Authors: Renee Travis
Princess of Death
Copyright © 2013 Renee Travis
All rights reserved.
This novel is dedicated to
all the people I love in my life. Mainly; Katie, Chris (My own Best Beloved One), Ophelia, Tatiana (my daughters) and my mom and dad. This is because they have all supported me, given me inspiration, love, hope and laughter. Also to the great dark goddess Ereshkigal
I was born in the dark. Not a great way to start off a story, I know. But it was true. I was born in Salas, in the
province of Adura. The land of the dark, evil, disturbed, forbidden, and tormented. Not to say that everyone from Adura was bad, some were just, well.... dark.
Salas was a grand country, ruled by a decent
king and queen, my parents. However the world we lived in was different from other worlds. It was divided into three sections; light, grey and dark. In Salas, we called them provinces. Nannaru, to the west, full of light, laughter, and happiness, Adura to the East and Biri in the center of the whole mess.
Biri, where the King and Queen lived, was two inches wide at the smallest point and 300 miles at the largest. It was the grey land, the neutral land. People born in Biri were normal. They could be both dark and light; though most fell in-between. Those from Biri could choose to live anywhere though most chose to stay in Biri. My sister was born in Biri and I envied her. If I left Adura, my powers diminished and I began to feel sick. My brother was the same, but born in the light. This was why he and I would never rule Salas.
Rulers of Salas were always born in Biri, so they could travel between provinces.
The main inhabitants of Salas were the Kassaptu. We were human-like except each Kassaptu was born with magical abilities, and a specific magical gift, each different from the other. We had keener senses than humans, telepathic abilities and we lived about ten times longer. Once a Kassaptu turned 21, their aging process slowed dramatically.
There were, of course, other creatures and beings that inhabited Salas, it just depended in which province one resided.
Our castle was built on the only part of Salas where Biri is thin. It was situated so the west wing was in Nannaru, the middle in Biri and the east wing in Adura.
When I was little, my favorite memories were of sitting with my siblings while our nanny, Mylitta, told us stories. My brother and I would push past our discomfort at being in Biri just to spend time together. As we got older it became harder for us to bear being in Biri.
Our favorite tales were of our births. Nanny was an Empusa born in Biri. Empusas were shapeshifters; they could turn into anything. Which pleased my siblings and I. Nothing is more fun than hide and seek with an Empusa.
The reason our birth stories amused us was because unlike my parents and grandparents, they were unique. Shamash or Mash, was the oldest; it irked him he would never be King more than it bothered me to not be queen. I was relieved since the magic I was born with would result in nothing good coming out of ruling Salas. Well, except death and destruction. I had to keep my lips from curling upwards in a demented smile when I thought about that.
Mother had gone into labor with Mash a month early and while father was gone. In the West wing, there is a beautiful sunroom, where, I am told, Mother liked to sleep when she was pregnant with Mash. She woke up in labor, her water broke, and she called for her ladies in waiting. Mylitta said that they tried to move her and managed to get into the hallway before Mother had to push. Mash always joked that he was just too impatient to wait any longer. Which was probably true.
Mash was born two hours before sunset on Um Issen 3, the first day of the third week in the hottest month of the year Abu. Mash had power over fire, heat and light; it was amazing to behold.
Two years later I was born and Mylitta always gets this look on her face when she would tell my story, as if my birth haunts her to this day. I was born in the East wing, in Adura. Mother fell coming down the stairs from the attic. She was looking through old trunks for a dress her mother had made for me. One I never got to wear. Mother birthed me alone, wrapped me in the dress and still bleeding, managed to make it to the Biri section of the castle before a servant noticed her.
She barely survived my birth and I almost didn’t. When Mother gave me to the midwife, it is alleged I was gray and blue, stillborn. Mother cried, saying I had been fine before she entered Biri. Thinking quickly the midwife handed me to an Adura servant and I revived. Unlike Mash, I came into the world on Um Siita 1, the seventh day of the first week and in the month of Tebetu, the coldest month of the year and the darkest. I was born with powers
death and destruction. Destined to live in the dark shadows of Adura.
After our births Father took
no more chances and Mother was confined to Biri for the whole of her pregnancy. Ishtar was born, in Biri, on time. They needed an heir, a Biri born heir. I have never begrudged Ishtar her birthright. She is perhaps the most pleasant of the three of us. Mylitta says Mother had a normal birth at a normal time. Ishtar came into the world with Father there on Um Salasi 2, the third day of the second week in the most pleasant month of the year Ayyaru, the beginning of spring. My little sister was born with power over love and fertility. Perfect, right?
“Ereshkigal, what are you thinking about?”
I looked up from my book, realizing I hadn’t retained anything of the past chapter, too busy in my own thoughts. I saw Ishtar leaning against the wall next to me. She was petite with bronze colored skin. Her hair fell in sheets of onyx almost to her knees. Ishtar’s face was beauty incarnate; pouty lips, and eyes the color of melted chocolate.
“I was reading.”
“You were not. I know your thinking face when I see it,” she teased, coming to sit by me. I was curled on a love seat in the corner of the library, which, was, thankfully, located in the East wing.
“Just thinking about us,” I shrugged.
“I knew Mash shouldn’t have asked Mylitta to tell the birthday stories at lunch. You’d think at 20 he’d be tired of stories that were fun when we were small.” Her laughter was like sunshine in the darkness and I winced at the sound.
“He was just trying to break the mood. Mother was supposed to join us for lunch,” I reminded her. Once a month, Mash and I sucked it up and had lunch with Ishtar in Biri. Mylitta joined us and sometimes our parents.
Ishtar frowned, “I know. It doesn’t matter Eshie. We’ve spent more time with Mylitta and tutors than with Mother and Father since we were born.” She didn’t sound bitter, but I knew if I had said the same thing, hurt and anger would have radiated through my being.
