While We Wait – Week #1 Blood Moon ~ Chapter Two!

Good evening Everealmers! 

As promised, here is a sneak peek into Blood Moon, Book Three of the Everealm Series! This is Chapter Two. The short Prologue and Chapter One can be found at the end of Wildfire. Chapter Two begins after Wildfire ends, so only a couple of weeks have passed since the Winter Ball.

Next week, stay tuned for a game of Who Said It? and a chance to win ALL THREE books in paperback! 

NOTE: Chapter has had a rough edit and proofread. Final edit is to come. There may be a few small mistakes I haven’t caught yet.

Enjoy!

~J.D.

NOTE: I moved the chapter to a separate page to prevent spoilers. If you haven’t read books 1 & 2, DON’T CLICK. Spoilers may lie ahead. Thank you! 🙂

CLICK HERE TO READ: BLOOD MOON ~ CHAPTER TWO!

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Everealm, Sample: Chapter Two

As promised, here is the second chapter of Everealm. I am still working with my graphic designer, to get the cover ready to publish, and I am getting excited to share it! I am also in the process of converting the book to epub format, to make available on more sites. As of right now, Everealm will be available on Amazon & Kindle, Nook, & Smashwords.com!

This will be the last chapter from Everealm that I will publish to the blog. Chapter Three includes some mature adult content, and unfortunately, I cannot control the audience that this blog is able to reach. As soon as the book is released, I share the links so that you can access the rest of the novel.

And of course, leave your feedback in the comments below!


~J.D.W.

