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READ THE FIRST TWO CHAPTERS: Starlight: A Starlight Chronicles Novella, by P.S. Malcom


Happy Sunday, Parliament Patrons and holiday ghouls! Today, you can read the first two chapters of P.S. Malcolm's upcoming novella, STARLIGHT—book 1.5 of the Starlight Chronicles series!

Read book ONE, Lanterns In the Sky, here!

Starlight, by P.S. Malcolm

A treaty upholds the peaceful lands of Ersarence— who have suffered from the spilt blood of their humble goddess, Titania, which stains the hands of the ruthless Urenphians. Julian Rancewood— a small town delivery boy— wishes he could afford to save his dying mother. He never imagined a larger life for himself until he meets Adrina Hesfetter, the village seamstress's daughter. After striking a deal with the elusive King's advisor and joining the royal army, he finds himself helping to search for a missing, unknown heir. Against all odds, Adrina and Julian soon meet again within the palace walls. When Julian discovers Adrina’s fire magic— an impossibility among non-royals— they uncover a scandalous secret that will cause whispers of a Urenphian rebellion to travel through the kingdom. A thirst for revenge and a passionate romance causes the two villagers to set the events in motion which will bring down the entire Starlight Kingdom. A Starlight Chronicles Novella.

 

ONE

JULIAN

I grabbed my worn jacket from the stand and did my

best to pat out the creases. There were poor stitches every‐

where from various holes I'd tried to mend over the years, and I desperately needed a new one—but replacing any of my clothes was also my last priority right now.

Looking over my shoulder across the cramped single room I

shared with my mother, I said, “I expect to be home just before

nightfall.”

My mother shakily sat up in her bed, the light brown sheets

gathered around her. My eyes widened with alarm.

“Don't get up—you must rest!” I nearly shouted, reaching

out to stop her and crossing the room in a couple of quick steps.

I gently coaxed her to lie back down, and she patted my arm

with her frail hands. Her blue eyes crinkled as she broke into a

weak smile.

“Oh Julian—my sweet boy, don’t you fuss over me,” she

replied sternly. “Don't you come home with that ghastly medi‐

cine either, you know it won't do any good!"

I grimaced, but said nothing. Mother was always telling me not to spend my hard earned coin on herbs—that they could be put to better use. There was very little money to begin within

our household and meals were scarce between us. She was

always insisting that I needed to eat more and that my bones

would grow weak and cause problems for my job as a delivery

boy; but being a delivery boy didn't require a lot of strength, as

it was rare that I ever handled a small package, let alone a heavy

one. I handled mostly letters, really.

“Just get well, Mother,” I said as I took a step back. I could

see the disappointment in her eyes—we both knew I would

come home with a pocket full of nothing but lint and a vial of

bitter tonic that only delayed the inevitable, but didn’t quell the

pain or illness entirely.

We had yet to 5nd a cure for my mother's sickness; none of

the healers in our village fully understood what was wrong

with her—and we certainly didn’t have the money for them to

spend time 5guring it out. Every day she grew weaker, her

cough grew worse, and her skin grew tighter around her frail

bones. She could barely stomach a single meal these days—

broth was about all she could keep down.

“I put some leftover broth on the bench in case you get

hungry. I'll be back soon,” I promised, and squeezed her hand

reassuringly before heading out of our creaky front door. With

a parchment in one hand 5lled with delivery instructions and a

sack slung over my other shoulder, I made my way down the

street and into the bustling village.

The village seemed livelier than usual, which was

odd because there was no special occasion in occurrence, nor

were there any reason for the excessive increase in people. I

passed many travelers: noblemen and even soldiers among the usual crowd of the township. As I passed them all I couldn't

help but wonder why they were all here. I managed to thread

through them, crossing the busiest square in our little commu‐

nity to get to the sellers stall I sought.

No matter how many orders I had, or if I had an important

nobleman waiting on me, I never did anything until I got my

mother's medicine from the local healer. The tonic he brewed

contained ginger, honey and thyme—as well as a rare 9ower

called a rochashe which sourced from the riverplains south of

here—and it was the only thing that seemed to be slowing the

e:ects of my mother's illness.

She used to be so lively before she fell ill—selling hand‐

made jams at this very same market and always telling me

bedtime stories. The smell of her cooking used to 5ll our house,

and I missed it terribly. Nowadays, she spent most of her time

resting, 5ghting fevers, chest pains and a horrendous cough that

left her weak and struggling to breathe.

Most of my pay from work went towards paying for this

medicine—and though I knew she wouldn't ever return to that

lively person she'd once been, I would do anything to keep her

alive for as long as I could.

Leon, the healer, was waiting as per usual. Our agreement

was that I would pay half price for the tonic and a quarter

percentage for the ingredients—he knew of my dire situation,

and I stopped by regularly enough that the arrangement had

worked out. As long as I paid on time, he would reserve the

herbs for the tonic. Otherwise, they went towards other medi‐

cines for other customers.

