In the aftermath of civil war, the people of Ffion starve. The trade has dwindled, the harvest has failed, and all power belongs to the cruel and corrupt. Those few who could have fled the forest continent for other lands, but most are trapped by their poverty and love of their homeland, with little hope for change. Far beneath Chloris Castle, the rebel Naomi has been incarcerated since the tyrannical Princess Adrienne stole the Redwood Throne…
Lorna George lives in a crooked little house in Norfolk with her husband, a lot of books, and a fifty year old begonia named Frank. She spends an inordinate amount of time dreaming up magic, dragons, and fearsome ladies, and has decided to try and make some sort of career from it by writing them down. She hopes this will give her a reasonable excuse when caught staring wistfully out of windows when she should be paying attention to the not-so-mystical “Real World”.Since she has become increasingly vulgar with age, she writes predominately New Adult stories, and despite what a lot of people seem to think, she seriously doubts she will ever grow out of fantasy.
She doesn’t particularly want to.
For more from her online, visit:
Excerpt, Chapter One
‘You should have left me down there, Cygnus, killed me while you had the chance.’ Naomi began to cough and rolled over to her side as she curled up and attempted to control it. There was another flicker of magic and a fine crystal glass filled with clear liquid was being offered to her.
‘Poison.’ she wheezed, trying to push it away.
‘Water, in fact,’ he said, offering it back again. ‘If I wanted you dead, if she wanted you dead, do you really think we would drag you all the way up here just to poison you?’
Naomi only needed a moment to think about this before taking the water and sipping it between shuddering breaths. Of course they wouldn’t kill her that way. Keeping her alive had pleased Adrienne, pleased her twisted mind to make Naomi suffer as long as possible. If they ever planned to have her put to death, she knew it wouldn’t be anything so kind as poison. She had been living under the torture chamber for the last four years. She knew that there were far worse ways to meet the end, and Adrienne would save all of them for her.
‘Incidentally, it’s Lord Cygnus, thank you.’ He continued to smile. ‘Royal Chancellor, you know.’
‘Royal.’ Naomi snorted, keeping tight hold of the glass. ‘She’s no Queen.’
‘Well, that much is true. There seem to be some laws of succession that are causing us all a bit of trauma, in fact, but it is on that point that we wanted to speak with you…’
There was the sudden, distant sound of fanfare echoing down the hallway outside and Naomi felt sick knowing who it was that approached. She was still too weak to move, but she hated to be laying prostrate at the feet of the woman who had ruined her life, the woman who had murdered all that Naomi loved and locked her away to rot into this feeble husk of who she used to be.
Fixing her red-rimmed and sore eyes on Cygnus, feeding her determination with her rage, she moved her arms beneath herself and pushed against the floor. It was hard going, her body protesting every movement, but she slowly heaved herself up to her knees. Cygnus just watched her, looking somehow pleased.
‘Well, now. That’s more like it. She’ll be happy to see you’ve made the effort to kneel before her, I’m sure.’
Naomi ignored him, knowing full well he was trying to bait her. Taking a sip of the water to calm her rasping breath and give her hands something to do, she tried to relax. She had to conserve her strength, and that was more important than rising to the jibes of this evil thing. Her whole body was shaking violently, but she tried to quell it as best she could. Closing her eyes, she took a deep breath as her teacher had taught her years ago. She would get through this. Breathe in. Breathe out.
‘The trick is to keep breathing.’
The old adage Master Gerrard had repeated so often floated back to her, warming her as the sun had done before. It was simple advice. Simple, but powerful. She had never truly appreciated the strength behind the words until the night the traitors had taken her and buried her alive. Through it all, Naomi had kept breathing as he had told her, and she was going to keep doing so.
She barely heard the doors to the Great Hall bang open as Adrienne entered, wrapped up in her meditation as she was and twirling the fine crystal between her fingers back and forth. Her hearing sharpened as the doors closed once again, and she listened closely to the sounds of the guards being sent out, the near silent breath of Cygnus not far to her left, and then the swish of expensive satin skirts slowly approaching them both. She continued to twirl the glass.
