After a very long year, I've finally finished the first mini-series from The Chronicles of Alburnium. Perhaps you've read the White Road Chronicles series. This newest series of fairy-tale retellings all take place during an earlier time in the world of Alburnium. You'll meet Tarek's early family, along with a few other favorite Houses...and Beings.
You'll also learn how Lord Darnel rises to power over the course of the extended series.
The Lionheart Province is Leon and Kardia's story,
Coming next will be the Phoenix Province which will be Rillion and Sterlyn's tale.
(Don't worry, you'll meet them in Gold & Fire, so be looking out for them)
For now, let's talk about the conclusion of the Lionheart Province - Gold and Fire.
I'll also share a sneak peek of my favorite scene.
Oh, and in case you didn't notice, the first two covers have been given an overhaul. What do you think of them?
First off, let's meet a few of our stars.
The series is based on the Grimm's fairy tale: The Maiden Without Hands.
Kardia, the girl form the tiny hamlet of Goia has a kind and generous heart. Then something terrible happens to her when her father accidentally trades her to a wizard for limitless gold. However, her family tries to make the best of their situation and you can read all about that in Blood & Water.
I made these character cards of Kardia and Leonard. What do you think? Should I make more for the other Chronicles characters?
FYI: Blood and Water will be on sale for FREE between July 30 and August 3, 2020. If you've not tried this series yet, here is your chance to try it out risk free.
If you'd like to read more about Kardia and Leon, check out these past blog posts:
ON CHARACTERS AND WORLDS...THE MAKING OF A NEW FANTASY SERIES
THE CHRONICLES OF ALBURNIUM... INTRODUCING THE ANTAGONISTS
MEET JAEL AZAZEL- THE FAUN
About Gold and Fire
The moment he decides to dedicate his heart to the one he loves, he risks losing everything he has worked to achieve.
After spending a year at Academy in Aloblase, Kardia the Sano is ready to embrace her future. The world is an open road for her. Yet, her heart yearns to return home to Rodonal. The question is will Rodonal accept her return?
Regent Leon's heart is set on uniting his life with the beautiful Sano, Kardia. Her year at the Academy is finished and he hopes to convince her to start a bright, new future ruling the Rodonal Province at his side.
Yet, their union threatens to divide the very people they wish to protect. Demands and requirements of their position pull them in every direction until they are unsure of what to do next. If they don't find their way soon, everything they care for and has worked hard to attain will slip away, including their union bond.
In the meantime, darkness is growing. The Brethren Order wizards are advancing, intent on taking over every Kingdom Province they come across. But another ruler is quickly rising to power.
Darnel has fallen in league with the witch Orelia, and she's promised him that he will one day rule the Western lands. First, he must let go of his past, and he must control with a ruthless fist. Most important, he must shatter the last pieces of his heart until nothing of his former self is left to survive.
Enter an enchanting realm of adventures with this new series that takes place in the beloved land of Alburnium. The author who brought you The White Road Chronicles is back with a new, gripping series of loss, betrayal, and one girl's desperate fight to hold onto the only thing she has ... hope.
This story is for those who love allegorical, fairytale retellings set in a fantastical world.
Gold and Fire- book 3 is an epic fantasy fairy tale adventure mixed with clean romance and humor. If you love stories similar to Gaiman's 'Stardust' or Goldman's 'The Princess Bride' you may enjoy this series, as well.
Here is my favorite scene from Gold and Fire...
First, a bit of background inspiration.
Members from my church have this crazy marbles game they love playing. It kind of reminds me of Sorry, and I'm not a fan. But I get sucked into the game once in a while. It's played on a circular board- most of the time. There are other variations, too.
Everyone gets a set of colored marbles and the goal is to go all the way around the board and back home. All the while, you hope nobody will knock you out of your spot and send you back home.
They always knock you out of your spot. Then you have to start all over again.
Like I said, I'm not a fan.
However, if the game was played like it is in Alburnium, then maybe, just maybe it would catch my interest a little more. Ha! I had a lot of fun writing this scene. I hope you enjoy it--and the rest of the the story-- as well.
