Authors: Mireille Chester
Tags: #romance, #suspense, #horses, #fantasy, #gods, #epic, #swords, #battles, #kings, #spells, #castles, #knights
Copyright © 2011 by Mireille Chester
Published by Mireille Chester
Cover Art by Somnolent Images
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James ran a hand through his dark brown hair
and cringed at the sound of his wife groaning in the bedroom. His
brother’s wife, Jannet, poked her head out of the room. She tried
“Jamie, has Peter made it back with the
He shook his head and watched her disappear
from sight once again before going to stand outside in the soft
mist of the rain.
“Chael’s luck, Peter, what’s taking so long,”
he grumbled to himself. Ailee’s cry of pain caused him to jerk and
he closed his green eyes. Taking a deep breath, he made his way
back into the cabin.
“James! Get in here!”
He rushed into the room and stopped short at
the sight of the blood soaking into the mattress and sheets under
“I need water, Jamie! And blankets!” Jannet’s
face and long blond hair were smeared with blood where she’d
attempted to brush it out of the way. “James McKinney! Now!”
Ailee screamed as her whole body seemed to
convulse with the strength of the contraction. Jannet knelt between
her legs and gave a small cry of relief.
“I can see the head, Ail, I can see it. He’s
coming! James! Bring the water and the blankets!”
Jamie snapped out of his trance and rushed to
get the items his sister-in-law needed. He watched as Ailee pushed
through another awful spasm. He knelt by her head and wiped her
sweat drenched hair out of her face.
“I’m here, Love. You’re doing well. He’s
almost here.” He pressed his lips to her forehead and tried to hide
his worry. “It’s almost done.”
Her dark brown eyes opened briefly, met his,
and closed before another contraction hit. Her beautiful face
contorted with pain, her nails digging into his hand. He looked up
at the sound of a babe crying then turned back to his wife.
“He’s here. You did it. You’re wonderful.” He
kissed her lightly. “Ail?” He brought his ear down to her lips and
looked to her breast. Nothing. “Ail?” His chest tightened and his
Instead of answering, he buried his face in
his wife’s hair, the sobs raking through him. Jannet’s sobs quietly
echoed his. The sound of horses galloping up to the cabin could be
“James? Sorry it took so long, the creek
washed out and we had to detour to Hallen’s Bridge.” Peter froze in
the doorway of the bedroom as Jannet whirled on him.
“Keep her out! Tell her to leave! Now!”
“But…” He glanced back at the sound of the
footsteps coming from the kitchen where the healwife had gone to
get some supplies.
“Tell her Ailee died, the babe is fine.” She
looked pointedly at her husband. “Peter!”
He turned in time to put his arm across the
doorway. “I’m afraid I’ve brought you all this way for no reason,”
he said as he took a step toward her and made her back away from
the room. He shut the door.
Jannet rocked the babe quietly and watched as
her brother-in-law seemed to pull himself together.
“Jamie,” she said softly. “Chael’s luck,
Jamie, I’m sorry.”
He shook his head and wiped his arm over his
face. “You tried, Jannet.” He pulled her into a hug and looked up
as his brother walked back into the room.
“Is it true, then?” Green eyes that matched
Jamie’s searched their faces. Jannet nodded. “What of the babe?” he
Jannet pulled the blanket away to reveal a
tiny head full of dark hair. Jamie looked at the small bundle with
“Jamie, there’s something you should see.”
She moved the blankets until they no longer covered the little
The men gawked at the sight before them.
“But…” James took another look at his dead
wife before stalking out of the room.
5 years later…
James tightened the grey pony’s cinch and
patted her neck.
He smiled as the five year old rounded the
corner of the house.
“What are you doing?”
Chael grinned. “I’m going to be a knight!” He
raised his arms, the sleeves of his father’s dark green tunic
hanging over the small outstretched hands. Young Chael glanced down
at the black winged horse embroidered on the front of it and
“Well, come then. Up you go.” James placed
him in the saddle. “If you’re going to be a knight, we’d better get
to the training camp.” He handed his son the reins, mounted his
horse, and led the way through the streets of Gleama.
Chael gazed around the training arena in
“Who’s that?” A red headed boy pointed to
Chael as he climbed down from his pony. His twin, an identical
version of him, shrugged. The first of the two stepped forward.
“I’m Harry. That’s Hal.”
The twins started to laugh and Chael frowned.
James took a deep breath and patted the boy on the shoulder.
“Be strong, Chael.”
The boy looked at his father, nodded, and
made his way into the training area with his head held high. James
gazed at the sky.
“Chael’s luck and blast it all. What the hell
was I thinking?”
8 years later…
“Chael! Duck!” Harry’s sparring sword swung
through the air and I did as he instructed. The sword connected
with whoever had been sneaking up on me. I glanced back and grinned
as Caleb groaned and fell to the ground.
Harry nodded and we turned to take on the
rest of our opponents. I saw Mac lose his sword and pulled one of
my slaggens from the scabbard on my back.
He turned and caught the weapon I had tossed
in his direction. I jumped back to avoid a blow and took a deep
breath when the General’s holler echoed through the arena.
