The Ebony Queen
A Medieval Romantasy
A Reign of Blood & Magic, Book 2
“Lane’s romantic fantasia is a talkfest with dialogue… and the otherworldly effects are vivid and well rendered in this energetic tale.”Kirkus Review
The story is rich and complex, with numerous engaging protagonists that make the prose dynamic, immersive, and ideal for fans of epic fantasy.Self-Publishing Review
Lane takes us into a dark world of myth and magic. Her images are dark and evocative and at times entirely too realistic.Katie O’Connor
A Queen’s quest for supremacy.
A Royal family threatened by vengeance.
A Triangle of Art conjures their destiny
Seeking revenge, Queen Cynara signs a blood contract with the devil Daemonis, enabling her to gain new power and conjure the highest level of Solomonic magic. Using this mega-spell, she deploys tempests against three princesses, casting a blanket of evil upon her perceived enemies. The ensuing storm inters Ruby to a dark fate, binds Rose to the sea, and threatens Scarlett in a place where she thought she’d be safe from further harm. A lord and two guardians are left helpless to protect their wards and not even a god is safe from the queen’s sorcery.
But power comes with a price and unbeknownst to Cynara, the devil has a secret strategy. When a blood moon eclipses the night sky, Cynara will invoke her magic in the king’s forest. Will her quest for supremacy prevail, and how might an undeclared truth impact the current King Lowell, The Ebony Queen’s own son?
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Praise for The Ebony Queen
The Ebony Queen by Abby Lane is a dark and expansive fantasy novel, the sophomore installment of the Reign of Blood and Magic series. Maternal devotion is twisted by a queen’s selfish desire for power, casting a blanket of evil that entangles this thoroughly built and unique fantasy world. Despite boasting original magical mechanisms and a deft descriptive pen, there is sometimes a leading tone to the storytelling, which makes the plot occasionally feel predictable. That said, the story is rich and complex, with numerous engaging protagonists that make the prose dynamic, immersive, and ideal for fans of epic fantasy.Self-Publishing Review
Book Two of A Reign of Blood and Magic, is quite a ride. In The Ebony Queen, Lane takes us into a dark world of myth and magic. Her images are dark and evocative and at times entirely too realistic. I was drawn in from the start and hooked until the end. And now, I must read the next book in this saga. Is it here yet? Congratulations to Lane on keeping up the hectic pace of book one.Katie O’Connor
‘The Ebony Queen’ more than lives up to its billing as a ‘medieval romantasy,’ as Lane once again offers readers a healthy dose of magic, swordplay, and of course, steamy romance.James W, Vine Voice, Amazon
A scintillating read for those who enjoy epic fantasy characters and descriptive settings.Elaine, Amazon
I am a huge fan of medieval fiction that’s filled with intrigue, romance and magic. This book delivered on all, and then some. The author is a hidden gem, her writing style is picturesque and exquisite, engaging all of our senses.Timea Tokes, Goodreads
Queen Mother Cynara
The sun dipped beneath the horizon of an anxious kingdom, a kingdom where medieval corridors and peasant quarries were shadowed with a concerned people, fretting about the marked consequences that had befallen them since the death of King Rickard. What future harm might come to pass during the miserable days ahead, and what could a secret alliance do to solve the difficult matter of the Ebony Queen, if anything?
Autumn had arrived. The preceding months had reaped persistent chaos: Princess Scarlett was dead, the people presumed; Princesses Ruby and Rose were missing from the castle; King Lowell was a puppet to his mother’s commands. Every bad omen, it was said, began in one wicked place and ended there, too.
The Queen Mother Cynara…
It made no difference to her what the kingdom believed. She had determined to rise above malicious women and their whisperings since a bitter experience as a servant. If fateful schemes came to her now, years later, cutting words and curt dismissals were to blame. Queen Cynara evil? Bah! It wasn’t malevolent sin flowing through her arteries, her mind cleaved intelligence, her heart no more than a motor to drive her purpose, to seed plans of supreme magic. There was nothing wrong with using magic.
While she suspected spying, no one in the kingdom was wise enough to predict her desire for further power. ‘The learned’ believed that artistic talent, such as invocation spells, were unattainable. Yet, she trusted that black curses, bewitching spells, and well-crafted plagues were a means to further her ambition.
Cynara had delved deeper than most witches and wizards had dared to go; by seeking the vilest spirits who had been condemned to the Netherworld, thus sinking into nether lands of self-consciousness and depravity. She meditated until demons had been written into her spells, spells that would set her world downside right. What was wrong with discovery? Discovery seeded ambition and power could not be gained without taking risks.
