Hello my lovely readers! As promised, here is a full chapter from the up and coming book two of the Shadows Series! Please note that Consumed by Shadows is still in the process of being written and it is possible for the final, published version of this chapter to differ from what I am sharing today.
Please continue at your own risk, beyond this line are spoilers!
The warmth of the sun felt oppressive on Art’s face, but he could not will his body to move out of its reach. There was something soft and heavy weighing down his limbs and torso and for a few moments the boy attributed it to his inability to move. It was not until he realized how heavy his eyelids were that he began to panic. It felt as if there was a force holding him still and he could not free himself from its grip. He concentrated on feeling anything, down to his fingers and toes, but the numbness that took over him made it impossible. The sensation reminded him of floating on the water close to the village shoreline as he had done when he was a child, but he never once had the accompanying fear then as he did now. It was as if his mind had been separated from his body, not quite there and yet he had no doubt that he was very much awake and alive.
Abandoning the futile task of moving, Art focused his energy on listening to his surroundings for a clue was to where he might be. Wherever he was must have been inside a structure because he could not hear the rustle of leaves or movement of creatures around him. An unnatural stillness blanketed him and left him feeling bereft. The sounds he had learned to grow accustomed to since his foray into Mordin Forest with Arthur were completely absent.
Arthur. He had nearly forgotten the man and he strained to hear his voice or even his pronounced gait. He was disappointed, almost, not to hear the man berating him for sleeping and keeping them from finding the girls. Panic tore through him when he thought of Emeline and Natalya. Regardless if he was hurt and separated from Arthur, he had to find the girls. He channeled all of the strength he had in himself to try and move any part of his body. The numb feeling was not dissipating and Art was frustrated to find that he was not making any progress. He put his everything into doing something when a guttural noise escaped his lips.
“Priestess Remy! Priestess Remy! He’s awake!” A young voice called shrilly and it shocked him enough to stop his efforts.
“Quite now, child.” A melodic voice sounded from far away and it instantly put the boy at ease. “Half the village can hear you with all that ruckus.”
“I’m sorry, Priestess Remy.” The younger voice sounded contrite and much quieter, no longer piercing Art’s eardrums.
“That is quite alright, child.” The woman’s voice was kind, despite her earlier words. He could tell from the volume of her voice that she was closer to him than she had been when she first entered wherever it was that he was. “Now run along. I appreciate you keep watching over our charge, but I can handle it from here. I am sure your mother is looking for you, it’s nearly nighttime.”
“Yes, Priestess Remy.”
Art heard the scuffling of shoes on dirt until they faded and just the soft sound of loose cloth dragging against the ground filled the space around him.
“Alright, my boy, you are okay here. No one means you any harm and I know you are panicked. You cannot move just yet, but I will fix that in just a moment. I want to make sure you do not hurt yourself though, so please remain calm. If you understand me and agree not to act rashly please make another noise.”
The boy mulled over the strange woman’s request. There seemed like little else he could do, but agree with the woman. She had made it clear that she was doing something to him to keep him from being able to move and he doubted that he would be able to escape on his own. He had no other choice, but to accept his fate. Surely if this woman meant him harm he would have already been dead. He groaned again, surprising himself at how loud it sounded.
“Good, I am lifting the binding magic now and you will be able to feel again soon. There may be pain which is why I placed the binding on you, to allow your body to heal faster without causing your body any undue strain. You should be able to move and open your eyes.”
Art wondered at how normal this Priestess Remy spoke about things like magic, binding, and healing. He knew magic existed, of course, he wasn’t an idiot. Since Sylvine was so secluded from Magdus, they were unable to send the children who exhibited magic to the capitol, but with no teachers available, none of them had ever grown into their abilities. They could do no more than simple tricks to the amusement of the nonmagical children. Whatever had been done to him was much more than a trick and just as he had been told, he began to feel again. The pain was not nearly as bad as he had anticipated, but he also hadn’t been sure of what to expect. He had not been hurt when he last remembered being conscious, at least no more than some cuts and bruises. Art thought back to his time searching the forest with Arthur, trying to recall how he had gotten hurt and could not recall a single thing. Despite this, it was obvious by the all-consuming ache in his bones that it had happened all the same. The muscles in faces were finally beginning to relax and he slowly opened his eyes, regretting it immediately when the light that filled the room was enough to blind him.
