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Shadow Born - Time Of Shadows: Book One
by Kyra Dune

Category: Fantasy
Description: Daemon uth Friesard is the unwilling king of Phalindros. Because both his older brothers have died, he finds himself in a role he doesn't want and isn't suited for. With a domineering mother, an ice cold wife, a tempting minstrel, and a failing friendship, it's all he can do to keep from falling into the same kind of darkness that took his father.

Clayden Kiel is the youngest High Priest in the history of Phalindros. He is also a Chosen of the gods, gifted with direct communion to the god of light, Basale. A war is coming, a war that he would like to avoid. But the gods are of little help, seeking only to influence so far as to not affect free will, and there are secrets to be kept. Secrets belonging not only to himself and his time, but going all the way back to the founding of the kingdom. As Clayden struggles with his own inner demons as well as those of his long time friend, the king, he must find a way to put aside his humanity in order to better serve the gods and to save the kingdom from a devastating war. Easier said than done.
eBook Publisher: Double Dragon Publishing/Double Dragon eBooks, 2012 Double Dragon Publishing
eBookwise Release Date: May 2012

eBookeBook

Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [278 KB]
Words: 64966
Reading time: 185-259 min.


CHAPTER ONE

* * * *

Daemon stood in the shadow of the castle, watching the processional wind its way up the hill toward the castle gates. There were twelve white carriages trimmed in bronze, each led by four horses in ceremonial plume and flanked by guardsmen in gleaming chainmail.

In their lead was a single man on a dappled gray stallion. Both rider and mount wore bronze plated chainmail studded with diamonds, and in the rider's hand waved the standard of Malfrey, a bronze manticore on a white backdrop.

Daemon's heart fluttered against his chest as the gates swung wide. Events had unfolded around him so quickly since last spring that he felt as if he'd not yet had a chance to catch his breath. And now this.

The rider of the dappled gray dismounted at the foot of the stairs and removed his diamond studded helm. "Kalagar Inspirda, Your Majesty." He bowed low at the waist, holding his helm against his chest. "Captain of the Guard of Malfrey."

From the stories he'd heard, Daemon had expected an older man, a veteran guardsman, and was surprised to find that Kalagar was no more than a few springs older than himself, if even that.

"You are most welcome," Daemon said. He was not accustomed to the sight of people bowing, but his mother had prepared him for this and so he was able to keep his unease well hidden.

Kalagar turned to open the jewel-encrusted door of the first carriage. "May I present to you our Queen, Her Royal Highness, Serlina Ordai Constintia."

The queen, who was several springs younger than Daemon, made a striking figure with her black hair twisted in a maze of pearl-strung braids atop her head. A gown of fine Cardashian silk, blue as the spring sky, fit snug against her curves; a string of pearls graced her neck and dropped down between an ample bosom that was immodestly displayed by a dipping v-shaped neckline.

Daemon smiled politely and managed to look the queen in the face, despite the inclination of his eyes to look where they ought not to. "Welcome to Phalindros, Your Highness."

"Thank you," she replied. Her accent was distinctly Cardashian as was her gown. "You have such a lovely little castle."

"Thank you." Daemon inclined his head slightly to one side--a sign of respect to one who was his equal.

Queen Serlina stepped aside so that Kalagar could introduce the king. "May I present our King, His Royal Majesty, Hortios Constintia."

King Hortios was a big man, his fair hair graying at the temples, his blue eyes sparkling yet with youth, though he was some thirty springs older than his newest queen. He was dressed in emerald studded gray, and a thick fur cape was thrown over his shoulders despite the warmth of the mid-spring day.

With a broad grin, Hortios clasped Daemon's hand as if they were old friends. "I'm pleased to meet you at last, young king."

"The pleasure is all mine," Daemon said. "I have long looked forward to this day."

"As have I, my boy. Let us pray it marks a long, peaceful future for our two kingdoms."

"That is my most sincerest wish."

Kalagar was moving on to the second carriage now, and Daemon's heart stuttered as the door was opened and a young woman stepped out. She was swathed in white lace head to foot, so that not a single inch of skin showed.

"May I present to you our Princess, the Lady Gazella Constintia."

Gazella approached with one hand over Kalagar's arm. They paused in front of Daemon only long enough for the princess to offer him a quick curtsy, and then they were moving on into the castle, leaving Daemon with nothing but the shadow of a face beneath the veil. His eyes followed after them.

Hortios clapped Daemon on the shoulder. "She's a beautiful girl. No need to concern yourself with that."

Daemon flushed to have his thoughts spoken aloud, ashamed at having been so obvious in his curiosity. "Of course."

"Ah, and here is proof enough of that." Hortios held out his hand to the young woman who approached them. "My son's wife and Gazella's cousin, Lady Dalia Monsero Constintia. She and Gazella could almost pass for twins, so alike is their look."

Lady Dalia smiled the kind of smile that lights the eyes. Pale blue eyes they were, framed by thick lashes; dark blonde hair, strung with rubies, lay pinned to her head in two coiled braids, and matching rubies dangled from her ears and graced her throat.

"I am pleased to meet you, Your Majesty." She curtsied. "My husband offers his sincerest well wishes and his regrets that he will be unable to attend the ceremony."

Daemon smiled, thinking to himself that if Gazella was even half as lovely as her cousin he was a fortunate man. "I'm pleased you could attend."

And so it went, as Daemon met the other guests who'd traveled from Malfrey to attend the ceremony, until at last he could slip away to his chambers for a few moments alone. To his dismay, he discovered his mother was already there.

With a forced smile, he stepped into the room. "Mother, I'm so glad you're here. I was hoping we might have a chance to talk before the ceremony."

Marma rose from the cream colored divan. Such a contrast to Queen Serlina and the other ladies from Malfrey was his mother in her high collared gown of dark gray. She was tall and trim with only a touch of gray in her sand-shaded hair, with only a hint of wrinkles near the corners of her dark blue eyes.

She gave him an appraising look. "What's wrong?"

With those few words and that single look, all of Daemon's carefully maintained composure melted. He sank into a nearby chair. "Everything is changing so quickly. I'm to marry this girl today and I don't know anything about her. What if... what if she doesn't like me?"

"How could anyone not like you?" She smoothed the hair from his face as she had done so many times before. "Granted, it will be difficult in the beginning, such things always are. But there will be time for the two of you to come to know each other, to love each other. Until then, you must be satisfied that you have averted a war and given Phalindros a powerful ally."

"Yes, Mother."

"You are a good boy, my son." She patted his cheek. "Your father would be proud to see the man you are becoming."

Daemon didn't flinch, he was proud of himself for that. But he did wish she wouldn't speak of his father, not now, not today, not when he had so many other things heavy on his mind. "I hope so, Mother. My only wish is to honor his memory and follow in his footsteps." He didn't choke on the words, didn't stumble, and he even managed to smile a little as he spoke them.

"Yes, we should hope you may be like your father." She straightened, taking a step back from him. "But for now I will send in the servants to help you dress."

"Yes, Mother, thank you."

Once the door shut behind Marma, Daemon slumped in the chair, pressing a hand to his eyes. Follow in his father's footsteps--the idea sent a shudder through him. If it weren't for his father, they wouldn't be here today and he might yet have some small choice in the course of his own life.

Instead, he must marry this stranger to save Phalindros from war and play the good king, though the crown was heavy. Kingdom first and self last, if at all. That was what his mother believed and should be what he believed as well, but sometimes it was so hard.

A servant knocked at the door and Daemon sat up straighter, pasting a look of hopeful anticipation over his despair. "Come in."


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