Wednesday, September 13, 2017


When Tika reads a letter from her recently deceased mother, the confession within changes Tika’s life forever. From that moment on, Tika is thrust into a world of danger and deception.

She’s forced to leave the life and family she thought was hers behind and head to the Elven city of Xanti—where she hopes to discover the answers to her past and be safe from Mortan, the rogue sorcerer, who’s hunting her.

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But Mortan has his spies, hidden traitors, and his evil Sha’andari. For there was a reason the Elves placed Tika with King Maric and Queen Isleen all those years ago—a reason Tika never felt like she belonged—and a reason Fathara needs her.


 Tika tried again to move her arms, but they remained stuck to her sides, bound in place. No amount of wiggling over the last few hours had loosened them. Her head pounded from the constant jarring up and down, up and down her body experienced as they raced through the forest.
Bound as she was against her giant captor, she felt his heartbeat racing against her cheek.
Thump-thump. Thump-thump.
Tika felt his fear like water break over her in waves; heard the baying of the creatures that followed them drawing nearer.
He stumbled, and the thumping stopped as they fell towards the ground. She held her breath — waiting to be crushed by his weight. A rolling motion at the last moment saved her from death, and their movement briefly stopped. He quickly hopped back up and the jolting began anew.
The clicking and clattering behind them that was once distant now sounded as though Tika could reach out and touch it. Her fingers clenched reflexively. Even without knowing what was behind them she sensed the danger, and didn’t want to see or touch whatever that sound belonged to.
The beats against Tika’s ear pulsed so rapidly she could hardly tell one beat from the next: thump thump, thump thump, thump thump.
Something black streaked past, and they jerked to one side.
Thump thump.
Tika’s captor shouted in alarm, his body jerking upwards. Black shapes jumped towards them with teeth and jaws snapping and snarling.
She wanted to cry out, but no sound came. Her mouth opened and closed uselessly, eyes wide with fear.
Quickly they climbed up into a mass of bright, glittering green. The cloud of fear from her captor was replaced with relief as long sharp objects came raining down from above onto the creatures below. But her body snapped back, and she and her captor fell and fell . . . ending with a slam on the ground.
The thumping against her ear slowed.
Thump . . .
Thump . . .
Tika felt her bonds loosened. Two long-fingered hands picked her up and turned her around. She blinked, staring into a pair of large green eyes.
Princess Tikorrah Navarro awoke from the dream, her heart racing. She’d had this particular nightmare many times over the years, the images and sounds getting more vivid each time. Seeing the large green eyes at the end was new, though. Her mother had tried to comfort her, saying everyone has dreams of being chased — that it wasn’t unusual. This dream, however, always felt so real — as though it was a memory. The clicking of claws echoed in her head, and she shivered.
The chill morning air slid down the princess’ neck and arms that had become uncovered during the unpleasant dream. She tugged on the blanket to cover her body back up in a cocoon of warmth. Yet the expectant warmth never came, and as she jerked on the blanket it resisted. She pulled and yanked, still without success.
Something was wrong.
Waking up fully to discover the problem, her long slender arm reached out and hit fur. A soft growl issued out of a mouth of razor-sharp teeth only inches from Tika’s vulnerable throat.
She froze — and then softened.
“Quiet, Herra!” Tika chastened the large sand tiger softly. “You know you aren’t supposed to sleep in my room.”
She scratched her dearest friend behind the ear, garnering a satisfied purr. “If father finds out I snuck you in here last night, of all nights, he’ll marry me off for sure whether I wish it or not.” 
Herra blinked her large golden eyes at the princess in seeming sympathy, her feline chin resting on the bed’s soft feather comforter.
“I might be turning sixteen today, but that doesn’t mean my father listens to me.” Tika placed a hand on either side of Herra’s face, and looked deeply into the tiger’s eyes. “You always listen to me though, my friend, even if you ignore my instructions.”
Herra looked at her sideways, and the princess gave her a little grin. Just as Herra wasn’t a model sand tiger, neither was Tika a model princess. They made quite a pair. Neither of them was entirely obedient and fit the mold of what they should be.
Sand tigers in captivity were all collared. The magical collars kept the tigers under control and tame. Herra was the only known exception to this. Tika had rescued her as the runt of a litter. She had been too small for any collar when young and as she grew, Tika had continually convinced her mother to delay putting a collar on the tiger by proving Herra was tame enough without one.
There had been a few “incidents” that had had to be smoothed over, and yet Tika still managed to convince her mother that Herra wasn’t being wild, just playful. Still, the princess took every opportunity she could to get Herra out of the city and let her hunt. She knew her friend’s wild nature demanded those instincts be met.