Leon's services were always in demand, and he was too

cheap to seek a scavenger, so if I didn't reserve the ingredients

in time I would have to go without the tonic, and I couldn't

a:ord to let that happen.

“Good morning, Julian,” he greeted, tipping his head at me.

“Here you go.” He held out a clear vial with a milky liquid kept

within. He handed the vial to me as I began to 5sh out the coin

from my pocket. He cleared his throat, and I paused to look at

him again. His eyes seemed . . .hesitant.

“Listen Julian,” he began, his eyes turned toward the

ground. “I have to tell you something . . . there is a competing

healer in the next town, and he's been attracting lots of busi‐

ness. I'm going to need to raise my prices to keep business going

—and I wanted to let you know in advance, seeing as . . .”

His voice trailed o:, eyeing the tonic and my hand-counted

coins. My blood ran cold, and I stood there like a statue for

several, just staring at the merchant.

“You can't be serious,” I said with my jaws clenched tightly

together, my expression twisting into a glare. “I'm a regular . .

.can't you make just one exception?”

He grimaced, turning his eyes back toward me. “I have a lot

of regulars, Julian. If I make an exception for you, everyone else

will start to complain and demand I make exceptions for them,"

he replied. His tone was apologetic, but it did nothing to

change my feelings. My 5st clenched—more out of frustration

than anything else, and sheer horror ran through my veins.

How would I a:ord to pay for the tonic? I barely made

enough as it was—I would have to 5nd more clients. Or 5nd

another job, but such was much easier said than done.

“I'm sorry, Julian. I sincerely hope you can 5gure something

out,” he said, pushing the tonic towards me. “There's a little

extra tonic in the vial today, to make up for it. I know how

important this is to you—”

I cut him o: by slamming the coins onto the counter.

“Forget it,” I muttered, turning my back on him. Nearby

customers glanced my way, but I ignored them as well as I

pocketed the tonic and turned away.

Whatever relatively good mood I'd been in when I left the

house had completely shattered to utter despair. The very

thought of how many orders were waiting for me today 5lled

me with dread. No matter how quickly I completed them, it

wouldn't make a di:erence. I would be paid the same, and I

would return home with not nearly enough payment to save my

mother.

My mother was dying.

I needed to save her.

I'd been so consumed in my thoughts as I stormed across

the square that I didn't see the angel until my chest smacked

into his. Stumbling backwards, I shook my dazed head and

spotted a re5ned royal army uniform—not polished silver

5ghting armor; but a proper, tailored uniform with medals.

Panic rushed through me.

I could only assume he was somebody important. Perhaps a

commander. Angels weren't seen very often around here—as

part of the royal army, they were always tending to their own

duties and business. Though I'd spotted a few once or twice

passing through, I'd never seen one so close—or interacted with

one for that matter.

His wings had 9ittered slightly as he swiftly regained

balance, though he'd barely stumbled in comparison to myself,

and I was left sheepishly ducking my head in apology as he

frowned at me.

“My apologies, I wasn't watching my step,” I said quickly.

He grimaced, then shook his head.

“No harm done,” he replied, eyeing me thoughtfully. His

blonde hair gleamed in the sunlight, which wasn't unusual.

Most angels gleamed or glowed in some way. He turned his

back on me and crossed to the front of a store. Stopping in front

of a wooden post, he began to hammer a notice into it. I

watched him curiously, then looked around the square at the

many travelers and nobles once more.

Another thought occurred to me—was there a ball being

planned at the palace? It didn't happen often, but it wasn’t an

impossibility. If there were such an event, it would explain the

increase in travelers and nobles passing through—not to

mention the soldiers. If there was a ball, that would be exactly

what I needed to make more money. Balls meant clothes—fancy

clothes. Which meant special, tailored orders and fast deliver‐

ies. More and more people would be looking for delivery boys—

and more deliveries is exactly what I needed right now.

The angel 5nally 5nished nailing the notice to the post and

moved onto his next spot a way down the cobblestone pathway,

thus allowing me to step closer to the post and read it.

Attention to all citizens.

The royal court is seeking new recruits for the

general army to protect the royal family in regards to a

special, upcoming occasion. Anyone who wishes to join

will be granted immediate training, and a large sum of

money for the families of all members. Those who do

well will be o!ered extended work after the course of the

event, and will be prioritized for better training, the

opportunity to receive promotions, and protection of

their families in any immediate emergency.

Please contact your nearest guard o"cer to register

your interest.

Signed,

Andrew Kingston, Commander of the Royal Army.

I reread the notice multiple times, thinking it over

thoroughly.

