The Serpent and the Wings of Night

The little girl did not speak for days. The King of the House of Night gave her a room right next to his, on the most secluded, well-protected floor of his castle.

Everything about this place overwhelmed her. Her bedroom at home had been shared with a brother and a sister, her bed just a tiny cot stored beneath the stacked frames of her siblings’. Here, the floors were not made of warm, rough clay but hard mosaic tile that froze her toes. Everything was so big. The bed alone was nearly the size of her entire room back home.

And, of course, there were monsters everywhere.

She tucked herself into the corner, wedging her tiny body between the dresser and the wall, and refused to move.

The King of the House of Night sat in the armchair at the opposite side of the chamber, reading. He rarely left, and never acknowledged her. The little girl would only leave her hiding spot in the rare moments he was gone—to relieve herself or scarf down a few bites of the food left for her. As soon as she heard his footsteps down the hall, she would return to her corner.

A week passed. And another.

And another.

And at last, when the moon was full in the sky again, the child, fighting hunger pangs, crept from her spot towards the plate of bread on the table. Her silver-coin stare never left him, even as her little fingers closed around the bread and she nibbled it in slow, tentative bites, backing away.

Not a muscle moved save for his eyes, which flicked to her and remained there. Even that was enough to make her back farther into the shadows.

He laughed softly.

“Do you feel unsafe here, little serpent?”

The girl stopped chewing and said nothing. The king set his book down gently.

“Good. You are not safe. Not in this castle. Not in this room. You are prey in a world of predators.”

He leaned closer.

“I will never hurt you,” he said softly. “But I am the only one who will make that promise, and keep it. I will never give you false safety or kind lies. But I will teach you how to wield those teeth of yours.” He smiled, revealing for the first time the full length of his sharp canines—the death blow, surely, of hundreds.

The girl should have found this sight terrifying. And yet, for the first time in a month, she felt… safe.

“Perhaps they are not as sharp as mine,” he went on, “but they can still kill, with the right bite.”

Even so young, the girl understood what he was offering her. Living in a world like this, one had to learn such things early.

“Will you do me the honor of offering me your name?” At last, the child spoke.


“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Oraya.” He rose, and this time, she didn’t back away. He reached out his hand. “I’m Vincent.”

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