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A note from Moonweave

Thank you to everyone who continued reading, although this writer stopped writing for awhile T.T

Just one chapter left now.

Aevlin stood in a small dark corridor, leaning her head against the cool stone wall. Her eyes were closed, but she turned her face toward the sudden intrusion of light and sound into her sanctuary. “Do not worry, I am coming,” she murmured.

The intruder smiled and let the tapestry fall, shutting out the light. “I am not worried. You will make an excellent queen.”

Aevlin sighed and returned to the comfort of the wall. “Hello, King’s Fool.”

“You have a very good memory.”

“Near perfect,” the young queen-to-be murmured despondently.

“Ah, a curse. I am sorry.”

“Is there any cure?”

“There is.” He held out his hand. “Will you try it?”

Aevlin accepted his hand without opening her eyes and stepped away from the wall. “What do I do?”

“Make only good memories. And stay in the light.” He tapped her forehead. “Eyes open.”

Aevlin followed the king through the tapestry-covered entrance and into the light of the ballroom. She tried to look cheerful and succeeded in appearing serene after two false attempts. Her shadow followed after with a more honest expression.

The young queen-to-be flitted around the ballroom, gracefully interacting with anyone in her path. The king accompanied her for until they found Contessa Analize dancing with a count.

"Forgive me, but may I leave you here?" His eyes looked past her to another face masked in calm, and with Aevlin's permission he moved to his general's side. “How much will your thoughts cost me?” he asked, viewing the ballroom contentedly.

“A mistake is being made, but I cannot find it,” the captain’s eyes scanned the room, searching for the source of his unease.

Everything appeared idyllic: the guests were pleasantly conversing, the royals mingled and made friends, the servants blended, keeping the tables full and cups flowing. “Something is not what it should be, or something is there that should not be.”

“Do you want me to tell you?” the king asked, amused.

The captain ignored him, continuing to examine every face for signs of something amiss. His gaze passed Aevlin and Annalize, only the slightest hesitation showing that he noticed them.

“You look conflicted,” Contessa Annalize put her arm through Aevlin’s and politely declined another count’s offer to dance.

“Do I?” The two women walked a slow circuit around the ballroom, Aevlin smiling politely while Anna greeted people as they passed. “I cannot help feeling that something is missing,” Aevlin said softly.

Anna surreptitiously checked the other girl’s dress, hair, and jewels. “It does not appear so.”

“Not me,” Aevlin failed to smile, though she did try. “Kiva.”

“Kiva?

“My sister.”

“What is she missing?” the contessa gracefully looked for the older Saliz Princess without appearing to.

“Kiva,” Aevlin repeated. “All of her. She is not here.”

“It is a large ballroom. No doubt you simply do not see her.”

Aevlin shook her head. “Not Kiva. I would not miss her.”

“The largest of rooms is made small by Kivalya.” Aevlin’s shadow returned to her side. “She is not here.”

Aevlin nodded. “I am certain that she is not in this room.”

“Perhaps she has stepped out,” Anna suggested.

“She has stepped all the way out of the palace, I think.”

Aevlin nodded, “I believe you are right. Hopefully—”

“Excuse me?” A starry-eyed page boy stepped into their path timidly. “The king would like you to come,” he said carefully.

Aevlin followed the page to a curtained alcove, leaving Anna to dance with a handsome young noble.

Within the alcove sat Teigen and Jaiden, quietly out of sight. Aevlin let the curtain fall and sat opposite her brother.

“I would not sit there,” he smiled at her. “That’s all of us.”

“Kiva?” Aevlin could not help asking, shifting sideways until Jaiden's expression eased.

“She left. I preferred the first ball. Then I only had the snake’s guards watching me.”

“I haven’t enjoyed much of either. But what of Kiva? Did you see where she went?”

“Escaped, just a bit ago. They had her locked in a tower.”

Teigen began to cry, and Aevlin lifted the little girl into her lap, heedless of her fine dress. “What happened? I heard her version, but I could not make out what was true in it.”

“She went bad. It happened so slow, I didn’t see it. Her vanity became consuming. Her pride turned into disdain for others. Her desire to be adored transformed into obsession. That snake saw it—”

“He would.”

