By @morielucrum

Ilya is a kingdom that looks perfect on the outside, full of magic and people who dwell peacefully together. Yet when the plague struck and Fero, the Princep of the Kingdom, rose to power everything turned dark. Aurelia lives in a world of hiding, her marked skin forever making her a target. She was born with her gifts unable to rid herself of them, forever in hiding because of them. When Fero makes an unexpected arrival at a banquet her grandfather hosts, everything changes. Will Aurelia be abl

Chapter 1

Chapter One

“Just hold still, okay?” Carena popped her head around from the canvas meeting my gaze. Her red hair had streaks of blue paint through it and her nose had a spatter of green.

“Why are you using blue?” I looked down at my soft pink dress and back up at Carena who had taken her post behind the canvas.

“Because pink isn’t your color. You only wear that to fit in.” She giggled as she began painting again. I rolled my eyes as I tried to rebuild my patience which had become very thin. It had become normal for Carena to use me as her modeling subject. She enjoyed painting and was becoming a true artist, but she had just about painted every servant and maid in the manor. I looked around the room that Carena had turned into her studio. Sketches of various trees and flowers littered the floor. Canvas’s with vibrant sunsets were propped up against the wall. One canvas, in particular, was leaned against the wall under the large window that lighted the room. It was a family portrait she claimed. I met the faces of Tristan, Carena, and myself. Tristan stood in the center with Carena and myself seated on either side of him. Behind Carena stood a shape of a woman and behind myself was the outline of a man. Carena had said it was our parents who always stood by our sides, who were always there to watch over us even though they were gone. 

“There.” She stood up, setting her brush and palette down. She motioned for me to come over as she took a step back. I walked over bracing myself for whatever she could have painted while I sat there, but found myself pleased with the outcome. She had painted a portrait, as promised, yet her details were off. I wore a pink dress in reality, but in the photo, my dress was a deep blue that brought out the gold in my eyes. My hair, which is typically a bird’s nest, was in beautiful elegant curls that cascaded down my back. The freckles across my nose were perfectly placed and the room I sat in was definitely not one that belonged to the manor. It seemed as if I was sitting in an empty space, surrounded by nothing but gray walls.

“I did that on purpose you know.” I looked at Carena, meeting her eyes. “I didn’t give you a surrounding.”

“Why?” Carena looked back at the portrait as she thought.

“Because you of all people know that it takes a strong person to create the world around her, and I know that with time you will be that person.” She smiled and leaned over to pat my shoulder. I was struck by her words.

“You know if you acted as wise as you spoke half your troubles would be gone.” She chuckled as she turned to leave the room.

“Where would the fun be in that?” I chuckled as I glanced at the portrait one last time. The woman that was depicted in the portrait was not me. I reached out and grabbed a small paintbrush. Dipping it into the black paint on the palate, I dragged the brush along the canvas. I added swirls of ink up and down my arms matching the markings on my own arms. I took a step back and looked at the final portrait.

“That looks more like it.” I turned to find Carena smiling in the doorway of her studio. She came up beside me and put her arms around me, “You know I can keep this hidden away, no one would find it.” I shook my head setting the paintbrush down.

“No, better be safe than sorry.” Carena nodded as she grabbed the canvas and walked over towards the fire. She chucked the painting into the flames and we stood, watching it burn.

“Come on, let’s go eat.” Carena grabbed my hand and dragged me from the room, but even though we were rooms away, I could still feel the flames reaching out for me.

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