On September 8, 2019, my third book-baby was born! The long-awaited sequel to Echaria Rising, the book I have poured my heart into, the book I have cried and laughed and cried again over… it has arrived!
I am so beyond thankful that I have this opportunity to tell this story, and to bring all of you along on the journey with me. As a celebration/sneak peek, I’m going to include the first chapter down below.
Reeling from shock, Adelaide watched Charles retreat into the darkness after Cambria. Of all the things she expected to learn from Wynne here at Lake Lemange, the secret identity of the man she loved wasn’t one of them. Cambria’s angry retreat into the jungle, while foolish, was expected. Adelaide longed to disappear, to re-write time and undo this massive betrayal of her trust.
What have I done? My lover is a liar, my best friend and I are in a volatile place right now because of it, and we are all in danger with every breath we take. How can I expect to rule a kingdom if I can’t even manage to sort this out properly?
As if in response, Wynne crouched down beside Adelaide and offered her hand. “Come, Princess. You have journeyed far to reach me, and have exhibited great faith in this quest. I want to let you rest and adjust to life here at the Lake but first, you and I have much to discuss.”
The tightness in her chest didn’t ease as Adelaide stood and followed Wynne to her little cottage at the edge of the water. Before she entered the abode, she cast one last look over her shoulder into the night. What have I done?
Adelaide’s mouth hung open as she gazed around Wynne’s home. From the outside, it appeared to be a simple lakeside cottage, complete with garden and farm animals. On the inside, the simple cottage was transformed into a multi-bedroom home. The décor was simple and rustic, a reflection of lakeside living. Adelaide turned on her heel and exited the cottage, astonished at the difference between the interior and exterior. After several minutes trying to wrap her head around this anomaly, she rejoined Wynne inside.
“Well, Princess? What do you think of your new home?”
“It’s… well…” Adelaide scrambled for words, her mind still grappling with the events of the day.
“I agree,” Wynne laughed, motioning for Adelaide to come sit down. “It is a lot to take in all at once. Take your time.”
“How is this possible? How can this place be so small on the outside, but so much bigger on the inside? I know it’s magic, but… how?”
“It’s a simple space-displacement spell. They were all the rage with Echarian Nobility hundreds of years ago. I created several myself, including a few hidden rooms in Greystone Castle for your family.”
“Hun…hundreds of years?” Adelaide’s eyes were wide. “What do you mean?”
“Oh, I thought you knew! I’m six hundred years old, sweet girl. I was there when Echaria was founded. I fled here, to the Tangle, when Echaria fell to Desmond Bainbridge. I’ve been here ever since.” Wynne gently touched Adelaide’s cheek, her eyes glistening. “You remind me so much of your grandmother. You have her same gentle spirit and nurturing heart.”
Adelaide was silent, absorbing this new information. She wandered around the sitting room, peering at the various knick-knacks and pieces of art that were displayed. The sun had set outside, but the inside of the house was warm and bright. She paused in front of a large hourglass on a pedestal, studying its intricate engravings.
“I knew you were old; you must be, for Malcolm to have known about you. But I suppose it didn’t really sink in until now.”
Wynne chuckled. “That makes sense.” She reclined on the couch in front of the fireplace, once more gesturing to Adelaide to take a seat. “Come, sit. As I said outside, we have much to discuss, and it’s best we do this first part in private.”
Adelaide sat, shifting uneasily in her chair. “Why is it best to do this in private?”
Wynne smiled, settling comfortably back on her couch. “Because, my dear, this is a time for raw emotion, and I don’t want you to feel hindered by the eyes of others. I want you to genuinely dig deep and let it all rise to the surface—the good and the bad.”
Adelaide nodded, inhaling deeply. “That makes sense, thank you. So… what am I supposed to talk about, to get these emotions out?”
“Everything.” Wynne leaned forward, reaching across the space between them and taking Adelaide’s hands in her own. She looked deep into Adelaide’s eyes, instructing her, “Close your eyes. Good.” She released Adelaide’s hands briefly, and the scent of incense began to fill the room. “Now, Princess. Listen to my voice and let it guide you through your memories.”
Adelaide nodded, her eyes still closed, the smell of the incense causing her to feel slightly lightheaded. “Ok, I’m ready.”
“Let’s begin. Tell me about your Gran.”
Cambria stormed through the underbrush, tears stinging her eyes. Her head was pounding, and she fought back the bile rising in her throat as she pressed on, putting as much distance between herself and her companions as possible. Wynne’s words rang in her ears over and over, igniting the fire deep in her gut.
“I don’t know what lies he may have told you, but that man is your enemy. He is Sir Brennan Bainbridge, son of the False King, Lord Desmond Bainbridge.”
Her mind was swirling with the implications of this stunning revelation. Sweat beaded on her brow as she crashed through the humid jungle, attracting gnats and mosquitos that buzzed hungrily around her head.
“Cambria! Cam, where are you? Come back!”
