Black Widow

Ok, so I know it probably seems like I’ve fallen off the face of the earth for a while, but I’m back and, as always, I’ve got a writing project on hand.

If you’ve been following my blog, you know that at the beginning of this month I officially finished the first draft of Prism World, and I must say I’m quite proud of it. Originally, I thought that maybe I would try getting this one professionally published, but on second thought I decided I’d go ahead and stick with self-publishing. As such, most of my writing time will be spent cleaning up Prism World and continuing to work on the rewrite of the Star Trilogy. However, anyone who knows me knows that I can’t go a day without working on a new writing project on the side, so while I’m cleaning up my previous works, I thought I’d also introduce you my newest project.

Introducing Black Widow, the first part of a two-book story following the experiences of Prince Soren as he fights against the secret society that has its eyes set upon his life, his family, and his throne…a society known only as The Silencers.

To introduce you to the story and a few of the main characters, I thought I’d post the first chapter here on my blog. I’ll probably post the second chapter a little later once I get it typed up. And, as always, feedback is greatly appreciated.

————–

Black Widow Necklace

Chapter 1

The smoke of burning incense hung in a heavy haze in the hall of the royal mausoleum as a large group of people knelt before the body of a woman clad in white. The intoxicating fumes of the incense nearly made Prince Soren’s head spin and he stifled a cough as it burned his throat.

It hardly seemed possible, really. First his father in the war with Bardonia, now, mysteriously, his grandmother in the halls of the Pellagrian palace. Was there no end to the tears he would have to shed?

As the sound of the priest’s monotonous voice droned down the granite, tomb-lined halls of the royal mausoleum, Soren turned his attention to the environment around him. The platform on which his grandmother’s body lay was something of a semi-circular dais, decorated with pottery, flowers, and incense. Behind him lay the old tombs, the final resting place of some of his most ancient ancestors, and beyond them the doors to the outside world.

To his left and right there were ornate archways leading deeper into the mausoleum, and all around him the walls were covered with carved pictures, finely-woven tapestries, and flickering torches. For all its beauty, though, it was not a place Soren enjoyed being. No, on the contrary, it was a place he had frequented far too many times in the past few weeks.

“Amf sera.”

The prince lifted his head at the sound of the ancient words used to commit the deceased to their final resting place. The other people around him lifted their heads, then four burly guards lifted the stretcher on which the body lay and, bearing it on their shoulders, set off through one of the archways and into the depths of the mausoleum. Once this was done, Soren pushed himself to his feet, waiting only for his grandfather to stand before he did so.

Just then he felt a gentle touch at his elbow, and the prince turned to look into a pair of swollen teal eyes. The person who had touched him was a girl of about 14, her long, dark brown hair cascading in waves down her back, her pale face streaked with tears.

“Elise,” Soren whispered, gently touching the girl’s hand and glancing around, “keep control of your tears, little kitten. Grandfather may get angry if we interrupt the ceremony.”

“I know, brother,” the girl replied softly, her voice choked with tears. She leaned her head against the young man’s shoulder, and her grip on his arm tightened slightly. “I’m trying.”

A sigh escaped Soren’s lips, and he didn’t lift his hand from hers until they came to the tomb in which their grandmother had been placed.

Quietly the pair each took their turn dipping a brush into a bowl of scented oil and painting it across the door to the little compartment in which their grandmother’s body lay. Then Soren turned, leading his sister out of the mausoleum as quickly as he dared. He could not be happier than to leave the stench of death behind him.

As Soren and Elise stepped out through the mausoleum’s ornate entry, the bright rays of the afternoon sun fell into their eyes. It was a warm, cheering presence and a welcome relief from the gloom they had just left behind. Soren was only barely beginning to feel his heart lighten, however, when Elise turned, burying her face in his chest and beginning to sob bitterly.

“Why?” the girl questioned, her voice muffled by Soren’s shirt. “She was so bright and happy just yesterday. Why did this have to happen?”

Without a word, Soren wrapped his arms around his sister, bowing his head and allowing a few stray tears to slip down his cheeks. Elise was right. It had all been so sudden. And after the loss of their father, the loss of their grandmother was felt all the more.

