PROLOGUE: STAINED

Updated: Apr 7



They met in a forest at dawn.


His hands had been crafted to heal and pump life into the chests of his patients. But now his fingers were slickened with blood and seemed to only be pumping death. One…two…three…his broad hands stuttered over the blue coats heart. The boy had to be only sixteen with the thin bones of a small bird. The revolutionists had taken children from their mother’s breasts and disgust made his stomach turn.


Adrian Soleil gasped, grappling to keep the child alive with pale colored eyes roaming the speckled face below him; the cat-like ears, the long fangs, and how the slits of his eyes were widening and thinning over and over. He had tried to give the small thing tonics to keep the shock at bay- but he’d only vomited them up. Now those slitted eyes were beginning to glaze and stared up into the reddening sky. His blood had even stained the sunlight, making Adrian’s throat close in grief.


He had been so desperate and focused on the task at hand, his red jacket had been stripped off and thrown toward the bushes, trying to keep the boy alive until proper supplies could be brought to him. The battle had been over for hours with his infantry chased away into the woods by the rebellion commanders. They had been crying out, the distant explosion of bullets and canons sometimes cutting those cries short in the early morning air. Adrian should have kept running, but the boy was gasping in pain, whimpering for help and for a mother that would never come.


Compassion and pity had made him stop and drag the Atelan gently as he could into the quiet of the bushes. He could only hope they wouldn't be clipped by a stray bullet. One glance had made his defenses stall and a shudder of horror rippled up his back at the amount of blood coming from the small body. When the boy gripped his hands, dirty and shaking, Adrian returned his feverish grasp, fingers slicked as he whispered softly to the crying boy begging for his life. Nothing he could say would make this better; no words he provided would bring back the life they both knew this child was going to lose.


Now he knelt in the mud, staring down at the young face, their hands still clasped. What had his name been? Adrian pulled the symbol of the Mother from his shirt, whispering softly over the body, and he shut those jade colored eyes with a heavy heart. Did these rebels even follow the Mother? Would this poor child find peace in whatever afterlife he found?


But the sanctity of a peaceful death was never to last in times of war and neither was Adrian to be granted a time to grieve for a young life cut short.


The rebel that crashed through the dense undergrowth with his saber raised was a lanky thing and disheveled from the battle. The badges of a Colonel ran down the bright blue of his long coat. Fury twitched over his rosy face seeing the Empire soldier kneeling over the young body. Both of them were soaked with the boy’s blood, Adrian’s hands hovering over the wounds. Adrian wanted to gasp his explanation, to tell his side of the story and what had happened there.


The wild blonde man was yelling, charging at him with the blade cutting down menacingly and making a vicious swish in the air. "Alfonse! How dare you harm that boy! How dare you! You evil, conniving, horrible piece of—"


Adrian was terrible at dueling and even worse when the thought of hurting a living person flitted across his mind. Since the first time a rapier had been placed into his young hands he had been afraid of the amount of blood the weapon could draw. He had become one of the Emperor’s Alchemists so he could help and heal the people of the world- not so he could fight the Empire's wars.


How many times had he been called a disgusting name for his vouch for peace and neutrality? For how he flinched at noises too loud and how easily his skin became bruised? His lust for the knowledge of healing had always been met with contempt from the other men. He was meant to be out in the world; hunting, shooting, and gathering the knowledge of conquering. The lessons of Alchemy and its secrets were best left to the women.


They scuffled in the dirt grunting and gasping; with Adrian trying desperately to explain the scene while the rebel Colonel shouted and cursed him. Their swords clashed together and caused a stinging ring of Adamas steel in the ember filled air. Whenever Adrian tried to turn and flee long fingered hands grabbed his dirty shirt and dragged him back to face what he had failed to do. To see again the shut eyes of a gentle boy caked in mud and blood, shot down by the Empire.

In minutes Adrian was flat on his back with the rebel scowling down at him, the vicious edge of his saber pointed at the alchemist’s throat. His long blonde hair was haloed by the fire of the forest, the long tail of it fluttered dimly behind his back in the hot wind.


“You killed him,” the rebel hissed. Not too far away others charged through the woods with their voices raised. They had caught the noise of fighting and had come running like dogs to a slaughter.


So this was how he was going to die. Three feet from the life he had been trying to save.

“I wanted to save him,” he whispered, feeling his adams apple bob against the blue tinged steel.

Icy eyes widened in disbelief, and then narrowed rapidly in suspicion, “You liar!”


“I was trying to save him,” he said again, softer this time. This was his last prayer. He hoped they would remember these words when he was gone.


The voices were getting closer and still the blonde did nothing. They just stared at each other, Adrian’s face strained and pleading. The rebel’s sword twitched and Adrian closed his wide honey eyes as tears slid past his temples in relief. “Just do it fast,” he breathed. He wanted the image of the sky turning pink and yellow to be his last. He wanted it to wipe away the memory of rusting blood and black dirt and jade eyes.


“Colonel Francis!” the voices called, “Colonel Emberfell!”


“I’m here!” the blonde’s voice bellowed. Footfalls were shaking the ground by Adrian’s head.

His eyes opened just enough to see the confusion on the rebel’s face. “Please,” he begged softly. Not for his life. Just that they wouldn’t make him suffer.


“Colonel!”


Francis barked. His sword was suddenly sheathed at his hip and his hands reached down, gripping Adrian hard and lifting him to his feet. Adrian gaped, rattled by the sudden lift off the ground and dismayed as he kicked out a leg once, “and I’ve got a prisoner!”


No.


This wasn’t what he wanted. He was surprised by the betrayal he felt, by the hurt he looked at this stranger with. This wasn’t a clean and honorable death to put him out of the misery the rebels of Atelaer would surely bring. He would be lead to the gallows and spend months in their jail cells being tortured and made to rot. Francis stared back, blue eyes wide and confused. A canvas bag was pulled from the Colonel's belt and into his spindly hands, the shuddering images of the troops coming into view behind him.


The last thing Adrian saw was not the dawn sky as he wished. He saw blue eyes that were cunning and sharp as flint.

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Drums of Atelaer is an epic LGBTQA+ inclusive flintlock fantasy written by the collaboration of NoxQuel. Chapters are available for early release on Patreon.

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