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Summer Solstice

Chapter 3 - Summer Solstice

I rolled over in my bed. My body was feeling heavy and aching. The sun was just breaking the night sky, the soft glow of pinks and purples mixing with the orange hues from the sun. I slowly sat up and let out a heavy sigh, my stomach greeting me with a loud rumble.

“The longer you put it off, the worst she is going to react,” Oren said, her voice heavy with sleep. I rubbed my eyes and stretched out my aching muscles.

“Let’s face it, Oren. Even if I went to her last night, mother and  Phoenix would still scold us just the same. There is no reasoning with them when they’re angry.” I muttered. Oren let out a huff of annoyance, agreeing with me.

“So getting cleaned up and slowly making our way to the dining hall won’t really make a difference.” I laughed, walking into my bathroom. One of the palace hands had already sent up hot water, filling up the tub. I stripped down, removing all the bandages Willow placed on me. My body was already fully healed; only small red marks remained. I slowly dipped my body into the water. The warmth soothing my aching muscles, the smell of peppermint and vanilla filled my nose. I let out a soft moan as I let the warmth wash over me, allowing my body to relax.

After getting out of the bath, I practiced using my water magic, lifting the water from my hair and body. Then, forming an orb of it and dropping it into the tub. I smirked at myself, proud of what I did. It takes decades for Fae to master one element, let alone to try to master all four. That was another thing my parents pushed on me. I needed to learn all the elements, like my mother. Since I was the firstborn and destined to rule, it was necessary. My siblings were learning to use all elements too, but they weren’t under as much pressure to learn it all in such a short amount of time.

I looked at myself in the mirror, my jaw still slightly discoloured from the bruising. I traced my fingers along with them; the bruises no longer hurt. They now were just a temporary reminder of what happened yesterday. My onyx hair was a wavy mess and still slightly damp. I brushed it out, taming it just a little.  I placed one of my head chains on, its jade jewel matching my eyes. My eyes held a low glow to them, showing my Fae heritage. The chain was encrusted with little diamonds and moonstones. They sparkled along with the golden chain.

I headed to my closet and put on a summer dress. It’s was a soft green colour, the skirt brushed against the floor, a long slit opening revealed my upper thigh. The top settling on the side of my arms, material laying on top of itself. The bodice was form-fitting, and the material pinched together to form swirls. My stomach let out another rumble, reminding me just how hungry I was.

“Guess it’s time to face the music.” I breathed.

“I wonder what rhythm your mother will be dancing to this morning.” Oren teased. I rolled my eyes at her, shaking my head. I left my room and headed towards the dining hall. I could hear the hushed conversation as I drew closer. I stopped outside of the door and tried to focus on what was being said.

“I understand you’re angry with what happened, but you seriously can’t punish her for going for a run. You know how wild Oren is; the longer Imelda keeps her in, the harder she is to control.” My father paused. I could hear him fiddling with his cutlery. “Plus, she took down a displacer beast all by herself. You understand how hard that is. She should be dead. Instead, she killed it and dragged it back herself.” My father explained. I could feel the pride radiating off of him.

“I never said I wasn’t proud of what she accomplished, but it was also incredibly stupid. I understand the need to run, but Oren is still so difficult. What if she didn’t help her in time. She should have planned better and waited to run in the morning. If anything had happened to her, I don’t know what I would have done. I already have to lose her to him; I couldn’t imagine not being able to see her ever again.” Worry laced every word my mother spoke. It made my heartache, hearing how upset she was. I sometimes forgot how much she cared for me, between all the lectures and the correcting. I knew she did it all out of love, but sometimes I needed the reminder.

“I understand that, but that is why we have trained her, what she did in that forest, alone. It just proves how important all the lessons and training are. She will be able to fight against him and protect herself if she has to. If she refuses his hand, we will fight with her. We will protect our people and our children from his wrath.” My father sounded conflicted.

“She deserves a day to be young. We both know what it is like to be pushed into power at her age. She needs a day to forget about her future and her responsibilities. All I’m asking is for you to let her have that because we don’t know how much longer we have with her.” He let out a loud sigh.

