Chapter One |The Ball|
Somewhere in the air kingdom of Yügen, leaves blew haphazardly in the wind. Tumbling and twirling, they leaped off the tree branches and swirled to the ground. As it was late autumn, most were a brilliant shade of orange or red. Occasionally, a gold leaf would float by. However, one prince in particular couldn’t be bothered to watch the leaves right now. Instead, he was hovering over a cauldron, quietly muttering and repeating the ingredients for the poisonous spell he was currently working on.
Einri grabbed a handful of Raven’s Blood, a poisonous berry, and crushed them so that their juices fell into the steaming pot. The liquid inside quickly a deep shade of wine red, and would blend in perfectly if sturred in correctly. With the final ingredient added, the concoction was finished. Einri grabbed a tiny, corked vial and scooped up some of the poison before securing the lid and dropping it in his pocket.
He checked his wristwatch one more time before running his hand through his long white curls and running off towards the stables.
He had a birthday celebration to be at.
I stared into the mirror, utterly mesmerized by the red, glimmering dress I had on. The shifting fabric reminded me of my brother’s red fire as it wrapped and swirled against my supple curves. The fabric, named ignistic, was crafted by weaving strands of cooled fire magic together. It showed in the way I lit up the room. My black wings floated easily beside me, outstretched so they were out of the way. The raven-like feathers blended into smoke and shadow around the edges. Another reminder that this world truly was magical.
The reflective light shown on the dull ivory walls of my bedroom. The flooring was wood, with a medium-sized rug in the center. To the left of me was my bed. It was large and was covered in silk. To the right was my vanity, with my jewelry box on it. I also had a few tubes of make-up. The only other thing in the room was a door that led to my fairly large closet.
“This dress is utterly gorgeous Lilith, honestly you’ve outdone yourself this time,” I said, glancing back at my sister. Her curtain of ebony hair fell around her face as she looked up at me. My quicksilver eyes met her onyx ones.
My family was scheduled to be the security at a ball in two hours. Once there it would be patrolling until, sure enough, something bad happened. My family had been in the business for years now, my eldest siblings running the show before I took over. We all had our parts to play, but I was indefinitely the face of our band.
“Atarah you never fail to bring my designs to life. Even Khrysoar would have to agree that you look utterly dazzling in this,” Lilith said, smiling down at her handiwork.
I laughed. “If you think Khrysoar would ever compliment me, I’m afraid you’re sorely mistaken, Lil. It would take an ungodly amount of some love magic to get him to even glance at me without being disgusted. And honestly, after how he broke my heart, I don’t think any of his compliments would affect me anyway.”
Lilith frowned at me as she unclipped my white-blonde hair, allowing it to cascade around my shoulders and down to my rear. She handed me a couple of silver rings, and I slid them onto my slender fingers. I reached over and grabbed my dagger and sheath, slipping it up my leg and securing it to my upper thigh. I would have weapons stashed near my post at the ball, but the small knife was an added precaution. She then swept my hair over my right shoulder, gathering my necklace in her hands.
The silver chain had been a gift from my mother for my third birthday. Attached to it was a small heart-shaped pendant, and a silver bow and arrow charm. The bow was drawn, and the small pendant laid directly over my heart. I tried my best to keep my face from falling when thinking about my parents, but to no avail, as Lilith wrapped her arms around my shoulders and pulled me to her.
“I know, I miss them too. They would have wanted you to be happy. Do not focus on the past, little sister. Instead, focus on laying a path for the future. Mom and Dad would be so proud of you,” She paused for a moment to step back and lift my chin with her fingers. “You’ve grown up to be quite the influential figure, Atarah. You run the most esteemed crime family west of the Boarder. Yophiel and I are so proud of you, Tarah.” She wiped the tears off my cheeks before returning to her tailoring. “Now, let’s get this dress finished, yes?”
The enormous ballroom’s tables were decorated in ivory silks and charcoal satins. A large section of the room was left cleared for dancing. Nearly all of the two thousand guests were on it. All were clothed in magnificent dresses and handsome tuxedos. Large, towering windows stretched to the ceiling in elegant arcs, the night sky framed in between pieces of silver. Thousands of candles were placed on large, intricate chandeliers, casting a warm low-light around the room. To say that this was a formal gathering would be an understatement.
The princess, Lilura, of the night kingdom, Mortala, was celebrating her fifteenth birthday today. My people, along with my family, had been hired to protect the party from unwanted company. When word got out about large get-togethers like this, it almost always crossed the Wall and managed to make its way to the eastern leaders. Most of the time this was harmless, but other occasions had been marked with violence. Even on their best behavior, grouping the eight leaders of Briarowne together tended to be a big mistake. Their egos and greed for power tended to blind their moral compasses if they even had any. But so far, the celebration has been going well. No surprise visits from royalty tonight, hopefully.
I made my way over to my twin brother, Javaid. He smiled slightly when he saw me. My brother’s dual-colored eyes roamed over my dress. One was the orange of embers, the other an ash gray. He loved it when I wore Lilith’s creations. I could tell from the craftsmanship that he was also wearing one of Lil’s designs, although his deep scarlet tuxedo was dull in comparison to my dress of fire.
“I don’t suppose you could convince Lily to make me a blazer of ignistic, could you?” He asked, his smile slowly melting into a smirk.
“I’m sure if you asked her kind enough Lilith would do anything for you. She’s your family too, y’ know,” I laughed.
“Yeah, I’m aware, you just seem to have some time of convincing magic when it comes to her. She always sides with you on things.” He expressed.
“Just like how Yophiel always agrees with you on everything. Keres is the only unbiased member of our family. I honestly have no idea how we’d make any decisions without her.” I joked, pressing the back of my hand into my forehead in a “woe is me” gesture.
We laughed hard with each other, keeling over a bit. Once our bouts of laughter had died down a bit, I waved goodbye to Javaid and walked back to my post, scanning the crowd for anyone who didn’t belong.
I had almost made it back to my post when a cold wind sent a shiver down my spine. I whipped around, prepared for the worst when they materialized.