If the dark ages were about to dawn, as the people say, Cynara embraced the night and the evil she had become. She strode toward her goals with a sleek determination.
Deep inside the king’s forest, beyond the hollow glen, she waited in the vale, eager, listening, sitting on the earth’s reconstructed floor. A black cape fell from her shoulders and extended away from the length of her petite form like a fan-shaped tail, its silk settling on the ground. Seated inside a three-ringed circle, Cynara waited for Daemonis, the satanic devil.
She stretched her arms wide, her fingers reaching for an apparition she had envisioned in her third eye; her fingers extended, not raised to the setting sun, but palms downward to where the earth rumbled, bled and sorrowed, as she sought the one who could cause greater harm and contract her revenge.
“Come to me, assist me,” she said, chanting. “Visit me inside the circle.”
Cynara didn’t know whether the lord of the damned would grant her request. Neither did she trust a fallen angel to assist a woman who had not fallen herself. But her greed was rewarded when the wind moaned and caliginous vapors swept in from the sea, howling through the trees and blowing her hood from her head. She searched the forest, trying to see from whence he came, but only the sight of flying dirt and scurrying leaves met her investigation, but then her ears were pierced by a screaming whistle that only a fallen angel would cry.
Eager to see him, she reclined against the ground and prostrated her arms and legs outward, extending her limbs toward the quadrants of a three-ringed circle she had enclosed herself inside, her forehead pressed against the ground, her breathing controlled, inhaling and exhaling in a measured way while smelling the pungent scent of earth beneath her nose.
“Attend me. Come to me, Daemonis,” she said, whispering, chanting in humming tones, sometimes singing, mumbling an unspoken language of the gods.
A fiery wind caressed her back and a clutch of slithering coils attempted to snatch her from the ground. She closed her eyes and her hair flew wildly about her face. His fingers pressed against her side and grasped her buttocks. A grating voice penetrated her eardrums from somewhere within the gust.
“Here I am, the fallen angel you cry for. The lord of the damned you wish to overpower. Again. Ego paeniteo huc, I am here. What do you want?”
Cynara attempted to rise, but a burning sensation held her immobile and enveloped the contours of her feminine figure, forcing her to merge with the topsoil. She shuddered, sinking. “Let me rise, and I will tell you.”
“You don’t want to rise, Queenie, or see the one you greedily cry for. You seek to sink further into the ground. You think by doing so that everything you want will come to you. You will not see me, or garner my full attention, until you share why you lured me inside this vale, and why I should listen to a word spoken from your mouth.”
Impatience rankled Cynara, but she had expected his testing, having experienced it before. She didn’t attempt to rise, but she did desire to manipulate his power for her own benefit, so she pressed her lower back against his strength and found him strong and wanting.
“I desire the gifts that only a god could give me. I desire a partner who will satisfy this strength.”
A hand, an embrace of the wind, wafted about her silken-clad figure. She closed her eyes, intrigued by the heated contact that caressed her back, his fingertips, momentarily stroking the contours of her face.
“I’ve entertained your desires before, but why should I satisfy you now? I can obtain human souls much younger than yourself, slipping inside a varied lap of sexual sin.”
“I have more experience than the cattle you’re accustomed to fetching inside your den with a staff.” Cynara snickered, licking her lips. “I’m not a lamb, nor a sheep to follow the flock to slaughter. I carve my own destiny. I have risen to the height of queen. I aim to rise higher.”
She felt his respiration against her neck, a warmth that stressed his authority, gave credence to his power, and affected her awareness. His hands slid across her calves, his fingertips massaged her legs and caressed her thighs, his length pressed against her buttocks and settled more firmly atop her feminine shape. Cynara understood this attempt at dominance.
“You didn’t rise to your societal stoop alone,” he crowed, licking her neck. “I remember your attributes; I remember them well.” He breathed hot air against her neck, his whisper scorching the soft tissues. “Even so, I didn’t say I wouldn’t want you, or that you had not captured my interest. A devil would be remiss to ignore a woman who holds such fine and evil attributes.”
Cynara attempted to shift her position.
“Oh no,” he crooned. “Please don’t move, Queenie. I enjoy a pliant woman, a woman who is open to evil doings. But are you willing to do everything required to have your desires fulfilled? What will you sacrifice to fall deeper into sin?”
Considering the question, Cynara closed her eyes, enjoying the painful heat he inflicted on her figure. She felt his hand stroking the delicate tissue of her right breast, then slowly meandering along the length of her right arm, prodding with his fingertips, reaching for the fingers that lay compliant but were still touching the edge of the circle.
“Everything,” she whispered. “The promise of my soul, if necessary.”
