...and there's NO WAY I'm doing any writing longhand...*that* would take forever...
So, here it is. Hopefully I'll be able to do MUCH more tomorrow.
Arthur opened his eyes and rolled over. He propped himself up on his elbow, head resting in his hand and stared down at his new bride. He could see her features clearly in the moonlight streaming through the open balcony doors. He watched her sleeping and thought about what a lucky man he was.
He never dreamed he’d meet a girl so beautiful; and the fact that she’d shown any interest in him at all – much less eventually agreeing to be his wife! – he felt himself the luckiest man in the world.
He knew his family would be angry, his grandmother most of all – what a terror she was – but he didn’t care. He loved his beautiful Corinth and nothing was going to keep them apart.
She opened her eyes and saw him watching her. She quirked an eyebrow in unspoken question.
“My darling,” he breathed. You have made me the happiest man alive. I still don’t know how I convinced you to marry me – or why you said yes – but I don’t care. Today was the best day of my life and, as impossible as it sounds, I know things are only going to get better.”
She looked up at him and smiled. For the briefest moment, the smile looked sinister, but he convinced himself it was simply a trick of the moonlight. She said nothing.
“Ah, my sweet, I cannot wait until we return to my father’s estates as man and wife. Once my father sees that we are lawfully wed, there will be nothing he can do, no way he can keep us apart. And my grandmother, that harridan, she too will learn that all of her contrivances and machinations have been for naught. She will rage and shriek and cry foul, but even she cannot undo what the Holy Church has done. Our future is secured, my beloved.”
He reached under the sheets and took her hand, pulling it to his lips for the gentlest of kisses. He held it there, kissing her fingertips and caressing his lips along her palm. He saw a slight blush rising in her cheeks as she turned her head away from him.
Ah, the modesty of a new bride. Clearly my family are fools! They cannot see how blessed I am to have been allowed to pluck this most precious jewel from the heavens. He rolled onto his back, her hand still clutched in his grasp. Truly the gods have smiled upon me. This I swear to you my darling, his thoughts became fierce, nothing – nothing I say! – will ever take me from you. As I vowed in the church so again I say, yet with even greater vehemence, not even death itself shall tear me from your tender embrace.
Unbeknownst to him, Corinth heard his thoughts. And she smiled.
Corinth stood on the balcony looking out over the sea. The doors were open behind her, the drapes billowing in the breeze, and she could hear Arthur’s gentle snoring. She looked down at her hand, amazed at herself; amazed that she had allowed his touch for so long. No one had ever dared such before. No one would.
She took a quick glance inside, to make sure he was well and truly asleep – he was; his mind was weak and he was easily susceptible to her will – then took a seat at the balcony table. Taking a few deep breaths, she centered herself, then, muttering three short words under her breath – to ensure her body’s safety – she cast her mind out. She drifted up and away, pausing only long enough to make sure her wards were properly set.
She aligned herself with the energies of the planet as it turned beneath her, ‘catching’ a wind and letting it carry her south and east, in the direction of her new father-in-law’s estate. She emptied herself of conscious thought, content to drift with the currents knowing that, in addition to letting her save her own energy, this method of transport would also render her invisible to any prying eyes, specifically those of Arturo’s grandmother. (She did allow herself one small thought. How she hated that he called himself ‘Arthur’. The fool came from a grand and ancient bloodline and, if he were at all wise, he could potentially gain so much – both earthly and otherwise, especially since he’d wed her – but his ambitions were as lacking as the love he held for his true name. He would come to regret his decisions…) But enough! She had greater concerns to attend to.
The winds carried her to her destination, and she expended just the slightest bit of energy – hardly noticeable…except it was noticed – in disentangling herself from its stream. She allowed gravity to take her and drifted downwards gently, still eschewing thought in order to remain undetected.
As she neared her new estate – she had, in her mind, already accepted that everything Arturo and his family owned would soon be hers – she sent out the tiniest tendril of thought, seeking to discover the whereabouts of Arturo’s family, especially the hated grandmother. It was a mistake. And it nearly cost her everything.
A blast of hatred, stronger than a hurricane wind, slammed into her incorporeal form and sent her reeling. Impossibly, she felt herself slammed up against a wall; and she found herself stuck.