You can now purchase Gold and Fire here:
Chapter Two...a few pages in
“There you are, Little Bit.” Jael’s jovial voice broke into her silent pondering. Troll’s breath! He’d found her after-all. “Come on. We need one more player.”
The flickering light of the gas-lamps cast a yellow glow around the faun’s tangled black hair and horns that curved around his pointed ears.
Jael had accompanied her from Rodonal to Aloblase, along with a few other Rodonians. His year of training was also nearly completed. Whereas she was overcome with questions about her future, Jael had already decided that he was ready to return home to Melodies Forest. He was so eager to tell everyone about his time in Aloblase and encourage them to consider making the trip to meet King Shaydon. In the woods, few knew about the great King and how he welcomed everyone to join his Kingdom—human and creature, alike.
“You’ve had your nose in books long enough,” he chastised as he clomped closer, reaching for the journal. She snatched it out of his reach.
Undaunted, he grinned. “Come play with us. You can be my partner. We’ll show that bragging Elderad Riyah who the real Marble Masters are.”
Kardia sat up. “Riyah is here?”
He was Leon’s guardian and adviser. Why was Riyah here instead of in Rodon?
“Yes, the Lightman is here. There’s to be some big important meeting tomorrow. Now come along like a good pal and let’s have some fun. You work much too hard, silly human.” His pleading grin caused a dimple in his cheek to appear.
Jael had become one of her dearest friends over the past few months. He checked in on her every day, whereas she seldom saw her human friends Kellie or her sister Nellie.
Kellie had new friends that shared her Illuminate gifting and Nellie spent most of her time out in the fields and orchards.
So how could Kardia refuse Jael? With a sigh, she decided that writing Leon would have to wait a little longer. Her letters were probably nothing more than an interruption to his evening activities, anyway. Though he never made her feel that way and always responded quickly, despite the length of the letter she wrote.
After tucking the books back into her satchel, she followed Jael into a small, brightly lit room where several students sat around tables playing various games. Others were huddled in quiet group discussions.
Jael’s hairy arm draped over Kardia’s shoulders. “How did you do on your last exam? Did you pass?”
“Yes,” she beamed up at him. He’d helped her to study, though she was never sure what classes he attended. From what she could tell, creatures had their own methods of learning. Being cooped up in a classroom was not one of them.
Once in a while, she did spot him trotting through the halls. More often than not, he ran outside with the centaurs, griffins, and other amazing creatures that she’d never seen before in her whole twenty-one years.
They headed toward a table near the windows where Riyah sat with three other people who dwelt in Aloblase. A circular board with a line of notches running along the edges sat in the center. Kardia took a seat across from Jael. Their marbles looked like tiny orbs taken from the night sky. When she held one up, she was sure stars twinkled inside the ball. Hers was a dark, purplish-blue, and Jael’s were pitch black like onyx.
Kardia recognized one of the Logorian instructors, named Skilts, who taught a class on stone masonry. He was currently in a quiet discussion with Riyah who set up the marbles game while they conversed.
The other team they were to play against consisted of a dwarf named Turk, who ran the supply store where she got her paper and quills from, and a human boy from her Healer’s group. She smiled at Milac and took the seat between the dwarf and Riyah. Their marbles looked like perfectly round balls of moss encased in glass. Turk’s marbles were a deep emerald green and Milac’s a dusty yellow.
Riyah’s gaze drifted out the windows that lined the eastern wall. “I can play a couple of rounds before I’m needed elsewhere.”
Jael rubbed his hands together, he loved playing games. “Sir,” he said, lining up his game pieces. “I heard a rumor…”
“Jael, my friend,” Riyah cut him off. “You know how I feel about rumors.”
Jael merely laughed but continued with his line of thought. “That the portal to Rodonal has been opened.”
The side of Riyah’s mouth tilted up. “Snooping around the Logorian quarters again, have you?”
Professor Skilts narrowed his gaze at the faun. “I told you, young Jael, if you are interested in building, you should come to my morning class. I can always make room for anyone interested in the intricate skills of masonry.”
Jael’s brows shot up into his darkly tanned forehead. “I’m never awake in time for your class, Master Skilts. Do you not have something later in the day?”