The muffled shout reached her through the trees and she paused, realizing how far she had strayed from the edge of Lake Lemange. Her eyes darted from shadow to shadow as she slowly turned in place, suddenly aware of the immense danger she had put herself in. She shifted her weight from one foot to the other, chewing her lip.
The last thing I need is to be rescued by a Bainbridge, she thought, swatting at the insects that surrounded her. But coming this far into the Tangle alone was so stupid… especially at night… A cold fist squeezed her chest and she found herself gasping for air as she realized, by The Five, I could die here tonight. Her mind made up, she turned on her heel to go back the way she came.
She took a few steps before that cold fist squeezed again, stopping her in her tracks. Am I going the right way? The sun was long gone, leaving an ever-darkening sky in its place. The deepening shadows around her swallowed the trees, and she strained to see. Her heart in her throat, she cried out.
“Charles! Charles, I’m here! I don’t know how to get out!”
The silence was deafening as she waited for a reply. The sweat that had been collecting on her brow now rolled freely down her face and she wiped it away with trembling hands. Finally, a reply drifted through the trees behind her.
“Charles! I’m here!” She cried, her voice cracking as she whirled to face the sound.
“Stay where you are, I’ll come to you!”
“No, then we will both be lost in the dark. I’ll come to you, just keep shouting. I’ll find my way out.” She closed her eyes, inhaling deeply. “Ok, I’m coming!”
Cambria stretched her hands out into the darkness in front of her and began gingerly making her way through the jungle. Twigs cracked underfoot as she stepped, blindly moving forward towards safety. If there are any predators looking to feast, I’m the perfect target. She did her best to calm her erratic breathing as she walked. I’ll be with Charles soon, and we will go back to Wynne’s camp. I’ll be safe.
“How are you doing, Cam?” Charles shouted, his voice growing louder each time he spoke.
Cambria’s heart leapt at the sound, confident that she was headed in the right direction and would be safe soon.
“I’m fine,” she replied, “I just can’t see. It’s so dark in here.”
“You sound much closer, you must be almost to me. There’s a beautiful moon out, and it’s not nearly as dark once you are out of the trees. Just keep coming, you’ll be to safety in no time.” After a few moments of silence, he continued, “I am sorry, Cam. I want you to know that. I know this is all my fault. I shouldn’t have lied to you, but I needed you to trust me. I’m a good man, I swear it on everything I have.”
Cambria scoffed, rolling her eyes. “Your apology rings a little hollow right now, Sir Bainbridge,” she spat. “Just because I’m allowing you to help me out of here doesn’t mean I forgive you. Addie may be able to put aside this betrayal, but I’m not about to just forgive and forget.”
“I don’t expect you to. I lied to you and to your best friend, and could have endangered your lives. I realize that I’ll have to earn your trust back, and I know it won’t be easy.”
“Won’t be easy… that’s the understatement of the year.”
“Yes, I suppose it is.”
A loose stone caused Cambria to stumble, her ankle snapping as she lost her balance. Her hands grasped wildly in the darkness as she fell, reaching for anything to catch her fall. There was nothing. With a cry, she landed, her hands catching the brunt of her fall. Searing pain ripped through her hands and her ankle, and she tasted blood. She lay there on the jungle floor, unable to make a sound. Her breath came in ragged gasps and her pulse roared in her ears.
“Cambria?” Charles called. “Cam, are you alright? What happened?”
“I’m here,” Cambria managed to croak. “I fell.”
“Are you hurt?”
She could hear Charles swearing and she smiled, amused at his creativity when he ran out of standard curses. She took a deep breath, steeling herself.
“I’m going to try to stand.”
Pressing her bloodied hands into the leaf-strewn ground, she brought herself to her knees. She pulled her good leg under her body and stood gingerly, holding her injured foot off the ground. Gritting her teeth, she carefully rested her foot on the ground. So far, so good. Now, to apply pressure. Her knees buckled as a lightning bolt of white-hot pain streaked up her leg, disorienting her. A shrill sound filled her ears as she collapsed, and it was only when she inhaled that she realized the sound was her scream. Her eyelids fluttered as she fought to maintain consciousness.
The bushes in front of her rustled as Charles burst through them, a vague figure in the darkness. Cambria gave a small smile before slipping into unconsciousness.
Back in the cottage, Adelaide was trembling, tears running uninhibited down her cheeks. Images danced in her mind’s eye, and she felt as though she were floating. She had lost all sense of time, following Wynne’s soft voice through the incense-filled haze of her memory.
“And you loved him?” Wynne gently prompted again, waiting for Adelaide’s answer.
“Yes,” Adelaide sobbed. “Despite the warning signs, despite my own best judgment… I loved him. And now…” She sniffled, swiping at the tears on her cheeks with the back of her hand.
“And now, you know the truth,” Wynne finished her sentence.
Adelaide nodded, her eyes still tightly closed. She tried to push away the memories of Charles’ lips against hers in the barn, of the nights spent holding her close, of the secrets they shared. Each new memory that surfaced twisted like a dagger in her broken heart.
