Authors: Marian Tee
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Romance, #Contemporary, #Fantasy & Futuristic, #New Adult & College, #Paranormal, #Demons & Devils, #Romantic Comedy, #Teen & Young Adult
By: Marian Tee
Copyright © 2013
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead is purely coincidental.
This book is dedicated to God. I owe everything to Him.
My heartfelt thanks as well to the following:
My publisher for the ever-competent handling of my books
The Passionate Proofreader
for the excellent editing
CT Cover Creations
for the gorgeous cover
My Tee and Piñera family, Allen Tan, and the STREAK SEO gang
A special shoutout to C.Erani (U.S.), Donna (PH), Jennifer B. (U.K.),
and Gabi from Romania
And lastly, old and new readers who always take the time to humor me on FB and subscribe to my mailing list. As always, you guys rock!!! #ikidyounot =D
Women dazzle in corsets and petticoats while men swagger in coats and breeches.
Carriage rides, tea parties, and masquerade balls,
Flirtations between waltzes and sweet flowers for courtship,
These are but some of the pleasures offered in the brightness of day.
But when the sun sets, a deadly silence prevails---
To survive the darkness you must always remember:
Is a kingdom like no other.
Ruled by angels and coveted by demons,
Chalys is the hunting ground for Night’s children,
A world where humans are but precious prey.
Having easily compiled the gargantuan amount of information needed to make traveling to Chalys hassle free, I am certain that many of you will find it laughable that I now find it extremely difficult to write this guide’s introduction, which I have purposely left last.
Writing the guide itself was easy for everything was made on the assumption that you, Dear Reader, already know what to expect. But what about those who have been living under a rock and have – as unbelievable as it may seem – no knowledge of Chalys? Those readers are what this introduction is for and hence my dilemma – how to explain in a page or two the mystery, beauty, and miracle that is Chalys?
I have turned this matter over and over in my mind, trying to come up with analogies and scenarios of all sorts but in the end I realized that the best thing I can do is to show you, Dear Reader, how I discovered Chalys on my own.
When I was a little girl, I dreamt of living in a place like Chalys, where all my fairy tale fantasies seemed to have come to life. I would gawk at photos and videos showing how women there would always be dressed up in the prettiest gowns and wear crowns and tiaras like it’s an everyday thing.
When I entered high school, I started questioning everything. Chalys may be one of the loveliest places in the world, but it would be hell to live in. They didn’t have cars, nightclubs, and they weren’t even allowed to use mobile phones! Women weren’t allowed to go out alone, speak their minds, or make a living! They were so backward they made the Flintstones look modern.
When I became a journalist, I realized I had the wrong answers. I used to think the Chalysian way of living was crazy, oppressive, and barbaric. But now – it’s just not so simple as that. Thanks to their inflexible stand on technology for the past 200 years, Chalys’ carbon footprint is nearly zero. And some may disagree with me on this, but I think their astoundingly low crime rates also have to do with the fact that manners mean so much to Chalysians that they would rather die than lose face.
And finally, when I visited Chalys for the first time, I found out that there would always be more questions than revelations about it. Although Chalys is just about the same size of Australia, only one city in the
kingdom, Asphodel, is open to tourists; going anywhere else requires a special invitation from its ducal leaders. The Chalysian government is so famously tight-lipped about life beyond Asphodel that you have to wonder just what it is they’re hiding. Nuclear bombs? Untapped veins of oil and gold?
In the end, it’s simply better to take Chalys as it is – a place that glitters in the day and tantalizes when it’s shrouded by darkness. When you visit the kingdom, I urge you to make the most of your time there for the city of Asphodel is a little bit like Cinderella, with all forms of pleasure forbidden to last beyond midnight. As for what happens after the clock strikes twelve, I wouldn’t know – and I have a feeling it is not something I would care to find out.
The Kingdom of Chalys: Pleasures and Secrets
A Travel Guide
Me wearing a Victorian gown with a 23-inch waist.
Yeah, I kid you not. 23! 23! 23!
And okay, fine, I have a corset underneath it.
Doesn’t matter that it hurts like shit and don’t care if it makes me masochistic.
I want to keep seeing my waist.
What’s important is the number 23. TWENTY-THREE. 23!!!
That’s MJ’s number, you know. 23!
