The countdown begins.. three days to go! In celebration of my debut novel release date on the 31st, I have decided to post a short story, including a couple of characters of Everealm. It takes place BEFORE the time-frame that the actual book begins. Consider it a bonus! The theme of the story may make an appearance in the book, so keep your eyes peeled for it!
Breestlin waited until she was certain everyone in the castle would be asleep before sneaking out of her chambers. In her nightgown and slippers, she quietly tiptoed down the stone stairs to the first floor, ducking to hide behind a statue when one of her father’s guards walked past.
She felt a sneeze coming on. Oh, no. “Achoo!”
She tried to muffle the sound with the sleeve of her gown, but the guard heard her. He stopped walking and stood still, listening. Bree froze and held her breath. A few moments later, the guard began to walk down the hallway, again, and disappeared out of sight. Phew!
The last time she was found out of bed in the night, her mother scolded her in front of the other children who attended schooling in the castle with Bree. It had been rather embarrassing to have her mother, the queen, chastising her in front of her friends. Being a princess, she was expected to behave in a manner that was “above reproach”, or something like that. She barely paid attention to her mother’s words when she was reprimanded. For an eleven-year-old girl, she simply didn’t care. She had plenty of time to be a princess later.
It wasn’t as if she would get into too much trouble if she got caught, but she certainly didn’t want to be sent to bed before she got what she came for. Seeing that the hallway to her right was clear, she snuck down it and into the kitchens.
Once the cooks and kitchen maids were done working for the day, everything was put away, but she knew just where to look to find exactly what she wanted. Tiptoeing across the room, she was careful not to touch anything. The metal pots would make a lot of noise if she bumped into one of them, hanging on the wall. When she reached a large wooden cupboard, she slowly opened one door. It squeaked but only for a moment.
There in front of her sat an entire apple tart, fresh and untouched. The moment she opened the door, the smell of the apples and cinnamon made her mouth water. She pulled it out of the cupboard and tucked it under her arm.
Suddenly, she heard a noise behind her. She spun around, expecting to find a guard, but the room was empty. Quickly, she ducked down and hid beside the cupboard. There was another noise. She started to panic. It could be a rat, which she definitely didn’t want to encounter. As she listened, a door to a different cupboard on the opposite wall opened. Confused, she stood up. There wasn’t anyone there. Ghosts? In the castle?
She leaned over to get a better look.
“Ahh!” Bree yelped and nearly jumped out of her own skin.
Rowan was doubling over in laughter, with his hand on his stomach. Bree tried to catch her breath.
“You should have seen your face! Hilarious. I wish Finn were here to see it,” he continued to chuckle between bites of honey brittle that he had taken from the cupboard.
“Damn you, Rowan. You lousy son of a—“
“Tsk, tsk, princess. Don’t let your mother hear you talk like that. She’ll tan your backside. Actually, I’d like to see that.” He grinned, taking another bite. The scowl she was giving him was quite entertaining.
“I hate you.” She might have really meant it this time, but it didn’t seem to faze him. His smile just got bigger, making her even more irritated than before. “You’re not supposed to be out of bed, either, Rowan.”
The way she said his name sounded a lot like the way his mother used to say it, when he was in trouble. He didn’t care for it. His mother had been dead for two years now and it still stung when something reminded him of her. His grin quickly turned into a scowl, which matched Bree’s. He glanced down at her arms.
“An apple tart. Seriously? Of all the candies Misses Delray leaves lying around, you snuck out of bed for a tart? With fruit?” He shook his head and polished off the last bite of his brittle, then licked his fingers. His treat had certainly been worth the risk of being caught and his punishment wasn’t likely to be as severe. He was merely a page, not a princess.
Before she could reply, they heard a noise from the hallway and stooped down to hide behind the large wooden table beside them.
“Good move, you idiot,” Bree whispered. “You’ve alerted the guards with your laughing. Now we’ll both get into trouble.”
“No, we won’t. Follow me.” He nudged the sleeve of her nightgown and she followed him around the back side of the kitchens and into the pantries. “There’s a door in the back,” he whispered, seeing the confusion on her face. Quietly, they snuck through the pantries and into the buttery behind it. Sure enough, there was another door that led into the hallway. Rowan stuck his head out of the door and saw it was clear.
“Come on.” He held the door open just enough so she could fit through. The castle was really old and almost every door squeaked. He was careful not to open it further than necessary. They walked slowly toward the stairs, keeping an eye out for guards.
“Do you need me to walk you up?” he asked. His chambers were in the knight’s wing, with his father, which was on the other side of the castle.
“No, I can manage.” She rolled her eyes at him. She was perfectly capable of walking up stairs on her own. She’d made it to the kitchens just fine without him.
“Alright. See you tomorrow,” he whispered and started to walk away. Bree turned to go up the stairs, but stopped when Rowan came back over to her.
“What is it? Did you hear someone?” She looked around, beginning to panic.
Rowan didn’t answer. Instead, he quickly reached over and snagged a chunk of the tart and sauntered off. He smiled to himself when he heard her voice behind him.
“I really do hate you.”