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Things are changing in en'Edlia's palace on the world of Irth. High Patriarch Brokt has just died, leaving his wife, Narrian, a heartbroken widow, and his realm tumbling into political upheaval. Twelve-year-old Nizza is more than thrilled that her eldest brother, Crown Patriarch Merrick, is returning home to claim the throne after spending five years on the portal world of Earth with Krystin, his off-world wife, and their twin daughters. But there is only one problem: there has never been an off-worlder in the ...
Things are changing in en'Edlia's palace on the world of Irth. High Patriarch Brokt has just died, leaving his wife, Narrian, a heartbroken widow, and his realm tumbling into political upheaval. Twelve-year-old Nizza is more than thrilled that her eldest brother, Crown Patriarch Merrick, is returning home to claim the throne after spending five years on the portal world of Earth with Krystin, his off-world wife, and their twin daughters. But there is only one problem: there has never been an off-worlder in the ruling family in the history of en'Edlia.
Although Krystin arrives on Irth amid cheering crowds, she soon discovers that she is not welcomed by some, simply because she does not possess magical powers. Feeling lost and threatened in her new strange world, Krystin turns to Nizza for companionship. The two young women soon find plenty of adventure and trouble that include a violent sea voyage, civil uprisings, and a greedy king as Krystin must confront all who do not accept her or her new role on Irth.
Banking around Lyndell's castle towers, the catlin dove between the posted guards on the upper wall, yowling fiercely. The startled guards cried out in alarm and ducked for cover. The catlin then whisked up to the window of Merrick and Krystin's chambers. There it perched on the ledge for a moment, licking its paw and enjoying its view. Below, the spooked and cursing guards were shaking their fists, promising revenge.
The catlin stretched lazily, satisfied it had caused a sufficient stir, then leapt through the open window. It landed lightly on the floor behind the tapestry, which hung over the opening to keep out the cool spring air. Sauntering to the middle of the room, it yowled its greeting and announcement of the arrival of a message. It sat on its haunches, folded back its glossy wings, and waited to be noticed. The catlin switched its tail impatiently. If it had to yowl again, it might have to demand higher pay.
Presently, Princess Krystin came into the sitting room, yawning and rubbing her still sleepy green eyes. "I thought I heard a catlin," she said drowsily. She knelt down, her long golden-brown braid slipping over her shoulder. She opened the message tube which was attached to the animal's back by a leather harness. Pulling out a roll of parchment, she stroked the catlin gently.
"Merrick!" Krystin called toward the bed chambers. "A message from home."
Smiling, her husband, Merrick ambled into the sitting room. "Who's it from?" he asked, coming up from behind and putting his arms around her.
"I'm not sure," she replied, returning his smile and affection. "I've never seen this seal before."
Krystin turned and handed Merrick the rolled message. He glanced at the green wax seal which held it closed.
"It's the seal of en'Edlia's High Council," Merrick said running his hand through his dark hair. "It must be official business, though I can't imagine what it might concern." He tapped one side of the imprinted waxy glob and it vanished with a "poof." Merrick began to unroll the crisp parchment.
"Official business is boring," Krystin yawned. "I'll go see to the twins."
Merrick slumped into a soft chair. His brow furrowed as his dark eyes moved quickly over the words written in a flowing script. Suddenly he gasped, sitting bolt upright in the chair. "Oh, no," he moaned, dropping his face into his hand.
Krystin came back towing a toddler with each hand. Her husband sat limply, his face pale. "Merrick! What's the matter?" she cried. She released the children and knelt at Merrick's side, touching him gently.
"I'm being called back home to en'Edlia," Merrick choked out. He looked sadly into his wife's eyes. "My father is dead."
Nizza turned a dancing circle, her arms wide and her long, straight, red hair flying out in all directions. "Can she sleep in my room, Mother?"
"No, dear," Narrian, the high matriarch of en'Edlia replied, a small smile touching her lips. "She'll be in the high patriarchal chambers with your brother, Merrick."
"Oh." Nizza frowned disappointedly. "I wish I could have gone to their wedding with you and father. Merrick always gets to do fun things."
"I'm sure Merrick will be having much less fun now he ... he ...," Narrian tried to control her emotions. She drew a ragged breath as the tears came to her eyes yet again. Her unadorned white dress, a symbol of her mourning, lay around her like snow. Her dark hair was pinned up away from her face. "How can I ever go on without my dear, strong Brokt?" she muttered. "I'm overwhelmed with funeral preparations, the coronation ceremony, and all the foreign ambassadors and dignitaries coming from all over Irth and off-worlds to pay their respects. He was too young to leave me so soon."
"Oh, Mother," Nizza ran to sit beside her mother and place a loving arm around her shoulders.
Concentrating on radiating happiness toward her mother, Nizza envisioned a warming, golden glow around them both, easing their sorrow and carrying away the heaviness of heart they felt.
