Night of the storm an ep.., p.17
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       Night of the Storm: An Epic Fantasy Novel (The Eura Chronicles Book 2), p.17

           K.N. Lee
 
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  No amount of tears would bring him back, but that didn’t stop her from shutting herself in her chambers and sobbing into the night.

  Tragedy was what defined her.

  Aria’s parents died when she was just a girl, making her the youngest Queen to ever rule Oren.

  Her husband was killed in a battle with the wild men of Harthon from the west of Kyril.

  Now, her son had been murdered by the woman he loved.

  Aria bit her lip and squeezed her eyes shut.

  Why had The Ancients done this to her? She deserved better.

  Everyone she’d ever loved was gone.

  “Are you all right?” Yoska asked her from across the carriage. “You’ve been very quiet.”

  Aria shook her head. “No,” she said. “I’m not all right. But, I will be.”

  Bitterness filled her mouth as she thought of the young woman. She clenched her jaw, imagining her vengeance.

  I will destroy her.

  “Try not to get too ahead of yourself. Cyden will be able to tell us the truth of what you saw in Sona’s memories. We do not know if what you saw was real.”

  “We’ll see,” Aria said as she stroked the tiny pup’s white fur. She kissed the top of his head and watched the meadows pass her by. “My gift has never been wrong. If Sona has found a way to lie in her thoughts, then I’ll be both relieved and amazed

  Farmlands lay desolate, abandoned by owners that now lay in their graves. Diseased cattle were piled high in ditches and burned.

  Back in the capital, there were nonstop requests for more money to help feed her citizens.

  For the first time in twenty-two years, Queen Aria was at a loss for what to do. There were two individuals that she trusted more than anyone in the world.

  Yoska.

  And her uncle, the prophet, Master Cyden.

  The carriage emerged from the forest and approached a stone temple set in the middle of a flat field of rose bushes that stretched for miles on in every direction. A faint outline of mountains was visible in the distance.

  If she hadn’t been stricken with grief, she might have smiled at the sight. Memories of her childhood holidays being spent with her uncle, Master Cyden came to her, but the best she could do was relax her jaw.

  “We’re here,” Yoska said. “I think it’s best if I alert him of our arrival.”

  “That’s probably wise,” she said and Yoska flew out the open window and into the bright sunlight of midday. She watched him fly over the simple gate that stood before the temple. There wasn’t a need for a strong defense when it came to Cyden and his disciples. An intruder would never dare step foot onto her uncle’s property.

  Not if they wanted to remain sane.

  The carriage stopped and Gwevern hopped from one of the horses that pulled the carriage along to open the door for Aria.

  “Take care with your step, my Queen,” Gwevern said, reaching a hand out to help Aria out of the carriage.

  She held onto her skirts to keep from stepping on the white lace as she carefully made her way onto the road. The smell of roses overwhelmed her as she and her wolves walked to the gate.

  A young man dressed in robes with long black hair pulled into a single braid waited at the gate. He bowed as he held the gate open for Aria.

  “Welcome, Queen Aria,” he said, keeping his eyes and head low as Aria entered the courtyard filled with young Tryan men and women sitting in rows with their legs crossed and their eyes closed. “Midday meditation will be over in just a few minutes. You can go right in if you’d like.”

  Aria nodded, watching Cyden’s disciples. There weren’t warriors like the Orenian Order; these Tryans had reached a new level of mental awareness. The young women and men within the temple could control parts of their minds and power that most ordinary Tryans didn’t even know existed.

  All Tryans had the potential to tap into their common gift of Enchantment, but most never had the training to do so. The disciples could do things that would make common folk believe them to be gods amongst men.

  As Aria stood inside the gate, she folded her arms across the square cut neckline of her lace gown. She remembered the time studying with her uncle when she was a child. Her desire to control the voices inside her head had made her grow up faster than most little girls.

  Discovering that those voices were the real thoughts of the people around her had made her train even harder. Somehow, she felt at peace around the disciples. Just being in the temple had already calmed the parts of her mind that made her want to use her power in ways she’d never imagined.

