Stone Angel

Cover

The constant plop of water into a pool had been the only sound in centuries. The grating of a door was a welcome surprise, rousing me from a self-induced slumber. Light fell across the cobblestone floor as the door gave, two shadows forming in the dim light.

“Is this the right place?” A man’s voice filled the cavern, echoing across the cobblestones and the walls. He lifted a hand to wave in front of his place. “It reeks.”

“Silence, boy,” the second commanded. “I warned you of coming to this place.”

The first sighed in irritation as he followed the second across the floor. The ceiling arched high above them into a dome, making their hushed voices echo around the room.

“Yeah, Jay, I know,” the first said. “You said the damn statues would be listening.”

I felt it then, an involuntary shift of muscle, a rumble from deep in my chest filling the room. The very walls of the cavern vibrated with the sound, sending a skitter of rocks down to the cobblestone floor. My mind was shifting from the thick darkness of sleep, filled with their words. Did they know me?

“Ben!” Jay snarled, wheeling on his partner. “We’re here for the gems, so keep your mouth shut.”

Jay was an old man as he stepped closer to the dais where I was frozen. His gray eyes shifted over the make-shift altar, seeking out his treasure. I cared not for his reason of coming. The altar was a farce, designed to lure men such as these. The true prize was the sunlight beaming through the door.

I felt the rumble well inside me again as the young one, Ben, stepped closer to me. He glanced around nervously as the walls began to shake and echo, but then he turned his eyes back to me. I struggled against the frozen feeling in my limbs, wishing to break free of this tomb.

“Eh, look at this, Jay,” Ben said, stepping up cobbled steps to be on eye-level with me. “This is that symbol that Eyran carries.”

Jay shook his head, a frown set into his face. He pulled a tool from his pocket, fighting to dislodge the gems from the altar. “Shut up, Ben,” he snapped. “Let’s get these and get out. This shit gives me the willies.”

Ben frowned, but leapt down from the steps.

Eyran. The name rang like bells in my ears. I fought again to free myself, feeling the rock that encased me shift. Neither of the thieves seemed to notice as my shell began to give way. Cool air began to rush in, filling my lungs, invigorating me. That was all I needed, the scent of the sunlight beyond the door fueling the wild desire to break free. I flexed my iron wings, feeling the rock shatter away as I launched myself from the dais and toward the cobblestone.

The men yelled behind me as I flapped, sending a gust around what used to be a temple. My mind was focused on the sunlight in front of me, and it filled my senses as I crashed heavily through the door. I slammed into the ground, looking up.

The temple had once been surrounded by a mighty stone palace. Now, though, I could see it was tall ruins. It rose up above me, the morning sky peeping down through cracks in the ceiling. The stone looked brittle and weather-worn. As I rose from where I was kneeling, I could hear the men behind me crying for help. When I’d crashed through the door, the temple had begun to crumble, blocking their exit.

Slowly, I turned toward the rubble. I shrugged my shoulders as the wings folded along my back, stepping forward to heave a large rock away. I narrowed my eyes as I saw a face appear.

“Please!” Jay begged. “Don’t leave us here!” His gray eyes were panicked. “Please, I’ll put the gems back!”

I leaned forward, placing a hand on the stone. “I care not for those gems,” I said. My voice sounded strange to my ears. I hadn’t spoken in thousands of years. “Tell me where Eyran is.”

The old man gasped in fright. “What do you want with him?” he asked, fear in his voice.

I laughed, feeling my tongue drift across fangs. “He and I have a score to settle.”

“We’ll take you to him!” Ben suddenly appeared, his green eyes frightened as well. “We know where you can find him.”

I titled my head, considering his offer. I supposed there was nothing to lose. I straightened, reaching for the boulders that were blocking the entrance. It took little effort to remove them and free the two men. Once they were safely in the light, the young one fell to his knees, gasping for a breath.

“Thank you,” he gasped, groveling before me.

I scowled at him, feeling the sharp teeth digging into my lip. “Do not kneel before me,” I said sharply. “I am no god.”

Ben rose slowly, his eyes full of fear still. “What are you?” he asked, his voice shaking.

