Chapter 1


She watched as bodies fell from a balcony above her into the gaping jaws of a fiery demon, it’s massive form encompassing the main courtyard of Asim Manor. The mosaic tiles cracked under the furnace-like heat exuding from the monstrous creature. Tongues of flame wrapped around the flailing bodies, their cries filling the very air around her with their pain and suffering. She had watched her father and elder brothers suffer the torture of the blazing inferno, their bodies twisted and blackened as they were consumed in the smothering heat. A scream of pain and helpless rage lashed out of her as she watched the body of her mother fall from the balcony, their screams echoing each other.

A cool breeze touched her cheek in the darkness. As if from a vast distance she heard someone calling her name, “Madi’hah? Madi.” The call was urgent but gentle and she turned toward it, wishing it to embrace her and take away the horror she was witnessing. Sobbing, strangling back further screams she opened her eyes and felt the cool air of the stables wash over her feverish skin.

She collapsed into the large, soft wall of flesh embracing her. It hadn’t been real, just another nightmare, it never happened. There was no demon. Her family had all been dead before the fires consumed their bodies, they were already dead, already dead. Repeating the words didn’t make her feel any better, it didn’t make her family any more alive.

“Oh my child, I’m sorry. Lyra, goddess of Truth, forgive me for ever honouring you!” The old woman brushed the tears from the young girls face and rocked her as if she were still a babe. “I wish we had never told you the truth. Hush now, your safe daughter of my heart, shh shh.”

Madi’hah couldn’t remember a time when she hadn’t been consumed by dreams of fire, not every night, but they had been coming more frequently of late. Always featuring death and eradication of everything she knew or had known. Nothing ever remained, except for her, standing alone in a barren world painted in the golden light of the rising sun. That was if she managed to sleep through the horror of the nightmare, managed to not wake Abi’l or Faris, her foster parents, the only family she had left.

Deftly she extracted herself from the voluptuous chest of her foster-mother. She really was too old to wake up screaming in the old woman’s arms, but the relief of a warm loving body beside her pallet helped vanish the lurking remnants of the nightmares. If only Abi’l hadn’t taken to believing it was her fault the dreams came more often of late. It was true that the dreams had began to take on a new ferocity since Abi’l and Feris had revealed her true heritage, but that had been over a year ago now. Madi believed it was more likely linked to the increase in earth tremors and erratic weather they’d been experiencing all over Teis which had started around the same time. Madi’hah liked to believe it was the land revolting against Custodian Kadar’s false inheritance. Everything had seemed to come to a head last year when he declared his intent to move his family to Teis and his newly constructed manor house, and thus after all these years, finalise his claim to Teis. That was when the earthquakes began, demolishing most of the nearly completed building.

She managed to shoo Abi’l out of room before the woman tried to dress her, quickly exchanging her nightgown for a reasonably clean set of clothes. It wasn’t as though the horses minded how she smelt.  Her attic room was small, the only place she could actually stand upright was right in the centre of the room. Faris had installed a small shuttered window in the roof which she now opened, allowing the golden light to wash away the shadows lurking in the corners. Under the window sat her wash basin and a cloth. Apparently the basin had been one of the few things to survive the fire that killed her family. The basin and a small clear crystal were the only two items she had left of her old life.

Abi’l said the crystal had been given to her on her first birthday by her brothers. They would sit with her in the morning light and paint rainbows for her. She didn’t really remember them or her parents, but she kept the crystal close to her at all times, it helped to stop the grief that always liked to consume her after a nightmare.

With a practiced vault Madi’hah launched herself off the stair railings and into the common room of their small house behind the stables. Faris looked up from his bowl, rolling his eyes at her antics.

“Don’t get too excited about breakfast girl, it’s just watered down vegetable soup. And more water then soup if you ask my opinion.” The last was said in Faris’s attempt at an under-his-breath mumble, which for most people was still rather loud, and clearly audible. Madi’hah tried to suppress a groan to save Abi’l from another thing to angst over. It wasn’t her fault the crops had finally all failed last harvest season.

“So no new produce this morning then?” Her foster-mother shook her head without looking up from the soup pot.

“Hmph, not even the chickens laid anything.” Faris said, raising his bowl to his lips and slurping down the last drops. He pushed himself away from the table with a heavy sigh. “Hurry up here girl and join me in the stables. The steward found it in his heart to let me know the new lord is expected with his family in the next few days.” This time it was Madi who rolled her eyes. Her opinion of the pompous ass who lorded it over the rest of the manors staff was even less affectionate then most peoples. In his masters absence the man took more then half of any produce that managed to find it’s way to the manor, and believed he had the right to also sample the women of his choosing.

Madi’hah had made him see the errors of his way at trying to take advantage of her, the steward smelt of the privy’s for a week and Madi had taken to ducking out of sight for months afterwards. She was just fortunate the man had a big enough ego that he hadn’t wanted others to know “the mere snip of a stable girl” had gotten the best of him.

The air outside the house was chilly with a light breeze ruffling her tied back hair. It might not snow in this part of the country like it apparently did in the southern demesne of Qatil, that didn’t mean winter couldn’t put a chill in your bones. If this late autumn weather was anything to go by, they would have a cold winter this year. Stuffing her hands into her pockets Madi headed to the front of the stables to find Faris. She tried to avoid looking at the scaffolding that surrounded the new manse. The building bared little resemblance to what had stood their before with the main foyer being the only part of the original to survive. Madi was secretly pleased that it had also withstood the earthquakes too, her biggest regret was the destruction of the courtyards mosaic tiles. She could picture them so clearly in her nightmares but now all that remained was bare earth.

Word Count: 1269

Total Word count for the day: 5134

Tracey Ambrose
"Don't be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment." Ralph Waldo Emerson


    1. Are you all settled into camp? I think it’s time to heat up the hot chocolate and toast some marshmallows (and anything else that distracts me from the real task at hand)

      1. Ooo… hot chocolate. I’ve got a craving now! I’ve settled in quite nicely – today I should pass the 10k mark (the little graph says I’m on track, so I’m happy :D)

        How are you getting on?

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