To Morena Darkstorm, fighting for the equality of her citizens in her kingdom, Arisite, is a dangerous game in the vampyre court. The high nobles seek to enslave their lower silver counterparts to enhance their rule and to sign an alliance with their enemy kingdom of 100 years Kindred. She finds herself at odds with her family, speaking against the injustice of their lands with only the support of her closest servants, Lucille an ancient silver of great power and Amelia, a silver-haired maid with more power than she knows. When Alexander Lothbrok, a soulkeeper and the ruling King of the people, enters Arisite capital, Casai, he is beguiled by Morenas affection towards her people. Unknowingly, he finds himself at odds with an unlikely threat Amelia. With the girls' powers unlocking, Morena and Amelia become one in the same to protect the realms.
|Publisher:||Prodigy Gold Books|
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Month: Ucus-15th — Year: 1511 AF
RENA STOOD ON TOP OF the hill her flats covered in fresh grass, the children sat around entranced by her story. Telling and teaching of the great wars that happened long before the days of humans and vampyres. When the soulkeepers were worshiped in the high heavens; her hands swooped past illustrating the battles between the Gods and Guardians — the ancestors of the powerful soulkeeper race. The children laughed and awed at each detail of the battles, their little bodies shuffling to get closer, some laying on their stomach with their hands under their chins. Rena smiled, her ice blue eyes memorizing every smiling student. The evening sunset illuminating her honey brown skin. She was handing out snacks to each child as they left the hillside to hurry home to the orphanage. Hearing the cathedral bells ring, she patted her skirts from the grass and started towards the castle. She knew she would be running late if she did not hurry; Pacing through the city, she waved politely at the baker, and the florist, each of them greeting her as she passed.
The summer heat beat down upon her brow as she shuffled through the growing crowds each shoving past to get to their next destination. The air smelled musty, the monsoon season was fast approaching, the humidity becoming more potent through Casai. She watched admiring the citizens, each one she knew by name, Felix the baker, Sarah the florist, Evelynn and Kristof, the tavern owners. All of them living their lives, peacefully working hard to provide for their families. It took her nearly an hour to reach the palace gates from the cliffs of S'rest sea. As she approached the palace she could see the opalescent marble shining from the sunlight, she approached the secret corridors, taking a deep breath before she entered the castle. The tunnels were damp and barely lit, the walls perfectly carved, and traps were scattered, placed with deadly purpose. Rena only able to swiftly avoid them by her markings that lead her way through the twisting maze and back to the royal chambers. It took her thirty minutes to reach the passageway door. She stopped; listening for footsteps, pressing her ear against the door she heard the Druids — The elite guards in the country of Arisite. They approached stopping in front of the passageway entrance, three her eyes narrowed hearing another set of footsteps stop in front of the door.
"Hurry to your duties, we must assure that we are prepared for my celebration to come." The voice demanded. Recognizing the voice as her brother, Dymitri, she lightly opened the passageway to find another away to her chambers. She waited five minutes after the Druids and Dymitri's footsteps marched off to assure she could sneak in unnoticed. She opened the doors enough to where she can squeeze through. Quickly, she passed through the marble walls decorated with royal blue silks, and crystal chandeliers dangling from the high ceilings with paintings of ancient gods and guardians above. She passed with ease, leaving behind the dust and webbed covered secret corridors, and entering the opalescent ivory walls of the throne room; with only the serpent that represents her family, watching each step she made crossing the grand throne room — its sapphire eyes staring into hers. Rena darted for her destination, avoiding prying eyes and unwanted critics of her attire. Waiting for her was her butler Lucille, her personal guard and protector. His grey eyes looming over her peasant dress; with a wave of his hand he had three servants begin undressing her and changing her into appropriate attire of a princess of Arisite.
"You're late," he said sternly, "We haven't much time to get you to the council meeting." Lucille's voice remained low, his eyes fixed on Rena. Ignoring his concern, she rolled her eyes as she stared at the figure in the mirror; clean and petite wearing her family colors, the dress embroidered in jewels and lace, perfectly tailored to her silhouette.
"If Victoria were ever to find out about this ..." Lucille started to exclaim but was interrupted.
"She will not find out about it." Rena snapped, her voice commanding. All this for a simple council meeting ... Rena's thoughts interrupted, after a long moment of tension between the two creatures, the maid quickly finished Rena's makeup and hair, ringlets kissing her shoulders.
* * *
Lucille lead the young princess out of the bedchambers to what was once was an empty hall, to a hall full of noble vampyres and wealthy human merchants. Renas steps echoing through the halls now illuminated with candlelight, the moon was high in the sky. The windows shimmered, the hallways were filling with nobles and servants each rushing to their destination and stations; the Druids stood at their posts watching attentively assuring the princess reached the council chamber. Fast approaching, Rena took a deep breath as she turned the corner of the hall, stopping in front of the council room. Taking another sharp breath, she examined the large black door in front of her, turning towards Lucille, he nodded in support, opening the grand doors of the chamber.
