In this delightful sequel to The Glass Castle...Much is at stake while the kingdom enjoys the greatest games on earth.
“Hello?” Avery called, carefully stepping into the darkness.
Suddenly the air grew colder and the scent of wet earth grew stronger as the ground beneath her formed steps—cold, jagged stairs carved into stone—though she had no idea how many there were or where they led. She steadied herself and descended carefully, sliding each slippered foot over the edge and holding her breath.
Everything told her to turn around and go back to her room to safety. . .
The castle is buzzing with excitement as preparations begin for the upcoming Olympiad. Everyone knows the queen is still on the hunt for the king’s rightful heir, as kids begin mysteriously disappearing from the castle.
When Avery learns that a male runner is needed for an important race in the Olympiad, she volunteers so she can get close to the action. Will she be able to hide her true identity. . .or will she be discovered? One slip-up could mean a trip to the dungeonor worse.
The Ruby Moon is Book 2 in the Thirteen Series
The Glass Castle - Book 1
The Paper Boat - Book 3
About the Author
Trisha White Priebe is a wife, mom, writer, and shameless water polo enthusiast. She serves as an assistant to Jerry B. Jenkins, speaks at retreats, and enjoys assisting her husband in youth ministry. She wrote Trust, Hope, Pray: Encouragement for the Task of Waiting and A Sherlock Holmes Devotional: Uncovering the Mysteries of God.
Read an Excerpt
The Ruby Moon
By Trisha White Priebe, Jerry B. Jenkins
Barbour Publishing, Inc.Copyright © 2016 Trisha White Priebe
All rights reserved.
"Hello?" Avery called, carefully stepping into the darkness.
Suddenly the air grew colder and the scent of wet earth grew stronger as the ground beneath her formed steps — cold, jagged stairs carved into stone — though she had no idea how many there were or where they led. She steadied herself and descended carefully, sliding each slippered foot over the edge and holding her breath.
Everything told her to turn around and go back to her room, to safety. She knew she shouldn't make this trip alone and without a candle.
But Avery had never preferred safe, and time was not on her side. She trusted her eyes would adjust to the darkness any minute so she could see what lay on this side of the mysterious door in the library before it was too late.
She stopped and listened.
A rat, she decided. No doubt the castle underbelly is full of them.
She took another step. Why had it been so important to her mother to hide the key to this door in the back of a book with the words "This book must not be destroyed"?
With each step into the castle's frigid interior, the air became more pungent, like she was sinking into a sewer. She yanked her hand back from something slimy on the stone wall, her breath coming in cold puffs.
If she found where the stairs led, she might finally understand why she had been brought to the castle against her will and, more importantly, what had happened to her mother, father, and brother.
Avery stopped, sure someone was moving toward her.
She heard breathing.
"Who's there?" she called. "I demand you tell me your name."
Don't panic, she reminded herself. Too often her imagination got her into trouble. But just as she took another step, she felt someone in front of her.
She jumped back and shrieked.
Someone grabbed her wrist and clamped a hand over her mouth.
Icy and strong, it smelled of dead fish.
She felt hot breath as a woman whispered in her ear, "Go back where you came from and never come back. You are not welcome here."
Avery nodded vigorously, and when the figure melded back into the darkness, she turned and raced back up the stairs — tripping over the hem of her dress and bruising her shins on the stone steps — finally reaching the library door.
She would return to her side of the castle — for now.
* * *
The chaos inside and outside the castle had reached new heights as preparations for the king's grand Olympiad grew to a fevered pitch, raising excitement in the kids' quarters. The kitchen girls worked overtime making every imaginable delicacy. Rumor was, there would be enough sugared fruits to feed a tiny nation.
According to the scouts, brightly colored tents already dotted the landscape outdoors, and athletes in every possible sport trained on the grounds. When the scouts weren't busy monitoring the royals, they met in the kids' Great Room to reenact wrestling moves or practice their jousting skills with the king's discarded blades.
The girls volunteered to watch and critique, no experience necessary.
* * *
The next morning Avery arrived in the sitting room, flustered.
She was late for the morning cabinet meeting with Tuck, Kendrick, and Kate, but she wouldn't tell them she had discovered the key or that she had attempted to sneak into the castle's underbelly. She wouldn't admit that she tossed and turned in bed all night trying to figure out why the woman told her never to return. What secrets does the underbelly hold?
Tuck tossed grapes and caught them in his mouth, a swarm of Bronte's puppies running around his chair.
"You missed breakfast," he said, his mouth full.
Avery sat in her assigned spot. Picking up the agenda left at her place, she rolled her eyes.
Pointing to the list of topics, she said, "We're supposed to be discussing the king's pressing political agenda, but obviously he doesn't have one right now since he's busy throwing the world's greatest Olympiad. This meeting is a waste of time. I have other things to do." She stood to leave.
"Make no mistake," Kendrick shot back, "the Olympiad is the king's strategy."
"It's a series of games," she said.
