ENTERING NOR'S ATMOSPHERE IN 3...2...1... LANDING TIME SEVEN MINUTES AND COUNTING
The loud, somewhat scratchy, voice of the skip woke Amaranth from her slumber. Blinking, she sat up in the chair, her gaze riveted on the view before her. The land was covered in snow, small dots of homes and dark shapes of trees making themselves known as her ship descended. A large castle loomed in the distance, set a top a high hill. It was made of gray-black stone, the snow bright against it. She could only smile, a painful tugging at her heart. She was home. At least eight months earlier than expected, but home none the less. Closer and closer they got to the castle. Little ant-sized people below were scrambling. They recognized the royal seal upon the ship, but were not prepared for an arrival.
Slowly, the ship lowered it's self onto the launch pad, firmly resting on the ground before coming to a stop. Without even turning the ship off fully, Amaranth was opening the door and running out, straight into the waiting arms of her brother. With a laugh almost as booming as their father's, the older man picked her up, hugging her tightly.
“C-Cole! I can't breathe!” she sputtered out, laughing. With a grin, he set her down, shaking his head.
“What are you doing here, Ammy! And why didn't you call ahead?” he asked. She smiled, taking a moment to look at her brother. It was obvious to anyone around them that the two were related. Cole's hair was a few shades lighter than her's. It was short and somewhat spiky like their father's. His eyes were like liquid gold, a trait inherited from their mother. He was much more muscular than here, like most Nor/Writhonian hybrids, thought his skin was much lighter from so much time on Nor. She shrugged.
“I missed home. And I wanted to surprise you,” she said. He simply grinned, throwing an arm around her shoulders and leading her inside.
“You'll have to tell me all about it over dinner. Kitra and Nessa are going to be so excited that you're here,” he said. Amaranth nodded.
“Alright. Let me shower and change first. I've been in that ship for two weeks and I need a nice warm shower,” she joked. Chucking, Cole pulled his sister into another hug before letting go and nodding.
“See you at dinner then.”
“Sounds like you had quite the adventure,”Cole said. Amaranth smiled, leaning back in her chair. Her five-year old niece, Nessa, were curled up on her lap, asleep. She ran her hand through the girl's soft blue hair absentmindedly, her tail curled around the small girl.
“That's one way to put it, I guess,” she said with a shrug. Kitra chuckled.
“It is. Sounds like you've also met quite a few interesting people too,” she commented. Amaranth shrugged again. It was true, she had met some interesting people. Jorlaxl and Caius for one, Boliko too. And of course, there was the android C.Haos and his partner. If it hadn't been for them, she was sure her time on Earth would be far less exciting. She hadn't really been able to say a proper goodbye to those at the Crane School. Only a hastily scribbled note let on the fridge before she left. Amaranth doubted that she'd be hearing from any of them any time soon. After all, why should she expect to? Yes, she was friends with the three men, but she hadn't known them very long. If she ever saw them again, Amaranth could only guess it'd be on Earth. Kitra stood, coming around the table and rousing Nessa.
“Come on honey, time for bed,” she said softly. Yawning, the little girl hugged Amaranth once more before slipping off her lap and leaving with her mom. Amaranth watched as Cole gave a fond smile after them before turning back to her.
“I'm glad you're back, Ammy. We've all been worried sick,” he said somberly. She nodded.
“Sorry...But, I think I'm okay now. Earth turned out to be just what I needed,” she said, a soft smile on her face. Cole stood, walking over and squeezing her shoulder.
“I'm glad. Goodnight Ammy,” he said softly before leaving as well.
“Night,” she called back as the large doors to the dining room closed. It was silent in the room. Only the sounds of the crackling fireplace and the wind outside to keep her company. Standing, she made her way to one of the large windows. Frost had formed along the patterned glass. Lights from the city below shone like candles, a beautiful, icy world. With a sigh, Amaranth touched the glass. She hadn't told them everything. Not about Touketsuki and what he might have done, and what he still might do. Not about Boliko and the empire of planets he wanted to create. Not about the creatures she had met, or heard about, that were strong enough to wipe out her planet. There were dangers in the universe that she had always been told about when she was small, but none of them were like this. She had to do something, to prevent such things from happening before it was too late. She wouldn't let Nor or Writhos subcome to danger like Earth and it's neighbors. She would protect her home. Her people.