The balcony doors rattled, and Tika jumped out of bed in a mad rush across the cold stone floor. Herra rolled her eyes and Tika caught the motion.
“I know, I know. But if I don’t open them and let her in, she’ll just cause a commotion throughout the castle. I can’t have you caught in here today. Or worse yet, she’ll find something to steal and I’ll get blamed again as the thief. Thanks to her, my reputation has been tarnished forever.”
The doors rattled again and Tika called, “I’m coming! I’m coming!”
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She unbolted the doors, and a breeze blew in, racing around the room and almost knocking over the pitcher of cold water on Tika’s dresser. It raced up Herra’s back, causing the hair to rise and the tiger to snap her teeth at the swirling air. Herra growled a low, angry growl and Tika shushed her friend, her hands pleading with the tiger to be silent.
The wind then turned on Tika, swirling her nightgown around her legs, and in a sudden burst shot up to her head and twirled around it thoroughly, tangling Tika’s already sleep-tousled hair. The princess batted at the wind with her hands, as though being attacked by stinging giva flies. The results were the same though. She couldn’t drive her attacker away.
“Shiforeh, enough already!” Tika whisper shouted. “I’ll cut off your wings and preserve you for King Baldor’s collection if you don’t stop,” she threatened.
With a disgruntled sniff the wind abated, and the tiny faery flitted with injured pride over to the dressing table to preen in front of the mirror.
Tika sucked in a breath to begin an apology to Shiforeh, and then stopped herself after seeing her reflection in the mirror. The long dark brown matted mess above her face appeared beyond reclaiming — again. Tika’s slightly pointy ears peeked out, and she adjusted her hair to cover them. Her ears had begun changing around her fifteenth birthday from being rounded to looking pointier like an Elf. Queen Isleen explained that Tika had inherited her ears from an ancestor and it was nothing to be ashamed of. Still, they made Tika feel more than self-conscious, and she did whatever she could to hide them.
Even without Shiforeh’s antics, Tika had a hard time keeping her hair in place. Her wild curls seemed to have a life of their own and escaped the pins, ribbons, and oils that Rabella, her former nursemaid, applied. Of course Shiforeh thought it amusing to help the process along.
The problem was, only Tika could see Shiforeh (Herra could too of course), but it wasn’t as if Herra could verify the faery’s presence. And everyone knew Elves could see wind faeries, yet for some reason Shiforeh never showed herself when the two Elven ambassadors were around.  So as far as her father, the court and the castle servants were concerned, Tika was simply a slovenly and unkempt princess.
She feared she was the only princess in all the Civilized Kingdoms of Fathara to disappoint her father repeatedly. Tika’s attempts as a child to explain that a faery messed her hair and clothes were met with derision and scorn. Her father told her to stop with the childish lies. Her mother had been more tolerant of her “stories,” but now — well, Queen Isleen was no longer around to be the buffer.
Tika couldn’t really blame her hair for her bad mood this morning. She was trying to recover from yet another argument with her father over her continued single status. She huffed angrily. The truth was, she couldn’t even tell him the truth. Yet.
She was secretly in love, and had been for some time. Not that her father would disapprove of the match. He had nothing against Elves. On the other hand, would the people of Rhodea accept the match? Tika didn’t think so, for despite a greater acceptance for magic in their kingdom over the last few years, she didn’t believe they were quite ready for that yet. And that was why he wouldn’t approve.
King Maric was pushing for other matches for her. She just could not, would not go along with her father’s plans for her, and not just because her mother had only just passed away. Queen Isleen’s body had been entombed a few days ago, and the sad event had brought many relatives and friends to the city for her funeral, including Isleen’s older sister, the Duchess Collina.
Tika suspected her aunt had had a hand in pushing King Maric to discuss marriage plans again. Collina had never liked Tika. Even as a little child, Tika felt Collina’s dislike in every suspicious glance and in her constant criticism that she couched in “advice”. Saying things such as: “You have an obligation to your station to maintain a certain image, Tikorrah. One should never be seen with a hair out of place, or a wrinkle on one’s gown. Now return to your rooms and see to your appearance.” Or staring down her thin nose and saying to Tika: “A princess is a model of civility and decorum and does not run through the castle like a wild hakku. Go and fetch your needlework young lady. Needlework is a much more seemly occupation for your idle hands and will keep your feet still at the same time.”
Collina always had a critical word. Frankly, Tika’s father often said many of the same things, and yet it was how her aunt said it and looked at her that made all the difference.
