The Queen's Assassin (The Queen's Secret #1) - Melissa de la Cruz


A Comprehensive History of Avantine

LONG AGO, WHEN ALL THE kingdoms of Avantine were united as one under the great goddess Deia, and the mighty Dellafiore dynasty ruled over the land, there lived a terrible man named Phras.

Though he had some measure of wealth in his own right, Phras was deeply envious of his cousin, the king, who came from the Dellafiore bloodline on his mother’s side and had much stronger magical ability. This envy ate at Phras’s heart and mind until one day it consumed him entirely, and he murdered the king, taking the crown for himself.

Once in power, he erased all records of the Dellafiores so that in the future, the history of Avantine would begin with him, King Phras I.

But instead of winning the people’s hearts, he became known as the Tyrant King, for he was a cruel man, paranoid and consumed by the desire to keep magical power to himself.

With promises of riches and power beyond their ken, the Tyrant King amassed a great and powerful army, which he sent out into the land to collect every scrap of the mystical, sacred texts they could find—from recipes for potions and poultices to spell books and arcane tomes filled with dark magic and demonology. A council of his most loyal followers compiled a single document from them. These became known as the Deian Scrolls, the fount of all magical history, information, practice, and use.

No one in the kingdom was allowed access to the scrolls save for the group who had put them together, who called themselves Aphrasians, after their king. Through their efforts, King Phras learned the secrets of the darkest magic in the universe, and ruled as king and sorcerer. The Aphrasian order served as his magical soldiers and were given the castle of Baer to use as they wished. It was there that they founded their abbey.

Meanwhile, magic was decreed forbidden to the common folk, especially for the wise women, who were considered a great threat to the king and his men.

Brave witches saved as much magic as they could, which they passed on secretly. Thus the Hearthstone Guild was formed. In the early days, the Guild was simply an underground organization dedicated to preserving common and household magic; only later did it become a society of assassins and spies.

The surviving Dellafiores went into hiding. Extinct, it was said. The bloodline had died out. They were forgotten, as were the myths about mages and demons.

Over the course of his three-hundred-year rule, numerous revolts broke out against the Tyrant King, and in the wake of the tumult of his death, Avantine fractured into different kingdoms, all vying for power: Renovia to the west; Montrice to the north; Argonia to the south; Stavin to the east.

Baer Abbey lay to the west, and thus the Aphrasian monks fell under Renovia’s rule. While they were subject to their king or queen, over time their power grew so great that their leaders began to disregard the monarch and act on their own accord; after all, many of them were high-ranking aristocrats themselves. The Aphrasians believed they were subservient to no one, collecting tithes and levying taxes as they pleased. There were rumors that they kept Renovia locked in an endless cycle of wars with its neighbors, selling magic to the highest bidder and fanning hostilities while feigning loyalty to the crown.

Thus did the Aphrasian monks maintain control of the Deian Scrolls for centuries, doling out wisdom in bits and pieces as they saw fit, forcing commoners to consult them for all sorts of spiritual and physical ailments, wearing a mask of obedience before royalty as they pulled the strings of the puppet monarchs.

That is until the Tyrant King’s descendant, King Esban, toured his lands and saw the effect that lifetimes of high taxes and spiritual oppression had on his people. He decided enough was enough—magic and knowledge belonged to all. He vowed to end the Aphrasians’ reign of terror once and for all.

So rather than follow in his forefathers’ footsteps, King Esban chose to follow the peace treaty and not to attack Montrice in retaliation for their anger at his Montrician bride, as his advisors counseled. Instead, he declared war on the Aphrasians and descended upon Baer Abbey. After a lengthy battle, the king’s army prevailed, but did so at great cost. In an act of selfless bravery, King Esban gave his life for his kingdom.

Despite his sacrifice, the Deian Scrolls were not found. They disappeared