Friday, October 09, 2015

The Red-Haired Witch

By JoEllen Conger
The Queen of Candelore Series, Book 4
Historical Fantasy, 383 Pages
Cover art by Richard Stroud
Nine year-old runaway bride, Princess Salina Maria, counts on her giant bodyguard, Yeoman Sherman of the Iberian Queen’s Guard, her appointed Royal Companion to help her escape the eminent nuptials in a stampeding wedding carriage. However, the wicked bridegroom, Prince Ivor Irinushka of The Far Northland, a malicious warlock, uses his Black Magic to locate her.
Lena planned to make preview of the nearby woods. She had asked the queen’s permission to take the air today on horseback, which had been approved. Her squire rode a half pace behind her, carrying on a conversation that wouldn’t have been possible should he have ridden at his respectful full-pace behind.
“Boyd,” she asked, “be there any ruins nearby we could go explore?”
“Just as a lark, ye mean?”
“Aye.” She tossed her hair. “Ye know, some place where I could just go and have fun looking about and making guesses at whatever happened there so long time ago.”
“I think I know what ye mean, Princess. I hear ye still be liking to play make-believe.” He laughed.
Yet she noticed it tweren’t a hurtful laugh. She half turned in her saddle to take a better look at his expression. He smiled at her, and she couldn’t help but be caught up in his good humor.
“Ye could be the queen, and me the king,” Boyd said. “Wait, I know of a great place!”
“Be it far from here?”
“Nay, not really, but well off the beaten track…but it be way in the bottom of a canyon and badly overgrown; hard to get to. It used to was a flour mill…but the stone done got cracked, and it fell in half. So, the miller left.”
“Really? It sounds delightful. Not the stone breaking so that its owner had to desert their home. Can ye take me there?—Will ye take me there, without tattling?”
“Yer just a girl. Ye be sure ye want to do this? There be brush and thistles, and low tree branches. Yer dress will surely be torn.”
“I’ll take me dress off…if’un ye promise to button me up again.”
Boyd gave thought about this adventure, and that he wouldn’t even be able to share this story with his buddies at the barns. He laughed. “And there be poisonous spiders,” he said, turning his fingers into claws. Pretending to be a wicked wizard, he growled.
Lena enjoyed his wicked laughter. She couldn’t help but smile. “But there be running water there? Aye?” She thought surely the dragon twins would love playing in the brook. They had never seen running water in brooks or rills. This could well be the adventure they sought.
Boyd led the way. As soon as they reached the middle of the canyon, they tied their horses concealed under a grove of trees. Boyd blushed unbuttoning the back of Lena’s bodice, and turned away as she slipped out of her riding skirt. She put her belt back on and looped the back hem of her petticoat between her legs and fastened it with her belt buckle. She stepped out from behind her pony, wearing only her white, sleeveless petticoat and her borrowed squire’s knee-high boots.
“I’m ready,” she called.

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