The duchess was always comparing Tika to her own children, Dayla and Gavin. Of course Tika’s cousins were perfect, at least according to the duchess. Tika could have given her aunt a parchment and a half on each of Dayla and Gavin’s flaws (if the duchess had but asked). Instead, her aunt focused her attention on two things when she visited the castle: One, convince the king to convert to the Tyomnian religion and two, get rid of Tika by marrying her off. The princess hoped she could continue to avoid both of her aunt’s plans for the future. Tika shuddered at all of her aunt’s suggested suitors. The woman must really hate her.
Of all of King Maric’s suggestions, Prince Dhaved of Soren was the least objectionable to marry, and a match with him made the most sense politically in order to bring about peace between their two kingdoms. Dhaved, at least, was her friend and by marrying him she knew that she would have a kind husband.
Dhaved was only her friend, however. Nothing more.
Ambassador Baalhar, on the other hand — she felt so much more for him. But to try and talk to her father about her feelings for the Elven ambassador — she and her father never talked – they argued. Her father would never hear her on the subject, for he never heard her on anything. And Tika just couldn’t marry another when her heart belonged to Baalhar. She didn’t even know if the young Elven ambassador returned her feelings, because Elves always kept their feelings close to their hearts. But she hoped.
The princess had decided to keep herself free of ties to others in order to spend more time with him. If others had decided it was time for her to consider marriage, then it was time for Baalhar to really see her and get to know her.
 Tika wasn’t one to normally linger in bed: she tended to jump out of bed each morning and race through each day. Sitting through lengthy meals, listening to boring lessons or enduring countless councils required great effort and restraint. Something inside of her drove her to be on the move. When she moved she didn’t walk; she ran.
On the morning of Tika’s 16th birthday, however, she didn’t leap out of bed but lingered longer, staring at the letter from her mother on the shelf across the room. Isleen had given the letter to Tika right before she died and told her to open it on Tika’s 16th birthday. Fresh tears rose to her eyes as she remembered holding her mother’s brittle hand.  Tika had failed to save her mother from Death.
Had it really only been just days ago?
Tika vowed that somehow she would make Death pay.
The princess forced her eyes off the letter long enough to finish getting dressed for the day, choosing a red satin dress with a high waist and wide sleeves. It was fancier than she usually wore, her mother having ordered it made a week before she passed away. The elaborate silver scrollwork on the arms and hem with large and small swirls intertwined tugged at something within her. No slave to fashion, however, the princess put on her favorite pair of brown boots. The dress was long enough to cover up the scuffed and comfortable footwear.
Tika didn’t even bother checking her appearance in the mirror.  She knew how she looked. She was too slim, too tall, too pale and her hair too dark (after all, most everyone in Rhodea had red hair). She didn’t look anything like the rest of her family – except maybe for the dusting of freckles across her nose and upper cheeks.
But really?  She was too — different.
Next she set to painfully working out all of the tangles in her hair as best she could.  She averted disaster when a knock sounded at the door. Racing across the room before the servant could enter with her breakfast tray, she opened the door only wide enough to grab the tray and say, “That will be all this morning, Winna,” and slammed the door in the servant’s face.
Tika wagged a finger at Herra and said, “We need to get you out of here quickly before father throws us both into the pot and boils our skin off. He was in a foul mood by the end of the night last night, and I can’t imagine it has improved any by this morning.”
Shiforeh giggled.
“It’s not funny, Shiforeh. He was so angry last night that I believe if he could see you he might pluck your wings off and pick his teeth with them,” the princess chided the faery. She knew her threat was hollow, though. Her father would do no such thing.
“Oh my father is a good king. I’ll give him that. But he’s as stubborn as a goat on the road to Dynna.”
Herra cleared her throat.
“I know, I know, I’m wasting time.”
Tika crossed the stone floor, the click of her boots echoing in the room and with shaking hands took the letter off the shelf. She sat down on the bed and stared at the letter, cradling it in her hands. It seemed like the room filled with the sound of her heart beating. Part of her wanted to hurry and tear open the envelope, while the other wanted to keep it preserved forever. If she never opened it, it would be like her mother was still alive, waiting for her to read her words. (Such a silly notion to be sure.) Tika had watched her die, knew her mother was really gone — so why wait any longer?
The princess opened it up and took out not only a letter written in her mother’s slanted flowing handwriting, but also a beautiful square-cut ruby ring surrounded by tiny white diamonds on a silver band. The envelope also included a simple woven bracelet with a silver charm attached to it.
Upon closer inspection of the charm, she saw the symbol of a Wind Elemental on it — three wavy lines joined at one end and extending out to the right in waves. The two pieces of jewelry seemed in sharp contrast to one another. The ring was very precious and fine cut while the bracelet was simple and appeared handmade.

