This is chapter one of my fiction book: The Curse of the Silver Rose
The Night of Blood
It was late and Alice had just begun to fall asleep when she heard the screams outside her window again. Her eyes shot open, but against her own will, she lie paralyzed. Her conscious brain immediately knew what was happening, but her body didn’t want to accept it. A deep feeling of dread encompassed her in a way that felt like she might never move again. This was the kind of dread that skipped past the flesh and went straight for the bones.
As soon as her legs regained consciousness, she threw off her blanket. Her head was dizzy, but she headed straight for the throne room; feet slapping against the cool marble floor while dashing through the dimly lit hallway.
“Alice, don’t,” a small voice came from a cracked door to her left. She hesitated, and Peter took advantage of it. “He’s got it under control. Just let him do his job.”
Alice’s hands clenched into a balled fist.
“If he has it under control, then why will hundreds of people end up dead in the morning?” Alice looked back at Peter. He was cowering against his door, shaking in his fuzzy white and gold slippers. He didn’t often stand up to her—he never needed to.
His wide, blue eyes reminded her of their old wolf, Kota, when they first found him in the forest. Afraid, confused, and small. Her shoulders fell slightly and her eyes softened.
“I don’t want you to get in trouble again,” he said. She walked over towards him and squatted down, placing a hand on his small shoulder.
“Don’t worry about me, okay? You just worry about you. Go read those history books that you love. That helps calm you down, right?” Her question was met with a harsh scream escaping through Peter’s closed window.
He always had his closed during the night. Alice left hers open.
She wrapped him in a tight hug as his body quivered and his breaths shortened. “It’s going to be okay. We’re safe here. We have the roses in the garden. Nothing is going to happen to you, okay?”
After the momentary embrace, Alice let go of Peter and walked further into the hallway. Peter didn’t protest, and she didn’t look back this time. She didn’t want to see his face right now. She needed to be strong right now, and anger kept her strong.
Pushing the long wooden doors open without knocking, she blazed into the throne room. Her step-father’s eyes narrowed at the sight of her, but her footsteps didn’t falter. He was sitting on a golden throne atop a few lines of stairs. A pen was in his hand and papers were scattered on a small desk in front of him. The same desk that her mother had carved many years ago as a birthday present for Alice.
His sword was hung up on the wall behind him.
Stroat combed a hand through his copper hair, his dull gray eyes staring at her.
“Go back to sleep… Alice,” he said, but not in the way that a father might tell his daughter. It was much more in the way that a leader might order a follower.
“How can I?” she whispered, her hands shaking with anger. “How can I while there are Nimfins outside dying?” Her voice broke at the last word. She had a much better speech prepared, but her emotions had other intentions.
The walls of the oversized throne room reverberated her voice against the marble.
“I will not ask you again,” he said quietly. His threat did little to sway her.
“How can you just sit here?” She flung her arms across her chest.“Without even a sword at your side? Have you given up?”
Stroat’s lip twitched into a curl.
“Listen, you witch, get back into bed before I throw you out of this castle and let the eeries have their way with you.” He slammed his palm on the desk. Papers slowly drifted to the floor.
“Your threats are meaningless.” He opened his mouth to retort, but she didn’t leave him the opportunity. “You may have given up, but I haven’t. You promised them you would act, and yet you sit here writing letters. Your sword hangs above your head like a novelty. Does your cowardice know no bounds?”
Stroat threw the small desk to the side with a single hand. It bounced down the stairs but lay at the bottom unharmed. He looked down at her, and his eyes were coal underneath smoldering fire.
“Don’t forget that I am your King. If I want your head I can take it. I can order my men to slice it off clean and hang it in my garden. I could put it right next to that treacherous little friend of yours—Lethin.” His eyes were giddy with joy knowing this reminder would sting. He was a childhood friend of Alice’s that had been caught using magic a few months ago. Magic was outlawed in this country.
