A requiem for the fallen gently lulled through the quaint cottage. Vornalla sang a spell to the backdrop of the setting sun, watching it cast her workspace in shades of orange and red.
Lilies white and lilies red
Scattered with the bones
Dyed in the blood of guilty men
To reunite our souls.
And so fell the crushed petals in respective hues, casting an elegant aura upon the macabre pile of bones within the cauldron. The scent of floral death wafted, the ruined lilies pungent in their sweetness.
But with the sight and smell came memories of joyous times – of a wedding beneath a moonlit night, her own bouquet one of red and white roses, her lover’s lips and skin the same. Roses were for love; now, lilies were for death.
Tonight, they would be for a beginning. The veil between the worlds was thin, on this night of All Hallow’s Eve. Restless ghosts would sing and wail, the undead would dance, and Vornalla would harness her chance for happiness anew.
To the village, then, to find the blood she sought.
Vornalla lived in a picturesque forest, protected by wards of her own magical making. An enchanting sight by day, visited by mischievous sprites and fairies who would bind your soul to their bidding or cut out your tongue for perceived slights. At night, mist settled and swirled, caressing Vornalla’s figure as she stepped fearlessly into the darkness. The last vestiges of sunlight flickered and died, but in the far distance, well past the line of trees, evidence of celebration spoke of her quarry.
Leave crumpled beneath her boots. Animal interlopers fled from her presence. Memories welled in her head, those of happier times before her life turned to ash. Vornalla had never been gentle or kind, but her love, her Nira, had taught her to see beauty in all things.
She broke through the line of trees, and with a wave of her hand a mask of silk and feathers covered her features. She’d look like the rest of them – those who foolishly thought something as trivial as a mask would protect them from the spirits and demons beyond.
Revelry grew by cacophonous degrees. Vornalla found a road, passed by scattered houses that increased in number as she walked. The few villagers she saw paid her no mind – Vornalla, in her dusty gown and booted feet, would be a sight on most other nights, but here was nothing and no one.
However, to one unfortunate soul, she would be vengeance itself.
As she neared the village center, a bonfire blazed, casting warmth into the chill night. Music played and people danced, some in sync and others too drunk to know the difference. Children ran about, oblivious to the interloper in their presence as they laughed and played. Most wore masks, some carved from wood and others of embossed leather, some with the visages of animals and insects, of demons and ghosts.
Delicious smells met Vornalla’s senses – roasted, savory meats, pastries, and more.
She could spare a moment for comfort. Vornalla said nothing to the baker with his display of cakes, but offered a coin and took her quarry – pumpkin cake with sprinkled sugar as a glaze.
Vornalla had met Nira here, not three years prior, having dared descend from her home in the woods on All Hallow’s Eve. A spell gone wrong had pushed her to find fresh sage—
Instead, as she had inspected the partiers and their wares, she had been offered cake by a girl in white with a mask of red and gold.
Vornalla found an empty bench before the bonfire, her flickering silhouette cast into the dark beyond as she sampled her chosen pastry. It tasted of her Nira’s lips, of the kisses they’d stolen throughout the night, hidden in shadow – safer among demons than Nira’s own kin.
When she’d finished her cake, she wiped her sticky hands upon her dress. The fire raged and burned – a comfort to some. Not to she and her ilk, however; witches were so often burned alive.
That had not been Nira’s fate, for she was no witch. She had been branded as something far worse.
Though she could willingly entertain fantasies for hours, Vornalla’s quest awaited. She picked herself up and continued weaving through the revelers. Dancers twirled their ribbons, children squealed with delight at the joyous music, and Vornalla sought her prey.
A familiar face appeared among the villagers, though not the one she searched for. He wore no mask – merely clapped along with the music as he watched his young children skip along. She knew his features, his jawline strong beneath his beard, but his eyes held the softness of the stars above, glimmering in the moonlight – much like his sister before him.
Nira had two brothers – and here stood one half of the pair. Concealing her face with her tussled hair and mask, a simple spell disguised Vornalla’s voice. “Pardon, sir,” she said, and when he looked at her, she knew he saw only a blotted-out face, a mask with no features beneath it. “I seek Erin Liteforge. You bear his countenance.”
