The Lightning Bride - Chapter 1
Part 1 of 4
Someone was screaming downstairs.
Maylie folded the corner of the page and closed her book, the cover worn from many reads. Another pregnant maid? she wondered as she gently tossed the book onto her bed, watching it bounce. She had again been lost in tales of marauders on the Five Kingdom Seas, a novel her mother criticized was too violent for nineteen-year-old ladies to read. She could try to read through the noise, but she knew the captain found the treasure, and her curiosity of events outside fiction claimed her.
As she left the comfort of the duvet and scurried to the door, the screaming continued. Slipping her bare feet into silk flats, she could hear muffled male voices and sounds of a scuffle. Maylie’s heart constricted. Perhaps not a maid.
The pregnant maid had put on quite the show when Maylie’s father discovered the sin and was forced to let her go, along with the groundskeeper. Her father didn’t have a choice, only following their kingdom’s rules, but he had generously paid for their marriage.
Maylie opened her door, unleashing piercing shrieks echoing throughout the manor. She wasn’t sure if it was the marauder stories whirling in her head, but she felt this was a matter of life and death. Something isn’t right. She walked forward, shivering.
She couldn’t distinguish words yet as she made her way down the hall, passing her brother’s room. Quickening her pace to reach the stairs faster, she peered over the banister and counted five men in the middle of the foyer, surrounding one woman.
The men wore pristine military uniforms, crimson red for the Northern Kingdom. “Rosecoats” as many people called them. She watched as one man, donned with more medals than the others, grabbed for the woman. Maylie froze. The woman was not a maid.
It was her mother.
“Emilia Shadow, you have been chosen for a Trial!” the man who grabbed at her said, frustration in his voice. He wrapped his fingers around her mother’s arm. “Come willingly and your sentence will be light.”
Maylie knew that was a lie, and so did her mother since she’d told Maylie what happened at Trials. If the woman was found guilty, and she had no man to claim her, the Trial immediately became an execution.
“You can’t!” her mother shrieked, struggling out of the Rosecoat’s grip. “You have no right to barge into my home and take me!”
“Viceroy Brackley has signed the order,” the officer replied.
Why did Lord Brackley order a Trial? The Viceroy of Proyale was her future father-in-law. Her mother had good relations with him, having been the one to suggest her marriage to his son. She’d done nothing to arouse suspicion.
Maylie’s stomach churned. Unless someone caught Behn and me swimming. But if they had, a Trial would have been ordered on Maylie, not her mother. Her confusion grew alongside her fear. She wanted to move, but she stood frozen.
“My husband is returning today and will not allow this!” her mother continued.
“There is presently no Man of the House,” another Rosecoat spoke, taking iron shackles from his belt. His face was impassive, his words cold. “You are the Northern Kingdom’s until then.”
“My son is the Man of the House when my husband is away!”
“Is your son present?” the Rosecoat holding her asked.
Her mother went silent, fear in her eyes.
Behn was apprenticing with Proyale’s finest medic. Second finest, if they counted Maylie’s father, who should be returning today from his four-month tenure at sea with their Navy. Couldn’t they wait? Her father would arrive any moment, as her mother said. Why weren’t they listening? Even though she was a woman, Maylie’s mother had a talent of getting her way.
The men led her mother, screaming and thrashing as she was manacled, toward the door. This was the first time Maylie had seen her mother in a panic. She knew why—her mother would be found guilty.
To be continued in Part 2 of 4