The Kingdom of Ehlesaar was known for its wealth and beauty. Across the oceans everyone had heard of the mines of diamonds and gold , riches beyond one’s dreams, oceans filled with pearls and lands as green and fertile as one could ever hope for. Whether it was the huge white snow-covered Altheyan mountains to the south, the glittering rivers and streams that ran through the lands, or the orchards full of fruits and flowers that adorned the gardens of the wealthy. The enchanting beauty of Ehlesaar gave birth to the name ‘Heaven on Earth’ and to those who visited it was nothing short of that. Each season brough t its own beauty to the land. Summer was the longest season, but despite the heat, the buildings made of marble and stone kept the heat at bay, and when winter came it was not hard nor too brutal for most.
The people of Ehlesaar wore their wealth with grace and pride, showing it off in the forms of luxurious gowns, diamond jewellery, abundant meals with rich wines and meat a plenty. The kingdom was prosperous and the rate of those who could not afford shelter was few. Yet when the problem is minuscule it is often ignored, dusted under the carpet as the voice is not loud enough to be worth listening to. In the middle of fine marble palace-like houses of the nobles, and the stunning villas of the working class there were still those who had nothing. And it was to these people that Ehlesaar did not feel like heaven but just another kingdom, even though they knew they were safer and far better off than what they may come across if they ever tried to leave the kingdom. Darkness, death and danger were not far from their very own kingdom. To the west of Ehlesaar were the forgotten lands. Drained of water, nothing grew on these barren lands and beasts of all kinds of nature were said to roam it. Lands that no one conquered due to its past. A place tainted with so much bloodshed that it was said to be cursed. To the north was a dense forest that separated them from the kingdom of Azhar.
With the kings' impressive army at all sides of the kingdom combined with his court of mages handling all the elements and his supreme council of advisors from all the major houses of the kingdom, the people of Ehlesaar were untouchable or so they thought.
For soon their kingdom of heaven would face darkness too, it had already begun. Like a whisper in the night, a shadow cast over it – unseeing, unprepared and unbeknownst were the people who lived in Ehlesaar, but they too would soon have their eyes forced open.
Far off in the depths of the forgotten lands where no man dared set foot, deep beneath the surface in a stone tomb-like cave sat a man encased in shadows on a blackened throne. Covered in a floating black cloak that was blacker than night, he towered near seven feet tall and the darkness and evil that rolled off him would make even the dead turn in their graves.
He had remained in these walls for the last fifteen years, waiting, recovering, biding his time until his return to power and the destruction of the kingdom of Ehlesaar and those responsible for his demise. His skeletal hands gripped the arms of the throne.
"It is time," he said his voice dripping with an evil so deep that it would make the evilest of men shudder.
"Sire..." a whispering voice hissed "there is still the risk..."
“I am the Dark Lord, and nothing will stand in my way, not this time. I will destroy them from within. This it is Ehlesaar who will all. I shall rise taking my rightful place and this kingdom……no this world will belong to me,” he hissed as the unseen bowed down to their Lord,
"Yes my lord, we are ready,"
"Perfect," The Dark Lord said, deep under the hood of his cloak a cruel, cold smile crossed his lips.
Ehlesaar will fall, and he would be the one to destroy it...
-----Near the southern side of the kingdom was the capital Odairo and in the centre sat the white marble palace housing the royal family. It sat upon its dais like a beacon for all those around. Its grandeur and wealth were something all admired, with its large jewel-encrusted pillar and archways, glittering marble floors and doors engraved with gold in intricate patterns. Huge granite ceilings held hundreds of crystal chandeliers in different shades of colours adding to the effect cast by the stunning stained glass windows. Many had wished to set foot or simply touch the beautiful palace of the royals. How they envied the life of those who lived within.
Deep within the walls of the palace, was a young woman who wished one day to be set free, free from the palace she saw as nothing more than a white cage. Despite the size of the palace, it felt small and suffocating to the young woman. No matter how perfectly she fitted the role of a princess, to Princess Layana of Ehlesaar it felt as if she was tied down by chains wrought from gold and precious jewels.
Layana looked out from the large balcony of her bedroom, with the back view of the palace spread beneath her. The beautiful Altheyan mountains in the distance glittered under the burning sunrise and below she could see the orchards with fountains and green gardens spread far and wide.
