In an imperial kingdom of myth and magic, portrayed in third-person, a rebellion is ignited by a single kiss that passes with it the seeds of forbidden Silver Magic. Factions wage a silent war of kidnapping and deception as they struggle to control the new rogue witch of silver magic. Swordplay and magic threaten to bring about a journey of dreams and loyalty that will bring the kingdom to its knees.
FOUR YEARS & SIX MONTHS PRIOR
"Historians tell us it was a noble uprising that came from a place unseen within the hearts of a suffering people. However, that is not the whole truth. I was there before the Banner of Silver Kiss was first threaded. I saw its founders as mere children. And thus, I tell a story of shame and irony that will taint them as tyrants."
-- Excerpt from The Rising of the Silver Kiss
by Lady Kagaelle de Fleyune (executed - treason)
Unpublished Alternate Text
From the moment the outpost spotted the approaching pair of people on horseback, rumours had begun spreading from house to house like fire leaping from building to building. For that one evening, the quiet farming village of Wahleiss, tucked away in the kingdom's toes, was to become alive as it had never been before. Travelers were uncommon enough, let alone one dressed as a courtier.
He wore soft threads of vivid colours that were embroidered with gold that was even brighter still. There was a wide scarf around his neck that veiled his mouth in scarlet. His face was broad and masculine, yet looked hairless, perhaps impossibly well-shaved. And the man's hair, upon his head, was like a thatched roof at sunrise - a sparkling bright red. In his hands, he carried a polished bronze harp. However, along its outer edge, it was rimmed with an ancient patina of soft green.
The man was followed by another figure, whose robes were a dirtied black and whose face was veiled in shadow by the mouth of a hood. This person had a thick tome clutched against their slender bosom.
The pair was riding matching horses, beige with white spots. They were a nondescript breed, common among these parts, and seemed to know they were bearing pretentious burdens.
Wind parted the dirt before them as they made their way down the streets, towards the nexus of Wahleiss. Houses had been cropped together, there, in the center of the farm land. They formed a small semblance of a town, to beat a heart of business between the distant farmhouses and fading barns.
For every fall of the foreign hooves, there were villagers rushing to their windows and porches to see the strangers' passing. Children laughed and pointed. Adults turned their heads. Admiration and wonder surrounded them.
Their steeds came to a halt, parallel to each other, before the well-marked inn. Each traveler dismounted, and tied their horse.
A confident voice ran smoothly past the red scarf that threatened to muffle it, "Where is the Elder?"
Another voice came from the hood, a woman's, "Be patient, my ward. The Elder will be in the tavern before the moon is up. That was what we agreed upon."
"Yet, we reached these bilious boondocks early! Can we not find the old man now, and leave, m'lady?"
She let out a small laugh, "You'd rather spend the night in another tent than risk some sly farm boy stealing your precious harp? Why not play it for them?"
"I will play her," he sneered with childlike indignance, "if and when she wants to be played."
Together, black robe and gaudy vestments, they entered the inn's tavern.
And the infinite fates would have it that an adolescent girl and boy, of fourteen and thirteen winters respectively, followed them inside. The girl had long black hair that ended at her lower back. And he had a short-trimmed mop of brown hair. And they each had bored black eyes that seemed to watch the ritual rhythm of the day pass by with indifference.
It was a room full of tired merriment, watered down grog and poor business. Every glass and mug was smudged and fogged; worn as the tables and benches, and as tarnished as the chandelier.
The courtier climbed onto a stool at the bar's edge, "Every face is nearly the same, here, like horses bred poorly from their siblings."
"And you'll not grace them with your fine tongue?"
"Lady Kagaelle, surely you know as well as I do how many courtesans can be found in this farmers' valley."
She glowered and then nudged him, almost off his stool, "As a bard, not a pervert of the court."
The young man set his coppery harp firmly upon the table's edge, "I will play for these commoners, when and if I see a woman, or man, worthy of my lips."
The woman in the black robe laughed from behind her veil, then stopped abruptly as the bartender approached.
"What'll it be?" the old man queried, as he ran a dirty hand through a scruffy gray beard. "We don't get folks like you around here much."
"Nothing for us," Lady Kagaelle told him, in an inevitably condescending tone. You have nothing that would please our throats.
"Then," he began, "I regret to inform you that I must --"
"Look, little man, we're here on official business from the capital. We have a meeting set tonight with the elder of this tiny little town, so don't go busting a second testicle over what we're not drinking, are we clear?"
The bartender gulped, and backed away from the woman's tirade.
"Water will be fine," the courtier added. "Especially if you have any ice from the mountains."
The old man nodded and backed away into another room.
