Six years ago
Lharkin stood in the darkness, facing the house that belonged to the woman he had just killed.
The moonlight touched the silver specks in his unmoving eyes, and caressed the hard angles of his grey face.
His sister, Lazri, clad in a dark cloak with a hood, bent down next to the door where tinder was piled. She leaned forward and exhaled. The dust from her mouth sparked, and the kindling combusted.
Within moments, the fire devoured the entire house and blazed into the sky. The inferno brought Lharkin’s pale complexion to life. The reflection of the yellow flames danced in his eyes.
His sister was watching him. “What is it?”
“I saw something in her house: I saw a woman in the mirror.”
The Dark Guardian of the Night Realm arrived. He couldn’t be distinguished from the shadows; the entity was darkness itself. Its very presence gave Lharkin an involuntary chill; he felt the air diminish around him. If the Guardian wished it so, he could literally inhale their souls back to the dark realm.
In the Guardian’s mind-voice, he spoke to Lharkin: You know we can not possess the gift of foresight, so what you have seen in the mirror is something of desire, not of warning.
Lharkin thought of the woman he had seen in the mirror, staring back at him. He found her to be a woman desired – she was quite lovely – but she was human, and his desire would never lay there.
No, I believe what I saw was a warning; I have never seen her before.
Lharkin sensed that the Guardian was disturbed, angered even.
If you really believe the woman I had just killed was the one in the prophecy, Lharkin continued, then why did you not stop me tonight? Why let me do it?
Lharkin had courted Laura for months, patiently waiting until she would - out of her own free will - join Lharkin and become one of his Kins. The Guardian had said this would nullify the prophecy that said one woman would be Lharkin’s downfall, thus killing the last of the Empians.
Tonight, Lharkin had lost his patience; he was so ill from the whole courting experience that his anger had taken over and he had drunk all of Laura’s blood, not leaving her enough to survive on and thus join his clan with.
The night pressed against Lharkin’s back like a wall, as the Guardian left the shadows to become one of his own. The Empians turned around and faced him, ready to hear what he had to say.
Lharkin turned his attention to the ground, only one thought on his mind: he believed he had courted the wrong woman.
PART ONE: THE PLAY
Cassandra leaned against the windows’ ledge, her dark red hair moving in the late summer breeze.
Over the rooftops of the other houses, at the top of the hill, loomed the queen’s fortress. Behind it the full moon shone low in the evening sky, leaving a trail of flickering light along Numenira’s surface. The massive body of water separated Aurialus with the forbidden country, Empia, one that belonged to an extinct race.
Purple light glowed from one of the castle windows.
Cassandra backed away, her hand flying to her to mouth.
Henrietta, her family’s housemaid, came into the room.
Cassandra ran to her and pulled at her arm. “Look! There’s magic in the queen’s tower!”
Henrietta‘s heavy form moved across the bedroom as she quickly as she could. She leaned forward, hands on the ledge, looking in every direction.
Cassandra watched anxiously.
“I don’t see anything, dear. You must be tired; you know magic has been banned in these lands for a hundred years.”
“Yes,” Cassandra quipped, her green eyes wide. “That’s why we have to go warn her, or warn the Queen’s Guard!”
“We’ll do no such thing; your parents are still recovering from your last escapade,” Henrietta said. “You’re always getting into trouble, and you must understand that it doesn’t only affect you; it affects everyone who cares about you. While we’re in Aurialus, you are to stay put!”
Cassandra slumped down on her bed, looking at the floor. She was excited to leave her hometown of High Fernan so that her father could custom design a ball gown for the queen. But since their arrival to Aurialus three days ago, she felt even more constricted. Now that she had seen something troubling in the queen’s window, her beloved housemaid didn’t believe her, so that meant nobody else would either. She understood that her parents wanted to keep her close, but this was an emergency. She had to go out tomorrow and warn Queen Theresa somehow.
“You’re not doing it,” Henrietta said.
