“Butterfly” – excerpt
Once upon a time there was a kingdom in which the royal family was beautiful–perfectly beautiful.
Of course, there were occasional whispers that some young cousin had a hawkish nose, stringy hair, even an unfortunate birthmark. But by the time that particular royal child reached adulthood, the nose was aquiline, the locks luxurious, the skin uniform.
In ages before, the Nizamies had been better known for their strange ”gifts” than their looks. The royal gifts were always thought of as magical, but they were just bits of magic–a single power– rather than a whole cupboardfull.
For some Nizamies (for that was the name of that clan), the power was but a parlor trick—an ability to spark a light or find an object–while in the case of others, it dominated the royal’s whole life, even the entire kingdom.
Take the great Queen Ayodyah. She was quite ordinary in most respects. Her gift, however, was “followability”– an uncanny knack for making people trail after her, or, as later royal historians liked to call it, “leadership”.
Ayodyah’s gift was a bit annoying at balls, when the whole dance floor formed a conga train at her heels, but it proved invaluable at war, where not only her own army fell in behind her, but the opposing army as well.
Count Hyderadi was known for fireproofing. Nothing he owned -not matches, not kindling, not even marshmallows – would burn. The gift was a great boon to the Count during the drought of 1421 when forest fires broke out over the countryside and it was found that a simple deed of the burning acres to Count Hyderadi was all it took to quench the flames. The gift proved less of a boon, however, when the Count and his men were discovered in the King’s forests one dry night with torches and lamp oil. Then all it got him was a length of knotted rope.
This story, though, takes place some years after the deaths of both Queen Ayodayah and Count Hyderadi, during an age in the Kingdom of Zindabar when the Nizamie gifts had become much less important. During this time, in fact, the old magic was sometimes viewed as awkward, especially since it was believed that, occasionally, the strange gifts affected the royal’s appearance. It was said, for example, that the great Queen Ayodyah had had a funny notch on her spine (which looked for all the world like a small tail), and that Count Hyderadi was constantly streaming with sweat.
And in the time of this story, no royal wanted a tail or to be overly sweaty. No, what had become important to the Nizamies was beauty, perfect beauty. That was deemed magic enough.
It was into this magically beautiful royal family that the Grand Duchess Ahmimaya Theodora Christina Nizamie Tureth was born. She wasn’t a grand duchess then. Her mother was the grand duchess and she was just a little tiny baby with a red wrinkled face and a voice that went ‘waah’.
But soon, as she grew older, she became a lot less red, less wrinkly, and instead of saying “waah”, was actually very happy most of the time.
Unfortunately, when she was thirteen all that changed. Her parents’ boat was caught in a storm on the Great Inland Sea. And although her mother and Nana, working together, had managed to keep her afloat, her father, and then her mother too, were drowned. In other words, her life had been saved, but her life also, the life she had always known, had been swept away.
So that instead of being a very happy non-duchess who spent most of her time learning, studying and talking with her parents, and exploring, both with and without them, the gardens and forests and sea coast around their small but remarkably cozy castle, and, as much as possible, avoiding Nana who was constantly telling her the proper way to stand, sit, look and behave, she was a very sad grand duchess who, accompanied by that same Nana, sat in a hot dusty train, headed south.
A summons had come from the capital. The Queen, her mother’s sister, had called Ahmi to court.
Ahmi only knew what her Aunt looked like from seeing her face on coins. Even then, she’d not seen it much. For her Aunt’s beautiful face was reserved for gold coins of the highest denominations. And Ahmi, though now a Grand Duchess, did not actually see that kind of gold very much.
She wondered sometimes as they headed south, why she had not drowned too. Why her mother, and then Nana, had not simply let her go. A part of her sometimes wished they had. But when she thought of that black swirl of wave, the chilling, choking force of the water around and above her, terror filled her chest, and she knew she could never truly wish for that.
The above is sort of the preface of a fantasy novel I have written (but not published) called either “Butterfly” or “An I for an Eye.” (If you have any ideas about the title – not knowing anything about the book – please let me know. (Also after initial posting I added a section that leads into main story. So sorry for length.)
I am posting this for Kerry O’Connor’s challenge on With Real Toads to create another world. The world is not described very vividly in the above excerpt, but as a preface, it seemed fairly self-contained. Plus I did the little drawing this morning of Queen Ayodayah (not actually an elephant.)
Thanks much for reading!
As always, all rights are reserved.Explore posts in the same categories: elephants, Uncategorized, writing comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.