Zarrek Spyrytte, the second son of Queen Arialla of Onsira, lives a troubled life… though he would be loathe to admit it. He knows the heartache of loss as well as a deep physical pain that he can hardly quell, not to mention later falling into a forbidden love. His trials, and all of his attempts to end them, are laid out in Book Two of Legends of Lorata: Traipsing Light and Shadow. An apt title, considering everything that Zarrek has to deal with. This book will really prove why his picture should appear right next to the word ‘angst’ in the dictionary.
Here is a scene from Traipsing Light and Shadow, the book I am working on today (as I take a break from my sci-fi). It is not the scene I am on, but something early in the book that beings the explanation of just how Zarrek ends up to attached to Starshine.
Excerpt from Chapter Three:
In the late afternoon, Starshine joined Shu-Giri in the music room. He had promised to teach her a Jzamneh tune before leaving on his journey. Indeed, he was enjoying the fact that she had taken a liking to him and an interest in Jzamneh culture, so he was all too glad to oblige her.
Shu-Giri played her a tune on his flute, his favorite song from the spring festival, and then listened to her play it back to him. It was a fast and lively tune, and she liked the way it made her think of the playful fae and blossoming flowers. Still, it took her several tries to sort the notes out just right, and it was evening before she felt she could play the tune without Shu-Giri’s help.
When Millea came to call her for dinner in the royal hall, Starshine told her and Shu-Giri, “Please, go ahead without me. I would like to play a little more before I go.”
“As you say, little miss,” he told her, and stepped out into the hall to follow Millea to dinner.
Once she was alone, Starshine pulled the cape off her shoulders, laying it on the music stand in front of her. Shu-Giri, like most of the others in the palace, knew that she was Starr, but she was so accustomed to wearing it around others that the habit remained. She stretched the wings on her back, letting them reach their full length, not noticing that the door was not shut completely. She sat atop a tall stool, her wingtips reaching down to the floor, and took the flute in her hands.
Starshine began the tune that she had been practicing with Shu-Giri, letting the playful notes flow out of the instrument with more care than she should have. The tune was meant to be played with more flair and less reservation than she was used to lending her music, and she noticed that it did not sound quite right. With a sigh, she stopped, and paused before starting the tune over again.
A figure stepped into the room from the hallway, hearing her music playing, but she did not notice. He stood there for a moment, listening to her play, and then stepped all the way into the room, closing the door without even a sound. He listened as the girl started the tune a third time, curious about her approach to the music.
“You are not accustomed to Jzamnehan music, are you?” he asked after a while.
Startled, Starshine set the flute down and turned ‘round, forgetting that her wings were not covered. Standing near the door was the prince, just as mysteriously present as he had been in the library the other day. She took a few breaths to calm herself, hoping to be less nervous around him this time. She had seen him several times since their talk in the garden, but had not had the opportunity to be alone with him again.
“I fear not, your highness. Shu-Giri has only just begun to teach me.”
“But music is something that you know very well,” he added.
“It is. My father is a bard, after all. He has taught me a great deal about music.”
Zarrek stepped closer to the girl, looking her over. “Do Starr not have a natural talent for music?”
“That much is true, your highness. Still, it does not come effortlessly; I must practice in order to learn it.”
Walking closer still, Zarrek reached a hand out to touch her wings, admiring their greater size. His eyes met hers, and he said to her, “They are different this time, Starshine. Last time, they were so little, and now…”
Starshine stared back at him for a moment, not sure how to explain it.
“You are a shy girl,” he commented. “Are you afraid of me?”
“Your highness,” she whispered, then shook her head, pulling her eyes away from him. “No, I am not afraid. It is just that… I hardly know you.”
Zarrek stepped back a bit, and let the girl explain what he wanted to know.
“It is something that I realized I could do when I was still very small. If… if I do not need to fly, I can make my wings small for a time. But now and then, it feels nice to stretch them.”
“A unique talent,” Zarrek replied, sitting on one of the couches. “I have never heard of a dragon or fae that could do such a thing. Can other Starr do it as well?”
“I have never met another Starr, your highness, so I am afraid I do not know.”
Zarrek gave her a wide-eyed, incredulous look. “In all of Mithkyn, there are no other Starr? Not for all the bards in your land?”
The girl shook her head. “Nowhere across all Manastaecies, your highness. My father has tried to find others like me, but there are none. It seems that I am a rare creature indeed.”
“How can there be no other Starr? How could you be here if there aren’t others like you?”
Starshine cast her gaze downward. “My father believes that we come only at special times, for very special reasons. …And with the blessings of Aamh.”
“And he—Vincente– was special enough to be entrusted with your care?” Zarrek asked, not hiding the criticism in his tone.
“You still do not know him well, though he has been in your home for months.”
“Should I want to know him?” the prince countered.
“I do not mean to be petulant, your highness. Perhaps I could read to you from the book of Starr legends.”
