Rescuing The Princess
It has all the hallmarks of a great adventure:
A secluded tower in the woods, where rumour has it a beautiful princess lives, guarded by a dragon and pining daily for her freedom, her return to her parents, and the hand of the knight who rescues her...
Which knight would turn that down?
Assuming everything goes according to plan, that is — and how often does that happen?
The grappling hook clattered its way through the window and scraped back across the floor until it caught on the ledge. Sir Alba, both hands resting on his hips, stared up along the length of knotted rope that led to the lone window at the top of the tower and smirked. This was going even better than expected. All he needed now was to scale the stonework, rescue the princess and he’d be the richest man in the kingdom.
It would’ve helped if the tower had a door he could have kicked down, but no one ever expected this kind of thing to be easy. Still, manners dictated that just barging in would be rude. Cupping one hand to his mouth, he called up in his deepest, most powerful bellow, “my princess, your saviour has arrived.”
He’d expected, at the very least, a joyous shriek. Not for a bread roll to come flying through the window, plummeting towards his head.
The Night Fair
The night fair arrives without warning and brings delights and discoveries, but none compare to the mysterious fortune teller Iphre and Kai is immediately smitten. But Iphre has his own secrets — the discovery of which shocks Kai to his core.
To be free, the pair must overcome time and circumstance — but will the fair's cruel curse ensure neither finds happiness?
But for all the merriment, the shimmying, shimmering dancers and the gaudy fire-breathers on their ornate stilts, nothing caught Kai's eye. Decorative jade horses, racks of necklaces and bracelets made from exotic jewels and stones, even strange fruit with glittering skin and wet, variegated flesh. It was rare and beautiful, yes, but there wasn't anything new. He wandered from tent to tent, past red and white and blue and gold, yellow with threads of silver racing through and rich, dark navy velvets the colour and texture of the midnight sky. And stopped, transfixed, at the sight of perfection.
He'd come with no motive and precious little of the burning curiosity that drove the others, he'd come with no expectation at all. And yet, there it was in front of him. Everything he'd ever wanted, and never before realised.
And that everything, with a languorous inclination of his head, made eye contact with Kai and smiled with more gentleness than Kai expected.
It was like a chain connected them, glittering as fiercely as the fleur-de-lys pattern in the tent beside him did as Kai made his slow way towards the table. A black cloth bearing a sheen that shone with as many colours as Kai saw around him covered the table and, behind it, sat the most stunningly beautiful man Kai had ever seen.
A man whose gaze was as firmly set on Kai as Kai's was on him; a faint smile quirked up one side of his mouth.
Kai's mouth dried in one painfully-thumping heartbeat. Now would be a good time to leave, because he just knew he couldn't have what he suddenly, desperately wanted. There was nothing else here for him.
But that smile welcomed him in. His feet picked up and moved, one after the other, towards the man with the welcoming smile.
Visiting the seaside to spend some time alone following the death of his mother, half-elf Maddeson finds fishing villages are just as full of suspicion as big cities.
What he doesn't realise is that they can also be full of mystery, wonder, and midnight encounters with a handsome ... man?
With only a seal pelt and some very cagey fishermen for help, Maddeson sets out to discover the truth — but is it worth risking his life for?
There was something soothing about the darkness that cooled his simmering frustrations. In the dark he could smile, he could act like everyone else, and in the dark the beach was rendered beautiful, free from any signs of life save him—
A sound of pain and frustration cut through the still, chill air and Maddeson found himself running towards it before he could stop himself. Despite his movement, it took him a moment to realise where the sound came from, where his body ran to without consulting his mind. A dark shape, half-in, half-out the water, a darker spread in the sea. He skittered to a stop at the water's edge long enough to see where the shape was, then splashed into the surf.
He didn't know what he was expecting. For it to be a seal, most likely. Only when he was up to his ankles in water did he realise it wasn't a wild animal at all: it was a person. It wasn't entirely blood that marred the sea: the hazy starlight showed him the ragged shape of a net spread across the water, criss-crossing blackness over shadow, with the person's leg trapped in the middle. As Maddeson reached their side they began to pull themself more firmly up the beach; dark stains streaked the sand as the tide ebbed out, washed away as it flowed back.
"Wait," Maddeson gasped, dropping to his knees in the water beside the leg. "Just let me—" He began working at the net, fighting with wet fingers to loosen some of the slippery knots and free the limb from the ropes that were sinking still further into the flesh. The leg twitched at every accidental contact — and why wouldn't it, as the ropes pulled free and fresh blood flowed into the sea? — but it was only a few moments longer before he'd untied enough to pull the netting down and over the bare foot and cast it away into the water.
When he turned back there was no-one there. Wet footsteps slapped over the sand, hesitating a short distance away. Maddeson felt the impression of a gaze on him, not heavy with judgement the way the villagers' was, but suspicious nonetheless: he stared through the chill mist at the figure and the figure stared back, barely visible but with eyes that glittered in the low light, before spinning on one heel and sprinting away into the sea.
A Binding Strategy
Prince Gabrys fought against Iahra's plan to subsume his country with all the battlefield strategy he could muster. But once his two older brothers were lost, only one strategy remained: marriage to the Iahran king Ardashir.
Ardashir is nothing that Gabrys expected: handsome, erudite and charming, a man his forces cannot speak more highly of. He welcomes Gabrys with open arms and arranges all preparations for the upcoming ceremony.
But a meeting with Demiah, a member of Ardashir's saray and easily the most beautiful man Gabrys has ever met, throws everything Gabrys knows into confusion. Is Ardashir as wonderful as he appears, and if he isn't... can Gabrys ever escape?
It wasn’t every day the last prince of Arvelle was paraded through the Iahran capital in chains. Corralled by alert soldiers, people lined the streets or craned from the upper-floor windows of ornate gold-stone buildings that too seemed to lean down to enjoy the spectacle.
Winds had lashed the plains and buffeted the carriage as they’d approached, but the broad city streets bore witness only to a swirling haze that made Gabrys, not for the first time, glad to be at the head of the procession and not at the rear with the rank-and-file soldiers.
Not that such a lofty position made a difference to his view. The fine gold fabric veiling his face distorted the world into beautiful soft focus, obscuring everything from the amber buildings to the faces of the crowd. It also did nothing to shield him from the ebbing funereal murmurs; no raucous cheering here. Whether that was better or worse Gabrys couldn’t tell. And it entirely failed to obscure the acrid odour of too many people, nobles and commoners alike, pressed together under the blazing sun to watch the manacled prince meet his fate.