Sunday, 25 July 2010
Part 1 http://myhomeiswriting.xanga.com/730137118/the-beginning-of-my-masterpiece/
Part 2 http://myhomeiswriting.xanga.com/730277698/my-masterpiece-continued/
Part 3 http://myhomeiswriting.xanga.com/730377282/the-masterpiece-part-three/
Part 4 http://myhomeiswriting.xanga.com/730482780/the-masterpiece-part-four/
Part 5 http://myhomeiswriting.xanga.com/730536932/part-five/
Shugo stumbles up the golden pathway leading to the front door. He pushes the door in because it's always unlocked and glances over his shoulder one last time before entering the quiet house. He closes the door behind himself carefully and heads down the hallway but as he walks by the parlor he sees a candle burning in his peripheral vision. Akemi is sitting in a high-backed arm chair with a book open on her lap and her head sagging forward on her chest. Shugo tiptoes into the room and lifts the book from his mother's lap. Her head jumps up and they lock eyes as Shugo sets the book now on the end table.
"Shugo! You're home!" She whispers excitedly taking in his appearance. He's covered in mud as sweat pours down his face. "What happened?" She asks alarmed. Shugo looks down at himself and notices the mud for the first time. He looks behind and sees the trail of footprints he left.
"Sorry, I didn't realize I was so muddy."
"Nevermind that," Akemi says paying no mind to the footprints. "Just tell me what happened to you. Are you hurt?" She asks looking him over again for any signs of bruising or bleeding.
"No, not seriously. It was Philippe. He assaulted an innocent women and I defended her."
Akemi's jaw drops in horror. "Oh, Shugo..."
"Go to bed mother, it's over."
"For how long?" She asks getting to her feet.
"Don't worry about that, I'll deal with it."
Akemi places a hand on her son's shoulder. "You're dealing with a power much higher than your own, my son. You won't be able to fight your way out of this like you used to."
"I have no intention of that." Shugo replies as a nostalgic smile caresses his lips. "I never knew you knew about that."
Akemi gives him a stern look. "As a mother it's my job to know."
Shugo kisses her on the forehead. "Go sleep, we'll talk more in the morning."
"I love you." She says kissing him on the cheek.
"I love you, too." He says leading her out of the parlor. He watches her walk down the hallway a moment before turning back and extinguishing the candle. He heads to his own room on the second floor. He shuts the door gently behind himself as he looks around the room of his childhood. It no longer resembles the innocence of a child. There's a large oak bed in the middle of the room jutting from the wall opposite the door, an oak dresser under the window, and a desk on the opposite wall from the dresser. The panelled walls are bare with the exception of home-made silk curtains over the window. He lies on his stomach on the bed and relishes the sweet smell of clean sheets and a safe place to lay his head for the night. Before he falls asleep an image forms in his mind of his mother coming into this very room during the day to clean and keep the room orderly. He smiles thinking of the tenderness involved in that gesture before he slips into unconsciousness.
A female scream rouses Shugo from pleasant dreams. He sits up in bed as the door is busted inward; wood splinters at the hinges from the outside force. Four angels dressed in royal attire move into the room, two of which seize Shugo and haul him to his feet as a fifth person walks in the door cloaked in all black. Philippe looks at Shugo from the confines of his hood with a wicked grin on half his face. The left side of his face is horribly disfigured from the fire. His lips are pulled down in an eternal slant and his skin remindes Shugo of a stillborn dragon, still pink and undeveloped.
"Glad to see me?" Philippe prompts.
"Let her go." Shugo demands through clenched teeth as he realizes who's scream awoke him.
"Why don't you make me." Philippe replies gesturing to his disfigured face. When Shugo doesn't respond he laughs. "Let's go, we've got to get this traitor to the King."
The guard on Shugo's left bends down to shackle his feet while the other one shackles his hands. Philippe and two angels exit first while Shugo is escorted out of his own home flanked by the other two. Outside in the dazzling sunlight he looks around for any sign of his mother but he can't find her. Dread floods his system as they approach two horse-drawn carriages. Philippe climbs into the one in front and Shugo is shoved uncermoniously into the other one. The two guards climb in after and sit across from him. Both are laden with an arsenal of weapons, their strongest being the maroon crest stitched into the front of their white uniforms with decorative embroidary. The carriage lurches forward as Shugo studies the royal crest. The outside is a shield shaped in a deep U while the inside is a serious of intricate patterns all connecting into a large K and N; King Nicolae. Shugo lifts his sleeve to look at the Tenshi crest tattooed upon his right arm; a shield with intricate patterns connecting into a large letter T. His eyes shift to the guards who stare impassively through him as waves of fear start to wash over him. Shugo closes his eyes and focuses his breathing, clearing his head.
