The Soul Stone
The Crown Princess Samantha and Sir Robrek struggle to solidify their rule in the aftermath of the king’s murder and Duke Argblutal’s attempt to usurp the throne. They are thwarted at every turn by those who seek power for themselves and desire to prevent their marriage. Just when they think their problems are solved, a deadly curse begins to spread throughout Korthlundia and Samantha becomes pregnant.
Samantha must fight off priests, enemies, and her closest advisors while Robrek discovers the reason the goddess chose him as king, to defeat the Soul Stone, a stone capable of sucking the soul out of its victims, which threatens to obliterate all life in the joined kingdoms. Their archenemy, the Bard Alvabane, awakens the Soul Stone and plans to use its power to reclaim Korthlundia for her people (a people driven out over a thousand years ago by the hero Armunn). Armunn had to sacrifice his life and soul to contain the Soul Stone. Will Robrek have to do the same? Will the young couple have only a few short months to love each other?
The Soul Stone
In the palace courtyard, Robrek Angusstamm stirred the cauldron, brewing the potion that would cure Duke Argblutal’s former forces of the mass diarrhea caused by the princess’s supporters in the palace. Argblutal had attempted to usurp Samantha’s throne, and Robrek had just helped her retake it. The potion was ready except for the final ingredient—his magic. Robrek spread his hand over the cauldron and closed his eyes. Pure joy and pleasure flooded his body as his magic flowed out of him. Nothing felt this good. He smiled as he opened his eyes. The potion would provide a nearly instantaneous cure.
Robrek took the ladle from the waiting servant and began ladling out the potion to those waiting. They were bent over from discomfort, and the smell was atrocious. Robrek tried to breathe only through his mouth.
The crowd broke into cries of “Long live Queen Samantha!” He looked up and saw Samantha on the palace balcony. Holy Sulis, she’s beautiful! How can she truly be mine? It still seemed like a dream that they’d been handfasted the night before and that she had spent the night in his arms.
The man in front of him groaned, reminding Robrek of the task at hand. He filled the stricken soldier’s cup. “Thank you, Milord,” the soldier said, startling Robrek with the use of his new title.
Robrek filled another cup, then looked back at Samantha. A servant came forward and bowed. “May I, Milord?” The servant reached for the ladle. Robrek relinquished it, but felt awkward doing so. He wasn’t used to standing around while others worked. He supposed it was just one of many things he’d have to get used to as consort. Can I truly be king? He shook his head at the absurdity of the idea. Only in bards’ tales did peasants become kings, but what had his life been if not a bards’ tale?
Up on the balcony, Samantha raised a hand, and the crowd fell silent. “My people! Duke Argblutal murdered your king and tried to steal my throne. He has suffered the fate Sulis intended for such betrayal. Let us celebrate this victory, achieved with so little loss of life.”
The crowd roared its approval, and Robrek beamed at her. Duke Caedmon stepped onto the balcony beside Samantha, and Robrek frowned slightly. Caedmon disapproved of him, didn’t think him worthy of the princess.
Caedmon removed Argblutal’s head from the pike. Robrek suspected Darhour, the captain of the princess’s personal guard and a former assassin, had put it there. Where is Darhour? Robrek would have expected him to be by Samantha’s side, but the only two guards with her were Bearach and Conroy.
Caedmon raised his hand for quiet. “Let us remember the fate of those who raise their hands against the goddess’s chosen!” Caedmon dropped the head into the midst of the crowd. As the crowd roared and tossed and kicked the duke’s head about, Robrek felt a surge of nausea. For what Argblutal had done he’d deserved to die, but did they have to desecrate his remains?
Samantha’s eyes sought him out in the crowd, and she smiled down at him. Lost in that smile, he forgot everything else.
The thousands of peasants who had joined Samantha’s army as she’d marched on the palace and who now filled the courtyard erupted into dancing and celebration, and Robrek was swept up in the dance. People pounded him on the back and beamed at him, accepting him as he’d never been accepted in the village of his birth.
