Darkness in the Heights- Prologue
A Prologue that Hearkens Back to a Once-Heard Name
A darkened world.
A darkened heart.
They went hand in hand that night, where a figure hid from the light, absorbed in himself and his thoughts.
He had done it before, with the elves’ kingdom, and in Llorleya. He could do it again. He was mighty.
But both of those attempts had ended in failure. And why? Because of that worm of a minion, who could not stand his ground and hold his power against one girl. Even if that girl had elves, fairies, and stars to aid her and was of star royalty, as Torlith had protested when sending for reinforcements.
Torlith, the fool! He had given the worthless mortal what little power he had, and even that he had failed to control! He had wasted hordes of warriors.
The figure stepped into the half-light of the single star. "I will put you out, too," he told that star as it revealed his form to the world. He knew how he must look, and the thought gave him a perverse mixture of repulsion and pleasure: He was lean, tall but bent over- he had long raven hair and glittering red-violet eyes, and bat-like wings…
He hadn’t blackened like the other once-fairies. He had a stronger mind. True, he didn’t possess their brute strength, but they had the minds of beasts, while his mind was greater than perhaps anyone else’s in his world.
And he had learned to control others’ minds. Well, subdue. He could enter, and influence very forcefully, which had always, so far, brought a mind to its knees.
"I will take this world without the fumbling failures of underlings this time. I am Sundark."
A woman crept out of bed and walked slowly to the window. The floor was cool underneath her bare feet. So high up, it was very nearly always cool; but it bothered her not, because a star is its own warmth.
She pushed the window open. She made a face as it squeaked, and glanced back at the bed where her husband lay. He was still sleeping, to her relief. She didn’t wish to wake him, or anyone.
The night wind blew her dark hair around her, and she stood there, embracing it. The night sky was velvety black around her, but filled with stars. The stars were bigger and brighter and altogether nearer than they had been in Llorleya. Even after three years, she wasn’t quite used to it- the stars were all around them; the woman was neither above or below, but living among them. Of course, now they would all be sleeping, but they were still glowing- provided they had happy dreams.
It was still breathtaking to her that she was a star, and she was here, and she was the queen. And soon she would have her second child.
Suddenly her silver eyes clouded with tears, and one spilled over.
Strong arms encircled her from behind, and someone planted a kiss on the top of her head. "Don’t cry, Aria. Whatever it is, it’s not worth crying over."
Aria wiped her eyes quickly. "I’m sorry I woke you, Gill," she said softly.
"What happened?" asked Gilligan gently, turning her around to face him. "Are you worrying about our baby again?" he asked.
(Their first child, a boy, had simply disappeared after his birth. One moment in his cradle, the next gone without a trace. It still haunted them both.)
The Starqueen shook her head, her hair falling over her shoulders. "No- and yes. It was a vision." She put her hands over her eyes. She could almost still feel the burning in them.
Gilligan’s eyes widened. "Tell me about it.
She shook her head again, distressed. "It was unclear and hard to understand."
Gilligan sighed. "Aren’t all the important ones," he said, mostly to himself.
"Gill- I- … I thought I saw Torlith."
Gilligan straightened. His arm almost mechanically reached for his sword. "If he weren’t already dead I’d do away with him again!" he said.
Aria got to the sword first. Her fingers wrapped around the hilt, and she thrust it aside. "No, Gill, it was nothing like that. Torlith wasn’t the real threat in the vision. He was acting under someone else before he died… There was a greater fear, a darker shadow behind him…" She closed her eyes tightly. "I wish it had been clearer!" she cried.
Gilligan embraced her again (which, at the time, was quite a trick to do from the front). "Whatever the shadow was, it can wait until morning. Maybe things will be clearer then- in more ways than one."
In the stillness, Aria dropped another stone. "Our son was there."
Aria said nothing else for a long time. Then, not really to Gilligan or herself or anyone in particular, she said, "A new power has risen for evil… and this time it may not be so easily put down."