“I can tell you are planning something.” The housemaid sat next to her. “Look, you can’t go to the queen and warn her anyway; do you really want to accuse the queen of using magic while we were summoned as her guest? That’s the last thing you need: trouble.”
“I’m not accusing her; I want to warn her that someone else is.”
“Really, Cassandra, to her it would be the same thing.”
Cassandra picked at a thread on her light blue dress. “It’s because of Dray, isn’t it, that you’re starting to sound like my parents.”
“Your parents were upset when they found out that you were friends with her. And when she was convicted for murdering Sir Richard Strython…oh my, well that just sent your parents over the edge. And because I knew of your friendship with her and did nothing…well look at what almost happened to you!”
A tear left the corner of Cassandra’s eye.
“What is it?” Henrietta placed a strand of brown hair behind an ear.
“Well, I hadn’t told you what happened on the last day that I had seen her.”
“What do you mean? On the day she had murdered Richard Strython?”
“She didn’t murder anyone!” She sighed. “I was there.”
The door opened, and Cassandra’s mother walked in.
“Oh, mother, you’re back,” Cassandra said, glancing at Henrietta whose mouth was still open in shock.
“And you two are up late.” She went to the dresser and rearranged the dolls. “I wanted to tell you that we’re going out tomorrow morning to the market.”
Carina turned to look at her. “We just received an invitation to the queen’s masquerade ball to celebrate her birthday. So we need to buy you a dress.”
“Why? Is the one you got me not two weeks ago already out-dated?”
Carina looked at Henrietta, exasperated. “Am I the only mother who has to make her daughter shop?”
Henrietta’s mouth closed but said nothing.
Carina went to her daughter and spoke in a softer tone. “It will be a wonderful event.”
“For you, mother; I will know no one.”
“Well, then, you already have something in common with the queen’s son: he has just returned home after fifteen years.”
Cassandra rolled her eyes. “My father is a designer. Why didn’t he just create something for me?”
“He’s been so busy with the queen—” she stopped, seeing her daughter’s knowing look.
“We will go after breakfast,” Carina said and quickly left the room.
Henrietta went to Cassandra and placed her hands on her shoulders. “Your parents love you; each family has their own way of showing it.”
Cassandra looked into the mirror, her eyes as green as the emerald in her necklace. She removed it and placed it on the dresser. Henrietta walked up behind the younger woman and gently braided her hair.
“Now, tell me everything,” she said, resting her heavy form back onto the bed.
Cassandra looked into the mirror, but she didn’t see her reflection; she saw the night her and her best friend had gotten lost in the woods three months ago. They were in such an engaging conversation, Cassandra hadn’t realized that they had left High Fernan’s boundary and ventured over into the farm country called Green Fernan. While both towns were a part of Aurialus, Green Fernan was considered too small, too far, and too poor to be of much concern for the queen to have her guards patrolling it.
“There was a man after us watching us. The way he looked, I wasn’t scared at first.” Cassandra remembered how the blade flickered in the moonlight as he glared at her like a ravenous wolf. “He looked at Dray, and said: run, and your friend dies, watch, and she’ll live.”
Cassandra stopped for a moment, wringing her hands. She turned away from the mirror to look at Henrietta.
“But before anything could happen, someone or something flew by me, and I fell down. The last thing I could remember was looking up in time to see Richard running away from this dark thing and I went unconscious.” She felt her eyes tear up again.
“My god, dear, that is terrible. Come sit next to me.”
Cassandra did so, and the older lady pulled her close.
“So, someone else was responsible for that man’s murder? But who? Or what?”
“I don’t know.” Cassandra shook her head. “When I woke up, it was morning, and everybody was gone. I couldn’t find Dray anywhere. I went to her home, but her stepfather didn’t know and didn’t seem to care. I returned to High Fernan and asked the Queen’s Guard for help. They said that they wouldn’t be able to aid in any search when Dray Darwood had already been convicted of murdering Richard Strython. I was asleep in that forest for two days! Oh, Henrietta, it had been too late for me to come forward as a witness!”