She brushed a stray strand of her waist-length champagne-coloured soft curls out of her face. She was a beauty that stood out even from her sisters with her smooth ivory skin, angular jaw and her pointed chin. But above all, it was her eyes that caught the attention of all. A mystic rarity, her irises were part amber-red, part topaz and gold rimmed with long thick lashes. A slender nose and pouty plump lips finished off her looks. Her body was slender but filled with womanly curves and just like their kingdom, her beauty was rumoured through out the neighbouring lands. Soon her 18th birthday would arrive and with it, she knew the potential proposals of marriage…
She sighed softly turning away from the beauty of nature. Her body covered with only a silken lilac nightdress that flowed to the ground, the fabric clinging to the curve of her breasts.
Her quarters were as beautiful as the outside of the palace, with gold-flecked ivory marble walls, and tapestries made of ivory velvet and gold which hung around the room. Two large double doors with a filigree design sat on opposite walls. The furniture was all in white ash wood, with gold filigree encasing it. A four-poster bed stood opposite the stained-glass balcony doors.
From the adjoining room, a petite maid stepped out after having gotten her mistresses ’ bath ready for her. She wore a light grey floor-length dress with a red sash that signified she was a member of Layana’s personal staff.
“His Royal Majesty has returned and wishes to speak to you immediately,” the woman said bowing politely, Layana nodded sighing inwardly, she knew the reason for his summons. Only two nights ago over dinner, Myra – the first queen, had insulted Azalea – the second queen. With her impulsive nature, Layana had not been able to remain quiet.
Myra hated her stepdaughters and although she may not have been vocal about it, no one was blind. Layana herself was at the top of that list, for, unlike her sisters, she was the only one born out of wedlock. No one knew who her mother was, not even Layana herself. Although being whispered about hurt at times, she never let it show. She only knew that on the day of her birth, she was given to the second queen Azalea who, while nursing her own child, would also take care of Layana. To Layana, Azalea was her mother, she had been the one to raise her, and take care of her through her life.
Once she had bathed, she donned a sage green dress that was fitted to the waist then flowed out elegantly. A row of dazzling diamonds in cognac and champagne made up the border of her bodice. On her feet, she wore a pair of gold shimmering sandals with two-inch heels. These were all the rage in the capital, with the new design giving women an added few inches and some elegance to any outfit.
“Thank you, Rina, I will make my way to my father's office,” Layana said taking a deep breath. Her father was a scary emotionless man, well he showed emotions but those that weren’t the most pleasant to see at times. Anger was one that Layana knew would be coursing through his veins thanks to her insolence…
Layana took a deep breath as she raised her hand to knock on the huge door made of ash grey wood and covered in a filigree pattern made of pure silver. Two guards flanked the doors, each keeping their eyes ahead, not daring to admire the beautiful princess before them.
“Enter,” came the sharp cold voice of King Evaan bringing her out of her reverie. One of the guards opened the door for her and Layana stepped inside, her heart was pounding in her chest, her efforts to remain calm were futile. After all, King Evaan was not one to be trifled with. She curtsied to her father,
“Father,” she said now looking at the man sitting behind the large ash wood table. His cold grey eyes fixed on her as his thick brows knitted together. His shoulder-length straight brown hair framed his face with a small beard and moustache lining his thin lips. And
“Close the door,” he said emotionlessly, his voice as cold as the palace walls. The wall behind the kings’ desk contained a small stained-glass window which was covered with silver bars. This was a room that could not be risked being broken into and was on the highest floor of the palace. There was a huge fireplace to the right of the desk and the walls were lined with bookshelves. To the other side was a round table covered with a black cloth, with a few maps and scrolls lying on it.
“Sit,” her father said once she had shut the door, and Layana obeyed.
The king put down the scroll he had been reading and threading his fingers together rested his elbows on the desk,
“Care to share what happened two days ago with Queen Myra?” he asked his voice so calm, it made a shiver run down Layana’s back. His calmness only showed he was extremely furious.
She took a deep steadying breath. Despite the pounding in her chest she met her father gaze and readied herself to answer him.
“I do apologise for my outbreak… however, queen Myra had summoned us for breakfast to discuss bringing forward Terania’s engagement and she insulted queen Azalea on our upbringing,” she said her soft voice clear in that quiet room. It had been Aurelia her youngest sister who had accidentally placed her cup down with a clatter that had triggered the queen to feel insulted.
Evaan frowned as he looked at her,
“So, you are justifying your disobedience?” he asked coldly.
“No, I should not have spoken like that,” Layana said frowning slightly, thinking she didn’t regret speaking like that. But she could not say that to her father.
“Layana you are a princess, act like one,” he said coldly
“Even if it means the mother who raised me is insulted?” Layana asked softly
Evaan frowned, he didn’t care much for the issues between his two queens, he loved neither.
