Master Key: Chapter One


It was just another mission.  It should have gone like any other.  Flawlessly, expertly done, the usual detached execution of the Commander’s orders.  There was no reason as to why it shouldn’t have.  In fact, Fate had taken a shine to this particular mission for some reason... so far it had gone better than even the Commander himself had expected.  And he wasn’t the most optimistic person in the world.


So why, why did Junior Marshal Nelson feel so uneasy?


As he and his crew of men crept through the dark hallway, he couldn’t help but frown fiercely - as if he smiled anyways - and treated the feelings as though they were merely a cobweb in his path, wiping them out and away with practiced ease.  He made sure his men saw nothing, just their leader moving forward in his own stealthy, mechanical way.  The Stone Warrior.


They progressed slowly, cautiously through the elaborate hallway, into a spacey room that appeared to be a well-furnished kitchen, filled with a mixture of shadows and moonlight.  Neldon saw a pulsing light ahead, glowing and flickering... a television?  They inched forward and heard voices, corny music, the odd comical noise.  Yep.  Television.  Nelson couldn’t help but frown disapprovingly; he was not impressed by those humans, so easily enthralled by such ridiculous things as television and its pathetic imitations of the humans’ world.  He was not so fond of that world.


The kitchen ended with a bay window opened up to the outside, stars twinkling above a grassy plain, nothing but a shadowy field at the moment.  The wall to their left stopped immediately, leaving about a five or six foot gap, at least eight feet high, which Nelson assumed led to a living room of sorts... the source of the T.V.  And hopefully their quarry.  Signaling for his three soldiers to stop, he edged forward until he was standing right at the edge of the entry, crouching down as low as he could get and sparing one quick, calculating glance around the corner.  Yes.  A living room, television three feet to his left, a couch roughly sixteen feet across from the T.V. set.  What appeared to be a toddler plopped on the floor between the couch and T.V., a teenager relaxing on the couch.  That must be her.


He turned to his men and nodded, dismissing them to their posts as they silently drew their swords.  Two to the similar opening in the living room at the other side, one to stay at this opening with the Marshal.  No-one else was home, and she was just an adolescent girl, but Marshal was not one to take chances.  Whatever the circumstances.


After the few seconds it took for his men to creep around to the other side, Nelson made his appearance, simply stepping from behind the wall into the middle of the doorway, casting yet another shadow onto the richly carpeted floor.


He had to give it to her, she was a quick one.  If his eyes were not so well-trained, he would have missed her quick leap-cum-stride from the couch to the toddler.  In less than a second she had the baby girl’s back to the couch, poised warily in front of the two-year-old.  It almost - almost, mind you - caught Nelson off guard.  He had been expecting a frightened reaction, or something along those lines.  Cowering, a whimper, a gasp, something.  Instead he was greeted with an aggressive, almost hostile one... it intrigued him slightly.  But he quenched that interest immediately and let out a single bland word.  “Hello.”


She merely crouched slightly, tensing, eyes flashing, briefly turning his thoughts to the fierce cats the Commander kept in his quarters.


No.  A kitten.  That’s what she was.  A kitten, and nothing more.


Still, the interest came back... there was something about her...  “Jodel, lights.”


One of the soldiers at the other entrance gave him a puzzling look, but complied, flicking the lightswitch to his right.  The shadows disappeared in an instant as the large luxurious room lit up.


What Nelson had intended only as a quick glance turned into a long, slow look at the girl.  His stony emotional wall slipped ever so slightly.  She was... intriguing.  He couldn’t deny it.  This was new to him... it disconcerted him the tiniest bit.  He shouldn’t have cared in the slightest about this small pampered girl.  The rich man’s brat.


But for some reason, it seemed that he did.  Maybe.  At least, a little.


The girl had beauty on her side, that was evident.  Long-lashed eyes, warm tinted cheeks, a fine heart-shaped face.  Wavy auburn hair cascaded down, tumbling over her shoulders like a rippling waterfall, a brown tank top and long jean shorts revealing smooth, tan skin and a silver locket.  Her lips, curved ever-so-slightly, just the right shade of pink... everything about her had a sort of delicate beauty, small and fine.  A china doll, almost.  And she was quite... shapely.  Attractive.  He tried not to focus on her body too much.


