Blurb for A True Prince:
Princess Aslynn and Sebastian have been friends nearly since birth, despite their differing social status. A friendship cemented by a tragic common thread: Aslynn's mother died giving birth to her, and Sebastian had been found floating in a sea chest after a storm. Though a magic spell had protected him, there was no clue as to his identity or his origins, and the boy from the sea was raised by the king’s swordmaster.
Fifteen years later, the forces of change are converging on the small island kingdom they call their home.
In a storm to rival the one that brought Sebastian ashore, the two friends rescue a shipwrecked stranger. In gratitude, the traveling mystic offers to solve Sebastian's mystery, but as the stranger uncovers clues, events surrounding his arrival stir up more than just the past.
A True Prince is a complete story arc, and does not end on a cliffhanger. Book 2 - due out in July 2016 - picks up five years later. The third book should be out in September or October. At that point, all three will be released together in a paperback.
This story will be released in serial installments on a weekly basis until the story is complete, at which time it will be released as an eBook via all etailers.
This story is copyrighted 2016 by Kristi L Cramer and Kristi Cramer Books. All rights reserved.
Prologue - Year of Our Lord 1613
The maidservant scurried down the stone passageways of Castle Fair Haven, moaning to herself in her haste and fear. She glanced in the doorway as she passed the Great Hall, but turned her head before meeting the king’s gaze.
King Isaiah’s long fingers tightened around the golden cup in his grip.
Silence had reigned in the hall for several hours. The smell of cooked food lingered in the air, but no food graced the richly set tables. Silverware remained unused, and silver plates sat empty among flowers and golden candlesticks. Servants moved liked shadows around the table, refreshing wine in silver goblets while guests shifted uncomfortably. No one felt inclined to drink much, yet no one dared to leave.
Laid to celebrate the birth of the king’s first child, this feast should have been happily consumed, the guests passed out in joyful abandon. King Isaiah should be holding his firstborn—perhaps a son—by this time.
Footsteps again rang out in the passage and the king’s whole body tensed, only to see the maidservant dashing back to the birthing chamber with a bundle of cloth and ewer of water.
In the birthing chamber, one of the newborn babies whimpered, breaking the silence and tableau that had held in the moments since the queen’s last breath sighed away.
“Quickly,” Lady Tawnia murmured. The shadows falling across her face darkened her golden good looks. “Take the boy child away, Maudette. I care not where, only that he is never seen in the Bonnie Isles again. The king must never know of his existence.”
Maudette, the dark creature beside her, was hard to see in the flickering torchlight, but black-stained lips twisted into something approximating a smile. She wrapped the wriggling, naked babe in a soft blanket and lifted him into her arms. Her lilting voice held an edge to it, belying her gentle motions. “He’s a healthy child.” She looked up at Tawnia, her soulless black gaze meeting the lady’s gold-flecked eyes. “I expect he’ll bring a fair price on the market. Since I can’t have his soul, perhaps I’ll find a slaver whose soul I can taste.”
“Do as you please, so long as he stays out of my way.” Lady Tawnia could not be bothered with the machinations of the demon she had summoned.
“And the girl?”
“She’ll be a nuisance, but no threat to my plans. If the king thinks it was all I could do to save her, it will give him something to be grateful for.”
Maudette chuckled. “Gratitude is a good place to start.”
“Indeed. Go now. I will send for the king, to give him this bittersweet news.”
Without another word, Maudette inclined her head slightly, took the child to a passageway hidden behind the bedstead and passed through, the access panel sliding shut behind her.
Lady Tawnia turned to the maid who crouched by the foot of the bed, shivering in fear. Tawnia regretted her witness, but that was the only thing that had not gone according to plan. The maid would soon wish she had left when told.
“Inform the king his queen is dead, but his daughter lives.” She stepped up to the maid in order to loom over her, emphasizing her menacing intent. “Have a care and breathe not one word about the son, or I will see to it you never speak again.”
Terrified, the maid scrambled out of the chamber without even rising to her feet.
Lady Tawnia took great care to arrange the girl-child in her dead mother’s arms while the child’s whimpers grew more insistent. Her gaze fell on the packet lying untouched on the bedside table: the herbs that may have stopped the bleeding and saved the queen’s life. She slipped it into a pocket hidden in the folds of her skirt and composed herself, smoothing her skirts and touching the golden locks around her round face.
Miserable with waiting, Isaiah watched without really seeing the candle in front of him flicker and dance in the drafty room. Dimly, the restless shifting of guests grew in the periphery of his awareness, like the turning of a fog-gentled tide. Though he balked at the significance of the action, perhaps it was time to consider sending the guests home.
Then he heard more footsteps running in the corridor, and a woman’s voice, shrieking, “Dead! She’s dead!” The maidservant collapsed in a heap in the doorway to the Great Hall, wailing, “Majesty, Queen Aslynn is dead!”
King Isaiah stood, the force of his rising sending his heavy chair crashing to the floor. Others in the room rose too—guests and friends dressed gaily and gathered for what should be a happy occasion.
“My queen,” Isaiah whispered, his grief reaching all who heard him. Then louder, “The child?”
“A girl-child, Majesty. She lives.”
The king felt something inside him shrink into a hard knot of bittersweet pain. As he thought of the child, he steadied and drew himself together. “Praise Heaven. I will see her now.”
Heedless of his guests as they milled in confusion, Isaiah left the Great Hall.
The king heard a baby crying in the inner chamber as he entered the royal suite, and he followed the sound to the door. “Lady Tawnia?”
The lady opened the birth chamber door, lines of grief apparent on her perfect face. She curtsied low and gestured for the king to enter. “Your Majesty.”
The king stepped into the room and stood at the foot of the bed for a long moment, staring down at two forms lit by flickering candlelight: one still, the other squirming, crying out in frustration to be fed.
“Oh, Aslynn,” he said softly. “You look to be sleeping. Wake, and tell me the name of our child.”
He waited, as if expecting her eyes to open. Then, trance-like, he carefully lifted the baby into his arms.
“Then she will be Aslynn, after you.”
King Isaiah turned to Lady Tawnia. “Find me a wet nurse. The princess is hungry.”