Chapter Two
Rowan decided against staying in his father’s quarters in the castle after the coronation, and had instead gone to his grandfather’s tavern in the village. His grandfather on his mother’s side, Winston, was a scholarly gentleman and a successful businessman. At one time, he had owned nearly half of the merchant stands and apothecaries of Junacave, becoming one of the most well-known traders of the realm. But once Rowan’s grandmother had died, his grandfather had become quite sullen. He began selling off his assets one by one until the only thing he still owned was the old tavern in the center of the village. Thankfully, the tavern had a steady income of customers who enjoyed a pint of ale and occasional fine wine or rum, when they were in stock.
Winston was always glad to let Rowan to stay and help tend the bar, occasionally. And Rowan used this to his advantage, as people do tend to talk openly and honestly when they have had too much drink, spilling all sorts of scandalous secrets and information. This was especially true during the king’s funeral, as many of his supporters had chosen to drink in memory of the king with dozens of villagers filling the tavern each night. Just today, he learned that the old wizard, Elric, was dying. This didn’t surprise him, seeing as Elric was 120 years old now. He also learned that the tailor’s wife had been having an illicit affair with her own brother (that one he found hard to believe).
After securing shelter at the tavern, Rowan had needed a change of clothes as his usual dark attire would draw curious eyes, so he snuck upstairs to rummage through his grandfather’s wardrobe. He chose a simple green tunic, brown trousers, and a matching vest. While this clothing was more restricting than his typical ensemble, in which he wore at least ten different weapons at a time, he did still have a few of the necessities tucked away. But to a stranger, Rowan didn’t look any more dangerous than the drunken weasel at the end of the bar. Few people knew of his current occupation, and he preferred to keep it that way. He was quite enjoying himself until the tavern door swung open and Rowan looked up to find his father, Sir Nicholas, standing in the doorway.
What a vision his father was, dressed fully in his ceremonial armor and standing nearly six and a half feet tall, easily towering over every other man in the tavern, including Rowan. Though age was beginning to show a bit of silver in his brown beard, his father was still considered among the village women to be a very handsome and sought after man for marriage, leaving ladies falling over themselves to gain his attention. After Rowan’s mother died, some fifteen years ago, Nick refused to take another wife since, and had devoted himself entirely to protecting the king. However, that certainly did not prevent Nick from being desired, as evidenced by the two women sitting in the corner, gawking at him.
“Rowan,” he said, nodding to his son as he walked up and sat down on a stool by the bar, “I must have missed you when you left the castle after the coronation. I wish you would have told me you had planned to stay as I could have made better provisions in the castle for you than… this.” He accepted the pint of ale that his son sat before him.
Rowan decided to wait to reply until they moved into one of the empty storage rooms upstairs, for a bit of privacy, locking the door behind them as they entered. Since Rowan never knew where their conversations would take them, he did know that even innocent information in the wrong hands could be dangerous. He sat his mug down on a crate nearby.
“I appreciate the concern, but I’m alright here. And I don’t think staying in the castle would be a good idea at the moment. Besides, I am not a highly regarded knight, such as yourself,” he said, grinning at his father.
Nick cleared his throat, “Well, maybe not yet, but you could become one… a knight, I mean.” He took another swig and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, “It is your birthright, after all.”
Fairly certain that his father’s memory must be failing him, Rowan reminded Nick that he couldn’t become eligible for knighthood, per the king’s orders. It was one of the conditions the king had given when he found out about Bree and Rowan.
 “Ah, yes,” Nick replied, “but the king is the king no longer. And I have on good word from the late king, himself, that Junacave would be lucky to have you in its guard and that he wished it were so. He confided in me just before his death.”
While Rowan wanted to laugh at the suggestion of becoming a royal knight, he decided against it, so as not to offend his father who had devoted his life to the guard. It wasn’t long ago that Rowan was on his way to knighthood himself and very sure he would get there, but fate being as it was, his destiny had changed.
“I appreciate the thought, but I’m not sure that I would be a good fit for the guard.” He paused to think of how to word his next reply. “And I am absolutely certain that the queen wouldn’t appreciate having me around. Especially after her reaction at the coronation. She didn’t seem pleased to see me. Perhaps, it was just terrible timing on my part, showing up unannounced…”
 “Well, I’m not so sure about that, myself,” Nick said, “but if you would just consider it?”
Nick decided to change the subject of conversation before Rowan could outright refuse.
“So, tell me about your recent travels. See anything interesting?” his father said with a wink. Rowan simply grinned and began his tale.
He agreed to consider his father’s offer but shoved the thought aside a few moments after he left. No, Rowan was sure that once he received his new assignment, he would be far away from the kingdom, and even further away from becoming a knight.
~*~
Elric had taken the queen aside during the third day of her father’s funeral to offer both his condolences and his loyalty, but Bree could tell that there was something else bothering him. So she offered to speak with him, privately, after the funeral had passed. Even though her first day of being Queen was tiring, Bree still found the time to visit Elric in his tower on the southwest corner of the castle.
The room smelled of old leather books, dust, and dirt. Bree stood for a moment, looking around the octagonal room, no larger than ten feet from one side to the other. The walls were completely covered from the stone floor to the ceiling with shelves of books, bottles, and boxes, in complete disarray with no organization at all. Even the large wooden table in the center of the room was covered with books, stacked so high that Bree could barely see Elric on the other side of the table.
