As usurper of the throne, the rule of King Severn Argentine’s is already highly contested. To keep his power, King Argentine rules with an iron fist and destroys any opposition. In a failed coup attempt the Duke of Kiskaddon loses his son as a permanent prisoner to the king to ensure his loyalty.
THE QUEEN’S POISONER follows the Duke’s young son Owen on his journey for redemption and revenge as he figures out how to survive the court of Kingfountain. In order to keep his head and gain the merciless king’s favor, Owen must delve deeper into the world of mystery and secrecy that surrounds him. Readers will be clamoring for the next installment of The Kingfountain Series.
King Severn Argentine’s fearsome reputation precedes him: usurper of the throne, killer of rightful heirs, ruthless punisher of traitors. Attempting to depose him, the Duke of Kiskaddon gambles…and loses. Now the duke must atone by handing over his young son, Owen, as the king’s hostage. And should his loyalty falter again, the boy will pay with his life.
Seeking allies and eluding Severn’s spies, Owen learns to survive in the court of Kingfountain. But when new evidence of his father’s betrayal threatens to seal his fate, Owen must win the vengeful king’s favor by proving his worth—through extraordinary means. And only one person can aid his desperate cause: a mysterious woman, dwelling in secrecy, who truly wields power over life, death, and destiny.
Excerpt from THE QUEEN’S POISONER:
“But the king’s army prevailed after all,” Eleanor said weakly. “And now he thinks you a traitor.”
“From where I sat, it looked like Horwath would be destroyed. The men were fighting slothfully. No one’s heart was in it to defend Ceredigion from the invader. But then the king summoned his knights and rode into battle himself. The conflict was raging below them when they made their charge. I watched it, Eleanor. There were only twenty . . . maybe thirty knights in all, but they came like a flood. As if the very Fountain were driving them. They clashed with lances and swords. The king himself unhorsed his enemy and then jumped from his injured horse and killed the man with his own sword. The invaders swarmed him, but he fought as if he had the strength of a dozen men. They fell away from him, and when they saw his triumph, Horwath’s men became demons!” His eyes were wide with shock and amazement. “Severn defeated them by himself. Even with his twisted leg and his hunchback, he was unstoppable. I rode hard to join the fray and helped capture the fallen army. The king’s crown had fallen from his head during the fighting and I found it in a hawthorn bush. I told him . . . I told him that I was loyal.” His face went white.
Eleanor felt her knees losing strength. She clutched to her husband, as if they were alone on an island and the waves of the sea were crashing around them, trying to drag them into the surf. Her ears were ringing with the words.
“The king ordered Jorganon’s death. He mocked me, saying perhaps I still had sons to spare. And so he sent Horwath with me to bid you the tidings. Thus sayeth King Severn Argentine to the Lady Eleanor Kiskaddon: Choose you another son to be hostage, to live in the palace of Kingfountain under His Majesty’s wardship. Prove your good faith and obedience. Pick the son who will stand as surety for your house.”
Lady Eleanor would have fainted, but she somehow managed to keep her feet. She looked up at her husband. “I must trust that man with another of my children?” Her heart hammered violently in her chest and she quailed under the weight of her grief. “That . . . that . . . butcher?”
“Stiev Horwath has come to bring the child to Kingfountain,” her husband said, his look full of misery. “If we do not choose, he will execute our entire family for treason now.”
Lady Eleanor sobbed against her husband’s chest. It was a choice no mother should be forced to make. Should she sacrifice one child so that all the others might live? But King Severn was ruthless and cunning. Would the child she selected be the only of her children to survive?
She wept bitterly, swallowed by grief and unable to think. Who could she part with? Why had the choice even been given to her if not to make her suffering more acute? She hated the king. She hated him with all her passion, all her grief. How could she decide such a thing? How would she hand one of her boys over to a man who had murdered his own brother’s sons? The king’s hands were so wet with blood a trail probably dribbled wherever he went.
In her grief, she did not hear the door open or the soft padding of feet. She did not notice until Owen’s arms wrapped around their legs.
He squeezed them both so hard, and though she could not hear any words, she could imagine his thoughts, his childlike attempt to comfort them. There, there, Maman, Papan. There, there! It will be all right, Maman, Papan. There, there!
She stared down at her son, her innocent son. And then a memory stirred.
A memory of the royal midwife who had saved his life.
Her chest became tight with anticipation. Perhaps she could get a secret message to the sanctuary of Our Lady, a plea to protect her son, the boy who had been saved once before. She could endure the separation, the despair, so long as she could cling to a thread of hope.
She knew that a thread was all she could expect.
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