Saturday, July 1, 2017

Radiance Revamped

Radiance has been revised with a new edit and new cover.

The same story. Hopefully less mistakes and typos.

Let me know what you think about the new cover.  Radiance will soon be available on all ebook distributors. If you go to my Castle Books website, you'll find the links there when they become available.

For now, Radiance is available on Amazon and Createspace.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Something Epic is Coming Your Way!

Ablaze: Book Six is now available on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited. If you are a KU member, you'll be able to find Ablaze in the KU library until the end of September. 

I hope you enjoy the final story of the White Road Chronicles.
Let me know what you think by leaving a review!
Blessings and Peace,
Jackie C.

After many, many, and okay, many months, I've finally finished writing the final installment of my fantasy series, The White Road Chronicles
Oh man, I'm both relieved and in a puddle of tears. I'm relieved because I can finally offer you a book with NO Cliffhangers!! Yay me! I know how many of you have loved the exciting endings of the WRC books so far. Ha!  
I'm also in a puddle of tears because I'm going to miss my friends. And I'll not give anything away here, but I do promise there shouldn't be any cliff-hangers. I feel everything has been wrapped up satisfactory. 

So, Let's Get On With The Big News!
Drum roll please! The winning title for Book Six of the White Road Chronicles is...

This name turned out to be PERFECT! You'll see why when you get to read it yourself. 
When? You might be asking. 
Well, let me tell you! I plan to have the last book out as early as June 22nd or as late as June 28th. All this depends on my beta readers and editor and how long it takes me to get through their revision suggestions. But no later than the 28th. 

Winner of the Title Contest:
Congratulations to one of the voters on Ablaze. They will be winning the complete revised print collection of the White Road Chronicles. 
Mark Bishop
 I'll need you to send me an email with your name and address. You can go to my website and fill out a contact form, or contact me on one of my social media sites.  
Oh, there's more!
Because so many of you voted and made suggestions, I picked two more winners for a free print copy of Ablaze! They are:
Del Hager
Cassie Foulke
Now, if you are one of these 3 winners, please leave a comment that you've received your notification, or go to my website and send me a contact form, or visit my author page on facebook where you can private message me with your first and last name and how I can best reach you. I'll need to collect addresses to know where to send the books to. I'm eagerly waiting to hear from you!

Again, thanks for those of you who visit my author website or have signed up to my newsletter where you can find news and updates first.

Be sure to click on the Ablaze - Book 6 tab to read the first chapter.
Let me know what you think.

Blessings and Peace,
Jackie C.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Tales Are All Together Now

Before the Epic Tale of Alyra's journey across Alburnium, there was a whole different story. The tale of her life in Racah, before she escaped. Her life in Racah where she fell in love with a young hunter. And that young hunter fell so madly and deeply in love with her, he was willing to sacrifice everything to be with her.

The stories had been forgotten. Or rather, stolen, until now.

Find out the complete story about Tarek and Alyra's true love story when you read White Road Tales.
Now, all four (yes, four) stories are bundled together and offered in print and ebook version. But, I'm sure you're wondering about the fourth story, because there have only been three: Captured, Stolen and Ransom. Well, there's been hints at Stitch and Tarek's story, as well. And in Deceived, all will be revealed.

Where can you find the Complete White Road Tale Collection? 

Well, click on your favorite retailer.

Barnes and Noble

Here's a sample from Chapter One of Deceived:

