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Fun with Friends & People Trying to Kill You
Blue, SJ, and I were locked in a tower.
We weren't in mortal peril or anything. We were simply serving our punishment for having ditched school for a few weeks last semester to find the Author.
Upon our return, our headmistress Lady Agnue had sentenced the three of us to detention every day after school for basically an eternity. At an institution for princesses and other female protagonists, that meant spending several hours each day locked in one of the campus's tallest towers, à la Rapunzel.
Spring semester had begun this past week, which meant so had our punishment. The first couple of days were rough. With nothing but stone walls and a dead rat in the corner of the room, the situation looked pretty bleak ... until I came up with a solution.
"Crisa, I realize anything is preferable to being trapped in this tower," SJ said with a sigh. "But I still do not feel comfortable with you using your magic for this. For one, you have only been training your powers for a few weeks. And two, what if someone should catch us?"
"You worry too much, SJ," Blue said as she confidently strode to stand beside me at the window. She popped the hood of her trusty powder-blue cloak, as if posing a challenge to SJ.
"I have to compensate for the both of you," SJ replied, crossing her arms. "Neither of you worry enough, so it falls to me to balance out the ratio."
Blue's intense blue eyes sparkled mischievously. "Sorry SJ, all I heard was blah blah blah, unnecessary panic, blah blah, anxiety attack, blah blah, Debbie Downer."
SJ furrowed her eyebrows in annoyance. I smirked slightly, but directed most of my attention to the vines that grew outside the window of our tower.
One little discovery my friends and I had made during our Author quest was that I had magic. When I was very young, my mother's Fairy Godmother, Emma (who was also my regular godmother), had gifted me with her magic wand. It was useless without a Fairy Godmother to operate it, as wands did not hold power; they merely conducted it. But she had enchanted it with the ability to transform into any weapon I willed it into. The only catch was that she also had to implant a spark of her magic into me because wands only responded to the magic of their designated Godmothers.
I smiled as gold sparks danced around my fingertips. When Emma gave me the magic to operate my wand she could never have anticipated that it would manifest into an ability that was so powerful and so cool.
Come to life, I mentally commanded the vines as I touched the green stems. Then take us down.
The gold sparks changed into an aura of energy that transferred from me into the vines. As the energy moved through them, they began to writhe against the stone walls of the tower.
Emma's spark of magic had manifested into the ability of life, meaning that I could bring anything to life, and whatever I poured my power into was bound by my bidding.
Since discovering this, I'd been training my magic and learning to harness it more actively and with more control. Enchanting these vines was just one example of the incredible things I was realizing I was capable of. It was good practice. In this particular case, it was also a convenient way for Blue, SJ, and me to escape our prison sentence.
Blue loved the idea. SJ had some misgivings. I understood both perspectives and paid no mind to their bickering. This kind of good-natured ribbing was normal for them. It would be normal in any circumstance for two girls who were such opposites.
Blue — my adventurous, mischievous, dear friend — liked to act on instinct and impulse. Fear rarely affected her and she loved a good fight. SJ — my equally dear, perfectly poised, levelheaded friend — preferred to act on logic and reason. Kindness came out of her as easily as breathing, and she was one of the most reliable people you would ever meet.
Aside from these conflicting personality traits, there were also major differences in where the girls came from. Blue was formerly a common character known only as the younger sister of Little Red Riding Hood. When her protagonist book appeared in early adolescence she was designated as a common female protagonist. Since then she'd dedicated herself to becoming a hero, despite our realm's traditional gender roles for female main characters that dictated she couldn't. Over the years, Blue had proven herself to be incomparably strong. She was the most masterful fighter at Lady Agnue's and could definitely give most heroes at Lord Channing's a run for their money with her trusty hunting knife.
SJ, on the other hand, was a princess like me. She'd known since birth that she was headed for protagonist school because all royals were supposed to be main characters. Unlike me, however, SJ had always embodied her traditional princess role perfectly. Top of our class at Lady Agnue's, she was the epitome of grace and beauty, a master at communicating with animals through song, and the ideal model for what a conventional fairytale princess should be.