Recruits? I highly doubted I was suited for such a thing. I could carry parcels, but wielding a sword was another thing

entirely.

Still... they were oering money, and payment from the

royal family themselves had to be decent enough.

I was still heavily debating the notice after I'd walked away

to start my daily deliveries. It 9oated in my mind as I went stall

to stall, collecting parcels and goods that many nobles and

households were waiting on. Once my sack was full, I trekked

to the fancier neighborhoods and gated estates to deliver all the goods—passing them along to servants and maids in most

instances, and collecting new orders for the following day. It

continued like this as I made my way down the list, the sun

moving through the sky above me. Finally, as a late afternoon

sunset shifted the blue sky to red and pink, I reached my 5nal

order.

The Carston Household—or rather, Sir Edward Carston

himself. He had placed an order for a shirt with an unfamiliar

seamstress. I frowned tried to 5gure out where this new seam‐

stress was. I ended up having to walk back to the village square

and ask around, but it appeared that very few other people had

heard of this seamstress.

Finally, I spoke to an elderly woman at the fruit stall who

knew who I was talking about.

“Oh, Seamstress Hesfetter,” she said brightly. “Oh yes,

she's quite talented. But rarely heard of—she specializes in

garments and clothing for the royals and their wonderful occa‐

sions. She works from her residence in the middle-class neigh‐

borhoods.”

The elderly lady pointed me in the right direction, and I

thanked her before hurrying on my way. With luck, I could

pick up the shirt from the seamstress and have it delivered back

to Sir Carston before sundown, which might put some extra

coin in my pocket for tomorrow.

Once I knew where to go, I found the Hesfetter household

quite easily. There was a wooden sign hanging out the front

with Hesfetter Embroidery elegantly carved into it. It very

nearly blended in with all the other woodwork, but luckily I

knew to look out for signs of a shop, so I'd spotted it.

I approached the house. It was double story, with potted

plants out front, and a nicer front door than most households in

the middle-class neighborhoods usually had. I wasn't sure

whether to knock or not, but I caught a glance of a shop-like

interior through the window and decided to just enter. Pushing

the door open, a bell tinkered above me.

From behind the counter, a young girl looked up, and our

eyes met.

I was immediately trans5xed.

She was beautiful. Her brown hair was pulled into a loose

bun, and her green shirt bought out the color in her emerald

eyes.

“Good day, Sir,” she greeted politely, standing. “How may I

help you?”

I quickly regained my composure, straightening my stance.

“Yes, er—I'm here to pick up an order for House Carston.”

Her eyes lit up with recognition.

“Ah, yes! Just a moment, I'll grab it,” she said, and disap‐

peared into a room behind her. I stared at the place where

she'd disappeared for a few moments, rather entranced in the

memory of her beauty, before 5nally shaking o: the thought.

Swallowing hard, I examined the shop whilst waiting for her

to return.. There were display materials on one side of the

room, along with samples of thread. On the other were

completed shirts and gowns, robes and pants, all in various

styles and sizes. Each and every one of them was more beau‐

tiful than the last, with intricate detailing and delicately sewn

gems.

She returned with a large package wrapped in brown

paper.

“Will that be all today?” she asked, and I nodded.

“Wonderful,” she beamed. “Well, I hope it's to his liking.”

I nodded again. I couldn't seem to form words, and she let

out a single, awkward laugh as I stood there. I quickly tore my

gaze away from her as I felt the blood 9ow to my face.

“Thank you. Good day,” I said in a rush, moving quickly

towards the door. It wasn’t until I was outside once more that I

managed to focus. I could still hear the bell above the door

tinkling in my ears as I stood in the street, clutching the

package.

What was wrong with me?

I began making my way towards Sir Carston's residence.

Seeing the sun continue to fall down, I knew I didn't have time

to waste. Thoughts of my poor, sick mother swam back into my

head. I thought of the posted army recruitment letter again—

just for a moment—but it felt like an unreachable dream. I

disregarded the thought.

In that moment, the delivery was all that mattered.

I arrived at the Carston Estate just before

sundown as I had hoped. I was escorted inside by their house‐

keeper who took the package from me.

“Very good. The master has been waiting for this,” she said

5rmly, scurrying down the hall to pass it along. I waited in their

foyer, which was stunning as always. The walls were made of

marble, and the 9oors were polished. It looked like the palace—

or at least, what I envisioned the palace to look like. I'd never

set foot near the palace, let alone inside, but I knew it certainly

didn't look like the tiny wooden shack I shared with my mother.

The housekeeper returned moments later, wearing a grim

expression. I knew before she'd even spoken to me that some‐

thing was not right.

“My deepest apologies, Julian . . . it seems the master has no

need for your services any longer. He's asked me to dismiss

you.”

My stomach dropped.

