Here is Chapter Three, Scene One of Veil of Mist!
SPOILERS AHEAD – If you haven’t read Shadows of Lela Book One, this excerpt will definitely spoil the ending, so proceed at your own risk 🙂
VEIL OF MIST
By Tessonja Odette
Chapter Three, Scene One: The Meeting
I stood outside the Royal Study, trying to keep my composure despite my foot’s insistence on tapping a tune on the marble floor.
Movement caught my eye, and I turned, smiling as Larylis and Mareleau strolled toward me, arm-in-arm. As much as the sight warmed my heart, they were not whom I was hoping to see.
Larylis cocked his head as they approached me. “Do you know what this meeting is about?”
I shrugged. “King Verdian, Queen Helena, and our mother are inside.”
Larylis pointed his thumb at the closed door. “What are you doing out here then? Are you trying to force us in first?”
I laughed. “I’m waiting for Cora. We can wait together. They can’t remove our heads all at once.”
Larylis’ shoulders relaxed while Mareleau remained unreadable as always.
“How was your…um…wedding night?” I asked, trying unsuccessfully to keep a straight face.
Larylis landed a playful punch on my arm, and Mareleau scowled, color rising in her cheeks.
“Is this what brothers are like?” Mareleau said under her breath.
I was about to execute a witty response when all thought was stripped from my mind; Cora rounded a corner, walking with Dimetreus. My breath caught in my throat as I tried to keep myself from grinning like an idiot. Memories of our first—and second—kiss flooded my mind. My legs begged me to run to her, but I forced them still, admiring her from afar as she drew near. It was almost comical how tiny she looked next to her towering brother. He loomed even larger than before, now that he was no longer stooped beneath the control of a sorcerer. Being in good health proved him to be wide-chested and well-muscled, looking nothing like the man I’d watched cower beneath Morkai’s demands.
Dimetreus offered us a bow as they approached, and Cora gave us a tight-lipped smile. She too, it seemed, was trying to keep her composure. Dimetreus released her hand from his elbow and kissed it. “How about you let Teryn walk you in?”
She blushed and came to me, barely meeting my eyes as she took my arm. It was strange how much one day had made all the difference in the world between us. The woman who had once held me at her mercy by knife-point was now blushing at my side. The air surrounding us felt like it was sizzling. We locked eyes, and I knew she could feel it too. I wanted nothing more than to bend down and kiss her like I had last night. Later. We have all the time we need.
“Shall we?” Larylis raised his brows and looked at the double doors. Mareleau bit her lip.
“I suppose,” I said.
Larylis tapped on one of the doors, and they swung open. Guards greeted us and nodded for us to enter. The heavy silence made it seem dark in the study despite the daylight streaming in through the windows, illuminating shelves of books, lavish chairs, and an immense, mahogany desk. King Verdian sat behind the desk and motioned for us to sit as well. Queen Helena and my mother, Queen Bethaeny, sat to the right of Verdian.
“It is time to make plans moving forward,” Verdian said in his gruff voice. “The death of King Arlous makes it imperative that Crown Prince Larylis,” he annunciated each of the last three words with clear disdain, “be crowned as king as soon as possible.”
Mother nodded. “Coming from war, we must secure our kingdom.”
“I understand,” Larylis said, sitting high in his chair, Mareleau’s hand clasped tightly in his. “We can prepare to leave at once for Dermaine.”
“And, of course, Princess Mareleau will be crowned as queen.” Verdian’s words were laced with venom.
“Agreed,” Mareleau said, reflecting her father’s tone.
“You will depart for Dermaine tomorrow morning.” Verdian turned his gaze from Mareleau to Dimetreus. “Of equal importance, King Dimetreus must return to Ridine and bring strength back to his kingdom. He will sign the Tri-Kingdom Peace Pact of Lela, securing our long-standing alliance. As allies, Sele and Mena will provide him members of Royal Council and Force, as well as household staff. We are going to great lengths to return peace to our land.”
King Dimetreus bowed his head. “You have my deepest gratitude.” Perhaps it was my imagination, but I thought I heard a hint of mockery in his voice.
