The Ruens of Fairstone (Aeon of Light Book 2)

THE RUENS
 

OF FAIRSTONE

BY

Aron Sethlen

Copyright © 2015 by Aron Sethlen. All rights reserved.

This is a work of fiction. Any similarities to actual persons
 

living or dead, business, events, or locales is coincidental.

Reproduction in whole or part of this publication
 

without express written consent is strictly prohibited.

A Station Press book.

THE RUENS
 

OF FAIRSTONE

AEON OF LIGHT

BOOK TWO

CONTENTS

MAP

ONE

THE FALCON CREST

TWO

NERO

THREE

THREE MORE YEARS

FOUR

SLANDEROUS ACCUSATIONS

FIVE

YITCH’S REPOSITORY OF YITCH

SIX

THE LOWER LORD OF THE NORTH

SEVEN

EXTRACURRICULAR EXCURSION

EIGHT

HINER’S FORMULAIC PHYLUM

NINE

MYSTERY & MISCHIEF

TEN

A MARLOW SECRET

ELEVEN

INSIDE INFORMATION

TWELVE

A WHIP, A SCAR, A STAR, & A GOAT
 

THIRTEEN

SOMETHING FROM THE CESSPOOL

FOURTEEN

THE OFFER

FIFTEEN

TA-DA—SURPRISE

SIXTEEN

A NEW LIGHT

SEVENTEEN

EYES ON THE PRIZE

EIGHTEEN

CROSSBONES

NINETEEN

DELUSIONS OF GRANDEUR

TWENTY

THE TRIAL

TWENTY-ONE

ROUND TWO

TWENTY-TWO

A STARRY-EYED PLAN

TWENTY-THREE

NASTY LOVE

TWENTY-FOUR

TAKE A BOW

TWENTY-FIVE

SCORCHED STONE

TWENTY-SIX

NO JOKING MATTER

TWENTY-SEVEN

CLEANING UP

TWENTY-EIGHT

A HEAVY HEART

TWENTY-NINE

SLAVE DRIVER

THIRTY

LES & RAD

THIRTY-ONE

HAWKE EYE

THIRTY-TWO

CORNELIUS CRAY

THIRTY-THREE

PAST MEMORIES

THIRTY-FOUR

ESEN’ER

THIRTY-FIVE

A CASE OF THE HICCUPS

THIRTY-SIX

OLD FRIENDS

THIRTY-SEVEN

A GUISE OF ICE

THE FALCON CREST

A bitter wind howls as it sweeps through an enormous circular courtyard surrounded by thick blackish castle walls. A dusting of crystal-like snow lies upon the smooth cobblestone paths winding through the evergreen shrubbery. Drooping stems and limp brown grass peek through the thin white cover. Varying sizes of regular and stained glass windows, from tall lancelets, to wide and panoramic are inlaid in the castle’s massive stone blocks. Icicles droop precariously from their eaves, daring anyone to pass underneath do so at their own risk. Barren trees with peeling grey bark dot the park-like surroundings, and granite benches line the walkways next to copper lamp posts with green-and-orange patinas. In the center of the yard lies a small pond with a crust of translucent ice floating on the surface. A cobblestone bridge arcs away from the intersection of three paths and it extends to a miniature island with two benches and an Ida tree on it. The withered and ancient tree with crooked wide branches, two thousand years removed from its natural habitat, its spirit all but a faint memory. The bark is the color of bone, pure white as the falling snow around its knobby base. A single bright-red leaf dangles from one of its arthritic limbs. A gust of wind howls, and the leaf detaches with a slight flutter, descending as a feather and coming to rest in a bed of snow. Near the entrance of the bridge, directly in the center of the intersection of paths, snow swirls around a weathered brass plaque embedded in the stone, reading:
The footsteps of greatness begin here at Fairstone
.

Pard Wenerly’s worn black shoe strikes the center of the plaque, landing on a raised crest molded in the shape of a falcon. The sole slowly lifts an inch off the ground and crashes back down as Sully, a dwarf-like handsome blond boy wearing a similar black robe with a yellow falcon crest patch over the left side of his chest, pops out from behind a stand of evergreen shrubs; he yells, “Hey, Wenerly, I got something special for you today!”

Startled, Pard’s shoe twitches on the icy plaque and the sole locks in place on the wings of the falcon. The tattered bottoms of his black robe rest on his shoelaces.

Sully launches a high arcing snowball at Pard crouched over and standing out in the open, a floppy wool hood attached to Pard’s robe obscures his face. Excited, Sully jumps up and down watching his snowball tracking its target. “Take that!”

Pard shifts the large stack of thick textbooks in his arms and lifts the lip of his hood to see who’s yelling at him. Wayward strands of his medium-length disheveled brown hair droop over his hazel eyes while other unruly locks flutter in the bitter breeze. He squints from the bright morning sunlight reflecting off the ice and snow.
 

The snowball falls from the sky in slow motion and explodes with a splatter a few paces in front of Pard’s feet. Pard shuffles backward as he stares at the snowball meant for him. His feet slip again on the slick plaque and his body twists in place.

“Not like that, Sully,” Nox, a tall, buzzed-cut, muscular boy says. He tilts his giant body to the side, winds back his arm, and whips another snowball at Pard still standing in the center of the courtyard, looking around and oblivious.

