Sunday, May 25, 2008

Untitled Story -- Chapter 1

This is a story I've been working on quite some time now. I also have it posted on Fanstory (http://www.fanstory.com/). I have about 10 chapters written at this point, but am far from being finished with it. I don't expect everyone who reads it to like it, as I know it is not a genre/topic that all people like. My hope is that one day, I will finish this story and get it published. Enjoy!

Chapter 1

“Alyra”

Arwa. It means “mountain goats” in Arabic. That’s what they called her. I called her Mother. My mother served the Queen of Egypt in the Great Palace. Everyday, my mother was sent to the Great Nile to gather extraordinary rocks to place in the Queen’s pools. A stranger knew this and calculated his arrival on a particular day, to the exact moment my mother would be in the cool water.

My mother stood on the bank of the Nile, her toes curling in the sand. Her simple necklace swung as she bent down, running her slender fingers along the silt and sand. She didn’t know she was being watched so she stepped further into the river and knelt down. She continued to work her fingers through the sand on the river floor, feeling for the smooth rocks the Queen desired.

“Hello Arwa.” A deep voice spoke softly behind her.

She turned, startled, splashing water onto her face.

“I’m very sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you. I was nearby and saw you here, so I thought I’d come over.” The stranger stepped towards the bank and smiled at her.
How oddly dressed he is, she thought, noticing his long black robes and strange haircut. She backed further into the water, keeping her eyes on him.

“I won’t harm you, Arwa. I only came to say hello and introduce myself. I am Malcolm. I am not a native of this land but have taken up residency here. Do you mind if I join you?” Malcolm remained on the edge of the banks.

“I do not own the Nile, sir, you may enter if you like.” My mother backed further into the middle of the river. “Why are you here? How do you know my name?”

“I’ve been watching you for quite a long time, Arwa. The first time I saw you, you were playing with the other children of your village. I think you were about five or six then.”

“You know me? Have you been to my village? Is my mother still alive?”

Malcolm approached my mother and held his hand out to her. “Your mother was ill and died about eleven years ago. Your name, your real name was on her lips, Nontle.”

My mother told me later that she felt her fear of Malcolm slip away as she looked at him. She made her way through the water towards him. Her gown was soaked but she did not mind. She slipped her hand into Malcolm’s and looked at him.

Malcolm smiled and pulled my mother closer to him. My mother told me he smelled like something she was not familiar with but it was sweet and intoxicating. She was lost in the smell when she felt his mouth on her flesh. She only let my brother and I kiss her, yet she did not mind Malcolm’s kisses. His smell washed over her, filling her and making her drowsy.

By the time my mother returned home, the stars were twinkling high in the sky. Her eyes were very glassy and she walked in a daze. The Queen was venomous. She had her stripped and beaten 40 times for her insolence, but it was as if my mother did not feel the leather as it snapped across her back. My brother and I watched from behind the legs of another maid, tears streaming down our cheeks. When my mother finally returned to the servants’ quarters, the other servants covered her bloodied back with herbs and lotions, to heal the welts and ease the sting. She said nothing to us, just stared at me, running her fingers along my cheek. We were 10 and 8, I nearing my 9th birthday.

Two weeks later, my mother returned to the banks of the Nile, this time with my brother and I in tow, and we waited for the stranger. My mother handed us each a small rock, smooth and white, and told us to keep them with us always.

“Malcolm will be here soon, children. He is a great man who will take care of us. He wants to be a father to you and raise you as his own. He loves me.” My mother smiled to herself, her shaved head glistening in the setting sun.

I looked at my brother. I remember the look on his face as he looked at our mother. He was in awe of her. He could not imagine what it was about Malcolm that made our mother so happy. Neither could I. We were servants in the palace, ordered to do whatever the Queen asked of us. We never laughed or smiled, so it was foreign to us the kind of joy our mother had experienced at the hands of this stranger called Malcolm.

He appeared just as the sun was setting and sat beside us on the banks. I stood next to my brother and we stared at our mother and then at Malcolm. She smiled and raised her hand in greeting to him. He was dressed strangely, long dark robes covering his soft skin. Malcolm walked towards us and stood on the edge of the bank. My mother walked towards him, her arms opened wide. They embraced each other, and my mother laughed in spite of the raw welts on her back. She threw back her bald head and laughed long and deep. I moved closer to my brother, grabbing his hand.

