Song and Salacity

It had begun as a typical night.  There was a light howl in the wind, whispering desires through the air; a flutter to the crisp leaves that hung from the branches above, plotting their descent; a flap of wings, eager to dance to the sirens’ song.

Percie had just completed a tiresome novel by the fire.  The sun had just begun to set and she decided to ease her eyes by letting the night pour in.  She smothered the fire and breathed deeply, allowing the scent of char to wash through her.  In the kitchen, Percie prepared herself a cup of warm milk on the gas stove.  The crickets had begun their annoying symphony, but she knew her songstress’ would put an end to it soon.  Anything that bothered Percie was considered a threat in the eyes of her winged protectors.

As she sipped her milk, Percie gazed at the blackness outside of her back window.  It was not unusual for her to do this; it calmed her to affix her sights on something non-specific.  Otherwise, they grew weary, and she became utterly aware of her aching body.  But tonight, something felt different.  There was an eeriness about the night that seemed to be staring right back at her.  Believing it to mean her subconscious was warning her that she had forgotten to tend to her garden, Percie placed her cup down and reluctantly walked over to the sink.  The crickets had hushed and a low rhythmic humming was in the air now.  Her songstress’ had fed, but only a little.

Outside, she flitted about the garden, swiping her dainty fingertips against petals to check for dampness.  It did seem as though all of her plants had been watered, which all the more confused her.  Something was making her uneasy.  As her heart rate sped up, the humming grew louder.  Her songstress’ could sense her distress and were growing anxious by it.  She was happy to have their protection, but also needed to assure them that, for the moment, everything seemed alright.  If she did not, they may become undisciplined.  Temperamental as they were, she loved them.  She offered a reassuring whistle, lacing it with a familiar cadence that they returned before falling back to their quiet, watchful, humming.

Back inside, Percie let the rest of her milk flow down the drain.  She watched it spiral away, tickled by the image of disappearance, until she was jarred back to reality by a squawk so violently intrusive that she had to bring both hands to her ears.  Losing her balance, she fell over and cried out gently.

It was her songstress’; their worry and tension had suddenly turned to erratic vexation.

Percie scrabbled about until she was on all fours, simultaneously basking in the pain and trying to detach herself from it.  That was the thing about sirens, their pain was inviting. Even Percie, a keeper and beloved friend, was not immune.

The squawking continued to rise.  The pitch seemed impossible, and yet, there it was forcing its way into her.  The songstress’ had found a real threat.  Something terrible was out there.  Against her better instincts, Percie began the tedious task of crawling out to the garden.  For this, she had to rely upon her forearms and fingertips, for, her legs were incapacitated by the invasive song.  Her hair was in her eyes now, and she grunted in a high pitch, almost matching her songstress’ emphatic levels.

When she finally made it to the back door the squawking had begun to lull. Sensation tingled a return up Percie’s legs, making their throb more apparent.  Every muscle in her body screamed.  It was always like this when they fed – always.  Percie staggered through the gardens and around to the back of their tree.  She knew she would find them there, and she did.

As she came upon her protectors she squinted impotently through the dark, but their shadows were immediately apparent.  Three heads bobbed up and down excitedly.  Their song was now reduced to a croon, backed by a ruffle as their wings flapped with appeasement.

Although he made no sound, Percie could see their slender arms pulling and tugging at their victim.  A man who thought he could creep about, unnoticed – watching, lurking.  A man who thought he was a predator when in fact he was merely prey.

One feeder sensed Percie’s presence and rose from the earth, elongating her crouched legs.  Percie caught a glimpse of her bouncing breasts in the moonlight as she turned to face her.  She smiled graciously, knowing the songstress could see her well.  The other two continued to feast, though there could not have been much of the man left. The thrilling obscenity of the picture caused Percie’s heart to pound against her chest.

The standing songstress soon curled herself back to a perched position, guarding the others.  She let her wide bronze wings fold over one another so that only one eye would remain exposed.  Percie could not see this exactly, but knew the posture well enough to imagine it distinctly.  Drained from the ordeal, she let herself drop to the cold ground, and then lied flat against it.  All she felt now was an exhaustive satisfaction.

When the songstress’ had had their fill, they took flight over Percie’s amative body, offering a resuscitating breeze.  It was as welcomed as the bright moon.  Their eyes twinkled until they disappeared again into the treetops, while Percie slept deeply, and fully.

© Shyla Fairfax-Owen

(In)Satiable

Do you ever get that dream? You know, the one where the ground has melted into a thick sticky mess, dragging you beneath it. You keep falling, and you know you should scream, but you can’t. It’s almost like suffocating, but… lighter. Easier. Well, I get that one a lot.