The carriage halts and Shugo opens his eyes as the door opens from the outside. One of the guards steps out while the other pushes Shugo out next. He's handed from one guard to the next as they proceed into into the palace. Shugo looks up into the blue sky mostly dotted out by the massive size of Nicolae's golden palace. Domed towers rise into the air claiming his magnificent power by blotting out most of the sky. Shugo is shoved forward by a rough hand. He walks forward obediantly still seeing no signs of his mother. Philippe leads the way through a gated archway; the interior defense. Shugo looks around to see Royal guards everywhere; patrolling the walls, standing at the gates or walking around the palace grounds.
They climb a series of golden stairs and enter the palace through the main door. Shugo looks up just as the doors are being pushed inward and sees a Latin inscription carved into the wood:Sceptrum per Divinus Vox. His sense of forboding returns and he closes his eyes and focuses his breathing as he's lead through the palace like a lamb to the slaughter. He opens his eyes as he's lead into a large circular room full of people with stained glass windows filling the opposite wall. There's seven windows total each one depicting a different deadly sin and an angel looking on from above. In the center of the room stands a raised platform on which sits seven high-backed chairs, the middle being Nicolae's gem-encrusted gold throne which dwarfs all the rest. The king himself sits in his throne wearing white robes, a crown upon his head, and gaudy rings on every one of his fingers. He's flanked on either side by his six council members. Shugo's escort bows before the king but Shugo remains standing in his shackles. He looks across the room at Nicolae who stares back at him as if he were an interesting insect.
"Why don't you bow?" Nicolae asks.
"I bow only to those whom I respect." Shugo replies loudly to be sure everyone hears him in the amphitheatre-like room. The guard behind Shugo stands and pushes Shugo to his knees with a hand on the back of his neck. Shugo collapses onto his knees on the gold floor. He feels the pain shutter through his whole body as his teeth click together violently. He looks up as Philippe approaches Nicolae's throne walking in a half-bow.
"I've brought the traitor you requested, my lord." Philippe says glancing up at Nicolae. A look that's more than simple adoration passes between the two as Nicolae waves him away.
"What do you have to say for yourself?" Nicolae says addressing Shugo who gets back on his feet and looks him straight in the eye.
"I've done nothing which warrants being brought here."
Murmurs ripple through the crowd as Philippe watches Shugo with sinister delight like a child on christmas morning about to open the present of a lifetime. Nicolae frowns as he looks to the left down his row of council members.
"Is he stupid or something?" Nicolae asks as Shugo follows his glance and realizes with a jolt of horror the person he's addressing is his father. Daraku ignores his son and turns to Nicolae.
"He knows very well why he's here."
"No, father, I don't but I'd love it if you told me."
Daraku looks at Shugo with disgust. "Do not address me with that tone, boy."
"Why am I here, father?"
"For consorting with lesser beings and denouncing loyalty to the crown."
"And you're going to kill your own son for that, are you?" Shugo asks in disbelief.
"Kill you? Who said anything about killing you?" Daraku asks looking at Nicolae for assurance.
"It would look bad killing an angel, even as an example. No, we've got a much better solution." Nicolae says gesturing to Philippe who turns around and signals to a guard by a door on the right wall. The whole room turns towards the door as he opens it and two more guards step out carrying Akemi Tenshi between them. Her face is bruised and she hangs like a ragdoll between the two guards who stop halfway into the room and drop her on the floor. Shugo tenses as his jaw clenches in anger. Daraku's eyes widen in horror.
"What have you done to her?" He asks hysterically, rising to his feet. Nicolae looks over at Daraku lazily.
"They haven't harmed her honor, but that isn't to say they can't." He turns to Shugo. "Do you love your mother, Shugo?"
Shugo glares at him but doesn't say anything. Nicolae grins.
