It was a simple question, and she knew the answer. State your name, my pet. The whispered trigger statement was a prompt to her memory, as it had always been. She parted her lips, the sound ready to leave her throat when her tongue swelled inside her mouth, the utterance stuck in her vocal chords.
- Brief Description: One Queen who can only be killed by blood. One act of defiance that released the Toxin onto the land of Alderweiss. One broken soldier whose memories lay like broken glass along her path, and the one sentient sword that holds a darker secret.
- Includes:1 Novella
- Genre: Science Fiction, Action, Romance
- Word Count: 50,301
- Price: $.99; for the month of July, 2012 this is currently free!
- Download: The Smashwords page is here
Excerpt from Part II The Rat’s Prison:
She was completely unimpressed. “What is it?”
Smile dropping, the physician balked at the question, “You can’t be serious.”
Alys met his gaze without smiling, “For what possible reason would you give me something so… unnecessary?”
The unnecessary thing in question gave a petulant mewl. Shaking its head it edged closer to Alys while she took a step back.
Sheltered in the privacy of the Madam’s guest boudoir where she had been allowed to stay, Alys had set Blanc aside on one of the many serving tables. With her close by, he wasn’t as irritable as he would have been. He had the habit of throwing a messy tantrum if she even attempted to set one foot outside the room without him. A few pieces of furniture still bore the dark marks of her earlier mistake. The metal hadn’t made any sounds for several hours, so Alys assumed the weapon was resting. Or taking a nap.
For the first time, Alys wondered at the mental bond she and Blanc shared, forged some time long ago. The invisible thread that kept her privy to most of his ‘moods’ was a mystery. Even Vjola, although obviously curious, brought nothing up until she asked him.
“It’s not that I don’t want to,” he clarified his refusal as he cleaned his glasses, “it’s that I can’t. You’d be able to give me more information than I could you.”
Whatever their connection, it had nothing to do with the HARTS armor. The ability would have severed the moment the wires were permanently removed. Yet, even though she could fully grasp the how, a piece of her seemed filled just by having him near. He wasn’t quite in her head, in her constant thoughts, but they could communicate nonetheless, and it was enough. It was more than enough.
She didn’t want or need anything else.
“I hardly call a cat ‘unnecessary.’” Vjola huffed. “You should be thanking me for having the insight enough to even think of this solution.”
“To your hare-brained, and the pun is intended mind you, scheme to march off to save the Queen without a proper care to the dangers that exists. If you had been a scant two minutes late in returning from the cemetery, I would have had to send a corpse back to the undertaker to throw onto our growing pile. Need I remind you that this Alys body is my favorite model?”
After she had collapsed just as she re-entered the Purple Room, breathing labored and vision almost completely black, he had been barking on about her close call for several days. She thought he might have gotten the complaints out of his system by now. Vjola ran his hands over the body of the small black cat, smiling when the creature arched its body in pleasure.
“I call it a NEKO. Neuro-Inhanced Kedi Operative. Artificially intelligent of course. Most of the real cats died out several generations ago with the rest of the wildlife.”
Alys tilted her head, clinging on to the earlier part of his sentence. “Kedi…?”
Vjola waved his hand dismissively, “I know what you’re thinking, but I thought of the name long before I even met Kedi Pers. Merely a coincidence. Anyway, NEKO is just a classification. I call her DiDi. It doesn’t exactly stand for anything, I merely like the name.”
“Hmm.” Alys watched the cat with a wary gaze as it padded over to her again, it’s large, round, blue eyes looking at her without blinking. Tail flickering, DiDi gave a tiny pleading sound that rumbled through its small mechanical body.
Succumbing, Alys bent down to run a finger along one of the cat’s pointy ears. DiDi purred.
“See? You like her already.”
The concept of admitting anything to Vjola’s satisfaction left a sour taste in her mouth. The old man was smug enough as it was. She felt no urge to encourage his ego so she said nothing as she allowed the cat to warm to her touch. The silence that fell over them allowed her to notice something else that had been bothering her since she had awoken this morning.
“The Purple Room is quiet.” Alys remarked, straining to hear the loud cacophony that she had become used to. “Did all the patrons leave?”