“Soren? Elise?”

The prince lifted his head at the sound of a familiar, childish voice. There before him stood a young boy of about 9, whose bright blue eyes made it seem as though Soren were staring into a looking glass.

“Connor. Where’s Mother?” Soren inquired, glancing around at the steady flow of people coming out of the mausoleum.

The boy glanced this way and that, then shrugged as he looked up at his older brother.

“I don’t know. She was talking to someone, so I got bored and came to find you.”

By this point Elise’s sobs had died away and she turned to look at her little brother.

“You should go back and find her,” Soren said, wiping a stray tear from Elise’s cheek before looking back at his brother. “You know how Mother worries.”

“I don’t want to go back in there,” Connor pouted, crossing his arms and looking at his brother ruefully. “Everybody’s crying.”

“That’s what generally happens at funerals,” Soren sighed. “So if you won’t go find Mother, what are you planning to do? As you can tell, there is a fair amount of crying going on out here, too.”

“Hmm…” the boy replied, pursing his lips and narrowing his eyebrows as though deep in thought. He glanced around at the expansive cemetery where the graves of those who had served the royal family throughout the generations spread out for what seemed like miles in all directions.

“I know!” he said suddenly, his eyes brightening. “I’ll go goblin hunting!”

“Goblin hunting?” Soren replied, raising one eyebrow.

“Yeah!” Connor replied. “One of the stable boys told me about how he used to go goblin hunting in the cemetery. He says they’re vicious creatures with chisel-like teeth who wear grey and brown cloaks. He said they hide in holes and jump out at you when you least expect it!”

Soren and Elise exchanged disbelieving glances.

“That sounds more like a rabbit if you ask me,” Elise said.

“Oh, come on! What kind of rabbit wears a cloak and attacks people?” Connor protested, flinging his arms in the air for effect.

“Sounds more like the stable boy found a gullible audience,” Soren said under his breath. Then to Connor, he asked, “And what were you planning on hunting these goblins with?”

“My bare hands, of course,” the younger prince replied, putting his fists on his hips and assuming a heroic pose. “Weapons are for weaklings.”

There was a momentary pause as Elise and Soren stared down at their younger brother. Then a slight laugh escaped Soren’s lips.

“Right.”

“Oh! Connor!” Elise called as the boy turned and began trotting off toward the eastern half of the cemetery. “Don’t go without a guard.”

“I don’t need a guard,” Connor protested.

“Take one anyway.”

“Fine,” the young prince huffed. “But if he gets eaten, it’s not my fault.”

Soren and Elise watched as their brother grabbed a random guard by the sleeve and pulled him off on his goblin hunt, then Elise laughed slightly and stepped backwards.

“That child,” she said with a shake of her head.

“Let him enjoy his innocence,” Soren replied. “As a prince, he will lose it all too soon.”

“I suppose you’re right,” Elise sighed. “Well, so long as he becomes as good of a person as you are, everything will be fine. Right, big brother?”

Soren stared down into his sister’s eyes for just a moment, then he smiled, kissed her forehead, and set off down the mausoleum steps to the gravel path below.

“No,” the prince said, holding up his hand to help his sister down the steps. “I hope he becomes even better.”

***

A general hum echoed in the grand dining hall as clusters of lords and foreign dignitaries stood about, talking in hushed tones and casting glances over at a little group in the far corner from time to time.

“It’s unusual, that’s for sure,” said one man, a broad-shouldered lord with silvering copper hair.

“Suspicious is what you mean, Lord Emmret,” said another man, whose salt-and-pepper hair and moustache were both neatly trimmed. “I say we should have looked for evidence of murder.”

“You can hardly call it murder when by all appearances she died of natural causes, Lord Simon,” replied a third man, whose glossy black hair indicated he was a fair deal younger than the other two noblemen.

“Natural, indeed!” Lord Simon exclaimed. “Lord Richard, you can hardly call such a sudden death natural!”