"You catch on quick. Now, lets get down to business. You killed Triyel Raiki but that isn't enough. No doubt his children are all ready looking for revenge and the vampires in Aridact will be sentimental to their plight because it was an angel that did the killing. Can I count on you when the time comes to quell the violence that is no doubt going to ensue in Aridact?"
Shugo looks at his mother then back at Nicolae. "It looks like I don't have much choice."
Nicolae smiles. "Good." He signals to his guards who pick up Akemi and carry her back through the doorway which she came from.
"What's going to happen to her?" Daraku demands taking a step towards Nicolae who looks at him unconcerned.
"She's going to stay locked up for a while. Don't worry, they'll take good care of her."
"I did not agree to this!" Daraku shouts.
"You did not agree to anything, Daraku. I am King therefore you do what I say. If you don't I'll have you thrown into a cell as well."
Daraku stares at Nicolae in horror, shaking from shock. He turns to Shugo who merely glares at him.
"Take him to the barracks and let him go, he won't be any trouble, will you Shugo?" Nicolae asks with a knowing smile.
"No." He replies as the guards who brought him in take him back out the same door he came through.
The guards undo the shackles in the courtyard and walk away just as Daraku walks over to his son dressed in white robes with the royal emblem blazing on his chest. Shugo turns to his father disgusted, waiting for him to speak first.
"I did not think this would happen. I never meant for anything like this to happen." He says pleadingly.
"You just wanted to teach your son a little something about loyalty right? And it only made matters better that I had to defend myself against Philippe last night. And being angels they couldn't possibly use blackmail to get what they want. How naive are you, father?"
"No, you never thought, not for one goddamn second; not about anyone but yourself." Shugo responds cutting him off. He turns and walks away from his father. Daraku stands rooted to the spot watching his son walk away with his mouth agape.
Azura and Telio walk into camp after the dense forest of Sirian in the middle of the day. No sunlight gets through the canopy of the trees. Azura sees a barren fire pit with charred logs from a previous burning and a tent erected haphazardly across from it. Telio gestures to the camp.
"Welcome to my home."
Azura gives him a look of utter disbelief. "This is it?"
Telio laughs. "Nope. This is the decoy." He points up into the trees. "That's home." Azura looks up into the trees and her jaw drops. At least 15 feet up is an elaborate maze of bridges connecting a series of wooden tree huts.
"You built all this?"
"At first, but then I had help." Telio says then makes a bird call in his throat. After a moment the call is answered with a similar sound and a rope ladder descends from the nearest tree. Telio goes up first and Azura follows in awe. Once on the landing Telio pulls Azura up and introduces her to his companion. He wraps an arm around the woman's alabaster pale waist and kisses her cheek.
"Azura meet Razul; Razul, Azura."
Razul nods in Azura's direction and looks at Telio for an explanation.
"I saved her life."
"You're good at that." Razul replies sizing up Azura who does likewise. Razul's brunette hair is tied at the back of her skull so tight it almost pulls her face back with it, accentuating her murky brown eyes. Her flat chest fits easily into a simple brown cloth tied around her torso. She wears a short skirt of the same animal hide and nothing on her bare feet. Telio looks from one to the other and sighs.
"I was really hoping you'd get along seeing as how you're both vampires."
"Where are you from?" Razul asks Azura, ignoring Telio's prompt for civility.
"Ah, another civilized vampire." Razul says with a smirk.
Azura glares at her. "As oppossed to a deranged earth lover."
Razul growls low in her throat. Telio pushes her back and steps between the two of them. He looks at Razul. "Cut it out. She's not a threat. I wouldn't have brought her here if I thought she was."
Razul glares over his shoulder at Azura for a moment before turning and stalking off. Telio turns back to Azura wearing an exasperated expression.
"I'm sorry, I really didn't expect that. She's a lot nicer once you get to know her."
"Sure. Underneath the waves of contempt is a decent, wholesome woman I'm sure."
Telio frowns and Azura amends herself. "Sorry. I'm still grateful for what you did but I won't stay here seeing as how it's going to be a problem."
Telio shakes his head. "You don't have to leave. I'll talk to her. It's difficult when you've been out here as long as we have. She's never really had to deal with a lot of people, she's always lived in the forest. Give her time."
Azura considers for a moment and concedes. "I haven't got anywhere else to go anyway."
