Chapter 1: The Child In The Book

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The oak door slammed echoing through the high ceiling, scattering the birds nested in the rafters. Liora bolted into the hall, her bare feet sliding across the wooden floor. Her wild locks fell across her face as she gripped to the front of her woolen dress. She ducked around the corner leading to the narrow stairwell before glancing over her shoulder to see the ginger-haired prince in pursuit.

His hair curled around his ears while the fox fur collar of his cloak shimmered in the torchlight. She could hear the clomping of his leather boots down the hall as she imagined his crooked smirk grow at hearing her childish laughter.

"Last one to the table has to eat a pickled onion!" She shouted, her voice echoing up the stairwell as she skipped down the steps. When she jumped to the navy carpet lining the floors of the hall she could smell the faint scent of rosemary and spearmint.

Running passed the suits of armour lining the left wall she could see the doors on the right side of the hall were closed. The middle room of the three doors was where the Steward and Detress resided, although they were likely already at the dining hall. Her attention jumped to the shimmer of silver above her head. The sky-coloured tapestries with the silver gryphon and sun hung from the wooden beams above. The grey stone walkway flashed with colourful light from lightning dancing outside the stain glass windows of the atrium. The first rains of spring had awoken her that morning and the rain was soon followed by the thunder that still rumbled in the distance.

"Hey, no fair – I gotta handicap yah know," Cáel called, just as she made it to the walkway where she took a sharp turn to the right.

That side of the walkway broke into three different directions. To the right went the hall where she and her mentor's rooms resided. Before her was an oak door studded with iron bolts leading to the garden. To the left was a stone stairwell leading down to the main floor of the half-moon shaped atrium.

When in the middle of the atrium she glanced back again to spot the boy's emerald eyes glaring at her. He pinched his tongue between his lips when he started to descend the stairwell. She turned to take a few steps backwards, watching the boy make his way down the steps. He put his weight on the railing, working at a slow pace. She stayed close enough to assist him if he needed help. Since he had stopped using his cane, Cáel hadn't asked for much help in moving around. When his footing was solid and he was back to walking along the flat floor, Liora hurried off towards the archway of the dining hall.

Liora jolted when she stopped herself with the back of one of the oak chairs. The dark oak table filled the long room. There was a round stone hearth on the far left side, while more armour sat in the corners. Long burgundy curtains embroidered with golden vines and leaves hung from a brass rod across the wall. They left little space for the door leading to the kitchen and apothecary.

Holding the back of the chair, Liora peered up to find herself meeting the emerald glare from the king across the table. Charn's fiery hair glimmered in the firelight of the hearth behind the chair buckling under his weight. He was the largest man in the room, almost too large for the chair he was sitting in. The king's lifted brows and narrowed eyes showed how unimpressed he was with her behavior. She stifled her laughter and moved to sit at the end of the table farthest from the bearish man.

Charn didn't like her relationship with his son. Although she had saved the prince, Liora was still a westerner and therefore a traitor to the north. The people of Morza – her people – had little respect for the South. They allied with the Nation of Snakes because they were the closest place for resources. Yes, the Morzi had originated from the country of Sydrin but that was over four-hundred years ago.

When the Morzi had been part of the Southern nation of Sydrin they had acted as separate entities within their groups. Through the exile to an unknown, dangerous land the Morzi worked together to survive. They no longer thought of themselves or the punishment from a ruthless King but the care of their community. They formed new traditions, distancing themselves from the God Kidoss and welcoming in his siblings the Goddess Sirphan and God Darkel. Through accepting the three Gods as a united force in nature made those of Morza no longer strive to bring chaos to the land but peace and humility.

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