Micah and Charlotte – Chapter 1 [SAMPLE]

 

Chapter 1: The Moon Eye Child

 

            For the first time in his life, Micah Champlain disobeyed an order.

            Streaking through the murky halls of Soto Silver, he ignored the commands chasing after him, echoing in livid force. Vacant halls, crumbling marble columns, tattered tapestries clinging to walls by their last desperate threads – all passed in a blur. He moved silent as a shadow. With purpose. Without recourse. Lightning fast.

            Bitterly cold mist seeped through his mask. The way out was close. Furious charges of treachery trailed behind him, searching but unable to find him in the darkness. Accusations of betrayal Micah no longer understood. He had been taught to obey, to the extent of taking his own life if demanded of him, and for the short sixteen years of his life he had never failed. Absolute unwavering submission – the creed of the Black Sons. Had Governor Riser ordered him to slit his own throat just one day previous, he would have done it without a moment’s hesitation. But today… he defied that order.

            She had done something to him. The Moon Eye Child broke him, and now there was no turning back.

            I want to live.

            He picked up a faint shuffle, tapping footfall on a desperate hunt. He burst forward with greater speed.

           “He’s here!” the frantic shout came.

            Micah dashed left. Three ringing objects whizzed past his ears. Pursuing footsteps multiplied. He spotted the way out, unguarded, and flew through the hall, arms trailing behind him. The border of faint moonlight around the door guided his exit, and with a swift shoulder, he plowed through, blasting it from the hinges. A bitter wind, tiny freezing daggers a million fold, battered his face. He ignored it, jetting down the stairs winding around the tower. Immense waterfalls formed a palisade to surround the ancient castle, consuming it in mist and a distant, pervasive roar. The waterfalls emptied into a canyon so deep, the bottom could not be seen at night. Yet, not a wisp of cloud could be seen above, making the castle appear to float in the sky. The mist made everything slick, but Micah couldn’t slow down. He didn’t know what to do or where he would go, but he had to get away. The single idea pumped the very blood in his veins.

            He reached a small landing and dashed for the next flight of stairs. A door in the tower suddenly burst open, and a petite body flew from the entryway, slamming into him and sending them both crashing to the ground. They slid across the slick stone to collide against the balustrades. A feminine cry drowned in the howling wind.

            Micah leapt to his feet, crystals in hand and ready to attack. But he lowered them when he recognized the bouncing blonde curls and impossibly large dress under the light of the moon. Her eyes bulged in recognition as well.

            They pointed and shouted in sync. “You!”

            He grabbed the young girl’s arm, pulling her up. “You’re still here?” he growled. “We thought you escaped!”

           “I’m trying!” She attempted to pull away, but his grip tightened. Fear littered her face. “Let me go! Please let me go!”

            He took her other arm. “What the hell did you do to me? Since last night, I can barely think straight. Now Riser wants me dead. He thinks I helped you escape.”

            She cowered. “I-I just freed your heart. Please don’t hurt me.”

            Her right eye, normally blue, turned a violent shade of purple, glowing with unnatural light. Micah watched as the color filled her entire eye, save for a sliver in the shape of a crescent.

           “Waxing Gibbous,” he said, letting her go. “You should know by now I have no intent to harm you.”

           “Then what—” She stopped and gasped when dozens of men, fully armed, swarmed up and down the stairs to converge on them. She backed into the banisters, shivering in fear.

            One of the men, wearing the same black gear and mask Micah wore, pointed at him. “You were helping her escape. You are a traitor.”

           “Incorrect,” Micah replied. “Charlotte Goodsteel has been hiding inside the castle the entire time. I just found her.”

           “It does not matter. You disobeyed an order. A rogue Black Son cannot exist.” He drew a short sword at his side, a crooked blade with verdant runes carved into the flat. “Hand over the Moon Eyes.”

            Micah backed a step, steady hand on his own sword. The soldiers closed in. Charlotte clutched his sleeve, and he looked down at her. A tear trickled from her glowing eye. “Please, Micah,” she whispered. “Help me.”

            In a split moment, he made his decision. He turned without a second thought, swung his arms around Charlotte, and leaped over the banister.

            I want to live.

            Charlotte screamed at the top of her lungs, groping at his body as they plummeted into the canyon. He kept a steady grip while uttering an incantation. Shadows seeped from his back to consume them whole. Wings of dark flame spread out from the cocoon, then a head and feathery tail. The black fire-form bird beat its wings to slow their descent and shot through the air, keeping them safe inside its belly. But Charlotte still screamed and squirmed, surrounded by shadow and unable to see anything but the long fall to icy crags and a pitch black void.