Telio smiles and points to a hut across the bridge. "You can stay over there. I'll be over in a bit." He turns and heads after Razul leaving Azura to cross the rope bridge herself.
"What have I gotten myself into?" She asks aloud as she begins to cross.
Telio pushes through the curtain doorway of another hut to find it empty. He walks through the room, past a tiny window and a make-shift bed that fills most of the room, and out another curtain doorway onto a thick branch. He spots Razul sitting far out in the branch with her legs dangling over both sides. He moves like a squirrel over to her and sits down behind her and wraps his arms around her waist, resting his head upon her shoulder.
"She's going to stay, isn't she?"
"As long as she likes."
"And you couldn't have left her?"
"If you'd seen the condition she was in when I found her you'd understand. What do you have against her anyway?"
There's silence on Razul's end for a moment before she speaks. "She's nothing like us."
"The whole world is full of different people unlike us. You don't hate them."
"They aren't going to be living here with us." Razul replies sharply.
"Do I hear a tint of jealousy in your voice?"
Razul shoots an ugly look at him over her shoulder which causes him to lift his head in caution. "I'm not jealous. I just don't trust her. For all you know she could be working for Them."
"I doubt that. She'd been stabbed with a silver imbued sword, their trademark. I doubt she's working for people that might have tried to kill her."
"Well maybe she was working for Them but she turned on Them. I still don't think she's trustworthy and you don't seem to know for certain."
"You're quick to see the worst. Give it time, I promise, you'll see she's trustworthy."
"I won't like her even if she stays."
"Can you at least be nice?"
Telio sighs, "fair enough." He gets up and Razul watches him go back into the hut.
There's a knock outside then Telio peers through the curtain doorway of Azura's hut. He smiles at her as he walks into the room.
"This is amazing" Azura comments gesturing to the room at large.
"Thanks. It took a lot of time but once Razul showed up things went quicker."
"Does she still want me to leave?"
Telio sighs, "We'll work on it. Don't sweat it for now; she just needs time. For now get some rest. I'll see you later tonight."
"Thank you, Telio, for everything."
"You're welcome." He says leaving the room with a satisified smile.
Azura looks around the mostly empty room before sitting down on the bed. She runs her hands over the unfamiliar cloth; deerskin. She lies back and stares at the ceiling letting her mind wander backwards in time. Her father's face surfaces in her mind's eye like a bloated corpse through water. She shivers at the memory and moves onto more pleasant thoughts. Her mind travels back to Shugo and the look on his face before he walked right out of her life. His electric blue eyes pierce through her memory as if he were standing before her in the here and now. They're filled with anguish and everything unspoken that could never be said. Half of her wants to reach out and comfort him and half of him wants to attack and kill him in a screaming rage. She closes her eyes and rolls over on her side, banishing the memories with difficulty, they stick like blood stains that defy removal. She rolls back onto her back with her eyes closed and focuses on the sounds of the forest around her. It's alive and teeming with so many different sounds and heartbeats. There's birds chirping high in the trees, rodents scurrying over the ground, and larger mammals like wolves and deer coexisting so naturally it's as if the rest of the world has ceased to exist. A sense of freedom washes over her at the liberation of such exclusion. I could get used to this, Azura thinks to herself as she falls into a semi-unconscious state of sleep.
Azura woke sometime later in the night though she couldn't actually tell a difference between day and night in Sirian other than what her body told her. She remained in bed feeling the thirst roll through her as she listened to the forest alive all around her. She heard voices from down below and the crackling of a fire. It felt good to be alive. She sits up and walks out onto the balcony and peers over the edge. Telio and Razul are sitting around the fire conversing. Telio looks up and waves.
"There's a rope ladder to your right, just let it down."
Azura looks to the right and sees the rope ladder wound around the railing. She lets it down then makes her way to the ground. She turns to the fire to see Telio biting into something he cooked up and Razul standing beside him, casting a disgusted glance in Azura's direction. Azura ignores her being fascinated by Telio.
"People think vampires are inhumane but at least we don't eat the entire carcass."
Telio swallows his food and laughs. "Touche. Speaking of which, Razul was just going hunting, you should go with her." Razul and Azura exchange icy glances.
"I'm capable of hunting on my own." Azura says and Razul laughs in response.
"A civilized vampire hunting? After that synthetic shit you call a meal I doubt you know what it means to truly hunt."
