This world is originally created by Anne Bishop and found in the Black Jewels Trilogy and other works. I have created a fan fiction from it, using largely all original characters and created my own Territory that is located in Terreille.

Innocence of a Queen is my first public work, and as such, I am very excited to release it into your capable hands. I hope you all enjoy my story as much as I did writing it. As a relatively new writer, reviews are vitally important (as well as relished.) If you liked (or didn't like) my story, please let me know! Right now my goal is to release a new chapter every month, so look forward to Chapter 2 next month!

Author Edit 10/24/11: I am putting up slightly different versions of each chapter. There isn't enough to merit reading it all over again (though you could if you want) it is just for new readers and for my own sake so new developments later on in the story make more sense.

Innocence of a Queen

~Chapter 1~

1/Delacova

Adele Ashlyn was careful to keep her eyes closed and her mind concentrated on the fairly simple yet elegant healing web in front of her. She was so enthralled she couldn't feel her body standing rigidly still, feet placed slightly apart for balance. Her arms felt numb as they stretched towards the web, pouring her Opal-Jeweled power steadily into it. She even pretended that she couldn't feel that oh-so-charming itch just on the tip of her nose. She didn't hear as exasperated sighs rose from the room as her fellow peers either failed to keep their "patient" asleep for the specified time, or couldn't get them to sleep in the first place.

"Okay ladies, the time in which I asked you to keep your patient asleep for is over. You may begin to pull your power out of your webs just like we practiced." Not pausing to open her eyes, Adele did as she was instructed, as she had done countless times before in just the same way. The only difference was that this time she had an actual subject to practice on. Slowly, she felt the power that resided within the web subsiding. Adele did not let her attention waver, even when the strain of keeping the spell together gradually stopped.

After the power had been drained, Adele relaxed her hold on the web altogether and she opened her eyes easily, laughing in quiet wonder at having successfully done a difficult healing technique. She looked around to see that no one else besides Chanie and herself had completed the healing sleep successfully. The other girl lowered her arms to show that she, too, was finished.

Chanie twirled around to talk with the Lady Swanelle about something or other. The other girl's eyes shone with pride as she ran a hand through her slightly curly hair, a clear sign of thoughtfulness. She always did that when she was thinking about a lesson or memorizing something Lady Swanelle said. Though she excelled at everything she had done during her Healer's training, Adele had always been one slightly smaller step behind Chanie, so she had watched her and learned some interesting ways to work through it that differed from her own.

There were only ten Healers-in-training in this particular group, all of Lady Swanelle's pupils came to her house to train young hopeful Healers. The Lady was the most skilled Healer in the town, and now she not only saw patients, but trained new Healers with the gift. The girls came from a variety of families in Delacova, ranging from middle-class all the way up to aristos such as Adele. They had progressively been getting more and more advanced in their lessons using the healing web, starting on small animals by putting them to sleep and moving onto larger ones. Then finally they began practicing the highly difficult healing sleep on each other. If she continued with her training at this same pace, Adele could become a fully-qualified Healer before her eighteenth birthday arrived.

"Good job, Adele, Chanie." Lady Swanelle beamed at the two girls, who both smiled shyly. That's the beauty of healing lessons, Adele thought, no one is cocky, everyone is gentle in nature and caring.Certainly better than her regular curriculum. Adele offered a hand to the girl who she had been practicing on, who accepted it groggily and stood, wiping her eyes. "Sorry about that," she said in a gentle tone that Chris had jokingly labeled "soothing Queen." Still, it did what it was meant to do; put everyone around her at ease. She offered the girl a reassuring smile and received one in return.

"You were a very good patient." Adele added and was rewarded with a shy smile as the girl got up and bowed to her before picking up her sack and scurrying outside. Behind her, Chanie had gathered her things and swept past her, leaving the scent of roses behind. Adele sighed with wistful jealously and bent down to pick up her own things before offering Lady Swanelle a smile and stepping out in to the cool autumn air to meet her ride home.


The carriage bumped on the road cheerily, bouncing Adele as she looked out at the swiftly passing trees that covered most of Tirrador, the Territory Adele called her home. Adele was a member of the Ashlyn family, an aristo family that was high up on the social rungs of their Territory, and certainly in their town of Delacova. Adele, being a sixteen year-old Queen and Healer-in-training, was the pride and joy of the Ashlyn family.

Winston, the family's painfully formal elderly butler coughed politely and turned his head to look out the window, getting Adele's attention. She followed his aged blue eyes to catch a breathtaking sight of the Ashlyn manor house. It was tastefully nestled among the woods as if it had always belonged there, the trees huddling around it as if welcoming it's presence among them. Adele had always found it quite symbolic because in fact trees were a large part of all of their lives, as most of Tirrador was covered in lush forests, Delacova being no exception to this. The house was a cool shade of white, the color naturally faded around corners and edges, giving it a more relaxed feel than some of the other houses in the area, which rigorously kept up the paint to give their homes a painfully rigid feel. Trimmed ivy licked the bottom part of the manor house, the rest of the grounds decorated in winsome patters of semi-wild plants that allowed one to relax while viewing the house rather than being able to point out the soil between each flower. Adele sighed with pleasure as the carriage rounded the drive and stopped gracefully in front of her home.