“—and encouraged it. She became a full plant mage, too. Made everything grow too well, turned the garden unnatural. She didn’t think of being queen, I don’t think. She just wanted the adoration, gifts, and status.”

“She wanted to be important.”

“Yeah. But then he stopped coming.” Jaiden had been looking at the table, but he looked up at his little sister sadly. “Aevie, no one told us. We believed you went with Master Thorne to be a real woodcrafter. I should have paid more attention.”

Aevlin shrugged. “It isn’t your fault. You were busy.”

He shook his head. “Kiva ran away, and even then… I thought you were off somewhere happily making carvings.”

“Did she—did she marry him?”

“Did she know?”

Jaiden shrugged. “I came here thinking to rescue her from her stupid self. I never knew you were in trouble till after it was over. I did find Kiva, and got her—found, but after that I didn’t hear anything. I tried to find you—I did find you—but I could never catch your attention. Then I talked to Thorne, and he recommended that I speak to Reuben. He’s—ah, you met him.”

Teigen looked up reproachfully. “I never did.”

“He’s a Holy Man, like a priest,” Aevlin said. “He lives in the forest.”

Teigen nodded wisely. “Mother went to see him.”

“Did she? How does she know everyone here?” Aevlin shook her head. “The Captain has mentioned her as well.”

Jaiden shrugged. “She did marry a prince.”

“Daddy was a prince and nobody told me…”

Aevlin set her little sister back on the cushioned couch as the curtain parted.

 

Captain Winter entered the small space. “I do apologize for the intrusion—I know you have not had time together.”

“We’ll have caught up soon.” Jaiden moved over to make space. “Kiva’s left.”

The captain nodded. “It is being handled.”

“She is halfway to Daerany.”

Captain Winter looked at the younger man.

“She went with Count Tergin.”

“They do not like mages in Daerany,” Captain Winter was perplexed.

“They like you even less.”

“Kiva is not a real mage, and the count is just rich,” Aevlin interjected. “He can be likable when he needs be.”

“He already made friends there.”

The captain turned to Aevlin. “I have found a new apprentice.”

A shadow giggled. “I wish we could be here to see that.”

Aevlin looked between the two men and remained silent, though she looked as though she might speak a warning to one or the other.

“Who’re you?” Jaiden folded his arms and leaned back against the cushioned bench, eyes languid.

“Eliot Winter. I am Captain of the Guard in Saliz and Chief Adviser to the King.”

Jaiden was unimpressed. “Still not General?” After a moment he decided to be impressed. “Chief Adviser? Aren’t there only five, one from each Great Family?”

“That is normally true, but at present three of my advisers have been arrested by my Captain of the Guard.” The king, standing just outside the alcove, leaned his head in.

“Is that legal?”

“I wonder.” The king looked at the captain.

“I will unarrest them tomorrow. We should proceed with the ceremony. It would seem that three is all we are likely to have.”

“Isn’t Aevie the only important one?”

“Certainly her importance is of a different nature, but it is unhealthy for the country if House Saliz is divided.”

“That’s regrettable,” Jaiden smiled cheerfully. “We’ve a sister who’s been bit by ambition.” He stood and offered his arm to his youngest sister.

“Is there a cure for that?” the king asked, holding the curtain away from the alcove to allow the others to pass.

“There is. Failure.” Jaiden glanced back. “Coming, Aevie?”

The captain followed as a path to the dais cleared for the king, who animatedly discussed the merits of failure with his younger cousin. At the foot of the stairs, he transformed once more into a composed royal and led the way.

Once all four royals stood visible before the crowd, the king cleared his throat, though the room was already silent, waiting. “As some of you may know, the man who raised me to be the king I am today was not my natural father. He was my father’s cousin, son of Horatio The Second. My own father, Prince Daran, was the son of Horatio The Second’s elder brother Durance, and he lost his life to the schemes of Horatio The Second before I was born.

Alaric found me and raised me in his cousin’s stead, but he had his own family. In doing what he thought best for me and for all Niare, I am sorry to say that his family suffered. And I am ashamed for us all, for we failed to ease their burden and provide protection from those to whom greed is valued higher than life, and self considered of more importance than neighbor.