Dearest Tika,
Your 16th birthday has dawned and you are now officially a grown woman. It is my hope that as such you will have developed the maturity and wisdom to understand what it is I write to you today. Know first of all that I love you, and wherever I am, I continue to love you. You became precious to me the moment you were placed in my arms as a baby. I became your mother and you became my daughter. Nothing will ever change that.
That being said, you were not born of me . . .

The world as Tika understood it shattered like Sarrforian crystal in a thousand tiny pieces with those four words . . .
“not born of me”.
She felt dizzy and nauseated, all her excitement over her mother’s letter transformed instantly into bile. The woman she knew and loved all those years had lied to her.
Why? Was this a trick?
But no — she picked the letter back up and examined it again, verifying that it was indeed her mother’s handwriting.

. . . were not born of me, but sent here by the Elves in order to keep you safe. Your life was in danger and you needed a place to grow up in safety where your identity could be kept secret. Even Maric did not know the truth of who you were until today. He will receive a letter today, much like the one you are reading now telling him the truth. I hope he will forgive me the necessary deception to keep you safe and that you will one day forgive me also. I did it because I love you.
I taught you what I could, yet there is still so much you must learn if you are to fulfill your destiny. You are a special young lady and I have always been proud of you. You must use your abilities only for good and trust your heart to lead you.
All I was told about your birthparents is your father was an Elf and your mother Human. They sacrificed their lives so you could live. I leave you with a bracelet that was tucked inside your blanket when you first arrived. I understand it may have belonged to your birthmother. The ring was mine, a gift from Maric. I pass these items to you now so you may always remember your mothers loved you.
With all my heart,