“I know Erik.” She paused for a moment, clearing her throat. “I hate how I have to be made out to be the bad guy. I worry for her as much as you do, and training her and pushing the lessons is the only way I know how to prepare her.” My mother’s voice broke, and the sound of my father's chair scraping across the floor filled the room. He loved my mother with every ounce of his being. I know it broke him anytime she became upset.

“You know eavesdropping never ends well,” Damon whispered in my ear. I jumped, covering my mouth, a muffled scream escaping me.

“God damnit, Damon, you almost gave me a heart attack.” I hissed, punching him in the arm. He gave me a crooked smile, peeking his head into the dining hall. Sadness filled his eyes before he quickly pushed it away and turned back to me.

“Hey, wouldn’t have scared you if you weren’t focusing so hard on not getting caught.” He laughed, rubbing his arm. “Which you did horribly, by the way.” He gave me an amused look. He wore the training gear; his knives sheathed to his thigh.

“We’re they discussing your impending doom.” Balor laughed as he stepped around Damon. He was wearing a loose white tunic, jeans, and dress shoes. I arched my brow at his outfit.

“Of course they were.” I sighed.

“Why are you dressed so differently today,” I asked, his face brightened with excitement before he spoke.

“I get to go to the Human Realm today. Keith needs some more material for forging, and he said I could finally tag along.” He explained, his lips spreading into a toothy grin. He was apprenticed to be a blacksmith. Since he was the youngest sibling, he had the least amount of royal responsibilities. So he actually got to do something he enjoyed that didn’t require being in charge of people. Keith is the best blacksmith in the capital, making all the weapons for the royal guards and warriors. He also has the best enchantment spells when it comes to forging. He was equally as excited to train Balor as he was honoured to have an heir under his wing. I fought the urge to frown. I was excited for him but couldn’t help but feel a bit envious of him.

I plastered on my best, smiling, shaking off the jealousy. It wasn't his fault I couldn’t travel; it was the overprotective nature of our parents. “That’s so exciting. You have to tell me all about your trip when you return.” I reached out and squeezed his shoulder.

“Is there a reason we’re all waiting outside the dining hall?” My sister questioned as she approached us. Her blue eyes moving from me to our brothers. She was wearing a similar dress to mine. The colour was a beautiful dusty rose. Her head chain held amethyst stone, a common stone used for healing. Nesrin was already a top healer in her class and was now focussing on trades to bring better herbs and materials for medicine and potions. She is really good at it and brings the capital lots of new items and knowledge every time she leaves. She apprentices under Nova, a skilled tradeswoman and one of our strongest healers.

“Mel is trying to avoid her punishment for breaking the rules and encountering a Displacer Beast in the forest,” Balor explained. He smirked at the last part.

“I don’t see why she should be punished. Rules are meant to be broken; otherwise, they wouldn’t exist. That’s how I view it anyways.” She gave me a knowing smirk. She did a lot of things she wasn’t supposed to. Sometimes she would try to sneak me out at night to join her. I knew I would get more than a scolding from my mother if I attempted it, so I never joined.

“Now she’s someone who knows how to live. You should be more like her,” Oren commented. I rolled my eyes at her.

“The food is going to become stale by the time you four make your way in here.” Our mother called out. We all stared at each other before bursting out laughing. We walked into the dining hall; the table was covered in pancakes, waffles, eggs, bacon, fresh fruit, and biscuits. My mouth was salivating, looking at everything in front of us. We all took our seats and finally set our gaze on our parents. My mother's face wasn’t as emotionless today, her blue eyes tired and hair a little out of place. I looked at my father, who was staring at me, his face holding a slight frown. I bit the inside of my cheek, feeling guilty for making them both upset.

“Well, nothing says family breakfast like awkward silence.” Uncle Drakes's voice rang through the hall as he entered, Aunt Rachel and Audra in toe. I couldn’t help but smile as I looked at them. My siblings all let out a low snicker, trying to hide it from my parents. My mother rolled her eyes, and my father got up to greet Uncle Drake, hugging him. Audra sat down right beside me, giving my hand a tight squeeze.

“Who says it was an awkward silence? Maybe it’s just how we enjoy each other company. Looking al broody and uncomfortable.” Damon teased, giving Uncle Drake a coy smile.

“It’s always an awkward silence when Imelda gets into something she shouldn’t. Then again, Erik was no better, always stirring the pot driving your grandparents mad.” Drake laughed as he sat down. My muscle tensed as I waited for my mother to speak.