Entering through the large high rising doors, Rena glanced around the council room, the black marble walls glistened in the moonlight shining from the stain glass windows, the grey pillars on each side of the room rising high against the ceiling. The candles burning bright against the black metal chandeliers that hung high above their heads. Her eyes focused on the noblemen before her, all sitting throughout the long mahogany table — Edgar Solomere sat on her father's left side, his yellow cat-like eyes exactly like his daughter's, Victoria the Grand Princess — next in line with her father.
Edgar was an older vampyre, with wrinkles and sunken skin, grey hair and a large nose, with high cheekbones. Beside him, his son, Ethan the heir to the Solomere fortune and family manor, much like his father he had his large nose, with a rectangular jaw, his hair a deep brown, like his sisters. Both cruel to their servants and anyone they deemed lower than themselves. Across from him was Salazar Blackmond, he was tall with broad shoulders, similar in age with Edgar, his eyes a seafoam green, his hair greying with hints of ash blonde that was placed over his shoulder, he watched Rena enter, a gentle smile crossed his lips. Beside him was Lord Claud, of house Slyverman and his son Kingsley, short standing only five- foot-one they both have slicked back brown hair with two full beards, their eyes red with hints of green, remembering her lessons, the Slyvermans have short tempers with a high taste for blood, Titano Tasslay was on the other side of his brethren, his shoulders held high, his skin pulling tightly, his cheekbones visible, with a pointy nose, his veins pushing against his transparent skin, he watched Rena walk past, his dark blue eyes staring past her. Finally, as Rena stood beside her father, Sebastian Alistair Darkstorm, Prince of Arisite. Sitting straight up, his broad shoulders held high, his raven black hair pulled back, his ice blue eyes causing submission with only a glance, his strong rectangular jaw shaping his pale face, with his cheekbones his presence commanding the room — it was no wonder every vampyre woman wanted to be his queen. His eyes focused across the room towards his most trusted advisor, following her fathers gaze she noticed Drake — The head of the councilmen. As the meeting began, Sebastian gestured for Rena to sit beside him. His eyes never leaving the high houses, specifically, Drake of house Trinity. The oldest of the noble houses, with powers of seduction and manipulation of the mind and body. Rena gazed at Drake, a sudden chill crawling down her spine as his ruby red eyes pierced through hers. She remembered the first time she met him, how he watched her in the shadows his lust looming in the air, she shivered at the memory. He was a man of great power and cunning; his eyes a maze of spider webs waiting for his prey to fall into his trap, his ebony hair pulled into a ponytail tied with a red silk ribbon emphasizing his square jaw clenched tight, his skin pale, his grin showing perfectly white fangs thirsty for fresh blood. Drakes gaze never wavering from her neck, making her skin crawl. The thought of him near her, sending more chills down her back. She felt his manipulation of the air circle around her; invisible to the naked eye. Calming herself, she refused to allow herself to show weakness in front of the noble houses.
"Shall we begin?" Sebastian questioned, his voice deep filled with authority, glasses of blood in front of them. Their long white fingers circling the glasses. "Mark this day; day 15 of Ucus 1511." He began.
The meeting focused on the country's current predicament; the war that has lasted a more than a hundred years with the Kindred Empire. The Arisitian army had fallen into a trap just three months passed, losing nearly 3,000 men to the ambush. Sebastian listened intently as Lord Solomere advised on their tactics; strategies that will assure them the next victory and the territory of Kindred's oil grounds. With their last attempt at invading the fortress they had failed and left themselves open for that ambush, giving Kindred the advantage on the war. Rena sat quietly, heart broken by the loss of the soldiers in this blood war. Her mind began drifting from the discussions of war and carnage, filling her thoughts with her love, Juda. She smiled, remembering their passion on the beach of S'rest.
"Morena, what would you propose we do in this situation?" Sebastian's voice broke her thoughts of sweet nothings — she looked at her father for a moment, gathering her thoughts, focusing back on the war and of how Arisite could win the lands of whale oil and steel mines. Standing, she cleared her throat.
"Well, your highness, seeing as they want bits of the farmlands that we control and of our silk farms, and we need their black steel mines, — why don't we come to a peace treaty with the current king in Kindred. After all, the stories I have been hearing about him, he seems a reasonable man." She replied, her voice filled with confidence, addressing a solution to the council. Keeping her hands at her side hoping her fear was not breaking through. Sebastian glanced around the room each house sneering at the thought of a treaty with a soulkeeper kingdom. Drake sat still taking a sip of crimson letting the taste dissolve on his tongue. His eyes not wavering from the Princess, his blood rising — lust.
"Make peace? Peace is for women, which is why, your highness, your daughter should not be permitted into these meetings. What idea has caused her to think peace," Titano hissed, slamming his hands against the table. Stoic, Sebastian raised a hand to him, silencing the vampyre lord with a single motion. Turning his attention back to his daughter.
"Continue, my daughter." Sebastian motioned.