I’m ordering another corset tomorrow.
#goodomen #selfie #imsexyandiknowit
George was so fucked.
Why in the world did Chalysians – Victorians – everyone in the 19
century – need
many types of underwear? It was as if she had weight plates around her ankles. It was hard to walk.
“Please, please hurry,” George begged as she shifted on her feet restlessly. She checked her watch – a slim, gold-plated Rolex knockoff since people here didn’t do G-shock or even Baby-G. They might be colorful and terribly functional, but they did not exactly go well with silk gowns and gentlemen coats.
“Done,” Desire crowed under her breath in satisfaction as she unhooked the last of the closures on the back of George’s dress.
George didn’t waste any time after that. Shrugging out of her dress, which pooled around her feet, she quickly got rid of her corset, chemise, and skirt after skirt of petticoats.
As she whipped away her crotchless drawers – the strangest of them all, really – George shook her head at the utter silliness of it all. These Chalysians had the most stupid obsession with protecting their chastity using multiple layers of underwear. Haven’t they heard of condoms, for heaven’s sake? Or maybe – God forbid –
She was almost 25 years old, and she had not needed to wear two pairs of panties every day to still be a virgin at this age. Maybe George should write to the Mayor of Asphodel to let him know that?
From the bed, Desire watched her friend slip into modern clothing – the kind she sometimes glimpsed in imported fashion magazines. Although George’s outfit was not as elegant – well, it was not
if she was being honest – they did look terribly comfortable.
“Are you sure you’re doing this?” Desire had to ask again. Sure, she had always dreamt of running away – of escaping the dreary monotony of her life as a chaperone, but that was it. It was a dream she would never have thought to make a reality– unlike George.
“I just can’t breathe anymore, Des.” George’s voice was muffled as she pulled the large baseball jersey over her head. “All my life, I’ve been traveling and taking photos and now I’m stuck with---what?” She made a face at Desire as she pulled on her jeans. “Going to dances, drowning myself in herbal water---”
“You know this household only ever uses the finest English tea.” Desire pretended to be offended even as a smile tugged at her lips. She had never met anyone like George, but she was thankful she had. Her friend was so…
and now George was like an exotic bird that had found itself caged, struggling to be set free
“I’m going to be fine, I promise. I studied the maps carefully. I know what I’m doing.”
Desire bit her lip to keep herself from nagging George like a mother. Everyone
was typically never seen again. Although venturing alone into the Woods of the Wraiths was like a coming-of-age initiation for Chalysian kids, most of them were smart enough not to do so in the dark of the night. Those who did, well – it was one of the reasons why there were so many empty coffins buried in the cemetery.
They were just not seen again.
When she glanced back at George, her jaw dropped at the sight of her friend climbing out of her window – her third-story attic-turned-bedroom window. Desire ran to the sill. “George,” she hissed in alarm. “What are you doing?”
“B-but why not use the front door?”
In the middle of securing the strap of her Polaroid around her neck to make sure it wouldn’t fall off, George paused to look at Desire with surprise and not a little sadness. From the very first day she was virtually dragged kicking and screaming to the Countess’ household by Chalysian law authorities, she and the green-eyed redhead had hit it off. Desire was older than her by a year, but most times George saw Desire like a younger sister.
She was just so…
George sighed miserably. She hated it, just plain hated it when it was left to her to make Desire aware of life’s unpleasant realities. “You don’t know, do you?”
Desire slowly shook her head. “What do I not know?”
She said awkwardly, “The third floor’s main door is locked from the outside. Lady Beyotch---”
Desire’s lips twitched. Although Lady Beryl was George’s step-aunt, her friend had never called the older lady that.
“---locks it herself at nine every evening,” George finished.
Her friend’s words sank in, and Desire blinked. “I don’t understand---”
George winced. “Basically, it means we’re imprisoned here every night.” The confusion on Desire’s face made George wish she could take her words back. Maybe she could have worded it differently? God, when would she ever learn
to be tactless? It was the very reason why she hadn’t been successful at husband hunting even after all the parties she had attended.
After swinging both legs over the sill, George squeezed Desire’s hand reassuringly. “Don’t worry – I managed to take the key from her and had it copied.”
