When young Reiza has a disturbing vision, the Ruler of the Winter Realm demands the death of a child; the Flame Realm Princess, Violetta. Violetta had always found comfort in the form of magic, but a sudden tragedy compels her to view her gift as a curse.
With each step Violetta had taken towards the well, she
had heard the driver’s footsteps fading. Twenty panic-stricken
minutes saw the trees twist in a monstrous fashion, taking the
weary Queen by surprise. She was determined to pass through
the winding maze, using every one of her senses to her best
judgement. She trusted in her instincts; used the energy about
her as a guide.
The trees were fewer now, but still she walked,
along the narrow stone paths. The dark atmosphere bound her
in chains of fear. The young Queen quickly became discouraged.
She searched frantically among the twisting passages. Her head
dropped. Reluctantly, she sought to throw in the towel when
a light glow appeared up the passage ahead. Curiously, she
paced towards it, doing her best to zone in on the light. Violetta
chanced a quick glance behind. Everything she’d passed seemed
to instantly vanish. It was just her and the glow, guiding her
forward. She halted suddenly. Something large and sloping
caught her unawares. She glanced down to find that the glow had
fled. In its place, there stood a coarse oblong rock, as high as her
waist, its surface coarse. She leaned gently against the structure,
the roughness of it grazing her skin.
“The altar,” she whispered, mesmerized.
The Queen stared silently round her new surroundings.
About her, she noticed a strange circular structure, hewed from
the same tough rock as the altar. It easily towered ten-feet above
her, rounding on her like a ravenous beast. There was no wind
here. Just the distant whistle of it in the trees.
Violetta stood with her back to the altar. She was gazing above
at the elaborate structure when something sinister caught her eye.
She wheeled round, refraining from blinking in case she missed
it. A shadowy figure emerged from her left. It advanced towards
her with impressive stealth. Violetta prepared herself to run, but
couldn’t. No matter how much she shifted her feet, she couldn’t
move a single inch. Her feet seemed to have frozen stiff. She
waited, terrified as the demon approached. Her eyes widened.
The Emperor’s gaunt face loomed above her. His strides were
powerful, broad shoulders pinned back, chest puffed out. He
looked ever more impressive than usual with his body draped
in a ceremonial robe. Blood red; mandatory for both parents who
sought the ritual. The Queen felt herself go weak at the knees.
Ryore said nothing. He barely looked at her. Without warning, he
scooped her up into his muscled arms, before gently laying her
upon the altar. The cold stone rubbed at her bare legs. Violetta
tried to adjust herself, but Ryore’s arms held her fast.
“Be still!” He cried.
It was more an order than a request. In anger, his powers
seemed to flare from within. Thick layers of frost swept over the
altar, luckily failing to reach the Queen. She reluctantly obeyed.
“You’ll be alright, my dear,” he said, “That I can promise.”
His voice warmed, restoring her faith.
Violetta gradually began to relax. She relished the feel of her
husband’s hand as he lightly brushed it against her cheek.
A second shadow crossed into the clearing. The Emperor
was the first to spot it. Violetta stirred upon the altar. Sensing
her husband’s sudden discomfort, she craned her neck to catch a
glimpse of the figure. It slunk steadily towards the couple. It was
abnormally tall for anything human.
“The seer was released into the maze, on my orders.”
Ryore’s voice boomed out through the clearing. He gave
Violetta his most reassuring look, but all she could see was the
It continued to advance upon her, a cloak of
deep blue, shrouding their body. A matching hood hid their
features. The only thing she could make out were long strands
of wispy white hair, which poked through the sheer fabric.
Violetta shuddered. She was suddenly reminded of Clarisse; her
old nursemaid, and the way her hair used to dangle limply over
her face. The mysterious newcomer inclined their head. They
appeared disturbingly familiar to the still Queen. She eyed them
closely as they met with the altar, splitting the air with a few
foreign words. The language seemed impossible to identify, as
did that lurking sense of familiarity.
The moonlight swept over the slim, dark figure. The couple
stared in awe of them. Their navy hood was slowly peeled back.
The urge to be violently sick assaulted the Queen. The creature’s
face was as gaunt as ice, the skin taut as though pulled back from
behind and stapled in place. Violetta wished only to tear her eyes away,
but she was simply unable to cease her staring. The figure appeared to have
no gender. Instead, their features appeared androgynous at best.
Its eyes were only slits in its head. The Queen doubted whether
they could see that well.
“Emperor Ryore.” Its voice was low and gravelly. “Pleased to
make your acquaintance. I’m so glad you were able to decipher
Its long curved teeth crept out from its mouth. Violetta
flinched. Ryore, surprisingly, simply nodded towards it.
“Charmed, I’m sure.”
The seer was intent on examining the Queen. They drew
awfully close, sniffing about her lithe frame in the same way that
dogs sniff out a scent.
“She is ready!” They exclaimed.
The seer pulled back from the anxious Queen. Their cloak
opened up to the stark moonlight. Thankfully, their body was
more than well covered. Violetta didn’t know how many shocks
she could take.
“And now to prepare the tools of fertility!”
The seer began digging around inside their robe. Dozens of
pockets spontaneously appeared, bringing forth a great many
items. Containers and books were among a few. Most were
drawn back into their robes; just a few main articles remained on
Ryore coughed, clearly impatient. The seer gave a displeased
frown. They carried on regardless, bent over a neat line of simple,
yet elegant brown pots. They sat on the edge of the square stone
altar. Each appeared to be half-way filled with a different precious
substance to the one that preceded it.
Violetta maintained her statuesque state, wincing as the
healer’s hand shot out towards her. She was confronted instantly
by a wart-covered hand. She gazed grimly upon it, until it delved
deep into one of the pots. Before long, the hand withdrew, the pale
flesh coated in a pungent paste.
Violetta glanced warily up at the figure. They were neither young
nor old. Now that she stared, she noticed a line of grotesque bruising which
hugged the jaw-line, the cheek-bones hollow and close to blue. They stared
back at the entranced Queen, one hand reaching to untie her robe. Instinct
almost saw Violetta lash out, but remembering her promise, she
let them work. Her robe undid with the greatest of ease. The
paste-covered hand explored her nude form. Its slender fingers
adorned her body, mysterious symbols emerging in their work.