At the edge of the crowd stood Wild Thing, his Horsetad mare, with Brazen, Fancy Man, and Holy Writ—the magical bronze, silver, and gold horses who had changed his life and helped him win the contest that allowed him to claim Samantha as his bride. Now, the despised youngest son of a peasant farmer would be king. Now, surely, he’d be able to do what he was meant to do and heal in peace. Beyond that he couldn’t imagine what his new life would be like.
But having Samantha in it would be enough.
:She liked your moves, didn’t she?: came the laughing voice of Fancy Man, who taught him how to dance, among other things. :Now I’ve taught you all I know.:
Holy Writ nodded her head and snorted. :Thou hast done well.:
:It is your destiny.:
Robrek laughed as Brazen again said her oft repeated line. Robrek felt happy and at peace. With the horses and Samantha beside him, he had nothing to fear.
Robrek danced over to the horses and gave each one a hug around the neck, ending with Wild Thing. :Wild Thing and Robbie big heroes.:
He scratched her neck. “Yes, my girl, I guess we are.”
He looked over at the line of soldiers waiting for the remedy and noticed one limping badly. He approached the man as his cup was filled by the servant. “Your foot pains you?” he asked.
The man started and turned to Robrek, eyes widening when he saw who had addressed him. “Er . . . er . . . yes, Milord. I stepped on a nail about a week back, and I’m afraid it’s began to fester. I fear I might lose it, Milord.”
“Not while I’m here you won’t. Drink it down.” He pointed to the cup. “Then come with me.” After the man drank the remedy, Robrek led him to the nearby mounting blocks and had the man sit and remove his boot. The foot was swollen and red. The nail wound on the bottom was oozing pus and turning green. Red lines of infection travelled up the man’s foot. If it weren’t for Robrek’s skills, it would definitely have to be amputated. Robrek reached out to touch the foot, and the man flinched. “I have to touch you if I’m going to make it better,” Robrek said. “It won’t hurt.”
The man nodded, but he was trembling slightly. Robrek put his hand on the foot, closed his eyes, and went into a healing trance. He gathered the infection and pushed it toward the hole in the foot, so that it streamed out with pus and blood, but after a few moments, the pus stopped flowing, and the foot slowly reduced to normal size. The greenish tinge and the redness disappeared, and finally Robrek closed the small puncture wound.
When Robrek opened his eyes, the man’s eyes were wide with awe. The man fell to his knees. “My life for yours! How may I serve you, Milord?”
From early childhood, Jamie has been immersed in books. Her mother, an avid reader, read to her, and her older sister filled her head with fairy tales. Taking into consideration her love for literature and the challenges of supporting herself as a writer, she pursued a Ph.D. in American literature, which she received in 1998. She started teaching writing and literature at Auburn University. But in doing so, she put her true passion on the backburner and neglected her muse. Then one day, in the midst of writing a piece of literary criticism, she realized that what she wanted to be doing was writing fantasy novels. Her muse thus revived, she began the book that was to become The Goddess’s Choice, which was published in April 2012. The second volume in the series, The Soul Stone, was released this June.
She lives in Auburn, Alabama, with her husband, son, and four cats, which (or so she’s been told) officially makes her a cat lady. She still teaches writing and literature at Auburn University. Her short fiction has been published on Short-Story.Me, and my story was chosen for inclusion in their annual anthology. It has also appeared in the anthologies—Urban Fantasy (KY Story, 2013) and Of Dragon and Magic: Tales of the Lost Worlds (Witty Bard Publishing, 2014)—The World of Myth, A Writer’s Haven, and Bards & Sages.
Black Rose Writing: http://www.blackrosewriting.com/sci-fifantasy/the-soul-stone
Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-soul-stone-jamie-marchant/1122191714?ean=9781612965468