“Oh dear, how silly of me.” The woman who Art assumed was called Remy said and the light became dull as the sound of heavy drapes being moved into place signaled that it would be okay for him to attempt to open his eyes again. “Much better, now you can see.”
“Where am I?” His voice sounded strange and his throat protested from disuse. He opened his eyes, blinking until he could see his surroundings clearly. “What happened?”
He could see now that he was in a small cabin. From his vantage point in the corner of the open room he could see that every available surface was covered in stuff. He could not even pretend to himself that he knew what most of it was. He recognized a pestle and mortar and glass jars that looked like they held powders and herbs, but there were instruments that he had never seen before mixed with strange plants that must have come from deep within the forest for how odd they looked.
“You are in a small village just outside of the great House Tryali. As to what happened to you, I am not sure. One of the hunters from the village was out looking for wild game and instead they found you. You were passed out in an old, abandoned village, sick with fever. It appeared that you had been sleeping near a poisonous plant.”
Art nearly did not believe what he was hearing. What were the odds that he would fall asleep next to a poisonous plant that would keep him unconscious enough that he did not wake when he was moved? As if this woman could read his mind she laughed and shook her head.
“It was quite the sight to behold, I was told. You are lucky that you were found and brought to me, you are still ill from its effects, that is to be sure, but you would not have survived much longer had you not been discovered.”
“Can you read my mind?” It sounded impossible, but Art had recently learned that there were many impossible things in the world and suddenly he felt very vulnerable.
The pretty laugh Remy gave him lit up her face and suddenly she appeared much younger. Her white-blonde hair fell in soft curls around her round face. Her eyes, which had first looked like a hard, cold grey, now shown until they nearly appeared silver. It was then that he realized she was ageless, but it certainly had to be a trick of the light, or maybe due to his illness.
“No, boy, I cannot read minds. I am a Priestess of healing magic.” She spoke in a matter of fact way that made Art wonder just how normal magic was in this strange land. “You should remain laying down, the toxins from the poison have made you weak and I am afraid that you may still be feeling its effects.”
“How long have I been unconscious for?” Art thought it best to heed the warning and he turned his head only, doing his best to keep still. He did not feel too terrible, but he could tell even from his reclined position that he was lightheaded and he knew if he was standing he would not be upright for very long.
“You have been under my care for over three moon’s turns. Malik, my son, feared that you would not survive. He was among the hunting party that originally found you.”
Art could not believe what he was being told, though he doubted the woman before him had any reason to lie to him. He had lost three months. Three months where he had been separated from his sister and the others, it seemed impossible. “You said I was found alone?”
“Yes.” Remy spoke slow, as if he were a child. “If you would like more details about how you were found, you are best off waiting for Malik to return home. He is out again with another hunting party. They have been staying out longer and traveling farther since finding you. We thought it improbable that you were traveling alone.”
There was no point in pressing the Priestess more, yet Art had to force himself to hold his questions back. She had not been there when he was found. He would have to wait for this son of hers to return if he had any hope of answers. Art felt the tears as they welled in his eyes. Be strong, boy. The harsh voice of Arthur suddenly invaded his mind and the need to hide such a weakness from this strange woman struck him. He did his best to turn his face away from her, meeting resistance instantly. There was a foreign, rough quality to his right cheek that he was sure had not been there before. Panic coursed through him as his hand flew up to rake across his face, ignoring the protest of his limbs, and he soon discovered course, uneven skin beneath his fingers.
“What happened?” He screeched as he used both his hands to check both sides of his face. The left side was smooth as it should be, but the right was dry and ridged.
“You must remain calm, you will only hurt yourself further.” Remy tried to sooth, though the worry in her eyes did little to put Art at ease.
“Tell me what happened.” Art demanded as his eyes flew wildly around the room hoping to find a looking glass or any reflective surface so he could see the damage for himself.
“You fell asleep on poisonous plants, as I mentioned earlier. Most of your body was spared the dangerous levels of irritation and I was able to keep the scaring to a minimum, but your face, it was resting bare on the leaves and it took all of my power to keep you alive, there was nothing more that could be done.”
“Nothing that could be done? What good is magic if you cannot cure people’s maladies?” Art spat, an unfamiliar anger welling within him.
“You must be a child of the East.” Remy chided, rolling her eyes. “Magic is not the answer to all problems. It is not possible for those with the gift of healing to cure all illnesses. Magic or not, no one can bend the will of time and fate. The gift is there to bring as much good into this world as we can. I was more concerned with your health as I assumed that you would be more thankful to be alive than you would be to be dead without scars.”