“We seem to be particularly excitable today, Lord Simon,” came a voice from off to the side.

The three lords turned to see Prince Soren.

“Crown Prince,” the lords said simultaneously, bowing to the young man before them.

“You may rise,” Soren replied, motioning with one hand. “I didn’t mean to interrupt your conversation. It sounded quite fascinating.”

The three lords exchanged nervous glances.

“Well, Your Highness, it was really nothing,” Lord Simon said, clearing his throat and glancing back and forth between his peers.

“Nothing?” Soren laughed. “It sounded like a detailed conspiracy theory to me.”

“Not…entirely,” Lord Emmret interjected. “We were just discussing the nature of the queen’s sudden passing.”

“And you think there was foul play to be had?”

“I think there is that possibility, yes.”

“I see.”

The prince crossed his arms, leaning against the nearby wall and glancing up at the ceiling in thought.

“I will admit,” he said, glancing back over at the noblemen, “it did seem rather sudden. My grandfather the king is convinced that it was a heart defect, or so the physician told him, but my grandmother the queen never had such trouble before, so it is easy to doubt.”

“Do you also suspect foul play?” Lord Richard inquired, looking curiously at the prince.

“I suspect there is room for investigation,” Soren replied slowly. “There is nothing to be lost by looking and everything to be lost should it be true and we chose to ignore it.”

“I sometimes forget you are only 16, Your Highness,” Lord Richard said with a shake of his head. “You speak like a man.”

“I have had plenty of opportunities to practice,” Soren smiled, standing up straight and preparing to leave. “Keep a look-out for trouble, but don’t focus too much on conspiracy theories. In the end, most turn out to be nothing but rumors.”

***

“What did those lords have to say?” Elise inquired as Soren sat down beside her at the enormous dining table in the center of the room.

A bell rang, signaling the meal was ready, and the crowds of dignitaries turned to take their seats.

“Nothing of importance,” Soren replied. “People talk. It can’t be helped.”

“You like to speak in riddles don’t you, Soren?” Elise frowned. “Is that your way of saying it’s too important for a girl to hear?”

“Not really,” the prince sighed, glancing around at all the strange faces gathered about the table. “It’s more like saying it’s nothing worth telling.”

“But I want to know.”

“And I don’t want to talk about it, so you’re in a bit of a predicament, don’t you think?”

“I take back what I said earlier,” the princess pouted. “You’re mean, Soren.”

“If you say so.”

“Ugh! You’re so frustrating!”

“Uh-huh,” Soren grunted, placing several slices of roast duck on his plate. He was more interested in eating than arguing with his sister.

“Fine. Be that way. I won’t talk to you anymore then,” Elise huffed, her tone more teasing than angry. She stuck her nose in the air for effect, then began placing food on her own plate.

Soren glanced at her, then began to eat. He wondered if he should start counting the seconds before Elise started speaking to him again. It usually didn’t take very long.

As he ate, Soren kept glancing around the table. The sound of people talking and laughing echoed in his ears as the scents of various delicacies wafted into his nose. For all the sorrow that the royal family had suffered in the past few weeks, one could now hardly tell there had been a funeral only a couple of hours before.

“Hey, Soren?” Elise said suddenly, turning to look at her brother.

The prince bit into a piece of roast duck.

“I thought you weren’t speaking to me.”

“I changed my mind,” Elise replied indignantly. “Anyway, would you quit picking on me and hear me out?”

“What is it?”

“Well…I was just wondering…what do you think will happen if people in our family keep dying? I mean, grandfather could be next or…or even you or me. What if our family is cursed? You know, I’ve heard the servants say something about a curse before.”

“And you were making fun of Connor because of his goblin rabbits?”

Soren paused to turn and look at his sister, one eyebrow raised.

“Goblins aren’t real,” Elise replied defensively. “But curses…”

“Are no more real than goblin rabbits,” Soren said, turning back to his food. “It’s just bad timing is all. Stop worrying about nonsense or you’ll get old before I do.”

“I guess you’re right,” Elise laughed sheepishly. “It is a silly fear, isn’t it?”

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