“Or I could do it slowly, I could plunge my sword into your stomach and let you bleed out right there on the ground.”
He had threatened her with violence more times than she could count, but he had never used this kind of scenario before. It was surprising, but not because of how vile it was. That was to be expected, it was more because part of her was convinced that he didn’t know how to use his sword.
Chills crept down her spine and onto her arms, but she dug her fingers into her palm and planted her feet where she stood.
“My mother would kill you if—”
“Your mother isn’t here,” he said smugly.
Alice took in a deep breath as anger fumed in the pit of her stomach. How much could she get away with saying?
“You’re right, Stroat,” she began slowly. “If she was here, my people wouldn’t be dying.” Her voice was venom.
Stroat turned and jumped towards the sword placed on his mantle, just missing the hilt before slamming back down to the ground. On the second attempt he grabbed the end of the hilt and unsheathed his sword in one awkward motion. The weight of his sword sent his small stature tilting to the side a bit before correcting himself. He turned on her and his eyes were wide, the tips of his lips stretched into a sadistic grin. A long cloak draped behind him as he ran towards her yelling profanities. Calling her names that she hadn’t heard before, and a few that she knew her mother would have beat him for saying. She chuckled bitterly at the thought while stepping out into the hallway and slamming the door on him.
“Perhaps if your cloak wasn’t so big you would have caught me,” she yelled back while taking in a few deep breaths. She looked down at her steady hands. The first time she had confronted Stroat, they had been shaking. She’d lost all respect for him now though, and there was little he could do to upset her. She still couldn’t figure out why in the world her mother had picked him to marry.
“Are you alright, Miss Alice? I thought I heard shouting,” a guard asked Alice anxiously from down the hallway. His voice quivered in fear. Alice understood why. If the eeries attacked the palace, he’d be the one to stand up to them, and not many people who stood up to an eerie lived to talk about it. Her mother and the former leader of the Nimf military, Finn, being the only two that have killed one. The guard stepped into the light and she was met with a familiar face.
“Yes I’m fine, Officer Green,” she said. “I was just–talking–to Stroat.” The little humor that was left in his expression fell.
“You’d tell us if he treated you improperly,” Green said in all seriousness.
Alice attempted to smile. “Of course. Don’t worry. Stroat and I were just discussing something,” she said. Green gave her a look that she could tell meant that he saw through her lie, but it wasn’t worth getting him into trouble for trying to help her. She could fight her own battles.
“You don’t have to do everything yourself, you know,” he said. “You’ve got the whole Nimfin army backing you up.” She nodded.
A few more guards piled into the hallway, and she decided it was time to leave, not wanting to make anymore of this than she already had.
With a pained smile, she put her right hand to her left shoulder. The salute first began as a sign of commonality amongst officers in Nimf’s military, but it soon became something everyone in Nimf used.
As soon as he saw what she was doing, he and the other guards did the same. “Goodnight, officers,” she said.
“Goodnight, Miss Alice,” they said nearly in unison, enunciating the Miss portion. They had stopped calling her Princess when her mother left. She put her arm down and walked away towards her room.
“Keep your heads high boys,” Green said. “There goes our Queen.”
Officer Green and the rest of the guards kept their arms up like that long after she was gone.
It had been quiet for awhile, and so the walk back to her room was much more bearable now that the screams were gone, and she was certain that the eeries had left. They normally left about half-way through the night. After about an hour or two of mayhem the eeries would retreat, and sometimes a few of them would be left behind, dead. It was strange, no one had seen anyone fighting them–let alone killing them. She couldn’t understand why if someone was able to kill them they would keep it to themselves — or worse — why they waited so long to make their move.
As she rounded the last corner, she saw Peter peeking from behind his door again. He was hard-to-miss with his bright blue eyes, even the dark night couldn’t hide them.
“Are you grounded again?” he asked her and she smiled.
“You could say that,” she said and Peter wrinkled his nose at her tone. “Do you want me to stay with you tonight?”
