Updated: Oct 3
Cover © Rosalie Thorne
Editor – Z. V. Ezell
Of Fangs And Fury
By Rosalie Thorne
who wanted me to call this ‘50 Scales Of Gold’,
I love you.
OF FANGS AND FURY
a Legacy Of The Seven Families novel
part of the Zeniphel Universe
All Italian will be translated at the end of the novel.
“People like to invent monsters and monstrosities.
Then, they seem less monstrous themselves.”
- Geralt Of Rivia
I gave you the benefit of the doubt for forty-eight hours. But when the backlash outlasted, I decided it was safe to send this…
Look at the mess you’ve created.
The mess I have created? This is all you. If you hadn’t abandoned your post, I wouldn’t have had to step in.
Not that it matters in the end. I was the intended heir; I will prove our father right.
Your future King,
But is he wrong? Am I at fault? No, of course not. I am doing the right thing; I am doing the noble thing. Without doubt, without question, I am stepping in and taking this tremendous weight on my shoulders without complaint.
The backlash had been as anticipated, so that’s a silver lining – that it’s not any worse than expected. The Pure-blood Devotees are being extremely vocal about their dislike of me. But! On a high note, there are quite a few others voicing their agreement that Tahir is the perfect bridge between the persons of Onyx Foothills with the crown.
There’s also a positive that we have a sluggish timeline to really make the change. The ascension could be up to a few years after Lara’s and my wedding, depending on what Mother and I decided. With the fact that Lara and I are not even engaged yet, it’s really easy to break things down into manageable pieces.
Firstly, though the official announcement was well crafted and released several days ago, Mother thought it might be a good idea for me to write a personal letter to the persons. Being the first Queen Of Onyx in five generations, her father had suggested she do the same. To try and be more personable, to try and put a personality to the name.
Secondly, in response, Lara questioned if maybe we should open the palace to the persons – have a safe place for the public to come speak to me directly, voicing concerns or to ask questions. Apparently, The University holds this kind of public forum to any famiglia or friends, or generally curious persons. (Just the same that they had nay-sayers who pushed magik, we will have to weed out Pure-blood Devotees.)
I shouldn’t be so surprised to feel so exhilarated by it all. When I’d started caring about being Minister again, I’d felt accomplished and successful and therefore less depressed. Then with this kind of purpose, I feel like I’m back on track with everything I’d known to be true. The future I’d imagined for myself all those years growing up is coming to fruition and I realize I shouldn’t have hidden behind the mutation.
So, with the first draft of my letter to the public done, I push back from my desk triumphantly. I still have an hour before cena, and I think it might be nice to surprise Lara in her study. Speed walking the length of the palace, I come to her door at record time.
Opening it while knocking, I take a step in, “Lara?”
Finishing her thought, her pen moves quickly. A moment, another, then she turns, “Cade! Hi!”
“My amore, how are you?”
She glances at her watch, “Done early today, I see. Me too,” she beams.
I meet her in the middle and wrap her in a hug. Spontaneously, romantically, I pick her up and spin her. Feet back on the grown, I give her a deep, passionate kiss. Eyes searching her face, my fingers brush along her cheeks, “My amore,” I murmur.
She giggles then bites her lower lip. “Someone’s in a good mood.”
“Ti amo. Luce della mia vita, sangue del mio cuore, tu sei il mio unico e solo. Tu sei tutto per me. Un giorno sarò onorato di essere tuo marito, onorato di essere il padre di tuo figlio. Ora e per sempre.”
Chin resting on my knuckle, her gorgeous Spring eyes look up at me from under long, black lashes. Full lips parted ever so slight, I dip down to peck – soft as petals, sweet as strawberry. I can smell the instant change and I wonder if her old room is still a bedroom.
Just enough time to clean up and re-clothe before cena later, Lara is combing out her hair with her fingers. She looks over to me, head tilted slightly, “I didn’t realize you knew so much of the Language Of The Ancients.”
Smirking, I nod. “I had to learn a few things as a child, then practice a few things for the ascension, but I’ve found I really enjoy it. I study it in my spare time.”
She comes up to where I’m sitting on the edge of the bed, slipping one leg in between mine, her hands coming to my shoulders. Her eyes search my face as she murmurs, “I love you.”
