Excerpt from the final book in the Lela Trilogy
Here is Chapter One of Shades of Prophecy! Note: this excerpt comes from the unedited beta edition of Shades of Prophecy.
SPOILERS AHEAD – If you haven’t read Shadows of Lela Book One or Veil of Mist Book Two, this excerpt will definitely spoil the plot, so proceed at your own risk 🙂
SHADES OF PROPHECY
By Tessonja Odette
Chapter One: Celebration
Cora paced in front of the closed doors inside our bedroom, nibbling a nail. The elegant hem of her pale blue and silver dress trailed behind her on the floor. I walked over to her. “Relax, my love.”
She paused and met my eyes with a smile, hands wrapping around my waist as I brought her face between my palms and planted a kiss on her lips. “Do we really want to do this?” she asked.
I laughed. “Do we have a choice? We’ve been planning this for months.”
She brought her nail back between her teeth. “I know, I know. Our people deserve this. The people of Kero deserve to see their king and queen with their own eyes.” Her words sounded cold and rehearsed.
“They do deserve it,” I said. “We promised we’d open court and hold an official coronation ceremony once Ridine was settled. After years of uncertainty followed by war, our people deserve a celebration.”
Cora nodded, but she didn’t meet my eyes.
“It’s not just that. We deserve this.” I lifted her chin, and a smile melted over her lips, making my heart leap as strongly as it had the day I fell in love with her. “We’ve been through so much together, things our people don’t even know about. It’s time to celebrate us.”
A corner of her mouth lifted as she raised her eyebrows in mock surprise. “You’re just eager for me to make good on my promise, aren’t you? To finally live as husband and wife on the night of our coronation?”
My cheeks felt warm. “It would be a lie if I said that hasn’t been on my mind. We may be husband and wife by law, but…”
“But you let me wait.”
I shook my head. “I didn’t let you wait. I waited with you. We’ve had many urgent needs to attend to, and neither of us count the document you signed with Morkai as the beginning of our marriage.”
Cora closed her eyes with a sigh. “I’ve been waiting for this a long time too. I’m ready for that…but I might not be ready for everything else.”
“For all the people waiting in the Godskeep?”
“Exactly. All those strangers, all those eyes on me.” She turned her head, eyes unfocused. “It may be my coronation, but I feel far from a true queen. I’m not like my mother or Linette. I’m not like your mother or Queen Mother Helena. I’m not even like Queen Mareleau. At least she seems to relish the attention.”
I took her hand in mine and gave it a squeeze. “What makes a true queen? A woman who defends her kingdom at whatever cost? A woman who is willing to do anything to protect her people? A woman who slaves away month after month to put her kingdom back in order?”
She rolled her eyes. “You sound like Salinda.”
“I’ll take that as a compliment.”
“I wish she were here today. And my brother.” She paled. I knew our minds went to the same place—the field where bodies of man and animal burned to ash before our eyes.
“I know he’d be proud of you,” I said.
A flicker of a smile tugged her lips as her eyes glazed with tears. “So would your father.”
A lump rose in my throat. “We both have some big shoes to fill.”
“But we will fill them, no matter how big or uncomfortable they are.”
“And we will do it together.”
A knock sounded on the other side of the door, followed by the face of one of Cora’s newly appointed queensmaids. “They’re waiting, Your Majesties. Are you ready?”
Cora’s eyes went wide as she froze. I squeezed her hand again, and she took a deep breath. “As ready as I’ll ever be.”
It wasn’t until we left the Godskeep when I felt I could finally breathe freely. We’d said our vows as rulers of Kero and now wore the crowns that matched our titles. Ice-cold air brushed my cheeks as we walked from the Godskeep to the main hall, our silent retinue following behind. Once we were within the walls of Ridine, it was as if a spell had been lifted, and everyone had voices again.
My heart quickened as the voices rose behind us, and I caught whispers of my name and snippets of giddy conversation. Thoughts of others threatened to invade my consciousness as I tried to ignore the feeling of countless eyes boring into me, seeking my favor. Teryn turned his face toward mine, and at the sight of his glowing smile, I remembered how to breathe again.
