Authors: Meaghan Rauscher
Copyright © 2016 Meaghan Rauscher
All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America
No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner stored in retrieval systems, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. Book cover and images included within are property of Meaghan Rauscher.
First CreateSpace paperback printing, June 2016
For my parents, and their continual belief in my dream.
All thanks goes to my Lord and Savior, for the love I do not deserve. Only in Him can I accomplish all things. He has given me an amazing family to support me throughout this journey, and I couldn’t be more thankful.
Thank you, to my parents. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for both of you. Dad, thank you for always checking Amazon and letting me know where DROPLETS is ranked. Your enthusiasm is second to none. Mom, thank you for taking the time to read over this book with careful deliberation, and for giving me continuous feedback. Your thoughts and careful notes in the margins were so important in the creation of this story.
As always, thanks goes to Lauren for the many hours she spent listening to me talk about these characters, and for her suggestions on where to take the story. Thank you for always being there when I needed to talk a scene out, and most importantly, for getting as excited about Lissie’s story as I do.
To all my siblings, thank you for giving me such a wonderful childhood. It was only through our many games as kids, I realized I enjoyed storytelling.
Thank you to all DROPLETS trilogy fans. It has been such an amazing journey so far, and I am thrilled to see what the future holds. If you have made it this far in the series, I give you my heartfelt thanks for taking the time to read, and love, Lissie’s story.
Fire. He was burning. Frozen tongues of searing agony licking along his shoulder in a concentrated circle.
The pain was absolute; falling into the crevices and deepest places of his existence, kindling them with burned ice. Searching outside of the consuming fire, he reached for something beyond himself. Darkness and unending fire was his existence. He pushed against the thought, forcing himself to remember, anything, but it all remained hidden.
What am I?
he thought, attempting to distract himself from the scorching ice.
He must be a body, he decided. It made sense. He could feel the weight of his limbs hanging loose by his sides as though dead. And there was a steady beating of something inside his chest which made the fire spike with every pulse. For some reason he thought it was important.
He tried desperately to hold onto something, anything that would make him understand, but it was all lost to him. He was in the blackness and there was nothing to help him break free, except for the pain. It was his enemy and his friend, his only memory and only connection to reality, and yet he was still in the dark.
His mind stretched and reached out toward anything that might help him grasp where he was or what was happening, but the aching always pushed him back. He fought against it, knowing in some way he had been struggling for a long time.
Awareness of his body slowly infiltrated his mind. He felt his arms, one lay by his side and the other was crumpled awkwardly beneath his chest.
The right one
, he thought and tried to shift his arm out from under him, but the mere thought of moving was enough to make pain spike to new levels along his back. Forgetting the idea, he pressed on.
His legs, he could feel them now, stretched out behind him as though useless. They felt skinned, as though they used to be a source of power and strength and had wasted away to meager flesh over bone. With each rise and fall of his chest, he felt the agony but it no longer increased; it remained steady, a constant thrum.
A frigid flat surface pressed against his face, its smell vile to his nose and he tried to pull away but his body wouldn’t respond to his thoughts. From what he could tell, there were tiny blades of hay lying against the stone as well. How he knew it was stone, he couldn’t tell, he just knew.
For what seemed like hours, he lay there; his body wracking in pain, his heart beating in his chest and his limbs as useless to him as if they had been cut off. The aching remained his friend throughout and he hung onto it as the only connection to the world around him, until a heavy beating reached his ears and thrust the pain into a world of white in his mind. The beating continued to get closer and he felt as though his head was going to split in two. From somewhere inside his chest, a groan built and passed through his lips. He was surprised to hear the sound echo all around him.
The heavy beating stopped, replaced by a gentle scuffing. Metal jangled and a loud click followed by a screech split his head, and the heavy beating began again. This time it came closer and he groaned once more, louder.
The world suddenly went quiet and with each pounding of his heart he waited for something to happen. Struggling, he pushed the pain away and reached for the cold hard stone beneath his cheek. It felt essential to grasp onto something outside of himself and he focused on it with what little strength he had left.