Sure, there were servants and staff; people always coming and going from the castle, but it did get lonely sometimes. Ishtar only visited me because she liked me better than Mash, though I had no idea why.
Mother and Father never came to see me. At least Mylitta cared about me, and we each had our own tutor. However, it was lonesome, especially in the East Wing. People didn’t like the dark; they were afraid of it. Most, unless from Adura, stayed away until they had to. I couldn’t stay in the other parts of the castle for long, so I had explored every inch of the East Wing and the grounds located in Adura. I desperately wanted to visit the lands outside of the walls surrounding the castle, but I was not allowed.
“Hey, where’s Namtar?” Ishtar asked.
“I don’t know, he’s around here somewhere, I guess,” as I peered around. She had brought up a good question, where was Namtar? He was usually in the same room with me.
Namtar was my best friend, but he was also my…lad-in-waiting? My companion and servant. Slavery wasn’t allowed in Salas, unless you needed to pay off a debt. Most of our servants were well paid and given room and board. Namtar’s parents had sold him to my father in payment for a debt. Of course, Father told Namtar the day he turned 16 he was free to do whatever he liked, including leave. But Namtar wouldn’t leave me, and now we were 18 and legal adults, finally.
“He’s weird Eshie. I don’t know how you stand to have him follow you everywhere.” Ishtar stood. She was antsy I could tell. Being born in Biri meant she could travel freely between the boundaries, but she didn’t like the way Adura felt. I understood; it was the way I felt outside of Adura.
“Be nice, he’s my only company most days.”
“Sorry. Anyway, I’m going to check on Mash. He stormed off to the gym after lunch.” She blew me a kiss and danced off. Rolling my eyes, I rose, leaving my book on the seat.
“You can come out now.” Hands on my hips, I waited for Namtar to appear. Namtar was tall and very thin; his skin off white, unlike mine, which was the color and shimmer of snow. He was awkward and never seemed to know where to put his hands. His hair was silver, long, and he usually kept it over his face so people wouldn’t look at him. But I knew he was hiding beauty under all that hair. Silver eyes, a pointed nose and a
smile. Part of me figured it was mainly the castle that made him shy; if we were out on our own he would be different.
Namtar had been born with the power to bring disease and illness to others, what most people overlooked was he could
absorb the sickness
into himself, curing people. I sometimes wondered if that was why his parents had given him up so easily.
“I hate your sister.” His voice was soft and lyrical.
“You just don’t understand each other.”
“Maybe.” He was pulling on his clothes, like they were too tight. I knew it was just a nervous habit. All servants were required to wear black slacks and depending on where they were born, either a gold, gray, or black tunic.
“Were you hiding the whole time or did you go do something?” I asked coming closer to him. He gave me a lopsided smile and pulled out a black rose. They were my favorite flower, had no smell and were only found outside the castle grounds on the East side.
Nam! You were outside the wall!” I grabbed the rose and hugged him, jumping back to dance around like a dork for a few minutes before calming down. I took the hair band off my wrist and wound my shoulder length blood red curls into a bun and stuck the rose into it for safekeeping.
“I was careful.”
I gave him a stern look. He could have gotten into serious trouble as servants were not supposed to leave the castle grounds without permission.
“You better have been.” Glancing at the clock, I saw there were still a couple of hours until dinnertime, “what’d you want to do until dinner?”
“No idea. We’ve done everything there is to do in this place.” He was right. Eighteen years of living in the East Wing had really used up our resources for fun.
“We haven’t been to the cemetery in weeks,” I offered up.
“That’s true, but what would we do once we got there?”
Corpses? Tombstone rubbings, bone divination, spirit calling.” I rattled off some options.
“All good suggestions, let’s go.” Namtar grabbed my hand and we went to the wall where he placed his hand at a specific angle. Part of the wall opened up into darkness that I knew led to a staircase that wound down and emptied out into a crypt in the middle of the cemetery. We’d discovered this particular secret passageway the year we turned nine.
As we left the mausoleum, opening the heavy door and stepping out into the cemetery, I breathed in deep. It was almost always a blue green twilight in Adura, except at night when the moon hid and then it was dark, only the twinkling of stars. The sun never shown in Adura.
No matter what season it was, Adura was never more than 75 degrees and it usually smelled like fall, decaying leaves, and incense. The cemetery was full of crypts, headstones, dark corners, crumbling ruins and overgrown flora. I loved it. Namtar and I had quickly made it into our own personal playground when we were little.
“Hey, do you hear that?” Namtar squeezed my hand and pulled me farther into the cemetery, towards the gate.
“Hear what?” I listened, my hearing was great, but Namtar’s was even better.
Not much of an explanation; voices were no big as the castle had over 100 staff members. At the gate he pulled me down behind a large headstone just as people walked by and came to a stop within our vision.
“This isn’t a good idea.”
“My parents requested this of me, I will do it.” The voices were male and both harsh and deep. I couldn’t really see them because they wore cloaks.
“But the princess, this might be trouble for you.”
“It will be trouble if I am not presented to her.”
“Yes sir.” Then they walked out of earshot and left the area.
“They had to be talking about you.”
Namtar whispered in my mind. Kassaptu could do short distance telepathy.
I was confused by what I’d just seen and heard.
“They were in Adura, why would they be here to see Ishtar?”
“Because she is the heir to the throne, dumb ass.”
Sarcasm is my friend.
“I doubt it. Should we go back inside?”
Nam said out loud, too much telepathy was painful and tiring. Most barely used it as a viable means for communication.
“Nah, let Father send someone to come get us if it’s important.” I stood up and dusted off my black skirt, “I wanna raise a RC, c’mon.” He just grinned and like always, followed me.