Hands sliding over the thin cotton of her dress, from her hips to her waist, I reply, “I love you more.”
Laughing to myself, I know exactly what Alli’s inflection would have sounded like if she’d been telling me the story herself, (rather than me reading it). Another instance I’ve found that I don’t mind magik, the basin village’s post offices are able to teleport our letters. This gives us a surprisingly fast turnaround, us able to write back almost every day.
Though I don’t firmly believe in fate, it does make sense for clusters of persons to come from the same stardust. The more my relationship deepens with Cade, the more ineffable it becomes, the more I imagine us to have always meant to intertwine. Then, with Alli’s and my friendship, it’s another testament to how there are others you can have an instant connection with.
Taking a moment away from work, I start drafting a letter. Responding to her, joking, but also asking something important.
I know it’s not exactly the same circumstance, but I could use advice. There has been a loud enough voice from the public about their dislike in me that it’s hard not to pay attention. They’re so caught up in the fact I’m half-Human, I’m not sure what to do. So… what did you do? With all that harsh backlash? You being a ‘commoner’ and all that. I don’t want to be bullied out of this Family; I’m just hoping for some sort of acceptance….
Signed, sealed, delivered unto Jasper, it’s time to head back to my room to get ready for date night. The Ballet Extraordinaire has finally arrived during their tour across The Seven Kingdoms. Having never been to any sort of live production, I’m excited. But also, I found the most gorgeous of dresses to wear – which getting all dressed up and feminine has become a stress relief away from work, (where I am comparatively more minimally non-descript).
Lara giggles, “What?”
When she stops, I step in front of her, holding our clasped hands out. Looking her over again, I have the extreme urge to take her straight home and get into bed.
In her floor-length black gown, I love the way the fabric clings to her perfectly, seamlessly. The scoop neck shows the hard line of her collar bones and the soft curve of her breasts. She’s done her hair herself, parting it on the left, and pulling the length into a perfect bun. She’s tucked an enchanted white rose just behind the ear.
Last but not least, she’d left her face practically untouched. “Gods, you are gorgeous.”
Tucking her close to me, now, our kiss is deep. Leaving her giggling, I know I’ve done well. When we start back on our way, she wraps around my arm and leans into me. “I am so ready to eat.”
“Three hours is a long time, huh?”
She nods, “I’m just glad I’d read the play before…. Else I wouldn’t have had the faintest idea of what was going on.”
“Midwinter Day’s Dream is a bit confusing….”
“All that Netherrealm stuff was hard to follow.”
From the tone of her voice I can guess, “Ballet not really your thing, hm?"
She laughs, “I suppose not. Objectively, I understand the beauty of it, but without speech, I wasn’t that interested.” Then she pulls back to look up at me, “What about you? You seemed to like it.”
I shrug, “I’ve always enjoyed it. There’s such clear emotion in body movement, it’s a lot harder to lie.”
She squeezes my hand, “Well, I will happily go with you to any performance you’d like.”
“As long as there’s food after?” I smirk.
She smiles playful, “Oh, of course.”
The restaurant door closed behind us, my left arm is draped across Lara’s shoulders. She reaches up with her left hand and loosely curls our fingers together. This area of Obsidian is quiet, especially at this hour; so close to midnight, everything is closed.
I feel Lara’s hair against my arm and look over to see her looking at the sky. “It’s such a beautiful night.”
The village’s light pollution is not the worst. Plus, we’re finally in the third month of Summer, and the night air is giving us a hint of the Autumn to come. “It is, isn’t it?”
“Why don’t we walk home?”
Having had such a perfect date night already, why not? I’d love to prolong this another thirty minutes, perhaps, even more, when we get back to our room. “Sounds good to me, bellissima.”
I don’t know how long it actually took us to get home, and I don’t really care. There was an innocence to it, a purity. Like younglings and their first crush, or like elders with their life mate… to walk with someone you love turns a necessary task into moments of adoration.
Crossing the entrance courtyard, I can sense a tiredness from Lara. But soon enough we’ll be in bed, soon enough I can wrap my arms around her. A perfect ending to wrap our perfect night.
But just as we turn for the East wing, Jasper calls out, “Sir!”
