Sixteen year old, Lady Kimess, is expected to one day inherit the role of Royal Seer. But when her mother dies under mysterious circumstances, Kimess steps up now. Untrained, and ill prepared, she doesn’t have a choice. Her remaining family’s safety, as well as her life, rest in the hands of the Queen of Lazrel. Kimess isn’t without allies—even royal ones. Both of the queen’s sons have shown support. If she’s not careful, a friendship with either prince could prove deadly.
The droids had no reaction. I had no authority over them. They belonged to the queen and responded to emergencies without prejudice or compassion. I had no one to turn to now either. They hustled me onto the relocator pad, and in a quick pulse of light, I was back at the queen’s castle. Only not in the school rooms in the rear turret of the lush grounds, now I was in the dungeon.
“I’m the heiress of the fifth family. You can’t hold me here. I need to see my mother!” I snapped at the droids.
“You are the ruler of the fifth family now, it would seem.” Cragna was the keeper of the dungeons. I’d heard terrifying tales about him. Short and scarred, he wasn’t physically intimidating, but rumors of his creative punishments fueled nightmares.
“I don’t belong here.” I lifted my chin. He was right. It hadn’t sunk in yet, but if my mother couldn’t be saved by the castle’s medical staff—I was in charge now.
“You need to be scanned. That’s all. Then you’ll be interviewed by the Queen’s Guard.” Cragna picked up a metal device and pointed it at me.
The warm orange light the device shot out looped around me from head to toe.
“No weapons or poisons.” Cragna nodded to the droid.
They thought I did something? How could they? “I was at school here until ten minutes ago.”
Cragna smiled. “The droids will retrace your steps. Yours and everyone who had access to the estate. Even the droids will be tested for reprogramming or defects.”
“It had to be an accident,” I insisted.
A member of the Queen’s Guard descended the filthy stairs. His gleaming white uniform with gold belt didn’t fit in in the dungeons. But the array of weapons unnerved me for the first time. I’d been around the Queen’s Guard all my life but never under suspicion.
“Don’t be alarmed, Lady Kimess. I’m sorry for your loss. This is standard protocol for an unnatural death. Your mother was far too young. I am Seelon, of the Queen’s Guard. I will interview you. Please, follow me.” He wasn’t overly young, almost fatherly when he spoke to me.
“Is she really gone?” I asked.
“The medical staff is with her. If there is anything they can do, they will. The monarch has been informed.” Seelon waved for me to come.
I followed him through winding halls. The lovely stone of the castle felt safe, but I’d never been to this area before. The dark and cold dungeon would haunt me. I passed through halls that looked familiar, but I could be anywhere. The hall was empty. Seelon opened a door, and I entered a stark white room every bit as eerie as the dungeon. They called it an interview, but the vibes were all about interrogation.
My gifts couldn’t be turned off, only controlled. The shock of the situation had short-circuited most of my brain, but slowly things came back. I had a family to protect. Seelon was nervous. He wondered how to best a mind reader.
There was no point in lying or fighting. “I didn’t do anything wrong. I have nothing to hide.”
“This is protocol.” He sat across from me at the sleek metal table. I took my seat, hard and cold—so unlike the normal castle accommodations.
I shrugged and did what I always did in a new situation. Sat like a lady, back straight, ankles crossed and hands in my lap—like my mother had taught me. My expression should be neutral with a slight smile so I didn’t look disapproving or sullen. Now, I couldn’t hide the frown. The pain, loss, and confusion too extreme to brush aside.
“Your cousin Julianne and her daughter have been located and are being brought here. The droids are being checked out. Your father is being sought. Anyone else have access to the manor house or your estate?” he asked.
“The managers of the mines and farms. The estate is large. Lots of droids must be managed. My mother has some friends, and there are many family members that live on the estate or in the village nearby. I don’t believe my mother restricted entry to anyone.” There had been so little trouble in my life until my parents’ marriage fell apart that I had to bite the inside of my cheek to be sure it wasn’t a horrible nightmare.
The pain was real. My stomach churned, and my head pounded with stress. This was all too real.
“We’ll check the house system as well. Is there anyone besides your father who might have a reason to hurt your mother?” He took out a tablet and made notes.