Though she seemed about seventeen years of age, she wasn’t large or prominent by any means, at least a foot below his own six feet.  She was thin, delicate almost, everything about her slender.  But she carried herself in a way that made her presence seem larger somehow... her wealth, perhaps?  Her father was one of the richest men in the country, after all.  Yet Nelson did not think that was it.  There was something about her... though he knew she was a purebred human teenager, average as any being... she seemed... different.  He couldn’t place his finger on it.


Not that he cared.


With a jolt he realized that he had wasted too many seconds in his scrutiny, however brief it had seemed to him, and his soldiers were glancing at him curiously.  He mentally wiped everything away again and moved robotically towards her.  Her ocean eyes flashed angrily, watching him, and he was impressed again by her, by the hard, steady mixture of controlled fear and boundless courage and determination he saw there.  It made her all the more intriguing; he had seen that same look in the eyes of many a warrior, brave and true... seeing it in this girl really caught him off guard for yet another second.  Without a doubt he knew that she would fight to the death, not for herself, but the little one behind her.  It wouldn’t come to that, of course, but this was... just... indescribable.


And that was just on the surface... there was more, a lot more underneath that warrior’s look, he could see it, began to feel himself sinking into those captivating dark-lashed eyes...


NO.
  He drew himself out immediately, living stone again, nothing but a cold, hard man.  His walls went up and he made sure they were secure, that he would not lose control again, would not feel those useless, influencing sentiments.  There was no need for emotion here.

He spoke sparingly.  “Eldest Marquia child?”


She said nothing, but he allowed himself a long enough glance to catch the flit of acknowledgment.  All too easy to read.


“Alright.”  And without another word he reached forward with one fluid movement, grabbed her around the waist, and pinned her against his side with his right arm, careful not to tangle her up with his sword belt.  She may have the spirit of a warrior, but certainly not the strength, unlike him.  Though she was a slippery little thing; twisting and dropping down, almost getting away before he tightened his hold.  She bit his arm fiercely, resulting in a sharp pain as he grabbed her calmly with his other hand.  She bit that too, enough to draw blood, and lifted her knee viciously, very nearly catching the spot no male wants to be hit.  His frown deepened and he bent forward slightly - that had hurt.  He jerked his head at the soldier next to him as both his arms encircled the girl in a tight embrace.  “Enough.”


The soldier understood, drawing a dagger and rapping the girl sharply on the head with the hilt, enough to stun her for a moment.  Oddly, it bothered Nelson slightly to watch.  He ignored this completely and bound the girl’s hands and feet with his special ‘soft’ cords, heaving her up into his arms with a surprised grunt.  “Heavier than she looks,” he commented to the soldiers, getting the tiniest of grins.  He usually talked a little more when a mission was over, or nearing its end.  “Raymo, the baby.” 


Raymo, the soldier that had stunned the girl, leaned towards the toddler, who was just now beginning to realize something big was going on, and not in her favor either.  She whimpered... it turned into a shriek when Raymo reached for her.  “Ree-na!!”


The girl in Nelson’s arms suddenly thrashed, eyes burning.  She whacked Nelson very solidly in the chin with her bound hands and he dropped her in surprise.  Immediately she rolled to the baby’s side and sat up, scowling fiercely, thrusting her legs into Raymo’s and knocking him down.  Yes, she was very quick.  And vehement.  Better yet, the girl spoke her first words of the night to the baby, her tone completely relaxed and at ease, extremely contradictory to what was taking place.  “It’s alright sweetheart, don’t worry.”  Amusement warred with irritation - could this night get any odder? - and won.  Nelson chuckled.  If he ever would favor a human, it would be this girl.