Tika held the ring in one hand and the bracelet in the other. She felt bereft and confused. Her mother had lied to her.
Her whole life had been a lie. How could her mother have kept this secret from her for so long?
The parents Tika had known and loved all of her life weren’t her parents, and now she had discovered her birthparents were dead.
She would never have the chance to get to know them.
Tika shook the letter. “The king and queen aren’t my parents. Can you believe this?”
Shiforeh trilled in the affirmative as she flew around the room.
“What do you mean you can believe it?” Tika asked the faery.
The little faery smacked her tiny hands over her mouth, and flew out through the open balcony doors.
Tika jumped up and ran out onto the balcony shouting, “Get back here Shiforeh! Tell me what you know!” But the faery flew off into the sky, this time with no sounds of laughter trailing behind her.
Shiforeh had kept the truth from her too? How many in the castle had been keeping secrets from her?
A knock sounded at Tika’s door and she jumped.
“Come!” she found herself saying automatically, but regretted the word as soon as it left her mouth. She needed time to think. Tika hurried back into her room and dropped her mother’s letter on her bed. She moved out into the sitting room to see who called on her.
A tousled blonde head peeked into the room. It was one of the castle pages. He stood with his body half in and half out of the room with his chest heaving as he gulped in air. (The pages rarely had time to rest, as Mistress Margraid believed in keeping their hands and feet perpetually busy.)
“Yes, what is it?” Tika asked.
“Princess Tikorrah, King Maric wishes your presence in his study.”
She stared blankly, hardly registering the page’s breathless words.
“Princess?” he ventured tentatively. “Should I tell the king to expect you shortly?”
She forced herself to focus and answer the young man, despite the scattered thoughts whirling in her head.
“Thank you. I’ll be there directly.”
“Yes’m,” he squeaked out, his eyes widening as the giant sand tiger walked casually out of Tika’s bedroom, baring her teeth in a giant yawn. He barely managed this response before pivoting on the ball of his foot and taking off at a run (whether in fear of the uncollared tiger, or to carry her response to the king, Tika wasn’t sure).
After reading the contents of her mother’s letter, Tika was no longer concerned about returning Herra to the stables. Her stomach knotted over what was written. Her mother, the queen, (she felt confused now over how to refer to the woman who had raised her) had written that her father, that is King Maric, (her brain was spinning now) would also be receiving a letter telling him the truth about Tika’s heritage. Now Tika had received a summons to meet him.
No one made the king wait, not even her. Still, it was hard to force her body into motion. She felt frozen, her mind numb. What would he say? She looked around at her room, her things. On the table lay a book of Elven poetry Ambassador Baalhar had gifted her. On the shelf over the fireplace sat a crystal figurine of a sand tiger her mother had bought in the market two summers ago. A pair of discarded silk slippers lay on the floor close to Herra’s paws. Tika hated those slippers. And yet they had been her mother’s favorite color, so she had worn them on the day of Isleen’s Leave-taking Ceremony.
Would this even be Tika’s room after meeting with the king? They always seemed to fight. Would he take now this opportunity to throw her out? If so, where would she go?
The page had called her princess, yet truthfully, she wasn’t a princess — at least not according to the letter. Tika didn’t even know who she was anymore, for she certainly wasn’t the natural-born daughter of the king and queen, and didn’t deserve the title of princess any longer. Perhaps that was why she had never truly felt like one. Maybe deep inside she had known it all along.
Tika took a moment to slide her birthmother’s bracelet onto her right hand, and placed Isleen’s ring in her pocket. She dried her suddenly sweaty palms on the sides of her dress, and headed out of her chambers towards her meeting with the king.
Herra automatically padded next to her down the corridor, taking up most of the hallway. Tika barely registered the large cat’s presence until a servant cried out in alarm and dropped her serving tray with a clatter. It was one more thing for Tika to get in trouble for, and yet she barely noticed the noise. The woman flattened herself against the wall as the princess and tiger passed by.