Master Arther stood at the door to the throne room, bowing low as we entered. My anxiety was stilled as we walked toward the set of ornate chairs at the other end of the elegant room. It was the first time I’d laid eyes on the newly finished throne room, and I was overwhelmed with awe over its beauty. Our thrones were made of a rich, dark wood carved with intricate floral designs twining up the legs to the mountains carved at the top. The cushions were made of plush, burgundy velvet with gold stitching.
With my head held high, I lowered into my seat alongside Teryn and watched as bodies began to fill the room. Most were strangers—nobles eager to meet their new king and queen, highborn members of our household whom I’d yet to meet, and visitors from other kingdoms. Many were desperate to gain a place at court, something that hadn’t been possible during Morkai’s reign.
From the crowd, a familiar set of blue eyes and golden hair caught my attention and brought a smile to my lips. Queen Mareleau, in a yellow gown that somehow made her bulging belly look like a fashionable accessory, walked toward us, arm-in-arm with King Larylis. Just looking at Mareleau made me want to sit up straighter, if it meant I could emulate even half her easy grace. Behind them followed Queen Mother Helena, outfitted in an elegant black dress. Still mourning her husband. The thought sent a ripple of pain to my heart.
The three bowed low before us. I wanted so badly to greet Mareleau and Larylis with hugs, but Mareleau’s regal countenance made it easier to keep my composure. The air sizzled between us, not with tension, but with the weight of our shared secret. No one outside the four of us knew what had happened on the field beneath the cliff. No one else had watched monsters burn to ash.
Larylis greeted Teryn while Mareleau approached me. “We offer you our congratulations,” she said with a deep curtsy.
My gaze hovered over the pale, pink scar above her cheekbone, reminding me of a similar one on my forearm. While mine was hidden beneath my flowing, silver sleeves, she seemed to wear hers with pride. “We have our own congratulations to offer the two of you. Not only have you successfully merged Sele and Mena into the new kingdom of Vera, but you seem to be days away from meeting your first heir.”
“More like weeks away, but we are excited just the same.”
Helena turned her chin up and looked down her nose at her daughter. “Too near, if you ask me. I told her she shouldn’t forgo the traditional confinement, much less travel so late in her pregnancy. It isn’t safe.”
“I have plenty of time, Mother,” Mareleau said between her teeth, then returned her attention to me. “I traveled by coach and have all my ladies and midwives in attendance. We’re taking every precaution in order to celebrate with you. Besides, I have a feeling my child will come much later than everyone expects.”
Her words seemed to be hinting at something, but I refrained from probing further. “We appreciate you attending this celebration.”
Mareleau looked at the painted ceiling and the tapestries lining the walls. “The fact that Ridine no longer looks like a home for rats is worth celebrating on its own.”
“Very true,” Larylis said, joining our conversation. His expression faltered as he looked around. “It almost makes it possible to forget.”
“Almost,” Mareleau said under her breath. Her face still glowed with her smile, but her eyes seemed to have lost some of their sheen. “We’ll get a chance to speak more later. We won’t keep you from the rest of your guests.”
Oh, please do, I said to myself, but already the three had bowed and were moving away from us. My shoulders sank as soon as they were out of sight.
The line of guests waiting to greet us had grown while I’d been talking to Mareleau. It now extended to the back of the throne room and out the door. I took a deep breath as our next guest approached.
“Your Majesties.” Lord Jonston, our new Head of Council, bowed before us. He had a strong build, long, brown hair and a heavy beard. He reminded me of a bear. Yet, despite his gruff appearance, I’d already come to like him. He was honest, kind, and dedicated to my and Teryn’s vision for Ridine. It was a far cry from Lord Kevan and Lord Ulrich.
Beside Jonston, a woman with graying auburn hair coiled in a tight bun curtsied. “This must be your wife, Lord Jonston,” I said as the couple rose.
“Yes, Your Majesties,” Jonston said. “This is my wife, Lady Mary.”