She glared at him and muttered a low oath.  It didn’t seem right coming out of her pretty little mouth.  He told her so... she scowled even more fiercely and let out an even longer string of insolent, defiant curses.  Irritation returned and Nelson crouched down in front of her, this time prepared for the hefty punch she launched at him.  “Momma won’t be proud.  And there’s a baby present.”


That was all he said before he rapped her on the head twice more, extra hard this time, knocking her out cold.  She was going to have one heck of a headache in the morning, he thought as he shouldered her and made sure Raymo had the baby secured.


He tried to ignore the feeling deep inside him, behind all those walls and guards, underneath the emotionless coldness that filled his being every day.  The feeling of regret and... pain?


No.  No feelings.  He didn’t care about her.  He was nothing but living stone, the Stone Warrior, what had once been a pathetic human boy.  Only a ghost of his humanity was left.  And that was locked up tight deep inside his consciousness.

She was just another of his Commander’s implements.  This was just another mission. 

And he was seeing it through.

 

 



“Half a million, at least.”


“No.  More.”


“700?”


“Definitely not.”


The aging, lanky man looked at his partner in frustration, pacing back in forth in front of the latter’s large black recliner.  “Well, what were you thinking to do?  Ask him what his highest offer is?”


“I wasn’t thinking money.”


“What the devil do you have in mind?  Please, enlighten me, brother.  You aren’t honestly considering what I presume you are?”


“You’re the smart one.  Take a guess.”  Yes, genius, part of Handie’s Inc.  Sink our hands into the business.  


The older brother’s thick grey eyebrows snapped together as he halted in front of the short, stocky man that relaxed in the chair, idly swirling the wine in his elegant glass.  “Preposterous.  It won’t work.  Money, maybe.  But that?  We only have two of his children.  That’s not enough.  And even if we could...”  He resumed pacing.  “It won’t work.”


“So I’ve heard.”


“It won’t.  I’m sure of it.  For two mere girls?  He has twin sons still... they’re not the oldest, granted, but sons nonetheless.  Much more valuable.  Even in these times-”


Let him chatter.  Never shuts up anyways.  Let him talk through it... I can see it in his eyes, I have him now.  He won’t pass this up.  Stupid politicians.
  “You know, not every man is a heartless bastard.”


A snort.  “Maybe not, but even so... really?  You think...?”


One calm nod from the sitting man.  His brother spared him an incredulous look.  “You really think this will work, don’t you?”

Another nod.


Only a couple seconds passed before he threw his hands up and stopped pacing again.  “You know what?  I’ll go with this one... too late now anyways, you’ve dragged us in deep this time, you have... but if this messes up I’m through, do you hear me?  Done, Luke.  I’ll have no more of your reckless pursuits.  Next time you’d better think things through, for your own sake, because I won’t be here if this goes awry.  Do you know how close we-”


Lucas let him prattle on, ignoring him completely, staring uninterestedly into his wine.  Let him get it out of his system.  Yes, yes, John, careful, think, yadda yadda.  Heard it already.  Save your breath.  Then again... if this keeps up you won’t need to worry about breathing.


After a couple minutes Lucas waved his hand and whistled, ending John’s tirade and summoning two tall, sinewy men that bowed upon their arrival.  Both were dark-skinned and dressed in their people’s version of armor, ‘kregs’; tough alligator skins made into breastplates and other odd pieces.  They smelled of smoke and cedar, and something a little heavier than honey’s light, syrupy odor.  Large black-and-brown eyes flashed from weathered, pointed faces that turned to Lucas respectfully.  The one to the right raised a wiry black eyebrow. “Ja, Commander?”  His accent was rich and thick, the Commander sounding more like ‘Commondearh’.


John - who had always been intimidated by these large men - muttered an excuse to leave and an apology, and quickly exited the small room.  Lucas nearly smiled.  Spineless.  Probably wouldn’t even come near me if we hadn’t been raised together.  The thought almost pleased him, brought him closer to one of his twisted smiles. 


