King Tirak Vassily
Tirak gazed across the pavilion, watching the clouds as they shifted over the moon. A high cold wind was blowing, wailing dissonantly in the trees. The people of the capital could feel darkness in the air, but most merely dismissed it, chalking it up to the overcast sky or the cold that penetrated bones, despite the time of year. The superstitious would tape roses to their doors to appease ghosts. People had a way of ignoring anything that made them uncomfortable for as long as they could.
Their King, Tirak, could not feel the chills. He could not feel the cold at all. Even he did not know that the cold was coming from him.
He was numb to the world tonight, despite the revelry of the Jubilee. The past that usually haunted him was about to be corrected. Everything that had gone wrong was about to be made right.
This is necessary, he told himself. It is the best way. It is the only way.
The sharp coirie he was clutching tightly began to glow a dark eerie gold - as if it could sense his nervousness. The curved blade was vibrating.
He shook himself from his reverie and brought his magic back under control. The glow of the knife began to fade. He turned and began to move toward the edge of the balcony, which was high in the air. It had been built to provide the most magnificent view of Mosstueetue that anyone would ever see. A view fit for a King.
Tirak gripped the hilt of the coirie in his hand. Even standing in this room made his skin crawl. Sometimes it seemed like there were shadows lurking in every corner. When he wasn’t careful, he saw things in the corners of his vision. People. People who had left his life long ago.
Tirak’s mouth was set in a grim line. He wished she were here. It was never as bad as this when she was. But he did not like relying on others, and anyway, she had a role to play. He resorted to watching the world below him, the people that skittered about like ants.
Even at the late hour, the whole capital city was bustling, and the streets were loud and bright with decoration from the Craveya Jubilee. There were banners that celebrated the alliance with Craveya. People in clothing so vibrant that it shocked the eyes were moving from shop to shop, their pockets bulging with ehteren, buying sweet raspberry cakes and glorial candies. Their servants looked so overloaded with packages and bags that Tirak wondered how easy it might be to tip one of them over.
All of it was his.
Shadows and ice seemed to fill his lungs. Something stepped into his line of vision, a lithe woman with barely any skin on her bones and hair like a sheet of silver and eyes like black holes.
Suddenly he could not breathe. He could not be sure whether he was feeling hate or love or fear or all three at once. It felt like bugs were crawling across his skin. A shadow in his ear leaned in and whispered the woman’s name. Caiwinda.
The woman took a slow, graceful step toward him. The power of that single step moved through the ground under his feet. He stepped back uneasily and whispered, “Ma?”
His lungs were so full of shadows he could barely inhale without choking. The woman, his mother, Caiwinda, cocked her head at him. It was entirely a human gesture, too human for a ghost or a shadow, but not so human that his imagination couldn’t conjure it.
She opened her mouth slowly, which at first made him think she was about to speak. But a very long moment passed, and Caiwinda didn’t even move.
The cold shadows in his lungs fought for dominance. He stood frozen. He could not tell who he was afraid for - himself, or her?
At last, she moved. Her hands flew to her throat. Blistering anger shot through her eyes like a bird diving toward its prey.
Darkness began to spill from her mouth.
“Ma,” he cried. The world was tangled between past and present. He wanted at once to back away and to move toward her. He could do neither.
Caiwinda’s searching eyes found his. He could hear her voice through the flood of cold darkness. “You did this to me.”
He wanted to shake his head. He wanted to scream and shout and deny it. I never meant to, Ma. I will make the ones who have done this to you pay. I will make them pay for everything.
The shadows were engulfing his eyes as well as his lungs. He was breathing shards of ice. Anger raged along with the darkness, and it created such an intense cold that the people of Saiopia would surely feel it. He gripped his dagger in one hand, trying to conjure up even the slightest glow of light, but the darkness around him seemed to grow denser.
A sudden hand gripped his shoulder. A voice pierced his darkness. At first, he thought it was… but no. The voice held a Tridoen accent that did not belong to her.
“Your Majesty,” said the voice. “Your Majesty, an urgent message has come.”