‘I fear this idea of yours has failed even before it began, My Lord,’ said Adrienne, her voice causing Naomi’s stomach to clench. ‘Just look at her. She’s hideous. And she stinks.’
Naomi didn’t move, nor open her eyes as the woman stopped in front of her. She almost felt some small glimmer of satisfaction perforate her tightly-controlled rage as Adrienne fell back on such insults. It didn’t concern her that she was hideous. She was alive, and the barb meant to demean her had distinctly missed its mark. She knew that she must smell revolting, but this didn’t bother her either. In fact, she drew satisfaction from the fact that she was probably making them both feel ill.
‘Perhaps, Highness, we should have her washed and fed before we continue this interview?’ Cygnus wheedled.
‘No, I think I like her better this way.’ Naomi heard her turn to walk towards the throne and she grasped the stem of the glass tightly. ‘She’s certainly less troublesome, and I enjoy seeing her so… Cygnus!’
Adrienne shrieked in fear as Naomi broke the glass in her hand against the stone floor, and rallying all of her strength, launched herself at the woman. She knew her body exploded in pain, protesting the movement, but she didn’t feel it. Splintered shard aimed directly at her adversary’s throat, Naomi was almost upon her. Before the split-second of her attack had been completed, her whole body was frozen mid-leap. She couldn’t move. Cygnus had her suspended with his powerful magic and she hung in the air, only a hand-span from Adrienne’s jugular. So close. So cussing close!
A bellow of fury tore itself from deep inside her and she fought against the magic that held her back. The broken glass had disappeared from her hand, but that didn’t stop her from straining forward. Far too soon, her exhausted body won out over the fury of the near miss, and she began to pant and shake all over.
Adrienne looked pale and afraid, a sheen of sweat across her brow as she clutched her hands to her breast. It didn’t take long for Cygnus to sweep over to her and pull her into an embrace, shushing and stroking in a way that gave Naomi pause.
‘There, there, now.’
‘It’s all right. You’re all right.’
‘She tried to kill me!’
‘I know, poppet.’ Cygnus looked as though he might smile for a moment, but the impression was gone as soon as he saw Naomi watching him. He didn’t look away from her as he answered. ‘But I stopped her. She is completely at our mercy.’
Adrienne pushed away from him, face twisted in anger as she rounded on Naomi. ‘I want her dead! Now! Right now, Cygnus.’
‘Highness, you know I would counsel against such rash actions.’
‘I don’t care!’ Adrienne stamped her foot petulantly and crossed her arms. ‘She’s useless. She won’t cooperate. I don’t know why you made me keep her alive this long. Let’s just kill her. Please?’
There was something strange occurring here. Why was Adrienne asking permission? She was supposed to be in charge, not Cygnus. He was nothing but a low-ranking lord from a small fief in the North. Now to find out that it was on his recommendation that Adrienne kept her alive all these long years when she had wanted her dead didn’t make sense. Cygnus certainly only made his way to royal Chancellor through being in Adrienne’s good graces and his part during the civil war, if you could call it that. She was still the one in charge, wasn’t she?
Naomi’s body was suddenly moved, so that she was shaken out of her attack position and hanging in the air. Her head hung limply forward, and her strength was waning fast. The adrenaline of her attempted vengeance had ebbed away, and she noticed the pain in her hand where the glass had shattered and cut in. Blood trickled between her fingers and dropped silently onto the floor.
‘She is completely at our mercy,’ Cygnus repeated with a sweep of his hand. ‘The situation is a precarious one and I would caution that my plan is still the wisest option. After all she has suffered, that she can still move is to our advantage. Surely you wouldn’t want to offer her up as a substitute if she just lay there?’
The laugh that escaped her cracked lips quickly turned into a coughing fit, but Naomi still couldn’t keep her mouth from twisting in amusement. Both Adrienne and Cygnus looked back at her, and she shook her head minimally.
‘A substitute? That’s what this is about?’
‘Be silent,’ Cygnus snapped.
‘What’s the matter? Someone trying to kill you, Adrienne?’ Another short, choking laugh. ‘I beg your pardon. I mean, someone besides me.’