  “This way, Queen Aria,” the young man said softly so as not to disturb the disciples.

  They walked along the narrow white walkway. There was a sea of black sand on the left side and white sand on the right, and as a bell chimed, everyone bowed their heads to the sand and the silence continued.

  Aria almost wished she could return to her life as a disciple. The quiet that surrounded her was exactly what she needed. The skill it took to free one’s mind from troubling thoughts was impressive, and everyone in the temple could do so.

  Why hadn’t she come back sooner?

  No thoughts to read.

  Pure bliss.

  The white archway gave way to a steep set of stairs that led into the temple’s tall double doors.

  Aria hadn’t expected to do so, but as she looked up to see Master Cyden at the top of the stairs, long black hair reaching his waist, wearing brown robes, and arms outstretched to her, she couldn’t help herself.

  Tears welled in her eyes, but a smile also came to her lips.

  “Welcome home, Aria.”

  ARIA FOLLOWED CYDEN to the temple vaults.

  The dark corridors were simply lit by scant torches which only increased the eeriness that Aria felt when they went so deep underground.

  “I knew you’d come to me one day.”

  “You could have come to visit at any time.”

  “Oren is too big. The people don’t want someone like me in their business.”

  “Think of how I feel,” Aria said, raising a brow. “They know I can read their thoughts, and yet they still love me.”

  Cyden paused, glancing over his shoulder. “Aria, you think they love you?”

  The question, and the way he said it, sent shivers along her arms.

  She swallowed. “Well, yes. I do.”

  “Naïve. Don’t be that.”

  Aria pursed her lips. Cyden was more straightforward than she was used to back at the palace. The more she thought about what he said, the more she appreciated it. She needed someone to be blunt with her.

  “You have no idea how bad things are,” Aria said.

  Cyden glanced over his shoulder, pausing in the middle of the dim corridor, almost as tall as the low ceiling.

  “I am a prophet. Do you really think I don’t know what has been going on? Like I said, I knew you’d come to me.” He lifted a finger, his brows rising. “And it’s a good thing you didn’t wait too long.”

  A sigh slipped through Aria’s lips as she followed him to the end of the corridor. A thick door stood between them and the vaults.

  She wiped a stray black hair from her face, waiting as Cyden pulled a long key from his pocket and turned the heavy iron lock.

  The lock clicked and Cyden pressed his palm against it, making it creak open to darkness. Once he stepped inside, a low hum buzzed in Aria’s head.

  Candles began to flicker with flames. The grooves in the floor and walls were lit with orange light.

  Aria entered the large room, her eyes following the light as it traveled higher and higher up to the ceiling etched with an ancient mural. The ceiling was much higher than she’d anticipated, stretching almost as tall as the temple.

  “We must be really deep underground,” she whispered.

  Cyden nodded. “We are. Almost sixty feet. The Dyone Disciples built the temple at the end of the Great War, right before The Barriers were built. They knew that what woul
d be kept down here would be very valuable to someone one day. And dangerous to those that would use this information to do harm.”

  Aria’s throat felt dry as she walked along the narrow path that was set amongst the pillars. Instead of bookshelves lining the walls, pillars stood in rows, each with a scroll encased in glass set upon its surface.

  “Good girl,” Cyden said, turning to face her. “Stick to the path. Don’t touch anything. Magick lives here, and it must be approached with respect.”

  “I understand,” she said, clasping her hands before her.

  “Do you remember how to clear your mind?”

  “I do,” Aria said with a nod. Her eyes met Cyden’s. They were a murky blue that reminded her of the sky before a storm. “Clearing my mind has helped keep me sane. You can’t imagine hearing everyone’s thoughts, all of the time. Not everyone thinks about good. There is so much evil in the minds of others.”

  “I know, Aria. You’re a strong woman to have such a power and not use it for evil.”

