Warning! Graphic Content.
Heat. My skin feels like it’s burning. My raven black hair stuck to my neck from the sweat. Opening my eyes, I drew in a deep breath and the air burned my lungs, causing me to have a coughing fit. I cover my nose and mouth with my thin t-shirt and rapidly blink, trying to make sense of what is happening. My eyes burn, and with all the smoke in the room I can’t see. “Mom!” I yelled, beginning to panic. My panic grows deeper when I get no answer. “Mom!” I scream.
I jump up and start moving towards the door to my room, hot smoke filling my lungs as I take a shallow breath, trying to avoid the coughing that comes with a deeper breath. “Mom! The house is on fire, can you hear me?” I yelled out into the smoky darkness. Again, I got no answer. She wouldn’t have left me alone here, I tell myself. Suddenly, I heard a low, threatening growl coming from the direction of my mom’s room. It makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up.
I froze, unable to do anything but stare desperately in that direction, willing the smoke to lift so I could see who or what made that terrifying noise. With all the smoke, I could just barely make out a large dark shape, moving around the living room, making its way towards me. The shape is far too big to be my mother. Fight or flight kicks in and just when I was about to bolt in the opposite direction towards my window, I hear a garbled grunt, and realize the dark shape has something slung over its shoulder.
My heart drops to my stomach when I realize it’s my mother’s voice trying to tell me something. “-un!” She grunts, slurring and incoherent. I take a step forward when I see the dark shape stop and stand straighter.
Now that it’s closer, I can make out the head of a Lycan just as he locks eyes with me. That same hair-raising growl sends a shiver down my spine. With what must be her last reserve of energy, I hear my mom scream “RUN!” before the creature holding her reaches over its shoulder and tears her throat out. I heard a scream that must have been my own as I turned on my heels and ran for my window. I could hear heavy footsteps behind me fueling my fear. I didn’t stop to open the window and instead threw my arm across my face and used my elbow to break the glass. I crashed down on broken glass in the side yard and took off running through the woods to the main road.
It’s unlikely that there will be anyone out this time of night. Or was it morning? I didn’t want to risk slowing down to look up to check the moon’s position in the sky. I heard an angry howl that sounded like the Lycan couldn’t fit through the window I just crashed out of. Hopefully, that slows him down enough for me to make it to the river on the other side of the main road. He’ll lose my scent there and I’ll have a chance at getting away. The further I ran, the closer I could hear his growls. I take several more running steps before I realize the forest is eerily quiet. I realize I can’t hear his growls anymore. I don’t stop running, however, and instead stupidly turn my head to look behind me and run into something hard. I hastily looked up, thinking I ran into a tree and was startled by the face of a Lycan.
The same Lycan that killed my mother and chased me into these woods. I turned to scramble and came face to face with my mother’s pale limp body. Her throat torn open, her mouth hanging open in a silent, never-ending scream. I stifle my own scream and try to scramble backwards away from the sight when I am painfully ripped upwards by my hair. My feet are barely touching the ground as the Lycan pulls my face to his. His voice was gravely and distorted as he spoke, “You thought you could escape me?” I squirmed under his grip on my hair, trying desperately to find a way to get away.
I did not want to die here, the way my mother did. “Let me go!” I yelled as I hit his chest in vain. “What do you want with me!?” I screamed. His lips pulled back over his enormous teeth in a toothy grin. “I didn’t at first. We didn’t even know Melory had a child. Originally, we wanted her alive to use her blood, but, since a witch’s bloodline gets stronger every generation that has a girl, I changed my mind and decided you would make the better target” he growled. His expression changes and his head suddenly whips to the side. I followed his gaze and gasped.
My mother was now standing pointing an accusing finger in our direction. She took a few steps forward and her head tilts to the side in my direction and I realize she wasn’t pointing at the Lycan but at me. “You” she wheezes out, the folds of torn flesh that was once her neck vibrated from the air escaping. “Mom?” I ask, bewildered. “This is all your fault! You are the reason I’m dead!” Her voice ragged and full of hate. “What do you mean?” I pleaded.
This can’t be happening. She’s dead, but she’s yelling at me, accusing me. I didn’t kill her, the Lycan did. “Why would you say that? The Lycan killed you.” I choked on the tears spilling onto my cheeks. “This is all your fault!” She ragged as she lunged at me. Her nails dig into my throat, and I struggle and flail under her dead weight. “Mom!” I choke out. “Mom please! You’re chocking me!” Panic sets in as my vision starts to fade to black.