"Razul, don't-" Telio beings but Azura cuts him off.
"Excuse me? Perhaps you've never left your forest here but Aridact doesn't exactly sport the latest trends. So yes, I can hunt for myself earth dweller."
"Oh really? Why don't you prove it?"
"I'd love to. Lead the way."
Razul marches off into the forst with Azura tailng behind her. Telio sits at the fire watching them leave with his eye brows raised and his jaw dropped, food halfway to his mouth. "Oh shit."
Razul leads the way to a creek winding it's way through the trees and crouches at the water's edge examining animal tracks. "There's been a deer through here recently. Think you can catch it?"
"Absolutely." Azura replies closing her eyes and reaching out with her heightend senses. She zeroes in on the smells around her and locates the scent of the deer which turns out to be a doe. She focuses in further, centralizing on the deer's scent. She follows it forward over the creek and through the trees. As the scent strengthens in her head she moves faster, tracking it with her eyes shut. The rest of the forest ceases to exist as she tracks the doe through the trees. Azura flits like lightening through the forest as she chases down the doe. After a while a heartbeat fills her head along with the scent of the doe and she opens her eyes. She follows the sound of the doe's heart pumping blood and it's scent right where it's eating a fern from the ground. The doe lifts it's head in alarm as it senses Azura's presence. It darts forward but doesn't go far. Azura leaps lithely into the air, her timing perfect, and lands upon the doe's back pinning it to the ground. Fangs elongated and dripping she pierces the doe's flesh directly over the life vein and drinks. She pulls back before taking the last drop and lays the doe to rest. She wipes blood from her chin as Razul walks up behind her, clapping unenthusiastically. Azura's face hardens as she turns to face her.
"Think you can do better?"
"I know so." Razul taunts and looks over her shoulder as a cougar steps onto the scene, drawn by the doe's death. The cougar growls and Razul crouches and bares her own fangs, growling responsively. Razul launches herself forward from all fours and attacks the cougar. It lashes out with it's paw but Razul knocks it over, pinning it to the ground. She bites it's throat as the cougar's long claws rake over her indestructable skin, tearing what little clothing she wore to shreds. The cougar shrieks in agony as it's life is drained from it's neck and kicks out with it's powerful hind legs but nothing removes Razul from it's throat. She's locked on like a leech. The cougar's thrashings slow and all but cease as it slowly dies. Razul pulls back before the final drop, coated in blood. She turns to face Azura with blood running down her chin and over her bare skin with a satisfied, wicked little grin. She walks back over to where Azura stands and kicks the doe's lifeless body with her toes.
"Not so impressive anymore, now is it." She says as she starts to walk away but a lumbers through the trees and stops at the cougar to sniff it. It looks up at the them and rises onto it's hind legs, sensing danger. Razul exchanges a glance with Azura who grins wickedly. They both crouch bearing their own fangs and growling. The bear roars in response, returns to all fours, and charges. Both Razul and Azura flank the bear; Razul goes left while Azura goes right. The grizzly turns in Razul's direction and swipes at her with it's massive paw. She dodges the attack easily as Azura leaps upon the bears back and bites down hard. It cries out and rears so Razul goes for it's throat. She latches on and sinks her fangs into the grizzly's tough meat and drinks. The bear tries to shake them off but they both hold fast as it falls back to all fours and charges forward, dragging Razul under its belly across the ground. The bear smashes into trees just to try and shake them but the effort is all to no avail. After running blindly through the forest for a while the bear's strength gives out and it crashed into another trees, bounces off and falls over on it's side. Both vampires drink until the last drop and pull back. Azura stands on one side of the bear, smearing blood on her chin. She climbs over the bear's back and falls onto the other side next to Razul who's lying with her back against the bear's belly. Azura sits down beside her and leans back against the bear as well. They look at one another.
"You're a pretty good hunter, for a civilized vampire."
"You're not so bad yourself, earth dweller." Azura replies grinning.
They burst into laughter as Telio walks up and stares at them in disbelief. "I could follow your trail of blood for miles." They turn and look at him.
"I thought you two hated each other."
"Not anymore," replies Azura.
"Nah, she's cool. She can stay as long as she likes." Razul adds.
"Is that why you're naked, Razul?"
"Now I'm not so sure I trust either of you." Telio says shaking his head.