Today I’m offering the first two chapters of the third book in the Forest People Series, Chameleon: The Summoning. This is the culmination of all of Camryn’s hard work as she comes to realize her purpose. She has lost so many people she cared for and now must face her true calling. Though she has mentors and those who help her, in the end she must do this alone.
The Forest People Series was conceived as a coming-of-age story. Though we tend to think that these type of stories are most applicable to teens, I think they are applicable to people throughout their lives. We all go through stages in life and at each stage we tend to re-evaluate if we are doing what we want to do, if we are being our best self. Certainly the teen years are the beginning of this. As they prepare for adulthood there are so many decisions to be made. Who am I apart from my parents? What do I want to do as a job? Do I want to go to college? If I want to pursue an artistic dream, how can I afford to do that? How do I want to give back to the world?
Again as parents, we ask many of the same questions as we raise children and often give up our own desires or needs for that period of time. In middle-age, whether as empty nesters or as someone in their 50’s looking at careers, we review those questions again. It may be a time of renewal of purpose that was set aside for financial stability. Or it may be a time of change to do something different than we’ve pursued for twenty or thirty years. And again as retirees, as we enter the phase of life where we decide if we want to continue working in some capacity or have the ability and financial resources to help others more than we have. Or simply to enjoy the fruits of our labor.
At each step, we are balancing our needs. Who want to be with how difficult it is to get there. The need to reward ourselves with time for just relaxing and playing after a difficult period in life. All of these are part of the life of the Chameleon, as she takes that journey. Yes, she is young and certainly her decisions are world-changing. But they are the same decisions we all must make, only magnified. None of them are easy. What are you willing to give up to become the best you?
Enjoy the first two Chapters below. All three books are available in ebook, print, and audio. There is also a boxset in ebook and audio that makes the purchase less expensive. Don’t forget to check out the freebie at the end.
Chapter 1 — She Who Would Be Queen
Indra finished her seduction of the human male with a kiss that sucked his life force from him into her. When she released him, he passed out cold. She looked at him and shuddered. Maybe once, twice more at the most and she would need to find a new one. He was almost an empty shell now.
She sighed as she conjured a mirror in the air and looked at her self. It was worth it. She’d aged in reverse at least forty years. Forty-eight instead of eighty-nine was a good result. She snapped her fingers for a little glamour magic. Yes, now she appeared closer to twenty.
She preened in front of the mirror before she made it disappear. Now that was a monarch the Mazikeen could crown with knowledge she would be around to protect them for a very long time.
Indra threw open the door to her rooms and called to her guard. “Remove the human. Make sure he is suitably fed for tomorrow.” Then she strode through the door and down the gilded halls with the vigor of a twenty-year-old monarch.
When she walked, all those within one hundred meters felt her power and genuflected as her energy passed. She smiled as her shadow side gloried in the power of their fear as they were forced to bow even without seeing her.
“Bring me the wolf traitor,” Indra commanded her sentries as they held open two massive wooden doors and she swept into the throne room.
The sentries shouted the order to other soldiers in the corridor. Two of the soldiers scurried down the hall, practically tripping over each other to be the first one to accede to Indra’s demand.
“The doors,” she shouted in anger. “Privacy. Now.” The two sentries quickly stepped outside and closed the large doors of the hall.
Indra took a deep breath and let it out slowly. She would not let this traitor ruin her perfect day. She closed her eyes and focused on an image of the ceremony that would occur in only a few hours. She could picture the packed hall of leaders, from each tribe of the Forest People, come to welcome her as the new Queen of the Mazikeen. She would graciously stop to greet each leader personally, staying a moment to allow them to bow and briefly kiss the hem of her diamond-studded gown.
She opened her eyes and smiled at the beautiful scene she had just witnessed.
Seeing their obedient acquiescence almost made the wait worth it. Decades of keeping silent during Mayja’s rule had nearly driven her to insanity. Everyone knew Indra should have been chosen first. She was the elder of the two sisters. She was the proven one. But she had chosen to never marry and thus had borne no heirs. Mayja and her boy child, borne of a single night’s union with the former Mazikeen King, had been chosen instead. They’d never married, and he never sought Mayja’s bed again. But he did claim the child as his.