I’m not going to bore you with the myriad of psychoses and upsets the dream reveals. Suffice it to say, I’m grappling with a lot. I don’t need some Freudian wannabe digging around in my head, disturbing the swarms of childhood traumas that I manage to keep fairly quiet. You see, that’s not the real problem. The real problem is that I never say no.

I know what you’re thinking. I’m overwhelmed at work, getting taken advantage of in the office and by friends. No, it’s nothing like that. The thing is – I have a gift. Around here, they used to call me the Angel of Mercy, but lately I’ve been hearing a little voice in my head that calls me the Angel of Death.

I can’t help it. I look into your eyes, and I see the truth. I see who you are – who you really are. I see what you’ve done. Sin. It makes us who we are. Therein lies the truth of a person. And I see it. All of it. And once I have – there’s no going back, no turning the other way. I tried to use my gift for good; to help people overcome their darkness. But the job was more than I could bear. So was the truth.

I can’t tell you exactly when it happened, that first kill. It was a mercy kill, you know. No one could live with the things this person had done. Afterwards, the burning sensation between my eyes eased, the heaviness in my chest evaporated, the anxiety – gone. That was the cure. To rid myself of the pain of truth, I had to rid the world of the evil causing it. For a while, everything was quiet. The voices had finally hushed and a calm had washed over me like warm sunlight on a cold winter morning. I knew I had done the right thing.

People came to me about their troubles. They came for my mercy and mercy for their loved ones. Soon I realized that everyone had a little evil in them. A little part of them that needed to be cut out, carved up, and buried. The numbers kept rising and that calm – well, that calm became the only thing in life I could look forward to. Before long, I needed it. And people need me. Mercy. Death. Whatever I am. I’m needed. I’ll admit though, I’m getting sick of that dream.

© Shyla Fairfax-Owen

 

The End

It was unexpectedly beautiful, the end of the world.

The fires, blazing west to east. The waters flooding north to south. The earths opening up, devouring our very being. The winds scooping up whatever was left.

I watched it all in awe, and not once did I consider stopping it. There’s nothing quite like the rush of devastation. My only loss was its completion.

The Telluric Goodbye

I looked up at Fern, her eyes skimming over the top of my head as her thoughts travelled far away from our now. She was a Telluric; part of the last scoop during the salvage. She had grown up among Astrals and sometimes it was easy to forget that she was from Earth – a different breed altogether – but in these distant moments, it was apparent. In these moments, the ones in which she could be both present and not, I was utterly bewildered by her difference. Part of me knew I only loved her because my curiosity overpowered me. But most of me didn’t care why I loved her, just that I did.

She shivered lightly. Her hair growth was selective, red, sprouting mainly from her head and above her eyes. Some growth occurred under her arms (of which she only had two) and a thin layer covered the rest of her. It gave her a smooth texture that I could only feel in the palms of my four hands. It meant she was often cold, but the adaptation meant it was tolerable. Some of the Astrals had advocated for more salvages overtime when we’d discovered there had still been some scattered survivors on Earth, but they had spent too much time in their natural habitat. They’d freeze to death, we were told.

I think it bothered Fern sometimes, to know there were others stranded down there. She had volunteered for a number of anatomy studies hoping to find a viable solution; some way that Telluric genes could be manipulated once matured. None of it was very promising; but she kept going back to the labs, hoping for different results. That was the definition of insanity. She hated when I’d tell her that, so eventually I stopped, and just let her go on being insane.

“Stop looking at me like that,” she whispered a hint of a smile in her tone.

I shied away, fixing my eyes anywhere else. She sunk her shoulders down and nestled herself under one of my arms so that her head was resting on my chest. She nuzzled her nose into me, burying her face in my fur. I wrapped two more arms around her, offering warmth, and leaned back on my fourth. We gazed out at the vastness before us. It was nice.

The next day when she stepped into the lab with that hopeful grin of hers, I returned it. I had decided to stay in the waiting room this time, even when she insisted I go home. For no particular reason, I wanted to be there with her.

“She’s prone to her Telluric instincts. She has no memories of Earth, but her genetic makeup seems to. It’s fascinating, really.”

I flashed cold eyes at the doctor keeping me company, afraid he was preparing me for news I wouldn’t want to hear. The apologetic eyes he returned told me it was true.

“You’re sending them back?” I asked. The scent of my fear wafted over us.

“Edoc, you knew this was always the plan.”

