Tuesday, February 24, 2015

My book has been born.

Today is release day of Beyond Orion, book 2 in the Orion Trilogy, and I wanted to share the first chapter with you.




Home
  The inara flowers beneath my servant Delilah’s newly
opened windows infused the air with memories of my mother and
the garden we used to tend together. Their distinct fragrance
reminded me of the lilacs and petunias in Holly’s front yard on
Earth. A feeling of homesickness rushed over me and I had to
shake it off. This was my home. This was where I belonged. I had
returned to Rommader from my escape to Earth only hours ago.
Being forced to wait to see my father was torture, and I took
another slow breath hoping the scent of the flowers would calm
me.
  I turned away from the open window and moved toward
the back patio of the small house Delilah’s family had owned for
generations. It had been taken care of in her absence. Her staff was
trustworthy and wouldn’t reveal our arrival. I hated the necessity
of hiding in my own world.
  Delilah sat quietly in the corner searching through a
computer for the latest news of my father. What she had learned of
the king’s health wasn’t hopeful.
  I checked the clock on the wall. Marshal, my other servant
who’d traveled to Earth with me, had been gone for less than an
hour, but the time had dragged. I should be at my father’s side this
moment, but until we knew the situation in the palace, I had to
remain in hiding. I clasped the spent Traveling medallion still
hanging around my neck and knew it was empty. It felt different.
  Traveling again with this medallion was impossible to me now,
and we didn’t have the materials to make more. The truth of it hit
me hard, and I blinked back the tears. I would never see my cousin
Jai again.
  He’d been my constant companion as my bodyguard for
more than three years, and we’d been close since he’d come to live
with us as a child. It felt odd to be without him. I hoped Holly
would take care of him. I knew it would be hard for him to never
return home. And he would probably beat himself up needlessly
worrying about me, but there was no way I could have forced him
to return to Rommader. I doubted his mind could have survived
the breaking of the soul bond. I still couldn’t believe Jai had
actually bonded with a human, but Holly was perfect for him.
  I sent a prayer heavenward. “Please watch over them. Keep
them safe. Don’t let Shander find them.” I closed my eyes and
hated myself for leaving. If my ex-­‐‑fiancé did anything to Holly or
Jai because of me, I would track him down and kill him myself.
Though he knew more about fighting hand-­‐‑to-­‐‑hand than I did. I
wasn’t as weak as I had been the first time Shander had struck me. I
wouldn’t be so defenseless next time.
  The door opened and I spun around and faced Marshal.
  “What news?”
  “Your father is not in the cells. I could find no one who had
seen him down there. Perhaps your vision was wrong, Amira.”
  I didn’t want to argue with Marshal on what I had seen and
waved him on to continue.
  “Everyone I spoke to said he’s been in his rooms,
quarantined in order to keep his health from failing more.”
  “He is alive?”
  “Yes.” Marshal glanced at Delilah. “Though he is doing very
poorly. The Healers don’t have much hope for a recovery.”
I felt my knees weaken, but I locked them and stood tall.
  “Take me to him.”
  “It wouldn’t be advisable to go right now. I will arrange for
your transportation there in the morning.”
  “You will take me there now. I will not waste any time. If he
will not recover, I will not wait.”
  Marshal bowed his head and fastened his cloak again.
  Delilah pulled a similar cloak from a closet near the doorway. The
clothing looked foreign, but I had worn similar items before. I
wondered how long it would take me to adjust to the more formal
attire of dresses and cloaks instead of jeans, tees, and jackets.
  Delilah held it open for me and I donned it quickly and stepped out
the front door.
  I felt like a criminal as I walked hidden through the dark
streets. Rommader had two moons, yet both were absent from the
sky, wrapping me in secrecy. Marshal and Delilah both had
weapons, and if I’d been smart, I would have insisted on one of her
guns as well, but I wanted to reach my father as soon as possible.
  At least I wasn’t surrounded by armed guards like I had been
before. We approached the side of the palace near where the
servants entered. The granite stone looked dark and imposing,
sending shivers down my spine. This was my home, my rightful
property. So why did I feel like a fraud?
  The back entrance to the palace was guarded, but not as
heavily as the front. Marshal stepped forward and spoke in
whispers to the man there. His head jerked up and I felt his gaze as
it rested on me. I pulled the hood of my cloak back a little and
stepped forward, placing my palm on the small table. He lifted his
inklight and shined it on my hand, revealing the identifying code
imprinted in invisible ink on my skin. I looked at the once familiar
patterns of the mark of Oreon House that swirled around my
unique permanent ID and felt the weight of my title fall on my
shoulders.