  “Maybe. But what I saw in Lady Sonalese Rochfort’s mind has me rethinking my kindness.” She chewed her bottom lip and looked away from Cyden’s intense gaze. “If she truly killed my son, there is nothing that can protect her from my wrath.”

  “We will find the truth in what you saw. Clear your mind, and come with me,” he said, turning back to face the path that led to a faraway wall.

  At the end, Aria could see a pillar set away from the rows. It was encapsulated against the wall in a thick plate of glass that looked fused to the stone wall. A golden lion’s head was placed above, its mouth opened in a roar.

  A faint breeze swept through, cooling Aria’s ankles as she walked. She paused.

  Aria, something whispered. It wasn’t just an eerie whisper; she could feel a warm breath on her ear, making her tense and hold her breath.

  “Cyden,” she said in a low voice as she looked to the left and the right. “Something just called my name.”

  “Magick. Ignore it.” Cyden stopped and raised a finger. “Unless it tells you to leave. Then, let me know. We don’t want to tempt the spells left behind, but they do like to have a bit of fun with the living whenever they get the chance.”

  Aria swallowed and continued to follow Cyden. “They must not encounter the living very often.”

  “Almost never these days. I have no use for these scrolls most of the time, and Magick takes care of the upkeep of the vault for me.”

  Aria. You’ve come to see me, haven’t you?

  A gasp escaped Aria’s lips, and her face paled when a shadowy figure with burning white hair that stood straight up blocked her path. Its hair was much like the flames on a candle’s wick, wavering like fire.

  She shivered as the tall figure opened its arms and stretched them above its head.

  She couldn’t tell if it was a man or woman, but a simple face with wide black eyes, thin lips, and a hollow nose set upon translucent skin appeared on the figure before her. The figure looked like the beginnings of a person, yet one that was unfinished as there were no other distinguishing traits. Arms fixed to a thin body without legs, but rather a block-like gown that hovered a few inches above the path before Aria.

  Too afraid to move, Aria spoke in a soft voice. “Cyden?”

  “Yes?” He didn’t glance back; he simply drew something on the glass on the wall with his finger.

  “Something is blocking my path.”

  “I told you, Aria. It’s Magick. Just be kind, and it will let you pass.”

  Aria’s eyes widened. “Magick is a…person?”

  “No. Magick is an ancient being. Not a person,” he said. “Magick. Let my friend pass. We haven’t come to play.”

  Magick’s creepy grin widened as it floated closer to Aria, so close that its face was an inch from hers. The eyes widened.

  “But, I’ve been so bored. I want to play with her,” Magick said this time with an actual voice that sounded like a mixture of a little boy and a little girl’s.

  Aria yelped when it lifted her arms. She tried to pull away, but it was too strong.

  “Do these come off?” Magick asked, tugging Aria’s arms forward, before spinning with her.

  “Magick,” Cyden shouted in a stern voice that resonated throughout the entire vault.

  Magick hissed, letting Aria go as if she were on fire. It flew away, fading into the air like a mist.

  Shaken, Aria rubbed her arms; still feeling as though hundreds of spiders crawled all over her skin. She scrubbed her arms, trying to make the sensation go away.

  “I’m sorry, Aria. Magick shouldn’t have touched you. It got a bit too excited.”

  “I’m sorry,” Magick said, peeking its head from around a pillar. Its hair now burned blue. “Will you forgive me, Master?”

  “You are forgiven. Just mind your manners.”

  “Will you forgive me, Mind Reader?”

  Aria shot it a glance, but kept her lips pursed as she nodded.

  “I want to show you something.”

  Aria hurried over to Cyden as Magick watched from behind a pillar.

  “What did you find?”

  Aria stood beside Cyden as the glass shield slid into the wall, revealing an old book with a brass binding.

  “Rochfort history,” Cyden said to the book.

  The pages glowed, and then flipped to the page they wanted. Cyden peered down at the text, and his eyes widened at a particular line.

  “What do you see? Right there?” He pointed to a line at the bottom of the page.

  Aria squinted as she read the line. To her surprise, Sona was actually in the book.

  “What is this book?”