Something sweet lay coaxed into the phrase, at Vornalla’s behest. To twist enticing words was simple witchcraft, and the man’s befuddled expression meant success. “He works the forge tonight.”
“But he will emerge soon-”
“Thank you,” she cooed. A graceful finger landed on his lip; he made no move to stop it. “And forget.”
He stared dumbstruck, visibly growing sallow as Vornalla stepped away. The man would be fine. Vornalla had no quarrel with him.
Nira Liteforge had come from a family of blacksmiths, the only in town. Proficient in their trade, they sold their wares in the village, yes, but also in the cities beyond, promising a comfortable life for their family. Nira’s father had promised a substantial dowry to any suitor he deemed worthy of his only daughter.
But Vornalla had held neither desire nor incentive to ask for the hand of the woman she loved. Instead, she had romanced Nira in secret, meeting in the woods at night, the only evidence of their clandestine trysts sleepless nights and bruised lips, and later at Vornalla’s cottage to express what innocent kisses could not, to be one and to proclaim it, breathless and free. They had pledged their love on a moonlit night with naught but wedding gowns and flowers in the shades of innocence and love.
Their love had been sacred, the only bit of purity in Vornalla’s twisted life. Nira had loved her nonetheless.
The bonfire’s light was naught but a memory when Vornalla found the cursed building, the home in which Nira had been born and raised. Here Nira had come alone, that final night, to collect what was hers before they ran away.
Vornalla ignored the house itself, instead drawn by the sound of ringing metal from beyond. She stepped off the worn dirt road and into the grass, making no attempt to hide her steps.
Smoke filled her nostrils; she saw the fire of the forge and the silhouette it cast. Erin Liteforged worked his trade, unable to join the festivities until it was complete.
A pity, for it never would be.
Vornalla came as close as she dared, fire rising in her blood. The last time she had seen that face, illuminated by flame, blackened by his labor, it had been splattered with precious blood. His hands, covered in soot and years of burns, cracked and hardened by metal, had caved in the skull of his sister, had broken her body beyond repair. A crime of passion, for the dishonor she had wrought, sanctified by the so-called gods they worshipped – Vornalla had found them too late.
“Spirits, I beckon you.” She recited the words inside her head, and shadows began to rise. Erin looked up, meeting her gaze with fear and then fury. “Lend me your aid.”
Erin’s cry echoed through the quiet night. “You!” he screamed and threw the hammer he wielded. It would have slain her—
Except she held out her hand, and the spirits responded. It hung, suspended in the air, then whisked away at her decree. With nothing to hide, she spoke. “Let my revenge be manifest.”
The shadows darkened and then grew light. Ghastly figures burst from the earth, their ghostly wails filling the air. “Let his death be testament of my wrath. His body is yours.”
Erin ran for Vornalla and his exit, but the ghosts rose between them, scratching furiously with corporeal claws, gnashing their terrible teeth. On no night but tonight was their power so strong – idle specters, now a tool for her to wield.
They fell upon him, his screams matching their howling. Though translucent, their mass was so great that he all but disappeared.
Vornalla realized her error. “But his blood is mine!”
The spirits continued their feast. Vornalla withdrew a knife from her boot and ran to them. With haste, she sliced the blade across her palm, rivulets of red welling from the split skin, and held it above the mass of ghosts.
At the first drop of blood, they vanished. Nothing stirred. In the silence of night, Vornalla heard distant villagers and music oblivious to the carnage before her. Lying here was the remains of a man, bitten and torn, shredded and burned by ghostly claws. As she wrapped her hand with a torn strip of her dress, she realized how quickly he was bleeding out – Vornalla knew time was short.
She prepared a plea to the demons below, willing to offer her soul if they sought it, but then spotted a much more practical application of transport.
Within minutes, Vornalla left the cursed house, her quarry crumpled in a wheelbarrow, one that conveniently preserved his blood in a sickly pool. Back through the revelry, the festivities grew more raucous as villagers drowned themselves in ale, and all they could see was a wheelbarrow full of sunflowers and the masked woman who peddled them.
