This is an illustration and excerpt from my first book in my “The Sound of the Stones” series. The writing is raw and subject to change. Illustration done by me: mixed media in Photoshop.
Ashra followed the servant through a maze of hallways, and down stairs to the lower dining hall. She entered into the room; her slippers clicked across the slick marble floor as she gawked at the opulent stone-carved cathedral ceiling. It was lit by hundreds of tiny crystals. The lights bounced off the stone walls and ceiling, casting various long and short shadows, and giving a warm glow to the room. It felt cozy, though its ceiling stood two stories high. The crystal vibrations gave comfort to Ashra, something familiar in this strange place.
She wrapped her arms around herself trying to hold on to the small piece of solace, and scanned the room. Beautiful paintings hung about the walls. Different scenes were depicted in each. Human like men seduced beautiful women in many of the scenes. Ashra blushed, having never been exposed to such things. Those scenes all had the same black floor with rich red velvet draping. Ashra recognized the room and shivered. Other paintings detailed humans bowing to Krad. Krad stood in beautiful poses while humans were portrayed as humble and lowly. Glasne and Krad were pictured together in the same black-floored room around a large table looking serious and lofty.
“Admiring the art?” Ashra turned to find Perditus leaning against the arched entrance. A slow smiled spread across his lips as his eyes travled over her. He nodded and made a low growl deep in his throat. “I knew under all that mine dust there was an unparalleled beauty.” Perditus’s voice sounded strange. It made Ashra feel dirty, despite the vigorous cleaning she had just endure. Perditus looked intimidating now in an entirely different way. She tried to tell him to go to hell, but the words caught in her throat.
He pushed himself from the doorway and walked gracefully across the room, kepping eye contact as he closed the distance. Ashra’s mouth went dry. He stopped just a foot from her, his eyes lingering on her necklace. He reached out and traced his finger down her neck, following the line of the chain. Ashra stiffened. His finger stopped just below the charm. Ashra could hear her own breath quicken and her chin began to tremble. She decided that despite her recent trauma, she really did want to live. Ashra swallowed hard, the sound of her heart beat loud in her ears. Perditus watched the vein in her neck pulsate with strange facination. He smiled, and raised his eyes to hers. Her fear that the medallion would react to his touch subsided, as it remained silent when he brushed his finger across it. His finger stopped at the pendant, and his face clouded with confusion.
“These crystals do not have any noticeable vibration,” Perditus marveled as he lifted the charm to get a closer look. “Fascinating, where did you get this?” he asked, leaning in closer.
His breath was hot on her neck. Ashra made a strangled noise in the back of her throat. He looked back at her and cocked one brow. She could see clearly now, the violet flecks among the blue, as his eyes shimmered in the warm glow of the room. She had never been this close to a man before, besides her own father. But this was not the interaction of a father with his daughter. This was clearly intimate in a way she had never known.
She had no control as her body rejected the closeness. She backed away from him, and stumbled on her dress, a loud bark escaping her mouth as she fell. Had it been another place and time, she might have seen the humor in it. But it was now, and she was stumbling toward the floor with a very dangerous man standing over her. Perditus caught her by the arm and pulled her up before she hit the floor. He pulled her close, too close. She gasped and writhed in an effort to break free. Perditus gave a small chuckle and released her on steadier feet.
Ashra gathered herself, jutting her jaw in anger as she moved to the table. Heat crept up her face, and she couldn’t decide which part of that exchange was more embarrassing. She ploped into a chair, hating the feel of exposed skin that the dress allowed. She scooted into the table, willing it to protect her. Perditus was clearly interested in something she was unwilling to give him. She wondered how much of a choice she had in the matter.