Happy National Book Lovers Day! To celebrate, I thought I’d share A Bounty of Secrets and Rebellion chapter 2 with you. It is the first book in my new YA fantasy romance series The Chronicles of Tanithor: Age of the Oracle. You can order it on Kindle here!
Read Chapter 1 over on this post.
A Bounty of Secrets and Rebellion Chapter 2 – Alana
Alana stood in front of the tall mirror, admiring the dress she had custom-made for her birthday feast in twelve days. As she had imagined when she’d described her vision of the dress to the seamstress weeks ago, the color made her deep blue eyes pop. Her hair, while it would be up for the celebration, framed her face like a halo of golden curls cascading down her shoulders and back and matched the waves of the dress perfectly. She was slightly thinner than her last fitting. The approaching event had stolen her appetite.
The elderly seamstress was busy at her waist, fixing and sewing the final adjustments to her thin form when she said, “Your betrothed is one lucky man, Princess. When he sees you in this dress, I have no doubt you’ll capture his heart instantly.”
Alana smiled her wide, bright smile flashing all her teeth at once and replied, “I do believe you’re right. You’ve done an incredible job with this dress!”
“I only brought your vision to life, my lady,” the seamstress replied humbly as she tied off the last thread and stepped back.
Princess Alana Bell Sundry slowly turned around on the platform, carefully eyeing each angle of the dress. In twelve days, she would turn sixteen. In twelve days, she would meet her betrothed prince for the first time. In twelve days, she would leave her home kingdom of Latera forever to live in the neighboring Gaellen, forming an alliance through marriage that had been agreed upon at her birth. Refusing to dwell on her feelings about all the unknowns, Alana took a deep breath and focused on her dress.
“It’s perfect!” she exclaimed.
The seamstress caught her eye with an admiring expression as she said adoringly, “I just want you to know, Princess, that all of Latera thanks you for what you are doing to make this alliance happen. Joining with Gaellen will bring so much prosperity to Latera. Thank you so much.”
Alana dipped her chin humbly. “It’s an honor to be your princess.” It was comments like these that made Alana choose to trust that her future, just as she had envisioned the dress, would turn out perfectly as well.
After changing into a simple cap-sleeved travel dress of a light blue Lateran color, Alana stepped out of the seamstress’ small shop to the crowded street of Sands’ market district. The seaside bazaar was alive with the shouts of merchants hocking their wares to passersby as the shrieks of the sea birds loomed overhead, eyeing their next meal down below.
She inhaled the fresh, salty air, tossed her wild curls back, and took a right down the busy market street. Used to Alana spontaneously changing plans on a regular basis, her guards turned with her and kept in step behind her, ignoring the waiting carriage.
She didn’t make it very far down the lane when, suddenly, a little boy careened into her left side. In the same moment, her two guards instantly sprang forward, one catching her right elbow to steady her while the other grabbed the boy by the back of his shirt. Quickly righting herself, Alana turned toward the boy, ordering the guard to release him.
The boy hung his head and wrung his hands nervously as he said, “I’m so sorry Your Highness! I didn’t see you.”
Alana stooped down to his eye level. He had a mop of curly, white-blonde hair atop his head and eyes that were as bright as the sky. She guessed he was only about six or seven years old. “It’s quite all right,” she replied gently, flashing him her comforting smile.
Seeing a shallow dish of water in the apothecary stall across from her, Alana put her hand out and summoned the water to her palm. Heeding the noble call, the water relinquished its dish as it soared over the heads of the Lateran shoppers. She flicked her wrist, and the water obediently rolled its form into the shape of the sun in midair as it settled in front of the little boy. Alana caused the water orb to spin and then burst out in a shower of cooling droplets that she sent soaring back to the dish. This show promptly set the small boy giggling and clapping.
“Run along now, little one, and maybe watch out for princesses,” she said with a conspiratorial wink.
“Yes, Your Highness,” the boy responded and, with a quick bow, he dashed around her and disappeared into the throng of Lateran shoppers.
Alana turned back to her guards with her hands on her hips and rolled her eyes. “If small children are our greatest threat, I really don’t see the need for your presence. You can go wait by the carriage.”
“As you wish, princess,” they replied in unison, bowing neatly before they turned and walked away. Just then her mother stepped up beside her.
“What a perfect day to go shopping!” Queen Malia Sundry cried, her eyes eagerly scanning each market stall.
Alana peered over at her mother. She was a tall woman but soft around the edges. Bearing two children, along with the delicacies of royal life, had shaped her into the woman who stood before her now.
She was dressed in a formal gown, even though they were casually shopping. Given that her mother loved to dress up and show off all her lavish clothes and adornments, her chosen attire was no surprise to Alana. Her straight, blonde hair was done up into an elaborate braid, and she even wore her silver, royal crown. The many sapphire jewels in the coronet glittered in the dazzling sun. Her keen, dark green eyes snagged on a market stall, and she pointed excitedly. “Ooo look! Lateran pottery! Let’s pick a few for you to take with you. You can decorate the Gaellen castle with pieces from home!” Her dress trailed behind her in the breeze as she made her way to the potter’s stall.
