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Authors: James Somers

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Raven's Hand

BOOK: Raven's Hand
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Raven’s Hand

 

Raven’s Chronicle

Book One

 

by

James
Somers

 

www.jamessomers.blogspot.com

 

Kindle Edition

James Somers © 2015

This ebook is licensed for your personal
enjoyment only. It may not be reproduced in any way in any format,
except by express permission of the author. All characters and
events contained herein are the work of this author and may not be
used in another work without permission of the author.

 

 

 

“…
And He shall knit them
together, blood and blade and bone, so that only death may tear
them asunder.” — Eliam’s Chronicle, Prophecy of the Daughters of
Light 10:23

 

 

 

Questions are Dangerous Things

 

A line of white fire burned diagonally across
my back from my right shoulder down to my left buttock. My breath
hissed out through gritted teeth. I struggled to hold back the
scream of pain trying to usher forth. Balled fists and white
knuckles bunched my silken robe around my breasts, leaving my
backside completely exposed to the implement in Mistress Evelyn’s
hand.

My legs were tucked beneath me, as I faced my
bedchamber alone. Mistress Evelyn sighed heavily behind me. She
meant to teach me a lesson I should have learned long ago. Still, I
couldn’t help it that I had questions.

They buzzed among my thoughts like
mosquitoes, pestering me with insecurities. I should not have
asked. All my life I had been instructed to believe my superiors
and accept the laws. I knew the truth—obedience and subservience
brings peace and tranquility. Questioning the laws brought only
pain.

“Such beautiful skin,” she remarked. “You are
so very young and foolish, Raven. Do you not realize the privilege
afforded you—the opportunity to bond with a great house?”

I did not speak back to her. To do so would
have only brought her stern rebuke and more lashes. Part of my robe
was pressed against my lips, holding back my gasps of pain. My back
was on fire. No doubt, bloody lacerations crisscrossed my pale
skin. With each breath, I felt my wounds expanding and contracting.
Every movement caused me to shudder in agony. Hot tears fell across
my cheeks onto the folds of my robe.

I could feel her steps as she tread a
leisurely pace around me, coming to pause before me. Her slippers
clicked upon the flagstones of my room. The jewels upon them caught
the firelight. Their glinting seemed to mock me like whispering
schoolgirls.

I shielded my nudity with my crimson robe,
despite the fact that Mistress Evelyn had inspected my body for
imperfections many times. It was her duty as the matriarch of her
great house to see that her sons only bonded to the finest
specimens available to them. She had only ever considered me to be
adequate. I never knew if this was the truth, or if she merely said
so because a mother never feels any woman is good enough for her
son.

I felt ashamed for having provoked her
displeasure. I should have known better. My matron would also hear
of this—the woman in charge of my care and learning. Hannah would
not be pleased that Mistress Evelyn was inconvenienced by the need
to punish my insolence. I had imposed myself upon the lady during
her visit and might feel another lashing before all was said and
done in this matter.

“Honestly, you seemed so promising,” Evelyn
continued. “Your beauty is quite incomparable. Nathan would have
been quite taken with you, I’m sure. But how can I choose you when
these
questions
persist? You force me to choose
another.”

My eyes opened, but I kept my face downcast.
Still, I could see her in my peripheral vision. This was the first
real compliment I’d received, and that in the middle of a rebuke.
Still, because I felt a need for her approval, it did briefly pull
my attention from the pain.

Her intricately crafted, silver wand flashed
with reflected light as her hand moved back and forth at her side.
This was the implement used to cause me so much pain. A simple wave
and focus of thought allowed the wand to open my flesh in surgical
lacerations.

“I can only hope that your matron can
recommend a suitable replacement,” Evelyn mused in her
annoyance.

At last, she replaced the silver wand into a
specially made sleeve at her wrist. The implement of my torture
disappeared neatly inside her gown. She was dressed already for the
dinner prepared in her honor upon this visit. Tomorrow morning she
would return to House Rainier, and my opportunity as the chosen
bond for her eldest son would come to an end.

“You may heal your wounds now,” she said.
“Raven, I hope you think on what you have done.”

Evelyn turned toward the door. Whispering a
word of command, the darkly stained wooden door opened for her. She
glided from my room as gracefully as an eagle in flight. The door
closed soon after her departure.

I remained, kneeling upon the floor. I began
the process of healing my lacerations. My eyes were closed as I
concentrated. I flinched as the power flowed through me, finding
the separated edges of the wounds. The power cared no more for my
agony than Mistress Evelyn did. It only knew that my body had been
damaged and needed repair. To this task it went immediately to
work, bringing the skin together.

I had control. I had set it to do its work,
but it knew how the work must be accomplished better than I. The
power sought to restore the balance, the wholeness of my body.
Unfortunately, the mending could be nearly as unsettling as the
tearing. Mistress Evelyn’s punishment would therefore continue,
even after she had left the room.

It seemed to me a perplexing thing—a strange
situation to be so valued a person by the great houses and, yet, I
was no more than a slave. I was raised as property. My ability was
cultivated for the use of my future husband, my bond. Only, I
supposed I had just ruined all of that.

We Bright Ladies belonged to a long line of
slaves who were put upon the world—upon Titan—for this purpose. We
became the power of the great houses, the means by which each heir
inherited the authority and strength to rule his kingdom. I do not
deny that it is a great purpose. I felt grateful. At least, I tried
to feel grateful. Sometimes—like then, when my flesh burned like
fire upon my slight frame—it was difficult to hold on to that
emotion.

