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Friday, June 29, 2012

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Prologue

Here's part one of the prologue....

Nothing could save her now.

The artificial lights swirled like Earthen stars and even the silverware twinkled. The ceiling was draped with a golden tapestry that contained moving images: fluid horses, ancient soldiers called knights, brutal battle scenes. There was even an engraved rose that served as a clock. There was nothing on her table but a flower centerpiece and the empty chair opposite hers seemed to grin sinisterly. The room was full of bright happy conversation but her hands were cold.

Zoe’s trembling hand stroked her hair, hoping no one had seen it turn black. Up above the thorned stem ticked closer to ten. Nothing to do but wait.

Music played, announcing the new time. She squeezed her eyes shut as all the guests applauded the newcomer. Please don’t come here, please don’t come here. Footsteps rang loudly on the marble floor. “Enjoying yourself, Zoe?”

Her heart nearly exploded with fear. Her eyes snapped open.

She took in a man wearing a blue suit with a white tie and a smile. Strange, she’d never seen how handsome he was before now. Very handsome.

He laughed when he witnessed Zoe’s hair changing color, this time to ginger because of her anger. “You’re here to enjoy the party,. There’s no point in getting a temper.” He bent closer and whispered so no one else could here. “Tonight you will do whatever I ask of you. And if you don’t…” He traced Zoe’s throat with one finger while swinging his arm around her shoulders, like a couple might, but she knew he was concealing her so no one could see his hand tightening around her neck. Strangling her.

Her knees kicked him under the table, as she got ready to do whatever it took to get the man off her. At around the same instant the pressure around her throat lessened.

“Do you understand?”

Zoe nodded, too frightened to speak.

His voice returned to a contented purr. “Now, how should we introduce you as? My ora?”

Zoe’s hair turned fiery again. Ora meant wife in Kutorian.

“Ahh.. maybe more like female friend?” He winked at her.

She was ready to strangle him. This traitor situated right there, who had ruined part of her life and all of her future. This disgusting excuse for a person.

“If you don’t stop…” Zoe began.

“You’ll poison my drinks with your wine. And maybe use this rose as a weapon?” he nodded towards the table centerpiece. “But probably not. I daresay you enjoy them too much. Did you receive mine securely?”

“It was… you?” The word got stuck in the girl’s throat.

“Yes. Marvelous arrangement, wasn’t it?”

Zoe hated everything about him, from his fancy clothes to his voice. She stood up. The room quieted, staring at her in shock. The silence rang in her ears.

“I proposed to her and she said no,” he comfortably explained to the guests. “Girls these days… Always wanting more than what’s best for them.”

The hush dissolved into chuckles and the carefree atmosphere settled once more.

Zoe sat down. “Why did you say that?” she spat.

He shrugged his shoulders. “What else was I supposed to say? That my own guest was getting out of control?”

Guest. That word had venom to it. His guest. His prisoner.

Kendra's exceptionally round face flooded with excitement as she spotted the two of them in the back. Bringing her bulk squeezed into a tight magenta dress the interviewer strode eagerly to their table, her double chin jiggling on the way.

“Shut up and go with everything I say,” he hissed in her ear.

Faces began to look up at them again, confused. No reporter was allowed to approach a guest in the middle of a ceremony. Paparazzi were restricted. “Hello, I am going to be giving live coverage to Rana through their Viewers. Is there anything you would like to say before we begin?”

He stared hard at the reporter before saying sweetly, “You look very beautiful tonight.” She glowed while Zoe grimaced. Despite being overweight, there was something repulsive about her face and body.

He then added, “Why are you so fat? I thought the Nutrition Department had restrictions on what anyone could eat.”

She gave a gasp like wind being sucked out of her windpipe and turned away with a start. Zoe stared after her. He was crueler than she could have thought.



Slowly all the lights, including the candles dimmed and a darkness swept over the gallery room. An announcer at the front took up a microphone and the sound traveled through the audience. “Welcome to the Committee Gala, and I hope you are having a splendid time tonight.” As his eyes traveled around all the glass tables, Translators abruptly streamed the events to the rest of the nation, changing the announcer’s words from Anglic to Kutorian.

“We are here on the behalf of a special guest. I think you all know who he is.” Clapping of approval came swiftly. “But I will not take away any of your time. I grant you the microphone, Deputy of all of Rana!”

A real thunder roll came as it became obvious he was stepping from my table to make a speech. This was what everyone had been waiting for. He took the microphone with a flourish and began speaking fluently in Kutorian.

I had taken Kutorian as part of my foreign language education in school once, so I understood a few of the words: Welcome, women, men, Kutora, great, etc. so I knew he was going through the salutary. Soon, however, the man’s face grew serious. I strained to listen to a Translator who was streaming the speech in Anglic.

“Yes, we all know of the unfortunate tidings. But is it true?” At this point he paused dramatically before going on, “I want to confirm the rumors. Yes, Alcor is dead.”

A collective gasp came from the guests. Someone even began shouting, “How can we be safe? It’s another virus! We’re all going to die!”

At the podium the deputy motioned with his hand for silence. “And yes, because of the circulation of power, I am now leader of Rana.” Another roar of screams washed back and forth but this time with applause. He was clearly popular. His ascension of leadership was approved by the public.

The man smiled. This was what he had been waiting for. “Do not fear change. I speak to both the nations Kutora and Rana. Together we will be greater than we ever were on Earth. I simply need your support.”

Shrieks pierced the air, excited, nervous, but most of all grateful. His works were known. He had given Kutora technology, something that had been forbidden for centuries. It was a matter of time before they were richer than all the Seven Nations.

The man stepped down, giving a few waves and walked back to Zoe’s tables. People tried to get through to him but the Security blocked them. In the hubbub of noise their conversation was veiled.

“What happened to Alcor? He wasn’t sick. He was perfectly fine.” That whisper of fear came from Zoe. “Is it true? There’s another virus outbreak?”

The man smiled. “I assure you, there’s nothing to worry about. There’s no virus. Alcor simply, let me just say, reached his end.” He laughed, but it hinted at something much evil.

“The Viewers said they found him dead in his bed. The Inspectors found traces of magic. They said maybe there was foul play.”

He narrowed his eyes. “You shouldn’t listen to everything the Reporters say. Especially when they’re as fat as Kendra. But yes, that part is correct.”

It was there. The answer was there, but out of reach. “You’re saying he was… murdered?”

“Of course I’m saying that. Do you know by whom?” He grinned again.

You?” The world was crashing around her. The ceiling tapestry was going to fall and suffocate her.

“Yes. Me”

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