I winced, as if the truth had a vulgarity to it.

“I didn’t think it would be her.”

“Of course you did.”

“When will you tell her?”

“Edoc, she volunteered; like she always does. She asked me to tell you.”

“Why?” I looked towards the closed off room that she lie behind, being poked and prodded.

“Tellurics hate delivering sad news. I suppose she figured this would be easier.”

“But I won’t be able to share my sadness with her.” My fur rose, searching for the being connected to its emotions.

“I suppose she prefers it that way.”

“No. She likes it when I share.”

“She wants to see Earth,” the doctor continued, ignoring my reaching fur. “You can’t blame her; it’s a deep-seeded instinct. She tried to have us remove it but we couldn’t.”

My fur pulled me up and dragged me to the door, although I did little to fight it. Inside, a shocking scene unfolded before me.

There she was, teary-eyed and quivering lips. Her body vibrating with a combination of nerves and excitement as they bolted her into the launch pod. She caught my eyes, and quickly shut her own. Her long stringy head hairs had been braided behind her to keep them in place when the pod shot her away from me.

I looked at her through the glass, and suddenly, that difference of hers was altogether distasteful. An Astral would never abandon its partner, without so much as a simple sharing. An Astral would never lie about its intentions, or keep secrets. An Astral would never leave home to live among ruins and strangers.

And then it was there, loud and clear – this wasn’t her home. That’s what she had been trying to tell me in all of those present yet not moments. This wasn’t her home.

©Shyla Fairfax-Owen

Remember

Zenith squeezed her eyelids together, shutting out the night, and tried to remember what it was like. Home – as arbitrary a word as any other, and yet it carried with it a heavy weight that could not be denied.

“I don’t think I can see it,” she admitted in defeat. They’d been at it for hours with no improvement.

“Sure you can. Breathe from your centre, and connect to the memory. It’s there, Zenith. You know it it.” Dr. Lux’s urging was as gentle as she could manage in her frustration.

Zenith sighed, and tried to release herself of the sensation that she was only a test subject.

Since humankind migrated to this planet some 400 years ago, Optical Memory had been their most cherished sense. It was the ability to see this new world through Earthy eyes; historical perception – a collective memory passed down from generation to generation so that the legacy of their diaspora would always be a part of them. But now, that was all changing.

With each passing generation it seemed Earth fell further away as Zenith’s people thrived, adapting to the host environment to a point of (accidental) pure assimilation. Soon enough, the optical memories began to fade as trees melted and oceans evaporated to reveal rocks – a plethora of colours and shapes humankind had once not even known. This new world was becoming the familiar, the recollection of Earth for comfort becoming less necessary. Less thought of. Zenith, the elders feared, might very well be the last to see it. That is, if she could any more.

It was a few days before she told anyone that she had seen her last cloud. Clouds, she was realizing, was just another false perception; a deception of her genetically human eyes. Slowly but surely, her world was changing before her until she didn’t even recognize it any longer. Strangely though, something about the change felt right. Losing the memories felt less like loss to her than to the elders, who had lost them long ago. Zenith’s inability to hold on for them, it seemed, marked Earth’s final death. She and the few others had been undergoing tests and observation ever since. It was an arduous advent, and she just wanted it to be over.

“I just see the rocks. I’m sorry.” Zenith averted her eyes, hating having to let down not only Dr. Lux, but her entire race.

Dr. Lux forced a smile and shrugged; “Get some sleep. Come back fresh tomorrow.”

That night Zenith couldn’t get a wink of sleep. Something about the way she had left things stuck with her like a deep itch she couldn’t quite reach. “I just see the rocks.” Why had she said it like that? The rocks were the most beautiful, welcoming, visions Zenith had ever known. The rocks were Home.

“Feeling better today, Zenith?”

“No.” Zenith looked at Dr. Lux, determined to assert herself. “Why are we doing this?” she asked firmly.

Dr. Lux looked stunned, her face hardened, then softened again.

“You know why we’re doing this Zenith,” she said in that lulling tone of hers. “You and your peers are the guardians of humanity’s collective memory. It’s so important that we remember.”

“Why?” Zenith asked without skipping a beat, or breaking her glare.

Dr. Lux rose from her chair and swept across the room to the window facing Zenith. She stared out of it for a long, silent, time. Without looking back, she finally spoke. “Because if we don’t remember our mistakes, we’re inclined to make them again. It’s a genetic fault that can only be controlled, not fixed. We can’t let ourselves destroy another great planet. We have to know that Earth was once strong and beautiful, and ours. We have to remember. We just do.”

