Author's Note: After almost a year of neglecting this story, I am proud (Wait, I shouldn't be proud about almost giving up on one of my stories) to announce that I have decided to take this story off haitus. I am so sorry about not being on fictionpress for the last year, and I hope that 2010 will be the year that I become a better, more disciplined writer.

I decided to continue this story because of the six reviews I received for just the prologue. To me, having six reviews for just 1000 words is an amazing accomplishment. Thanks you Serenity Renea, SeaJade Song, ShadowInTheWriter, Nicola Guillis, Hemii25, and Aurelia Rose.

The past year was spent reading, contemplating, and trying to improving my writing. After receiving an honest critique for the prologue I have rewritten it, so it looks entirely different from the first draft. Please check it out before you start on the first chapter.

Also, I am thinking of changing the title after someone suggested it to me. Your suggestions are welcome.

Well, I guess I should stop talking and allow you to read the first chapter. I'm sorry about the length; my goal is to have future chapters at least 5,000+ words long, and I'm sure that chapters will be heavily edited and combined in the future.

Enjoy!


"It is as if the king brought every noble and servant stationed in the palace. I thought he was spending the summer at his castle in Rendovier." Auryon muttered to herself.

The front view of her manor looked like a fair. Dozens of red banners floated lazily in the light breeze, and she saw guards, nobles—so many people sitting on their horses as the servants rushed around fetching food and drink. In the middle of the large crowd, a tent had been erected. Red and round, it reminded her of a large ruby. The fact that the majority of the guards were concentrated around the tent told her that the king was in there, enjoying a meal and giving out orders—orders that could determine her own fate.

The king and his entourage brought the smells of the city: horse dung, sewage, unwashed bodies—all badly disguised by flowery perfumes that seemed to enhance the smell rather than diminish it. The foul scent was what woke Auryon up this morning—and the voices and music announcing the king's arrival was what made her jump out of bed, alarmed.

"The king has come to pay his respects for your late father and has requested an audience." Ariana knocked on the opened door to catch her attention.

Auryon turned around. Never changing in the sixteen years she has known her, Ariana was caring and trustworthy, like the mother Auryon had never met. However, jealously stung Auryon like a bee whenever she saw the witch. It reminded her of how ugly she looked.

"He wishes to pay respects to a greedy tyrant who has been dead for the past four years," Auryon said, the mention of her father coating her tongue like sour milk. "The king must think that I am stupid to not realize the real reason for his coming here."

She kicked a pink dress that had been thrown on the floor. Her entire wardrobe was emptied onto and hid the entire floor. After spending ten minutes trying to pick out a dress, she gave up and close trousers and a tunic, the same kind of outfit that she had worn each day since her father's death. Why call in a servant to lace her up in a corset when she could save an hour of her morning by wearing men's clothing?

"Fetch a maid to fetch me breakfast." Auryon looked at her bed, a tangle of white sheets and pillows. "And to clean this room," she finally added, taking in the mess.

Ariana smiled and curtsied. "As you wish, my lady."

Ten seconds later, a maid entered the chamber holding a tray, which she placed on a table. The smell of porridge and freshly baked bread enticed her, like a beckoning finger. Auryon walked over and opened a jar; it contained fresh honey as golden as the leaves of fall. She poured a spoonful of honey over the porridge and took a bite.

"Mmmm. This is good. Did we get a new cook?"

"Yes, the old one had been resisting my spell," Ariana replied.

Curtsying, the maid turned and walked out. Auryon noticed how the maid's eyes were covered with a thin, milky film—like ice on a pond. Ariana kept the servants under a spell to prevent them from gossiping…And to keep them obedient. Occasionally, however, a few servants would resist the spell, forcing Ariana to wipe their minds and send them away.

Auryon sighed and walked to the window, carrying her steaming bowl. The king and his entourage were still there, probably impatient about standing on the front grounds for the past two hours.

Finally, Auryon spoke: "You might as well have the servants prepare rooms for the king and his subjects—but make sure the visitors stay away from my rooms."

She scraped the bottom of the bowl, trying to get the last bits of sweet porridge. After licking the back of the spoon, she turned to Ariana and continued: "As for the audience…I'm sure you can use your magic to make him change his mind."

Auryon walked over to the tray and picked up the bread. It was round and as big as her fist. The crust was baked to a golden brown, but when she broke it in half, she discovered that the inside was as white and fluffy as cotton. She had to struggle to not scarf the whole thing down and give herself the hiccups. After chewing the last bite, she licked her fingers and lifted another gown—a purple one covered in lace and frills—with her boot.

"Have you seen my cloak?"

"This, my lady?" Ariana asked, a black, woolen cloak draped over her right arm like a curtain. Auryon didn't even notice the witch search the room for the garment, but growing up with the witch taught her that strange things happened in the manor all the time.

Auryon fastened the cloak around her and pulled down the hood. In the late summer heat, wearing the cloak was like entering an oven…But it was something she had to endure in order to keep her face hidden and Dianne's curse a secret. The last time she walked around with her cloak off, a child had seen her and ran to the village claiming that he saw a monster in the forest. It took a week for Ariana to wipe minds and to prevent nasty rumors from surfacing.

"Where are you going?" Ariana stepped forward and fastened the cloak's ties around her neck.

"I need to go to village and have some of the tenants come in to help. I would be a bad subject to deny our king a feast." Auryon frowned.

Ariana nodded in agreement. She was staring forward, pupils dilated—at something that was beyond Auryon and the manor walls. A second later, she was back to normal and was brushing dirt off Auryon's shoulder.

"One of the nobles is causing trouble in the apple orchard. You might want to stop him before he does any damage." Her face darkening like a storm cloud, the witch scowled.

"I will."

Auryon took every one of the witch's predictions seriously.

"I won't be gone long, especially with the king here."

"Take care, my lady." Ariana lowered her head and gave a deep curtsy.

Before exiting the room, Auryon turned and looked at the witch.

"One more thing, Ariana."

"Yes, my lady?" Still curtsying, Ariana raised her head.

"Please call me Auryon. We're friends." Auryon smiled and exited.

Although Ariana insisted on strictly keeping their relationship as mistress and witch, Auryon hoped that one day the witch would realize how important of a friend she had become to the cursed child.


Chapter 2: When Auryon goes to the apple orchard, she doesn't find any serious damage... But she does find a troublesome, rude prince who dares to ask her to show her face.