- The Parliament House
SNEAK PEEK: The Halves of Us, First Chapters!
The Halves of Us is the start to the debut epic fantasy trilogy by Sydney Paige Richardson, and it's here TOMORROW!!
Get the novel on October 9th. Today, read two sneak peek chapters exclusively on The Parliament House blog...
A canvas of dark indigo filled Thindoral’s night sky, and the silver light of the stars reflected the mischief in Aura’s eyes. She counted them one by one, waiting for the Guards to finish their rounds. Waiting for the moons to rise high in the sky. Waiting for the right moment, when the palace was asleep and she could use the stolen key.
As the residents of the Dome grew quiet and Aura could no longer hear the hustle and bustle from the Town Square below, she tiptoed toward the door adjoining her room to her sister’s. Reaching into her pocket, she ran her fingertips across the roughly carved key to the Holding Room which she’d stolen from her Uncle Gossamer earlier that evening.
She shivered as the cold brass handle of the door met her palm. The wooden door creaked as she eased it open.
The thin white silk of the bed’s canopy fell in folds as it twirled down the dark wood of the bedposts. Aura tiptoed across the room and looked at her twin.
Adie slept peacefully. The moonlight cast through the windows of the double doors leading out to their shared balcony. Aura knelt on the floor beside the bed and tugged on one of her sister’s scarlet braids, a replica of her own. She hid, crouching down as Adie rustled awake.
Adie sat up, her eyes still heavy with sleep. Aura jumped up onto her sister’s bed, giggling.
“Aura!” Adie said, throwing a pillow at her sister. She lay back down and covered her face with another pillow.
“Come on!” Aura pleaded.
“It’s the middle of the night. Let me sleep,” Adie begged, her voice muffled beneath the plush fabric.
“Look what I have . . .” Aura’s voice trailed off as she pulled the key out of her pocket. Chiseled from petrified wood, the key’s intricate design cast shadows from the moonlight onto Adie’s bed.
Adie raised her head, her sleepy eyes growing wide as intrigue filled them.
She crawled across the bed, taking the key from Aura. “How did you . . . when did you—” She stopped.
Aura failed at hiding her smile. Adie always made her thieving ways feel like grand accomplishments. “We have to go tonight,” she whispered, taking the key back from Adie and putting it in her pocket.
She motioned for Adie to follow her as she made her way to the door leading out from her sister’s room and into the hall. She could hear Adie’s hesitant footsteps coming up beside her. She signaled Adie to stay back as she reached for the door handle.
Aura tucked a crimson curl behind her ear and tried to steady her breathing before peeking out. Her heartbeat drummed in her ears, nearly drowning out the nearby footsteps as Michael, Security Major of the Guard, paced the hallway as he did every night. The gold emblem of Thindoral’s sacred pendant, the Rokis, shimmered on the back of his dark blue uniform beneath the dim light cast from the lanterns on the walls.
She spun out of view when Michael glanced over his shoulder, and she silently begged Adie to stay quiet. They held their breath, and Aura swore the beating of her heart was now loud enough to give them away. Closing her eyes, she prayed he hadn’t seen her. If he had, he would never leave his post again.
After pleading to Fate herself, Aura’s gaze shifted out her bedroom window as she waited. Two silver rings lined Thindoral’s largest moon, reflecting bright light through her windows and creating a soft hue around a worried Adie in front of her. Michael’s footsteps faded down the granite hallway as he continued the last of his rounds throughout the Dome, and a grin stretched across Aura’s face.
“Are you sure we should do this?” Adie’s voice peaked as she stepped back toward her bed. “Mother always said the Rokis must never be touched by anyone but the Ruler, and—”
Aura stared at her. “Mother says lots of things.”
“What about Michael?” Adie frowned as she stepped out of bed.
“He just finished his rounds. Come on!”
Aura opened the door and searched both directions of the hallway. Michael was nowhere to be seen. She took Adie’s hand as they moved down the lonely hallway, followed only by the sounds of their bare feet pitter-pattering across the granite floors and the light scratching of the designs etching into the walls.
Aura released her grip on Adie’s hand and stopped to watch the pencil-like lines swirl around one another, forming mesmerizing odd shapes and letters. Her mother always told her these were secret messages left by the Designers, the godly beings who created the universe and all life within. Those worthy of their secret messages could decipher them. But to this day, none knew what the messages meant. Some areas of the walls repeated, and some changed as someone touched them.
Aura reached out to touch a design, and a flower bloomed where her fingers had just been. As the petals grew larger, her breath caught when the corners became black and shriveled, ultimately falling away from the stem and fading back into the colors of the wall. Her brow furrowed as she skimmed her hands along the rough lines of the walls. The texture moved under her palm like worms through thick dirt.
