, I am the queen of rewriting as I continue on, so I keep returning to previous chapters as I'm going to make small changes and clean it up.
I am aiming for posting once a week (actually about every 6 days), I've got a lot going on personally lately, so when I commit to a post, I want it to be perfect!

Arielle said...

They work now! :D

Once a week is a good schedule, especially since your chapters are nice and long. Mine are much shorter so I often post twice a week, especially if I make a really short one.

I wanted to let you know that I started posting a second story today in addition to Becoming. It's called Bitten:

Check it out of you have time and let me know what you think. :D

I also put a list of blogs that are web novels on the actual page for Bitten, so I went ahead and added your blog to that page as well as my personal blog page. ^.^

Kestrel said...

I will pop over there soon as I get a chance, I'm in the middle of a rather, um, steamy scene at the moment, and I am seriously contemplating whether I need to put an *adult* disclaimer on this story...
I mean, it is a romance novel, and you know how those get... I don't want to get banned or anything, but by Chapter 5, we are seriously getting into some troublesome waters! :)
Thanks for the Linkup though, much appreciated, will add your new story as well...

Arielle said...

Hehe, I was wondering if you were going to get more graphic since there was mention of sex and castration in the first two chapters. I can't wait to read them! I'd say if it's graphic to where you're actually describing the scene in detail, then you'll probably want to flag it as adult. If the descriptiveness is light, I wouldn't worry too much. ^.^

Kestrel said...

Oh, my characters are bad! Well, Syndra in particular is...
I honestly didn't intend for them to get physical until much later in the story, but I was just on a roll, and next thing you know, I was like HEY, you aren't supposed to do THAT! Well, not yet anyways... But yeah, sex is just an integral part of a romance novel, and I can't see having one with out good old fashioned hot n heavy stuff (of course, quite tastefully done, I'm not getting all vulgar with it)
For Syndra, its really a discovering of herself, beyond what it means to be Empress, she is growing up and will experience life in all its ups and downs, I am really trying to find the right voice for her, to show that she is smart and capable, with lofty goals, but she is still very young with much to learn about people, and everyday life for us little people...
Poor Malik though, she is just driving him crazy...
But yeah, by Chapter 5 I'm going to need a flag, b/c 6 is well, I'm just gonna let you wait to find out! ;)