The Rest of Forever: Chapter 4
Catch up if you wanna start the series
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 Land of Nobles, unlike Stemin, was vast and fertile. The beautiful countryside had yet to be tainted by the firm grip of silver magic. Citizens of Stemin rarely had the opportunity to visit the beautiful country land because many of the nobles had self-sustaining towns to create what they needed; anything they wanted they could sell to one another. Other luxuries could be sent for in the summer seasons. There were five noble families that resided in the Land of Nobles: Vine, Jewelweed, Wolfsbane, Nightshade, and Celandine. These families were loyal to the throne, bound to its legacy. Of these families, there was one more in power than the rest, the Vine Family. They lived to the far south, guarding the King’s Forest. Their emerald regalia and crest paid homage to the power of the forest, the one place that all people in the Land of Nobles never ventured. Blocked off by high walls, the King’s Forest was a place where Wild Magic from a time before Stemin lived. Within the dense forest flourished a power that the royal family could not control, although they had tried. Only the Vine family and the royal family knew of what truly made the forest a home to Wild Magic. No one dared enter into the daunting region. Everyone who knew of the forest was afraid of what lived there but something dangerously powerful from within the forest stumbled out every night.
Once she had rested at Silver Lake, Ambrose continued on her journey. She found that her strange appearance caused unrest in the locals so she traveled only at night, often stopping by taverns and local spots to get whispers of news or rumors. It was a risky opportunity to learn of this land. Her mother had not left her much instruction for how to find the Vine Family or anything about where they were. Each time she stepped into a tavern, her fear of being caught rendered her from asking questions. She wanted to avoid looking suspicious.It didn’t help that Ambrose never saw anyone with eyes like hers. She feared her appearance would prompt a local call for knights or worse.
Her first night traveling through the first town, Ambrose learned that not many in the Land of Nobles knew of magic. Still, there was something strange about the Land of Nobles. Ambrose was surprised that she hardly saw poor citizens. There were no signs of the silver sickness in any of the towns. In fact, because she had seen no signs of the addiction anywhere, she considered convincing Axel to live here with her. Her heart churned at the thought of her friend. The more she learned of the lifestyles of the nobles, the more she began to question why no one in Stemin ever left. Were they compelled by some unknown force to stay in the city and live such cramped and desperate lives?
Her second night wandering into a lousy tavern, she learned of how the Land of Nobles broke off into 5 small towns with accompanying country land or territory. Each noble had a large piece of the land, owning everything in their towns and farmland, but each was known for their desire for more land. While some noble families were amicable to each other, others did not bother to hide their desire for their fellow nobles’ land. The largest landowner was the Vine Family, who resided the farthest south of Stemin, just before the forest.
Ambrose was just about to head off to find somewhere to hide for the night when she overheard two of the tavern servers talking.
“Did you hear about them looking for more servants at the Vine Estate?!” the dark haired one said.
Ambrose could see she had a story to tell with how her body bounced in excitement.
“Oh no… again? They can’t keep anyone over at that cursed place!” answered the other server, her braids bound so tightly a peek of her scalp showed.
“I heard from my cousin Kira, that her friend’s cousin wanted to work there.” The first server seemed disappointed at the other servers lack of enthusiasm.
“It’s not worth working that close to the King’s Forest; tell her to stay away from that place.” The other server folded her arms and shook her head.
The first server pouted as she reluctantly grabbed a tray of bread and oil to serve.
“They pay better… I know working here in Celandine land is not worth all these hours. At least Vine will pay your weight in gold for staying,” the first server argued. She walked away with the tray to the back of the tavern.
“No work is worth dying for,” the second server mumbled to herself. She grabbed a rag and went to go wipe off tables.
Ambrose stayed late into the twilight hours at this tavern trying to acquire more information. No rumors or inquiries had made it this far in regards to her disappearance. She grabbed her belongings and walked into the farmland to hide by some stables to rest for the day. She lay back on the hay, noting the eeriness of an empty stable and its quiet loneliness without animals to inhabit it. She wondered why such a nice stable was empty. She hadn’t wander too far from the town she thought. Perhaps she had crossed a border into a different Noble families land? Whatever it was, she was grateful the scent of horses and other things was gone.
For now, Ambrose felt safe. She had come to close her eyes and think of her mother’s mysterious instructions when Ambrose was startled awake by the sound of laughter. She opened her eyes. Sunlight pierced her eyes, making her wince. She blinked away the pain only to see two pairs of green eyes before her. She had just dozed off and now, as her heart pounded, her fears came true. She was caught. The boy grabbed an unusual rope. Its emerald hues reminded her of the vines that would cling to the walls in Stemin. He moved quickly binding her hands as his sister smiled at her helplessness. They yanked her up and the unusual rope scratched deeper into her wrists.
"Look what we have here dear brother," the girl said. The boy snickered.
"Dear sister, I do believe we have discovered a criminal," he said as the girl giggled with malice.
"Dear brother, shall we call the guards?" she asked smiling at Ambrose with arrogance.
Ambrose studied the siblings as they dragged her through some pasture. The siblings bickered about everything, competing even in conversation to show who was better. Their clean faces and expensive clothing gave them away as nobility, but one thing for sure was that each liked attention. It reminded Ambrose of the wealthy who strolled into the markets of District C with their regalia and upturned noses as if everything beneath was riddled with disease. The sibling’s green eyes sparkled with privilege; their stance indicated these two young nobles never experienced hardships in their spoiled lives.