“Though I agree she got into a very dangerous situation, that could have been avoided. I am happy to see all her training, with her father and Grandfather, is paying off. Encountering such a beast is a death sentence, and she made it look like another day on the field.” My mother turned her attention to me.

“I am proud of you, Imelda. Of course, I am furious with you for putting yourself in such a situation. But I am proud of how you managed to take it down and then brought  it back to our grounds.” Balor choked on his water in disbelief. I shot him a glance and then found my father looking at me with a proud smile—my mother’s hand in his, giving it a soft squeeze. I stared at my mother in confusion.

“What has happened to her? Has she been possessed? Maybe someone has an illusion spell, and it’s not even her.” Oren muttered in disbelief. I stared at my mother, a smile that didn’t reach her eyes spread across her lips. She was trying, and it worried me. What was so bad about the man I was destined to marry. He had them so concerned for me that even my mother wanted to cut me some slack. I picked up my water and took a drink.

“Besides, today is the summer solstice, and I believe you have earned yourself a day of fun.” This time it was my turn to choke on my water. My eyes widened as I  stared at my mother, coughing out a lung.

“Is there a new tradition for summer Solstice that involves pranking your eldest child?” I asked, earning myself laughter from the table. She furrowed her brows, hurt crossing her eyes.

“No offence, mother, but normally I would be getting extra lessons or a night of one on one training with Grandfather. Not a day off full of celebrations.” I scoffed, my father cleared his throat.

“Your mother was the one who came up with the idea. She believes you need to enjoy being young for once.” I stared at my father, wanting to call him a liar. But then they would know I had overheard their conversation, so I decided against it.

“How exciting, we can head out after breakfast. So hurry and eat; I have a lot of things planned for the day.” Audra squealed in excitement. Her golden eyes burning with mischief. I gave her a knowing smirk and nodded my head.

“Of course, we shouldn’t waste any time.” I agreed. Our parents eyed us suspiciously before starting to eat their breakfast.

We all had a fairly normal breakfast, for once. Balor explained what exactly he and Keith would be doing in the Human Realm. Damon talked about the new maneuver he was working on. He planned to show it at the royal guard ceremony this weekend. Nesrin left before us, claiming she had a few preparations to make before doing her rounds in the clinic. I had a sneaking suspicion she was leaving to meet up with her secret boyfriend. I kept them to myself, though, not wanting our parents to catch wind of it. The walls talked, and they enjoyed sharing our secrets. Finally, our parents started talking about the Royal Guard ceremony preparations, allowing Audra and myself to sneak away.

We ran up the hall laughing, moving as fast as we could before they noticed our absence.

“Okay, are you ready for the real festivities?” Audra asked. She stopped just before the palace doors. Her blonde hair holding perfect ringlets all the way down to her waist. She gave me an excited smile, gripping my hand and pulling me out the door before I could answer. I let out a laugh and ran with her. We ran through the village, people stopping what they were doing and turning to bow as we passed. We ran past all the buildings before reaching the border.

“Where are we going.” I laughed

“It’s a surprise, now get naked and shift. We have a bit of run before we get there. My dad told me there was a chance of you being allowed to go out today, so I prepared a few things. So don’t waste any time and shift.” She ordered, stripping off her dress. I turned away and did the same.

“You know, if it was anyone else, I might think you wanted more than a friendship.” I teased.

“Who says I don’t.” She joked back. I placed all my things in a small pile and let Oren step forward. I never worried about her around Audra. She liked her and her wolf River. As our paws hit the earth, we spun around to see River standing before us. Her golden fur shining in the sunlight.

“River says we’re in for an exciting day. Little tease won’t tell me what, though. She’s just as secretive as Audra.” Oren whined. She hated having to be lead instead of doing the leading.

“You only have to follow for a little while, and then I’m sure you can lead us home,” I reassured her. Her ears perked up at that. When I was with Audra, Oren was so much easier to control. I missed that we didn’t get to hang out like we use to.

“This way, grouch, it’s not too far.” Audra's voice entered our head. Oren let out a low growl before reluctantly following them. We ran into the forest, twisting around trees as we ran. The wind blew through our fur, the feeling of freedom rushing through our veins. We crossed through a creek stopping outside of a cave.

