Author's Note: Ok, felt like starting something new, because, why not? It's a sort of an Alterative Universe Fic, mainly because if the 3rd book comes out, then it'll make a lot of things redundant. The jury appears to be out on how old Ricky and Don are. So as I don't know, I'm inventing ages for them.
Summary: Candy learns she's been betrothed to the prince of Midnight since birth. Struggling to come to terms with her destiny, can she learn to accept her new life before it destroys her?
The Stars like the Dark
Chapter One: She meets Him.
Candy looked into the mirror and turned her head side to side to view the best angle of her face. Smiling, then serious, she studied the shapes her mouth took. She had shaken off the plump roundness of a teenage girl's face, and awkwardly changing body, for a face she was happy to recognise and figure that wasn't constantly changing. Although, while her hormones had finally decided to stop playing havoc, at twenty-one, her life was still decidedly boring.
Her eyes flickered to the two boys on the carpet behind her, each a toy monster in hand, pushing them along the floor. The eldest merely trying to entertain the younger with the game, himself no longer entranced by a toy and just imagination. But, he was still child enough not to be questioning his reflection, and wondering when life would start to move in a new direction.
Her own eyes looked back at her, rimmed with smudged black, they were questioning, wondering if she'd ever know what it was like to be in love, like the girls in the storybooks she read. She ran a hand through her long dark hair and held it back from her face. She dropped it in frustration. She didn't know what she was looking for.
"Candy?" a woman called from at the bottom of the stairs. Candy always thought it strange, that even in a crowd, she could still recognise her own mother's voice better than anything in the world. "Take your brothers out for a walk."
Candy's face appeared over the banister as she peered down upon her mother from the landing. Her appalled expression didn't sway her mother's decision. Candy could see that it was useless trying to argue, but that didn't mean she had to be compliant.
"Why?" she challenged. She hadn't wanted to go out today, the weather had taken a turn for the worse.
"Because I said so," her mother replied, not having the energy for a fight. "Just do it please."
Sighing, Candy traipsed back to her room and announced the new plan, followed by orders to wrap up warm.
Outside in the chill, Candy led the way. Trailing behind her, the elder of the two brothers, Ricky ten years old, continually asked her where they were going. Ignoring him, Candy only turned her head to make sure the youngest was keeping up. His five year old legs were still short enough to make him the slowest of the three. She didn't feel like making conversation, still annoyed by the fact that she was even outside at all.
"Don's too slow," Ricky complained.
Candy sighed and stopped walking, waiting for Don to catch them up. His face was flushed with excitement, as if he believed Candy was leading them on an adventure.
They had been staying with friends on the island of Midnight for two weeks, and while they had explored most of the alleyways around the house, they had yet to venture further alone. Today Candy decided she was going to walk east, into the main town and up the main Gorgossium through-road. They had only been outside the twelfth tower once, looking up at its imposing dominance on the skyline through the strong iron railings that kept everyone out.
As they passed by busy market stalls, Candy held Don's hand to keep him from wandering. Trying not to loiter at any particular stall, Candy continued to lead the way ignoring sellers shouting their wares. However her foreign clothes from another island singled her out as someone who might easily part with their money. A man who had been showing an uninterested woman some glittery bangles, must have decided Candy looked needed something to adorn her wrist, when he jumped in front of the trio and began his sales patter.
"Young lady, my jewellery was made for you!" he said with fake flattery, grabbing Candy's hand and jamming a bangle on her wrist.
"No, I don't want one," Candy said pulling it off. She had to let go of Don in order to fight the man off. But he was clearly determined to make a sale, and draped a string of pearls around her neck.
"Really," Candy protested, handing back the bracelet then reaching for the necklace. She passed it back with more force than she had the bracelet, and gave him a look that said, if he continued to harass her then she wouldn't remain so polite. "I don't want it."
Already around her neck she wore a charm, one she had never removed. A small silver chain held a precious green stone set in a silver locket. The space inside the locket was empty, still waiting for pictures. She didn't know who had made her this gift, just that it had always been there. Her mother claimed not to remember, and Candy didn't dare ask her dad. Her hand touched the locket around her neck to check it was still there. She wasn't interested in any more jewellery.
Her family was not rich, but they were not poor either. She didn't know where they got their money from, or rather; she knew where they didn't get it. Her father had not worked for years. He spent his time in the pub, or slumped in front of the TV. It was a general consensus in her home to keep out of his way. Candy was often told to take her brothers out of the home in order for her mother to deal with her father's volatile behaviour.
Candy often wondered why they had to continue living with the man. It was clear that her mother was not happy, and yet she refused to leave. She had told Candy that she had made her choice to marry, and she would accept what that decision brought for her. She had also said, that Candy needed to stay in the family home, so that when the time was right, she could claim what was hers. To which Candy imagined must be the money that the family was living on, some kind of inheritance. Her thoughts never strayed near the truth.
Turning away from the jewellery seller, Candy looked for her brothers, only to find the two of them missing. Shot full of panic, Candy ran to the end of the road and looked up and down the main-street. She could see no sign of either Ricky or Don, and feeling the panic rising, she turned one way, then the other, not sure where to look. Blindly she ran up the main-street stopping only to look down alleys and into shop windows.
"Ricky!" she called as she hurried past busy shoppers. "Don!"
She received no answer, but she had gone beyond expecting one. Leaving the safety of the main-street and approaching the towers of Midnight, Candy skidded to a stop and looked around once more. They wouldn't be so stupid as to go in there, would they? Then she thought about her youngest brother, who had no sense of danger, and Ricky who wouldn't be able to turn is back on exploring. Checking that no one was watching, Candy reached the iron railings and looked inside.
