Prologue : A YA fantasy of intriguing fae politics, magic, love and acceptance.
|Moonlight spilled in whispery slivers through the crack in the curtains and into the dark of the living room where she stood listening.
The knock sounded again on the door.
“Mamma!” she whispered frantically, tugging at the tall and frowning woman beside her. “Mamma, aren’t you hearing it? Someone’s knocki-“
“Shhh!” her mother stuck her fingers gently over the eleven year old girl’s lips. “I can hear it too. Don’t say anything now. And Peri,” an edgy note crept into her voice as she bent down to her daughter’s level. “I want your promise on something. Will you promise me?”
Frowning, Peri nodded. Their eyes met, each telling of intense promises and unconditional sacrifice. “Should anything happen here, Peri, you are to go. Forget me, but save yourself. And never mention what you witness tonight to anyone. Do you get me?”
The girl nodded again anxiously. Why was her mother talking like that? “Nothing’s going to happen, Mamma,” she said in what she hoped sounded like confidence – more to assure herself than anything else.
Her mother’s tone grew tense. “We can’t be too sure of that,” she whispered, edging towards the door cautiously. “And Peri,” she added. “Remain hidden. Don’t let anyone see you tonight. Whatever happens.” Even in the dark, Peri could make out the unmistakable dread which clouded her mother’s eyes. A raw ominous fear gnawed slowly at her twisted insides even as she watched her mother wrench open the front door to face the unspoken terrors that the night seemed to cradle in its sinister being.
The nippy air outside rushed in as their midnight visitor stepped into the house without any hesitance. She watched from where she was hiding behind the archway to the living room as her mother cautiously switched on a nightlight casting an opalescent glow on the visitor.
She was a woman around her own mother’s age, only much smaller in size. Yet there was something in her features that lent her youthfulness. Set in stark contrast against her porcelain skin and flowing hair were dark, cold eyes which had irises painted a deep olive. As if the two jewels for pupils weren’t striking enough, her clothes looked stunningly otherworldly. She donned a flowing gown of dusky crimson, shady violet, and all the other colours of midnight, making her look almost ethereal.
The corners of her frothy lips tugged up in an almost-smile as she eyed her hostess. “Hello there, Shea,” she spoke in a breathy tenor which bordered on indifferent.
Her mother’s eyes narrowed in momentary disbelief. “Crepuscula! I should have known!”
Crepuscula’s smile widened into a smirk. “Of course you should have. We were best friends, weren’t we?” she gave a pretentious sigh, almost wistful. “But then again…you know me more than enough to know how much I care for our subjects. Enough to throw away silly friendships and earthly relations. Don’t you?”
Shea snorted. “Subjects? Cree, you realize you have no reign over them, don’t you? Being the second hand hardly gives you the right to call them your subjects!”
This apparently struck a nerve with the visitor. Her face darkened. “You and I both know why I’m here,” she snapped. “Now let’s get this done with. I have no wish to stay around for tea and gossip. I’m here for a reason, as you very well know.” So saying, she arched her back outwards and motioned for something with her hands.
Peri had to clamp her fist into her mouth to prevent herself from screaming in awe and terror at the sight which greeted her eyes. The woman – Crepuscula, or whatever her name was – gleamed brilliantly, radiating a greenish glow around her. Behind her, two silver morsels peeked out from either side of her shoulders and Peri watched, spellbound, as they grew and unfurled into blindingly beautiful wings. Infinitely frail yet so very intricately woven, her wings cast an unearthly radiance onto her as her spindly hands – with fingers, Peri noticed, which were interconnected like silver webs – reached into the folds of her gown. Her smile was triumphant as she retrieved an emerald encrusted sword from the depths of the fabric. Its blade glinted wickedly in the nightlight.
Peri watched the dazzling scene unfold, transfixed and glassy-eyed. She didn’t know whether to be scared of the sword, or awed at the wings and strange aura about them.
But nothing could’ve prepared her for the next sight which met her eyes.
Her mother too arched her back in a similar fashion and to Peri’s utmost astonishment and horror wings unfolded from her own mother’s back as well. They were not very different from Crepuscula’s wings; they were slightly more opaque and pearly but the structure remained distinctly identical. It disturbed Peri to no end that her mother – her own flesh and blood – was apparently hiding secrets.
Far more than secrets, she was hiding her true identity. But if that were the case, exactly what was she? A butterfly? A faerie? Did such things exist? Were faerie tales real after all? Was nothing what it seemed in the world?
And the question that disturbed her the most was why her mother chose to bare her secret with her watching. Unless…Peri shook her head firmly to rid the negative thoughts.
Shea and Crepuscula were equals, nose to nose, eyes boring fiery holes into the other’s face. Except, Shea had no sword in her hand.
Crepuscula sighed airily. “You are such a waste. You don’t need to do this, you know? You can join us. Be my subject. Leave them.”
Shea was unfazed. “I won’t leave them,” she stated adamantly. But then her eyes took on a pleading note. “Cree, can’t we have it both ways? Why should I have to leave them for this to work?”
“Because you’ve become one of them now,” she hissed, jabbing a finger into Shea’s ribs. “You’ve chosen your path, and it’s the wrong one. You know The Words don’t allow such people to live. You can’t live as a mortal knowing our secrets.”
And before Shea could open her mouth in protest or even react, Crepuscula’s hands reached her throat and curled around it, grip stronger than a vice. Peri watched in silent, numb horror as her mother’s face turned ash grey and eyes unseeing. She watched as her mother’s body crumbled onto the floor of her house lifelessly, as Crepuscula strode out into the night without so much as a second glance at the life she had taken.
She wouldn’t scream. She couldn’t. Neither could she ever dream of forgetting that night. She would carry the horrors of the memory to her grave.
But right then, she knew nothing. Her brain had iced up and all she could see was black.
An infinite stretch of wicked black.