Tuesday, December 31, 2013

December's End (WoE week 53)

Write at the Merge gives us 500 words as usual, but in honor of saying goodbye to 2013 and hello to 2014, there's a bit more to this week's prompt.

The first challenge is to experiment with the concepts of goodbye and purgatory.
The second includes the song Goodbye by artist Alicia Keys, and the following quote:

Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present. 
Marcus Aurelius Antonius Meditations 200 A.D. 

I love the concepts and the images that are colliding in my mind, even now, after my response is completed. There's a lot to work with here, and so many directions to go. The grit of the grim appeals to me most, perhaps due to the films I've watched recently. The fire-breathing dragon in the old dwarven mountain, the corrupt capitol and the mandatory games designed to keep the population enslaved, even the epic struggle between angels and demons conducted in the shadowy underground of New York City, all these dark stories are bubbling in my creative cauldron.

This week, I had too much muse, my piece weighing in with over a thousand words.It doesn't even feel complete yet. I think there's potential for it to develop into a novel or two of some length. Which both excites me and frustrates me, because I've already got four fantasy trilogies in the works, and they all have to take a back-burner to the paranormal mystery sequels that I'm hoping to publish in 2014.

So I thought I'd cheat a little. This post carries the first 500 words. If you choose to, you can move on to tomorrow's post.

I offer the following in response:  A New Regime, Part One

The duke was dead. His ambitious widow claimed regency for her adolescent son that very hour, but the duchy council knew it was only a matter of time before she made a bid for Mad King Herold’s throne. The uneasy councilmen watched from the purgatory of palace shadows, waiting for the inevitable declaration of war.

Elise had more immediate concerns. As she helped her lady dress in mourning shift, she pinched her fingers twice in corset lacings and fumbled with the sleeve ribbons.

Brenna twisted her hair out of the way, “Mother insists I be rid of you.”

She sounded uncertain, distant. Elise paused, “Her Grace has insisted that for years.”

“But without Father,” Brenna’s eyes flickered in her looking glass reflection. “I have no idea how to protect you.”

They shared a disquiet silence. “Well, to supper,” Elise choked on the lump in her throat. “We will know our fates soon enough.”

Brenna hugged her tight, “Whatever happens, I’ll see to your family. Father made you a promise and I intend to keep it.”

“Thank you,” Elise closed her eyes against rising doubt. Brenna meant well, but the duchess would have her own way. Whispers existed in the darkest corners among the bravest servants that murder had been the duke’s untimely end. The rumor carried the threat of the gallows.

Supper was a tense affair. Already relegated to the sideboard like a memory discarded, the duke’s chair sat empty. Elise kept to her station, distress clenching her stomach so tight the smells of food soured her appetite. She could tell from what remained on refused plates that Brenna wasn’t hungry either.

The duchess noticed as well. “Brenna, you’ve barely touched your meal. Is something amiss?”

“Grief has made me unwell.” The silence amplified Brenna’s trembling voice.

The duchess tapped the knife she held, a sign of her displeasure. “It will pass. I have received the contract for your engagement, from House Glassen.”

Elise surrendered a captive sigh. It was no secret that Brenna and Pierre were fond of each other. The duke approved of the match despite Pierre’s lower title, placing his daughter’s happiness first. And they could be safe in Glassen’s traditional seat in Fernwood.

Brenna straightened. “I’m pleased to-“

“I’ve had to send our regrets, of course.”

Elise stiffened. Brenna’s voice was full of fear. “Regrets?”

The duchess nodded, “Well I don’t know what your father was thinking, accepting such a contract in the first place. But don’t you worry. I’ve corrected all that.”


“Is there an echo?” The duchess tisked. “Besides, I need Sir Pierre de Glassen to fill in the ranks I’ve promised to deliver to Mad King Herold. He needs fodder soldiers for his silly war against the Northmen.”

Brenna pushed back her chair, half-rising, and passed out. Elise darted, catching her mistress and the wrathful glare of the duchess.

“Now, what to do about you…” Rising, her Grace crossed the stone floor. Her shadow crawled onto Elise’s skin. 


  1. Since you're offering, I'm off to look for the next one...