And no one, or anything, would stop her.
Chapter Two Keepers
But of course, nothing was ever that easy, especially when planned alone. I returned home to my manor in a town a little south of the castle. My butler, Floote, was waiting for me, diligent as always. My most trusted adviser, he was the only one I spoke to of my plans, the only one outside of my family I knew I could truly trust. Where I had left out parts of my time on Earth when talking with Cole, I told him everything. We went to work right away, months of planning and preparation going into it before contacts were even established.
The Eyrie was first on my list. I traveled to Molve quickly, landing in Serros only three days later. My trip to the Eyrie was a short one. It hadn't changed much in the past few years. A couple were day, a few even missing. But in that line of work, it was a given. Intrigue, and old friend of mine, was among the dead. And Seraph Blood among the missing. Though I loath to even think it, I'm sure that we will meet again soon.
With the Eyrie's involvement in my affairs, I moved onto the major player in Nor. The Cirque du Sang. The Circus of Blood. It was run by Adrian La'Telle, a psychotic ringmaster who took in all kinds of criminals. When my grandmother was still alive, an agreement had been struck between her and the circus. The police of Nor would not touch them, as long as Adrian kept them fully under her grasp.
There were many rumors about Adrian, and none of them were pleasant. Some say she had cheated Death himself into giving her eternal life. Some say she bathed in the blood of her victims to keep her young. Why those stories were all silly, there were some that were true. Like how she tortured any who dared try to hurt or take her circus members. How she was truly, completely, undeniably insane.
The actually circus was open to any who wished to go. For it was truly a good show in every regard. Many traveled from all over Nor to see it, for the circus never let it's small encampment in the woods west of the castle. It was there I traveled one night, Floote by my side. I had been to the circus only one before when I was a little girl. I had been enchanted by it, but my brothers quickly made me leave after. Mom and Dad stayed. At that time, I didn't know why, but now I understood.
The circus was as enchanting as I remembered. It was a beautiful display, made to make people forget about the horrors that went on after dark. For many it worked but for me, not tonight. The circus finished a little after midnight and while others filed out, talking and laughing about what they saw, Floote and I stayed. It was not long until the circus was empty, not long until Adrian herself invited us to center stage. There had been an accident that night. A young man involved in her knife-throwing act. She had missed, all five knives ending up in his hands, feet, and finally his throat. It was obviously no accident. His blood still stained the ground where we stood, the smell putrid and metallic in the air.
We talked for hours until finally, a deal was struck. Adrian wouldn't work for me, but with me. She'd feed my spies information and in return, she would be granted pardons and any “performer” she wanted.
The year continued. Sive and Sersa, the twin children of the Lady of the Air Court were my lead spies. Their telepathy a strong and invaluable technique.
But there was one more thing I needed to compleate, one thing that I needed to know before my mind could be at ease. There was somethig I had noticed on Earth, something that I saw to be increadibly useful. The ability to sense another's energy. And so, I went to my uncle. We trained for months on end, the end of the year becoming the turning point as I finally gained that ability. It needed work but I knew in time it could become valuable to me in many ways.
With the year ending, I was happy with the progress I had made. I can only hope now that my efforts will not be in vain.
At last, it seems like a moment of peace has settled over both Nor and Writhos. The Spring months are coming to an end and I find myself working more and more as the go between for my brothers. Mom and Dad are up to something, that's easy enough to tell. They're spending more time off world or out of the castle, putting Ron and Cole in charge of handling the palace and planet's concerns more and more. I'm not sure if my brothers are seeing it, but I suspect that my homes will not have a High King and Queen for much longer. I am worried by this though. As much as I trust and love my brothers, I must admit that they are not always the calmest of the two.
Ron, a battle-hardened ex-assassin tends to have a knack for thinking with his fists a little too often when it comes to such matters. Cole as well. And when they are together, I always seem to be shutting them up. But as I said, my parents seem to have a plan, despite knowing this. For now I can only watch, wait, and pray to the Gods and Goddesses of both worlds.
I was right. Mom and Dad announced their retirement earlier today. Ron will ascend to the King of Writhos and Cole shall be the permanent King of Nor. The planets are happy with the choice, and my brothers seem pleased as well. The official ceremony for Ron will be held the day after tomorrow in Writhos. I will leave tonight and return two weeks from today. It will be a nice time to get away and be with my family. I just hope everything will go smoothly.
