Crimes Against The Crown Book 2: Eye Of The Storm. Excerpt from Chapter 1.

Due to someone hacking my computer and losing everything the release of book 2 has been postponed. As an apology, I’ve posted a short sample for those who are forced to wait. It’s not enough but hopefully it will ease the suffering. Enjoy.

Happy Reading.
NJ Kuhr

Note: This is not my picture. I don’t know who’s picture it is but I love it. It is not the official cover for Eye OF The Storm but we are working on getting something similar.


Eye Of The Storm

The sailor knew my face.
How could he not? After all, sailors love a good story, especially one of their own. They are known for their songs and love nothing more than a good tale. Mine is most definitely a good tale, if not a strange one. They know what happened. They’ve shared my experiences, telling it again and again over drinks in a pub or during long nights away from home.
Animlyre, they called me.
It is what they whisper in the streets when they think I can’t hear them. I understand though it is not accurate. Not in the least. Sailors are a superstitious lot and believe many odd things. Given my history, Animlyre would be an easy assumption.
Animlyre is born to the sea. Not someone born by a woman and raised near the shore; dependent on the sea, to live their lives based on her whims though I am that as well. Animlyre is someone birthed by Her, by the spirit of the ocean; a child of our Lady herself, one of her own.
Even nonbelievers call the ocean by name. They call her a she even if they don’t realize what that entails or that they are even doing so. Believers refer to her as a woman, with renowned and even fear. As if the Sea has a consciousness, a self-awareness, intentions, and feelings.
She is fickle and cruel.
I have earned the right to say so. I’ve been cast into her dark anger and nearly died by her hand. If I say she is cruel it is because I have felt her presence as her waves tumbled over me and in a fit of rage she nearly tore me asunder. When her temper ceased she was no less forgiving. Her fury was not one of heat and fire but of ice and wind, one that when it was over I was both freezing and burning. The sea kept my temperature at dangerously low levels while the sun scorched my face and arms.
To be lost at sea is a horrible way to die. It is a slow pain of contradictions that will destroy every ounce of will to live. Laid bare without shelter the ever-present sun cast her gaze upon my skin unyielding and unrelenting. There was nowhere else to hide from that bright blaze but under Her surface where I would surely freeze.
Water is a blessing and a curse. She left me near to drowning and yet I was dehydrated to the point of death. I have heard people complain of thirst when I know in my heart they haven’t begun to know the meaning of the word. I was floating in immeasurable quantities of water for days, mayhap longer, and knew what real thirst was. My throat so dry I tasted blood and couldn’t swallow. And even though it hurt and tore I kept trying in an attempt to moisten my throat.
To drink the water of the Lady would bring death closer. Fevered, sick and dying I had enough constitution to remember that saltwater was a killer. As dry as my lips were I would not let myself drink as I floated. It would have been easy, parched as I was I wouldn’t have needed to exert any effort, simply relax my jaw and let my mouth open. But no, I needed to live. I could not recall why at the time but there was a desperate desire to live and not for myself. There was a terrible, terrible wrong that I had to set right. I locked my jaw and held tight to my own wrist as I clung to the only piece of salvation the Lady would give; a lone piece of driftwood.
They say I am Her daughter, the whispers claim the Lady Ocean carried me in her womb and delivered me in the waves. I can understand why they think so though I try not to be bitter. That is where they saved me after all.
I was found by a Royal ship out for one last fishing expedition and to report on the ice formations and borders. They came across my form floating leagues away from shore among debris unconsciousness, near starved to death, dehydrated and half drowned.
At first, the sailors believed I was dead. They pulled me on deck, rescuing me from certain death. If my lack of nutrition didn’t kill me, I would have frozen to death if I had spent one more night in the waves. They very nearly capsized themselves in an effort to get me to safety. When the sailors realized I was still alive they rushed me to their capital and into the hands of the Crown.
I spent well over a month lost in a fever-induced sleep, sick and struggling to hold on. The Kings own Chirurgeon had no hope that I would survive the fever-sleep and did his best to make my passing comfortable though survive I did, against all odds. I awoke with no memory of who I was, where I came from or how I ended up floating on a destroyed piece of timber so far from the nearest landfall. A young lady barely of age without a single memory to comfort her.
Animlyre indeed.
Is it any wonder then, that the sailor knew my face?
I was a mystery, a tragic damsel saved from the bosom of the sea and unofficially adopted into the Monarchy of Cynthera. The King and Queen took me in and dedicated every resource they had into finding my identity. A lovely tale for certain; one that spread like wildfire even in the depths of winter.
Slowly pieces came back to me; impressions, feelings mostly. Colette, they called me; another name not my own. It was supposed to be temporary though it quickly turned more real than anything I have ever known. I became Colette and had a new family. King Theodrid and Queen Emmeline took to the role of parents and in many ways they were. Prince Warin positioned himself as my brother before I even woke to his unfamiliar face.
Prince Emory…
Well, he became something altogether different.
We were attracted to one another from the beginning. An attraction that became harsh and bitter when we chose our duties over our desires. And when our animosity boiled into a frenzied confrontation we somehow emerged lovers. A blistering collision of unresolved tension exploded and what had once been sharp hatred turned into a hot consuming love.
