It’s funny how I started my journey online because I was writing and now it’s the hardest thing for me to post. I began writing stories when I was barely twelve and I have been writing novels ever since. I’m twenty-four. I’ve literally been a writer longer than I have not. I started my first blog to share the short stories I wrote. I was very active in a german forum for young writers. I even was writer of the month once and got to go to Hamburg for two days and visit the Carlsen publishing house as a prize. I made my first online friends because I shared my stories online. And then I got into coding. I switched blogging subjects and somehow retreated from the forum when I finished school in 2013. Ever since then writing has become much more private, because I grew a lot more critical of my own work.
I’ve always written in my native language (German) because I never felt well versed enough in another language to be able to express my thoughts the way I wanted. But I love languages and English has found a very special place in my heart. I even studied it at Uni for a year before I realized I did not see my future using Literature professionally. But a couple weeks ago I stumbled over an Essay I wrote for Uni about Shakespeare and how A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a reflection of it’s Society. The Victorian Times, a Patriarchy led by a Feminist. I realized how much I had enjoyed playing with words back then and how much more mundane the English I used had become because I only use it for casual conversation and entertaining/informational blog posts. But I do love words and I love English and I hate how I feel like my skills are degenerating. So August 15th I decided my next story would be written in English. I’d attempt to put the same kind of style and effort into writing it as if it was German. At first I thought it’d be just a quick short story. Well 6 days in I am 14k words deep into a story that’s grown to 80 pages and it might turn into a novel in the end. I shared some of this on Instagram and I was a little surprised how many people told me they’d like to read it (very positively, though).
So now I decided that I need to find some of my courage back. When posting crappy calligraphy I never feel scared of reactions or criticism. Even though Calligraphy is close to my heart, I definitely identify more as a Writer than a Calligrapher so putting my prose out there is hard. Especially since these words are unpolished and uncorrected and somewhat unplanned, this is kinda scary. But if my teenage-self was able to do it so will I. So a word of warning, this is a first draft. It has not been corrected for grammar and it was written in a very short time span very late at night. But I put it to a vote and my Instagram Story-Watchers want a peek at what I’ve been writing the past few days. So here it is. Chapter 4 of my story currently titled: “The King’s Collection of Twisted Things”.
Chapter 4: The prince’s pet
It was past the nightly feast when the man arrived. They gave him different names all over the world. He once had a name, given to him by his father but no one remembered it. He once was just a boy trying to save his own life. A boy looking for company and trying to escape his father’s shadow. The ink man had been born as white as milk. The son of the tribe known as the White Killers. He left once he had been dowsed with the tribe’s ink. The first man to ever earn a complete covering. The first man to ever endure the pain of the ink bath. There was a story the White Killers told. It was a prophecy. One day Death would walk amongst them. His eyes a piercing blue like their own. His skin stained in the color of a moonless sky. Death had two choices after his revealing. Stay and rule and die. Or run. The man had chosen against his people. He wandered earth at sixteen completely alone, stopping every being he crossed in its tracks. Death never talked about the time before he became the ink man. He never spoke of his past. All he mentioned was that the king’s son was the only one not to run. That his bravery had earned him loyalty. In truth the prince did run at first. But then his curiosity took the better of him. He had heard the stories. Who had not? Yet he wanted to face the man himself. Get eye to eye.
When the prince asked for his name the man shook his head. He replied that there was no name able to fit this face.
“Nox would fit. For you are the color of the night.”
Nox liked that. He liked that the suggestion neither used death nor ink. Nox wandered with the prince from that time on. They formed a friendship. Yet the nightly-colored man did not always tag along. He decided to leave from time to time. He spoke to no one of his plans and his doings while he was gone. But he always returned. He came back standing a little straighter and walking a little lighter on his feet.
Nox walked through the halls at night. The guards had let him into the castle because they knew declining would have deadly consequences. Yet every waking soul was tense when Death walked alone. He passed through the big hall of the king’s accumulation of devices and memories when he suddenly noted the enormous bird cage standing further back. It was round and heavily decorated with ornaments. Inside the cage lay a pile of ruffled fabrics. Nox was confused at first what a caged woman’s dress was doing in this collection when suddenly he realized it was not just a dress. There was somebody inside. And she was sleeping.
Then she stirred. The girl sat straight up and stared into the dark. She was tiny and seemed to drown in her ruffles. Even though Nox melted into the night her gaze found him. Piercing sky blue eyes burned into his own. There were just a few candles lit at night. Yet he could tell her eyes had the same color as his. It was as if they absorbed the only bit of light in the room and shone it back at him.
“You are new.” It was the only thing he was capable of saying.
The girl looked at him still. She did not flinch. It was not often people didn’t flinch. “You are Death.”
“I am.” He tried to hide his surprise at her voice and started to overthink if she was a girl. The voice talking was deep and raspy. It sounded genderless and old. “Who are you?”
“An addition to the king’s museum.”
“Are you in his collection too?” Her question was silly for she was the only one in a cage. She was aware of that. Yet she knew this man was more peculiar than she.
She looked at him and could not turn away. He was dangerously beautiful.