Chapter One

Tarek dodged the palomino centaur’s legs, hoping he’d not get his toe smashed again by one of his prancing hooves.
Stitch ducked behind a cluster of trees, leaving Tarek in clear view of the irritate guard. The brown centaur guard, named Abek, stomped in circles, first going in one direction, then another which caused a peal of laughter from his accomplice.
“Shhhh,” Tarek hissed. “He’ll hear and know it was us.”
Tarek and Stitch had come across a pod of brownies the other day while on guard detail in the woods. Stitch had managed to catch five or six of the tiny beings with painfully sharp teeth and clawing nails. He’d secured them into a pouch he kept tied to his gear belt. “This’ll teach him,” Stitch said with a conspiratorial wink.
For the past three nights in a row they’d found Abek, the night guard, asleep while on duty. They themselves should have been asleep, but Tarek’s dreams often plagued his slumber and Stitch was a nervous sort who was prone to wandering to settle his anxiety. The first night they’d let it go and simply woken him up. The second night, Tarek mentioned he needed to do something since he was in charge of the Racan stock. It was his job to make sure the creatures stayed in line and did their jobs. He was also responsible for feeding and locking them in for the night. Except the young centaur Stitch, who’d quickly become one of Tarek’s closest friends after finding him half-drowned in Many Rivers. Tarek only pretended to lock him up at night.
One of the strange dreams which plagued Tarek was of the man dressed in gold and white who might have been the one who kept Tarek from tumbling over the falls in Many Rivers. He’d been ready to give up and let the current take him over. But a strange wind had come along and swooped him up onto a rocky crag instead. That’s where Stitch had found him and they’d been inseparable ever since.
Which was strange for Tarek. He normally didn’t put much trust in creatures. But Stitch’s antics kept him from falling into a pit of despair and that was enough for Tarek to lower his guard and allow the friendship to grow.
The guard Abek yelled out in frustration.
Stitch had the grand idea of teaching the night guard a lesson about falling asleep during his shift. While the brown centaur snored away, Stitch and Tarek had sneaked up on the unsuspecting creature and tied the furious brownies to the hairs of Abek’s long, curly tail. Despite the hissing and yelps of pain from Stitch when he was bitten or scratched, Abek slept on through the whole ordeal. By time they were done, Tarek reasoned the lazy mule-man deserved what he got.
Abek’s screaming brought a few of his kinsmen to his aid. They surrounded the bucking centaur, trying to calm him so they could remove the fighting Fae creatures.
“If you’d hold still, Abe!” one of the guardsmen shouted. “Ow!” He shook his hand after receiving a nip from one of the brownies.
Finally a pure black centaur entered the commotion, unsheathing his knife. “There’s only one way to get them out. You will all have to hold him still.”
Stitch gasped, covering his mouth. “Oh, no. Abek’s beautiful tail.”
Tarek tried to shush him, but it was too late. Abek caught sight of Stitch peering around the cluster of trees and pointed in their direction.
“Run for it,” Stitch yelled, leaving Tarek still on his hands and knees.
He ducked down and tried to scramble out of sight through the thick growth of fern and brambles. Some way to show he’s the boss of this lot, he thought as he crawled like a child through the brush.
After putting a good distance between himself and the commotion, Tarek stood and ran, remaining hunched over until he reached the edge of the woods. He made for a row of buildings along the edge of Denovo, which was now inhabited by Racan soldiers. Tarek had no more than stepped out of the tree cover when he heard his name called.
“A word, Squire.” Captain Whines motioned him over.
“Yes, sir.” As Tarek started toward him, he felt a jolt on his belt and realized he still had the bag of the two remaining brownies he’d taken from Stitch while he finished tying in the others. They’d both feared they were pushing their luck trying to secure all of them without waking the slumbering Abek. He tucked his thumb into the hip pocket of his trousers, hoping to hide the wriggling bag with his hand.
“I’ll be sending a work crew of dwarves and centaurs over to the canyons by the north range.” He pointed to a three-pronged peak of the Semitamon Mountains towering over the township of Denovo. “There’s a passage which has caved in. I think it’s repairable. Orders have been sent by messenger bird for us to keep at least two of the tunnels through the mountains open. I only know of three, but one is too difficult to get to. So we’ll focus on keeping the other two accessible.”
Tarek gave a nod, not sure why the captain was telling him this.
Whines smoothed his bushy mustache which practically covered his lips and was always caked with crumbs or grease from his last meal. “I want you to pick six bucks to take and about a dozen of our dwarves. They stay there until it’s open. You’ll need to oversee the operation and make sure they make quick work about it.”
“Yes, sir.”
At that moment, a group of centaurs burst from the woods, Abek in the lead as he ran away from one wielding a knife. The brownies bounced along behind his rump, still tangled in his long tail. “You’ll not cut it. I won’t let you,” Abek cried, galloping toward the stables. “I’ll get them out myself.”
“Be reasonable, Abek.” shouted the one chasing him with the glinting silver dagger. “I’ll nip them out in no time. Your tail will grow back, lad. In time.”
“Nooooooo!” Abek’s wail pierced Tarek’s ears.
“Good night, man,” Captain Whines gasped. “What was that all about?”
Captain Whines folded his arms across his chest, resting them on his expansive gut. “I’ve explained the necessity of keeping your stock in order, have I not, Squire?”
Tarek tried not to look chagrined. He didn’t rank high enough to be given the title of a private. Not that he cared, but still, he wondered how they expected him to take his job seriously when they refused to take him seriously.