He returned his attention to his Chief Marshal Rigley.  “Send Nelson in for report.  I want you to take his place while he’s with me.  No harm comes to the children.  While awake care for them to the best of your abilities; they are to be treated as guests, but do not let them out of sight.  Go.”  Rigley nodded and stepped out of the room without another word.


Luke turned his attention to his Second Marshal, sipping from his wine.  “How is the siege in Karke going?”


Second Marshal Kay’s appearance was nearly identical to Rigley’s, but for the long pink scar winding down his cheekbone and neck to disappear under the kreg breastplate.  His deep voice was just as thickly accented when he spoke;  “Commander, they are not onto us.  You.  Things go well, Ambassador guesses two, three days?  Then they break.  We win already, Ambassador says.  Minister prepared to give.  We negotiate, evening today, five hours after the sun reaches high sky.”


Luke leaned back in his recliner, lifting his legs up to rest them on the small coffee table in front of him.  “You mean our Ambassador to Karke is negotiating with the minister?  This very evening.  Did I give orders for that?”


“Commander?”


“Did I give orders to our good Ambassador to negotiate with the minister?”


“What else is in your mind, Commander?”


Luke scowled at the towering man and his puzzled expression.  “That minister is tricky, you all should have learned that by now.  I want him gone.”


“Commander, there is no need.  We have them.”


“No chances.  I don’t take chances.  Kill him.”


“But Commander-”


Lucas’ beady black eyes flashed dangerously and he leaned forward.  “Are you arguing with me, Second Marshal?”


Kay looked ready to, but bowed his head and tapped his fist against his chest, his people’s expression of submission and loyalty.  His piercing eyes went blank and emotionless.  “No, Commander.  It will be done.”


“As I thought.  Now go.”  Kay left the room and Lucas settled back in his chair to wait for Nelson’s arrival, finishing his wine and making a note to place a Watch on Kay.  That had been a minuscule confrontation, but had happened nonetheless.  No chances.

 



Reena Jay Marquia woke up with quite a headache.  It throbbed through what seemed like her whole body, pulsing painfully from deep inside her head.  Ouch.  She barely held back a groan, instead releasing a heavy sigh... her thoughts began to gather.  At home, watching little Mayla... tall men, carrying... swords?... struggling... darkness folding over her like a cloak... Mayla!!  Where was she, was she okay!?  Reena’s eyes flew open.


To find her captor’s face inches above her own.


She sucked in breath sharply and brought her fist crashing up reflexively.  He caught it easily in his own and something flickered deep within his flinty green eyes, but Reena couldn’t quite tell what that something was.  Not that she was worried about that at the moment.


“Where’s Mayla?  Where’s my sister?  She struggled to get up and was pinned back down firmly, but not roughly.  He was much stronger than her, but she didn’t care.  She twisted and pulled with all her might.  Where is she!?  MAYLA!”


“Shhh.  She’s sleeping.”


Reena stopped struggling, looking around wildly.  “Where?  Where?  Show me now, do you hear me?  Now!”


The young man nodded mechanically and released her, taking a step back and pointing to his right.  There lay three-year-old Mayla Marquia, slumbering peacefully on a large bed, swaddled in soft yellow blankets.  Reena dashed to her side and nearly fainted with relief when she was sure Mayla was perfectly fine.


Reena positioned herself in between Mayla and the man, taking a survey of the room around her with surprise.  She didn’t know what she had expected, but this definitely hadn’t been in her mind.


It was just as rich as anything in her house, and much more comfortable, smelling lightly of strawberries and honey.  It was well-lit, bright and inviting... the walls were a cheery yellow, decorated with skillfully painted pastel-pink flowers and the odd colorful tapestry.  The carpet was thick, also pink, soft and spongy.  There wasn’t much furniture; merely Mayla’s yellow bed and Reena’s pink, as well as a small stuffed chair and footstool set.  And the guy.  Reena could count him as furniture too; he barely moved, just stood there like a piece of granite.