He waited until we’d all lined up. “Green
team is the winner.”
Harry and Hal whooped and hollered while Mac
grinned and handed me my sword.
I nodded and slipped it back into its
scabbard. I looked up at him.
“How’s your wrist?”
He shrugged. “It will have a decent bruise on
it, I’m sure.”
Caleb glared and shoved into me with his
shoulder as he walked by.
“Runt,” he grumbled.
I took a deep breath and counted to ten. “I
can’t argue with that, now can I?” I remarked. For as long as I
could remember, I’d been at least four inches shorter than the rest
of the knights in training. Now that we were starting our teen
years, it seemed the rest of them were growing at an even greater
pace than me.
Not being able to get a rise out of me, he
looked around and bent close to me.
“I always wonder. Why did your father name
you Chael? The god of bad luck is an odd namesake, don’t you
I nodded. “I agree, but if you want to know,
you’ll have to ask him.”
“Caleb, Chael, line up!”
We fell back into our line.
I stepped forward and saluted the
“Your team demonstrated great cooperation out
there today. Good leading.”
“Thank you, sir.” I fell back into place.
“Hal, your disarming of John was impressive.
Keep up the good work.”
General Krane went through everyone’s strong
points before restarting at the front of the line and pointing out
“Chael, can you explain to me why you gave up
“When you gave your sword to Mac, what were
“I had two at that moment, sir. He had
“But you know you need both of your swords.
You can’t overpower the rest of the boys.”
“Yes, sir. I realize that, but Mac needed a
“Maybe if you weren’t such a runt, we
wouldn’t have to go through this point once again,” grumbled
“Caleb, would you care to repeat that?” The
General was staring at my companion.
“Sir, I think that most of us feel
uncomfortable fighting with Chael. It’s not his fault he’s so
small, but the fact of the matter is, he can’t carry his weight
“Is that so?”
“That’s not true, sir,” piped up Harry. “I’ll
fight with Chael any day. At least with him, I know he’s got my
back, unlike others here.” He stared pointedly at Caleb.
General Krane rolled his eyes. “Boys, you’ve
been training together for the past eight years. Caleb, do you have
a reason for not liking Chael?”
Caleb straightened. “There’s something wrong
with him, sir, and I’d rather not find out it’s anything major in
the middle of a battle.”
Hal grunted. “What makes you so certain
there’s something wrong with him?”
Caleb shook his head. “Why call the boy
Chael? And look at how small he is! I’m willing to bet my best
horse he’s sick!”
Harry snorted. “You mean your father’s best
Caleb blushed and shoved him.
Everyone snapped to attention and the General
walked up and down the line. “It’s enough, do you understand?
Whether or not there is something wrong with Chael is none of your
Everyone gazed at me curiously as if the
General had just admitted to knowing there was something off about
me. I clenched my jaw and tried to keep the embarrassment from
showing. The General took a minute to look me over as well before
shaking his head.
“Everyone head home.”
I hurried away and made my way to the
“Blasted Caleb. Why can’t he just leave it
I heard footsteps coming toward me and
hurried up the ladder to the hayloft to avoid whoever it might be.
I sat in the dark, taking deep breaths and inhaling the musty smell
of straw and horses. I tried to focus on my team’s victory as
opposed to what it was my fellow knights in training might be
thinking about me.
The ladder creaked under someone’s weight and
I glanced to the opening in the floor.
“It’s me, Chael.” Harry poked his head over
the last rung and came to sit beside me. He picked at a piece of
straw and twirled it between his fingers.
“What do you want, Harry?”
He smiled. “Don’t they always send me when
you get in a mood and hide up here?”
I glared at him and he shrugged.
“You know Caleb only does this to get a rise
out of you, yeah?”
I nodded. “Yeah, I know. I just, by gods,
Harry, it’s starting to get old.”
He grinned. “I bet that eight years ago, when
you first got here, you thought it would be Hal and I you’d have
I chuckled. “It was.”
He patted my back. “There aren’t more than a
couple of them who feel oddly towards you.
“And what about you and Hal?”
His grinned widened. “Well, of course, we’re
not too pleased about losing to a runt in the challenges, but we
like you well enough.” He headed to the ladder. “Better?”
“See? That’s why they always send me.”
We made our way to where Hal and Mac were
holding their horses. I glanced around.
“He’s gone,” assured Mac. I saddled my horse
and swung on.
“You’ll be back tomorrow?” Harry mounted his
I nodded and turned toward home.
I spun my horse around at the sound of Hal’s
voice. The three of them were saluting me. I stopped my mare and
returned the honor.
“To the end, Chael!”
I ginned and nodded to Harry. “To the
My cheek flared with pain as Caleb’s fist
connected with it.
“Come one, Chael! Is that the best you’ve
got?” Caleb danced around in front of me.
“You’re a bastard, Caleb!” I wiped the blood
from the cut over my eye with my arm then threw a jab I knew he
wasn’t expecting. I heard the satisfying crunch of his nose
breaking with the impact and watched as he fell to his knees.
“My dad says you’re the bastard, Chael,” he
managed to spit out at me. “Why else would your dad name you Chael,
after the god of bad luck?”