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.
Smoke wafted from an open pit where chicken legs were suspended in the air and twisted on an invisible rotisserie. The artisan market brought in witches and wizards from all over Virgo, who traded their handmade soaps that erased freckles, candles that induced laughter, and bread that always tasted fresh-baked no matter how old.
“Any word on Charmsgood?” Azure asked, her eyes on a cart that was hung with various crystals. A witch in cream-colored robes that matched the streaks in her black hair lifted her chin as they passed, trying to draw them to her cart. Azure pulled her hood higher and kept her head down.
“No sign of him around his shop. Doesn’t look like he’s been there in days,” Monet told her, tugging on Azure’s arm and making her pause in the middle of the dirt lane. The look in his eyes was serious, a strange expression for him. “Actually, Finnegan said one night when he was checking his moonflowers to see if they were blooming, he saw Charmsgood hobbling toward the Dark Forest.”
“He disappeared on the night the moons were full, then,” Azure mused.
“That’s what I figured, since those flowers only bloom in full moonlight. But we need to remember that Finnegan-Gone-Again supposedly eats the blooms from those flowers because he thinks they make him more powerful,” Monet said.
“When in actuality they only make him battier,” Azure agreed.
“Moonflowers have their purposes, but now isn’t the time to educate you, little witch. My point is that, if the old man is telling the truth, then the question is why Charmsgood would go into the Dark Forest at night.” Monet said, turning and continuing down the lane.
“Maybe to retrieve ingredients that only bloomed at night, like moonflowers?” she offered.
Two booths down Monet found a wizard wearing robes the color of lemons, who sold Elements decks. He also sold other games and toys, like dolls that could really play and told on their playmate if they misbehaved. The old wizard with his cat-like yellow eyes wasn’t impressed by any of the things Monet offered to trade for the cards, telling him it was all rubbish.
“No one wants a dumb gray stone you say is from Earth or to hear a joke in payment for their goods.” Azure scoffed.
“Apparently not. Thanks for paying.” Monet dropped the cards into the inside pocket of his mint-colored robes. Something crinkled, and he jerked his head up. “Actually, I forgot! I’m out of gold because I bought these.” He took out a shiny orange bag with a cat of sorts on it, but not like the refined animals they had in Virgo.
“What are those, and where’d you buy them?” she asked
“I bought them from a wizard on my way over to get you. He got them in the Dark Market. They aren’t like my rock, they’re really from Earth. They’re called Cheetos.” Monet pulled on either side of the bag, which made a small popping noise as it opened.
Azure twisted her head around to watch over her shoulder. Luckily most of the witches and wizards were busy haggling over things like self-cleaning dishes or herbs. “If those are from Earth, then you’d better be careful. However they got here, they’re illegal,” she said in a disapproving hiss.
“Duh, Azure. That’s why it’s the Dark Market,” Monet said, looking down into the small bag with keen interest. He withdrew a small orange object that was oblong and irregularly shaped, about like their wands. “Never seen anything like it, have you?”
Azure shook her head. Today she wore a midnight-blue robe that was speckled with silver half-moons, and its hood covered the head she was shaking. “What are you supposed to do with it?”
“I think you eat it,” Monet told her, sniffing the Cheeto. His light-green eyes lit up in delight. “It smells kind of good, like cheese.”
“If it kills you, then it’s your own fault,” she warned. The worry over her mother and the virus rushed back, flooding her stomach with nausea.
Monet’s expression drooped. “There it is again—that look on your face. What’s going on?”
Azure shook her head as she stopped herself from speaking. She always said there was nothing wrong when the opposite was true. She always pretended to be happy when she was sad. She was always trying to be something she wasn’t, even with Monet. And that wasn’t going to stop when she became queen.
“It’s my mum,” she said, her voice breaking. She rarely called her that.
“What is it?” Monet asked, still gripping the Cheeto between his fingers.
Azure was just about to tell him when an old witch bowed at her side. She turned to the woman. “Princess Azure, you’ve come to the market. What an honor!” the woman exclaimed too loudly. She was wearing tattered robes, but her dark purple amethyst soul stone was as bright as ever and set into a barrette at the back of her hair.
Azure leaned over her, encouraging the woman to rise. Inside the House of Enchanted things were casual, but at the artisan market it was different. “Really, it’s no big deal,” she said in a whisper.
“No big deal?” the old witch almost yelled, rising to a standing position. “Our soon-to-be queen has come to patronize our market. This is the highest honor. You, who could have anything, choose to buy from the traveling witches and wizards.”
The fucking soon-to-be-senile witch had attracted the eyes and ears of vendors and shoppers nearby. Azure scanned her brain for a spell that would knock the old bag out and possibly cause mild brain damage.
The crowd moved in, all their interest now centered on the young witch in midnight blue robes. She pushed back the hood to reveal her face. Might as well embrace the mob before they devour me, she thought.
“Good to see you all,” she said while backing up, all too aware of the smirk plastered on Monet’s face. “We were just heading back with our treasures. Take care!” Her words made the witches and wizards stare in awe. Most probably didn’t know if they should rush forward and offer their hands in greeting, or if that would be rude now that she’d taken her leave. Still, a few dozen witches and wizards kept their gazes fixed on her, looking hungry for Azure’s attention. Soon they’d have requests for her to fulfill and disputes for her to settle. Soon every moment would be filled with the business of the people of Virgo. Afraid she was about to step into a puddle, Azure stopped walking backward and turned to hurry down the path to the House of Enchanted.
“You’re so fucking bad at accepting attention,” Monet said through a laugh.
“And you’re so fucking forgetful. You’re still holding onto that Cheeto-thing.”
He looked down at the bag he was carrying and the Cheeto pressed between his fingertips. “So I am,” Monet agreed, and popped the thing into his mouth. He suddenly halted, not taking another step, which Azure found unacceptable since the horde of witches and wizards were still too close, some of them looking like they might rush her at any moment.
“Come on, I’ve got to get back,” she urged, waving him forward.
“Will you give me a moment?” He sighed in delight. “I need a second to enjoy ingesting the very best thing I’ve ever tasted in my entire life.”
FROM SARAH>>>Here’s one of my favorite scenes from House of Enchanted. Monet has to be the most fun character to ever write. He’s just such a lovable jerk. And here we learn about his addiction with junk food. What food do you know you shouldn’t eat, but you do anyway?
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