Henrietta didn’t respond.
Cassandra frowned. “You don’t believe me.”
“Yes. I do. It’s just such a different story than what everyone else had heard: that she was found guilty of murder and robbery, and everyone was convinced of it.”
“Of course! Dray was a poor girl. Richard Strython was one of the queen’s dignitaries. If I hadn’t known her, I would think her to be guilty too. But I knew her, and I was there that night. That man was the one holding the knife to my throat. He was the guilty one, and I never had the chance to defend my friend.”
The maid took Cassandra’s hand. “Please don’t blame yourself for it. You can’t.”
Cassandra got up and went to the window, feeling a little unwound now that she had released some of her pain. “I know.” She gazed down at the garden lit with the moon and saw butterflies flittering amongst the flowers.
“Out of curiosity,” the housemaid asked, “what were you two doing in Fernan woods?”
“We were just talking.” Cassandra had reoccurring dreams of a man searching for her. “We talked about how upsetting life could be. We both felt trapped.”
Henrietta got to her feet and joined her by the window. “Dear, my life is just as confined as yours, but I am all right with it.” She gave a nod out to the outdoors. “Who knows what’s out there. We are all meant for different things.” Her eyes moved to look searchingly into Cassandra’s. “But if something piques your interest, then, perhaps, you are one of those to find out what can still your heart.”
“How can I do anything with such over protective parents? They don’t even want me to be courted by anyone.”
Henrietta let out of a startled breath, and Cassandra followed the path of her eyes to the door where her father was standing, arms crossed.
“I think it’s time for bed Cassandra.”
In her dream, Cassandra walked across the desert, her hair crimson against the yellow sand. In the middle of it stood a large Moringue, its branches reaching up into the darkening sky. Behind the purple and green tree stood a figure, clad in dark robes, moving his head just enough to peek so that he wouldn’t be noticed. His hand etched around the trunk as he moved a little more. His face held an ashen hue that was not normal, and the grey specks in his eyes looked like they were stuck with lightning.
She heard a sound.
Cassandra looked ahead and saw a woman. Her long sinewy form pressed against her white dress at the hips as if she had stood too long. Her hair was so light it was transparent. And her face—oh, it was magnificent; it revealed beauty and purity and Cassandra immediately felt safe.
She glanced back to the spot where the eerie man had stood. He was gone.
“What is it?”
“There was a man watching us.”
The woman shook her head. “He can’t hurt us here.”
“What is he?”
“Not now, my dear, not now.”
Cassandra moved closer to the taller woman, and as she did so, an object came into view from over the treetops, sitting quietly in the wide expanse of sand. It was a roof to a building and it had a shimmering silver-blue surface. She shook her head in wonderment.
“Well . . . come . . .” the woman made a sweeping gesture with her long pale fingers around her, “to the land of Cheya.”
Sparkling dust fell from the sky. Cassandra squealed in delight, turning around, trying to catch them like snowflakes. But instead of melting, they rested in her palm like glimmering fairy dust. The sprinkles grew in size until they were the size of rocks. She moved back out of the way, afraid to be struck by one. Cassandra watched in marvel as the crystal stones fell, each reflecting a different color beneath the sun. Each one thumped as they landed on the ground, sending up clouds of dust from the sand.
The woman leaned forward, almost in a bow. She grinned at Cassandra with her light eyes.
“Get the gems, Cassandra. Get the gems.”
Catch them before they are gone forever.
Cassandra Wynstrom stirred awake from her dream.
The lady in it told her something, but what?
Catch them…before they are gone forever…
The words sighed into her mind like a summer nights’ breeze, making her reminisce forgotten dreams.
She needed to get Cheya, that’s what she needed to do. A beautiful place where gems needed to be found… but for what purpose? What were its secrets? Magic? Cheya allowed her to find magic, and she needed to get to it. But she felt guilty of thinking such things when her queen had made it forbidden in order to protect everyone from it.
There was a knock at the door, her mother came in.