Alana had no interest in castle decoration, but she followed her mother regardless, offering her opinion where the need arose in order to appease her. All she really wanted to do was visit the beach.
The time seemed to pass quickly as the two royals made their way through the market. Alana’s hands were full of her mother’s trinkets and treasures for her daughter. The sun was on its downward path, and Alana was about to suggest that they take a quick stop at the beach when her mother spotted a stall displaying landscapes of Sands from various points around the city.
Having reached her limit of shopping for one day and dreaming of the sand between her toes on the beach, Alana was not interested in some old man’s paintings. Nevertheless, she slowly followed her mother to the stall and glanced around.
Propped on every surface available under the stall awning were dozens of paintings in various sizes. The artist clearly loved the use of color; a wide range of hues spilled over every canvas.
To Alana’s left, a canvas was displayed on an easel, depicting the city of Sands at sunset from the perspective of the ocean. Alana guessed the artist must have painted it from a boat. The paint was artfully blended from one color to the next as the sky met the seaport city in a beautiful contrast of yellow and pink, to blue and purple.
“Alana, look at this one!” her mother called from behind a large canvas illustrating the Great River estuary as it spilled out into the Boledad Sea. Just as Alana stepped around the painting, someone asked with a bow, “May I carry those for you, Princess?”
When he straightened and held out his arms, Alana noticed light blue eyes with dark irises. He had a head of thick, shoulder-length golden hair that hung loosely around his square, handsome face. Below his pointed nose was a shadow of beard that highlighted thin, pink lips.
“Thank you.” Alana gratefully placed her many parcels in the arms of the young man whom she guessed wasn’t much older than she.
Her mother turned around with bright eyes. “Who is the artist of these landscapes? They are absolutely stunning!”
He turned to her mother and gave another small bow. “That would be me, Your Majesty.”
“You painted all of these landscapes?” Alana asked in surprise, gesturing around the stall with her now free hands.
“Yes, Your Highness, every one,” he confirmed with a small nod. If he had been offended by her disbelief, he didn’t show it.
“What is your name, young man?” her mother asked.
“Koa, Your Majesty. Koa Kai. You honor me with your compliments,” he responded, turning his eyes down in reverent humility.
“Tell me Koa, do you paint portraits as well?” her mother asked with a hopeful tone.
Alana raised a curious eyebrow at her mother, but she only gave a tight smile and looked expectantly at Koa.
“I prefer to capture the beauty of our Lateran kingdom, Your Majesty, but I can paint whatever is set before me.”
Her mother clapped her hands together in front of her excitedly. “Excellent! I’d like to commission you to paint my daughter’s portrait.”
Alana opened her mouth to protest. The last portrait she had done was six years ago, and it took many painful hours. She had to stand still the entire time and even the memory of it caused her feet to hurt.
Her mother hurried on, speaking to Koa but looking at Alana. “I don’t know when I will be seeing my daughter again after she leaves us for Gaellen, and I’d like a portrait of her as she is now so that I can remember every detail of her beautiful face when she is not here.” There was a deep sadness in her eyes when she spoke, and Alana promptly swallowed any arguments she had prepared to make.
While her upcoming departure to Gaellen was a big change, she knew her leaving pained her mother even more severely. Alana would be the second child her mother would lose. Although the circumstances were much different from the first, Alana’s heart still broke for her mother’s sadness. If sitting for a portrait would ease some of that pain, Alana was happy to oblige.
Koa replied, “It would be my greatest honor, Your Majesty.”
“Wonderful! I’d like to have the portrait done as soon as possible. Of course, we will provide all that you need. Will tomorrow be possible for you?” She didn’t wait for a response before she said, “I will send a carriage to retrieve you in the afternoon. We should have everything prepared by that time.”
Koa quickly cleared his throat and then said, “Actually, Your Majesty, forgive me, but I believe a morning time frame would be best. Sunset is good for landscapes, but I’d prefer the clarity of the bright morning sun for a portrait. I can do it tomorrow if that’s what you’d like, but I’d like to start before mid-day. Sunrise would be most ideal.”
Alana stood between the two during this encounter and was both surprised and impressed that Koa had dared to suggest an alternative to her mother’s plans. She didn’t even have it in her to refuse her mother, but commoners always did whatever the royals asked without hesitation or comment. Alana examined her mother curiously to see how she would react to this unusual response.
“Oh. Well, yes. That makes sense,” Queen Malia replied haltingly. “I’ll send for you at first light tomorrow morning then. I’d prefer a morning sun portrait actually.”
As if it had been her idea all along.
Alana suppressed a chuckle at her mother’s reaction and glanced over at Koa. His face was cool and calm, and he didn’t seem the least bit uncomfortable or even aware of what he’d just done.
“I’m so glad I found someone who understands art,” her mother went on, clearly trying to take back control of the conversation. “Alana’s last portrait was done in the afternoon, and she looks permanently blurred around the edges!”
