Dark Forest: The Revelations of Oriceran, Soul Stone Mage, Book 2
By Sarah Noffke & Martha Carr
The Kingdom of Virgo has lived in peace for thousands of years… until now.
“Did you just say the human is the emperor of Terran?” Ever asked his gaze on the two approaching men.
“Indeed I did. He’s been reigning for many decades,” Gillian said, his boxy chin held high.
“Well, that ended today, when all of Terran found out at a press conference that he’s my father,” Azure said.
“Whoa! That’s far out. Your mother is the queen of Virgo and your father is the emperor of Terran.” Ever shook his head in disbelief.
“Interesting.” Gillian pulled his notebook from his breast pocket and scribbled notes.
“Glad you made it,” Azure said, striding forward but then hesitating. Richard was regarding her with some intensity. His eyes roamed her face as if he were seeing her for the first time, and the fine lines around his eyes deepened for a moment. It was hard to say how old he was. Humans lived a long life on Oriceran thanks to the magic, but not as long as witches and wizards. He looked like he was her mother’s age, minus maybe a hundred years.
“We didn’t really have a chance before, but I wanted to formally say it’s good to finally meet you,” Richard said, extending his hand to her.
Azure eyed the hand and turned to Monet, who was checking them out. “Were you followed?”
He had a wide smile on his face. “Not by humans. I might have insulted a herd of centaurs, but I think we lost them.”
“Good thinking! You’re trying to escape a treacherous land and you create more trouble for yourself,” Azure said.
“Actually, I was trying to help us escape. I simply asked them if we could get a lift. They apparently didn’t think giving us a ride was an acceptable idea,” Monet said.
Gillian huffed. “Of course they didn’t. Centaurs are prideful creatures who would never give anyone a ride on their backs.”
“Well, I know that now. They could have just declined, but instead they charged after us. I had just enough time to jinx them before we turned and ran.” Monet grabbed his mint-green robes from a tree branch where they were hanging. He pulled them on and removed a bag of Cheetos from an inside pocket. It was the supersized bag they’d bought him on Earth, now about half-full.
“Hey human, do you know how to make Cheetos?” he asked Richard.
“Emperor Richard,” Gillian corrected.
Monet pursed his lips, nodding like he was impressed. “My apologies. Of course Princess Azure would be from royal blood on both sides.”
“Princess?” Richard asked her. “I thought you… Your coronation was supposed to have taken place already.”
“Well, kind of like your press conference, it was ruined when everyone found out I was half human,” she said, pointing at the soul stone hanging around her neck.
His gaze flicked to the amysthst, and knowledge dawned on his face. “It’s blue.”
“Yes. It’s the wrong color, according to Virgoans.” Azure still didn’t know how she’d win her people’s favor, but she had her mother’s soul stone and that was more important. Now she just had to get back to Virgo.
“Man, one little kid fucked up everything for two royal families,” Monet said with a whistle.
“Shut up, Cheeto Boy. And just so you know, I could probably use my human magic to make Cheetos if I had some sugar, but I’m not going to do it.” Azure thought about what she’d learned from Heidi while in Terran. They made most of their food by converting sugar into things like pastries or french fries.
“Well, good thing you’re not the only human in our jolly band of misfits,” Monet said, turning his attention to Richard. “I’ll share if you make me some more.” He opened the bag of Cheetos and offered it to Richard, who held up a hand to decline.
“What about you, Ever, my favorite half-Light Elf?” Monet asked.
“I think we have more pressing matters. I need to return to Virgo. My mother needs her soul stone,” Azure said.
“What do you plan to do with the emperor?” Gillian asked, his pad still in his hands.
Azure threw a casual glance at her father, who looked discomfited.
“He’s an adult, and can figure things out on his own,” she said.
“It’s not safe to leave him in the Dark Forest alone. If the rogue dryads find him, they might punish him for what the people of Terran have done to the forest,” Gillian said.
“I tried to stop the people from leeching too much from the forest,” Richard protested.
“Well, then you’re an ineffective leader,” Monet said. “There’s no forest left around Terran.”
“I know, but I authorized Phillip to work with Charmsgood to find ways to regrow the forest,” Richard said.
“By ‘work with,’ did you mean kill him for a solution?” Azure asked.
“What? No! I told him—”
“We found Charmsgood’s body, and I’m guessing he won’t be the only wizard Phillip takes down to get what he wants,” Azure said, cutting him off.
“But without a Potions Master, he’ll run out of answers,” Ever said.
“Phillip has probably figured out how to replicate the last potion, using the magic from Queen Emeri’s soul stone,” Richard said, cradling his head in his hands like he had a sudden headache.
The sun sat close to the horizon, warm light filtering through the trees. Soon they’d be casts in darkness in the cold foersts. “Ever, where will we be safest for the night?” Azure asked him.
“North, on the coast,” he answered at once.
“Okay, we’ll leave Richard there. He should be safe on the beach. I’m heading to Virgo first thing in the morning,” Azure said, taking the lead and setting off in the direction of the ocean.
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