We slow, we stop, I turn around, “Yes?”
He’s holding out a letter, “It’s from Prince Tahir. It arrived late, while you were out, and had a note of importance.”
I take it with a furrowed brow, “All right, thank you.”
When we continue on our way, Lara looks at me curiously, “Are you going to open it?”
I shrug, “Later.”
And later comes when Lara comments she’s going to take a hot bath before bed. After the bathroom door is closed, I make my way into our personal library and find a letter opener on the desk.
Have a look around you… more and more kingdoms, the Minister is the leader and chief. I can still do everything as I intended, just with a different title.
Though, I should remark, that I would have happily been King. I hadn’t just accepted the position because you fled. Truthfully, if you weren’t so dead set on marrying Delara, I would take the role again in a heartbeat.
What did they say? ‘You’re no King of mine’?
At the sound of Lara’s voice, my attention is instantly obtained. I look to her, standing in the doorframe from the bedroom. Hair wet, silk nightgown on, her expression is one of concern. “Amore?”
I lift from the back of the couch, the letter still in hand. “Hi…. That was a quick bath.”
Her brows knot and she slowly comes in. “You’ve been in here for over an hour…. Is everything okay?”
Had it really been that long? I look to my watch, damn. I clear my throat, “It’s just Tahir… he’s being an arse again.”
But the worry doesn’t leave her face, “What now?”
I toss the letter onto the desk, then the opener on top of it. “Nothing. Just more petty horseshit.”
“Mmm.” She holds a handout, “Let’s go to bed then, yeah?”
Terzaday brings an overwhelming amount of hatred. Out of nowhere, the Pure-blood Devotees are back and louder than ever. Just when we all thought we’d passed the first hurdle, they have shoved us behind the starting line. However, new to this month, there’s an equal amount of backlash about both Cade and me.
Cade throws the Terzaday morning newspaper across the table. “Just when we thought they were okay with Tahir being Sovereign’s Minister, there going back to arguing that he should be King,”
Queen Lilith is shaking her head slowly, “From all our resources, we cannot figure out what sparked this reverse.”
“In addition, there’s all this upheaval about Lara…”
Not letting this take away my appetite, I slowly cut a sausage, “Mostly, if not exclusively, about my half-Human nature.”
Cade hasn’t even touched his daily dose of blood, he’s so frustrated. “I just don’t know what to do.”
Queen Lilith sighs, “I’m afraid there’s nothing we can do as of right now. I think it would be best if we just follow the path we’d set out…. Just as they were simmering down before, they’ll simmer down again.”
Right as Cade opens his mouth, I take his hand. “I think she’s right. It hasn’t even been a week; this was bound to happen. We’ll have to ride the waves for a little while, then it’ll all smooth out.”
But he doesn’t seem convinced. “I’ll try and finish the letter…. Mother, do you think Lara should write one too?”
“Maybe…. I suggest we give ourselves a little more time before making any major decisions.”
Knowing only one person I can talk to about all this, when Cade goes to work out, I head into my office to write Alli. Her letter had arrived late the night before, part of her advice being to have a place of my own. A safe place to relax, separate from anything stressful, including work.
Queen Lilith and Cade have already accepted me as famiglia, and you’re right that that’s enough. I just hate to imagine a future where there is so much discourse that Cade must step down and Tahir takes over by default. He’s become a real arsehole, by the way, I can’t believe I ever thought us to be friends.
As for your other advice, about having a calming place to detach from the outside world? The greenhouse is my go-to. There are plenty of nooks and crannies and I can spend hours in there just enjoying nature. During these Summer months, I often find myself in there at night, especially if I can’t sleep, (which is becoming more and more common).
Maybe I should pick up a new hobby or something, as well – maybe painting again?
“It’s been a fortnight, and nothing has changed,” I comment with complete exhaustion.
Mother uncharacteristically crosses her arms over her chest, her thumbs pressing hard against her biceps. “I’ve spoken with The Seven Families; they are all in support of us.”
My eyebrows raise, “Really now?”
Relief flickers across her expression briefly, “Indeed. Some feel Tahir should be punished for going back on his word – his word not just within this famiglia, but his promise to the other Families.
