Welcome to Everdell…
Kia isn’t a ‘normal’ noble of Everdell. For one, she was born without magic. Two, she was basically the coolest person she knew. Well, besides Jal. And Sir Falnym. And her parents, and Bug, and… okay. There were a lot of cool people in her life. But Kia was determined to become the most awesome (non-magical) estate lord there ever was.
That is, until things start happening.
In a story of friendship, adventure, and betrayal, Saskia Pravalda finds herself alone and running on a quest to solve a mystery and save her home. What was this new dark force awakening across the land? Who was trying their hardest to capture her? Where was she supposed to run?
And why did things keep getting… magical?
Sneak Peek of Chapter 1: The First Gift
Kia tiptoed down the stone corridor once the lightserver passed. It was the old woman Kia had known since she was a baby, but her name was something long and tiresome, Kia just called her Moon Bug. Bug, for short.
Silvery-white hair flowed down her hunched frame illuminated by firelight. Bug’s gift was light energy, just like all lightservers. Her wrinkled hands cupped one glowing orange flame, delivering it to the furnaces that kept the Everdell estate warm at night. Lightservers were genius with fire.
Tonight, Kia didn’t have the time to stop too long and admire. Her heart was in a race. She fled behind a tapestry as another lightserver passed hovering not two, but four flames in her hands. Really, she had no idea how anyone could have such balance.
The amazement snapped away. Kia sprinted to a bannister down the next corridor and leapt onto it, her cotton trousers sliding easily down two flights of the polished wood, until she tumbled into the sitting room and onto a faded lavender rug.
Her father had already retired to bed. His wine cup sat abandoned on the long handsome sitting table. The curtains were drawn for the night, and only one candle illuminated the room in a tired glow.
She smiled. She would make it to the gardens in no time at all. Really, she should be recording these things. She was getting faster. Her cloak billowed behind as she ran past the remaining doorways and halls, and burst outside into the flower grove. She flew by their stems, which rose tall as her mother’s head, past the lines of towering glass houses plump with vegetables. She ran, huffing, until she could see the thick patch of dark trees. And then she ran faster.
Jal wouldn’t beat her this time.
She broke through the trees to find the lake glittering a dark obsidian in the moonlight. The surface was smooth and unbroken. Her lips broke into a furious smile because she knew she won tonight. When Jal beat her, he would jump into the water and taunt her when she arrived, claiming he’d been there long enough to get prune fingers.
This, of course, was always a lie. Kia was faster than that.
She tossed her cloak onto her rock, the one that was almost hook-shaped, as if meant to be a midnight hanger. Her belt, boots, and gloves followed, and then she waded into the lake.
Really, it was a pond. A slow stream collected into a large circle in the center of this grove, and filtered out the other end to continue down the province. Kia liked that. It was a new lake every time.
She ducked her head under the water and floated on her back for a full eleven seconds— she was counting— when Jal’s hurried form finally appeared in the darkness. Kia burst into a fit of giggles at his bewildered expression.
“How fast did you run?” he asked in amazement, smile tugging at his bright copper eyes.
“So fast,” Kia answered. “‘I’ve been practicing every morning after breakfast.” Kia and Jal were neighbors, their families sharing rule over the Everdell province. Any time they could, the two were together. It was usually between lessons, or when their families had dinner. Kia and Jal were best friends of course, and looked forward to the stolen moments of excellent fun.
But the most incredible fun happened every fourth night, like tonight. The next morning, there was a Lord and Lady’s council meeting. These were scheduled so early the sky was still dark, and so Jal and Kia’s parents tended to retire quickly the night before. It was an important bond between all houses, who came together for the King and Queen, her father told her. An important tradition of balance across the lands. Everyone took it very seriously.
It also meant that Kia and Jal could meet, every fourth night, to swim.
Jal smiled, and obviously couldn’t help being impressed. The swirling pattern of nota on his cheeks rose and crinkled with his grin. Kia always admired his colors. The green was so deep, it almost looked black on his brown cheeks. Even more, Kia noticed they had spread since the last week she’d seen him. The lines and swirls and angles spread from his nose and over his cheeks in the classic way, continuing over his ears, and all the way to the tips of his fingers. But now they bled to the back of his neck, and onto the soft skin beneath his eyes.
Kia’s nota were a pale purple, and almost indistinguishable. The pattern was broken and completely faded in some parts. Very strange in a girl from a strong bloodline of gifts. But people had long stopped treating her differently for it. Jal never even seemed to notice their lack.
