Blades Of Illusion: Crown Service #2 – First and Second Chapters

Hello readers,

Ahead of the release Blades Of Illusion: Crown Service #2, I’m sharing with you the first two chapters! Some of my first readers have had a crack at it and I thought it was time that you got a sneak peek into the newest book in my Algardis Universe!

Please keep in mind that this has not been copy edited, but I hope you enjoy and look forward to the full read!

On a personal note, as I switch back to the Crown Service series I do so with intense excitement. There are going to be some surprises in store that you wouldn’t believe!

But Sara Fairchild is up for everything as a masterful heroine who doesn’t back down from any challenge – physical or emotional. =) Lastly, this has been a fun and complete re-write of the 2nd book which was released on Amazon-only in 2014. As a reader I hope you’ll enjoy this new take on Sara Fairchild’s adventures and as I finish up the second book in the Crown Service series, I hope you’re ready to go on this journey with me! Here’s a taste of what’s in store for you with the first two chapters of the new Blades Of Illusion: Crown Service #2.

As Sara Fairchild cautiously made her way through the portal doorway in front of her, the victorious shouts of the First Division members behind her did nothing to comfort her.

She was stiff with anger and furious at their betrayal.

Captain Simon Barthis and his mercenaries had proven just moments before that they were everything she had despised as a child — ruthless, uncaring, and most of all — disloyal.

They had not only left their comrades, men and women behind, but had actually knowingly engineered a strategy which all but guaranteed the massacre of hundreds of fellow mercenaries in their ranks. Faces and names flashed before her eyes like ghosts arisen. She couldn’t speak to their betrayals now, but she certainly would when the time was right.

As Sara stared at the living mercenaries who followed her through the summoned portal with jovial claps on each other’s back and jokes as some took the time to poke and prod at their esteemed prisoner, she just grew angrier. Not at their treatment of Nissa, the sun mage, but at the studied nonchalance of a group which had just committed the worse crime one could commit in a warrior’s eyes.

They had turned tail and ran. Now here they stood laughing and Sara could only see red — the red of anger overcoming every emotion and the fury of the battle mage taking its place.

“Don’t let them bait you Sara,” she heard Ezekiel say from a far off distance.

And she was trying.

Trying to listen to the scholarly man beside her, as he was her voice of reason. She needed to hold back the righteous anger of the Fairchild family that was rising in her like molten fire if she wanted any chance of finding out the reason her father was executed.

But that anger was eager.

Eager to burn and consume anyone in her path.

Turning away from the celebrating factions, Sara rolled the coiled muscles in her shoulders carefully. Trying to ease up. Let the tension drain out as her mother had taught her.

Anna Beth Fairchild had meant for Sara to learn to use the tactic as a way to regain inner peace, but Sara’s father had taught her that peace was just another word for tranquility. The inner stillness in a warrior’s heart before they struck.

“And I’m ready,” she said with a fierce grin.

“Ready to let this go?” Ezekiel said in a nervous voice. “Come on Sara, we’re surrounded. Just like in the woods. There’s nowhere to go and more than a few hundred of them against just…us.”

Sara didn’t bother acknowledging his words. They were true. But she didn’t need back-up. She never had and if she was being honest — she wouldn’t consider Ezekiel Crane someone to fight by her side even if she had.

Instead she said in a calm tone, “They made their choices.”

“And we made ours,” he said in a voice that was just above a wheedle. “In the woods, when we handed over the sun mage to the captain.”

“That was before,” she snapped.

Ezekiel moved to stand in her line of vision. Not in her way but certainly not where he could be ignored either. She didn’t really care. She could knock Ezekiel out and keep moving the second she needed to.

“Before?” the scholar asked quietly while opening and closing his hands nervously. He probably could tell from her face that she was very close to making a decision.

“Before I knew what the captain had done,” she continued in a quieter tone.

As they argued, she even tried to rationalize to herself what the captain had ordered done as a practical application in the face overwhelming odds. But as she stared around at more joking faces, nothing about this struck her as tactical. Besides she could see a dozen different scenarios that a proper commander could have implemented to save lives.

Their own mercenaries’ lives.

Standing here surrounded by traitorous mercenaries, Sara was taken back to the visual of the ones who had killed her mother and set her world on fire. Oh, they’d been from a different company — the Red Lion guard but mercenaries were all the same.

Now the members of the First Division, the very same division she had been so unwillingly been elevated to, brushed her aside as they moved to slap each other on the shoulders in congratulations and relieved laughter. But she couldn’t understand how they now held their heads high as they more-and-more division members joined them as they walked through the summoned portal beside and behind her.

It was like being surrounded by a sea of wolves. And Sara Fairchild knew just what to do with wolves. You culled them before they could become a threat to the herd, in this case the rest of Her Imperial Majesty’s troops. Because whatever else she was. Disgraced as she was. Sara was still honor bound to upload her imperial charter.

Matter decided Sara’s lip curled into a contemptuous sneer as her hands itched by her side. She had only one of two weapons remaining — her childhood sword — but that was all she needed to start lopping off heads until the ground at her feet was littered with the round remains.

It would be fitting end to their cowardice after all.  This was no way to honor their dead and she knew that she had been right as a child, mercenaries were the dirt beneath a true soldier of Algardis’s feet.

She wanted to act. Her blood and her father’s dead voice was urging her to do right by the individuals she had served with. The ones who didn’t come through the portal with them. It didn’t matter that she had only done so reluctantly. It also didn’t matter that she’d only been marching and riding with them for a few weeks at most.

Sara Fairchild knew that she had hated the majority of the mercenaries on sight as well. It wasn’t personal. It was just professional preference. She was an elite fighter born and bred, and they were the dregs of the martial society in which she’d grown up in.

As one mercenary came up to her with a clap on her shoulder he said, “Well Fairchild — why don’t you wipe that scowl off your face? You’re a First Division now and we made it to the front lines. Smile, celebrate.”

Sara froze. Not out of fear. But out of the body-aching restraint it took to not slice his hand clean off at the wrist…just for touching her.

Instead she did what any good girl would do.

Giving no warning, she ducked down and kicked out with swift force. Taking him off his feet with surprise, Sara didn’t stop there. She used her right hand to push herself back up off the ground and lunged for his neck.

Wrapping her hands around his grungy flesh was the most satisfying she’d done since she’d been delivered so unceremoniously to the fields of war.

Even caught off surprise, she could sense his battle instincts kicking in.

Too bad, they didn’t come close to hers.

He was reaching for his weapons at his waist, but Sara already had her thumbs at the pulse points of his neck and was cutting off the circulation. The oxygen he needed to think, to speak, to act even was being deprived from his desperate brain.

Joy surged in her heart as she pressed harder. She had him just where she wanted him and she felt his flopping limbs, protesting her grip with ineffectual slaps, grow weaker as he went limp.

She took no joy in slow killings. Only in necessary ones.

But still, this one would feel good. She could tell.

“Release him,” came the command from behind her.

Sara stilled. She didn’t break her hold but she didn’t twist and snap his neck like she’d prefer either. She had been trained to respond to authority and whether she liked it or not, she was a member of this derelict band of mercenaries. At least for now.

So with a sigh of disgust, Sara stepped back and released him with look of warning.

He could get up and she would end him. Or he could stay down and live.

Her opponent chose to live. He fell back into the mud, spluttering and coughing while she looked around defiantly waiting for one of his fellow mercenaries to come forward and take her on in his place.

But none did.

Disgusted, Sara said, “Cowards, all of you. You didn’t stand up for your fellow men on the fields of battle and now this. Does none of you have one shred of dignity about you?”

She was furious.

She wanted a fight. And having these mercenaries, all of whom were supposed to be tough as nails, just stand around with fingers up their asses was doing nothing for her curdling blood.

She wanted to punched faces and break bones. She couldn’t do that if they weren’t willing to step forward on the killing grounds first.

So she lashed out at them with her words, “You’re all despicable. Your ancestors’ greatest shame.”

That at least got some of their attentions. A woman with the braids of the Mung people threaded prettily in her hair stepped forward with narrowed eyes and a firm grip on the baton she carried at her waist. Sara was quite aware of her peoples’ traditions and she knew this one would honor her forefathers every night beside the fire she built at camp.

“You think you’re so right, so tough,” the Mung woman said with fire of her own in her voice. “Say that again and I’ll tear your tongue from your mouth.”

Sara smiled and opened her mouth but she didn’t get a chance to utter a third challenge.

Instead the portal behind them all flashed in warning, indicating imminent closure, and the last of the Corcoran Guard stepped through.

As one the mercenaries turned and saluted with sharp military precision.

Sara didn’t bother doing the same. Instead she strode forward as the Captain came amidst them and began conversing with several of his top lieutenants — pointing all the while with animation at something in the distance.

Sara assumed he was gesturing towards the Empress’s encampment and giving instructions for their deployment but she didn’t bother listening to what he said.

As she walked forward the Captain turned to them all and smiled. Several of his mercenaries raised their fists in salute and some shifted towards her ominously, as they remembered what they’d been about to do before their leader walked through the portal.

Sara paid them no mind, because now that the person responsible for those atrocities was here, her focus wasn’t on a fight with them. As she drew closer, discontent and rumbles grew. Mercenaries who might stand by as she disrespected them, but not their captain. But it was the captain who held up a warning hand to the mercenaries who’d put hands to weapons. Stilling as they followed his lead, he just looked at her with a hard gaze. He couldn’t know what she intended to do as she walked forward but the violence anticipated by his mercenaries had them all on edge.

So when she acted — the cold swift silence that swept across the field was brutal.

Sara gathered up a big ball of spit between her lips and then with the deadly accuracy of a person who could aim just as well with the natural weapons of her body as she could with the metal weapons normally in her hands, she spat directly in Simon’s face.

He didn’t blink or jerk away. Instead the spit slid down his face glistening wet like a badge of honor.

For a moment silence wrapped around them all and she waited for his reaction.

Instead the captain of the Corcoran Guard, like the puss-filled coward he was, simply reached into his pocket and pulled out a clean white handkerchief.

Snapping it open with a contemplative look at her while never taking his eyes from her fury-laced gaze, he wiped the spittle from his cheek.

Then he stepped forward and leaned in to whisper coldly into Sara’s ear.

“You’re a little a hellcat, aren’t you?” the captain of the Corcoran Guard asked her quietly.

Sara leaned back and kept her hands at the ready as she said with no remorse, “Not so little, you traitorous scum.”

Upon release the 2nd book in the Crown Service series will be live at http://terahedun.com/bladesofillusion

The captain stepped back with a bit of a smirk on his face as he said, “I serve my empire and Empress. There has never been and never will be the taint of traitor to my name. Unlike some who stand before me.”

Sara Fairchild stiffened. There was no way he didn’t know who her father was — not after that remark anyway. It sometimes felt like everyone she met did. But she couldn’t pull out a weapon against him without provocation. Not here, not now.

She had to be smart about this, so Sara only shook her head as she said, “Keep my family out of your mouth.”

He raised a curious eyebrow.

“Please, Sir,” Sara spit out in a tone which indicated she was being forced to add in the polite entendre…if only for their audience’s sake.

He was the Captain after all. Maybe he even had some remorse for what he’d done. Though no explanation could ever come close absolving what he had facilitated in her eyes.

But if anything Captain Barthis’s next words were even more cutting. “Believe me I would be more inclined to do so, if I had thought the teachings those family members instilled in you went beyond strike first and think later.”

There was no remorse to be had. Not from him and not for him.

Sara felt her ears burn at the casual dismissal of everything her father had worked so hard to teach her. It didn’t help that the mercenaries surrounding them were hearing every word. Listening. Perhaps even judging. They already thought she was a spoiled warrior caste kid, she didn’t need to give them any reason to assume they were right about those assumptions.

She felt her back crawl with the stares but she didn’t turn and look them in the eyes. Her attention was solely on her captain, as his was on her.

It remained to be seen if each was intensely focused on the other so both could see the twitch of a muscle before the other chose to strike.

Taking in a swift calculating breath, Sara decided to give him one more chance.

