A magical sceptre that holds the power of the gods, an invisible prince, an elf with ogre genes and the ability to bend others’ minds to his will, a peasant girl turned queen, a tortured phoenix in human form, mystical fogs, dwarf pirates and majestic ryokin – sentient winged sabre tooth cats with magic flowing through their veins…
If sorcery and subterfuge get you through the night, this short story anthology is sure to spin you into a whirlwind adventure to realms beyond the imagination. Fans of the sci-fi fantasy series, Legends of Origin, will be pleased to note the inclusion of two stories featuring the series’ ryokin, along with a sneak peek at some of the series’ future characters.
Two of the stories in this anthology are The Enemy Crown and Ryokin Master. I hope you enjoy the extracts below.
Extract from The Enemy Crown
Dark, angry clouds loomed above the coronation parade, threatening to spill their fury onto the crowd gathered in the palace gardens. Thirteen-year-old Lassandra half believed the land knew the betrayal it was about to face. Back straight, chin up and head high, as she’d been instructed over the last two days, she waved and smiled regally at the Kingdom of Graell’s people, making eye contact every now and then as a white horse carried her along the main garden path to the palace. Her swept-up black hair and the diamond-encrusted crown weighed as heavy on her head as her task. She couldn’t wait to get out of her uncomfortable attire – a cumbersome red velvet dress, with black lace trimmings and flowing sleeves, and a blood-red cloak trimmed in gold.
Lassandra expected cries of ‘impostor’ at any moment, but the crowd continued to cheer her on – who’d have thought a peasant girl could be turned into a princess in one day? Her task was said to be impossible, but… This had to work… The horse stopped when it reached the massive marble steps leading up to the palace, and elven attendants helped Lassandra to the ground, then formed a semi-circle behind her as she proceeded up the steps and to the main throne room.
Graell’s gaunt regent, Mondar, received Lassandra at the coronation chair, taking her hand and turning her to face the people as they assembled. It was hard to believe she was surrounded by the enemy – they weren’t much different from her people. An indecipherable expression flittered across Mondar’s stern face as he glanced at her, and she fought back panic – did he know? Had something in her mannerisms given her away, or had Graell’s spies discovered her?
Mondar whispered, “Fear not, Your Highness. Young as you are, you already rule as your father did. Soon, your fear will be gone.”
Lassandra faked the appropriate frown. It was an effort not to grin, knowing she’d fooled even Mondar, the princess’ mentor. Her magical disguise was perfection itself.
“Rulers of Graell fear nothing,” Lassandra replied.
“Of course.” Mondar nodded. “We will crush King Kadan. He will pay for your father’s death by facing the fact that the Kingdom of Onuthien will soon be no more.”
“The enemy kingdom will, indeed, be no more by morning,” Lassandra murmured. If only he knew his precious princess is trussed up in an unused part of the palace dungeons. She smiled; it was real, even though her face wasn’t.
Extract from Ryokin Master
A shriek cut the peaceful forest air, followed by a vicious snarl. The freckled Timin Frostfox froze, an apple halfway to his mouth.
“Help!” a male voice shouted.
Timin leapt up and sprinted towards the sound, his red hair blowing in his face and breath already coming in ragged gasps at the bone-chilling snarls that filtered through the trees. He knew every animal in Willwood Forest, and this wasn’t one of them.
Timin stopped when he reached a clearing in which a slender, black-haired man backed away from a strange animal. Tiger-like in appearance, it stood over three times Timin’s height. Powerful golden-brown wings adorned its back and its muscles rippled under thick golden fur. The animal advanced on the man, baring sharp sabre teeth that extended below its jaw.
“Hey!” Timin yelled.
The animal’s ears pricked and its tail flicked in obvious agitation. It gave a low growl, but otherwise ignored Timin. He stared at his apple. It was a ridiculous weapon, but the only one he had – and all he had to eat for that day, too.
“Do something, please!” the man pleaded.
The animal crouched, ready to spring.
Timin threw his apple. It bounced off the animal’s head. With an angry snarl, it spun and launched itself at him. He dived to the side, but a thick tail swept him off his feet as he jumped up, sending him spinning. The animal was upon him as he landed.
Timin rolled away and practically skipped to his feet, shouting, “Follow me!”
A glance over his shoulder as he ran showed the man following and the fearsome animal taking to the air.
Don’t forget, this anthology will be only 99c from 29 August in celebration of my birthday.