  “It’s the Chronicle of Past, Present, and Future. It tells us everything about the Tryans of Kyril, and even some of the other races.”

  She nodded, and read along.

  Lady Sonalese Rochfort, daughter of Lord Rochfort. Warrior with the Charm trait.

  Aria’s eyes shot to Cyden’s.

  “She possesses the Charm trait.”

  Cyden nodded. “It seems your problem stems from a crafty little liar.”

  CYDEN BLEW OUT ALL OF the candles in his temple sanctuary Yoska flew in and landed beside Aria on one of the smooth stone benches lined up before a raised stage.

  She stared at the stage, remembering times when she and the other disciples would exhibit their new skills before an audience of their peers.

  Those were good times, times when Aria was more than just the Queen of Oren.

  Times when she was young and full of unlimited potential.

  “What did I miss?”

  Aria sighed and rubbed her temples. “Apparently, Sona has the Charm trait.”

  “Dear Elahe,” Yoska said. “I never suspected.”

  “Right. Neither did I. She’s very good at what she does,” Aria said with a shake of her head. “Her father put her up to it. I’m sure. But, why did she have to kill Liam?”

  “Did Cyden see anything to confirm if Liam is truly dead?”

  “No,” Aria said with a sigh. “Nothing about Liam will come to him. I know what that means.”

  “I’m sorry, Aria,” Yoska said.

  Aria pursed her lips and looked down at her folded hands in her lap.

  “This is more serious than I thought. Sona is much more powerful than I thought.”

  Aria looked to him. “Clearly. She fooled us all. Apparently, swords aren’t her only weapon.”

  Yoska’s eyes widened. “We need to hurry back to Oren.”

  “Why?”

  “You left a skilled Charmer in your Kingdom, one that wants to see you executed.”

  Aria’s face paled. He was right. She wrung her hands. Not only did Sona have the power to turn her entire Kingdom against her, but her family was in direct line for the throne through ancient bloodlines.

  “All of this time I truly believed that she loved my son. I was ready to welcome her into our home and family.” She wiped a tear. She hadn’t felt such
bitterness and sorrow in a long time.

  “I know, Aria. I am very sorry about all of this. You don’t deserve such pain.”

  Aria cleared her throat. She lowered her voice, her eyes fixed on Cyden. She was ashamed to be brought to tears yet again, but Yoska was her dearest friend. He had been there every time tragedy crossed her path.

  “I had dreams of little grandchildren running through the palace. Now, I dream of watching her blood pool into the grooves of the chopping block.”

  Fury filled her belly, yet she kept it contained. She gritted her teeth, hands folded as she watched Cyden pace the room in deep thought. Her hopes were that Cyden would be able to guide them.

  With limited options, she knew that there was so much at stake that she couldn’t risk a single mistake.

  “Cyden,” she called, tired of waiting. “Do you see anything?”

  Cyden shot an eerie look at her. “I do,” he said, his voice almost as low as a whisper.

  “What is it?” Aria’s brows knitted into a frown as she watched Cyden step from the stage platform.

  “We must leave. Right away.”

  Standing, Aria nodded, eager to take action. “All right. We are ready whenever you are.”

  Cyden rubbed his hands together before rubbing his chin. “I will gather my disciples, and we can head out within the hour.”

  Brows furrowed, Aria watched Cyden head for the archway that led outside.

  “Why do you need to bring the disciples?”

  “Why would I leave them behind?”

  Aria shrugged. “What are you planning to do?”

  “Leave Oren,” he said, glancing over his shoulder at her.

  “What?” Aria’s eyes widened as she walked over to meet Cyden near the exit. “Why would we leave Oren? I need to save it. Not abandon it.”

  “I fear it’s too late to do anything for Oren. We need to leave immediately. This plague is spreading, and it will consume everything and everyone in its path if we do not get out of its way.”

  “What? I can’t just leave my Kingdom in the hands of that psychotic woman.”

  “You must,” Cyden said, his eyes darkening. “If you want to live.”

 
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