One more chance to be the man that a leader was supposed to be.

She stared straight into his soul as she said, “Say what you have to say Captain, but I’d watch the words that leach from your mouth next. You’re already on thin ice in my book.”

Barthis’s gaze, if possible, grew even more distant.

“I don’t answer to an underling and certainly not to a Fairchild,” he said in a clipped tone. “Fall back.”

“And if I don’t?” she asked in a firm tone.

“Then you’ll make this a battle you can’t win. You forget that I, like you, am a battle mage. But I have decades more experience under my belt and if my swords leave their sheaths only one person’s head will roll, ” he said softly — so low that she was certain he didn’t mean for the others to hear.

Sara wasn’t so sure about that, but she knew he was right. Mage to mage, they were equal. So it would come down to technique and prowess and with his time on the battlefield, there was no certainty she could come out ahead, let alone victorious.

Barthis didn’t give her any more time to think that over though.

“Fall back mercenary, I don’t fight girls who could learn to do better before they make the same mistakes their fathers made,” he barked in a voice that was meant to carry over many heads.

That had been a direct order. He wasn’t challenging her. He was demeaning her. And according to the rules of engagement, there wasn’t a damned thing she could do about it. They weren’t standing in a dark alley in Sandrin after all. She stood on the field of battle before her commanding officer. A man she now officially despised more than ever but still served under.

Taking stock of the situation Sara let another moment pass, deciding what to do. How to respond.

“Sara!” hissed a voice she was well aware belonged to Ezekiel Crane.

She ignored him. As did the captain.

Her entire focus was on the man before her. Peripherally she was aware of all the mercenaries surrounding them, tense and anxious — if just to see what their captain made of this upstart. They, as well as she, were assessing Barthis’s actions. They wanted to see what to make of the man who was leading them. Maybe they even had their own doubts, hidden deep, about him.

“If only these idiots had a spine,” Sara said grimly.

“What was that?” the captain asked in a clipped tone. “Are you finally ready to give in upstart? I have been more than patient with you. Now and before.”

Sara’s lips twitched. “Feeling backed into a corner Captain?”

“Not a chance. Just…self-aware. You brought me my sun mage after all. I can forgive a lot for that. But there’s only so much forgiveness you’ll get,” he said while ending in a tight voice. He was feeling out her reticence and her willingness to back down.

Sara knew that was what he was doing because she had studied and been studying his moves since she’d met him weeks ago. He was a fighter that was true, but he was even more consummate tactician — on and off the battlefield.

She’d come to the conclusion that he was dangerous. But so was she.

What she didn’t have was the dark streak of manipulation that she saw running through his core every time she tapped into her gifts. It was the positive side of battle magic — being given the ability to see a person’s intent and divine their true self with it. It was like opening a window to a person’s soul every time she used it. She had sensed murkiness in his aura ever since she’d first met him in the fighting yards of the Mercenary’s Guild.

But by the same token, she couldn’t assess everything there was to know about him instantly. Not without making herself vulnerable to his own intrusions as well. Battle mages had natural enemies on the fighting fields, but for the most part their deadliest singular adversaries were each other. They could all divine intent and they could all enhance their abilities both magically and physically on the battlefield.

What differentiated one from the other was their training and their emotional health.

Many battle mages didn’t even live to Sara’s age because the people who surrounded them didn’t realize what it was they had in their midst to it was too late. Too late to help them, too late to guide them.

That hadn’t happened with Sara Fairchild because she had been born into a family of legendary battle mages.

It also hadn’t happened to Simon Barthis because someone somewhere had recognized who and what he was from an early age. Not as she stared at him with hard, contemptuous eyes Sara couldn’t let herself to allow hate to cloud a genuine assessment of the man.

Personal feelings had no place in a fight, it would only get in the way of her necessary actions. So now she studied and catalogued him for who he was.

Scum beneath her feet but devious scum, one she would have to watch her back with. Not as bad as a certain fishery owner, but worse that Sara wanted in the captain she served — reluctantly or not. She knew that as clearly as she’d seen into the mindset of Cormar, owner of one fishery and a warehouse with more illegal artifacts than sense. That particular man would have killed her as soon as look at her if she stole from him, and she had the feeling that she and Ezekiel still hadn’t seen the last of him thanks to a weapon the scholar had purloined from his warehouse.

As Sara stared down Simon though, she sensed that he didn’t want to kill her. Not yet anyway. Which didn’t meant she trusted him either as her hand hovered over but not on the handle of the weapon at her waist.

She wasn’t a fool. She was surrounded by trained mercenaries in too tight of a formation. She wouldn’t even be able to unsheathe her sword and get off more than a few cuts before they quickly converged. But her knife, well that was another matter.

Apparently her hesitance to fall back and her growing confidence in her ability to hold her own in a fight irked the captain. She saw it in the tightening of his eyes as his mouth thinned in displeasure as well.

But for some insane reason, he still didn’t want her dead for her display of misbehavior.

“Oh, don’t get too cocky. I’ll have you punished one way or another girl,” the captain said in a voice that promised retribution.

Sara settled herself into the dry dirt — more sure now that ever. This was going to be a fight that ended with blood on her hands. Her eyes gleamed in anticipation as she waited for it to begin.

Throwing the first punch wasn’t her style, but it seemed that this was the only way she was going to get some justice this afternoon….well, so be it.

Leaning back just a bit while keeping his voice low Captain Simon said in a conversational tone, “Why don’t you take a little look to your left?”

With a flick of his glance he quickly indicated what he meant.

Sara didn’t have to. She knew exactly where Ezekiel was standing. She had kept an eye own him from the moment he walked through the gates. She just hadn’t considered that the captain would be willing to use him as an incentive to keep her in line.

As she noted Ezekiel’s new predicament, she grimaced and had to admit she should have. A man willing to sacrifice his own to get to his destination a few days ahead of schedule was willing to do a lot of things she wouldn’t.

As for Ezekiel, he stood calmly held by the muscle-bound idiots that stood snugly at his side. An overt threat if she ever saw one.

Sara smirked and raised her hands slowly, “This matter should be between you and me Captain.”

“No underling,” Captain Barthis Simon said coldly. “It’s between an officer and his troops. You want to sow mutiny amongst my people, well you should be well aware of how vulnerable that makes you and your friends — the single one you have anyway.”

Sara sucked her teeth as she held back a sentence that was likely to get Ezekiel gutted.

Instead she said, “I didn’t sow mutiny. I merely spoke my peace.”

Captain Simon raised mocking eyebrow, “Oh, is that what you call spittle to the face? Words?”

Sara said flatly, “You shouldn’t have abandoned your own. No leader does what you did and shouldn’t be reprimanded.”

“I’ll leave it to the fair Empress to make that decision,” Captain Simon said while tapping his fingers on his crossed arms. “For now though — whatever shall I do with you?”

Sara said, “Do what you please.”

“Oh, I shall,” snapped the captain. “Starting with punishment for disobedience and assault of a superior officer in accordance to the Imperial rules of conduct.”

Sara shifted uneasily on her feet. Those were a lot of words and very little action. Precisely what did he have in mind?

“Oh and Fairchild?” the Captain said with a spark in his eyes.

Sara raised her chin in acknowledgement, waiting to hear his words.

“Behave,” the captain purred. “Or your educated friend over there will get the same treatment and I assure you…it won’t be pretty. Agreed?”

Sara’s jaw froze and she felt her fingers curl into her fists by her side. But she deliberately relaxed her hands and took a quick look around at the overwhelming odds. She couldn’t get to him if she didn’t want to call upon a battle rage and she didn’t. She needed to get past this challenge and onward to even greater misdeeds. Her father’s among them.

So Sara Fairchild decided to do something she never did in a fight. She was going to stand down.

“Fairchild,” the Captain chided while waiting for her answer.

Finally Sara Fairchild gave a tense nod and with a dark smile the captain took a few steps back and Sara was left standing alone in a circle.

Then calmly Captain Simon turned in a broad circle with arms raised as he said, “What say you mercenaries?”

There was silence.

They weren’t shy. Just wary.

Then a voice spoke up. “She needs to be taught a lesson!”

Captain Simon Barthis chuckled and nodded his head as he said, “You know what I couldn’t agree more?”

So he turned back to a wary and tense Sara. Oh, she knew that something bad was coming. How bad. Well, that depended on how wounded the captain was feeling. He didn’t want to her challenge her to a battle to death, but he wanted her to feel pain.

She knew that and pain she would feel.

Then he stopped playing games and told those surrounding them in a flat breath, “Men why don’t you teach our newest member a lesson in respect?”

Then he stepped back and the group surrounding Sara alone stepped forward with eager hardness in their eyes.

Hands raised.

Swords sheathed.

A world of hurt promised in their eyes.

Upon release the 2nd book in the Crown Service series will be live at http://terahedun.com/bladesofillusion

Announcing the Blades of Magic Re-Read Marathon AND a sneak peek into Blades of Illusion!

Hello readers,

November is turning into an exciting month!

I know that many of you are extremely excited for the next book in my second Algardis Universe series – well, wait no further! We’re getting started on it now and giving you a chance to bone up on the Crown Service series before we launch. So, it’s time to get super hyped for the new material and read along!

In anticipation of a lot of readers who don’t remember precisely what happened in Blades of Magic, Rachel and I are hosting a re-read marathon in the Guild starting TOMORROW, NOVEMBER 1ST!

Every five days we’ll start a brand new set of chapters, discuss the twists and turns, and talk about what we loved about this particular book. November 1st will begin the discussion of Chapters 1-5, so you’re right on time to join in!

If you are interested in participating, then grab up your paperback or ebook copy and join your fellow readers in our private Facebook group. If you haven’t bought Blades of Magic yet then we offering a special free addition only to read-along members so that no one is left behind!

We really hope you enjoy the first book in the series and are looking forward to book two!

__________

Next, if you’d like a (unedited) sneak peek into BLADES OF ILLUSION: CROWN SERVICE #2 read on for an excerpt of Chapter 1! As soon as I can I will be announcing a RELEASE DAY on this post as well, so happy to be diving back into the world of Sara Fairchild of the Crown Service series. 😀

As Sara Fairchild stumbled through the portal doorway in front of her, the victorious shouts of the First Division members behind her did nothing to comfort her.

She was stiff with anger and furious at their betrayal.

Captain Simon Barthis and his mercenaries had proved just moments before that they were everything she had despised as a child — ruthless, uncaring and most of all — disloyal.

They had not only left their comrades, men and women behind, but had actually knowingly engineered a strategy which all but guaranteed the massacre of hundreds of fellow mercenaries in their ranks.

She couldn’t understand how they now held their heads high as they walked through the summoned portal beside and behind her.

Sara’s lip curled into a sneer as her hands itched by her side. She had only one weapon remaining — her childhood sword — but that was all she needed to start lopping off heads until the ground at her feet was littered with the round remains.

It would be fitting end to their cowardice after all.  This was no way to honor their dead and she knew that she had been right as a child, mercenaries were the dirt beneath a true soldier of Algardis’s feet.

More excerpts for the new book – Blades of Illusion: Crown Service #2 coming soon! Dip into the Blades of Magic re-read discussion while you wait. 😉

Sworn To Restoration: Courtlight #11 is HERE!

HAPPY BOOK BIRTHDAY!!!

I’ve been excited all fall to get this new book out to you and am happy to say that Sworn To Restoration: Courtlight #11 is LIVE on all retailers right now. If you’d like to read the first chapter for FREE check out this link. And if you do read and love the book or the Courtlight series, it would mean so much if you left a review on your favorite retailer! We’re hosting an amazing giveaway just for those reviewers but you have to get it in before Nov. 3rd! Good luck and enjoy the latest and greatest in the Courtlight series!

If you’d like to chat about the series, join us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram and let us know your favorite lines!

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AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | KOBO | IBOOKS | GOOGLEPLAY

~*~*~*~*~*

Ciardis has seen the goddess for what she is a bloodthirsty deity bent on breaking them before eliminating everyone Ciardis knows and loves.