Then again, he was only here as a means to retrieve Princess, though he still had no intention of allowing her to be captured. He’d written his family and warned them to make a run for it, if given the chance. Pop had responded by ordering him to do what he was told to do. To think about his family and his own hide before he worried about that troublesome princess. Who wasn’t really a princess at all. Her name was Alyra, she was free and confident, and the last time they’d met, in Many Rivers, he’d been left almost shattered because of her and his failure to hinder her pursuit of freedom.
“Well?” Captain Whines demanded.
Tarek blurted, “Abek was caught sleeping while on duty, sir. I… uh—”
Stitch appeared then, out of breath and still laughing until he saw Tarek standing beside the captain. He almost dove back into the woods, but he stopped. Maybe he wasn’t going to totally abandon Tarek, after all, the wily skunk. Tarek narrowed his eyes threateningly, and Stitch approached, head ducked.
“I—” finished Tarek, “—asked Stitch here to find means to teach him a lesson.”
“Really?” Captain Whines didn’t seem too impressed by his tone. He glared at Stitch who fiddled with the belt looping around his narrow waist.
Stitch muttered, “Just following the master’s orders.” Then he quickly added, “Sir.”
“Tarek, need I explain again that the best form of discipline is a heavy-handed one? Our king would find your simple-minded pranks a feeble attempt to keep order. If you find a sleeping buck, you whip his hide until he learns to stay awake.”
Stitch’s eyes widened as he took a nervous step backward.
Captain Whines leaned in closer and added, “Most certainly we do not elicit the aid of the beast to manage the other beasts. You must keep your distance, lad. How can I trust you to maintain the stock if you’re too weak-willed to give them the lashing they deserve? After that guard gets those… things out of his tail, you set him as an example, understand? Cut off his tail to rid him of the pests, then give him twenty lashes for shirking his duty.”
“But sir—” Tarek started.
Stitch froze, his rounded eyes darting between Tarek and the captain.
“I mean it.” Captain Whines smacked his fist into his pudgy palm. “This is the only way to keep those stupid creatures in line. They understanding nothing else and certainly can’t be reasoned with.”
Stitch turned away and started walking toward the stables.
“See,” Captain Whines pointed at the retreating palomino. “he doesn’t even stand and argue with me. No spirit. No brains. No sense even trying to reason with them.” He patted Tarek on the back. “I like you, Squire. I know why you’re here and I know your position is precarious. I do not wish to send you back to Racah for failing your assignment.”
Tarek sucked in his breath. He caught Stitch’s blond head peering around the building. He was still close enough to listen to their conversation, drat him! Such a nosy nelly.
When Tarek offered no response, Captain continued, “However, I need to know your presence here will benefit our unit, understand?”
“Indeed, sir. And I’m still watching out for… her. Sir. I may yet be able to accomplish the… assignment I was sent on.” In truth, if he was fortunate to find Alyra again, he just might actually go with her if the invitation was still open.
Captain Whines’ black eyes looked like two floating beads broken off a lady’s necklace as he stared down at him. “I should hope you remember the reason your life has been spared, lad. You are the only one who truly knows what the damsel looks like. I will need you to identify her when you see her. We will take care of it from there.”
Tarek swallowed the rock lodging in his throat. He gave a quick nod.
“Very good. Now go take care of your situation with the centaurs. Show them you will not tolerate their laziness.”
“Yes, sir.” Tarek left him and headed toward the stables, hoping they’d settled the matter on their own. He didn’t want to beat any of them. However, the captain was right— he needed to have a talk with the guard. He’d strip him of his nocturnal duties and send him to the dig out the tunnels during the day. The business of clearing out the rubble should keep him awake.
“What was all that about?” Stitch asked, falling in step beside him. “About having an assignment and—”
“Mind your own, mule.”
Stitch clicked his tongue. “You sound a little put-out.” Then the crunching of his hooves slowed as his hand grasped Tarek’s shoulder. “Wait, you don’t intend to… you won’t actually beat Abek, will you?”
Tarek knew that was probably what he should do, but he shook his head. “No, not this time.” Still, Tarek knew he had to do something. Something more than playing that stupid prank on him. Blast Stitch for coming up with the idea!
No, his annoying inner voice condemned. Blast you for letting him talk you into it in the first place.
Breathing out a long breath, Tarek steeled himself for what needed to be done. He hated it. Hated being in this position. If he didn’t fear for Alyra being caught if she traveled through here, then he’d leave and disappear in the mountains. He’d heard rumors of small hamlets hidden in the cliffs. He had no idea how anyone could make a life for themselves up there. What could they grow among the rocks? Or build shelter in the side of the cliffs? He shook his head, knowing at the moment he had nowhere to go. He’d sent a letter to Ma, appealing to her to make Pop leave Racah. He told her his position was precarious and he doubted he’d make it back to Racah alive. And he had no intention of returning. At all.
When they reached the stables, there was still a commotion going on inside. Abek wailed as the others tried to untangle the brownies from his tail. “Don’t yank out my hair. Ow!”
Tarek stopped and withdrew his knife. “Stitch, you’ll have to hold him down. This was your idea and you’ll help me deal with him. He has to learn his lesson.”
“But Tare—”
“Would you rather I whipped him like the captain suggested?” Tarek yelled.
“No.” Stitch ducked his head again.

