The complete First Draft of Castlebound is here for you to enjoy! I welcome feedback and plan on coming back soon to update with a revision, but I want to make sure you know this is a complete, but un-edited book!
“Hello, Aurora,” Queen Enndolynn Aster couldn’t help but smile down at her daughter. It had only been a few days but she couldn’t help but marvel that the tiny pink thing wrapped in silken blankets had so recently been living inside of her. A tiny hand squeezed her finger tightly. The baby was silent and watchful, completely unaware of so many things. Was the sun coming in through the two arched the windows too bright for her?
Hopefully it would be years before she had to explain to the child how much rested on her tiny shoulders. For now, she could just be a child like any other. She smiled ruefully to herself. Any other child would not be greeted by such guests as were about to come. Her heart quickened in her chest as she thought about how many people the young child was about to be exposed to, how much noise. She paced restlessly. The small room was decked in pink ribbons that matched her daughter’s dress and her own. Thick carpets would help soften the footfalls of the guests, but they wouldn’t help with the chatter.
Hopefully the small confines of the room would.
The invitations had stated that anyone who had been sick recently was not invited to attend, but she doubted very much that the nobles would follow her wishes in this. The fact that she had been able to carry this child longer than the others, that she had actually given birth to a living child would be enough to bring even nobles from the villages far to the east to celebrate. She knew that the party was important, Stewart had been very clear about that, but she wanted to take the baby and flee to her bedroom. It would be safer for the child, certainly.
As if thoughts of her husband had summoned him, Stewart entered the room. He was a wiry man, but strong and tall. Handsome despite the years. A small beard framed his mouth. He had always insisted on keeping his cheeks shaved. His stiffly pressed dark blue jacket flared out at the hips and matched his trousers. As his eyes met hers he sighed. “Darling, you have to put the baby down sometimes. How is she going to learn to use her arms and legs if you’re holding her all the time? Besides, the nobles will want to see her face, not just the back of her fuzzy head.” He kissed the top of that fuzzy head and laid the baby in her cradle.
It was tall for a cradle, ornately carved and made of cherry wood. She had preferred this one to the old Rowan wood one her husband had tried to convince her to use. It was easier for her to reach her baby. She was not quite healed yet. Her gown was a neatly tailored light blue that went well with Stewart’s uniform. It flared out from under her breasts, and was one of her favorites in the early stages of pregnancy. Her stomach had not flattened back out yet. Lavina had told her it would take time.
Stewart took her in his arms and kissed her. “I know you’re worried,” he said. “Everything is going to be fine.” She took comfort in his touch.
At the door, Martin cleared his throat. “Your Magesties, your guests are here.”
They stepped away from each other and stood to either side of the cradle. She hoped that the child would not immediately start crying. She had already been awake for too long. She would be hungry soon. Celeste Goddard swept into the room. Endolynn suppressed a stab of guilt as she looked a the woman’s perfect waist and perfect hair.
“Enndolynn, you look amazing.”
Endolynn tried not to roll her eyes and Celeste hugged her. Of course she didn’t look amazing. Celeste may have been one of her closest friends but she was also a terrible liar and unable to have children of her own. She gasped and cooed over the baby until her husband, William took her arm and moved her forward as he was the one to notice the large crowd of people waiting behind them.
Endolynn remained watchful. Her daughter still had not cried, but looked up at the myriad of faces that bent to look upon her. The room was small enough, that as she hoped, the nobles moved on, making their way back out to the dining room where refreshments were waiting for them. She smiled to herself and then paused when she heard gasps coming from the doorway. Her heart leapt into her throat as she heard the beating of wings. “Open the windows,” she yelled to no one in particular. How had a bird managed to get inside the castle and onto this floor?
An entire flock of crows swooped into the room. “Open the windows,” she shrieked. The birds were beating themselves against the glass, but she refused to leave Aurora’s side. Stewart ran to the window, since everyone else seemed to be waving at the birds, trying to keep them away from their faces. Melissa had one leave droppings down the skirt of her blue dress. She screamed and ran down the hallway. The guards at the doorway came rushing inside, the concern on Derrick’s face plain as he stood close to the child. The other guard hurried towards her husband, drawing his sword. Everyone else was scrambling to get away.
