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Bonus Chapter – In Which Marion and her Siblings Celebrate their Birthday

Here is a preview of a Patreon exclusive scene. This scene is 19 pages long, a very fluffy and fun birthday celebration for the Greywick Triplets.🎉🧁 Seriously nothing bad happens! (Well maybe Darius's present...) By subscribing, you help us work toward our goal of being full-time authors.

Love and Starlight, Jasmine & Sophie


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Timeline

This chapter takes place after Chapter 15 +16 (which are not yet out) but before Chapter 17.

(You won't spoil anything by reading this before Chapter 15+ 16!)


This preview scene does contain chapter 14 spoilers! So read that chapter first!


🎉🧁In Which Marion and her Siblings Celebrate their Birthday🎉🧁

Marion Greywick had never in all her youth been a rebel. She kept her dresses neat, even when she worked in the leech shoppe. She was always polite, even when it killed her inside to be so. And she had always obeyed her father, even after his death.

But today, Marion Greywick was twenty years old, and no longer a youth. Today, she would be a rebel.

Marion held a stack of books tight to her bosom as she walked through the halls of the Celestial Academy. It was four in the morning and bobbing pastel lights lit the carpet before her. Classes had let out an hour ago, and most of the students had made their way back to the common rooms, readying for dinner or getting straight to studying. To anyone passing her in the hallways, she appeared a focused student, preparing to tackle one of the many assignments.

But in her one week of being a Morning Star, she had learned Khalid’s lesson with crushing determination: to get what she wanted, she would need to cheat, steal, barter, bargain, and eliminate. Today, she was going to be a rebel.

She was going to celebrate her birthday with her siblings, and not in this horrible­­ school.

Marion cut down the hallway that housed her astronomy classroom, the one with the ceiling that shifted from galaxies to constellations with a wave of the professor’s hand. Perhaps the school wasn’t horrible.

She had been given a room worthy of a princess in a fairytale. It was decorated with golden curtains, and a mahogany bedframe, and luscious paintings of meadows and mountain springs. There was a dresser to store her meagre belongings and a high-backed armchair for reading. A desk had been stocked with parchment and quills and textbooks.

But never mind all that. It was a room to herself. She had shared a bed with Vivian for her entire twenty years. To have her own room…

It was terribly lonely.

There were other nice things about the Academy. The night after the Cosmic Rite, she had been led by a fourth-year Morning Star to a room filled to the brim with all manner of uniforms. She had nearly fainted at the racks of gorgeous golden dresses and cloaks and boots.

“Choose whatever you like,” the fourth-year had said. “Morning Stars practice making different kinds of fabrics, and the Evening Stars practice altering it, so that’s why there’s so many choices. You should be able to find something to fit you and your tastes.”

Oh, had she ever. She’d loaded her arms with golden garments. Tonight, knowing she’d be out in the cold, she wore a black woollen dress, long-sleeved, but with a short, twirly skirt. Golden thread was woven all over the dress to replicate a starry night sky. She had thick black leggings, and knee-high boots with lace she had tied in a tidy bow on the top of each. Her blonde hair was swept back with a wide, black headband, a sunburst made of golden wire on either side, right by her ears. Bright yellow mittens for the autumn chill. But what marked her most as a Morning Star was the golden-yellow hooded cloak, clasped together with a topaz.

It made her feel like she was in disguise.

It made her feel powerful.

It made her feel guilty.

Marion shook her head. She could try to puzzle out all these feelings another time. It was her birthday, dammit. And she was going to see Vivian and Timothée. It was their birthday, too.

A bout of laughter erupted from the open classroom ahead. By the cluster of gold, Marion knew a bunch of Morning Star students were gathered in their Classification of Living Things classroom. She liked that class, liked learning of the inner workings of the flora and fauna. Starlings weren’t permitted to attempt creating or modifying living things until they passed this pre-requisite course.

Head down, Marion attempted to walk by the classroom without attracting attention. Everyone in her house had been so nice, so welcoming. They’d all wanted to be her friend.

But that was the trouble with having friends. They wanted to know about you. To ask where you grew up, and what your childhood was like, and what sorts of things do you like to do now? Well, Marion didn’t know what sorts of things she liked to do now. She hadn’t had the chance to figure it out when she’d been trying to keep her siblings alive the last three years.

Khalid was different, though. The thought of his smirking face made a rush of joy flood her chest. He didn’t ask her questions. And yet, when he looked at her across the dining table, or snuck a smile at her in class, or warmed her hands with his flames on a cold night, he seemed to know her all the way through. Seen to the bone.

Marion waited in the main antechamber of the Academy as some students wandered in and out of the huge doors, laughing and talking with one another. Some were heading up to the common rooms, others leaving for Selene Crescent, the marketplace outside of the Academy, with a pub and a café and other little shoppes.

When only a pair of laughing Evening Stars and sullen-faced Dark Star were meandering through the antechamber, she made a break for it, speed-walking out the doors. She didn’t want any Morning Stars seeing her and asking where she was going.

The night’s air hit her like an icy blast. The thirteenth day of the Hunter’s Blood Moon — it was always cold by the sea, but up here, hovering over Thraina like the moon itself, the air had an extra bite.