If she’d only known that was possible, Indra would have had no qualms seducing the king or any royal necessary. She’d been so naïve, believing the edict to marry first was a requirement to becoming queen one day. Soon after Mayja ascended the throne, Indra went about seducing every male member of the royal family and their cousins too until she finally conceived—only a few months into Mayja’s pregnancy. But it was too late then. Mayja was already queen.
It had been nearly a year since Mayja had died at the hand of her own son. And soon after that, Mayja’s son gave up his life for that half-breed girl. Stupid, stupid boy. It was this one act of a Mazikeen royal that convinced the Forest People the girl was indeed the Chameleon of prophecy. Certainly, a Mazikeen would not ask for the gift of life from the dragons if he did not believe she was the one.
Indra shook her head at how the weakness of the mother had been visited upon the son. How could Mayja have ever believed the prophecy would be true for a half Quatcho, half Mazikeen girl raised by Agnoses. Nothing about that combination spoke to the pedigree of the savior of the Forest People.
She took several deep breaths to slow her speeding heart. That sad portion of Mazikeen history would soon be in the past once she ascended the throne. She would prove this girl was not the Chameleon of prophecy. If the rumors were true, the girl didn’t even believe it herself. It would be easy to train and select someone else—a true, pure-blood Mazikeen who, with Indra’s tutelage, would bring them back to their former glory.
She looked about the room and savored the grandeur of the ceremony that would finally crown her the rightful queen. Her hand trailed along the rainbow wood trim as she walked the perimeter of the room. Carvings of different types of trees changed colors from brown and yellow to purples and blues, oranges and pinks, as she made her way toward the throne at the back of the hall. The trim on either side of the throne gave way to inlaid marble carvings of her image in different guises from child to adulthood. She paused at the final image and passed a finger over the image of her as an old lady. She easily erased the lines and reshaped the face to be as she looked today.
Finally, she looked up at the twenty-foot tall throne before her. The only object in the room, it loomed over the space. From the seat at the top she could easily lounge and survey all of the People assembled to celebrate her coronation today. She could look at each one and determine if they were loyal or not. She could, with only one raised hand, execute anyone on the spot that she found to be a traitor. All she need do was state pass judgment from her throne and state the punishment.
She caressed the foot of the pedestal. At her instruction, all four feet had been carved to resemble a lion’s foot. It was purposefully designed to put the Mazi-chatul in their place. When she sat upon the throne it was like sitting on the back of the Mazi-chatul with her sword at her side ready to strike them down with one swing.
The Mazi-chatul would send a small group of representatives to the coronation, even though they did not accept her as an ally. They didn’t denounce her rightful ascension. But they did not bow to her power either. She wanted them to see they soon would have no choice in the matter.
Indra understood the Mazi-chatrul had always come under the protection of the Quatcho –the that allowed one of their own to kill the Mazikeen, Fia, with his foul deeds. Within days of becoming queen she would send her soldiers to erase the Quatcho from the face of the earth in repayment of that act.
She patted the paw like one might a favorite pet. Once the Quatcho were eliminated, the Mazi-chatul would be pets to all the Mazikeen in cat or human form. Today she would dare to sit upon the back of a Mazikeen lion and show them her power.
Indra stared at the golden wood that burst like the sun upon the foundation of this throne. Some called this sunwood, she called it artisanship.
Unlike her predecessor, Indra had vowed never to be one with the trees. She would control them and the trods, as the Mazikeen had for millennia. But she would never become one with them. That had been Mayja’s demise, allowing the lichen to burn her out like a forest fire consuming her Mazikeen heart.
Not Indra. She had learned the true beauty of power when she allied with two Agnoses men—men who were able to supply her with the mutated lichen so she could dose herself in just the right amounts at just the right moments. Not too much as to lose control, but enough to call her shadow side with ease whenever she needed.
Pound. Pound. Pound.
The loud knocks at the door brought her out of her reverie.