“One of the Sacred Order,” I said shortly. “Neither man nor beast.” I nodded my chin. “Now take me to Eyran.”

The two men turned, motioning that I should follow them across the hall of the once-great palace. There were stairs that led to the temple, and they were crumbling, white-washed stone. They were smooth in places where the rain had graced them. The men’s footsteps were heavy as they climbed down, sounding like clod-hopping mules. It was mildly irritating, but no matter as I followed them. I watched as they clambered down to the cobbled palace floor, scurrying quickly toward the exit.

As soon as my foot struck the surface of the smooth stones, however, a jolt shot through me. Fizzing magic burned my veins, and I gritted my teeth. All around us stone warriors began to form, causing the men to freeze in their tracks. I paid them no mind as the first warrior moved toward me rapidly, swinging a massive spear.

With ease, I swung my hands, feeling the hilt of silver blades form against my skin. I sliced easily through the stone man, watching him crumble to the ground. Several more followed in his stead, each one easier than the last to destroy as my body remembered the feel of weapons and the dance of blades. Their singing was a music that filled my ears as they cut down enemies, leaving a pile of rubble on the floor of the palace. As the last one fell into dust, the burning in my veins ceased.

It didn’t help to ease the scowl from my face.

“What the fuck were those?” Ben demanded as I sheathed my weapons.

“A precaution,” I said shortly. “I was never intended to leave this place.”

We soon crossed the threshold of the palace. I raised a hand to shield my eyes, blinking against the bright light of the sun. I hadn’t seen it in millennia, and it scorched my eyes. Surprise flooded me as I beheld the world as it was now.

Beyond the desert that kept my tomb hidden, an oasis sprouted. It was vast, melting from spiraling trees into objects that reached for the heavens. They glinted powerfully in the sun, like the finest cast steel. I was momentarily paralyzed as I took in the wild uncertainty of this new world.

“This way,” the old man called, breaking me from my reverie.

I blinked, seeing him and his companion climbing into a metal beast. “What is this sorcery?” I demanded as I walked toward it.

“It’s a van,” Ben said. His eyes shifted over me uncertainly. “Eyran is in the city.”

I narrowed my gaze at him. There was no way I would climb knowingly into another prison such as this. “Where in the city?” I demanded.

He pointed toward the oasis. “At the Spyre.”

I turned my head, focusing my gaze across the landscape. Even from here, a tall monolith jutted into the sky, taller than the rest. Across the top, the word Spyre was scrawled. Without another word, I leapt into the sky, unfolding my massive wings. They cut through the air with ease, propelling me ever closer to my target. There was nowhere for him to hide from me now.

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The Story of Gladianima (Part VIII)

“The twelfth day of winter, the 236th year Post-Priorae. I saw it today. The voice drew me out into the middle of the cold night. I was barefoot, awakened from my sleep, coerced into the darkness with no heed for my safety. I couldn’t resist the soft voice, following it as it drew me into the trees. I didn’t regain control of my body until I realized I was standing in a field, shivering.”

Thyra glanced up at Kegan, seeing him watching her carefully, his brow furrowed. She drew a slow breath before continuing.

“That’s when it appeared. It looked like a ghost, moving in through the trees. It had a long body, thin legs, and a long nose. Its tail was like that of cat, with a tuft of hair from the end. It came closer, passing through the branches without touching them. I could see the blue of its eyes as it came within arm’s reach. When it spoke, or thought, its voice was loud and clear, no longer the soft whisper.”

Thyra could feel her stomach turning in knots as she turned the page.

“I’m glad you have finally come to me, it said, stepping closer. I could feel the heat of its body and I knew I should have felt fear. But instead, my mind was warm, as if comforted by the creature’s presence. I asked, through my thoughts, why it had been calling me. That’s when it brought its face to mine, its breath hot on my skin. You are special, Doran, it said. I will give you the power to do great things.

I was confused as I stared at it. Why would I have a need to do great things? That’s when the beast lowered its head, pressing an ivory horn against my forehead. A sudden onslaught of images filled my mind, starting with a tall figure standing in a hall. I knew, without knowing, that the figure was one of the Priorae. He was a big man, bigger than even the Inerse standing around him, wielding a broad sword. And there was something about the sword, something I knew again without knowing.