“I beg your pardon?” I replied, eyes wide. This can't be

happening. Forget the extra coin I somehow needed to come up

with—if I lost the Carston’s as a client, I wouldn't even be able

to eat! He was my highest paying client.

“Surely this is a mistake . . . may I ask why? Have I done

something wrong?”

She glanced down the hallway nervously, then nodded,

dropping her tone.

“I understand this is not your fault, but it appears the shirt

you just delivered was for an important dinner tomorrow night

at the palace, and it's the wrong size. Sir Carston is quite . . .

particular and he doesn't handle imperfections well. It

appeared that since you delivered it, you were the most appro‐

priate person for him to blame, and so . . .”

She trailed o:. She didn't need to 5nish—I already under‐

stood what had happened. Anger boiled in my veins. This was

unfair. I had done my job properly, and yet I was being

punished. I hadn't made the shirt—it had been that unfamiliar

seamstress!

Gritting my teeth, I forced a weak smile at the housekeeper.

“Of course. I understand,” I said quietly. “If there is

nothing else, I guess I will take my leave.”

She gave me an apologetic nod.

“Take care, Julian.”

I stormed out of the house, my patience wearing thin. First

the medicine, and now this? I was at a loss for what to do as I

searched for who to place the blame on . . . none of this had

been my fault!

As I was exiting the estate gates, it occurred to me what I

could do to remedy this, and I decided I had no choice. In my

desperation to save my mother and rage against both the unfa‐

miliar seamstress and Sir Carston, I began my journey back to

the village.

TWO

ADRINA

I'd just ceased folding a stack of shirts when the

door burst open, the bell tinkering rapidly, and the man from

earlier stormed into the shop. His brown hair was tousled, as if

he'd been in a rush, and his cheeks seemed red with anger.

An unfamiliar chill ran through me, and I sucked in a

breath.

“Uh, greetings again. May I help you—?”

He stomped towards me, until he was mere inches from

where I stood, and glared at me.

“You,” he growled angrily. “You costed me my job! The

shirt I retrieved earlier was the wrong size!”

My eyes widened with alarm. Nothing like this had ever

happened before, and I was at a loss for how to handle it. For

starters, I didn't usually even run the shop—I mostly worked

out the back, organizing the threads and fabrics and helping

Mother with smaller tasks. She was the main seamstress. But at

the anger on the man's face, and the accusations he was making,

it seemed I had been the one to mess up.

“I—I—” I stammered, a million thoughts raced through my

mind. Mother would kill me if she found out I'd screwed up an

order, or taken an order, for that matter. I'd just wanted to help,

and it had sounded simple enough. I'd been practicing my

sewing too, and I was so con3dent in my ability to complete the

order, but she'd be back later this evening, and not only had I

messed up a noble's order, but I had an angry delivery boy

almost assaulting me in the shop.

“Please,” I breathed 3nally, sheer fear seizing hold of me. I

lost all my resolve and burst into tears. How was I going to 3x

this?

Embarrassment washed through me as I desperately tried

to hide the tears as I wiped furiously at my eyes. When I 3nally

blinked the sudden outburst away, the man was no longer

glaring at me. He seemed sheepish, shrinking back from me

slightly with his hands clasped together.

“Are . . . are you okay?” he asked tentatively. “I'm sorry,

sometimes my frustration gets the better of me. I didn't mean to

scare you—I've just had a really, really tough day.”

I grimaced, pulling myself together and wrapping my arms

around my torso.

“I'm 3ne,” I replied sti4y. “I'm so sorry that I have caused

you such trouble. I can remake the shirt, if it pleases your

master?"

He cringed.

“He's not my . . .” he trailed o5 with a sigh. “Well, never

mind. It doesn't matter now.”

I raised an eyebrow. “Why did you come here then?”

He sighed again and ran a hand through his hair.

“I don't know. I guess I just needed someone to blame, or

someone to place my frustrations onto. It's been tough lately . . .

and you messed up the order . . . but there's nothing to be done

now anyway. I've already been dismissed, and even if I deliv‐

ered a new shirt it wouldn't change anything.”

I paused for a moment, trying to think of a way to help the

man, but if he wouldn't take the shirt . . .

“How about I return the coin paid for the shirt?” I asked

3nally. It seemed like the best solution—the man had lost his

job, and I had clearly lost a customer, perhaps even caused

harm to our reputation. If I got rid of the money, maybe Mother

wouldn't notice the missing fabric, wouldn't hear of the

mistaken order, and I wouldn't have to explain myself. It made

sense that the man should receive the coin as compensation for

his loss.

The man seemed taken aback.

“I . . . I couldn't . . .” he said slowly, but I could see in his

eyes how hard it was for him to refuse, how desperately he

wanted to say yes.

“Please, I insist,” I said, already moving to retrieve it from

my work station. I counted out the pieces and slid them over