She sighed. First she had to deal with this little wolf problem. She had worked hard to ally with the wolf shifters, and the majority of them had voted to fight on the side of the Mazikeen. But not all. She would use this wolf female as an example to the rest of that tribe, and others in attendance, as to what happens if you ignore the alliance.
Indra put her hands in front of her and moved them apart, her energy easily pushing open the heavy, wooden matched doors. She crossed to the center of the room and waited.
Two soldiers dragged a bloodied young female across the floor. She kicked and screamed all the way. They unceremoniously dropped her at Indra’s feet.
The nude woman curled into a fetal position and did not speak.
“Where’s your fight now?” Indra asked, knowing the girl could not answer. “Didn’t think you would be caught, did you?”
Indra kicked her in the stomach and then laughed. “Nothing to say, traitor?”
“The girl moved slightly. Her voice raw, she whispered. “Clothes. Please. Clothes.”
“You should have thought of that before you betrayed me, before you tried to shift to wolf and run. This is your choice, not mine. Your nakedness disgusts me. Yet, I will endure it to show the People the true filth you are.”
Cuthwolf stepped over the threshold to the throne room, also in his human form. “Your majesty.” He bowed low, holding a tunic draped over his arm.
Indra noted how he stayed bowed and unmoving awaiting her command to rise. She’d hoped that Cuthwolf was also in tow when the wolf female was brought to her judgment. He’d already come to ask her to let the wayward child go. She’d laughed at him and said she would let her go…when she was dead for all to see on her coronation day.
“You may rise and come forward, Cuthwolf” Indra waved a hand to issue him in. “What brings you to me? The garment does not seem to be a present befitting my coronation.”
“It is a gift, your majesty,” he said again as he approached. “I wished to remove the nakedness of a dishonored member of my tribe. I know you do not appreciate the human form of female wolves. You should not be required to look upon it. Especially not on this magnificent day with you in all your splendor.”
Indra laughed. “You do me a disservice, Cuthwolf, to think I will believe your words. Be honest. Why do you wish to clothe her instead of letting all of her naked corruption be exhibited to the People in court today? It is more honest to show her for what she is.”
Cuthwolf bowed his head and kept silent for a full minute before responding. “You are correct, your majesty. It is I who am humiliated that one of our own would stoop to treason when I had signed the pact between us. To look upon her in her human form degrades me, and all of my tribe. By our customs I cannot even kill her unless she is wolf.”
Indra lifted his chin so she could gaze into his eyes. She found a tear on his cheek and used a sharply nailed finger to scrape it off, leaving a trail of blood in its wake.
“I will gift you this one reprieve from your failed leadership,” she said. “Now you bear my mark of that failure for all to see upon your cheek.” She pointed at the tunic. It disappeared from Chuthwolf’s arm and reappeared on the still curled body of the female.
“Stand her,” she ordered the two soldiers.
They roughly pulled the wolf female from the ground and stood her on her on her feet. Once she seemed to stand on her own, they let go and the woman crumbled to the ground once more.
“Hold her up!” Indra commanded. “I will not bend to talk to a traitor.”
They raised the girl again, this time a soldier at each side holding her upright.
Indra used the same nail to place a similar mark on the girl’s cheek. The girl made no movement to show she had felt anything.
“And now your blood and hers are mingled,” Indra continued. “Her mark is yours and yours is hers. You share in her treason.”
Cuthwolf stood stone silent, his throat working up and down, and Indra was pleased.
“Should you fail again, my next mark will be upon your heart for all to witness, and your death will be in days of agony so that all leaders know I do not tolerate failure.”
Cuthwolf did not move, nor did he attempt to speak.
“Do you agree this is just?” Indra asked.
Once again he bowed his assent.
“What is the name of this traitor?” she asked.
“Luna,” Cuthwolf answered, his voice barely above a whisper.
“Too bad. One would think a child named after the moon would welcome the darkness and its power.”
The young woman remained as dead weight between the two soldiers. She neither responded nor reacted. Her head hung to the front and she showed no sign of being alive except for the rise and fall of her chest with each breath.