I've returned earlier than expected. A ship has been sighted near my manor and my spies are reporting strange creatures seen near by. Creatures who I'm sure I have met earlier. The androids C.Haos and Souka. I don;t know what exactly they are doing on Nor, but I'm sure that it can't be good. Our last fight ended with me having to flee, but not this time. It can't be a coincidence that they're so close to my home.
It has been three weeks since I clashed with the androids, and only two days since Nessa's funeral...
I had found them quickly enough, with my brother and sister in law along side me with our best men and woman. I had wanted them dead, gone for good so that they would not trouble me any further. The battle was over in no time, the two severely out numbered. I thought we had won this battle as my brother and I gave chase to the two, Kitra close behind. But.....we were too late. Nessa's nanny was dead, and we arrived just in time to watch as...as...
As Nessa was killed....absorbed by C.Haos through his tail.
Cole exploded, but the two were gone before we even had a chance. Nessa was gone as well...
I didn't mean for this to happen. I never wanted her or any in my family to get hurt. I wanted to save them from this. But I was a fool. I should have known that my enemies from Earth would have followed me. I should have been more prepared! Had Floote not warned me of the possible threat?! I was so foolish to believe that my planet, my home, my family was safe! How could I have been so naive! I cost my brother his eldest daughter! She was only six years old and she's gone. Forever gone...
And it's all my fault...
Month's have passed since my last entry. My 22nd birthday has passed as well. I have officially become of marrying age and with no intended in site at the moment, the elders at the castle has doubled any efforts they have previously made to find me a good match. It has been tiring and difficult, not to mention a complete waste of everyone's time. Even Mom is getting involved, enjoying her time as a matchmaker. After all, she never got the chance to with either of my brothers.
I am finding myself spending more time with my uncle because of this. We have been working on a move called Zanzoken that is starting to seem promising.
Now I only have to hope that Mom doesn't throw anymore of her famous balls.
Chapter Two Candles and Clockwork
The music was soft, the dancers on the floor moving in an elegant composition. It was an older dance in Nor, one every child was taught from a young age. Everyone who was anyone was here, even those from planets other than Writhos and Nor. Men mostly, and those who were considered men for their species. For this ball was not just a celebration of the Summer months coming to an end, but also Amaranth's Coming of Age ball. An old tradition, but one the elders of the Court had insisted upon. Amaranth was of marrying age now, and if she didn't want to end up an old spinster, they had to let others know she was available. While she and her parents were reluctant to agree, it seemed they had little choice unless a bad image of Amaranth were to be spread out.
So here she was, dressed in a pure white evening gown with her blond hair styled up. She sighed, hanging back from the revelers, sipping a glass of wine. In truth, Amaranth was more than a little skittish. Never being one with much luck in love (a true understatement) she never exactly knew how to handle such things. So it became a frightfully awkward thing when men, young and old, came to ask her for a dance and she either had to politely refuse, blaming her “hurt ankle” or be dragged around in a horrific attempt to dance.
Amaranth sighed, looking into the dark red of the wine and she swirled it around. She had already tried spilling some on her dress to have an excuse to leave, but the elders had expected that. They had six other dresses set aside for such an occasion, Even now, the shriveled old woman stood “guard” at the doors, ready for her. This is silly...
With another sigh, she set her glass down and stood, trying to find her balance for a moment on her heels. She had not inherited her mother or father's height and therefore, the dressmaker had given her heels with at least five inches, four more than she was used to. With practiced balance, Amaranth walked toward the open doors to one of the balconies, desperate for escape. She turned her head, waiting for one of the elders to rush up and herd her back in. But, it was not them who stopped her abruptly, but a slightly broad chest of a man.
“S-sorry,” Amaranth said, tottering on her heels. Two hands gently took her arms, steadying her.
“No worries, princess. <3” crooned the voice. She froze, blue eyes turning to look at the face of the man before her. His normally unruly white hair was slicked back into a ponytail, exposing his handsome face and deep red eyes. His mouth was curved into an amused grin, pointed teeth just visible. It was Seraph Blood. The insane doctor of the Eyrie, and the man who had healed her after her fight with Blake. What he was doing here though was a mystery she didn't want to know.
