One of the goals of SPFBO is to give a chance to self-published authors to get more exposure. This year I’m taking part in the competition with my own team. You can keep updated on our progress and all of our content on my SPFBO 5 page!
Tales from the Asylum is a new feature I came up with for SPFBO. I wanted to create a unique opportunity for the authors to show off their story telling skills by taking their characters and putting them in an asylum room to see how they would deal with the situation. A lot can happen in a closed space…
Victoria Corva writes things and reads things and reads things out loud, and sometimes she gets paid for that, which is nice because it means she can feed her cat. She lives in Wiltshire with her partner and her furry familiar and as many books as she could fit in her small flat. She is anxious and autistic and doing just fine. To find out more about her and read more of her work, visit https://victoriacorva.xyz
Ree shaded her eyes against the harsh sting of daylight. The window was barred and the glass cloudy and pocked with age, but she could just make out the garden outside. A riot of colour from plants she had never seen — flowers with long pink petals, or tight blue buds. Creepers that sprouted yellow blooms. She might have enjoyed them, were they not evidence of her imprisonment. Outside, folk in various pastel gowns and outfits toiled happily among the soil and sun, digging and weeding and chatting, as if unaware of the barbed walls towering over them, as if uncaring that they had been ripped from their homes and ripped of their identities.
That could never be Ree.
When they’d taken her, their healers had stripped her of her father’s spells — the darksight ritual he’d performed at her birth, the sundry other magicks that enabled her to live and grow far from the sun of the upworld. Their servants had taken her beloved black robes and worn boots and instead given her a blue dress and leather slippers. Her pale grey skin looked even greyer beside it. They’d unpinned her dark hair, which now fell lank and tangled about her shoulders. She refused to play along with them. She refused to act like this was anything more than a temporary inconvenience.
They’d taken her amulet as well, fools that they were. In the distant crypts of her hometown, they would not take her abduction lightly. And without her anti-scry amulet, they would find her as easily as a drop of blood in water.
If she didn’t escape before they got here, anyway. But her view of the garden was giving her little to work with. The bars were solid, and the garden wall looked too smooth even for her practised climbing.
‘Is it true?’ came a raspy voice from across the narrow room.
Ree hid her surprise behind a smooth expression. She had heard nothing from her two roommates beyond whimpering from the first and cold silence from the second. ‘Is what true?’ she asked. She studied the speaker — the formerly silent one. A young person with brown skin, a shaved head and face that had held the marks of many piercings and looked bare and lonely without them.
‘That you were kidnapped by necros, and they did horrible things to you, and that’s why you’re … like that.’ They gestured to all of Ree, as if that was explanation enough.
Ree gritted her teeth and reminded herself that among upworlders, she looked strange and deathly with her grey skin and shadowed eyes and hollow cheeks. ‘I was kidnapped by the Asylum. Necromancers have never done anything to harm me.’
Well. Not much, anyway. She’d accidentally triggered a few curses in her time, but that was a hazard of the job for an archivist. Practitioners of the Craft usually weren’t keen to return their books so she had to get … creative … with retrieval.
Her roommate kicked the wall next to their bed. ‘So … what, you were born ugly?’
‘Weren’t you?’ Ree lifted an eyebrow and her roommate snorted.
‘Yeah, alright, necrogirl.’ They grinned. ‘So what are you doing here, then?’
‘Looking for a way home.’ At the word ‘home’, there was a whimper from the other roommate by the wall — a teenaged girl with ash-blonde hair and scratches down her arms. She was curled up on her bed and otherwise made no sign she’d heard them.
‘Aren’t we all? But they’re not just gonna bow and nod while you try it.’
Ree bared her teeth. ‘I don’t intend to ask nicely.’
Her roommate went still at the sight, like a hare suddenly aware of the wolf in their midst. ‘Fair enough,’ they said, but their voice had gone a little faint.
Their door opened with the click of a lock and the screech of metal grinding against the stone floor. One of the Asylum’s servants stood in the door, a woman who looked like she’d wrestled a bear and won — and had the scars to prove it.
‘Miss Ree. The Doctor will see you now.’
Ree stood and strode over to the servant. Her leather slippers made barely a whisper on the stone floor. She was not a necromancer. Not a mage of any kind. But she had grown up in the ancient crypts beneath a broad mountain range. She had torn free of the grasp of ghouls, had climbed beyond the reach of the lesser dead and their greedy mouths, had held her breath as an ancient queen rose from her deathbed and cast her white gaze around for a life to steal. She was a keeper of knowledge, a child of black magic, and she belonged in a place with far more to fear than the cruelty of the Asylum.
She had a life to return to and ambitions she refused to put on hold at the whim of some controlling upworlder with delusions of power.
So she took the Doctor’s questioning with all the silence of the grave. And she took the Doctor’s keys with the subtlety of a ghost. And when the servant locked her in the room, she met her roommate’s scowl with a smile so warm that it felt alien on her face.
‘Well?’ they said.
Ree held up the ring of keys.
At their jingle, her other roommate stopped whimpering and sat bolt upright, staring at the keys with a rabid hunger. ‘Home,’ she said.
‘Home,’ Ree agreed. ‘But it would be rude to leave without giving them something to remember us by, don’t you think?’
At the feral grins that greeted her words, Ree reflected that maybe upworlders and necromancers weren’t so different after all.
Note of the Author
This story takes place outside the TOMBTOWN canon. I had a blast writing it. Thank you for having me, RockStarlit!
If you’d like to get in touch, you can find Victoria Corva on social media:
Victoria Corva entered Books and Bone, first book of the Tombtown series into SPFBO, which you can check out by clicking on the cover which will lead you to its Amazon page:
You can keep updated on our progress and all of our content on my SPFBO 5 page!