In short, my friends were different. And as a main character who wanted to be both a hero and a princess, and a girl who valued strength and instinct as much as she valued kindness and logic, my role in our group was as the bridge between their often-opposing perspectives.
The vines I'd enchanted began to crawl inside the tower, slowly wrapping themselves around my waist, and then SJ's and Blue's. SJ made a sour face and her gray eyes narrowed with disapproval. The vines securely lifted us off the ground and took us through the window.
The fresh evening air engulfed me. There was still daylight left, but the sky was tinted with the pink of dusk. We had ninety minutes to make it to our rendezvous and get back before the school guards came to unlock the tower and set us free.
"I still say this is too risky," SJ continued even as the plants lowered us several hundred feet to the ground.
"That's what makes it fun," Blue countered. "Crisa knows what she's doing." Blue tilted her head toward me, dark blonde waves spilling out of her hood. "You know what you're doing, right?"
I glanced at the golden light still emanating from my hand. I may have been new to the whole magic thing, but I never felt more powerful and in control than when I was utilizing it.
"Absolutely," I said.
A minute later we touched down on the grass near the practice fields. This was a large area at the back of the campus with various obstacle courses, a track, stables that connected to the barn, and expansive fields used for horse races, archery practice, and various other combat training purposes. The practice fields had always been Blue's and my favorite place at Lady Agnue's. At the moment it was also the most deserted part of school, as all other students were inside getting ready for dinner.
Quickly but cautiously, my friends and I journeyed to the barn. The guards didn't begin their patrol of the practice fields until seven o'clock, but we still wanted to be careful. I grabbed the heavy handle of the barn door and yanked it slightly, allowing it to open a few inches. I peeked my head inside and glanced around.
All the lanterns were illuminated inside and bales of hay formed labyrinth-like walls that cut across the barn. "Guys?" I whispered. A figure stepped into the light and I smiled.
"It's about time you got here," Daniel said. His long, broad-shouldered shadow spilled across the floor as he approached us. I opened the barn door enough to let SJ and Blue through, then followed them in.
Daniel and Jason had gotten used to keeping hidden at our school. It wasn't hard for them; heroes at Lord Channing's were pros at stealth. I think they even offered a class in the subject. Since we'd discovered a way to break out of the detention tower a few days ago, they'd been meeting us in the barn in the late aftenoons.
Jason was particularly well versed in sneaking onto our campus. Both boys had done it a few times prior to winter break. But Jason had continued the practice almost every day during vacation to meet up with us. Daniel hadn't; he was the only one in our group who had gone home for the three-week break. Still, even without the extra practice, Daniel was naturally suited to the shadows. He'd always reminded me of a lone wolf in that way — a brooding, withdrawn, and dangerous creature who watched from a distance. Until he met us, anyway.
He had changed a bit since then. While he still gave off an intimidating aura, he'd been a lot less withdrawn lately. I guess that was because he was no longer alone. Now he had a pack. Now he had us.
"Where's Jason?" Blue asked, noticing our other friend wasn't with him.
"He's getting the horses saddled up," Daniel responded, nodding toward the stables, which could be accessed on the other side of the barn.
"I'll go help him," I said as I closed and latched the barn door behind us.
"Nah, you did it yesterday. I'll go," Blue replied. "SJ, you wanna come?"
SJ glanced at Daniel and me then at Blue, weighing her options. "All right, but I do not know how much help I will be."
My friends disappeared around the haystacks. Daniel drew his gleaming sword from its sheath. "So I believe the score is three to two?"
I drew my wandpin from where I kept it clipped to my bra strap. The sparkly silver object may have looked like a hair accessory, but it was really my wand in disguise. I could transform it into this state by concentrating on the word Lapellium. And I could change it back into a wand with the word Lapellius, as I did now. The weapon elongated into my wand and then into my weapon of choice as I focused on that next.