“We can walk from here. The surprise is just at the other end of the tunnel. I found it a couple of months ago, but with all the lessons and training, I never had a chance to tell you about it.” Audra explained. River dropped the clothes and let Audra step forward. Oren did the same. We quickly got dressed and then headed into the cave, following the tunnel. I casted a small glowing orb to help light the way. I didn’t need it, but since Audra was only a werewolf, her vision wasn’t a clear as mine.

Light began to poke through the end of the tunnel, my orb fading as the opening grew closer. Audra stepped through first, running out before I could. As I stepped out into the opening, I shielded my eyes, allowing them to adjust to the light. The sound of waves crashing filled the air, warm sand moved beneath my feet. I looked down and wiggled my toes in the sand, a smile spread across my face. I looked up to see Audra standing before a blanket that held a basket, towels and a few books. She held two swimsuits in her hand. I looked at the beautiful turquoise water behind her.

“Happy solstice Mel, do you like it.” She asked, her eyes swirled with both worry and anticipation.

“Do I like it?” I paused, giving her a blank look, letting her squirm. “ I love it.” I laughed. Audra let out a sigh of relief.

“You’re a jerk. For a minute, I thought you were going to be disappointed.” She scolded, giving me a glare before laughing.

“How did you find this place,” I asked in awe. Her cheeks turned a darker pink as she looked at the ground.

“Audra.” I mused.

“Did you find this place with a boy?” I asked, her cheeks darkened again.

“Okay, yes, I’m sorry I didn’t tell you last time we hung out. I just, I don’t know.” She paused, twisting her fingers. “But you can’t tell my Dad. The last time he caught me looking at a guy, he went all crazy father and scared all the guys away.” Audra said, rolling her eyes at the last part.

“Awe, why would I want to miss out on Uncle Drake having a daddy meltdown.” I snickered.

“Mel.” She drawled, giving me a concerned look. I could help but burst out laughing.

“Of course, I won’t say anything. You know me better than that. Just because I am destined to marry someone I don’t know doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to explore. You also don’t have to feel like  you have to hide it from me.” I explained, stepping forward and giving her a tight hug.

“I’m happy for you, Dru.” I stepped back and forced her to look at me. “Do you like this boy, or is he just someone you have fun with,” I asked, giving her a soft smile. Her eyes twinkled with happiness. She was about to answer when voices filled the tunnel behind us. I spun around to see Cedric and his friends step into the opening. They stopped talking as they stared between Audra and me.

“Well, would you look at that, seems our Princess has a secret lover.” Cedric spit out. I reached down and gripped Audra's hand, pulling her behind me.

“Oh please, if I had a babe like this under my belt, I wouldn’t hide her.” I scoffed, rolling my eyes.

“Isn’t that Sir Drakes daughter?” One of his friends asked. I think his name was Sam. We only had a few interactions in warrior training. He looked a little uncomfortable with what Cedric was suggesting.

“Who cares if she is? Both she and Imelda don’t belong here. They are a disgrace to Fae kind. All of them are really, history makes it out as if her parents saved us, but they didn’t save us the doomed us to pathetic laws,  cowardly behaviour, and mixed breeds.” Cedric's voice was like venom, his disgust with us clear as the sky above us.

“The only one who is a disgrace to Fae kind is you. Who do you think you are judging me. You aren’t a king or a god. You are nothing but a little brat throwing a tantrum over being bested by a woman.” I gave him a challenging glare. If he was going to play nasty, I was going to play nastier. He sneered at me, stepping forward.

“I don’t see a woman anywhere around here, do you guys.” He asked. His friends hesitated at first but then shook their heads. Looking down at their feet as they did so. “I do, however, see the devil's whore before me. How does it feel to know that soon you will be taken away to be a slave to the king of death and torture? That not even your parents want you, let alone the Fae. I doubt he will even want a pitiful thing like you.” My eyes widened at his statement, I tried to play it off, but his words burned deep within me. I didn’t know who he was referring to, but surely my parents wouldn’t marry me off to a man like that.