“Lazy hoofer,” Turk the dwarf scolded with an amused scowl on his bearded face. “The time matters not when one’s passion burns from the heart. Do you or do you not wish to learn an honest skill? One that will enable you to provide a fine living for your future family? Why, my store brings in more than enough to keep my wee ones and my mate comfortable.”
Jael blanched as if he’d been prodded in the ribs with a blunt stick. “How fine of a living?” He looked from the dwarf, then to Master Skilts with his questioning gaze.
Riyah rested his chin on his knuckles. “Jael Azazel, have you visited with King Shaydon yet? You know He will lead you into finding your true gifting and talents if you’ll only ask. He will know better than anyone in all the land where you are best suited.”
Jael rolled the numbered cube, then moved his first marble accordingly. “It’s not that I worry about what he will tell me that I should do. It’s that I fear he’ll figure out what I’ve done in the past. Ol’ Jael wishes to stay on the King’s good side. Are you two trying to divert my original question about the portal? I was thinking… that if one is about to open, then I’ll not have to return to home the long way.”
Kardia’s eyes widened. Home. Where was that for her? “You’re ready to go back so soon, Jael?”
It was her turn to roll the cubes and a double came up. When she picked up the first marble, she was sure the little stars inside were exploding like sparks coming off a bonfire. She carefully lifted one of the balls in her metal fingers, hoping it wouldn’t slip out again. She hated having to chase them across the floor while Jael laughed too hard to be of any help in retrieving her escaped pieces.
“Soon as the semester is over,” Jael answered, pointing to the spot where she needed to move. He never needed to count the slots as she did. “Nellie is almost done with her required gardening classes. You’re almost done with yours too, right, Little Bit? Are you ready to get back to Reg—?”
“I got another double,” she cut him off, not wanting to suffer the embarrassment of his teasing innuendos. Jael knew she and Leon wrote daily to each other. He’d not accept her insistence that they were only friends and nothing else. Stubborn faun!
Since rolling a double, Kardia was able to go again. She quickly tossed the cubes onto the table and exclaimed, “I can’t remember what two doubles mean.”
She shot her faun friend a warning glare to keep his mouth shut. He was always teasing her about Leon and there was absolutely nothing between them. Nothing that she felt comfortable sharing with anyone else.
His grin widened as he winked playfully at her.
Such an obstinate beast.
Before anyone could explain what her second double meant, she remembered and quickly moved her sparkling pieces into place. The marbles seemed to know she’d rolled well and were celebrating with tiny explosions of light. “I think Riyah is right, Jael. You need to see King Shaydon before you leave.”
“Yeah. Yeah. That’s what I’ve been told. Perhaps I’ll make an appointment…” his joke faded at Riyah and Skilts’ sidelong glances. “Or not,” he finished. “Your turn Riyah. Sir.”
Riyah continued to stare at him a moment longer. “Jael, you are a jewel among fauns. I have an offer for you, my friend. After this game, you and I will both go to the throne room. You can have your talk with Shaydon while I go to greet your regent. He is due to arrive this evening with a few other Regents from the western lands.”
He also rolled a double. His marbles looked like stormy waters inside the orbs. His were a whitish-gray, like his hair. His teammate’s marbles were bluer like the still lake waters.
Kardia gasped and coughed at the same time, making a choking, gagging sound. The dwarf patted her back. “Okay there, Lass? Did you swallow a bug? I always hate when that happens.”
Was it true? Regent Leon was to arrive? This very evening?
Kardia willed her heart to slow so her excitement wouldn’t show on her flushed face.
Milac hurried to one of the side tables piled with refreshments and snacks. He poured her a glass of water and handed it to her with a quick bow. All the men here greeted her with a quick bow, a show of respect she eventually learned. She drank it down quickly, regaining her composure. The game had continued while she had her little fit.
Jael grinned mischievously but went on as if nothing was amiss. “Very well, Riyah. How fun to be there to greet our fine regent when he arrives.” His brows furrowed. “Why is he coming here? I wonder.” Jael drew out the last word, staring at Kardia who continued to gulp down more water.
Leon hadn’t mentioned a trip to Aloblase. She set her glass down, thanking Milac again.
