Sunday, September 29, 2013

Enchanted Winter (Chapter 2)





Enchanted Winter
Chapter 2

K.N. LEE

From his barred window, Alexi watched as the manor fell into chaos. He frowned at the spectacle and drank another sip of his wine. Master Blakeney paced the courtyard just as the sun was setting. Everything was left in its orange and pink glow. 
Now, the humans were safe to come out.
Alexi chuckled when he saw Master Blakeney slap Fern, his oldest daughter. He shook his head and laughed to himself. If anyone deserved a good slap, it was Fern.
Alexi couldn’t keep count of how many times he’s seen Fern starve her personal slaves, or make them stand on their bare hands and knees on uncooked rice. Sometimes she’d make them strip in front of her annoying guests, and whip them. Just for fun. 
Alexi would never hit a girl himself, but his sister deserved it.
He grimaced. 
Fern wasn’t his real sister. They shared a father, but that was where their ties ended. Alexi wouldn’t even consider himself a lord in the house of Blakeney.
He was an illegitimate heir, son to one of the slaves. He wasn’t sure which one was his mother. He assumed she’d been forced to keep quiet about it. The only reason Alexi was alive was because he’d inherited a few of the rarer Morai skills. Alexi would never be master of the manor and he liked it that way.
Alexi tapped the bars on his window. “I’m as much a slave as the rest of them,” he murmured. “A slave with privileges, but a slave no less.”
There came a loud banging on his door. Alexi cursed under his breath. He closed his eyes and cracked his neck.
“What?” He was already agitated. The sun hadn’t even completely fallen yet, and they were already bothering him to greet the new night.
“Master wants you.”
Alexi recognized the voice. “Tell him I’m still sleeping, Kel.”
            Kel cleared his throat. “I’m sorry, but he insists that you come to him right away.”
Alexi came to his feet. He picked up his sundial and slipped his wrist into its golden bracelet. Twelve hours until the sun rose again. That didn’t matter much to him, though; he wasn’t as sensitive to the sun as the humans. Alexi was after all, a mixed breed.
Alexi glanced at the mirror before he turned the knob. His black hair was messy. He smiled. It was just the way he liked it. He was sure father would not approve.
Perfect, he thought and gave his reflection a wink.
The moment he opened the large, wooden, door, Kel stepped back and bowed low.
Alexi rolled his eyes. “Stop doing that.”
Kel looked up with one silver eye; the other was covered by a black patch. The slave’s white hair was shaved very short. Kel was an old enough to be Alexi’s grandfather. Sometimes Alexi thought of his as just that.
He gave the old Morai a nod. “So, what’s all of the fuss about?” Alexi leaned against the closed door.
Kel’s eyes widened. Bushy white eyebrows rose, and he lowered his voice. He leaned in closer to Alexi. “One of the slaves escaped today on a tetra.”
Alexi nodded. “Impressive.” A tetra wouldn’t let just anyone ride it. He grinned to himself. It wouldn’t even let his stepmother, Lady Cecily ride it. She kept it just for show so that her chattering friends would see just how wealthy the Blakeney line was.
Kel shook his head. The frown lines in his bronze skin deepened. “No it’s not. It’s stupid. That girl is going to get us all killed.”
Alexi lifted a brow. He was even more interested now. “A girl? Which one?”
Kel started to answer when a torch man sped past them. Alexi watched the teen run by and his interest was turned to something new. The house darkened as the black moon replaced the sun. 
 Starting down the hall, Alexi's eyes could see everything, even though the torchmen were in a hurry to light the candles and torches.
Electricity no longer existed. Alexi had read about it but had never actually seen anything powered by electricity. Maybe one day the humans would be able to bring it back, but that seemed unlikely. The Earth was no longer as generous as it once was.
He frowned at how noisy it was. People were shouting, thundering footsteps echoed throughout the halls, and bells starting clinging outside the manor's stone walls. 
Everyone was in a fit of worry and fear. 
“What is going on?” Alexi looked around in confusion. Why is one slaves escape such a big deal?
Alexi turned the corner of the dark hall and was greeted by a hall filled with lit torches along its walls. Two house maids dressed in red skirts, black tights, and white collared shirts, walked past him. They lifted their silver eyed gazes and gave him weak smiles. 
Alexi was really worried then. Those two would usually flash their most charming smiles, hoping that one day they’d gain his favor and become a mistress.
Alexi would never dare to have a mistress. He didn’t even want to get married. He just wanted to be free from the manor and explore the Wild Lands on his own someday.
The further he walked down the hall, the louder his father’s shouting became. He cringed before he even opened the large wooden doors that led out of the manor and into the main courtyard. He looked around and noticed for the first time that everyone had stopped what they were doing.
Alexi frowned. They were all watching him, whispering, trying to act as if they weren’t staring. Even Trey, his younger brother was watching him from the top of the main spiral stairs. His brown eyes stared at him without shame. He had a smug smile on his pale white face. 
Alexi grimaced. At seventeen, Trey had already taken after their father in more ways than one.
Trey was the heir to the manor. He was the son of father and Lady Cecily. Full human.
Alexi was nearly twenty and already knew what his life held. It was all planned out. He’d be sent to the royal military, where they could use his skills in the war against the Old World.
Alexi finally opened the door and stepped out into the frigid night air.
            “Lovely night, isn’t it?” Alexi asked his father.
            Master Blakeney glared over at him. He wore a huge bear skinned coat lined with wolf’s fur. His narrow brown eyes seemed to cut holes into Alexi’s body. 
           Alexi didn’t flinch. He was used to being looked at that way. But there was one thing he had over his father. His father could not ever really hurt him.
Deep down inside, Alexi knew that father was afraid of him. He kept that knowledge secret and would use it whenever he had the chance to escape. He couldn’t help the smile that spread across his face though. His silver eyes darkened at his little secret.
“What took you so long,” Master Blakeney growled.
Alexi shrugged. “I’m not much of a night person.”
“I don’t care. You come when called. Is that understood, boy?”
Alexi felt his face heat, but he kept his smile up. “Understood.”
They shared a long glare and finally Master Blakeney looked away. He stroked his bushy black beard and stared off at the portrait of Winter that he had done just last May. Alexi could tell that his father lusted after that girl, but she could not be touched.
Alexi cringed at the thought of that poor girl having to sleep in the same bed as his father every night. He knew that after a while that would not be enough and father might break one of the rules set by the treaty.
“Tell Sworv I’m sending Alexi along with his men.”
Alexi raised a brow. “What?”
Master Blakeney was the one to smile now. “Time to prove yourself to the manor. I want you to go with the trackers to find my Winter.”
Alexi felt his face pale then. He tensed and turned cold. He was sure that all of the color had drained from his olive skin. 
“Winter,” he breathed. He realized his mistake and pursed his lips. His father gave him a suspicious look and Nik looked away to avoid his raptor like stare.
“What do you know?”
Alexi quickly shook his head. “I know nothing.” He knew that Winter was his father’s favorite toy and that if she was missing, that the fate of the entire manor was at stake. He knew that if Winter made it to the Old World, that New Genesis would lose the war.
He shifted his eyes to the ground. His heart raced. Alexi knew too much. Most of all, he knew that there was something special about Winter. It wasn’t her beauty, or her charms. She belonged to the Old World, and her father had been keeping her as a hostage.
            Alexi’s eyes shot up. Winter was the only reason the humans were not dead.
            He straightened his shoulders and held his chin up. He had a look of determination on his face that made his father stand up straighter and narrow his eyes at him.
            “I’ll go,” Alexi said. “I’ll bring her back to you.”