To celebrate the completion of Leagende as a series, I will post the openings to all the books.
All rights reserved.
Copyright (c) 2017, 2019 Cat Hartliebe
NEW COURT MAGE
“Adain!” the high octave voice squeaks out, “I will find you.” The teenager walks past guards through the castle halls. She is bleach blond. It isn’t dyed; it’s rare for an elf to dye their hair, and she follows those rules. Her hair is naturally blond. What’s even more rarity is her blue eyes. No elf has blue eyes. Having both blond hair and blue eyes makes Castella Illiene scary. Even though every single one of her siblings has human blood from thier father, none in her family looks as much the outcast as her. Every move, though, matches the current queen, her grandmother. As she turns a corner her hand lands on a teen who looks ready to be named adult. “Found you, Adain.”
“No fair.” The male radiates peace and love. Not magic. He can explain the most complex of spells as if he should throws magic left and right, but his magical core lies empty. Ever since his grandfather destroyed it when he was barely a child. “You used magic.” Unlike Castella, the male has the dark royal green eyes and light brown hair. He matches his family members. The only thing that Castella matches is the green skin tone, something all Forest Elves have.
“Don’t have to.” The girl tosses her hair aside. It is strange to think these two have a grandfather, now dead, that once was human. Their uncle rules Germania with an iron fist. They never met him and do not care to. “You radiate.”
“I do not, Castella.” Adain glares at his little sister hands on hips. “You cheat.”
“Again. I do not have to. Why waste energy on something so mundane?” She glances down the hall. A shadow of an elf slips into a room. This was not the first time such a miss happened. For the last week, Castella will occasionally notice him out of the corner of her eye. Not once has she managed to greet him. The male has been dodging her. Her assumption is he must feel the draw too. Or he’s terrified. Either way, she will have to deal with him soon. Before Adain claims adult at the end of the month. She has to.
“What are you two doing?” The half elf prince, their father, has a stack of papers almost blocking his sight. He places it midair with magic to look at them closer. “Games again? Adain, are you completely packed?” Even though the man before her contains human blood, he still looks very much an elf. Long brown hair balances with his green skin and dark green royal eyes, a match to Adain. Castella stares back with her blue. At least, she has a voice just like her father’s that rivals even the best singers in the country. Half elves typically struggle with the intricacies of elven tongue. None of her family has that concern.
Adain salutes their father which Castella considers foolish. Her big brother should not be joining the army. He should go to the court mages and demand a recheck. He has to have magic. He has the rest of the requirements for any of the jobs in the castle. “See you later, Castella.” He waves flying away. She sighs glad to see he at least has flight. Not her royal wing, but wings nonetheless.
“And you, young lady.” The half elf turns on the female noting her unease. “Have you finished all of your requirements?”
Castella cringes. Her father, Prince Bludi, considers the queen some beyond compare creature of power. Castella sees her grandmother in a different light completely. “Um…”
“Do you wish to hold the title of crown princess? It would not take much to push it on to your little sister Izzy.” Bludi takes up his papers not truly offering a threat. “She may not have your level of power, but she is good enough.”
“She is only eight!” Castella complains, “I am nearly eighteen. That is a huge difference.” A difference that could hurt the country.
“Eight or eighteen really makes little difference to elves, sweetie. If Mother did not wish to step down, you would not be considered much of a crown princess. Now, go see to your lessons.” Bludi shoos her off.
Castella frowns seeking out the queen. Ever since Castella was born, Queen Alaenia has been looking to step down. Something happened eighteen years ago and no one wants to explain it to her. Adain lost his magic, and Queen Alaenia lost her will. The only one who stays jolly no matter the situation is King Richard. Too bad the king is at the south tower where Adain will be stationed. Richard will only return for a few days during Adain’s naming ceremony. Then off the two will go. “Without me,” Castella whispers annoyed.
The two of them has no cares in the world. Adain should not be joining the army. He is not a soldier. He would not be a proper general even. He should at least be a court mage. He deserves to be a court mage. His magical knowledge surpasses basically everyone in the court.
Shuffling to the queen, Castella’s heart sinks further. She is stuck here. Occasionally, Father takes her out of the castle, but without guard, she stays put. Even visiting her mother’s parents was a parade. She hates it. “I don’t need guards. I am a high class mage. I overpower Father, Mother, Richard, and Grandmother. Why would I need guards going fifty feet into the market square?” Kicking the wall, she ends up before the queen readying to fight.
“Clear that face.” Queen Alaenia hands her a notepad. “Take down all the notes from now until I say so.” The strict action is expected from the queen.