“Don’t block it out,” Wynne gently reminded her. “Embrace the pain, so you can learn from it and grow. Don’t run from it. This is all part of your story.”
“This is my story,” Adelaide repeated softly as she gritted her teeth, facing the memories with renewed purpose.
A howl from outside the cottage broke her concentration and her eyes snapped open. With a gasp, she realized that she was hovering about a pace above the floor. As quickly as she realized this, she fell, tumbling to the couch below. Wynne gently floated down from her lofty perch, her brow furrowed.
The howl split the air again, much closer, and Adelaide jumped to her feet, still panting from her journey through her subconscious.
“What is that?”
Wynne’s eyes were dark as she responded, “A Woodlyn . But they never venture this close to my borders. Something is wrong.”
Adelaide opened her mouth to reply, but a shout from outside drew her attention. “Charles!” she cried as she rushed to the cottage door, flinging it wide.
Cambria’s eyes opened slowly as a soft breeze kissed her cheeks. Her body was swaying, and for a moment she was disoriented. As she stared up at the star-filled sky, everything came rushing back to her. She turned her head slightly and was greeted by Charles’ rear firmly planted in a saddle. She grimaced as she moved her fingers, the tattered flesh of her palms burning.
“Charles, where are we?” she moaned, straining to see her surroundings.
“Hey, she lives!” Charles quipped. “We are just outside the trees, on the shore of the lake. Wynne’s place isn’t too far.” He glanced over his shoulder, his eyes glinting in the moonlight. “You really had quite the fall. Your ankle…” His voice trailed off as he pressed his lips together.
“Charles, tell me the truth. How bad is it?”
“I honestly don’t know. I’m not a doctor, but I’ve never seen an injury like it before. The bone was sticking out, and—”
“Ok, that’s enough,” Cambria interjected, fighting off the sudden wave of nausea that rolled over her. “Addie and Wynne can look at it back at the cottage.”
“That would probably be best.”
They rode in silence for a while, listening to the sounds of the night. Cambria finally broke the silence, her voice soft.
“Hey… thanks for coming after me. I was stupid to storm off like that.”
Charles chuckled. “No, you were justified in storming off… but yeah, the route you took was pretty stupid.”
“Watch it, buddy.”
“Ok, ok,” Charles chuckled again, raising his hands over his head. “I’ll behave. I know I still have a long way to go before I’m on your good side again.”
“Well,” Cambria sighed, “Saving me from the darkness and the animals that could have easily eaten me definitely gets you a lot closer than you were a few hours ago.”
“Good to know.”
They fell silent again as they rode. Up ahead, Cambria could make out the twinkling glow of the campfire. Charles shifted in the saddle, sighing deeply.
“Cam,” he began, but she interjected, shushing him.
“Listen,” she whispered, her eyes wide.
Charles paused, glancing around at the darkness. “What?”
“There it is again! Listen!”
Just beyond the edge of the trees, hidden in the shadows, something was lurking. A guttural growl rumbled through the air, causing the duo’s flesh to ripple. Senaris whinnied softly, prancing in place and tossing his head. The growl came again, building in volume and intensity as the creature burst from its hiding place in the trees. It was a Woodlyn .
Senaris whinnied again, rearing up on his hind legs. Cambria nearly tumbled from his back as he rose, and she clung to Charles as tightly as she could, the bloody wounds on her hands reopening. Senaris broke into a gallop and the Woodlyn gave chase, snarling behind them. They raced toward the light of the campfire and the safety of Wynne’s cottage, praying that they would make it. With a howl the Woodlyn lunged forward, his large claw catching Senaris’ flank and tearing the flesh. Senaris screamed, stretching his body to its limits as he raced across the shore of the lake. The Woodlyn strained to keep up, his long fangs glistening in the moonlight.
The campfire was a mere hundred paces away now, and they bore down on it, Senaris’ hooves pounding the earth like thunder. As Cambria watched in horror, the Woodlyn leapt forward again, claws extended, fangs bared in another bone-chilling howl. She closed her eyes, bracing herself for the impact. It never came.
With a sickening snap and a yelp, the Woodlyn dropped to the earth, neck broken. It was as though he had hit a wall mid-air. Charles wheeled Senaris around, facing the dying creature. The Woodlyn whimpered as his legs spasmed, the life draining from his eyes.
“The boundary,” Charles realized. “Wynne must have it spelled against the foul creatures in The Tangle. This guy ran into the border of her land full-force.”
They stared at the dead Woodlyn for a few moments longer, before turning Senaris back towards the cottage. The threat of death gone, he hobbled slowly towards their destination, the deep wound on his flank streaming blood.
“Adelaide! Wynne!” Charles called out. “Help! I’ve got Cam, but she’s hurt, and so is Senaris.”
The door to the cottage flung open and Adelaide stumbled out, rushing toward them. Her eyes were wide and her cheeks were tear-streaked, and she seemed to be having trouble catching her breath as she spoke.