Scanning the area, that was much darker than the street behind her, Candy squinted. She didn't dare call out into the darkness. She had no idea what might be lurking in the shadows. Suddenly there was a squeal and laughter, and Candy saw Don running out of the shadow, into the moonlight, and then back into the shadows. His little legs almost disappearing in the long grass.
"Don!" Candy called, hoping that he would hear her. "Don, get out of there!"
Knowing that even if he had heard, he would ignore her, thinking it was a game; Candy looked up at the high railings and wondered how she could get inside. There was no time to go back for her mother, Don could be anywhere by then.
Wrapping her hands around the freezing bars, Candy hauled herself up, reaching higher to pull herself up further. At the top she met with sharp spikes that would go right through her if she should slip. Wedging herself between two spikes, Candy looked down at the grass below and tried to wiggle forward. A noise, which she couldn't identify, like a shrieking bird, caused Candy to jump, loose her grip and fall.
Landing hard on the grass below, Candy stared up at the sky and didn't dare breathe. As the pain began to dissipate, she realised that she was still in one piece with nothing broken. Carefully sitting up, Candy felt her vision spin for a moment, but she fought it off and stood up.
Something was coming at her in the darkness, feet pounding through the grass.
"Candy! Candy," Ricky called as he ran nearer. "I lost him. I'm sorry he ran off, and I chased him here. Now I don't know where he is. I'm sorry."
Candy saw how distraught her brother was, and couldn't be angry with him. If they were caught here it wouldn't be a happy ending. She didn't know what would become of them, and she didn't want to find out.
"Will Lord Carrion kill us, if he finds us here?" Ricky asked. He was shivering with both fear and the cold.
"Of course not," Candy replied, trying to be confident, but she couldn't be sure. She thought it best to lie, rather than panic her brother further. "Come on, let's find him and get out of here."
Pushing through the tall grass, Candy and Ricky reached the spot she had last seen Don and looked around. There was no sign of him anymore.
Don was carrying a large stick through the outskirts of the forest, stopping to look at the strange bugs that were running past him in a line. Following them further around the forest, he looked up to see something fluttering on a large slab of stone a few meters ahead. His curiosity getting the best of him, Don stumbled forward and found that he had been seeing pages of a book being turned by the breeze.
Reaching his small hand out to pick up the book, Don looked up with the sense that he was not alone. A figure was standing, hidden from the moonlight, looking across the edge of the forest and out towards the tower. Snatching back his hand in fright, Don stepped back and jumped as his own foot landed on the stick he had been carrying, snapping it in half. The sudden noise made the shadowy figure turn, and his eyes catch the moonlight as he fixed his gaze on Don.
For a moment they stared at one another, before Don turned and fled with an uncontrollable scream of horror, back the way he came.
Christopher Carrion, the Lord of Midnight did not care for children. They were noisy and irrational, couldn't be bribed, and couldn't control themselves. There were many guards around the twelfth tower, and yet a child had managed to get inside. Following the boy, Carrion saw two others hurrying towards the screaming child, and took a left into the forest and into the shadows. The boy fell into the arms of an older girl and began frantically telling her what he had seen.
All three trespassers stopped and looked where the smallest was pointing, their faces full of dread. Had he really met Lord Carrion, was he coming for them? Were the guards already waiting for them? Could they still escape? Creeping through the forest, keeping in the shadows, Carrion cut off their escape. Before any of them realised, he had swept out of the shadows and had Candy in his grip.
Unable to scream, as his hand was crushing her throat, she fell where he pushed her, into the nearest tree.
"Scream, and it's the last thing you'll do," Carrion warned. He hated it when people started begging and screaming before he'd had a chance to torment them.
"Get off my sister," Ricky shouted, running towards him.
"Get back," Carrion warned in a low threatening voice. He looked at Candy and, knowing that he had terrified her into obedience, let go of her throat.
"Do what he says Ricky," Candy ordered, her voice barely a gasp. She turned her attention to the man before her. "Don't hurt them, please. It's not their fault, they didn't know."
She had no idea what she was saying. All she knew was she was standing before Christopher Carrion, the most feared man in the Abarat, and she was on her own. His eyes stared into hers, and his gaze so piercing that Candy could only stare back. She couldn't think, or move, or even breath whilst he looked at her, taking in every line of her face, and every frightened thought that showed it's self behind her eyes.
He looked down at her throat and his long fingers grazed her pale skin as he held her locket.
"Where did you get this?" he asked.
Candy could feel that he attention had been drawn from her brothers, solely to her. She shot a look at Ricky, which told him to make the most of this and begin backing away.
"If you want it, you can have it. Please just let us go," Candy said hurriedly.
The touch of his cold hand on her skin was beginning to make her shake. She couldn't bear to be so close to him, this man who radiated pain and suffering.
"I've always had it. It was gift to me," Candy said. Why did he care about the necklace? It wasn't a trinket, but someone like him could have surrounded himself was as many jewels as he liked. Why did her silver locket interest him?
As suddenly as he had caught her, Carrion dropped the locket and stepped back. He saw Candy's wide eyes sweep him over, starting at the ground and ending at his destroyed face. Feeling that something had changed, but not knowing what, Candy snatched her unexpected freedom, dashed to the side and held Don's hand as they ran.
Adrenaline pushed her back up the iron railings, where she jumped to the ground on the other side. The shock impact shot up her legs like fire, but she ignored it, and watched as her brothers slid through the gaps in the railings and began running back towards the market stalls.