Slumber Page 2

I remember the expression on my father’s face when we appeared out of the fields. Pale and slack, his eyes bleak as they drank me in. My mother clung to his arm, as tiny as my favourite doll, her eyes just as glassy. At the sound of a horse’s nicker I turned to see who stood outside our home. Four men. All dressed in livery that matched those of their horses. My eyes were drawn to the emerald and silver heraldic badges with the silver dove crest in the middle. Our symbol of peace.

They were from the palace.

I do not know why, but I was scared. I remember trembling so hard I thought I must be shaking the very ground beneath my feet. Whatever reasons unknown my instincts had me pulling my brother behind my back, out from the view of the men looming ominously over our parents.

One of them descended from his beast. I realised he did not wear the livery. He alone came towards me like a serpent slithering on the ground, his purple cloak hissing in the breeze. His eyes were the deepest black and probing, so fixated on me I shivered in revulsion as if he had actually touched me.

“This is the one.”

“You’re sure?” The soldier who towered above my parents asked gruffly.

The serpent smiled at me, ready to strike his killing blow. “She is the one.”

“No!” My father bellowed as my mother whimpered at his side. “Run, Rogan! Run!”

But I was frozen in place by their panic. An ice sculpture who watched two soldiers hold my father as he struggled in their arms, and a third pull a dagger from his belt and plunge it into his heart. He twitched and stiffened in their hold, a horrifying gurgling noise making its way up through his chest to spurt a thick, bloody fluid out of his mouth and down his chin. My mother’s screams played the soundtrack to this memory before the dagger-wielding soldier strolled towards her crumpled figure, his black gloved fingers stroking comfortingly over her hair. They slid like leeches down to her throat and back up to her cheeks. And then he twisted her head between his hands with a jerk that sent an echoing crack around my world.

That’s when I felt the tug on my hand and remembered my brother. With a thousand screams stuck in my throat I whirled with him and began to run, dragging him with me into the cover of the fields, my father’s last shouts reverberating in my ears. I drowned out the sounds of my shallow, panicked breaths, the hiccupping cries of my brother as I practically hauled him with me, and the hollering and thundering behind us that made me race harder.

When the thundering eased, I knew I had lost them in the fields. We were small and knew the land as well as we knew each tiny scar and line upon our palms. I headed east, picking up my brother when he tripped; shushing him when I was no longer sure we were alone. At last we reached the cave my father had punished us for hiding in only a year before. Bears, he had warned. But now I feared the soldiers from the palace more than the bears; the soldiers who wanted me, why I did not know. They had slaughtered my parents to have me. Would they murder me too? My brother? At the thought I remember burrowing him against me in the dank cave, felt his tears soak my dress.

“I’m sorry,” he had whispered.

I wanted to tell him he need not apologise for crying, for grieving, but I feared if I spoke all my screams would burst forth with terrifying consequences.

“I didn’t mean to.”

At that, I pressed him back until a shaft of light filtered over his face. He looked so lost my young heart broke over and over again. He clutched his trousers, turning away from me, and it was then the smell hit my nostrils. I began to cry. I did not want him to be ashamed of his fear. He was so little.

“It’s okay,” I whispered and made to reach for him, but his shirt slipped through my hands as he was whipped out of sight. I must have yelled - I don’t know - but I stumbled blindly after him back into a day that had suddenly turned grey. A day that had once blazed in a beautiful fire of heat and life. Now it was gone. And as my gaze found my brother, I realised even the last sparks of the embers had been snuffed out, leaving only the fire’s funeral shroud of smoke.

My brother’s small body lay at the feet of the cave, the dagger edged in blood from his neck slipping back into its place on the soldier’s belt.

The serpent stepped over my brother’s body and knelt before me.

“Say goodbye to your family, Rogan. A new one awaits you.”

Chapter One

I ached. I had never felt such pain before. But I had never been on a horse for so long, nor trapped in the embrace of the man who rode the horse. I was so stiff from keeping my body as far from his as possible; an impossible task with his long arms encircling me in order to hold the reins.

I didn’t know where we were. It was dark and even muggier here. We had moved south. I twisted my neck to look at Kir, who rode trapped between the Captain of the Guard and the reins of his horse, Destroyer. Such a fitting name. He had helped the despicable mage behind me, Vikomt Syracen Stovia – one of the Glava – destroy my life, as well as Kir’s.

The Kral was dead.

Only Haydyn Dyzvati, Princezna of Phaedra, remained of the evokers. Kir told me Stovia was collecting those left with rare magic to help protect and reinforce the sovereignty, until Haydyn came of age and produced more children of the Dyzvati.

Kir was one of the Glava, a telekinetic.

“The Dyzvati power has waned,” Kir had whispered to me, his eyes flickering to our guard not too far from us. That had been only two nights after the murder of my family. Kir had been with the Guard for a week. The other soldiers ate and talked quietly around the campfire. “Syracen has taken advantage of it. The way he talks… as if the violence of his crimes is justified. He’s protecting the sovereign and the peace of Phaedra. With blood and cruelty. With selfish pursuit of the last of the mage.”

“But I’m not a mage,” I had whispered in shock. We were sitting together offside of the fire. Strangers. But the wiry boy, a few years my senior, shared the haunted look in my eyes. They had destroyed his family too.

Kir had shrugged. “You must be.”

But I wasn’t. Was I?

I caught Kir’s eyes now, as we moved swiftly and quietly into the small village. His face was taut, his eyes narrowed. Something was happening.

The horses drew to a stop, not even a snort, so obedient to their masters will. An unpleasant shock went through me at the feel of Stovia’s hand in my hair.

“Now, little one,” he whispered in my ear. “Time to see how well that magic of yours works.”

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