“Then do what I said. Let’s get this over quick.”

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Virtual FantasyCon 2016 book sales

This week I'll be participating in the on-line Virtual FantasyCon event. I'm expecting it to be a great week of fun with over 400 participants which include fantasy authors, artist, book designers and edits and more.

There will be prizes galore to be had. Books for free and on sale. Stop in this week and check it out.

Enter the Virtual FantasyCon event HERE
You can click this link to find my booth and see what I'm giving away.

This week, I have a sale going on. Illuminated and Luminosity are both going for .99¢ until next Sunday, Oct 16th. Both have been updated and have new covers. Be sure to tell your friends.

I look forward to seeing you there. I'll also have a booth next Sunday in the YA fantasy event. I'll be talking more about The Sentinel Archives and The White Road Series then, too.

Blessings and Peace
Be kind to each other.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Something New in the Kingdom...

Updates are underway for the White Road Chronicle books. The first two, Illuminated and Luminosity have both undergone a professional edit and received new covers. I hope to finish up the next two by the end of this year.

I believe Illuminated will update automatically. It did on my kindle device. If it hasn't on yours, and you would like it to, I suggest you email Amazon and ask them for an updated version. Luminosity didn't get any revision, only fixing what mistakes we caught and tighten up a few things I missed before. 

And Book Six... untitled at the moment... will soon be underway. I can assure you all there will be no cliffhangers in the last book. Well, there shouldn't be. 

Along with the changes, I've widened the distribution of books one and two.

You can now read both of these book and all of the White Road Tales novellas at these distributors.
Here's a link that you can follow to get a list of where the books are now being sold.

Illuminated on expanded distribution
Luminosity on expanded distribution

All of these book are also here:
Amazon (Please be sure to like my Amazon author page for updates on new releases)
Barnes and Noble

Finally, one more little bit of news.

Keep an eye on my newsletter (Yes, I will start sending them again, soon) for the release date of The White Tales complete collection. My aim is to have this out in mid-November. I'll announce the actual date soon.

I also have a couple of new releases coming out in October from the Madison Creek romance series. More information about that in my newsletter. If you haven't signed up for that, check the sidebar and do so. I sometimes offer contest, information on sales and other bits of fun news. 

Well, happy reading
Blessings and Peace and remember to be kind to each other.


Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Ignited Cover Reveal

I'm so excited to share with you the cover of my next book in the White Road Chronicle series. 
The first chapter, too.

The manuscripts are back from my editors and I'm in the process of cleaning up whatever last boo-boos they've found. So, I can confidently say you all should be looking for Ignited's release before the end of February.