           “Stop panicking,” Micah shouted, struggling to hold onto her. “We’re safe. Just hold still! Stop, stop!”

            She couldn’t hear, twisting wildly, and Micah lost his grip. She dropped out of the bird and plunged back into the abyss, screaming ever more. He released his spell, the shadows dispersed, and gravity snared him in a headlong pitch. He stretched his body, cutting through the air to catch up to her. He heard a screech over the howl of the rushing wind and twisted his head. A pterosaur and three giant eagles trailed close behind in pursuit.

            Micah’s mind raced. Four that I can see, but Riser has six doppels at his disposal. The others might not be far behind. I have two minutes at most before we hit the bottom.

            He produced a white crystal and chanted, “Starblazer.”

            Nine flares exploded from the tip of his stone, erupting into triangles of light rotating around his wrists. The illumination reached to the farthest corners of the abyss. The bottom of the canyon drew close, a desolate field of mud and ice cut by the massive river of the waterfalls’ spillage. Charlotte was within reach now, but she whirled haphazardly through the air. She seemed to have passed out.

           “Goodsteel, wake up!” he shouted.

            He reached out his arm to grab her foot, but the eagles made their move and attacked. Micah flicked his hand. Two of his triangles shot between them and ignited into furious explosions, scattering them. He turned back. A feathery body rammed him from behind. The pterosaur grabbed him with his claws and snapped at him, but Micah twisted and shoved the massive beak away. Spinning wildly as they grappled, he and the flying beast fell faster with the force. Charlotte rose above them, limp in her tumble. A thousand feet remained before impact.

            The pterosaur turned its attention and snapped to grab her, but Micah pulled at its leg, forcing it down. It kicked, squawking a high-pitched cry. Micah launched the remainder of his starlights into the bird’s belly. The flesh split open, spraying Micah in putrid green blood. The pterosaur cried out and shook free.

            The ground loomed. Three hundred feet. Two hundred. Micah reached and grabbed Charlotte’s leg, whispering the incantation again in a flurry. One hundred feet. Fifty. Micah could almost smell the mud and ice. Shadows exploded from his back, wings beat furious. He pulled Charlotte in, and the blackness enveloped them. With one last mighty push, the bird leveled out, zooming over the ground. It was so close, Micah could touch it. The shadow bird flew faster, rocketing into a dense black forest.

            Settling down in a small clearing, the shadows melted back into Micah as he landed on his feet, an unconscious Charlotte in his arms. He dashed for a cluster of pine trees with black needles and set her down. He slowed his breathing and listened. Despite the late summer season, it was as the dead winter at the bottom of the trench, the world dark and silent. Freezing mist filled his throat like a suffocating rag, but he focused. No sounds of flapping wings, no snapping branches – nothing met his ears.

            They would know better than to follow me down here.

            He turned back to Charlotte. To his surprise, she was awake, sitting up. Her right eye exploded with a purple aura once again, this time split down the middle, half black, half white. Micah stumbled back, lifting his arms to shield himself, but it was too late. In a single moment, the little light surrounding them was snuffed out, and he found himself in that world again. The world of her making.

            Not again…

            She appeared as a giant, towering twenty feet over his head with arms folded and a defensive scowl on her face. He crossed his arms in front of him and crouched, but he knew it wouldn’t do any good.

           “Stay out of my heart!” he shouted. His voice shook, but he couldn’t help it.

           “Relax,” she replied. “I won’t use my Heartbreaker on you again. I just wanted to talk somewhere you couldn’t hurt me.”

            Her voice was like a melody. Micah vaguely remembered how fascinated he had been by it when they conversed the previous night. Deep within the castle, as he stood watch over her within her cell, she got him to talk to her after persistent effort. For hours, they had discussed a whole range of topics despite having just become acquainted. He somehow couldn’t resist. The comforting sing-song tone of her voice filled every word she spoke. The governor’s other guards called it “cute,” but he didn’t understand this word.

           “I wasn’t planning to attack you,” he said. “Didn’t I just rescue you?”

            Charlotte puckered her lips. “Yes… yes, you did. But, well I’m sorry. You confuse me. You just threw me off a cliff for heaven’s sake! And didn’t you say last night you were one of the last Black Sons?”