Peter was quiet for a moment and looked down at his slippers. She knew he must be thinking about his father’s wishes. Stroat wanted him to stop relying on Alice so much and to start acting like the kind of man who could run a kingdom.
“I’ll sneak us some blancs,” Alice said, eyebrows raised.
He looked up at her and smiled. It was all the reassurance that was needed. She headed into the kitchen. Her best tip-toe routine practiced and rehearsed. She was actually pretty proud of it, though as if to prove her wrong, Finn caught her the moment she placed her feet onto the cobblestone floor. A flicker of fire sparked to life on a candle, Finn’s arm were crossed. Her cheeks turned red.
Finn was easily identifiable from the black mask that he wore to cover his entire face. It understandably made him very difficult to read. “Thinking about sneaking some sweets for you and Peter?” he asked her. His voice was smooth, like velvet and she remembered how much her mother used to love hearing it. She had once told Alice that her original reason for making him the head of her army was so that she could hear him shout out orders. His command didn’t last more than a few months before he left — telling Alice’s mother that he wanted to travel the world. He came back every so often, and most frequently on nights of blood.
Alice didn’t want to smile, but she did. After a moment’s recovery, she scoffed. “How’d you guess?” she asked sarcastically.
“You know I’d try being a little nicer seeing as though I’m the one with the sack of sweets,” he said. He threw up the bag in the air with his right hand and caught it with his left without moving his head. He was showing off.
Alice rolled her eyes. “Is your life so boring that you feel like you have to taunt little girls for entertainment, or do you simply get some sick sort of pleasure from it?” she asked. Her unsettled voice echoed throughout the oversized kitchen.
“Did you rehearse that?” he said — his tone filled with cool pleasure. “Your delivery is a little shaky. Would you like to try it again? This time try not curling your lip so much.” She could hear a smile in his voice. Caught off guard she looked at her feet. “No response to that? I’m a little disappointed.”
Her voice failed her. He shook his head and threw the blancs up in the air towards her. She caught them. “Don’t let them see you tremble, Alice.”
It was a variation on something that her mother used to say to her when she was younger. “Don’t let them see you cry, Alice.” She remembered the first time Winifred had said it to her was when Alice was six-years-old. It was a time when she felt brave enough to venture into the dark forest; however, she soon found herself lost in its clutches for hours. They were known to be an evil wood, but she was brave back then. Always wanting to push the envelope.
Her mother had found her by the sound of crying. As they walked back to the palace together she had whispered into Alice’s ear softly, “don’t let them see you cry, Alice.” It was the closest thing to love that Winifred would give to Alice—advice
She bit her lip. He didn’t have the right to use her mother’s words towards her. He was never even here anymore she wanted to say. But it was upsetting her more than she liked, and so she left before he could take further advantage of her emotions.
The hallway felt darker than before, her hand groped the walls as she walked on without a candle. Her footsteps faltered when she came into a small groove. It was where her mother had insisted on building a book nook, believing that it would force Alice into reading more—like Peter. Although building it became less of a priority when the eeries arrived, and now it was just a strange crevice in the wall–unfinished, left behind. She rested her body against it and exhaled. With the screams gone, the palace was silent, and with no one around she sat like a ball on the ground trembling until her eyes adjusted to the dark. Grazing the groove with her index finger she sighed, stood up and continued.
Peter’s excitement was vivid on his face. “What took you so long? I’m starving!” he said as though he hadn’t just had dinner.
She hesitated.“Um, Finn was here.”
“Oh, him,” Peter grumbled. His mouth was full of the white sticky blanc, blue powder all over his lips.
“Yeah. He just, I mean I sometimes I just…” she said trailing off seeing that Peter wasn’t interested in the topic of Finn. “Nevermind.”
Peter shrugged and went over to his bookshelf. He took out a familiar silver book that had been almost falling apart for years now. It was held together with a string knot that Alice had helped him fashion awhile ago.