He snickered. “You don’t have a soul. You gave up your heart years ago to feed your own self-worth.”
Cynara knew his remark was true. She remembered lying beside him, desiring the build-up of heat emanating from his body, the strength, authority and supremacy, even the subsequent orgasm. Having seen his evil presence as a powerful force, once she’d touched such influence, she had wanted the ability for her own.
“Despite our past, I’m willing; I’m ready.”
He laughed, a cry that threatened to burst her eardrums. “I see what you want. Greed and gluttony flow through your mind like the blood circulating through your veins.” He pressed his lips to her earlobe, clasped her fingers and enclosed them within his fist. “But I’ll never relinquish my powers, not even to you. One man has already become a victim to your deviance, but you cannot impair an angel who has already fallen.”
“Daemonis—” Cynara argued with him, “I don’t want your powers. I desire only to use your supremacy, to achieve my goals.”
“A goal named Scarlett? You want to harm the princess Scarlett. No more than a slip of a girl, what did the woman do to earn your hatred?”
“Does one have to act to earn disfavor? I need a lioness’s cub out of the way, weakened so she can never threaten the seat my son sits on. It’s the roar of nature.”
“Your quest has nothing to do with Panthera Leo. You stole the throne from the princess,” he said, guffawing. “The only being that threatens the current chair of state, as I see it, is you, Queenie.”
The remark caused her to anger. Nicknames were no more than an unwelcome epitaph borrowed from the grave, and she wasn’t prepared to sink that far. She fought his grip, twisting beneath him, but he was stronger than her and brought the back of her hand to his forehead. “Let go of me,” Cynara screamed, raging. “If you won’t help me—”
“I didn’t say I wouldn’t help you,” he said, kissing her hand. “But I don’t extend ability or influence without gaining a fee in return, and more often than not, a remuneration of greater value.”
Cynara slumped to the ground, sinking further.
“What must I sacrifice to gain your assistance?”
“To have a life, you must be willing to give a life.”
Cynara had to see his face, and although he held her hand, she turned in his grasp. He permitted her to move, permitted her to shift until she stared into his black eyes. A handsome man, Daemonis exuded power in a dark and sinister way, but maybe she saw what she wanted to see. When she felt his power, her eyes brightened with interest. “What must I give?”
His lips rose upward into a grin; his hips settled against her erogenous zone. “A child.”
Cynara’s eyes rose upward in speculation. “I’m beyond the age of childbearing.”
“Queenie,” he purred, kissing her forehead. “The spawn need not be delivered from your loins.”
“Who then, will carry this child?” she asked, wincing.
He splayed her on her back. She arched her neck backward, giving him full access to her flesh. The pleasure, oh, the pleasure, she hadn’t experienced such sensuality since… The sensations weakened her.
“I won’t tell you. You must agree, not knowing.”
“What are you up to? Why would I agree to such a scheme without knowing the entire cost?”
“Because the payment serves my purposes well. If we are successful with your plan, I may rise from the fallen, and that notion intrigues me. Do we have a deal?”
“How do you know what I want?”
“I know what you hunger for. I see the power you seek.” He licked her lips, and she shivered. “My patience has worn thin. Agree to my demands, to my fee, or let the power you seek slip away.”
Cynara thought about the agreement. What choice did she have? No other option existed but to partner with the devil to achieve her goals, and damn the fallen angel, he knew as much.
“We do,” Cynara replied. “We have a pact.”
He let her rise to her feet, but a look in his eyes made her wary. “I require one precondition.”
“What would that be?” Cynara demanded, her cheeks reddening.
“Your name written on my blood contract.”
Cynara smirked, but the humor did not reach her eyes. Though as long as the deal was struck, she wouldn’t burden herself with the consequences. What did she care about a babe not yet born? Some seeds spoiled.
“I will give you a child, but I need one gift in return. Call it a sign of good faith.”
A brush of wind paired with her hand.
“I respect you, Cynara Musadora. You are perfectly made. An evil fortress and profane to the core, but be warned, be careful; the edge of the circle you reach for could become your undoing and your destiny. Balance, Queenie. Evil winds require equilibrium, or disaster ensues.”
Slicing her wrist, Cynara dabbed her finger in the red blood and signed the devil’s contract, not heeding his warning or bothering to read the fine print. The deal was done.
* * *
Pleased and optimistic for her future, Cynara reined her chestnut mare along the beaten earth of the trail, loitering in the king’s forest, and in no hurry to return to the castle. Dead leaves crunched beneath the horse’s feet.
Looking upward, she reflected absent-mindedly on the gray crevices of a large, full-white moon while visions of malice and victory caused her hand to clench into a fist. Absorbed in her hateful schemes, she nearly missed the frightened whimper of the pawn. But when Maisie came to a halt on the trail, her ears raised and alert, Cynara listened, too.