It is an anima, the beast told me, answering my unasked question. It will be my gift to you, and through me, you will lead your people to a greatness never before imagined.”

Thyra felt breathless as she looked up to Kegan. “Is that the weapon?” she whispered. “The anima?”

Kegan shook his head, looking as confused as she felt. “I don’t know,” he said.

They both jumped when a knock sounded on the library door, a servant appearing. “Dinner is ready,” the man said, bowing at the waist.

Kegan nodded, dismissing the man. He turned to look back to Thyra. “Meet me here after the last candle,” he said quietly. “We need to know more about this anima.”

The Story of Gladianima (Part III)

Light cascaded across the marble floor, falling through the massive wooden doors that led to the ballroom. Kegan straightened the lapels of his blazer, listening to the clicking of the heels of his boots on the floor. He could already hear the dull thrum of voices as their guests mingled, the soft whine of stringed instruments creating a thread beneath the murmur. Once again, annoyance tugged at his mind.

He wasn’t looking forward to this charade at all. Bitterness still swam in his chest at the girl’s ruse. He and his father had gone round and round about this most of the day, but King Brieuc was set in his opinion: where did such a woman come from that could slay a handful of men like she had?

Kegan paused before entering the ballroom, schooling his face into calm. He just had to make it through one night.

The light from the chandeliers was bright in his eyes as he stepped into the room. A page heralded his arrival as he stepped down the stairs toward the awaiting crowd. Beyond the expanse of the ballroom were tall windows which overlooked the night. Wind blew in through the open doors, bringing with it the soft scent of salty air. The moons were bright in the night sky.

Kegan turned his eyes from the night to a balcony that overlooked the ballroom. He could already see his father sitting at their appointed table, a goblet in his hand. Kegan clenched his jaw as he walked to the stairs that wound to the balcony.

“Ah, Kegan!” his father bellowed, moving to his feet. He was grinning widely. “I was beginning to think you wouldn’t come.”

Kegan sighed as he walked toward his seat. “I wouldn’t shame you in such a manner, Father,” he said shortly, “No matter how much I disagree.”

A servant prepared a goblet of wine, placing it before the prince.

“I expect your best behavior,” Brieuc said, walking to the balcony railing. “We need to understand who this girl is.”

Kegan sighed as he lifted the goblet to his lips. “It doesn’t matter who she is,” he said shortly. “She wore antique armor with an even older crest. No one in our courts bears her sigil.”

Brieuc turned to look at his son. “Your studies are failing you, my son,” he said, smirking lightly.

Kegan scowled. “How so?” he demanded.

Brieuc perched a hand on his rotund belly. “The crest she bore is one of the few that sprung from the time of the Priorae.”

Kegan frowned. He’d never seen the faded crest that had been etched into her armor, not even in the books he often combed in the library. He wasn’t even sure of the beast that was depicted, with its hooves flailing and a single horn jutting dangerously from its head.

Silence drew Kegan from his thoughts, and he moved slowly to his feet to look to the guests below. The page had announced the next guest just as he’d done so with all the rest, but this was different. Kegan gripped the railing tightly as his eyes took in the plum-haired girl.

She was tall and lean, the pink dress hugging her slight curves. Her brow was furrowed in uncertainty as a chamberlain approached her, offering his arm to her as was customary for female guests. Her uncertainty seemed to deepen as the chamberlain led her through the crowd and toward the stairs that led to the balcony. Kegan forced himself to release the railing as his father turned, excited.

“Here she is,” Brieuc said proudly. “Our guest of honor.”

The girl bowed to the king as the chamberlain dismissed himself. “My king,” she said softly, glancing up at him carefully.

“Please, join us,” Brieuc said, leading the way to the table.

A servant hurried to pull her chair from the table, seating her. Kegan watched as she lowered herself into the chair carefully, looking down at the wine and food before her. It didn’t seem as though she had ever seen such a meal before in her life.

“I hope the food is to your liking,” Brieuc continued, sitting in his own chair at the head of the small table.

The girl nodded, offering a smile. “Of course,” she said easily. Her voice was soft, still uncertain, but strong.