"Thank you, father. I understand you all have concerns with my joining the grand council, for my ideas are weak and not brutal. But I do believe in my hearts a treaty of peace with Kindred would benefit all of us. It will expand our lands, and fortunes like never before." She finished, waiting for the rebuttals and disputes. Instead in the shadows, she heard a slow clap, the grand duke of Gaita, Drake Trinity sat, his eyes glowing red.
"Good princess, that is an excellent idea, however," He finally spoke, his voice like silk. He paused, taking another sip before he stood, straightening his black with red trimming uniform. "Who would you suggest bring these terms to Kindred?" His fingers tracing the glass, as he swiftly approached her; his hands caressing her neck, feeling her pulse quicken he smirked, licking his lips.
"I would suggest that you take the terms to King Alexander; after all you are the most trusted advisor to the Darkstorm family." She replied, her voice cool and collected, not flinching as his hands continued to circle her neck — knowing she was a half breed, she knew her blood was tempting to any thirsty vampyre in the room, no matter, she refused to give these vauerrmeen the satisfaction of frightening her. His hands now on her bare shoulders he smiled, she knew the only way to win these creatures respect was to manipulate the most influential of them all, Drake. Turning his head towards Sebastian, he raised his eyebrows.
"Your Highness?" He questioned. "Would you grant me passage to Kindred to negotiate a treaty of Peace between our two countries?" Drake purred, his eyes glistening with excitement.
"You may. Be sure to begin packing your servants and any essentials you will need for the journey. We will have the ship ready in three days for your departure Counceelmain Trinity." Sebastian replied, shuffling through more documents and stamping the Darkstorm crest of approval. A decorated sword against a deep grey almost black shield, with a serpent wrapped around the sword. Passing down another document for each councilman to read through, they all shifted in their seats. Clearing his voice, he continued the meeting.
"Gentleman, we also need to discuss the line of marriage arrangements, I know that all of you have sons and daughters ready to wed, some even considered for my children. Please, pass me your suitors lists so we may discuss this matter which is of utmost importance to the line of succession." Sebastian motioned, collecting the documents as they are passed down.
"Each suitor who wishes to marry any of my children must pass three obstacles in the span of a month, starting with the potential groom of my daughter, Morena. We will begin the Kingstrials in two months, do I make myself clear?" Sebastian finished, his eyes fixed on the council.
Standing, Kingsley bowed, appearing to the princess, kissing her hand. Drake, stared at the young vampyre lord, his red eyes burning with jealousy. The meeting continued, each nobleman presenting their children to Sebastian, their determination to marry their families into royalty. Rena sat still, watching the nobles all cast their votes towards the treaty of peace — there would be peace in the kingdoms, she could only hope King Lothbrok would agree to the terms. Ending the meeting, Sebastian was the first to leave, gathering his documents from the table, one by one the room began to clear, some nobles staying to speak with one another of trade, and merchants.
"Why do you look so melancholy, my princess?" Drake's voice crept from behind her, taking her hand in his.
"I am not, I assure you counceelmain. Thank you for your concern, I will be taking my leave now." Rena replied, a polite smile crossing her lips. Drake, stood, escorting her out of the chambers and into the crowded hallway. Watching her disappear from his sight, he was determined to win her hand, no matter the cost.
* * *
Rena walked through the crowd of vampyres seamlessly, their faces blending together as she passed them. The Druids stood guard, bowing their heads as the princess passed. Turning, she passed the throne room. It was across the hall, she spotted the entrance to the royal garden. A smile formed upon her lips as she headed towards the gates of the garden. The night air was refreshing on her face, she could smell the sea below the castle cliffs, the stars in the sky shining bright, lighting the way for travelers in the distant cities. She ran through the maze of flowers, making her way to the middle, where a small patch of grass, filled with tulips, their purple pink hues changing in the seasons, the summer breeze changed their colors multiple time, their pedals purple with orange tips, laying in the small meadow, Rena outstretched her arms, and closed her eyes.
She felt warmth upon her cheek, slowly opening her eyes she gazed up at Juda, the man she loved more than life itself. His hazel eyes staring back into hers, his brown hair tangled beneath his shoulders, his olive skin covered in soot and coal, she continued to memorize his features, counting his freckles on his nose, his square jaw strong, he smelled of smoke and sweat.
"You are a silly girl; you know that don't you." Juda smiled, leaning down his nose touching hers. Giggling she nodded.
"You are a brave man." Rena retorted, her eyes sparkling.
"So, I've been told, my Rena, sweet Rena." He breathed, his lips brushing hers. Closing her eyes, she breathed him in, wrapping her arms around his neck feeling his chest against hers, she could feel him tracing her body, his coarse hands stopping right above her breast, their hearts beating faster with each kiss. "We shouldn't be doing this, you are the princess of Arisite, and I am just a blacksmith." Juda sighed, pushing himself away from Rena. Sitting up, she placed a gentle hand upon his shoulder.
"Are you scared papa will kill you?" Rena questioned, her eyes filled with worry. Juda shook his head. "Then what are you afraid of, Juda?" She continued.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Guilty Crown"
Copyright © 2018 Bree De'leon.
Excerpted by permission of Prodigy Gold Books.
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