She, the daemoni prince, and Sebastian, the sitting emperor of Algardis, have set a trap. A plan in motion that will unleash a wave of magic across the land in quantities not seen since the Initiate Wars.

Ciardis knows this is their only hope to defeat a god, but she can only pray that she doesn’t do the goddess’s work in the process by inadvertently killing the citizens of the empire that she had vowed to protect.

But the battle has begun and she’ll do what she has to protect the people she cares about – her family, her friends, her empire. When all the gods feel free to intervene, you do what you have to make sure that the one which wants to destroy you never makes the same mistake twice. In a battle between an immortal and a mortal, the humans are coming to win.

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My personal Facebook profile is separate from my official Facebook author page which has over 11,000 followers now. I try to keep my updates on the official page serious with new release content and sales. The personal profile carries news about word counts, book progress and fun stuff. I invite all of you to join me on both!

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Entire Terah Edun catalog on sale for OverDrive’s Back To School Promotion

The entire Courtlight series has been included in the OverDrive catalog promotion for Back To School. Librarians and teachers here’s your chance to beef up your catalog of Algardis Universe books. Head over to the OverDrive Markeplace today!

It’s Back to School season and OverDrive, the retail site with over 20,000 libraries, has tons of content on sale to kick off your school year right! Shop from over 25,000 kids and teen titles up to 50% off through September 30th including titles organized by grade levels and interest levels, collections of picture books and graphic novels, classics and academic resources plus much more. There are 10+ Terah Edun catalog titles in this sale and you don’t want to miss it. The catalog has criss-crossed the United States and foreign countries, finding purchases in libraries near and far – like the Los Angeles Public Library and those below.

“The magic in this fascinating fantasy world is intriguing, and I look forward to more adventure, suspense and romance!”

~ Leslie Jackson, Youth Services, Woodland Park Public Library

“Like Tamora Pierce, but bloodier.”

~ Athens-Limestone Public Library teen reader

“Edun’s complex magical system…and unpredictable plot twists set the stage for more adventures in this enchanted world.”
~ Kirkus Reviews

“Teens will find Sworn to Raise a compelling saga of magic, romance, and one young woman’s struggle to find and understand her role in her world.”
~ Midwest Book Review

“Intriguing and compelling!”
~ Whitney Waddell, Brentwood Public Librarian

“If you’re a fantasy lover, this is one world you don’t want to miss out on!”
~ City Of Books, #15 Best Reviewer on Goodreads

“Sure to whet readers’ appetite for suspense and intrigue…”
~ RT Book Review – 4 Stars

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Three New Releases including Sworn To Quell: Courtlight #10

Readers, I can’t thank you all enough for the emails, the messages, and the love! Seriously, you light up my life. I am happy to tell you that Sworn To Quell: Courtlight #10 is DONE DONE DONE. It is one of the longest books I’ve written in this series at 85,000 words and I seriously hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Without further ado, here is your latest release in the Algardis Universe!

SWORN TO QUELL: COURTLIGHT #10

Check out what the ARC Readers had to say about Book 10:

“Intriguing and nail biting anticipation to see what is going to happen page after page.” – Mary

“Definitely in love with this book. The series as a whole has been amazing and kept my interest the whole time.” -JennBerry

“Lots of twists, turns, and epic surprises await you. So prepare yourself and enjoy!”

-Samantha Pavia

Ciardis Weathervane witnessed the collapse of her empire’s system of governance. Because everything pivoted on the rule of one man. Now she must forge a new path. Through the madness. Through the chaos.

Still with the imperial palace in ruins, and the coalition between the nobles and the rebellion falling apart, there is no more time. No time to rule. No time to justify.

The god was here for retribution, and her triad would be forced to rise to the occasion or fall under its own bluster.

With an emperor dead, a prince heir uncrowned, and a people lost in the wilderness of death and destruction every which way they turn, Ciardis faces her most challenging assignment yet. Picking up the pieces. Mending the coalition. Winning the hearts and minds of Sebastian’s people. The people she could now call her own.

The heavens have come to earth. It remains to be seen if the earth will fall before its might.

Next, last but not least – below the two latest compilations/boxed sets that I have to offer you!

 

Many of you have emailed and asked for more compilations and boxed sets! So today, in addition to the brand new release of Sworn To Quell: Courtlight #10, I am announcing the release of:

Algardis Universe Short Stories: Compendium 1

Courtlight Series Boxed Set: Books 7-9

The short stories compendium is for the readers who prefer to have a single compact set to peruse at their leisure of my pre-released (and free on the newsletter: teedun.com/news) short stories set in the lands you are familiar with from the Courtlight and Crown Service series. It includes the first three short stories written in the Algardis Universe: The Rose Hedgewitch, Across The Arid Seas, and Lillian In Heels.

Next, the Courtlight Series Boxed Set is a compilation of the last three books in the Courtlight Series: Sworn To Vengeance, Book 7, Sworn To Sovereignty, Book 8, and Sworn To War, Book 9. You can grab both the boxed set and the compendium on all retail stores including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iBooks, and Google Play.

Last but not least, my next release is BLADES OF ILLUSION: CROWN SERVICE #2. I’ll be announcing the new cover details and a brand new trailer soon, so please subscribe to the BLOG to get your updates immediately. For those wondering, Sworn To Quell is the 10th book in a 12 book series. There are two more and then the Courtlight series is complete!

 

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Chapters I & II of Courtlight Book 10 — Sworn To Quell

Hello readers,

Ahead of the release Sworn To Quell: Courtlight #10, I’m doing something special. I want to share the opening pages with all of you tonight! So go ahead and get your fill, keeping in mind that this is after beta readers but before copy edits.

With all the feedback I’m getting from betas, editors, and proofreaders, I’m excited to deliver an action-packed fantasy adventure. This manuscript is also already officially the longest book in the Courtlight series yet. Here’s a taste of what’s in store for you with the first two Chapters of Sworn To Quell: Courtlight #10. Hope you enjoy!

The assassination was on everyone’s mind. Even Ciardis Weathervane’s. Although tonight she was quiet. Contemplative. She stood at the edge of the tower, leaning forward to stare out onto the sea with a concentration that suggested every lap, every wave, held the answer to her problems in its depths. She almost believed it did.

“Nature is serene, is it not?” a voice behind her asked.

“Hypnotic,” she called back as she shifted her stance from where she leaned against the white stone guard of the tower. Ciardis had a long glaive perched against the wall next to her. But she didn’t reach for it. It was too long for her to do much with in such a confined space anyway.

If she needed to deal with a malcontent individual, the tiny knife with the pearl handle at her waist would just have to do. She’d found it covered in soot in the wreckage of the east wing of the palace. She was in the north wing now. A maze of corridors and towers left almost untouched by the inferno that had leaped from one level to the next in the lower buildings. Made of glass and gilt and pretty burnished wood, those parts of the palace had gone up in flames as cheerily as a holiday log crackling in the furnace.

But this wing, and others, were made of harsh stone and fierce magical enforcements. Remnants of the Initiate Wars from long ago. Remnants of a time in which the Algardis Empire had been beset on all sides by enemies.

Dragons. Gods. Kith. Even their own people, Ciardis thought wryly.

The person behind her cleared their throat nervously.

They hadn’t gone away. She had half-hoped that they might. With a deep sigh Ciardis turned away from the entrancing vision of the sea and faced the chaos behind her.

Her eyes met the gentleman rocking back on nervous heels as he faced the woman who the city was beginning to refer to as a legend, and not in the kindest terms.

Ciardis knew what they thought of her now. It hurt. But she couldn’t show it. Not when they stood so perilously close to the edge, both figuratively and physically. She needed to be strong and she had to win their hearts and minds. But if the citizens of Sandrin weren’t willing to give her that, she’d still take their subservience. People were very accommodating when they wanted to live.

“What is it?” she murmured quietly as a harsh wind came off the sea and blew through her hair.

It got in her face and her clothes, a loose tunic with long sleeves and a cape to match, tangled around her form. They were practical clothes if not stylish.

She didn’t need stylish right now anyway. They could be mid-battle at any moment and she’d take alive and well-fitted to fight over beauty any day.

Even Lillian had agreed.

She’d nearly keeled over in apoplexy when forced to admit it during one of the few self-defense trainings she’d squeezed into Ciardis’s transition from village maiden to court-worthy Companion…but she had agreed.

But what mattered now was the fact that Ciardis was very well aware that she could fight in a dress if she had to. But she knew that she could win in pants.

The man, a young person no older than his late twenties, bowed nervously and said, “The conclave has been convened.”

Ciardis didn’t let any emotion show on her face. No joy. No relief. No anxiety.

This was going just how they had planned. Or rather…as closely as it could to the plan after they had killed an emperor, lost far too many friends, and destabilized all the lands without a proper transition process.

Ciardis Weathervane might have even been able to live with all of that.

The lost knowledge.

The lost friends.

But her heart beat with an empty hollow knowing that she had lost someone more precious than all of that combined.

She wished she could say it had gone down differently. But it hadn’t.

Life seemed to love to jerk her around.

This week had been no different.

The man cleared his throat as he swayed back and forth on jittery feet that even his palace training couldn’t hide.

She took a deep breath and tried to calm herself. She felt like she’d been through the wringer and hung out to dry. Which she had. They all had.

As if mirroring her dark mood, the winds off the sea picked up in harsh bursts. The storm that had been rolling in, bringing in the fresh smell of the wet sea that Ciardis so loved at the same time, broke at that point.

Harsh rain began to slam against her back and almost took the servant off his feet as he faced the winds head on while trying to maintain his position in front of her.

When lightning struck so close to the tower that she could see the arc of bright energy out of the corner of her eye, Ciardis smiled and he jumped like a frog into the air.

To his credit, he landed back in the place where he had started, but that apparently was the end of his deference to courtesy. The man was halfway back down the stairs before he halted, and very reluctantly turned to look back up at her while he gripped the remaining stair rail with a hand so tight that his flesh was ghostly.

Ciardis raised an eyebrow. She wasn’t entirely sure if he was waiting because he couldn’t move or because he needed more from her. He’d delivered his news after all. But she also knew that she wouldn’t get her answers by deferring to what protocol demanded of her in this situation. Which was waiting for him to say something. She could see from the dull glaze in his eyes and the way he opened his mouth then closed it again, that he was in shock.

So she said kindly, “You’ve told me your news, now you may go.”

“May I take your response to the prince?” the man finally said as gracefully as he could under pressure. His words were a little frightened, but his delivery was fine.

“Where is he?” Ciardis fairly shouted as another roll of thunder sounded over the both of them.

The servant said something then and nature drowned him out.

She asked again, but apparently he heard something entirely different. A question in her words about the person, rather than a clarification on where the person was.

Ciardis was highly frustrated. Because of fear and perhaps protocol, he wouldn’t come any closer to her.

This is ridiculous, she grumbled as she prepared to make her way across the tower. Keeping a wary eye on any stray fingers of lightning in the air.

But then just as she put one foot in front of the other, suddenly the thunder and high winds died.

It was like they had never been there in the first place, and the servant was already readying his reply to their previously drowned out conversation.

She didn’t have to struggle to hear what he was saying now.

He still began with a shout, “No, milady. The prince heir. The prince heir!”

She nodded, “I understand.”

“Not the diabolical one,” he was saying as he shivered in the now cold and still air.

She sucked in a breath but didn’t reprimand him. She couldn’t. He was right.

Besides, he realized his mistake all too quickly in the empty silence that followed.

Ciardis wanted to reassure him that it was all right. She put false cheer in her voice, but the words weren’t really for him. They were for her.

“Thanar’s been called worse,” she said cheerfully as the newly soft wind buffeted her.

The man blanched. “I-I didn’t mean…”

She shot him a darkly amused look. “I wasn’t speaking to you. Go. Leave me to myself. I’ll be along in just a few minutes.”

He took her at her word and scurried off to the dubious safety of the exit while she looked around at the vista below. This vista was different from the seascape just behind her. It was like standing on a precipice and being able to see the world burn. Or what was left of it anyway.