Kegan eased into a seat opposite from his father, keeping his eyes on her. “You haven’t told us your name, my lady,” he said, trying to keep the curt edge from his voice.

“Forgive me, Your Highness,” she said, turning her lavender eyes to him. “My name is Thyra.”

Kegan arched a brow at her, leaning back in his chair. “And where do you call home, Thyra?” he asked.

Thyra offered a small smile. “The world is my home,” she said easily.

“So you are a transient,” Kegan snapped, setting his goblet down a bit harder than necessary. He leveled a glare at his father.

King Brieuc was frowning at his son in return. “Kegan,” he warned.

“No, it is true,” Thyra said then, turning to look at Brieuc. “But it is my choice.”

Brieuc frowned lightly. “Why would a young woman such as yourself choose such a life?”

Thyra looked down at the table. “I was not welcome in my father’s home after the death of my brother,” she said. “So I make my own home where I will.”

“And who is your father?” Brieuc asked.

Thyra lifted a green vegetable, looking at it closely. “He is dead, Your Highness,” she said, her lips pulling in a soft scowl. “And long before his death, he was dead to me.” She looked up at the king, her lavender eyes bearing a hint of anger. “I vowed never to speak his name again.”

Kegan’s brow rose in surprise at the sharpness in her eyes and the steady tone to her voice. “So you are the last of your family?”

Thyra nodded. “But I do not wish to carry on my family name,” she said easily. “I only want to gain passage across the seas, so that I may live my life the way I choose.” She drew a slow breath. “My family’s legacy hovers over me like a dark cloud.”

Brieuc leaned back in his chair. “You cannot outrun the rain, Lady Thyra,” he said.

Thyra offered a small smile. “I can try.”

Brieuc returned her grin then, and Kegan could see that his father was even more smitten with this girl. Irritation flooded him as his father changed the topic of the conversation, beginning to regale them with how amazing her fighting skills were. It left a sour taste in Kegan’s mouth. He needed to know who this girl was.

Life After You – Part One

This short clip is inspired by this song by Daughtry. It’s been one that’s been rattling around in my head recently. Check it out here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cvm2OYF2p7E&feature=kp

The characters are loosely based on my book series.

 

Jet turned his head, watching water sling from the ends of his dark hair. He frowned, trying to ignore the pounding rain. He pressed his back against the large tree behind him, sinking to sit on the roots at his feet.

Over and over again, his conversation with Nyx replayed in his head. Each time he remembered the angry words that had slipped from his lips, and it made him sigh in disgust. Of course, being angry wasn’t something that was unusual, but the way her eyes had filled with tears was.

Was he finally losing it? Why did he even care?

She wasn’t normally so emotional. When he was mad at her, she would just get mad right back. She had screamed at him before and neither of them ever thought twice about it. But something about seeing her emerald gaze hurt and watery like that had made him feel like he was the worst scum on the face of the planet.

He couldn’t understand why he had hurt her feelings. He hadn’t said anything he wouldn’t have normally said, starting with what an idiot he thought the Count was and how dumb he thought she was for spending time with him. But maybe he had gone too far this time.

He glanced around, seeing that the rain was starting to subside. He grimaced at the way his heart twisted in his chest. Jet knew he needed to go back. He needed to apologize.

He moved to his feet slowly, making his way back toward the castle. He hadn’t gone very far, and it was soon in sight. He was surprised when he stepped into the courtyard.

Nyx lowered her Soul Blade from her practice stance. Her brow was furrowed with bitterness, but when she caught sight of him, she drew up short. She let the Blade dissolve, brushing wet, blonde hair from her face.

“What the hell are you doing out here?” Jet demanded as he stepped toward her.

She rolled her eyes. “If I want to train by myself, I will.”

Jet arched a brow at her as he crossed his arms. “In the rain?” Despite feeling regret, he couldn’t bring himself to say he was sorry. Fighting with her was much easier than admitting he was wrong.

Nyx sighed, her emerald eyes narrowing. “Jet, the war has been over for months,” she quipped. “I’m free to do whatever I want, and you can’t stop me.”

