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Furyborn (Empirium #1)
Author:Claire Legrand

Furyborn (Empirium #1)

Claire Legrand

For Brittany, who knew Celdaria first

An End and a Beginning

“Some say the Queen was frightened in her last moments. But I like to think that she was angry.”

—The Word of the Prophet

The queen stopped screaming just after midnight.

Simon had been hiding in her closet, fingers jammed into his ears to block out the noise. For hours, he had crouched there, knees drawn to chest, head bowed.

For hours, the queen’s rooms had shuddered in tandem with her screams.

Now, there was silence. Simon held his breath and measured the seconds, like counting after a lightning strike until the thunder rolls: Is the storm fading, or is it coming closer?

One. Two. Three.

He reached twenty and dared to lower his hands.

A baby cried out into the silence. Simon grinned and scrambled to his feet, a wave of relief crashing through him.

The queen’s child was born—finally. Now he and his father could flee this city and never look back.

Simon pushed past the queen’s gowns and stumbled out into her bedroom.

“Father?” he asked, breathless.

Garver Randell, Simon’s father, turned to face him, his eyes weary but his smile broad. And behind him lay Queen Rielle, her wild, dark hair plastered to her pale skin, her bedsheets and white nightgown stained red. She held a fussing bundle in her arms.

Simon crept closer to the bed in wonder, even as the sight of the queen made angry heat bloom in his chest. His kingdom’s new princess was a small thing—scrunched red face, skin slightly darker than her mother’s, wide brown eyes, a mop of wet black hair.

Simon’s breath caught in his throat.

The baby looked very much like her late father.

Rielle stared at the child, then gazed up at Simon’s father in bewilderment.

“I thought I would kill her,” said the queen. She laughed, wiping her face with shaking fingers. “I dreamed I would. And yet here she is after all.” She fumbled to adjust the baby in her arms. She didn’t seem to be very good at holding babies.

It was strange to see the queen like this—small in her nest of pillows, looking hardly more than a girl though she was twenty years old. This queen who had allied with the angels and helped them kill thousands of humans.

This queen who had murdered her husband.

“Audric would have loved her,” Rielle whispered, her face crumpling.

Simon’s small fists clenched at his sides. How dare she talk about King Audric when she was the one who had killed him?

He had learned only a few things about the night the capital fell. King Audric had fought Queen Rielle on the broad veranda attached to the castle’s fourth floor. The king’s sword had blazed with the light of the sun, his diamond-and mirror-studded armor shining brighter than the stars.

But not even King Audric the Lightbringer, the most powerful sunspinner in centuries, had been strong enough to defeat Queen Rielle.

The queen had carved a sword out of the air, a blinding weapon forged from the empirium itself. Rielle and Audric had fought blade to blade, but the fight had been brief.

And when Rielle plunged her glowing hand into Audric’s chest to tear out his heart, there had been nothing but bloodlust in her eyes as she watched her husband fall to ashes at her feet.

Simon wasn’t a violent child, but all the same, he thought that if he looked at the queen for one more second, he might strike her.

So he uttered the Sun Queen’s prayer in Audric’s honor—May the Queen’s light guide him home—and turned to his father instead.

That’s when Garver Randell went rigid and whispered, “He knows,” then fell gasping to his knees.

Simon rushed to his side. “Father? What is it? What’s wrong?”

Garver clutched his head, his body jerking. “He knows, God help us, he knows,” he moaned, and when he looked up, it was with eyes gone gray and cloudy.

Simon’s heart sank to his feet. He knew those eyes, and what they meant.

An angel had found its way inside his father’s mind at last.

And from the terror on his father’s face, Simon knew it must be Corien.

“Father, listen to me! I’m right here!” Simon grabbed his father’s arm. “Let’s go. We can leave now! Please, hurry!”

Simon heard the queen behind him, singing softly to herself: “This is how you hold your child. This is how you murder your husband.” Her laughter was thick with tears.

“He knows what I am,” Garver rasped.

Simon’s growing dread turned his body to stone.

Corien knew—that his father was a marque, and Simon was too. Neither angel nor human, but with the blood of both inside them.

Suddenly, the markings hidden on Simon’s back beneath his tunic felt like flares that would alert everyone in the conquered city to where he was hiding. For years, he and his father had lived secretly in Celdaria’s capital, concealing their marked backs and their forbidden magic. They had been healers, honest and hard-working, sought out by commoners and temple magisters and even the royal family.

And now…now, Corien knew.

Simon shoved his father toward the door. “Father, move, please!”

Garver choked out, “Get away from me! He’ll find you!” He seized Simon by the collar and shoved him away.

Simon’s head smacked against the queen’s four-poster bed, and he slumped to the floor, dazed. He watched his father turn, laugh a little, clutch his head. He watched him mutter angry, foreign words in a voice that was half his and half Coriens and then run, limping, to the terrace window.

Then, with a strangled cry, Garver Randell threw himself off the queen’s tower.

Simon lurched up, grabbed the bed-curtains for support, stumbled forward, and fell. Head throbbing, fighting back the urge to be sick, he crawled across the floor to the terrace. At the railing, the mountain wind slapping his cheeks, he couldn’t bear to look down. He pressed his face against the cool stone, wrapped his arms around two posts. Someone or something was making an awful choking noise.

“Simon,” said a voice behind him.

He realized, then, that the awful noise was coming from him.

He jumped to his feet, rounding on Queen Rielle.

“You did this,” he cried. “You killed us all! You’re a monster! You’re evil!”

He tried to say more: She had betrayed everyone in the kingdom of Celdaria, everyone in the world. She was supposed to be the Sun Queen, their savior and protector. And yet she had become the Blood Queen. The Kingsbane. The Lady of Death.

But Simon’s tears blocked his voice. The wind whipping down along the mountainsides carved shivers from his skin. His small body heaved; he could hardly breathe.

He folded his arms tightly around himself, squeezing his eyes shut as the world tilted. He could not stop seeing the image of his father running out onto the terrace and flinging himself over the railing.

“Father,” he whispered, “come back, please.”

The queen settled gingerly on the settee across from him, her baby still in her arms. Her feet were bare and bloody, her nightgown soaked through with sweat.

“You’re right, you know,” said Rielle. “I did do this.”

Simon was glad the queen didn’t try to apologize. Nothing she could say would make anything better.

“I think,” Rielle continued slowly, “that he will kill her.”

Simon sniffed, wiped his mouth. His teeth chattered; he could not stop crying. “What do you mean?”

Rielle turned to look at him, her lips chapped and cracked. Once, Simon remembered, he had thought the queen beautiful.

“My daughter.” Rielle’s voice was hollow. “I think Corien will kill her. Or he’ll try to.”

Simon bit out, “He should kill you instead.”

Rielle laughed at that—and kept laughing hysterically. Simon could only stare at her in rage and horror until she brought her child to her face, nuzzled her cheek against its own. The baby cooed and sighed.