Chapter no 10

A Dawn of Onyx

Dear Mother, Leigh, and Ryder,

If you are receiving this letter it means you are finally somewhere safe, and maybe warm? Surrounded by exotic foods and fruits? Or is that just my grumbling stomach talking? I wish we could be together, but just know I’m taken care of in Onyx. It’s a long story that I hope to tell you all in person one day. In the meantime, please use this coin to help build your new lives. Knowing Ryder, half the sack he stole is

likely gone already. Leigh, don’t let all this change frighten you. I know that leaving Abbington was hard, but as long as you are with Ryder

and Mother, you are still home. Mother, I am searching this new

kingdom for any information on your illness that I can find. Don’t lose hope! And Ryder, please take care of them. They need you.

All of my love, Arwen

I had been carrying the letter around with me for days like a child with a safety blanket. I just couldn’t bring myself to ask the bastard to make good on his promise, especially after the last time I had seen him when I’d behaved like a maniac. I debated giving the letter to Barney, who I passed in the great hall or gallery every so often, but I’d get a better sense of whether or not King Ravenwood was planning to keep his promises if I could talk to him one on one and somehow make up for my outburst.

I had never been so outspoken with anyone in my life. I hated him, I didn’t respect him, I didn’t trust him, and I could not for the life of me keep my thoughts off of him and his smug, cruel words. But I needed to harness that fury and put on a pleasant face if I was to ask him to send the letter.

I arrived at the dimly lit library after another morning training with Dagan. Mari was slumped over three books in various stages of completion, snoring like a bear in hibernation.


“Ah!” she gasped, shooting up like a firecracker, red hair spilling over her face.

“Did you fall asleep up here?”

“Ugh, yes,” she croaked. “The last time I did that was before I took the barrister’s exam.”

“You took the barrister’s exam? Are you going to become a barrister?” “Oh Stones, no,” she shook her head, patting down her hair.


“Just to see if I could ace it,” she gave me a knowing smile that said she very clearly had.

I shook my head. “You’re a nut.” Her smile broadened, pulling a grin from my own lips. “And I’m really glad your father left his sock in my infirmary.”

“Me too. I haven’t had a new friend in some time,” she said, as she stood up and stretched. “I think I annoy people, sometimes.”

Before I could disagree, she continued.

“Anyway, look what I found.” Mari pointed to the book in front of us, and I followed her fingers across the worn, sand-colored page. “Fatigue, muscle decay, headaches, weight loss…”

The page detailed my mother’s condition to a tee, down to the aching joints, headaches, and drowsy spells.

A spark lit inside me—guarded hope and a sliver of sheer joy. “What is it?”

“The book’s from the Pearl Mountains, so you know it’s accurate,” she started. The kingdom was known for its vast wealth of knowledge and towering libraries built into and floating among the city’s peaks.

“It says the illness is called Plait’s Disorder and has a surprisingly simple cure. ‘One concoction, taken each day, abated most patient symptoms and improved both quality of life and life expectancy’.”

The sliver of joy widened to an entire slice. It was too good to be true. “Mari! You’re a genius.”

She beamed at me, still looking like she needed a good comb. “I’m just a power reader. It was your idea to search the library.”

The concoction’s ingredients weren’t too common but luckily the castle’s apothecary had all but one. I had never heard of burrowroot, and after organizing the apothecary inventory about three times a day, each day, I knew we didn’t have any.

“Damn,” I muttered as I read. “Do you know anything about burrowroot?”

Mari nodded. “It’s native to the Onyx Kingdom, so it probably grows in the woods around here. But it only blossoms during the lunar eclipse, which is in two months, and only about eight minutes long from start to finish.”

I grimaced as disappointment washed over me. So close, and yet— “How can I find it on the eclipse?”

“It leaves this iridescent residue year-round wherever it grows, so if you had some way of braving the forest, you could look for it now. Then you’d have to find your way back to the spot on the evening of the eclipse…” As if she saw my mind turning, she added, “Please don’t do anything completely stupid.”

“I won’t,” I lied.

I was getting good at that.


If step one of being brave was acknowledging that I had to see the King again, both to get him my letter and now to find the burrowroot residue in the Shadow Woods, then step two was actually doing something about it.

It was my day off from the apothecary—I guessed Dagan needed a break from the constant chatting and giggling that occurred now that Mari liked to visit me each day—and I was making my way toward the throne room. To ask the wicked king for his help. Like an idiot.

The castle was quiet and sleepy as I wandered the halls, observing the families and soldiers as they enjoyed breakfast in the great hall. My

stomach grumbled. In just two weeks, I had become shamefully accustomed to the Onyx Kingdom’s cloverbread. The dark brown loaves were made from obsidian wheat native to the land, blended with molasses and caraway. Dense and slightly sweet, I slathered my slices in melting butter each morning. Watching a mother and son tear into a piping hot loaf as they looked over a picture book made my heart ache.