“If you had sided with me,” Indra began. “You would have had the power of the shadow to wield, as others of your tribe have chosen. Instead you chose to betray them and the People with your deeds. Now, even the bats and the cockroaches have more standing in my kingdom than you.”
“Your majesty,” Cuthwolf swallowed as he dared to interrupt her rant.
“What, wolf? What could you have to say that would be at all helpful now?”
Cuthwolf slowly straightened, as if it was a great difficultly to stack one vertebra upon the other to stand at his full height of nearly six and a half feet in his human form.
“I am convinced she is but a pawn,” Cuthwolf said, his voice calm and measured. “Perhaps I can get her to reveal who else in my tribe put her up to this. If you sentence her to death today, I will have lost the ability to stop others.”
He took obvious pains to sigh loudly. “She is nothing…no one. She is a misguided young wolf seeking adventure.”
Indra clucked her tongue disapprovingly. “Adventure?” Her voice rose on the end of the question. “You call sending a spy on the day of my coronation an adventure?”
Now Cuthwolf dared to laugh. “Luna, a spy? She is but a child. She has neither the intelligence or the experience to be a spy.”
“Yet she spirited my son… MY SON!…” She screamed, “to steal my plans to restore the Mazikeen to our rightful glory and to eliminate the Quatcho from the earth!”
Cuthwolf’s eyes widened and his mouth dropped open.
Indra laughed again. “You didn’t know. Your failures multiply.”
Luna stared up at Cuthwolf, the leader of her pack, pleading with her eyes to forgive her. She’d been caught on Mazikeen land. In her human form, she’d compromised a Mazikeen boy to get the information she needed—the information Cuthwolf had asked her to find. How was she to know the boy was Indra’s son? If she’d known, she never would have tried to seduce him.
Cuthwolf turned his back on her.
“So your disgust is real, after all,” Indra said.
“I cannot ask for mercy from your sentence,” Cuthwolf said. “I know it will be death, and I accept it.”
Indra looked at the girl once more. “Did you hear that, girl? Even your tribal leader sets the death sentence on you.”
Luna did not respond. At least Indra didn’t know the tribal leader was her father.
“I declare you will be put to death today. You are a disgrace to your tribe. You are a disgrace to the Forest People.”
She paused, tapping a finger against her lips. “No. A quick death is too easy.” She smiled as the thought formed in her mind. “A slow, tortuous death for all to witness. If you wish to avoid that and instead have it be quick, speak now and I will grant that wish. It is your choice. Tell your leader and me who set you to spy on my son.”
Luna bit her cheek to hold back the retort that was on the tip of her tongue. No, she admonished herself. It would not do to give any words, even a lie, to this Mazikeen who had aligned herself with the darkness and likely invited the Abaddon closer with each day.
She would not give up Cuthwolf, no matter the torture before her death. She hoped he still had a backup plan to free her. If not, she accepted what would come. There were others in the tribe who would come behind her.
“Take her from my sight,” Indra commanded. “Make sure there are two guards with her at all times. Watch for wolf-shifters who may try to rescue her.”
Luna feigned a collapse to the floor and once more curled tight into the fetal position. She would make it as hard as possible for the guards to drag her back to her cell. She was no small Mazikeen girl who weighed practically nothing. Though she appeared small in her human form, she still weighed the full one-hundred-eighty-pounds of her wolf mass. Too large for one Mazikeen soldier to carry.
The two guards grunted as they dragged her out of the room. As soon as the doors closed again they stopped to rest, laying her on the floor.
“Perhaps we should have fed her a little more, so she could walk on her own,” one of them complained.
“We could at least sneak in a little water so that when we bring her back this afternoon, she could walk,” the other offered.
“One glass of water and a piece of bread? Would that be enough?” the first guard asked.
“We will keep feeding her until she stands on her own,” the second one offered.
Luna smiled on the inside. If she could get more to eat and drink she would be able to withstand the torture even better until her rescue could be secured.
“Hey!” One of the guards yelled down the hall. “Come help us carry the prisoner. She weighs a ton.”
