Thecla, a Dark Romance [Fiction]

I kicked him in the face when I first saw him. Now seeing him perched at the right hand of this man, this dictator they worshipped—Bishop Kato, they called him, all adorned in the finest sheepskin and whatever other animals he was wearing, made me want to kick him right off his man-made pedestal.

“I found her in the upper Wastelands scared, cold, and hungry,” my capturer said.

Thecla.

I cut my eye toward my captor. I wasn’t cold, hungry, or scared. I only let him bring me here because I knew he’d take me to HIM. And that he did. I had no idea he had been living in such plush conditions.

I had no idea this much civilization was left. I heard prophecies in church about The Reckoning and even on television, about how nothing but dust and ruins would be left. But that wasn’t so. Clearly, there had been destruction, but from what I’d seen thus far, my friend and his people seemed to have done a nice job rebuilding under a new order. There I stood in the hall before Bishop Kato, feeling as if I needed permission to breathe. It made me sick.

 

What was described as “The Hall” was really an old library. It was dimly lit with what looked like handmade candlesticks. The walls were mounted from floor to ceiling with shelves of books. Some had been saved from the fires. Others were charred periodicals and other types of publications. The stand-alone bookshelves that used to fill the interior of the library had all been replaced by two rows of empty pews. The first two on the right were reserved for privileged citizens, I imagined, with a one-foot plank built in the upper back that served as some sort of a table for the next row of pews behind it. In the aisle between the two rows of pews was a tattered crimson rug that ran from the entrance to where I now stood.

“Untie her, Quintus,” Bishop Kato ordered.

Quintus immediately complied. I rubbed my wrist.

“I didn’t mean to tie them so tight,” he apologized. I remained silent and looked at Throane, who continued to pretend as if he’d never seen me before. Quintus followed my eyes. His grew dark. He took his position beside me as his prize, as both of us faced Kato, waiting like obedient puppies for him to either pet us or send us on our way.

 

Amir.

“Your name, girl,” Kato ordered. I didn’t like his tone. Condescending. He wasn’t the boss of me, but he clearly was the boss of everyone else—including Throane.

“My father asked you a question,” the little bitchy brat sitting beside Kato spat. I stared her down at the floor. Her fair complexion told me she hadn’t seen much sun. Her eyes and nose reflected an exotic unidentifiable heritage. She was very pretty, bitchy, but pretty. All that beauty was framed in a golden, long, wavy mane. Still, I didn’t like the way she spoke or looked at me. Throane remained poised. The little bitch lunged at the edge of her little throne. “Answer him!”

“Amir, until you’ve inherited this chair, I orchestrate the questioning,” Kato bellowed.  Amir shrank back into her big girl chair. “Can you speak, girl? Does she speak?” he asked Quintus.

“When I want to. Thecla. That’s my name,” I replied, not liking how I was being spoken of, as if I weren’t there.

 

“Bishop!” Amir barked. “Address him as Bishop.” I looked to Throane to see if she was –they were for real! He tilted his head up to confirm that they were.

“How long have you been out in the Wastelands, girl?”  Bishop Kato asked me.

“I’ve counted at least seven cycles of winter.”

“Seven years? How old are you?”

“Nineteen. I believe …” I looked at Throane. He parted his lips and tilted his head down. Throane’s actions told me that this Bishop knew nothing about his visits to me. Kato noticed my attention toward Throane. So did Amir.

Throane.

“Throane here, is the general of my Fraternity here in Carpathia. He is a fine warrior and next in line to rule with my daughter. Do you…know him?”

An invisible dagger pierced through my heart. Why did I feel this way?

Kato studied my reaction. This Bishop appeared to be quite perceptive. I didn’t like that so I had to think quickly while concealing my emotions. The hall seemed loudly silent. I was afraid they all could hear my heartbeat. Throane looked uncomfortable, maybe even fearful.

“He looks like him,” I quickly answered pointing to Quintus.

The Bishop’s scrutiny lessened. My lie seemed to have worked. The few hungry spectators sighed with disappointment, not expecting such a reasonable explanation.

“Where are your parents?”

“Dead. Lost in the Reckoning.”

“How many of you are there?”

“Just me.”

Kato leaned forward, studying me. His eyes were bright turquoise blue, light enough so that it seemed he could see right through me, yet deep enough to harbor a vortex of secrets. There was a youthful presence about him, but it was obvious that he was quite older than Throane or Quintus, perhaps old enough to be their father. Not a bad looking guy for his age –wavy silver hair brushed the back off his broad shoulders. His face was framed with a neatly trimmed salt and pepper mustache and beard. A couple of age lines ran across his forehead, which only made him appear more distinguished.

Bishop.

“You mean to tell me you’ve survived the Wastelands all by yourself, since you were nine years old?”

“I’m still kicking, Bishop,” I replied, already bored with the tedious questioning.

The Bishop gave a quick nod to Amir. Amir eagerly jumped up from her chair and descended the staircase toward Quintus and me. She approached us, dressed in a dingy hand sewn white toga, much like the one Throane had given me. But on Amir, it looked like one of those Greek Goddess characters I used to read about before all this happened. Amir glided her way around Quintus and me, eyeing the tattered clothes I’d clearly outgrown. The cloth barely covered what my mother used to call ‘lady bits.’ The entire room, including Quintus, shifted to attention. Really? What type of new order was this?

“She’s dirty. Where did you find her?” she snapped at Quintus.

“At the peak of the easternmost Wasteland,” Quintus answered.

“Isn’t that where you’ve been scouting, Throane?” Amir inquired, casually.