As soon as she stepped out onto the drive the seemingly tranquil air about the mansion shattered. Adele was swept into a whirlwind of activity. People bustled about the house in frenzied anticipation for the ball that as being hosted by the Lathan family. You'd think the Ashlyn's were hosting the party judging from the way her mother had everyone hopping. But the invitations had hinted that this party had some special importance so Adele couldn't blame her mother for being flustered. With three women and their father to dress, and all the formalities to remember it would be a wonder if she still remembered today's lesson by the time it was all over. Taking a deep breath, Adele steadied herself and walked into the thick of the activity, hoping she'd come out of it intact.


Adele opened her bedroom door and shut it gently behind her. She had finally made it to her rooms after rebutting everyone's eager remarks about the all-consuming ball that night. Adele felt her stomach twisting at the thought of having to present herself in front of Tirrador's finest. It would be the first time since she was little that all the important Blood in Tirrador would be watching her. The Territory Queen was chosen by the majority of the darker Jeweled Blood in her Territory, and everything Adele did now would be scrutinized, assessed, and put on display. She closed her eyes and breathed deeply. You just need to breathe, and be yourself, they can't ask for more than that.She opened her eyes and studied her room.

Adele smiled and grabbed a book from the shelf, intent on burying her worries in a light Craft lesson. Not ten minutes later a gentle rap sounded at the bedroom door. Too absorbed into her Craft book, Adele didn't look up or even acknowledge the sound, her deep blue eyes staring expressionless at the pages of the book. When she gave no answer, another, louder and more irksome knock sounded from the other side of the door. With an irritated flicker of her eyes to the door, she mumbled a greeting, signaling that whoever was behind the door could enter. Delphine, Adele's younger sister, popped her mischievous face out from behind the door and gave her a wicked grin. The impish face was framed by short, just-below-shoulder-length golden blonde hair that she styled to stick up in all directions.

Delphine was fourteen years old, two years younger than Adele, even so she had a temper twice as bad, and it usually went off twice as often. They were worlds apart, she and her sister. Both sisters showed promise to wear darker-Jewels when they made the Offering to the Darkness. Delphine was a natural Black Widow, that much had become apparent when she had reached puberty a few years ago. This had come much to the surprise of the rest of her family, as before that there simply were no Ashlyn Black Widows. She had begun to visit the Hourglass Coven of Tirrador regularly for training, but would have to leave soon for a full-time apprenticeship. Despite being from one of the best families in Delacova, and being as important as she was, Delphine was always looking for trouble, for one reason or another, and if there was none to be had… well she just made it for herself.

Adele groaned and theatrically turned away from her troublemaking sister to continue reading. It was an important lesson, one that couldn't be interrupted by another one of her sister's schemes. Couldn't. This was far too important. The book snapped shut and with a roll of her eyes she turned back to face Delphine. "So what sort of scheme has my hare-brained sister been cooking up inside that spiky little head of hers?" She asked with an exasperated grin, utterly defeated.

Adele laughed when she saw a reflection of her own expression on her sister's face. The sly grin that tasted of trouble and mischief was truly catching. Damn Delphine and her little schemes. Did she herself really look that terrible? The grin spread on her own face wider. Probably. Poor Madeline. The Ashlyn household's head maid, whom the girls had pet named Maddy when they were little, was usually the butt of more than a few of their little pranks, among others. She was just so fun to tease. The way she'd run after them with more speed than one would think could be coaxed out of the plump, middle-aged woman, bellowing their names and brandishing whatever was in her hand at the time was simply soendearing. They were never really bad, just active enough to keep the household on its toes, giving them all a constant reminder that they had two young witches underfoot.

"So?" Adele asked, prompting her sister as she jumped off the bed and turned to face her. Delphine walked in the room, her lovely hazel eyes watching her closely, holding out a small ball in her cupped hand. It looked like...some sort of large circular seed. It was the closest thing she could associate it with. Only it was glowing faintly with inner power. Intrigued, Adele leaned in and Delphine held it out to her so she could inspect it closer.

"It's an illusion spell." she said proudly, puffing slightly. "You throw it and where it lands, a stain of whatever you specify appears. No matter how long you scrub and clean it, it will remain until the power fades."

Adele looked from the spell to her sister, face blank. "How did you learn how to do this?"

Delphine shrugged and pulled it away. "Just learned it," She said quickly, ignoring the question completely. Then again, most of the time Adele didn't want to know how her sister did most things she did. It was usually better not to know. Dismissing all other questions, she held out a small bag full of the delightful little pieces of Black Widow Craft. A fresh evil grin lit her sister's face as she spoke. "I made different ones for all sorts of different stains: Dirt, oil, food, wine, and tons of other stuff." Realization hit Adele as she looked from the bag to Delphine.

"You little devil! So that's what you've been doing in your room the last few days. And here I thought you were actually getting interested in your schoolwork," she teased and was rewarded by a shriek and a playful slap that initiated an all out war between the two that led out into the hallway and down the lavish stairs.

