Ink and Ice (the Saiopia Duology, Book One)

Prologue

Dominique

The flask in his hand was cold and slick with sweat.

The wind was blowing fiercely. Whining in the trees, whipping at his cloak - as if trying to grab the folds of fabric away from him. Between the shivers racking his skin and the village dust burning his eyes, it was almost impossible to focus on his task, particularly when he considered how reluctant he was to perform it.

After all, in another world, he might have been just as unlucky as Peter Ringdulous. In another world, he might have been standing in Peter's shoes, living through the very same nightmare that Peter had to endure.

It seemed unfair. Though in truth, very little about Dominique’s life was fair.
The vial protested when he squeezed it too tightly, but his attention was on Peter Ringdulous's window rather than the small piece of glass in his hand.

His vision was blurry in the wind - but he could still make out the vague shape of Peter's dark head: a mop of thick, messy black hair, which grew past his ears. Dominique smiled to himself. It was a haunted smile.

He didn't want to be here. He didn't want to look for Peter's weakness. The boy annoyed him to no end, but he was harmless. Whatever the King believed, Peter was not the sort of boy who could hurt people intentionally.

People could change, of course. Maybe that rule applied to Peter as well.

But it didn’t have to be that way.

If Peter was left alone, he surely wouldn't have cause to learn the art of hurting people. He seemed to repel the idea at all costs - as is imagining hurting others caused him physical pain.

Dominique couldn't remember the last time he'd given it so much thought. It was engraved in him. He hurt people so he could survive.

The cold wind seeped through his cloak. He frowned; he did not want to be here.

But there was a job to be done.

He unclenched his sweating fingers from the flask in his palm and held it up to his lips, tipping his head back so that the overwarm contents flowed down his throat before he could even taste it. Dirt crunched beneath his feet as he took the first few steps toward Peter's window, wishing he didn't have to loom on the other side of thick glass windows just to get the information that Zosto was looking for.

It had been a long day, and so Dominique expected the night to be long. He stepped through the tall grasses and sharp rocks until he reached the windowsill of the house, and then finally stopped outside of the window. As he crouched amid the pale strands of green and shut his golden eyes, it finally began to take hold: magic.
The potion he drank always made him feel cold. Freezing water seemed to drench him as he waited. It was almost painful. But he was accustomed to that.

Then he heard something.

That was one way to describe it. It was like having another sense, a third ear that picked up on something other than noise. He heard the sound of magic in the air, the sound of power rustling in the breeze. His eyes shut more tightly as he began to pick the noise apart, searching for one specific kind of magic... invisibility.

It took longer than it should have, but he did it. As he'd suspected, the night was going to be a long one. At last, he opened his eyes and held on to the imaginary shield in his mind with an iron grip. Then, without another hesitation, he forced himself to stand and looked into Peter's window.

He had a job to do.

The window was grainy and bluish, the way that cheap enchanted glass looked, or the way that any windowpane looked when it went unwashed. It took Dominique several moments to realize that Peter was awake. The boy's cow brown eyes were open, and he was looking out of the window watchfully, his eyes narrowed like a hawk's. He appeared to be waiting for something, Dominique thought, but what?

After several quiet seconds, he followed Peter's gaze to the window of the other house. The two houses were not very far apart, but they were conspicuously easy to see across: the curtains in both rooms were drawn.

The pieces fit together: Peter was waiting for someone to come to the other window. He and some other kid were planning something.

Dominique almost snorted aloud at the stupidity. Peter may have been a kind child, but he was still only a child, a stupid young boy with stupid boyish ambitions that involved sneaking around at night and pulling pranks.

He took a few unthinking steps toward the other, cleaner, emptier glass window and looked inside, his curiosity sparked. It was unlikely that this lead would help him learn anything about Peter's weaknesses, but he might as well...

The thought trailed off as he looked into the window. This piece of glass was easy to see through, and he could see the contents of the room in sharp relief, everything from the edges of a set of flowery, juvenile curtains to the elegant nightstand in one corner of the room to the cheap pink can of alymihzz on top of it to the... the pretty little girl, sitting on the floor in the middle of the room, playing with a pair of shabby dolls.



Julianna Gabriel

#1949 in Fantasy
#807 in Romantic fantasy
#382 in Dark fantasy

Story about: magic, small town, romance fantasy

Edited: 30.07.2019

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