The Rest of Forever: Chapter 1
Silver; poisonous to the touch…
A God trapped by a royal family…
Immortals crafting a magical conspiracy…
Dark days dominate the Stemin Kingdom…
A plague rages across the capitol, and as life mysteriously drains from the land, a girl called Ambrose is tasked with following an unexpected path far from the poorer quarters she’s called home. Together with her dear friend Axel, she must journey forth across a perilous land to learn of wild magic, and confront the secret enemy spurring the end of days…
“The Rest of Forever”
By Jade Stevenson/Jadedisland
Part 1: The Beginning
“My dear Ambrose, if you are reading this then my time has come. I have avoided the Silver Sickness for as long as I could, but the city is a breeding ground for the tarnished silver. You’ve very little time before the protection I have placed wears off. It is time you knew the truth” – from the Bloodhaven Journal
A dreamless night preludes a beautiful sunrise in Stemin. A kingdom vast and thriving with its citizens going about their day and hoping for their chance of success in the system. However, further into Stemin, in the last district bordering the wastelands, a young woman was beginning to awaken. Her life was ordinary, but sometimes in a world like this ordinary becomes extraordinary. So there she was, the young dark-haired woman awakening, out of a desolate sleep, to the scent of pork meat pies. Unbothered, yet about to be for what was to come.
The scent of onions, garlic, and other stewed vegetables was indeed not an ordinary scent for a home that could barely afford flour or milk to make bread. She stepped out from her bedroom, uncertainty building in her heart.
"Mom," she called.
The answering silence did nothing to dissipate the worry in her heart. Something was wrong; why were the walls darker, as if some great sorrow had befallen the house? She stepped into the light of the kitchen.
"Mom?" she asked.
Her mother turned around smiling.
"Ambrose, you're just in time to break your fast."
Ambrose stood by the door, unsure of what was troubling the peace of her home.
"Mom, I had called out for you and you did not answer. I had thought the worst," Ambrose replied.
She walked to her and hugged her. Her mom smiled sadly as she returned the hug.
"You must forgive me, I had a moment of sadness."
She turned out of the hug and went back to cleaning the kitchen. Ambrose sat down at their simple kitchen table and took a nibble at one of the cooling pies, taking in various flavors of spice and gravy. Her mother smiled, her eyes holding a soft sorrow despite the joy of having a real meal. They ate in silence for quite some time; the air was thick with unsaid words between them. For some reason, Ambrose felt like she was going to lose something.
"Ambrose, be sure to come home on time today; I have to tell you about parts of my past,” her mother said.
Ambrose nodded and grabbed the second portion of pie for her lunch.
A knock on the door and Ambrose called out, “I’m coming Axel hold on!”
Her mother handed her a wrapped up portion of pie to give to her oldest and only friend. Ambrose turned back to look at her mother; her mother smiled and waved her off. Still uncertain, she left heading to work further in the city.
Stemin citizens and kingdom were segregated into four smaller regions which were labeled Districts. District A and B, to the west of Obsidian Castle, were rich regions where most of the wealthy class or merchants resided. Their homes and pristine kept community were a compliment to the grandiose structure of the Obsidian Castle. District C, to the east and closest to the ocean and docks, held most of the business and markets. A bustling portion where almost all districts communed, it was guarded by Knights and regulated through tolls and identification stands. District B and C held the segregated schooling system. District B contributed to the education for merchant classes and Knight training. District C offered education to the poorer working class and general education for those who could afford to attend. There was a system to Stemin and there was little to no opposition to its powerful influence on the life of citizens.
Ambrose and Axel were fortunate enough to work in District C, the market district. Their daily route from District D to District C was long because of the traffic in and out of the district always in a fluctuating state. The streets were full of vendors selling their handmade crafts and the shopping plazas always crowded. People from every district bought their goods and items in this district however very few people could earn enough money to set up shop in the plazas. Many vendors just lined the streets.
Today was another day of crowded streets and Ambrose and Axel walked to work at the pace of newborns learning to walk. Axel was tall with the general brown hair and brown eyes, which were the common physical attributes of the residents of the Stemin. He would be considered handsome, but his face was marked with a scar that crossed the right side. The dark, angry mark started from his eyebrow and ended underneath his chin.
Many in the district considered his one imperfection to be reason enough to shun him publicly. Standards of beauty in the Kingdom were reliant on wealth and displays of power. No one would accept people who were a visual representation of a poor life or noticeable imperfection. Enchanters were considered the most beautiful, the silver or white streaks in their hair a sign of power. Many of the people in District D longed to find or discover magical potential but often none did. They lived on the hope that if they had the ability to perform magic, they would rise in status and hopefully serve the royal family and acquire wealth and fame.
Axel sighed as he pulled Ambrose through the slow moving crowd; all she heard were whispered derogatory comments about his scar fading into the crowd behind them. Ambrose tried to follow after him as best as she could, but the streets were crowded. His quicker pace to ignore the hate from other citizens and spare her shame made her feel weak. There was little she could do. Ambrose knew Axel ignored their commentary, but that did little diminish the bubbling sorrow in her chest. Even at the age they were, Axel still received commentary as if he was a child to be left on the stoop. He was a strong man and very kind. It was rare that he spoke against another with the intent to inflict pain or harm them. The only reason he spoke out was to save another from harm. It was that quality that caused them to be fast friends. Axel was the first to acknowledge her back in their school years and she remembered the day that someone finally chose to befriend her instead of shunning her vividly.