By the time they had sobered up and were intent upon their task, the girls were crouched by the door in a sitting room while Maddy polished an ornate wooden table, humming away a merry tune. Adele looked regretfully at the bag of spells. "Poor Maddy. Makes me kind of regr-" But before she could even finish her sentence, Delphine had snorted ruefully and chucked two of the spells into the room. One landed on the floor and splattered about ten feet before hitting Maddy's dress with wine, the other Adele didn't see as her arm was snatched hard and they ran away with all possible speed away from the outraged screams coming from the sitting room. Holding their mouths to suppress giggles of delight, they scurried away to try more of Delphine's delightful spells.


"I still don't see why Mother got so upset." Delphine's pouty confusion at the obvious behind their mother's unusual foul mood almost made Adele want to laugh. The only thing that stopped her from doing so was the fact that there was nothing funny about their mother in a rare mood, especially right before an important social event. Their little prank on Maddy had done nothing for their poor mother's already frayed nerves. She was just as nervous as they were about the ball. She, too, knew what was at stake, even if Delphine didn't, or wouldn't acknowledge it. Josephine Ashlyn was a Rose-Jeweled hearth-witch who also happened to be aristo. Such a thing was simply unheard of in high-class society, but then Josephine Ashlyn had a way with people. No one could resist her smile, the moment people came into their home her charm swept them up in a welcoming they were not soon likely to forget.

Despite that, Adele knew the shame her mother felt at being a simple hearth witch who had married a wealthy aristo, not to mention darker-Jeweled Prince. She knew that by some her mother was sneered at and accused of "besotting" him to get what she wanted. But then again Adele also knew that Taylor loved Josephine with all his heart, and no one but she would make him happy. Taylor also happened to serve in the first circle of Lady Claude's Court, and he ruled the town of Delacova on his Lady's behalf. This difference in caste had her even more aware of her own "shortcomings". Josephine was, however, intensely proud of her two daughters, and flaunted them in public whenever she could.

Josephine had the same exact color strawberry blonde hair that Adele had been gifted with. Usually it was swept up in a lovely bun while she cooked or worked in the gardens or cleaned. Only her mother, a high standing aristo Lady, would go about making deals with the staff of hermanor so she could find ways to appease her needs while not getting overexerted and still leading a somewhat normal aristo lifestyle. But then again, that was a heart-witch for you. They never seemed to run out of energy and that energy seemed to spill out to those around them.

Josephine had sent the household into a full-scale panic a few hours before they were to leave, trying to prepare and make everyone look acceptable. The poor maids burned themselves out trying to keep up with their adorable mother. Adele had to bring a dress she was looking at up over her mouth to cover a smile as her mother bustled in the room. Josephine put her hands on her only slightly plump but still curvy hips and demanded to know why they were, "dilly-dallying" when there was work to do.

The girls winced in unison and pulled themselves into standing upright positions. Adele cleared her throat as the two stood guiltily in front of their mother. "Sorry, mom, Delphine was just asking me to help her get into her dress." She threw out the first lie she could think of, so as not to invoke their mother's legendary but thankfully rare fury upon them. "I was just on my way to help her with it."

Their mother's eyes narrowed, and Adele wasn't sure if she had bought the lie or not, but she was appeased for now. She huffed and laughed, making Adele's stomach feel fluttery. The answering laugh bubbled up her throat, wanting to be released in response. Willfully, she swallowed it down. "Don't be silly, Adele, I'll send in a few maids to help Delphine. You need to get ready yourself." She paused and looked regretfully back at her two girls. "You know I'd help you but I've got to change out of this thing." She tugged with two pinched fingers at her simple outfit, covered with flour in the front and wrinkled her nose, then sighed and with a harried smile at them, whisked out of the room.

Delphine turned from the doorway and plopped down on Adele's bed again, shaking her head. "I don't get what all the fuss is about, everyone getting themselves all riled up over some party." Adele smiled softly. You're worried too, sister, even though you won't show it.She turned and went back to her closet to retrieve her own gown chosen for tonight.

"It's just aristo affairs, I suppose." Her answer was greeted with an impudent snort, as she had known it would.

"It's all silly to me, but whatever, if it makes Mother happy." Her sister jumped off the bed and headed to the door, opening it and pausing for a moment to look back at Adele from the doorway. "You were always better at this stuff than me." She turned and a moment later a startled look dashed across her face. A split-second later she darted out of the way to make room for the two maids bustling in to help Adele with her dress. With a wave of her hand and a resigned smirk, Delphine was off to her room to change. She could have sworn she saw two more maids streaking down the hall after her sister just before the door closed. A smile crossed Adele's face. They were going to have a lovely time trying to coax Delphine into her gown in time for the ball. While she was dressing, she amused herself with things that they might bribe her with, but the list ran out quickly, and Adele found herself forced back into reality as the vicious game of "getting that dress on" began.