“In addition, they know how many years you spent preparing for this. And even if there was a hesitance because of the Dragon Mutation, apparently, Delara overcasts that. They all adore her.”
“As happy as that makes me to hear…,” I sigh and rub my face, “they can’t really help us with the issues we’re facing with the persons within our kingdom’s boundaries.”
Her glance slides to the left, “I know. However, in our discussions, there was one idea that stuck out.”
I look across the Sovereign’s desk at her, “What’s that?”
There’s a sadness in her eyes, her arms loosening, “When I spoke about the fact that protesters have been by the outer gate and that we’ve had to actually post guards by the inner gate… well, they suggested we close them. Both of them.”
My head starts shaking, “Our Family hasn’t had to do that in six generations.”
After a long moment, she knows exactly what to say, “You said it yourself, you’re worried about Delara’s safety.”
Elbows hard on the wood, I clasp my hands in front of my chin. She’s not wrong, I don’t even like the idea of us going to our clearing in the woods anymore. “Let’s… let’s give it a few more days. If the situation doesn’t better, I will take the Families’ suggestions to heart and we’ll temporarily close the gates.”
Eyes staring wide, unseeing, my mind won’t stop. Flat against the mattress, there is no comfortable way to lay, not tonight. I’d finagled the covers to only cover my pelvis, with one leg propped with a bent knee. With my hands across my stomach, I slowly crack one knuckle at a time.
The midnight air is finally cold, bringing relief to the seasonal heat. With the sundown for several hours by now, the world beyond our windows is quiet. In the middle of the third month of Summer, the blacked sky is moonless, leaving our bedroom that much darker.
Everything is that much darker…. Granted, things have not gotten worse, but they sure as The Underworld haven’t gotten better. I’d even written a letter to Tahir, against Cade’s wishes, and it proved futile. Not that he lashed out at me by any means, but he did profess his love and argue that I should be with him instead. That he would do anything to have me again, was the quote. Even though I’d never really been his.
I let out a groan and pull myself up against the pillows. Alli has assured me just as Calhoun assured Cade that everything was going to turn around…. That we just needed to give it a little more time. After his meeting with his mother this evening, Cade had lightly touched on the conversation, saying something his mother had talked to the other Families.
Crossing my legs, I pin my elbows to my knees and drop my face into my hands. Gods, this room is too quiet. The only noise is Cade softly breathing. It’s too much, my ears are ringing in the utter silence.
With a huff, I push my hands up and back through my hair. I squint to see that I’d forgotten to get new lavender for my side table. Without having anything better to do, two birds with one stone… get something to help me sleep while being in my own place as Alli has advised.
There’s a drag on the sheets as Cade turns over to my left. His groggy voice is rough, quiet, “Lara? Is everything all right?”
I lean down and kiss his forehead, “I’m just going to go get some lavender.”
“Mmm.” After a yawn, he asks, “Do you want me to come with you?”
I brush away his bangs, “I’ll be all right. Just sleep now, okay?”
Eyes closed; he nods against his pillow. “Okay. I love you.”
Stand at the edge of the bed, I wrap the thin Summer dressing grown around myself. “I love you, too.”
Golden light falls across my eyelids, bright red as I try to resist consciousness. The morning heat is already creeping through the room, causing me to kick off all the bedding. My jaw is uncomfortably sore due to grinding my teeth all night, the nightmares being dreams of anxiety and fear.
When I reach for Lara’s soft skin, wanting to curl around her and let my mind ease, I find only air. The sheet is cool to the touch, and I wonder how long I’ve slept in. She’s commented how burnt out I am… it would be just like her to let me sleep as she went off to work.
After sitting up, I rub my eyes and then stretch. She’s not wrong, I’m so worn out. Feeling like there’s nothing left, a candle being burned at both ends. Maybe today I’ll take a break… start with a long training session, take a steaming bath, have luncheon with Lara, and go from there. I’ll just have to pop my head into her study on my way, just to let her know.
Compression pants, running shoes, fresh towel, and I’m already feeling that much more relaxed. I wonder if I should change my schedule around, doing this first instead of going straight to the Sovereign’s office. That way I could spend time with Lara right after cena, too, instead of having to be away from her even longer.
Excited, I open Lara’s study door while knocking, “Morning, bellis -”
But she’s not there. I step in and eye the door to the attached bathroom, still open. I cross into her old bedroom and find it empty as well. Probably in the library, I nod to myself. She’d mentioned having made a breakthrough but needing to figure out just the right chemical to use.
Ground floor, second story, no one’s there. Frowning, I wonder if she’s gone to the greenhouse for flora. On my way, that tickles something in my mind from the night before. I hazily remember her waking… getting up and leaving the room.
Jogging now, my heart hammers against my ribs. My stomach is throwing acid up my throat. My lungs spasm in my chest. My mind is racing. Did she ever come back to bed? For the love of Gods, Cade focus! When did she come back to bed?
The second the greenhouse door is pushed open; I start screaming for her. Tearing my throat apart, my voice reverbs against the glass enclosure. I pass the breakfast table to see it not even set up for the morning. I look upon the second floor and she’s not in our spot. Turning around the last curve, I come to the lavender patch.
Next to the cuttings lays bloody sheers.
And just like that, Lara is gone.
Deadweight rocking back and forth. Ankles tied, tilting side to side with every turn. Spine straight, back flat against the floor. Wrist to elbows bound by spellcraft, forearms over the chest, knuckles bobbing against the chin. Head swaying, eyes fluttering, lungs gasping.
Feeling as if my soul was punched out of my body, floating behind my torso, I try to grasp consciousness. Out of the darkness, I try to focus. If I blink, the world may slip away once again.
The windows… through the windows. Trees. Familiar trees. Trees from a different window…. Trees from the train? Train! A whole day through the Forest Of Night – I know these trees.
Push. Focus. Delara, com’on! Get a hold, get a hold….
But the darkness pulls me back once again.
Glass shatters across the stone wall, “Non mi interessa se devo bruciare questo regno in cenere, troverò Delara!” Picking up and throwing an empty side table, it splinters and breaks in the corner. “Case giù mattone per mattone, persone divaricate arto per arto ... Non mi interessa!” I roar.
Looking to Jasper and Melaena, my jaw is clentched. “Ci deve essere una sorta di indizio, da qualche parte, perché non l'abbiamo ancora trovato? Ho ricevuto minacce di morte, Tahir ha ricevuto minacce di morte ... da qualche parte ci deve essere qualcosa.” My chest heaving, I ask, “Ci sono differenze tra la nostra e quella di Delara?”
While my breath huffs through my nose like a snarling beast, my hands curl into fists with sharp nails digging into my palm. I’d lost rotation in my neck some hours again and my shoulders are locked. Jasper has his hands up, as if trying to talk me down from ripping someone’s head off, “Sir, the guards are looking all over and around the greenhouse, we have staff looking for anything suspicious in her old room, study, and -”
But Melaena jumps up, serval different letters in both hands, “Prince Caderyn! Look!”
She lays the letters down on the table, but I can’t see nor feel anything, “What?”
“There’s spellwork all over these, leftover traces that don’t match the original author or receiver.”
My eyes jump around the pages. Letters between Tahir and me, letters between Delara and Alli…, “They would have been teleported by the post office.”
She shakes her head, “It’s not that, it’s… something else. All mail has that type of magik intertwined with the parchment, but this is different.”
She frowns, leaning down to run her fingers over them again, something saying an incantation under her breath. “Some sort of cloaking I think…. Maybe… well –”
“Maybe an interception?” Jasper asks.
I look between the two of them. “What? Like someone read our mail and then resealed it with magik?”
“Yes! Yes, exactly!”
I snatch the letters Melaena has so perfectly laid out. What information could possibly be in here? But then I see it… I see all of it.
Then in the last letter I grabbed, I’m surprised to see it between Tahir and Delara. My eyes skim it rapidly, landing on his scrawled handwriting: ‘I would do anything to have you again.’
“I have to speak to Mother – go – now!”
Feet dragging through the mud. Dressing gown getting caught in bushes and roots and natural debris. Waterfall of hair falling down, causing a wall in front of the face. Wrists to elbows bound, the same spellwork carrying the dead weight of the entire body slowly. With every step of the captor, the head bounces forward and back. Then, like a shock through my chest, to my heart, I jolt awake.
Rapidly blinking, I don’t move of my own accord. Using only my eyes, for now, I try to gather my surroundings. Gliding over deep forest underbrush, it looks almost untouched by Vampires (or Humans or Lykans or Fae). As I sway, I barely turn my head and see in the break of my hair, past my ears. The same trees from the carriage, the same trees from the train – the red giants unmistakable.
We are in the Forest Of Night. The kingdom’s massive nature reserve. Completely uninhabited.
No one will ever find us.
I could feel the restlessness in my body despite my legs carrying me from room to room, corner to corner until I have paced the boundary of the safe house yet again. ‘Impatient’ isn’t a strong enough word for the churning in my stomach. Though we are all scheduled to speak together through Ocular Spectrums, for our safety, we were never told the exact time.
Initially, I wanted to blame Tahir – it was easy to focus my fury and panic on him, but I know my little brother… he would never do this. Even when given the opportunity to cheat or have special treatment, he always chose to do things by the book. Yes, the blow of him becoming Minister was chaotic and seemingly immature, he still isn't letting our Family or our people down.
So, when this conversation is over, I’m off to the Obsidian post office. I already know how to slip past the guard, thanks to late nights with Calhoun. I still have the ‘commoner’ outfit they transported me in. And, if I leave late enough at night, they won’t notice the horse is gone until morning.
I am not my brother; I will not wait to hear what my men have accomplished. I am not the King who will sit around on lavish sofas drinking vintage wine, letting his men do all the work. If I’ve learned anything from my parents, it’s to lead by example. I have a clue I’m going to follow, even if I have to follow it alone.
I am Prince Caderyn Otihen Onyx, Delara’s mate and future marito, and I will do whatever it takes to bring her home.
Bare feet bleeding and bruised, stepping lightly through the mud. Legs scratched and cramping, the edge of my pajamas barely covering anything. The soft one took pity on me when my teeth started chattering and wrapped my dressing gown tight across my torso. With forearms still magikally bound, there’s an invisible tug pulling my wrists forward as quickly as I can walk.
In the middle of the forest, the canopy makes it impossible to see the stars. I have no idea which direction we’re going, and thanks to being unconscious, I have no idea how long we’ve been moving. The only change now is that we’re following a river towards a waterfall.
The roaring of the falls was a subtle hum at first. But the closer we get, the louder it becomes. Almost deafening now, we’re coming to its edge. Are they going to drown me? Would it really be that simple? As I look around at the cliffside, the solid wall of earth, I can only think, why go to all this trouble? Why here?
But then one more step and I’m pulled forward through a glamour. The magiks’ electricity feels like needles across my skin, hurting my eyes, and making me a little nauseous, (partially how powerful the spellwork is, partially a little post-traumatic stress). When I finally steady myself and look around, I realize we’re in a very crude, raw-edged, impossible-to-find tunnel in the mountain.
The rising Sun breaches the top of the opposite buildings, causing a sharp ray of light to reflect off the glass window of the post office’s door. As my fist pounds against the wood, I yell loud enough for the employee to hear me from the second-story apartment. The safe house had been farther than anticipated but at least the village is already waking, and my commotion might go unnoticed.
The door finally swings open, and a very angry and confused male is across from me. Mouth open and finger pointed, he stops when I drop my hood. “P-prince Ca-aderyn,” he sputters, “why don’t you come in?”
I push past him. As he closes the door and locks it, he asks, “What can I do for you, Your Royal Highness?”
“I need a list of all your employees. Anyone – and I mean anyone that has had access to my families’ letters. Anything from the palace, from me, from my brother, from Scholarra Delara Dyad. Now.”
As he stumbles to the back, around the counter, he starts spewing information, “Well, we have a very small group of persons that handle Royal Mail. And then… with the teleportation, there’s only two – maybe three? Within that group that is cleared to interact with the magik.
“We’ve been meaning to train more employees, seeing as teleportation is in high demand – it’s great really, persons pay a premium price, well over the cost of the spellwork. More and more post offices are getting the spellwork done, too, and –”
On the other side of the counter, I wrap my knuckles once, “The names.”
He bows, “Yes, Sir.” After switching through different files and spilling a mess of papers on the floor, he lays on out over the counter. “The list for Royal Mail on our end -”