“Want to hear a story?” he asked. His grubby little fingers now turning everything that he touched blue. Alice smirked, thinking about what their mother might have said had she seen his fingers. She sighed.
He flipped through the pages and put his finger to his mouth.
“What about the one where the silver rose vanquishes master Aerin?” he asked.
“You told that one two days ago,” Alice said. Peter looked back at his book.
“What about the one where the Silver and the White Rose live on a planet called Earth together?” he asked. “I love that one.”
“That one’s so boring. There’s no action in it all. Besides you told that one last week,” she said.
“Well there’s always the origin story. I haven’t told that one in awhile,” he said. Alice shrugged. It was true that he hadn’t told this one in awhile. And there was a little bit of action. All he needed was a shrug to excitedly turn to page 624 of his book, where the origin story began.
“It was a sunny day in the Garden of Nede when the eight original humans were out for a walk. All of the flowers were blooming, the trees were lush and the sky was a beautiful golden blue. They had not a care in the world. They did not even know of cares actually. They only understood peace, and happiness. This world was the picture of perfection. There were no sorrows, no pain, no hurting, no hatred, nothing of that sort had ever entered the gates of Nede. That is until the day of blood,” he said. He looked up at Alice in anticipation. She knew that he wanted her to be as excited as he was. She wasn’t of course, but she faked a smile for his enjoyment. He was contented with this and pressed on.
“They were allowed anywhere in the garden, and it was hundreds of miles wide. They could eat whatever they wanted. They could drink from whatever stream or river they wanted. They could roam and go anywhere and everywhere that they pleased. Well that is, everywhere except the rose garden,” he said. Peter was teeming with excitement. Alice wondered how in the world anyone could be this enthusiastic about a story, but nonetheless, she loved that it made him so happy. “It was a garden full of strange flowers that they were unfamiliar with. Never touched, never smelt, never felt. The rose garden was gated up, and they knew not to go into it. It was forbidden and yet something that day as they walked past it caught one of the eights’ eyes. It sparkled in the sun and was more beautiful than anything they had ever seen. It was a silver rose.
They had grown up in this garden and it was all they ever knew. They knew every tree and every flower. They had named them all. Well every flower other than the ones that found refuge behind those pearly white gates. Finally one of the eight couldn’t handle it any longer. They slipped away from the group as not to be seen and hopped over the fence without the slightest hesitation. Eyes set on the sterling flower. They searched through the garden trying to find the one flower that they wanted. The beautiful one that sparkled in the sunlight.
Before long the group realized that they were only seven and went off in search for the eighth. They looked near every stream, under every tree with no success, until they heard a noise that had never been uttered before in the garden. They ran to the white pearly gates stopping abruptly behind them, being the obedient seven that they were. They all stood there watching the eighth pluck the sterling flower from the forbidden garden, and as the eighth did this their finger pressed up against something on the stem. Something that the eighth was not accustomed to. A thorn. That was the first feeling of pain a person had ever felt, and as they did a small drop of blood descended from their finger, and onto the petal of another ivory flower.”
“As this happened the earth began to shake. The trees uprooted themselves from their places and the plants and animals ran off in search of somewhere else. The whole garden was running away from them. Well the whole garden except for the roses. The roses remained. The ground shook, the trees retreated, the clouds turned dark and the sky was no longer a golden blue. That was the day of blood, and that was the day that the flowers lost their hold on the universe, and mankind’s domain began. Each rose held a certain part of the world, and when one of the eight pricked their finger all of the roses powers transformed onto the eight humans. And each were given a purpose in life. There was a rose for each element, a rose for time a rose for space, a rose for love, and a rose to rule. Though what the humans did not know was with these powers came a curse. A curse that each of the flowers had to bear, and now they were free from it, and the humans were shackled to it.”
He looked up at Alice with expectation. She clapped her hands dramatically and he stood up and took a small bow, smiling.