Aurora began to cry. Endolynn almost picked up the child, as much to comfort herself as the child. Panic threatened to overwhelm her as she stood in front of the cradle. This was magic, she knew it, but only one mage was left in the small room. He was a young boy with a pimply face, but instead of running to get his fellows as she almost hoped that he would, he looked at her gravely and nodded. Then he came her way. She wondered what good a mage his age would be able to do. She wished she had the sense to demand that one of the older mages stay in the room at all times, but who could expect something like this?
Most of the birds had flown out the window, but others circled around the room, seeming unsure where to go. Lavina chased after them with a broom. Stewart seemed completely unaware of the bigger problem now entering the room. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see the navy blue of the mages coming her way. She felt a small amount of relief. Old Reimund appeared in the doorway, but right behind him was a woman all in black.
She was strikingly beautiful in all black. On her head, she wore a headpiece that looked like two horns reaching to the ceiling. Nobles backed away, clawing at each other to be away from this woman. Her face was pale, making her bright red lips seem that much more bright. Her green eyes danced, enjoying the chaos she had created. She was the well known and ever feared Millicent. No one knew her last name or where she came from.
Endolynn had never seen her before but certainty flooded through her nonetheless. She gripped the edges of the cradle behind her until her fingers hurt.
Millicent began tossing a small silver box in her hand. She caught it and threw it, still saying nothing.
“Why are you here?” Endolynn hated the way her voice shook.
“I am sorry that I am so difficult to find. I’m sure you would have sent me an invitation if you could have found me.”
“Of course,” Endolynn said, hoping to appease the woman in black. Still, she tossed that silver box. It was such a small thing, but it looked to be elaborately carved. Long, elegant fingers curled around the box and Millicent looked at her husband.
“Good to see you, too,” she told him.
“Endolynn,” Stewart’s eyes were as wide as hers must have been. “Take the child and leave.”
“Oops,” said Millicent as she threw the small box into the center of the room. That was no accident. She wondered if Millicent were capable of making accidents.
Reimund had been about to cast a spell. His hands were above his head, wrists together and fingers pulled back he glared and Millicent, his white eyebrows furrowed on concentration. Nothing happened. He stood completely still, mouth open as if he were about to say something.
She looked around. The young mage, the soldiers, everyone seemed to be unable to move. The noise of so many people chattering had died away. The child continued to wail, but Endolynn didn’t know how to protect her daughter, certainly not by holding her in front of her. Millicent grinned. “I think it’s so much nicer to have some privacy, don’t you?”
Endolynn nodded and watched Millicent warily. Millicent strode towards the child and Stewart ran to block her way. “Don’t make me bind you to the wall, Stewart.” All the anger went out of Stewart. His shoulders slumped. “What do you want?”
Millicent tapped a long finger on her lips as if she were considering. “I want to give a gift to the child. It’s why I came.”
“Don’t hurt the child. Even you should care about her.”
“Even me,” you insult me. “Of course I care, but that does not undo what you have done to me. Don’t worry. I will give you time, sixteen years to make things right. You know what you have to do to make things right, don’t you?” Millicent was close to Endolynn now. A long finger lifted Endolynn’s chin. “You know, don’t you?”
“Good. Make it right, and so will I.”
Endolynn tried to stay between the woman and her child, but Millicent threw her back. Endolynn fell to the ground, her body wrenching in pain.
Millicent began swirling her hands around one another. A dark cloud formed at their center. Then she leaned over the cradle and said something. Stewart chased after her, out of the room.
Fearing the worst, Endolynn picked up her child. Tears streamed down the queen’s face as the baby began to cry. Relief flooded her. Millicent hadn’t killed her child. Sixteen years. Surely the mages could do something by then. Suddenly everyone was moving again and yelling to each other, wanting to know what happened. Endolynn hurried away from them, her baby clutched in her arms.