2/Delacova

Adam Lathan, the most explosive and violent member of the Lathan manor, burst through the large ornate entrance doors with a blast of Green-Jeweled power and strode into the lobby. A dangerous gleam bloomed to life in his emerald eyes as he looked around and saw no sign of the conniving wench. He snarled viciously at the various servants who skittered out of his way and plastered themselves to the walls of the room in an effort to get away from him, or at least not remind them they existed. Adam whirled around and caught an elder maid by the back of her dress and hauled her in front of him with ease that could only be achieved with Craft.

"Where is she?" He shouted, "where is Aveline?" The terrified woman just stared, and even if she had the answer to his question, it fled from her mind at the sight of his hot anger. With a growl, he shoved her aside and stalked the rest of the line, looking for a weak spot. He swirled with elegance that spoke of court training and an aristo lifestyle, and clutched a butler's throat, hauling him into the air.

"S-s-she's in the library!" The poor man finally choked and was rewarded by being dropped none too gently. And with that the dangerous but still not fully mature male stormed out of the room to find the person whom he had hated with all his being his entire life.

Now that he knew where his quarry lay, Adam had no trouble getting to the library, navigating the lavish halls of the manor towards the library with ease. He tried the door only to discover it had been locked. With a mere flick of his explosive power, the door unlocked and flew open, slamming against the other wall with a terrifying thud that shook the room. More than a few of the books wobbled in their cases dangerously as he strode into the room, coating it instantly with the psychic scent of violence.

"Aveline you bitch!" Adam's voice was rough and harsh from all the yelling he had done today, but he barely even noticed the ache in his throat. A young woman with generous feminine curves and flowing black hair turned slowly, caught in the act of putting a book back onto the shelf. She smiled coolly at him, an elegant black eyebrow arching.

"Hello, Adam." Her voice that was like sweet venom, intoxicating and deadly for all whose ears it fell upon. "What is the problem, dear brother?" Aveline said in false concern. Her calm demeanor and voice only irritated him further, scraping against his enflamed nerves.

"You know exactly what's wrong you whoring wench! You tried to whore me off again with one of those little pets you call friends." Just the memory of that little bitch slinking around in his room, parading herself as if she had already bedded him made his blood boil. His ears pounded with the anger that was in his very nature. Adam's skin burned where her hands had touched him, but not with lust. He could feel every inch of his skin that she had stroked, trying to seduce him into the bed and only succeeding in getting her wrist broken and being thrown out of his room. "How much was it this time?"

Aveline only smiled as she approached him, swaying her hips in what he was supposed to think was invocative. Her silky, terrifying hands brushed the left side of his neck and began to caress it with venomous care. His eyes flared opened wide in shocked revulsion. His stomach reeled in response to his sister's sexual act. Adam had never understood Aveline's sick twisted interest in pursuing him, even though they were full-blood related. A slow smile spread across her lips before she spoke.

"It was enough to at least try to get you to spear someone." She said in a girlish, pouty voice as her hand stroked his neck gently and was rewarded by a light, though unwilling moan.
"Brother you will need to do it someday, and soon." Aveline narrowed her eyes and quickly pressed her thumb into a pressure point. A moment later she wore an expression of shock as Adam's hand clamped on her arm with bruising force and twisted it. She released his neck and whimpered softly in pain, trying to back away from him but still caught in his embrace.

"You try that again bitch and you'll never have use of this arm again." Not waiting for a response and too weary of these witches who thought they could use him for their games, Adam pushed her away from him and walked out of the room.


He reached his own room, slid out of his jacket and fell onto his bed in one swift movement. As bad as Aveline was, she was still only an Opal-Jeweled Black Widow, a witch who didn't wear a dark jewel and thus posed no threat to a Green-Jeweled Warlord Prince. She was just a bitch who enjoyed power and would never have enough to satiate her hunger. As soon as he could leave for his formal training he would leave her and all her games behind forever. He closed his eyes and willed himself to calm down, stepping away from the inherent violence that made a Warlord Prince so dangerous.

That was certainly enough excitement for me today, he thought dryly as he stared at his ceiling. Then again it was early afternoon and that damned ball was going to be tonight. He suppressed a growl that was welling in his throat and sighed. The day was getting progressively worse because of all the buzz going on about the ball his family was hosting. The excited atmosphere was electric and it had everyone on edge. Adam sincerely hoped that this masquerade ball would turn out better than the previous ones. But since all of the same wealthy families in the village were invited and were expected to attend, he seriously doubted it. With another gusty sigh he resigned himself to another evening of aristo games. This one wasn't going to be any different. The same old game but on a different night.

He was a Green-jeweled Warlord Prince, probably one of the strongest in all of Tirrador, from a wealthy aristo family with standing. All the witches practically tripped over themselves to have a chance to bed him, to get more than simply a night with a powerful male who could give them everything their wicked minds could ever hope to achieve. Hell he wasn't even at his full power yet, the Green was still his Birthright jewel. He laughed with bitterness. It was only ever about what he was, what he looked like, and who he knew. They didn't care about who he was, what he wanted. Not one of them had ever considered that. He closed his eyes, silently wishing that there would be something new, something different tonight that would answer the aching call in his heart for something more. Amused at his own fantasies, Adam smiled softly and closed his eyes. Even if something miraculous was to happen tonight, he would still have to wait for the night to arrive to find out what it might be.