“So what do you think? Do you like that one?” he asked her.
“That one’s okay. I don’t really like the magical aspect of it though,” she said. She had been studying magic since she was young, and she knew that the magic in this story was impossible.
Magic didn’t work that way. The earth doesn’t move on it’s own. The Silver Rose and the Green Rose could have feasible uprooted trees and grass and ground, but they didn’t according to the story. The garden uprooted itself. It wasn’t possible.
“Really? That’s my favorite part,” he said. He held his composure, but Alice could see that his heart had been broken a little.
“It just, I guess it just doesn’t feel real. I mean trees running away?” she said with a smile, trying to keep conversation light. She didn’t want to upset Peter. “Besides there’s nothing in it about the white rose, so how great could it be?” she reasoned.
“Yeah I guess,” he said.
“Do you want to tell another one? One about Cloud?” she asked. Peter was quietly looking down at his book.
“So you don’t think it’s a real story?” he asked. Alice was taken aback momentarily.
“Do you think it’s a real story?” she asked.
“Yes,” he said.
“Okay, well then me too,” she said.
Peter was now smiling again and so the universe was just as it should be. “Can I tell you one about Cloud Knight and the Andrea people?”
“I do love that one,“ Alice said, and it didn’t even matter to her if it was true.
The story first began by explaining how Cloud saved the people of Andrea by creating a weapon made from cystalleine metal infused with the bark of trees from the silver rose forest. Alice spaced out for most of it, she already knew this was the story that was supposed to explain where magic came from and why we could use it.
“The weapons that Cloud made allowed people to use the magic from their ancestors–the eight original people. Most could control the elements, but some even had powers over small aspects of time and space. Soon the Andrea people were easily able to overpower the creatures who attacked from the east,” Peter explained. Alice gazed up at the ceiling, listening here and there. Wondering why Peter wanted to be Cloud so badly.
“Cloud is known for three things,” Peter said with animated eyes. He stood up and grabbed his wooden sword for dramatic effect seeing that Alice was slightly losing interest. “He lives forever, in every sense of the word. Nothing can kill him–not even time.”
Peter then jumped up onto his bed and pretended to stab himself in the chest with a toy sword. He fell onto the bed and then looked at Alice with a smile. He then came back onto the ground–looking at the book. She knew he didn’t need to though, he practically had this part memorized.“He can’t forget anything. Anything he experiences or encounters in his life, he will always and forever remember,” he said excitedly and pressed his hands to his temples and closed his eyes, squinting his eyebrows.
“And lastly, he is fiercely and desperately bound by love and devotion to the Silver Rose,” he said placing his hand over his heart. “Whether it be true or by force from the curse, no one knows.” He finished and moved his fingers around in the air for dramatic effect.
“What do you think of that Peter? He’s forced to love her, isn’t that kind of sad?” Alice said while staring up at the ceiling in thought. It was why she hated the romance stories so much. It all felt so fake–almost sick. Forced into love, into devotion? The stories showed that he’d do anything for her, even kill people he cared for. Peter looked down for a moment. She couldn’t tell if he was thinking or if her question had upset him.
“I don’t think he’s forced to love her. I think he just loves her,” he said. He continued to look down and Alice put her hand on his shoulder.
“Alright, you’re right, I don’t know what I was thinking,” she said to clear his mind. She tried to remind herself that it was better for him to think this way.
Peter fell asleep after a few more stories with his book draped over his stomach, but Alice stayed awake until the sun rose over the Calstillian mountains. Sleep never came to her on nights of blood. Instead she read to herself books from her mothers library. Books on strategy and politics. If she wanted to be Queen one day she had to work hard to get there. As of today, she was nothing like her mother.
As soon as it was bright enough she went back to her room and got ready to go into town, grabbing her bag and stuffing as much metal in it as she possibly could.
She tied up her light brown hair into a tight bun, and threw a black cloak over herself and set off for the docks with a large basket of metal.