HER KNIGHT'S QUEST
Warriors of the Mist, Book 2
by Alexis Morgan
Release Date: March 5, 2013
They are cursed by the gods, and war is their salvation. Love is their deliverance.
For centuries, five legendary warriors have braved their battles shoulder to shoulder. But now, they must divide and conquer as lone champions against evil.
Duncan, a scholar at heart, is drawn to an isolated abbey rumored to hold the answers to countering the terror unleashed by Duke Keirthan. Inside the cloistered walls lies the hidden collection of forbidden lore on dark magic. But the real key to the salvation Duncan seeks-both for the people of Agathia and his soul--is the abbess herself, Lady Lavinia. Hunted by the duke who seeks to harvest her powers, Lavinia knows Duncan wants to help her. But can she trust the tortured warrior with her secrets?
In the end, it is only by joining forces that they can save not only those they are sworn to protect, but each other.
The mirror smooth surface shattered, sending a sudden surge of cold water gushing over the side of the bowl to soak the skirt of Lavinia's dress. Despite her best efforts to impose her will over the unruly liquid, it continued to ripple and refused to come back into focus, a clear reflection of Lavinia's own agitation.
When her third attempt failed, she snatched up the bowl and tossed its contents toward the roses in her private garden. Maybe the water would do more good for the plants than it had for her. The simple truth was that she'd learn nothing until she controlled her emotions, especially her fear.
"Shall I fetch a fresh pitcher of water?"
Lavinia forced a more pleasant expression onto her face before turning to face Sarra, who hovered a short distance away. The young girl practically vibrated with the need to be of service.
Lord and Lady, had she ever been that earnest and innocent herself? All things considered, it didn't seem likely.
Injecting a soothing note into her voice, Lavinia shook her head. "No, my child. I will do so myself. The walk will help clear my head."
Then her smile became more genuine. "Besides, Sarra, I do believe it is time for your music lesson. Sister Joetta will be waiting for you."
Sarra's face lit up as she immediately bolted toward the door that led back inside the abbey. About halfway there, she froze and slowly turned back, her eyes wide with chagrin. "I'm sorry, my lady, I forgot."
Then she dropped into a low curtsey with her eyes trained on the floor. "May I be excused?"
Lavinia crossed to where the girl remained frozen in position. She gently raised Sarra's face and then smiled at her with a wink. "All these rules and procedures take a while to master, don't they? Go. Seek out Sister Joetta. Tell her that you don't need to report back to me until after the midday meal."
Sarra immediately straightened up and surprised Lavinia with a quick hug before continuing on her headlong charge toward the door. "Don't worry, my lady, I'll do my best for Sister Joetta."
"I know you will, little one."
Once she was alone again, Lavinia sank down on the bench and rested her eyes. She'd been up since before dawn searching for answers among the forbidden texts. All her efforts had garnered her were a headache and more questions with no answers.
She'd hoped her gift for scrying would prove more useful, but it had failed her as well. Perhaps that walk she'd mentioned to young Sarra would actually help. As much as Lavinia loved the sanctuary of her private garden, sometimes the high walls closed in on her. She glanced up at the narrow slice of blue sky overhead.
How long had it been since she'd last ventured beyond the abbey's thick walls and out into the real world?
It didn't bear thinking about. Even if she didn't have responsibilities that kept her firmly anchored where she was, the world outside was far too dangerous a place for her right now. Not all predators that prowled the world walked on four legs.
As tempting as it was to sit there in the warmth of the sun until the midday meal, she couldn't. Too much was at stake to pretend everything was all right. She picked up the pitcher and walked back inside, cutting through her office to the hallway that ran through the heart of the abbey. The thick rugs muted the sound of her footsteps as she made her way through the building to the courtyard that surrounded the well.
After filling her pitcher, she savored a ladle of the cool, sweet water before returning to her garden. This time, she moved slowly as she sought to quiet her spirit. She carefully filled the scrying bowl again and set the pitcher aside. Lacing her fingers together, she closed her eyes and concentrated on her breathing.
Slowly Lavinia centered herself, consciously shutting out the distractions of the world beyond the abbey walls. Next, she shut out the muted sounds of the other sisters going about their daily lives and duties. Finally, she shut out her own fearful thoughts and worry. That was the hardest part.
When at last she opened her eyes, the water in her bowl was mirror smooth and still. At last! She shuffled a half-step closer and stared down into the shallow depths of the water. At first, she saw nothing but the rich green of the glass, but then piece by piece, a narrow strip of road came into focus.