3/Delacova

Dreast shifted uncomfortably in the leather chair in Lady Lathan's sitting room. As the minutes trickled by past the set time of their appointment he began to fidget. Damn this witch for making him wait! He was a Hayllian, a member of the long-lived races and did not have to grovel like this to a Tirrador witch! Still, his Lady had sent him here to serve Aveline in her plans and he would not fail her-could not fail her. It was only recently that he himself had secured a place in The High Priestess of Hayll's First Circle. He hadn't gotten the position easily, the dance of the court was something he had perfected. He knew just how dangerous one little comment could be, could change a man's life...or end it. Over the past centuries, Dorothea had taken under her wing those Territories that "needed a guiding hand" from the more experienced races. So now at least half of Terrielle stood in the shadow of Hayll, and Dorothea SaDiablo. As much as Aveline Lathan scared him, Dorothea frightened him much, much more. After all , what was one scheming little bitch compared to the High Priestess of Hayll? Dorothea ruled more than half of the Territories in Terrielle, Aveline had plans for one. And that was why he remained in the chair, waiting for this little bitch to finish whatever-or whomever-she was doing and get to him and their appointment.

It had been a few years ago when Aveline had started her formal training that she had peaked the interest of Dorothea. As a hungry youth with a measure of power but not of the proper caste to rule, she showed promise. As a pouty, spoiled aristo witch who was a Natural Black Widow-but only that-she was a treasure. Aveline had the hunger, the ambition to take over Tirrador but not the support. That was where Dorothea came in. With a little nudge from his Lady, Aveline had already started her plans to bring Tirrador under Hayll's thumb, where she would rule in exchange for bowing to Dorothea's dominant power. After all she was a member of the long-lived races, and could not waste her time here. But he could, and would, until Tirrador was brought to heel.


Aveline Lathan closed the door that adjoined her bedroom with the smaller sitting room with a smart little snap. She lowered her hand and finished slipping into her black silken robe. The young woman lingered to feel the cloth briefly, enjoying the sensuous feel of it sliding between her fingers before turning towards her guest. The movement revealed smooth skin the color of diluted olive oil through the generous slit in the side of the robe. Not on accident had she just moments ago been taking a shower and had, of course, "forgotten" that he would be coming. Her incredibly long black hair was, at the moment, damp and flowing down her back. Recognizing the man waiting for her in a lavish leather chair, and more notably the hungry gleam in his gold eyes, she smiled coyly to herself.

Satisfied for the moment, but with her temper not quite wholly appeased, Aveline tied the robe so that it hugged her naked body underneath and headed briskly for her chair. The scent of her shampoo whisked through the room along with her. With a delicate flourish of the dark fabric she settled into a position that best favored the split in the robe to reveal shapely, inviting legs, one over the other. Her elbows she placed on the arms of the chair, steepling her elegant fingers together loosely. Those long fingers were finished with nails worn long, as all Black Widows, to hide the deadly snake tooth under the ring finger. One little prick with that finger into the flesh, one tiny pump of her venom and it would be all over for him. With this comforting thought in mind, she adorned an expression of cool disinterest and settled her startling green eyes upon him as if waiting.

The reason he was here was painfully obvious, still, she wanted to make him sweat. Almost obvious, she amended as she watched him shift in his chair, as if he were bored. She wanted to scream with frustration. Surely her performance would have gotten something more out of him! Aveline swallowed her anger for the time being and focused on what really mattered, the news he bore. "Well, did you make sure all of those invitations were mailed to the right witches and their families?" Her voice was like a sticky sweet venom, beautiful to behold but dangerous to anger and few could resist her when she decided she wanted something from them.

"Yes, Lady, I made sure they got them and they will all be attending, just as you said they would." Of course they would attend, it was a request from the prestigious Lathan family, who would dare object? She thought as she watched him pause and then hesitate, licking his lips. Maybe she had been too hasty in thinking she had had no effect. Finally the fidgety man spoke in an oily voice, "With all due respect, Lady, I still do not understand why we would want to gather them all at once and then let them leave without as much as a scratch. Wouldn't it be easier to simply get rid of the lot of them while they are gathered?" For such foolery, he was rewarded with a sugary sweet smile. She opened her mouth, licked her bottom lip before speaking.

"Did you know I own a Bonsai tree, Dreast?" Turning in her seat, she made a movement with her hand to show him the little tree on a small table beside her. With slow, exact movements she reached a hand down and opened a drawer in the table, revealing a pair if clippers in her capable hands. She held it up to her face, inspecting the blade with a careful eye before focusing at the man sitting across from her. His head was perfectly aligned in between the blades and she snapped the clippers together for a quick moment, cutting his face off from view. All in good time, she reminded herself. When he didn't move an inch, his face caught in a carefully neutral expression, she turned once again to her tree. "Did you know that caring for a Bonsai tree takes a skilled individual? One who has watched every single branch grow and mature from as if they were their own children." A tenderness filled her voice as she lovingly stroked one of the branches with a finger. "One who has watched their budding days, could see the potential in them as they grew, and saw the day when they would become too wild."

