Waking to the sound of his own muffled screams. Dusk shot upright, and his blanket, soaked from his sweat, pooled around him. Adding to the uncomfortable damp that clung to his shaking skin. His fingers throb, spitting out a mouthful of his own blood. He knew exactly why his fingers stung. Tossing the blanket to the side, he slid out of his narrow bed. Quieter than a mouse. His fingers bled from the marks his own teeth had made. Even when unconscious, he knew no one could hear him scream. No one.
His room was a good size, smaller than both his elder brother's and younger sister's rooms. Still good enough for him. The house was old, and Dusk walked the old floor boards with practiced ease. Avoiding any boards that would sigh with age. Simple in its furnishing and adorned all in black. Dusk could say he didn't like his room, but it was easy to manage. Given how even the servants avoided him, or more, they avoided the cost of showing him any kindness.
Walking up to a small vanity, he sat on the black wooden chair. A little too small for him, Dusk believed it had once been his mother's when she was a girl. Dusk opened a small box that sat right next to the mirror. Inside were not toiletries, make-up, or fancy colognes, but bandages and ointments. His father would call on a physician, but Dusk couldn't take any more looks of pity he would receive from them. They could heal him, but they couldn't save him. That was the only thing he could do.
Applying a thick ointment stopped the bleeding. Wrapping them tight, he assured himself they would heal fast enough. Looking into the mirror, Dusk had a hard time believing he was part of the Black family. Raising his bandaged hand, he touched the smooth mirror. A little paler than healthy, his blue eyes looked faded and tired. His short blond hair was a tangled mess on top of his head. Picking up the comb that lay on the tablet top, Dusk started the task of getting ready for the day. Managing his hair back into his natural side part
The only blond in his family. It was the start of his downfall; being a mage by blood, that was the fast track to his current place in hell. Mage blood is an occurrence rarer than a blue moon. When great magic blessed a child, it erased any traces of genetic ties. Dusk had more similarities to a changeling. Instead of a fae playing tricks, it was pure magic taking its place. Placing the comb down, Dusk unbuttoned his pajamas and folded them onto the vanity. Grimacing, he caught sight of his back in the mirror.
His back was nothing but a crisscross of braided flesh. Scars of his elder brother's whippings. Turning away, he wasn't even bothered by the dark purple scar. That ran in a spiderweb pattern off his shoulder and upper arms. Which was a gift he had received from his younger sister. Dusk went to the large upright wardrobe and picked out a black dress shirt. His clothing, like the room, was simple and black. Like his room, he was fine with it, but if he had a choice, he would go without it.
Today, let's hope all that changes. Dusk went to his window. Pushing himself inside the thick black curtains. That covered not only his windows but every window in the house. He rejoiced in the natural green light of dawn that lit up the world. This place prefers the dark of night and the glow of candles too much. His thoughts turned into a sigh he couldn't let loose from his lips. I'll be free soon. Dusk couldn't stand up to his family, but he could run from them.
First, he had to get out of the house. Not the easiest of feats. A tapping on the window brought his attention down. One of the courtyard crows had come to peck at his window. Shaking his head, he watched the feathered creature peck at his reflection. Stepping back, Dusk stepped away from the window, making sure the curtain was back in place. He slipped on his shoes, which he kept at the foot of his bed. Before heading to his door, dawn was the start of his day, but the end of theirs. Making it his best chance to leave.
Opening the door with a slow and steady hand kept it from creaking. Without stepping foot outside his door, he looked to where his foot would naturally fall. A thin, near-invisible twinkle, shimmering in a straight line across his door frame. Following the line up and around his door, he saw his sister's handy work. It is a sad fact that, at eight years old, this was her idea of fun—one she had help with.
The whole damn Black family was insane. Dusk thought, stepping over the wire, and left the door open behind him. It's not like he cared if anyone went inside after today.
“I thought you would avoid that.” His eldest brother's voice crawled down Dusk's spine. Turning his head to look down the hall. He saw him as the very image of what the Black family was supposed to look like. Leaning against the wall, his long black hair fell to his knees, shining under the candlelit hall's light. Dusk could see he hadn't changed for bed since he was still wearing his black vest and dress slacks. He also couldn't help but notice the sword in his hand and the whip sitting on his hip.
“Knight,” Dusk said it without a bit of trembling that was racking his body.
“I haven't seen you these last few nights,” Knight said while swirling his sword. His gray eyes, much like their father's, gleamed in the light. Dusk struggled not to let his breath grow ragged, but he was struggling to breathe. He could hear his own blood pumping in his ears in a loud rush. He wanted to flee, but his knees became locked. “Let's engage!” Knight faced the sword at him, and black dots danced in front of his eyes.
By the lay-lines, he would not pass out! Dusk vowed that he hated the fear that racked his body. Squeezing his injured fingers until the pain shook him awake. He managed a shuffle back, but that was it. His body stiffened, bracing for the piercing blow. Relaxing would be best, but he could never convince his body of that. Blacks will not kill Blacks, but most Blacks have a bloodthirsty need to fight, hunt, and attack one another. It was a form of care, so his mother claimed, that raised one to a higher level.
“On guard!” Sparks flew off, heating his nose with their glow. Swords clashed with swords. Dusk stumbled back, triggering the trap in his doorway. In quick succession, he found himself on the floor of the hallway. Only to see his father's slim frame send his brother back with a quick motion of his sword. His black shoulder-length hair washed around him. When he turned, he grabbed the arrow barehanded and, with a flick of his wrist, sent it flying at his brother. Knight blocked the arrow with ease, using his sword to deflect it into the wall.
