Queen of Hearts (The Risen King)

BOOK: Queen of Hearts (The Risen King)
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Queen of Hearts

(Book 2 of The Risen King)

 

By

Samantha Warren

 

 

Copyright 2014 Samantha Warren

The following story is a work of fiction and all names and characters are strictly the creation of the author.

All rights reserved.

 

 

This publication may not be reproduced or transmitted in any manner without expressed written consent from Samantha Warren.

 

Cover Art Copyright 2014 Kalen O'Donnell

 

 

 

 

*~*~*

PROLOGUE

*~*~*

 


Hello, Guinevere.” Leanansidhe cupped the young woman's face in her hand and beamed at her. “Welcome back to the world of the living.”

Long, delicate fingers gripped the edges of the wooden table, turning them ghostly white. Guinevere stared with wide blue eyes at the woman in front of her. “I... How...”

“Shhh,” Leanansidhe said as she brushed a loose strand of blond hair back from the girl's face. “You're safe now. You're just a little disoriented. That's to be expected.”

The dark-haired woman held out her other hand and waggled her fingers at her assistant. He scampered up from his place in the corner and brought her a big wooden bowl.

The girl looked around again as her face pinched in confusion. “But I--“ Whatever she was going to say was cut off as her hands clenched over her stomach and she lurched to the side.

Leanansidhe brought the bowl up with one smooth motion and positioned it beneath the girl's face. Guinevere heaved and heaved, expelling what little acid was in her nearly empty stomach. When she was done convulsing, she lay back on the table and inhaled deeply. Her eyes were closed and she took slow, steady breaths.

The older woman walked a few steps away and wet a cloth in a bowl of water. She patted the girl's sweaty forehead and cooed softly to her. “Rest now. You've gone through a lot. Coming back is never easy. You have been asleep for centuries, my dear. You will be weak for a few days, but then you'll be just like new.” Her eyes flickered down to the two furry blue toes hanging over the edge of the table. “Almost.”

Guinevere inhaled slowly a few more times, then her eyes fluttered open. She found Leanansidhe's face and her blue eyes started to glitter as recognition finally dawned on her. Her bright red lips pulled up into a perfect smile. “Hello, Mother,” she whispered. Her voice was raspy and it hurt when she spoke, but she continued on. “I've missed you.”

Leanansidhe leaned over and kissed the young woman's forehead. “I've missed you, too, my darling. It has been much, much too long. You have been sleeping for ages.”

Guinevere struggled to sit up. She glanced down at her body and her smile grew bigger. “Oh, how lovely. I hope you didn't see me near the end of that life. It was simply awful. My body was all wrinkly and so ghastly.” She ran her hands over her smooth skin and cupped her breasts. She squeezed them and giggled like a child with a new toy. Her eyes trailed down her torso and her legs. They stopped short when she reached her feet. “What,” she asked with a hard tone as her smile vanished from her face. “Are those?” Her nose curled in disgust as she wiggled the blue toes and realized they were attached to her body.

Leanansidhe cupped her daughter's hand in hers and brushed her hair. “Now, dear Guin, don't be upset.
Someone
was unable to find all the pieces. It's a minor thing, really. As long as you keep your stockings on, no one will even know.”

The screech that echoed around the room had Borton cowering with fear in the corner again.
“I'll know!“
she screamed with as much power as she could muster. “I'll know that I'm a deformed, horrid beast! How could you do this to me, Mother? How could you be so cruel?”

The dark-haired woman continued to coo and stroke her daughter's hair, but her own voice began to take on a hard edge. “It's just a minor issue, Guinevere. We can figure out how to fix it once we've completed our task.”

The mention of some foul plan pulled Guinevere from the edge of her temper tantrum and she cocked her head at her mother. “Oh? Is that why I'm back?” Her fingers steepled together of their own accord and the smile returned to her face. “And what are we doing this time?”

Leanansidhe's grin matched that of her daughter's. “I have some very, shall we say, interesting news? Someone else has returned, my dear. Many someones, in fact.”

Guinevere gasped and her lips fell apart as her eyes went wide. “You don't say!“

Lea nodded. “I do. It's true. Arthur has returned, and he has his best men with him.”

The blond woman giggled and clapped her hands together. “Oh, this is marvelous. It's going to be so fun. Is Lancelot with him? Please tell me they're both here.”


Oh, yes. Both of them. Along with Tristan and Percival, and many others. There were thirteen returned to life. Though I have taken one from them already. Kay.”

The delighted grin on Guinevere fell just a touch. “Shame. He was always so fun to play with, though he would never cow to my advances. I would have liked another go at him.”

“You'll have plenty of men to pounce on, my dear. Don't you worry. They won't know what hit them. But first, you need to take care of Arthur's new flame.”

The smile evaporated and Guinevere's eyes narrowed into death rays. “New flame? As in, new love?”

Leanansidhe pulled her face into a grave countenance. “Yes, my darling, I'm afraid so. Titania's granddaughter, no less.”


Her...?” Guinevere bit her lip and failed to stifle a growl. Then she spun halfway around on the table to face the corner. She held her hand out to Borton and fixed him with a glare. “You, slave. Bring me a robe. I have work to do.”

*~*~*~*~*

And on the day

When all seems lost,

The Faery folk

Will count the cost.

Their hearts will bend

To what seems strange.

Through faith and hope

The World will change.

*~*~*~*~*

 

Faery Prophecy

 

 

 

 

*~*~*

ONE

*~*~*

 

Aiofe Callaghan groaned and rolled over as a beam of light slammed her in the face. A silhouette stood in the window, framed by the glaring sun.

“Shut the curtain, Lilia,” Aiofe grumbled. She threw her arm over her eyes and moaned again. Her head pounded like a thousand drumsticks were beating on her skull and her stomach lurched when she tried to sit up.


