House of Bastiion Page 1

Author: K.L. Kolarich

Series: The Haidren Legacy #1

Genres: Fantasy


The shrouded figure watched her from deep within the shadows of the wood. Admired the way her bone-white hair shone in the moonlight, the slight evening breeze whispering through those tresses, waltzing with each tendril to a melody he would never hear. After all these years, even long into her maturity, Alora remained the most beautiful woman he’d ever beheld. Her face was lovely in a way that no amount of time could hope to tarnish, her movements still graceful and refined.

With a sigh, the figure huddled deeper into the folds of dark fabric encompassing him, making certain to keep his monstrous form concealed. He was the very embodiment of irony, yearning for these passing moments between assignments, even as he brewed with anxiety, knowing she’d again be forced to look upon what he’d become. Once assured not an inch of blistered flesh was visible between the weatherworn black gloves and his cloak, he resettled himself into the mist with forced patience.

The man was talking again.

Broad-shouldered and muscular, Orien Darragh boasted a frame of robust fortitude, though it was less apparent in the formal attire that such a celebratory occasion called for. As Alora listened to the words of her brother-in-law, the figure noted the way she tensed, despite Orien’s good humor. She’d always excelled at hiding her inner thoughts from most, but the figure was not most. He was other. And, undeterred by his shame, he was hers.

Orien’s expression turned pensive as he placed his callused hands on the rock ledge encircling the private terrace. It was a discreet spot, built into the short cliffside, abutting the tree line. It had been Alora’s preferred meeting place for many years, hidden as it was from the city of Roüwen below.

“Eoine should have been here today,” Orien said, overlooking their lambent city of wood and stone. “It’s the most joyous day of Luscia’s life—her Ascension to adulthood. Her mother should have been with us.”

Ghostly light from the nearest leaves flickered across Orien’s face as he gazed into Alora’s eyes—her countenance so very much like his Eoine’s—and seemed to imagine the wife he had lost. Nearly a decade had passed since Alora’s sister disappeared into the eerie luster that set Roüwen and the lands of Boreal aglow, but the figure knew that Alora still carried a heavy burden of shame and regret. A tattered strip of bloodied linsilk, found in the undergrowth, was the only token left behind from Eoine’s tragedy, one Alora believed preventable had she advised Orien differently.

The figure caught the glimmer of pain in her expression as Alora shifted away from the luminescent view. “My sister would have sent Luscia on her way with pride,” Alora agreed. “Though I’m not sure how many times it would have taken Eoine to fully let go.”

Orien smiled slightly, evidently lost in the memory of a woman who no longer existed. He failed to notice the strained lines forming at the corners of Alora’s mouth. Silence fell between them for a moment as she contemplated her brother-in-law, clearly reluctant to interrupt his bittersweet reminiscing.

“The lumin is unsettled, Orien,” Alora shared hesitantly. “I’ve been watching it in the wind for some time. I didn’t want to alarm you—not until I was sure.”

Orien snapped to attention at her mention of the lumin, threads of the Other invisible to his naked eye, apart from the lustrous hints in the surrounding nature. The figure felt his own otherness daily, enough to believe in the sacred light energy that threaded through every inch of the Boreali highlands. As Haidren to Boreal, Alora saw what no other could, possessing an ancestral ability to interpret the signs and warnings of what might come to pass.

“Alora, you’re the most respected woman in Boreal,” he sputtered. “I hear your concern, but look around you! Luscia has Ascended and will finally take her place by your side as al’Haidren, representing our people beside the throne. The High One is pleased tonight, and so am I. Aren’t you?”

When Alora failed to answer, Orien’s eyes narrowed in suspicion. “Do you not think she is ready?” Orien asked accusingly. “That your niece isn’t suited to be your successor?”

For a brief moment, Alora pursed her lips, slighted by his suggestion, then gently rested her palm on Orien’s arm. “I meant no such thing, Clann Darragh.”

The figure saw the strong shoulders of Boreal’s leader soften at the formal use of his title while Alora continued, “I have every confidence in Luscia. Beyond her lineage and upbringing, her abilities by blood are manifesting without her full awareness. Honestly, I am trying my best to keep up with her training,” she admitted. “But the fact remains that, for whatever reason, the lumin is not at peace.”

The Clann Darragh wasn’t a foolish man, and it was clear that her warning weighed heavily upon him. Unease tugged his features.

“Do you think it’s the Dönumn?” Orien whispered. “The Najjani guards haven’t reported anything of significance.”

Alora cast her gaze across the living fortress below, illuminated by hazy, twinkling light. She closed her eyes and steadied herself against the echoes of music that rocked the night to sleep after the evening festivities. The figure groaned inwardly at the restlessness she attempted to hide, painfully aware he would add to it once the Clann Darragh finally took his leave.

“I don’t think so. I can’t tell you what is causing the disturbance, only that it is disturbed. I’ve prayed to the High One for clarity, but Aniell’s answers are never straightforward. All I know for certain is that there’s a change in the wind.”

“What of Luscia?” Orien posed. “She’s no longer here in my sphere of protection. How will this affect her position in Bastiion?”

“It won’t concern her for now. Until the next path is made clear, she will proceed as tradition dictates. Prioritizing her safety in light of these revelations is my only suggestion at the present,” Alora said. “It’s why I ordered her party to leave ahead of my own, to give her as much concealment as possible. Any outside forces would assume that she and I would be traveling together, since she is my heir.”

Orien’s eyes widened at the possible danger. His fingers began to comb through his thick beard, the color of silvered birch. As the House of Boreal entered an ominous season of unknowns, his prized and influential daughter was commanded out of reach, away from their refuge.

Alora took his hands, each easily the size of a lycran’s paw. The figure noticed how fragile her pale fingers appeared in the giant’s grasp and welcomed the familiar sting as he remembered what it had been like to hold those hands once, long ago.

“The king is a good man, Orien. But you know as well as I how thoroughly the leaders of the Ethnicam have pushed me out of Korbin’s confidence over the years. The throne may not be our enemy, but the other three seated on his Quadren?” Alora bit her lower lip. “Of that, I’m not convinced. Not anymore. Luscia will proceed as planned, until we know where Boreal stands within the Ethnicam.”

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