Effigy is the start of what I'm calling the Coileáin Chronicles. It is a series of fantasy books (Second Nature is the second title of the series) that will tell the tale of three sisters and role each plays in a battle of good and evil.
Effigy details the story of the eldest sister, Haleine Coileáin. She's an eighteen year old noblewoman living a charmed life. Beautiful, intelligent and betrothed to a handsome and adoring prince, Haleine's life is forever changed when that engagement is suddenly broken in order to present Haleine as the bride to a prince (one with a penchant for cruelty) in a country with which her land has just formed an alliance.
The scene I am going to post occurs just after this wedding has concluded and takes place on the balcony outside of the room where the wedding feast is being held. Haleine sees her former betrothed, Revelin, escape there and follows him.
Please note: The following excerpt might be a little long for people doing the A to Z Challenge bloghop thing and for that I apologize. I've tried to keep my entries on the shorter side but sometimes, it just can't be helped. So if you decide to skip it, I understand. However, if you do decide to read it, I hope you enjoy it.
He lifted his head but did not look at her. “You should not address me so informal.”
“Was I not made your equal this day?” she asked, stopping just behind him. “If I may not address you so now then when has it ever been appropriate before?”
“You misunderstand, your highness.”
“Please don’t call me that.”
He turned. “It is who you are now.”
“No it isn’t.”
“Yes it is. You should be glad. He has made you what I could not.”
She shook her head. “And if you think for a moment that matters to me then it is well and good our path has thus divided because you know me not at all,” she said. “Revelin, I would choose a lifetime of wretched poverty with you over all the titles and riches in the world.”
“Titles and riches you have but you will find choice is not among your luxuries, your highness.”
“It is not the only thing,” she said. “I do not love him. I will never love him.”
Revelin smiled then. “No one thought you would.”
“And me least of all. Do not think so little of me. I know you did not choose this. I know my father desired it.”
She went alongside him and looked over the city below. “When did you know I would be sent here? When did they tell you?”
“Before you. Before your father. It is an honor to have been chosen. Or so they tell me.”
“It is my father’s honor. It is my burden.”
“You should not think of it like that.”
“And why shouldn’t I?” she exploded. “It is my life that has been sacrificed this day, not yours. Do you know this man to whom your father gave me? I would think you do for, even if you do not know him, you know your brother well enough and my new husband makes your brother look cordial.”
“You mustn’t worry about me, Prince Revelin. I will serve my country as she has required of me. I will leave my family. I will leave my homeland. I will leave my betrothed. I will marry a monster in his place. I will lie with my husband. I will bear his children and all the while I shall do so with a smile on my face and my country’s best interests in my heart. I will make Tanuba proud; you needn’t worry about that. But here and now, with you and me, I will speak the truth, if never again, and if you ever loved me, you will do the same.”
Revelin put his hand on her face. “You should never doubt my love for you. Doubt all else you know to be true but never that.”
“How could I do anything but doubt when all you offer me is congratulations on my good fortune at having been selected to live this life?”
His hand fell from her face and gripped her arm instead. “Because any other words I would offer would be a betrayal to my crown,” he said with an intensity she had never before heard in his voice. “It killed me to see you joined with that man today. It kills me now to know I will never call you my wife. Treat me as a villain if it appeases your anger, your highness, I would gladly suffer that, and much more, for you but do not forsake the truth.”
He released her and she turned and walked a few steps away, shamed by his reprimand. She hadn’t meant to lash out against him. She hadn’t meant it at all.
“This is wrong. It’s all wrong, Revelin. I shouldn’t be- I shouldn’t be here. It should be you and me and we should be-“ she stopped as the unobtainable image flooded her mind. She didn’t want to finish the thought. “I do not know how I will survive this,” she said instead.
“You will find a way.”
She looked over her shoulder at him. “And how are you so sure?”
“Because I know you. I know your strength. You will not be easily defeated.”
He sounded so confident. As sure of his statement as Sighle had been of hers. The only thing Haleine was now certain of was that there was no certainty. She envied them. She turned and walked back to Revelin.
“I am sorry,” she said. “I truly am. Will you forgive me?”
“There is nothing to forgive, your highness.”
She smiled at that. “You will make a woman a fine husband if you will allow her to rail against you as I have done and then dismiss it as nothing.”
“The second son of the king of Tanuba is no good match for anyone.”
“Only ambitious noblemen’s daughters.”
He nodded. “I wish I could change this night for you.”
God, how she wished it too. She stared at Revelin but was painfully aware how close the sun was to completing its decent. She needed to go back to the feast. They would start to look for her soon, if they hadn’t already. She sighed and placed her hand against his smooth cheek.
They didn’t speak, only looked at each other in the dying light until she lowered her hand and walked away.