Eidolon – Prologue – Suicide, Murder, Treason

Roderick Montresor ignored the hammering of the rain against the carriage windows and stared at the three letters in his lap. Ribbons like nooses, caked in thick fragments of sealing wax, cluttered the seat beside him: purple, blue, burgundy. The color of bruises. Tight-lipped, he scanned the words in three different hands, all of them familiar. Betrayal could come from so many places, strike so close to home. His family crest showed it well—a serpent sinking its fangs into someone’s heel even as it was being crushed.

We regret to inform you that Princess Madeline…

Your cousin, Lord Allan, is dead. You must take your place as my heir…

My dearest friend, you are in grave danger…

His princess was dead. The monarch and friend he’d served so faithfully for so long—dead. And her twin brother, the next in line for the Midnight Throne—also dead. Without heirs to the royal House of Usher, the kingdom of Thule passed to the next family in line, the House of Prospero.

And then Roderick’s cousin, who looked so much like him with his dark hair and Eastern features; who’d loved him like a brother; who’d never treated him like the outcast society claimed he was, the outcast his horns—back-curved like a ram’s instead of the bull-like spikes so many aristocrats sported—claimed he was: Allan was dead, too.

Roderick’s entire life had been upended in the short hours between when the three letters had arrived and when the footmen had finished packing his bags. And through it all, he’d only wished for one thing.

Janine.

In a world gone mad, Janine could have been the shelter from the storm, the star burning through the night. But she’d already left the Isle of Zante, called home for the society season like she was every year. There was no chance of seeking solace from her now. Not now, with the eyes of Eidolon society always watching like vultures. Not now, with her grandfather caging her in his talons. Roderick couldn’t even write to her; if anyone beyond the Raven Society found out they were allies, friends…

His forehead thumped against the frigid carriage window; one curling ram’s horn scraped the glass. They were more than friends, less than sweethearts. Sweet longings and forlorn gazes, an electric brush of fingers or wingtips against exposed skin, a hand held for just a moment too long, a handkerchief borrowed and never returned. All the tokens of love but none of the words that could have filled his brittle silence now. Never the words.

It couldn’t happen. He was the half-breed son of a disgraced and muddied bloodline, only acknowledged by his uncle out of necessity. She was the heir of her own House. No matter how close they became, they were essentially worlds apart.

So there were no words or promises of words to fill the silence of the carriage dragging him back to his estranged family, to the city of Nevermore. There was only bitterness, sour on his tongue and curdling in his belly. There was only the weight of what he held on his lap. These three letters. These three world-shaking, life-shattering truths.

Suicide, murder, treason.

Eidolon – Prologue – Suicide, Murder, Treason