Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Type of Short Story: Novella
Summary: A missing prince. A haunted castle. A dangerous man bent on ruling the kingdom - whatever the cost.
When Rosamond and her friend Dan head out on her birthday to explore an abandoned and haunted castle, they expect to find only a ghost or two. Instead they discover the missing prince, and stumble into the middle of a violent, desperate bid for the throne.
In order to save the injured Prince Jaren, and themselves, Rosamond must reach beyond her own violent past to find her courage, and Dan must find the way to his true self.
Their only help is a children's story come to life: an ancient sorcerer whose soul has been trapped in the walls of the castle for centuries.
Can they keep the prince alive long enough to bring him home safe?
Can they defeat the man who would be king?
*Includes preview chapters at the end for The Claire Wiche Chronicles and TimeSearch trilogy.
The voice that spoke to him from thin air simply confirmed it.
“Who—” Jaren swallowed, his left hand slipping on the chain that held him suspended above the stone floor. He knew it would take the last of his strength to talk to what had to be his own delusion. But part of him—the part he buried years ago to protect himself from his uncle—needed to know. “Who are you?”
“You know already, master, though your heart denies it.”
“Black Mountain sorcery,” he whispered.
Rage smacked him. He clutched the chain as fresh agony scorched his injuries.
“I was born and trained on Black Mountain, proud in my power. I am the sorcerer your kind fears and tried to destroy so long ago. But know this for the truth—sorcery has never been worked inside these walls.” The rage receded, left Jaren gasping. “Acknowledge me, master, or I cannot help you.”
The voice asked for the impossible, asked for him to validate children’s stories whispered in the dark. Stories of long-dead wizards who infused the very walls of their home with knowledge, with life. Jaren hadn’t even believed them as a child.
“You are not real.”
A sigh wrapped around him.
“Were that true, master, you would die here, alone and helpless.” The voice lowered, brushing against his ear as if someone stood next to him. “There has never been a death inside these walls, and I will not allow you to be the first.”
Jaren closed his eyes. His mind, his body, slipped closer to the waiting darkness.
“I may have to…disappoint you.”
“Find your way, master.” The voice rose in anguish now, spearing through Jaren. “Find your way to the truth, and I can set you free.”
“I cannot—” He choked back a scream as torn muscle wrenched under the constant strain of his weight. Pain seared his lacerated arm. Blood slid down his side, his back—blood he could not afford. “Gods—”
“Stop calling me master. Either help me or leave me in peace.”
Anger licked at him. He flinched, moaned when the rough steel of the shackles dug deeper into his wrists.
“Your choice, master. Accept me, and I can free you. Deny me, and you are alone.”
Jaren opened his mouth, not sure what he would say. And stilled when his uncle Arthur appeared in the doorway.