Gail has never in all her life wanted to be queen. As the twenty-third daughter of the Karbaan of NaRasch, she is neither rich nor prominent within her family, and content to keep it that way. Far from the line of succession, her only goals in life are to remain unremarkable and avoid doing anything that might cost her head. Therefore, no one is more surprised than she when a summons comes to her from the royal city, and the Karbaan gives the province of Gaeline to her for her seventeenth birthday.
An extravagant gift quickly turns into an inconvenient curse when her father dies only a matter of days later. His successor, Gail’s brother, inherits an uncertain crown and immediately sets to work securing his rule. In a midnight trial he convicts Gail of treason and imprisons her within the formidable Shadokoep, claiming the crown of Gaeline for his own.
But captivity might not be as permanent for Gail as her brother would like. The Paladin has in mind to abduct a Princess of NaRasch. When he learns that there is one held in Shadokoep, the undefeated fire-wielding warrior is faced with an opportunity he cannot pass up – to break into Shadokoep and humiliate the Karbaan by stealing his prized prisoner.
Excerpts from The Princes and the Paladin
It was then that Gail’s heart really stopped; for as the sword came free of its scabbard, its blade caught flame of its own accord, beginning at the hilt and racing downward to the point. At the same moment, the wielder’s left hand which held the reins at Gail’s side became cold. A cruel-looking ash-coloured gauntlet appeared upon the hand, as though melting through the skin. Behind her, Gail felt the fabric of her captor’s clothing disappear, replaced by the cold steel of a like-fashioned armour. Beneath them, the horse transformed as well, its eyes turning red and its coat changing to a coal black. The intruder raised his sword and let out a roar.
Gail no longer needed to be told who it was that had captured her, for now she knew. Every man, woman and child in NaRasch had heard the whispered rumours of this weapon and the man who wielded it. The blade was called the Paladin, and if half the tales were true it was undefeatable.
“The name is Gretnert,” replied the woman. “Anne Gretnert. Moreover, you are the queen of Gaeline. Yes, I know; we have been expecting you.”
“No,” Gail breathed, finding that she again had some measure of strength, “I am not the Queen.”
“What? Of course you are.”
“Not anymore.” Gail said, unsure why she was trying to explain the matter other than that she had not been able to tell anyone, and she supposed that she just needed to get it out.
“Now what do you mean by that?” the woman asked.
“I have been made a prisoner of war,” Gail replied. “Gaeline is a conquered people – an occupied country. The Karbaan is again its king.”
Wrenching the dagger from its scabbard, Gail started in surprise. The blade of the dagger was glowing brilliant blue. It looked as if it was made of glass and a blue fire was raging inside, threatening to break out. It was the source of the chill. She did not touch it for fear that her hand might stick to it. What moisture touched it froze instantly, covering the blade with a thin white frost. She felt certain the dagger was alive.
“What is that?” Slacer demanded, sitting up and squinting against the light of the blade. Gail took off the sheath and slid the dagger back into it, shutting away the light.
“You tell me what it is,” she replied in awe. “I have no idea.”