Qeterbek Palace (the Saiopia Chronicles, Book Two)

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Prologue

Kathhren

Flax 15th, 1358 — Dessely Village

15 days ago

 

Azure sat before an ornate vanity.

The young girl’s eyes were the blue of balaurrise, even in her reflection. Her dress matched them well — beneath the fine layer of gilded lace, the fabric was a deep sapphire, the same color as Azure’s irises.

The outfit looked just as good on her as it had looked on her mother.

Those blue eyes, Kathhren was sure, could capture the heart of any boy they wanted to capture. For that matter, they’d speared a few already. 

Kathhren just wished her daughter had chosen someone other than Dominique Birdbox.

Azure appeared to be critiquing her face, as Kathhren herself had done a hundred times at the age of sixteen. Kathhren watched her, head tilted against the doorway, for a few moments. Eventually, Azure turned in her seat, and the soft candlelight shone against her brown hair.

“Do I look okay?” Azure asked. Her tone was edged in anxiety.

Kathhren’s gaze flickered to the mirror. Unlike Azure, there was a collection of lines on her forehead. Worry lines, which had become more prominent than ever over the last two months. 

She forced the lines to smooth out, wishing that they would leave permanently. She smiled at her daughter. 

“Of course,” she said, though her eyes were on Azure’s lank brown locks. Something had to be done about all those tangles. “You look beautiful, sweetie. Let me put your hair up.”

Azure turned back to the mirror. Kathhren worked absentmindedly with Azure’s dark hair, distracted by the strange sensation of déjà vu creeping over her mind. 

Azure was fidgeting with her hands, biting her lip. 

“Nervous?” Kathhren asked.

Azure’s eyes met Kathhren’s inside the mirror, and she nodded. Kathhren sectioned off the top half of Azure’s hair, reaching for a hairbrush. Only when she began to tie Azure’s hair up with a yellow ribbon did it occur to her — she was styling her daughter’s hair exactly the way she used to style Charlotte’s. 

At that moment, Azure muttered something beneath her breath. Kathhren struggled to hear the words. It sounded like “You and Peter didn’t do anything, stupid.”

Kathhren blinked and tried to disentangle the meaning of the words, but there didn’t seem to be any. 

“What did you say?” she inquired, and her daughter’s gaze flickered up.

“Nothing,” Azure said quickly. 

Kathhren was no less confused, but she chose to move on. She was sure she had talked to herself when she was fifteen. 

She ran the brush through Azure’s hair a final time and, pleased with the result, reached for her jewelry box. These days, she rarely used any of the bangles within; most of them reminded her painfully of Syril. But, after much rummaging, she located something — a thin necklace upon which hung a fragile blue stone. 

She handled it carefully, fastening it around Azure’s neck so that it hung just above her neckline. Before it could even come to a rest, Azure was holding it up to the light, looking at it with wide eyes. “I can’t wear this,” she said softly.

Kathhren’s reflection smiled at Azure’s. “Why not?” she insisted. She did her best to sort out the last stray strands of her daughter’s hair. “It looks beautiful, sweetie. And it brings out your eyes.”

Azure gazed skeptically into the mirror. She let the stone fall from her fingertips. “You actually want me to go on this date, don’t you?” she asked softly. 

Kathhren raised a brow. “What do you think?”

The faintest of smiles pulled at Azure’s face. 

At that point, the sound of small footsteps joined the air from the doorway. Kathhren turned and smiled at the sight of her youngest daughter, Paeline. 

“This whole thing is stupid and ridiculous and I think you should cancel it,” Pae said firmly to her sister. 

“Here we go again,” Kathhren groaned. She slid out of the room after that, not wanting to be embroiled in what was sure to become an argument between siblings. 

She sat in a chair in front of the kitchen table, observed the swirling patterns of the wood. A delicately carved plate sat on the table; it held a few freshly purchased apples. Even from there, she could hear her children's voices. They quarreled loudly, but the words didn’t register in Kathhren’s ears.

She scowled down at the table. She thought of Dominique — the boy Azure would be going on a date with tonight. 

Even thinking of him filled her with emotion.



Julianna Gabriel

Edited: 12.11.2019

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