Blood of Roses: Book I; Chapter 2

Faeryn awoke slowly from her weakedn state. A warm feeling filled the small sleeping quarters she now inhabited. She lay on a pallet of goose down and was covered with a thick quilt. The room was lit by a fire in small hearth. A rough hewn table, a small chest of drawers, a shelf of books, and the bed were the only pieces of furniture.
Faeryn gazed at the dark ceiling. She let the warmth of the room engulf her battered body. She didn’t know where she was, but it didn’t trouble her. She was warm for the first time in two months. The pleasant feeling caused her to fal l back asleep.


Divad, Master of the Dark Arts, paced his study. The fire in the hearth cast the mage’s ghostly shadow on the wall. A tapping of bony fists resounded on the door. The noise broke the mage’s concentration.
“Enter!” demanded the voice from within the hood. The voice was now powerful and frightening.
The door opened to reveal a stooped, withered creature with a hideaous corpse’s face.
“Master,” the creature hissed. “The mage Sterweb has arrived.”
“Fine, go now to the lady,” ordered Divad.
“Yes, Master.”
In the grand hall, stood a young magic user dressed in a black robe. The mage, Sterweb was a powerful magic user and a spokesperson for the Walled City of the Dark Arts. He served the Master of the Dark Arts, as did all mages in the Shadowlands.
Divad entered the hall with an air of authority and power, which he carefully tonder down for the sake of the resting maiden upstairs. “Sterweb, what news have you?”
“Oh, most gifted and powerful mage of the Dark,” Sterweb exclaimed with a deep bow.
Divad rolled his eyes. “Yes?”
“The Meric Tribe wizards are planning to rebel,” answered Sterweb breathlessly.
“What of it?” Divad snorted. “Those barbaric wizards are always rebelling. They are a primitive lot with no power, only Wild Magic, and the magic controls them, not the other way around.”
“But, Master...”
“And I control the magic.”
“But, Master...”
“Leave now, Sterweb. I am tired of your company. Inform me of any important developments.” Divad stressed the word important, implying that the present news was merely trivial.
Divad glared at the mage. “I said, LEAVE!”
“Yes, Master.” Sterweb scurried out backwards, bowing all the while.
Master Divad let out a long sigh after the mage had gone. “That’s all I need is another Meric Tribe skirmish right now.”
In a small cave of the Meric Tribe Wizards, a commitee of the most powerful wizards of the tribe sat around a small fire. The fire was situated in the center of teh cave and it cast the shadows of the squatting figures around the alcove.
The wizards had just finished a heated discussion and sat glaring at each other. Each wizard was reading the others’ thoughts. Finally, a wizard dressed in a tunic of leather stood up. All the other wizards bowed their heads.
The leader of the Meric Tribe chanted a short incantation to the tribe’s gods. Then all of the wizards raised their heads for final instructions.
“We can not let the Mage Divad overpower us this time,” the leader warned in the Meric tongue. “He has one weakness, and I have found it. Soon, very soon, disater will strike him in his own castle.”
The other tribe wizards muttered their enthusiasm to their leader’s words.
Faeryn sighed contentedly. She opened her eyes to see the same warm glowing room she had awakened in before. Then her heart skipped beat as she noticed a figure sitting at the table. The figure stirred as it realized Faeryn was awake. Faeryn gasped as she saw the figure’s features. It was the stooped and decayed creature tat served Master Divad. Its face was boney and deathly pale, causing its huge black eyes to dominate its face.
“Ahh,” the creature hissed. “The master will be pleased to see that you are awake.”
Faeryn groaned. She now began to realize that she was still imprisoned by a cold hearted mage whose powers of evil, she thought, were capable of stunning any living creature, driving it to madness.
The creature limped out of the room. Master Divad’s servant found the mage sitting in a large chair in the study. “Master, the lady is awake.”
Divad stood up and gripped the arms of the chair. “Good, go find something to do.”
“Yes, Master.”
The Master did not notice the look of malice from the servant, as Divad went to the tower. Moments later, the man in the grim blood red robes was towering over the bedridden maiden. Faeryn looked up at him, surprised that teh excrutiating pain had not returned with the master’s presence. Instead, the warm comforting feeling continued to engulf her from the room. Faeryn was confused. She had experienced the evil pain of Divad’s aura too many times before. She tried to sit up.
“No,” came a gentle voice from beyond the hood. “Do not try to get up. You are still too weak.” Master Divad turned to a bowl on the table. “Are you hungry?” he asked looking back at Faeryn.
Faeryn, once again, tried to search the shadows of the hood for a sign of a face. Out of the shadows Divad’s icy blue eyes stared into Faeryn’s searching topaz ones. Master Divad picked up the bowl. Faeryn sank deeper into the goose down.
“Don’t be afraid,” the gentle voice assured. “The pain is gone now. Now you must regain your strength.” Divad spooned some of the broth from the bowl and put it to Faeryn’s lips.
Faeryn pursed her pale lips, refusing to eat. She didn’t trust the man surrounded by shadows, not after all the pain she had suffered. Clearly dismayed by her refusal to eat, Divad decided he must try something to reassure her that he meant her no harm. He set the bowl on the floor, and reached for his hood.
Horrified, Faeryn stared as Divad removed his hood. Iinstead of the terrifying face she had expected, she found herself looking at handsome young face framed by tousled blond hair. Captivating eyes like chilly blue sapphires gazed into Faeryn’s topaz coloured ones. Faeryn gasped unsure of what she was seeing. Perhaps this was an illusion. This powerful mage goidn be a shapeshifter. But those eyes were so gentle.
“You are not being tricked, my fair one,” Divad assured almost apolegetically. “You are seeing my true form. I am not a shapeshifter.” The last word came with a note of derision.
“Why do you reveal yourself to me now?” Faeryn said.
“I do not know for sure,” Divad rose and walked over to the fire where he absently poked at the embers. “I wanted you to see that you have nothing to fear, so that you can get your strength back.”
“Why? So you can shatter me again?”
Divad turned rashly toward her. An outraged look shrouded his handsome face. Faeryn shrunk back into the bed, ahd hid under the quilt. Divad’s face softened. He went to the pallet, knelt and removed the quilt from her face.
Faeryn curled up into a ball and snatched the quilt away. Divad moved closer to her, carefully removed the quilt and sat looking at her shivering body. She was dressed in a flimsy nightgown that Divad’s servant had dug up from somewhere. Faeryn’s skin looked soft and milky. (*author’s note -> *gag*) Divad let his hand hover over her shoulder, then he touched her. Faeryn flinched violently. She shook off his hand and moved as far away from him as possible.
Divad moved onto the feather bed and quickly enfolded Faeryn in his trailing robe and into his arms. She screamed and struggled to free herself. His arms, firmly, but gently pressed her to him. He reached up to caress the back of her neck and her golden hair.
“I will not hurt you,” Divad whispered.
Faeryn barely relaxed, but Divad’s radiated warmth comforted her. She didn’t understand why this man who had been so cruel, was suddenly holding her tenderly. Her inner voice told her she was trapped, but she felt so warm and secure to listen. Her eyes closed and she was relieved to surrender to a gentler power. Divad sighed satisfied with her asleep in his arms.
From behind the bookcase, a figure peered silently. An evil grin crawled across his hideous face.