Hey everyone. You're probably going to kill me for this, but I'm going to be rewriting this story - to be honest, 180,000 words is just too long for one book. So I'm splitting it into three, and there will be changes to the trilogy, including introducing new characters that are important to the storyline. I'm waiting until I'm finished the first book until I start posting, which will hopefully be soon.
So I really hope you keep an eye out. The first book is going to be titled Concrete Hearts.
Here's an excerpt for now:
"Do you want me to read your fortune, your Highness?" The man inquired, a smile curling the corners of his lips as he stepped forward into the light. His eyes were a deep shade of blue and his hair the colour of oil, and Merridy assumed him to be no older than her husband. She folded her arms over her chest, examining him closely.
"That depends on whether it's good or bad."
The man laughed. "I cannot tell until I have dealt the cards, Princess."
"I must ask your name," Merridy said boldly, tilting her chin up. "For you have me at a disadvantage in that you know mine, but I do not know yours."
He dithered for a moment, the smile faltering. Yet then it was there again, bright as ever, and he inclined his head.
"Giulian, your Highness. My name is Giulian."
"So then, Giulian." Merridy offered him a smile of her own. "Won't you look at your cards and tell me my fortune?"
It was just a harmless bit of fun, the sort of fun she and Arilyn had indulged in when they had been children. Giulian beckoned, and Merridy followed him into the shadows, casting a glance over her shoulder as she went. Her husband would severely chastise her for going off alone with a man, but Giulian didn't appear to have any weapons on his person. He held out the deck of cards and gazed expectantly at her.
"Split the deck. Wherever you like."
Merridy took off about a quarter of the cards, watching intently. She was never sure what to make of the cards. Her faith rested solely in Nox and Lux, but sometimes she had to wonder if there were any grains of truth within the cards…or perhaps it was grains of magic she so foolishly sought.
"You are seventeen, am I correct?"
Merridy nodded, licking at her dry lips as she watched Giulian, his brow furrowed in concentration. When he was done, three cards rested in the palm of his hand, the rest of the deck shoved into his pocket. He flipped the first card over and offered it to Merridy to inspect. The Princess saw the ornately drawn flames. Fire.
"You are one with the inferno," Giulian stated with a wry smile, his eyes travelling over the card. "Yet your fire will grow and spread. The fire you create will ravage the land. It will rip your court apart, and it will send your country to war."
Merridy couldn't help but tense up. The accusation that she would create such devastation was not one that she could take lightly. Suddenly this impulsive urge to play the game of cards, to poke fun at a potential future, turned very serious. She remained silent as Giulian flipped over the second card. There was another intricate drawing, this time of a chalice.
"This chalice speaks of hard times to come." Giulian's fingers roamed over the card. "There is a death in your future, but there is also life. Your faith will be tested."
Merridy gnawed at her lip, wondering whether the last card would contain more bad news. So far, Giulian had been rather enigmatic with his readings, but it was still enough to make her grow concerned. How would she cause her country such strife? She was but a woman, as Dommiel consistently reminded her.
"Ah, this one is happier." Merridy looked down as Giulian flipped over the last card. There was a drawing of a crown and suddenly she felt sick to her very stomach. Nausea rose in her throat as Giulian smiled gently, but his eyes were hard as marble. "One day, you will be Queen."
The soft words had been spoken to her before – by the Oracle. Merridy turned on her heel and fled, her breathing coming in rapid gasps as she gathered her skirts and escaped Giulian's presence. What was he really? She doubted he was a simple entertainer. Was it pure coincidence that he had spoken the same words the Oracle had relayed to Merridy, when she had been a girl of thirteen – or was it truly her destiny?