Date Published: February 1, 2014
When Princess Rhea’s actions inadvertently condemn two innocent knights to death, she wakes to the hard reality that not even nobility is above the law. All her attempts to remedy the situation only complicate it, however, until she finds herself a fugitive in her own kingdom, having dragged her best friend into the trouble, as well. Their only hope for pardon? To accompany Sir Paladin and Sir Zephen in their sentence:
Slay, or be slain by, the Dragons of Sama-Ael-Fen.
Travelling incognito, they meet with more malicious Phoenixes than could be coincidental, discover the mysterious disappearance of numerous citizens, and come face to face with a reawakened evil power. With the kingdom oblivious to the connection of these dangers, it’s up to Rhea and her outlaw companions to stop the rising threat and redeem their names – if they can survive their quest.
The door swung open at Rhea’s gentle push, and she peered into a room not unlike the one her father had left her in a few minutes before: a bed in one corner, a table and a stool against the wall, and a fireplace with a couple of chairs before it. Between the chairs, standing with his face towards the fire and his back to Rhea, was Sir Paladin. His hands were clasped behind his back and his damp sleeves rolled up, and in the shifting light of the fire Rhea could see the muscles and tendons of his arms were rigid and tight. With a shaky breath, Rhea stepped into the doorway and cleared her throat. At the sound, starting as if from deep thought, Sir Paladin looked over his shoulder, eyes wide and alert. Rhea’s face flamed as he turned to face her fully, his hands now limp at his sides, and stared at her. There was dust on his clothes, and streaks of mud and grass stains, one sleeve was torn at the shoulder, and there was the beginning of a fine bruise on the right side of his face.
“I…” Rhea fumbled, “I brought you some dinner.”
Sir Paladin’s expression did not change, and Rhea set the tray down on the floor before her trembling hands could drop it. When she straightened again, she found Sir Paladin still in the same position. She frowned.
That seemed to release him, for he hurried towards her, grabbed her upper arm, and pulled her into the room, shutting the door quickly behind her.
“What… are you doing here?” he hissed.
“I came to speak with you… actually, to bring you dinner, but since I’m here I might as well talk with you,” Rhea whispered.
“What? How…?” Sir Paladin threw up his hands. “If your father or anyone else… Where did you even get the key?”
“The innkeeper’s wife thought I was a new maid and sent me up. But there isn’t much time. I’ve come to tell you I’m dreadfully sorry about what has happened. I’m mortified that your kindness to me should be repaid in such an awful way, and that my father and Prince Ohnferead think you would do anything like what they accuse you of.”
“You came up here, risking both our necks, to tell me that?”
“Aye, and tomorrow I’ll tell the prince and my father everything.”
“No, don’t!” Sir Paladin put up one hand as if to hush Rhea then and there.
“Whyever not? This is my dilemma, and I must stand up and deal with it. I can’t have my father and everyone else, especially that prince, blaming you for something I caused. I am at fault, and I must take the consequences. You don’t need to and won’t,” Rhea almost stamped her foot but stopped, fearing it would be heard elsewhere in the inn and arouse suspicion, “be blamed for any of it.”
Paladin made as if to speak, but Rhea continued, “Furthermore, I will not simply stand idly by and watch your honor, and possibly your knighthood, be taken from you on my account.”
“Listen!” Sir Paladin put his hands on her shoulders, crouching a little so his face was on a level with hers. “The honor of a princess is far more valuable than the honor of a single knight. If you went and told everyone that you had spent an entire day alone in the forest, unprotected and unescorted, your honor would be damaged, and a dishonored princess is a terrible thing.”
“But so is a miscarriage of justice!” Rhea flamed.
“Better that than an entire country put to shame at the dishonor of their princess!” Paladin’s dark blue eyes flashed. “I don’t know what you were doing in the forest, Your Highness, but as far as anything concerning the both of us goes, I know you are faultless. If it costs my honor and, if need be, my knighthood, to make the rest of Gemworthy believe that, so be it.”
(from Chapter Five)
MEET THE AUTHOR
Stacia Joy has always loved to tell stories and invent fictional lands and characters. But she never considered becoming a writer herself until age thirteen, when, inspired by a pretend play she invented with a friend, she wrote the first draft of Becoming the Chateran. The story has since expanded into what will become The Chateran Series. Stacia Joy also writes in several other genres, including steampunk and paranormal/science fiction, and occasionally writes poems about buffalo.
Wanting to be able to show others what her imagined universe looks like, Stacia Joy taught herself to draw by studying the work of illustrators like Alphonse Mucha, Arthur Rackham, Kate Seredy, and Jan Brett. She also received training in illustration and graphic design at Madison Area Technical College, and plans to become a full-fledged freelance illustrator before long.
When not immersed in writing or art, Stacia Joy spends her time playing the piano and folk harp, composing music, Irish dancing, singing at the top of her lungs, and learning new things. She also enjoys helping with children's ministry at her church, and currently resides in the Madison, Wisconsin area with a kitten named Lord Peter Whimsey.
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