Friday, January 2, 2009

Her Villianess, Cerine (Friday Fiction)

This week's Friday Fiction is hosted by Joanne at her blog, An Open Book. Click here to read and share more great stories.

Author's note: This is part of a larger work, currently still inside my head, but I couldn't resist sharing this villianess that has been begging me to share her story. There is still a lot more to this than I can fit in one short piece, but enjoy!

She sat there, silently, unmoving as the red fires raged below. It was hard to tell at first, to which side she may have belonged, for of all the war taking place below, she sat at the highest window…and cried.

Her tears seemed to be red, reflecting the fires and screams below. Her hair was a deep, dark red as well, flowing from her shoulders to fall at her waist. To a stranger, who knew nothing of what was taking place, they might have thought she was a prisoner. One perhaps, who had been tortured or forced to watch the bloodshed taking place outside her window.

A droll bell began to chime, as if the hour at hand had changed. A strange sort of silence began to fall. It swept quickly over the battlefields and then to the tower, where she suddenly stood up and yanked the window shutters closed.

Heavy winds rattled the blinds, shaking the wooden slats. She shivered, her fingers holding the latch, as if reassuring herself that it was secure. The winds continued to blow and then slowed as she drew in a large breath and slowly released it.

There seemed to be no light in her eyes, but a tiny smile crept across her face in the afternoon glow as the wind ceased to blow entirely. Her attention shifted entirely from the window to her attire in the following seconds as she fingered the fabric of the rich, burgundy gown. She shuffled her feet forward to see the matching slippers and then frowned.

Her head rose with a sigh as she snapped her fingers, twice.

A small panel in the corner of the wall slid upwards and a young girl skittered through, bobbing a wobbly curtsy. “Milady Cerine?” She stuttered the words out.

Cerine tilted her head to the side, her smile becoming more pronounced. “You needn’t be so scared, Lilia.” She murmured, gliding forward to rest a hand on the girl’s shoulder. “I only wanted to ask you if you could fetch my black slippers from my bedroom. The black and gold ones, like these.” Cerine displayed a burgundy and gold slippered foot. “Would you be a dear and do that for me?”

Lilia bobbed her head quickly.

“Good girl.” Cerine shooed her away with one hand. “Go then. I might not be in this room when you return, but find me. I don’t like these shoes. They match. Off you go. Scat!”

Lilia nodded again, and darted away, fright reflecting in her young face as she ducked through the panel in the wall.

Cerine sighed. “It is going to be one of those kind of days, isn’t it?” She asked the empty room, then shook her head. “I ought to be making the best of it, then, shouldn’t I?”

But of course, no one answered her questions as she glided from the room and swept down the massive stone staircase. Her feet made light, soft sounds as she took the steps two at a time. No easy feat for an ordinary woman, but for Cerine, her legs were long and her movements were quick, yet fluid.

She swirled to a stop at the foot of the stairs, cheeks flushed, the earlier despair fading from her pretty features. She had arrived at one of the grand ballrooms. This was the blue room, decorated in classic squares of blue and white everywhere. “Am I hungry?” She asked aloud.

A girlish giggle escaped. “I think I am.” She announced with a twirl across the ballroom floor. She began to hum, twirling and swaying to the music only she could remember as her eyes slid closed.

Her arms raised up into the air to accompany her invisible dancer. There was a soft breath of wind as two cool hands slipped into hers.

Cerine smiled, dancing for a few more minutes before she twirled into the arms of her apprentice. “Regmar.” She acknowledged, twirling away.

“Mistress.” He murmured, watching her circle around him. “I bring news…we have new captives, I thought you might be interested in.”

“New ones? You thought?” Cerine paused in mid-twirl, her red cat-eyes drilled into him.

“Yes.” Regmar dropped to one knee. “The ambush on the enemy camps south of Barrwest was successful. We captured their Sentinel Commander, Greenwick and Right-Hand Captain, Hardin, as well as their reigning Lady Warrior, lady Salyne herself.”

“All three of them?” Amazement filtered through her voice as she laughed softly. “How fortunate for us. Most fortunate.” Her earlier dreaminess faded away to the calculated and steady voice of the Mistress of Crypt and only holder of the Red Energies. “Bring them to the throne room…I will receive them within the hour.”

“Yes, Milady.” Regmar rose and offered a bow. He exited the room with Cerine’s gaze trailing after him.

“Yes, of course.” She murmured, turning on her heel, she walked to the corner of the wall. Her fingers brushed the spiral stone decorations on the side of the shelf and the wall creaked open.
She started into the opening, then froze and backed out. With a grimace she surveyed her elaborate ball gown, then raised one hand and traced a circular motion in the air above her head. A shower of red sparkles showered down over her and the dress melted away, her new outfit was the classic expectation of every prisoner within her grasp.