“Yes, Grandmother,” Castella squeezes out between her clenched teeth. Stupid, mundane tasks. It makes her not want the title of queen. Then she looks at the crown hidden amongst the queen’s tresses. So Castella continues on doing the tasks as required of her. That crown makes the entire nonsense event worthwhile.
“Castella, you have been found playing games and sneaking out. Which do you think is the bigger offense?” Queen Alaenia waves at her recent companion. It seems a lull allowing the queen and crown princess a conversation.
Castella frowns hugging the notepad. There is no right answer to this. Both to Queen Alaenia are great offenses to the title of crown princess. Castella is no longer a child. She no longer is allowed to play. She was never allowed to sneak out of the castle. Normally, she manages to not get caught. “Both are great offenses, Grandmother.”
“I did not ask that.” She stares at her granddaughter with amused interest. “Which is more offensive?”
“Um…” Castella bites her lip unsure how to answer. She needs an answer and a reason. The queen always does this to her. To teach decision making. Which should be the offense given rank over the other? So much that the other is ignored or enough to just be dealt with first? If we were in war with both Dereksean and Germania, who would you focus on handling first? Such difficult questions are common place during these training sessions with Her Majesty. “Sneaking out is more dangerous to my self, but playing is more dangerous to my position.”
“Yes. Which, though, is the greater offense?” Queen Alaenia turns to Castella waiting for an answer before moving on. “Quickly or you fail and must be punished.”
Castella stiffens. Queen Alaenia is the only one who can offer a punishment that is truly harsh. Trapped for six hours studying old magic texts with a test Castella must pass before gaining food or sleep. Or being pushed into the magic guard resetting protective auras throughout the castle. Or rewriting every law on the books to be sent out again as per yearly requirements to the nobles. “Sneaking out. Self is far more important than position. If I lose my self, I lose my position. If I lose my position, I can still have my self.”
“Good.” Queen Alaenia begins walking to the next task at hand. “Keep writing, Castella. You still have a lot to learn.”
“I will be happy to oblige your desires, Your Majesty.” This gains a small smile from the queen, but Castella knows it is the expected answer. Her eyes catch the male again slipping behind a new door. Her eyes stare at the door as they pass it not willing to make a comment or ignore. Whoever he is, she will catch him soon. Not with the queen present. Punishment would be worth it if she can figure out the feelings the male brings about in her.
“It seems the new court mage is nervous with you.” Alaenia glances at Castella while she starts watching where she’s going again. “He is barely your senior.”
“No.” She smirks. “So that is what you are thinking about.” Queen Alaenia places a hand on her granddaughter. “I do not think you truly want him as your king. I suggest looking elsewhere.”
“Why?” Castella looks at the queen with great interest. She was not thinking of the elf as husband material.
“He has no name.” Queen Alaenia stands up straight. Her shoulders make her look bigger and stronger than normal. None of which would truly be a lie. Besides Castella, no one stands a chance against her.
Castella flutters in place even more interested in the male now. “Will I meet him? May I decide for myself?”
Queen Alaenia stops forcing Castella to land beside her. “I will never tell you who to marry nor why. I will only offer suggestions. If I consider the choice too dangerous for the country, I may step in. But any other situation, you will be on your own.”
Castella inhales. The fact the queen will trust her judgment terrifies her as well as strengthens her. She has been taught to judge others well. To trust instincts and offer truth rather than fiction. And ask questions. She has learned to always ask questions. “Can I meet him?”
“Not right now.” Queen Alaenia motions her to continue. “If you had failed your question, you would have. But since you succeeded, you will have to wait for dinner.”
“He has been here for two weeks. I have not had a meal with him. I have yet to see his face. Who is he?” Castella sighs glancing to see no one of importance. “His mystery interests me.” More than that, his mystery gives something to look for and seek during this confusion of Adain’s naming day and training to be queen. The note in her room leaves her needing something to focus on beside.
“His mystery?” Queen Alaenia snickers motioning her into a room. It seems they will be ordering more nonsense. “You will laugh when you think back on these words.”
“I laugh at the words now.” Castella chuckles. “Perhaps the weird sense I get from him is because he is new.”
Queen Alaenia stiffens aghast at the words. Castella tugs the queen’s sleeve. Her Majesty comes back with a fake smile and sad eyes. “We shall see.” Castella watches her grandmother work, following her actions perfectly. Queen Alaenia has kept a lot from her granddaughter; Castella does not find it funny at all.