“Sorry, Cass, I have to go see a friend; their son has passed away so I will offer my help. We will go on the morrow.” Carina paused at the door and said: “And stay indoors.”
“Yes, yes, fine.”
Cassandra spent the morning getting ready, and browsed through the one story guesthouse. It was not spacious like their home in High Fernan, but it was very well kept and comfortable. Queen Theresa was a perfectionist, if not a little old-fashioned; all other kingdoms grew with the changing times, but Aurialus stopped in time a hundred years ago, it seemed.
With her parents out, and Henrietta sleeping in a chair in the study room, Cassandra decided it was time to go out and find a way to send a message to the queen.
She changed into more suitable outerwear, putting on a crinoline so that her green skirt would be properly expanded to match Aurialus’ style. On her way out of the guesthouse, she quietly checked on Henrietta who was still napping.
Cassandra walked briskly down the hill to the main part of Stonefort, where the market was busy with merchants and buyers who travelled everywhere from Aurialus to seek its vast array of goods; the queen’s castle was situated near her naval shipyard where she sent out merchants to find the best spices and the most beautiful colors of threads.
Cassandra went to merchant’s stand who was selling fruit, peeking in her clutch to see if she had brought currency.
“Could you tell me where I can contact one of the guards?”
The female merchant eyebrows rose. “If you don’t catch them patrolling, then you can go into town and their public affairs office is the third one on the right.”
Cassandra thanked her, bought an apple, and left.
She wondered if she would Dray’s stepfather selling his farm goods.
Oh Dray, my poor Dray. How I miss you so, Cassandra thought.
She left the marketplace and passed through the bastion, the gate protecting the capital city. The large cobblestone road was lined with two-story buildings. As she walked down the main road, eating her apple, she saw a group of ladies and immediately recognized one of them: her mother! She spat out her apple.
Cassandra turned her head and quickly turned down an alleyway.
A stubby looking man with a pipe flew out of a side door and Cassandra cried out.
“Sorry, miss. I saw you walk by the window and I thought you would be perfect for this part. I couldn’t let you pass by without begging you to try out.”
“Me? What are you speaking about? Try out for what?”
“Yes you. It’s for a part in a play that we are, right now, holding auditions for.” His eyes were bright blue, and he had an air of excitement that captured her interest more than what he had to say. “I insist that you come in and try it out.”
“But I never—” She saw her mother with the women at the end of the alley, looking down in her direction. “All right, let’s give it a try.” She pushed him inside the building.
Cassandra found herself in a darkened room connected to a hall.
A woman emerged.
“My, my, just look at you,” the woman said and gave Cassandra a look over. “I love your taste. You are just elegant and beautiful! What is your name, dear?”
The man spoke. “My name is Kristofer; I’m part of the stage management team. My sister, Lindsy here, is one of the assistants to the production manager of this play, Mekhi Shon. We mustn’t waste time here; everybody’s almost ready to begin. Follow us.”
Cassandra was led down the hall flickering in candlelight, and she couldn’t help but grin at Lindsy’s misshapen bun, wearing a dress with no girdle. Her father would be appalled; this was unsuitable in Aurialus.
They entered an enormous room with hundreds of seats, three stories high, with balconies on either side of the stage. She turned about slowly, taking in the majestic scene until she was intimidated by its grandeur, feeling out of place within the rich theatre of gold and burgundy velvet.
Cassandra turned to Kristofer. “Is this is the Queen’s Theatre?” When they nodded, she took a step back. “I have no experience in acting. I don’t want to offend her.”
“Oh, don’t expect the queen to be coming,” Lindsy said. “She doesn’t fancy plays.”
Cassandra realized that a man had been sitting alone in the audience, watching them.
“There’s Mekhi Shon,” Kristofer said. “I know he’s going to approve of you.”
She was whisked away to a dressing room.
Kristofer handed her a booklet and looked excitedly into her eyes. “Read page forty-seven. I’ll come when we’re ready for the audition.”