Ambrose was seven years old when she first met Axel. She often was alone the first few weeks in school. Most of the students and some of the teachers found her silver eyes unsettling and wouldn’t look at her. It wasn't a common color for those living in District D. Teachers whispered about her eyes and her lack of magical ability frequently. Students were encouraged to isolate her, or not interact with her. Teachers taught her only because her mother provided the tuition for her to attend and receive an education. Money didn’t stop them from ignoring her when she asked questions in class or turning a blind eye when kids were cruel. The system worked and eventually, a young Ambrose learned it was better to be silent than speak at all. She did her work and studied hard, but in silence and isolation. Lessons had stopped midday for the majority of students to eat. At the beginning of the midday meal, Ambrose had once more been eating alone, sitting under her favorite tree. It was a humble garden, but an oasis from her peers who talked and stared. She was slowly eating the mild cheese and weak bread when someone said, "May I sit here?"
Ambrose looked up at the boy in front of her.
"What?" she dumbly asked.
Someone actually acknowledged her presence and it was alarming. A normal boy talked to her, the girl often shamed and ridiculed about the freaky black hair and silver-colored eyes. Ambrose was stunned and her mouth had parted in shock.
"Most people won't sit with me because of my scar," he said softly.
Ambrose smiled shyly.
The boy smiled at her return and sat down next to her. He opened his sack and pulled out some ham to share with her and ever since Ambrose and Axel had been close friends, defending one another from the ridicule of their peers. Their friendship equally saved one another from isolation and loneliness.
Axel and Ambrose continued to walk the streets of District C. The bitter cold air was smothered with the scents of labor workers and vendors’ food. They kept quiet under the watchful eyes of the soldiers.
"Ambrose…" someone whispered.
She turned and saw a woman with shredded rags eagerly holding her scarred hands outward.
"Spare some silver Ambrose dear."
Ambrose turned away quickly.
"Ambrose dear, my black haired girl, silver. Spare me some silver,” the old woman called out to her.
"Do you know her Ambrose?" Axel whispered trying to pull Ambrose along through the crowd.
"No, but why does she beg me for silver? I am just as poor as she. We're from the poorest district," Ambrose whispered angrily.
The woman clutched her arm.
"Ambrose, spare me some silver,” the woman wailed.
She struggled to get out of the woman's hands. Some specs of sand were left on her blouse as she pulled away.
"Please ma'am I don’t know you, nor do I have any silver. I only have copper," Ambrose whispered.
She took out five copper coins and handed it to the woman.
"Bless you dear. Bless you dear, five times my dear Ambrose,” the woman said.
Ambrose nodded and when she looked up the woman was gone. She looked down at her blouse, confused at the odd colored sand with flecks of pink crystal.
“Curse the silver cravings,” Axel muttered.
Ambrose had to agree solemnly, as she looked at her empty purse and shrugged off the sand.
“She must live at the docks…she left sand on me.”
Axel looked at her curiously. He shook his head as he kept a wary eye on the people around them.
District D was overwhelmed by addiction to silver. The magic of silver was legendary, but very few had access to it or magical potential high enough use it. The royal family and the few enchanters of Stemin were the only ones with the ability to harness the magic out of silver. It was a gift envied by many. It was crucial to any citizen of Stemin to accumulate silver coins as a symbol of wealth and status. Gold held value, but silver was the most desired. There were rumors that silver had a curse on it, but no one had proof, at least no one alive. People went missing and silver cravings were high, but most attributed those feelings to greed or poverty. Rumors also suggested that those with the silver addiction had intense cravings for concentrated silver, but the addiction unsatisfied drove the beggars into madness. The origin of the sickness was still unknown among the citizens in the districts. However, the exposure to it was guaranteed and spread in District D.
"I never hear of the cravings in the other two districts and usually only see the beggars in our district,” Ambrose commented.
Axel looked around, his shoulders tensing up as they approached the guarded gate for the first shopping plaza.
“The soldiers take them away,” Axel mumbled.
He then searched through his pockets for his identification. Ambrose looked through her pockets for her identification as well, as she walked to the guards. Knights, or often known as the Silver Guard, patted her down quickly and looked at her papers. Their rude behavior a trademark to working for the royal family. Some considered it an honor to be in the kingdoms military force, Ambrose did not. As soon as she was let through, the shopping plaza was in sight.
The first shopping plaza had fewer vendors on the streets unlike the area closer to District D. All the shopping could be conducted in the beautiful stone buildings and there were bars and lounges for different interests for those that could afford it. Axel looked at Ambrose and smiled.
“I guess I better head on to the blacksmith’s charter before I drop in. Good luck with the matron at the shop, let her know I’ll be late again!” he said before shuffling past soldiers who ran towards to the gate.
Screams were heard in the distance and Ambrose looked back towards the gate as onlookers crowded the entrance to the shopping plaza.
“CLEAR THE WAY,” General Spector shouted, his streak of silver catching in the light.
More soldiers appeared at the gate. Ambrose looked back, worried as more people parted, letting the general and his knights step through. The whispers from the crowd escalated and the general shouted commands left and right. It took a brief and silent moment before Ambrose could spot a body on the ground, but when the sun hit she saw five copper coins sparkle in the sunlight. Their bronze tones, shining with the sweat of a woman who clung to them in her death. Ambrose turned away from the building spectacle. The wind picked up and, within the breeze, specs of sand hit her face.
TO BE CONTINUED
Note From the Author:
Thank you for reading Chapter 1 of the “Rest of Forever” I am so excited to be working with my Best friend, who is editing for me, and artist Middnite Designs on this project! It means a lot to me that you read it, that you commented, or sent me feedback! This series is my first big creative project that is solely mine, and without your support I would be…writing some weird stuff in a corner. It means the world to me, that I can branch out and write fantasy fiction that casts a light on creative thinking and maintains my belief of strong magical black women! Stay tuned for more, You can subscribe to my blog to get updates on my web series and other writing once or twice a week. Tag me @Jadedisland if you share!