For Crown and Kingdom released May 31
Two epic tales of Fantasy romance from Jeffe Kennedy and Grace Draven.
FOR CROWN AND KINGDOM
The Crown of the Queen: a novella of the Twelve Kingdoms
It’s been a lifetime since librarian Dafne Mailloux saw the coronation of the tyrant who destroyed her family. She did her part to pull him off the High Throne. But his daughter, the would-be Queen, and her sisters must still tame their conquest. If her victory is to last, Dafne must forge peace with the subtle, ruthless methods of a diplomat—and the worst memories of her life . . .
The Undying King
The stories are told in whispers, even after so long: of a man whose fair rule soured when he attained eternal youth. Imprisoned by a sorceress wife in a city out of time and place, he has passed into legend. Few believe in him, and fewer would set their hopes on his mercy. But Imogen has no choice. To break the curse that’s isolated her since birth, she’ll find the Undying King—and answer his secrets with her own…
Here’s an excerpt from The Crown of the Queen:
“Dafne, you’re going to miss your own party.”
I glanced up from the scroll I’d been copying to see Zynda standing on the other side of the table. From her wry smile and raised eyebrows, I gathered she’d been standing there for a while. The Tala—well, most people, but in particular the Tala—seemed quite bemused that I could be so blind and deaf to the world while immersed in words on the page. As a culture focused primarily on oral histories, the Tala weren’t much for keeping documents at all. But a great deal of what they did have contained information I’d never seen anywhere else.
With a sense of opportunity running through my fingers as inevitably as a fistful of seawater, I’d spent my last days in Annfwn scanning for the rarest and most alluring documents—and then copying what I could, as fast as possible.
It wasn’t that I didn’t want to attend my going-away party—though I had never been much for the social whirl—it just marked the end of an idyll.
Time for me to go home. Or rather, back to Castle Ordnung, which was as close to a home as I’d ever had.
“There’s so much here I haven’t gone through,” I answered, with a scowl for her amusement at my expense. “If it were anyone but Her Majesty summoning me, I’d find a way to delay.”
Not only for the rare books, either. It would be difficult to leave this place, with the aquamarine water glittering beyond the library’s white pillars, wound round with flowering vines. The brightly colored canvas overhead that reminded me of sails on ships—and served to keep off the worst of the rain—flapped with gentle mutters in the warm breeze off the water. A corner of the scroll I’d been copying lifted and I moved a smoothly polished seashell to weight it better.
“But you would never refuse Ursula.” Zynda said it solemnly enough, but her deep blue eyes, radiant with Tala shapeshifter magic, gleamed with mischief. The Tala weren’t much for authority, either.
“I don’t wish to,” I corrected her, meaning it despite my earlier gripe. I’d long cultivated the ambition of serving as councilor to the three daughters of the High King, in whatever capacity I could—with the lion’s share of my ambition going toward the day the eldest, Ursula, ascended to the High Throne. Though I’d longed for High King Uorsin’s downfall most of my life, that day had come sooner than even I had hoped for.
I hadn’t wanted Ursula to have to kill her own father, however. Goddesses knew High King Uorsin had collected plenty of enemies over his miserable life. But not just anyone could have done what Ursula did—or paid the price I suspected she had. Regardless, the High Throne stood empty for Uorsin’s Heir, and she’d called me on my promise of filling the role Derodotur had held for her father.
It wasn’t in me to be superstitious, but word had also arrived of Derodotur’s grim fate as one of the living dead. An image I couldn’t shake, one far too close to how my future seemed when I awoke in the small hours of the night that were strangely so conducive to irrational feelings, like the creeping fear that by taking on his job, I might also fall to the same fate. Or I’d simply continue to live as I had since my family’s castle fell to Uorsin—at most half-alive. I shook off the mood, giving Zynda a resolute smile. “I truly don’t wish to refuse. I’ll miss Annfwn, but there will be a great deal to do to ensure your cousin secures the High Throne.”
Zynda brought the long fall of shining black hair over her shoulder, idly making a rope of it as she puzzled over that. “But she won, yes? The duel is over with. He’s dead and the right to rule falls to her.”