As she regained her wits, she saw – quite unbelievably – that she was trapped in what appeared to be an enormous spider-web. She immediately set about the task of freeing herself.
A shrill voice called out. “Struggle all you want, little thing. You cannot free yourself. Nothing escapes my web.”
She looked about and saw a creature that, had she been anyone else, would have scared her witless. It looked like a spider – a giant, malformed beast of a spider – with far more than eight eyes and twice again as many legs. It regarded her intently, with those many eyes, and slowly – so very, very slowly – began to advance upon her.
Though she wasn’t terrified, she should at the very least have been scared – never in her life (her very long life) had she some across a being powerful enough to trap her so quickly. She had, however, two things working in her favor. The first: this creature, this fell and hideous beast – which she knew to be Arturo’s grandmother – had not, for some Darkness-blessed reason, recognized her; it must have assumed she was just some haphazard traveler, regrettably (for her) caught in its web. The second: Arturo, love-blinded fool that he was, had unwittingly divulged all manner of ancient and obscure secrets about his family – from his original royal ancestor, to his soon-to-be-departed grandmother, to his as-yet-unborn nephew; secrets that would ensure both their downfall and her unstoppable ascension.
She would deal with grandma.
Arthur opened his eyes and rolled over. He propped himself up on his elbow, head resting in his hand and stared down at his new bride. She wasn’t there! He jerked back in shock and looked around the room, confused.
“Darling,” he called, softly. He didn’t see her. Taking a deep breath to quell his rising panic, he sat up, rubbed his eyes and looked around again, a little more frantically. He called out again, a little louder this time.
“Yes, my love?” Her voice floated in from the balcony. It may as well have been carried on the backs of angels, his relief was so great. She swept into the room, her sleeping gown floating around her, clinging here, draping there, the whole of her backlit by the moon. She was a vision and she took his breath away.
He exhaled and smiled weakly, relief at her appearing warring with excitement at her appearance. He chose to focus on the excitement.
“I awoke and found you gone,” he chastised, gently. “I feared you’d come to your senses whilst I slept and left me.” He chuckled lightly at his own joke. Then, noticing the look on her face, he stopped. “My darling, what is it? You look as though something is the matter. You must tell me.”
She came over to the bed – he could’ve sworn she was gliding on the air; his angel! – and sat by his side, in the space he had assumed she’d been asleep in.
“I couldn’t sleep,” she spoke quietly, her eyes downcast. “I tried, but whenever I would close my eyes…”
“Please, my beloved, whatever it is that troubles you, it cannot possibly stand against the strength of our love. I am your husband now and I am pledged to protect you until my last breath.” Her face looking down, he didn’t see the smile that spread across her face at that last. “Tell me quickly, that I can put your fears to rest and we may return to our marriage bed.” Her smile dropped at that.
She glanced at him sidewise. “I tried to sleep, but my dreams would not let me.” He took up her hand and gave her an encouraging nod. “At first they were gentle and serene, then…” She faltered and began anew, “I was walking unmolested through endless fields of blossoms. The sky, the air was crisp, fresh. The softest of breezes caressed my face and arms, the perfume of the flowers all around.” She sighed heavily. He squeezed her hand, requesting her to continue.
“Of a sudden, the sky darkened and the wind picked up. It seemed normal, at first. A spring storm, maybe; rare, but not unheard of. But it rapidly worsened. The sky turned a sickly dark green – like the bile of a pestilent. The wind grew and grew…I could barely stand…and it razed the blossoms to the earth. Then it ate away at the earth itself until only the bare rock remained.” Her breath hitched and she turned away. He leaned forward and encircled her in his arms. From behind her, he was unable to see that her eyes had started glowing.
“I could not move. I was frozen to the spot as in fear. The ground started to tremble and quake. As I watched, it fell away in great chunks, until I was left, stranded and alone, on a massive plateau.” He buried his face in her hair, kissing her neck and whispering his love in her ear.
“I gathered my will and forced myself to move. Bit by bit, I was able to advance until I was at the edge of the plateau. I looked over, and what I saw very nearly made me lose my wits.” He stroked her arms and caressed her back, imagining that he was comforting her.
“I looked over the edge and saw naught but darkness. But it was a darkness with form and shape; it was a darkness that moved. And, I swear, I saw it looking back at me!”