This was Nizza's birth-gift, a magical power which all people of Irth are born with. Each person's gift could be different. Each must learn to control and use it to help themselves and others. Nizza thought hers was perfect. She loved giving others happiness and peace, even though she wasn't affected by her own power. Her family's grief had been easier for her to bear knowing she could ease some of the harder moments for them, like now.
Nizza particularly liked using her birth-gift for defensive purposes. It was so satisfying watching her brothers squirm. They loved to tease and pester her, using their own birth-gifts of levitation and controlling insects to play jokes on her or try to anger her. However, Nizza's gift had proven an equal match, for Jarrius and Wayen soon found themselves crying with happiness, helpless under her power.
Now as she sat by her lonely, grieving parent, she felt her mother relax as the deep sorrow was lifted by her gift. As she continued to comfort the high matriarch, Nizza thought about what was happening in en'Edlia.
Third born and only daughter of High Patriarch Brokt and High Matriarch Narrian, Nizza had watched the palace, and the realm alike, tumble into political upheaval. Her oldest brother, Crown Patriarch Merrick, was to claim the throne at the death of their father. He was coming home after five years on the portal world of Earth with an off-world wife and two-year-old twin daughters. There had never been an off-worlder in the high patriarchal family line in the history of en'Edlia. Never.
The High Council feared rebellion from the Xens. Xens were purists believing only those of Irth should be allowed into the high patriarchal family. Guardwatch on the ruling family had been increased. The city council was doing all it could to calm the citizens of en'Edlia in the midst of this turmoil.
So many events were happening and each inspiring different emotions for Nizza. She felt joy at Merrick's return, and the prospect of having a sister close. She felt deep sorrow at her beloved father's death. There was hope for relief of en'Edlia's building tension and the return to peace as the new high patriarch was accepted and gained control.
Nizza would have to be careful to choose wisely when and where to use her birth-gift. Overuse of one's gift could cause total exhaustion, unconsciousness, mind-sickness or even death. Nizza didn't actually know anyone who had died, but the history books had recorded proper warnings of those who had.
For now, all those feelings were slinking off into the murky background of her mind as the happiness she generated began to soak in and her mother began to smile again.
"Mother, when will I get to meet my new sister?" Nizza asked anxiously, her excitement about Merrick's return surfacing again.
"His catlin message said they would be here tomorrow morning, dear," Narrian replied. "And thank you." She gave Nizza a squeeze. "Just don't wear yourself out. We will get through this together."
"I know we will," Nizza replied quietly. "I just want to help. I hate feeling useless."
"Well, then," her mother said rising. "Let's go see what we can be doing instead of just sitting here." She led Nizza out of the bedchamber and down the hall toward the kitchens.
Looking off into the distance, Smich remembered a time he had had with his Uncle Brokt. It had been his uncle who had shown him just how to dry the bloat fish skin to a delicate crispness, and then fill it with water. It was his uncle who had taken him up on one of the palace tower walks and, with several waterblimps in hand, they had bombarded a group of unsuspecting guards.
Smich chuckled. He couldn't wait to see Wayen's face when he showed him the bulging waterblimps! What a perfect tribute to good old Uncle Brokt! He and Wayen would have to seriously discuss who should be the receivers of such wonderful presents. Smich smiled mischievously. It was going to be an exciting day.
* * *
Nizza lay sleeping deeply in her bed which was suspended by thick ropes from the lofty ceiling. It was like a giant swing which rocked her gently to sleep each night. However, she had lain awake into the single hours of the watch, not able to sleep for her excitement at the return of her brother and his family. After she did finally drift off, she had a strange dream ...
The towers of en'Edlia's palace were before her as she looked up. Suddenly a new tower rose up, beautiful, yet strange and different from all the other towers. Nizza admired the new tower's graceful lines, its unique design. It seemed to have an inner strength. It was truly wonderful.
Just as suddenly as the tower had risen up, great black clouds gathered overhead and thunder rumbled menacingly. Nizza felt fear without knowing why. She had never feared storms before. The clouds continued to gather as the thunder's booming began to grow more intense. A flash of lightning lit the sky. Nizza was momentarily blinded as she cowered before the angry storm. She felt the new tower was in great danger. It made no sense, but she ran toward the palace screaming words of warning to the beautiful tower.
Lightning arched down from the sky, striking the tower with terrifying force. Nizza opened her mouth to scream but the roaring thunder and crackling lightning drowned out her voice. Again and again the bolts struck the tower, chipping away at its beauty as it created black scars and broken stones. Nizza watched the falling debris as the storm seemed bent on the tower's destruction. She wanted to protect it, to shelter it somehow, but the tower was surrounded by all the other towers. It was unreachable and the storm was so huge. She felt very small and helpless. She looked for someone to help her. She finally noticed her brother, Merrick inside the iron gate which opened in the high walls which surrounded the palace towers. She called out to him, pointing at the storm, but he shut the gate tightly. Then he turned his back to her and vanished. She frantically called and looked for others to help. There was no one.
