House of Enchanted: The Revelations of Oriceran, Soul Stone Mage, Book 1
By Sarah Noffke & Martha Carr
The Kingdom of Virgo has lived in peace for thousands of years… until now.
Having been cooped up in the House of Enchanted all day, Azure relished the fresh air as she trotted through the grounds of the large estate. The entire day had been filled with lesson after lesson. And although the day hadn’t come to an end quite yet, she appreciated that her husbandry lessons were outside under the sunlit sky.
Once past the stables she lowered the hood of her robes, enjoying the wind tangling her blue hair. A black and white cat strode beside her, but she pretended not to notice him. She finally turned to the feline at the archway leading to the farm.
“You know you can’t come with me,” she said to Finswick.
The cat wrinkled his eyes at her and spun back toward the House, his tail arching angrily in the air before he swept it back and forth. Such a drama queen.
“You know it’s not me. It’s the fairies—they’re afraid you’ll eat them,” Azure shouted to the retreating cat.
He’d get over being left out. Or he wouldn’t. She didn’t have the time to worry about the cat’s feelings.
Hurrying past a field of half-grown root vegetables, Azure headed for the green house on the south end of the farm. She had spent many an afternoon hanging from the apple trees in the orchards on the far side of the farm. Monet used to chase her across the hay bales that bordered the area between the stables and the gardens. This was truly one of Azure’s favorite places in Virgo, probably because her people took such pride in growing their food.
“You’re late,” Finnegan said when she entered the greenhouse.
“You always say that, and it’s never true,” she said, hoisting her clementine-colored robes as she hurried in his direction.
The old wizard sat hunched over a large pot, his fingers deep in the moist soil. “The little fuckers have been hiding from me all afternoon,” he said, digging until he was elbow-deep in the dirt.
“Maybe you’ve offended the mars bee traps by calling them names.”
Finnegan shook his head of long turquoise hair. He dug deeper, his face pinching as he did. “These assholes don’t have feelings.” His hand had to be nearly to the bottom of the giant pot, but he kept digging, his beard now resting on the top of the soil.
Mars bee traps were deadly for bees, luring them in with their hypnotic scent. The plant was incredibly useful in many potions, but only grew to maturity once lured above the surface of the soil.
“This batch is just a bit more stubborn than most. They might have caught the bug,” Finnegan said, pulling his hand from the soil with defeat written on his face.
“Bug? You mean bee? I thought you weren’t feeding them,” Azure said, handing the wizard a towel.
He shook his head. “I mean whatever has taken out half the mint jelly and hook-skirt herbs. Their leaves have brown spots, and they’re withering away.”
“Uh, maybe they have a fungus,” Azure said, glancing at the herbs under discussion, which were sitting in long rows in pots of various colors. Those two plants were used in many potions, but were mostly known for their healing properties.
“Yes, it looks like one that I’ve seen taking out plants in the mountains. However, I’ve never found it in this part of Virgo before.” Over Finnegan’s shoulder a buzzing light sped, zipping around his face. He swatted at the fairy, his face screwed up in annoyance.
“Hey, listen!” the fairy yelled, her high-pitched voice ringing through the air.
“I already heard you the first time. Don’t beat a dead unicorn,” Finnegan said, straightening his robe. His plum-colored soul stone was fashioned into a brooch that was pinned to the right side of his chest.
“What’s Navi going on about?” Azure asked, sitting on the crate next to the large pot and taking her turn digging into the soil to find the mars bee traps.
Finnegan waved a dismissive hand at the fairy, who settled on his shoulder and whispered into his ear. Her face was bright red with anger, which made her pink hair blend with it.
“I know what you think you saw, but you have no evidence. Get off,” Finnegan said to the fairy, who flew to where Azure was working. She looked at Azure, her eyes earnest.
“This morning I saw one of the humans in here, and that batty old wizard won’t believe me,” Navi said, stomping her slippered foot.
“It wouldn’t make any difference if I did. The point is that we have two crops with a strange fungus, and only Charmsgood will know the cure,” Finnegan said. He turned, scanning the rows of plants at his back, where several buzzing lights could be seen hovering over the leaves. The fairies always flew around so fast while working that only the light of their wings could be seen when in motion. “Why don’t you help with the harvest instead of spreading rumors?”
Azure sunk her fingers deep into the soil, enjoying the softness. Once the dirt came to her wrist, she stayed still. “There was a council meeting this morning. The Emperor and the Duke were apparently in attendance.”
The fairy nodded adamantly. “See, she gets it. They did something to our crops. Who knows what else?”
Finnegan shook his head, disregarding the fairy. “Azure, what are you doing? You’ve got to dig to catch those little jerks.”
“That approach didn’t appear to work for you,” she said, nodding her head at his dirt-covered robes.
“That’s probably because the mars bee traps are all dead in the bottom of that pot,” he said.
“They might be dead because that human in the trench coat was in here! I’m telling you what I saw!” Navi screamed, her fists by her side.
“Please grab me a stabilizer,” Azure said to the fairy, who flew off and a moment returned with a small stick.
Twice she’d felt something tickle her finger. The third time she pinched it and pulled the long stem to the surface of the soil. “Voila!” Azure sat back and gave Navi space to tie the mars bee trap to the stabilizer. The stick would keep it from sliding back under the soil, and ensure it grew straight and tall.
“How’d you do that? I’ve been digging for those fuckers all afternoon,” Finnegan asked, his turquoise eyes narrowing.
“Magic,” Azure told him, plunging her fingers back into the soil to find another plant.
FROM SARAH>>> And now we have fairies! Here’s the first time that fairies are introduced in this series. And I gave a little nod for video game lovers. Hey, Listen! I had to. Lovers of this classic will know what I mean.
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