Cassandra was left in the room full of dusty boxes, cracked mirrors, drab wardrobe, and women who wore serious expressions as they read over their lines.
This is absurd! She took a seat in front of a makeup mirror.
She thought of what her parents would say; perhaps they would be proud: this was a very prestigious endeavour.
She leafed through the booklet entitled Warrior’s Blood. She turned to the page and read through it. She tried to remember what she could of the scene, of how she had to betray the man she loved so that she could save her people. She got a wave of deja-vu, feeling suddenly strange.
Kristofer walked in, eyeing his notebook with deep scrutiny, when he quickly glanced about the room.
“There are three girls absent,” he muttered, “well, it was expected to happen.”
On the way to the stage, she was aware of the emotional intensity of the scene that was to be portrayed. When it was her turn to face the lone man sitting in the auditorium, she used the pain she felt of her late friend’s death and she was brought to tears.
When Cassandra was finished, she found it difficult to close back up the wounds. She withdrew behind the curtain, breathing hard. She had to get out; something within her, deeper than where her memories laid, was also threatening to come out, one that she had yet to experience.
Kristofer put a hand on her arm. “That was captivating.”
Cassandra couldn’t leave even if she wanted to; she had to gather her thoughts and feelings.
When everyone had their audition, they were brought out on the stage. All of the actresses formed a line, watching as Mekhi Shon walked towards the stage. He was still too far away for Cassandra to see, but he was tall, slender, and had dark hair tied back.
“It is a shame that we need only one more actress for this play,” Mekhi called out, his voice echoing out into the theatre. “That choice is Cassandra Wynstrom.”
Cassandra’s mouth opened. She looked around at the other women. Some congratulated her while others quickly left, heads down.
I’m going to be an actress! Cassandra thought.
Backstage, Lindsy explained what she needed to know; they would rehearse three times a week. It would start in two days. They handed her a copy of the script.
On the way out, Cassandra was stopped by Mekhi at the door. His eyes were as dark as his hair and his cheekbones were amazingly high.
“Cassandra, the nature of this play might be a little difficult for some to accept. Will you really be here on Thursday?”
“Yes. I will.”
Before he left, she said: “You’re Sadarian, aren’t you?”
Sadarian were once allies to the extinct race called Empians. The Empians island was Invaded and destroyed by Aurialus’ army a century ago, but nobody was able to claim it; they could not – or did not want to – rule it. Instead of facing the same fate, the peaceful Sadarians decided to surrender and live under the queen’s rule by transferring sovereignty to her. Theresa’s son had reigned over the lands for fifteen years before it was transferred back. It was because of the war with the Empians that magic was forbidden.
“I just don’t see many Sadarians around anymore.”
“Have a good night, Lady Wynstrom.”
The door closed just as she was about to thank him. She shrugged and left.
Cassandra walked down the street in a happy gait, swinging her clutch, the ribbons coming undone from it. Two of the Queen’s Guard patrolled the city ahead of her, the horses’ hooves clacking on the cobblestone street. The time at theater was a deceivingly long one, she couldn’t waste another minute; she would have to contact the guard tomorrow.
Horses whinnied to her left. She turned and saw a man leaning against a coach, watching her. He had hair the color of wheat, and was not much taller than her.
He moved off of the coach. “Miss Wynstrom?”
Her eyebrows rose.
“I know your parents. Well, your father, anyway. He is quite the designer.”
Cassandra didn’t smile back right away.
He reached out and shook her hand. “I am Carl.”
The man was dressed in expensive threads; his cloak was opened and she noticed a gold vest with a gold handkerchief tucked in. This matched his black top hat that had a gold silk band around it. He held an air of charm cultivated from wealthy upbringing. He was also very handsome.
Cassandra smiled at him.
“Can I offer you a ride home?” He asked, his blue eyes sparkling in the dying sunlight.
“What if you whisk me away and demand ransom?” she knew he wasn’t from this Kingdome.
“Then I would’ve already been at home writing the letter.”
