When their god needed a protector, she chose yes.
Choices Meant For Kings
The Choices Trilogy Book 2
by Sandy Lender
Genre: Epic Fantasy
There’s no doubt: Amanda Chariss is in danger. Her geasa is hampered by the effects of a doomed wedding. The dashing Nigel Taiman hides something from her, yet demands she stay at his family’s estate where he and her wizard guardian intend to keep her safe. But the sorcerer Lord Drake and Julette The Betrayer know she’s there, and their monstrous army marches that way.
When prophecies stack up to threaten an arrogant deity, Chariss must choose between the dragon that courts her and the ostracized kings of the Southlands for help. Evil stalks her at every turn and madness creeps over the goddess who guides her. Can an orphan-turned-Protector resist the dark side of her heritage? Or will she sacrifice all to keep her god-charge safe?
Choices Meant For Kings is Book Two in the Choices Trilogy!
In the chamber far above, Nigel stopped his pacing and glared down at this scene. He didn’t need a full grasp of what the geasa could or couldn’t do; he didn’t need a full understanding of his or his mother’s power. He felt immense energy radiating off the man standing before his bride. With a growl, he stepped back into the room and ripped his shirt from his body. Enough with waiting on the blasted dragon.
He would force the change.
On the field of battle below, the man of power droned, “Amanda Chariss Derdriu. Jamieson Drake requests an audience with you.”
Chariss frowned. The battle still raged outside this circle of uneasy calm, yet she could hear his words clearly. Did he speak in her mind?
Great, she thought. How many voices am I going to carry around in here?
“Julette?” she asked aloud, as if truly questioning the man.
It wasn’t the response he expected. “I beg your pardon?”
His voice was laced with the same arrogance and pride Julette’s had been, but it resonated with a firmer grasp on lucidity. This man wasn’t just powerful and aggressive; he was sane.
Not a good combination.
She wondered where Julette had picked him up. He didn’t look like someone from Arcana or its nearby villages. His eyes were too pale, his skin too light; his scent was too sickeningly sweet like burnt honey and ginger. She wondered if his long pale hair, now mashed in wet chunks against his scalp, ever got in his eyes and distracted him from his spell-weaving.
“You sound like Julette,” she said. “When she made her pathetic attempt to grab me in Arcana City earlier this summer, she greeted me the same way you just did.”
He watched her a moment, his pale eyes taking her in, letting her catch her breath because he had no fear of her at full strength. Then he let his lips play into a vicious smile. “How quaint. And to answer the question you were so impolite to think, Julette ‘picked me up’ in Lorendell. You’ve heard that there are many sorcerers there, have you not?”
“I’ve heard. But I’ve never been there myself.”
“Pity. You’ll never get to go. I don’t think she plans to take you anywhere but the dark spirit world where she plans to let you writhe in a slow, painful, agonizing death in the flames of—”
It surprised him that she rolled her eyes as if bored with his threat. It surprised him more when she reached up to take a barrette out of her soaked hair as if completely disinterested with the list of adjectives he used to describe her demise. And then he found a shiny blade darting toward him.
He’d not even seen her hand move. He had no idea she possessed the thing. The sword was what he’d been watching. The sword was what he expected her to swing at him. By the gods, the wench had just flung a tiny dagger into his eye. With amazing accuracy. Its blade sliced through the meat of his eyeball, digging quickly and cleanly through the iris, embedding itself in a bolt of pain and cold, then hot liquid running out his eye socket.
He roared, but she was already upon him, the scent of wet lavender engulfing him. There was the move he had expected. The sword coming across at the downward angle, sloping where he could counter it. He reached out to grab her by the hair, but the long auburn tresses were so drenched with rain that they clung to her body, and he couldn’t get hold of them. His vision seemed to stutter. He could only see out of one eye now, and that made defending oneself more difficult.
Well, it would only be difficult if one didn’t have the gift of sorcery to be one’s eyes.
He blocked his mind to the pain and focused on blocking the blows with which she assaulted him. Yes, Julette had prepared him well for this part of the confrontation. The girl was skilled with the blade. The heavy skirts clinging to her legs like drowning sacks of boulders did nothing to slow her.
With a grimace of disgust, he realized she couldn’t be bested without putting some sort of spell on either her mind or her arm. So, he selected one. One that would burn, just to retaliate for the eye he’d have to mend.
Winters of training with the world’s greatest wizard leave a geasa’n with the ability to sense spells before they hit. Chariss ducked.
She understood sorcerers’ power more than this man knew. He bellowed with anger when his spell shot past her as if it were a beam of light, traveling in a straight line, unable to bend, but radiating out the further it moved from its source. Thus, when it hit the Dreorfahn soldiers behind her, it hit three of them.
The three felt their limbs become heavy and sluggish, felt their bodies become like the anchors used on the ships in Arcana’s harbor. Then their bodies started to burn…from the inside out.
