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16 year old Hayley, now having undertaken her real name at the Trials - Cardinal, is willing to do almost anything in exchange for her freedom. Freedom from her duties as princess, freedom from the castle, freedom to love who she wanted. Everything changes when the prince of Siscira proposes to her, and she is swept into the threats of marrying someone whom she doesn't love. While she is bound by the chains of her marriage, something is shifting within the kingdom right under her nose, and the rebels are starting to rise. After ascending the throne to become Queen of Asilrya, Cardinal has been completely stripped of her freedom, subjected to a eventful but extremely undesirable life as a monarch- but not in any way she could have ever imagined. When she meets Hawk, a mysterious huntsman in the forest, her world flips upside down. Secrets are revealed. Betrayal lurks within the shadows. Because of Hawk, the life she's always wanted is so close, but so far away. And Queen Hayley Pierce is falling for him.

Fantasy / Romance
Gail Bryand
5.0 2 reviews
Age Rating:


Prologue - Zane

December 19, 114 A. DIV.

“Trust me. She’ll be queen,” speaks an unfamiliar feminine voice from inside the strange tent. I dare to move a little closer, careful that I don’t snap any twigs beneath my feet. I can see a faint, yellowish light cast from inside the tent; the people concealed by the decrepit fabric are hazy silhouettes. They seem to be sitting at a table (I’d say it was more of a massive tree stump), like some kind of formal meeting. A formal meeting in the middle of the forest. Ironic.

“Yes, she will be queen. It would be extremely unfortunate for you all if you failed,” A distinctly male voice responds. The voice is eerie and the way he speaks in his slithery way sends a shiver down my spine. I feel like I’ve heard it somewhere before, but I can’t pinpoint it exactly. The news? A friend of my fathers’? Something about it seems off. “ Jay, report.”

“My Lord, we haven’t seen this kind of magic since the Great Division,” the same voice who spoke first states. “And even so, this is an atypical case. Her power is much stronger than we anticipated, and divergent from anything we’ve seen before.”

“Yes, I know that, moron,” the masculine voice snaps.

“Of course, Lord Redwood.”

“Daisy, what do we furthermore know about this matter?”

“Lord Redwood, her thaumaturgic abilities may interfere with our capabilities to get rid of the rest of the family. Surely you knew this.”

“Yes, I did.” I can practically see the look of disapproval on Lord Redwood’s face. “Would someone please tell me something useful? Which one of you is actually helpful?” he drawls.

“Sir Redwood?” A high pitched voice says. From what I can see from my hiding spot in between a grove of trees, her shadow is much smaller than the rest of the figures. She seems about my age - ten, maybe eleven.

“What, Ebony?” Sir Redwood grunts.

“This may be a little far-fetched of an idea, but what if we try to ally with a superno malum? They have easy access to the palace because of their Veil, and if we give them something in return, I’m sure they would help us kill off whoever we want. That’s sorta their thing, after all.”

Who did these people think they were? No one messed with the superno maum and got out of it alive.

The tent erupts with laughter. “Yeah, but we’d be their fiftieth meal of the day, too!”

“Are you trying to send us to death sentences?”

“That’s quite the idea you’ve got there, little girl!”

“SILENCE!” Lord Redwood barks. The tent obliges within the next second. “The girl makes a point. At least it’s better than what the rest of you imbeciles have to offer. Tell me, Miss Ebony, how do you plan to get their attention without getting completely annihilated?”

“Well, we could leave a message, along with some kind of peace offering, my Lord.”

“That’s been tried before. Spoiler alert, the person who attempted it was beheaded and thrown into a smoldering fire pit. At our next meeting I expect you to have at least three other possible options with reasoning to back them up.”

“Yes, Lord Redwood.”.

”Council, we have a detrimental problem if little Ebony has better ideas then all of you. I suggest that you come up with some kind of idea that will help us advance forward. I want the rest of them dead by her seventeenth birthday. If they’re not, you’ll be dead by her seventeenth birthday.”

Good Lord, this man was brutal.

“Yes, Lord Redwood,” all the voices say in unison.

Suddenly, something is pressed to the side of my head. I whip it around, to find a girl who looks to be about eighteen or nineteen with blonde hair staring right at me and a gun pressed to my forehead.

“Scream and I’ll shoot,” she growls. The cool metal of the barrel feels icy against my skin. I’m momentarily paralyzed, but quickly recover.

Bravely, I quickly grab the barrel of the gun. She just as quickly wrenches it off. I hear the click of a safety. “I would recommend coming with me, if you know what good for you, little mister.” She moves the gun to the back of my head, shoving me forward. “Get moving.”

“I’m not a ‘little mister’, blondie,” I retort. “And I’m not moving anywhere until you tell me where we’re going. Stranger danger.”

She ignores my question. “You’ll get moving if you don’t want to end up with a bullet buried in your head within the next ten seconds.”

“I’m not scared of you or your gun.”

The girl stops, and then crouches down, so that she’s eye level with me, and removes the gun, which surprises me. Her straight blonde hair is wound into a long braid that drapes over her shoulder, and her pale blue eyes stare into mine, searching. I try to convince myself that what I told her is true. I am not scared.

Blondie narrows her eyes at me. “Fine. If you’re going to keep being stubborn, have it your way. You have exactly ten seconds to get away from here, and if you don’t, I’m left with no choice but to kill you and your sass. I don’t know how much you heard, but if you repeat anything you just heard here, I will personally hunt you down and feed you to the bears. Got it?”

I know that the girl is lying; I can tell she doesn’t want to hurt me. If she did, she wouldn’t be letting me go this easily. Something tells me her empty threats have to do with an intimidating Sir Redwood.

“Why are you letting me go?” I ask suspiciously.

“Don’t make me change my mind. 10...9...8...”

“Hold on, what was going on in that tent?”

Her tone sharpens. “7...6…”

“What are you planning?”

“Get the hell out of here. 5...4...3…”

“No.” I am defiant.


Then, I do something that surprises myself. The words find their way out of my mouth, and I can’t take them back once I’ve said them. I don’t know why I say them, but I just do. “I want to help you,” I blurt.

The girl stops her countdown, a curious expression scrawled across her face. “What makes you think that you could be of any use to us?”

“I don’t know. I just want to help,” I say. I don’t know if I’m lying or not. I have no idea what I could be getting myself into.

“What’s your name?”

Should I tell her my name? I decide on a slightly altered version. “Zane Walker.”

“How much did you hear?”

“A lot of things I’m probably not supposed to know. Don’t doubt I won’t blackmail you. I’ll tell King Blue unless you let me join you.” I say, trying to keep my voice from wavering. There’s no way that I’ll be able to get to the king even if I wanted to but I need to, but I need to sound convincing.

The girl scoffs. “You haven’t heard? The king died eight days ago. Heart attack.”

“You’re lying.”

The girl’s expression is serious and she keeps a straight face when she speaks, “I’m not.”

“What the hell is going on out there?” the eerie male from the tent voice booms.

The girl inhales sharply. “You better behave yourself inside that tent, Zane. Once you enter that tent, you are loyal to the Anacondas. Unless you want to die, there’s no turning back.”

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