Annaline is loyal only to her clan of warriors, but when a necessary mission leads her
to deceive her misguided father, will she be able to break free of her former bonds?
Butterflies raged inside my stomach. Me? No. It couldn’t be. Why me? I was just a
regular girl! Why not Stefana? She was rich. She was courageous. Heck, she was even kind!
Well, sometimes. Only to people she was fond of. Not me. I was too poor for that.
And The Council? How could they decide that the fate of the entire kingdom rested upon one
lonely and inexperienced girl? I was currently the most untrained warrior in the whole
group! There was no way they called my name. It must have been someone else. But then
again, who else would have the name of Annaline Demosky? No one. At least not in our clan.
I finished tying my black heeled riding boots and shook the dirt off my dress. It was very
casual, not like the ones I had owned at home. It was a deep red, like my hair,
contrasting with my mother’s emerald necklace. It came up to my knees, to make the
riding more comfortable. The sleeves were elbow length, tied off with a green bow on each
side. I simply loved it. It reminded me so much of home.
I opened our curtain door and stepped into the gorgeous sunlight. The place was empty. The
camp was still sleeping, so really only my friends and Faunk had woken up to see me off.
It was after all only 10 am. They were all probably in the meeting center, ready for
everything to begin.
I knew I should have been there too, but something just drove me towards the training
center. A small clearing with very few trees, the training hollow had been like home to
me. And that was because it reminded me of home, I thought, making my way through the
I looked up at the sky with a longing to know what the Gods knew, even the very minor
Gods, like my mother.
“Mother, what am I supposed to do?” I called, with the absolute knowledge that only
the Gods could hear me. “They couldn’t possibly have chosen me, yet they did. How
could they do that? The whole council hate me, except for Faunk!” The clouds rumbled,
and I headed back to where I had dismounted my horse before. “And what am I going to say
to father? To Lamil?” I wondered silently, remembering how I betrayed them. “I left
I suddenly felt my mother’s presence, her comforting tone ringing inside my head. “Be
strong, Be true, Be the best they can hope for, and everyone, everyone will accept you,
good or evil.” That was her promise to me. And I believed it. Promises from loyal
Goddesses like her were pretty much short prophecies of encouragement. Her oceanic
fragrance was like going into the past when I was a toddler, playing on the shore of my
mother’s lake. I had only lived with her for a small while, until I was four, but I
distinctly remembered her, and anything that reminded me of her almost made me sob.
I was already tearing up by the time I had mounted my horse, and I had to retire to my
cabin and rearrange my features before setting foot outside.
“Annaline, your transportation is ready.” A thin, frail man looked up at me, and I
noticed for the first time that he only came up to my shoulder. The attitude in his voice
seemed to make up for the height issue, I thought grimly. Then realization dawned on me.
It was Faunk, Anyal’s assistant. “Are you ready?” He was waiting just outside my
cabin, scowling as if he thought I had just been snoozing instead of getting ready for my
His voice echoed in my head. Am I ready? Of course I wasn’t. But I had to be. I took a
small breath, shooed the persistent butterflies away and nodded. I didn’t trust myself