Dawn of Surrender

By: Liliana Hart

A MacKenzie Family Novella



One Thousand and One Dark Nights



Once upon a time, in the future…



I was a student fascinated with stories and learning.

I studied philosophy, poetry, history, the occult, and

the art and science of love and magic. I had a vast

library at my father’s home and collected thousands

of volumes of fantastic tales.



I learned all about ancient races and bygone

times. About myths and legends and dreams of all

people through the millennium. And the more I read

the stronger my imagination grew until I discovered

that I was able to travel into the stories... to actually

become part of them.



I wish I could say that I listened to my teacher

and respected my gift, as I ought to have. If I had, I

would not be telling you this tale now.

But I was foolhardy and confused, showing off

with bravery.



One afternoon, curious about the myth of the

Arabian Nights, I traveled back to ancient Persia to

see for myself if it was true that every day Shahryar

(Persian: شهريار, “king”) married a new virgin, and then

sent yesterday's wife to be beheaded. It was written

and I had read, that by the time he met Scheherazade,

the vizier's daughter, he’d killed one thousand

women.



Something went wrong with my efforts. I arrived

in the midst of the story and somehow exchanged

places with Scheherazade – a phenomena that had

never occurred before and that still to this day, I

cannot explain.



Now I am trapped in that ancient past. I have

taken on Scheherazade’s life and the only way I can

protect myself and stay alive is to do what she did to

protect herself and stay alive.



Every night the King calls for me and listens as I spin tales.

And when the evening ends and dawn breaks, I stop at a

point that leaves him breathless and yearning for more.

And so the King spares my life for one more day, so that

he might hear the rest of my dark tale.



As soon as I finish a story... I begin a new

one... like the one that you, dear reader, have before

you now.





Chapter One



Montana, 1892



For all intents and purposes, Elizabeth MacKenzie should’ve died on a Tuesday.

The bank was stifling despite the beginnings of a blizzard outside. As it was almost closing time, they’d already shut the windows and the brazier was burning hot in the corner. Sweat was dripping in some very unladylike places. Not that anyone in Surrender would call her a lady, but it had never mattered much what other people thought.

There was a line of customers who’d waited until the last minute to do their business for the day. Most were shop owners who knew this would be their last chance to make a deposit before the storm shut everything down. And everything would be shut down. With luck, it would only be for a couple of days. At worst, it could be a couple of weeks.

She worried about the cattle and the ranch, but she knew her foreman and the ranch hands would take good care of everything. Even if she wanted to make it back home, there was no way to do it safely. The storm had already found Surrender.

She watched the gray clouds roll toward them through the western wall of windows, the mountains no longer visible and the snow swirling in several directions. The wheeze of the wind could be heard through cracks in the windows and door. The atmosphere in the room was fraught with tension. No one spoke, and everyone was wondering how long they had to see to necessities before things got so bad they had to find shelter in town.

There were only two tellers behind the counter, Leroy Henry and Miss Adelaide Murchison. Lizzie had seen the bank manager, Samuel Peabody, peek out from his office once and then close the door. Lord knew, if work was involved Samuel was the first to disappear.

Leroy barely came up to Elizabeth’s shoulders, and his body was so round he often gave the impression that he rolled from place to place instead of using his feet to walk. Miss Adelaide was unusually tall for a woman, almost a head taller than Elizabeth, and she had a long, hawk-like nose that made it seem as if she were looking down at everyone she talked to.

Leroy was a sweet man, but he worked at half the pace of Miss Adelaide. No one had ever called Miss Adelaide sweet. She was the meanest, most contrary woman Elizabeth had ever known. She’d take slow Leroy over Miss Adelaide any day of the week.

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