Seeing that her presence had gone unnoticed, she lightly cleared her throat. Elric gave a quick yelp, then hurried around the table to greet her, bowing and placing a gentle kiss on her hand.
 “Your Majesty, My Queen. I am most delighted that you were willing to speak with me. I promise to keep our conversation brief. Would you please follow me up?” He pointed to the floor above and gestured to the stone stairs to her left, “I am afraid this room does not provide adequate comfort for you, m’ lady.”
Elric led Bree up the round stairs and into the room above. This room was entirely different from the first. Though the size was the same, it was polished clean and organized to perfection, with large soft chairs and hundreds of bottles, potions, and ingredients, lining the wall shelves above. Elric motioned her to a chair and took another across from her. Bree sat down, gracefully, straightening the skirts of her gown.
 “I will have to beg Your Majesty’s forgiveness, in my poor demeanor of late.” He took a deep breath before continuing. “I am afraid that my many years of casting have begun to weaken me, physically and magically. I may not be of very much use to you before long.” He paused, sighing heavily. Bree could see poor Elric’s hands were shaking. He continued, “I asked you to come here today so I could recommend, privately, that Your Majesty would consider implementing my replacement.”
It was hard for Bree to tell exactly how old Elric actually was. In all the years she had known him, his face had been wrinkled and his long hair and beard had been silver and gray. She did, however, notice his posture had changed in recent years. The Elder Mage, who had once walked tall and proud, with his robes swaying majestically, had now come to walk with his back bent slightly and his robes trailing the ground. While Elric didn’t appear to be ill, Bree could see the man before her looked very tired and drained of light. Perhaps aging was different for wizards, she thought. And she hated to see him feel so disheartened.
 “Now, Elric,” Bree began, speaking pleasantly so as not to upset him further, “you have been my father’s most trusted and loyal friend for most of his life. We consider you to be family. The people of Junacave, myself included, owe their livelihood and survival to you. I can most assure you that we appreciate any service you can provide to us, even if it is only as my council.” Bree smiled, then decided to add, “However, if it is your wish, I will consider a replacement though I hardly think we will need one. Junacave has been at peace for many years, and hopefully will continue to be for many years to come.”
“Yes, perhaps,” Elric replied, then quickly glancing over to his scrying mirror, murmured, “Perhaps, not.”
~*~
Bree soon found out what Elric had been referring to, when just after supper, a guard came rushing into the castle, panting and yelling.
“A head. There’s a head!” The poor man looked as if he were about to faint.
Sir Nicholas flew in front of the queen, sword unsheathed and armor clanking. Bree stood quickly as Nick motioned the two guards behind her to help subdue the panicked guard. Once he was calm enough to speak, Nick questioned him
“What head? Where?”
The guard simply pointed towards the door in which he came.
“In the noble courtyard! Someone has defiled the king’s grave with a head!”
Before Nick could even turn around to stop her, Bree had rushed past him and out of the hall, followed by several guards. Cicilly, having just entered from a doorway on the side, looked startled by the commotion and yelling coming from Nick.
“What is the matter?” she asked him, but he breezed past her. So she followed.
Bree froze at the corner of the noble courtyard, staring at what most certainly was a severed head, that of Sir Colbert, a knight of Junacave. Bree had been at odds for many years with Sir Colbert’s daughter, Penelope. However, Sir Colbert had been nothing but kind to Bree. Now the knight’s head, still dripping with bright red blood, was sitting on top of a stake outside her father’s tomb. His body was nowhere in sight.
Cicilly gasped when she saw it and Sir Nicholas tried to cover her eyes by pulling her into his chest. He could feel her body shaking, and ordered a guard to take her from the courtyard and find Princess Sarita. When he turned to take Bree’s arm, she pulled away, rooted where she was.
“Sir Nicholas, do not attempt to remove me,” she said, firmly. Bree could smell the blood, which was beginning to make her queasy.
One of the guards stepped forward to examine the head and noticed a piece of parchment, rolled up and sticking out of the mouth. Slowly he pulled it out and opened it up. It read: “I am the rightful heir of Junacave, and I will have it. ~ King Silas”
How incredibly barbaric of a king to send a message in this fashion, Bree thought. What kind of monster is he?
Apparently there was some concern from her uncle Silas, after all. Bree turned to the guard who had reported finding the head and questioned him.
“When did you last patrol this courtyard? How long has the head been there?”
 “I did a sweep of the grounds just before supper, Your Majesty,” he replied, “and there was nothing and no one here.”
 “Then it has happened recently,” Nick said, “and the conspirator could very well still be on the grounds. Your Majesty, please allow me to escort you to safety until the castle and grounds can be cleared of danger.”
Bree allowed the guards to escort her back into the castle while Nick shouted orders to find Sir Raymun, sweep the area, and report back immediately. Bree was led to a room in the knight’s wing of the castle, where she found her mother and Sarita already waiting by the fire, puzzled looks on their faces.
 “It will be alright,” Bree tried to assure Sarita, who was looking rather pale.
It had now grown dark outside and Bree was becoming frustrated at being locked in the room for so long, with no word of the progress. Just then, Sir Nicholas opened the large wooden door and stuck his head inside.
“Please come with me, Your Majesty. The council is waiting,” he said. Then he turned to Cicilly and Sarita. “Queen Mother and Princess, the guards outside will escort you back to the hall, or to your chambers, if you wish.”
 “No,” Cicilly replied, “I would like to sit in the council meeting if it is permitted?”
