My Ranking Points
Here is the next chapter of Three Broken Kingdoms:
Many siblings have a tendency to dislike one another. Even more siblings might have a rivalry when one is the heir to a great kingdom…and one will have to listen to them for the rest of their life.
Very rarely, however, does this dislike and rivalry escalate to murder.
It makes sense, of course, that it was the Empress of Kallias’s children who were involved. It seemed very typical of the empress, to have children who would proceed to try to kill one another. Such was Lysandra’s situation. Her mother, the empress in question, had no living siblings, no living parents and no living grandparents. She had no cousins, or nieces, or aunts or uncles. Her husband was long dead, and she had never particularly liked him. There were even rumours that she had killed him, or at least his parents, her mother and father-in-law. So as much as one might try to trace the lineage of the Crimsons for any who drew breath outside of the empress and her children, one would fail tremendously.
You would think this might be enough to prevent family drama. If you only had Mother, and her seven children, things were unlikely to get complicated, correct? Wrong.These seven children were, in fact, Medea’s children, and Medea has a habit of making things complicated when things had no need to be complicated.
To start off with, the six eldest children possessed magic. And not just magic: a writhing, dark shadow magic that Lysandra’s mother had bargained for witches from. To make things more complicated, nobody knew that Lysandra had magic at all. They were royal, and many of them were bored, because the relevancy of fourth and fifth and sixth and seventh the children was…disputable.
Lysandra’s eldest brother was Markus. Markus’ one remarkable trait was that he could lie very, very well. Lysandra’s second-oldest brother, Erik’s one remarkable trait was his utter lack of conscience. If he hadn’t been the second son of a queen, people might have noticed he seemed to enjoy stabbing people. Lysandra’s third-eldest brother was Tyton, who’s sole remarkable trait was ability to play chess. Lysandra’s third-youngest brother, Perseus’ sole distinguishable trait was that he could imitate an ape most impeccably and unknowingly. Lysandra’s second-youngest brother was Theseus, and his single remarkable trait was his ability to give up. Her youngest brother, Aaron had many remarkable and distinguishable traits. He had entered university at fourteen and had a degree in medicine and mathematics. But better than all of these, Aaron knew alchemy.
At the age of sixteen, he had turned lead to gold. A year later, he created the immortality elixir, meaning that they no longer aged. But better than that, Aaron was perhaps the sole being on earth that Lysandra’s mother actually liked, with the one exception of her black cat, Lady Sabran the Third, who had also received the immortality elixir.
All this and more made the Crimson family a very eventful one, despite the fact there was only eight people and a cat in it.
Take this dinner for example:
The cat was glaring at Markus from its position on her mother’s lap. It felt, Lysandra was certain, that it should be the one to inherit the throne. Markus was glaring at Tyton, because he had just lost chess. Tyton, in turn, was glaring at Erik because Erik had ignored his suggestions about army training. Erik was glaring at Theseus because he felt that he should have tried harder when they had spared that afternoon, instead of surrendering in the first minute. Theseus was glaring at Perseus because he was barking at the cat in an attempt to scare it. Perseus was glaring at Lysandra because Lysandra’s dog had eaten his shoe yesterday afternoon. Lysandra was glaring at her mother when her mother wasn’t looking at her, because she hated her mother. Her mother was glaring at everyone but Aaron and Sabran the Third.
The dinner went by without discussion. When Tyton and Erik left the dining room, they got into a fight. When the cat jumped down from her mother’s lap, Markus kicked it, and then lied to their mother about it. Perseus stole Theseus’ shoes and Theseus did not complain. Her mother tucked the eighteen-year-old Aaron into bed, then went to sleep whilst Sabran the Third stood guard, and Lysandra went to her room and began plotting the death of her five eldest brothers.
Such was a normal evening in the Crimson family.
At nineteen, Lysandra was preparing for five murders and one utter, complete crown theft.
If she’d had other younger siblings other than Aaron, she might have killed them too, lest they try to do what she was doing to her elder brothers. But the thing was, she was fond of Aaron. In fact, in the will she had written at eight, she left: ‘the best seat she had’ to him. Little did anyone know, this meant the best seat she was planning to steal from the rest of her family along with a bandanna stuffed with jewels.
This was, at eight, what Lysandra considered the crown and throne to be. The best chair, and the best bandanna. She had thought them very ‘fashonable.’ Until she was seven, she had been saving up to buy them, when she realised it wasn’t quite that simple.
Lysandra’s room, much like her youngest brother’s, had become her laboratory. However, instead of it being a laboratory of alchemy, it was laboratory of schemes and murder.