“Should we move him, my Lord?” A voice asked from somewhere above him, the sound was shocking and sparked something vile inside of him. He knew he should know the voice, there was something about it which made him want to open his eyes.
“No,” a cold voice responded, “he has to move first.” There was an immediate reaction in him which he couldn’t explain. The simple words were a command and he desperately wanted to do as the cold voice said.
“I can wake him,” the first voice offered, sounding all too pleased to complete the task.
“He’s already awake,” the cold man said and it grew silent again. The second voice was right, he was awake, if only aware, but he wanted to be more than mindful of the pain.
In the silence, he had the feeling they were watching him, waiting for him to do something. But he couldn’t figure out a way to tell them he couldn’t move. He thought to speak, but his mouth wouldn’t open. He wanted to sit up, but the mere thought was painful enough to make his heart pound heavily inside his chest. Slowly, his mind shifted and he realized what he could do.
Using all the concentration he had, he began to lift his eyelids. They resisted at first, but gave way as he forced them to do his will. They peeled apart slowly, stuck together by something crusted on his eyelashes and as they opened, light poured in and sent his mind reeling back in agony. Gathering his strength, he used the pain as his ally and forced his eyes open as shapes and forms came together to make one image.
He had been right, there was stone beneath his cheek and there was hay too, although it was smeared with something dark, red and crusted. It smelled of bitter iron and he turned his attention away from it, his eyes alighting on a foot.
“He’s awake now,” the first voice said, once again sounding amused. It angered him, but he ignored it as he waited for the cold one to speak. For some reason he was drawn to his voice. The silence seemed to stretch for longer than he could have ever thought possible when the first voice spoke again. “We should move him.”
“He will move himself,” the cold voice said and once more something in his body locked down. He wanted to prove to this man he could do as he said. Concentrating, he gasped through the pain and moved his legs. A groan passed through his lips and echoed against the stone walls.
“Stand,” the cold voice commanded.
A lightning bolt of ice kindled in his right shoulder, taking the agony from the rest of his body and concentrating it to one spot on his back. It was a perfect line, stretching from the base of his neck to his arm, and slowly the ice dripped, surging along every nerve in his body, forcing his mind to go blank to all else but the simple command. With each beat of his heart he heard the word and every muscle strained to fulfill the cold voice’s bidding, to not obey was something he couldn’t even comprehend. The pain increased as he pushed his body off the stone with his left arm. The skin on his back seemed to split and something wet dripped down his sides as he pushed onto his knees. As if from another body, he was aware of the red drops falling on the stone floor beneath him. His right arm remained crushed against his chest, immobile and useless.
, the voice ordered in his head once more, and he ached to do as it bid. From above he heard a soft chuckle and knew he looked weak, as his wasted legs struggled to gain footing. The simple sound of the first voice’s humor filled him with anger and clouded his mind until all he could hear was the command from the man who bid him to do his will. He pushed himself up, one of his feet gaining hold on the sticky ground beneath him and he heard the cold voice speak again.
“Leave us,” it said and the thudding began again as the taunting man left, but the chuckle was still in his mind. He would never forget its sound. As the pain grew stronger, he fought back with his anger at that voice.
Struggling, his other foot joined the first and he straightened out his spine, feeling every part of the stretch tearing at the flesh along his back. He wanted to grimace but forced himself to remain calm.
Pain is your friend
, he thought and wrapped his mind around the words. As soon as he embraced it, it ebbed into the background as though merely a part of him.
Feeling a sense of accomplishment, he lifted his head and opened his eyes once more. A dark haired man stood before him, he was broad, muscular, his jaw lined with determination. His face was harsh, unrelenting and his eyes were a smoky, gray boring into him.
“Zale,” he spoke with delicious malice, “welcome to Hyvar.”
His body ached to sit, but his mind would never relax if he forced himself to remain still. He had to keep moving.