Sir Nicholas began to tell her that it was not but stopped short. It was the queen’s decision of who may attend the council. Even though King Frederick had not allowed Cicilly to be involved in these matters, it was no longer his decision.
 “That would be the choice of the queen, m’ lady,” he said.
Bree glanced back at her mother, unsure as to why she would want to attend. Unwilling to waste time she turned back to Nick.
“I will allow her to attend. Please escort Princess Sarita to her chambers and send the maids to fetch her a warm bath. This could take a while.”
~*~
The council was waiting for the queen in a room on the second floor of the guard house. Bree knew that this room was used for planning military strategies, voting on legislation, and other private matters, but she had never actually been inside the room, itself. The council must have arrived recently as the air in the room was still cold despite a fire burning on the far end of the room. The walls were covered with shields and pennants of past kings and queens of Junacave.
In the center of the room stood a very long table, with five seats on one side, four on the other, and one at the head of the table, which she was led to. She knew that the council would always consist of eight council members plus the king or queen, making a total of nine members present to vote. This was purposely done, so that in the event of an equal number of votes on a matter, the king or queen would be the deciding vote. The Royal Mage had a seat at the table to offer advice but could not vote.
Looking around the table, Bree recognized each individual present. To Bree’s right was Elric, followed by Fortin, the Kingdom Chancellor, who handled the administrative duties. Beside him was Arthur, the Kingdom Financier, and then there was Marshal Garret, who was in charge of the stables and horses of the cavalry. Sir Nicholas, the First Knight, was to her immediate left, and Sir Raymun, Head of the Castle Guard beside him. Next were Sir Ainsley and Sir Luthias, both high-ranking military officials. The last seat beside them was empty. Sir Nicholas mentioned it briefly while escorting Bree into the guard house. The empty seat had belonged to Sir Colbert, who was in charge of the kingdom’s archers.
 “I assume that Sir Colbert’s family has been informed of his passing? And proper arrangements are being made for a full military funeral and just compensation to the widow?” Bree asked, frowning.
 “Yes, Your Majesty,” Nicholas replied.
 “I should like to give his family my condolences in person. Please make arrangements for me to do so, immediately following our meeting,” she added.
Just then, the door across the room opened slightly and a dark cladded figure stepped in. It only took Bree a moment to recognize that it was Rowan. Bree stiffened at the sight of him, tilting her head slightly, wondering why he was here.
Sensing the queen’s confusion, Sir Nicholas quickly interjected, “My apologies, Your Majesty. I have asked my son, Rowan, to join our meeting as we are short one council member. With Rowan’s position in our military, I thought his knowledge would be most beneficial.”
Bree hadn’t taken her eyes off of Rowan, their gazes locked. For the second time in one week, Bree found herself face to face with the one person she had been longing to see. And again, his presence made her feel weak at a time when she needed to appear strong. If only she could feel anything other than pure aggravation at his constant interrupting, she may actually be glad to see him.
 “Forgive me, Sir Nicholas,” Bree said, “for I am not yet familiar with the procedures of a missing council member.”
 “The procedure is to appoint a temporary member, at your approval, until one can be voted in officially, Your Majesty,” Nick replied, trying to hide his pleasure at seeing that his son had actually come. Nick was sure that Rowan would refuse the invitation.
Bree broke their stare and nodded slightly, “Very well.”
Rowan crossed the room and took the empty seat at the table. For the first time, Bree noticed her mother sitting in a chair on the far side of the room, eyeing Rowan intently, and looking very confused. It seemed her mother wasn’t aware of Rowan’s current profession. Perhaps, that was for the best.
~*~
The council meeting had not been as productive as Breestlin would have liked it to be. Sir Colbert had been escorting guests out of the kingdom to the north and had been nowhere near the south, where the kingdom of Sire was located. There was no word yet, from our scouts in the south, as to any unusual activity around Sire, or if any of Sire’s soldiers had been in the north recently. All of this came as news to Bree, who was unaware that Junacave had even been watching Sire.
The message from Silas, short as it may have been, was very clear about his intentions. Junacave could simply ignore the threat, but that certainly wouldn’t stop Silas from attacking if he chose to. Bree had also considered a suggestion to invite Silas to discuss conditions of a possible treaty. Surely there was something she could offer him to make amends, for what, she wasn’t sure. Another option was to retaliate in a strike against Sire, but being unaware of his capabilities made most of the council members leery of this strategy. And Elric, in his aging condition, would be of no help in penetrating the magical boundaries surrounding Sire, for Larkin, Silas’ royal mage, was very powerful.
Elric did offer a small flicker of hope, however. He suggested that the council locate his grandson, Dagan, whom he may be able to convince to assist them. Bree was not aware that Elric even had a child, let alone a grandson. She was surprised to learn that Dagan had lived in Junacave for a short time, when he was a young boy, but chose to leave with his mother one day and never returned. Elric had visited his daughter-in-law and grandson, teaching Dagan to develop his magic over the years, but when Dagan was twenty-one years old, his mother was murdered. In his grief, Dagan had preferred a life of solitude ever since. Five years had passed since Elric had last seen Dagan on the day of his mother’s funeral.
Unfortunately, Elric had little insight as to Dagan’s whereabouts at the moment. The council learned that Dagan preferred to live alone, in areas that were hard to reach, thus guaranteeing his privacy. Elric did mention that Dagan was a lover of women, but would commit to none. Therefore, it may be possible to track him by the numbers of scorned women he left behind. Bree decided not to press for details.