As Ciardis stared at the palace in ruins and she felt her hope die with it.

But she wasn’t empty. Because anger took its place. Anger and retribution.

It almost seemed silly, but when Thanar had taken his rage out on Maradian. Every blow, every crunch of bone, every yell had been both for her and without her. She thought victory would ring sweet, instead it was hollow. Like a log that had finally cracked and revealed an inside destroyed by beetles, then give over to rot and mold. She couldn’t shake the sensation that she hadn’t won, that instead she’d been allowed to win.

Ciardis let out a bitter laugh as she said aloud to the empty tower, “I wouldn’t be surprised if Maradian thought it better to die now than face a god at the head of a human army.”

It would seem to be just his temperament — throw a wrench in Ciardis Weathervane’s plans one last time, even if he had to die to do it.

She had the thought, which ran down her spine like an ice-cold shiver, that this was just the beginning. They had seen the palace burn. But before the end, the entire city and even the empire itself would be up in flames.

That was something she didn’t want to see. Something she couldn’t even imagine.

But she wasn’t sure she could prevent it either.

Everyone was dead. Everyone.

How were one inexperienced Companion, one unscrupulous daemoni prince and one very overwhelmed prince heir supposed to be able to commit deicide on their own?

The answer was…they weren’t. And Ciardis Weathervane was starting to realize that she had been set up to fail. It was a long game and even though he was dead at Thanar’s own hands, it seemed that the false Emperor had had the foresight to set his hands in play well before they had even stepped on the board.

It was the way the games of court life were played.

But just because Ciardis Weathervane was down, it did not mean that she was out. She knew that to win this fight it would take all she had, all they had, in one united force. Starting with the conclave awaiting her appearance. Awaiting her explanation for the string of deaths she had left behind her. Awaiting an explanation most of all for the death of the man they knew as Emperor Bastien Athanos Algardis.

So she turned for one last look at the sea and then began the long journey down the steep tower steps into the wreckage of the palace below.

She thought about the wicked storm that had descended on them with barely a moment’s notice. It was incredible that it had last for only seconds.

Like a storm called down from the heavens, she thought. Or a storm that a mortal mage had called in.

Neither idea appealed to her.

If there was an unlicensed mage in the city of Sandrin, or the seven gods forbid, on palace grounds—they would have to deal with them. Ciardis had the feeling that the palace and the people were a lot more vulnerable now than they had ever been. Whether the fight between she and Maradian had taken down more than just a ruler, was left to be seen. But one didn’t see incredible thunderstorms forming in seconds and weird snaps of mage power at the oddest intersections when everything was fine.

That, by definition, was the opposite of fine.

And she shuddered to think of what else was to come.

Whatever it is, we’ll handle it, she thought firmly. Like we always do.

And yet those words didn’t comfort her nearly as much as they had in the past.

 

As she walked down the steps Ciardis made a note to herself to ask the Weather Guild to keep a firmer eye on their members. Almost all the city inhabitants were running scared like headless chickens since a day and a half ago with the Emperor’s death.

But that didn’t mean that they could just descend into anarchy.

No, that won’t do, she thought as she trailed a finger in the dark ash that coated even the walls of these steps.

She hadn’t witnessed it personally, but she knew that the fire that had raged, stoked by unrestricted magic, had been a furious one.

Furious enough to throw the flames so high that they reached into an enclosed stairwell and roared to the fresh air at the very top.

She wouldn’t have wanted to be trapped in the resulting inferno. She didn’t think anyone would have survived.

And now the palace was once more in order, or as orderly as it could be considering that the people had simply traded the foreboding rule of a maniacal Emperor for the unspoken of, but very much realized presence of one very troubling god.

“No wonder everyone’s so frazzled,” Ciardis muttered with a grimace as she took the last step down and met the barely sane eyes of some skittish servants running to and fro like mice trying to avoid the notice of a very large predator.

Ciardis had the sense that it wasn’t necessarily her they were afraid of. But what was coming in general.

Panic and fear hung over the palace and the city itself like an oppressive cloud that would not rise.

It wasn’t something you could shake off. You lived with the fear, you woke with its choke hold on your breath, and you went to work with it riding your back like an ominous crow.

As she stepped around some flagstones that had been upended into crag-like outcroppings on the floor, she pursed her mouth into a grim line. They were in the eye of storm. She knew it. The servants knew it.

It was so calm that it was actually unnerving. Waiting. Watching. Wary.

Not knowing when the god would appear. What he would appear as. What they could do. What they would do.

She knew that the citizens of Sandrin feared for their lives. For their families’ lives.

Unfortunately, Ciardis Weathervane didn’t have much reassurance to give them.

All she could manage at the moment was to plan, even though her plans previously had had very nasty habits of falling apart.

“Plan and keep people busy,” she said as she looked around with a critical eye. She saw a man so frazzled that he walked straight into an ash-covered pole before hastily straightening himself with a frightened look and hurried along again with his fellow mice.

Ciardis reached out and snagged the hand of the person nearest her. A servant walking by with her cloth-wrapped head firmly down.

Another mouse, she noted disappointedly. She couldn’t blame them for their fear. It would rule her too if exhaustion hadn’t already taken a predominant place.

As of now all Ciardis Weathervane had time to do was function. Function and act as if every second was her last. So she planned and she schemed and she scoured the palace for anything that would give them the upper hand.

And today she would act. Because they had to. Their leisure time had run out. With the emperor dead and a god descending, they have very little space left for preparations. She would make the most of it.

“Where is the prince heir’s meeting?” Ciardis asked the woman not unkindly.

The woman blanched under the layer of dust and dirt that caked her face but fortunately didn’t lose her composure. She dipped a hasty curtsey.

“In the chambers of the Imperial Conclave,” she managed to say with barely a squeak of her voice.

Ciardis noted her calmness and gave her a smile. “Thank you.”

“My pleasure, Your Imperial Highness,” the woman said smoothly as she curtsied again and scampered off before Ciardis could correct her.

Looking after at her with a perturbed expression, Ciardis called out, “I’m not an Imperial anything.”

When five different servants stopped scampering through the halls mid-run and looked at her, Ciardis ducked her head self-consciously.

She wanted to shout out to them that they had it wrong, but it wasn’t just a problem of servants uttering the wrong title. Everyone from the head of the Merchant’s Guild to busy countesses looking to gain power while the social circles of the imperial courts were in flux, were referring to her outside of her current title. That didn’t mean that she had to like it. In fact it made her unsettled to think everyone was automatically foisting the title of Empress upon her. It almost felt like she’d been selected to run a town as mayor and yet had never even been asked if she wanted the position.

Ciardis knew logically that by agreeing to the wedding, she had agreed to all assumptions of the office, but she hadn’t gotten married yet, by the seven gods. She wanted her freedom for a little longer.

So she glared at all of the servants standing around and staring at her silently. Not challenging them, but not letting this go either. Whatever they saw in her eyes made them keep right on moving.

Which was just fine with her. She didn’t feel like having the discussion that she wasn’t married to the Emperor-to-be, and at this point in time wasn’t even sure she wanted to.

“We’re all going to die anyway,” Ciardis said as she resolutely turned around and headed down the imperial hallways.

If she had had a moment of clear thought, she might have wondered why the servant who had come to fetch her hadn’t waited to escort her to the conclave himself, but with a palace falling apart around her and no less than five friends dead thanks to scheming of her former future father-in-law in less than forty-eight hours, to say that her judgment was a bit clouded would be an understatement.

Grief could do that to you.

Ciardis Weathervane, above anyone, else understood that.

It was all she could do, to rein in the tide of emotions that were threatening to sweep over her. The pain. The fury. The burning need for retribution.

Retribution not just against the man who was a stone-cold corpse now, but also for the actions he had put into place.

But she couldn’t undo the past. No one could.

She picked up her pace from a fast walk to a trot. As if she could outrun her personal demons.

She couldn’t say it worked too well, but she did manage to avoid conversations with any more individuals along the way.

When she reached the conclave’s chambers, she noted with a frown that there were no soldiers guarding the doors.

Even the hallway was empty.

Hesitating, Ciardis lifted a fisted hand and knocked on the door.

It was the polite thing to do, after all, since she didn’t know who was in there.

Though when she thought about it after a moment she realized how silly she looked. Not the knocking itself.

But the fact that no matter who was in the room, she outranked them all. She recognized that the triumvirate gifts had made her one of the most magically powerful Companions in the land, if not the most powerful, and she also happened to be in line for the throne herself.

If only as the future Empress.

So Ciardis cleared her throat when no answer was forthcoming and turned the heavy crystal handle on the door herself.

With a bit of force and a firm hand, the broad door opened. She stepped inside to see dozens of individuals.

None of whom were paying her the least bit of mind.

Sheaves of paper were being waved about like weapons, voices were rising, fists being pounded into the table or the wall depending on where the occupant stood, and people were clearly getting angry.

She closed the door behind her softly and took in the scene.

A long, wide room opened in front of her. As big as one of the minor ballrooms, it was taken over by a grand oval table made of dark wood, maybe ebony, inlaid with crystal panels at intervals. Intervals that corresponded to the chairs that sat around the table. There were at least thirty seats with proper placements, but even more had been wedged into open spaces at the table. It wasn’t the mannerly seating arrangements that the nobility usually demanded.

Instead, Ciardis silently counted men and women, even kith, arranged around the table with fists raised in anger. Even more leaned over the backs of those individuals with places at the table and screamed to be heard.

The kith, she noted, stood apart. In a far corner of the room where their hooves and hands could defend any challenger if needed. She noted that even apart they, however, seemed more distressed than furious when compared to their compatriots around the room.

Ciardis delicately began to make her way to the front, where she had spotted a rather large set of dark wings raised upwards in warning. She hoped to find Sebastian standing firm by Thanar’s side.

They had had their personal pissing matches, but if there was one thing she knew she could count on, it was the fact that the members of the triumvirate would have each other’s backs.

Especially when faced with an angry mob.

If they don’t, Ciardis thought grimly, I’ll twist their ears so hard they wish they had.

She ducked the wide swing of a meaty fist of a merchant and practically got picked up off her feet by an angry group of women dressed in gowns that had been fashionable when her forefathers were alive — wide hoop skirts being brandished like the weapons they were as the women wearing them took Ciardis along with them in an angry flurry of skirts. It was then that an Imperial guard finally noted her presence. The guard hastened to Ciardis’s side to make sure she managed to make the rest of the way to the head of the table without being waylaid.

When the nobles closest to her noted who she was, their voices got louder and more belligerent instead of dying down.

Ciardis felt a hint of fear when she was finally able to untangle the words they were saying—one over the other.

It was hate spewing out of their mouths. And not directed at the Emperor. Nor at the coming god.

At her.

Ciardis turned to face the angry, powerful mob in the room that all of sudden felt far too small, and she flinched.

She looked around, wondering if she was mistaken but it was clear she wasn’t. Bloodshot eyes and furious expressions re-focused on her.

“We wouldn’t be in this mess if not for her,” screamed one irate noble.

“Traitorous concubine,” shouted another. “I knew you and your Guild whispered into our ears like snakes, but to see it with my own eyes—.”

“Enough!” shouted Sebastian.

When that didn’t settle them down, he signaled to soldiers—strategically placed throughout the room, Ciardis noted in surprise—and they unsheathed longswords at once.

That silenced their detractors.

Or rather her detractors, Ciardis thought glumly.

When she had come into the room, the nobles had been angry at Sebastian, scared at the turn of events, but they had also clearly acknowledged his right to lead in the place of his fallen family.

But for Ciardis, the tide had immediately turned. Their expressions, their emotions had shifted and like a feral pack they had turned on her in blame, in hate.

No, not hate, she realized. It’s fear.

Surprise colored her thoughts. Of all the things she had imagined when coming to court, being the instigator of fear had not been one of them.

“Now that I have your attention,” Sebastian said in a steely tone, “you’ll act like adults or you’ll be ousted from this conclave like children.”

There were rustles around the room as everyone looked at their compatriots and decided it wasn’t worth it to keep insulting Ciardis like they stood in the midst of a taproom.