Aveline sighed wistfully and cut off the branch with cold precision. In the corner of her eye she watched tiny beads of sweat form on Dreast's dark-skinned brow. "Still, it is with regret that for the betterment of the tree that many of these branches be cut." Another was clipped. Gooey sap leaked from the wound and dripped. "It requires the skill of one who has intimate knowledge of the tree and what is best for it to prune each branch that is viewed as," she paused. "A danger to the interest as a whole," Her voice was cool and concise as she trimmed her tree. Another branch gone. She positioned her hand perfectly for the next cut. Another cut. Another branch fell. The sticky liquid crawled down from the sharp remainder of the branch and down the slender trunk before stopping at the base of the tree. "Carefully, each blight in the master plan is cleared away until…" Sighing with content she pulled the clippers away to reveal a much more sedate and controlled Bonsai tree. The golden liquid seeped from so many branches being cut away. "…You have your masterpiece. The final result."

Cold green eyes slid upwards to capture startled gold ones. She held the clippers up near her face and inspected the blood, looking content. "You see, the ball tonight will very much be… a pre-pruning process, I suppose you could call it. We will observe and determine what branches of the Blood will be a threat to the masterpiece as a whole. Then we must decide what branches will be allowed to exist, and what ones should be trimmed." Aveline placed the tool down onto the side table, the blades hanging over the edge. The remaining sap on the clippers slowly formed a golden drop of the sticky liquid, and hung there for a long moment before it dripped onto the expensive carpet, forever staining it with the blood of the tree.

Dreast watched the sap drip and gathered himself carefully. Swallowing, he spoke. "You are truly inspiring, Lady."

4/Delacova

A muffled knock sounded at Adam's door. Ignoring it, he shifted in his bed, but did not move. No more than a second later the door cracked, letting the harsh light from the hallway streak into the room. The light hit his eyes and they slitted open. A small girlish silhouette appeared in the doorway. Adam groaned again, turning away from the light and shut his eyelids into their respective places. A minute body jumped on top of him and giggled softly. "Adam, wakey wakey." His younger sister's childish voice chirped in his ear. He slowly turned his head and looked at Ivy's small face.

He and his adorable little half sister looked nothing alike, as was to be expected, since his mother was a bit too "accommodating" to the younger men of the village. He had never understood why his father had turned a willing blind eye on her adulterous night ramblings. But then again, Raphael, for all his strength, was always tender-hearted and would rather ignore the obvious that cause trouble with his wife. As much as she liked to hide it, it was obvious Sybilla was sleeping around with lighter-Jeweled males because of her last two children. Valentine and Ivy wore the Yellow and the Rose Jewels. Raphael wore the Sapphire and Sybilla wore the Purple Dusk Jewels. Everyone knew a match like that couldn't produce such weak children, but that's just what their marriage was, nothing more than a "smart match," sure his father loved Sybilla, but she had always detested his soft gentleness.

"What do you want, shrimp?" Adam said enervated as he stared at her dark, almost black wavy hair and soft, light brown eyes that glowed with happiness. She was a pretty little thing, and would be lovely someday. He growled softly at the thought. The first boy that tries to touch her is getting his hand ripped off. Of his siblings, Ivy was the only one he could stan. On the contrary, Adam was his half-sister's primary playmate, and the only one who had the time or patience to indulge in her games. If it wasn't for his little sister, Adam's life at the Lathan Manor would have been completely unbearable.

"Mum told me to tell you to get ready for the party tonight." Ivy hopped off him and giggled as he made a half-assed attempt to pull himself up off the bed.

"Is it really almost time?" Adam asked in a bleary voice as he finally managed to sit up.

"Well you've been asleep for a long time, Addy." Ivy giggled after she used the nickname she had given Adam a few years ago. He narrowed his eyes at this sister and without taking them off the little imp, called in a lavish coffer filled to the brim with clothing.

He began to slowly go through the clothes, displaying each piece with care for Ivy's "tasteful" opinion. Every time he picked something he might like, she made a sound of disapproval , the piece was too revealing, old, or something she just didn't like. Finally after throwing almost every piece of clothing aside Adam finally managed to put together an attire that was approved by his young sister, a white tunic top, a formal black jacket with the Lathan coat of arms emblazoned on the left lapel, a pair of black tapered pants, and a pair of black dress shoes. "There are you happy now?" Adam asked, vexed.

She just beamed at him and bounced on the bed as she spoke. "Yep, now get your butt dressed and come out to the ball." With that jumped off the bed and skipped over to the door and spun to face Adam. "You better have found a new mask this year. That other one is so...plain." She made a sour face and shuddered theatrically. He scowled in response and shooed her out.

