Taking a Step Towards a Dream
I've been trying to write an introduction to this article for weeks now. I've been writing as a creative outlet for 16 years, but now that I'm here, trying to put my work out into the world for the first time, I just can't quite find the right words to tell my story.
When I was 12, I decided that I wanted to write a book…like I said, that was 16 years ago and I have no published work. The truth is, I've never been able to put all of the fantastical ideas running rampant through my head into a stream of consciousness that could lead to a book.
The other truth is, I've been afraid of leaving the vulnerable little thoughts I've nurtured and breathed life into over the years to their fate in the savage unknown.
This anxiety is not unique to me.
Many, if not all, creatives view our work as pseudo-children. And like many, if not all, parents, we become fearful as our children prepare to venture from us into a world where people may receive them differently than we (and our kind and generous friends who have seen behind the curtain) hope they would.
But if 2020 has taught me anything, it's that now is the time to say 'B-F-D to M-E-Me,' because the whole world is going to hell in a handbasket and the kids are all here watching it happen, so here we go.
This is the first time my writing has been released to the public.
I really hope you enjoy it.
Part One: A Call in the Night
There was a steady knocking at her door that was slowly pulling her from her dreams, but she was now aware enough of it to struggle to stay asleep. The thought that, as a guard to the royal family, she should be attentive to what duty might be waiting outside her warm blankets finally roused her semi-lucid mind. Just as she started to heave her leaden limbs from the soft cradle of her bed, there was a whisper from the other side of the door.
"Katherine, let me IN!"
It was more of a hiss than a whisper, spat in a familiar, perturbed voice. Every muscle in her body tensed at the thought of the man out in the hallway; he was her oldest rival and probably the only man who could instantly rile her emotions the way he just had. The years of being brash and snide towards each other made the irritation towards him waking her more of a habit than a genuine feeling, but in style, she yanked the door open.
"What do you want, TALON," she snapped back, matching his tone. Before the words had even finished leaving her lips, there was a brawny frame trying to shove its way into her room. Her instincts kicked in as a small noise of surprise slipped out of her chest and she threw her weight into the door, forcing it back towards the person trying to barge in.
"Let me in," came the same hushed, irritated words from the large body beyond her door. She pushed even harder into the wood, her well trained muscles tiring quickly from the overwhelming strength she was fighting. "Katherine, it's me! Damn it, let me in!" It was because she knew exactly who it was that caused anger to fuel her muscles, as she held her ground against an enthusiastic push.
"Why are you trying to break into my room," she grumbled. An arm managed to squeeze through the space in the opening, tan and layered with muscle. "You opened the door for me," Talon responded, pushing more of his chest in as her legs grew increasingly exhausted. Katherine knew that she was losing the fight, but she held on to the frustrated thought that he was invading her space, and pride would not let her relent. Her foe gave an exceptionally solid shove and managed to squeeze a leg inside.
"I just need a moment to say goodbye, PLEASE!" Suddenly confused and surprised by what had just come from his mouth, Katherine stopped struggling, as did Talon. They sat for just a moment without saying anything, as if the world had stopped moving. Once the shock faded, the habitual irritation returned and she snapped back into a defensive state of mind, releasing any tension that had built in the silence.
Taking a step back, Katherine huffed a dramatic sigh as all six feet of the brown haired, hazel eyed man finally stepped in through the door frame. They made eye contact and she instantly knew something was wrong. Before she could say anything, though, his gaze shifted down. As if a handful of sand had just been thrown in his face, Talon's head whirled away from her, his body following as he cursed out loud.
"You could have told me you weren't dressed Katherine!"
Her whole body felt as if it had just been doused in ice water. She looked and saw nothing covering her but a breast band and underwear. "Damn it all to hell!"
Genuine embarrassment coated her in a pink flush. She was angry with herself for letting him see her in a such a compromising fashion. On the wall next to the vanity she had been given by the Princess, she had a thin winter hare robe that she yanked onto her arms, holding it around herself like a child in a blanket.
"Are you decent," he asked, peeking over his shoulder. Refusing to speak, she let him see for himself. She was still on fire from the mortification, but what she had glimpsed on his face before now shown on her as their eyes met, dowsing the flame and transporting her back to the first and last time they had ever really been friends.
It was only two weeks after her sixteenth birthday when she had finally graduated to a Guard from her Father's disciple -- and just over a year since the Royals had adopted Talon himself into the Guard. The Princess wanted to go pick apples, but her dress had gotten wrapped around a branch half-way up, causing her to fall from the tree. Katherine had wrapped the Princess' bleeding arm in a torn piece of her tunic and Talon proceeded to carry her all the way to the doctor's chamber.