“I promise to use the morning light to the princess’s best advantage, Your Majesty.” Koa smiled, and it was clear to Alana that he knew the light had nothing to do with blurred edges in a portrait. Alana felt compelled to ease her mother’s embarrassing remark. “To the last artist’s credit, I wasn’t the most obliging subject, Mother.”
Queen Malia narrowed her eyes. “I expect your complete cooperation for this portrait, my dear.” She then pivoted and made her way toward the exit, clearly done with business in the artist’s stall. “Koa, we shall see you in the morning,” she called over her shoulder before she turned to head back to the waiting carriage.
Koa smiled warmly. “Would you like me to carry these back for you, princess?”
“That’s very kind of you, thank you,” Alana agreed, and he led the way out of the stall.
The crowd had noticeably thinned as the day began to relinquish its duties to the night. The sky now resembled the pink and yellow painting Alana had admired back at Koa’s stall, casting a shadow over one side of the lane as though putting the market to bed.
Koa walked slightly in front of and to Alana’s left, leading the way to the carriage just up the road. She couldn’t help but notice his confident stride, and, for an artist, she felt he was rather muscular. His arms bulged under the weight of her many parcels. He was tall, but stoutly built with a broad back and tapered waist. He was also tan, as most Laterans were, but his coloring was a pleasant honey color, kissed perfectly by the sun.
Alana quickly focused back on the carriage. Had she just been admiring a man? She shook her head to clear her thoughts and exhaled a quiet breath. As though waiting for this very moment, her upcoming betrothal invaded her mind like a mental assault.
For years, she had been able to ignore the fate of her future; a distant event that seemed forever away. Then she had turned fifteen, and a year had flown by. It still didn’t seem real to her, yet, whether she liked it or not, her life was about to dramatically change.
The Prince of Gaellen would be setting out for Latera soon to escort his promised bride home the day after her sixteenth birthday. She had never met him and knew nothing about this stranger from the West other than that he was air gifted. Similar to how she could manipulate water, his abilities were found in air manipulation. Their marriage would not only unite the two kingdoms, but it would be the first marriage between races since the beginning of time.
Forcing her thoughts to quiet and remain focused on the moment, Alana asked conversationally, “So, how long have you been painting landscapes, Koa?”
He slowed to walk beside her before he said, “I’ve dabbled with ink on parchment since I was a young lad. It wasn’t until I was thirteen that I experimented with other medium.”
Alana’s mouth twitched when he said ‘lad,’ but she chose not to comment as she said, “And what, would you say, is your favorite medium?”
“I’ll always love the simplicity of charcoal, but my favorite medium to work with is watercolor.”
“Really? Why is that?”
Koa smiled beside her. “I like the challenge of working with watercolor. I’m always more proud of work that is hard, knowing it took all my skills to create the final piece.”
“Hard work is admirable in its own right,” Alana agreed. “What is it about watercolor that makes it so challenging?”
“Controlling a medium as fluid as water is the challenge. Blending two colors to match the scene in front of you is a challenge on its own. When you add water to the mix the color changes, usually becoming lighter than your intended color. When you start adding more color, it’s easy for the whole thing to blend together into one big mess. The trick is to take your time. Let a piece dry before adding another layer.” Koa adjusted the parcels in his arms. “Sometimes, it takes a lot of drying time to layer up enough of the color to create the desired intensity. Then adding in the other components of the scene slowly over time is just as difficult. It makes capturing motion that much harder because you really have to memorize the scene as it is and refer to that image in your mind, again and again, until the piece is done.”
It was the most Koa had spoken since meeting him, and Alana could hear the passion in his voice. “Wow, that does sound challenging,” she noted. She had no knowledge of art whatsoever, but water was an element she knew very well. It was interesting to hear a different perspective of manipulating the liquid that, for her, was so easy to do, albeit not in an artistic sense. Commoners did not possess the gift of water as she did. “Who taught you how to work with watercolor like that?”
“My mother,” he replied softly. His tone conveyed there was a story there, and she was about to ask about his mother when one of her royal guards walked up to take the parcels from him. They weren’t far from the royal carriage now.
With his arms free, Koa turned to face her, and, for a moment, she was lost in his blue-eyed gaze. He grinned and wordlessly extended his arm to her, his eyebrows raised in question. Smiling brightly, she looped her arm through his and allowed him to escort her the rest of the way to the carriage.
As the sun finally dipped beyond the horizon, Koa turned his face to her with a sly smile and said, “I look forward to the honor of painting your portrait tomorrow, Your Highness. I can assure you, with the morning light, my hand will be steady.”
Alana giggled, remembering her mother’s silly response earlier. She was about to thank him for his diplomacy when she heard the ominous twang of a crossbow fire, and a flaming light soared directly toward her.
I hope you enjoyed A Bounty of Secrets and Rebellion chapter 2! It is the first book in The Chronicles of Tanithor: Age of the Oracle series! You can read this book for FREE on Kindle Unlimited (with your subscription) OR you can purchase the eBook or hardback copy on Amazon! Hardback copies include an exclusive bonus chapter not offered in the the eBook version. Order on Amazon, here.