She heard the boots of at least two more. Soon she was hoisted on to a litter and then carried between four Mazikeen men. Much more comfortable.
Luna relaxed a little. The afternoon would come very soon and she had to be ready.
Chapter 2 — Coronation
“How many?” Indra asked her dresser as the girl rechecked every diamond on the dress and secured a couple that were on loose threads.
“The page estimates thirty-eight hundred. I’m sure every head of a tribe is here with several family members. Some, like the Boha’a appeared with their entire tribal council.”
“Perfect!” Indra drew out the word and smiled.
It would be more subjects than Mayja had gathered at her coronation. They’d rushed that one, as if having only a few hundred would make people less likely to question her right to be queen.
“And Wynbune? Has she been spotted?”
“No, your majesty,” her maid replied. “Though I’m not sure anyone would recognize her. I’ve heard she is a chameleon. I’ve heard she can be man, woman, child, even an animal if she wishes.”
Indra waved her hand with a tsk. “No matter. If she is here in whatever form, she will bow to me. It will be soon enough for me to have her brought up on charges for impersonating the Chosen One of prophecy.”
Indra had been waiting for this day since her birth. The last thing she need was for some impudent half-breed interrupting her ceremony. Now that she thought of it, she hoped Wynbune wouldn’t be present.
“It is time, your majesty,” a deep voice said from the other side of the closed door.
The maid arranged the train of the gown behind her and opened the door. Eight sentries immediately bent to one knee and bowed their heads, as if gazing upon Indra’s beauty would blind them.
She waved them to stand. Four stepped in front of her to lead the way and fend off anyone who might take exception at her coronation. The other four waited for her to pass, then stepped in behind her to protect her from anyone who might sneak up to harm her from the rear.
Indra walked slowly so she could see her court, and the leaders of each tribe of the Forest People lined along the hall. She nodded as she walked. Today she could be gracious, almost personable to anyone here to pay homage to the new queen.
She purposefully stopped to take the hand of each tribal leader as she passed. She thanked them for attending and waited with glee for them to grovel.
The King and Queen of the northern ice country smiled warmly. She needed their alliance to rebuild the ice jails for the mounting criminals found spying in her kingdom. When the Quatcho, Nakani, had escaped there was nothing she could do about the ice caves as she was not yet queen. Wynbune had brought down that structure and she would make sure it was rebuilt in a more secure location this time.
The recently reinstated triumvirate of the equatorial tribes dropped to a knee and pounded a fist to their chests in honor of her. She nodded politely in their direction.
She searched for the leader of the elemental spirits but didn’t see her among this group. It was hard to know who Abrani Daj aligned with these days. Was it the Boha’a who could be bought? Or was she tied to the half-breed impersonator? Indra shook her head. She wouldn’t worry about Abrani Daj today.
Cuthwolf stood with his clan. His son stood tall and proud and bowed low as she passed. Next to the father, it looked as if the son was the leader—not Cuthwolf. Something to be noted for future negotiations.
Next to them were the Mazi-chatul. Interesting. All twelve were in their large cat form today. Though they bowed as she passed, she had no way to speak with them. She lifted her chin and walked past them as if she hadn’t noticed. Was this a protest? No, they wouldn’t dare. More likely it was difficult for them to stay in human form.
By the time she arrived at the door to the throne room, she was tired of being gracious. It was time to get this ceremony over with so she could begin showing her powers with the punishment of the wolf-shifter spy.
Indra turned in front of the lion throne. She took a moment to make sure every eye was upon her stately form. She heard an intake of breath as she petted the paw once more, and she smiled. Yes, most of them knew what that gesture meant. She hoped those Mazi-chatul were shaking in their cat skins now.
She nodded to the Mazikeen Lord Chancellor on her right, then to the Lady of Laws on her left. They came forward and flanked each side.
“As the Lord Chancellor and keeper of the records, I certify that Indra, the eldest daughter and rightful heir to the throne of the Mazikeen kingdom, has presented herself to the council and been so declared.”