Were it not for the ingenuity of Prince Jaiden and the daring of Princess, and King’s Heir, Avery, I do not know what would become of this country.”

Many in the ballroom whispered in shock.

“King’s Heir Princess Avery and Prince Jaiden, will you accept these crown jewels as proof of your status as members of House Saliz?”

Jaiden bowed his head to accept the Prince’s crown, being of a similar height to the king. Aevlin did not need to, but she did curtsy.

“Sensationalist,” muttered Countess Atheron, who stood at the front of the room, as close to the dais as the royal guards would let her. “Just like his mother.”

Turning to the crowd, the king said, “Ten years ago I accepted this crown,” he removed it, “and this ring,” he held both up before the nobles, “as the only member of House Saliz old enough to wear them. Ten years I have led this country, but now it is time to pass the crown to the one to whom it belongs, to the King’s Heir inscribed in the Book of Kings.”

He turned to his cousin. “Avery Saliz, will you accept the king’s crown and the king’s ring and take your place as Queen of Niare?”

“Can we?” Aevlin’s shadow asked dreamily, wrapping her arms around her twin to gaze at the jewels.

“How romantic,” Teigen sighed. Jaiden patted her head fondly.

Countess Atheron grumbled, “What a cursed fool!”

“She will not take it,” Contessa Annalize assured her mother. “He would not offer it if he thought otherwise. Is that not correct, Eliot?”

“She will not keep them,” Eliot Winter spoke distractedly, not watching the proceedings.

Aevlin removed her small tiara, setting it on her little sister’s head. Turning to the king, she held out her hands and said, “Before these witnesses I accept these tokens, proof of my queenship, as is my right as King’s Heir.”

The king-no-longer placed the crown on her head and the ring in her hand. Turning to the crowd, he said, “Niare, your Queen!” He bowed respectfully. “Long live Queen Avery, may she have a prosperous and peaceful reign.”

Some cheered, but most of the crowd stared in shock.

Countess Atheron glared at the captain as though he had singlehandedly destroyed her hopes and dreams.

He looked up at the king. “That was clever.” Aevlin turned to the crowd and smiled, causing the captain to take a deep breath and look away, muttering, “One day, she will hear me. One day.”

The self-important nobles forgot themselves, applauding enthusiastically until she moved to speak. Then they were silent, still, enchanted.

“As Queen of all Niare, I would like to name my heir—er..” She glanced at the king and blushed.

The king swallowed his first response and murmured, “Keagan.”

“Keagan Saliz. Do you accept to become king in my stead, if anything should happen to me, or if I should be unable to perform my duties for any reason?”

Thoroughly Charmed, the ex-king agreed, “I do.”

“She is lucky to be so Charming,” Eliot Winter breathed deeply, fighting the pull to look up.

Aevlin smiled brilliantly, as did her growing shadow. Then she removed the crown to look at it. “Grandfather willed this crown to me a few years before he died. I was but a girl then, and we met only the one time. He promised me that one day I would be queen, and he kept his promise.” Aevlin looked up at Keagan as though they were the only two people in the room. Everyone else watched, spellbound.

“I was not raised to be queen. I am neither prepared nor fit. Keagan, Cousin,” she smiled, “as Queen’s Heir, will you accept this crown and this ring as outward signs of your right to rule, a right which you already gained by doing so faithfully these ten years?”

With a barely suppressed sigh of regret, Keagan whispered, “Yes.” Louder, “I will.”

Aevlin recrowned the king and returned his ring to his hand. “Niare, your King. May you always trust his judgment.” She withdrew her Chaos and slipped off the stage.

Shaken and dazed, everyone clapped politely and wondered what they had witnessed.

Captain Eliot Winter hurried after her. He passed Zaphar, who said, “She will faint again,” and did not bother to question his presence in the ballroom.

 

The Captain sat on the deck of the Opaline watching the moon rise. A girl in a rich green ballgown lay sprawled at his feet.
“Young man, we’ve got to sail soon. Everyone’s aboard, and the conditions are perfect.”

“Wait for the tide.”

The seaman looked out at the river, confused.

“Not long now.”

Aevlin sat up with a gasping breath like one half-drowned. “Did I win?” she asked.