“It’s not so simple in the Twelve as it is in Annfwn. I’m sure they crowned her immediately, but there are many legalities to see to, detractors and alliances to navigate. There will be many challengers to come, if they’re not there already.”
She shrugged that off as not her problem. Which it wouldn’t be. The headaches would be entirely mine. You wanted this, I reminded myself. Ursula hadn’t sent details—in fact, no written missive at all—only the message via her Hawks that an escort waited to bring me and the royal family’s infant heirs to Ordnung.
“Well, I’m glad we’re finally leaving tomorrow—it will be such an adventure!” Zynda smiled at my soft snort of disbelief. “At least for me. The lands of the Twelve Kingdoms must be so very different.”
“You do know it will be autumn in Mohraya, yes? Being at the base of the mountains, they could get snow at any time. It may have snowed already.”
“Frozen water,” Zynda nearly sang the words, eyes sparkling with rapture as she gazed out at the gorgeous tropical sea she’d looked on all her life. “I can’t quite imagine it. It must be so very beautiful.”
“It’s so very cold, is what it is.”
She grinned at me undaunted and twisted up her rope of hair, securing the coil with a pair of long, jeweled hairpins she pulled from the pocket of her filmy dress. In many ways Zynda, a close cousin to the three princesses by way of their mother, Salena, looked most like Princess Andromeda—Andi, informally—with her dark hair and that sense of unsettling shapeshifter magic to her. But Zynda was built more like Ursula, tall and lean, in a softer way, without the warrior’s muscles and scars. The barely-there Tala garb skimmed her slender frame in the same colors as the blossoms hanging so flagrantly from the vines around us.
“It will be lovely to be cool,” she replied. “But I’ve packed all the things you said to.” She began naming them off, displaying the enviable eidetic memory most of the Tala possessed. Nothing like training the mind to memorize oral histories from a young age to hone that ability. Then again, my old tutor at Castle Columba had always said there was no sense taking up memory storing something you could easily reference in a book.
“Is that everything?” Zynda looked so enthusiastic, so much the opposite of how I felt, that I had to laugh.
“It will have to be. Besides, the journey should take no more than three days, even with the babies, possibly less. I really appreciate your help with them.”
“I like babies. Especially easy ones like Astar and Stella, who aren’t shapeshifting yet.”
“Glorianna help us if they do.”
“You’ll want to appeal to Moranu for help with that,” Zynda corrected. “And it’s when, not if.”
“Stella has the mark, not Astar. Maybe he never will.” Of Salena’s three daughters, only Andi had inherited the ability to shapeshift. Which was why she’d become Queen of the Tala, following in her mother’s footsteps. Though it appeared that Queen Amelia, Astar and Stella’s mother, had subtle magic of her own. Even Ursula, for all her hard-headed ways, the apparent epitome of the unchanging mossbacks, as the Tala called non-shifters, drew her fighting speed and flexibility from a touch of shapeshifter magic.
Zynda shrugged one golden-skinned shoulder. “Who knows what effect having Annfwn’s magic spilling over all the Twelve will have? Astar may not need to be as pure-blooded to do it as he would have when the barrier still isolated Annfwn. Maybe the magic being everywhere will make it easier.”
“Logically, as the magic disburses over a greater area, it should attenuate. Like water. Or air.” Once the barrier had held magic inside Annfwn. Whatever Ursula had done when she killed Uorsin had also made the barrier disappear as if it never had been—or perhaps it had only moved. It would be interesting indeed to finally hear those details.
“Ah ah.” Zynda shook a finger at me, trying to look like a stern teacher and failing terribly. “Magic isn’t water or air. What if magic is more like fire and the more fuel it has, the hotter it burns?”
I frowned at her, then stretched, suddenly aware of the stiffness in my body from sitting so long on the stool. As the Tala rarely sat still, their chairs were never comfortable for extended periods. Zynda, true to her people, still stood, her bare feet whispering over the tiled floor in a perpetual dance to some internal song.
“Do you think that’s the case?” I asked her. The implications of such a thing could be tremendous. I’d have to bring it to Ursula’s attention. Though what we’d do about it was another question.
Her face brightened in a teasing smile and she laughed. “I don’t know. I only argued with you because you’re so serious. Come, leave your scrolls. It’s your last evening in Annfwn and we’re having a party!”