Synopsis: BLOOD MISSION puts the fate of kings and the safety of the inhabitants of Seaward Isle in the hands of a teenaged half-elf warrior, Lady Alexin. When the lives of Prince Darin and Lord Odin are threatened by the rogue Elf Mellen in a plot to kill them both and take over Seaward Isle, Alex trained as a tracker, is charged with her most dangerous mission yet–a Blood Mission. She will have to use her skills to hunt Mellen down and kill him, or die in the attempt. With dark magic, the power of the Shadows and a wizard on his side, will Alex survive her mission long enough to discover her own true destiny? The plot grows more complex when Mellen attempts a coup, and Alex discovers that he is kidnapping shipwreck survivors to enlist them as pirates, even as she is courted by a handsome Colonel, greedy for her inheritance. Will Alex be able to harness her own powers and free the inhabitants of Seaward Isle?
Preview: Chapter 1
Drenched and muddy, Alex spurred her horse through the heavy rain, more concerned about a possible assassination attempt on her cousin, Prince Darin of the Water Elves than herself. Alex had discovered the plot when she overheard a telepathic conversation in Elfspeak between the Elf Mellen, a pirate leader and an unknown accomplice, someone on the Prince’s staff.
Even though Alex saw faces when they spoke, she wasn’t sure she could recognize the accomplice again. She didn’t know his name, only that he was blond with blue eyes and pointed ears. Hundreds of Elves looked like that.
Alex had tried to warn her cousin in Elfspeak, but he didn’t respond to her telepathic inquiries, so her journey took on a new meaning, and she feared the worst.
With her hood pulled tight around her face, she cast a wary eye at the dark clouds and urged her horse on, reaching the outskirts of the city of Southport along the southern coast of Seaward Isle in record time. To her relief, everything seemed normal when she rode up to the gate.
The guard welcomed her politely.
“Good day, Lady Alexin. Nasty weather today.”
“Is Prince Darin all right?”
“Yes, he’s fine. I told him you were here.” He held her horse as she dismounted.
Somewhat relieved, Alex ran the last hundred feet to the front door through a cloudburst and was shown in. A woman servant handed her a dry towel.
“Welcome, Lady Alexin.” Eskin saluted and curtsied to her.
“Thanks, Eskin. Sorry, I’m dripping all over. How’s Prince Darin?”
“Fine. He’ll be here shortly.” Eskin left, taking her weapons to the armory.
Alex breathed easier, hoping that she had arrived in time to foil the plot. But she needed to see him to make sure. She quickly dried her hands and face and took off her backpack, quickly turning the soldier’s rucksack inside out to find some dry clothes. Behind a screen, she changed into a pair of rough brown britches, a white shirt, and white socks, the uniform worn by soldiers of the Kingdom of Northeast Forest. She set the wet ones to dry beside the fire along with her boots.
Much to her relief, Prince Darin stepped through the door. Alex smiled and greeted him with a salute, by placing her right hand over her chest and curtsied, the traditional Elf greeting for a woman.
“Thank goodness, you’re all right.” She nodded to him.
“Of course I am. What are you doing here?” He folded his arms across his chest.
“Colonel Penser gave me some leave after my last mission. I tried to Elfspeak to you, but you didn’t answer so I got worried.”
“I’ve been busy.”
“I need to tell you something. There’s a plot to free the prisoners from your dungeon. Mellen said–”
“I overheard him Elfspeak to someone, but I don’t know who it was.”
“I thought I told you not to do that anymore.”
“I know, but I can hear Mellen.” Alex shrugged. “I don’t know how it happens.”
“Go on.” He scowled.
“Well, he said he needed the prisoners freed as soon as possible, and he wanted you killed along with the guards.”
The Prince raised an eyebrow. “Very well. I’ll have the guards doubled immediately.” He glanced away to Elfspeak and turned back. “General Tarsin is on his way. Anything else?”
“I was wondering if you could arrange a meeting for me with my Elf grandmother. I don’t remember ever meeting her.”
“Lady Lestin? Of course, I’ll do that in the morning.” He showed her to the sofa and sat in a chair opposite her, looking away, seemingly lost in his own thoughts.
Alex sat, biting her lip. She slid her hands under her knees and wondered what to say to him without pissing him off.
A few moments later, General Tarsin came in, breaking the tension in the room. He saluted stiffly, pounding his right fist on his brown leather vest, as he dropped to one knee.