His anger at her inability to save his vanity seemed petty when faced with the alternative. Before he could apologize a pain shot through his stomach and he began to cough profusely until blood began to mingle with his spit, staining his pillow. Remy was in his line of sight, waving her hand over his head while chanting in a strange language under her breath. His body’s reaction was slow, but after a few minutes he felt his chest loosen until he was able to breath with very little pain. The blood on this lips tasted acrid on his tongue and he was overwhelmed with the urge to be sick again, but Remy’s steady hand on his shoulder was enough to ground him.
“I have done everything that I can, but I don’t know how much more your body can take. I can sooth you with my magic, but I cannot completely rid you of the poison. Unless you wish to be dependent on my magic for the rest of your life, we will have to use another method to cure you.”
“What other method?” Art knew he sounded desperate, but he would not allow pride keep him from a possible cure. He had to find is sister and save Arthur and Natalya if at all possible.
A queer look overcame the Priestess’ face and Art was not sure that he wanted the answer to his question any longer. “What do you know of vampires?”
“Vampires.” Remy said again, as if the word, spoken a second time, would suddenly illicit a different reaction. “They are creatures, if you will, that appear just as humans do but they are immune to all disease that afflict the human race. They rise with the moon and find their sustenance from the blood of others.”
Art reeled back at her words as if they had stung him. “I have seen such creatures before. They are rabid and wild!”
“You may have seen a rogue, as they are called. They do not live by the laws of the Crown, the governing body over the vampire community and thus must hunt for their food, but I assure you most vampires are good, kind folk.”
“Even if they were, how would that help me? Unless they can transfer their immunity I see no reason to be having this discussion.”
“They can, in a way, if they turn you into one of them. The vampires call it the Gift, they would bite your skin and drink blood from your veins and you in turn would do the same to them and then you would become one of them. The person who gave you the Gift would become your Sire.”
Art could not comprehend the words that he was hearing. Surely this Priestess of magic was not suggesting to him that he should allow a rabid creature, near animal, bite him and drink his blood, and that he in turn should return the favor. Even if becoming one of those things could heal him from his sickness, it would not change the fact that he would become an immortal, deadly creature himself and that he would never return to his old life or be able to find his sister again. There seemed to be no option.
“There must be another way.”
Remy leveled him with a long, calculating look, before heavily sighing. “There could be another way, but I am sure you will not be any happier to hear it.”
“Anything would be better than becoming a monster.”
Remy looked like she might argue with his word choice for mere moments, before she shook her head and continued. “There are other healers, much stronger than I am, who might know of a way to cure you of the poison without any adverse effects, but the journey to them is potentially perilous for you in your condition.”
“If that is all, then it is a risk I am willing to take.” Art said. He did his best to sound firm, but even to his own ears he knew that he was not so confident. It was easy to proclaim his intent when he didn’t know of the risks, but he could not be made to go against his own judgement now.
“The largest colony of magics is in the mountain village Delnori, but that is a long and hard journey that would take much longer than you can afford. The only other location with temples that still house High Priests and Priestesses would be the ones found in House Tryali, the vampire stronghold which our village is protected by.”
Art understood why the woman had been hesitant in her response. He no more wished to visit a vampire stronghold than he did to become one of those things, but there wasn’t much for it. He would have to heal and be able to travel on his own again before he could set off to find Arthur so they might together find the girls.
“May I have time to think on it?”
Remy scoffed, turning away from him to bustle about the small hut. “Think all you want, child, but you are not getting any better and my magic is not getting any stronger. You will need to choose quickly. If you wish to take the bite I could have someone here by nightfall. There is a good vampire in the village, one who has sired many of the children within these parts and he would not turn away a sick human. If you wish to set off for House Tryali then we will wait for Malik to return as he was set to journey there next. Winter is upon us and the first snowfall is not far behind. Any exposure to the elements just might prove to weaken you beyond what my magic can handle.”
Art wasn’t sure what to say and the fatigue was setting in. He lay back in the stiff cot, too tired to be bothered by the drying blood and spit on his pillow. It was all far too overwhelming for him to process the thoughts that threatened to drown him. He would have more time to think on his choices, if they could be called that, after he had a moment to rest. He finally drifted to sleep to the sounds of Remy humming a lullaby that seeped into his conscious and haunted his dreams.