I posted on Facebook this past week that I hit some major milestones: passing 200 likes, receiving an honorable mention in a national writing contest, and finishing edits on my Cadaerian fairy tale! To celebrate, I’m going to share with you a snippet of this new story. It’s been quite a while since I’ve been able to show you anything that I’ve written, and I’m pleased to be able to give you a taste of what I’ve been working on. (Teaser: if you want to read the rest, just wait until around Christmas!)
As background, this 10,000 word fairy tale is set in the world of Cadaeren, which is also the world of The Quest of the Unaligned. Like fairy tales in our world, this story didn’t “actually happen.” Rather, it’s a tale that Laeshana and Naruahn might have heard as children.
You might also find as you read that this story has certain similarities to fairy tales told in our world. In fact, it may appear very similar to one particular story that you’re familiar with, but with several key differences that you’ll also discover. Which one, with what differences? That you’ll have to determine for yourself…
Noble Memories: A Fairy Tale of Cadaeren
Once upon a time, when the Age of Balance was still newly begun, a certain lord and lady of Cadaeren announced the birth of their firstborn child. The peasants of their holding rejoiced, for Lord and Lady Eshmait were kind and good and generous to all. But the people’s joy soon turned to grief, for in the very hour that Eshmait the younger was born, his beloved mother died. With her last breath, however, Lady Eshmait whispered a blessing upon her son: that kindness and love would dwell in his heart and flow thenceforth to all he met.
As Eshmait grew, the people saw that his mother’s blessing was indeed fulfilled, and in gratitude and love they called him the White Prince. Only one question remained in their minds as Eshmait reached his twenty-first year: what worthy woman would he find to take as his bride?
The answer was not what anyone expected, least of all Eshmait himself…
Dead leaves crunched underfoot as Eshmait and Druahkis materialized in a tiny clearing. All around them, gnarled trees with long, bare, black branches shivered in a chill wind, but the air inside the clearing was stiflingly still. Eshmait took a deep breath, trying to keep himself calm despite the magical tingle in the air. “This doesn’t look like Lord Veshamail’s castle, Druahkis.”
The gray-robed man made no reply except to begin moving his hands in a complex pattern through the air.
“Druahkis, is this a ruahk-trap?”
Now the man spoke, his tone a shade too nonchalant. “Worry not, my lord. This trap is mine. It won’t harm you as long as I’m here.”
“That wasn’t what I asked.” Tucking his thumbs in his sapphire sash, Eshmait turned to face his guide. “Ruahk-traps are barbaric. You must know my father outlawed their use in our lands years ago.”
Druahkis didn’t answer.
Foreboding tingling more strongly than the presence of magic on his skin, Eshmait turned to face the other man. Focusing his will, he caught and held Druahkis’s eyes. “Good ruahk, speak, I beg you! Why did you bring me here?”
Druahkis’s weathered hands stopped in mid-air. He opened and closed his mouth several times, guilt speaking in his face as loud as a shout. A cold sweat broke out on Eshmait’s forehead, but he didn’t move.
“Who told you to bring me here?” Eshmait continued, his voice low, but carrying a tidal force of shamai power that would compel its hearer to tell the truth.
“Lady Kataretza,” the older man whispered. “Forgive me, my lord. She commanded obedience or…”
“My stepmother?” The answer hit Eshmait in the stomach like a rock.
“I’m sorry, my lord,” the ruahk said, his voice trembling. “I had no choice.”
Clenching his fists, Eshmait turned away. Druahkis let out a long breath as the pressure of the young man’s truth-finding gaze lifted. “My wife is dead these past three years,” he pleaded. “My daughter is all I have left. If I let you leave this place, Lady Kataretza swears my little Elli won’t live out the night. I’m so sorry, my lord…You must understand.”
Eshmait understood. He understood all too well. The long nights of weeping by his father’s bier, the year of black robes instead of white, the heavy weight that sat in his chest where his heart should be – the memories were vivid in his mind. He would have done anything to save his father’s life. How could he fault this man for seeking to save his child?
And yet, he didn’t want to die. Eshmait took a deep, shaky breath. The black trees around him seemed to close in, reaching toward him with their branches, greedy for blood. He didn’t want to die, but there was no escape. That was the beauty and the horror of ruahk-traps. Tiny pockets of existence surrounded by ropes of magic, ruahk-traps were impossible to find by anyone who couldn’t transport themselves instantly across space, and once entered, deadly if one didn’t know the counter-spell. The only person who could leave this place was Druahkis, and anyone that he chose to take with him.
And so the only choice left to Eshmait was how to face his inevitable demise. Fear froze his veins as the icy truth sank in, tempting him to beg, threaten, cajole, or anything else that might save his life. Gritting his teeth, Eshmait shoved the treacherous thoughts away. He would die honorably, as a son of the house of Eshmait ought.
Deliberately, he turned back toward Druahkis. “I am sorry for your pain,” he said quietly, “and for the position in which my stepmother has placed you. The Balance will judge her for her crimes.” He swallowed hard, but his gaze was steady. “Do what you must.”
To be continued…
Your turn! What do you think will happen next? What story is this inspired by? Post in the comments below with your guesses!