The Lady of Laws unfurled a scroll and read from it. “The Queen of Light and the Heir of Fire has proven herself by being recognized also as the Queen of Shadows. This brings great power to the Mazikeen and to the Forest People.” She unsheathed a sword and pounded the tip into the floor, sparking lightning and thunder within the chamber. “The sword of the first Mazikeen king is now passed to you in recognition of you as the rightful heir to the throne.”
Indra sheathed the sword and held it at her side.
The Lord Chancellor turned to receive the Mazikeen crown into his hands. Indra knelt before the throne, the Lord Chancellor behind her.
“Do you, Indra Aurora Rhamnosia, swear blood, loyalty, and honor to the kingdom of the Mazikeen?”
The pause felt like it stretched out for an eternity. Indra’s heart pounded in her chest. This was it. This was what she had been fighting for since the beginning. This was what she was meant for. This was the path she had been walking for years, long before anyone else in the kingdom was willing to accept her.
In many ways she remained the same as that young girl who knew she would be queen one day—headstrong, passionate, beautiful. But as she fought through the decades her sister was queen, she learned to be more. She learned to be brave and powerful. Especially powerful, and that was the final straw that turned the Mazikeen council in her direction.
“I, Indra Aurora Rhamnosia, swear my blood, my loyalty, my honor, and all my power to the kingdom of the Mazikeen and to all those who wish to ally with us. I promise to serve and protect its people for the rest of my life in this time and in the void. I will use all the power of the light and the dark to make this so.”
The Lord Chancellor lifted the crown above his head with outstretched arms. “I declare to all the lands of the Forest People that Indra Aurora Rhamnosia is no queen of the Mazikeen and all those who have chosen alliance.” He lowered the crown to her head. “Rise, my queen.”
Indra rose with ease, glorying in the weight of the crown upon her head. Her arms reached out to each side and an explosion of light and stars replaced her on the ground as she appeared now seated at the top of the lion throne.
Trumpets rang out announcing her coronation and the both those gathered in the hall and those outside erupted in applause. Indra fingered the lichen cocktail resting on the side table and smiled. Today, Queen of the Mazikeen. Tomorrow, Queen of the World—the Forest People and Agnoses alike.
She downed the cocktail in one swallow and felt the increase of power course through her.
After several hours of ceremony, feasting, and dancing, Indra flicked her finger at the Lord Chancellor and he appeared at her side. “I’m tired of these festivities,” she said. “It is time for me to mete out justice so I may go to bed knowing the Mazikeen are safe.”
He nodded his assent. “I will bring the revelers to attention.”
Standing on the dais he pointed along the lights surrounding the hall and they began to flicker and squeal like a siren. All those present quieted.
“Queen Indra will now exercise her power of justice for all to witness how she will keep the Mazikeen safe from traitors,” he declared, his voice boomed as if it was using the power of thunder.
“Bring the wolf-shifter traitor,” Indra demanded.
An audible intake of breath traveled among those in the hall, followed by whispers of questions and disbelief. A drum pounded at the door announcing the prisoner was being brought forward. The whispers grew inaudible compared to the noise of the drum.
At the back of the hall, the Mazi-chatul cats all moved and crowded into a corner. Koška shifted to her human self, along with Mykah. The other ten cats shielded them from prying eyes as they dressed quickly. When they separated themselves from the others, the two sidled around the edges looking for their contacts.
Cuthwolf tapped Mykah on the shoulder from behind. “Do not turn around,” he said. “I spoke briefly with Luna while the feasting was at full swing. She is feeling a little stronger. She says she is unsure of her ability to fight. However, she feels she will have the energy to run if necessary.”
Koška saw Cuthwolf shrink back and blend into the crowd again. “Good news,” she said to Mykah. “I hope it is true. I’m not sure the two of us are enough to save her.”
“The other Mazi-chatul will help,” Mykah responded. Then he drew in a breath and she looked up at him, raising an eyebrow.
“Turn slowly,” he said. “Help has appeared seemingly out of nowhere. Abrani Daj and someone who could be Dagger’s twin now stand against the opposite wall.”