Black armor covered her from head to toe, a dark red tint visible in the light. One gauntleted hand reached upwards and touched a spot near her neck, the helmet and headgear retracted. Cerine flexed her arms and waited while the chain mail dissolved from around her arms, giving her more ease of movement. She rolled her neck forward and then shrugged her shoulders upwards.

A soft sparkling of pink tinkled through the air, with the sound of bells chiming once more. A thick gold chain materialized around her neck, dangling a fiery red pendant in the center of her chest.

This time, she smiled and ducked through the opening once more. The wall slid shut behind her as she sprinted up the narrow stairwell and then paused in front of one walkway to her left.

She chewed her lip for a moment, then darted to her left and inched along the ledge until she reached another split pathway. She moved to a corner and lifted a scrap of fabric, peering through the peephole and into her own bedroom. With a satisfied nod, she pushed gently on the panel and stepped into her room.

Peace instantly washed over her and she moved to sit at the vanity table. Her fingers quickly applied the usual cosmetics. Once finished with that, she moved to the dresser drawers and opened the top drawer.

Her fingers met empty air when she groped inside for the sword usually kept there. She pressed her lips together, then turned around and tamped down her temper when the bedroom door opened.

“Antioch.” She spoke stiffly.

The head snapped upwards at once, and surprise showed clearly across the man’s face as he took in her attire, her expression and then stared down at the sword in his hands. “You promised you would not touch any instrument of-”

“I’m not going to scare anyone.” She snapped, sarcastic, one hand extended. “I actually have a conference to attend and I was hoping to do so in the proper formal attire.”

His shoulders hunched forward. “Promise?”

Cerine rolled her eyes. “Yes. I promise. Happy?”

His face twitched and then he looked down as he extended the weapon.

“Thank you.” She scowled, snatching it from his fingers and fastening it at the usual spot around her waist. She paused in front of the mirror to fuss with a few more strands of her hair, then took a leather cord from the jewelry box in the corner and twisted her hair into a smooth, sleek knot. “Lilia might venture in here in a bit.” She spoke, tying the cord tightly. “Tell her I’ve changed my mind about the slippers.” She rushed from the vanity to the actual door this time.

She caught hold of the red cape hanging on the hook behind and tugged it loose, fastening one side to her shoulder clasp. She reached for the other, but Antioch was already finishing it.

There was a strange, indescribable look in his eyes, but he only moved silently away from her to hold the door open.

She hesitated, for a moment, then swept through the door and down the stairs. Two at a time, as usual.

It didn’t take very long to find the throne room and to settle into the ornately carved stone chair. She sat there, for awhile and eventually her regal pose melted away to where she finally lounged, bored, waiting for Regmar to bring her entertainment.

When he finally did arrive, the three in question were in chains, shuffling slowly in front of him. Emotions traveled across their fairly young faces, fear was the least common, defiance was the most prominent. The soldiers beside each of them knelt and yanked their prisoners down with them as well.

Cerine yawned. “Thank you, Regmar. Please leave us. And clear the halls around as well.”

A brief look of surprise skittered across his face. “All of them, Mistress?” He asked, tentative, puzzled.

She tilted her head slightly, then shooed him away with the usual wave. His confusion was quickly masked as he offered another bow and beckoned to the soldiers , before they all slipped away through the same door as they had arrived.

Silence reigned for a long moment, then she closed her eyes. “Please don’t kneel like that…it makes me think you’re very short.” She turned her head to the side, studying the coat of arms that adorned the wall. “I’m very sorry about the ambush, but I had to speak to you.”

“Sorry?” Commander Greenwick spat the word out, jerking to his feet.

Cerine turned to look at him. “Yes.” She said simply. “Sorry. I only needed to ask a favor of you, you see.”

“A favor?” The bitterness in Captain Hardin’s voice made no effort to disguise itself. “Then why don’t you kill us right now?”

“Hardin, shush!” Lady Salyne hissed through her teeth as Greenwick helped her to her feet.

“Yes, please do shush.” Cerine muttered, she swung her legs over the end of the throne’s arm and slowly shifted to her feet. “Really, this isn’t going to take very long.”

“And we should be thankful for that?” Hardin shot back.

Delicate eyebrows arched upwards. “Yes…actually, you should.” Cerine slowly traveled the four steps to the throne to the floor. “Again, I really am sorry. I hope no one was injured too…badly, in the…attack.”