  “Princess.” The guard bowed his head and placed his hand
over his heart.
  I placed my hand on his. “Please do not reveal my return
yet. I must see my father.”
  He nodded his agreement and entered the code to open the
iron gate. We slipped through quietly, then the guard pressed his
palm against a panel near a solid wood door. As it opened, he
bowed again. “Welcome home, Your Majesty.”
  I squeezed his hand in gratitude and moved forward,
forcing myself not to run. Discretion was key and someone running
through the hallways in the night would bring too much attention
to my arrival.
  We didn'ʹt see any other guards and a feeling of foreboding
flooded my heart. The palace seemed too quiet. Almost as if it were
dying.
  The thought spurred me on and I rushed through the
hallways toward my father’s wing of the palace. Two guards stood
watch and stiffened as I approached the doors to the king’s private
rooms. I slowed down and pulled my hood back slightly again. I
could see it was Cory and Lance. They had been Father’s guards for
as long as I remembered. As I stepped closer, I saw the moment
they recognized me.
  Each guard bowed his head slightly and placed his hand
over his heart.
  “May I enter?” Asking felt so foreign to me, but I knew I had
to follow protocol.
  Lance stepped forward and looked into my eyes. “Is it really
you?”
  I nodded.
  Cory pulled an inklight from his pocket and shined the light
on my hand. My identity sure, they bowed deeper. Cory entered
the king’s chambers and I waited for permission to follow. He
returned quickly and ushered me inside to my father.
  The room was dark and the nearness of death was obvious.
  My once robust and healthy father now lay almost hidden among
the blankets and pillows supporting him on his bed. His hair was
now thin and gray, no longer the near black I had inherited from
him. Healers stood on each side of the bed with a third and fourth
close by. The surprised looks from the Healers were forgotten the
moment I saw my father’s face. His brown eyes flashed awareness
and I knew he recognized and was happy to see me.
  I had dreaded the thought he would be angry with me for
coming without his request, but the joy in his eyes allayed all my
fears.
  “Amira,” he whispered. “I had hoped to see you one last
time.”
  Tears filled my eyes and I felt as if I had lost him already. A
  Healer moved to his side and placed her hands on his shoulder.
  Father took a deep breath and then lifted his hand to me. I sat
down on the side of the bed and placed my hands in his.
  “Daddy.”
  “Don’t cry for me, Me’ala. All will be well in time.”
  More tears escaped my eyes at his term of endearment for
me. He hadn’t called me that since Mother died. I longed to climb
onto the bed and curl up next to him as I had done as a child. I
wished he could stroke my hair and tell me stories and calm my
fears, but I felt as if our roles had been reversed. He needed me to
show strength. He needed to know he had nothing to worry about
now that I was back.
  “There is so much.” He took a deep breath as if struggling to
get enough oxygen to speak, and then he changed to speaking to
my mind. So much I wish I could teach you before I go. So much you still
need to learn. He closed his eyes, exhausted, and I knew there were
only minutes left. His soul felt close to the surface. It was more
spiritual than I had ever felt in my life, as if he only needed to
decide to move on and his life here would end.
  I will honor your name and your memory, Father. I squeezed his
hand gently.
  Shander? His face held fear and it broke my heart to see it.
  Jai will take care of him.
  Jai is not here? He looked around as if hoping to see him. My
heart hurt for the missed opportunity for each man to say his good-­‐‑
byes.
  I shook my head but didn’t elaborate. Father closed his eyes
and tried to smile. Then he will stop Shander. There should be no
conflict for you to succeed me.
  I bowed my head and tried to hold back the tears. I didn’t
want to have the crown this way. Father was supposed to do it
officially years from now when I had been fully trained and knew
more of how to rule a nation. He pulled gently at his hand and I
released it. He attempted to lift it to my head, but he only made it a
few inches off the bed. A sob tore from my throat and I slid off the
bed, then knelt next to it and lifted his hand. He smiled at me as I
raised his hand to my head.
  The frailness of his skin and the lack of muscle tone in his
arm made me worry I would hurt him. His hand rested gently on
my head and he spoke the words that would change my life
completely.
