Chapter I

The Valentyne Manor, East Shroud, 1561

The door slowly shoved open, a pair of wide, purple eyes the color of amethyst peeking in through the crack a few ilms wide, a button nose set beneath them, and under it a pair of soft lips. Through the small opening she could only see a forearm and a hand covered in bright white scales clutching a pen, busied without writing upon a parchment spread out across the desk. Just a little more… She pushed the door open a little wider, cringing as a loud creak broke the near silence, drowning out the sound of pen scratching over paper. Had he heard? The hand suddenly halted in its writing, and there was a pause before a voice calmly answered.

“I know you’re there, Vyne.”

The eight-year-old frowned, puffing out her chubby cheeks and pouting as she shoved the door open all the way. The man sitting in the chair was an Au Ra, tall and broad-shouldered, with silver hair that made one wonder if it had always been that way or was simply greyed with age. Vayl Valentyne was a high-ranking soldier in the Maelstorm and never seemed to run out of work to do, always either out in the field, frontlines, or holed up in office. His eyes were a shade of purple similar to his daughter’s, perhaps a bit lighter, keen and focused knowingly on the girl. Her lips parted to respond, but before she could manage any words out, another voice rang out from down the hall.

“Vyne, dear, leave your father alone. He’s busy. You know to stay away from his study,” her mother scolded.

The child breathed an exasperated sigh, only nodding obediently to her father, who offered a gentle smile in return that made his eyes wrinkle in the corners. She stepped out of the doorway, shutting the door carefully and quietly behind her. She turned to see her mother bustling down the hallway toward her, a slender Au Ra woman with curly, teal-tipped violet hair and piercing pink eyes, and the same soft features of her daughter.

“But mom, I’m bored,” the young Vyne whined.

“Bored? Impossible. You have plenty to do. Shouldn’t you be studying archery with your tutor?”

Vyne stubbornly rolled her eyes. “I don’t want to study. Besides, why can’t Daddy teach me?”

“Your father is a very busy man.” She bent down to grab the child’s small hand, already beginning to lead her off. “Come now, let’s leave him to his work.”

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