Nox walked past her, her eyes following him.
He found the prince’s chambers and knocked twice. It was late but Death knew Zion would not yet be sleeping.
The door swung open. “You have returned.”
All Nox did was nod. He entered the room.
Zion could tell his friend relaxed the second the door fell into the lock. Formalities were never something Nox followed easily. He did not like being watched at all times. The prince’s rooms were a sacred place in the castle. It was the only place were Nox was truly alone. He was aware of the spies in his own room. He knew they reported and judged.
“Are you hungry? I can order food.”
“Don’t bother, Zion.”
They sat in the reading room. Across from one another. The prince studied his friend’s face. “Are you hurt? You know I would not be able to tell.” White Killers bled clear. Legends said it was because they had no soul.
“I am alright. There was no fight. No kill.”
“Good. I’m glad.”
“How was your own journey? When did you return?”
“Three days ago.” Zion was unsure if he should share his slip.
“Spit it out, prince. What did you do that you want to keep from me?” A grin crossed Death’s face. “You know no darkness will make me judge.”
“I know you will.” Zion looked him straight in the eye.
“What did you do?”
“I broke.” The prince saw the little twitch in his friend’s eye. Of course he immediately knew what Zion meant.
“Who was the lucky girl?”
Zion shrugged and turned his gaze to the books. He could not meet Nox’ eyes. “There was a storm coming. We asked to spend the night at a small cottage. They had three daughters. One of them a storyteller.”
“She told me the stories they tell about us. About you.”
Nox’ interest was sparked. “What did you learn about yourself?”
“That I apparently take every girl to bed I cross.”
This made Nox laugh. He never showed this much emotion. Only in the prince’s presence he sometimes let his humanity out. “And of course you confirmed by sleeping with her.”
“They have a different name for you,” Zion continued. “They call you ink man.”
Nox liked that name more than Death. Even though he had grown accustomed to Death. It was not new to him. “I’ve heard it before.”
“It’s because you don’t listen when people tell you stories.”
“You know that’s untrue. I always go for the storytellers.”
It was because the stories were a good distraction. “Did she enjoy it?”
Zion was surprised Nox asked further. Usually his friend did not want to hear. He despised Zions lack of control. “She did.” The prince hesitated. “I did too, for a moment.”
“You know you can allow yourself to, Zion. You do not have to keep your darkness in. It is far less dangerous than mine or your brother’s.”
“I honor our pact.” Zion said. “I’m just not as strong as you.”
“It’s because you are easier to please and far less frightening.” The thing Nox wanted he would never have. They both were very aware of that.
“Were you here when my mother was sick?” Zion switched subjects.
“Yes. But you know she cannot even look at me. They would not allow me near her.”
“I shall talk to her. You are the only one I trust to not hurt her in this castle.” Zion was scared they had tried to kill her. He knew how ironic it was that Death was the only person she did not have to fear. Nox would never hurt someone his dearest friend loved.
“You will never be able to change her mind. Don’t waste energy on it.” Nox was used to it. There were people dead-set in their opinions and some that were flexible. He very rarely met a blank openness. Meeting the prince had been a blessing. It was a curse though, whenever he was trapped in this prison they called a palace.
“I shall try.”
“How much longer will you make me stay here?” Nox did not want to talk about the queen. He wanted to leave this place.
“Not long. We will ride in a couple days.”
“What are we to do this time?”
“Claim a throne, I guess. The army has overthrown a city in the East. My father wants me to name it part of his kingdom. I think he will name me king when we return.”
“What?” Nox was surprised. “Your father would never give up his title. Not for his life.”
“I think he has grown weary. He kept dropping hints last night.”
The black man studied the prince. “Are you prepared?”
“I have been my entire life. I knew I would be king ever since I was a toddler.”
Zion would never share the information of how he felt with anyone. “I am screaming like a scared child inside my mind.”
Nox’ eyes softened. “I’m sorry.”
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Shall I leave you alone? It is quite late.”
“No. Stay. I missed you.”
Nox need not say I missed you too. He just sat back down on the chair.
The next morning the family gathered for a common meal. The queen barely touched her food. Nox was standing next to the guards. Zezar carefully watched the ink man. The bastard did not like him being in the castle. The man had a negative aura around himself. They had a natural dislike for each other which felt unjustified for many. Behind closed doors people believed the prince’s best friend and his half-brother to be almost identical.
“Have you seen it yet?” the king asked.
The royal family simultaneously lifted their heads towards Anq.
“Seen what, my king?”
“My newest addition to the collection. She came last night. It was a gift. A truly remarkable thing. You must come look after breakfast.”
Nox remembered the girl in the cage.
“She?” Zezar was interested.
“What is it, father?” Zion.
“It’s a girl.” Nox had not been able to help himself. “I walked by her last night.” Death broke just about every rule by speaking. But the thing he had to say made them all forget formalities.
“A girl? Is she alive?”
“Of course she is! I would not be interested in her if it wasn’t for her mind,” the king said.
Now everyone wanted to know.
“What is so special about her?” Zezar had noticed a cage. He had not seen a girl inside.
“She harbors two souls.”