I shuddered as another laceration began to
knit together. I tried not to move too much while the power was
working to mend my wounds. The skin was tight and could tear
again—never enjoyable. Not until it was completely whole could I
relax and allow tension on it again.

I suppose there were worse fates a person
could have. After all, I had received the finest education. I lived
in rooms filled with items of luxury. Had I been allowed to
complete the bond with Rainier’s prince, Nathan, I would have lived
always in opulence for the remainder of my days.

Yet, my will was never my own. I had never
known true freedom. Every place I went had to be allowed by my
matron. The company I kept was prescribed. Even my few friends were
determined without my consent. All this so I could be molded into
the Bright Lady a great house heir would desire to have as his
bond.

The last of my lacerations sealed, and the
power faded once more. Its job complete, it retreated to the place
deep within me where I drew from. It would be difficult to explain
where this power resides.

I understood my place. As a Daughter of
Eliam, I was placed here for Titan’s kings. I was given to complete
them—a conduit through which dominion could be bestowed over
Eliam’s Creation. We were imbued with these abilities—to tap into
the lower orders of Creation—so that kings might reign. Each bond
makes two individuals into one. At least, in the metaphysical
sense, that is.

I had been taught that, millennia ago, the
Malkind overthrew Eliam and took control of our world, establishing
the great houses from their human worshippers, giving them power
and dominion. Part of their victory was the assurance by Eliam that
his daughters would serve as the link between the followers of the
Malkind and Eliam’s Creation. In order to know our full power we
had to be bonded. In order for the kings to reign and the balance
between houses to be preserved, the heirs had to be bonded.

It was from these teachings that so many of
my questions had arisen. However, we were not allowed to hesitate
upon these precepts. They had to be accepted. Despite my
wonderings, I had no choice in the matter.

I pulled my silk robe around my shoulders,
tying it in the front as I stood. Turning, I noticed that blood had
gathered on the rug where I was punished. The matron would not like
to see it. I fixed it with my gaze and watched as the color leeched
out, so that the stain became invisible. That would do; at least
until I had the opportunity to clean the spot by hand.

Someone knocked upon the door—a light two
taps and then three heavier. I smiled, realizing Celia had come to
me. She was the next in line behind me in our ward, but still two
years away from completing her training. At fifteen years of age,
she was becoming a young woman, though her tendencies were still
very immature in my opinion. She could be quite silly at times; at
least when the matron was not around.

Celia was my one true friend in the ward. She
had been ever since she came under my tutelage. Since I was her
senior by two years, I had the privilege of passing on my learning
to her. In this way, one matron could look after the entire ward
without so much distraction. The elders, like me, taught the
younger until we were sent away to a great house, like Rainier, to
become the bond to a prince.

“Open please,” I said to the door.

The door complied, swinging open quietly on
well-oiled hinges to reveal Celia standing anxiously beyond the
threshold. The nervous line of her mouth creased into a bright
smile when she saw that I was standing. She had assumed, because I
had not cried out, that my wounds were minimal. Though she was
incorrect, I did not want to distress her by revealing how bad they
actually were. I had become adept over the years at healing my
wounds quickly and quietly.

Celia flowed into the room in her gown of
deep blue. Only her girlish manner, hastening eagerly across the
room to my side, betrayed immaturity. She had been taught better
and she performed better before the matron and the ladies of great
houses. It was only her anxiety for me that caused her to drop her
poise now.

The door closed itself, once Celia came
inside.

“Raven, I was so worried for you,” she said.
“Mistress Evelyn looked so cross when she came out of your room.
Matron Hannah was ringing her hands while the Lady was in here with
you. I was also, though I did not show it before Hannah. Did the
mistress not stripe you?”

I laid my hand gently upon her shoulder. “Do
not worry yourself,” I replied.

“Oh, but the mistress looked very cross.”

“She was,” I replied, “and she did.”

Celia understood my meaning, her hands coming
to her mouth. “But you’re standing,” she said. “I should get salve
for the wounds. Are they not terribly painful?”

“They were,” I said, “but I have mended them
already.”

“I’m so sorry, Raven,” she said, trying to be
careful not to brush across my back, despite my reassurances. “You
are very clever. I do not know how you can heal them so quickly.
Mistress Evelyn came to the sitting room only a moment ago, and you
are already whole again.”

I smiled for Celia’s sake. I didn’t want her
to concern herself so much. She could become agitated so easily. It
was a characteristic I had tried to train out of her, but without
success. Time and experience would do a better job, I was sure.

However, Celia was more timid than I. She had
never been forced to undergo such a punishment. If only I could
have learned better to be like her in this way. I had been striped
quite a few times, unfortunately. I had learned what pain my
obstinacy could cause.

I walked to my four poster bed, gliding with
as much grace as I could muster. My wounds were whole again, but
only time would remove the dull ache left behind. Celia followed
after, her hands fidgeting to reach for me should I suddenly
collapse. She must have known that I was weaker than I
pretended.

I found the bed terribly comfortable when I
lay down upon it. Much of the weight felt by my time with Mistress
Evelyn lifted as I stretched upon the plush, crimson duvet. A
matching canopy of silk hung from the massive bed frame like
ivy.

“Can I do anything for you?” Celia asked,
standing next to the bed. “I could have Pricilla come to give you a
rubdown. That might make you feel better.”

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