“Yes, you won beautifully. Yours was a reign to be remembered.”

“Is the king King, properly?”

“Yes.”

“Oh!” she gasped. “I forgot to sign the book.”

“We will worry about the book later. Do you know where you are?”

“Yes.” Aevlin looked around. “No.”

“It is a riverboat, the Opaline. It will take you to the sea, to a proper ship that will carry you to Vior.”

“I slept a phase again?”

“No, not so long as that.” A smile ghosted across his face and away. “Aevlin, listen closely. There is something I must tell you.”

Aevlin’s eyes narrowed. “I do not think I want to hear it.”

Eliot ignored her. “You must write to me.”

“What?” she was confused. “Why?”

“It is your duty. You must tell me about everything you see and hear and everything you do. I especially need to know about every man and every woman you meet.”

“Noo. I don’t want to.” Aevlin folded her arms crossly. “I won’t. I don’t see why I should.”

The seamen shook their heads at each other. “Luckless fellow,” one muttered pityingly in Vior tongue.

“I refuse,” Aevlin stood. “You cannot make me! I’m leaving.” She turned away.

With smiling eyes, Eliot reached out and touched her wrist. As the chaos fled, he caught her and picked her up. “Where is her room?” he asked the seamen, standing.

“I will care for the princess, Captain Silver.”

“See that you do, Lord Marius.” Eliot ignored the diplomat’s open arms and carried the sleeping girl to her cabin.

The two sailors turned away quietly.

 

The port from which the Opaline sailed was not in Saliz, but a short ride away from the city. Eliot Winter walked slowly back, enjoying the somber stillness of night. All of Saliz slept, and when he reached the palace stables the ball had long since ended. No shadows danced, no voices whispered in the dark hallways. The captain expected to feel the difference in his office as well, a peace and harmony that had been missing for the last year. Instead, his office was tense, filled with a loud silence.

“Your Majesty,” he said to the man in his desk chair, “surely there are more comfortable places to sleep.”

As the captain lit a small lamp and sat in Aevlin’s chair, his king roused himself. “I suppose it is done? Shame, I liked having her near. She brought a certain life to the palace.”

“It is done, as must be.”

“Did you send her off well?”

“I sent her properly.”

“You will not be accused of sentimentality,” the king sighed. “I had hoped for better.”

The captain looked around his office. “It does not feel any different.”

“It would not,” the king grinned. “Her brother sleeps in the room. He wanted to see how she lived, he said.”

“He has the family curse as well, I suppose.”

“A curse to you is a gift to others. And no, not so as you would notice. I imagine the energy she left will fade, and everything will feel normal again.” The king stood to leave. “Goodnight, Eliot.”

The captain returned to his desk to straighten his papers.

The king watched him from the door. “Do you suppose we did right?”

“It cannot be worse than here.”

Outside, the wind blew fiercely and the rain began to fall.

“Can it?”

 

Aevlin woke after only a few hours. “Time?” she asked quietly.

“Mage’s hour.”

“Day?”

“Tenth Moon, Thirtieth Day.”

“Did I go back in time?”

“You’re funny. It’s still midnight, barely.”

The ghost and the girl sat on the floor looking at each other.

“What do I call you? What do I call me?”

The spirit girl shrugged and both sighed identically, a perfect mirror image.

“How did I change to pajamas? What happened? I only remember leaving the ball with a handsome man.”

“That was the king.”

“The king put my pajamas on me?!” the girl’s alarm was loud enough to wake the boat.

The ghost giggled. “Hardly! That was you, wanting to sleep comfortably. The king was the handsome man you left with.” She leaned over to peer through the door. “Empty.”

Both girls snuck from their cabin out onto the ship’s deck.

“What then?” The live girl leaned on the railing to breathe in the night air. Her shadow leaned against the cabin wall.

“It was not good..you drained yourself.”

“But—why did it take so much out of me? That has never—” she stopped, recalling that it had happened before.

“You used so much chaos all at once that it burned you out.”

“That sounds dangerous.”

“You could have died.”

Still very alive, the chaos queen peered up at the stars and soaked in the potent magic of high tide, floating away with the moonlight.

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About the author

Moonweave

Bio: I dream, I travel, I read, I write, and then I start over again.

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