Until then, here's a sneak peek.

Look for the announcement newsletter when Ignited goes live. It'll be soon. I'm as eager to get this story to you as you are to get it. Trust me. =)


Chapter One

The ball of light Alyra held suspended in the small cell grew dim from her weariness. She breathed out a long sigh and willed the ball of luminance to move through the rusty bars separating her from Tarek. He still slept on the cold, dirt floor, his linen shirt stained and leather pants covered in dust. He wore a vest with a small White Tree emblem on the right breast though he still didn’t have the medallion marking him as one of King Shaydon’s people.

With his arm thrown over his tranquil face, he lay perfectly still aside from the occasional twitch or mumbling as he dreamed.

Reaching through the bars, Alyra’s fingers barely brushed his blond tendrils curling around his forehead. She leaned against the cool iron, remembering the many nights they’d met together in the woods, hoping they’d not be discovered by one of Darnel’s guardsmen. Tarek had taught her to fish and how to set traps to catch small game. He’d instructed her on shooting a bow. He’d worked hard to prepare her to survive when they escaped.

What had gone wrong? Even though she had most of her memories back, finally, the last months she’d lived in Racah remained in a fog. She’d wanted to ask Tarek during their long hours in the Curian dungeon, but feared angering him. Finally, they’d been reunited, and for the first time in a long many months, she felt as if a big piece of her heart had been set back in place. She didn’t want to ruin that with questions that might stir more awful memories.

Not only did she remember their training times together, but she recalled their stolen kisses, as well, which caused a pleasant warmth to heat her chest. The hours sitting under the stars held in his arms brought a smile to her face. Now everything made sense. Why he’d followed her around like a hungry puppy. Why he’d risked so much to keep her safe. Why he’d traveled out of his way to be with her when she was sent to visit the dragons ….

Because he loved her.
And she loved him.

Tarek gave a startled jerk and bolted up to a sitting position. “Where…?” He looked around in bewilderment. Like her, he probably had trouble accepting where and what they’d tumbled into three days ago. The strange cliff-side pit she’d fallen into that turned out to be a library. They been left in this damp, underground chamber without a chance to speak to anyone, or ask questions. Where had they taken DezPierre, her Okbold friend who had saved her from several scrapes over the last couple of years?

She didn’t even have her pack with her Ledge-o-graph, the marvelous book which allowed her to communicate with her friends currently scattered across Alburnium.

Lotari and Stitch, the centaurs, had to be worried out of their minds, not to mention her brother, Ethan, who was also stuck in Wilderland. At least, she hoped Ethan remained with the centaurs and their guardian, the Elderad Riyah.

Alyra made her ball of light grow brighter to catch Tarek’s attention. “We’re still in the dungeon.”
She’d lost all sense of the time of day, outside of counting how many visits the guard, always dressed in a brown cloak with a hood covering his head, had entered with food and water, but no words. Never any words. And the deliverer of the food would only push the tray through the slot along the floor then rush back out, covered head ducked so she couldn’t see if he was one of them, or not. Surely, they were all of the lost race. The Curians.

She wanted more than anything to write Katrina and tell her that they had truly found the remnant. Before being locked in the prison, Alyra had momentarily seen a few of them with their swirling marks covering their faces and strange, drooping ears. The elders’ ears nearly touched their shoulders.

Tarek turned to face her, but the shackles on his ankle kept him from getting any closer. He reached out, and they were able to clasp hands. “Have you slept, love? You need your rest, too.”
“My mind is racing too much to sleep. I was thinking about our life in Racah. Before Dean, the Messenger showed up.”

He smiled and managed to bring the tips of her fingers to his lips. “Those were some of my best times, despite that wretched land and king.”

Bristles covered his cheek and tickled as she lightly stroked his face. When she made to pull back, he caught her hand again and didn’t let go. “I’m growing impatient with them. I think we need to go ahead and break ourselves out of here.”

Alyra motioned her free hand at the chain bound around his foot. “Did you say you could get rid of that?”

“Just say the word, and I can get us out of here.”

Chuckling, Alyra shook her head. “Just remove the shackles off so we can sit closer. Maybe when they come in with our next meal they’ll see we are growing impatient with them.”