But Myra was his queen consort.
“Myra has every right to put Azalea in her place, and you need to know yours, do not push me Layana,” Evaan said coldly.
His words rang in Layana’s mind. Feeling a surge of anger, she looked at her father defiantly.
“I am sorry Father, but I cannot agree that when someone is insulted they should take it in their stride. I care not that Queen Myra called my birth mother a whore, but if she-”
“What?” Evaan said his eyes flashing as he looked at Layana who looked momentarily confused, her stomach fluttering nervously, was it because she said the word ‘whore?’
“Did Myra call your mother…” he trailed feeling anger fill him, how dare she…
Layana looked at him, she knew the rumours. Rumours that the king loved a woman once. It had been Cordelia who had confirmed this, she had a way to get her information and she said it was the reason Myra hated Layana. Because her mother was the one woman her father had truly loved.
She looked at her father who was now standing, his chest rising and falling in barely contained anger, his fists clenched by his side against his dark brown pants.
“Father, you're worried about an insult to a woman who left you. But what about queen Azalea who has been by your side, and raised three of your daughters with compassion and love, how can-”
“ENOUGH! Do not push me Layana! don’t you dare speak on a subject you know nothing off,” he hissed, anger burning in his usually empty grey eyes.
Layana almost flinched at the resentment and rage in his voice.
“I was only…” she trailed off knowing he wouldn’t listen
“I want 500 pages written on how a princess should behave, the decorum and the expectations by the end of the week! That is your punishment, now get out!” he snapped slamming his fist on the table.
“If I were a boy, would you expect me to behave the same way?” she asked quietly,
“You are not one, I have been cursed with nothing but useless daughters, now get out!” the king spat turning his back on the woman who reminded him so much of the woman he once loved. Seeing her was a painful reminder of the woman he had lost...
And with each passing year, her personality, her confidence, her opinions were sounding more and more like her…
Layana felt a pang of hurt at his bitter cold words, trying to remind herself that he had spoken in anger.
“If you gave us the chance… I'm sure we could prove to be better sons than one could ever hope for…” she whispered. The king didn’t reply, and Layana left the room, the sadness of his words weighed her down.
The king sighed deeply sinking into his seat once the door shut, how would they know how hard it was being a king with no proper heir. Yes, Terania would be queen, but many did not want that.
No one wanted to see a female monarch. He loved his daughters but at the same time he resented that they were not male born. He had kept his daughters sheltered, hidden away in the palace and Layana was the reason behind it. Because deep inside he was scared that she may hold the power of her mother’s cursed bloodline.
A power that had lain dormant in the last few centuries leading many to believe it had died out. Although Evaan knew it hadn’t, he had been there the night of Layana’s birth and he had seen what had happened…
Meanwhile, not far from the outskirts of the capital of Odairo two men were travelling towards the palace. “Declan wait up!” a blond man in his early twenties shouted as he ran through the trees to reach the second man. “You’re too slow,” Declan’s cold husky voice came, he didn’t once turn to look at his comrade as his dark eyes scanned the area ahead. The colour of his eyes were not common in Ehlesaar who se people had lighter coloured eyes, with blond or brown hair and skin pleasantly tanned under the summer sun. Declan was the opposite of the warmth of the people of Ehlesaar, his pale skin and his dark black hair gave him a foreign look. He stood at six foot four, and towered over most, with a lean yet muscular build. He would turn twenty this coming winter. Declan was an orphan and despite his traumatic past, he remained composed and strong. However, behind those dark grey eyes he held secrets - pain and nightmares of long ago. His frown deepened as he looked at the palace
‘To my King, I hope this letter finds you in the best of health as I give my greetings to their royal highnesses. But I am not writing for pleasantries today. It is with a heavy heart that I am forced to relay this message to you, I am trusting two of my best men to get this to you swiftly and safely. The Forgotten lands have begun to stir. I took no notice of it despite the suspicions and the sense of foreboding that has consumed me over the slight change in the beasts and monsters that roam the land. If it was not for the men I have lost and the marks on their body I would not have believed it. Just like back then, it is the very same. The threat we had hoped never to face again has returned, he is not dead, and I fear he lay dormant regaining his strength over the years. But without a doubt, he is back and the promise of vengeance that was promised to us fifteen years ago when we destroyed him or so we thought, is clear on his mind. The last of my warriors who were attacked,