She smiled as she studied me. “You remind me of your mother, Your Majesty.”
I flushed. “You knew my mother?”
Mary nodded. “Not personally, Your Majesty, but I spent time at court when your parents were alive. I remember you as a child.”
My heart squeezed at the mention of my childhood. Of my parents. “Lady Mary, I didn’t know you were originally from Kero.”
“I was, Your Majesty, until this man,” she placed an affectionate hand on Jonston’s arm, “stole my heart and whisked me away to his home in Mena. When I heard he was offered the position as your Head of Council, I have to say I was conflicted. I didn’t know how it would feel to be back after learning what had happened here. But seeing the two of you on the throne, the children of two sets of monarchs I’ve admired, I can’t help but feel safe. Kero needs you, Your Majesty. I can’t say how grateful I am for how you’ve turned this kingdom around.”
My mouth fell open, but I didn’t have the words to match what I was feeling inside. Pride swelled inside me, pushing away the anxiety, the fear that I wasn’t good enough to be queen. She was right. Kero needed me.
“Thank you for saying that, Lady Mary,” I said. “I hope to be everything Kero needs and more.”
With my confidence renewed, I greeted our next guests with ease, learning new names, meeting new faces, and plastering on a fresh smile for each one. It only began to wear on me when the hour passed and still there was no sign that our line of guests was anywhere near its end.
With a deep breath, I forced my scowl into a smile and prepared to greet yet another stranger. But our next guest wasn’t a stranger after all.
“Lex!” Teryn and I threw formality to the wind as we sprang from our thrones and took our turns hugging him.
A wide grin spread between his ruddy cheeks. “You remember me after all.”
“How could I forget?” Teryn said. “You were a pain in my side for many weeks.”
“How have you been since we last saw you?” I asked, ignoring the shocked stares of those nearby.
“I’ve managed to stay out of trouble. No quests, no battles.” Lex puffed his chest. “Plus, I’m a married man now.”
My eyes went wide as I clasped my hands over my heart. “Is it Lily?”
He nodded and stepped aside, revealing a short, plump woman with golden hair and cheeks nearly as pink as Lex’s. “Let me introduce Princess Lily, my wife.”
Lily curtsied, keeping her eyes on the ground. “Your Majesties, Lex has told me so much about you. It’s an honor to meet you, King Teryn and Queen Coralaine.”
I wanted nothing more than to squeeze her in my arms and thank her for bringing joy to an old friend, but I maintained my distance with much effort. “I remember hearing much about you, as well. I can’t tell you how pleased I am to meet you.”
“I almost couldn’t believe my eyes when I read the coronation invitation,” Lex said, looking from me to Teryn. “The two of you…married! And now you’re king and queen of the very place we were held captive. I’m just glad this castle looks nothing like it did last time I was here.”
Teryn turned to me and smiled. “It’s taken a lot of work to make Ridine feel new.”
“When did this happen, anyway?” Lex pointed from Teryn to me and back again. “Last I heard, you were going to marry you-know-who.” He made a face of disgust and lowered his voice. “I can at least say you made the right choice.”
We laughed, and I glanced around to make sure Mareleau hadn’t been nearby. “It’s a long story,” Teryn said. “I’d love to tell it to you. Will you be our guest for a few days longer?”
“Of course we will,” Lex said. “That way you can fill me in on your latest adventures.”
Teryn and I exchanged a glance. “We’ve had all the adventure we could ever need,” Teryn said, “and certainly aren’t seeking more.”
Lex laughed, then cleared his throat. “I almost forgot! Where are my manners?” He stood straight and forced a regal expression, then folded into a bow. “Your Majesties. Congratulations on your coronation, King Teryn and Queen Coralaine. Tomas is forever your ally.”
I smiled. “And we are forever yours.”
Copyright 2019 Tessonja Odette
I hope you enjoyed reading this excerpt! In Chapter Two, Teryn and Cora have a second set of vows to say…vows to each other. And things get a little steamy 🙂
For more bonus content, visit the World of Lela.