Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Publisher: Curiosity Quills Press
Publication Date: August 1, 2017
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About the Book
Princess Oona Talomir enjoys the little things that come with her station: a handmaiden, her lavish bedchamber, and scores of fancy dresses―the duty to win a decades’ long war, not so much.
Oh, did I mention assassins?
Seers foretold the conflict would end by her hand. From the moment she drew her first breath, the neighboring kingdom has been trying to kill her so she could not grow powerful enough to destroy them. The king, fearing for his daughter’s life, has kept her confined to the castle grounds for most of her sixteen years. With the tide of war turning against them, the burden of her crown becomes too much to bear, yet one thing lifts her spirits amid the gloom.
Her servant girl, Kitlyn.
Alas, in a kingdom obsessed with the god of purity, she is terrified to confess her forbidden love. When her father makes a demand she cannot abide―marry a prince to forge a military alliance―Oona panics. He is handsome and honorable, but he’s not Kitlyn. Unable to admit why she cannot obey, Oona does the only thing she can think of, and runs away.
Alone and unprepared in the wilderness, she prays the gods will let Kitlyn find her—before the assassins do.
Oona weaved through the garden paths for a little while before a patch of moss unseated from the stonework under her foot and took her to the ground. Kitlyn pounced, and they rolled together for a few tumbles before coming to rest with Oona on her back. Kitlyn grabbed handful after handful of mulch and dropped it on Oona’s head.
She squealed, raising her arms in a poor attempt to defend herself. Soon, they collapsed and laughed, out of breath.
“That cloud looks like a frog.” Oona pointed up.
“All I see are leaves.”
“There’s a little hole in the canopy. Scoot closer.”
Kitlyn crawled over, almost ear-to-ear, to peer at the gap. “Oh. You’re right!”
Oona’s mouth dried out. She tilted her head to the left, touching cheeks with Kitlyn. On contact, the girl grew tense and awkward.
Distant trickling water caught Oona’s attention. “Let’s go to the pond.”
“All right.” Kitlyn rolled to her feet and pulled her upright. “We’re almost there anyway.”
Oona tugged her along to the northwest end of the castle grounds. The great keep wall, some twenty-five feet tall, framed a manmade pond in the corner beneath the ivy-covered stone, with a curved bank that gave it the overall shape of a fan. A tiny rowboat sat in the same spot so long that it too had become enshrouded with ivy. Oona questioned the point of a boat in a pond so small it would take less than thirty seconds to row from the bank to the innermost corner, but maybe they needed it to repair the wall. Or something.
“It’s so peaceful here,” whispered Kitlyn.
Oona pulled her over to the bank and tested the water with a toe. Cold, but not intolerable. With her free hand, she gathered her gown up a bit to keep it dry and stepped in, ankle-deep. Dense mud oozed between her toes, and she laughed at how alive it made her feel.
Kitlyn squeaked as she followed. “It’s freezing.”
“A little.” Oona tugged her to the right, toward a mossy stone bench a short distance into the water. “You’re right… it is peaceful.”
Oona took a seat and tucked her dress about beneath her legs so she didn’t have to hold it to keep it dry. She moved her feet back and forth in the water for a little while, and tried to pick a polished stone from the muck with her big toe, but couldn’t get it dislodged.
The afternoon sun had glided far enough to the west beyond the wall to shadow the pond. Honeysuckle and the scent of water, earth, and moss swirled in a breeze that hissed among the treetops. Only the occasional chirp of a bird or rapid scampering of a squirrel broke the calm. Tiny fish nipped at her feet, making her grin and squirm.
“Peaceful,” repeated Kitlyn wistfully.
“Yes.” Oona looked to her left, realizing she hadn’t let go of Kitlyn’s hand.
She didn’t let go either. As their eyes met, a hundred different moments replayed in her memory: happier times frolicking in the garden or playing pranks on the adults, less happy times―more as of late―worrying about responsibility and politics. Sad times, like when Kitlyn had been paddled twice and wouldn’t even talk to her for a few days. I thought she hated me after that.
Kitlyn bit her lip.
Oona squeezed her hand. Something felt different. Her heartbeat echoed in her ears. She didn’t want to let go. Didn’t want the world outside of the corner pond to exist anymore. They’d been best friends their whole lives despite the vast difference in station. Best friends… those words didn’t quite feel adequate to the task of what bubbled up inside her. Dizziness made the garden spin a little, and she looked away.
I’m imagining this. Kit’s my friend. I couldn’t tell her what I’m feeling… what if she’s disgusted? The mere thought of Kitlyn making a face of horror stabbed her like an icicle in the heart. She traced her thumb side to side over the back of Kitlyn’s hand. The black-haired girl didn’t pull away, but she stared into the water while swishing her feet back and forth. She sat straighter, tense, worried.
A lump welled thick in Oona’s throat. Everything she wanted to say jumbled up like a bunch of soldiers trying to cram themselves through a narrow doorway all at once, and jamming to a halt. Her metaphoric army dropped their swords and collapsed in an ungainly heap.
“Peaceful,” she croaked.
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About the Author
Born in a little town known as South Amboy NJ in 1973, Matthew has been creating science fiction and fantasy worlds for most of his reasoning life. Somewhere between fifteen to eighteen of them spent developing the world in which Division Zero, Virtual Immortality, and The Awakened Series take place. He has several other projects in the works as well as a collaborative science fiction endeavor with author Tony Healey.
Hobbies and Interests:
Matthew is an avid gamer, a recovered WoW addict, Gamemaster for two custom systems (Chronicles of Eldrinaath [Fantasy] and Divergent Fates [Sci Fi], and a fan of anime, British humour (<- deliberate), and intellectual science fiction that questions the nature of reality, life, and what happens after it.
He is also fond of cats.
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