It was late in the evening and the four sisters were in the princesses drawing room, discussing the upcoming engagement. It had been a shock to them all as they were not expecting it to take place until December. The room was glowing warmly from the dazzling chandeliers above while the balcony doors were open, allowing the cool breeze from outside to enter the room. The distant hum of the bustling palace life faded away slowly as time went by and gradually everyone began to retreat for the night.Terania sighed softly, it was not often she let her emotions show. “Is everything ok Terania?” Layana asked as she completed another page of the punishment her father had set for. She still had so much more to write and her fingers were aching. “Of course it is, Lord Zephyr will be arriving in a few days and soon we will be officially engaged. I have barely spoken to the man since our proposal was put forth,” Terania reply her deep melodic voice sounded tired. “You will be ok, it's your du
The morning sun shone through the library's arched stained-glass windows. The stunning glass shards were in shades of browns and orange sending an even warmer glow through the large hall. From one end you could not see the other, rows and rows of dark cherrywood bookshelves covered the entire room, with certain areas left open for tables made of the same dark cherrywood and some chairs. Each table had a light at the centre. Chandeliers in browns and orange crystals hung from the ceiling spread out in rows casting their glow around the entire area. Along the shelves hung the occasional bracket of lights. The floor in between the shelves had long strips of woven mats in deep blue and right at the back of the library was the silver metal wall that reached the ceiling. It was this wall that separated the restricted area from the main library. It towered rather high, more than three-quarters of the way to the ceiling. Layana shivered as she looked at the centre of that wall from where
The Council meeting had given Declan a short distraction from Layana. Having spent the three-hour meeting filling in the council of ten high ranking nobles at the king's table of everything that had gone on at the border to the forbidden lands. From the dead livestock and other odd occurrences. Currently they had no idea what was linked to the dark lord and what was not. The king had shared the letter of the general too. Despite some of the council members being a little doubtful of the claims in it, the majority ruled they had to play it safe. One thing that was crystal clear was that none of the council liked him. The hostility was clear, but it didn’t bother Declan. After the council meeting, Declan and Aren had been invited to dinner with the royals. Much to Declan's annoyance, Aren on the other hand was extremely excited to meet all the princesses. Something Declan hoped he would be sorely disappointed with. Dinner with the royals also meant dressing more presentably, but D
Declan's cold glare turned to the beauty before him, one thing was clear unlike her sister she was not begging for his attention, rather she was frowning at him, her plump lips set in a determined pout. “Layana,” Evaan said his voice dangerously low. Declan did not look away from those mesmerising eyes, “No. let her speak, let’s see what the sheltered princess has to say,” he said mockingly, his words were like a knife to Layana. For she knew the truth in them. Evaan heaved a deep sigh glaring at his daughter to back down. But both the temperamental princess and the cold heir of House Storm were staring the other down. Dark grey eyes boring into those iridescent red and gold. “Yes, we may be ‘sheltered’ in your eyes, but it does not mean we are ignorant to the world around us. Perhaps we have not seen as much as you have. You might look at us resentfully for the blissful ignorance that we have. But I assure you it’s no fairy tale. Before judging us, remember we are human beings for
Layana had reached the large open doors to the library as a few professors walked out. She slipped inside, unravelling a scroll in front of her. No one spared her a second glance, after all, everyone knew princess Cordelia often sent her staff to get her books. The librarians were too busy signing some books out for several apprentices. A few young scholars were packing away their scrolls and papers on the tables. A servant was cleaning up, wiping down the empty tables and chairs and a librarian was putting away some books. She only hoped she found the book without being caught. Soon the library became quieter with each passing moment. The humming of chatter was soon completely gone, she heard footsteps as one of the staff pushed in the last few chairs and headed out, only when the lights were shut down did Layana release the breath that she had been holding. Now she needed to move to the shelf where she had hidden her small bundle. With the room now bathed in darkness, only the moo
Layana had barely spoken a word to Declan, both did not ask the other for more information on what they were looking for. The only time Declan had spoken was just before the guards had entered. He had approached her making her turn the mage stone off, a finger to his lips. The guards had walked in, barely staying for more than two minutes, and were gone. The moment they had left Declan went off again. Layana only had a title, no author, or any further information about the book she was looking for and despite scouring so many shelves there was nothing. Although there were not as many books in here then the main library, there was still hundreds. She sighed softly as she slowly stepped down from the ladder from yet another shelf. Nothing. No sign of the book, she looked around losing hope, her eyes travelling to the far end of the library. The shelve that ran along the entire back wall looked even more worn and dusty than the rest of the room. Scrunching up her nose she walked ove