Vittria’s plan was a success: Soris had been surprised by her appearance. He stared baffled at her for three seconds, trying to make something of the bizarre creature that had appeared out of thin air beside him.

“Good evening, Your Highness!” she said in a sarcastic tone.

She leaned herself on one leg, posing to better underline her curvy shape. Then, offering him the most seductive looks and smiles she had practiced for a lifetime, she said, “Soris, I’m so glad to meet you in person. If only you knew how long I’ve been watching and dreaming about you…”

Soris, although he couldn’t justify her imperceptible arrival to himself, snapped out of the confusion. He frowned a little at her. Taking a defensive posture, as if facing a ferocious enemy, he asked in a heroic voice, “What’s with you here? Has father sent you to seduce me? I’m not like him. I tell you beforehand: you’ve no chance, so go away!”

Vittria burst into loud laughter.

You're reading chapter 10 from The Arid Kingdom series - Book #1

Soris kept his guard up. I don’t understand why Dad always sends all sorts of women after me. I’ve told him so many times I’m not obsessed with such things, but I see he still insists. He’s still trying to make me become like him. But I’ll never do that! I’ve promised to never abandon my promise to put an end to cheating husbands—borne by my lineage for so many generations.

Not one single decent lady deserves to go through a difficult marriage like mom’s. And anyway, what’s with this strange lass? You could say she works at a circus from the way she’s dressed. Who knows what trick she played to sneak here like that? Dad certainly has some weird ideas…

Reading chapter 10 from book one of The Arid Kingdom series

Vittria stopped her laughter, reverting to a mischievous smile. “Oh, I see you’re funny,” she said, swallowing him up in her eyes. “I like that, hihi! Let me introduce myself: Vittria is my name. Keep it well in your mind. In the near future, we’ll get to know each other…”

Soris looked at her with suspicion. He loosened his fists. After all, why would he pay so much attention to a courtesan when he could simply leave the terrace? He returned to a normal stance and told her shortly, “I’ve no interest in knowing you. Find someone else!”


To Vittria’s great surprise, Soris made to leave, unconcerned. But just then, a loud rustle was heard from the park. Soris returned and scanned the courtyard with suspicion. Vittria surmised the noise was from her group’s men—the Bardanians. In a few minutes, they were going to climb up and verify if she was sticking to the plan. Damn! Couldn’t they have waited a bit longer? she thought, upset, coming back to reality.

She got out of the juvenile lover role and took on the one of a dark witch. She took a few steps back, then lifted her staff in the air, making the crystal globe light up.

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Soris looked at Vittria with a confused expression. “What now?” he asked. “You’re a magician? Why are you trying so hard to keep my attention?”

He bent over the balustrade to search the park downwards. Terrified, he noticed how a group of people, with unusual appearance for his continent, swarmed through the foliage. They could hardly hide their grotesque and bulky bodies under the trees. “We’re being attacked!” he noted to himself, getting into alert. He wanted to call the soldiers, but not one was passing by the area, and he was totally unprepared—not a weapon, shield, or an alarm tool. He had to act quickly, to alert those inside the palace before the intruders could advance too much.

He turned in place. A strong light blinded him temporarily, making him take many steps backwards while covering his eyes with an arm. What the heck? he cursed as he got used to the light stream. He tried to decipher what was going on.

Surprise and fear turned him mute.

The girl he thought to be a mere acrobat with a sleazy attitude was now floating in the air about one meter above the floor, surrounded by a red aura that flickered in shapes and lights like a huge flame. The staff she held was crossed intermittently by short traces, flashy as lightning. A strong wind came in, gathering around her and forming into a wide whirlwind. On her face, black vines could be seen spreading to her neck, chest and hands. Even her eyes were covered by such vines, darkening them completely. She had transformed into another being: a demonic, evil one, ready to destroy everything and everyone.

You're reading chapter 10 from The Arid Kingdom series - Book #1

Soris became numb with fear. He gaped at her, unable to think at all for a few seconds. During the tumultuous years, he had learned to cope with unexpected situations, but this was a situation beyond his imagination, one that surpassed human reasoning. No one in the kingdom, or from the entire continent, would have found this conceivable.