Zenith shrunk. It’s not that the response was entirely satisfying, but rather that it couldn’t be argued. The history of humanity on Earth had been irreparably stained. It was a part of them, of her. No matter how badly Zenith wanted to move forward, Earth was her ancestry – how could justify not looking back?

“I know it’s over, Zenith.” Dr. Lux broke Zenith from her contemplation. “You can’t see it because you can’t feel it. The whole premise of Optical Memory is that it’s collective and hereditary. Things like that only exist as long as the genetics deem them necessary. We’ve all moved on, against our wills, I suppose.”

Zenith thought Dr. Lux might be whimpering, but she still hadn’t turned to face her.

“Go home, Zenith. We’re done.”

The statement was loaded, and stung. Zenith obliged, lugging her body so heavy with confusion, out the door.

©Shyla Fairfax-Owen

Read more from this universe in Perception

Daddy’s Little Girl (Part 4 – Finale)

“It’s the winter’s moon, I think,” Charlotte posited as they stalked through the castle halls. “He’s simply not right, during it.”
They kept on the move, sneaking past his chambers and then his office. Not knowing where he was made the task of hiding from him all the more difficult. But Charlotte led the way, fearlessly and cautiously. Ellie remembered her as a child, so full of energy, and questions. She had always been such a treasure to spend time with, and always enjoyed spending it with her maid. It was peculiar, when she began calling her Ellie rather than Ms. Eleanor, but it was welcomed. As she grew, their affections did too until they built a true friendship. It was the real reason Ellie stayed, even when things were strange.

Charlotte motioned for Ellie to run to the front door while she hung back standing guard. With the coast clear, Ellie broke for it and jammed her key into the appropriate hole. When the door opened, a slight breeze whistled in and the two of them froze and winced at the sound. When no one seemed to be coming after them, they exited and ran down the grounds path. It was only then that Charlotte felt a pang in her stomach, wishing she had left a note for her mother. But, it was too late and she was betting she would understand. Their feet slapped hard against the cement and their lips blued as they fought against the cold air, but neither slowed them down. However, it wasn’t long before a coach and carriage blocking their way stopped them.

At first, it was difficult to see who the culprit was though the fog. But between the swirls of haze Charlotte eventually caught the eyes of her prince. He was early. Damn it. He was early. His eyes pierced her own, amused by her rambunctious nature and pleased with his own triumph. He reached out and locked a hand around her dainty wrist.

“How nice of you to come out and meet me. We shouldn’t waste time with goodbyes then, shall we?” He laughed. It was the type of laugh that buried itself inside of Charlotte’s chest and made her heart thump with resentment.

Charlotte pulled away but it did no good. His grip just grew tighter, his smile wider.

“Don’t get me wrong Princess, I like a good hunt, but I’m not stupid enough to release an easy catch.”

The moonlight reflected off of his teeth and his sharp incisors sparkled ominously. Before her eyes, they seemed to grow. She tugged harder now, and Ellie wrapped her arms around her waist to pull. But the two women’s efforts failed miserably, and made the Prince’s laughter heartier. Through the blue haze of nighttime fog, Ellie squinted in disbelief. His eyes glowed red now, she was almost sure of it.

“NO!”

In a heartbeat, the man became more beast, growling in disdain. His skin tore open revealing fur black as darkness and as thick as a wolf. His height increased along with his muscles, and he towered over them casting a shadow of pure evil across their faces. He lunged at Ellie, and she let out a mortal cry that must have shattered her windpipes as it carried across the Kingdom. It was only then that the horse reacted, crying out and wrenching back on his hind legs. The coachman, who had been otherwise invisible, was thrown landing akimbo on the ground.

Charlotte watched it all unfold, and it was as if time had slowed down. The sound of the crickets pierced through the muck in her mind, along with the flap of a crow’s wings above her head. She tried to blink away the disaster but it didn’t work. The prince – the monster – was headed for Ellie and the only thing Charlotte’s body could do was counter. And it did. Adrenaline surged through her as she leapt through the air, making direct contact with the beast. She landed flat on top of him and felt a bolt of electricity push through her skin until it burst open. Her teeth sharpened and her maw widened to release a vengeful roar before she tore into the prince’s furry throat. Charlotte could see only in red, and wasn’t sure if it was her anger, her eyes, or the blood she was guzzling. All the same, she kept fighting, kept growling, kept feasting.

