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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