She straightened her shoulders and tried to look as unintimidated as she could. But by the dark and disgusted looks directed her, she wasn’t so sure she succeeded.

Thanar, however, had no problem making his frustrations known.

He stepped forward and magic seeped into the air.

Dark magic that moved like shadows, forming into cloud funnels to reach out to the faces of surrounding individuals with lightning quickness.

They all jumped back and fell over each other to avoid his dark touch.

Even the soldiers had to hastily sheathe their swords in order to avoid spearing an individual tumbling towards them by mistake.

Ciardis couldn’t see the look on Thanar’s face as he came up to stand directly behind her and put protective hands on her shoulders, but she caught the looks on the faces of the individuals whose eyes he met.

They all fell back in line after that.

She glanced out of the corner of her eye to see how Sebastian was taking Thanar as the enforcer instead of himself.

But if the prince heir had any misgivings about Thanar’s use of magic to cow the angry crowd, he kept that to himself.

A moment later he reached out to her mind-to-mind. This is exactly what I need. I’m holding on to power with a tenuous grip right now, and to be seen arguing with my subordinates would not…be wise.

Ciardis wanted to say more, but there was no time.

Outwardly Sebastian said, “We’re calling this meeting to order. As the triumvirate that killed the sitting Emperor of Algardis, I have many claims to make known — the first should come as no surprise — I validate the actions which forced the former emperor’s death.”

“And the second?” said a voice from the far back of the room.

Sebastian let out a grim smile. “He was family but the late emperor wasn’t who you thought he was. He wasn’t who I thought he was. He was my uncle and an imposter who was doing everything he could to send the empire back in time a century or more as he consolidated power.”

Shocked cries echoed throughout the room.

Hope you enjoyed your sneak preview!

Self-Publishers & Libraries: Terah Edun Publishing Launches On OverDrive

To all the Librarians and Schoolteachers! All of my current titles are now available on OverDrive through my new publisher account – Terah Edun Publishing.

You can now continue to purchase the Courtlight, Crown Service and future series through this link:

http://www.teedun.com/overdrive

In addition, I have an exclusive interview with MediaShift and recommendations list over on OverDrive! Hope you enjoy. 🙂 For the past three years (wow, time flies!) my goal has been simple. Expand my readership. I see librarians and teachers as well as their library catalogs and classrooms as a HUGE part of that. Well, today I’m happy to announce that Terah Edun Publishing is now a Publisher Partner on OverDrive – the largest eBook library catalog service in the entire world.

For those of you who are Librarians and Teachers and have been waiting for more Terah Edun books to purchase for your catalogs, you’ll find that Courtlight Books 1-10 will soon be available as well as Crown Service Books 1-2. Email publicity@terahedun to get an email reminder on library update day!

For those of you who want to learn a bit more about OverDrive, well read on:

telibraryoverdrivebanner2

OverDrive provides eBooks to million of readers through publishers like HarperCollins and Random House. And they make it SO EASY to check out your ebooks as well. All you have to do is log on to your local library page, click on their OverDrive account link and download your book! 😀

So now you can get my entire catalog in the same place you would download your next library read from Kiera Cass or Cassandra Clare.

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Thanks to this already awesome partnership, the Courtlight series and the Crown Service series are now available in public libraries in over half the states in the United States as well as Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa, and Great Britain.

Would you like to know more about the impetus behind my new OverDrive partnership? You should, because its not just great for me but other authors as well and I’m happy to move forward together with such an amazing eBook service that offers access to libraries and schools on an international scale.

Click over to MEDIASHIFT and read all about it!

Head over to FACEBOOK and see what I said to OverDrive. 🙂

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In My Inbox: Book Reports for 7th Grade, The Ultimate eBook Creator, and Instagram!

Hi Readers,

It’s been a year since I posted an IN MY INBOX feature from earlier, so I thought I’d update you all on some emails:

LETTER ONE FROM ERICKA:

I was wondering what format you happen to use for writing. For instance Word Processing or something like Ultimate eBook Creator?

I have always wanted to be a writer since my 6th grade teacher introduced the class to poetry. My parents or lack there of, were unreceptive. Fortunately that is behind me and I have a very supportive husband. The book I have started was finished in my Word Document but due to a sudden computer crash today, my only back up is from April, where it was unfinished… So I need to start over but I want to do it right, with some insight 😊 And I love the Courtlight and Crown Service series. I have them all on my kindle. Can’t wait to read more 😊

ANSWER FROM TERAH:

Hi Ericka, thanks for the love! I’m sorry about your lost files. Those are a writer’s worst nightmares. For writing, everyone has different habits that are ingrained. I always use Microsoft Word because that’s what I’m used to. George R.R. Martin uses a stripped down processor called WordStar. However most writers I know use Scrivener. Its a dedicated software located on literatureandlatte.com that keeps your work in separate folders and manageable files.

In order to keep from loosing it still, I recommend saving your working file in multiple places. You can email it to yourself, upload it to the Cloud or to a service like Dropbox, or have auto-backs on your computer into a separate hard drive.

Whatever works for you. Good luck!

LETTER TWO FROM SOPHIE (a 7th grade student):

Hi! I am doing a school book report that is due, and I chose Terah Edun’s book – Sworn to Raise. (It’s an awesome book by the way, cant wait for the new one!!!) and I need information on the author. I was hoping that you could tell me a little bit about your past ex- where you grew up, or where you went to school, as I could not find anything about your background. Thanks!!

ANSWER FROM TERAH:

It was super sweet of you to write me and I’m very sorry that I took more than a week to get back to you. I’m a bit overwhelmed with work.

In answer to your questions:

I grew in Atlanta, GA (my whole family lives in the Southeastern part of the U.S.), I later moved to go to college in Pennsylvania – a women’s institution called Bryn Mawr College, and then I spent some time traveling the world. I’ve lived in Spain, Morocco, the United Arab Emirates, South Sudan, and Kenya. I really enjoyed seeing different parts of the globe and I think a lot of those travels bleed over into my writing and give me a great sense of dynamic diversity.

Hope your paper went well!

LETTER THREE FROM POPPY:

Hello, unfortunately I noticed you where doing a rep search a little to late. I just thought I would email to see if there are any more spaces or if there may be some more in the future. In the meantime if there is anything that needs doing that I could help you with please let me know,even if it is just reposting your post and photos I don’t mind! My blog on Instagram is called betweenthebinders…I know it’s a long shot but I thought I would give me a go!

many thanks for your time

ANSWER FROM TERAH:

Hi Poppy,

We would love to have you as an Instagram Rep for #ShatterAnEmpire!

In the Instagram post, we were only looking for 2 #ShatterAnEmpire Reps, but so many dozens of people emailed in that I couldn’t say no to the gracious support. We are so happy to have you on the team and as soon as you confirm you’re good to go. I have some surprises in store for the reps as well. ^.^

Highlights:

On Book Reports, I’m happy to help with assignments but sometimes I don’t get back to readers as quickly as I would like. I’ll be updating teedun.com/teachers with more information, so that your reports and grades aren’t predicated on my ability to answer you super fast.

On #ShatterAnEmpire, for those of you who don’t know, my slogan for all of my books and series that fall within the Algardis Universe (which includes the Courtlight series, the Crown Service series and two as of yet unreleased series – SacredCourt and Algardis) is: Let’s Shatter An Empire!

The hashtag to support any of my books on social media therefore is #ShatterAnEmpire. If you want me to share your pics, your quotes, and your messages just use that tag and it’ll be found no matter the series.

Slogan: Let’s Shatter An Empire

Hashtag: #ShatterAnEmpire

Also I’m on Instagram @terahedun, Twitter @tedunwrites, and Facebook /TerahEdunAuthor.

 

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Lillian In Heels: A New Short Fiction

Welcome to Lillian In Heels. If you’re a subscriber to my newsletter, you received a full PDF of this short story two days ago. If you’d like to receive this short fiction piece directly in your email as a downloadable PDF w/ artwork now sign-up to the newsletter above or go to teraehdun.com/news.

Whenever I write in the Courtlight character arc for Lillian Weathervane, I always find such joy in depicting her delicious snarkiness, her wit, and her love of family. But I also wonder…what was she like before she had children? When Lillian was the center of the court dynamics? I knew that she was hell in heels, but I never quite imagined just how far she’d go. That was how this short story was born.

I hope you all enjoy!

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All short stories, deleted scenes, and unofficial extended content are added to The Library portion of this website as I post them. I hope you enjoy everything that is available!

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Lillian In Heels by Terah Edun

“I’m bored!” Lillian Weathervane announced with an expectant pout on her face as she lounged on a dais and contemplated the man that sat across from her.

His lazy slouch was a mirror image of her lackadaisical repose.

But unlike most of her would-be suitors, Matthew didn’t bother turning his eyes away from his prized papers.

She waited a moment and repeated her exclamation with far more intensity.

The object of her attentions didn’t even stir his gaze.

Lillian however did hear a suspicious cough a few feet away.

When she turned to look out of the corner of her eye at the person who had caught her attention, Lillian saw the Barnonet of Verne flush from the top of his scalp to the edges of his very pudgy fingertips. Apparently, now that he had her partially divided attention he had no idea what to do with it. As Lillian turned her full, imperious attention on him he almost dropped his sheet music in his desperate bid to play lively tunes under her wilting gaze. As if she was fooled.

Lillian set her jaw as she looked around the room.  “Simpleton,” she murmured as she checked on the positions of her admirers and would-be detractors.

She didn’t like being ignored, but she was even less inclined to let someone else command her stage. And it was clear even to her that was just what she had done by begging for the attention of the young man in front of her. The court would be alive with malicious whispers before the night time was done. Lillian could shrug off a few whispers though. If it got her what she had wanted in the first place.

So for the moment, she let their murmurs slide. She would wait and see how it played out. If it didn’t play out in her favor, well then she’d just have to corner the individual who had thought to plant the whispers in the first place.

But that’s later, Lillian thought with a satisfied purr as she finally turned back to the one who commanded so much of her attention lately.

She shifted her body, did her best to thrust her chest out in an appealing manner, and tried for a flirtatious but approachable look.

He could be afraid to return my affections without a more direct invitation, Lillian thought confidently.

Apparently her looks were working on someone because the rich trader from the desert lands across the room flexed his muscles with an all-too-suggestive leer. Him however she didn’t care about. His companion was even worse. The first was too much of a daredevil for her tastes and the second…too much of a cad. She only had eyes for the man in front of her.

But just as she ignored the others, he too ignored her.

Imagine! A musician too busy for the likes of a Weathervane, she scoffed in her mind as she sniffed loudly to get his attention.

No such luck.

The man was acting like the sheet of music he was slowly reading held the very secrets of the universe from the way he furrowed his decadent brow in concentration and his onyx stylus traced every line of notes.

“I don’t have time for this,” Lillian announced finally as she sat up and did what any spoiled court woman who was being ignored would do. She reached behind her, grabbed a suitably heavy satin pillow and lobbed it straight at his curly head.

Matthew had clearly been in his own world because he didn’t see her attack coming at all. He didn’t move as the large pouch of fluff hit him squarely in the head and knocked his loose papers off the table in front of him.

Only then did he sit up with an offended frown and looked over at her with ire in his eyes. She had a moment to admire the cross look on his beautiful copper face.

So luscious, she thought with an appreciative look.

That is before Matthew exclaimed, “What was that for?”

Lillian had been feeling a tad remorseful at catching him so unaware. But any remorse died with the tone of his voice. Gratitude would have been more in line for a man of his station.

Still she didn’t let that dissuade her. At least now she had his attention. So Lillian sat back with a satisfied smirk plastered on her face and counted down the seconds before answering his question.

“I’m. Bored,” she said with a daring smile. “Do something about it.”

He narrowed his eyes and she waited for the feline look of hunger to cross his face. The look that all the ladies and men of court got when they were the recipient of her unwavering interest. Except it didn’t appear.

The man looked back at his notes and scribbled something, then said quietly, “I can’t quite understand how someone as talented as you could stand to dally on a couch the whole day.”