It wasn’t until the prince’s monstrous head had been disconnected from his body that Charlotte stopped to take in her surroundings. She rose slowly, half-beast half-woman, and all rage. Ellie was on the ground, unconscious, as was the coachman. The crow she had heard was perched on a low hanging branch within her reach. The fog had begun to dissolve and the moonlight was brighter than ever. Charlotte could only hear the pace of her heart banging against her chest now, and could only feel power inside of her. It was like nothing she had ever known before.

A slow and steady clap began behind her. It was the King. His smirk told Charlotte that he had witnessed enough of the event, and was impressed.

“You’re fiercer than I expected. I underestimated you – a woman and a half-breed. But I suppose you really are daddy’s little girl, after all.”

With that, he turned and headed back to the castle, where Charlotte could see her mother gazing down at her from a window. There was absolutely nothing behind her eyes.

THE END.

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Daddy’s Little Girl (Part 3)

“AHHHHHHH!”

The shriek entered through the open windows and echoed through the castle. The Queen shot upright in bed, assaulted by the fresh morning’s sun. The screaming continued as she jogged through the halls to alert the guards. Of course, they were already making their way towards the sound, so the Queen followed unnoticed. Outside, the cook stood over the garden, looking as pale as death. At the arrival of the concerned crowd, she looked up, and whimpered.

“I came to get tomatoes,” she whispered through quivering lips.

At her feet lied the gardener, or what was left of him. He had been torn to shreds. His blood was splattered across the vegetables and ground into the dirt. His limbs were unattached, his head evidently gnawed upon by something inhuman.

“Wolves Madame, the wolves are back,” the guard stated calmly, and started away.

******

“How could you? He was a perfectly humble man. No trouble at all,” the Queen pleaded uselessly.

The King cut his eyes at her, and sipped his red wine. “He had become trouble,” he finally said.

The Queen rolled her eyes and plopped into her chair. It was nearly dinnertime, but they had asked for privacy tonight. The King would not need to eat, anyways. And the Queen was losing her appetite by the minute.

“He grew, curious,” he continued. “Always out there, at all hours. He’d seen me on my runs. Eyed me when I’d come in.”

“Why would he be out so late?” the Queen asked, genuinely concerned.

“Watching me, I suppose.”

“Well, it would seem he got an eyeful.”

“Yes, it would.”

The King gulped back the rest of his glass’ contents and set it on the table in front of his Queen. She sighed, and refilled it. On the other side of the wall, the maid pulled her ear away from the door and gasped. Shakily, she ran back to her chambers, chased by the memory of the beast.

******

Outside, a thick fog was rolling in. The prince would be sending a carriage for Charlotte at dawn but in such conditions it was sure to be late. She wanted her last evening to be special, but could barely pull herself out of bed after the morning’s events. She had decided to visit her greatest confidante, the maid. Only she was not in her chambers when Charlotte arrived, but hurried in just moments later, grasping for air.

“What’s the matter Ellie?” Charlotte asked.

The maid turned with a start. She had expected her room to be empty.

“Oh! Princess, you frightened me.” She tried to smile and catch her breath but Charlotte was not convinced.

“Do tell me,” she insisted, rising from the bed now.

Still shaken up, Ellie broke into tears and embraced the girl. She wanted to blurt out the horrible truth, that the King was a monster – the beast she had seen so many years ago. But she couldn’t. Instead, she wept for Charlotte, who had to carry this man’s genes.

“Is it my father?” Charlotte whispered in a calm, omniscient, tone.

Ellie looked into her eyes and saw in them beautiful, pure, truth.

“We should get out of here,” Charlotte whispered lower now, never breaking her stare. When the maid did not respond she repeated: “Ellie, please. Let’s get out of here. I don’t want to go with the prince, nor stay here with my father.”

“You know?” Ellie asked.

Charlotte nodded and looked away. “I saw him, just before my… illness. He tore our coachman to bits and pieces. It was horrific. That’s why he – that’s why he got rid of me.”

Ellie fought the dizziness. The coachman? The coachman who had suddenly quit last winter? Of course, that coachman. How many of the resigned groundskeepers and castle employees had really just been – no. The thought was too much. Charlotte was right; they had to leave.

TO BE CONTINUED…

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Daddy’s Little Girl (Part 2)

The next morning, a viewing of Princess Charlotte was the Kingdom’s main event. Princes and Kings came from all across the lands to gaze upon the resting beauty. All were taken aback by her, and brought gifts they soon decided could not possibly be worthy of her. One by one the butler escorted the men in to have their look, leave their gifts, and postulate their plans to win her hand. One by one they were escorted out, deemed undeserving by the King. Some left angry and foul mouthed, spewing threats that sent shivers up the maid’s spine. Others left in tears, desperate for one last chance. The effect Charlotte seemed to have over them was powerful and unexpected, but the King and Queen were not at all surprised. In fact, they seemed bored.