“Aura! Come on!” Adie whispered, breaking Aura from her trance as she grabbed her hand, pulling her farther down the dimly lantern-lit hallways.
They peeked down where the corridor ended at the Holding Room.
“No Guards!” Aura smirked, looking to Adie.
They squeezed each other’s hands tighter as they walked toward the towering silver door.
“Are you sure it’s in there tonight?” Adie asked.
Aura nodded. “Every fortnight, Mother leaves it in here for one evening. She says something about it being too heavy to sleep with.”
They stopped in front of the door, looking up as far as they could. Even though the dark of night had taken over the Dome, the door to the Holding Room still glowed. The silver designs carved into its surface reflected in their eyes. An even brighter golden light draped the sacred design of the Rokis which hung above it.
“You did make sure you got the right key, didn’t you?” Adie asked. Her head remained tilted back, examining the door as she fidgeted with her braid.
Aura turned and faced her sister. A mirror image of herself nervously smiled back as she retrieved the key from her pocket.
She handed it to Adie, but she shook her head. “You open it,” Adie insisted.
They walked forward, hand in hand. As they approached the door, Aura broke free from her sister. Adie waited a few steps behind, sneaking glances back down the hallway.
Aura’s hand trembled as she slid the key in the door and twisted. The loud click of the door unlocking hung in the air, and Adie ran toward her.
“Shhh!” Adie hushed. Aura shrugged and grinned as she twisted the handle.
They gazed over their shoulders, peering down the hallway. Adie sighed heavily, relieved as she looked back at Aura and nodded. They were still alone.
Together, they gritted their teeth and pulled at the door with all their strength.
“Keep pulling,” Adie whispered as it creaked open and she slipped in.
Aura pushed her way through the opening, and the door closed behind them.
Plush velvet curtains gathered at the sides of the stone walls around the perimeter of the room, revealing exquisite stained-glass windows. The moonlight poured in, bouncing off the tall ceilings, and a deep rush of color danced across the floor. Aura looked at her blue dress, which now took on a deep red, mimicking the lighting. She twirled around and smiled as the ends of her dress broke the kaleidoscope of colors reflecting on the floor.
“Aura!” Adie whispered as she pointed to the stairs in the center of the room, leading up to a pedestal.
Hand in hand they marched up the four giant stone steps. There lay the Rokis given to them by the Designers, who harnessed the power of a star in its center gem to protect them from the evil residing on their planet. The gem radiated a bright blue light, and twelve golden triangles jutted outward around it, reflecting a ray of sapphire on their faces.
“Touch it!” Aura said.
“No! Mother says I have to wait,” Adie replied.
“Come on! We didn’t come here just to look at it. I mean, it’ll be yours one day, anyway.” Aura stood tall and struck a pose, mimicking their mother.
“The Rokis belongs to the youngest born, the future Ruler.” She giggled and covered her mouth as the sound echoed throughout the Holding Room.
“What’s wrong with touching it now?” she whispered.
Aura watched her sister’s brow crease in thought as she stared at the Rokis, entranced by its beauty. The light of the center gem captured the jade color of her eyes. Adie shivered suddenly and looked back up at Aura with hesitation.
“Together?” Aura asked, taking her sister’s hand.
Adie gulped and nodded slowly.
As they brought their hands above the center of the Rokis, Aura could feel Adie’s tremble below hers. She closed her eyes and lowered their hands onto the blue gem. As soon as she felt their palms reach the center, a surge of light burst throughout the room, throwing Aura down the steps.
The bright light rose higher, climbing up the walls. Pain coursed through Aura’s elbow as it smacked on the floor. Clutching her arm, she tried to stifle her tears. Taking a deep breath, she moved from her stomach to a sitting position and looked around, searching for her sister.
Her bottom lip trembled. “Adie?” she whispered. “Adie!” she whispered louder.
Adie was gone.
A blue light collected around the ceiling, swirling above her. Silent tears fell down her cheeks as her trembling evolved into shakes.
The light came together into a ball in the middle of the ceiling, and Aura froze. It shot down toward the ground, and she shielded her eyes with the back of her hands. Once she felt the light dissipate, she let her hands fall and opened her eyes. Motionless, Adie lay on the floor a few feet in front of her.
“Adie! Adie! Wake up, you must wake up!” Aura ran over to her twin, hushing her voice as she heard the Guards coming down the hallway.
Adie groaned and opened her eyes.
Aura gasped and stepped back. “Adie, your eyes! They’re blue!”