Lillian said with a light challenge in her voice, “I’m quite talented as you say in a lot of things. If I have the right partner.”

She waited for him to get the hint. It wasn’t that Lillian desperately desired the man. Truth be told, she knew she’d forget his name in a matter of days. In two weeks’ time, he’d be a meaningless lackey of the courts in her eyes once more. Unnoticed. Undesired. But for today, he was her conquest…if only he’d at least try to rise to the occasion.

But seeing her persist only seemed to push him away further. Lillian watched as he rolled his eyes and said with a snap, “Well, some of us have to work, Lady Lillian. I suggest you go find the ones that don’t.”

The seductive look on Lillian’s face died as she looked over at him with disbelief.

She waited for the laugh that was presumably coming. The deprecating joke that said he had just been teasing her, the darling of the court.

When he didn’t say a word, just lifted an eyebrow as if to say ‘why are you still here?’, she sniffed in feigned disdain, got off her lounging couch as elegantly as she could, and walked away. So this mouse didn’t want to play her game. Well, she would find one that would.

Lillian knew that all he saw as she walked away, if he was looking, was a seductively swaying back and an heiress calmly walking off to pursue other amusements. He didn’t see the small hurt in her heart because she didn’t let him or anyone else see that.

Weakness, she thought with a shudder as she walked out of the room with her face carefully composed. She’d been taught from birth how to carefully navigate the intricate rules at court. It was true that she was Lillian Weathervane. Rarely rebuffed. Always welcome. Her partners didn’t approach her, she chose them.

But this musician seemed to think he was above her. Or worse…that he didn’t need her. Which to Lillian was tantamount to heresy.

She was the jewel about which the court revolved. Not the empress. Not the emperor.

She.

She thought about what she would do to make him pay for the insult. But she wasn’t sure if she should. At least not yet. Perhaps he’d just been irritable today.

“Or even better,” she cooed to herself. “He’s playing hard to get. That would certainly be a change.”

She thought about it and decided that’s what it was. It didn’t necessarily make her inclined to like him, but it certainly gave her at least some semblance of mental entertainment. But for Lillian that wasn’t enough. She needed to be out. She needed to be doing something. She’d been growing more and more bored with the courts of late and only the emperor’s decision to take on a wife, the first of his reign, had alleviated that.

Instead of being a rival to Lillian, she had been a blessing. It hadn’t hurt that Teresa had been a favorite plaything of Lillian’s before her recent elevation and the youngest Weathervane never let her forget that. Teresa was an interloper upon the courts. Lillian was an institution, whose power only cemented further with each passing year.

Rounding a corner Lillian turned her thoughts away from her imperial ally and back to the small puzzle that was the musician named Matthew. She almost disgusted herself with how her thoughts focused on him, but he intrigued her so. Her thoughts were so consuming, that she didn’t even bother to say a word to the gentleman who strolled around the corner with a skip in his step and casually hooked her elbow with his arm.

That was apparently fine with Demetre because he quickly broke into conversation anyway. Whistling congenially he paused and said, “I do believe you owe me some shillings.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” she deigned to say with her nose up in the air.

Demetre scoffed. “This is the second time you’ve struck out with that musician.”

Lillian stopped and turned to glare down at him.

“And how would you know about that you little imp?” she demanded of the height-challenged courtier who looked up at her with mischievous blue eyes.

“Well, I was sitting under a certain loose-tied noblewoman’s skirts,” he said with a roll of his eyebrows.

She blinked and shrugged. “So what else is new?”

He winked. “It might be someone you know.”

Lillian rocked back on her heels and thought for a moment. Then she got it.

“Ohhh, gross!” Lillian snapped. “You know very well that woman has more diseases than a dockworker’s daughter.”

He said with flair as he tugged her along to start moving again, “You exaggerate my dear. What she does have is great legs.”

Lillian grumbled. “Enough of your floozies and back to my dilemma.”

“Yes, do tell,” the imp said as he peeked around a corner and hustled her along.

Lillian was too distracted by the thoughts in her head to pay heed to whatever or whoever it was that he was avoiding. For all she knew, it was one of Demetre’s various liaisons ready to call him out for dallying with yet another beautiful and immediately available version of themselves.

Frowning she muttered, “He must a priest. Or a saint. Or both.”

“Uh-huh,” said Demetre in a far off voice. He was clearly paying just as much attention to her as she was to him.

Which was why she didn’t tell him that she thought the musician may have been playing hard to get. There was no need for him to know that or the even worse suspicion that she had come up with in her flights of fancy…the musician may just not have been interested.

For Lillian this was tantamount to sacrilege.

It didn’t happen to her. Not she who had her pick of any courtier or noble at court just based on her looks and vivacity alone. Add to that that she was the youngest Weathervane to actually develop her powers and they were seeing signs of other unique mage gifts, enough to get her a place in the famed mage academy near Ameles Forest. She was a catch for anybody’s arm. Let alone a mere musician.

Apparently Demetre could sort out her thoughts fairly well just from her expression.

“There, there, dear,” he said in mock consolation. “Rejection comes to the best of us all.”

She whirled on him as quick as a viper as they began to climb the stairs leaving the palace wing reserved for musicians and poets and other artists, and taking them out into the vast palace hallways with congregating servants and noblemen.

That didn’t slow her down though. The thought of more people to appreciate her presence positively invigorated her.

“I was not rejected,” she said with teeth clenched in fury.

Demetre eyed her and snorted delicately. “Have you considered that maybe, just maybe, dear, he’s a musician trying to make his way in a court of indolent nobles; spoiled, pampered, and surely without a care in the world.”

“Well, of course he is,” Lillian said decisively. “I plan to help him with that too.”

“Is that before or after you toss him in and out of your bed faster than a land snake?” he said derisively.

Before she could object, Demetre waved his hand in dismissal. “You know I’d do the same, so no shame there. It’s just that the musician is looking for a proper place in court. Not a dalliance to detract from his prospects.”

“I could have made a worthy minor patron for such a man,” Lillian said in a pout.

She was careful to enunciate the difference between a patron and a Patron. The latter of which was reserved only for trained Companions of the Imperial Courts.

Demetre shrugged as they reached the top of the marble staircase. “Don’t waste your time struggling to tap a dry well when the entire court is wet and eager for your attentions. The first among them being me of course.”

She gave him a wry look. “You?”

“Yes,” Demetre said with a puffed up chest. “Starting with that bit of wager profits you owe me. Considering he turned you down and all.”

Lillian laughed as she tossed her curls over her shoulder. “You are incorrigible. A skinflint. A snake.”

Demetre preened as if she had just given him the highest of compliments.

Lillian continued while glaring down at his smug boxy little face with the cutest dimples and evilest look in his pretty, cornflower blue eyes. “You’ll have your coins don’t worry.”

“Good,” Demetre said in satisfaction as he looked outside. “It’s already late afternoon, so my choices are limited. Therefore I’ll take your box seat in the imperial theatre this evening too.”

Lillian gasped in horror and said, “No, not tonight! I have nothing else to do. I swear to you, Demetre, when I told Matthew I was bored, I wasn’t lying.”

Demetre laughed and pinched her shoulder lightly with his fingertips, which was as far up as he could reach to touch her without her bending over.

“Oh, I have no doubt you told that poor musician the absolute truth. It doesn’t change the fact that you owe me both coin and luxury and the luxury I choose is access to the theatre. Since I’ve been dying to see this week’s play performance.”

Lillian gritted her teeth but she couldn’t very well refuse him. It had been her proposal after all, a small wager to see if she could win the notoriously difficult musician’s favor in a single afternoon. She had lost her own bet.

Finally she sniffed, “Fine, but you must take me with you.”

“No can do,” Demetre said cheerfully as they reached an intersection of the imperial corridor and prepared to depart.

“Why ever not?” Lillian asked with mild insult.

“I have an assignation tonight and as you well know—although extraordinarily well-placed, your box only fits two,” Demetre said as he departed with a wave of his hand.

Lillian’s jaw dropped as she watched him walk off down the corridor to the left. “You’re locking me out of my own play box for a random trollop?”

Demetre looked back over his shoulder and gave her a suggestive wink. “As if you wouldn’t do the same.”

With that he was off and she was left standing in an empty corridor with her hands on her hips in disbelief. “Well, I never.”

She turned around and immediately set off in the opposite direction. She wanted to fume and sulk in peace. Hopefully with someone delightful listening to her every word drop from her lips. There was only one place she could go where she was assured a captive and silent audience.

The imperial chambers of the Empress of Algardis.

With a smile on her face, Lillian Weathervane set off. “Today might not be so bad after all,” she said to herself with mild glee as she stuck her nose in the air and was careful not to meet the gaze of anyone beneath her. Servant or noble.

Lillian Weathervane was the talk of the entire court. The brightest debutante it had seen and the envy of all the women, and not a few men, who sought to be the belle of the ball. Now, even though years had passed, the entire Imperial Court was her playroom. She had swept into its midst with the vivacity of a woman seasoned by years at court, which made sense because prior to her debut she had grown up here.

Unfortunately that also was Lillian’s current predicament. There was nothing left. Nothing exciting happened anymore. She had seen it all; dallied with everyone from lowborn stableman to the emperor’s own statistician. None of them gripped her fancy. She was half-convinced that she had only pursued the musician out of some whim at being ignored in the first place.

Aside from her love life, the duels between courtiers were a thing of commonplace. No one had died in weeks. Even the scandals seemed to be quite devoid of titillation.

And now, she had been stripped of her only reasonable bit of entertainment for the night —her boxed seats at the play.

Although she sought refuge in the royal salon, Lillian was well aware that chattering with Teresa could easily become fraught with boredom. Which is why she was taking charge of the conversation and their activities from the moment she entered the imperial’s rooms, starting with dismissing all of the simpering courtiers who were lodging there like baby blue jays in the roost. Life would be so much more interesting when they were alone. At the very least it would be better than staying in her own suite of rooms with nothing else to do.

Then when she was done with her private conversations with Teresa, mostly consisting of Lillian holding court, she would just invite back all the simpering idiots into the rooms. The empress always had something or someone fluttering around her trying to get into her good graces with their insipid pleas. If nothing else happened tonight, Lillian could take pleasure in denying their banal requests.

She hasn’t even been married to Bastien long enough for tongues to start wagging that she hasn’t borne him the all-important heir yet, Lillian mused to herself as she continued her train of thought about the only woman she could be considered moderately close to at court.

She was careful though to not say anything aloud that might have even hinted at disloyalty. As Teresa’s primary lady-in-waiting and her closest confidante, Lillian enjoyed extraordinary favor at court. But there was nothing the emperor hated more than gossip about his person and as magically talented as she was, she also thrived on the life blood of the courts—secrets and lies. Cymus, the late emperor, had hated her. It seemed that his sons were destined to share the same animosity. So it went without saying that despite her status as the court belle, Lillian didn’t interact much with the emperor himself. Though to be fair he tended to limit his interactions with anyone who liked to have fun of Lillian’s variety. Bastien was said to be more lenient than his father but only in the sense that he preferred the ‘lazy courtiers’ as he called them to keep their distance and stay out of his way, instead of banishing them outright like his father had. As for the mysterious other brother of the imperial family, well the less said about Maradian the better, mainly because no one knew where he was or what he was up to. Aside from being supposedly dead. She had enough things to worry about without solving the mystery of a missing imperial. For Lillian knew all too well that her exalted status had brought her many enemies. Numerous noblewomen and not too few others, like the Companions of court, were waiting in the wings to take her place.

Now Lillian was swooping down on the inner chambers on her way to the Empress herself.

“We may not have as much time as I thought,” Lillian mused to herself as assorted people passed her by. “The courts seem especially busy today. Something’s up.”

Out of the corner of her eye she spotted the empty courtyards filled with mazes of green and not a hint of flowers in sight. Lillian had always thought the spot would be perfect for an elaborate set of fountains for courtiers and visitors alike to enjoy. Unfortunately, like the neglected rose gardens to the west, her vision was not to be.

