Excerpt of Shadow Queen
Anya sat perched on her mother’s throne, cold as the stone beneath her feet. She ran her pale fingers through her midnight hair, listening to the whines of the aristocracy.
“My Grace, we the nobles of Alainia feel that the city was not meant to be used in such a way. When we lose this war—”
“—If we lose this war,” she said, her voice pouring over them like deep ocean water, sending the blood rushing from their faces. “We will not let failure be a possibility. Do you have such little faith in my decisions as queen?”
Lord Belios snapped his mouth shut, his eyes drifting from Anya’s icy gaze
“May I remind you, all of you,” she said, her black eyes gazing into each of the cowering Lord and Lady’s faces, “that I am your ruler by birthright. You may think you are entitled to these blasphemous opinions, but let me assure you that such words uttered in my presence again will result in your death.”
Anya stood, spilling the red silk of her dress onto the white stone floor. “Now is the time for conquest. We have cowered from the world for far too long.” Her face softened into a frosty smile. “Trust in your queen.”
The crowd of nobility parted, bowing frantically, as she passed through to slip into the royal chambers. The heavy door slammed behind her, leaving her to breathe easy in the peaceful darkness.
“You’re getting quite good at that,” said Luthen, embracing her in the shadows, letting them melting together like the pooling of wax beneath a blazing candle.
“I have a good teacher,” she said, searching for his teasing lips.
Luthen pulled back, teasing her with his closeness. “Ah, no, first you must do something for me,” he said. She could feel him smiling in the darkness.
“Must I always bargain for a kiss?”
Luthen took her hand and led her to the corridor. She knew where they were going before he reached the secret door hidden behind the fading tapestry of an autumn forest.
She followed him down the familiar spiraling stone steps into the belly of the palace. The blue warmth of the Anvalin peeked into the stairwell as they reached the bottom. They emerged into the large chamber. In its center was the Anvalin, a massive blue crystal suspended a short distance from the black iron floor. Tall windows lined the walls, exposing the world that lay beneath Alainia.
“What is it you wish me to do?” Anya pulled up her red skirts away from the dusty floor. The old iron had a way of ruining the best of her silks.
“Nothing out of the ordinary,” he said, brushing her hair from her face. “I just need us to change our course. I have something in mind for the southern part of our realm.”
“Is that all?” She laughed a cold and hollow sound. It echoed in the Anvalin’s iron cage. She stepped forward to the crystal, feeling the vibrations of its power in her chest. She closed her eyes and reached out her hand. Touching the Anvalin was like dipping her hand into hot water, though it was not quite to the point of being unbearable.
Immediately, the crystal came alive in her mind. She fought back its urging to communicate, dominating it to do her will. The Anvalin cowered and obeyed, shifting the city beneath their feet.
“Much better,” said Luthen, gazing out the window, admiring his own work.
“Where exactly are we headed?” Anya pulled herself away from the crystal, shaking off its unnatural warmth.
Luthen laughed, gathering her into his arms. “We’re off to better and grander places, my love,” he said, his breath tickling her neck. “Now come, we have much to do.”
About the Author
B.R. Nicholson has been writing and illustrating her stories since she was a child. The Shadows of Time series began one night when she was fifteen. Bored and with a bed stacked high with books, she decided to fill a notebook with what would become the first draft of Shadow Maiden. B.R. Nicholson is currently a nursing student at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, North Carolina. She enjoys learning about Appalachian folklore, prodding at scabs, and creating far away worlds.