His mind paralyzed entirely. He started panting. His heartbeats accelerate in a crazy rhythm that he wasn’t aware of. Only the slight tremble in his limbs awoke him from the terrible numbness. Am I having another nightmare? he asked himself, swallowing hard as his mouth went dry. I must run! he realized, starting for another place.

Hardly had he moved his feet, wobbling, when he heard a deafening blow like thunder. At that moment, Vittria’s globe emanated a large, expanding red wave that went through the air, through him, through the building, and spread all over the yard. After this, a series of other waves carried on appearing and following the same path. The song of the crickets and the noise of any animals went silent at once.

Soris felt his legs getting considerably heavy, as if someone was wrapping thick chains on them. He tried his best to take another step, but the unseen weight climbed on his arms, unbalancing him and making him fall on one side. He hit the floor on his unhealed shoulder. He cried out in pain, shutting his eyes tightly; then he rolled on his back. But his pain wasn’t ending here.

You're reading chapter 10 from The Arid Kingdom series - Book #1

Little by little, the weight gathered on his chest, making breathing difficult. Unexplainably, something was pressing his torso, obstructing his breath. Frightened, he opened his mouth, trying to get more air, but even the air seemed to have changed; it became suffocating. Soon, his sight went blurry at the same time as his consciousness.

Am I… Am I going to die? he asked himself, exhaling deeply. No, no… it’s probably just another nightmare. I have to escape. I must… protect… the kingdom… was his last thought, with which he entered the subconscious. He let his eyelids cover his sight and gave up fighting. His body relaxed completely.

Vittria twirled once in the air, the mysterious red blaze following her movement. A wave of black current went up and down, then in reverse, all over her body, and then gathered in the big crystal globe. It gave out one last ripple, this time black. It blew like fireworks in just a few moments, covering the yard. It fell, taking the shape of a dome, like a thick rain of fine particles that disappeared on contact with the soil. The spell ended.

The whole magical veil round Vittria withdrew into the staff. The whirlwind dissipated spontaneously while the crystal globe turned off slowly.

You're reading chapter 10 from The Arid Kingdom series - Book #1

Vittria landed smoothly on the polished stone of the terrace. She looked around, pleased. The entire place had been brought to silence. Not a soldier moved, not a cricket or any other insect was heard; the world had gone into a deep sleep, as if dead. Only the Bardanians continued to swarm in the park, one half preparing to climb on ropes to the terrace, and the other one running to the palace entrance.

Nothing held them back now. Wherever they set foot, the soldiers, maids, and all the palace people lay down, as if cut off by an invisible force or a terrible pestilence. The royal palace had been conquered effortlessly by the Bardanians, who now ran joyously up the entrance staircase. Their steps echoed in the deadly silence, like in a cave.

Vittria, drained of powers after the laborious spell, but also fully satisfied, went for her trophy: Soris. She looked at him compassionately. Poor boy! He had more to suffer because he was so close to me. The others must have dropped down immediately. But it was worth it…

She pounced over him. She knelt beside him and stretched her hands over his shoulders, like a spider surrounding its prey. Now he was hers. She fondled his face as if to make sure he was real, not just a projected image on the magical screen. The touch of his soft, warm skin made her curve her lips in a sensual smile.

You're reading chapter 10 from The Arid Kingdom series - Book #1

Soris, the young prince she’d been worshiping in her imagination like a rare sample of handsomeness, was in her possession, in the flesh. She analyzed in detail each feature of his face: the dark-brown strands of hair graciously spread on his forehead and temples, the symmetrical brows that harmoniously lined his arches, the fine eyelids bordered by a row of short, black lashes, the straight nose, the firm face contour and finally, his lips—a perfect artistic composition of fine curves and soft lines. Vittria couldn’t resist temptation any more: she grabbed his head in her palms and bent over to kiss him.

End of Chapter 10, The Arid Kingdom series - Book #1

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