“Children, come meet Malcolm.” My mother held her hands out to us. My brother obeyed and stepped forward, bowing to Malcolm. Malcolm bowed towards my brother and kissed him on the cheek, then pulled a fig from his pocket and placed it in my brother’s hands. I remained in my spot, a safe distance from Malcolm.

“There is something wrong with him, something different. He is not one of the slaves and he is not one of the Pharaoh’s people. I will remain here.” I stood my ground.

Malcolm smiled and ran his hand over my brother’s shaved head. “She’s right, Arwa. What a very smart girl. I promise to tell you more about me as we grow closer. I am not going to hurt you, or your brother, I promise.” He held his hand out to me. I reluctantly stepped towards him and looked into his eyes.

“Your eyes are red and black. Are they burning?” I pulled on his long robes, trying to see into his eyes more clearly.

He laughed, “They are not burning. It’s natural for my kind.”

“Your kind? The Pharaoh’s people?”

Malcolm knelt in front of me, the water soaking through his robes and he wrapped his arms around me. “No, not the Pharaoh’s people. I’m one of the Immortals, the Ancients. I’ll tell you more at a later time.”

My mother looked in the distance, towards the palace and the smile vanished from her face. “Children, we need to go. The Queen will be looking for me. Tell Malcolm good-bye.”

We both mumbled our good-byes to Malcolm and followed our mother away from the Nile, towards the palace. My mother’s demeanor changed and her eyes became sad and teary.

When we returned to the palace, the Queen was waiting for my mother, rage spitting from her eyes. She had my mother beaten again. This process continued for months, my mother staying at the Nile for hours, the Queen punishing her repeatedly.

Then, one night my mother never returned to the palace. The Queen paced the floor, watching the door, expecting my mother to walk in any second. She did not walk in. The next morning, the Queen sent soldiers out to find my mother. They came back with her body, limp and lifeless. Her body was handed over to the servants who went about their own customs to prepare her body for burial. She was burned on an altar in the desert, away from the eyes of the Pharaoh. The other slaves performed ceremonies and prayers, singing as they surrounded the altar.

My brother was 13 when he was sent to the pyramids, to labor and work among the other slaves. Every morning, at dawn, he crawled out of the bed we shared and made his way to the pyramids along with the other men and boys. I was always very sad when he left me, but I pretended to sleep so he would not see my tears.

After he left, I rose from the bed and dressed, then met Hagar in the hallway.

“You had better wipe those tears away, little one. The Queen is not going to be happy to see a wet face.”

Hagar hugged me to her and kissed my cheeks. After our mother died, Hagar and the other slave women took my brother and I into their hearts as their own. I stayed close to Hagar as we made our way around the Queen’s chambers.

As we entered the Queen’s chambers, Hagar slowed and nodded at one of the guards. He nodded back and handed me a smooth white rock. I placed the rock in a fold of my gown and continued into the room.

The Queen lounged on a silk covered bench, being fanned by three young girls. I picked up a clay water jug and followed the stone path to a pool. I filled the jug and placed it on my head, humming softly to myself. I turned and made my way back towards the Queen. Her copper eyes burned into me.

“You resemble your mother, but you do not have her fire. I expect you will be more loyal to me than she was. Place the jug on the floor and go about your other duties.”

I kneeled, placed the jug on the floor and made my way out of her chambers.

My brother and I met up at dusk and made our way to the Nile, followed by palace guards. We had the permission of the Pharaoh to go there as long as we were escorted. We were not allowed to speak the tongue of the other slaves, the tongue we had learned when our mother died. So, we said little. If we did speak it had to be in the language of the Pharaoh. The guards would speak to us, asking why we always came to the Nile. We told them it was for the peacefulness. In reality, we were hoping to see Malcolm, in the hopes he could explain what happened to our mother.

Then one evening Malcolm returned. My brother and I were standing in the shallow part of the Nile, near the bank, picking up rocks from beneath our feet. We were looking for colorful rocks, placing them on the shore as we came across them. The guards laughed at us, picking up the rocks, then throwing them back into the water. I was becoming angry.