“Do you think they know what I can do?” Tarek removed the small dagger from inside his boot that the Curians missed when they stripped them of their weapons. A flash of light lit up the small enclosure.

Alyra noticed there were two more cells, and she wondered when they had needed to use them. Did they often have visitors drop in on them?

“I’m not sure. They know I’m an Illuminate because they saw my medallion. Not sure what they think about you.”

“Most likely that I’m the traitor scum who doesn’t have one.” A loud clank echoed off the granite walls when the shackle broke loose. “Which is probably why they will leave us here to rot.”

“I’m sure they are just trying to decide how to approach us. That’s why I don’t want to threaten them.” Alyra slid both arms through the bars and waved him to scoot closer. Once she could wrap her arms around his wide shoulders, her nerves calmed considerably. “That’s better.”  Their foreheads pressed together in the gap and her senses filled with his pine, woodsy scent she remembered so well.

“This is better.” He brushed his lips against her hairline. “If I can stay like this, I might reconsider my plan to bring this mountain down on their stubborn, pride-filled heads.”

“Hey, they’re no different than Katrina. She’s good and kind. They’ll come around. Eventually.”

Tarek let out a derisive snort. “Miss K is completely different. She wasn’t brought up with them. If it weren’t for her marks, I never would have believed she was a Curian. She’s nothing like the stories I’ve been told.”

“You knew about them? I mean before you met Katrina?” Alyra wondered at his name for her friend, then assumed that’s what all the folks of Little Delve must call her.

“My mother used to tell us stories about Alburnium until Pops ordered her to stop filling our heads with those fairy tales.” His voice lowered with anger at the mention of his father. Alyra didn’t care for the man much, either.

Tarek sighed, his warm breath washing over her ear and sending delightful tingles down her neck. “I’m ready to get out of here, love. What do you suppose they’ve done with DezPierre? Why won’t they tell us something?”

“I don’t know. I’m worried, too. What about that army surrounding Wilderland? What if they attack? I… I hope Ethan stays close to Riyah and doesn’t try to find us.”

Tarek pulled away, causing the chill from the cold floor to invade her momentary warmth. “Look, we have to do something. We’ve wasted enough time down here waiting to see what they’ll do. I say we make them speak to us. I can get us out of here.”

“Tare, I don’t want to frighten them. We need to...” The sound of a creaking door opening silenced her. They both stood. Alyra let her dim light fade. For a moment they were plunged into darkness before a lantern light flickered on the walls. The same man who always kept his head covered entered, wheeling in a cart with their trays on it. Tarek released her and rushed for the door, despite her warnings to not hurt him.

“Look, you,” Tarek demanded, his hand thrusting through the bars as he pointed at the attendant. “We need to speak to your elders. Right now, or…”

The man’s head jerked up, his eyes wide. He opened his mouth but no words came out, only a stump of a tongue. He was a mute. That explained why he never spoke to them.

 Alyra caught sight the lines on his face indicating he was also a Curian. She hurried to the door, but her chains hindered her from getting too close. “Listen, sir. We mean no harm. But we need to speak with someone in authority.” She reached for her medallion. “I’m a representative of King Shaydon. Please, tell them we are here to help. We mean no harm, I swear.”

The man looked from Alyra to Tarek. He reached for the first tray and slid it under her door. But Tarek, free of his bonds, must have frightened him, because he also slid Tarek’s tray through her slot. Then taking his torch, he rushed back out, leaving them both in darkness again.

Tarek slammed his palm against the bars, sending up sparks.

“Tarek,” Alyra warned. “Don’t lose control.” She hadn’t seen him in action yet, but if he could do the things Riyah had wanted her to do, she wasn’t sure she was ready to see his Empowering abilities just yet. She sent up another ball of light that floated near the ceiling between their cells. Thrusting her arms through the bars that separated them, she motioned for him to return to her. “We’ll be all right, Tare. Come here. Let’s eat and think this through.”

He pulled his knife from his boot again. “Fine but I’m removing your chains, too. Come closer to the bars.”

She tried not to wince when the blade lit up. He had trouble reaching his muscled arm through the slot between the bars, but he did manage to cut off the metal bonds, allowing blood to flow down into her foot again.