There were very few men who Amaranth feared. At the top of that list was Blood. Anyone in their right mind would fear the man that stood before her. At first glance, he looked harmless. He was of average height and build and physically, wasn't that strong. But he was blood thirsty, psychotic, a man with no cares for human lives except the screams he can pull from them. After all, he didn't get the codename Blood because he was the doctor.
“Blood...what are you doing here?” she asked, her voice hardly a whisper. She felt frozen solid, her feet glued to the floor. He grinned.
“Hoping for a dance from a beautiful princess. Shall we?” he asked, sweeping her out onto the dance floor.
“N-no! I shouldn't. I-I hurt my ankle-”
“Nonsense! You're ankle is just fine!” he said, ripping up her lie like it was wet paper. He led her to the center, placing one hand on her waist and taking her hand with his other. Pulling her close, he began to dance with her. The band was playing a haunting song that seemed to fit this moment far too well. Laying a hand on his shoulder lightly, she danced along with him. For moments he said nothing, just looking down at him with a soft smile. Finally, she couldn't take it anymore and looked away.
“Why are you here Blood?” she asked quietly. He chuckled.
“Why, for the same reason as any other man here, Princess,” he crooned, leaning down to nuzzle her neck fondly. Goosebumps of fear trailed across her skin. He chuckled, moving his mouth up to her ear.
The year ended shortly after that and I found Blood making permanent residence at my home. As it turns out, his words were not truly correct. He didn't want me, but my mind. He had been the one to mostly heal me after Blake's attack, and had been the one to drain most of his power from me, even though there were still lingering effects. Like the dreams I had had for one. Why he is back after all these years remains to be seen, but he says that he can help me remove Blake's influence once and for all. Of course, I didn't realize just how he had planned to do so...
A blood curdling scream was wrenched from the lungs of the young princess. She sat on her heels, doubled over with pain. Red tears, a Noran trait, ran down her cheeks as sobs mixed in with her screams. She was naked from the waist up, only her arms covering her chest. A man with pure white hair stood behind her, a grin stashing across his face. Her hands were raised above him, moving like an orchestra director's. Black threads snaked from his fingers to her back, quivering in ecstasy at her screams. The threads pieced the scar on her back, drawing no blood, but only pain.
A quick snap of his wrists pulled even louder screams from her as the threads were ripped from her back, disappearing as they did so. Amaranth slumped forward, her breathing heavy and desperate, each one laced with a soft sob. The man behind her laughed, clapping his hands, long red nails catching the light as he did so.
"Oh! That was a most beautiful session, Princess! ¢¾ A shame we do this only twice a month," he said, pouting. She said nothing in response, trembling as she waited for the residual pain to ebb away. The man knelt behind her, wrapping his arms around her waist and burying his face in her hair, taking a deep breath.
"Trigger my dear, if only we could do this every night! Mmmm....how your cries would thrill me so then! I don't think I'd ever tire. ¢¾," he purred, nuzzling his face into her hair.
"Get....off me Blood," she whispered, hugging herself tighter. Her skin crawled where he touched her, the rancid smell of death on his breath. Seraph Blood gigged again, slipping his arms off her and standing, twirling around. His lab coat, about five sizes too big for him, followed him like a cape as he did so, revealing his black undertaker clothing.
"So quick to reject me still, eh Trigger? ¢¾ Oh well. Just remember, without me, you'd be as mad as well, me! Wouldn't that be a delight!! ¢¾" he crooned, shivering in pleasure at the thought. Reaching a shaking hand out to her left, Amaranth picked up the white robe she always kept beside her and slipped it on, standing slowly. Pulling it closed in front, she made her way over to the sink in her bathroom, the setting of this horrid affair. She turned on the water, wetting a hand towel and wiping away the red tears. Seraph Blood perched on the edge of her very large bath, watching her with a smile.
"Felling better? ¢¾" he questioned. Amaranth didn't answer, going to the door and opening it.
"It's time for you to go," she said, the steel back in her voice. Blood sighed and stood, walking over to her. Gently, he cupped her face in what otherwise might have been a lover's touch. Running his finger over the residue of her tears, he leaned down and grinned.
"Don't act so cold, Trigger. Hurt my feelings and I may never come back," he whispered, staring into her blue eyes with his pale green ones. Amaranth shivered, unable to look away. He grinned and kissed her forehead before all but skipping out into her bedroom and finally out of that.