“May I ask what qualities in a mate you are seeking for her?” the maid asked the Queen that evening while she bathed.

“I seek nothing. It is the King who has strong ideals about what she might need.” Squeezing water from a sponge, the Queen took a moment to ponder on this before continuing, “and I think I’d agree. She should be with someone who can handle her potential for voracity.”

The maid wondered what that meant, but decided not to ask. The Queen had been quite herself all day and she saw no reason to disturb that. Instead, she nodded, and prepared the towel.

“The men who visited today were all handsome, but so weak,” The Queen stated as she stepped out of the tub.

The maid wrapped the Queen in the towel and used another to dry her hair. Some did cry, that was true, but others seemed very strong-minded. Preferring not to disagree with her highness, the maid continued to nod.

“You might need to rest some more. You’re awfully quiet today. I hope you didn’t hurt your head when you fell.”

“I didn’t,” the maid smiled. “I’m just a little tired. I might take my sleep earlier tonight. Once you’re settled down.”

“I’m settled,” the Queen insisted. “I’d rather like a night cap by the fire. But otherwise, I’m fine. Please, go on.” She smiled warmly, a familiar sentiment that eased the maid.

In the library, the Queen made herself cozy on a chair by the fire. She brought the strong liquid to her lips and held it there, teasing herself with its delectable scent. She was always very thankful for night caps. The first sip melted over her tongue, tingled her throat, and finally warmed her belly. It was just what she needed after a day like today. Her husband would be far from the grounds by now, assumed secure in his chambers. It was on these nights that she could really unwind.

Being with him was not nearly as treacherous as she had expected it to be when he first took her. There was a brief time in which she even believed she loved him and wanted to stay. Now, she had simply accepted her fate. After Charlotte’s birth some seventeen years ago, she knew there was no turning away. If she had been able to escape before, she might have, but not now. Now, she simply basked in nights like these when he was away, and she could roam freely.

Of course, her favorite place to come to was still the library. Being alone with her books, her mind fluttering from the liquor, reminded her of being a girl again; a naive, impressionable, girl. She was happy to know that her daughter would not be so. Inheriting the beast from her father, dormant as it might be, had made her feisty in a way that appealed to the Queen. If she had learned anything living in this world with the King, it was that it was better to have a little fight in you – better to be the predator than the prey.

The Queen watched as the fire cast dancing shadows upon the wall, and drifted into a dream of her youthful days, dancing at balls, laughing a genuine laugh, smiling a believable smile. She missed those days, no matter how she tried to deny it.

“Your Highness, Your Highness! It’s the Princess, she’s awake!”

The Queen’s eyes shot open, her nasal cavity immediately invaded by the scent of peat from both the dead fire and the spilled whiskey on her dress. “Wh-What..” she started as she tried to focus on her surroundings.

“A Prince,” the maid exclaimed, “A prince came and woke her with a kiss. We cannot find the King.”

At the news the Queen perked up, alert, and dove off of the chair and towards the door – because she had to get to her Princess; had to know she was safe.

In the viewing room, she found Charlotte rightfully confused. She was fighting the Prince off of her, while guards stood as steadfast observers. She had tears in her eyes but was not exactly crying; just very frustrated and confused.

“Darling!” the Queen hollered and the room fell still, all eyes on her. It took a moment for the guards and prince to remember to bow, and as they did so Charlotte leapt off of her bed of captivity, letting the thorns tear at her skin as she rushed to the Queen.

“What’s happening, mother? Please, tell me what’s happening!”

“Shhh.” Pulling her in for a hug the Queen explained, “We discussed this Charlotte, you fell ill and we decided it was best to let you sleep until”

“Until a madman touches me!” Charlotte shot a glare at the prince who huffed at the insult but said nothing.

After a moment of jarring silence, the King strode in. Charlotte was scolded for her rudeness and made to thank the prince for awakening her and curing her ailments. As she knelt to him respectfully, she felt a sudden cold rush through her. She might have been woken, but she knew the nightmare had only just begun.

TO BE CONTINUED…

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Daddy’s Little Girl (Part 1)

Like all fairytale princesses, little Charlotte’s birth was nothing short of a miracle; a beauty in an ugly place of ignorance and prejudice, not as far far away as some might expect. She was darling, silent, and obedient. But as she grew more curious, and more rambunctious, the King became wary. He sought advice from the Kingdom’s well respected doctor, who had a dreary conclusion to draw: Bestowed with cleverness, and a proclivity towards intellect, he was sure hysteria would soon be upon the Princess Charlotte.

