Sinking, revolving freely in the deepness, her clothes waterlogged and weighing her down, Heather wriggled out of her raincoat and was able to shed her jacket. Swept along in the onrushing current, she stroked and kicked for the surface, and moments later, with a harsh gasp, broke the plane of water. Yet, almost instantly, she found herself again tugged under, and, determined, fought the unruly depths. Desperately in need of air, her lungs aching, Heather struggled until she finally reemerged with a splash. Face upturned, head barely out of the water, her ravenous lungs feasted on the oxygen until, for yet another time, she was hauled below.
Rising, she made her way across the timbers to the rectangular hole in the floor. At first sitting, feet dangling, she dropped herself through, reaching for the closest rung. From there, she began her descent, feeling in the dark one to the next, knowing the slabs of wood that she and Molly had carefully affixed to the tree just this summer were dangerously slick.
It was then that it happened, so swiftly and unexpectedly: with a crack, the rung below busted loose and her feet slipped free. And with a gasp, Heather slammed into the trunk, one hand sliding off the end of the rung above, the other gripping with just fingertips. The earth far below, she momentarily hung by an arm.
Her lips arose at the corners, her words flirtatious, off topic. “You’re so flawlessly beautiful, bound up in your Darkness. Have I said?”
“Many times,” Raethurr swallowed, “my Comeliness.” He felt the Mark of the Ravaged Heavens upon his bony temple begin to glow, releasing its toxic, pleasured pain.
The woman’s smile grew playful. “Yes, you’re right. I have, haven’t I?” She started his way and halted, lingering on a pretense. “But we’re all flawlessly beautiful, are we not?” Then she added, “Of course, need I mention that some of us are more beautifully flawed than others?” After a brief glance at herself, satisfied, S’ilKuSheere took to pacing once more, almost prancing. She walked along the flatter expanse of stone, on stage before her gathered flock. “So, to the point: Am I to report these lasting memorials of Light to ShakkGôn Sul?”
When there was no reply, again she smiled alluringly and walked sinuously over to Raethurr, the flatter stone beneath her rising up to meet him, her pliant fingertips now running along his hollowed jaw. “Well, am I, treasure?” Her face moved closer, a slow, sensual advance, and, full lips parting, she leaned in as if to deliver a kiss to the ghastly, shrunken skull. She stopped just short, however, whispering with seductive heat, “I think not.” Their faces hung in air, magnets attracted to the nearness between them. “And do you know why?” she continued in a hushed tone. “Because you will, lover, telling the Great One exactly why these monuments remain.”
With Archie lying in a half-circle, head on paws, Heather had made herself at home on the ground, nestling in the crescent formed by his body. The girl had taken off her cloak, and rolling it up, was using it as a pillow. Within reach, she laid her Maiden dagger and, having bid Fallasha a murmured goodnight, set the small brooch carefully alongside the weapon. Then, in sober observation, she and her ‘Mate watched while TreeLofters raised the ladders and ropes to disappear into the softly radiant and seclusive heights.
“I guess that makes the people especially safe up there at night,” said Heather.
Probably so. And despite having lookouts stationed all around in the trees, realistically, one is never truly safe.
“What do you mean?”
I mean that, ultimately, as long as anyone is alive, there is always the risk of death.
“That’s a happy thought.”
Happy or not, the thought is logical. HumanKinders don’t like to think of life that way.
Excerpt – Maiden of a Darkness Shining
Part Two – Of Souls Gone Lost
The Dark Sorceress Rendskorra of SpringShoot Green was flying her two-headed TrakkoonBeast toward the Main TransPort Gates linking her kingdom with that of SummersBreath Still. How she hated these last minute rearrangements of her schedule, but with her notorious RedSuits positioned at the ready for ambush in the TiaraReign CityHeights, she felt she could make time for her sisters—especially if the one requesting her presence was none other than S’ilKuSheere, herself. And with Mistraya in attendance, it should prove to be an entertaining free-for-all at Brutessa’s castle.