Sir Nicholas recommended the queen send someone to track down Dagan’s location. Bree asked Rowan to do so, and he quickly accepted, happy to finally have a reason to leave Junacave. As daunting of a task that it may be, if anyone would be able to find him, it would be Rowan, Nick had advised. And besides, Bree thought to herself, at least this would put some separation between them and allow her to gather her thoughts. Perhaps, given some time, she may be able to formulate a strategy for dealing with Rowan without feeling like a foolish little girl again.

Everealm, Sample: Chapter One

Chapter One of Everealm is below. Again, this is a draft and may be slightly different than the published version. 

The first chapter and the last chapter are probably the hardest two chapters to write. The first chapter must set the precedence for the entire book, introducing the story line and giving enough history and description so that you can visualize what you’re reading and understand why you’re reading it. But a chapter without a lot of dialog is a difficult chapter to read. I have tried to include a bit of dialog when possible. Once you finish reading the first chapter, let me know what you think in the comments below. 

I will post Chapter Two shortly, so stay tuned!

~J.D.W.


Chapter One

(7 Years Later)

It was early summer in the kingdom of Junacave, bringing plenty of warmth and near daily rain, which was welcomed by the farmers and harvesters of the land. This year’s crop would be plentiful for the entire realm if predictions from Elric, the king’s wizard, were to be trusted. Elric was the Elder Mage, the highest rank of magical beings in Everealm. Elric was responsible for securing the kingdom by use of protection spells and enchantments, as well as assisting the military during wars, providing a strong advantage. While every kingdom did not have a wizard in its service, the more substantial and wealthy kingdoms did. A wizard of any strength would make a great asset to a kingdom if you found one whom you could trust.
Wizards were once incredibly dominant forces in Everealm, numbering in the hundreds, and loyal to none. Being able to wield great power came with great consequences. Soon the entire Realm lived in fear of the wizards as they battled each other for supremacy. This had caused many disastrous magical battles over a span of three years, becoming what is now known as the Shadow War. The war had plunged Everealm into a terrible darkness, causing disease and infection, killing people, animals and crops.
The Shadow War finally ended when one young wizard rose above the rest and took control. With help from the fairies, the wizard healed the land and its inhabitants, and bringing life back to Everealm. That wizard was Elric. After the war, he declared new policies governing the wizards of Everealm. Each kingdom could only have one wizard in their service at a time. And while wizards were not required to declare loyalty to a king or queen, no wizard could ever rule over a kingdom. Those who refused to follow the new code of magic had fled Everealm. The rest had stayed, either living on their own or declaring loyalty to a kingdom.
It had been one hundred years now since the Shadow War ended. And while magic had become common in the realm once again, there were still people who feared magic and anyone who practiced it. Being the Elder Mage had given Elric the freedom to declare loyalty to any kingdom of his choosing. He chose Junacave and had served three generations of rulers since. He had been a great strength to the kingdom during both wartime and the current longstanding peace.
Junacave sat central to many kingdoms. King Frederick ruled peacefully, maintaining treaties with neighboring kingdoms for trade with and through Junacave, especially the kingdom of Vale, also known as the mountain palace to the northeast. Junacave and Vale were only two of the kingdoms of Everealm. Bordering the coast to the south was Sire, which was ruled by Frederick’s half-brother, Silas. There were also the kingdoms of Taten and Labara, which neighbored Junacave to the east and west, respectively. To the far north were the kingdoms of Carneath and Cornithia, both named for their rulers who happen to be squabbling twins, constantly at war with each other. There was a total of fifteen kingdoms in Everealm, large and small. Some were so far away that it could take months or require ships to reach.
And while Everealm had been more peaceful in recent years, the sudden news that King Frederick was dying of illness and appointing his young daughter as Queen of Junacave, many were beginning to wonder just how long that peace was destined to last.
~*~
“These robes are large and heavy, Mother,” Bree said while frowning, “not to mention scratchy. How am I supposed to walk through the hall in these without falling flat on my face?”
She glanced over at Finnley, who was trying to hide his amusement at seeing her look ridiculous in her father’s royal robes. Finnley was a childhood friend of Bree and Rowan. He was the son of Sir Raymun, Head of the Castle Guard and had the same tall and gangly build, shaggy orange-red hair, and freckles as his father. While many ladies found Finn to be very attractive, Bree had always considered him to be the older brother she never had. And since Finn had lived in the castle where his father worked since he was born, King Frederick and Queen Cicilly had accepted him as their gawky red-headed stepchild.
“I know, dear,” Cicilly replied, “but your father’s robes will have to do since you are much too short for your grandmother’s robes.”
She was absolutely correct that Bree would never be able to lift her grandmother’s robes high enough to walk one step, let alone through the hall. Bree’s grandmother, Hilda, had been over six feet tall and Bree was only 5 feet 6 inches tall, herself. Hilda was quite a sight, as her husband’s head came only to his wife’s breasts, which Frederick once declared was the perfect place for any man to be.
Bree smiled at the memory. Bree’s father was a cheerful old man with a kind heart. He had wed her mother out of pure and unexpected love, being that her mother was not his intended wife. King Frederick was meant to marry her sister, Celeste, of Vale. Upon the arrival of the Vale royal family, however, Frederick and Cicilly had gravitated toward each other so forcefully that there was no denying their attraction and so the two were happily wed. Cicilly’s father, King Thadine had given up on finding a proper suitor for his tenacious daughter and considered it an astounding win for Vale.