So very closely she was watched, that after being found defiantly sneaking about the castle at the tender age of fifteen (thus proving the doctor’s theory), Charlotte was put to rest on a bed of roses that adorned the vicinity with thorns. There, in the deepest of induced sleeps, Charlotte would lie until a suitable prince might come along – one who might be trusted with the task of keeping her safe, and quiet.

“This will do. Remember to give her one dose each morning. We wouldn’t want the effects to ware off at an inopportune time,” the doctor chuckled as he was escorted out of the castle.

“Oh, of course.” The King returned the smile, anxious to be rid of his company.

As the doctor turned to leave, he paused and glanced back at the King. “I must ask, if it’s not an imposition – you said she was poking around, did she happen upon –”

“Dr. Kitz, I told you that in confidence. I expect the matter will not be brought up again.”

The doctor bowed his head apologetically, and stuttered a vow of silence. The King closed the heavy doors in the man’s face and grunted his disapproval. The doctor had been intrusive, but at least he had provided the King with a definite solution to his problem. Charlotte would no longer be an issue.

******

“There’s a storm coming, your highness. Shall I fix the fires?”

The Queen looked up from her daze and met the eyes of her maid, but seemed to look right through them. After a moment the maid backed away, unnerved by her Queen’s empty glare. It had been nearly two decades since she had seen that look in her eyes.

She shuddered to remember the first night it happened. She had only been at the castle for a few weeks. The King and Queen had been newlywed and the Kingdom’s celebratory festivities were just starting to wind down. It was the first quiet night since her arrival, and the maid was looking forward to it. She had been getting along quite well with the Queen, and had even made her giggle once or twice. It had set her completely at ease. That particular night, she had been doing her rounds of the castle, sure to open all of the shutters to let in the bright harvest moonlight. Then, humming a tune through the dissipating darkness, the maid had caught the sight of what she could only describe as a beast through the window. It stood on two sturdy hind legs in the distance; its fur white as snow, eyes red as blood, soul black as night.

Startled, the maid yelped and let her candle tumble to the floor. Despite the yards of space between them, the monster seemed to sense her fear, and turned so that its eyes met hers before it leapt into the shadows of the trees and disappeared. In her catatonia, the maid hardly noticed the candle had set her skirt ablaze. It was only when she turned to run, hyperventilating, that she came face to face with the Queen who had been silently watching the events unfold. The maid yelled out, frightened by both the realization that she was not alone, and by the fact that her highness was standing so very still. Suddenly, the maid could feel the heat sneaking up her legs, and smell her own flesh melting away. She jumped, breaking the Queen’s empty gaze. Snapping out of what seemed to be nothing short of a hypnotic state, the Queen poured her glass of water onto the small but painful flames below them. The maid had not even noticed the water, and wondered if she had been holding it the whole time. She might have asked if she were not overwhelmed by the strangeness of it all. Instead, she watched, mouth gaping and heart pounding, as the Queen wandered off down the hall.

Frightened and confused, the maid had told no one about the monster she had seen. Eventually, the memory became less tangible and more oneiric.

Tonight, the Queen had that same eerie look in her eyes. The recognition sent the memory of that night flooding back to the maid. It washed over her like a wave, so that she was woozy and unsteady on her feet. In her mind’s eye, images of the beast flashed incoherently until she felt her body succumb to the exhaustion. She collapsed to the floor and it was only then that the Queen rose, and came to her side (though with very little urgency). The world blackened and the maid soon awoke in her chambers, tucked into bed with a cool breeze grazing her face. She let her eyes flutter open and saw that the Queen was just leaving, closing the door behind her.

The window was wide open, sheer curtains blowing in the wind. Much like that night so many years ago, moonlight poured in splashing her in the face. Only now, it was not so welcomed. She turned her back to it, squeezed her eyes shut, and said a silent prayer. In the distance, she thought she heard a howl. So, she prayed again.

Down the hall, the princess slept, sound as death.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Read Part 2

Cry Wolf (Patricia Briggs): Book Review

Supernatural; Romance ♠

Author: Patricia Briggs

This book was published in July 2008, the first of the Alpha & Omega series. It holds a 4.11 rating on Goodreads. The series is now a graphic novel series, as well.