Kendrick blew out a breath, and Avery knew she had annoyed him. Adjusting his glasses and motioning for her to sit back down, Kendrick explained, "He knows his health is failing and his family's succession to the throne is at risk unless he produces an heir or establishes peace. Angelina isn't pregnant, so his only choice is to pursue goodwill with his enemies."
"What enemies?" Avery asked. "Inside or outside the kingdom?"
"Both. Plenty of people would love to see the throne pass to their own families. With word spreading that His Majesty is sick, people who want his power are already moving into the kingdom. Every day the scouts report new threats."
Kate said, "He's hosting the Olympiad to make everyone happy with him, but it won't happen."
"Agreed," Kendrick said, leaning back and tossing a grape to Tuck, who caught it in his mouth.
The boys broke into exaggerated cheers.
"I think this meeting is over," Avery said.
"Mark my words," Kendrick said, "the Olympiad is going to end badly."
Avery suspected her second trip to the castle's underbelly would also end badly, but next time she would take her jeweled dagger.CHAPTER 2
Avery slipped into the fragrant darkness of the pantry, bent until her knees met the cool tiled floor, and cranked open the slat to peer through the vent and check on the king.
Spying on him felt important, so she did it often, despite the risks.
As she suspected, he looked older and weaker than the last time she had checked. His thick silver hair was thinner, making his head look unusually large for his body. He had the hands of an old man, and he dozed when he should have been sifting through the important papers on his desk. He had a kingdom to run, and yet he couldn't even keep his eyes open.
Queen Angelina hurried in, replacing the silver mug on the king's desk with a second silver mug. She did this every morning, moving as quickly and quietly as a mouse.
Avery sat up, cranked the slat closed, and slipped back into the secret stairwell.
Returning to the kids' quarters, she found Kate sitting alone amid scraps of fabric, working on brightly colored silk flags for the Olympiad.
"Angelina is killing the king," Avery said bluntly.
Kate laughed. "First of all, how could you possibly know that? And second of all, how on earth could you prove it? Who would you tell, and why would anyone believe you? You could be sent to the gallows for simply suggesting it to the wrong person." Kate continued her sewing.
"Fine, but it doesn't change my opinion. Angelina doesn't seem the least bit upset that the king is ill, and the timing is wrong."
Kate didn't look up from her work. "The timing?"
"As soon as she married him, he grew visibly ill. Either she's contributing to his poor health, or she married him because she knew he was dying. Either way, I intend to prove she's involved."
Kate smiled, sewing the edge of a flag.
"I'm serious," Avery pressed.
"I'm sure you are, but why does it matter so much to you?"
"Because I believe Angelina is the reason we're here. If she gives birth to the king's heir and the king dies, it could mean destruction for all of us. The king may be the only reason we're still alive."
"He could also be the reason we're being held captive," Kate said. "How certain are you?"
Avery shrugged. "I'm sure a king is no match for the power of a determined woman."
Kate laughed. "Is that another theory you plan to prove?"
Avery nodded. "I'm not ready to face the king yet, but someday I will."
* * *
Later that evening, the thirteen-year-olds held a party in their meeting hall, wearing elaborate costumes and masks with gaudy embellishments obtained by the scouts after one of Angelina's recent festivities. The kitchen girls delivered platters of treats while the kids laughed and poked fun at each other late into the night.
Safe behind her elaborate gold mask with fabric roses, Avery decided to ask Kendrick the question she had been struggling with for days. He stood off to the side, leaning against the wall, holding up a wolf mask made of black feathers.
She was surprised he was holding a mask but not that he was alone. Avery took a deep breath and gathered her courage. Once she asked the question, she would never be able to take it back. He might laugh at her or worse, but she needed to know his answer more than she needed her next breath of air. She determinedly stepped over to him. Still behind her mask, she said quietly, "I need you to be honest with me."
Her throat tightened and she swallowed.
In that instant he lowered his mask, and she saw that he wasn't Kendrick!
Avery quickly spun and marched away, the strange boy calling after her.
She finally found Kendrick, sitting alone, reading. She considered forgetting the whole thing. She wasn't afraid he'd lie. She was afraid he might tell the truth and what that truth might be.
When he looked up at her, she knew it was now or never.
She set down her mask.
Kendrick looked annoyed by the interruption, but he closed his book. "Well?"
"Your eyes," she said, barely above a whisper. "One is brown and the other is blue, just like the first queen."
It wasn't a question.
Kendrick's expression — as always — was blank.
Avery wondered whether he'd heard her. Or if he had but didn't understand the implication — which was itself an answer. At least he might not understand what she wanted to know, which might save her some embarrassment in the end.
He opened his book and stared at a page for a long moment. Avery was about to turn away when Kendrick slammed the book shut and stood, staring straight at her with those striking eyes.
"We can't talk about this here," he said.
She followed him into the stairwell and up the stairs until they arrived at a door with an X on it.
She grabbed Kendrick's arm. "We can't —"
But he pushed it open to reveal a tiny balcony under a sloping roof. He stepped out and hoisted himself onto the gable.
Closing the door, Avery followed, grateful for Kendrick's hand. She had climbed a thousand trees but never in a billowy dress.
