by Kelly Walker
by Kelly Walker
Welcome to the book blitz for the first book in Kelly Walker's Souls of the Stones series!
WHAT A GREAT DEAL!
An e-book copy of CORNERSTONE is only 99¢
on Nook and Kobo,
on Nook and Kobo,
~*~Here's an excerpt now!
The man who had found Garith in the woods spoke again. “Imagine someone with all three Gifts. The ability to hear the future. The knowledge of the past, as well as the guidance of the spirits. And the ability to harness the earth to your will. Someone with the power of all three Stones would be unstoppable.”
The man across from them spoke quietly, and solemnly.
“Souls of the Stones, their sights we bear,
Sounds of the Stones, their secrets we share,
Will of the soil blood will flow,
Should three Stones one ever know.
What once were one split thrice,
Over whispers and sights,
Soil prevails, behold its might,
Blood and Stones as one brings darkest night.”
Their leader spoke up again. “For years, we have worked to ensure that just such a union doesn't occur. If Lady Warren weds Prince Torian, all of the Three Corners will be at risk. Son, do you understand why we can't let that happen? That prophecy has been passed down for generations. Like our fathers before us, we have been dedicated to ensuring that it isn't fulfilled. Our mission is to see to it that the Bloodlines stay separate, and that never again is there a union like there was between Valencia and Oren. It's just too dangerous.”
“Emariya couldn't have known,” Garith said sadly.
“Maybe not. But Prince Torian surely knows. It may be that he is intentionally trying to bind the lines, to harness the power to unite Eltar and Sheas to Thalmas by force. With the three Gifts at his disposal, he could do exactly that,” Russell insisted.
“If Emariya knew, she would never marry him. No matter what, she would never want to jeopardize the safety of everyone in Eltar.”
“Then we'll tell her. It sounds like she is being used unknowingly. If she is truly innocent in this, once we tell her, she will return home. Will you come with us?”Garith nodded. On his own he'd never find her, and now more than ever he was desperate to get to her. These men seemed to know the woods well. His best bet was to stick with them, and hopefully along the way he would learn more about the Stones. It would be fine, he told himself. They would find Riya, tell her of the lore of the Cornerstones, and she would choose not to marry the prince after all.
Jessa couldn't even begin to keep track of all the different emotions that were fighting to the surface at the thought of her mother. She was honored that Emariya wanted her to accompany her, but at the same time, she wasn't thrilled about leaving home. Even more, her mother's words before she departed were weighing heavily on her mind.
“Jessa, your job will not be an easy one. Looking after your mistress on this journey will be like nothing you've ever done.”
“Has looking after Emariya ever been easy, Mama?” Jessa had teased. It was no secret that her mother often complained of how headstrong Emariya tended to be.
They'd been in the kitchen packing up the last of the food they would be taking with them. “This will be different, Jessa. She will be in danger from much more than a few ruffled feathers over not observing proper formalities. Though you will need to see that she makes a good impression when you present her to the prince—may the Three give you the strength.” The heavily dimpled woman had looked to the heavens. “That won't be an easy task, either. But Jessa, listen up now. There are those who would happily see her not reach Thalmas, and they will look to stand in her way. What she is doing with this journey…well, there are those who have spoken of its possibility, and are determined to prevent it at all costs.” Her mother had looked her hard in the eye, stressing the importance of what she was saying.
“Spoken of it how?” Jessa was confused. Emariya had only decided to go to Thalmas a few days before. While she talked, she carefully wrapped slices of turkey before tucking them into the canvas pack lying on the table.
Ignoring her question, her mother continued, “She may well be able to finish what her mother started, but only if you can keep her safe.” Mairi had absentmindedly wiped her hands on her apron as she turned away from her daughter.
“What her mother started? I don't understand, Mama, what are you going on about?” Jessa was starting to worry. Would her mother be all right here without her? Jessa gently touched her mother's arm, turning her to face her again.
Mairi had sighed. “Lady Valencia came to Eltar because she had dreamt of a day when we might all prosper in peace. Emariya has the ability to bring that peace.”
“Mother, why haven't you ever mentioned this before? You've always been reluctant to speak of Lady Valencia,” Jessa asked, confused. She could tell that her mother felt that what she was saying was gravely important, so why didn't she just come out with it? Nothing she was saying made sense.
“Because she must find her own path, instead of walking the one she believes she was born to. Do not tell her what I have said, Jessa. Promise me.” Mairi's expression was serious.
“I promise, Mama.” Jessa patted her mother's arm, still concerned.
“She'll have Khane to keep her safe from physical harms—we can hope, at least. But she needs you as well. Her heart tends to run away with her wits. Not everyone you meet will be able to be trusted. It’s up to you to keep her eyes open, but more importantly, you must make sure she keeps her ears open. Jessa, listen to me now: you have got to keep her safe. I tried to keep her mother from harm, but I couldn't. I pray you have better luck than I did.” Her mother pulled her close in a tender embrace. “But oh, how I shall miss you, my girl.”
“I'll miss you too, Mama,” Jessa whispered, her heart catching in her throat.
Her mother had an uncanny way of being right, but Jessa couldn’t help hoping her mother had been overestimating the trials that lay ahead.
Strong arms scooped her up off of the cold ground. The warmth of his body radiated through her. She'd been lying on the ground for so long that the wet had infiltrated every layer of her clothing. She was so cold, and he was so warm. Emariya snuggled in against him without thinking about it, and then opened her eyes.
Looking down at her worriedly were the purest gray eyes she had ever seen. If someone had told her they were made of the snow and stone that surrounded them, she would have believed them. Then he smiled at her. Her breath caught in her chest.
His dark hair curled wickedly every which way, despite his attempts to brush it back. She couldn't help thinking that he could have been carved out of rock. He had high cheekbones and an angled chin, which added to the carven look. Several days’ worth of stubble decorated his jawline, but instead of making him look unkempt it only punctuated his deeply handsome dark looks.
“Are you all right, my Lady?” His voice was tense, worried, but strangely lyrical. She smiled reassuringly at him. She was instantly rewarded with his returned smile.
She had thought for sure she heard Garith's voice, but she didn't see him. “Garith?” she inquired, trying to lift her head to look around for him. The man's smile dimmed, although it was no less captivating. He turned her so she could see the other side of the camp. She saw Garith off to the side, working to put out the fire. This handsome, kind stranger must have helped Garith rescue her.
“Who?” she managed to croak out. Her throat was raw and the words ached as they passed through her dry lips. What had happened? She'd been running for Raina when…she remembered then. She'd gotten the oil of the Hellebore on her when Leil touched her. She shuddered involuntarily, remembering the things the hypnotic herb had made her envision while she was under its spell. But that didn't matter anymore.
The smile was back, although it was more guarded now. “Allow me to introduce myself, my Lady. My name is Torian Ahlen.”