I saw the movie Biutiful this past year, and in that movie there was a little boy. Out of all the things that happened to that family in that movie--there were many, many things that happened and many other portions stayed with me--something about that little boy just broke my heart.
I wanted to write a story about a young man, neglected by everyone but a few. I wanted him to grow up and find his own strength and righteously kick-ass once he matured. So I started a new story, and I'm not sure where it will lead me. Forgive this tiny portion, because this is the first draft. It is a story about a young man named Makar, who is the son of the Swan Queen. The tentative title of this one is Cygnet Moon.
“My grandmother is dying,” I whisper. The words flow down the hall, absorbed by the darkness, lost like me.
My guards do not move their spears. They stand rigid, one on either side of the engraved archway. Demons and spirits are carved into the mahogany of the arch; they writhe around the frame, their mouths full of black. Just twenty paces beyond are the stairs that lead to the palace's upper levels. Wall sconces forever burn in these dark corridors but they shed little light. The air is rancid with burning oil.
I try to summon a princely tone, but all I manage is a strangled murmur around the burning in my throat. “I must go to her.”
The guards do not speak. They pretend not to hear.
I know the youth on the left; his name is Akim, he is eighteen, only a year older than me; in another life we might have been brothers in arms. I’ve worked hard this last year to win his allegiance. I have given him gifts and spoken kindly to him. Grandmother said that was how a prince wins the loyalty of his men, but Akim is not my man; he serves my mother.
The other guard, Dajad is on the right; he is older, almost mother’s age. Akim glances nervously at him. Hope tickles my heart. Dajad keeps his eyes on the opposite wall, his face tilted slightly to one side so he doesn’t glimpse me from the corner of his eye.
I reach up and unhook the golden necklace my grandmother gave me. Inside the locket are two feathers, one from a peacock and one from a swan. They twine around each other like grandfather cleaved to grandmother. It is the most precious thing I own.
I hold the pendant out to Akim. The lamp light spins off the gold. “Let me go to her and it is yours.”
His tongue darts over his lips. He wants it. He can feel the chain sliding over his fingers, he wants it so bad. Another furtive glance from Akim to Dajad bears no fruit. Dajad is stone. He will not give.
“She is dying.” I hate the whine that creeps into my voice. A Sygnosian prince must never be seen in a state of distress. We are blessed by Heaven, gods on earth; we must never frighten the common people, or ourselves, with emotions. I am failing everyone: my mother, my grandmother, and the two guards before me.
I can’t stop myself. I extend my arm, the chain twinkles merrily. You can have it; you can have it all if I can say good-bye to her. “Just turn away. For a moment.” Please trembles behind my teeth, but I clamp my mouth shut. I will not lower myself to beg.
Akim turns his head toward the light of the chain. Dajad knocks his spear against Akim’s and the younger man jerks forward, his gaze cemented on the stairs. I have lost him. Akim will not look at me.
I clutch the locket, the muscles in my forearm bunch tight with a rage I dare not show. Without another word, I turn away from them and follow the dim corridor back to my rooms. My ar’nel joins me midway down the hall and trots at my left side.
He is a black shadow with wild hair and eyes like nickel. My ar'nel is my magic made manifest, the breath of my spirit. My grandmother’s ar’nel exhibits itself as a great gray swan that follows her like a shade. When grandmother visits me, her ar’nel fills my chambers and envelops her in a pearl mist. The tapestries undulate like waves and the shields that decorate the walls tremble in her passing.
My ar’nel barely causes the lamp flames to flutter. I glare at him. If he was a great spirit like grandmother’s swan, I could use him to force the guards aside; they would have no choice but to obey my commands. Instead, I am left with this wicked magic that refuses to obey me. He is good for tipping over inkpots and knocking paintings askew but little else. My ar’nel is small and mean like my father. That is what my mother says.
And that is the beginning ...