Here is a preview of a Patreon exclusive scene. This scene is 15 pages long and retells the first chapter through Darius's POV. It includes meeting Vivian at the candle shoppe, and introduces a new character in the castle. By subscribing, you help us work toward our goal of being full-time authors. Love and Starlight, Jasmine & Sophie
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Grey clouds parted and Wolfhelm spread out beneath him. Darius Störmberg leaned over the wicker basket as the large hot air balloon carried him closer and closer to his city.
My home, my people, he thought.
He cast another look up, hoping to catch one last glance of the Academy. The clouds had swallowed it again.
The nerves in his stomach confused him. Should he not be joyful to return to Wolfhelm, to return home? It wasn’t that he hadn’t missed the familiar streets, or tall towers of the castle, or the hard-working staff. It was just as soon as he stepped off this air balloon and onto the ground, he wasn’t a student of the Celestial Academy for Fallen Stars anymore. He was Prince Darius, heir to the throne and last of the Störmberg line. He had decisions to make, responsibilities amounting to much more than just passing a class. His decisions as Prince affected all of Thraina.
At least he had his steward to handle the day-to-day of running the kingdom. Though there were still some matters that required his attention. And some festivals he simply could not get out of attending, no matter how much he detested the day.
At least there was someone who was looking forward to the party. “And not to mention the sugar sticks,” Khalid said. “Am I ever going to eat a lot of those! And the plays, the dancing…it’s going to be amazing. Especially without Setviren nagging at me to listen to his lecture every two seconds.”
“Oh, I’m sure you’ll get enough of his nagging during the allegiance ceremony,” Carmilla groaned.
“My favourite part,” Khalid said flatly.
“Speaking of,” Darius nodded out the side of the balloon where Setviren passed them on his sky-skiff.
“Oh stars,” Carmilla said. “Those goggles make him look ridiculous.”
“Doesn’t he always look ridiculous?” Khalid impersonated Setviren’s ever-frowning face.
The three of them burst out laughing, and Darius was grateful they decided to take the balloon together. Grateful that he had his two best friends beside him, and they could find the happy moments in the hardness of the day.
“FOCUS!” Setviren yelled at them.
Darius steadied his breath. They were drawing close to the castle now, and the sun was about to crest over the horizon. The old loremaster had been wrong in assuming they couldn’t get the balloon down before sunrise.
Darius centred himself and felt the magic of Xydrious flow through him. Felt the fire of his star igniting beside his heart. The flame powering the balloon suddenly felt like an extension of him, and he concentrated, making the fire smaller. Slowly, he guided the balloon down to an open space in the castle courtyard.
As soon as they landed, they were surrounded by court officials, guards, and Setviren, red goggle lines around his eyes.
Setviren scrunched his nose up at a pad of paper. “Your Highness, I have you scheduled to meet with Duchess Leesa this morning, but it seems her carriage has been delayed on the road.”
Lines furrowed on Setviren’s brow. There was only one thing the loremaster hated more than someone talking during his lectures: an upset schedule.
“I suppose,” Setviren’s thin lips quivered, “we can break our fast in the dining room and hope that—”
“Or,” Khalid stepped forward, “we could get breakfast in town. I’m sure the vendors are already opening their shoppes. It would be educational for us to see the beginnings of the festival.”
“But what of—” Setviren started.
“We’ll be back before His Highness’s next appointment.” Khalid’s voice dripped with charm. “We can take some of the guards with us.”
“I’d rather sleep,” Carmilla mumbled. She looked put together as always, her short red hair pinned back with golden clasps. But Darius could tell she was tired. All three of them were usually asleep right now.
“Come on, Mills, this is a once-a-year event.” Khalid flashed his cunning smile at Darius. “What do you say, Your Highness?”
“Well,” Darius said, “it may be good for me to spend some time among the people.”
Setviren couldn’t argue with that, as much as the veins in his head pulsed. “Alright, alright.” He threw his hands out. “But take the royal guard and keep your hoods up. This isn’t a spectacle!”
Khalid gave a mocking bow to Setviren then yanked Darius and Carmilla toward town.
Guards trailed them discreetly, and Darius took in a deep breath of morning fresh air. He nudged Khalid. “I am once again grateful for your quick thinking, my friend.”
Khalid smirked and put a hand behind his head. “Nothing but self-preservation, Dare. A breakfast with Setviren would have put me right to sleep.”
“Speaking of sleeping,” Carmilla yawned, “if you two do not find me a coffee and some food, you will have to carry me back.”
“Then breakfast it is.” A smile broke across Darius’s face. He threw his arms over Khalid and Carmilla’s shoulders.
Dusk pink light spread over Wolfhelm, turning black shadows deep purple. The capital had awoken in a fervour, delighted energy radiating out of every shoppe. Today was for celebration. Bright banners of blue and gold hung between shoppe windows, and gates and pillars had been decorated with garlands and flowers.
“Taylor Charlton has been going off about a great bakery,” Khalid said. “He told me the cinnamon buns are better than the taste of starlight.”
“I don’t care what they taste like,” Carmilla said. “I need them now.”
Khalid led them down a couple side streets. Stalls full of smoked meat, spices, fruit, and vegetables lined the streets. Some sold books and pottery. There was even an entire stall selling busts and paintings of the Prince.
Darius’s cheeks reddened and he pulled his hood lower. He mused on Khalid’s words as they walked…better than the taste of starlight. He stilled remembered it clearly, catching his own falling star—the burning sensation as he’d placed that living star in his mouth, how it felt like he’d filled a hole inside himself he hadn’t even known was there. Now he always felt it, a burning ember right beside his heart, ready to ignite under starlight.
He glanced at his two friends. Under their cloaks, they wore their uniforms, each in a different colour that represented the star magic the gods had blessed them with. All three of them had swallowed a different star…
Carmilla cast a disdainful glance at Khalid. “People are going to confuse you for a beggar wearing that old thing.”
Khalid clutched his ratty brown cloak. “I’ll have you know that this belonged to my great uncle. It’s a family heirloom. That, and it’s terribly comfortable.” He gave a twirl as if to prove the point.
“You’re hopeless,” Carmilla groaned.
Khalid cooed and wrapped an arm over her shoulder. “We’ll get you breakfast soon enough. Or is there another reason you’re so grumpy today, Mills? Not used to all this sunlight? Or do you just miss your bonny lad?”
Carmilla shoved him. “We haven’t been a couple in years, you moron. He was far too obsessed with his last paramour.”
“And yet you still spend every waking moment with him.” Khalid turned to Darius. “She says that’s the reason they’re not together, but I think she just couldn’t handle dating someone prettier than her.”
Darius didn’t respond. He was quite over any romantic feelings he’d had for Carmilla, but that didn’t mean he wanted to talk about her romantic exploits. He especially didn’t want to think about Valentine and Carmilla.
END OF PREVIEW
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