QSFer A.M. Rycroft has a new FF fantasy book out:
In the decades since the Nine Years War, the kingdom of Riverend has enjoyed peace, even if an uneasy one. Until now.
Apprentice knight Shaun Grayson never wanted to be anything but a knight. When the shadow of war falls across her kingdom once more, she faces the hardest challenge of her training: protecting Sara, the king’s daughter. In the chaos of the initial siege against the capital, they flee into the night, pursued by terrifying creatures sent to hunt them down.
The tensions between Shaun and Sara don’t make Shaun’s job any easier. But if she cannot find a way to rise above the challenges before her, their chances of survival are slim to none.
A gritty coming of age tale, where dark magics may turn the tide of war and even darker alliances may alter the fates of a young knight, a princess, and the kingdom itself.
A.M. is giving away an eBook copy of The Taming. It’s part of her Cathell series, but it’s a standalone.
“We should get this mail shirt off you,” Sara said softly as Shaun removed her other boot. “It cannot be very comfortable.”
Shaun nodded and slowly pulled it over her head, wincing from the bruises on her chest. Sara helped her slip it over the bandages on her arm, soaked red in parts from where her blood had seeped through.
Sara left her to soak more strips of cloth in the pooled rainwater. Shaun let out a long breath and ran her fingers through her hair, trying to make herself look less disagreeable. Between the dirt from wrestling the creatures in the woods and the dried blood, she must look awful. She apologized when Sara settled next to her again.
“I must look terrifying right now.”
Sara looked at her, the ghost of a smile playing at the corners of her mouth. She ran her fingertips across Shaun’s forehead and down the side of her face, smoothing strands of hair back from Shaun’s eyes. The softness in Sara’s gaze and her touch both eased her discomfort and made her heart quicken strangely.
The smile came out more as Sara murmured, “You look like a knight.”
She fell silent as she wiped the dirt and blood from Shaun’s face and cleaned the scratches left by the creatures’ nails. She finally muttered, “I wish I had my mending kit. The wound on your arm could use stitching. The cut above your eye, too.”
Shaun rested her head against the cave wall and stared at Sara, marveling at the change in her, the strength. She had never suspected Sara could be as brave as she had proven to be.
Maybe Sara had been right. Maybe she did not see Sara at all.
“You’ve changed,” she said when Sara finished tending to the last of her wounds.
Shaun nodded. “You’re stronger than you once were. When we were little, you always needed me to protect you from something. Muddy frogs at the pond, lightning storms—”
“Bullies like Darcy?” Sara looked down at her hands.
Shaun reached out and brushed Sara’s hand with her fingers, speaking softly. “I had nothing to do with what happened at the park. Please believe that. But I am sorry for it happening, and I am sorry for the stupid things I said to you in the lecture hall. I was just angry and hurt.”
“I know. I was angry, too.” Sara’s eyes met hers again. “So angry I couldn’t think. I thought you wanted to get back at me for what happened between us last night.”
“I would never try to hurt you that way.”
“If I could go back . . .”
Shaun nodded. Sara did not have to finish. “I know.”
A frown suddenly crossed Sara’s face. “I hope Darcy made it to safety. I do not wish her any harm by Mordwell.”
She shuddered and settled against the wall next to Shaun, pulling Shaun’s arm around her shoulders. Sara laid her head against her.
“Why do you think Mordwell broke the treaty now, after so long? What happened to the House of Mackritae?”
Shaun shook her head. “I do not know.”
The accord between Mordwell and Riverend had never been perfect. Mordwell had tested its bounds often, but for the most part, it held and kept the peace between the ten kingdoms intact. But something had changed. Fear wrapped itself around Shaun’s gut as she wondered what that meant for Riverend and the rest of Decathea.
“Tell me everything will be alright, Shaun. I know nothing will be the same, but tell me we’ll be alright and we’ll defeat Mordwell again. Even if you do not believe it.”
“I do believe we’ll defeat Mordwell.”
Though Shaun tried, she could not shake the feeling that the worst was still to come. But for Sara, for this one night, she lied.
“We’ll be alright.”
A.M. Rycroft is the award-winning author of two dark fantasy series and several horror short stories. She was born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA, and so she naturally bleeds black and gold whenever she gets a paper cut. Hobbies include watching the Penguins and the Steelers (or the Bruins and the Packers, if the first two aren’t available), ignoring her email inbox (especially those from her editor about revisions to approve), and collecting superhero bobbleheads.