With her beloved mother dying, Crown Princess Raene of Montequirst must prepare to be queen and choose a husband within hours of the death. By law, he must be the greatest warrior in the land. The only man who fits that description, who she can tolerate, is her friend and mentor, Vidar the Loyal. He’s a member of the elite Aasguard warriors, who have never married in their centuries of existence.
While the mightiest men of the nation circle Raene in an attempt to boost their own rank and wealth, a neighboring country is also making plans against Montequirst. With the aid of his clumsy dragon companion, Vidar has been teaching Raene to wield her legendary sword in order to defend her throne. Meanwhile, they’re both battling an attraction neither understands.
Can they possibly break the age-old traditions that bind them and choose their heart’s desire?
Melodious laughter rang through the dining hall. Amid the clink of silverware on dinner plates, a discordant note penetrated Princess Raene of Montequirst’s haze of happiness. Her table occupants didn’t appear to notice the disharmony.
Yet the sounds of merriment died in her throat as her heart constricted and out of instinct, Raene glanced toward the head table. To where her mother, the Queen of Montequirst, held court to her advisers. The Duke of Larkswallow sprang to his feet, not quite as spry as he’d like people to believe, as the Duke of Lockwillow caught the queen when her eyes rolled into the back of her head and she crumpled.
A horrified gasp ripped from Raene’s throat as she thrust her napkin aside to dart across the hall. A bevy of healers barred her way. “You must not, Princess. Please allow us to attend to her first.”READ MORE
Ariadne, an elderly healer who had been born long before the queen, held on to Raene’s arms, eyes boring directly into hers. “She would not wish for you to also fall ill.”
The healer tipped her head forward ever so slightly. “It appears this is so. We must examine her thoroughly. Once we ascertain what has befallen her, we shall send for you.”
The soup and salad they’d been served thus far lurched in Raene’s stomach. Her heart raced, as dizziness threatened to overtake her. The clatter of the diners halted, and now the colors and scents smeared into a dissonant, aching montage.
A kind hand stroked over her trembling arm. “We shall examine her immediately. There are viruses always circulating.” Ariadne’s voice was soothing, calm, and in direct contrast to Raene’s inability to form a sentence, much less a coherent thought.
She nodded, desperately trying to swallow the large lump in her throat. The healer’s hand gripped her own with surprising strength as Ariadne offered an abbreviated curtsy before she left the room at a stately pace.
Heart still pounding, as sweat dotted her spine, Raene stared after the healer, unable to determine what to do.
The two dukes circled the dining hall to answer questions, with what little knowledge they possessed. Still, one of them gestured to the waiting attendants to continue serving the meal. Few appeared to have an appetite however.
Raene couldn’t possibly swallow with the huge knot in her throat, so she exited the room, wishing to leave the entire scene behind. She retreated to the chamber she and her mother spent much of their time in the evenings. The airy sitting room had been decorated with feminine tastes in mind, with daintier furniture and softer colors.
“Will she be all right?” Stefana, Raene’s best friend, inquired as soon as she joined her. A dark haired, dark eyed beauty, Stefana offered a measure of comfort with her very presence.
“I don’t know. They haven’t ascertained what caused her to collapse.”
Stefana made a pained noise in the back of her throat. Raene concurred. There was nothing they could do, but she couldn’t remain seated. Traversing the room from one end to the other, she spun to retrace her steps. Her elaborate court gown rasped against the furniture.
Her mind didn’t clear, but the physical activity helped her to process her mother’s collapse. A frown creased Stefana’s forehead, but she didn’t utter her thoughts.
The clock in the corner mocked them as the hands crept around the face. The fire died to faint embers. Her stomach remained leaden as she stopped in front of the fading fire.
It reminded Raene of her mother. A brilliant, beautiful flame, slowly being snuffed out. Reduced to a mere flicker of what she had been.
I am being morbid, Raene chided herself. With no diagnosis, she had no cause to think this. Although by now, shouldn’t they have heard something?
Stefana shivered, wrapping her arms tightly around herself. Raene’s entire body had goosebumped and she suppressed a matching shiver. She crossed the room to the crystal panel. After a brisk tap, she waited for a chambermaid to appear.
“You summoned me, princess?” But the maid gasped when she spotted the fire. “You should have called long before now.”
Raene hoped her words weren’t a prophecy.COLLAPSE