A lock of Adam's brilliant orange hair fell over his eye as he sighed wearily, but smiled at the closed door. That little witch was already a handful, and when she got older she was only going to get worse. With Ivy vacated, he tediously peeled off the clothes he had been wearing, revealing light brown skin that was uncommon among most who lived in the wooded Territory. The same skin coloring that belonged to Aveline and his mother, Sybilla. He frowned at himself in the mirror, not sure he liked that association. Still, against his hair that was an odd blend of orange and blonde, his skin made him look rather exotic. He suppressed a growl as he thought about the witches at the other parties who had "complimented" him on his odd looks. In a growing cloud of thoughtful anger, he dressed slowly, watching himself in the full length mirror against the wall. True, he was beautiful to them, but if any of those simpering little girls ever became too forward he would show him why Warlord Princes were so feared and respected among the Blood.

In that moment he felt very unclean, like just by those women thinking about him that way, just by being near him, he had been tainted. He felt sick and weary and beaten. Just for once I wish that someone who isn't a common slut would be interested in me.Adam thought as he slipped on the tighter than normal pants. He laughed softly at himself and put on his shoes to his feet and started for the door at a slow stalk. Adam called in his new mask, settling it into place as he walked toward the party.

The door opened and the young Warlord Prince strode through the doorway. Ivy waited across the hall in a small chair, her nine-year old mind bouncing with excitement. At the sight of him she hopped off the chair, her long brown hair flowing behind her as she hurried towards Adam. Stopping to wait for her, he shoved his hands in his trouser pockets. He gritted his teeth as he took in her little white dress, thinking of how cute and gorgeous she was. He vaguely wondered if boys her age took interest in girls yet. He couldn't remember.

"What took you so long? I thought you were never coming out." Her young voice was riddled with annoyance that was a fair imitation of their mother's simpering tone, even if she didn't notice it. Adam didn't give her an answer, but turned and started strolling down the hall with his hands in his pockets, still too absorbed in his own thoughts to hear his little half-sister's complaints.

His thoughts were finally broken as they entered the spacious ballroom and saw the mass of people already assembled. His green eyes widened in disbelief, he couldn't believe that there were this many guests. There hadn't even been half as many as this last year, he thought as he probed the room, searching for someone familiar. Finally a recognizable psychic scent struck him and he smiled beneath the mask. A childish, giddy excitement seized him for a moment before he shoved it away and was able to regain a rational thought. So, he was here. Adam wheeled around to face Ivy and looked down at her. "Go find some of your friends, I can't watch you all night." With a huff she hurried away, weaving through the partygoers with experteice.

He faced the mass of people and straight headed into the fray. Slowly making his way through a maze of bodies, he reached where he thought the physic scent was coming from and found it simply gone. Damn it where was he? Adam probed again and found the scent once more, in a different place this time, and began stalking towards it. So, it is to be a hunt then? Entertained by the idea, he followed the trail through the crowd, his mind intent on the hunt and nothing else.

Before he had gone two steps his shoulder was snatched by a hand. Nails bit into his jacket and forced Adam to stop. He growled as he turned his head to see his elder sister. "What do you want?" Adam asked as his eyes swept over the many females who were gathered around her looking at him, knowing her full well her answer. "I'd just like you to meet some of these fine women who waited here to meet you." The smell of a trap burned at his nostrils. "Well sorry to disappoint them but I could really give a shit." Adam smiled wickedly at their shocked faces and pulled away from his sister, continuing on the hunt.

5/Delacova

Adele studied herself in the full-length mirror in her room, almost unsure if the person staring back was in fact herself. Uneasy, she lifted her hands and hesitantly ran them from the sides of her breasts down her sides and finally resting on her hips. Her waist was slender, the adolescent body a little awkward, she had to admit to herself. She analyzed the dress that now adorned her body, completely breath taken. Even if she didn't deserve compliments, the dress certainly did. It was absolutely exquisite.

The skirt of the dress was made of heavy white satin material that had an odd, opaly look to it. It changed colors ever so slightly, green, purple, or pink tint depending on how it moved. Embroidered all over it, were silver feather designs. The waist and corset part though seemingly stiff was actually quite comfortable, and,the base color the same as the skirt. Intricate patterns drawn with shimmery silver covered the corset, as with the skirt. The corset bottom was lined with jet black gems in a "V" curve that ended in an exquisite sapphire gem, as were the neckline that had what she suspected actual swan feathers, going all the way up to the straps of the dress and ending in a sapphire gem on each shoulder. The stones continued down the straps and around top of the dress and going down her back and ending in an even longer "V" curve and once again ending in that breathtaking blue jewel.

On her neck, hung a silver necklace and from it her Opal Jewel hung in the same familiar place as always. It was like having a friend by your side in a sea of strangers. Black silk ribbons had been wrapped around her wrists and lower arms with detailed care. She wore her other Opal jewel on her middle finger, inset in a sweeping sort of design made from silver. But the best part of the dress were the real feathered wings that sprouted from the back of the gown. The pure white feathers held a slightly opalescent tinge just like the dress itself, and each seemed to be outlined in silver, though she couldn't quite figure out how. Sprinkled in among those wings were little sapphire gems as well as jet black ones. And they were huge!She thought as she stared at them, turning sideways to get a better view of the gigantic wings. They must have been at least four or five feet long. She silently thanked her mother for the particular spell she had taught her to keep the wings supported and seemingly weightless to her.