“Yes,” he curtly answered, his jaw twitching.  Oh he was uncomfortable. I’ve seen that look before during one of his visits. Yes, those visits…

***

“What the heck, Thecla!”  Throane shrieked, scurrying away from me as I pressed up against the tree trunk, scooping the baby skunk into my arms. It was a cool day, right before the last winter cycle began. I laughed, thinking of what my father would have thought of Throane’s  ‘girly’ reaction.

“It’s just a skunk. C’mere.”

“Exactly! And hell no!” he protested, blowing his long black hair away from his boyish face.

“It’s just a skunk. C’mere.”

“Exactly! And hell no!” he protested, blowing his long black hair away from his boyish face.

“They’re cute.”

“They stink!”

“Only if you’re a threat. Here. Pet him. And relax, they can sense your stress.” I brought Mr. Skunk over to Throane who tried his best to man up. He squeezed his eyes tight and stretched his hand out as if he were trying to touch fire. His jaw was clenched shut and started twitching the moment his hand grazed the fur. Yes. That was the look he had this time, too, like he has seen a skunk.

***

“Odd that you’ve never seen her,” Amir said to Throane. He didn’t respond. Amir continued her cross-examination.

“How did you get those scars?” She frowned in disgust.  Sounds and images invaded my thoughts.

Theclaaa! Nova! Keith!  Those cries and screams echoed in the back of my mind for the thousandth time. I quickly dismissed them and fast-forwarded to hunting and bouts with wild boars, foxes, and even a wolf that I escaped within an inch of my life. I had never really given my scars much thought. I saw them as reminders of survival. But this bitch seems to find them offensive.

“Answer me when I ask you a question, girl!”

I snapped back out of my memories and couldn’t help but snort out a brief laugh. I’ve fought creatures more intimidating than this girl. Throane cleared his throat, no doubt muffling his own amusement. He knew.

“I earned them,” I said flippantly, becoming even more annoyed by her questioning.

The Bishop smiled at my response. His daughter wasn’t so amused.

“Not very comely for a woman,” Amir said. “You’re hair is different, wooly.” She frowned with disapproval and reached for my hair. I instinctively grabbed her wrist. Quintus snatched my free arm and twisted it behind my back. I thrust my head back onto his face, stomped his foot, ducked and twirled out of his grasp, but not before stealing a dagger from his belt. I crouched, waiting for Quintus or that Amir to pounce on me. I was ready. Amir stood there unkempt. Quintus wiped his busted lip. I didn’t know if he was impressed or pissed. Either way, I was ready. He grinned. It was unsettling.

 

“I relish a good fight. Let’s go,” Quintus hissed.

“Enough!” Bishop shouted from behind me. “Sparring occurs only at my request. Amir…”

One of the Fraternity soldiers took the dagger from me and gave it back to Quintus. The whole episode seemed to have shaken Amir up, but she quickly regained her composure.

“Impressive,” she managed to say. “If you’ve survived out there, perhaps you can be of some use to Carpathia. Maybe we can harvest some skills from you. You might even make a good scout for the expedition. But can she be trusted? Can she be trusted?” she posed to the spectators in the pew. The room filled with murmurs.

“You won’t have any concerns under my supervision,” Throane answered, emphasizing my.    Quintus and Throane briefly locked eyes, but long enough for Amir and Bishop Kato to notice. Kato’s eyes twinkled as if he had discovered a new toy to tinker with. Amir was going to be trouble, I could tell already. Kato raised his hand and everyone instantly hushed. He leaned back on his throne rubbing his beard once more.

“Quintus,” he finally announced, already having made his decision. A glimpse of disappointment flashed on Throane’s face. “Give her a bed in quarantine until we figure out what to do with her. Feed her. Give her some decent clothes.”

Quintus.

Amir returned back to her chair, lightly brushing my shoulder on the way. I turn toward her, having made it a practice never to have my back against my enemies.

“And clean her up,” Amir added. “She smells.”

Quintus handed his bloody cloth to a Fraternity soldier. He firmly grabbed my arm and led me out of the hall into the bustle of the streets. There were only about fifteen people walking about, but it was more than I’d seen in years. I suddenly realized that everyone was staring at me. One man was so interested in watching me that he ran straight into the wall.

“Why is everyone staring at me?” I asked Quintus.

“They’re staring at your scars.”

“Why did you make me wear these clothes?” I asked indignantly.

“No one makes you do anything.”

“You don’t know me.”

“I know enough.”

I yanked my arm from him, ready to defend myself. Quintus smoothed his thumb over his cut lip, licked it, and gingerly placed his other hand on his dagger. His eyes twinkled with anticipation, but the rest of his face was expressionless. Did he think I was a freaking joke or something?  Here I was, ready to fight, and he was watching me like I was wildlife entertainment. I notice his unusual facial features. He couldn’t be but a few years older than I was, but his rugged facial hair contrasted against his sunbathed skin. His almond-shaped hazel eyes blazed through the sternest gaze, something like Bishop Kato’s. Kind of impish, Quintus’ lips were thin, but the bottom poked out a bit more. Quintus was a beautiful man. Not handsome. Beautiful. There was something about him that made me uneasy. He seemed to be fully aware of his looks and I just didn’t trust him. Yet, I had trusted him enough to let him bring me here, to Carpathia. I could have fought him. I could have won and still have been free, but I didn’t. Still, I could have.

***

Find out what happens to Thecla in Carpathia.

Purchase Thecla, A Dark Romance on Amazon.

Thecla-New-Cover_Seal

Written by Z. Exie

 

Zorina Frey Miami Book Fair
“Thecla. A Dark Romance” written by Zorina Frey aka Z. Exie

Watch this video of the “Thecla, a Dark Romance” video at the Miami Book Fair.

 

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