Tuesday, October 22, 2019

THE WITCH-QUEEN, Legends of Winatuke, book1 by Sarah J. McNeal #TheWitchQueen

The Witch-Queen, Legends of Winatuke, book1

(formerly, The Dark Isle)

By Sarah J. McNeal
Published by Fire Star Press
Pre-Order Link: 


The legend begins when love and evil collide.

Curiosity draws Isadore, the witch-queen’s daughter, deep into the Dark Isle’s dungeon to take a peek at the captive Nimway prince with the magical voice. In spite of enduring starvation and torture, Gabriel is kind to her even when Mahara forces him to marry Isadore to gain control over the Nimway Kingdom of Valmora.
But Isadore learns Mahara’s plans for Gabriel are darker still and his life is in grave danger. Her attempt to help him escape fails and she finds it is up to her to seek help from his brother, Prince Raphael, her mother’s greatest enemy.
Raphael crosses the dimension between Winatuke and the Strange Land to enlist the help of his family’s long time Earthly friends, Raven and Hawk McKnight. But as they travel back through time and dimension two bystanders, Raphael’s beloved Rose McKnight and her younger brother Peregrine, are accidently swept into the magic of the transport. One of the two will die as the warriors attempt to rescue Gabriel before it’s too late.

A little burst of happiness spread through her as she contemplated her mission. Of course, Mother would be displeased to find me disobeying her by searching for the Nimway prince she holds prisoner. That he was her mother's enemy only served to make the adventure more enticing. Her eagerness to see what he looked like aroused her imagination. Lucerne, Isadore’s aging nanny, told her the captive prince had golden hair, beautiful yellow wings and a heart of pure light. Lucerne had told her something important about his voice, but she couldn't quite remember just what she had said.
Isadore reached the bottom of the stair and made her way with tentative care down the narrow passage to the prisoner's cell. She had never ventured this far before. The dungeon was an awful place. It smelled of damp stone, urine, and fear.
In the shadows of the cell, she made out the Nimway's form as he stood facing the wall beyond the iron bars with his back to her. He stood tall with a broad back that tapered to a narrow waist and hips. From his back sprang two large, yellow wings etched in black. They reminded her of the stained glass windows now falling from their frames in the abandoned chapel of the north wing. The glow from a burning torch shone through his hair and, in spite of its unkempt length and its need of washing, it gleamed like a golden halo in the flickering torchlight. There he stood, magnificent and beautiful, the Heir Apparent to the throne of Valmora, Prince Gabriel of Fionn.
He must have sensed her presence because he started to turn toward her. Her heart pounded against her ribs. She could not catch her breath. Inside her mind her thoughts ran in excited disarray. But a smart rap on her shoulder gained her immediate attention. A gasp escaped her when she turned to find her mother standing close behind her. Mahara had found her out. "What do you think you are doing, Isadore?" Her black eyes darkened and narrowed with suspicion. Without waiting for an answer she grabbed Isadore’s hand in a painful grasp and jerked her around. "Come with me NOW," Mahara commanded.
Raphael struggled to fly against the northwest wind. A downdraft in this kind of weather could slam Raphael to the ground without warning. Another difficulty facing him was snow that fell so thick and fast it blinded his vision and the mélange of white sky with white, snow–covered ground disoriented him. The persistent headwind sapped Raphael’s energy. I only have a little further to go. As he recalled Isadore's determination to make the journey to Valmora for Gabriel’s sake, he became inspired. Without knowing how she would be received she made the journey tenaciously focused on her one objective...to save Gabriel's life. Raphael found himself amazed by the magnitude of Isadore's love for his brother. I only wish my own life could be that blessed.
As twilight arrived, Raphael settled to earth at the far side of the Lake of Sorrows. Across the frozen expanse, loomed the Dark Isle. The isle rose up from the murky depths of the lake into a black, ragged mountain that stood in stark contrast to the white, iced–over lake. Cradled in the jagged granite claw, sat the decaying remains of Mahara's castle, its inhabitants of the Black Blood Clan, and the imprisoned humans and Nimway. The black stone had weathered over the years and parts of it had crumbled away. The north tower was all but gone, its base stuck up from the bare ground like jagged teeth. A portion of the wall had collapsed from neglect and age. Great chunks of cut stones lay scattered around what was once a courtyard.
Raphael made out a faint light here and there from a narrow window and an occasional light moving about, which he assumed were guards with lanterns going about their rounds. At the mouth of the castle an iron gate with sharpened bars warded off the most intrepid trespassers from entering its gaping orifice. Raphael was not sure if he shivered from the cold or from the presence of such unbridled evil. He drew his cloak around him and blended into the oak tree behind him. He couldn't light a fire for fear of discovery, so he warmed himself with thoughts of Rose. He imagined her working in her garden with the sun lighting the gold in her copper hair. He envisioned her smiling up at him from his arms and remembered the warmth of her lips on his.
His yearning for her tormented him like a deep wound that would not heal. What a trick fate had played on him. His one true love preferred a man like Bill Harris simply because he was human.  


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