"Don't forget to drink the tea tonight! ¢¾" he called before slipping out of her chambers. Amaranth stood there for a moment, frozen. Finally, she slid down the door frame, crumbling onto the floor. Pressing the heels of her hands to her eyes, she stayed there until the pain, and the feel of Blood's touch, had left her body.
Blood continues to work with her, putting her into drug-induced sleep to study her in the waking world and record her dreams. It's in the third month that Amaranth receives a letter from Velvet, inviting her to tea. She accepts and the two finally meet at Velvet's home. It is there that Velvet explains what so many cannot. The dreams, the strange things that Amaranth's been seeing, and much more. She revealed that when Blake cut her back years ago, his blood had mixed with her own, giving her powers that she would have had if she was born a Duiecite. She then explained that the place where Amaranth went in her dreams was called The Veil, a place between life and death where the Duiecite draw they're power. The two began to visit more often, Velvet becoming her new teacher. It was around this time that an old friend came to Nor, Boliko Koregetsu. Amaranth found him purely by chance on her way home from Velvet's. She takes him in, insisting that he stay with her. Amaranth continues her weekly meetings with Velvet, and her monthly meetings with Blood (though it takes place away from home). It is during Boliko's time with her that Amaranth starts to realize that she enjoys his company, more than she had ever before. It is at this time that she realizes that he in not the boy she met years ago, but a man. But, he leaves suddenly, leaving her with feelings that she has not yet realized. It is this year that Amaranth meets up with Serori during her yearly trip to the Crane School. The two catch up and Amaranth begins to see the girl as a good friend.
As Blood leaves, Velvet and Amaranth become even closer, the girl often found at the woman's home. Mastering her Second Sight, Velvet moves on to teach her how to heal others. The two spend months on it until Amaranth has finally mastered it. It is about halfway through this year that Amaranth returns to Velvet's home, only to find the meadow empty save for the large apple tree, and three graves under it. An old, leather journal rests onto of Velvet's, a detailed set of teaching and history for the young Princess.
It is around this time that Amaranth begins to have threats on her life. While this would be uneventful normally, Amaranth is able to see that the assassins, while still alive, have no life-energy (hua/ki) running through them. All the assassins are either killed right away, or suddenly die twelve hours later. The attacks are relentless, forcing Amaranth to amp up her security. Unfortunately, this means that she is visited by a boy at the age of nineteen by the name of Dynammo. He claims to be a mercenary sent by a clan that wishes to protect her. Against her better wishes, she agrees. Though, she hardly sees him at all which is fine by her. In fact, the only time she does see him is when he insists on a silly spar. As the attacks on her life continue, Amaranth begins to explore her dream world with the help of Velvet's notes. She finds that she is called a Dream Walker. She is able to travel through the dreams of those around her, as well as the ghosts stuck in the Veil. With the help of Floote, she slowly begins to learn to control it. Around the middle of the year, Amaranth's trusted maid, Ivy, falls victim to whatever spell has taken the life-energy of the others. Amaranth has no choice but to kill her. She then slips unconscious from blood loss, due to the injury that Ivy managed to make. It is in the dream world that Amaranth finds Ivy and after speaking to her, is able to decipher the identity of the woman who is after her. A Duicite witch by the name of Magdalena. It is after this attack that Amaranth leaves Nor, taking up residence in the Crane School.
Second Sight: Allows Amaranth to see the lines of Hua/Ki in each person. It is used for healing mostly, for when the body is hurt, a blackness seems to seep into that area of the lines.
Healing: She does this by shifting into Second Sight and repairing the damage to the flow of Hua. She is able to heal minor injuries easily, though many large ones require a good amount of her strength, leaving her tired after for an unknown amount of time.
Dream Walking (level 1): Amaranth has the unique ability to travel through the dreams of others while she is in the Veil. This occurs whenever she is asleep. She is able to traverse the dreams of the ghosts caught between life and death, though it is an incredibly dangerous thing. For the ghosts are never kind and often very confused and dangerous. It is equally dangerous because whatever injuries Amaranth gains in the dreamworld, she feels in her waking one. Amaranth is also able to go into the dreams of the living, but only when both parties are asleep and touching skin-to skin in some way.