Cassandra grinned. “Take me for a ride, hmmm? Isn’t that a little forward?”
Carl shrugged. “Why should it be?”
She watched as he opened the door and held it open for her.
“I don’t even know you.”
The carriage was elegant in design, fully enclosed with big windows, with a smartly dressed driver sitting out front, his long black cloak matching the color of the carriage. On the door, there was a golden plaque of a lion jumping onto a snake. This – as far as she knew – didn’t represent any of the other countries she knew.
“Well, Cassandra, this is your opportunity.”
“Either you are a stubborn man or a desperate one.”
“You are a very lovely lady. Shall we go?”
In her room, Cassandra daydreamed about her two exciting adventures.
Henrietta hurried in. “You were out with some man today and I bet you weren’t planning on telling anyone.”
“You suggested I go out if something piques my interest.”
“I didn’t mean like this!” Henrietta said, exasperated. “Who is this man you wouldn’t introduce me to?”
“You were napping.”
“Hogwash. He should’ve escorted you to the door and explained himself. What happened between the two of you? Your parents showed up merely minutes after you did.”
“Nothing happened between us. He only shows me around town. That’s all.”
Cark had taken her to the outskirts of Aurialus, in the Sadarian country of Daigos, to sightsee. She had ever been outside of her country before. One estate they had passed caught her attention: the mansion was enormous.
“Now,” Henrietta said, “tell me, who is he?”
“All right,” Cassandra said. “His name is Carl . . . and, well . . . his name is Carl.”
“Oh, Cassandra,” Henrietta softly cried, “how do you know that his real name is even Carl? Why didn’t he come back to meet your parents?”
“He had to leave. He said that the pressing matter couldn’t wait.”
“Now he knows where you live.” Henrietta looked away for a moment, biting her lip.
“I’m finally having fun. If I tell my parents, they will disapprove at once because he’s not the queen’s son.” Cassandra grasped her hand. “I promise to be careful.”
Henrietta took Cassandra’s hands and her brown ones looked deeply into Cassandra’s green ones. “Listen, child, I love you like a daughter, but I have to tell you that I sort of see why your parents are so overprotective: you almost beg for trouble. You are a free spirit, but you must be conscious of your surroundings. You mustn’t see this man again until he’s met your parents.”
“Henrietta, do you know who lives in the large estate right by the Daigos border?”
“That town called Tharlan? My lord, Cassandra, must you add more escapades to your list?” The housemaid shook her head and looked away for a moment.
“I’m just curious about it,” Cassandra sighed.
“No, not many do. I’ve heard that the last owner was involved in a tragic love triangle; the woman he was courting was also courting a doctor. When the woman died, he left the estate shortly after, passing it on to a man who was his closest friend.”
“I wonder if they ever throw parties. I’d rather much go to that than to some boring engagement at the queen’s.” She went back to sit next to Henrietta.
“Cassandra! You mustn’t speak badly of the queen!” the maid studied her for a while. “Life isn’t that bad, Cass. There are others out there whom are eager to step into your shoes without hesitation.”
“I know.” Cassandra thought about her friend Dray and felt guilty.
“I just want to feel like I can handle my own situations, Henrietta. I’m twenty-five and my parents still treat me like I’m fifteen. I promise to be more careful.”
Henrietta nodded, looking at the ground in silence.
When she finally looked up, Cassandra received such a serious look that she grew concerned. “What?”
“I just worry that you may be minding too much attention to what you’re running from to be able to see what you’re running to.”
The moon’s light cascaded over the cobblestone street of Bay Haven, the second largest town of Aurialus.
Audray Stone was worried; the town they had chosen to scout tonight was risky for them; it was heavily patrolled by the Queen’s Guard.
Every evening, they took a group of Kins out and exercised their newly acquired abilities in selecting their Familiars. Malin Stone, the next in charge after Lharkin, would study and feel if the Kins were capable of being respectful and follow orders.