  “I, King Chark Chan’Moyer … Oreon, bestow upon you …
Amira Chan’Leeter Oreon…the rights … duties … privileges …”
  I let the words wash over me and felt the weight of
responsibility settle on my soul. It was more than just him saying I
was queen. It was as if it was written in my cells. I was now bound
to my planet. I would receive strength and endurance and power
from Rommader through the mantle of authority. I hadn’t expected
it this soon, but the moment I felt the shift in my heart I knew it
was how it should be. I wished I could have more time with him as
my guide, mentor, and father.
  His hand slipped from my head and I cradled it in my own
hand. He looked at the Healers and then at Marshal and Delilah,
who had remained near the door. “I call upon you to be my
witnesses…The mantle has passed. Amira is your queen…See that
it is so.”
  He didn’t speak again and I didn’t waste our last moments
filling it with meaningless words. I allowed my soul to commune
with his and felt his love wash over me. I watched his face, hoping
he would open his eyes again, but knew it was almost over. His
breath became shallower. His hand relaxed in mine and for a
moment I felt as if I was joined by my late mother as my soul was
embraced one last time before my father slipped away to the
heavens.
  A sudden shiver ran up my spine and warmth settled at the
base of my skull. I felt a tug on my consciousness as if something
new was added to my soul. Was that something to do with the
mantle of authority?
  The Healers moved quickly and all four rested their hands
on his head, or arms. I knew they would find nothing they could
do. He was gone.
  The bustle of the next few hours was lost around me as I
stared into space. I didn’t know the state of the kingdom. Father
should have told me what to expect, but there was no time. What
had Shander done while Father was ill? I didn’t know who I could
trust and missed Jai more than I thought possible. He had always
been a voice of reason and understanding to me.
  Delilah and Marshal stood guard over me as if they really
were my parents, and not just my servants who had acted as
guardians while I was on Earth. They didn’t allow anyone to speak
to me for a time. I was grateful for the reprieve. I knew it wouldn’t
be long before I was surrounded on all sides by everyone who
wanted to stake their claim in the kingdom.
  Who was still in the Grand Council? Had Shander filled it
with people who supported him, or were any still loyal to my
father?
  I racked my brain trying to think of who I could summon to
me and request information. I needed to have the details before me;
and soon. I knew the council would demand an audience
tomorrow. And the people must be told. We had a grace period of
twelve hours before the royal bell would chime thirty-­‐‑one times,
indicating the latest ruler was dead. I was now Rommader’s thirty-­‐‑
second monarch. I hoped I would be as good as those who had
come before me.
****
  Less than seven hours after my ordination by my father’s
hand, I stood dressed in the ceremonial robes and faced the door to
the Grand Council room. I wished I could have been in there as
they assembled so they could see how things stood, but protocol
dictated the council met before the ruling monarch arrived. The
royal bell had not chimed yet, but a message would have been sent
to the council members about my father’s passing.
  “It will be fine,” Delilah said. “You are the queen.”
  I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. I wished I was still
on Earth, just a normal girl, hanging out with Holly and Jai. Or
even Ryad, wherever he was.
  I wished Jai would have let him Travel at the same time as
Delilah, Marshal, and I. Jai still didn’t trust him, even after his oath
to me. He’d held Ryad back till after we left as one last attempt to
be my bodyguard. I couldn’t blame him since Ryad had been sent
by Shander. But I was sure of Ryad’s loyalty now.
  Marshal had tried to reach Ryad, but had not heard back.
  We were too far away to try to communicate telepathically, and if I
called for him that way, anyone would be able to hear us. It would
take some getting used to again to keep my thoughts more private.
  I had eased up a lot on Earth, even with Holly able to hear our
thoughts.
  I smiled at the memory of her shock when she first heard our
telepathy. She had handled things well. I tried to think of how she
would act in this situation. Holly would have been nervous, sure,
but she wouldn’t have let it show. I lifted my head, straightened
my back, and opened the door.
  The council men and women rose to their feet when I
entered the room, reminding me how tall everyone on Rommader
was. So much different from Earth with their different races and
nationalities. A few murmurs and whispers reached my ears. The
hint of a buzz of telepathic communication tickled my mind, but I
couldn’t hear what they were saying.
  I tried to block thoughts of Holly from my mind and instead
focused on the men and women in front of me. The ease or
difficulty of my reign depended on those in this room. There were
twenty chairs, spaced evenly at two long tables facing each other.