Soon, the dark forest enveloped her. The mist had settled in its entirety. Vornalla saw, out of the corner of her eye, flickers of light, movements from beyond the veil. Spirits roamed freely on this night, and Vornalla wondered if one was Nira herself, lost and lonely.
Vornalla’s heart palpitated, her pace ever increasing. All she had worked for rested in this final hope. Once, her existence had been an idle routine. Nira had burst into her life like the sun over a shadowed valley, radiating joy in a rainbow of colors – and when her light had extinguished, Vornalla was left blinded.
She reached her cottage. Comfortable and small, she had dreamt of it filled with laughter and love, of waking in the arms of her beloved each morning. Now it was as cold as the bones in her cauldron.
With the moon high in the sky, Vornalla stopped the wheelbarrow in the aside room she reserved for spells and gripped the man by his hair. She was not strong, but she held spite, and so she thrusted him over the edge of the cauldron. Not all the way – but when she slit his throat, the blood ran in gushing droves over the dried bones.
She hummed anew, the spell, filled with the vigor of victory and the blood of guilty men.
A flash of light, and then a scream. Vornalla was knocked back, fallen to the ground as the wailing increased. She scrambled to her feet and watched as a figure rose from the cauldron, coated in layers of thick, viscous blood. The bones of the fallen assembled within. Vornalla saw it bend and swell, watched as layers of muscle and viscera formed on top of the raw manifestations of gore.
Vornalla dared to approach, to steal the figure’s head and hold it to her breast as it thrashed and screamed. Blood stained her gown, but this was her great work, years of sorrow and research manifest, and so she held on, nearly sobbing when gory hands gripped her arms.
The screaming stopped. The thrashing figure eased. Vornalla’s breathing was joined by another. She met the gaze of the woman she held. Gore stained and weak, soaked in blood, those eyes were the same, gentler than the singing birds at dawn.
The woman coughed, splattering blood across the floor. She began sobbing, clutching Vornalla in her weak grip. “Vornalla,” she cried between gasps, and Vornalla held her, her own tears welling.
“Nira, my Nira,” she whispered, caressing her lover’s blood-soaked hair, and their sobs became one, soft among the quiet night.
Vornalla helped Nira from the cauldron and held her naked form on the floor, patches of smooth skin steadily showing as she brushed aside the gore. A faint heartbeat fluttered against Vornalla’s hand as it brushed between Nira’s breasts. Cradled in her arms, Nira trembled, daring to press their lips together.
She tasted of blood and victory, of tears and triumph and joy. Nira lived again.
S D Simper
Genre: Adult Dark Romantic Fantasy (LGBT)
Publisher: Endless Night Publications
Date of Publication: September 14th 2018
Number of pages: 400
Word Count: 102K
Cover Artist: Jade Mere
Tagline: The cost of love is always high.
“When faced with monstrosity, become the greater monster. The sting of victory will fade with time.”
When Flowridia, a witch granted power by an unknown demon, deceives an alluring foreign diplomat, she is promoted to a position of power to conceal her falsehood. Thrust into a world of politics and murderous ambition, she has her gentle heart and her Familiar to guide her – as well as a drunk Celestial with a penchant for illusion.
Meanwhile, Lady Ayla Darkleaf, Grand Diplomat of Nox’Kartha, smiles with predatory charm and wields her blades with a dancer’s grace. Flowridia falls into a toxic love affair, one she knows will end in heartbreak. But as Ayla’s legacy as a vampiric creature unfolds, Flowridia begins to see the broken woman behind the monster.
When a foreign emperor dies at the hands of a mysterious interloper, one who seeks to collect the greatest sources of power in the realms, Flowridia’s kingdom is charged to stop him. But Flowridia’s devotion becomes torn between duty to her own and the woman whose claws grip her heart.
In the ensuing clash of Gods, Flowridia must choose her loyalties with care – the fate of kingdoms rest in her hands.
About the Author:
S D Simper has lived in both the hottest place on earth and the coldest, spans the employment spectrum from theater teacher to professional editor, and plays more instruments than can be counted on one hand. She and her wife share a home with their two cats and innumerable bookshelves.