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Update: I’ve finally hit the button and Coal is now available on Amazon for pre-order. Get it now for the early bird price of $1.99 before the price increases.
Bees and butterflies as big as his hands buzzed around Coal’s ankles while he walked through a meadow of red, yellow and blue wildflowers that separated the forge from his home. He felt guilty for not accepting Grigory’s offer, but as he approached his home, the guilt faded and a smile grew across his face. He lived in Legacy, the biggest tree in the fey realm, with his best friend Princess Chalcedony, her staff, and a handful of ambassadors from every part of the realm.
The melodious and erratic chirping of birds grew louder the closer he got to his home.
“Legacy.” Coal touched the coarse bark of the oak tree and instantly felt the life thrumming inside it. “Is Chalcedony back?”
There are so many here today. How am I supposed to keep track of any one person? Legacy said, its voice full of annoyance. Legacy was neither male nor female, but its voice sounded female nonetheless.
“Come on, Legacy. Is she in her room?”
The tree gave an exaggerated sigh as the breeze jostled its leaves. When last I bothered to listen, she was in her office. At 850-feet tall and ten times as wide as Grigory’s modest home, Legacy seemed to be larger than life. Residing inside of a living, sentient thing made him feel like he was a part of something remarkable. The moment he saw it years ago, Coal knew he’d made it home.
“Thanks,” Coal said, relieved to hear that Princess Chalcedony had returned. He removed his hand and approached the two female sentries guarding Legacy’s main entrance.
“Where are you going?” asked the taller of the two, who had light green eyes. She stepped in his way, blocking the door. Like all of Everleaf’s elven soldiers, she wore a dark green shirt with black sleeves and black pants. “The servant’s entrance is around the back.”
“I’m not a servant.” Coal held the sentry’s gaze. He’d never seen these two before, but he’d done this dance countless times over the years. He was a human in a world where humans were mostly banned and thought of as violent, ignorant, and greedy. His stomach churned as he faced the sentry, but he stood his ground. If he showed fear, it only made the taunting worse.
“No.” The other sentry stood a head shorter than her partner, but where the other sentry was slender, she was thick and muscular. “He’s not a servant. He’s just human trash.”
He swallowed. “Let me through.”
“Or what?” The taller sentry placed a hand on her sword. “You’ll tell the princess I was picking on you?”
“I don’t need the princess to protect me,” he snapped. “I can take care of myself.”
“Calm down, Sophia,” the shorter sentry said. “Let him through. Today will be his last day here anyway.”
“What are you talking about?” Coal narrowed his eyes while his pulse quickened. This was not part of the usual bullying.
“Don’t worry about it,” the sentry said, pulling the green-eyed sentry away from Coal. “I apologize for my partner. Her great-great something or other died in the human and fey wars some centuries back.”
“Well …” Coal deepened his voice, his attitude bolstered by the change in her tone. “Don’t let it happen again.”
“Of course not.” The shorter sentry bowed. “Again, I apologize.”
Coal walked past the sentries and through the entrance, deciding they had only been trying to scare him. But why would she say it was his last day here?
Once he entered the grand hall separating the entranceway from Chalcedony’s offices, he understood why Legacy sounded upset. Staff bringing food from the kitchen and filling mugs with milk, juices, and mead crowded the hall with bustling energy. Almost every race of fey had gathered in the hall—or at least every race of fey that ventured out in the daytime—elves, giants, dwarves, satyrs, nymphs, and even a few trolls.
Coal touched the wall and said to Legacy, “The ambassadors aren’t supposed to be here until tomorrow.” It had been quiet for the past three weeks. However, now that Chalcedony had returned from the human realm, fey from every corner of Everleaf came to meet with her.
Obviously they decided to come early, Legacy said.
Disappointed, Coal broke the connection with the tree. Before she’d left on her last training trip, Chalcedony had said she had something special planned for the two of them. Her duties came first, though. If she had to work, she wouldn’t have time for him.
He peered into the crowd, searching for the path of least resistance. Finding it, he lowered his head, stepped out of the safety of the entranceway, and walked into the congested gathering. The smell of goat sausage and fried eggs wafted towards him, making his stomach rumble with hunger. He’d awakened before the kitchen staff and only had time to eat an apple before he’d left for Grigory’s.
“Did you really think you were going to walk by me without speaking?” A deep voice spoke from behind him. Coal arched his neck upwards to see the eight-foot tall, tawny-skinned giant named Octavius.
“Soon …” Octavius winked one of his gray eyes at Coal, “I hear you’ll be reigning next to Chalcedony.”
“Princess Chalcedony and I are only friends.” Coal lost his appetite. Humans were considered weak. If Chalcedony took on a human mate, she would be considered weak also.
The day had started full of promise. He’d looked forward to spending time with Chalcedony, but his plans were quickly unraveling. With the giants and dwarves here, it would be impossible for her to go anywhere. And for the second time today, someone had reminded him he didn’t belong.
“Don’t look so insulted.” Octavius grabbed Coal’s shoulder. “My great-great-grandmother was human. I’d consider it an honor to have a human reigning beside the queenling.”
“Hmph, that would never happen,” said Ambassador Eli. The dark-haired dwarf seemed to have appeared out of nowhere. “Humans are exiled for a reason. They are violent, greedy and above all, parasitic.” He stared at Coal with light blue eyes and sneered.
Octavius shook his head and clicked his tongue. “No, giants are humans, only taller. That’s why giants can’t wield magic. And there is nothing extraordinarily violent or parasitic about us.”
“Stop it with the myths. That’s like saying dwarves are human, only shorter,” Ambassador Eli said. “If your brother heard you speak like that, he’d have you whipped.”
They were too busy debating the differences between humans and giants to notice Coal slip away. The temptation to stay and listen to Octavius and Ambassador Eli argue nearly overpowered him, but the idea of seeing Chalcedony pulled much stronger.
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