Pacing back and forth in the darkness of his room, his feet slipped silently over the frigid stone. They had brought him here to heal, and he had remained over the past weeks as a guest in the castle. Lord Morven told him he had arrived battered and bruised, his past a mystery.
No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t remember anything before he woke to Lord Morven standing above him. Everything before that moment was blocked, as though removed from his mind never to return again. Lord Morven thought it was due to trauma. He had been found on the shores of Hyvar days before he awoke, his body had been bleeding and he had nearly died. When he had asked what had happened to him, Lord Morven said he had been attacked by some of the Hyven guards because they thought he was a Lathmorian. At first he hadn’t understood, but now he knew what his master meant. If any Lathmorians were to come near him, he would treat them in the same manner.
It didn’t mean he had forgiven Bolrock for what had happened to him. Lord Morven had told him all about how the leader of the guards had beaten him until he fell into unconsciousness. It was cruel and vicious, but it was the way things were in Hyvar. Every day he learned that lesson over and over again.
Since his awakening, he had been forced to go through rigorous courses of training. He spent hours upon hours working with weapons and fighting soldiers, he left bloodied and beaten on the ground. In his mind, they each had Bolrock’s face. As his strength grew, he knew the day would come when he could challenge the leader of the guards, but he had to bide his time and wait for the right moment.
Turning on his heel, he walked back across the stone floor of the dank room again. His bare feet made not a sound against the icy stones where he stepped with a limp. During training, he had taken a blow to his left leg which had already raised in a bruise. There was an old scar, a long haggard line slicing along his flesh beside the fresh abrasion. Simply putting weight on the leg made him grimace but he accepted it along with his other injuries as he waited to hear any sounds within the castle walls.
Any moment now
, the words Lord Morven had spoken to him after his training ran through his mind again. He had been told the Lathmorians were going to try and infiltrate Hyvar again. It was the reason Lord Morven had been training him so rigorously for the past weeks, he needed his strength in case he came upon any of them. And yet, his master had told him to remain in his room.
Once more, the cloud of anger filled his mind and it was all he could think about. The frustration flowed in his veins, crying out through every nerve in his body to take action and only by closing his eyes was he able to keep himself from running out of the room, that and the command of his master.
. Lord Morven had said and there was nothing he could do to go against it.
Shaking his head, he tried to think of something other than the command, but the words rang through his mind until he was shaking. He turned abruptly, and smashed his hand into the old wooden cabinet in the room. Splinters flew and parts of the wood cut into his knuckles, but the feeling was merciful and welcoming. Pain was his friend and ally, a way of fighting around the commands pounding in his head and making his anger grow. He had to fight against them or else Gell would come again.
Whenever he was uncontrollable, the little man and his two mermaid helpers would appear and force him to drink some nasty liquid which removed all thought. He would awake the next morning exhausted and uncertain of the past night’s events. More than anything, he wanted to pass the night without the fiery drink stirring in his gut.
From somewhere outside, a yell broke through the night and he knew it was time. Lord Morven had been right, they had come.
Still shaking, he returned to his pathway, pacing across the room and back again. Seconds passed into minutes and all the while his ears pricked for any sound, but there was nothing within the castle.
Why is everything silent?
Just then the sound of running feet reached his ears and he hesitated to break through the door. He knew it was unlocked and he could leave the room, but the words of Lord Morven clouded his mind again. He fought against the fog, hoping to keep it at bay, but he couldn’t, and before he knew what he was doing he was hiding in the shadows of the room near the bed. His heart hammered in his chest as the running feet approached and he wanted to leave the room, but the cloud took over.
A small click emitted in the room, and an unfamiliar voice spoke in a whisper from the hallway, “It wouldn’t hurt to check,” it said.
“Sure,” a young female replied, her voice sounded fearful, “But be careful, the door squeaks.”
How does she know?
He wondered and anger filled him as he thought of the traitors which stood outside his door. Lord Morven had warned him of the Lathmorians and their tricks, how they infiltrated Hyvar and kidnapped its merfolk to turn into soldiers of their own. This mermaid must be one of them.