  Ten men on one side, ten women on the other. I met the eyes of
each person, acknowledging them with a nod as I walked past
them on my way to the dais. No words were spoken, but each one
nodded at me in return as a sign of respect. Nothing binding, but at
least they recognized my authority to be there.
Kris Wrater, my father’s original councilman, and Jamina
Coost, the oldest councilwoman, sitting at the heads of their
respective tables, were the only ones I recognized. The rest were
new and relatively young looking. I wished I could speak to Daddy
one more time. To ask him about how the kingdom had been faring
and how things would be, but I was on my own now. If I showed
them my strength and ability then they would accept me as the
queen. The question was, how much authority would they let me
have?
  The man sitting in the speaker’s seat nearest the throne was
a shrewd looking man. Older than Shander by a few years, but still
young enough to be attractive. He eyed me with the same look
Shander used to give me, and I immediately changed my opinion.
No matter his physical attraction, there would be no way I’d be
interested in him.
  No man would come close to me again. No man would hurt
me or use me as a way to gain power.
  The speaker stood the moment I reached the throne. I
remained standing to show my authority, yet my respect to them.
Until they acknowledged me as the queen, I would not sit in the
throne. I glanced at Delilah, who nodded her support.
  “Princess Amira,” the speaker began. “I am Jonah Plurz.” He
bowed low and then motioned to the council members. “On behalf
of my fellow servants, I welcome you home.” The corner of his
upper lip rose. “I do hope you had a pleasant vacation.” The stress
on his last word felt harsh in my ears.
  “I believe you know better, Mr. Plurz.” I raised one eyebrow
and he took a slow breath before glancing at the others. He turned
back to me.
  “Are you here to stay?”
  “I am.”
  A woman halfway down the table stood and faced me.
  “How do we know that, Your Highness?”
  “My father has ordained me to be your queen. I am here for
the rest of my life.”
  The councilmen and women turned to each other as if
surprised at my announcement. Had they not been told?
  “He could not have ordained you to be the queen. It is
impossible to have two rulers at a time.”
  “He did right before he died. There were six witnesses.” I
stood straight, staring them down.
  “Impossible,” one woman said. “The mantle should have
passed already.”
  “We were there when he ordained Sir Tarros,” a gray-­‐‑haired
man next to him said.
  “What will Sir Tarros say to this?” a small, attractive woman
at the end of the table asked.
  The words mixed together as everyone spoke at once.
I raised my hand. It took a moment, but eventually everyone
quieted down. “The Healers and my two assistants were there with
me.” I motioned toward Marshal and Delilah still standing by the
doors. “The mantle was passed to me. I ask you to calm down and
we will discuss the needs of the kingdom.”
  “Princess.” Speaker Plurz put a lot of emphasis into that one
word. “You are not the ruler. We have a king already.”
  I opened my mouth, but another council member cut me off.
  “Because you were nowhere to be found, we did our research and
found a distant relative of the king’s. He has been in training and
study of the histories and knows more about ruling our nation than
anyone. By the vote of the people yesterday, he was deemed to be
our ruler.”
  “You dared to override my father?”
  “We didn’t override him. He gave his blessing to Sir Tarros
yesterday. The mantle should have passed to him at your father’s
death.”
  I could feel their frustration and confusion as they looked at
me.
  “Because you are the king’s daughter, perhaps he did pass
on some authority to you. It has been that way since the beginning
of our kingdom.” Jamina Coost looked over the council as she
spoke. “Is it possible they could both have the same authority?”
  “We will have to look into it. Should we call for Sir Tarros?”
Speaker Plurz asked.
  A man halfway down the table said, “But we worked so
hard to get someone reliable to replace her since she fled. Someone
Shander couldn’t manipulate.” He looked at me with concern in his
eyes.
  “The law makes it clear. Marcus Tarros is now the king.”
  “What?” I asked, unwilling to believe what they were telling
me.
  “The vote has been tallied and more than eighty-­‐‑six percent
of the population has decided your distant cousin, Sir Marcus
Tarros, is the king. It was the only way to prevent it from falling to
Shander.”
  “Impossible. I am the next in line. I have the royal blood in
my veins stronger than anyone else. And the mantle has already
been passed to me.”
  Though I could feel the power of my calling upon me, there
was no way to describe it to these people.
  The council turned to each other and began discussing
things as if I weren’t there. Having lost their attention, I decided to
take matters into my own hands. I needed to find Sir Tarros and let
him know his services were no longer required.

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