Lady Salyne laughed bitterly. “Don’t we wish?” The smile on her face twisted from one of defiance to one of immense pain. “What did you do to them? Innocent people?” Tears trickled down her cheeks. “You turned them to stone? Just left them there like that? Frozen for all of time?”

Cerine blinked. “I did?” Puzzlement showed clearly on her face. “Where?”

“Where?” Greenwick closed his eyes, struggling to maintain a sensible composure. “The camp.” He said stiffly. “Everyone, but us.”

“Oh!” Understanding dawned at once and Cerine smiled. “Oh, you needn’t worry of that. It’s all taken care of.”

“So we saw.” Greenwick spat the words out. “Spare us your gloating and tell me what you intend to do with us?”

Cerine shook with laughter as one hand went to her mouth to keep the chuckles from escaping. “Oh you poor things.” A snicker escaped. “You think I…oh I don’t believe this.” More chuckles slipped out. “Oh you’ve got it all wrong. Horribly wrong. You see, this is why I had to speak with you. I’m tired of this war business, quite frankly it’s getting to be rather boring, I mean, I know I’m going to win and I know you will never surrender, so it’s all rather pointless, isn’t it?”

“You’re mad!” Lady Salyne choked. “Stark raving mad!”

“No. Only certifiably insane by your mundane standards.” The laughter stopped. Cerine glided forward to stand in front of Greenwick. “I am only asking your audience, Sentinel Commander. Please, surely you can spare your attention for a few moments? I will try not to bore you and of course, please don‘t try anything overly heroic, because sometimes I cannot help what I actually…do.” She extended a hand. “May I?”

His companions bristled, but one shackled hand thumped into hers.

“Thank you.” Cerine traced a circle in the air above the shackle and it clicked open, falling to the floor. She smiled as the other shackles clicked open and fell to the floor in harmony. “You’re welcome.”

She glided to the end of the room and poured something into the four glasses. She carried the glasses over to where the stood, shocked. “Here. Try this. Warms you up pretty well. It’s snowing South of the Barrwest this time of year, isn’t it?” She nodded her head. “Take the glasses, please.” The red pendant hovering over her chest glowed softly.

Three hands cautiously did as they were told, accepting a glass in turn. Varied expressions accompanied the apprehensive breath they all drew as Cerine took a large swallow from her own glass.

“Please, do go ahead.” She took another swig. “It’s not poisoned, ,if that’s what you’re expecting. If I really wanted you dead, trust me, there are more…creative ways to go about it.”
None of the glasses moved.

“Y-you have our attention.” Greenwick forced the words through his mouth.

“Good.” Cerine took the last swallow of pale liquid and then her eyes flickered towards them. The red within faded to a bright and vivid violet. Her grip around the stem of the glass tightened and then she suddenly threw it over her shoulder. It crashed. Loudly. “I need you take a message to your high and mighty King Delandar. His father would actually be a better candidate, but I am aware that the rule has changed since our…war has begun.” Cerine began to pace the length of the floor in front of them. “I need a guarentee that this message will reach him. It is extremely important, which is why I wanted one of you to take it. Not that I do not trust my own, but I grow weary of their mistakes and I know you would never been as foolish as to let one of them so close to your precious king.” She paused. “Will you do this?”

“Take a message?” Lady Salyne exclaimed, incredulous. “You…all those people…”

“It is the evening bell.” Cerine snapped. “A certain…person, does not think I need to carry my violence, as he calls it, past dinner time. I’m surprised you have not seen this before. Everything freezes from the toll of the bell until I rise the next morning. Your camp is fine. They will remember nothing by morning’s come.”

“Just like that?” Hardin scowled. “And of course, this is normal for you. To interfere with the natural cycles of life you-”

“Please don’t start any name calling, I fear my vocabulary may outweigh yours by far. I only have need of someone to carry a message.”

“What kind of message?” Greenwich was guarded.

“Surrender.” Cerine said matter-of-factly. “Like I said. I’m bored. And this war has been going on since, what? Since you were a kid? Don’t you think it’s dragging now? Besides, I do have more important things to waste my energies on.” She slowly moved back towards the thrones and then turned. “Could I-no.” She shook her head. “I couldn’t possibly ask you to do that, but I can ask you to do this.”

“Be you serious?” Greenwich swallowed. “This is…serious.”

“A trifle.” Hardin interjected. “She is the queen of all things dark, of trickery! Surely you do not even begin to think that you trust her?”

Cerine turned her eyes to him for a moment and then cupped one hand. A bright crackle of red energy sprang to life in her palm. Without warning, she gave a flick of her wrist and hurled it towards the trio.