Now Bree was standing in the wardrobe, preparing for her royal coronation as Queen of Junacave. It was a position she had hoped to one day have, but she had never anticipated it would come this soon, at just twenty-three years of age.
There was a light knock on the door and a small voice came from the other side.
“Sissy, they’re almost ready for you,” she said.
“Come in, Sarita,” Bree replied.
Princess Sarita opened the door and stepped into the room. Her curly dark blonde hair had been pulled atop her head, with a few strands left down to frame her tiny perfect face. And she was already wearing her tiara and one of her favorite light pink gowns, covered in small rhinestones that sparkled like her brown eyes.
“Six years old and already better at this than I am,” Bree said, smiling down at Sarita. “You look so beautiful. How do I look?” Bree asked, hopeful. She held her arms out and gave a spin.
“Umm, you look..,” Sarita started to reply, then glanced over to see her mother giving her a stern look. She looked back at Bree. “Like a beautiful queen,” she finished, then gave a big smile.
Bree wasn’t sure whether the smile was genuine, but she really couldn’t blame her. Without looking in the mirror, Bree was fairly certain that she looked like a minnow getting lost in the stream, swimming in the huge blue robes.
“I will send Finnley back to get you in a few moments, dear,” Cicilly said to Bree, then gave her a quick kiss on the cheek and stepped out, followed by Sarita.
Finnley gave Bree one last look, then laughed at her and turned for the door. He made it out just in time to avoid being hit by the flying shoe that Bree tossed at him. The shoe hit the door and rolled halfway across the room. When Bree picked it up and turned around, she caught a glimpse of herself in the tall mirror on the wall beside her and began to cry.
This wasn’t the plan that Bree had made for herself. Most princesses were betrothed long before twenty-three years of age in Everealm. After Bree’s parents had discovered that Bree and Rowan had been intimate, Cicilly took Bree away from the kingdom for over a year, in hopes of saving her daughter’s reputation. Despite the fact that Bree had lost her virginity, making her an undesirable wife if it was ever to be known, her parents had thought it best to carry on as if nothing had happened. And though there had been many suitors introduced to her over the years, Bree had refused every one of them.
Upon her return to Junacave, six years ago, she had expected her father to be disappointed and angry with her. Instead, he had welcomed her with loving arms and didn’t mention Rowan again. And since her father refused to tell her what became of Rowan, she was forced to send her secret weapon, Finnley, to investigate. He learned that once Rowan’s training was finished, he had been sent on his first mission under his new profession, as a military spy. However, Finnley regarded him more of an assassin. Bree laughed at first, wondering why Junacave would even need a spy, let alone an assassin, during this peaceful time. Finn had merely shrugged and said, “I’m just the messenger.”
Rowan’s new occupation had kept him far from Junacave for long periods of time. Bree finally figured out that her parents’ plan to save her future was to keep them apart as much as possible. The two times she had seen Rowan over the past seven years, he had done his best to avoid her, refusing to speak to her or even look at her. It caused her heartache and resentment towards both Rowan and her parents.
However, Bree now felt foolish for either of those feelings as she was painfully watching her father’s life slipping away. And the look on her parents faces when they spoke of his impending death made her feel terrible guilt for being so selfish, worrying only about her own troubles for so long.
When Finn came back to retrieve her, a few moments later, she had dried her tears and was determined to make her father proud, whatever means necessary.
~*~
Rowan slipped into the kingdom in the nick of time. The hall was already filled with people, but he was able to find a dark spot in the back of the room, elevated a bit, to give him a nice view of the throne. Dressed in black from head to toe, he was barely noticeable among so many faces and the candlelight would help to hide him. It wasn’t the castle guests he wanted to hide from, however. It was Bree.
In the past six years, he had done everything in his power to avoid her, for both of their sakes. After the king had found out about their night together, Rowan’s father had done everything he could to protect his son, even offering to resign as First Knight, a highly sought after position. But the king had refused. Instead, King Frederick insisted that Rowan not be punished for what he had called a “mistake of lovesick children.”
So he had continued his training, but the curriculum changed, drastically. Instead of learning how to fight on horseback with a sword and armor, he was taught how to hide and track people, following without being seen. He also learned how to remember details with remarkable accuracy and to sneak upon a man and cut his throat, without warning.
He was, unfortunately, proficient at this new training, which made it a bit easier. At least he wasn’t likely to die on his first assignment. And he hadn’t died on his second or third, either. So for the past seven years, he had traveled all over Everealm, spying, sneaking, impersonating, and occasionally he did need to kill in order to complete mission. He wasn’t happy about his profession, as he was often lonely, but he was learning to cope. It was during his second assignment, patrolling the coast for pirating ships when he heard word that Breestlin had gained a new sister and would soon begin accepting suitors. While deep down, he didn’t want Bree to marry, he often wondered if he would be able to find closure if she had. Regrettably, though, she never did.
He worked quickly to finish his latest assignment when word spread of King Frederick’s illness and the crowning of the new Queen. He knew he needed to be there to see it, even if it meant hiding out of sight. He tried to force himself to forget about her over the past several years, using many different women to ease his loneliness, to no avail. None of them were appealing enough to make him forget about Bree. And eventually, he stopped trying altogether. But now that he was back in the castle, knowing that she would be walking into the room in a matter of moments, he suddenly wished he was on an assignment, far away.
~*~
Once the trumpeter began his tune, there was no turning back. Cicilly and Sarita entered the hall to take their places next to the throne and left her alone in the hallway with Finnley. Breestlin began to panic.
“Finn, I don’t think I can do this. What if I’m a terrible queen and everyone hates me, or what if they think I am too young, or what if they—“, she was interrupted when Finnley reached his hand out to cover hers.
He gave her a small smile. “I will be proud to call you my queen, and so will they,” he said, gesturing toward the hall. “Besides, even if you’re terrible, no one will say. Everyone wants to keep their head,” he grinned.
Bree laughed then took a deep breath. Turning toward the doorway, she held her head high and walked into the grand hall, toward the throne of Junacave and her destiny, whatever that may be.
The ceremony was quick, as the king was too ill to stand upright for very long. With the help of his first knight and two other guards, he quickly anointed Breestlin as the new ruling Queen of Junacave. The crown was a bit too large for her head, but she wore it proudly.
Rowan thought Bree looked fairly calm for such an important occasion, and it wasn’t until she turned around to face the hall, and somehow let her gaze fall directly into his eyes, had her demeanor faulted.She stopped smiling at once and stiffened. Even though he knew he should look away, he couldn’t take his eyes off of her. Feeling the tension creeping up between them, he gave her a wink.
Bree’s suddenly she felt like she was standing in the middle of a blazing fire as the heat rose to her cheeks. When he winked at her, she felt her heart skip a beat and completely forgot about everyone else in the room. She could have sworn she saw the corners of his mouth begin to smile. How dare he walk into her coronation and smile at her, after leaving her alone for the past seven years. Bree could feel her brows begin to come together and a scowl start to spread across her face. This was not the reaction she had anticipated at seeing him again.
However, the tension between them was short lived as Bree was forced to break her stare when her mother stepped in front of her to give a congratulatory hug. Then the entire hall dropped to one knee to bow before their new queen. When everyone stood, Bree looked back to the place that Rowan had been standing just a moment before.
He was gone.
~*~
King Frederick died three days after the coronation ceremony with his family, Elric, and Sir Nicholas by his side. During his last few days, he had felt a new sense of hope that no matter what challenges came to Junacave, his daughter would handle them with grace and intellect. He had raised her himself, after all, how could she not? He still felt a dreadful pang of guilt for what had happened between his daughter and Rowan many years ago, blaming himself for being too naïve to see what was conspiring between them.
That was why he could not bear to punish either of them for his own mistake. How foolish he had been to think two people of their ages then would not be attracted to one another, especially remembering his own first encounter with Cicilly and the startling desirability felt almost immediately between them. Of the many suitors that had been brought before him over the years, asking for his daughter’s hand in marriage, not a single one had made her face light up or fireflies dance in her eyes, the way he felt when he looked at Cicilly. He could finally admit his pleasure that Bree had stubbornly refused them all.
So when Breestlin had come to his deathbed to say goodbye, he admitted his shame and begged her for forgiveness. She cried and hugged him and swore there was nothing to forgive, even apologizing to him for the first time, for behaving so carelessly. Frederick refused her apology, saying she was never to apologize again for following her heart. And if she were to choose to marry Rowan in the future, or anyone else for that matter, she would have his blessing, only if she were to marry for love. He wanted his daughter to have every bit of happiness that he had with Cicilly for so many years.
The funeral lasted four days, with mourning in the first three days, and celebration in the last. Once the king was buried in a tomb in the noble courtyard, the foreign luminaries and other guests had begun to leave. The castle, which had been filled with noise, both laughter and tears, over the past several days was slowly becoming a quiet place again.
Bree stood outside in the gardens, looking up at the castle that was now hers. The walls, while showing wear from almost a century of braving the weather and war, still stood strong and tall. There were four levels to the main part of the castle. Five, if you included the dungeons and cellars below. And there were six towers, adding two more floors in those. With one wing to house the royal family, one for guests, one for the royal knights who were unmarried, plus more than two dozen other rooms on lower levels, and four full-sized barracks near the stables to the south, the monstrous fortress was quite a sight to behold.
But it wasn’t just the castle that was hers now. Her new position would come with responsibilities which would test her will and patience. It wasn’t just a title she held. It was an entire kingdom of families and their livelihood. She understood how fragile the balance of the scales between peace and hostility could be and she would have to tread lightly to earn the trust of the residents. She sighed, then picked a beautiful pink rose from the hedge beside her, tucked it behind her ear, and headed into the castle.
While many people had traveled from afar to attend the coronation and funeral, one notable absence was the king’s half-brother, Silas. Word had been sent to Sire, notifying him of his brother’s illness, and later of his death. Yet there was no response from Sire on either account.
Bree didn’t know the details of her father and uncle’s relationship before his death. She did know that things had taken a dark turn when her grandmother, Hilda, had refused to acknowledge her bastard step-son, born to a chambermaid, no less. Because of it, the brothers had a strained relationship. Bree had only met her uncle a few times when she was younger and had no real memories of him.
Even though it was not customary for a half-blooded child to be recognized as a royal, Silas was given his own land, south of Junacave, as penance, perhaps. Silas had built a grand kingdom, Bree had been told, but he had often participated in illegal and distasteful activities and piracy. While these could have been mere gossips, she was not ashamed to admit that she felt a bit of relief that he had decided not to attend.