Jal jumped so high that he created an ocean wave when he landed in the water. Kia shrieked and ducked for cover. They dug for frogs, slung mud at each other, and raced across the lake, wet clothes billowing beneath the surface.
Hours later, slinging themselves on the grass laughing, Kia patted around until she found his hand, grasping it in her cold fingers.
“You are my best,” she told him, squeezing. The stars were bright even in the full moon and he turned his head to look at her.
His hand squeezed back. “And you are mine,” he responded. His deepening voice cracked a little which sent them both into sniggers.
They huddled in their dry cloaks for warmth, and watched for any lucky meteors.
After a while, Kia felt Jal tense uncomfortably next to her. “I think I know my gift,” he said quietly, glaring into the dark sky.
She propped herself up on one elbow and loomed over him, eyes wide. “No. Way.”
He lifted his jaw in complete seriousness. “Way.”
She punched him in the chest and exclaimed, “Holy mother of the Queen! What is it? For how long? Oh, Jal this is killer. You graduate to court prince, like, immediately and start your new lessons. Oh, you’re going to learn so much— I’m extremely jealous. You will tell me if they teach you something awesome, right? You are a court prince!” Kia stared expectantly, her emotions sprinting circles around them. “What’s your gift?
Jal smiled tightly, sitting upright with crossed legs. Kia mirrored him.
Black hair falling over his face, Jal bent his head and reached his hands out on either side. They waited. His eyes were squeezed closed, muscles in his arms coiling and straining. The trees were silent, watching.
And then they began to move.
Kia’s jaw dropped and she whipped her eyes around the dark wood. The trees were swaying and rustling. The hushed sound soon built to a roar like nothing Kia had ever heard before — terrible oaken croaks, gnarled reaching arms of the jacusta, gaping mouths of ancient wimponias, all leering in at the two people sitting by the lake. The trees were moving. And Jal was moving them.
Kia rose to her feet, dark hair lashing around like a storm. The grove was alive. It was sentient and breathing. It had passion. She brought her gaze upon Jal’s concentrated, strained expression, and saw it there too. His eyes flew open, molten gold in the night, and his lips broke into an exuberant smile. Kia couldn’t help but laugh. She spun in the breeze like a smoke moth and shouted in triumph. Her best friend was killer.
Jal finally released the tension between himself and the earth, which whispered to silence. He collapsed to the ground, bashful and proud. Kia continued to leap and dance happily around him.
“That,” she said while catapulting herself into a side flip over his body, “Was incredible!” She rolled to a kneel beside him. “You’re powerful, Jal.” There was no mistaking the significance of what he’d just done. Most novice court princes took at least two years of study before they could spread their influence so far with such force.
Jal met her eye. They were still bright, but now tinged with a sliver of worry. “You can’t tell anyone Kia.”
Kia quirked a quizzical eyebrow. “I know that. It’ll rustle every court feather in the realm.”
He nodded thoughtfully. “That’s what my parents say as well. Not with as much color, obviously.”
“They even forbade me to tell you. I could not—” Jal’s voice caught. “I could not obey them.” He sat up and grasped her arms. “I trust you, Kia. I trust you forever. I know you wouldn’t betray me.”
Kia was rigid. Jetali and Masma forbade him to share with her? That meant they were keeping secrets from the Pravaldas. But why would they? The two families had been ruling the Everdell province together for generations. They were the closest allies in all of Reynor. If they wanted to hide Jal’s gift from Kia and her parents, that seemed like a serious sign of mistrust. Especially since Kia knew her parents wouldn’t speak a word of it to anyone without Jetali and Masma’s blessing.
Concern simmered in Kia’s heart, but she pressed it down and placed her hands on Jal’s shoulders. His skin was feverish and shivering beneath the still-damp cotton. “You know it well,” she replied. Her voice was impressively steady. “And are you sure you’re not fevering? Your skin is boiling beneath there,” she placed the back of her hand on his cheek.
Smacking her hand away, Jal pulled her under his arm and hugged her close.
Anxiety still raked at her. She loved Jal’s family but their desire to shield was worrisome. The Morsylcher and Pravalda families were tightly knit allies. Had been for generations. She wanted to ask Jal why there were secrets now, but decided to let it rest.
Jal started talking about new stories from across the realm, quests through the mountains, ancient magical artifacts, and stones of prophecy. His voice was familiar and soothing. Thoughts decidedly tossed away for now, she leaned into his side, a smiling cheek resting against him. After all, there was no real trouble here.
For the rest of their time they whispered about gifts, magic, and adventures lying just around the bend.
To be continued.
… & get updates on the upcoming release! Thanks for reading!