Miist (Book One of The Bone Grit Historeum)
Now deep in the seam of maple and birch, with Shade Howl far behind, they at last came upon a clearing. Hickard pointed above the tops of the trees.
“That is where we are headed. The House of Gubelyn.”
Root’s skin thrilled in bumps. He was pointing at a rock formation bigger than whole towns. It grew out of the trees like some earthen beast. Mammoth Rock. Root recognized it instantly. From Shade Howl’s rooftops on clear days, she had been able to spy its granite layers over the vast forest.
“There’s no inn on top!” a boy cried. “It’s the Shack.”
Root drew in a breath. The Shack. The old, sick citadel of the monarchs. Technically, none of them could actually see its walls for it lay along Mammoth Rock’s plateau, too high to view. But its tragedy foretold. Once a stunning architectural feat, the hope of Lanlynne, now a tale told with tongue clucks and the shake of a head.
“I heard it houses a Krux ‘cause someone was murdered there!” a second boy said.
“Not just someone; the king himself,” the same girl who’d been talking to Dwyn answered. She seemed to know things, this girl. “King Validyn. Favoured one of the sacred line of Plenilune.”
“And the queen? Was she murdered too?”
“No. But she never fully recovered from her grief. She was the beloved one of Celstyria, the Lady of the Daystar, and it’s said that the Daystar has not shone as bright since the tragedy.”
“What’s a Krux?” another girl asked.
Know-It-All-Girl cleared her throat. “When the king died, the queen was stricken with such despair that a Krux was issued forth, a cold invisible menace intent on decaying the citadel and driving away anyone who dares to enter. Those who stay suffer dearly.”
“Awesome!” Dwyn said and pushed his way past, stepping on Root’s foot. It took everything in her to hold back a return stomp or two.