The fastball zips with ferocity through the whirlwinds, barreling toward an unsuspecting Pard.

Pard lifts his gaze as the projectile races straight for his forehead. His eyes widen and legs shift to run but all they do is slip on the brass plaque and slick cobblestones. His upper body undulates as he tries to keep his feet underneath him. His arms shoot out to the side to steady himself and six textbooks fly out of his numb hands. Pard regains himself in time for the snowball to strike him on the side of the head. He groans and crumples to the ground.

“Nice one, Nox,” Sully says as he jumps up and punches the ugly boy’s shoulder.

Nox sneers at Pard squirming on the ground in a daze. He grins and lets out a couple puffs of sarcastic air.

Sully slings his leather backpack and angles his body toward a giant set of double oak doors leading into the west wing of the castle. “Come on, Nox, lets get to class, you know how Professor Lames gets if we’re late.”

Pard fondles the ground and his palm finds the brass plaque of Fairstone. His skin burns from the cold metal biting deep into his bones. He slowly shakes his head regaining his senses, and he blinks from the bright sun glaring in his face. “
Why me
?”
 

An outline of an outstretched hand hovers in front of Pard, the rest of the body is obscured by the sun’s rays.
 

“You should know better by now, Wenerly,” a boy says in a half-mocking and half-serious tone. “Got to keep your head on a swivel around here.”

Pard sighs and grips the boy’s hand. “Says you, Miles, since when did you ever have to keep your head on a swivel from snowballs?”

“Well, we’re not talking about me, right?” Miles chuckles and yanks Pard to his feet.

Pard’s shoes slip again on the slick stones as he tries to steady himself. He mumbles, “Only three more years.”

Miles’s eyes narrow. “Did you say something?”

“Nothing, never mind.”

“So are you all right? It looked like a vicious hit from where I was standing.”

Pard rubs his sore head and takes in Miles, a boy around the same age as him, fourteen or fifteen, taller, jet-black hair and good-looking in a carefree and confident way, aquamarine eyes, almost translucent, and a pedigree and demeanor very different from himself. Pard forces a smile back at Miles. “I’ll be fine, just slipped on the ice is all.” He scans the ground at all his textbooks and papers strung out over the cobblestones and patches of dead grass and snow, some of his loose papers fluttering away in the breeze and sweeping over the surface of the ice-crusted pond.

Miles slaps Pard’s back. “Let’s go, I’ll help you gather your things. Then we can take on Professor Ames together and both be late for history class.”

“Thanks,” Pard says as he bends over and picks up two of his textbooks. He glances around the elegant, ancient courtyard in a slight daze, still woozy from the headshot. A snowflake strikes his eyelash, and he blinks. He turns around, toward north, away from the main body of the horseshoe-like castle, and barely outside its walls to the left, a vast linear greenhouse. The glass walls sweat with steam, and inside, small trees and a lush garden of heirloom plants. Next to the greenhouse to the right, east, also detached from the castle by only a cobblestone road, the Lower School where all the students under the age of thirteen attend and live, and is a miniature castle in of itself, though with grey walls instead of black. The walls rise forty feet with two large turrets as bookends. In the center of the Lower School, a clock tower rising into the sky like a beacon above both castles. Much further to the right, another detached building, circular, known as The Eye, housing all the science classes; and in the center of The Eye, a four-story cylindrical tower, an observatory with a large telescope poking out its domed roof. Dotting the small paths and roads throughout the northern grounds of Fairstone, the Fell Village, a collection of twenty small-to-medium-sized cottages where the professors and their families or guests reside.

Miles lifts a worn tan leather-bound book unlike the other textbooks. A claw and a wide-branched Ida tree is branded in black on the front cover along with odd letters and symbols which Miles doesn’t recognize. “Hey, this doesn’t look like any textbook I’ve ever seen, is this for next year’s class?”

Pard flinches his attention back to Miles and snatches the book out of his hand. “No, it’s a book I found in the library and I’m reading it.”

“Looks interesting if you’re into reading that stuff.” Miles points at the mysterious text. “So what’s it about? Hey, you aren’t into any of that wonky witchcraft, are you?”

“No, it’s history.” Pard snaps up the last of his reachable errant papers tumbling in the breeze and jams them with the rest of the others into the bindings of one of his books.

“What kind of history?” Miles says with a touch of suspicion. “Those symbols don’t look like any history I’ve ever seen or read.”

Pard ignores him and shakes him off then angles his shoulder toward the west wing’s oak double doors. “Just history, come on, we better get to class before we’re really
really
late.”

 
A blast of warm air hits Pard as he enters the west wing, the north entrance of the castle. His lungs open, free from the bitter cold constricting his chest outside. A long, tall, wide hallway with immaculate, shiny birch wooden floors extend away from Pard as far as he can see. At regular intervals, except for the occasional door leading to a side classroom, glass-encased lanterns jut out from either the stone or the mahogany paneled walls, followed by paintings of either a landscape or a portrait. Massive iron chandeliers with gas lights on them droop from the ceiling followed by slow moving fans, and then the pattern repeats. In between each door on either side of the corridor, a shiny-winged cast iron radiator rests next to the walls.

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