Too bad, Lillian thought dismissively as she weaved between the ever-growing  assemblage of nobles lining the entrance to the emperor’s imperial audience chamber.

She managed to slip into the chamber with a refined nod at the chamberlain and skirted along the edge of the room, behind self-important barons and generals who hadn’t seen combat in over fifty years. Not since the last flare up with the kith in the Ameles Forest anyway.

She didn’t stop moving, even as some noblemen tried to catch her eye and ladies waved fans in invitation, all of them eager to capture the attention of the empress’s favorite attendant.

They knew, and she knew, that if they curried favor with her it was as good as done that their families too would gain favor. After all, a rising tide raised all boats.

Lillian however wasn’t feeling very inclined to be used this afternoon.

Sniffing in disdain as she dodged around a particularly malodorous gentleman, she thought to herself, Now if that musician had just been a little more court-savvy he might have realized the same. A plum position in the empress’s salon would have been worth a night in my bed and more. But no. He squandered his chances and prospects at court. Perhaps it’s time to turn my pursuit into a hunt. That musician won’t like how vengeful I can be.

To be honest, the vindictive turn of her thoughts pleased her. If she wasn’t going to be happy, neither was he.

Then she saw the one man she was dying to avoid this evening. He always ruined her fun.

She ducked behind a woman with wide-hoop skirts, the sort of fashion Lillian detested and hoped he hadn’t noticed her.

No such luck.

She felt a tug on her floating gossamer gown and turned around with obvious reluctance. She let a small frown cross her face, briefly enough not to mar her serene expression but she knew he would see it and know her displeased. Not that he cared but she would have the satisfaction at least of being able to display some sort of irritation even if court rules called for cordialness. As her flighty uncle stepped in her line of sight, Lillian stifled a reluctant sigh.

She didn’t want to say a word to him, but courtesy demanded it. If she bypassed her own blood without a word, especially when it was clear she had seen him, then the court would be atwitter for days.

And for all the wrong reasons.

“Uncle,” Lillian said with a stiff smile.

“Niece,” said the stick-thin man that reminded her more of a praying mantis than anything else. He leaned over and kissed her hand with dry lips.

Used to the sensation, if not entirely pleased with it, Lillian drifted a bit closer to hear what he had to say. He wouldn’t have stopped her mid-court with prying eyes and ears all around them if he just wanted her to acknowledge him. A nod of his head and a nod of hers, two ships passing in the night, would have done that just as easily if so.

True to form, her Uncle leaned forward and whispered into her ear. Every word came with spittle to grace her perfumed and powdered flesh like drops of morning dew. Only the training drilled into her since birth kept her from flinching away at the sensation.

“Well,” he said. “We have a newcomer to court.”

Lillian shifted uncomfortably. “Another merchant perhaps?”

“No,” said her Uncle softly. “Someone more important. The emperor has convened a group of nobles here not usually seen outside of their massive estates. Look girl.”

Lillian obediently turned away from her view of the door that was her escape through the back corridors into the private wing of the imperial family. She still hadn’t seen the empress after all and nearly an hour had passed since her time in the salon with Matthew. Lillian was growing impatient but she turned her practiced eyes on the courtiers standing around.

It wasn’t that she hadn’t seen who was here before, it was just that no matter who came and went the court always stayed the same. Staid.

Nothing to see. Nothing to do, she thought with alacrity.

However, this time she was very much mistaken.

She noted that her Uncle was right. He may have been a scholarly-type without an ounce of fun in him, but he kept his eye on court mechanics like his life depended on it. And in a way it did. As an advisor to the emperor, her Uncle’s task mostly lay in keeping an eye on bored nobility like herself and keeping everyone, from the musicians to the imperial armed forces, in check.

Unfortunately the latter purview of her Uncle took more work than one would think. A bored military was a dangerous one and there were dozens of garrisons of such armed men strewn throughout the empire. Ready and idle. After all, it wasn’t like Algardis had been in any wars lately-skirmishes of forest land didn’t really count, and aside from the rather unfortunate end of the former empress years ago, hadn’t seen much turmoil either.

It didn’t take Lillian long to notice the eddy in the current that made up the machinations of the imperial court powers-that-be. The most powerful were either surrounding a central figure standing near enough to touch the empty ceremonial throne or were making their way towards that person as surreptitiously as they could.

She couldn’t see who that person was, but for him or her to have such an effect on the jaded nobility boded for an interesting night.

“Who is it?” she asked in a calm voice, her eyes studying the reactions of each noble who came in contact with the mysterious stranger.

“That is a dragon.” said her uncle softly.

“A dragon?” Lillian scoffed.

Her uncle clucked his tongue. “I shouldn’t have to repeat myself, especially to you.”

“Are you sure?” Lillian said with faint distaste. She had just gotten a good look at her uncle’s dragon.

The man was shorter than the butler currently hovering over him with a serving tray, had a balding head, and what looked like the most horrible case of buck teeth she had ever seen at court.

That was no dragon.

Dragons were supposedly the most beautiful, refined, and elegant creatures to grace the courts of either empire. Not that lump.

Her uncle sucked his teeth in disgust.

“No,” he snapped. “I’ve taught you better. That is the dragon’s bodyman. Look at the man sitting on the steps of the throne itself.”

And so Lillian did and her heart nearly stopped in her chest.

He was beautiful.

But his features, like a stone carving from the imperial gardens come to life, were not why she froze.

That dragon had his paws on her man.

Eyes wide, Lillian saw her musician not just serenading the dragon with his music, deft fingers flying over a lute in hand, but also sitting on the dragon’s lap.

Not only that; the musician, Matthew, seemed quite happy to be there. Animatedly he played his music and let the dragon stroke his back without a care in the world. While the entire court watched.

The same court that would have undoubtedly heard that he had soundly rejected her advances just few hours before when the sun was up and the day had felt absurdly long.

Lillian was furious.

She wasn’t good enough for the minstrel but the creature from across the waters was? Lillian was no fool. Dragons were beautiful and graceful, but she was Lillian Weathervane. There was no arrogance in suggesting that she was the pre-eminent catch of the courts. That is…until now.

Forget small revenge, Lillian fumed. I’ll scratch his eyes out. I’ll scratch both of their eyes from their cavities.

Fortunately before she could make good on that threatening thought, her Uncle interceded. “Niece,” he said urgently. “I know that look in your eye. That look has a sense of urgency. A need for power. Harness that power, it has helped your family rise in the past.”

It wasn’t necessarily her Uncle’s avarice that broke the furious thoughts that had taken hold of Lillian’s mind. It was his thirst for power and the knowledge that he expected her, as always, to act in ways that benefited the family as well as herself.

Composure was expected.

Decorum was expected.

At the very least, a lack of bloodshed on the palace floors was expected.

So she smoothed her face and adjusted her bodice.

“I think it’s time I introduced myself to the newest guest at court,” Lillian purred. If her eyes didn’t match the warmth in her voice, well her Uncle didn’t necessarily expect miracles.

He let her go and she sashayed her way across the palace floor.

Before she’d even proceeded halfway though, an imperial chamberlain began knocking his very large ceremonial staff against the marble floors.

The sound was enough to get the swift attention of all those gathered.

Even the musician and his dragon.

They stood as smoothly as two choreographed dancers and Lillian barely held back a snarl as she smoothly about-faced with a rush of her skirts and faced the doorway.

The knock of the ceremonial staff against the marble floor meant only one thing.

The Emperor of Algardis was on his way. Everyone was expected to be silent as they awaited his glorious arrival.

She couldn’t help the tic in her eye as she tried to sneak a glance of her musician and her rival again but she noticed, with some relief, that the dragon was already walking away. At least far enough away that he wasn’t touching Matthew anymore. That relief was short-lived however.

The doorway to the inner imperial chambers swung open and out strode the emperor in a long, opulent robe and the empress tottering along behind him in fast heels.

As one the court dipped into deep bows and curtsies, Lillian among them.

When she rose the emperor was already pulling up the dragon envoy in a stiff embrace.

She held her breath as she too waited for what the legendary being would do.

Apparently used to human customs, the dragon accepted the emperor’s touch with equal somberness and leaned forward to whisper a small something in Emperor Bastien’s ear.

Whatever he said was too low for Lillian to catch but it caused the emperor to laugh loudly and slap the dragon on his back in a much more familiar gesture.

The dragon, a smirk on his face, stepped back and gave the empress a very salacious bow as he did.

The empress simpered and blushed as Lillian expected her to and swept up to her throne a step below her husband.

As they sat the dragon stepped to the side of the dark amber carpet that ran parallel to the steps leading up to the throne. He casually looped an arm around the musician’s neck, claiming him for all the court to see, and kissed him with a bit too much ardor on the cheek closest to him.

Lillian couldn’t believe it.

She didn’t understand how this envoy could swoop in and take everything from her in one step. She’d been silently pursuing the musician for weeks and not once had he ever been inclined to show a preference for only men. In fact, she had caught him and a certain harpist exchanging far more tongue than even Lillian expected to see in public viewing.

So it was clear to her and to everyone else, that it was just her that he did not prefer.

This means war, Lillian thought with such fury in her mind that if she had the slightest inclination to pyrokinesis the entire court would have been in flames.

The emperor, apparently mimicking her thoughts, said aloud “For too long we were at war with the dragons of the Sahalian Empire. Now one of their own kind has come amongst us from across the sea in a journey that has not been made in terms of peace for decades. It makes one wonder why.”

Lillian blinked and stiffened. This didn’t sound good. It sounded serious.

Her dismay this time was quite real. The courts were supposed to be fun. War and politics were not fun.

“I know why,” continued the emperor with firm enunciation, “It is to finally re-unite our peoples, a task that has gone undone for far too long.”

Fierce whispers started up from the back of the audience chamber and quickly swept through to the front. This was a subject that was tantamount to verboten in court life. The wars between Sahalia and Algardis, proxy and direct, had been the worst in Algardis history. They were not easily forgotten and to suggest consortium with one of the beasts, an alliance even, would have easily gotten another courtier hanged.

But this was the emperor speaking and his word was law.

Lillian strained to hear the emperor over the furious uproar that had erupted just minutes before. He was now surrounded by very anxious advisors who pushed and shoved to get close to him on the throne.

While the center of all this uproar, the dragon envoy himself, continued to stand at the foot of the stairway to the throne with a self-satisfied look on his face and fingers that were flying over the musician’s torso with decorous attention.

Before too long she heard the banging of the ceremonial staff on the floor again and the loud command of “Silence!” rang out.

The murmurs and whispers and conversations died out.

The emperor stood up from his throne and pushed through his coterie of nervous advisors. Like headless chickens the lot of them, Lillian thought.

It was clear the emperor hadn’t bothered to announce his plans to them before he took it to the entire court. She wondered if they had even known the dragon was coming.

When Lillian stole a look at the empress’s nervous face, she got the feeling that even she who shared the man’s bed—mostly—hadn’t known either.

Bastien’s got guts, Lillian thought with boredom as she twitched her fingers and wondered where this was going.

Emperor Bastien stood alone, his face determined as he said, “This will happen. This reunification will begin now. Tonight.”

One of the bolder barons came forward and asked in a booming, sarcastic voice, “And how do you propose we start to get along with our fey brethren? By dancing with them?”

A smile crossed the emperor’s face. “Not a bad idea, Baron.”

The emperor turned to his shell-shocked advisors and said, “A ball in the dragon envoy’s honor. Tonight.”

They went from furious and shocked to aghast.

The man who held the purse strings for the entire empire, the imperial banker, rushed forward and immediately proclaimed in a whiny voice, “Improbable, Sire. We need to plan —“

The emperor held up a single finger. The man stuttered to a stop. Then Bastien said, “But not impossible. Make it so.” Without another word the emperor turned away and looked to the envoy, “The court is yours until we reconvene tonight.”

Lillian heard someone gasp as someone else said in a rushed tone, “That’s only a few hours from now!”