“Why do they have to do that?” I looked at my brother. He shrugged and continued picking up rocks, rubbing them between his fingers.

Suddenly, there was a splash behind me and we both looked, finding the body of one of the soldiers floating towards us. I screamed and clung to my brother. We then turned to the shore and saw him, anger flashing across his face. This time, he wasn’t alone. There were two other men with him and they were as horribly angry as he was. The guards were visibly frightened then something terrible happened. My brother and I watched as these three strange men turned into demons, ripping out the throats of the guards and throwing their lifeless bodies into the Nile. We soon found ourselves standing in a pool of blood. Malcolm stepped into the water and took our hands, pulling us onto the bank and wrapping us in blankets. He spoke to the other men with him and they all smiled. The stranger then spoke to us.

“Do not be afraid children; I’ve come to take you away from here. Your mother made me promise that if anything ever happened to her, I would rescue you from slavery and show you a better life. I plan to do just that. You shall come live with me, in my home and I shall teach you everything I know. My brothers shall be your uncles and I shall be your father. There is nothing to fear, you must trust me. Come with me children.” He held his hands out to us, so we took them. Our only memories of him were pleasant ones, and he had hurt the soldiers for us, so we had no reason not to believe or trust him.

He lived underground. It was a strange sensation when we first entered his home. It was a city underneath the Pharaoh’s grand city. It had its own citizens and its own life. There were things we had never seen before, and people we never knew existed. The city was illuminated in a bizarre way, fires burning without going out and without flickering. It was the beginning of a new life.

@@@@

Time flew by, our new father renamed us. We became Alyra and Maxus. He was Malcolm, a man who had lived a long life, without children and was full of sorrow. He showered us with gifts and let us explore our new world freely. By the time Maxus was 19 and I was 17, we spoke several languages.

I walked through the city, staring at the lights along the walls. I still could not understand how they burned or what fueled them, but I had stopped asking. There was a long river that flowed through the center of our city; it was called the River of the Undead. It flowed deep and black, unlike anything I had seen above ground. It was awesome and frightening. I walked to the edge of it and sat along the bank, placing my feet in the flowing waters. I stared at my reflection, watching as small creatures floated around my feet. I did not hear Malcolm approach behind me.

“Your brother has gone to the surface. Do you want to join him?”

“No father. I just want to sit here. I just want to be alone.”

“I see. I will leave you then.” He began to walk away.

“Wait, Malcolm, I didn’t mean it the way it sounded. You can stay. Please stay.”

He walked back over and sat down beside me. He wrapped his large arm around my shoulders and kissed my forehead. “My dear Alyra, something bothers you.”

“I miss my mother. They weren’t supposed to burn her, were they?”

“No, they weren’t. I was hoping they would just place her in the ground then I would return to her and bring her here, but that did not happen.”

“What are you, father? What are these other people here? Why do you live underground?”

“If you knew, you might want to leave. I would not want you to leave me, my dear.”

“What are you, father? What would my mother be if they hadn’t burned her?”

“Vampire, a creature of the night, living on the blood of others. That’s what I am and that’s what your mother would have been.”

“That’s why we never saw you before the sunset. Does my brother know?”

“Yes. I explained it to him a few years ago. He accepted it. He has decided he doesn’t want to leave, he wants to be one of us.”

“Is everyone here a vampire?”

“No, my dear child. We have other creatures here that you may not have heard of. We have werewolves, witches, warlocks, and shape-shifters. Your brother wants to join the wolf pack. The head of the pack, Argus, has taken your brother above ground to discuss this decision. You do not have to become one of us, you will always be protected here and everyone loves you. Harm will never befall you here.” Malcolm hugged me to him.

**

“Hi sweetie. Malcolm told me about your conversation. You want to be a vampire?”

“Yes. I want to be a vampire. I want to get the Queen. I want to be the Queen.”

“You can’t be Queen. Just stay here with Malcolm and me. Just stay here and live with me forever.”

“You don’t want to return to the surface? You don’t want to return to sunlight and fresh air?”