“Thank you.” She gathered the food and water bags from the tray and passed his meal to him. “I’m getting tired of these leafy wrap meals. What is this inside, do you think?”

Tarek shook his head, his brows still furrowed over his sullen face. “Probably something they can grow underground. I didn’t see any signs of life above. I’m curious beyond belief over how they managed to survive down here so many years.”

Alyra bit into the wrap. There was some kind of meat with a gamy taste, perhaps venison or rabbit, surrounded by a creamed nut and root mixture. The whole thing was tucked into a large section of some kind of lettuce. She didn’t find the meal unpleasant, only unusual and somewhat bland. How did they manage to grow food without being seen?

For a while they ate in silence, both lost in their own thoughts. When Tarek finished his, he wiped his fingers on the cloth napkin they’d provided. “This is it. If nobody comes to speak with us by the time they serve us our next meal, I’m unlocking our cells and we’re going to find DezPierre and get out of here.”

Alyra swallowed down her bite. “I sure hope they didn’t hurt him.” Her Okbold friend could be pretty obstinate when provoked. He looked like a stump of a tree with sharp, twig-like fingers that could do a person great damage if the creature had the notion to cause harm. She watched Tarek for a long moment and knew from the resolute set of his jaw he wouldn’t be persuaded to wait any longer than he already had.

Finally, she gave a nod. “Very well. If it comes down to a fight, I can throw up a shield so they can’t hurt us. And we will not hurt them.” She pushed a chunk of bread through the bars to him. “If they don’t seem willing to talk, we’ll find Dez and leave. At least, we know where they are. I’ll find a way to speak to Riyah, and maybe he can bring Issah here or come himself.”

“You can’t hear him now?”

She shook her head. When she’d lit up while trying to escape her kidnappers, she’d heard her guardian loud and clear inside her head when he ordered her to stop glowing. “I’ve not been able to hear him since they brought us here. I’m not sure why.”

His head bobbed once as he considered her words. “Let’s hope that army hasn’t charged into Wilderland and attacked. Though that might explain why he isn’t speaking to you.”

A shudder raked down Alyra’s back. She didn’t want to think about that possibility. Her old master, King Darnel, wouldn’t be pleased to find a Meeting Hall had been built in Wilderland, where he’d always gone to stock his army with creatures.

When they finished eating, Tarek settled next to the bars. “Come sit by me. I want you to get some rest. I’ll keep watch now and wake you if anything happens.”

Alyra wasn’t sure she’d actually be able to sleep, but weariness hung on her like a hundred pounds of chains. She’d need to try if they were going to attempt an escape. Oh, please King Shaydon, let the Curians see reason, she silently petitioned, hoping the King would hear her way down in this underground dungeon.

Riyah insisted the King heard his children wherever they were. So, with that thought easing her fears, she rested her head against the bars and let Tarek’s arms circle her shoulders. His closeness soothed her fears, and his hummed song stilled her rampant thoughts. He tenderly stroked her hair, lulling her to sleep and she knew no more until the cells filled with a brilliant light.

Fighting her way back to the land of wakefulness, Alyra hoped Tarek hadn’t let loose his Empowering light. But when she opened her eyes and blinked against the brightness, she saw he also slumbered, rested against the bars like her.

“See?” said a younger man dressed in leather like a guard. He pointed toward them. “Samuel wrote that they’ve broken their chains. Which one do you think did it?”

A group of hooded figures stood outside the cells, each carrying a lantern, which explained why the dungeon was so well lit now. Tarek was on his feet in a moment, the dagger in his hands, but not glowing. Alyra also stood and slowly moved toward the door of her cell.

“We mean no harm. Please, sirs, give us a chance to explain how we came to be here.”

One stepped forward— an elder, she guessed from his stooped frame and glazed eyes that were nearly completely white. “Let the Illuminate girl speak, Sirth. Perhaps she can shed light on our current situation. Once we know all the facts, then we can make an informed decision on how to proceed.”

“Father Rowel, please,” said a younger one holding his arm. A female, from her voice.

Alyra peered at the face beneath the hood. The girl looked just like Katrina, with her dark hair and narrow face. “I have a Curian friend who is right about your age. She also has faint markings and your color of hair.”