The emperor didn’t pause at the exclamation. Lillian wasn’t even sure he’d heard it. That was alright. It hadn’t been for him. It’d been for every other socialite within hearing distance who wondered if they could pull an outfit out of their closet as fast as a street mage pulled a rabbit out of a hat.

She watched as with the empress on his arm, the emperor descended the dais and swept out of the room. The entire court lit up in shouts as soon as the massive doors closed behind them.

Only Lillian was silent.

Only Lillian was smiling from ear-to-ear.

The courts had just become a lot less boring.

*****

It was a few fast hours later and she was dressed in her best dancing attire. Emeralds adorned her ears and her hair was swept up in a frenzy of romantic curls.  She had rouge on her face and a twinkle in her eye.

She was going to be the talk of the city. Not just for her elaborate dress that she’d been saving for just such a special occasion they would whisper, but because she also hadn’t forgotten about her musician and that interloper dragon and she intended to do something about it.

Lillian danced with partner after partner for as long as the night went on.

Her heels flashed across the floor, studded as they were in emeralds bright enough to match her earrings. As they caught the light of the sconces and chandeliers with each high kick, their owner caught the eyes of numerous courtiers as she whirled in the arms of her dance partners.

Some of those eyes were lascivious; some were envious.

None could take their eyes off her, which was just how Lillian liked it.

So when she finally stopped dancing to catch her breath and a refresher drink, she was startled to find that the star of the night was nowhere to be found.

She had a thing or two to say to the dragon envoy but she couldn’t do that if he were nowhere near.

She peered around but didn’t see him in any of the talking circles or dark corners of the ballroom. When Demetre sidled up to her, he knew just who she was looking for.

Which was what she liked about him. He knew her so well that it only took a look for him to read her body language. That made him her favorite. Well that and the fact that he was quick to change his plans if a more tempting opportunity came about. Hence his presence here at the ball instead of the aforementioned play.

“The musician?” the drunk, human imp slurred.

Lillian sniffed, a bit intoxicated herself but not that far gone, as she said, “Him and his partner of the night.”

Demetre shrugged with a loose arm around some dancing woman’s waist and pointed with his other hand at a side door that led off into the interiors of the palace.

“They went that way,” he said with a squeeze of his woman. She giggled.

Lillian ignored her and set off.

“Wait!” Demetre called out. “Where are you going?”

Lillian turned back with an imperious eyebrow. “Isn’t it obvious?”

He stared at her and grumbled. “At least let me finish my drink.”

“Who said you’re going?” Lillian countered.

“There is no way I’m going to miss the imperious Lillian Weathervane get her butt handed to her,” Demetre said in a tone that indicated he was a lot less drunk than she had first thought.

Lillian huffed. “We’ll see about that.”

He snorted and off they went. When the dancing girl tried to follow, he swatted her on her bum and sent her away with, “Not you, dear. This conversation is for your betters.”

Lillian didn’t bother to turn around to see what she assumed was a characteristic pout on the woman’s face. She was focused on her mission.

As she exited the ballroom and some others fell in behind Demetre she began to feel a tad ridiculous. But she had started this little tete-a-tete; she would finish it.

It didn’t take much for them to find the trail of the dragon and his presumed lover. A servant was all too happy to point the drunk nobles to the other drunker nobles just to get them all out her hair.

When Lillian approached the private corner that the dragon had apparently chosen, what met her eyes wasn’t precisely how she had imagined this night going.

They all stopped in a stupor.

She alone walked forward across the empty, cool marble floor with moonlight shining down on her curls and delicate ribbon strewn hair.

There was only one other person in the large circular alcove big enough for fifteen or more people.

That person wasn’t awake though.

He sat on a bench next to the only other door out of the marble alcove. He was slumped forward in an awkward position, his clothes disheveled and his cravat undone. His body was posed with an unnatural stillness and she could barely see the mist of his breath floating in the air. It wasn’t because it was cold. It was because the air from his lungs had taken on a very nasty green tinge. He also had the undertones of someone who was deeply ill. Quite the opposite of the lively and vivacious young man she had seen just hours before.

As she stared at the musician and the single line of drool drifting down his arched cheekbones, she wondered what could have happened to him.

Fearing what she would see if she looked even deeper, she let her magic tentatively swipe over his aura.

Lillian sucked in a sharp breath. He wasn’t just sick physically but magically.

“What happened to him?” Lillian asked the others behind her reflexively in a harsh tone. She didn’t really think the people following her like scared children had the answers. They were too caught up in their own fears. That she didn’t blame them for. It wasn’t often that you saw mage illness at court. And whatever had happened to him, his current state was most certainly the effect of a malady made of magic.

Demetre fluttered a distressed handkerchief at the door off the alcove.

“He went in there,” her friend said with a disturbed look.

Lillian gave him a sharp look, prepared to ask how the imp knew but then she remembered his ‘talent’. He saw things. Not so much memories, more like impressions. Demetre had always been able to tell what the last moments of a person were as long as he happened upon them and was in a mood to listen. It was how he’d always known who she’d been with last and how to tease her for maximum efficiency because of it.

But now he was not in a teasing mood. The imp looked almost as pale as poor Matthew, whose brown flesh had taken on a decidedly grey tinge, did and he seemed to be unwilling to say more as he rapidly pulled the handkerchief up and held it to his face as if to ward off a disease the musician had. A taint that even she could feel was in the air. Though she didn’t know what it meant precisely.

Lillian and her assorted followers shielding the musician from view of wandering individuals with their bodies, exchanged glances.

A girl in the group with short close-cropped red hair said to Lillian, “Well, you have been complaining you were bored.”

Lillian looked down at the musician in displeasure.

“So I have. But even I wouldn’t have wanted this,” Lillian conceded reluctantly as she eyed the slightly ajar door beyond the musician.

“Well,” prodded another bored dilettante from her circle.

Lillian looked over her shoulder at him with a sniff. “If you’re so interested, Charles, why don’t you go ahead and inspect the room?”

Though it wasn’t necessarily senselessness that had pushed her to dare the man at that moment. It was numbness. It was disbelief.

“Don’t!” said another one with more wisdom than either Charles or Lillian at the moment. “And if you do, at least take off those shoes first.”

“What?” Lillian asked.

“Shoes,” said the man firmly. “It’s important.”

Charles, a young man too proud to be shown up in front of his peers, did exactly what she had dared him to do. Though he took off his shoes at the man’s behest first.

Lillian and her friends waited with no little anxiety outside the door.

Soon enough he called out with a harsh whisper, “You lot get in here, quickly! I assure you boredom is long gone now.”

If his tone had a bit too much bravado, then Lillian couldn’t blame him. She was torn between running back to the ballroom to get a sentry and going in to see what he’d found.

Apparently the others thought the choice was between the room and the drooling person outside, so they took off their shoes and two of the airheaded girls rushed in without further thought. Lillian and one young man along with Demetre hung back.

When she turned around she was startled to see a nobleman not often caught participating in court antics. She raised a curious eyebrow.

The staid young man said with a censorious eye to the room. “I’m not quite as bored as you lot.”

“Is that so?” asked Lillian unimpressed.

“It is,” the man confirmed with a grimace as he walked towards Matthew. “But this young man needs a healer’s aid or at the very least a stiff brew to knock off whatever fugue has overcome him.”

“Yes, yes a good jolt of alcohol should do the trick,” Demetre said from behind his handkerchief.

To Lillian’s critical eyes it looked like the musician needed more than a mug of swillwater to get through the night but she didn’t object as the young man heaved up the musician with a grunt and headed off muttering about idiots and sycophants.

When Lillian turned back to Demetre he seemed to have regained some of his composure because the handkerchief was gone and his shoulders were square. Wryly Demetre said with a wave of his hand at the door that had been knocked further ajar, “Shall we? We can’t let the others have all the fun.”

Lillian rolled her eyes and moved.

“Wait!” commanded Demetre with a snap of his fingers. “Shoes, dear.”

She did as he asked as she swept past him and into the mysterious room as requested, impatient to see what the others had found. She was no fool and although the musician was sick…that didn’t necessarily mean his malady had originated in the room past the outstretched door. He could have ended up as he was in a variety of ways and she wouldn’t be who she was if she didn’t at least investigate the room beyond.

When she did however, Lillian wasn’t expecting to see what she saw. But she now knew why she’d taken off her shoes. The entire floor was caked in a fine white dust that would be hard to explain away to a discerning eye. Besides that the room was nearly devoid of furniture and barely visible with only the moonlight to guide their questing eyes.

In the center of the room was a long rectangular table.

Atop it was tomes and documents, gold and jewels, upturned canisters spilling mounds of particles onto the white tablecloth, and a simple cauldron boiling over with ooze.

It was quite…unusual.

But what drew her to the table’s side, more than the eclectic mix of objects it possessed, was the strange aura of magic surrounding it.

Even she, not a trained mage in her own right, could sense it. Taste it on her tongue. It was like old cardamom spice mixed with the dangerous musk of heady intoxication. It was alluring. It was decadent.

As she stopped hesitantly in front of the table, in an unwilling trance, Lillian lifted her bejeweled arm and reached out to touch the table. Like an out-of-body experience, she watched another of their group manage to touch the contents before she did. A single gold coin.

The woman froze and fell at Lillian’s feet, the same look of stupor written on her face as had been on the musician’s at the door.

That woke Lillian out of her nightmarish dream fairly quickly.

Whispers erupted as half the group gathered around the fallen woman and the other half continued to stare at the table as if they remained entranced.

Keeping a wary eye on her comrades, Lillian took the chance to touch the woman. Her flesh was ice-cold. Like death.

Her magic was another thing entirely.

It was alive with the soul of a dragon. Lillian gasped aloud harshly and wrenched her hand back. She could feel the presence as surely as she could have touched her own magic.

One thing she was sure of now. The dragon was more than just an envoy. Much more. But Lillian knew as she stared back at the table with its treasure trove of secrets, locked by magic and by malice, that she wasn’t the person to uncover those secrets. Not today. Maybe not ever.

“That is a job for someone with far more experience than I,” Lillian Weathervane said in a decisively light voice. She was trying to make a joke of it. The others stared around at each other even more unsure than she was.

One person even reached forward to touch the edge of the glowing manuscript. Lillian hissed through her teeth with impatience and slapped his curious fingers away.

The signature was too dark for any of them, especially if the person tempted to try to overcome it was foolish enough not to heed the warnings of not one but two fallen individuals before him.

“These secrets are not for you either, Andre,” she said in a steely tone. “Not if you want to wake up tomorrow and greet a new day.”

He looked at her. He looked back at the table’s contents. They were tempting. But apparently not enough to risk being incapacitated by them. He backed away from the table with a muttered curse.

And it was as if a spell was broken because the four others stirred around the table and they too looked at it with unease as they hurriedly rearranged their clothing so that the sheer dresses and cloth tunics closed tighter around their owners…almost like a flimsy shield.

Stirring herself Lillian Weathervane decided they all needed to get back to the festivities before someone found them here. They hadn’t touched the table. Its wards were still locked. Even their shoes were clean. No one who saw them at the ball would know they had stumbled into here. And if the dragon knew they’d been in there…well, he had even less incentive than they did to speak up.

So she snapped at one of them, “Gather her up.”

The rest she shooed out of the room with careful motions of her hands, like a mother hen herding chicks away from danger. The glittered and bejeweled nobles were only too happy to follow her commands now that their de facto leader had indicated a strategic retreat was imperative. No one lost face if everyone was doing it.

When she was the last one out the door, Lillian Weathervane paused with her hand on the golden knob. But she didn’t turn around to view what even her gaiety-filled mind thought of as a dark trap waiting to snap closed around her neck. Instead she fixed her trademark smile on her face.  Adjusted the emeralds in her ears. Knelt down to put the one-of-a-kind creations that she carried under her arm onto the floor and slide her soft feet into the soft caress of the perfect pair of heels.

All was right with her world as she closed that door with a firm tug and clicked back into the ballroom. This night had promised that if nothing else…the court wasn’t going to be boring any longer.

And that was all Lillian Weathervane wanted.

Some entertainment. She hadn’t bought these atrociously expensive heels for nothing after all.

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