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I stood alone in the grand hall. Silence filled it, as for many years. Formal white stone walls and floor reflected the early morning sunshine, streaming in through twelve floor-to-ceiling windows and gleaming lightly on the marble throne, which had been carved into the shape of a small tree growing over rock with the leaves canopy a canopy over the king’s head.
Well, they would’ve if there was a king.
Technically, I’d been king since I was five, inheriting the title twelve years ago when my father died. But I’d never been officially crowned because I hadn’t fully come into my powers, still, and couldn’t wake the Veldstone Crown. That horrible thing just sat on its marble pedestal beside the throne and was considered the great symbol of unity between the elf kingdoms of forest and mountain.
I considered it my nemesis. At least, for the past eight or ten years that I hadn’t been able to wake it. The Veldstone, for which the crown was named, had remained a dull black in dormancy ever since my father died. I hardly remembered when it was awake, but heard that the stone was once nearly covered in scarlet flames, and the stone gave off unlimited power to the one strong enough to wield it. My father had been the first—and last—one to wake it in thousands of years.
But then his mother, the witch Gildreth, had come back from the human world and killed him, fortunately getting herself dispatched in the process.
Now, I was almost seventeen and nowhere near being powerful like my father, as far as I could tell. It didn’t seem fair that Elrond Higgins, supposedly the most powerful elf alive at the time, had been taken away from Mother and I like that, a sword through his chest. And it was even less fair that he’d given his powers to my uncle Chris when he died instead of to me. Chris, being a human from a “magical” world called Kentucky, couldn’t even use elf power.
I could. And I needed to be more powerful than I was now. My third storm moon, the time when an elf’s powers peaked, was only three months away, and I couldn’t even get a single red flame to spark in the Veldstone.
Everyone told me not to worry, that I would be fine, but the closer I got to my birthday and the storm moon that followed, the less I believed them. I tried often to wake the crown, especially since my last birthday. I needed to be at least as strong as my father—stronger if possible. Even a little flame would’ve made me happy at this point.
I couldn’t help sighing as I walked towards the throne, my soft footsteps echoing strangely in the quietness. No point in trying to count the times I’d dreamed of sitting there, feeling the cool marble around me, looking down on the rest of the hall. But I’d never dared actually climb the steps to it. It was a sacred spot, something that shouldn’t be claimed until everything was official—and I woke the Veldstone.
I stopped a few steps away from the crown, hating the way it seemed to glare at me in its mocking, taunting way. If I didn’t have to wake it to keep the two kingdoms together, I’d have probably thrown the thing out a window into the gorge by now.
Closing my eyes, I took a deep breath, willing my powers to focus on the crown, forcing the air around me to grow chill and icy. I hardly dared look a few seconds later when the cold abated.
But I did… and nothing had happened. Nothing at all. The Veldstone persisted as a black jewel in a silver crown. Just like always.
I sighed again, wishing I could make the flames dance in it the way my father did when he was king.
At the time, I couldn’t think of anything worse than if the storm moon came and I couldn’t wake the crown. If the kingdoms were divided again. How could I be satisfied with only being the mountain king while living in the shadow of my father’s legacy? I mean, he was Elrond Higgins—the most powerful elf since our ancestor, King Narya, had come over the mountains thirteen thousand years ago during a civil war and united the people. My father had even overcome goblin bites. Something that never happened before, or since, as long as the oldest elves could remember.
And I was just Alastair.
I hadn’t even been allowed to rule the past twelve years I’d been called king. It was all done for me by Mother and an elf named Brudak, whom I’d always been impartial to since he’d survived on the day my father had not.
I let a third sigh loose. This one of frustration—with Brudak, my mother, my father, the crown. Everything.
The crown seemed to be laughing at me again, mocking, daring me to try, and fail. Again. I hated the way it stared, silent in its tormenting.
My eyes, generally silver like Mother’s, flared orange—something I’d inherited from my father being bit by goblins. No one understood why, but I’d found that it only happened when I was feeling frustrated or angry. Sometimes just when I had a sword in my hand.
Having no real reason to be angry, except maybe with myself, I reached out a hand to knock the crown over. I’d had more than enough of it over the years. In fact, I couldn’t understand at all why the ridiculous thing was kept around here. I’d never want to wear it.
An electric jolt raced up my arm as I brushed the icy metal, and I forgot to keep moving. Cold adrenaline rushed along the back of my neck, the image of an elf with red eyes and overgrown teeth careening through my mind. Blackened patches of what looked like mildew covered his skin. A grisly smile crossed his face as our eyes locked, and he whispered greeting in a voice like the buzzing a hundred insects. All I wanted to was for the image to vanish.
Because I recognized him at once.
Me. Turned goblin.
I jerked my hand back from the crown with such force that I landed flat on the floor. The orange left my eyes the same as the breath left my lungs. Maybe I got some sense knocked into my head as well. There was a lump at least.
An uneasiness came over me as I lay on the floor, staring up at the crown and gasping for breath. This was the second time in a week the crown had shown me that image of myself and I knew it had to mean something. I’d told Brudak about it last time, but he’d only laughed and said I was letting my anxiety go to my head.
This time, the crown laughed. The same silent laugh as before, but I could feel it shuddering throughout the entire hall.
Thank you for reading, I look forward to seeing you around Orangeboro, where I can often be found hanging around Benny’s Pizza or wherever I think I might find a good story, and there are many of them around here!
Come back soon! 🙂