“Impossible,” rumbled the one they called Sirth. “We are the only survivors.”

“No.” Alyra clutched the bars to still her trembling hands. “There is a Curian who escaped the attack. I think her parents were warned and sent her away before it happened. Her name is Katrina and she was raised by a family living in the northern Semitamon Mountains. She now lives in The Halls of Knowledge.”

The girl gasped. “But the Halls, they’ve been destroyed.”

Tarek moved toward the edge of his own cell, causing everyone to take a cautious step backward. “Not all of the Halls. There’s a portion on the southern summit that’s been preserved. The library is still intact and now in use. And the people of Little Delve are—”

Sirth hit his walking stick on the bars. “Hush! You have no voice here, unmarked one. We will listen to the one bearing the King’s mark and no other.”

“Stop it,” Alyra snapped. “He lived there with Katrina. He knows what’s going on, more than I do.”

Sirth glowered. “Impossible! An outlander in our Halls? What is this foolery?”

The elder moved forward with the girl still supporting him. “Let us hear their story, Sirth. Patience is a virtue we must work hard to achieve on a daily basis. Come, dear light-bearer, finish your story.” He patted her hand, and Alyra wondered if he was able to see her or not. His cloudy eyes seemed focused on her.

She swallowed down the nervous lump forming in her throat. “My name is Alyra. I’m from Belluvita and belong to the House of Lamb. This is Tarek of the House of Lion. Sir, we’ve both escaped from Racah and are familiar with the Dark King’s schemes. We saw his army approaching Wilderland moments before I accidentally tumbled into your library.” She patted her chest with her free hand. “For the past several months, I’ve been living in the ancient forest with my brother and centaur friends, helping them build a Meeting Hall for King Shaydon.” She paused and pointed to Tarek, just in case the elder could see her. “My friend Tarek, he sought sanctuary in the Denovo Meeting Hall. Prince Issah assigned him to help our Curian friend, Katrina, reclaim the Halls of Knowledge.”
Jerin and Carah, her warrior friends, were there now, helping.

The one named Sirth, dressed like a soldier, gave a derisive laugh and shook his head. “Such lies they’ve come up with.”

“Please, sir,” Alyra pressed on, ignoring his scoffing. “If you’d allow me to have my belongings back, I can contact my friends and warn them about the army that approaches.”

The elder stroked the long white hairs growing off his chin. “The Ledge-o-graph has been making much racket. We’ve sought a way to silence it, but I see the creator of the journal has put a protection over the device so no one can read it except the owner. Is my assumption correct in this matter?”

“Yes, sir. I can fix it, sir. If you’ll allow me to come out. And I need to know how my Okbold friend is. Please, you haven’t caused him harm, have you?”

Sirth stepped between her cell and the Elder. “See? She admits to being associated with the miscreant creature.” He turned to her cage and added, “We’ve secured him so he can’t hurt anyone. But my patience with him wanes, girl.”

“Alyra, sir. My name is Alyra.” She stared back at him, matching his stern expression with one of her own. She’d come too far and been through too much to allow people to intimidate her anymore. “Please hear us out, sirs. We’ve been looking all over for you. Issah has been searching, too. He wants you back in his Kingdom and we can help you get there. If you’ll only give us a chance.”

“Issah?” The Elder whispered the prince’s name with a longing in his ancient voice. “Oh, how I’ve missed the connection we once had with Aloblase. Back in the day, we had a portal—”

“It’s been reopened,” Tarek interjected. “I helped rebuild the pool with the help of the townsfolk. We all worked together and repaired the assembly halls. The portal has been reopened and the Logorians have traveled through. They’ve come to help.”

A collective gasp escaped from the group. Even Sirth seemed taken aback by this news for a moment until his stony-faced doubt returned. “Father Rowel, please see reason. They even admitted to their association with the Dark Lord. My guess is they are his spies and accidentally found a way in. We must do with them as we’ve done with the other trespassers.”

The girl supporting Rowel shook her head. “You do not mean, Sirth, to toss them into the pit without a proper trial, do you?”

He glowered at the girl. “I see no reason to waste the Council’s time with these lying trespassers. Yes, that is exactly what I propose.”