"My lady?" Ambrose asked testing her theory. The boy turned around, stopping abruptly.
"How dare you address my sister!" he said, turning red in anger. The girl smiled with her entitled arrogance.
"Why wouldn't she, brother? I'm clearly the one more in charge," the girl argued.
"Well, what is it?" she addressed Ambrose as she smirked at her red-faced brother.
As meekly as she could Ambrose said,"I was wondering if I could work for your brother."
The girl huffed in displeasure and rage as her brother smirked. Pitting the siblings against each other in a minor manipulation game would save her from being brought to authorities…but only if it went the way she wanted.
"My brother?! He's a dimwit! You would be best serving me!" the girl explained, flipping her nose up.
"Hey, no need to insult me. It’s clear you need her more than me anyway!" he complained.
The siblings stepped out of hearing range to talk to each other. Ambrose could hear her heart thundering in her ears. This was the moment in which her theory’s endgame would come to light. They would either take her or toss her to the authorities. It was a gamble she took with her life and her mother’s undiscovered journal on the line. The siblings turned back around whispering more and finally stepped back towards Ambrose.
"Well, peasant girl, it’s your lucky day," the siblings said in unison, spite seeping through every word.
"Yes, young masters?" Ambrose murmured. She was positive that she had found a way in, even if it was by dumb luck.
"You are hereby a servant to the heirs of House Vine," the siblings said. Ambrose's heart leapt in her chest; she was a step closer to her mother’s journal.
It was mid-evening by the time the Vine siblings had taken her back to their estate. Ambrose was quickly assembled into the household. The siblings received little opposition to bringing home a new servant and no one questioned Ambrose’s credentials because they never expected her to be from Stemin. Ambrose was quietly awaiting instruction in the servant's quarters but the ordeals of her journey were catching up to her. She was fortunate that, as a personal servant, her room was hers alone. With the time to settle in, Ambrose was able to wash and learn the rules of the household from her fellow personal servant, Jet. A knock on the door startled her from her thoughts. Walking away from the vanity Ambrose went to open the door.
"Yes," she barely spoke out before Jet screamed. The jumpy servant nearly crumbled in front of Ambrose in fright.
"Jet? What's wrong?" Ambrose asked, startled and confused. The girl stammered and pointed to the window. Ambrose turned to look and saw the two ravens she had seen at Silver Lake.
"The b-birds!" she proclaimed, hiding further into the hallway.
Ambrose shook her head and calmly let Jet know, "they are harmless, no need for trouble. You'll have me dismissed!"
Blushing, Jet looked down.
"Oh Miss Ambrose, you are right. I'm sorry!"
Jet pulled out a chunk of bread and handed it to Ambrose.
"I only came to let you know the lights will be out soon. Master doesn't want candles burning after hours in the servants’ quarters "
"Why?" Ambrose asked, offering a piece of bread to the birds. The dark one greedily ate the piece she offered, while the white one merely looked at the morsel she set down before him.
"Well, the King's Forest has a guardian spirit that will be drawn to the light, Miss Ambrose!" Jet said.
She quickly withdrew from the room closing the door before Ambrose could ask any more questions. For a jumpy small girl, she was quick on her feet when she needed to retreat.
"Guardian spirit?" Ambrose mused to herself.
She urged the birds away from her window, as she slowly closed it. She watched the black and white birds fly off, the moonlight shining on the wings of the white one that turned to watch her. Ambrose turned away wondering if the birds were something more as she sat on her bed.
"Wow," she whispered as she lay back.
The bed was softer and warmer than anything in the districts. All this wealth while those in the districts died from the silver sickness; did these people even know about the plight of the city? She smiled sadly as she felt the blankets. It had no holes and was filled with wool for warmth. Nothing this fine had even graced her hands before tonight.
Moonlight brushed the stone floor of her room. Ambrose suddenly noticed the silence of the entire estate. Nothing chirped. There were no winds or scuffling feet, just silence and dread. The hairs on the back of her neck stood up. What was going on?
In the distance, a great roar echoed in the night and the earth began to tremble. The light from the moon was shut out and a young woman's scream cut through the silence of the estate. Ambrose sat up, rushing to the pitch-black window.
"Where is the moon?" Ambrose wondered, staring only at the darkness before her.
Then, the darkness moved. Ambrose gasped as a great silver eye looked through her window. The pupil shifted into a spectrum of colors rapidly. She held her breath as the creature blinked and moved away stomping back to the forest and once more the silence screamed throughout the estate. Ambrose stepped away from the window. There was nothing that she could see in the darkness, she could only hear the steps of the being that had visited her window.
TO BE CONTINUED
Note from the Author:
Magic is getting more important and more controlling in Ambroses world! The story is getting fired up for an adventure! I have so much I want to spoil and tell you about Ambroses world but you have to wait to experience it in person. Soon i’ll be posting two chapters a month and by then you’ll join me in the true powers that should rule Stemin. Did I give away too much? Whoops~ Anyway I hope you enjoyed chapter four and as always comments and shares appreciated! Thank you to Artist Middnite Designs and Editor Melanie for making this project a success! See you next month!