           “Yes.”

           “And don’t they have to obey any orders from the king or governors, no matter what? Even if they ask them to kill their own parents? Or even themselves?”

           “Yes.”

           “Then why did you run? Why did you let me get away?”

            Micah felt frustrated. “I was hoping you could tell me that. Your Heartbreaker knocked me unconscious last night. When I revived, I was surrounded by the other servants, and you were gone. It was my duty to guard you, and I failed. When I explained what happened, Riser didn’t seem to believe me. He said he couldn’t take the chance I might have turned against him, and he ordered me to take my own life.” Micah lowered his arms and stood straight. “I remember feeling… bitterness well up within me. He said it so casually, as if telling me to take out the garbage. I immediately drew a knife to obey, but then…” He paused, mind churning but still finding no answer. “I just decided I didn’t want to die.”

           “Well, of course,” Charlotte exclaimed. “Wouldn’t that be obvious?”

           “A Black Son doesn’t hesitate. You did something to me last night, and now I’m not acting as I should… or I don’t think I am…”

            She pressed a finger to her chin in recollection. “You had something sealing your heart, and I destroyed it. Maybe you weren’t thinking right before what I did, and now you are. If you ask me, it’s a pretty sad life if someone else can command you to kill yourself and you have to do it.”

           “I… suppose I can’t argue with that.”

           “But why would the governor want you dead?” she continued. “You didn’t help me escape. Why wouldn’t he believe you?”

           “I do not know. When you were captured, he told me your fate was death. I asked why, but he wouldn’t give a reason. The king, one month ago, told me personally he wanted the Moon Eye Child alive, but when I told the governor this, he dismissed it.”

           “He wants to kill me?” Charlotte shrieked. “Why? Why does he want to kill me?”

           “I do not know.”

           “Do you think he’s working behind the king’s back?”

           “I do not know.”

            She began to cry. “This is unfair! I didn’t ask for this. Why do they keep coming after me? Just because of my eyes. It’s not like no one else can do what I can.”

           “You’re the only one in recorded history with all seven.”

           “Well, so what? I can’t even use all of them.” She wiped her tears. Frustration and loneliness filled every part of her face. “Why can’t they just leave me alone?”

            Micah didn’t know why this was happening either. But like him, she just wanted to live. They had that in common. In his heart, among the myriad new emotions he experienced this day, he knew somehow that he wanted companionship. He wanted hers.

           “We both need to leave Carnel,” he said. “Otherwise, we’ll never stop running until they catch us. Why don’t we run together?”

            She stopped crying and looked down at him. Her immense body shrunk to normal size, and she approached him, hands clasped at her chest. “R-really?”

           “Yes. We can… figure a way out. Work together. And when we’re safe enough, we can part ways.”

            Eyes flickered in several directions as her mind seemed to toss a self-conversation back and forth. “I don’t really have anywhere to go now.” She smiled radiantly, teary eyes shining. “So, I think that’s a good plan!”

            Micah extended a hand. Charlotte looked at it curiously. He now felt anxious. “Isn’t this what one does when they agree to a partnership?” he asked.

           “You’re weird,” she said, taking his hand and shaking it with vigor. “But I think I like you.”

           “You are most definitely the weird one,” Micah said with a sudden stubbornness. However, he smiled behind his mask. “But I think I like you, too.”

            The ethereal world she created disappeared, leaving them back in the forest, still holding hands. Charlotte’s eyes rolled back, and she slumped. Micah caught her before she hit the ground.

           “I suppose you can only use Heartbreaker so many times without rest,” he said.

            He examined her face carefully. Golden hair in long ringlets dropped below her shoulders, framing a smooth, pale face. A red dragonfly clip graced her temple. Her cheeks were small and supple, red from the cold and aglow from her tears. The pinkest of lips pouted naturally, and a rich, flowery scent cascaded from her neck. Micah studied her for several minutes, amazed by his own thoughts. For the first time in his life, he recognized this concept of beauty spoken of so often by nearly all human beings. But not only did he understand it, he also somehow recognized just how beautiful she was in comparison to other people or objects commonly acknowledged as such. As people say on only the most exceptional occasions:

            She was lovely.

            His face felt hot, and he forced his mind back on task. He had to find someplace warm. Gently picking up his new companion, he dashed deeper into the forest. Yes, running. This is what they needed to do now.

 

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