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The House of Aurum, Book 1

Chapter One

Evernigh book cover

Evernigh

M.J. Padgett

The House of Aurum, Sidus Castle

Knachtenwood Sect, Evernigh

 

It was not the quiet that troubled Elleck. He welcomed peace after months at war, but this silence was more than a lack of sound. It was hard and cold like stone, sharp like a blade edge, tangible as the earth beneath his feet. Heartbeat after heartbeat marked the seconds that passed until the color, too, drained from everything around him.

Shades of darkness covered the yellow-freckled landscape, erasing the buttercups and dandelions that rose above rivers of blood. The yellow speckles reminded Elleck of her, of his lovely Nari, and her love of wildflowers.

Elleck squeezed his eyes shut and drew her picture in his mind. Honey-gold hair like the wheat that grew on her farm, pale blue eyes, and cheeks that flushed when she was happy. The night stole her image and forced a chill deep into his bones. It was just as well. If he continued dreaming, he would see her as she would be—cold and lifeless, her life in a balance between autumn and winter.


A few blinks brought Elleck back to the present and out of his premonition. The fire burned low, almost extinguished as the usual morning din replaced the quiet from his vision. A vision. That was all it was, and he could prevent it if he tried.

 

 

Elleck stiffened his jaw and stood from the warmth of his bed, shirked his night clothing, and pulled on a pair of worn deerskin pants. His tunic needed mending, but Maelory would insist he buy a new one in the center square instead. Elleck hated new clothing; never mind going to the market always cost more time than he had to spare.

Before leaving his quarters, Elleck kneeled in prayer at the same worn stool his mother used four times a day. If he leaned close enough to the threadbare fabric, he could still smell her warm, floral scent. Father, not one for prayer, always stood a few paces away in quiet contemplation he refused to admit was prayer if only so his hardness would not be questioned.

After prayer, Elleck dusted his knees and pulled on his fine wool coat before throwing himself into the madness that was Sidus Castle just after the awakening. For nine long months, he and his siblings stowed away in the Autumn Realm, waiting for the return of their ruling season. Mother and Father kept a strict household, but Elleck thought a touch of mercy was warranted after their passing. After all, their house was the most beloved of the four houses of Evernigh—which didn’t mean much given the disdain for the other three houses.

In the dining hall, Maelory was seated in her usual chair. Divinia sat next to her with her dainty hands in her lap, and Rowan was nowhere to be found. Likely, the young prince had already gone to the tavern or center square to strut like a peacock. At eighteen, Elleck’s brother had more maidens vying for his hand than Elleck ever had, but then, most knew they would never warm Elleck’s heart enough to be named his queen. Their pining would be a waste.

“Brother, you are haggard this morning. Another vision?” Maelory, the youngest of the House of Aurum, stood to greet her eldest brother.

Divinia grinned. “I sent him one. A pretty light… pretty, pretty light.”

“Yes, Divinia, a pretty light. Eat your breakfast, love.” Maelory patted Divinia’s shoulder and nudged her breakfast of porridge, nuts, and currants closer.

Elleck took his chair but ignored the steaming bowl of porridge. His strength would never return with such fodder for breakfast. “It felt so real. It will come to pass soon enough if we don’t figure out what it means.”

“Have you considered calling a meeting with the House Advisory?” Maelory cut her eyes to the right, a stern warning to their eldest sister—eat and do it now. Divinia picked up her spoon and pushed the currants deeper into the slop, her nose turned up. Maelory sighed. “I wish you would eat, darling.”

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