Prince Darin nodded. “Tarsin, double the guards on the prisoners immediately.”
Tarsin looked up curiously–his face wet, dripping with rain. He swiped his face with his hand and his blue eyes narrowed. “Yes, your Highness, but may I ask why?”
“I’ve received some information that Mellen is going to try to free the prisoners.”
Tarsin stood up. “From whom? I haven’t heard anything.”
“From Alex, my young mortal cousin.” He waved his hand at her. “Take all precautions necessary.”
“Yes, of course, your Highness. She’s your mortal cousin?” Tarsin’s steely gaze settled on her.
“Through Lady Lestin.”
“Oh, I see.” He frowned. “I’ll take care of it right away. Where is Lord Odin, by the way? The guards are expecting him.”
“Running late, but then again, an Elder is never late.” Prince Darin chuckled.
Tarsin pressed his thin lips together in a tight line. He pounded his chest again, bowed, and left the room.
Alex felt the hair at the nape of her neck rise–the way he pressed his lips together seemed familiar. Was he the one talking to Mellen? No, he couldn’t be, she concluded. He’s the Prince’s general.
Prince Darin nodded to her. “Satisfied? Now, join me for supper. Lord Odin will be here soon.”
“Thank you. Where is he?”
“He had a meeting with King Pallis of Southport.”
The table was set with a sumptuous feast of baked fish, roasted tubers, fresh tomatoes, and lettuce, along with a variety of apples and loaves of fresh bread. Alex’s mouth watered–she was starving. All she’d had to eat today was a soggy apple turnover.
Prince Darin sat at the end of the banquet table with Alex to his left. They sipped some wine and snacked on bread while they waited for Lord Odin, the leader of the Elves on Seaward Isle. Alex felt a palpable chill in the air, as well as the effects of wine on an empty stomach. She ate another piece of bread, slathered with butter.
Fortunately, Lord Odin came in and smiled at her, extending his arms to embrace her. “Alex, how wonderful to see you again. I hope I didn’t keep you waiting too long.” His blue eyes sparkled with delight as he took the chair next to her and began chatting about his conversation with the King.
However, Alex was more interested in eating than talking, but nodded frequently to show her interest in the discussion.
Just as they finished, Tarsin came in with several soldiers, carrying large bottles of wine. “Forgive my interruption, your Highness. I just wanted to let you know that I’ve doubled the guards.”
“Well done.” Prince Darin sipped his wine.
“In addition, I just found this wine at the market. It’s a new blend. I thought you might be interested.” Tarsin showed him the bottles.
“Indeed.” Lord Odin drank some wine and saw Alex yawn. “However, I think Alex needs to go to bed.”
“I’m all right.” Alex put her hand over her mouth to hide another yawn. “I’m not used to drinking wine.”
“Tarsin, have one of the servants take Alex up to the guest bedroom. You will stay the night, Alex,” Prince Darin said.
“Thank you, but that’s not necessary.” Alex yawned once more. “Maybe it is necessary. Thank you for supper. Good night.” She stood up and followed Eskin, the female servant, to the guest bedroom upstairs.
Alex stood in awe of the room with its plush furnishings–Eskin urged her inside. The floor was covered with a patterned wool rug, resembling a coral reef on the bottom of the ocean, and the bedding was made of sea blue silk with hand-embroidered fish, swimming in colorful schools. Alex had never seen such a beautiful quilt.
She sat on the blue velvet sofa where she found her clothes, dried and neatly folded and on the floor were her boots, dry and polished. She moved her clothes to a nearby table and lay down on the sofa, sinking into the comfortable cushions. She sighed and closed her eyes, relaxing after her hard ride and all that wine.
She was about to fall asleep, when she overheard Mellen’s voice in Elfspeak.
“Tarsin, is it done?” Her eyes popped open. Tarsin’s name came as a surprise, but it confirmed her suspicion–he was the accomplice. She closed her eyes again to listen as the two Elves shared their thoughts. This was the peculiar technique Prince Darin had told her not to do, but she had little control over it and remained as quiet as possible. A few seconds later, Tarsin replied.
“Not yet, Mellen. Darin’s mortal cousin showed up, a girl by the name of Alex. She told him that you were going to rescue the prisoners, so he had me double the guards.”
“How did she know?”
“I don’t know. He didn’t tell me. I have a new plan–poisoned wine. I got some snowflake from the witches.”