Koška turned and stared through the crowd, until she spotted them. She smiled. “I should have known. Oh, what a clever girl she is.” Koška nodded her head once in their direction and both nodded back.
“Is it a brother?” Mykah asked. I thought Dagger was an only child.”
“It is Wynbune as Dagger. She will not look out of place as another Boha’a with Abrani Daj.”
Mykah stared again. “How do you know for sure?”
“Who else would Abrani Daj bring?” she asked. “Let’s move forward so we are ready for our attack.”
Koška turned and grabbed Mykah’s hand, forcing him to follow her. She darted in and out of various groups crowding the floor. She noticed that Abrani Daj and Wynbune did the same on the other side. They stopped three or four rows from the front.
Suddenly the drums stopped beating and a petite woman, clothed only in a light shift, was thrown on the ground. She laid prostrate in front of one of the lion’s paws at the base of the throne. Koška was unsure if she couldn’t move or was choosing to not show her hand.
Queen Indra rose from her seat and peered over the edge. “The traitor,” she announced loud and clear. “Lady of Laws, read me the charges.”
“The wolf-shifter woman, known as Luna among the wolf-shifters, is hereby charged with treason against the Forest People, in particular treason against the alliance of the Mazikeen.”
The Lady of Laws paused. The entire hall was silent, as if they all held their breath at once.
“What is the will of your Majesty?” The Lady of Laws asked.
Indra swirled and reappeared at the bottom of the throne. She stared upon the prostrate girl. “Stand her, so I may see her eyes,” she said.
Two guards brought her to a standing position, but Luna kept her eyes downcast.
“Ha!” Indra shouted. “You dare not look at me because you know I will see the truth.”
Luna continued to stand, unmoving with eyes downcast.
Indra walked in a circle around her. “You are young. Yet you deny the advice of a trusted leader of your pack. You defy him and me. Why? I am willing to listen to reason.”
Again, Luna said nothing and didn’t move even a millimeter.
“Have you nothing to say? Will you not plead your innocence before your Queen?”
Luna opened her eyes and stood tall. “You. Are. Not. My. Queen,” she said with confidence.
Indra slapped her hard across the cheek, enough to make her list to one side and have to sidestep to keep her balance.
“I am your Queen!” Indra said, her voice shaking the rafters with magic. “As decreed by Cuthwolf, the leader of your pack when he signed the agreement of alliance with the Mazikeen for all the wolf-shifters, I am your Queen. All those tribes allied with us accept me as their Queen.”
Luna stood still, but she no longer lowered her eyes. In fact, it appeared that she stood even taller than before.
“I am a just Queen,” Indra said, her voice seeming to invite a confidence. “Ask anyone here.” She waved her hand across the room. “Do you know me as just?” she asked everyone who stood before her.
“Yes, your Majesty,” the entire room seemed to reply, as they bowed low.
Indra smiled. “Cuthwolf tells me you are young and foolish. But your eyes tell me you know exactly what you are doing.”
Again Indra walked in a circle around Luna as if assessing her worth. When she came back in front of her she said, “I am also a merciful Queen. I am willing to grant mercy to you this one time—because of your leader’s loyalty and trust in my fairness—if you tell me who put you up to this treason.”
“I am alone in this,” Luna said loudly.
“Liar!” The queen screamed.
A bolt of energy cut like a blade across Luna’s shoulder and she screamed in agony, grabbing at the wound as it bled through her fingers.
“Every time you lie another bolt will cut you. I know there are Wolf-shifters who do not agree with the alliance. Give me a name and I will set you free.”
“It is only I,” Luna said again through gritted teeth.
Luna screamed again as another bolt cut through the other arm.
“Stop!” A strong male voice shouted from the room. “I do not accept you as my queen.”
“Show yourself,” Indra demanded. “Or are you only brave among the masses.”
Camryn stepped forward in the visage of Dagger.
“And neither do I.” Abrani Daj stepped forward next to her.
Indra laughed. “A Boha’a boy doesn’t surprise me. The Boha’a don’t align with anyone unless there is enough money in it.” She retrieved gold pieces from a pouch about her waist and flipped them toward the boy. “That should buy your alliance.”