It was stocked with books containing reasonably confidential information about the elves and valkyries and about the Pre-Crimson era of the Deserted Lands. The bookshelves also contained the latest non-fictional texts about economics and politics along with helpful advice about not getting one’s head chopped off by tyrannical empresses.
Her bedroom was also stocked with the normal things: novels and dresses, pens and paper and daggers.
But her most important stockpile in her bedroom lay behind her three concealed and locked vaults.
The first vault contained a huge cabinet of poisons, complete with instructions, uses and helpful advice about who to use them on.
The second vault contained a large amount of blackmail material, nearly fully covering Medea’s court, and stretching into the elven and valkyrian courts.
The third and most important vault contained Dark Mirrors and enchanted parchment. Dark Mirrors were a clever piece of Witchairian sorcery. All the owner had to do was look into the Dark Mirrors and they would absorb their pain. They didn’t take away that pain, unfortunately; but they would remember it. If anyone else was to look into the Mirrors, they would feel that pain, in a razor hot blast that could even kill. They made excellent weapons and were impossible to steal.Lysandra had three of them.
The first, she had bartered a fortune for from a trader who refused to tell her how he had first obtained it. The other she’d paid barely a penny for from a particularly stupid lord of a particularly small territory and a particularly large store of heirlooms. But the third had been Made for her. The third had found her, across centuries.
And the enchanted parchment? That would allow her to communicate with a person that the world believed was dead within seconds.
The person that Medea thought she had killed decades ago.
The last of a race that had killed the gods and almost destroyed elves, valkyries and humanity.
There were still witches in the world. One happened to be Lysandra’s pen pal.
Aaron’s room, much like his eldest’s sisters, had become a laboratory. However, instead of it being a laboratory of books, it was a laboratory of alchemy and shadows.
Tonight, he wouldn’t be doing the final step in production for his work. That required his mother or brothers to be there, controlling the flow of shadows. He moved mechanically, the dawn light flickering through, as he washed out the equipment. Yesterday he had made gold, but now he rinsed out beakers and reset the apparatus. It was drudgery and would have been done by servants if his mother didn’t want the secrets of alchemy stolen, but Aaron didn’t mind. It cleared his mind, and the familiar routine calmed him down. Cleaning up and resetting was just as important as the act of gold-forging or brewing immortality. He had never been arrogant, anyway. Not like his siblings.
It was then, in the quiet dawn, that the deadliest and greatest idea of alchemy presented itself to Aaron.
He began by opening one of the old texts of alchemists. He liked to flick through them, hoping for inspiration in the muddled writings of foolish men. None of them had gotten anywhere, though he supposed it was hardly their fault. They didn’t have access to the essential element of alchemy-Witchairian magic. He opened the new book that Lysandra had bought him whilst slightly *****-an old, weathered tome that smelt of parchment. Usually books like these went through ageing processes, when cunning booksellers would make them look very old because that would attract alchemists looking for hidden volumes from long-burnt ruins of yada yada.
But you never knew. He examined one of the alchemical poems-yes, this one was truly nonsense-and would have laughed. Except for the fact that whoever wrote this guessed far too much for his own good.
In the sun, in starlight, in fire,
The gold shalt turn to lead,
In the shadows, in the night,
The lead shall grow to shine. (The editor had forgotten to switch to old language for this line.)
Bind the shadows! Bind the shadows!
Into gold, into forever.
Into breath and bone.
It wasn’t actually shadows that made the alchemy function. It was simply their origin-Witchairian Magic. But he had heard the witches been called ‘Shadows of the North’ or ‘Ladies of Shadow’ too many times to count. Sun had no effect on alchemy, of course, but light was commonly theorised as the origin or death of alchemy.
He would go to his mother tomorrow, and get her to order the copies burnt. They came too close to the truth.
But first, he repeated the last two lines in his head.
Into gold, into forever
Into breath and bone.
The first two made plenty of sense. Turning lead into gold, and making the immortality elixir had always been the aim of alchemy, and Aaron had achieved them. But the last line was strange. Into breath and bone. Alchemy could not create the living. Well, he had never heard of any theories about it. There were theories about a cure-all for diseases and a universal solvent, but he had discounted them as fantasy, and the line didn’t refer to that. It suggested that alchemy could be used to create new life, not heal it or dissolve it.
It could be idiocy. It could be hogwash.
It could be true.
Aaron turned to the next page of the book.
Tag List: Group 0: The Clearing
sounds great! thanks so much for tagging!