“Never take our nocturnal nature for granted, Dusk.” His father's words stuck with him harder than a sword, for that was exactly what he had done. He could blame the nightmare, but he hadn't even bothered looking into the hall for his brother. Assuming he would be asleep at this hour. “Blacks are always ready.”
“Now, this is a proper fight!” Knight cried out, lounging at his father, despite the fact that his head turned to Dusk. His father gave him a small nod of his head and deflected his brother's sword with ease. That Dusk would never do. Swords were not his thing; magic was, but only once he awakened. Only then would he be strong enough, but could he fight back? He wouldn't survive long enough here to do that. Knowing a thanks wouldn't be acceptable or wanted, Dusk picked himself up on shaky limbs, using the wall as support until he could walk without assistance. He sped through the dark halls and down the grand staircase. When his palms touched the front door. The sharp sounds of metal hitting metal still rang throughout the house.
Thank the laylines. Dusk opened the door and closed it behind him. Shutting his eyes, he blessed his luck, leaning for one brief moment against the large wood door. Pushing himself off the door with his foot. He walked down the decrepit stone path that would take him to the front gate. Large, barren trees hung their branches over the path. Even in the height of summer, they would never sprout a single leaf. If Dusk was lucky, it would be the last time he saw them, or the house he had grown up in. As weak as he was, Dusk had a plan.
The air was cool, and only time would tell until the sun set once again. Early summer was well and truly upon them. Dusk walks along the edge of the road, making his way into the town of Feverfew. The green light of dawn was quick to vanish into the pale yellow of early morning on his walk. Sparrows were active, and Dusk took a mental break, watching them fly in and out of the small roadside bushes. Their happy little tweets as they danced around each other. It helped calm him a great deal.
“It had been far from the clean exit I had hoped for.” Dusk sighed and rubbed his neck with a sigh. Thankfully, his father had helped him out. “I envy your flight.” He looked at the sparrows, who had once again taken to the trees. Had he wings like those little brown birds, or if he could only awaken to his untapped powers, “life would be much different.” The hard clop of hooves on hard ground broke Dusk out of his melancholy.
“Lord Dusk!” Turning to the voice of a young boy. Dusk recognized the pale, bespectacled boy, even on top of his small brown and white-spotted pony. “I thought it was you, my lord.”
“Greetings, young Ginger.” Dusk placed his hand on his chest and gave him a small bow. It stemmed from courtesy, not need. Ginger was a nice child at seven, the same age as his sister. Surprising, since they were in no way like each other. Disposition wise. Ginger was polite and friendly. Currently, he has an open, easy smile that shows off his new missing front tooth. “I see you finally lost that tooth.”
“That's right!” His slim chest puffed out. “I pulled it out myself.”
“Good job,” Dusk said, giving a small incline of his head. Ginger has been struggling with his front tooth since May—about a month now. “It must be a relief.”
“It sure is, Lord Dusk.” Ginger nodded three times, as was his tendency. “Going to see my dad?” Dusk gave a small smile, watching both the boy and pony tilt their heads at him.
“I am,” Dusk said; he had been visiting the hall master every day for over a year now.
“I'll let him know!” Ginger pulled a small box out of the tangle of mane that his pony had. “Mom sent me to bring his lunch.” His chin, raised so high with pride, made Dusk fear he might fall off his pony.
“I would appreciate it.” Dusk didn't remind him that his father would be expecting him; he enjoyed seeing Ginger cheerful. Every time he saw Ginger, he was always happy and carefree. In his opinion, that was the way children should be.
“Farewell, Lord Dusk!” Ginger put the lunch back into the tangled mane and leaned on his pony's neck. “Come on, we have to beat Mom!” Ginger's pony snorted and took off. Leaving Dusk with a touch of envy at how easy Ginger's life seemed.
Heading into town on foot was not a great burden, though he'd admit it would be easier on horseback. His family's house was right on the edge of town. Despite that, it was actually in the dead center of his mother's land, the Duchess land. His father was often away, helping his mother with her duties. He was lucky he had even been home this morning.
“Morning, My Lord.” The morning guard walked by with his sword at his hip, performing his morning rounds at the edge of town. There was no wall surrounding the town, but there was a clear buildup of houses. Letting visitors know they made it to Feverfew.
“Morning,” Dusk said, placing his hand to his chest once again and nodding. The dark-haired guard smiled and walked away. It was an overly polite way of greeting someone, especially those without rank. Dusk had fallen into the habit at a young age when he noticed it made people have a slight tendency to be nicer to him.
“Good day, Lord Black.” The large woman, with her hair tied up in a bun, She looked happy but tired, with her child on her hip. Her full skirt hid two more bashful faces while she greeted him. Placing her fresh bread on her stall, like always. Dusk greeted her with the same curtsy he had given the guard. Every morning, he did it the same way.
Every morning it was the same: walking down, he greeted people who reached out to him first. Avoiding those who duck away from his gaze and sometimes his path. Horses didn't pay him any mind and trotted down the streets. Horses had no idea what being part of the Black family meant. Being both respected and feared. Dusk held no grudges against the people because he had experienced the very real reason. Why they feared them and him by default
Not that his family shunned their duties. The brown cobblestone roads he walked on were well maintained. People who were setting up for the day were healthy and well-fed. Buildings around him, made from hefty stone. White plaster, and strong towering wood beams. Curved roofs had colorful banners and flags draping from roof to roof. Showcases bright and happy town folks. The decorations crossed the streets. Living up the passages with each gentle breeze of summer. Feverfew was a large, thriving community.