THIS IS JUST A TEASER!!!! I'll only be posting the first 5 chapter teasers of this project.
The red wolf moon—the color of the blood in our veins, only brighter.
That’s what Skelly had told him in his youth when he’d asked about the crescent blade in the sky. He’d said it while tipping his wide-brimmed hat and lifting the boy up into those wiry arms. His breath had been a smoky whisper. “That’s your moon, Zev. You’re mother told me that a long time ago.”
“Why papa?” Skelly preferred Zev to use his given name, but it always felt more natural to him this way. Father...
The old man studied him for a moment, that familiar scowl returning to his already weathered eyes. “Because you’re chosen, boy.”
“Chosen for what...?”
Zev sprints down a shadowed alleyway, hoping the guards haven’t spotted him. His breath catches in his throat and he swallows dryly. Ahead of him, the alleyway dead ends. Oh no. His heart sinks.
He can’t go back the way he’d come. They would see him. Anger grinds his teeth. “Stupid.” he berates himself. A plan B would be good now! "Damn it!"
Just as they turn the corner, their eyes almost on him, he is yanked backwards into the shadows and planted safely against the wall of a hidden cove. What just happened? His heart steadies for a moment as slender hands—a woman’s hands—press against his chest, holding him still while a hooded figure peeks around the corner.
He’s about to speak, but she presses an index finger over his lips, signalling him to remain silent. Voices chase the flickering firelight of the torches. Two, three, four? Zev doesn’t realize that he’s now gripping the hilt of his dagger. The pistol would be too loud and draw attention… but how many are on the other side of the wall? Too many for just a blade. And this hooded stranger? He groans inwardly. It had been a mistake to come into the city.
Suddenly, she pushes him out into the alley and he almost falls. Before he can see if the guards have seen him, or turn around and stab her, she jerks at his shoulder and points to a stack of barrels near his left. Without another thought, he quickly ascends them and leaps over the palace wall. She follows close behind and he catches a fleeting glimpse of the guards. They have busied themselves with another stack of barrels facing the opposite direction. She used the distraction to get me over the wall.
He falls unceremoniously on his rear in a bush of thorns. Hissing a string of curses, he jumps to his feet and removes any embedded spines. After a moment longer of fussing, he pauses to take in his new surroundings. The lighting is bizarre and almost ethereal. He also sees that his rescuer has landed gracefully. He would be lying if he said that doesn’t bother him. Beyond her, hundreds of flowers are opened to the moonlight, They hang and weave everywhere, above him, below him, around him. He can hear the sound of running water. The floral smells are almost overpowering. She has led him to the palace garden.
He walks passed her. The garden itself is actually a maze, twisting and turning with endless walls of green. Now what?
Behind him, the stranger has walked up cautiously, her eyes fixated. He stands so tall and his skin is the color of starlight. She reaches up to touch him, her lips falling open. “Shímae äsätnúk… hogä Däúlläsär mädonúk häe jäshímä.”
“What the hell you think you’re doin’?” He jerks away suddenly, making her recoil.
“Däúlläsär.” she repeats after a moment, shock lacing her voice.
“Great.” Zev thows up his hands. “The one that supposedly rescues me can’t even speak the common tongue.”
“I... can speak.” She whispers timidly.
Zev is taken aback. “You can?”
It’s been years since he’s been in a city, but he knows most cultures have slowly done away with the common tongue of his people, the language that all cultures spoke when the Pale Sorcerers ruled. It was also known more properly as the Star Tongue, then. There are still a few rural places where it is spoken, but this empire had reverted back to their own tongue many ages ago. He studies her for a moment. She doesn’t hold her self like a commoner. He sniffs furtively at the air. He can’t smell an odor from her skin, nor the scent of livestock. She bathes regularly and she smells strongly of incense. A few tresses of hair have fallen from inside her hood, long with a healthy sheen. That’s when he catches the glint of something at her feet. Four overlapping gold bands, two on each ankle.
“You’re royalty.” He smirks.
Her mouth drops open in shock. “No.”
The word comes a little too quickly, and he can hear the desperation in her tone. She seems scared, but not just of me. That intuition bothers him. He advances on her and she backs away, unwittingly pinning herself between him and a vertical hedge. He pushes the hood off her head and her hair falls around her, raven black. She dons a crown of the finest gold with a large blue jewel protected by the wings of two long-necked birds. What animal is that? He wonders. The moonlight does something peculiar to her skin, highlighting her amber eyes. They are set high by her elegant cheekbones and defined by the tasteful thickness of her brows. Her skin is supple and rich olive, not yet spent by the desert winds. She is young, not yet a woman, but no longer a child.
He is taken aback yet again. What is such a young girl doing out here at night like this, royal nonetheless?
“Foolish,” Zev says aloud. “What do you think you’re doing out here, girl?”
“I saved your life, Starchild!” she hisses. “You have no right to question me.”
“No right? Pompous little brat.” He scoffs. “You saved me? And I’m supposed to believe your kind?”
Anger flickers in her eyes, but she quickly looks away, fear evident in the tremble of her lips. “I did.”
“No one just saves someone like me from the goodness of their heart.” Zev cocks an eyebrow. “What’s the catch?”
She frowns. “What is ‘catch’?”
He rolls his eyes. “What do you want from me?”
“I don’t…” She seems to think for a moment. Then, her expression hardens. “You still need to escape from here. My father will have you killed.” She glares at him, her eyes revealing something new about her he hadn’t expected. “I will get you out of here safely if you will take me with you.”
“All guards have been alerted of you by now. You can’t get passed them without my help.” She holds herself proudly.
She’s suddenly taken control of the situation and she knows it, he realizes. She knows something I don't. Why does she want me to take her away? He frowns. “Why do you want to run?”
The desperation leaks into her voice again. “Botwä jäshím! Let me help you and take me with you. I will trust you with my safety later!”
He could hear the sound of armor and the pounding of running feet. Why is she being so careless? Trusting someone like me? Not only that, it appears that she doesn't want to be found by the guards almost as much as me. The mystery behind it unsettles him, but he wastes no time. If they catch him, they would most definitely kill him. “Where?”
She grabs his hand without answering and jerks him further into the labyrinth. “Stay low!” she whispers sharply.