“No, Alyra, I don’t. I love you but I don’t want you to do anything that will get you killed. The people on the surface would kill everyone down here if they knew what these people are. Just live here until a time when we can return to the surface and rule the world.”

“The time to rule is now. If Malcolm will not help me become what I want to be, I will ask Quinton. I have seen the way he looks at me and I know he would gladly do as I ask.”

“Alyra, revenge does not suit you. Don’t go down that road.” Maxus left my room, slamming the door behind him.

**

As Malcolm promised years before, he sat me down to tell me the truth about the Immortals.

“Before the Egyptians and Jews occupied the land above, we walked the Earth. We Immortals traveled to this planet on the dust of comets and entered the atmosphere. We spread throughout the planet, transforming ourselves to blend in with our surroundings. As the life on the planet changed, we changed. We have been worshipped by many peoples: the Greeks, the Romans and the Egyptians. As our forms changed, our ability to remain alive also changed. We were never meant to take on flesh and bone like the humans, our fragile systems could not maintain the human bodies we decided to inhabit, so we began to live off the blood of others. We all turned into creatures, the creatures you see here in the city. As beings that traveled through space on comet dust and space debris, we all had different forms, and so when we took over human forms, we maintained our various shapes. Now we are vampires, werewolves, witches, demons, and monsters that have no names.”

“But what about your names, the names we call you. I have never heard the name Malcolm before. Where did you get it?”

“It was a name we heard in our travels across this planet. There are more humans elsewhere on Earth, maybe one day you will meet them and experience the lands they live in. When you are ready, I want you to travel far and wide, my love!” Malcolm rose and kissed the top of my head. He walked off along the edge of the river, whistling to himself. I watched for a few minutes and then went back to staring at the creatures in the river.

***

I awoke to find Malcolm standing over my bed, naked with teeth bared. He threw the blanket off of me and climbed onto the bed. He opened his mouth, baring his lengthened fangs and tore into the flesh of my neck, his fingers clawing at my nightgown. He penetrated my body, thrusting against me. I cried out, but he covered my mouth. I could feel the blood leaving my body as my hips moved with his. Then he lifted his head and looked at me. He raised his wrist to his mouth and bit into it, and then placed it against my mouth. I felt his blood flow into my mouth and down my throat. I accepted the blood, letting it flow down my throat. I lost consciousness.

When I awoke, I was covered in blood, the sheets and remnants of my nightgown wrapped around me. I sat up in bed and looked around the room, watching shadows dance along the walls. These were shadows I had never seen before and was immediately fascinated by them. I rose from the bed and dressed, surrounded by the shadows as they swirled and danced through the room. I left my room and walked down to my brother’s room, knocking softly on his door. I heard him grunt so I entered the room and stared.

There were tufts of fur on the floor and something that appeared to be shredded skin on the bed. Maxus was lying face down on the floor, naked. I rushed to his side and rolled him onto his back, smoothing his hair and kissing his cheeks.

“Maxus, wake up. Wake up please. What has happened?” I kissed each of his eyes and his cheeks, feeling his sweat on my lips. “Maxus, please!”

“Don’t cry, sis. I’m okay.” I felt Maxus running his fingers through my hair. “Your hair is so long. Longer than I remember. Are you different?”

“I am, my love. I am. What has happened to you?” I wrapped my arms around Maxus and began to rock him.

“I am part of the pack now. Argus spent the night helping me learn how to change. There is a lot of shedding the first few times. I still don’t have the full hang of it, but a few more practices and I should have it under control. I am fine, do not worry.”

“So, we are both different. It seems last night was eventful for us both. Are you going to try to return to the surface once you gain control of your ability?”

“No, not unless I have to. I will go with you if that is something you want to do. You cannot kill the Queen.”

“I can kill her and I will.”

“The Pharaoh will hunt you down and kill you. He might find us. We cannot lead him and his soldiers here. You must not kill her.”

“Then I will haunt her. I will become a lasting nightmare for her. There are numerous ways to kill someone without doing physical harm to that person. It’s all about the mind and what can be done to it.”

“You are a lot more frightening than I ever imagined. We will make a wonderful royal family one day.”

“Yes we will.” I hugged Maxus and we sat on the floor, wrapped in each others arms.
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