This story was first serialised in 31 daily parts via the @AlternativeChat and @InternetofWords Twitter feeds at 9am and 4pm GMT respectively. It is now produced in a complete form for your long-read enjoyment.
This girl’s fate is anything but destined.
Celebration outside heaves and shakes its way into the fourth cycle, under light of one waxing, another waning moon: the last time this happened it took the Capitol nearly two transits to adequately return to a semblance of normality. In the small and crowded Room of Preparation handmaidens continue fussing and fiddling with the girl’s ceremonial robes. Just enough midriff is exposed as ancient runes are painted accurately on the Given’s back: gift from people of the South to their Northern counterparts. This girl, however, has absolutely no intention of being given to anyone.
Through twelve seasons of life and four of preparation, complicity has remained absolute: devotion to a cause that must finally be changed, diverted from the destructive path of repetition and oppression. Allana is a rarity: meek encircling brilliance, slight body yet keenest of minds. If she were not Given, fate would direct her as Traveller or Trailblazer. That those in the South understand her significance is as much of a rebellion as what might follow if this gambit pays off.
The Boy destined to be King has reached his eighteenth cycle: he must now forcibly take what’s given from the South. Reinforcing this power, action cements absolute and unquestionable Monarchy that then binds both disparate continents to the same man for the next forty rotations. This boy is innocent, untouched by female hand or sex. His father fiercely clings to the rock of power, infirmity slowly scarring reason. This is the longest a King has held the throne since records have been kept: prosperity and security wrought upon the lands are unparalleled.
When withered hand finally curls, which will not be long, son will inherit a misogynist legacy many in the South are keen to see crushed. His ways are not the New Truth after all, but they are tolerated through respect and necessity. Death hands opportunity to wipe history clean. Caravans have traversed roads, lakes and inland seas, carrying not simply the Given’s dowry but plans for reform and reunification. As the King’s only male heir his rights are without question in father’s mind. The four daughters that preceded his birth, however, have other ideas.
Into their ears the South chose to whisper, planting differing seeds of disquiet. You are just as worthy to rule, each brilliant in your fields: diplomat, politician, humanitarian, artist. Four sides of a robust shape, surrounding inherently flawed, outdated bureaucracy. Let us be ready to provide, the South has implored, not simply a vessel for change. We bring the consummate mix of tradition and revolution, genuine revelation. Help us to redefine what this Empire has become, and what it might yet have the potential to fulfil.
The North has, as yet unknowingly, allowed balance of power to shift downwards, away from comfort of familiarity and reason. The South, more than ready and willing to redefine tradition, brilliantly subverts the process.
This girl, lock and key, binds a New Age to her keepers.
Allana sits quietly on the bed, eyes closed, ignoring the familiar yet disturbing secondary presence in her mind. This willing intrusion does not show with obvious external signs of discomfort, yet both tickles and itches: irritation she wants to scratch but is unable to reach. That internal presence knows their target is outside, will be having difficulty fitting into his own Ceremonial Robes. Both have seen his face: handsome and pleasing countenance, yet fattened and lethargic from time in a Court close to being drowned by immoderate consumption. It is all too aware of the child’s discomfort: an unavoidable, growing disquiet. To invade the mind of someone so young was a necessary evil, and this joint reality remains intractable. The untimely death of her mother necessitated Transfer far earlier than originally planned.
It is testament to Allana they have both borne loss and unscheduled change of plans with humility and determination. She is third in the line, triangle’s final side: journey that began with a rediscovery in the Red Desert of ancient processes long forgotten by Southern Mystics. Refined and condensed, practised and replicated, they finally provided the most suitable set of subjects: three generations have given lives for one opportunity to shift the balance of power. To destroy rotations of diplomatic and scientific endeavour would be unthinkable.
It will not be long now the presence reassures Allana. This journey is almost over.
The wooden door swings open, then Prince Ferdim appears. He is a man-mountain, with his extra girth at least twice the size of his father yet kind, serene features and presence of long-dead mother. He has one task in this room, to deflower this Southern virgin, metaphorically reinforcing the relentless plundering of South by its Northern dictators, an act that has continued for countless generations without hindrance: yet the young man’s confusion and fear are unmistakable.
Both women grasp this weakness, further strengthened by realisation. Beneath those clearly restricting robes, there is no erection, has not been for some time. This boy’s weakness does not simply extend to the genitalia, but winds around an uncertain mind, increasing restriction. Ferdim is trapped by legacy, and at a loss as to how he will first subdue and then overcome his bride. Allana looks for the vial in his hand, drugs that will counter impotency and allow fulfilment of destiny, but it is her presence within that shifts body from bed to his side.
That huge bulk is shaking as a slim hand takes the vial away, without resistance. He is strong enough to toss this girl across the room like cloth, but this will not happen. Subconsciously, he is already succumbing to direction. Here and now, ancient dominance will be altered.
‘There is no need for this, my Prince. There are many other ways to please, that will not require drugs as stimulation. Come to our bed so I may look at you under the moon’s light.’
Ferdim’s fear is all too apparent, relief at being taken in hand and not having to use the drug.
‘To truly enjoy a woman does not involve pinning her beneath you. Southern minds can teach a great many things, if you will take time to listen.’
As the young woman speaks, Ferdim finally appears to relax: sitting on the bed, his wife’s true beauty is all the more apparent. Pale skin, smooth and flawless, eyes blacker than night sky, hair bluer than water that cascades from Palace fountains… chosen for purity and strength, yet so easily manipulated, as is also the case with her husband. Both are young, pliant and finally under one woman’s control.
The living consciousness of Allana’s grandmother brings both bodies to rest, slowing two heart rates. The plan had been to dominate the Prince’s mind and let her grand-daughter free, before using him to suffocate his bride; she cannot condemn her own flesh and blood this way. Her mother had killed herself when the South’s endgame became apparent, forcing grandmother into her progeny’s mind far too early. As all this damage had been wrought by the South’s blind desire for power so they will now suffer for the outrage. She would heal and control both.
Allana would think Ferdim was her, and Prince would embrace both women within his consciousness. Conscience would teach both to use desire to heal the other, then strengthen. She will gain muscle, he must shed fat. They would become tools for change, and revenge. Once inside Ferdim’s surprisingly accommodating mind, Allana’s grandmother hypnotises, then finally removes all memory of negativity and anger from the young woman who would wake next to her husband the following morning both alive and happy, yet without intercourse taking place.
The Prince would provide details to the Mystics that proved, without doubt, he penetrated his bride. He had no knowledge of such practices, but Conscience would provide the context, and memories of an experience taking place. She would protect chastity and family in the process.
Ferdim allows the presence in his head to believe she is unhindered, watching as it reassures the young woman she will not be harmed either by his bulk or via violence. Then he will wait for the moment it has settled fully into consciousness before exerting his own mind control. The North’s splinter faction knew this was coming: their renaissance already in the ascendancy. As sisters poison, then remove father’s grasp on power, Ferdim ensures the South will not rule unopposed.
Then he will ascertain if both prisoners are willing to accept an alliance…