A bright light flashes, blinding me, and I can faintly hear my name being called. “Emmeline. Emmeline, you need to wake up.” I hear distantly as the light becomes brighter. “Emmeline!” I startle awake to Tyra, the housekeeper, gently shaking my shoulder. “You were having another nightmare dear” she says softly.
I blink, confused for a moment before recognition sets in and I realize it was all a nightmare. This isn’t the first time Tyra has saved me from the torment of my past. Though, the reoccurring nightmare of the night my mother died doesn’t play out how it did the night she was murdered, and our home was burned to the ground. “Are you okay? Do you need me to have one of the servants bring you some water?” Tyra asks, concerned.
She has been something of a mother figure to me over the years since I came to live in the King’s palace, despite the fact that she is only about 30 years old, 5 years older than I am. I have my own wing, just like the King has his own and his son, Prince William, has his own. There are separate wings for guests as well. I have five servants, though I like doing most things myself. Tyra is my personal housekeeper, but she’s so much more than that to me.
She’s always been there for me, and she has always treated me like her daughter, which has brought me great comfort over the years. “Yes, I’m fine now.” I said, squeezing her hand. “Are you sure? You look quite pale. Maybe you should pay a visit to that medicinal shop in town. I bet Augustus would be more than happy to go with you.” She said warmly. Augustus is my best friend. I met him not long after I was taken in by the king of the humans, King Linus. Augustus’ family has very important ties with the Ruler of the South, and King Linus is hoping to strengthen ties with the South by wedding the prince, Prince Jaekob and myself.
I can’t imagine a romantically loveless marriage, but it’s the least I could do after King Linus so graciously took me in. He was an old friend of my mother and always said it was the least he could do after all that she had done for him in the past. He treats me like his daughter and, as such, I have a responsibility to help strengthen the family ties. I met Prince Jaekob on a couple of occasions at royal functions. He seems nice. He’s quiet, generically handsome with light brown hair and dark brown eyes. It could be worse.
The prince, Linus II, had already been paired off with the daughter of an affluent family from the East. She isn’t so lucky. The prince can be very cruel. He’s never been that way with me, but I have seen his cruel ways at social gatherings. I once saw him flirt with a girl for weeks. Once she confessed she had fallen in love with him, he coldly asked her, “Why? Do you really think someone of your status could ever hope to catch someone like me?” It broke her heart and she ended up throwing herself off a bridge. The note she left behind said it was from the cruelness of the Prince. The King had it swept under the rug, but the Prince had been growing more and more cruel. I have even been hearing rumors that he forces himself on his bride-to-be simply to see her terror.
“Yeah, hopefully they have something to stop dreams altogether.” I say wishfully. Tyra nods and goes about straightening up the room. “You don’t have to do that. I am capable of cleaning up the room myself.” Tyra doesn’t stop what she’s doing, she just smiles and says, “I have seen your handiwork, I’m better off doing it myself.” I laugh, she’s not wrong. She has a way of making tidying up a space look effortless. She’s told me time and again that she enjoys tidying up a space and freshening it up. She once told me that it was soothing to her, for everything to have its place. She’s in the right profession if that’s the case.
I pulled out my phone and sent a quick text to Augustus asking about going with me to the medicinal shop. I had just locked my phone and was about to set it down when it started to ring in my hand. “Hello?” I answered. “Of course! Do you want me to come pick you up?” Augustus asks on the other end. “Yeah, I’m going to take a quick shower, head over in about an hour”, I say before we hang up the phone.
A knock came at the door. “Come in!” I called in response. “Excuse me. Pardon the interruption Miss.” An older gentleman in a light grey suit leaned his salt and pepper head in the room. “Ah, Jimmy! How are you today?” I asked with a smile on my face. “I am well Miss. I hope you are as well” he said with a curt nod. “I am, what brings you here at this hour?” I asked. “I hope I’m not disturbing you, but the King is requesting a presence with you.” I playfully roll my eyes. “It couldn’t possibly be a request; he knows I would never refuse him. Tell him I will be there to see him in his office as soon as I am presentable.” Jimmy bowed his head, “Of course Miss.”
I turned to Tyra, who was already looking at me with questioning eyes. “I suppose it’s dealing with last minute travel arrangements for tomorrow. I have a few last details to get together before we travel down south.” I smiled at Tyra, “I’m so glad you’re coming with me. I am really nervous, I’ve never been there and I don’t really know anyone there.” I confided in her. Tyra smiles at me, “I will always be there when you need me. Not to worry. Now run along and get a shower so you don’t keep the king waiting. I’ll set something out for you to wear” she said as she finished making the bed and straightening the pillows. “Thanks Tyra. I don’t know what I would do without you”, I called over my shoulder as I walked into the bathroom and closed the door behind me.