I had to admit, if this castle was anything to go by, maybe the Onyx Kingdom was not the land of horrors that everyone I had grown up with claimed it was. None of these people had gnarled horns or grotesque claws, and definitely no wings. Besides Bert, nobody had even been too unkind to me. Despite all the times my mother had said to never judge a book by its cover, I had done just that. I wondered if these people also despised the war just as much as we had back in Amber. I was sure they too had lost homes and family members.

The thought made me furious with King Ravenwood all over again. What kind of man, let alone a king, did this to so many innocents? And for what? More land? More riches?

Along with my disgust for King Ravenwood, I felt disgust for myself. How could I ever have harbored any kind of positive feelings for such a selfish, vile, arrogant, violent—


I spun around, bumping face-first into a strong, warm chest. “Ouch,” I muttered, rubbing my sore nose like a child.

The king peered down at me, humor in his eyes, but his mouth held a firm line. He was flanked by four soldiers, all adorned with hunting gear.

“Good morning, Kane,” I said. Commander Griffin cleared his throat. “Or do you prefer Your Majesty?”

He grimaced. “Kane is fine. Don’t worry about Commander Griffin.” Griffin arched a skeptical brow.

Today the King’s dark hair was swept back, out of his face. He wore a leather jacket and tunic, hunting boots, and a sword at his hip, clearly headed out for some kind of expedition. But fear was written starkly across each of the lantern-lit faces of the men standing behind him in the hallway.

Today was not a jovial outing, it seemed.

Now that he was in front of me, I wasn’t sure how to proceed. Maybe he’d deliver the letter, but I wasn’t sure about the burrowroot. I could try to coerce him, say I would refuse to heal anyone until he procured it for me, but there was no way around sharing that it was for my mother. There was a reason the apothecary didn’t have it—it wasn’t usually used for healing. He was bound to ask me why I wanted it, and I wasn’t about to share my deepest desires and weaknesses with the prick. Again.

An idea dawned on me.

I put on my most appealing smile and fluttered my biggest doe eyes, “Actually, I was just looking for you, my King.” I cringed internally. Probably laying it on a bit too thick. But Kane’s eyes gleamed and his lips quirked in amusement.

“Is that so?”

“Oh, yes. I had to apologize for my behavior the other day. It was outrageous. I was very sleep-deprived and think I must have been coming down with something. Can you forgive me?”

He only raised a brow in interest. “Your fury didn’t seem fever-addled to me. But I’m glad you’re feeling better.”

“I was just so very grateful for your kindness toward me the other night, allowing me to stay here in your keep. I thought I could give you the letter I wished to send my family, for you to share once you find them.” I produced the letter from my dress pocket and handed it to him.

He held the envelope and turned it around in his hands in confusion. “Why is it so heavy?”

I reddened. “I thought I’d send them some coin. In case they are in need.”

The King weighed the letter in one large palm. “Quite a bit you’ve put in here. Is this all you have?”

“Nearly, yes.”

“Doesn’t your brother have enough of our coin to last a few lifetimes?”

I hated when he spoke of my brother like that. He wouldn’t have needed it had our village not been ravaged the past five years. But I held my tongue.

“I just want to help them. This is the only way I can.”

His brows drew together, the flickering lights dotting the hall shining on his stern face. He didn’t say more.

“Will you deliver it to them?” I pressed. “When you find them? When we separated, they were headed for Garnet.”

The king eyed me thoughtfully, something like pity in his quicksilver eyes.

I bristled.

“I gave you my word, did I not?”

Yes, but I value your word about as much as a sack of potatoes.

I swallowed hard. If anything I had heard about this King was true, flattery and imagined power over his subjects was the only way to get what I needed from him.

“Yes, of course, my King.”

His eyes went heavy-lidded and hungry, and a seductive smile played at his lips, “You’re going to have to stop with that term of endearment, bird.”

My breath caught and my cheeks grew hot. The commander cleared his throat a second time and I swallowed again. Why was my mouth so dry? Kane drew a hand down his face to hide his smile.

“That day… it was not my intention to offend you.”

“Yes, it was,” I said, before cursing myself internally. The men behind the king shifted just a little. Be agreeable, Arwen.

King Ravenwood scratched his jaw in thought.

“Perhaps you know my intentions even better than I do. More ardently, then, I am sorry,” he said, his voice low. And in his eyes, a new expression

—one I hadn’t seen alight in them before.

I stood there, dumbfounded. Was this a real apology? From him?

The King and his men started to move past me, down the hall and surely toward the castle gates. But I couldn’t give up on the second part of my plan. I needed to find the spot where the burrowroot grew.

“Actually, I know how you could make it up to me.” He turned, allowing me to continue. Confusing admission of guilt aside, I knew the bastard was fighting the urge to raise a suggestive brow.

“Could I join you today?” “No,” Griffin bit out.


“Sure.” Kane smiled. Griffin muttered something under his breath and headed down the hallway.

I beamed at the king, giving him my best this means a lot to me face.

“I promise not to be a bother at all,” I assured him. “I’m very easygoing.”

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