But this past week, while scrolling a friend's Pinterest, I was struck with inspiration for a THIRD entry for Anne Elisabeth Stengl's Cinderella contest. I had sworn I would only write two stories for it, but this idea is by far my favourite of all the ideas I've come up with for submissions. It's been like a whirlwind romance so far; it combines so many of my favourite things--evil faeries, Celtic EVERYTHING, dynamic heroines, high stakes, balls and beautiful gowns, and a dash of romance. I'm absolutely in love with and delighted by this story.
So without further ado, here's a sneak peek at:
The Ever Queen
One dark day, Aednat is stolen from her quiet life to serve as a slave in the realm of the Everen, a place full of dark beauty and monsters hidden behind sweet smiles. Her one hope is to escape, and when the new faerie king holds a ball to choose his queen, Aednat seizes on her one chance at freedom--even if that one chance may cost her life.
Meet the Characters
Stolen from her family to serve the Everen, Aednat has only one goal: escape. When the old Ever King dies and a ball is held to find a new queen, she concocts a plan to finally gain her freedom. But it is a plan that risks her life--and her heart. By the time all is said and done, Aednat will have to ask herself if she truly wants to leave--and what she's willing to risk to have everything she desires.
When his father dies, Faolan is crowned the new Ever King. To fit into this role and protect his people, Faolan must hide his true self behind a mask of cool aloofness. When Aednat unintentionally shows her true self in the midst of his father's funeral, Faolan sees someone other than just a slave: someone who might accept him as he truly is. But as his love for her deepens, so do the consequences.
One of the beauties of the Everen court, Orla knows it is her destiny to be the Ever Queen. She is one of Faolan's closest companions, and, she thinks, closest friends. But what is about to come will turn her world upside down, and betrayal will come from the one person she always took for granted--her own sister.
Ashamed of the mortal blood that runs in her family, Laisar detests the presence of humans in her beloved realm. But when Aednat approaches her with a plan to free herself and rid Everen of humans forever, Laisar is forced to choose between her own dreams and that of her sister's. The choice she makes will change Everen forever.
Aednat's younger sister, left behind to mourn her beloved sister's disappearance for seven long years. During that time, she marries the chief of another tribe and has a child of her own, named Aednat. She goes on to become one of Irela's most celebrated women warriors--but she never forgets the sister she bickered with so often and loved so dearly.
A cranky, reclusive Everen faery who also detests the mortal presence in the faery realm, Oonagh is more likely to try to kill Aednat than help her. But when Aednat and Laisar come to her for help with Aednat's plan, she finds herself playing faery godmother--with interesting results.
(All images are from Pinterest--I do not own any of them, nor did I create any of them. I wish I were so talented!)
A Tiny Excerpt
This is first draft only, so forgive any off-kilter stuff. :)
Raising her head, Aednat looked across the stream to the woods beyond. The trees went ever on, moss creeping up their trunks and vines trailing like dead, dangling limbs to brush the forest floor. Beside her, Nessa went still, tilting her head, as though listening to birdsong Aednat could not hear.
No birdsong. Aednat shot to her feet, dropping the water bucket.
Nessa glanced at her, puzzled. "What's the matter?"
"No birds," Aednat whispered. The water had gone still and silent, and even the sunlight was smothered by the mist that now swirled, clinging to Aednat's legs. She skittered backwards, while Nessa shook her head.
"There's nothing to fear," Nessa said. She stepped into the river.
"No," Aednat squeaked.
Nessa cocked a brow at her.
"Nobody crosses the river!" Aednat whispered, her voice hushed in the suffocating quiet. "The Everen live there." How many stories had the elders told of those who passed over--and never returned?
Nessa snorted, placing her hands on her hips and tossing her thick black braid. "Where I come from, such cowardice is frowned upon," she said. "The great lairds of my land would never allow the Everen to dictate their choices." She sniffed. "If they even exist." With that, she waded through the water, her skirts flaring out behind her. She scrambled up the bank, stood, and held out her hands as though to show Aednat all was well.
Heat swept through Aednat, flaring in her fingers and toes, setting the back of her neck on fire. She wanted to sink through the soft earth, swallowed by green.
But more than that, she wanted Nessa to love her, to be proud of her. And what if Nessa was right? What if the Everen were no more than mist and shadows, the reflection of her own nightmares?
Tucking in her chin, she set her foot into the stream. Chill spiked through her toes, jolting along her leg until it touched her spine. She shivered, but kept going.
When she set foot upon the opposite bank, the noise like the thud of a door closing echoed through the wood. She whirled around, squinting into the distance. Nothing but serene green trees, moss growing like soft stubble across their trunks.
Hands snatched her arms, yanking her backwards. Fingers clawed her dress, gripped her legs. She shrieked, thrashing, while voices hissed all around her.
Don't hurt her.
Oh, she's lovely. Look at that hair. Niamh picked a good one this time.
And, all the while, she watched the forest from which she'd come fade away and reappear, this time seeming as distant as the stars. For when she managed to break from her captors and run to the stream, her feet glided over the water as though she were mist. And when she reached the other side, the branches that would once have snagged her curls now slid through them. She was no more than fog to the world she had once known.
She was trapped.
Hope you enjoyed this little peek into The Ever Queen! I'm always looking for people to proofread my stories and offer constructive feedback. If you have the time and are interested in this story, just leave me a comment and a way to get into contact with you. I appreciate all the feedback I can get--the more, the merrier! And if you're a writer too, I can proofread one of your stories in return. There's nothing I like better than making new writer friends!