Lharkin’s orders seemed to have irked Malin, Audray found; he was like the rest of them, disorderly and wild at night, wanting to fulfill the desire to ravage the homes of unsuspecting families; he wanted to prolong their ambiguity as long as possible, until he was ready to take them to the temple in Empia.
Jeffrey tugged at the high cravat at his neck and was continuously adjusting his frock coat.
Tonight, they all looked the part of a group of five people having just left a formal engagement; they were visiting from the neighbouring kingdom. The men wore modest formal wear of pin-striped pants and long coats and the women wore long bustled dresses that matched their long coats. The women all had their hair pulled back at the sides, knotted just beneath their curved hats.
Audray tucked a loose strand of blond hair back behind her ear.
Malin glanced back at Jeffrey, a little perturbed.
Elisse stopped outside of the large three-story hotel called Sun And Moon Inn. It housed a large bountiful of prospects with its large tavern. The verandas hugged all the way around the twenty-room house. Audray figured Malin had brought them here because the tavern was not just frequented by local regulars but also by travellers as well. They could let everyone assume they had been staying at the hotel and were only coming down for drinks. It would be believable; a lot of travellers passed through and the town had a saying: there is a lot of misbehavin’, in the little town of Bay Haven.
A man stumbled by them on the sidewalk, bumping into a store window, mumbling.
Malin moved back to where Elisse stood. “Does anyone know why Elisse stopped here?”
Thomas answered: “He’s a Familiar.”
Malin nodded and placed his hands in the pockets of his long charcoal coat. “And a good word it is; they are sensed as being a potential addition to our Family not because of their blood type. Potential because we don’t yet if they actually are of any good to us.” He walked to Jeffrey and placed a hand on his shoulder. “Jeffy here would probably die on his first night alone by drinking the wrong blood type.”
“It can be difficult telling the difference if we are sensing our own or Familiars,” Audray said, glancing at Jeffrey, able to see his distraught features beneath the streetlight. “In time you will.”
Familiars were humans of the same blood type that could be put through the Change, converting them to Kins, sharing one thing in common; their father’s blood: Lharkin’s. This was known as blood-sense.
Malin was Lharkin’s oldest Kin, having been by his side for two hundred years.
“Before we move on, just focus and we will do no more testing for tonight; I feel for a good drink,” Malin said.
The mood lightened amongst the group.
Audray took her place next to Malin.
Lharkin had been intimidating to her when she had first become a Kin to his Family; she had quickly warmed to him and felt comfortable and safe in her new life. The only thing she couldn’t get used to was pretending to be Malin’s wife.
They went inside the Inn and strolled down the foyer. Malin gave a nod to the innkeeper before they passed through the wooden doors and entered the spacious room. In one area was the dining area, the other a game room, and the last the bar. In the centre of it all—giving a nice partition—was a fireplace as tall as her. They moved to the bar that had a few patrons. Malin eyed down the room before taking Audray by the arm. He took it in an odd way, as if he never touched a woman before.
Audray found that she was the only other female besides Elisse. She didn’t understand the rules or lifestyles of the upper classes yet, but she figured it was inappropriate for women, even with chaperone so late at night.
Everyone sat at the bar and Malin told the group to keep their focus on out-of-town travelers.
Having their drinks ordered from a burly-looking man, Audray grimaced at the smell of tobacco and mugs clunking above the conversations that were yet to be loud; by midnight, she would want to plug her ears. She saw men in fine clothes at dining tables, loud in conversation, while at another table in the gaming area lumber or fisher men played a deck of cards.
Elisse sat next to her, scratching underneath her dark bun. She smoothed down her light blue dress as she sat at the stool.
“I wish Lharkin chose another girl for this role. I’m not one for bars,” Audray said. She knew it was because of her stepfather that she hated it; Green Fernan was a terrible time for her. After her mother passed away, he would come home in drunken rages after having a terrible time lumbering, which wasn’t as bad as spending months away during winter in an attempt to supplement his farming income. Those times spent at home alone farming on her own were the most peaceful for her. The hard work kept her mind off of the pain of her mother’s death.