Jet clenched his jaw. For some reason, her words struck him hard. Was that what this was really about?

Nyx glanced away suddenly, nervousness creasing her brow. “And if I want to see the Count, then that’s what I’m going to do.”

“Seriously?” Jet suddenly demanded. He could feel everything inside him protesting, bristling at the thought of her being with the Count. “The man is an idiot!”

“At least he pays attention,” Nyx quipped. “You couldn’t give a flip about what I do with myself.”

Jet scowled at her. “That’s not true.”

“It is!” Nyx suddenly yelled. Tears suddenly flooded her eyes again.

Jet felt his heart drop to his feet. He had to understand what it was he kept doing that was making her react this way. He felt the fight leave him in rush, and he looked away. “Why do you keep crying?” he asked softly.

“I’m not,” Nyx said defensively, turning away.

Jet rolled his eyes. Were they destined to always do this to one another? “I’m not blind, Nyx,” he said darkly.

She surprised him when she turned quickly to face him. “I’m pretty sure you are,” she said bitterly. “Or you’re just too stupid to see what’s right in front of you.”

Jet drew a ragged breath as lightning suddenly flashed across the sky. He wasn’t sure what she meant by that, but he didn’t want to dwell on it. If she was in love with the Count, he didn’t want to know. “We should go inside,” he said quietly. The scent of more rain was heavy on the wind as it blew through the courtyard around them.

“Don’t you care about how I feel?” Nyx suddenly demanded. Her emerald gaze was hurt and borderline desperate as she stared at him.

“If you love him, I don’t want to know,” Jet said angrily, moving to step around her. “I’m going inside.” He wasn’t going to do this with her. Not today. Just because he was willing to stand beside her and protect her, it didn’t mean he had to be privy to all her gossip, too.

He wasn’t like her cousins, and he damn sure wasn’t her best friend. He didn’t care to know what she did behind closed doors, and just because he’d always supported her, it didn’t mean he’d support her on this. He hadn’t spent the last few years trying to save her life just to watch her throw it away with some dumb Count who probably cared more about a crown than about her. If anything, she should be stuck up his butt about him saving her stupid life so many times. And he shouldn’t be feeling this way about her. He had better things to do with his time than entertain her.

“I don’t love him.” Her voice cut through his thoughts like a knife, and he scowled down at her when she stepped in front of him.

“I told you, I don’t want to know,” he ground out. Bitter anger was welling inside of him. Why was she putting him through all of this?

A flash of lightning crashed through the clouds, sending booming thunder scrambling across the palace grounds. Fat, cold rain drops began to leak from the sky. Being caught in the rain wasn’t going to make anything about this better. Jet could feel his face pulling into a dark scowl.

“Listen to me!”

Jet’s onyx eyes narrowed as he looked into her face. He hated the way her emerald gaze was blazing, indicating that she wouldn’t just let this go. The war had changed her. If she’d been an annoying handful before, this version of her was more brazen, and definitely more annoying. But Jet supposed that was the price of seeing men die; you either succumbed to the violence or you let it become part of you. He still hadn’t decided what she would let it do to her.

“You can’t keep shutting me out,” she said fiercely. “I didn’t fight for you just to let this happen to us.” Her emerald eyes were angry suddenly. “I thought you would be different, once the curse was broken.” Her voice suddenly lost its edge, and she looked away. “That you could admit that you actually care about me.”

Jet’s heart flip-flopped. His thoughts fled as he stared at her. Was that what all of this had been about? His mind supplied him with their trip to Austia, forcing him to remember the way her lips had felt against his. The memory made something inside him twist, filling him with the instinct to run away. It took every bit of self-control he possessed to stay rooted to where he was standing.

“I am different,” he managed finally. “And I’m not shutting you out.” He watched as she shook her head, a resigned look on her face.

“Keep telling yourself that,” she said softly.

Nyx turned away as the fat, far-between drops suddenly turned into fast-flowing rain. She made her way toward the castle as it drenched her. Somehow, being caught in a downpour was worse than the time she had fallen into the pond. She didn’t look back as she ran up the stairs to her suite.

She didn’t want to think about Jet anymore as she slammed the door behind her.