Young Princess Nefasti wakes to discover her father, the King, poisoned and her mother near death. As she is the sole heiress to the ancient high kingdom of Vadio, the king’s three brothers begin to plot and quarrel over who will become Regent and control the kingdom until she comes of age, or dies. Their solution is to marry her off. If this trio were not enough of a problem, the greedy surrounding kingdoms all want to gobble Vadio up, and their ambassadors scurry through the castle plotting and scheming.
Young Queen Nefasti’s hold on her throne is tenuous. Her powerful neighbor to the west has declared war, and her other neighbors want something in return for their offered aid, such as her hand in marriage and her kingdom. Assassins lurk in the shadows while handsome suitors try to bribe her with gold and jewels. Her best friend and protector is leaving and one of her favorite ladies-in-waiting is threatening to commit suicide. Could anything else go wrong?
It has happened at last. Queen Nefasti’s friends are deserting her on all sides, treachery threatens from inside her own castle, and an invasion led by an old and angry acquaintance is knocking at the very gates to the Kingdom of Vadio. Dark Magic has stirred up things best left alone. Nefasti has been given a final choice, marry The Lord High Protector’s son, or suffer dire consequences. All of this threatens to ruin her 16th birthday celebrations, and probably end her life.
sulphur on a night when the peaks echoed with thunder and the castle walls
trembled. I know that it is not true, and I should know. I was the midwife;
although there was a storm, worse than I’d seen in many a year. She did scream
like the Devil when she popped, but it was the cries of her mother, the queen,
who drowned her out. Lady Gratia never had been strong, and losing two
still-born sons had taken any remaining strength for birthing out of her. The
ignorant outlanders whisper drunkenly in the inns that she is evil and cursed;
that to gaze upon her face is death. This is a lie! Some careless folk say,
when they think no one is listening, she walks across the lake to drink the
blood of babes and drain the life force from careless husbands. I know this is
also a lie; I have never seen her walk on water.
through the half-open portal, whispered, “Stay here! Do not leave your room,”
and quickly closed the door.
and waited a moment, then slipped from her bed, trotted barefoot across the
cold stones and pressed her ear against a crack in the worn wood. Heavy
footsteps echoed down the hall to stop just on the other side.
my word and I will have your guts! Is that understood?”
usually ignored her. But why did she need a guard? Just for a minute she
imagined she heard a scream, then the shouting outside drew her to the narrow
window overlooking the inner courtyard. Standing tip-toe on a stool, she peered
over the edge. Far below, fresh torches flamed, illuminating the sight of
soldiers running, arming as they hurried to fall into ranks. Too high to hear
the words shouted, still she made out the sound of iron-shod hooves on the
cobbles out beyond the walls in the outer courtyard. In the distance the faint
lights from the towers of Grandeur City sparkled across the black water of the
Cor Gloria. Nefasti imagined riders hurrying through the gate and along the
winding causeway, carrying the news to the city.
moan. Nefasti turned in time to see old Vita being pushed inside.
the room straight to Nefasti, swept her off the stool and up into her arms,
crushing her deep into the folds of the heavy woolen shawl. Nefasti almost
smothered in the cloth and scent of spices and perspiration. She struggled
brown to light gray. She noticed the growing bruise on Vita’s cheek. “What
happened to him?’
sound, and she stubbed her toe. She set her teeth, then started toward the
are my sandals?”
ruffled shirt with sword and dagger belted on pushed his way in. Another
followed–Uncle Pilarius fully dressed, neatly coiffured, and armed.
- A PDF copy of The Dark Lady.