Their screaming and dropping to writhe alarmed Chariss, but she was focused on the sword fight before her. “Oh, that wasn’t very nice,” she cooed as she brought Lyric up to deflect the next spell he flung at her.
The nature of her response, the taunting tone in her sing-song voice belied a confidence she didn’t feel. All this being had to do was slip one spell past her defense moves and she’d be caught. Oh, why can’t Mahsilette be in this fight? And where is Malachi?
“Afraid, little one?” the man asked, mock sincerity dripping from his voice. “No one’s coming to your rescue. Surrender now and I’ll let you stay conscious while we take you to Drake.”
Chariss certainly didn’t like the sneer he sported. It gave the distinct impression that she’d be better off unconscious on such a journey, without a sorcerer’s spells torturing her flesh every step of the way.
I’ve got to kill this man.
He heard her thought, threw back his head and roared with laughter.
To the horror of every Arcanan soldier who watched, Chariss threw her arms around the neck of the enemy and plunged them both over the cliff at their side.
Choices Meant For Gods
The Choices Trilogy Book 1
Not even the gods noticed when Amanda Chariss was born with the mark of The Protector. Now she and her wizard guardian hide from a mad sorcerer in a household full of false hope and whispered secrets. The same god who watches over the family school sheltering Chariss will soon reveal her role in an impending war.
When a wizard’s ward sets aside a lifetime of running and fear to accept the responsibilities of guarding an arrogant deity, can she face the trials in the prophecies they uncover? Will Nigel Taiman of her latest refuge dare to use his dragon heritage to bind her to his estate or to help her in her duty?
Choices Meant for Gods is Book One in the Choices Trilogy!
Now she sensed someone approach. All her muscles tensed as she watched through the strip of space between the curtain and doorframe. And when a small dragon landed with a click-click of its claws on the stone balcony rail, she put her hand to her mouth to keep from gasping aloud.
It’s a baby dragon!
The thing couldn’t have been four feet tall, sitting there fussing with its oversized wings. It seemed to have difficulty getting the webbing to fold nicely against its sides. In fact, it seemed to have so much difficulty that it lost its balance and nearly fell backward. She could imagine it cursing if it had a voice, by its agitated hop-and-bounce to the balcony floor, which proved more stable.
She watched all of this with fascination, not afraid, but surprised. Dragons are extinct, how is this real? The last sighting was, by the gods, five hundred winters ago.
Its feet reminded her of any reptile, only this creature’s small claws would some day be brutal scythes. The dark scales on the feet blended into rich blue and purple hues with black overtones as she followed their pattern up the muscled legs to the creature’s belly.
This was obviously the part of the body slayers had targeted for centuries. Her own fingernails could pierce this supple-looking skin. Hopefully the skin would toughen with age and darken to match the rest of its body. For now, the tan underbelly would certainly stand out against a night sky, even if the glistening young scales didn’t.
As the creature continued to fuss with its wings, Chariss watched it tuck its elongated face around to scratch its back. It was hard to believe the scales would have nerve endings to feel an itch, much less the scratching meant to relieve the annoyance. It leaned on its right front leg for support as it rubbed its chin against the left wing. And when all the motion, combined with not-properly-folded wings, knocked it off balance, she giggled.
The creature would definitely curse if it had a voice. It was scrambling to regain its footing and lift off from the narrow balcony. Unfortunately, it would have to coordinate itself to hop to the railing before its wingspan would allow it to take flight. Chariss took advantage of its frantic attempts at escape to capture it from behind.
“Hrazon will have my head for this,” she muttered, but stepped onto the stone balcony and scooped up the mass of flailing reptile. It flailed all the more, its weak tail wrapping and slapping the backs of her legs, and emitted a strangled barking sound.
“Hey, be quiet!” she admonished, rearranging her arms to hold its forelegs down against its body. “You’re going to tear a wing if you don’t settle down. And stop making that noise!”
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Sandy Lender is a construction magazine editor by day and author of #GirlPower fantasy novels by night, living in Florida to help with sea turtle conservation and parrot rescue. You can follow her author page on Amazon, check her website at SandyLenderInk.com, or subscribe to her newsletter at https://bit.ly/SSReNews.
With a four-year degree in English and thirty-year career in publishing, Sandy’s successes include traditionally and self-published novels, hundreds of magazine articles, multiple short stories in competitive anthologies, a handful of technical writing awards, and a handful of creative writing awards and nominations. Sandy’s been writing stories since she was knee-high to a grasshopper when her great-grandmother shared her odd little tales of squeaky ghost-spiders around an apartment complex in Southern Illinois. The stories have developed to include strong young ladies working with dragons to save worlds from terrible fates, but those pesky spiders still show up from time to time.
There’s always something brewing at Sandy Lender Ink headquarters where some days, you just want the dragon to win.