“I didn’t know he had a mortal cousin. What does she look like?”
“Tall, skinny, with black hair and blue eyes. Darin called her an ugly mongrel.”
“Hold on, I know her. Where is she?”
“I’ll take care of her. Finish off Darin and Odin, now.”
Alarmed, Alex sat up, glancing around the room. She heard Mellen’s voice shout at her in Elfspeak, and his cold blue eyes glared at her.
“I know you can hear me, bitch!” His eyes narrowed. “You’re going to die!” He laughed.
A tingling sensation began at her temples and quickly radiated across her scalp. Then pain stabbed at the center of her forehead–Alex grabbed her head and tried to block the pain, but it grew more intense until she screamed and curled up into a ball, rocking and crying at the same time.
“No-o-o!” Alex cried. “You won’t break me!” Alex spewed thoughts of anger at Mellen and felt her pain ease. As she braced herself for another round, she clutched her head with her hands and waited, but the pressure stopped altogether, and Mellen’s face was gone.
Her hands shook. She didn’t know it was possible to feel such terrible power through Elfspeak. Her head was pounding, and she felt sick to her stomach. She took several deep breaths and realized she had to find Prince Darin before he drank the wine, even if he did think she was an ugly mongrel.
As she reached for her boots, she froze, alert to a noise outside her bedroom door. Her eyes widened as she swept her long black hair from her face. She leaned against the door and listened. As she slowly turned the knob, she held her breath and opened it a crack to see Lord Odin at his bedroom door, staring at her. She slipped out with her boots in hand.
“I need to talk to you, Lord Odin…privately.” She gently pushed him inside his chamber and closed the door.
“Are you all right, Alex? I thought I heard you scream.”
“Mellen did something to me in Elfspeak–I felt this pressure in my head. I think I’m all right now.” She nodded.
“It’s called cranial thrust therapy. Let me look at you. It can be deadly.” He raised his glass to take a sip of wine first.
“Don’t drink that, Lord Odin.” Alex took his wineglass from his hand and set it on the table. “It’s been poisoned.”
“Don’t be ridiculous. Tarsin just poured it out of the bottle. It’s a new blend. I want to try it.” Lord Odin reached around her for the glass.
Alex blocked him. “A new blend? Right–blended with poison. He used snowflake. We have to find Prince Darin.”
“I just left him. He was fine. How do you know this? Are you sure you’re all right?”
Alex grabbed his wrist as he reached for the glass once more. “I heard Mellen talking to Tarsin in Elfspeak, and Tarsin said he poisoned the wine.”
“Elfspeak? You can hear our thoughts?” Lord Odin raised his eyebrows. “Oh yes, I recall this now.” Calmly, he picked a long green leaf from the flower arrangement and dipped it into the wine–it turned white. His jaw dropped. “My stars! We must get to Prince Darin, now.” He grabbed a leather valise and threw it at Alex. “Bring this.”
Her knees buckled under the weight of the valise, but she held onto it without dropping her boots. She followed him to the dining hall as she glanced around on the lookout for Tarsin.
Lord Odin waved his hand to open the heavy wooden door and found Prince Darin sprawled out on the floor, unconscious. His face was as white as a snowflake.
Alex ran in beside him, setting the valise down with a thud. She caught her breath and stared at her cousin as she slipped her boots on.
“Why is his face so white?” She grimaced.
“It’s a sign of the poison.” Lord Odin fumbled through the bottles in the valise. “Where’s my antidote for snowflake?” He checked again. “I don’t have it.”
“I used mint when I was poisoned with it once, but I didn’t turn white like this. At least, no one said I did.”
“Mint? Well, it won’t hurt.” Lord Odin rummaged through the valise and found a large bottle of dried mint leaves. “Get some hot water, Alex.” He examined the bottles once more. “Unicorn horn shavings. This will absorb the poison. Where’s the hot water?” He emptied the bottle of mint leaves into a bowl.
Alex returned with a kettle of hot water, pouring it over the mint leaves.
Lord Odin added the unicorn horn shavings, and the potion sizzled and steamed. He stirred it, put a small amount on a spoon, and blew on it.
“Open his mouth,” he said.
Alex used her fingers to move her cousin’s lips apart, and Lord Odin poured several drops of the cooled potion onto his teeth, then moved his cheeks around.
After several long seconds, the Prince tasted the mint on his lips. His breathing was shallow, but he was alive. His eyes fluttered open, and his hand moved.