Then suddenly Nizza was surrounded by crowds of people and her heart leaped with hope the tower could now be saved. She turned to see who had come to help, and as she looked, the faces in the crowd grew angry and dark as the storm. They rushed forward and began hurling rocks at the tower, yelling mean, hurtful things. Nizza tried to stop them. She tried to tell them about the tower's beauty. No one listened. No one stopped. Nizza was pushed and shoved aside as tears streamed down her face. "No!" she cried as she fell to the ground. "No! No! Nooooo...."
* * *
Wayen fidgeted as his man-servant, Heatham, fussed over his formal clothes, tucking in his shirt yet again. Heatham adjusted his jacket and gold sash which designated him as an heir in the ruling family. Wayen hated all the formal occasions and this was no exception. He didn't mind his brother, Merrick, coming home; he just minded having to dress up for it. He was the youngest and was somewhat spoiled, but that suited him fine.
"Enough, Heatham!" Wayen stepped back out of reach. "I am old enough to fix my own clothes now. I'll be ten at the next season, you know."
"As you wish, young master," Heatham bowed, frowning. "But if the high matriarch docks my wages because you are unkempt, I shall require compensation from your pocket, sir." Heatham straightened his own clothes, turned smartly on his heel, and strode briskly out of the room.
Wayen was glad to be rid of him. He was stuffy and old and smelled like a rainbow eel. Come to think of it, Heatham kind of looks like one too. Wayen grinned. It would be worth losing a few coins to see less of Heatham.
Wayen frowned as he suddenly found his father's words drifting through his thoughts. "Son, you must treat others with kindness no matter their station or position. It will mark you as a truly great leader. Even though you are my youngest, you will have many opportunities to lead and even rule. Never abuse those who serve you."
Sighing, Wayen flopped down on a chair. Why did you have to leave me now, Father, he thought. I need you. He felt lost and miserable as he let his thoughts wander.
Moments later, he stomped his foot. He might be the baby of the family, but he didn't want to be seen acting like one. He used his anger to push away his tender feelings. He needed to be on with his own plans for the morning.
He had to make an appearance with the family, of course. Then he could sneak away to find his cousin, Smich for the welcoming procession. From a box deep in his clothes cupboard, he pulled out the last things he needed and stuffed them into his pockets. This might turn out to be a good day after all.
* * *
The morning sun was veiled through the bedchamber window's sheer fabric. The sky was clear. A gentle breeze blew in from the sea. The sea birds shrieked in the distance as they fought over breakfast. Nizza gasped and sat up, pushing her way dreamily out of sleep. She was moist with sweat and could feel her heart pounding in her chest. She lay back, closing her eyes again. Her strange dream, so real a moment ago, was quickly fading from her memory. She helped it go by trying to think of more pleasant things.
Abruptly, her eyes flew open again. This was the day! Merrick would be here today!
Nizza threw back the covers, suddenly too warm, and rolled out of bed nearly crashing to the floor in her haste. What time could it be? As if knowing her need, one of the hour-men walked past her chambers calling out, "Eight and a quarter bells! Eight and a quarter bells!"
"Oh, no!" Nizza gasped. "I'm late!" She threw open one of her large wooden trunks and began digging through her clothes. "What should I wear?" she cried.
She ran to her clothes cupboard, then scurried back to her bedside and pulled twice on the long, gold cord which rang a bell calling her maids.
In minutes she was surrounded by three women bustling about. Murm had brought breakfast on a tray. It was steamed squirting sea plums with sweetwater and fresh muffybread. Boolie swept into the room with Nizza's emerald-green satin and lace dress and clean underclothes. Nizza loved the dress even though Wayen told her it looked like it was made of seaweed.
And finally Leesel, Nizza's favorite maid, set down the pitcher of washing water and began brushing out her hair. "Oh, please can you braid it, Leesel?" Nizza begged. "But no ribbons! I want to look more grown-up today."
"As you wish, young mistress," Leesel replied warmly. She began tugging on Nizza's hair with strong, skilled fingers, braiding her long, red tresses.
Leesel called Nizza "young mistress" whenever she wished to sound formal, but it was meant to tease her. Nizza considered Leesel her auntie, though there was no blood relation between them. She knew she could always depend on her faithful maid for anything, like keeping secrets, sneaking in a piece of cake at bedtime or covering for her if she was absent without her parents' knowledge. Those days were coming to an end as Nizza was twelve now. In only two years she would be at an age to begin a courtship. Nizza sighed at the thought, then shrieked as Boolie doused her with warm water for her washing.
After gulping down breakfast and wrestling into her clothes, Nizza was off down the hall with her maid still running behind her finishing the last of her long braid. Finally, just as Nizza reached the stairs, Leesel grabbed her braid bringing her to a howling halt.
"What did you do that for?" cried Nizza, rubbing her head.
"Because you have to stand still for this part," Leesel replied.
"Oh ... very well."
Excerpted from The Matriarch and the Magic by Nan Whybark Copyright © 2013 by Nan Whybark. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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