You had a rough night, m'lady,” the girl said. When she smiled, her eyes lit up and her face looked a lifetime younger.

Aiofe ran a hand through her tangled red hair and pushed herself to the side of the massive bed. Her feet dropped over the edge and landed in a plush carpet that covered the stone floor. “No kidding. I haven't drank like that since...” She paused and thought back through her short life. “I haven't drank like that ever.” Drinking wasn't a pastime that hunters of her ilk typically dallied in.

Lilia opened the nearby armoire and pulled a robe from inside. She held it out for Aiofe. As the red-head slipped her arms inside, Lilia said, “And faery wine tends to be a bit stronger than anything you humans are used to, m'lady. We like our drink.”

Aiofe grunted as she sat down on the padded bench in front of the vanity. She looked at herself in the mirror and groaned again. Her long hair was knotted and snarled, sticking out in random angles. Her face was paler than normal and her eyes were puffy all around. She crossed her arms on the vanity and laid her head on top of them.

Lilia giggled softly. “No worries, m'lady. We'll have you fixed up in no time at all.” She hummed as she worked, and true to her word, she had Aiofe looking presentable in short form. With a little bit of makeup and faery magic, the puffy eyes were gone and her pale skin had a bit of color to it.

Aiofe looked at herself in the full length mirror beside the armoire. Lilia had picked out a pair of soft leather riding slacks and an intricately embroidered peasant top to match. Boots with pliable leather soles came halfway up her calf and her hair was pulled back into three braids that spun around each other in a delicate pattern on the back of her head that ended in a middle bun.

She poked at the bun on the back of her skull. “You don't have to go to so much trouble. It's not like we're having a party or anything.”

Lilia cocked her head to the side. “I'm sorry, m'lady? I do not understand what you mean. It was no trouble at all.”

“It just looks all fancy and stuff. It'll get ruined.”

The young handmaiden stood to the side, staring at Aiofe with wide eyes and an open mouth. Her lips worked like a fish's, but no words came out.

“Don't hassle the girl, Aiofe.” A short, blond woman stood between the heavy red curtains that separated the sleeping area from the rest of the room. She was dressed much like Aiofe, but her clothes were obviously of a much higher quality and she had a leather riding jacket over the top of her shirt. “You're part of our family now. Jeans and tee-shirts are no longer acceptable attire.”

Aiofe tugged at her shirt as Zela shoved the curtain aside to reveal the other room. “But it's going to get all dirty.”

The other woman laughed and beckoned Aiofe over to the table. It was laid with all sorts of fruits, breads, and sweets for breakfast. Zela lowered herself into a chair and plucked an orange-looking fruit from the basket in front of her. “What do you intend to do today? Roll around in the mud like a sow?” She tore the skin off and tossed it into an empty bowl before peeling a section and popping it into her mouth.

Aiofe narrowed her eyes and stuck out her lower lip, but she settled onto a bench across from Zela. She poured herself a cup of coffee and mixed it with some sugar. “We have a war to fight, remember?”

Zela popped another slice into her mouth and chewed. She nodded thoughtfully. “We do. That we do. But it won't happen today.”

Lilia finished tidying up in the other room and bowed before the princess. She kept her eyes lowered to the ground and nearly bent in half as she curtseyed. “I have finished, m'lady. Is there anything else either of you need at this moment?”

Zela glanced over at the girl and huffed a laugh. “Lilia, right? I almost didn't recognize you. You look so solid.”

Lilia raised her eyes to Zela and smiled. “Yes, my name is Lilia. Thank you.”

Zela waved a hand and the girl left, shutting the door softly behind her.


Solid?” Aiofe's eyes twinkled with laughter as she looked at her aunt. “That seems a bit of a rude thing to say.”

The faery shook her head. “Not at all. In a castle like this, where all the servants are a bit ethereal, being solid is a very good thing. That poor girl has been here for a long time, and it's good to see her finally have someone to serve again, someone who will treat her well. Be good to her and she will be one of your greatest allies.”

Aiofe held her cup in her hands and frowned at it. “It's so weird having servants. I don't think I'll ever get used to it.”

Her aunt laughed. “You will. In less time than you think, I'm sure. Besides, you have other things to focus on. So let Lilia do her job, and you do yours.”

The red-head plucked a danish from the top of the tray and bit into it. “What is my job?” she asked around a mouthful of pastry. “I'm trained to hunt faeries, in my world, not this one.”


The skills are basically the same. The real downside is that you are used to fighting one or two, not a dozen. But we'll work on that. You'll be up to par in no time.” Zela grinned at her and popped a strawberry in her mouth as a knock sounded on the door behind them. “Enter,” Zela called before Aiofe could speak up.

A gray head poked around the door. “Am I interrupting?” Maureen smiled as her eyes fell on her granddaughter.

“Not at all,” Zela said with a matching grin. “Come, eat with us.”

The old woman shoved the heavy door with a bit of effort and walked over to join the other two. Aiofe poured her a cup of coffee and set an apple and a danish on a plate for her. “Morning,, Gran.”

“Morning, dear. You look lovely today.”

Aiofe plucked at the braids twining about her head and puckered her lips into a pout. “It's too much.”

“Nonsense. You're a princess of the Southern court.” Her grandmother nodded her head toward Aiofe's outfit. “This is actually very low key, Aiofe. It's very relaxed, something Titania would wear on her days away from the court. Consider it the ripped jeans and stained tee-shirt version of faery attire.” She smiled at Aiofe and gave Zela a wink.


Ugh,” Aiofe replied as she pulled another piece from her danish.

BOOK: Queen of Hearts (The Risen King)
12.37Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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