Her Heart and Curse (Prologue)

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They came silently. It wasn't until half of the town was aglow in flames that people even knew what was happening.

They were under attack.

A young Arabella Cartridge had been awoken by her panicking new governess. She was ushered out of her room and into the hallway where soldiers were rushing through, intent on reaching the front gates to go to the rescue of the now screaming townspeople. Suddenly the ground shook as an explosion rocked Arabella's seaside home. She could hear her father barking out orders and she glanced around looking for her mother's dark hair. She frowned when her governess pushed her into a hidden room in the far back of the house.

"You must stay here, Bella," the woman had cooed. Arabella had kept the scathing remark off of her lips. She was fourteen, hardly a child, but her governess failed to see the difference.

"What of Mother and Father and Damien?" She had asked instead as she kept glancing around her governess' rather large shoulders, hoping to catch a glimpse of one or both of her parents or her younger brother. The governess shook her head.

"They have a different hiding spot, I'm sure. This is the one set aside for you," the words had seemed odd, but her mother had hired the governess and left her daughter in the woman's care, so she could be trusted. Arabella ignored the sickening feeling that built in her gut. It would all be alright. Another explosion shook the mansion and the governess glanced over her shoulder warily. She still blocked the doorway with her massive form, but Arabella didn't care. Her thoughts were filled with worry over her parents' safety. Her small hands shook when she suddenly heard shouting and the sound of metal clanging. It was muffled, but it was closer than it had been. Arabella had been so distracted by the sounds outside of the room that she didn't notice her governess balling up a wad of rags in her hands. It wasn't until a sickly sweet smell entered her nostrils and the wad of rags was shoved against her face that Arabella realized something was wrong. Very wrong. A twisted smirk darkened the governess' face as Arabella fell into darkness.


When she awoke, she was blinded by dancing lights; each one was a different color: green, blue, purple, and red. They surrounded her and only seemed to exist to illuminate her and not the room she was in. Her arms were heavy as she attempted to lift them to block out the lights. She frowned when her fingers grazed the surface was she lying on. It was hard and sharp. Pain exploded up her arms as she attempted to raise herself off of the uncomfortable platform. It took her a few seconds before she realized what had dug into her hands and elbows: coral. She could already feel blood pouring down her arms.

"Silly, silly girl," a sickly sweet voice trickled out from the darkness that surrounded Arabella. Panic like nothing else gripped her heart.

"You're only hurting yourself," the voice cooed as Arabella searched for its owner. The lights kept blinding her so she couldn't see past their glow.

"Who are you?" She questioned as she felt the tears prick the corners of her eyes, evidence she was in pain and afraid. A soft cackle filled the air. Arabella struggled again to raise herself off of the coral platform. She felt more shards dig into her flesh, but she ignored it. Something in her soul pleaded with her to escape while she still could. With a sudden push, Arabella rolled off of the platform and onto a cold, wet floor. The lights followed her. Her eyes widened when she saw what the floor was wet with: blood. It covered every inch and turned the grey stone red. Her mouth opened to scream but no sound came out.

"Oh yes. You are perfect," Arabella felt claws grab her chin as she was forced to face her captor. Her eyes widened. A woman crouched in front of her, barely clothed. Her grey-green skin was covered in barnacles and coral. A gauze-like material covered her legs. Her eyes were black, empty holes and her white hair was tangled into knots Arabella was sure would never come undone.

"How lovely and pure, it is. Untainted by lust and greed. Yes, yes, it will do magnificently," the woman, if Arabella could call her that, spoke with her eyes pinned on Arabella's rapidly rising and falling chest.

"Please, just let me go. My parents will give you whatever you want," Arabella pleaded as the woman snapped her soulless eyes up to Arabella's frightened green ones.

"OH. Sweet child, your parents already have. You," she cooed softly as she used her other hand to stroke Arabella's short, choppy curls. Her words registered slowly and it crushed her soul. Her parents, who were supposed to love and protect her, had given her to this creature for what?

"Why?" She whispered as the woman smiled, letting Arabella see her fanged teeth.

"For a son, of course," she answered simply as if it were a perfectly reasonable excuse to give away a child.

"It was a trade. Your heart for a son. I simply had to wait for it to mature, is all," her words danced around Arabella just as lightly as the lights did. The woman, creature was giddy, excited. Arabella felt her world crash around her. Her parents had a son. A son they had been blessed with when Arabella had been three. Is that when they traded her to this creature? When she was nothing but a toddler? Her heart shattered. She should've known. They treated Damien as if it were a gift, while she had been a mistake. Tears bubbled down her cheeks as she stared at this creature in front of her and felt her parents' betrayal to the very depths of her soul.

"Oh, no. Your heart is waning. No, no, no!" Arabella barely heard the creature's screeches above her own wail of despair. Suddenly, fire exploded from her chest and when she glanced down, her eyes widened. The woman had shoved her hand through Arabella's chest and gripped something tightly. Arabella felt pain like nothing else take hold when the woman yanked out her arm and in her hand rested a glowing, beating heart. Arabella's eyes widened as she stared down at the pulsating organ and realized something else flowed through her veins now. Something that was stronger than her heart. The despair, pain and anger at her predicament flared suddenly as she pinned her eyes on the creature that now held her heart.

"Give it back," she hissed in a voice she had never heard herself use before.

"No. No. It's perfect. I knew the others were wastes." The woman growled as she eyed the heart hungrily. A hollow emptiness rang through Arabella as she realized she was supposed to feel fear. Only she couldn't. In fact, all she felt was anger. She tried to find something else, but all that there was was anger and emptiness.

"What did you do to me?"

"I took your heart. Your emotions are mine now." The strange cackle was back as the creature turned from Arabella and rose to her feet.

Maera eyed the heart in her hand reverently. It was as she had hoped: perfect. The countless other children she had stolen had nothing on this young girl. However, when Maera was out of her dungeon, the heart's glow waned and Maera frowned. Why?


NO! She turned back to the young girl's cell and her eyes widened. The girl, in all of her helplessness, had taken a shard of coral and sliced her wrists. Her life was draining away. Maera screamed in anger as she threw the cell door open and gripped the girl's hair in her claws.

"NO! You will not take it away from me! NO!" Just before the life left the girl's emerald eyes, Maera sliced her palm and pressed it against her almost motionless chest. A whispered incantation left Maera's lips and she watched as the girl's wounds healed and her body hummed with the magic that was now embedded in her body.

"You, impudent child, have tried to thwart my plans and for that you will be punished. You can never die. Not as long as your heart is mine. From this day forward, you will not know my face or how to find me." Maera hissed as she watched the girl's green eyes widen in horror. She grinned wickedly before the girl disappeared in a cloud of fog.

Arabella fell unceremoniously onto the deck of ship and she was surprised when no pain came from her fall. She glanced around and her eyes landed on the stunned faces of the ship's tenants.


Shock reverberated through Arabella at her predicament and she did what any sensible fourteen year old girl would do; she passed out.

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