They leapt to the side, aided by the help of a soft, clear, blue glow.

Cerine smiled. “My dear Captain,” She spoke in measured tones. “Surely you see how bright your own aura is, and yet you would think your own Sentinel would turn for me?” There was a bark of laughter. “Even I know better than to tempt one such as he.” She shook her head. “No, I have something much easier for you for you to do.” She snapped her fingers, twice.

A small panel in the wall slid open and Lilia crept through. Fear showed in her face as she skirted the trio and ran to Cerine, wrapping one arm around her leg. Cerine smiled as she saw their reactions.

A gasp escaped from Lady Salyne, she inched closer to Greenwich, who took a step backwards to match Hardin. They all stared in a mixture of horror and amazement, for Lilia was dressed as they were and also glowing the same pure, blue light.

“She’s one of us!” Lady Salyne exclaimed. “What…what kind of…?” Her voice faltered as Cerine wrapped a protective arm around the child’s shoulder. “What is the meaning of this?” She took a step forward.

Lilia shrank away from them, one finger going to her mouth.

“Lilia, love.” Cerine gently pried her hand off of her leg. “I’m going to ask you to do me a very special favor?” She took a vial from a nearly hidden pouch hanging from her belt. “I’m going to ask you to deliver a message for me and when you’re through, I want you to drink this, okay?”

Lilia stared up at her with wide, bright eyes.

“What are you going to do?” Lady Salyne pulled free from Greenwich’s restraining hand. “She’s but a child, let her alone!”

“I let her alone, well enough.” Cerine returned. “She stays of her own free will…and she amuses me, so I keep her near. However, I can see you would be much more comfortable traveling with her, than another.” In a sudden swift movement, she dropped to one knee and caught Lilia around the shoulders, pinning her arms to her side. From the back of her belt, she drew a knife and with quick expertise, carved her mark into the side of Lilia’s neck.

“Let her alone!” Lady Salyne cried, throwing herself forward, only to be hindered by her companions, who struggled to hold her back.

“No, Salyne!” Greenwich grunted, trying to subdue her flailing arms. “Don’t! She wants you to interrupt her! Don‘t!”

“For our sakes’ don’t, woman!” Hardin caught her wrists in a vise-grip. “Get a hold of yourself!”
A soft whimper escaped and Lilia reached one hand up to her neck when released, but her fingers only touched a ridged scar.

“She is fine.” Cerine spoke stiffly. “Stop your own whining, it is annoying me.” Her eyes flickered red. “And you know what happens when I’m really annoyed?”

Lady Salyne froze, seemingly paralyzed.

With a tight smile, Cerine returned to the matter at hand and pressed a kiss to the top of Lilia’s blonde head. “Tell the Kings, both former and present, this-” She whispered in her ear the remaining message.

When she straightened, she nudged Lilia forward. “Now remember, the message, then drink the vial and that ugly mark on your neck will go away, I promise, okay?” The once pure-blue eyes were now violet and they focused slowly on the Cerine.

“Yes, milady.” She offered a perfect curtsy.

“Go then.” Cerine nudged her again and Lilia lightly skipped forward.

She came to a stop in front of the trio and then suddenly darted forward and threw her skinny arms around Lady Salyne’s waist. “I like you.” Her voice trilled. “I want to ride with you, not them.” Her nose wrinkled as she looked at the surprised Captain and Commander. “And we need to go soon. I have a message to deliver.”

The dumbstruck trio was escorted out from the throne room and given fresh horses for the trip homeward.

“Travel quickly.” Cerine instructed them, watching as Lilia was settled on a horse, riding with Lady Salyne. “Do not touch anything belonging to or of me as you travel. It will all be as you see it here. Dead or silent. Do not interfere if you value your own life, or that of Lilia.” She bowed her head and whispered a few words beneath her breath. “I grant you safe travels through my lands. Go.”

The horses started without command from their riders, breaking into a run as if being chased by some great monster.

Cerine watched them go, the tiredness returning to her. She drew the end of the red cloak about her and closed her eyes, whispering the necessary words.

When she opened her eyes, she was standing in the shadowy confines of the high tower once more. She paused in front of the water basin on the end table. She reached one finger towards the reflective surface and hesitated, as she saw her own face, the pain radiating from her own expression, one she could not bear.

She splashed the surface of the water and turned away, towards the windows. Here, she opened the latch and threw them wide open. The night had begun and in the dimming light, she saw the frozen, stony scene that had terrified her ‘guests’.

Her lips pressed together and for the second time that day, the tears fell.

© 2009 Sara Harricharan


Lynn Squire said...

I love your descriptions! I can hardly wait to read the full story.