Lord Odin and Alex sighed in unison.
At that moment, a male servant ran into the room. “My lord, the guards are dying.”
“Gather the servants. I’ll need help.” Lord Odin waved at him. With Alex’s assistance, he made more of the potion as the servants arrived.
Alex administered the potion to two guards at the other end of the hall. Then, she ran out the door, heading to the front gate with a bowl of potion. When she reached the courtyard, she was knocked over from behind. Her bowl shattered on the ground.
Tarsin grabbed her by the hair and turned her around, punching her in the face. She fell to the ground and saw Tarsin standing over her with clenched fists.
“Tarsin, the ship.” Another male Elf pulled on his arm. “Come on, they’re waiting.”
Disgusted, Tarsin spat at her and ran off.
Alex wiped the spittle off her face and shook her head to clear it. She stumbled to the gate where a whistle drew her attention to the port. A lone ship sailed away with a group of raucous Elves on board. She clearly heard Tarsin’s voice among them.
Lord Odin pulled her back. “Get back inside. We must secure the fortress.” With a wave of his hand, the fallen guards were levitated into the compound, and the gates closed.
Alex stared at the guards in amazement–she had never witnessed levitation before.
She ran to the first guard and turned him over; his face shone white in the moonlight. She administered a teaspoon of the potion from Lord Odin’s bowl and moved on to the next. His face was also white, and she gave him a spoonful. The two guards began to stir as some servants came to help.
“Alex, let’s check on Prince Darin.” Lord Odin grabbed her arm, and they headed inside.
The Prince hadn’t moved, but was awake. His once vibrant blue eyes stared vacantly at the ceiling. He blinked several times, trying to focus, and licked his lips. His breathing was regular but shallow, and his face was still very white.
Lord Odin hovered over him. “You’re going to be fine, Prince Darin. Alex, give him more of the potion and keep his head elevated, so he won’t choke on it.”
Alex sat on the floor and lifted Prince Darin’s head to her lap.
Lord Odin handed her a spoon and placed a bowl beside her. “Here, remember make the doses small and keep his head up.”
Alex monitored her cousin’s condition as Lord Odin and the servants brought twenty poisoned guards to the dining hall for treatment. All were doing better, but still very ill.
Prince Darin reached for her. “Alex, what happened?”
Alex squeezed his hand. “Tarsin poisoned the wine. I heard him Elfspeak to Mellen.”
“Tarsin? And Mellen? What did they say?”
“Mellen asked Tarsin if it was done, and he said no because you had put more guards on duty. Tarsin told him he poisoned the wine with snowflake to free the prisoners and sailed away on a ship. They’re all gone.”
“Tarsin, my own general? No doubt he’d kept Mellen informed all these years. So, that’s how he managed to escape me.” His eyes struggled to focus on her. “What else did they say?”
“That was all. Thank the stars, I saw Lord Odin before he drank the wine. Then, we found you.”
“How many guards?” He tried to sit up and look around.
“Just relax, Prince Darin. There are twenty guards here, and they’re responding to the potion just like you are.”
Prince Darin grabbed her collar, bringing her face close to his. He gritted his teeth and said, “Alex, kill Mellen and Tarsin for me. I know you can do it. Find them and kill them. They must be stopped. You are my cousin–we are bound to each other. Swear it to me!”
“M-Me?” Alex stammered.
“Where’s your blade?”
Alex pulled her assassin’s blade from her wrist cuff and flicked it open, handing it to him. He pricked his finger on the sharp edge and let the blood flow along the thin blade.
“What are you doing?” She gasped.
“This is how Elves assign a dangerous mission–a Blood Mission.” He watched his blood drip slowly onto the blade.
“A Blood Mission? You mean like I must complete it or die?”
“Yes, my blood authorizes you to complete this task, whatever it takes. If you need anything, just ask. I owe you my life. I will be in your debt forever.” Exhausted, he fell back against her lap and closed his eyes. The knife clattered on the floor.
“Prince Darin?” Alex shook him, but he didn’t wake up. “Damn it, wake up!” Just then, Mellen’s face flashed through her mind–his evil smile gave her the chills. Her head began throbbing once more, and her vision blurred.
“No–” Alex stopped mid-sentence, directing angry thoughts at Mellen. She envisioned blood dripping from his nose–then everything turned black, and she slumped to the floor beside her cousin.