The prince was not listening. His attention was on his arm, where he had let the priestess of Métius wound him several days earlier. The dull ache still had not left him, and it grew at times into a pain that took away his focus. He felt, too, the iron in his back burning, the skin pulling, demanding something that Zarrek could not provide to quell the feeling.
“Are you hurt, sir prince?” Starshine asked, descending from her chair. She walked over to his side, looking down at him worriedly.
“You would not understand,” he told her, clenching his fist.
She noticed his movement and looked down at his arm, covered though it was by his sleeve. Starshine reached a hand out to pull the cloth back, curious about what had happened to him. He pulled away from her, and looked at the girl with serious eyes.
“Why do you insist on knowing?” he nearly growled at her, forgetting to restrain himself, so great was his pain.
“I ask because I may be able to help, dear prince,” she answered him calmly, taking no offense to his tone.
Zarrek peered at the girl through narrowed eyes, then began to pull back the garnet silk of his sleeve. “Very well. This will seem strange to someone like you, but I will show you what it is.”
Locking his eyes on the girl, he pulled his sleeve away from the bandage on his forearm. She looked over his entire arm as he pulled the sleeve further up, onto his shoulder. Dark lines traced the muscles, some of them red in hue, a few shaded a deep, rich green. others midnight blue or dark purple, a few silver or black. Starshine traced a finger over one of them, unsure what they were.
“Are these battle scars?” she asked, revealing her naïveté.
“Have ever you seen dyed battle scars before?” he asked her in reply.
She shook her head. “Mithkyn is not known for being home to old warriors, your highness. I really have no way of knowing such things. How did you get so many cuts?”
“Métius,” Zarrek told her, ripping the bandage away from his forearm to reveal his newest scar, the black shining in the light as blood seeped out of the edges slowly.
“The demon god?” Starshine asked, surprised to hear his name in Onsira.
Zarrek nodded to her. “This is why your father wants you to avoid me, Starshine.”
“Because Métius hurt you?”
“Because I let his priests do this! Because I want the power that I get in return!” He was breathing harder, the pain growing with his anger.
Starshine did not shy away. Although Zarrek had nearly shouted at her, she laid her hands on his arm, leaning over the cut that wound its way up towards his wrist. With one finger, she traced the blackened line, not minding the blood that she got on her. He closed his eyes, feeling how smooth her smooth her skin was compared to his, and focused on calming his breath. She laid one palm over the wound, and felt it throb under her touch.
“It hurts you so deeply,” she whispered, as though saddened that he was in such pain, and looked up at him. She wanted to ask him how he usually dealt with the pain, and why it was worth the power that got from it, but when she saw his eyes, she changed her mind. There was something deeper to him, something that she knew she could not question.
Zarrek looked back at her, taking in the warmth of her hands on his skin. His breaths became smoother, more even. The throbbing in his arm calmed itself, although it did not stop. Even his back did not hurt so badly. The pain was beginning to melt away, but the relief was not to last.
“Starshine!” The voice boomed into the room, as angry as it was surprised.
She and the prince both looked towards the doors, startled by the sudden interruption. There stood her father, in his bardic shirt of many colors, sandy blond hair loose around his head. He was glaring at the prince, furious that he was so close to his daughter. Starshine stood from the couch, realizing that her father was so displeased.
“You were told to stay away from her, Zarrek.”
“Is it a bard’s place to tell a prince what he may or may not do?” Zarrek asked, laying the bandage back over the wound, though it no longer bled.
“When my daughter is involved, I have a say in the matter,” Vincente insisted. The he looked to the girl. “What were you doing?”
“I…” She cast her eyes downward, not sure how to explain it.
“Zarrek involves himself with the evil gods, Starshine. You have no reason to get so close to him.”
“He would not hurt me, father,” Starshine objected.
Vincente grabbed her wrist, and looked at her palm. “You have his blood on you, Starshine. I do not want you involved with his dark rituals. Come, dinner is waiting. You need to wash this off and get to the royal hall.”
As he began to escort the girl out of the music hall, Vincente turned to the prince one more time. “Be warned, Zarrek. My daughter will have nothing to do with you and your evil ways. She is here for me and for her studies, not for you. Do not speak to her again.”
Zarrek glared at the bard, saying nothing. He watched them leave, the girl looking over her shoulder at the prince as she was ushered away. He cursed Vincente under his breath as he felt the pain resurging, and clenched the wound as it burned his arm. Starshine’s touch, somehow, had eased his suffering. But when she left so suddenly, it returned even worse. Was this another Starr ability, he wondered to himself as he braced himself through the pain.
When it eased enough for him to stand, he pulled his sleeve back down, and walked out of the room. Rushing past several servants, who bowed to him, Zarrek hurried to his own chambers. If he could not have the girl’s help, he needed his salve. Never mind that he would miss dinner; he often did when his ceremonial scars burned him. What was it about her that had affected him, he wondered again as he slammed the door to his room shut. She lingered in his mind as he opened the jar of salve, dabbing it on the scar that had started to bleed again. How had she done so much to help with her touch alone, when Zarrek had tried so many things in the past, all in vain? He had to know how she did it, the bard be damned.