Verdian continued, “Princess Coralaine must secure her position as well and return to Ridine. My brother, Lord Kevan, will serve as your Head of Council. Tomorrow he will accompany you and your retinue on your journey to Ridine. You will be given horses, a traveling coach, and several guards from my Royal Force, as well as two more men from my household to serve on your council. One of these men will be my other brother, Lord Ulrich. However, before joining you, Lord Ulrich will accompany Queen Bethaeny, the two princes, and Princess Mareleau to Dermaine. The day following the coronation, he will escort Mareleau, additional guards from Dermaine, and three more men for your council to Ridine.”
Mareleau flung herself forward in her seat. “What? What do you mean I’m going to Ridine? My new home is Dermaine!”
Verdian stood and fixed his daughter with an icy stare. “You will go where you are needed. Princess Coralaine is returning to a role she hasn’t held since she was a child. Since Kero has no queen, the princess will also need to serve as Lady of Ridine. She knows nothing about running a royal household and needs to learn her duties both as princess and future queen. Considering your upcoming coronation, you will have plenty to share with her.”
“That’s absurd,” Mareleau said.
“That’s not necessary…” Cora began, her voice decreasing in volume until it disappeared beneath Verdian’s gaze.
“You children think you know best,” he walked to the front of his desk, “when you know nothing at all. Arlous and I had decades of experience, and yet…”
And yet he still died, was left unsaid.
Verdian’s fierce expression faltered for only one moment. “Being king and queen isn’t a game. It’s a duty. It isn’t about love and romance. It’s about protection, obligation, and strategy.”
Mareleau swallowed hard. “Will Larylis be coming with me to Ridine?”
“Of course not. His place is at Dermaine.”
“When will I return to him?”
“When Lord Kevan and Lord Ulrich give word that you’ve done your job.”
“But I’m pregnant! I can’t travel.”
“No one knows you are pregnant yet, remember? Every person in this room is sworn to secrecy. Until it is proper for you to announce your condition, you will act like any other woman.”
My heart raced as I sat forward and cleared my throat. “King Verdian. I’d like to go to Ridine as well. Since Cora and I are engaged—”
“No. You’ve thought it so wise to abdicate your duties to your untrained, unprepared brother. Now he’ll need you to guide him.”
My mouth felt dry. “For how long? Cora and I have only a year—”
Verdian slammed his fist on the desk. “Did King Arlous teach you it’s acceptable to argue with a king? You will do your duty. You will see to it until it is done. I don’t care about weddings, engagements, and babies. I care about the strength of our land.”
Cora and I exchanged a glance. The disappointment in her expression mirrored my own.
Queen Helena went to her husband’s side and placed a hand on his shoulder. “My love, they are young. They don’t know any better. They will learn, just like we did.”
Verdian growled a curse under his breath.
Helena shined her glowing smile at him. “You have yet to mention what we will be doing. Will we be present for our daughter’s coronation?”
Verdian looked at her with disgust. “I don’t have time to watch Mareleau play dress-up.”
Helena pursed her lips and put her hands on her hips. She looked as if she were about to argue but seemed to think better of it. Her eyes lighted on her daughter for a moment before she returned to her seat.
My mother was the next to speak, her apprehension palpable. “What about the arrangement you’d made with Arlous? When Mareleau and Teryn were promised, it was agreed that you would make Mareleau your heir. Upon inheriting their thrones, our children would rule Sele and Mena together as one kingdom. Does this agreement still stand with Larylis in Teryn’s stead?”
Verdian put his arms on his desk, eyes unfocused. Then he raised his head and looked at Mareleau. “If I die before naming a proper heir, yes, my rule will go to my daughter. And our kingdoms can go to the wolves.”
I hope you enjoyed reading the second chapter in Veil of Mist! Cora is heading to a meeting and she has no idea what to expect. In Chapter Three, Cora discovers just what awaits. Veil of Mist will be published July 3rd 2018, and is available for pre-order!
For more bonus content, visit the World of Lela.