I gave him everything without reservations; my heart and soul. I would give him anything he asked. Emory is not the kind of man to ask.
The people of Cynthera pulled their own weight, everyone did their part. The King and Queen did not laze about ordering their people to wait on them hand and foot. King Theodrid and his sons awoke before most of the city and tended to the upkeep of their home and their country themselves. As the reigning monarchs, Theodrid and Emory held their positions as servants to the people. As such it was their duty to train the army, to protect and provide for Cynthera. They took on the bulk of the responsibilities and the people followed their example.
Do not think that I dallied about Bryndury like a spoiled court darling, wasting away the days with petty gossip and frivolous tasks. I earned my keep. What I didn’t know I learned quickly. My skills and talents were valuable. I proved myself to be clever, educated and resourceful. With each passing day, I discovered details and clues about the person I was, every revelation into my previous knowledge and instruction brought us closer to the truth.
We knew when my identity was discovered we may not be able to prevent my departure. I prayed to any God that would listen that my true life would not tear us apart. I felt guilty for not wanting to know who I really was. I made a child’s bargain. I wouldn’t resent the people who mourned and missed me if the God’s would ensure I wouldn’t be separated from the Bryn family, from Emory.
Be careful what you wish for.
A saying people have used as a warning for years. No one even knew its origins. It was just something people said. I have reason to hate it. My prayer, my wish; it became the most painful, lesson I have ever had to learn. If I thought the guilt I felt before was torture, the guilt I felt after was living hell.
Animlyre would have been a welcomed alternative. I thought it a simple wives tale. On parliament day I begged the heavens to make it the truth. I wanted nothing more than to stay Colette child of the Sea. Not someone born to a human, not a child raised on the shore dependent upon the waves of the sea. Not a child ripped from her family. Not a seafarer bereft of her people. I begged for anything but that.
Seafarer I’ve been called, just one more title; another name carelessly given.
I have…
I had a real mother; a wonderful, beautiful human mother. I had a father, a man strong in flesh and blood. I had a brother, protective and determined, my closest friend. I had many friends, people whom I had cared deeply for and they had cared for me, looked to me for guidance, for strength. I was a perfectly normal, happy girl. Well, not completely normal. I was a perfectly happy princess; loved by her people and on my way to becoming a great ruler.
All of that was gone. Any potential I had, and my people had was gone.
I prayed that I would have no responsibilities that would take me away from Cynthera. I got exactly what I wanted and I got it in the worst way possible.
A tragic story, yes? One of legend. To think I scoffed when the city folk whispered Animlyre and handed me flowers, honey bread or seashell necklaces. Emory and his family disregarded it and supported me regardless.
That day, the day of parliament was no exception. We stood in front of their people at a Royal assembly and I couldn’t even look in their direction. It was too much for any of us to bear. Perhaps I got that wish as well. I got all the gravity of Animlyre without any of the anonymity.
The sailor knew my face. How could he not?
“I have word from Eskeria.”
“Were there any survivors?”
“Just one.”
The ground rushed up to meet my face. The crack of my knees hitting the hard stone echoed but I didn’t feel anything. Some pain is worse than others. Emory sprinted off the dais in an effort to get to me as the world tilted sideways. His knuckles scrapped against the harsh stone as he caught my head before I cracked it open.
Warin snapped at the closest guard he could reach to find anything on Eskeria, grabbing him hard by the shoulder to get his attention. “Find an expert.”
The guard stared, wide-eyed. Warin had never used his authority but a royal command hardened his tone. Snapping his mouth closed he did as he was told and the guard rushed from the room.
Theodrid called for order as his men surrounded us attempting to keep the swarm of people from trampling me in the mayhem. Emmeline reached my side, gripping my hand crying. Clory called for water and a rag to no one in particular but her demands were met.
Theodrid ordered everyone out of the Hall and had to yell multiple times before he was heard. His guard tasked with herding the hundreds of people who were pressing in on us out into the courtyard and away from the Keep.
I witnessed this as though from the bottom of a well, numb and thoughtless of its meaning. Emory was holding me in his arms trying to pull me out of my shock.
“Emory.” I croaked. “Eskeria.”
I heard a strangled moan before he replied “I know, love. I know.”
A cool rag pressed against my forehead. The court had cleared out though Clory ignored the command. She wouldn’t leave my side unless given a direct order and no one saw fit to make her go.
Theodrid’s council stayed upon request including Admiral Hugo and the sailor, Emaldo. The Royal Commander and all the Captains of the Guard stood helpless.
Tears rolled down my temples into my hair. Grief is a physical thing and it squeezed my ribs until I thought they might break. It crushed my heart and perforated my lungs, chocking the breath from me. My mother’s voice whispered. Stand. Do not let them see your pain. Stand.
I leaned my head back and stared at the ceiling willing the tears away before I braced myself to get up.
Emory helped me to my feet though he didn’t hover. He stayed close enough I could feel his body heat but didn’t support my elbow knowing I would want to stand on my own.
I looked directly at Emaldo. My shoulders dropped back and firm, my chin rose, stretching my neck.
“My name is Ophelia de Priya, Heir to the throne of Eskeria. Tell me everything.”

Book 2 of the Crimes Against The Crown series available soon.

Let me know what Ya’ll think and I will keep you updated.

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