Shock replaced Desire’s confusion. “You
“It’s not like I stole it,” George said defensively. Desire might be sinfully beautiful, but she was not aptly named. Talking to her friend was like talking to an angel – one always felt there was a need to go to confession afterwards.
“Think about it, Des,” George insisted. “Say there’s a fire – do you think any of them will even
helping us? I don’t think they’ll even call 911---”
“777,” Desire automatically corrected. “And of course, the family will---”
“No. There’s no ‘of course’ about it. We need to be practical. If something goes wrong, we need to rely on ourselves. That’s the best thing we can do, and it’s why I also made a copy for you. I placed it under the loose plank in your room, the one where you keep your diary---”
“George!” Desire didn’t know if she wanted to hug or shake her friend.
“I did not peek, I swear to God. But come on, if you really want to hide it – you need to be
obvious. You placed all your books on top of that one loose plank when everything in your room is spic and span. Of course I had to check it out.” George looked at her watch and cursed under her breath. “Ah, shit. I really need to go. And if for whatever reason someone tries looking for me – make sure they think you know NOTHING.”
Before Desire could answer, George had already grabbed the largest of the branches within arm’s reach, swung her body towards it, and then she was climbing down faster than a monkey.
George waved at her when she was safely on the ground.
Desire waved back weakly, throat bobbing with fear. If someone did look for George, she would of course cover for her friend. But that was
what she was worried about.
Desire glanced at the sky, the fullness of the moon making her swallow harder. She looked down again, but George had already disappeared from sight.
Please keep her safe,
Desire prayed. A full moon might mean a glorious night in most parts of the world, but not here – never in Chalys.
Silviu Draghici was about to lose his soul.
The reality of it should have been terrifying, but not for Silviu. He had always known it was possible – the same way he also knew he would rather fall on his sword than let Hell claim him.
It was a long time coming, but now he had to stay true to his words. It was the only choice, and Silviu was ready.
He descended soundlessly on Chalys, his broad black wings whipping the air mightily from behind his back. As Silviu balanced himself on the very edge of the treacherously steep gorge, a tremor ran through the entire dukedom of Brimstone, the land paying homage to its master.
The Duke was back.
It was a fact recognized instinctively by the otherworlders dwelling in his domain. Asleep or awake, whatever the denizens of his dukedom were involved in – it did not matter. The hairs on their skin would stand up and the ground underneath them would tremble.
Silviu was Brimstone. What he felt, his land would show.
By the time Silviu landed on his feet, his wings folding to a close, the permanent wound over his heart was burning. It was the mark of his blood bond with the Galeré, and one by one they came to him.
Mihail was first, walking towards Silviu without any fanfare as was the half-vampire’s wont. “Welcome back, Your Grace.”
Silviu acknowledged his second-in-command with a brief smile. “You look as if you are already grieving for me, my friend. Must you be eternally prompt, even with my passing?”
Before Mihail could answer, Silviu heard the swooshing sound of water from behind, as if the stream below had suddenly risen to spectacular heights. Splashing footsteps followed.
Even without turning, Silviu’s eyes were already gleaming with amused recognition. “Adrijan.” He twisted his head to welcome his comrade with a nod, just in time to see the half-cetus step off a slide of water.
Ancient Greeks called the ceti “sea monsters”, which modern day historians then erroneously translated as “whales”. Of course, both were wrong. The ceti were water guardians, the greatest of them all, and they commanded the beasts that dwelled in the uncharted depths of the ocean.
And yet when Silviu faced Adrijan, the younger man’s face lacked the gentleness inherent of his kind, and his voice was even grimmer when he spoke. “That was
a good joke to make, Your Grace.”
Before Silviu could answer, a menacing howl stabbed the air. A larger-than-life wolf with snow-white fur and eyes the color of a silver moon landed just beside Silviu, the rather fantastic impact crushing the ground under its forepaws.
It was the usual grand entrance to be expected from Ilie Marcovici.
You have always had the worst sense of humor, Your Grace,
Ilie chided lightly through the blood bond the four of them shared.
It was not a joke.
Well, it fucking should be
, Adrijan retorted.
We must face facts.
Silviu’s tone remained calm.
When I die, the demon lords will not waste any time in trying to take over Brimstone. You must all be prepared for this – and I want you to make use of the siren’s song to call for aid.