Out in the hall, they had waited side by side while the doctor inspected the Princess with not only the King and the Queen, but Katherine's Father as well. She remembered how nauseous she had felt, how anxious she was that she would be thrown out of the Guard for failing her duties; it would dishonor her father and their whole family. Katherine lamented over these worries, all the while sitting next to Talon, who was deathly quiet.
"Aren't you worried, even a little," she had snapped at him, vexed that she felt so much panic while he seemed so calm. When he had looked at her, it had almost broken her heart, the painfully evident fear on display in his eyes. "I don't want them to exile me, Katherine," he had whispered to her, holding his hands out in front of his face as they shook. It was the only time she had ever seen him weak, and it had shocked her to her core.
He always had a self-assured smile on his face, a silent confidence about him that would fill a room when he walked in, but now his voice even quivered as he spoke. "I can't go back into the Outskirts, I have to be able to stay here! I don't want to leave the city, or the Royals, or the Guard..." He had paused for a moment, and then looked deeply into her eyes and whispered:
Still now, four years later, Katherine could feel the pounding of her heart and the rush of heat inside her as the truth shown plain on his face; it was the first time she had felt anything like it. Back then, all she had wanted to do was help him. She had reached out for his shaking fingers and intertwined them with her own, an overwhelming need to comfort him compelling her, even though her cheeks blushed. She had sworn on her honor as a member of the Guard, as only a young girl could, that she would always make sure he had a place in the Kingdom.
Her hand flinched towards him now with the same reflex, to assure him that everything would be made right and that he was going to be ok, but she forced it back to her side. Between that day and this, things had quickly changed.
Talon had not been thrown out into the Outskirts; as a matter of fact, neither of them suffered a very severe punishment. In the years that would follow, that moment of kindness they had shared would be buried by an endless string of petty arguments, brash cynicism and a meaningless aggression towards one another; the sum of these parts had turned them into something akin to enemies.
She wasn't sure how it had become so unpleasant; it just seemed to manifest and worsen between them from that day on. She still saw it though, that softer side of him: in quiet moments when he didn't think anyone was watching, in the way he cared for animals and children, or even just in a flash of something kind she might see pass through his eyes.
Although all of the bad blood between them had never managed to completely smother her feelings, even the best of their times together were made up of sarcasm and jokes. So, despite the fact that deep down in her chest, Katherine knew she would rather do anything than just stand there, their mutual animosity caused her not to trust him. "I'm sorry for barging in," he mumbled, obviously uncomfortable, worry still sparkling clear in his eyes. "Mmm," was all she responded with, trying her hardest to figure out what to do.
Her gaze danced around his face, taking in the despondent look that dragged the corners of his usually upturned lips into a frown. His bright, nearly amber eyes looked a dull leather brown now in the dim, moonlit space of her room and under the heaviness of whatever burden he was carrying.
She guessed he had been fretting over something, as his hair, which normally looked so naturally well-kept, was now mused and disheveled. Damning herself, she realized that even now and despite everything, he was still the most handsome man she had ever seen. From the first time she had been introduced to Talon, she had been instantly attracted to him. Talon was an orphan who had been found injured and exhausted, fresh from the Outskirts on the Royals' front lawn and been taken in. Even when he was scrawny from his time in the Outskirts, he showed a solid build and had he prowess to make it onto the Royals' property, so they had charged him to the care of the entire Guard, ordering that he be trained.
Now, as a grown man, he looked so different from any other man she knew, with good looks unique to only him. There were many men in their Kingdom who were highly regarded for their appearance, but most of them had fine features, with sloping jaws, high brows and angular noses.
Talon had a strong, square jaw; he looked rugged compared to the rest of the men she occupied herself with. His body was different, too, she thought for the millionth time, as she let her eyes float down his frame while he re-adjusted his posture anxiously in front of her. He had a thickness to him that was neither bullish, nor heavy, just less of a swordsman's than the others and more reminiscent of a working man.
For just a moment, Katherine's mind dared to think of the fact that he was here in her room at an hour usually only shared by lovers. "You said that you came to wish me goodbye," she said under her breath, sounding occupied as she forced her thoughts away from that idea.
"Where are you going?"
Talon stopped his fidgeting, but his head cocked to the side as if he were listening for something out in the hall. She heard nothing, but lent her ear to the hall just the same. "I have to leave." Rolling her eyes, Katherine put a hand on her hip. "I assumed that's why you were saying goodbye, but WHERE are you going? The Royals have nowhere to be until later in the season and you have no missions."
"I'm not leaving for just a little while, Katherine; I'm leaving."
Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the second half of this original story, which will drop next week on forthefansmedia.com!
- Kristian (@itsmeKristianG)