It was impossible to gauge its exact location, but judging from the terrain, it had to be the trade route that led caravans through the Sojourn Valley and past the abbey. Odd, though, there was no line of wagons anywhere in sight. Why would the goddess show her a stretch of empty road? She started to step back when a small movement at the edge of the water caught her attention.
Ah, so the road wasn't empty after all. A solitary horse and rider trotted into sight heading in the direction of the abbey. The image was too small for her to pick out any detail, so she closed her eyes again and concentrated on asking for more information.
When she looked again, the image had changed. This time the horse was grazing, and the rider was sitting cross-legged next to a small campfire. She leaned closer to the water, hoping to get a better look at the man, hoping to pick out enough details so that she'd recognize him if she were to meet him in person. In truth, not if but when she met him. He would not appear in her vision if there wasn't a connection to be forged between them.
This vision appeared to be a warning that the traveler would find his way to the abbey. That wasn't unusual in itself. There weren't many places to stop along the route between Agathia and the lands beyond. Most travelers stopped at the abbey to enjoy a night's hospitality among the sisters.
The only oddity was that few were either brave enough or reckless enough to travel alone. Times were too dangerous, yet this man didn't seem concerned. A more prudent traveler wouldn't have kept a campfire burning out in the open, knowing the light might draw unwanted company.
As she watched, the focus abruptly plunged down like a hawk diving after prey. Her stomach lurched with the sudden change. The man jumped to his feet, his sword appearing in his hand as if by magic. His head spun in all directions as if to defend himself from an imminent attack.
Finally, he looked straight up, his strangely pale eyes staring right into Lavinia's. The power of the connection shattered her hard won calm. She stumbled back from the bowl. What had just happened?
Her heart pounded in her chest, and the air in the room had grown too thin to breathe. Never in all of her years of scrying had such a thing happened. Her mentor, the prior abbess, had never mentioned the possibility of the mirror of the water working in both directions.
Rather than risk another look, Lavinia averted her eyes as she carefully covered the bowl with a black cloth. After whispering a short prayer of thanks to the goddess for the gift of the vision and asking for the wisdom to understand it, she left the garden.
The gong sounded summoning everyone to the dining hall. Right now, she was too unsettled to be hungry, but rituals and routines were important. If nothing else, they provided a sense of order in a world that had long since become dark and dangerous. Maybe later she would let herself think about the mysterious stranger who was wending his way toward the abbey. Until he actually arrived, there was no way to know if his purpose was for good or for ill.
With that unsettling thought, she fell into line with the other sisters and let their loving presence comfort her.
Duncan thanked the gods that his friends weren't there to witness him jumping at shadows. Murdoch would never let him forget it. After one last look around, Duncan sheathed his sword and sat back down by the fire. He fed another log to the flames and watched the sparks fly up into the night sky.
That had been the second time in one day that he'd experienced the strangest sensation that he was being watched. The first time happened as he had been riding along the trail, his thoughts drifting with the breeze. Between one breath and the next, his mare had snorted and sidestepped, almost unseating him. He'd managed to stay in the saddle, but it had been a close call.
He'd looked everywhere trying to determine what had startled the horse. When nothing obvious presented itself, they'd continued on, but he'd found himself looking back over his shoulder for some distance afterward.
Then he'd been staring into the fire, waiting for Kiva to finish his nightly hunt. At first he'd thought it was the owl swooping back to their makeshift camp that had disturbed him, but then that same powerful sensation had washed over him.
He'd reacted instinctively, jumping to his feet sword in hand ready to ward off an attack. One that never came. The night was silent; nothing stirred, the only threat the uncanny feeling that someone was out there watching Duncan's every move.
After checking in all directions, he started to relax when he happened to look up. For the briefest instant, the image of a woman, one with worried eyes and a lush mouth set in a deep frown, had superimposed itself over the gibbous moon. Her face had appeared and then disappeared so quickly that he knew he had to be imagining things.
Even so, he could still see her face in his mind with disturbing clarity. She'd been lovely with the kind of beauty that could haunt a man's dreams. Duncan shifted uncomfortably, his body reacting in a way it hadn't in a long time. Centuries, in fact.
It was definitely time to seek his pallet. At first light, he would resume his trek to the abbey.
March 12, 2013
"A very thrilling and romantic magical fantasy!"-- Fresh Fiction
"Ms. Morgan pens a full fantasy world complete with a stunning cast of characters."--Coffee Time Romance