Dark Forest: The Revelations of Oriceran, Soul Stone Mage, Book 2
By Sarah Noffke & Martha Carr
The Kingdom of Virgo has lived in peace for thousands of years… until now.
Fucking ridiculous. Azure would hate humans, if that didn’t mean hating half of herself. She eyed the security camera in the hallway outside her cell, which flashed a red light at her. Releasing her hands from the bars, she marched toward the back corner. Because she was a witch, the humans of Terran hadn’t taken any chances. They’d stationed a guard on either side of her cell in the hallway outside. It was only because she’d grilled one of those guards that she knew that the strange device on the wall provided a constant view of her activities to a person in another location, for even more security than the bars and the guards.
Because of that damn device, the task of escaping her cell had just gotten a bit more difficult. Azure couldn’t just destroy the camera, or it would alert whoever was watching the footage. If she simply needed to escape this stupid jail then that wouldn’t be a concern. However, Azure wasn’t done in the Land of Terran. She needed to attract no attention when she escaped this cell.
As she tapped her foot anxiously, her heel made a sound that echoed throughout the jail. From what she’d seen as she was being pulled through the hallway, there were multiple cells, most of them occupied. The people of Terran behaved horribly, apparently, since so many of them were in jail.
She stood at the back of her cell, which, by the way, had gray everything. Grey walls. Grey bed. Grey bars. It was as drab as the humans themselves, with their brown hair and eyes. Azure grabbed her long blue hair in her hands and tied it into a loose bun on the top of her head—her way of repairing her confidence. She’d been preparing her strategy for almost an hour now, studying the guard’s behavior and the things that routinely went on in the jail.
Turning her back to the bars, Azure faced into the corner. Then she pulled her wand, made from the Howling Willow tree, from her cleavage, where she’d stashed it before being arrested. Imprisoning a witch was a foolish thing to do, but locking one up who secretly had her wand was fucking ridiculous. The humans would have known this if they spent time trying to understand witches and wizards rather than destroying them with deadly viruses.
When the security camera had revolved so it was pointing down the hallway, opposite her cell, she directed her wand at it. The camera froze in place. One item down, a hundred-billion to go. She laughed to herself at her mental exaggeration. The exhaustion and adrenaline must be making her slightly insane. Using the same spell she’d cast on the Duke in the Dark Forest, Azure paralyzed the two guards standing on either side of her cell, then pointed her wand at herself, drawing in a long breath. A moment later a gray tabby cat was the only occupant of her cell. She had never liked morphing into animal forms, but thankfully transfiguration was something she was quite good at.
The small cat easily slid between the bars of the cell and out into the hallway. Using her cat senses, she sniffed the air, trying to determine which direction to take. The prisoners in their cells didn’t notice Azure as she strolled by, since she kept low to the ground and blended fairly well with the jail’s gray walls and floor. She didn’t stop until the hallway dead-ended. Before her was a cell like all the rest, but the man who occupied it was unique, at least to her.
The human, who an hour ago had been Emperor of the Land of Terran and was now sitting on a bunk in a jail cell, focused his gaze on the cat which was suddenly standing outside his cell’s bars. He jumped slightly, surprise on his face. Richard’s eyes widened even more when Azure, in cat form, slipped through the bars of his cell. The security camera was still pointed in the opposite direction, but the watchers would soon figure out something was wrong and come looking.
She released the transfiguration, returning to human form.
“Whoa!” Richard shrank back on his bed.
“Would you hold it down?” Azure hissed, placing a finger to her lips. It was hard to believe the man before her was her father. He was so…human. His blond hair was slicked back, and his ordinary blue eyes studied her like she was a freak. They were nothing like her magnificent blue-gray hair and eyes. In fact, she saw little of him in herself at all, except possibly her height.
“How’d you escape?” Richard asked, staring around. He was probably expecting guards to appear at any moment.
She held up her wand, feeling it pulse in her fingers. Although grateful to have it, what she sorely missed was her soul stone, which they’d confiscated. She’d have to find out where it was. Hopefully the man before her could help with that, since he’d been the last one to hold it. “I kept my wand,” she said proudly.
“How? Didn’t they search you?” Richard asked.
“They did, but I had it hidden between my boobs,” Azure informed him, enjoying the uncomfortable expression that sprang to his face.
“Oh. Well, I guess we should meet formally. Is that why you’re here?”
“No, and introductions can wait until just before I kill you,” Azure said, checking over her shoulder. They were good for now, but she did hear a shuffling sound one cell down.
“I can see how you would think that was fair, but maybe I’ll earn your favor between now and then.” The man who was her father didn’t seem as creepy as his brother, but there was cowardice behind his eyes.
“I need my mother’s soul stone. I realize that you don’t have it here, but I need to know where you keep it. She needs—”
“I don’t have your mother’s soul stone at all.” Richard interrupted.
Azure drew in a sudden breath. “Wait, what? You don’t have it? But I thought she gave it to you in exchange for me?”
He shook his head. “No, you misunderstood. Your mother, she gave her soul stone to my brother the Duke in exchange for you. Well, actually she gave it to him in exchange for keeping our secret, which I must admit he did.”
“Phillip.” Azure spoke his name bitterly. “Why would he want my mother’s soul stone?”
“Because soul stones are powerful. Others besides witches and wizards can pull magic from them. Phillip has been using her soul stone to fuel his own magic,” Richard said.
Azure remembered the reveal charm Phillip had cast on her in the stadium during the Harvest Celebration. She’d thought it weird at the time that he was able to reveal her for who she was—a witch, not a citizen of Terran. Now she realized that he’d been using witches’ magic.
“The little fucker kept your secret in exchange for Mum’s soul stone. Well, since the secret is out now, seems like he needs to give it back,” Azure said, her eyes falling to the gray stone floor as her mind raced. Now she’d have to break into the palace and steal the stone.
“Azure, there’s no way to retrieve the stone. Phillip keeps it on him at all times.” Richard hesitated a bit on her name. This situation was a bit strange, but they had to ignore that for now. More pressing matters deserved their attention.
“You leave that part to me. I just need your help getting into the palace. But first you’ve got to help me figure out where they’re keeping my soul stone,” she said, her words coming out in a rush. This was getting more complicated by the minute. Had Ever, the half-Light Elf, come after her already as he’d said he would? She almost hoped he hadn’t, because his presence would make things more dangerous. However, she had to admit she needed more help.
Azure pointed her wand at the bars, and the door unlocked. She’d considered turning Richard into a cat and just strolling out with him, but the spell probably wouldn’t work quite right on humans. He might retain a cat’s tail permanently or something.
Just before they exited the cell, a voice nearby said, “If you want to get your soul stone back, then I can make your job a lot easier.”
FROM SARAH>>>Here’s a snippet of book 2 in the Soul Stone Mage series. I’m working hard finishing the series. No sunlight for me this weekend. It’s actually so much fun to write that I’m not at all lonely being a recluse. I have Azure and Monet to keep me company. Have you read Book 1, House of Enchanted? Who was your favorite character so far? I’ve got some fun stuff to reveal soon, like inspirations. :slightly_smiling_face: