Tag Archives: Epic Fantasy

GREEN TUNICS OF NOON – Book Tour

Green Tunics of Noon Tour Graphic
Green Tunics of Noon cover
Series: The Great Wyrm Saga Book 2
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Publisher: Azure Spider Publications
Publication Date: October 1, 2018
Will the daughter of prophecy prevail?
The Daughter of Prophecy has joined with her Regalta. Jarvis’s ships have conquered the lands of men. Now the islands of men are enshrouded in darkness stunting the growth of plants and animals. Supplies flow from Jarvis’s islands, but are they safe? Monsters fill the villages and cities. Are they mutated cannibals of the once peaceful fishermen?
Meanwhile in the land of the syln, Jarvis launches an attack on their biggest food producing island. His new allies pour in, ones that are immune to syln magic. Jarvis struggles to deal with the implications of these supernatural beings.
Can Levet turn the tide against the dragons, or is she hampered by crippling headaches every time she has to defend herself?
Cindar lays eggs by the dozens and already the islands are filled with new terrors. Dragons are appearing on all islands, harassing their defenders or learning from the citizens.
Don’t miss the next exciting book in the Great Wyrm Saga.
EXCERPT

Dave lay on his back in the boarding house, smelling the perfume of Cinnamon left on his dress shirt. Warmth spread through him though he hadn’t had sex with her. She seemed to know when he just wanted to cuddle.

The pager sounded from the bedside table. He grabbed it and looked at the number. Laya again. He picked up the phone and dialed the number to the office.

“Another dead girl by the university. Same MO. I need you to investigate,” the sheriff told him.

Dave tightened his tie and put on his sports coat. Maybe Jolene would be there, but he doubted it. The university would send their own crime unit.

The Alpha Sigma Theta fraternity specialized in students who were in law school, full of young, budding future international trade law students sent here by their fathers’ big checkbooks.

The scene was worse than he imagined. There was not one dead girl but five, and no fewer than fifteen school boys. The police had cordoned off the house, preventing anyone from leaving while they took statements.

Dobrowski stood over the girls. “Where did they come from?”

“A website. Coed escorts,” an officer said.

“Spiders again?”

“Yes, they started consuming the kids about an hour ago. The fraternity called 911. By the time the medics arrived, the girls were dead and the guys who had sex with them were dying.”

The evidence team scoured the house, collecting small spiders. The rec room floor was covered in the writhing bodies of dying spiders. Blood had spilled on the carpet from the devouring and the air reeked of rotten eggs.

The girls that were there but still alive were from the Omega Mu sorority. They were in sleek dresses with perfectly coiffed hair bound up in elegant sweeps.

“What brings you here?” Dave asked the first girl. “This doesn’t seem like your kind of party.”

“The Alpha Sigs are a big deal. They graduate lawyers and MBAs. It is a smart investment on our part.”

“And what does your sorority specialize in? MRS?” Dave took down a note.

The girl bristled. “We are a sorority of lawyers and premed students. We will be having our own careers, but meeting the right kind of man who will help bolster our career is very important,” Brandi retorted.

“So, did you see these people, you know, getting it on?”

“That is disgusting. I will tell you this much: they would leave the room, go to their rooms and come back. We knew what these girls were. We also know that they live in the dorms. They use the website to raise extra money for their tuition.”

“Why didn’t they just go to the brothel? They are good-looking enough.”

“And what, get stuck living out at the ranch every weekend? Have no control over their own schedule?” Brandi grimaced. “That doesn’t sound like good business to me. Why give the ranch fifty percent when they can keep the whole ball of wax?”

“Hmm… let me think. Weekly health checks, protection with massive security guys, and… oh yes! It is illegal off tribal lands.”

“Well they weren’t in our sorority. But who is to say that we should stop them?”

“Aren’t you worried that your enlightened men would bring something home once you were married?”

“Look at their website. They are high-priced and exclusive, not some skanky streetwalker at Shattered Dreams.”

Dave turned next to the president of the fraternity. “I see you have refrained from sampling the house special today. What is your name?”

“I am Clyvin, the president of Alpha Sigma. I have a girlfriend in the Omega Mus. She would have my balls if she caught me banging a hooker.”

“Still, over twenty dead, the rec room a carpet of black spiders and every boy who slept with the girls is now dead. I am about to arrest you for promoting prostitution. This was planned for the party and in case you missed the memo, prostitution is illegal in Washington State. The reason why the House is able to be run legally is because it is on tribal land and they are covered by federal law.”

“But the women on the ranch don’t make house calls. And this was supposed to be a private party. No one was supposed to be hurt.”

“That doesn’t make it any more legal.” Dave turned to the officers. “Arrest him, and anyone else who looks like they are in charge. Someone hired these girls and that someone needs to pay.”

Clyvin pointed toward one of the dead fraternity boys. “Roger did it. That is him over there.”

“Nice that he gave us the pass on his prosecution. But you are still coming downtown with me.”

The medical examiner was still putting bodies in body bags when Dave left the house. What is going on? Is Cinnamon safe? Could he convince her to leave the profession and marry him?

Back at the squad room, the television was on in the corner and the officers were gathered around it. On the screen, in a bright red business suit with a black silk blouse, her long black hair tied up in a bun, Jezebelle addressed the crowd.

“We are saddened and sickened by the deaths of the college students, but the girls at the party were illegal. We have no way to know if they were clean or if they were infected. Here at the House of Fire and Rain, our girls are checked every week. Mandatory condoms and birth control. Weekly cervical checks and routine flushes with holy water ensure that our girls are as clean as possible. We must, as a society, protect these women and their clients. Illegal prostitution doesn’t protect our society. If you don’t believe me that only illegal girls are infected, watch Nevada. Not a single case of AIDS has been connected to a Nevada ranch. Not a single case of AIDS or STD has been connected to our house. I call upon the legislature of Washington to legalize prostitution. Get the girls off the street and into safe, clean, well-managed houses. Do this before the death toll rises.”

The press clamored for more information. She fielded questions.

“Interview her,” Laya told Dave. “Find out what she knows about what is going on. I don’t like it that she is making statements.”

Dave got into his car and drove to the brothel. The trees were bare of leaves and the deep green of the coniferous trees stood in stark contrast to the bare oaks and maples. Winter was coming to western Washington and that meant rain—a lot of it.

He pulled into the parking lot of the brothel. The door to the House was unlocked. The girls who normally lounged in the parlor with silk negligees were not in evidence.

A stunning Nubian woman with chocolate skin and velvet brown eyes greeted him. “What can I do for you, Officer?” She gave his badge a cursory glance.

“I’m here to speak with Jezebelle about the press release.”

“This way, please. We were expecting you.” The scent of musk flowed from her smooth skin and her hips swayed suggestively as she led him down to the madam’s office.

Jezebelle was still in her red suit. She rose from behind the desk and glided to Dave, taking his hand in her warm soft hands.

“I assume you are here about the interview. My attorney warned me you would be coming if I made that announcement.” Jezebelle indicated a rose-colored wingback chair for him to sit in.

“Yes, the sheriff wants to know what you know about these incidents.” Dave took the proffered seat.

“Ah that. In my profession, it helps to know of the occult and what is happening in the hidden world. These spiders, this plague, it is of demonic origins, is it not? Residue of brimstone.”

“How do you know? We never released that detail to the public.”

“People talk, and the smell of rotten eggs was present. A pact has been made between the hormanseph realm and the legal houses that the girls who had legal license would not be infected.”

“And what is in it for you? What do you stand to gain by this bargain?”

“Only the legitimacy of working girls. I am not behind this infection, but it has delivered to me the platform. The working girls need to be protected. They need to feel safe. Our oracle has predicted that this plague will sweep the world before it is curbed. I seek only to lessen the death.”

“Your oracle?”

Jezebelle drew out a scroll from her desk. “I routinely go to an oracle. There is one in Washington. Not all of the state’s occult experts live in Firemountain, you know. This one is out by Coleville. I go out to visit her once a month. She predicted that a plague would be visited upon the world. That working girls would need to be accepted by society or they will die. Thus, when the deaths started in Firemountain, I knew that the time had come. To protect the girls and their clients, I realized we needed to make theirs a socially acceptable practice. Without the acceptance of society, the death toll will be even greater.”

Dave took the readout. It was written in a nice, neat hand, evenly spaced. The script was obviously penned with a fountain pen.

 

Things will change for the whores

It will arise and change the world

The deaths of the working girls will

Make the deaths of the johns profound

No one will be immune.

Only the acceptance of whores

Only a change in our perception

Will keep the plague in check.

 

He handed the paper back to Jezebelle. “So who is behind this?”

“I’m not sure. From this note, it appears it is just starting. But I don’t know where it will go.”

“And your new girls? I saw them here last night. Where did they come from?”

“Well, from all over. They are here to learn the ins and outs of managing a brothel.”

“You seem sure that this is the start of something significant.”

“Prostitution is the oldest profession in the world and often looked down upon. Women come to our house with emotional baggage. They come looking for absolution from the abuse they suffered in their childhood homes. They want to escape. Here it is safe. We protect them, pay them, keep them healthy. And you have the temerity to tell me that I shouldn’t cause a panic?” Jezebelle rose to her feet, her black eyes flashing dangerously. “This is the beginning. Society must stop being hypocritical and acknowledge the need for prostitutes. Must accept the fact that these women need to have the same protections that any other person is allowed to have. They need to be free from pimps, and websites, and drugs. Here they are given protection and a sense of purpose. They are neither exploited nor forced to stay because of drugs. Can you say the same about the women in Seattle, or even Olympia? For the most part, the disease-ridden streetwalkers don’t exist in Firemountain because of this house. Only high-end call girls and coeds looking for a quick buck at Shattered Dreams. But what if all those girls had a safe place to stay? What would happen? How much better would our world be if their exploitation was at an end?” Jezebelle took a deep breath.

“No, Detective, I didn’t start the plague, but I will use it to further my agenda. The world needs to stop the exploitation of these women and empower them. Not just in the US, but in all the world.”

“And you think that your brothel is safe? What is to keep it from jumping there?”

“Well, we regularly douche our women in holy water, which is a great deterrent to anything demonic. But more to the point, these women have the protection of our society, which is something that the others do not. Mark my words, Detective, things will get worse.”

 

Purchase Links

Book Tour Schedule

November 22 – December 5, 2018
Visit each tour stop daily and discover more features, excerpts, reviews, interviews, fun facts and more! To check the latest tour schedule, visit the Green Tunics of Noon Book Page at Book Unleashed.
Green Tunics of Noon Tour Graphic

About Victoria Lynn Osborne

Victoria Lynn Osborne

Victoria Lynn Osborne lives in Southern Oregon with her muse that takes the form of a chubby little demanding house cat. This is her sixth book, she is currently enrolled to get her masters in creative writing.

Giveaway

WIN FREE COPY OF GREEN TUNICS OF NOON
Green Tunics of Noon Giveaway Graphic
Contest runs from November 15 – December 5, 2018.

In partnership with
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Series: The Great Wyrm Saga Book 2 Genre: Epic Fantasy Publisher: Azure Spider Publications Publication
THE PRIESTESSES OF LEVET Victoria Lynn Osborne Series: A Jason and Mortyiene Mystery # 3
THE PRIESTESSES OF LEVET Victoria Lynn Osborne Series: A Jason and Mortyiene Mystery # 3
Book One of The Kronicles of Korthlundia Epic Fantasy Date Published: April 2017 Publisher: Bewitching

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GREEN TUNICS OF NOON – Release Blitz

Green Tunics of Noon Tour Graphic
Green Tunics of Noon cover
Series: The Great Wyrm Saga Book 2
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Publisher: Azure Spider Publications
Publication Date: October 1, 2018
Will the daughter of prophecy prevail?
The Daughter of Prophecy has joined with her Regalta. Jarvis’s ships have conquered the lands of men. Now the islands of men are enshrouded in darkness stunting the growth of plants and animals. Supplies flow from Jarvis’s islands, but are they safe? Monsters fill the villages and cities. Are they mutated cannibals of the once peaceful fishermen?
Meanwhile in the land of the syln, Jarvis launches an attack on their biggest food producing island. His new allies pour in, ones that are immune to syln magic. Jarvis struggles to deal with the implications of these supernatural beings.
Can Levet turn the tide against the dragons, or is she hampered by crippling headaches every time she has to defend herself?
Cindar lays eggs by the dozens and already the islands are filled with new terrors. Dragons are appearing on all islands, harassing their defenders or learning from the citizens.
Don’t miss the next exciting book in the Great Wyrm Saga.

Purchase Links

Book Tour Schedule

November 22 – December 5, 2018
Visit each tour stop daily and discover more features, excerpts, reviews, interviews, fun facts and more! To check the latest tour schedule, visit the Green Tunics of Noon Book Page at Book Unleashed.
Green Tunics of Noon Tour Graphic

About Victoria Lynn Osborne

Victoria Lynn Osborne

Victoria Lynn Osborne lives in Southern Oregon with her muse that takes the form of a chubby little demanding house cat. This is her sixth book, she is currently enrolled to get her masters in creative writing.

Giveaway

WIN FREE COPY OF GREEN TUNICS OF NOON
Green Tunics of Noon Giveaway Graphic
Contest runs from November 15 – December 5, 2018.

In partnership with
Book Unleashed Logo
Series: The Great Wyrm Saga Book 2 Genre: Epic Fantasy Publisher: Azure Spider Publications Publication
THE PRIESTESSES OF LEVET Victoria Lynn Osborne Series: A Jason and Mortyiene Mystery # 3
THE PRIESTESSES OF LEVET Victoria Lynn Osborne Series: A Jason and Mortyiene Mystery # 3
Book One of The Kronicles of Korthlundia Epic Fantasy Date Published: April 2017 Publisher: Bewitching

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Tower of the Arkein – Blitz

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Kan Savasci Cycle, Book 1
Fantasy, Epic Fantasy
Date Published: May 2017
Publisher: Plenary Fitness
 
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2017 Royal Dragonfly E-Book Award Winner
 
1st Place Beverley Hills Book Award Finalist: Fantasy
 
2017 Best Book Awards Finalist: Fantasy
Trapped as a slave, facing an impossible decision, Aeden must choose between his friends and his soul…
The clock is ticking as the world descends into darkness.
He’s been called the Scourge of Bodig, the Bane of Verold, but most know him as the Kan Savasci. He’s one of the most feared men alive. Chaos and war have followed him like an angry shadow. The one problem, as the world faces the wrath of forgotten gods, Kan Savasci is nowhere to be found.
The annalist, a man trained in the ancient arts of the arkein, has been tasked to uncover the whereabouts of the Kan Savasci at any cost. In order to find the man, one must unmask the depths of his reclusive history.
 
Other Books in the Kan Savasci Cycle Fantasy Series:
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Tears of a Heart
Kan Savasci Cycle, Book 0
Publisher: Plenary Fitness
Published: September 2014
Winner of John E Weaver Excellent Reads Award
He’s been called the Scourge of Bodig, the Bane of Verold, but most know him as the Kan Savasci. He’s one of the most feared men alive. Chaos and war have followed him like an angry shadow.
The one problem, as the world faces the wrath of forgotten gods, Kan Savasci is nowhere to be found.
The annalist, a man trained in the ancient arts of the arkein, has been tasked to uncover the whereabouts of the Kan Savasci at any cost. In order to find the man, one must unmask the depths of his reclusive history.
The clock is ticking as Verold descends into darkness.
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Excerpt
Chapter 2
“Decorum was created by nobility to boost their sense of worth in the eyes of other nobility.” Herlewin’s Letters of Apology
Late afternoon fell over the city in a coppery haze. Sunlight infused every corner with a golden warmth that only the season of Lenton could provide.
The kiss of the sun felt good on Aeden’s tanned skin. He had grown darker within the hot embrace of the A’sh. His white hair was only more apparent in contrast to his darkened tone. It had grown to a length requiring a tie to keep it tidy. He felt taller and stronger, but he also felt lonelier and angrier.
Aeden glanced about.
Kardal was to his left, walking on the other side of the Jal’s litter. Behind him Aeden could feel the cold, hateful stare of Yazid. It was like a pebble within a boot, grating slowly at his resolve. He did his best to ignore the man. He used a technique Ayleth the Widow had taught him some years before. “When faced with hate,” she once told him, “understand the root of their hatred by understanding their circumstance. Only then will their words fade to nothing but a distant whisper.”
Aeden did as he had been told. He soaked in Sha’ril the way dry cotton soaks in water. He studied the movement of the people. He observed the lines of the city. He thought on the words of the Jal. Last, he remembered the tiny irritants that Yazid had allowed Aeden to glimpse. Each sliver formed a tiny image of a greater whole.
About the Author

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Welcome to Chase Blackwood’s author bio, where he’ll try to write something interesting about his life that captures your attention.
Chase Blackwood’s life has been defined by struggle the way a moth battles an insect zapping light. He’s studied martial arts since childhood in an effort to overcome fear. He’s lived in a half dozen countries in an effort to “find himself,” traveled to over 50 countries in an effort to “find humanity,” lived in nine states just for the hell of it, oh… and the military has had something to do with that too. Chase has enjoyed combating terrorism, working as a federal agent, and also really likes puppies.
His most recent passion, puppies aside, has been working on the Kan Savasci Cycle, a series of fantasy novels that pulls from his life experiences to make the most vivid world imaginable. Stay tuned for a more romantic side…for the ladies, and guys, really for anyone who enjoys the genre.
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Sci-fi, Fantasy, Thriller Publisher: Starborn Publishing Published: October 2017 What would you give up for

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By Ways Unseen – Teaser Tuesday

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Epic Fantasy
Date Published: July 12, 2018
The Provinces are falling. From the south, the immortal Knights of Galessern raid. From the north, the trees of the Kalen Woods have awoken, and are hungry for their second city. And from the east, Haydren Loren flees a childhood bully whose hate is now fully grown, and capable of murdering his way to becoming the Earl.
Haydren might find safety in the west. Or, he may find himself suddenly forced on a suicidal mission: face and defeat Lasserain, the strongest mage history has ever seen.
His quest is joined by a medley of friends foolish enough to think they might succeed: Geoffrey, a former knight of Rinc Na who betrayed his country and friends, and now seeks forgiveness through this final, desperate act; Sarah, a sorceress who will do anything to prove she is worthy; and Pladt, the famed archer whose only wish is to travel as far and wide as his name.
The God of All only knows the ways they must go – He, and a voice in Haydren’s head that is constantly growing louder.
Insanity. Capture. Death. All roads seem doomed for failure. But they must quickly choose a path, for Lasserain’s full fury is descending, and no one else has been able to stop it.
EXCERPT

 

Haydren sighed; he needed to play. The two greatest gifts he had received since enrolling in the School were a small harp and the lessons to be able to play. Often, when frustration overwhelmed him, the music would calm him. He sat up, reaching under the bed to retrieve the instrument. After pulling it out, he leaned back and rested his fingers on the strings. He closed his eyes, and began with a familiar slow tune as he allowed his thoughts to drift.
The song took him back to a broad plain, with the wind sweeping through the grasses. He was sitting on a newly bundled sheaf, the smell of fresh-cut hay in his nostrils. A few broken bits of straw drifted on the breeze. In his mind, beside him, a man of nearly thirty worked with a scythe; a man with bright chestnut hair, and dark black eyebrows.
Haydren opened his eyes, stilling the strings. Something was tugging at him, something about the notes he had just played. Still without looking at the harp, and as he tried to return in his mind to the images he had just seen, he played tentatively.
The notes that followed were notes he had never been taught, but that rang in him with a familiarity that brought tears to his eyes. He knew there were lyrics attached to the song, lyrics about war and grief – but he could not remember them. He played the song over and over, the notes purging him of all thoughts yet leaving him with a sense of fullness that welled in his eyes. He played until exhaustion tripped his fingers upon the strings; he stopped before the discordant notes shattered the delicate construction within him. The notes continued ringing in his ears long after he stopped playing, and they continued to echo through his dreams that night.
About the Author
Daniel Dydek was born in Raccoon Township, PA, where he dreamed of living out west. So far, he’s made it to Ohio, where he lives with his wife. He began writing at age 8, and never really stopped. After three years with the US Army, he went to get his Bachelor’s degree in English Writing from Geneva College of Beaver Falls PA, and is currently finishing up a Master’s degree in Natural Resources from Virginia Tech. Besides writing, he also enjoys mountain biking, reading, coffee shops, book stores, and Durango Colorado.
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Coming Soon!
RABT Book Tours & PR
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Erotic Romance Date Published: 4/28/2017 Yumiko Itsumoto wants it all. An accomplished artist and feared

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The Goddess’s Choice – Blitz

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Book One of The Kronicles of Korthlundia
Epic Fantasy
Date Published: April 2017
Publisher: Bewitching Fables Press
 
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In a world where the corrupt church hides the truth about magic, the fate of the joined kingdom falls on the shoulders of two young people from opposite ends of the social hierarchy.
Crown Princess Samantha’s life begins to fall apart when she starts seeing strange colors around her potential suitors. She fears that she’s going insane–or worse that she’s defying the Goddess’s will. Robrek is a lowly farm boy with incredible magical powers. He has been biding his time waiting to get revenge on those who call him a demon.
Thrown together by chance, they must overcome their differences to fight their common enemy Duke Argblutal, who, with dark magic, is slowly poisoning the king’s mind and turning him against his own daughter. Time is running out for those chosen by the Goddess to prevent the power mad duke from usurping the throne and plunging the joined kingdoms into civil war.
Other Books in The Kronicles of Korthlundia Series:
 
The Kronicles of Korthlundia: Book II
Publisher: Bewitching Fables Press
A match made by the goddess is threatened by an Ancient Evil.
As Samantha and Robrek prepare for their marriage and coronation, they are met with opposition on all sides. Not all believe that the peasant sorcerer is worthy to be king, and the young couple must perform delicate political maneuvers to prevent the joined kingdoms from breaking apart.
As the church splits over opposition to their union, an unseen force is poised to release an ancient evil that was last defeated a thousand years ago. When the Soul Stone is broken free of its bonds, all life in its path succumbs to its power. How much will the new royal couple have to sacrifice to free the joined kingdoms of its evil?
The Kronicles of Korthlundia, Book 3
Publisher: Bewitching Fables Press
The Ghost is going to hell. Not even the goddess can forgive his sins: assassin, oath-breaker, traitor (an affair with the queen earned him that title). No one can ever learn the princess is his daughter. To keep this secret, he flees to the land that turned him from a simple stable groom into an infamous killer.
His mission now? To find evildoers and take them to hell with him. But when an impulsive act of heroism saddles him with a damsel who refuses to be distressed, her resilience forces him to questions why he really ran from his daughter.
Excerpt
 
Chapter 2
The Princess Samantha sat at her dressing table and glowered at her reflection as her maids dressed her hair. She detested balls and loathed the hundreds of suitors who flocked around her: “I have never seen a lovelier flower, Your Highness!” or “Your eyes rival the brilliance of the stars, Your Highness!” If I hear that one again, I’ll vomit. It wouldn’t be quite so bad if even one of them meant it. Sometimes she wished . . . She pushed the thought away. As the heir to the throne, she couldn’t expect romance. 
“Let us be painting your face tonight, Your Highness!” Ardra begged. Samantha’s maid was as small and slight as the princess herself and had hair so blonde it was almost white. The princess smiled at the quaintness of her speech. Although both Ardra and Malvina had been in Murtaghan for over ten years, they still hadn’t lost the peculiarities of their western Lundian accents.
“Yes, Your Highness,” Malvina chimed in. “Lady Shela’s maids said just yesterday we couldn’t possibly be knowing our business ’cause you never be wearing paint.” Malvina, more of a typical Korthlundian woman, was tall and broad and not nearly as pretty as Ardra.
“Lady Shela,” Samantha snorted in disgust. Shela wore so much paint she resembled some ghastly sea creature. Samantha knew she wasn’t pretty, but she was fond of the freckles that speckled her nose and thought the emerald green brilliance of her gown set off her white skin and auburn hair beautifully. Besides being appallingly uncomfortable, paint would absolutely spoil the effect. The princess gestured toward the huge portrait that covered one wall of her bedchamber. “Do you think Danu wore paint?”
Malvina shrugged. “The Princess Danu was said to be a powerful sorceress, Your Highness. She probably didn’t need to wear paint to attract men.”
Samantha laughed bitterly, as she thought of the army of men waiting below. “I wish not wearing paint was all it took to scare them off. They say Danu never married, and see how happy she is.”
Samantha yearned for Danu’s freedom. The long-dead princess was laughing as she galloped across the fields with her auburn hair flying out behind her in the wind. The stars on the forehead and chest of her horse shone against its gorgeous coat. Samantha loved this painting, which was just as well because it was bolted to the wall and couldn’t be removed without tearing her chambers apart. She’d decorated the rest of her bedroom to match. Tapestries of horses covered the walls. Her dressing table, armoire, and large four-poster bed had horses carved into the woodwork. A quilt, embroidered with horses and stars, was spread over the bed. The mantle over her fireplace sported figurines of horses in gold, silver, jade, crystal, and precious stones. Every new ambassador added to her collection.
 “Your Highness, you’ll be having to marry one of them eventually,” Ardra persisted. “The king won’t be letting you hold out forever. You are seventeen, after all. Your mother was only thirteen when she married the king.”
“You needn’t remind me, Ardra.” Samantha picked up her silver-backed brush from the dressing table, a gift from the Neasarian ambassador that was inlaid with an amber Horsetad; diamonds marked the stars at its forehead and chest. She fingered it lovingly. “Do you think it’s true Danu rode a Horsetad?”
“So the bards sing of her,” Ardra said.
Malvina made an impatient noise in her throat. “And they also be singing she turned suitors into toads with her kiss! You don’t really believe such nonsense, do you, Your Highness? Nobody can tame a Horsetad.”
“No, I suppose not,” the princess sighed wistfully, then smiled at the toads that hopped around the feet of Danu’s horse. How I wish my kiss could do that!
Finally, her maids were finished weaving the jewels through her hair and had attached the simple gold circlet of the heir. Samantha tried to take a deep breath, but was prevented by the tightness of her corset. “That’s it. This is the last time I wear a corset. Have my dresses altered to fit without one. And don’t lecture me about fashion. I’d rather be able to breathe.”
Before her maids could protest that without a corset she was almost as flat as a boy, she left the room. She passed through her reception room, which was decorated in a similar style to her bedroom and contained more ambassadorial gifts. Pausing in front of her favorite tapestry—a white mare at the edge of the forest, helping her newborn foal stand, she wished she were heading for the stables instead of the ballroom. She forced her face into a court smile and left her chambers.
Her two bodyguards bowed and fell in behind her. The princess couldn’t remember a time when she hadn’t been followed by two heavily armed men. She’d grown so used to them she often forgot they were there.
A full crowd tonight, of course. While the possibility of wearing a crown still exists, not even a deadly plague would keep the hordes away.
Behind the dais at the top of the ballroom was the king’s standard—a brilliant yellow sun on a field of red. Next to it was a smaller standard in her own colors—the head of a white horse on a field of emerald green. The walls were lined with the standards of all the noble houses of Korthlundia; most sported images of ferocious beasts or weapons of war. If I’m supposed to be maintaining the peace, why do I have to dance in a room that celebrates war? Her father claimed they couldn’t redecorate the ballroom without the risk of offending one or more of the Korthlundian noble houses. But Samantha doubted she’d like balls any better no matter how the room was decorated.
As she moved through the crowd, the courtiers parted and bowed. All the men attempted to catch her eye, and the smiles of the women failed to mask their jealousy.
As she mounted the dais where her father and members of the royal council awaited, King Solar beamed at her. His long white hair and beard flowed around his head, giving him the appearance of the wise old man from the bards’ tales. She bowed to him, and he quickly extended his hand, raised her, and gave her a kiss on the cheek. Despite his insistence that she marry, her father did love her. The princess knew she should consider herself lucky. Most royal children had no choice in a spouse, but her father had left her free to choose among the men of appropriate rank. But as she looked over the sea of hungry male eyes, the thought of marrying any of them nauseated her. If only marrying them didn’t mean I had to bed them.
Beside the king, Uncle Caedmon smiled at her. Caedmon, Duke of Tuath and Boirche, was her mother’s uncle and had been her father’s chancellor since she was two years old. He had very bushy eyebrows that gave the impression he was always looking down on people. But he was one of the few members of her father’s council she liked, and he was the only one who exhibited no designs on the throne. His only son had married before she was born.
Immediately after the king announced the opening of the ball, Argblutal, the Duke of Handgriff, stepped forward to claim the first dance. No one else ever dared ask her until the duke had had his turn. Like every Korthlundian man, Argblutal was tall, broad-shouldered, and blue-eyed. Many of the girls found him handsome, but she wasn’t sure why. He was nearly twice her age. He was dressed in a surcoat of black leather with long black velvet sleeves, trimmed in gold and crimson braiding. He had several thick gold chains around his neck. From the largest of these hung a pendant of a panther, the symbol of his house. In defiance of court fashion, he wore his blond beard and hair cropped short. He and Duke Sheen were her closest living relatives on her father’s side, not that they were very close—third cousins or something. Both had thought to inherit the throne until her birth gave Solar a direct heir.
Argblutal bowed. “May I have the first dance, Your Highness?”
“I’d be honored, Your Grace.” Father would throw a fit if I refused. She smiled her fakest smile and accepted his hand.
As the dance began, the duke bowed low over her hand, sliming it with a kiss. “Your Highness, you are the brightest star in a shining crowd tonight.” It’s only the first dance, and I get the star thing already. Is there some book they all read? Fifty-two Compliments for Ladies. The duke danced stiffly, as if he disapproved of frivolity. “Your dress, it’s Saloynan silk, is it not, Your Highness?”
“No, it’s Neasarian. I find the weave so much finer. Don’t you?” The silk did feel delightful against her skin, but she found talk of fashion and fabric tedious. She’d never understood the other girls’ obsession with it, just as she never understood why they giggled so much. 
“So I have heard, Your Highness, but it’s very difficult to come by. The Neasarians are more interested in trading spices than silk.”
This was true, but equally boring, so she smiled and made some inane comment. When the dance finally ended, Argblutal slimed her hand again. “Perhaps we can share another dance before the evening’s end, Your Highness.” Surreptitiously wiping her hand on her gown, Samantha merely smiled. Only if all seven of the hells freeze over.
The next suitor in line was Lord Devyn, Duke Sheen’s oldest son. Devyn was only a couple of years older than the princess, but he looked younger. His chin was covered with only the lightest and most delicate of fuzz. The princess thought he’d look better if he shaved. But, of course, he couldn’t do that; only the clergy shaved. “May I . . . may I have this dance, Y-y-your Highness?”
As the dance began, Lord Devyn turned a dozen shades of red. “Y-y-your Highness looks just like a-a-a flower tonight.” It was obvious he didn’t want to dance any more than she did, but Duke Sheen was bent on controlling Korthlundia through his son. She’d heard the duke had threatened Devyn with the lash to force him to court her. Devyn was only comfortable among his paints and canvases. Besides, he was in love with Count Morfran’s daughter, Lady Aislinn. She wished just once some man would look at her the way she’d seen Devyn look at Aislinn.
Samantha noticed blue under his fingernails. “And how is your latest creation coming? Working in blues, I see.”
Devyn gaped. “I’m doing a seascape, Your Highness, but how could you know?” When she glanced at his fingers, he curled his fingernails into his fists. “Your Highness, how could I have been so neglectful? My father will kill me.” Devyn was a nice boy, but she wished his father would leave him to his art and his lover.
After Devyn, the princess worked her way through her father’s council—Count Kayne, Duke Torin, Count Weylin, Baron Arawn’s son, Baron Teague, and a host of other nobles of varying degrees of importance. Nola, Count of Meillid, looked on wistfully. The count was nearly as round as he was tall, and it was rumored he’d do away with his wife if he thought he stood a chance of capturing the princess’s hand. He had a five-year-old son, and Samantha thought it a wonder Nola didn’t send the toddler to court her.
After the majority of the king’s council had had their turn, ambassadors and foreign envoys began to present themselves. She knew each one was eager to negotiate the most important treaty between their two countries—one that would give them power over the Korthlundian throne. The princess enjoyed the variety of their appearance, but at heart, they seemed little different than the Korthlundian nobles. The vast majority were nearly twice her age, and the talk of stars and flowers sounded little different in a Mintarian accent than in a Korthlundian one. However, the princess smiled when Phomello, the son of the Neasarian ambassador, took her hand. As with all Neasarians, everything from his hair to his skin to his eyes was a deep rich ebony. It was he who’d given her the silver brush and the silk for her gown, and she’d seen him several times in the stables. He seemed to share her love of horses, but the best thing about him was that he could barely speak Korthlundian, so he couldn’t bombard her with mindless chatter.
* * *
The king went to bed at midnight, but Samantha was forced to stay and dance with suitor after suitor.
“Might I dance with the stars of heaven tonight?” Count Pandaran, the only member of her father’s council with whom she hadn’t yet danced, asked. He always danced with her late in the balls; maybe he felt he was saving the best for last. He wore a surcoat of bright turquoise, edged with yards and yards of delicate lace. His hair and beard hung in long, blond ringlets. When the princess took his hand, she cringed at the smoothness of his palms. The damned fool doesn’t even know how to wield a sword. The hands of most of the men at court were like hers—rough and calloused from weapons training. Knowing she would rule after him, her father had always treated her more like a son than a daughter. Despite what other members of the court might think of it, he had insisted she receive weapons training since she was strong enough to hold a sword.
As they whirled around the ballroom floor, a soft glow of rotten orange erupted around Pandaran. A steaming heat seeped from the orange and poured over her, coating her body with a slime so thick a dozen baths wouldn’t cleanse her. The princess nearly cried out in despair. Not the colors again! I thought I’d gotten rid of them! It had been several months since she’d spent all night kneeling at the altar in the palace chapel, praying for the goddess’s help. She’d felt the goddess’s peace and thought the terrifying colors gone forever. But again she’d been wrong. When she’d first seen the colors, she’d gone in disguise to the Temple of the Mother’s Love. It was the only time she’d ever given her bodyguards the slip. She’d told a priest about the colors. He’d insisted she was under the influences of the denizens of darkness and that her soul was in great peril and performed an exorcism. It hadn’t worked. Nothing had. Maybe it’s not demons; maybe I’m insane.
The princess was so upset after her dance that she fled the room without giving an explanation. She ignored the questions from her bodyguards and her maids, but she was shaking by the time Ardra and Malvina had finished undressing her and taking down her hair. When she was finally alone, she curled up into a ball on her bed. The colors had to mean something, but after the exorcism had failed, she’d never dared tell anyone else about them. Tonight she again prayed to the goddess for help. At last, she fell into a troubled sleep, her dreams full of people who glowed as brightly as the jeweled horses on her mantelpiece.
About the Author

Jamie Marchant began writing stories about the man from Mars when she was six, and she never remembers wanting to be anything other than a writer. Everyone told her she needed a backup plan, so she pursued a Ph.D. in American literature, which she received in 1998. She started teaching writing and literature at Auburn University. One day in the midst of writing a piece of literary criticism, she realized she’d put her true passion on the backburner and neglected her muse. The literary article went in the trash, and she began the book that was to become The Goddess’s Choice, which was published in April 2012. She claims she writes about the fantastic . . . and the tortured soul. Her poor characters have hard lives. She lives in Auburn, Alabama, with her husband and four cats, which (or so she’s been told) officially makes her a cat lady. She still teaches writing and literature at Auburn University. She is the mother of a grown son.
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