Reena turned her attention to him, her captor, examining what she could.  Though he couldn’t be more than nineteen, maybe twenty years old, he was tall, at least a foot taller than her, and lithe, with an athlete’s body.  And he was graceful every now and then it seemed, despite how much of him there was, and his resemblance to rock... Reena couldn’t help but be glad that he was so stony.  If his face, his body hadn’t seemed so hard and chiseled, Reena would have found him rather attractive.  Dressed in a dark grey suit, he did cut quite a figure...


He had long dark-brown hair, streaked with lighter bits of brown, the back just brushing the middle of his collar and sidebangs sweeping past his right eye.  A hard, brilliant eye, like a sharp emerald stone cut to fit around a fathomless black pupil.  Reena sensed something there, something hidden, buried a long time ago.  The reason for his apathy?  Well, she would more than likely never find out.  She could detect secrets in people, but not always read them... but still, something within her moved for this strange boy.  It was a little upsetting.


Ack.  Is that pity, Reena?  Typical you. 
 She drew herself back to the world, discontinuing her examination of him.  He was capturing innocent girls and locking them up goodness-knows-where; he wasn’t getting any sympathy from her anytime soon.


In return he had been watching her impassively with those cold green eyes, which was a little unnerving and didn’t improve Reena’s mood.  Neither did the killer headache that was beating through her... She scowled and snapped at him.  “What?”

He merely raised an eyebrow, otherwise remaining still as a statue.


Yes, any humor she had had left was rapidly deteriorating.  She sat on the edge of Mayla’s bed, careful not to wake her, and huffed impatiently.  “What’s happening?  Are you going to tell me?”


Silence.


“Eh?  Does this have anything to do with my father?”


He stayed the same as ever; soundless, staring.


She scowled even more fiercely.  “Are you going to say anything?”


“Nope.” 


That and the unwavering stare set her off.  Humor now, was it?  He was going to mess with her even more?  Sure, this might be funny to him, but she didn’t see anything amusing about the situation, nothing at all.  She let him have it, verbally assaulting him to the best of her abilities, getting worse when he stayed his same still self.  It went on for minutes, and her temper only grew worse.  Soon numerous oaths and curses found their way out of her mouth to lash out at him.

He finally reacted.


Taking a step towards her (which she couldn’t help but notice was rather fluid for him), he reached his arm out and placed a large, warm hand over her mouth a little roughly, effectively silencing her.  His eyes flashed angrily at her - it was almost frightening - and he stayed like that for a minute before speaking for the third time that night.  “You done?”


Reena didn’t answer and glared at him, contemplating whether she should bite him or not.  She decided against it and nodded as much as was allowed.


“Okay.”  He released her and moved back to his original position, returning his gaze to her.  Her scowl never left, but she remained silent this time, glowering back at him.


This went on for minutes until - to Reena’s great surprise - he broke the silence.  “Do you need anything for that headache?”

She tried to be civil with him this time and held her tongue, merely nodding curtly.


Without another word he got up and walked to one of two embellished doors, made of polished cedar, and opened the one on the right.  What appeared to be a bathroom was on the other side.  A rich, comfortable room, with a bathroom?  Huh...


Her musings were interrupted when he came back with a glass of water and two pills, which he handed to her.  She eyed them suspiciously.  But the headache was really getting at her, and it wasn’t like she was going to get anywhere with or without it... might as well risk taking a couple pills from mister statue over here.  She downed them.  “Thanks.”


A nod.


They sat in silence for minutes more, and her headache began to withdraw.  Ahhhh.  That was better.  She felt a little less cranky now... her good nature came back as the headache left, and soon she was feeling well enough to try to have a decent conversation with this guy.  She brought out her charm and friendliness, tools she had been born with and cultivated over the years as an entrepreneur’s oldest daughter, usually foolproof.


But not this time.  Until he was called out of the room and replaced by a large black man, she got not another word out of him, not even the tiniest changes in posture.


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Moonrose
Novel / Novella
Romance
writing Moonrose
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Synopsis
Wrote this a while ago, thought I'd post it =D I was very lazy and will continue to be lazy until I come up with a great plot for this, but any kind of criticism is welcome lol
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