a/n: hey, thanks for checking out Starry Veins! This is the novel I wrote for Round V of LMS, and it's still a first draft! While I don't discourage any feedback, I prefer not to receive feedback on grammar! I'm not polishing this draft up yet, so I'm not as concerned about editing. I am, of course, open to all feedback, but I ask that you keep this in consideration! Thanks <3
Isadora wasn’t certain that Mishal was being honest when he deigned to stay back at the manor house and said he was fine, but pressing wasn’t going to get another answer. She’d let him stew for the afternoon and prod him tonight.
She followed Margaretta through the streets, who had a much more purposeful stride than Isadora and Mishal had when they had gone exploring. The building rose around them like a comforting embrace. There were balconies above the streets with bountiful flora; ivy that covered whole walls or hanging flowers that dripping down from their pots.
When Margaretta had asked her and Mishal if they wanted to accompany her to the person Jax had sent the after, who had come back from the Sundown Ruins, she finally felt useful. So far, they’d done nothing to help the expedition, they had learned nothing. they had been attacked, lost many of their supplies, had to leave Partridge behind due to her injuries, and lost friends.
It was like a dark cloud overhead. She didn’t want to think about them, about any of those who they had lost. But she lay awake, staring at the ceiling, and every night when she didn’t think she had more tears to cry, she discovered she did.
So, having a day to stretch her legs and feel like she could actually learn something made Isadora feel lighter. Margaretta did not seem particularly affected, by even if she was glaring and speaking in the cool monotone that betrayed her anger, Isadora wasn’t going to let that bring her down.
She glanced up and found the tower Jax had mentioned.
It was… She sucked in a breath. One high steeple, rising up from an already impressive building that stood proudly above the rest of the city. The shingles were lined with something that made them gleam like diamonds, and the top rose up in a brilliant silver that arrayed itself with colour as the sun hit it. Inside hung a huge bell.
When you hear the bells, you’ll know it’s time to go home.
Her heart clenched. She wanted to bring the others here. She had not doubt Alanna would fall in love with the city, as she had already. Ember would be fascinated by the technology—She had seen many forms of travel, of carriages and of carts, and of kite-like things that danced in the air. She had even spied one of the airships from Heaven’s Keep, way off in the distance, on a clear day void of clouds. There were be so much for Cassius to do and get into, and Rowan…
Well. The ruins were close by.
She exhaled deeply and hurried her pace once more to catch up with Margaretta.
They were approaching a more unkempt building, with paint falling off the wood in chips but a lovely flowerbox out front, when Margaretta finally turned to her. “Their name is Averi, and they live with a young healer named Lidia. Averi has had some health troubles, which Lidia helps them with.”
“But they’ll be okay with meet with us?” she asked. She knew Margaretta had set up this appointment already, but she wanted to be sure.
Margaretta nodded. “Of course. Lidia is there if Averi needs anything.”
They approached the brightly painted, cheery aquamarine door, and Margaretta stepped forward to knock four times. There was a beat, before Isadora heard the clicks of bolts unlocking.
The door opened and a young woman poked her head out. Her sun-bleached brown hair was pulled back, but many strands were loose around her face. Her skin was a warm brown. She smiled at them. “You must be Margaretta,” she said. She opened the door further and held out her hand. “I’m Lidia.”
Margaretta shook her hand. “I am.” When her hand was free, she gestured back. “And this is one of my associates, Isadora.”
Isadora reached forward, and Lidia took her hand. “It’s lovely to meet you.”
Lidia smiled at her. “And you as well. Please, do come in.”
They bustled into the building. The ceiling stretched higher than Isadora would have expected, and the interior was much neater than outside. The floors were a polished, rich brown, and the panelled walls painted a fresh cream. Lidia gestured for them to follow her and led them into a brightly lit sitting room.
Sunlight streamed in through the windows, only veiled by thin white curtains that did little to disrupt the warm glow. It was charming, with all cushioned and plush-looking furniture. Lining the walls on either side of the doorway that led to the front hall where bookshelves. Built into the walls themselves, with dozens upon dozens of books. It smelled of parchment and cured leather. She inhaled deeply with a smile.
“Averi,” Lidia called. “Our guests are here.”
Across the room, bound in a wheeled chair with a blanket draped over them, sat Averi. Averi turned towards them as they entered the room, from the window they had been looking out of. Lidia hurried over, grabbed the back of their chair, and wheeled them over towards Margaretta and Isadora.
Averi waved as they were wheeled over, but they were looking towards the middle of the left bookshelf when they did. Their grey hair, flecked with white, hung loose at their shoulders. And as they were pushed closer, Isadora realised their eyes were a cosmic blue—near solidly coloured, with flecks of murky white swirling through them. They were unfocused, flickering around the room, as if unsure where to land.
“Thank you for inviting us into your home,” Margaretta said. “I’m Margaretta, I’m the one who sent the letter. I have a friend with me, Isadora.”
“You have a wonderful home,” Isadora said.
Averi laughed. “Do I?” Their expression twisted into a frown, laughter dying, and they glanced towards their lap.
“They’re from the Chronicler’s Guild. They came to ask about the Sundown Ruins,” Lidia told them kindly. Then, glancing up at Isadora, she spoke in a much quieter voice, “They have a lot of trouble remembering things.”
She glanced towards Margaretta, who sat down stiffly in one of the chairs, arranged in a crescent. She sat on another, and Lidia settled down right next to where she had halted Averi’s chair.