The Eldritch Heart
Matthew S. Cox
Published by: Curiosity Quills Press
Publication date: August 1st 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Princess Oona Talomir enjoys the little things that come with her station: a handmaiden, her lavish bedchamber, and scores of fancy dresses―the duty to win a decades’ long war, not so much.
Oh, did I mention assassins?
Seers foretold the conflict would end by her hand. From the moment she drew her first breath, the neighboring kingdom has been trying to kill her so she could not grow powerful enough to destroy them. The king, fearing for his daughter’s life, has kept her confined to the castle grounds for most of her sixteen years. With the tide of war turning against them, the burden of her crown becomes too much to bear, yet one thing lifts her spirits amid the gloom.
Her servant girl, Kitlyn.
Alas, in a kingdom obsessed with the god of purity, she is terrified to confess her forbidden love. When her father makes a demand she cannot abide―marry a prince to forge a military alliance―Oona panics. He is handsome and honorable, but he’s not Kitlyn. Unable to admit why she cannot obey, Oona does the only thing she can think of, and runs away.
Alone and unprepared in the wilderness, she prays the gods will let Kitlyn find her—before the assassins do.
Anxiety clouded Oona’s mind and kept sleep well at bay. She rolled onto her side, facing the door to her bedroom. Sighing, she traced her fingers back and forth across the silk. The night moon painted the lavender sheets a luminous shade of blue and scattered deep shadows throughout the chamber, any one of which might conceal an assassin.
She hated this, the endless solitude, but could think of no excuse to give her father that would allow her closest friend to share the room. Especially considering the girl was also her handmaiden―or at least, Oona wished her thus. Kitlyn had been relegated to a tiny room across the hall. Even that much had the other servants jealous. None of them had a private room in the princess’ hall.
Princess. Oona traced her finger over the silk sheets. She hated this word―this wall―between her and her dearest friend, who for the past four years had been treated like a servant. She also hated the Foretelling. If the old ones spoke truth, tens of thousands would die by her hand someday. That alone made all the rich trappings of her life feel hollow.
Oona pushed herself flat and stared up at the ceiling. Decorative wells with carved protrusions swam with shadows. As a little girl, she’d often wake from a bad dream and in her fog, mistake them for bats or creatures watching her sleep―and scream. She let off a halfhearted chuckle and thought back to when she’d been too young to worry about war, or what those bloodthirsty cretins in Evermoor wanted to do to her. Alas, she grew up. Her days of running around the garden with her best friend, playing tricks on the groundskeepers, laughing and hiding, were over.
A frown crossed her lips. With years came separation. She, the princess, had duties to attend to while Kitlyn toiled away at whatever task Fauhurst or Elsbeth would give her. Oona’s eyebrows knit together. Father often went to great lengths to appease her wants―everything except for leaving the castle―but when she’d asked to have Kitlyn granted a minor title so she could be a friend and companion ever at her side, he claimed he needed time to consider.
When she’d demanded the girl be left alone to attend only to her, he’d dismissed that as well. A pampered ruler is not what Lucernia needs had been his response.
Of course, she hadn’t told him she didn’t want a servant―she’d wanted her friend. Too many people would’ve heard, and, well, a royal simply didn’t make friends among the commoners, especially friends like Kitlyn. Worse than a commoner, she’d been an orphan from an unknown family, a street waif whom Beredwyn, the king’s eldest advisor, had taken pity on. Even allowing the girl to work so close to her had caused a great deal of gasping and hand waving. Much like the royalty, servants had hereditary hierarchies. Scullery maids gave birth to scullery maids, and so on. The royals’ personal attendants came only from the upper echelons of the servant caste. Only rarely, a long hard climb through the castle ranks let a parlor maid ascend to royal attendant… and her friend had swooped in. Somewhat.
Always limits. It wasn’t fair. A few years ago, the two of them happily whiled away the days and weeks together, but now… now she had to be a princess, and Kitlyn had to scrub floors. Oh, and an entire kingdom wanted Oona dead.
Born in a little town known as South Amboy NJ in 1973, Matthew has been creating science fiction and fantasy worlds for most of his reasoning life. Somewhere between fifteen to eighteen of them spent developing the world in which Division Zero, Virtual Immortality, and The Awakened Series take place. He has several other projects in the works as well as a collaborative science fiction endeavor with author Tony Healey.
Hobbies and Interests:
Matthew is an avid gamer, a recovered WoW addict, Gamemaster for two custom systems (Chronicles of Eldrinaath [Fantasy] and Divergent Fates [Sci Fi], and a fan of anime, British humour (<- deliberate), and intellectual science fiction that questions the nature of reality, life, and what happens after it.
He is also fond of cats.