Skiltz took the liberty of answering her question. “Several Regents will be gathered here tomorrow. Regents from all over the land. Those who are willing to come, that is.”
The professor took his turn, knocking one of her marbles from its spot and sending it back to her starting pile. One of the stars in her marble shot downward across the orb’s small expanse. Skilts’s marble splashed merrily as he set it in her vacated spot on the board.
“Why?” Kardia asked.
Professor Skilts scoffed with an annoyed snort. “That would be for the Regents to know, young lady.”
Riyah patted her arm, soothing over the professor’s rebuff. “That is true, Daughter. If Leon wishes to share the discussion with you, then that is his choice. We are not at liberty to discuss the meeting’s subject matter.”
Her mouth went dry. She’d be able to see Leon. Soon.
What if he didn’t want to…no, he probably would. He’d said several times that he wished the portal would be finished sooner so he could visit. Leon seemed to miss Aloblase and had several places that he’d love to show her.
Turk took the cubes next and rolled them. “I’m surprised that Rodonal doesn’t have a portal already. Kinti City and Conde have had a portal for the past hundred years. But your province is on the outskirts of the kingdom if my memory is correct. So close to Wilderland and bordered by the Order, I do suppose it would be behind the times in some ways. Oh, twenty-four.” He grinned as he counted out the spaces. With each count, the marble bloomed a flower of different colors.
“Nice roll,” Milac congratulated.
Riyah sighed but said nothing.
Kardia defended, “The Capital city of Rodon is amazing and not behind at all, I don’t think. I had no idea that there were places with so many people and so many shops for anything and everything a person might need. In my little hamlet, we made or bartered for goods. We…” Her defense of her homeland faltered and sputtered out.
Maybe the dwarf was right. Her poor little hamlet had been seriously behind and ignorant of King Shaydon and his ways. But Leon had so many grand ideas for the whole province. “We’ll catch up, I bet. In time.”
Riyah smiled and nodded in encouragement. “Indeed. There’s no need to look at what’s behind, but what is ahead and walk boldly toward the possibilities offered to you.”
Her cheeks started to burn. The Elderad had always been kind and friendly toward her. And he’d saved her from great harm on more than one occasion.
It was her turn again.
Riyah changed the topic by asking Milac how he was doing in his studies and what he hoped to do after the session was over.
Any day now, Kardia was to present herself to King Shaydon once again. He would mark her medallion to show her true gifting. Then she’d be given the choice to either return home, continue her training in Radiance, or have Issah assign her someplace where she could work in her field of study. Kardia blew out a long, unsure breath. Her damaged hands still hindered her, even with the miraculous mechanical gloves.
Her heart raced over the fact that Leon would arrive soon. Part of her wanted to sneak away and send him a note, asking if it was true. Why hadn’t he told her sooner?
She hoped it wasn’t because he’d hoped to avoid seeing her, but she had to be honest with herself.
In all truth, Rodonal held nothing for her. Nellie would return to marry her fiancé. They were one of the couples who’d agreed to move to a smaller town where they’d build a farm and work the land. Kellie, the Illuminate, planned to remain in Aloblase and continue to learn to use her gifting.
Jael was eager to return to his clan in the Melodies forest. Kardia suspected he might have a female he was sweet on, but he’d never admit it.
There was only one reason for her to return to Rodonal. She almost scoffed out loud at the idea that she could ever have anything besides friendship with Leon. He was the regent, for goodness sakes! He had a province to run and she was not elegant, nor educated enough to help him. Even if he wanted her to.
No, she needed to take charge of her future, ask Issah to help her find a nice, safe province to settle down in. Maybe someday, like her dear friend Miltie the Healer, she’d spend her days helping others and perhaps eventually find someone to share her life with.
Maybe someone would look past her strange metal hands.
Kardia wouldn’t hold her breath.
There's more to come from the world of Alburnium. Be sure to check back here, or sign up for my Story World newsletter to keep up with news on works in progress and new releases.
Jackie Castle is an author, artist and dreamer. She lives in Texas with her husband, two grown children and her dog, Banjo. She looks for the extraordinary in the ordinary in everything she experiences.