"You better enjoy that lead while it lasts," I told Daniel as he and I began to walk across the barn. "I'm not going to show you any mercy today."
"I'm not sure you falling on your butt after I sweep you off your feet qualifies as mercy," Daniel commented. "Comedy maybe. But not mercy."
I shot Daniel an annoyed look. His oak-colored eyes, which set off his dark brown hair, danced with mischief. He knew I could never refuse a challenge.
Putting it mildly, Daniel and I had a complex relationship. I'd disliked him when we'd first met and had spent a lot of time distrusting him in the months that followed. However, over the course of our mission to find the Author, we'd become friends.
I was glad for this. We fought well together and pushed each other to be sharper in everything from wit to weaponry. Nevertheless, there was an unspoken awkwardness between us over how close we really were and how close we actually wanted to be.
The breaking point that shifted our relationship last semester was when we were trapped in a genie lamp and had to be completely honest and vulnerable with each other. That event had resulted in us coming to know one another on a deeply personal level. Much as it made me cringe to admit, it had led to Daniel getting to know me better than anyone.
SJ, Blue, Jason, my parents, my two brothers — they were all close to me. But even with the people I was closest to, I tended to avoid talking about my deepest fears and insecurities if I could help it. Not Daniel though; I had no secrets from him. Not anymore.
I wasn't sure if this was a relief or a problem. While it was nice to know there was someone out there who knew my vulnerabilities, it also made me feel uncomfortable. I imagined Daniel felt the same way about me knowing his deepest secrets. But we both seemed to be content not addressing it for now, masking the depth of our relationship with casual banter and a mostly friendly rivalry. Speaking of which ...
I jolted my spear left to block Daniel's sword then flipped it right to stop a second strike. Daniel's elbow shot up. I hinged and barely avoided getting smacked in the face. I swept my spear down and tried to catch his feet, but he leapt over the blow. Rapidly, I rotated to clash my staff against his sword as it headed toward my face. I stopped it inches from my nose.
He and I squared off, locked in the clash. My boots slipped slightly on the dark blue sparring mat that we'd laid down for our combat practice in the barn. My arms started to quiver under his strength, which I both admired and resented.
"Knight, if you're gonna have any shot at making the Twenty-Three Skidd team, you're going to have to up your strength training," Daniel provoked. "If you don't, the guys you're up against will tear you to shreds."
I broke our clash and leapt out of his range.
Twenty-Three Skidd was the most popular sport in our realm. It was a cross between lacrosse and jousting and was played on flying Pegasi over a large arena. I'd always been a big fan, but never had the chance to play because it was a boys-only sport. However, during a school field trip last semester, Blue and I had entered a Lord Channing's tournament in disguise and totally owned it. In the immediate aftermath of the event, most of our classmates had shunned us for it. But while we were away on our Author quest, many of the common protagonists at Lady Agnue's who were inspired by our defiance had petitioned for their right to participate in the sport alongside the boys. Eventually our schools reached a compromise. When Lord Channing's held tryouts for the open spots on its Twenty-Three Skidd teams this semester, the opportunity would be open to both male and female students.
Excited by the prospect, my friends and I had been concentrating on preparing ourselves for the tryouts. Ever the lady, SJ had no interest in the violent sport. But Blue and I had every intention of making one of the teams and knew perfectly well this would require a lot of training, especially since there were only eight available spots.
Jason and Daniel were helping us with the endeavor. Jason was captain of one of the Twenty-Three Skidd teams. Daniel was also trying out, but he had gotten plenty of practice in with the guys at Lord Channing's. The two boys made excellent coaches. Unfortunately, whereas Jason was always supportive and encouraging, Daniel had a more direct approach that seemed unconcerned with insulting me.