They sat in silence under a net of stars, looking out over the Salt Sea and a cluster of houses glowing with golden candlelight.
It was strangely peaceful, like the roof of her castle tree house back home, only a heavy secret dangled between them.
Kendrick spoke quietly. "How long have you had it figured out?"
Avery turned to look at Kendrick in a new way. "You're —"
"The son of a king who doesn't even know my name," he said with a laugh. "Can you imagine how that feels?"
"No," she whispered. But of course, she had imagined how it felt to be the child of the king. What thirteen-year-old girl hadn't imagined a life better than her own? Now — ironically — she was living the life she had imagined and would give anything to return to the life she had taken for granted.
Avery could barely take it in. Kendrick was royalty. She leaned back on her elbows. "Start at the beginning."
Kendrick exhaled loudly, and Avery sensed that the walls Kendrick had built around himself were slowly crumbling. With the moon as their only witness, he began.
"I don't know my beginning," he said. "When I was eight or nine, I overheard the woman I believed was my mother telling a friend she was angry that the king did nothing to support me. My family was poor, and I was draining them of their resources."
"I'm sure you weren't —"
"I was a burden, and I always knew it. When I heard my mother say that, I finally understood why."
"And you never told your mother you knew the truth?"
Kendrick shook his head. "I was scared. I've learned since that the woman who raised me was a servant in the household of the first queen. She lived here in the castle. One of Queen Elizabeth's women sent me to live with my new family in one of the country houses on the other side of the Salt Sea."
"And you don't know why?"
He shook his head again and stared up at the sky.
"Legend says the king's only child died," Avery said.
"Do you think the king even knows you were sent away? What if he doesn't know you're alive?"
"You're still scared," Avery said.
"I'm not scared."
"Then what's stopping you? What if you are the heir the king wants? You could make him the happiest man on earth! He's sick and needs a son, and you didn't die!"
"But I will if Angelina finds me. It's a risk I'm not sure I want to take."
That sent a shiver up Avery's spine. "You don't believe there's anything you can do?"
Kendrick whispered, "I have never told my story until now."
"Don't worry. Your secret is safe with me."
"It may be," he answered, "but you aren't safer for knowing."
"Then why tell me?"
"Well, for one thing, you're the first one to figure it out. And you asked. Plus, you might be able to help."
Avery raised a brow. "How so?"
"Your mother has been right about everything else," Kendrick said. "The stories she told you when you were growing up included the underground colonies, the tunnels, and the evil queen. I'm certain she gave you the information we need to get out of here alive. You need to think hard about everything she ever told you. Even the details you feel are insignificant. She wouldn't have given you all this information and left out the most important clue."
Avery hoped he was right.
She, too, had suspected her mother had left bread crumbs of information for just this moment, but Avery couldn't for the life of her remember what they might be.
"I'll do my best," she said.
"I know you will. Once the king dies, the only thing I'll be good for is the gallows if Angelina knows where I am. You, too, if it comes out that you know my identity. We don't have much time."
They climbed down from the sloping roof and landed on the tiny balcony.
And they saw that the door stood open.
Someone had been listening!CHAPTER 3
Keeping her promise to Kendrick, Avery plumbed her memories of her mother's stories while pacing the stairwell or staring absently at her book in the sitting room or while bartering with other thirteen-year-olds in the makeshift shop.
She rehearsed everything she could remember while eating with Kate. At night she dreamed of conversations with her mother and relived the nights she curled up beside her to listen to the stories of her past while scented raindrops pelted the paper-thin windows of their tiny cottage.
The only result of all this effort was that Avery missed her mother even more.
She dreaded having to tell Kendrick she had nothing helpful to offer him. He would be rightfully annoyed.
* * *
Kate's sewing room looked like a market stall with its colorful bolts of fabric stacked side by side. Avery loved to sneak upstairs and watch her friend work.
"What's on your mind?" Kate asked without looking up, sticking pins into freshly cut fabric.
Avery smiled, her lip quivering. "It's about your grandmother."
Kate set down her tools and looked up. "Go on."
"After she took Henry and me from the woods, she must have instructed someone to take my brother somewhere — another village, maybe, or somewhere here in the castle?"
Kate looked away. Avery wondered if this conversation came too soon after the old woman's death.
Finally Kate said, "If you're asking me where Henry is, I don't know."
"But you must!" Avery blurted. "You know everything else about the inner workings of the court, and your grandmother is the reason —" Sleepless nights had made her emotional. She would get nowhere blaming Kate's grandmother.
Kate nodded and said quietly, "You should spend time in the chapel."
Avery smiled. Her mother always gave her the same advice when she was struggling with something. "You will find the answers to your most important questions there."
But Avery didn't find her answers in the chapel, especially the ornate one upstairs in the castle, no matter how often she went. She preferred immediate answers — with audible replies.
Excerpted from The Ruby Moon by Trisha White Priebe, Jerry B. Jenkins. Copyright © 2016 Trisha White Priebe. Excerpted by permission of Barbour Publishing, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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