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Excerpt

“Defender of the Realms”

It took hours for her to fall into a fitful sleep. Thrashings continued, while erratic dreams plagued Pheobe, dragging her back to a time of long ago. Her mother held her close, rocking her, whispering soft into her ear.

“My sweet – sweet Pheobe,” her mother crooned and brushed the platinum-flecked hair off her tiny forehead, scattering abundant kisses in its place.

Pheobe was a mere four summers of age.

He was here. As soon as the fighting began, her mother would whisk her away, hiding her from her grandfather’s presence, into the solarium for sanctuary. The confinement would be a necessary measure, and then the stories would begin. Her mother, Dalia, could weave a Faerie’s tale like no other, entrancing Pheobe for hours.

Many times Pheobe had heard the magical story. She could recite the tale in perfect accord to any who would stop long enough to listen.

“Once upon a time there was a faery princess,” her tender voice began.

“The princess fell in love, desperately, with a mortal man. The son to a great lord who kept peace among the neighboring lands. Never was he supposed to cross the border. The treaty did not allow him to step foot across the Silver Creek and into the acres of Marche. But cross it he did.

“To the river bank he had gone where the princess sat washing her ink-black hair. As soon as his foot fell upon the forbidden province, horns sounded, and alarms rang for his folly. Clouds blanketed the heavens, shifting in violent bursts. All of the forest creatures stilled, and darkness immediately fell.

“The toad Jerome croaked his warning, but she would not listen. Instead of vanishing into the scenery as the princess was supposed to do, she kept her human form, singing a soft, soothing tune. Finishing her task, she then sat up to watch this brazen stranger, as he dismounted his chestnut stallion.

“His hair matched the color of her own, eyes beaming a steeled grey and twinkled as the stars in the deep of night. He was lovely. Never had she seen a human male so breathtaking and alive. He stood as sturdy as an oak in the heart of the forest, his skin dark as the rough bark of its branches. The faery princess lingered in a state of wonder, forgetting to blend into the water’s shimmer.

“Kneeling to fill his flagon, he saw her reflection in the pool. He looked about to see this beautiful lady who stared directly at him, but he could not find. About him, he saw only lush grasses, the mossy emerald of the river’s bank, the tangled foliage surrounding the creek side, and the fast approaching turmoil of the storm.

“Gales blew mighty circles around him and distant trees swayed with their force. But there was no lady, no woman anywhere could he see. He saw only fallen stumps and scattered greenery. No fair maiden to behold.

“The young princess could do nothing since her image lay cast, and, like a fiery brand, her reflection remained imprinted into the creek’s watery mirror.

“He called out. ‘My lady, you do play tricks on me, for here I do see your comely face. Where is it you hide?

“Panic lodged in the hollow of her throat. The princess sat startled as he addressed her.

“Again, he spoke, ‘If you have no words, then I hope, my fairest queen, you will not mind if I spend this day gazing at your beauty.’

“Unable to speak or vanish, all she too, wanted to do was watch this handsome man who dared cross her path.

My name is Tristan, Marcus of Sedgwick, first son of The Grand Duke.

“On the wind, his mind heard her calling clear. Through the encroaching mist that appeared in puffs of wispy smoke, threatening to swallow him whole.

Dalia.

“Her voice cascaded in a chorded melody, weaving an enchanted song tightly about his heart. But the day grew gloomy. The weather quickly sank upon him and forced him from the water’s edge. Great gusts shouted their warning for him to turn back, to stay far away from this forbidden realm.

“No one would be prepared for what happened next.

“He drank deep from his water’s pint the enveloping warmth of her image. He drank deep every ounce of her precious energy until nary a drop remained.

“Life was never to be the same.

“Lightning clashed; thunder boomed deafeningly. The ground underfoot trembled in earth-shattering force. Horse and rider sank deep into the earth and far beyond sight, falling, spiraling, clashing with worlds not understood, nor had he known existed.”

Pheobe’s dream continued, hearing her mother’s words as though it were yesterday.

“Every century’s time, the Eastern king of the Scots faeries will have to relinquish his greatest treasure. That of his first-born daughter, to a mortal enemy Lord until the day when both worlds would then join as one. The halves must collide, and The Devlin shall take his bride. It will end with you, my daughter. The Devlin will come for you.”

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