The Crown's Price
Sequel to Philomena
Two years ago, Tancred, King of Deusetats, made a deal with the Empress of Jovan. Now, the Empress has called in that deal. She wants to annexe the Kingdom of Merot, and she demands Tancred's assistance. But Tancred has enemies of his own, and he is no longer so certain of the choices he made two years earlier. If he honours his debt, he might lose his throne; if he reneges, Prince Rainhart's life will be forfeit. To save Rainhart's life, he sends Philomena to the Imperial Court of the Jovani Empire with a simple task: to outwit one of the most dangerous men in the world--a man who also happens to be her foster father.
Tancred's reign began in blood, with the brutal beheading of the regicide Waldon Bartosz. Now, as three armies face off against each other, Tancred and his allies must race against time to prevent it from ending the same way.
* * *
Holle held out the darkwood cane. Philomena took it, putting her hand over Holle's.
So close to the Darkwood, reaching the still place was as simple as pushing aside a curtain and stepping into an alcove. She saw Holle's mind before her, vivid and sparking with energy, and drew it closer. The darkwood acted as a conduit, linking her to Holle. She and Holle had perfected this trick when Holle had stayed at Traumwald after the war. It gave her the gift of reading Holle's mind.
She set aside Holle's surface thoughts—about her sore muscles, and the bumps and mysteries of the new life inside her—and found the memory Holle wanted her to see.
She looked out through Holle's eyes into the Palace at Breg, into a room she had never stepped into while she lived there: the King's privy chamber. Tancred stood before her, all brocade and gold and shadowed eyes.
Philomena, he said, The Empress plans to move on Merot in the summer and has demanded my complicity. He ran his hand through his hair. The situation with the barons is such that—and besides I am no longer sure that my uncle was right. Which is to say, I think the Clan Kingdoms must stand together against Jovan, but—
Holle's interruption: Tancred, my dear man, get to the point. My memory is finite.
Tancred nodded. The long and short of it is this. The Empress expects to see Deusetatsan troops alongside her legionaries when she invades Merot. When they do not appear, Rainhart's life will be forfeit. He paused. Unless you go to Monsilys and get him out.
* * *
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Philomena is a child of the empire, traded to faraway Deusetats to seal an alliance and marry a prince: the handsome but arrogant Prince Rainhart. However, politics is never simple. On the eve of Philomena's wedding, the king is brutally assassinat...