Herra made most of the servants nervous because she didn’t wear a collar. King Maric tolerated Herra in the stable and training yard, but the tiger’s presence inside the castle was a definite breaking of the rules. As they continued through the halls and more servants dropped their trays or guests shouted in alarm, ducking into the closest rooms, Tika began to wince in dismay.  She felt sure she would pay for this latest infraction.
In the main corridor Herra walked past Tika’s cousins, Dayla and Gavin. Dayla looked the picture of perfection in a pink gown, each curl perfectly in place. Dayla screamed and cowered against the wall, holding her brother Gavin in front of her as a living shield. Even her scream was perfect — not a strangled harsh scream, but a delicate scream that drew the attention of those around her. Men gravitated to Dayla. Tika never understood why they didn’t see Dayla’s mean, conniving streak — only her beautiful surface.
Although Tika saw the fear in Gavin’s eyes, she also saw something else on his face, as though he knew something more, a hidden secret perhaps. But then his mouth always held a smirk anytime she got into trouble — which happened often. Certainly strolling down the castle corridor with Herra was going to land her in a pile of trouble; however, it was too late to take the giant cat to the stables now.
The whole castle would know in minutes she had snuck the uncollared tiger in again. Why bother to pretend now? She wasn’t a princess anymore, so why not face the king head on with her friend at her side? Still, it suddenly seemed like a very long walk to get to his study.
Hawley, the bald middle-aged captain of the guard took in the sand tiger and raised his eyebrows at Tika as she approached the door of the king’s study. He wore the light and dark browns of the Rhodean guard and had been serving King Maric for as long as Tika could remember.
He shook his head with a rueful grin, and Tika tried to return his smile; however, her lips refused to cooperate. Instead, they quivered slightly.
He chuckled and said, “Most young ladies are more excited on their 16th birthday. You look like you’re about to be trampled by a herd of rabid hakku! Cheer up, girl! I hear Cook is whipping up something special for you today, but you didn’t hear it from me,” he said with a conspiratorial wink.
Captain Hawley knocked on the door and King Maric, himself, opened it. Tika noted that her father didn’t look her in the eye as he gestured for her to come in, then sighed with frustration when he saw Herra. The big cat ignored the king, padding past His Majesty and heading straight for the corner where she settled down, resting her chin on her front paws, but not before snapping her jaws in a huge yawn and closing her eyes for a nap.
Tika shook her head at her fickle friend. She’d envisioned the tiger sitting tall next to her, staring her father down with her golden eyes, and making the king shift uncomfortably in his chair. (Perhaps even inserting a timely growl here and there.) Her fearsome friend was reminding her more of the Lady Bonner’s cat right now; the creature ate and slept — but mostly slept.
Tika heard her father say, “I am not to be disturbed by anyone, Hawley. Understood?”
“Yes, Your Highness,” replied the captain. The smile Hawley gave Tika was replaced with a scowl as he turned to face the hall, and anyone who dared disturb the king. The soldier folded his massive forearms across his broad chest. Although in his middle years, the Captain of the Guard couldn’t be bested by any of the other soldiers in the king’s guard.  He always seemed to have a few tricks up his sleeve. While tough on his men, he always had a ready smile for the princess, and treated her like his own daughter.
King Maric turned around and said, “Tikorrah, we need to talk.”

The door clicked ominously behind him. Tika wished she had stayed in bed. Last night’s nightmare suddenly seemed much more welcoming at the moment than having to face her “father.”


Robin grew up in Eastern Canada in a small town across the bay from a leaky nuclear power plant, giving her the not so secret power of deactivating electronic devices.  She moved to Utah in 1994 to attend BYU and fell hopelessly in love with Brett Glassey (despite his refusal to fall in love with BYU). 

Robin graduated with a degree in Psychology and she now spends her time analyzing her four teenage boys and writing clean YA fantasy. She’s addicted to science fiction and fantasy, french fries, and Doctor Who. When all of her addictions collide at the same time, she’s in heaven.

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