Feeling pleased and just a bit self-conscious, Adele stepped towards her vanity and looked at the pair of eyes that looked back. They were eyes blue eyes, not really dark or light. The eyes went very well with her fair skin, a common thing among her people, who resided in the forests. She brought a hand up and gathered her hair to the side of her head and brought it to her chest to inspect it. It was incredibly long, and went just past her buttocks when she let it free. The coloring was a strawberry blonde, except for some blonde on the top of her head and whispers of it throughout. Adele sighed and with a flick of her hand, brushed her hair back and regarded herself solemnly. A pair of hands that were not her own skillfully began to wrap her hair on her head, putting the Darkness only knew how many pins and other bobs in it, curling and shaping it until it was all gathered on her head in a tasteful design. A wisp of her bangs curled down next to her face on one side, and for the finishing touch, they added pure black and blue jewels and just a few smaller white feathers into the mix. The girl nervously turned towards the mirror and gasped in surprise at the sight of herself.

She gawked at the strange girl in the mirror for a moment before thanking the ladies and stood, accepting the mask that held a swan's head and a small golden crown on it before leaving her room. Adele headed down the steps and out the door to the carriage, her dainty white shoes clicking on the steps as she went. With a relieved sigh, she settled herself into the carriage and tried to ignore the three gawking people that now stared at her with jaws dropped. As her face heated, Adele smiled hesitantly at her friends and family. This was sure going to be an interesting night.

6/Delacova

Sitting in the drawing room of her family's large but still stately house, Roxana played with the dark folds of her dress nervously as she waited for the Ashlyns to arrive in their coach to take her to the ball. Ah yes, the ball. The one that made her nervous without knowing why, with all the things surrounding the ball and all the wrongness that seemed to all lead back to it. It wasn't really anything that was obvious on the surface, like a whiff of something vile that when actually paid attention to, was never to be found. It made her nervous and edgy on some instinctive level she couldn't quite figure out. Realizing that she was going to fray her dress to ribbons, Roxana sighed and with effort, placed her hands flat on her dress, willing them not to move. She didn't like how all the young Queens in Tirrador had been politely but firmly requested to come. Not invited, requested. Who requested a Queen? It wasn't just Queens either, Warlord Princes, Black Widows, and the Darker-Jeweled Blood were also "asked" to attend. "In celebration of changing times," was the written reason on the invitation. It made sense, in a few years Adele would finish her formal training and become a Queen. In all likelihood, Adele would rule Tirrador. Many of the Blood in power were stepping down to the younger generation. If one looked at it rationally, it all made sense it just...felt wrong somehow.

And Chris felt the same way, she and Adele's close friend from childhood. And the fact that he was a protective, extremely aggressive Warlord Prince who was in the middle of his court training made a world of difference to her. The fact that he too, was Adele's longstanding friend and cared for her deeply, only reinforced her worries and kept her from pushing them aside as "nothing big." She had always been the careful type, always testing the waters before she jumped headfirst in, so before it had been easy to push aside her gut feelings, but lately she had learned that her gut feelings were seldom wrong. The thought made her feel anxious. Strange whispers, so many people doubting and beginning to jump at shadows, fear growing over nothing and everything. In the secluded wooded Territory of Tirrador, people didn't used to have to feel anxious or on guard, but then again, a lot of things were changing in Terrielle. And all of it had to do with Dorothea and Hayll. In the past, Tirrador had mostly kept to itself, being partly enclosed by mountains and a more northern Territory. In fact, Tirrador actively made it a point to stay out of Terrellian affairs for the most part. It was what had kept them safe for so long.

A footman rushed into the parlor and bowed to her before speaking. "Lady, they have arrived." Her eyes were narrowed in a thoughtful expression as he spoke, but she nodded in acknowledgement and smoothed out the creases in her dress, smoothed her thoughts. She stood and her long gown pooled about her feet.

The heavy black fabric began at her shoulders and exposed a plentiful dollop of her chest, coming down her arms and ending in long, regal sleeves. Over the lovely black dress, she wore an emerald green piece that had short sleeves and exposed the front of her dress, covering the sides and back. The green glistened and seemed to be covered with a layer of silver when she turned. Over the dress, there was an intricate decoration of silver that came off her waist and twisted around her dress. She flicked one medium-length lock of milk chocolate brown hair over her shoulder and accepted the black and deep green-colored mask that the footman handed her. It was shaped so that it rose around the eyes in pointed elegantly and Roxana held it up to her face so that one could only view her soft blue eyes as she headed out the door towards the carriage.

She would be on guard tonight, silently watching out for Adele, who was far too trusting for her own good. Whatever happened, she would be there for her. They all would be. There was nothing any of them could do now but watch and hope nothing happened.

Chapter 2 Preview:

The second she saw the black-donned male heading in their direction Adele felt her heart leap up in her throat and grab onto her uvula for dear life. She swallowed in a feeble attempt to get it back down into her chest. No luck. She'd known this would happen, had felt the young male watching her from the moment her announcement was made. Now it was just a question of what would happen once Chris came face to face with him, and if Chris unleashed his vicious temper on the poor man.