Vjola paused, wringing his hands and shaking his head, “Oh, only about seventy percent of them. It might have something to do with the event at the Grand House happening in a few days.”
“Event?” she frowned, following as he moved to the other side of the room. “Even with all that’s happened, someone wants to have another party?”
“Yes. Why don’t we call it that?” Vjola was pushing something aside on the reading table, surreptitiously trying to hide it behind his back. “I really don’t know what the fuss is all about, anyway.”
The doctor was a terrible liar. It was little wonder the Madam never took him into her personal confidence. “What are you hiding?”
“What? It’s nothing. Nothing at all.”
With a grunt of annoyance, Alys elbowed him aside, picking up the glossy advertisement.
“Now, don’t get too upset…”
Alys looked over the pamphlet, the bright pictures, large lettering and ostentatious title. Hatta & Harestein Presents…. Quickly, she skimmed over the contents, absently stroking DiDi’s black fur.
The doctor rambled on, “We don’t get much in the form of live entertainment nowadays. Even the monthly celebrations at the Grand House were more of a formality for the monarchy’s benefit than our own. It would be a nice stress relief I think-”
She held the pamphlet up to his face, “To see Her Majesty executed by ‘horrifically imaginative means’?”
Various instruments were displayed on the slick pages, a guillotine, a cannon, an iron maiden…. Several others seemed simply impossible to comprehend. A likeness of the Queen had been sketched at the top, capturing the dark ringlets of her hair but ignoring, perhaps on purpose, the darker glint in her eyes that she always carried. Alys hands shook as she held the papers, the impulse that the image pulled upon.
Vjola blinked, “Well, yes, of course. You can’t fault the vivid imagery with that. As a society we’ve developed a rather brutal obsession with death.”
“Clearly. It’s not registered with anyone that this could be considered treason?”
He inclined his head, “Oh, I’m sure some of them have realized it.” Then he shrugged, “But we aren’t ones to worry about the future. The present is all that matters. And at the present, most of us are interested. Her Majesty couldn’t take it personally.”
Alys leveled a stare, “You don’t know her. The Grand House has never accepted outsiders beyond the Favored Families. The insult of this invasion can’t be bought back.”
“The ‘Favored Families’? I thought they left these lands eons ago. I suppose sycophants will always stay where it benefits them the most.”
Sycophants indeed. Noble men and women who lived generously off the Queen’s favor, extended merely in view of the lengths they would go to please her. Their families were born and raised in the Grand House, never venturing outside, and never voicing their displeasure, although they did have the tendency to whine. But they knew not to cross over the line, were always careful to keep in their place.
“She won’t forgive this. And no matter what you say now, you will be saying quite differently when she’s back in power.” Alys murmured.
“You’re on about that again? Still going to save her, even-” Vjola gestured to the pamphlet, “-with this going about? She’s fit to be executed on Friday. What is your pull to this woman? I doubt anyone will let you through the front gates if all you are going to do is ruin the fun.”
Having recovered from the Toxin poisoning, Alys had been planning to leave Copper Lake soon, anyway. “I need someone who can get me in a back way then. A secret tunnel. The Grand House is riddled with them. One at least should lead to the outside.”
“Well no one here’s ever thought to sneak into the Grand House, I’m sure, but if you’re thinking to find a hidden entrance…” Vjola tapped his chin. “You’ll want to see Fly the Oracle, then. He’s about the only person who could answer your question to any satisfaction.”
Alys tilted her head, “The Madam houses an oracle?”
He tilted his hand side-to-side, “Of sorts. The title may or may not be a misnomer, but not many care to dig for the truth. Fly has gained a fortune on the probability though. If there is something you need to know, he’d have to be the one with the answer.”
Alys shook her head, “I don’t want a mystic-”
“Oh- Fly’s no mystic.” Vjola grinned at the idea, “Let’s just say if there’s anything going on in Alderwëiss, Fly would be the first to know about it. He’s insightful as well, which may account for the whole ‘oracle’ business, but he’s also got more eyes and ears than anyone else in the country. That’s plenty of influence for a ghost town like this.”