Saturday, May 14, 2011

1st Chapter Saturday -- Woman Freed From Amber

This is the companion piece to Woman Cast in Amber. Not quite as strange a story.

{The Amber Chronicles, Book 2}

by Janet Lane Walters (Dame Amber)

Kriston Riva, seventh son of the late king of Rivand, stood at the shelves in the gloomy basement room that housed the kingdom’s archives. To combat the dreary atmosphere, the candles in every sconce on the stone walls cast light. To add more illumination, a half-dozen lanterns burned on the long work table. He held one in his hand. Since his father’s death, he’d spent several hours every day searching for scrolls that carried versions of the curse placed on his family by the Witch of the Woods. He’d read four. The scroll he lifted from the shelf contained the story of how the curse had begun. He carried the cylinder to the table and carefully twisted the cap.

On the day Kriston had reached his majority, his father had appointed him Keeper of the Archives. Kriston would have preferred an army commission but, as the youngest son, he had no choice except to accept his father’s offer. Kriston hoped his oldest brother, now the king, would find a different position for him. A position better suited for a twenty-five-year-old who excelled with a sword and could master any horse. Kriston often felt he would languish in this room until his skin turned as yellow and fragile as one of the oldest scrolls.

The past moon had been filled with events producing sorrow and joy for the Riva family and for Rivand. The moon had begun with the death of the aging king followed by the coronation of the new, Kriston’s oldest brother. On the day the crown prince had been born, the king’s wife had died giving birth to the infant.

A lump formed in Kriston’s throat as he recalled his brother’s anguished cries following the death of his beloved mate. “I married for love and I shall not wed again. I have an heir and need no other children.”

Kriston knew the men of the Riva family married either for love or convenience and even death never broke the marriage bonds. In his brother’s case, the tradition could bring trouble to the kingdom. His infant nephew was the crown prince who would face the Witch of the Woods. Though no one of his family believed, Kriston felt sure the curse had yet to be ended.

That belief had sent him to the archives to search for every record that mentioned the curse placed on the family by the Witch of the Woods. During the search, he learned what he feared was true. As the only son of the king, the young man would have no choice other than refusal. The only hope Kriston had of making changes had been discovered in a scroll that spoke of the year ending with a thirteenth moon. This rare event was one said to be a time of magic when miracles became possible.

His grandfather had faced the witch and had not vanished as the five crown princes had before him. Kriston tried to recall the night his grandfather had died and the story Hugh Riva had related. Vague memories arose but few of the details. When Kriston had crept into the dying king’s bedchamber, he had been just five years old. As the years passed, the memories had faded. Remnants of the tale woven by an aged man circled the edges of Kriston’s thoughts. Catching and holding them amounted to trying to capture sunbeams in a silken net.

With a groan, Kriston unrolled the oldest scroll he had found on the shelves. He hoped this one would tell the story of the first prince to vanish. As he puzzled over the fading ink, he knew this was the one he sought. In the words, he had found the source of the whispered comments he heard from the gathered people at the time his infant nephew had been acknowledged as the crown prince.

The Witch of the Woods pointed to the king. “Fire will not destroy the garden or drive me from my home.” She waved her hand. The flames drew inward and vanished. She turned to the crown prince. “I love you. Will you love me in return?”

He shook his head. “How can you speak of love? You do not know me.”

“The moment I beheld you, I knew I was in love. Your handsome face, your dark hair and moss green eyes enchanted me.”

The prince faced her. “Though you are beautiful with your hair like strands of sunlight and your eyes the blue of summer skies, I have a duty to Rivand, the land I will rule after my father. My betrothal has been announced. To have honor, I must keep that promise.”

“Do you have brothers who could become king?”


“Then there is no reason for you to reject me.”

“There are three reasons: Duty, honor and love. I do not love you.”

Her blue eyes turned an icy color. “So you refuse to accept my love or love me in return. Your father has tried to destroy my home. To no avail for I have created the garden anew. Though I could call a plague to destroy Rivand, I will not punish the people. This I say, your land will not prosper or fail. The House of Rivand will bear this curse. Every hundred years, the crown prince will be summoned here and face a choice. Accept my love and give his heart in return or be taken into the amber orb and spend the rest of his life in that world.”

Though there were no clouds, thunder rumbled. A flash of lightning struck the earth. An amber mist shimmered. The light blinded the king’s eyes. When his vision cleared, he saw the crown prince encased in amber. The glow dimmed, and an amber sphere remained.

The witch lifted the globe. “He is a prisoner in the amber. You will see him no more.” She carried the orb to the cottage and closed the door.

Kriston released his grip on the scroll and watched the parchment curl into a tube. He placed the roll with the others. Five versions of the disappearance of a crown prince written a hundred years apart. Each one held slight differences, but the ending was the same. No scroll detailed his grandfather’s story. All Kriston remembered was how Hugh Riva’s friend, Emme, had taken his place in the amber. Hugh had brought the globe to the palace and had kept it in his chambers.

Kriston blew out the lanterns and signaled the servant to snuff the candles. He climbed the stairs to the first floor and strode down the hall. A glimmer of memory stirred. On the morning his grandfather had died, a man had brought the amber sphere to Kriston’s room. Emme had been inside. He had seen her.

Excitement forced him into a half-run toward the stairs. For days after his grandfather’s funeral, he had stared at the woman cast in amber. When he showed the orb to his brothers, none of them had seen the woman inside.

He reached his suite of rooms. If the woman remained in the amber, he believed he could convince the king of the danger his only son faced. Kriston frowned. Why had his grandfather told no one else the story of Emme and the curse on the Riva family? Kriston’s father had decided the curse had been ended by the sacrifice. From what Kriston had read in the scrolls, that belief was wrong. Just because Emme had entered the globe did not mean the Witch of the Woods had obtained her goal—the love of a crown prince.

Twenty years from now, the witch would send a summons. The crown prince would answer. This time, there would be no Emme to sacrifice herself and there would be no younger brother to take the throne.

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