Home > The Fate of Crowns (The Fate of Crowns #1)

The Fate of Crowns (The Fate of Crowns #1)
Author: Rebecca L. Garcia

 

ONE

 


The sunrise glistened in a thousand shades of oranges and reds behind rolling clouds of silver. I shifted my gaze down to the castle grounds. Neat beds of blue and purple flowers lined the path. Roses were entwined around metal arches, leading down stone steps to the left. In the center was a tall, stone fountain. Orange hues bounced off the frozen water at the bottom.

Magic pulsated through my staff, beating like an open heart. I flexed my fingers, then turned away from the window to look at Morgana. Though tall and willowy, she stood stronger than the other women at court. She leaned over a teapot that leaked droplets as she turned off the stovetop. She reached up and attempted to untangle a puff of her brown hair. Her orb-like eyes regarded me as I took a seat next to the slanted shelves filled with melted candles and mismatched books. Light was pouring into the room, illuminating the wisps of dust in the air. I flicked a lock of my black hair over my shoulder, then proceeded to chew on my nails.

“Try this time,” she said encouragingly.

I repressed the urge to roll my eyes. She treated me more like an apprentice than the princess I was. Although, she was my only friend in the castle.

Something clonked from inside her deep pockets as she walked toward me. Thrusting a china cup into my hands, she cast her eyes downward. The leaves had gathered into the shape of a sword. Her expectant stare bore into me as I breathed in the evocative smell of heather and lavender. Morgana waited for my insight, but I didn’t have the gift she insisted I had. I waited for her to tire of standing by for me to get a vision and call on it herself. I needed to know what the sword meant, but only Morgana could foresee.

I looked sideways when quickened breaths and hollow footsteps grew close. A sorceress had come for a reading. The girl’s eyebrows were set downward as she hovered in the doorway. She cleared her throat, drawing Morgana’s attention.

“I need a reading.”

Morgana glanced at me as I pressed my nails into the flesh of my palms. The familiar flicker of anger crossed my expression.

“I’m in a session,” Morgana replied.

“Don’t you know who I am?” The girl tapped her fingers rhythmically against her side. I could tell she was anxious, but she tried to hide it. I guessed from the new string of pearls around her neck that she was new, to be one of my mother’s ladies. Her skin was still tanned. She had come from the southeast, where there was still sunshine in the summer months. She wore heavy earrings, but they left red marks on her lobes. She wasn’t used to wearing fancy things.

“Come back later,” I ordered, my patience wearing thin.

Her lips pinched together. She opened her mouth to argue but paused when her eyes met mine. Hers were almond brown and filled with indecision.

“Your Highness.” Her words trembled. She sank into a deep bow. Her silky hair reflected the sunlight, her dark-brown strands glistening between the black as it spilled around her face. She chewed on her bottom lip as she rose upward.

“Come... back... later.” I teetered on the edge of rage. The teacup was still warm in my hand; I had half a mind to throw it at her.

Morgana’s eyes flicked to mine, warning in her stare. She blew out a tense breath, then turned back toward the girl. “Please, come back later in the morning.”

The girl’s lips barely moved as she muttered an apology. She turned and hurried down the spiraling steps. Her heels clicked whenever they hit the ancient stone.

“I’ll have her sent away!” I threatened and squeezed the china tightly. “Who even wakes up this early?”

Morgana circled my chair. “You must not let your anger get the better of you, Winter.”

“But she—”

“You know better.” Her tangled eyebrow hooked upward.

“I guess we won’t know what it means now.” I clenched my jaw. The girl had disrupted the flow of energy. I leaned my staff against my chair, then looked over at Morgana’s bundles of flowers. They had been wrapped individually and piled on one of the shelves at the back of the room. Morgana sold them to get more gold coins. Her collections were expensive, things that were hard to get ahold of in Magaelor.

She paused in front of me and searched my gaze, as she had done many times before. “Your soul drowns in the river of your rage. You will lose yourself if you do not learn to control it.”

I wanted to swallow the fury from my expression, but it lingered around my frown, a tell Morgana always picked up on.

“It won’t work unless you’re calm,” she stated.

Her eyes closed, and she wrapped her fingers around mine. She searched through the clutter in my mind. Slowly, she untangled my web of thoughts.

It felt like fire at first—a flame licking through the veins in my arm and traveling to my chest. I wanted to pull away, but the teacup, still in our grasp, grounded me. I needed to know my future. I was a cardboard princess, an empty crown. Pointless. The truth tugged at my heart. My father had never paid much attention to me until today. He had looked at me as if seeing me for the first time since I was a young child. I was a woman now—fifteen and ready for a purpose. Perhaps I would finally be useful to him. I was never going to take the throne. That was my brother’s fate, but I needed one too. I was desperate, and Morgana knew it. She kept me waiting, testing my patience. She did it on purpose, to teach me restraint. It irritated me, but I knew better than to go against her. She could out-stubborn us all.

Sparks flickered under her touch and through my skin. The flame sensation turned to ice, freezing me from the inside. Finally, a wave of serenity washed through me as destiny revealed a message. I couldn’t make it out—Morgana had pulled it from my head before I could—but I sensed something else. A kiss lingered on my lips, but from whom, and what did it have to do with my fate?

Morgana let go, my fingers quivered, and the teacup tumbled from my grip. She stepped back when the china shattered against the uneven ground. Her hands were charred black.

“What happened?”

She exhaled a raspy breath. “Death. I saw death.”

My breath hitched. Broken shards pointed upward at me, and the tea leaves clung to them. Her watery eyes locked onto mine.

“Whose?” I asked, afraid of the answer.

She fished into her deep pocket and pulled out three smooth, gray stones. She flipped them over to reveal their symbols. Running her fingertip along the ridges, she closed her eyes. She shivered, snaking her back up as she did.

“The deaths will mark the beginning.”

I stood, leveling myself with her. “Deaths?” I questioned, noticing the plural. “Of whom? Morgana, what did you see?”

“I’m not sure. I can’t see them, but I know one’s a boy, then another one... in a battle.” Her eyes opened again. The brown in them had turned to the color of smoke. “I see a crown.”

Hairs stood erect on my arms. “What one?”

“The only one that matters.”

***

I walked somberly to the banquet hall, weaving through ancient passageways and long corridors. My confusion from the reading flitted through my mind like a swarm of flies. Blindly, I reached the open doors and reoriented myself. I’d been so lost in thought, I didn’t remember how I got there.

Tables lined both sides of the grand room. I took my seat at the back, away from prying eyes. Shuttered light beamed through the arched windows, making the chandeliers glimmer. Everything about Ash Court shone. The stones on the walls were embedded with millions of tiny crystals. It was enchanting, especially to the visitors. Our home was intended to be a fortress against our enemies, but it also served as a place for dignitaries to stay, rooms solely to entertain. My family and I were the main event, the real-life royals people begged to see. We had to pose for portraits and smile at strangers. I tried my hardest to stay out of the limelight, which was easy when standing next to my brother, André.

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