He gave me a cocky, relaxed look as he beckoned me forward again. I spun my spear in my hand and accepted the invitation. We engaged each other relentlessly — his strikes and parries timed perfectly with mine. He rotated low and his sword came at my ankles. I jumped and landed on a bale of hay.
My wand transformed; the part of the staff I held turned into a grip and a metal shield spiraled out. I clashed it against Daniel's sword. Daniel hopped onto an adjacent bale of hay and pursued me. He was too close now for me to use my spear.
I parried several of his strikes, but had to change tactics quickly. Daniel was remarkable with a sword while I was just mediocre. Plus, he was backing me up higher onto the haystack wall and I couldn't see where I was going. Stealing a swift glance, I discovered we were eight feet above the sparring mat. The hay felt unstable and I was losing my balance. Daniel took a swing at my head. Instead of blocking, I lunged out of the way and leapt for the ground.
My wand morphed in midair. I landed on the mat and fell into a roll that allowed me to rise back to my feet with natural momentum. Daniel followed. Clearly showing off, he jumped off the haystack wall with a graceful flip, landing perfectly on the mat a mere few seconds after I did.
I evaded Daniel's sword and whirled my staff to bring it down upon him. He seemed to expect that and turned in time to grab the staff with his free hand, yanking it firmly. Instead of jerking forward along with it, which would have brought my neck to the mercy of his waiting blade, I let go of the spear.
This put me at a disadvantage. I was a much better fighter with a weapon than I was without one. I was decent at hand-to-hand combat (nearly being killed a half dozen times will do that to you). But I didn't get a lot of practice as most of my training partners — Blue, Daniel, and my brothers back home in Midveil — preferred fighting with weapons.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Crisanta Knight"
Copyright © 2018 Geanna Culbertson.
Excerpted by permission of Boutique of Quality Books Publishing Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 Fun with Friends & People Trying to Kill You,
Chapter 2 The Choice of Wickedness,
Chapter 3 Imminent,
Chapter 4 My New Role,
Chapter 5 The Job,
Chapter 6 Unexpected Chance,
Chapter 7 The Experiment,
Chapter 8 Drawing the Line,
Chapter 9 Awry,
Chapter 10 Connections Lost & Found,
Chapter 11 Waffles & Wonderful News,
Chapter 12 Time-Crack,
Chapter 13 The New Norm,
Chapter 14 Number 17,
Chapter 15 Hunted,
Chapter 16 Choice & Consequence,
Chapter 17 Pre-Deportation Blues,
Chapter 18 Goodbyes,
Chapter 19 House of Glass,
Chapter 20 My Brother, The Future King,
Chapter 21 Backstories & Stories Yet to Come,
Chapter 22 The Dangers of Showing Off,
Chapter 23 A New Match,
Chapter 24 Surreptitious Knights,
Chapter 25 The Message,
Chapter 26 Matters of Trust,
Chapter 27 Friends for Dinner,
Chapter 28 Gravity,
Chapter 29 End of the Line,
Chapter 30 Phase Two,
Chapter 31 Shattered,
Chapter 32 The Ever Aftermath,
Chapter 33 Honesty,
Chapter 34 Journeys Ahead,
Chapter 35 Not So Happy Returns,
Chapter 36 Once Upon a Tavern,
Chapter 37 Hooked on a Feeling,
Chapter 38 Polly Want a Beat Down?,
Chapter 39 AP,
Chapter 40 Lost Boy and Girl,
Chapter 41 Malice,
Chapter 42 The Portalscape,
Chapter 43 Ruins,
Chapter 44 A Man Called Julian,
Chapter 45 StalkWalkers,
Chapter 46 YUR,
Chapter 47 The Cure,
Chapter 48 Ozma,
Chapter 49 Flower Power,
Chapter 50 Limbo Stuck,
Chapter 51 The Missing Girl,
Chapter 52 Intermission,
Chapter 53 A Knight of Royal Blood,
Chapter 54 The Promise,
Chapter 55 Line Eight,
About the Author,