Perhaps for Silas, the death of his brother was of no concern.

Everealm, Book One of the Everealm Series – Prologue (Draft)

Greetings readers! 

The draft for Everealm, (Book One of the Everealm Series) is finished! I am in the process of doing the final proofreading/editing before publishing to ebook and also working with a graphic designer to create the cover. The journey through Everealm will begin shortly, but in the meantime, I wanted to begin sharing a few chapters of the book with you, starting with the Prologue! 

Now keep in mind that this is just the draft and not the final version that will be published. Minor changes or corrections may be made later on, as necessary. And of course, this writing is copyrighted, so please feel free to share the link to this page, or the blog, but do not copy and paste to another site, document, etc. 

If you have any questions about the prologue, or just want to give it a thumbs up/down, please leave a comment below! Enjoy!

~J.D.W.

Prologue

Breestlin remembered her first kiss as if it were fresh on her lips. She took a deep breath and thought back, to a beautiful day in early spring. She was sitting outside on a stone bench of the castle terrace in her father’s kingdom. The leather book in her hand was heavy, and filled with romantic stories of star-crossed lovers and tales of wild adventure. For a girl of 14 years of age, this book was both scandalous and marvelous at the same time.
The sun was beaming down on her thick auburn hair, neatly braided and tied round with beautiful silk ribbons of violet. The ribbons matched her gown, which was gathered into her lap to prevent it from touching the damp stone below. She was reading so intently that she was able to drown out the birds chirping and occasional voices from the servants buzzing around the castle. Her books provided an escape of sorts from her busy and demanding life as the only daughter of King Frederick II, the ruler of Junacave. Being constantly guarded in the kingdom had left little capacity for real adventure or romance, leaving the stories in her books as her only refuge and sanctuary.
Bree was taken out of her peaceful trance by the sudden sound of an object whizzing past her left ear. Startled, she dropped her book to the ground and fell backward off of the bench, her skirts flailing about during the fall. The soft grass behind her eased the landing a bit, but her head was dizzy as she sat up. She quickly tried to compose herself, pulling her skirts down to cover her now bare legs. Looking around, she saw an arrow poking up from the ground, several feet behind her, which must have been the object that flew by just moments ago. She heard footsteps coming toward her and shouting from a distance as she tried to stand.
A hand reached out and grabbed her arm firmly, lifting her to her feet. Bree looked up into a familiar face and couldn’t help but frown. Rowan was standing in front of her, his face less than a foot away from hers with soft brown eyes. One corner of his thin mouth curled up into what could only be described as a beautiful smirk. He was almost a foot taller than her, and at nearly 16 years old, was looking more like a man than a boy every day.
Of course, training for knighthood at the hands of your father, the first knight of the king, was bound to make any boy strong and lean. He was wearing a tunic, untucked and untied, hanging over the top of his brown trousers, both of which were dirty from training outside.
Having known Rowan all of her life, Bree had only recently become aware of the change that she felt when he was nearby. Before, she had mostly felt annoyance at his presence, but suddenly his familiar face was intriguing, and his tall, solid build was mesmerizing. She had purposefully avoided any conversation with him over the past several months. She constantly felt foolish when she was near him and a princess absolutely cannot be made a fool.
Realizing she had been staring at him, Bree dropped her head and pretended to brush dirt and grass from her skirts with her free hand. When she heard Rowan chuckle, her head snapped up, and her eyes narrowed sharply at him, giving him a look that would cut a steel blade in half. A look that didn’t seem to faze Rowan at all. Bree tried to jerk her arm away, but he didn’t lessen his hold.
Instead, he pulled her back around to the front of the bench and sat down beside her, then bent down and picked her book up from where it had landed. Before handing it to her, however, he paused and turned the book over to look at the title.
“Lovers Entwined: Tales of Adventure & Romance,” he read aloud. “Looking for romance now, are we, Princess? Aren’t you a bit young for this nonsense?”
Bree tried to grab the book from him, but he continued to move it around, avoiding her hand each time she tried to snatch it away, making an almost childish game of it. When she finally closed her hand around the book, she realized he had let go of her other arm. She immediately jumped up and hurried away. Rowan followed quickly, catching up to her at the corner of the terrace and the gardens. He grabbed hold of her gown to slow her down. Then he fell into step beside her as they walked into the gardens together.
“I’m sorry, Bree. I didn’t mean to upset you,” he said, “I know you’re a dreamer, always have been, and—“
“You don’t know anything!” she interjected, shouting at him. Rowan put his hands up as if to surrender, and smiled at her. His gorgeous smile was almost enough to make her forget that she was extremely irritated with him. “I will be 15 years old next month and my father is already receiving tenders for my hand in marriage! I could be wed as early as one year from now. Do you know what the chances are that I will marry someone I actually like?” she demanded.
Rowan shook his head, too afraid to answer at this point.
“And worst of all,” she said with tears beginning to gather in her eyes, “is that my first kiss would be with a hairy old man, likely twice my age and not a care in the realm for me! Is that how you think my memory of that moment should be?” she looked down and shook her head. “No. I would rather live in this dreamland you speak of than the reality of my future to come…”
Bree was now quiet and looking down at the ground. Rowan liked the shouting better than the quiet between them.
“Well, why don’t you just kiss someone you love first?” he blurted out. “Then you would always have that memory… umm, instead of the… old and hairy one.”
He felt silly once he finished speaking. What was this effect she seemed to have on him that none of the other girls did? Every time he spoke, he sounded even more ridiculous than before.
His shoulders relaxed when he heard her giggle, and he breathed a sigh of relief that she appeared to be calming down. He didn’t like the way he felt when seeing her upset, but especially if it was his fault. She was so delicate, like one of the fine vases in the main hall. He knew first hand that if you broke one, the pieces would never quite fit the same way again. He didn’t want to be the one to break the most beautiful girl he had ever seen. Her long dark red hair was shining in the daylight. The loose waves spilled out around her, having come undone from the fall. And her perfect sun-kissed skin was finally showing now that the angry redness was fading from her face.
Even though her dress was dirty now, and he certainly preferred her in red or deep green to match her eyes, she was still the most amazing thing he had ever laid eyes on. Womanhood was treating her very kindly with a body that would soon be the envy of all women of Junacave—maybe even Everealm. And those perfect round breasts were sitting on top, snug in her corset, just waiting for someone to…
Snap out of it, he told himself. She is the princess, not your plaything!
Bree had been silent for several moments, studying him.
“And what if the person I love doesn’t love me back?”
She watched his face to see what reaction, if any, she would get from him. He looked nervous and unsure if he should answer.
She smiled and said, “I guess you will just have to do, for now.”
Rowan looked around to see if they were alone. Thankfully, they were, and the tall rose covered trellis surrounding them would be an adequate cover.
He stepped toward her until they were close enough that he could smell her floral perfume oil. No matter how much he probably shouldn’t be doing this, when the most beautiful girl asks you to kiss her, you damn well better.
She didn’t seem nervous to him, but under her skirts were two legs just barely able to stand up for all of the shaking. He put a hand up on the corner of the trellis behind her to steady himself and bent down to her.
Bree held her breath. His large body was shadowing over her, but it wasn’t fear that she felt as much as excitement. If she could see herself, she probably looked like an over-anxious child about to open a present. She tried to relax her face to look calm and mature. This was the time to act like a woman, not a girl.
Rowan was so close that she could feel his breath on her skin. When he finally closed the gap and placed his mouth on hers, it was as if a wave of heat had washed over and her stomach twisted into knots that she thought would never come loose. After a moment, Rowan began to pull away, but Bree wasn’t ready for it to end, so she rose up onto her toes and put a hand around his neck to pull him closer.
The next thing she knew, Rowan had his arms around her waist and was lifting Bree off of the ground, pinning her to the garden trellis behind her and smothering her body with his. Instead of trying to free herself or pull away, she melted into him. The kiss seemed to go on and on, only ending when their mouths broke apart so they could gasp for air.
With their foreheads still touching, Rowan slowly lowered her back down to the ground while attempting to catch his breath. For a moment, he feared that she might think he had taken advantage of her, but that thought quickly vanished when she leaned in and rested her head on his chest.
The two of them stood there, still wrapped in each other’s arms, swaying lightly in the breeze. When Rowan could finally find his voice, he said, “Well, that should make for a good memory, I guess,” and kissed the top of her head before pulling away. A good memory for both of us, he thought.
Bree couldn’t believe how peaceful she felt at this moment. She wanted to pull him back to her again, but she couldn’t make her arms move. She may very well have been in shock. Blissful shock. Instead, she smiled at Rowan and said, “Thank you.”
~*~

One year later, Bree and Rowan would share another magical moment, when on the eve of Bree’s sixteenth birthday, she had given Rowan something she could never again give to another: her innocence.