Anna never knew werewolves existed, until the night she survived a violent attack… and became one herself. After three years at the bottom of the pack, she’d learned to keep her head down and never, ever trust dominant males. Then Charles Cornick, the enforcer—and son—of the leader of the North American werewolves, came into her life.

A werewolf tale with very little bite, and a pathetic protagonist for whom you may root out of pity, or grow terribly bored with. The latter was my experience.

To preface, I am very fascinated with wolves and pack structure, and my favourite werewolf narrative to date has been the film Ginger Snaps. I also enjoy the Bitten TV series, although I had never read any werewolf fiction before Cry Wolf (unless you count the shorts in Angel Carter’s The Bloody Chamber and Stephanie Meyers’ depiction of the werewolves in Scarlet). I chose Briggs because I had read that she was known for her action-packed stories and strong female lead, Mercy Thompson. Cry Wolf takes place in that same universe but is, as far as I can tell, altogether different. It has an original (if sometimes laughable) take on pack structure, and a sterile take on romance within it.

Anna, the Victim-Hero

The heroine of this book, if you can call her that, is Anna. As the protagonist, the reader should be able to rightfully predict a certain level of character growth and heroism, but I got none of that out of this book. It’s important to note that Anna is a victim, and has been for years. Treated as a submissive wolf within her former pack, one can only imagine the tortures she would have endured. That she survived should be telling of her strength, but the trauma overpowers her.

I appreciate that Briggs took the realistic route here and let Anna be a wreck, but it was very difficult for me to spend 300 pages in the headspace of a victim. Specifically, a victim of male dominance. Surprisingly, the difficulty did not spring from any sort of too real depictions of the abuse, and maybe that was the problem. The details of Anna’s story are grazed over so it’s difficult to really feel them with her. Instead, I just found myself rolling my eyes every time she’d cower or crumble because I wanted her to stop being so pathetic. I couldn’t sympathize because, it seems, the author didn’t really want me to.

She has been saved from her pack by Charles, a werewolf enforcer whose standing basically makes him a prince. A real fairytale, right down to the lack of true connection. In fairytales, the prince sweeps the princess off her feet, away from the evil stepmother, the end. In the same way, Anna and Charles’ connection seems as though it was instant, based on nothing, and surviving on nothing. No spark; just a desire to be mated. And yes, the word “mate” is on every other page along with some form of “you’re mine.” Turns out, Charles chooses Anna as a mate because she is an Omega. In wolf packs, the omegas are the bottom of the food chain acting mainly as servants to the others, bullied to no end. Sometimes, they tire of the abuse and wander off to find new packs where they might challenge an alpha and gain better standing. Not in Briggs’ world. Omegas have special powers to soothe and comfort, are less violent, and more valuable. So Charles didn’t really fall in love with Anna, just her omega scent? Beautiful.

By the end, she finds her true strength. It’s not violence or kicking ass. She’s a soother. And when it comes down to it, and witches need to be fought, she might step up. I wasn’t very impressed with whatever (I won’t say what) is supposed to pass for her growth from victim to hero.

Narrative and Plot Development

I also wasn’t impressed with the story or plot development which is slow in most places and convoluted in others. Briggs’ writing is always grammatically correct, but this can sometimes lead to a boring read. There aren’t any prose that scream creativity or passion or even atmosphere and tone. They’re just words, followed by more words – usually “mate”, “mating”, or “mine”.

The story grabbed me in the first few pages which are told from the perspective of a mysterious man in the cold Montana wilderness, who risks his life to save a young man from being attacked by a beast, becoming one himself. Personally, I liked this idea and wanted to know a lot more about the rogue. A true horror narrative was somewhere in there but it didn’t develop. Instead, most of the pages are dedicated to Charles and Anna’s relationship and how she is trying to overcome her fears. I expected more action than I got – and why were there witches? I’m still not sure if it worked for me.

However, I did like how Briggs swapped character point-of-views often enough that the reader can learn about others. It was done well enough.

Final Thoughts

With a 4.11 rating, I know a lot of people loved this book and will disagree with my criticisms. That’s fine. To each their own. Paranormal romance has never been my thing, and Cry Wolf was simply not the type of werewolf story I was looking for when I picked it up.

I give it 1 spade: ♠* for creativity.

*My rating is based on a five-spade system. The rating is decided based upon how well/uniquely the book: 1) develops story and plot; 2) develops characters; 3) accomplishes or deconstructs the conceits of its genre; 4) raises thought-provoking issues; 5) discusses important issues. This system has been developed according to my own understanding of what makes a book "good." It is therefore subjective.