Camryn let the gold lay upon the floor.
“Abrani Daj,” Indra said the name with some reverence. “I am surprised you would choose this fight. Elemental spirits don’t choose sides. Why do you care about this child?”
“I care about justice,” Abrani Daj said. “I care that the Abaddon is not invited to descend on our world. I care that the Forest People survive. I care that the earth survives.”
Indra laughed heartily.
“Were you here for the coronation? Did you not hear me declare I would protect the Mazikeen and all the Forest People with all of my power?”
“I heard the words,” Abrani Daj said. “I did not feel the same meaning. Your actions prove otherwise.”
“Are you the ones who put this child to the task of seducing my son?” Indra asked angrily.
“No,” both Abrani Daj and Wynbune answered.
“As it is your son who was seduced, why do you not punish him?” Abrani Daj asked.
“And not her?” Indra asked, pointing to the girl.
“If you are truly just,” Abrani Daj suggested, “you would punish both equally. Where is your son? Indra? Why is he not here to witness this?”
Indra’s eyes flared and her mouth firmed, gritting her teeth. Koška could see the anger building in her. She could see her calling on the dark side of her powers.
“I’ll show you justice!” Indra screamed. “Anyone who dares to defy me.” She raised her hands to the ceiling and a whirlwind of dark clouds descended from the ceiling. “I call the powers of the Abaddon. I call for vengeance on my enemies.”
The people in the hall screamed and ran in all directions as the dark clouds swirled faster and faster.
Abrani Daj motioned with her hand to Mykah and Koška, and mouthed now.
They both sprung to Luna’s side. Mykah lifted her with one arm as he and Koška ran from the hall.
Abrani Daj and Camryn stood their ground.
“I call to the powers of Light to encase this storm,” Camryn intoned.
A ray of light pierced the roof and shined a bright box around the whirlwind.
The floor below them shook and Abrani Daj placed her arms wide and flexed them as if straining to lift the rocks from the earth. A broken square of floor rose up around the light and the storm, firming the containment field and trapping Indra inside.
Indra screamed as she fought against the containment field. Stones fell around the interior of the hall. Lights shattered and fell to the ground. Finally, the column of darkness flowed up the square and through the hole in the ceiling.
“Where did Indra go?” Camryn asked.
“The Void,” Abrani Daj said. “That was her only escape. But she’ll be back, and she’ll be even more angry and full of vengeance. We have saved Luna and we have shown everyone who or what Indra really is. But I’m afraid the war to come is just beginning.”
Camryn shifted back to her true self. “And I’m at the center of it,” she said with acceptance.
“We all are,” Abrani Daj said. “I don’t believe Indra knew you were here. She only saw a Boha’a boy. But it is her mission to prove you are not the Chameleon of prophecy. And that puts you at the center of it all.
Camryn sighed. “And that means learn more, learn faster.”
Abrani Daj nodded and took her hand. “Let’s go rest for tonight.”
In the next moment, Camryn was in Dagger’s tent and Abrani Daj was nowhere to be seen.
“But how?” She shook her head. “Never mind. I don’t want to know right now. Tomorrow. Tomorrow I’ll ask questions.”
She fell into Dagger’s bed and pulled the blankets over her. If only he were here, maybe he could make sense of all of this.
Don’t Forget The Freebie!!!
This Weeks Freebie is Book 1 in the Forest People Series. Chameleon: The Awakening
This first book in the series introduces Camryn, a fifteen-year-old young woman with a big problem. When she looks at someone she turns into them. She has no control over the process. Because it is so devastating she is kept out of school and home with her parents. Learn how Camryn finds out who she is and begins her journey to become the Chameleon of prophecy.
I am giving this full novel away free in ebook form for two weeks only. That means from November 19th to December 3rd.
If you want the book, click the button below. You will be asked for your email address so that I know you are not a bot. You will NOT be added to my email list. If you are not on my list and wish to be added, please complete the form to the right of this page. Your free book will be downloaded from BookFunnel.