“You have no idea what you're talking about. Now take your sorry ass back home. We were here; first, I don’t need your tears poisoning the water.” I said sharply. My heart raced as I tried to play it off. There were four of them and two of us. Even with my and Audra's training skills, they could overthrow us. In one swift move, Cedric stepped forward and grabbed me by the throat. A stinging feeling took over as ice burned into my skin. I placed my hand onto his shoulder and called to fire, letting it melt the ice on my skin. I moved the warmth from my skin and set it on his shirt. He pulled back, cursing at me, as he ripped it off, stomping out the flames.

“You ever put your hands on me again, I’ll burn that ugly little face of yours.” I threatened, stepping toward him. His friends rushed over and pulled him back. Sam looked at me, his eyes sad as they dropped to my neck. They pulled Cedric down the tunnel before he could say anything else. I turned back to Audra, and she looked at me terrified, gasping as she looked at me.

“Oh goddess, your neck Mel.” She reached forward, her fingers burned against my skin. I fought the urge to wince under her touch.

“I can help with that.” We both jumped at the deep voice. It came from the entrance of the tunnel. I let out an annoyed breath, preparing to face another one of Cedrics' friends.

“I don’t need-“ I stopped as my eyes fell on Apollo. He was shirtless, his caramel skin glowing in the sunlight. His muscles toned, he looked as though he was moulded by the mother's own two hands—pure perfection. I forced my eyes to find him. His lips tugged up in the corner as he took me in. His perfect purple eyes, looking back at me.

“Apollo, what are you doing here,” I asked, confused. Audra gripped my arm tightly. I looked back at her giving her a reassuring smile. Her grip loosened as she stepped back. I turned back to Apollo, finding him now in front of us. He reached his hand out and tucked a stray hair behind my ear. My skin tingled in response to his touch. He looked down at me, his smile displaying a perfect set of white teeth. He was close enough for me to feel his breath on my skin; it smelled of strawberries.

“This is one of my favourite places to come to when everything else is just too much.” He explained, his eyes focusing on my neck. He traced his fingers along my jaw before running them down my neck. He stopped at the mark Cedric left,  a surge of warmth wrapped around the mark. He kept his fingers on my skin a little longer, his eyes returning to mine. A tingling sensation flowed through me. I furrowed my brows in response and forced myself to step back.

“You didn’t have to do that.” I looked down at the ground. Taking a deep breath as I calmed myself.

“It was my pleasure. It’s not every day you get to heal a warrior princess.” He whispered. I could hear the smile in his voice. I laughed dryly, looking up at him. I forced myself to turn to Audra. She eyed us with a questioning look.

“Audra, this is Apollo. He is in training for the Royal Guard.” I said. Apollo stepped forward and bowed before her. He reached forward and kissed the back of her hand before standing up.

“Nice to meet you. I’m Mel’s best friend and her future advisor. Future Beta, if we are in the Human Realm.” She blushed as she pulled her hand from his.

“Pleasure is mine. I see you have a day planned.” He pointed out, looking at the blanket and other items Audra had set up for us. “ I will leave you to it until we meet again, Audra.” He said, turning to me.

“I will see you at training tomorrow. Happy Solstice, my Lady.” He bowed quickly before heading towards the tunnel. I let out a nervous breathe before turning to Audra, giving her a half-smile.

“He’s just.. wow.” She laughed awkwardly.

“Don’t even.” I stopped her from continuing, picking up the swimsuit. I just wanted to forget what happened and enjoy my time with her. “Are we going to go for a swim, or did you just gather all of this for us to stare at.” I stripped off my dress and put on my swimsuit. I turned to her as she slipped on hers.

“The last one in has to walk back to the capital naked,” I shouted, running towards the water.

“No fair, you are such a cheater,” Audra shouted after me. Laughter filled the air as we dove into the water. Coldwater wrapped around my body, washing away Cedric’s touch from my skin. I was going to live in this moment and deal with him tomorrow on the training field.

Mrs.rie

Enjoy the newest chapter, I hope you enjoy the second book to the Bloodstone series! I am back from vacation and will have another new chapter on Thursday! Have a wonderful week. ox.mrs.rie.xo

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Mariana
Did Rachel’s baby survive when she came back or was it just her?
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Shadale Foster
loving the second book can't wait for more chapters
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Surf1625
Yeah, I think Apollo is Balthazar in disguise. Since he knows the future events, he can mold & manipulate people & events to his favor.
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