“Ah,” she said, reflecting. The thrumming pulse of fear hid within the shadows, crunching amid the leaves. And then, a human brushstroke rubbed against an oak. A stranger waited, watching from somewhere within the bracken. Had someone followed her? But who would be so bold?
“Who goes there?” she called out, searching beyond tall grasses and ferns, eyeing the bramble and tall oaken trees, scouring the night shadows to pinpoint where the beating heart hid.
Cynara decided to try her new gift and moved her hand in a circular motion. When a slight breeze dispelled from her fingertips, she smiled with satisfaction. Her stellar wind infused the air, disturbing particles, as the draft swept through the trees.
“Come out!” she cackled, searching. “You’re already found.”
But she wasn’t surprised when the rodent didn’t respond. The nature of the small at heart was to hide in their getaway spot, hoping. She shook her head, understanding, having once been a trivial sapling, too.
She jumped down from the horse and walked toward the fluttering thrum. Unafraid, she raised her hand in front of her, reaching toward the heartbeat, which was surely an enemy’s. She tested her strength a little more, urging the wind to strengthen into a gust. She wondered what drafts she could throw if she were angry. She tested that, too, considering her enemies, permitting anger to flow through her veins, and then, furrowing her brow, she pulled her arm back and thrust the wind forward. It funneled through the trees, causing them to bend, causing her little mouse to scurry from its hiding place and scramble through the bracken.
Cynara rushed forward, pursuing, reaching toward a young, ordinary man. Though he was well muscled, the spy was soon wrapped in an invisible grip. Throwing him to the ground, she stalked closer until she stood above him, staring downward.
Cowering, the pawn raised his hands to protect his face. “Who are you?” she said, scrutinizing the pest. “Do you spy on me?”
“Your Majesty, my queen. I won’t tell a soul,” he said, visibly trembling. “For the sake of my wife and my children, don’t hurt me.”
Cynara laughed, considering the fear etched on his face. “It’s too late to care about your family,” she replied, stepping closer, unaffected by sympathy or empathy. Hardened, Cynara saw that his hand shielded his face as if she might strike him.
Insensitive, she snickered. “I don’t know how you found this place, but I won’t permit you to share my secrets, what you may have seen or heard. As for your children, it’s you who should be fretting. No one can know; not even my son.”
She sensed his fear; he nearly soiled his pants with the trepidation. “Finding you here was an accident.” He croaked. “I was taking a walk.”
“And a lengthy exercise, you’ve undertaken.” Cynara challenged him, her tone curt. “How dare you lie to me. Do others know of your meddling here? Who sent you? Who begged you to spy on the queen?”
“No one,” he responded, almost too fast. “I assure you, ‘tis only I, a peasant, hungry in the forest, seeking a stag to feed my family.”
“You have no weapons.”
“I dropped them when I tried to escape your notice.”
Cynara paced forward until she stood so close to him that she could see his eyes shifting back and forth. “You lie once, I take your tongue. Twice, you lose your arm. Thrice, your life hangs in the balance. I’m warning you. What traitor sent you to spy on a queen?”
He did not respond. Without touching his skin, she squeezed his throat. “Tell me.”
He stared at her, his face turning blue. “I. Will. Not.”
Cynara released the pressure and he fell backward in relief. “It doesn’t matter. Whoever sent you to spy on me has failed. We will return to the castle. I’d have you tortured to get to the truth, but you might spill the details of my visit in the forest. Ah, we can’t have that. So, I’ll awaken the guards when we return, and have you placed in a cell. The price is high for hunting a stag in the king’s forest, and higher still for taking the animal’s life.”
“I didn’t. I haven’t!”
She waved her hands as if manipulating an enchantress’s wand. “Oh, but you have. And with blood dressing your peasant clothes, everyone will believe it’s true.”
Clearly shocked, he stared at her in astonishment as crimson red soaked and spread across his tunic.
Cynara then threw a widow’s curse and wrapped the interloper within the strands. Returning to Maisie, she brought the mare to where the culprit lay, fretting on the ground. She retrieved a length of hemp from her saddlebag, tied it around his ankles, and then secured the rope to the saddle horn. The tough fibers of her curse flexed and wobbled in his forlorn attempt to free himself.
She dismissed his actions. He was wasting precious energy. No benefit could be gained from his struggle as he’d find no escape. She climbed aboard her mare, soon prompting the horse to walk.
Satisfied the pawn could not harm her, and that a spell had silenced his tongue, she dragged him behind the horse and made her way back to the castle.