She pulled a piece of paper out of her cloak. Behind the Lying Hare Pub, through the Little Woods, following the path of moonflowers. I’ll find you there. Vivian’s handwriting was beautifully swirly. Marion had traded a second-year Morning Star a parchment with her signature and three strands of her hair in order to get notes passed around to her siblings so they could organize their rendezvous. Barters and secrets and schemes. She was learning the game, and fast.

It wasn’t that she hadn’t seen her siblings in the week since the Cosmic Rite. First-year Evening Stars and Morning Stars attended many of the same classes together. She sat with Vivian in their Properties of Matter lecture, and they were partners in Astronomy. But at lunch, Prince Darius would sweep a hand behind Vivian’s back, and she would sit in the grand dining hall surrounded by blue, and Marion would be enveloped with a gossiping gaggle of gold.

But Timothée…

Marion’s chest seized every time she thought of her younger brother. Of the image of him being swallowed by shadows, surrounded by the Celestial Knights…

Kassandra’s dogs.

Why hadn’t she done more? Her hands shook as she walked into Selene Crescent, and not from the cold. She tugged her mittens on tighter anyway. How did she just stand there as Tim, her baby brother, was possessed by that darkness?

And Lady Kassandra had ordered that choker placed on him.

I’ll kill her, Marion thought. I’ll kill her one day. I’ll place a choker ‘round her neck and strangle her with it. Watch her face go white and blank and she’ll try to scream my name, she’ll try to scream for mercy, but she made me a god, and doesn’t she know? Gods don’t deal in mercy.

Hot. Hot.

Hot!

With a yelp, Marion waved her hands through the cold air. Little embers shot into the sky. She looked down defeated at the scorch marks in her pretty yellow mittens. This was the third pair she’d ruined in a week.

It wasn’t her fault they’d made her swallow a star that surged through her blood like molten lava. It wasn’t her fault she needed to spend a few weeks learning theory before a professor would train her to direct these persistent flames, the way Khalid always could. It wasn’t her fault she felt so angry all the time.

With a disgruntled sigh, she pulled off the ruined mittens and stuck them in her pocket. Thankfully, Selene Crescent was surprisingly quiet, and no one had seen her little fire fiasco.

“Behind the Lying Hare Pub,” she murmured to herself. That’s where Vivian had said to meet.

The cobblestone street leading through the circular marketplace was as whimsical as a picture book. Coloured lamplights painted the early morning dark with splashes of teal and pink. All the shops were lit up with twinkling fairy lights. Delicious smells wafted from Noch’s Noshes, a bakery that sold sweets inspired by Kirrintsovan cuisine. Gorgeous hand-crafted jewelry caught her eye from Madame Asra’s shoppe window.

She stopped in front of the Lying Hare Pub. Odd. The windows were boarded up, and no light or music drifted out from under the door. It had been open every night since she’d been at the Academy. Oh well. She may be a rebel, but she wasn’t here for a drink. She walked behind the pub to a cluster of tall fir trees. The Little Wood.

Away from the lamplight and in the trees, Marion could barely see her hands in front of her face. Other students could summon bobbing lights to illuminate their path. I can’t even keep from lighting my hands on fire.

Her steamy breath was the only thing she could see as she trudged across the muddy ground. Thick fir branches scraped across her face. What was Vivian thinking? I’m going to be lost in here forever! But she said follow the—

The moonflowers. Marion had seen pictures of them in books. But she didn’t think they looked like these.

A delicate white flower bloomed before her. The petals were so bright, they shone like starlight. Another appeared, as if beckoning her forward. Little stars in their own right. A radiating path, just for her.

“Do you know it’s my birthday?” Marion whispered to the flowers. “Are you blooming for me?”

Another opened up before her, shining bright as its namesake, as if to say, Yes, Star Child.

Marion felt a lump grow in her throat. It felt such a kindness for these flowers to bloom and lead her through the darkness. “I do so like flowers,” she told them as she walked the glowing path. “More than people.”

The flowers led her to a break in the wood, a little patch of moonlight. And standing there was Vivian.

“Happy birthday, sister,” Vivian said.

What was it about the moonlight that made Vivian even more beautiful than she was in the day? The sapphire blue colour of the Evening Stars suited her. Unlike the dresses she wore back home that draped her like curtains, her uniform was tailored, a lovely wool dress that went down to her calves. She had a cape of lighter blue, and a square felt hat that sat perfectly on her chestnut tresses.

A true smile broke across Marion’s face. “You old goat! Twenty years old.” She rushed to her sister and clutched her hands.

“Never thought I’d see more than seventeen,” Vivian said. Her eyes shimmered in the moonlight, and her smile was soft and sad.

“Oh, don’t be a downer. It’s our birthday.” Marion rummaged in the deep pockets of her cloak. “Are you hungry?” She pulled out a small jar with two thick leeches.

Vivian took the jar and grabbed one of the defrosting black corpses. “We’ve got less than a moon’s worth now.” She popped it in her mouth.

“Don’t worry about that. It’s your birthday!” Marion reminded. But it was an ever-present worry. She’d need to figure some way to feed Vivian when the leeches ran out, and soon. Maybe she could open a blood-letting clinic in Selene Crescent and offer discounts for students—

Just then, there was a crash, and the breaking of branches, and an “Oof!”

Timothée stumbled out of the woods, rubbing his head, twigs in his hair, and sap on his clothes.

“Happy birthday, little brother,” Marion and Vivian said together.


END OF PREVIEW

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