Meanwhile, the girl and boy had seated themselves together in the center of the room. Each of them nurtured a glass of wahlberry juice, and eyed the board game on the table between them. Wooden had been intricately carved into the likeness of several varieties of wizards and warriors. And they were spread across a nine by nine checkered matrix of blue and red spots. However, neither one of them seemed to know how to play. Thus, they picked up each piece separately, and admired the craftsmanship.
"I wonder who they are," she said.
He had stopped looking at the piece in her hand, and his eyes wandered towards the one in hers.
"The woman in black creeps me out, though I think the one with the scarf is kind of handsome."
He was not listening, and was no longer admiring the game piece in her hand. Rather, he was admiring her hand. And this was all in the back of his mind, because he was now contemplating when to tell her of the knew ways in which he was beginning to think of her.
The bartender came back to his nearly empty bar, and handed the harpist an ice water. Then, he scurried off like a fearful animal, lest he anger the woman in black.
"Wait!" she demanded, as her companion picked some specks of dirt from the ice floating in his water.
Reluctantly, the bartender staggered back into the tavern and turned to her.
She promptly placed newly-minted coins upon the bar's edge and slid them over to him, "Where can I find the town elder at this hour?"
The bartender finally made eye contact, managing to find shining black orbs beneath the shadow of her hood. And then he spoke, "Elder Petrue went northeast this afternoon to inspect a granary. He should be back within the next two hours, after sundown. If you want to leave a message for him, his youngest son is there, in the middle of the room."
The adolescent boy at the table was being pointed at.
"Waunn's his name. There with the black-haired girl."
There was an unseen smile in the shadow of her hood, "That is more of a coincidence than you can imagine. Goddess be praised, kind sir. Perhaps I won't need to meet with his father at all."
Back at the table, the boy was unaware of the future that loomed behind him. And the girl, too, did not foresee the portents of what was to be set in motion.
"Waunn, what is it? You're shaking. Is something wrong?"
"No, Modesty. I'm fine."
Modesty smiled, smoothed a strand of black hair behind her left ear, and put a hand on his, "Good."
"It's just that- I've been longing t-to t- te-t-tell you that-"
"Hey, boy!" the robed woman interrupted, as she grabbed him by the shoulder.
Waunn turned around, and was startled to see the looming black silhouette of her robe, hood veiled and face shadowed. All that reflected light upon her face were two eyes, the only sparkles of light amidst the bleak darkness.
Modesty, too, turned. However, she was caught by the way in which the harpist was looking at her. It made her blush. Her narrow face looked back at him with an innocent, questioning gaze.
She was not the only one enchanted as he moved through the growing crowd and stray chairs, and gracefully lifted the scarlet scarf away from his neck. The harp rose to his chest, and his right hand rose to the gleaming strings.
The room went silent, even the woman in black who was trying to explain something to the adolescent boy beside her.
Upon his mouth were lips of silver, that seemed so pure and beautiful, as if they somehow belonged there. They were smiling gently, pursing at the sides and twinkling above in his eyes.
Even nails and fingers of perfect skin plucked at strings of tight metal threads. Each note filled the room with more and more awe. He moved about, managing to dance as he played, swaying in his rich clothes, through the crowd.
Then, when all attention was on his face, he knew then to sing. And so he did, still plucking chords, with a grace seldom seen in Wahleiss. It was a tenor, that chose often to lilt up into a falsetto.
And it was a song that told a story, a tragic one, of a knight who fought undamaged by blade and wound, yet whose mind broke with the blood and savagery he witnessed. And when he returned, he grew farther and farther away from those he loved. The ballad was an ode to love that never was.
Then, at the song's end, he pulled Modesty up, by the arm, from her seat. There, he danced about her. With one hand, he held the side of her face. Turning around her, he never let go of his touch over her. And then, he tilted her head to one side in a flourishing movement, plucking strings with each step of his feet.
As he struck the final cadence, the bard brought his lips down to her neck, and pressed a gentle kiss against her. And those silver lips left a permanent mark, as of silver make-up; the scarred outline of a kiss.
They stood among applause as he whispered in her ear, "You will me in the years to come, and give back the kiss that you stole."
"Well," the woman in black said to the boy, ignoring the tears still falling from his eyes, "That's the deal your father made when he became elder. His youngest son. You are destined for greater things than sowing seeds and harvesting crops. Your apprenticeship will begin after five winters' time. You will know the man when he comes for you."
Waunn did not answer.
And as unannounced as their arrival, the two strangers of the court left the tiny farming village as quickly as they had come. And so, the story of Modesty and Waunn remained in waiting, until four and a half years had come and gone, offering with it five winters.