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Fate Challenged (e-book #2)

Fate Challenged (e-book #2)

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Read the Synopsis

🌟 “The Fate Series: A Spellbinding Journey of Magic, Intrigue, and Destiny” 🌟

In the enchanting world crafted by Tara Lytle, magic weaves its threads through every corner. Readers have raved about this captivating universe:

“I so loved the 1st book in this series and couldn't wait to read the 2nd. It did not disappoint! I love this world that Tara created. It was another book I could not put down! Some crazy twists and turns that kept me engaged and thinking long after I finished reading..” — Jeff Van, Amazon (5-star review)

“Such a great storyline in an immersive world. All of Tara's books are a must read!— Author M. George, Amazon (5-star review)

Step into the desperate battle for survival, where a tapestry of divine design unfurls. Woven by the very hands of Gods, it confers upon a young girl the coveted title of ‘the most powerful mage alive.’

🔮 Isabelle has always treasured peace and anonymity, but destiny refuses to comply. As the kingdom hurtles into war, Isabelle emerges as their greatest weapon.

Amidst the chaos of battle, Isabelle grapples with her role. She stands at the heart of the war effort, a beacon of hope for Aberron. But as the Gods bestow new magical abilities upon her, a terrible realization dawns: her life hangs in the balance, and the Gods harbor their own agenda.

📚 The Fate Series is best enjoyed reading in order:

Fate Not Chosen

Fate Challenged

Fate Conquered

Embark on this thrilling journey where destiny hangs in the balance, and magic ignites the soul. Buy Now! 🌠✨

Read Chapter One

"I am in love with you, Isabelle,” Andrew said.

Usually I would reply that I loved him, too, but since he’d chosen to announce this in front of his parents, my brother, his cousin, and Malsin, I paused. We were congregated in the family sitting room. King Brian, Henry, and I played a game of Pilfer. Malsin and Queen Averly, engaged in friendly conversation, sat in soft chairs near the roaring fire. My brother, Joshua, and Andrew had only just arrived.

The strength in Andrew’s tone amazed me. “Every day I fall more in love with you—your smile, the sparkle in your eyes, your tenacity and passion. I cannot bear another second wondering if I will ever have you by my side.”

I blinked several times to hold back the tears threatening to overflow and spill down my cheeks. No words ever spoken had sounded so beautiful or rung so deep in my soul. I felt my heart might burst with love, affection, and, most of all, devotion.

Andrew took a deep breath and asked, “Isabelle Elaine Mirran, would you please accept a proposal of marriage and do me the honor of becoming my wife?”

My eyes widened. I looked to my brother and guardian, Joshua, and Andrew’s father, King Brian. Joshua had been against my relationship with the prince from the start. Was he seriously letting Andrew propose? Did King Brian think I was suitable enough for his son? Joshua shrugged and King Brian smiled. I took it that they’d given in—at least my brother had. I did not know King Brian well enough to discern his true feelings on the matter.

Past them, Malsin and Queen Averly smiled, and Henry, Andrew’s cousin, grinned. I saw no ill feelings anywhere.

Saying yes to Andrew meant I would eventually become queen, a position I’d never wanted. I despised attention. And yet, my chest burned with my love for Andrew. The thought of giving him up sent a thrill of fear through my veins. Losing him scared me more than being queen. So even if he did come with an unwanted job and an abundance of scrutiny, I could not survive without him.

As I opened my mouth to accept his proposal, the door opened. A soldier stood panting, his hands on his knees as he fought for breath.

“Dregaitia—” he choked out, still gasping heavily from his apparent flat-out run to notify King Brian. “The Dregans are attacking.”

Queen Averly and Henry gasped. Joshua and Malsin frowned deeply.

King Brian said with exasperation, “Oh, great.”

The tender moment between Andrew and me shattered. A shiver went down my spine as the room plunged into ice. So much for our nice quiet night in the royals’ personal family sitting room.

I resented the soldier delivering the news, but he couldn’t have known that Andrew had been proposing. An offer of marriage seemed inconsequential compared to another country attacking ours. Yet I wished things had unfolded differently.

Everyone’s eyes darted between Andrew and me and the soldier. I smiled ruefully at Andrew. “Shall we wait?”

He shook his head. “I won’t be able to concentrate on anything else without your answer.”

I leaned forward and stopped a breath away from his face. “I love you. My answer is yes.”

“Thank the Gods.” His blue eyes danced. Closing the distance, he pressed his lips quickly to mine and then stood behind my chair to face the soldier.

Joshua, Malsin, and Andrew’s family smiled and offered congratulations. My family now, I supposed. It was hard to imagine King Brian as family when his law sentenced me to death so recently. I saw him as king, not a father-in-law.

“Thank you,” Andrew and I said.

King Brian studied the two of us. Seeming satisfied that we were ready to focus our attention on the new threat, he turned to the soldier. The man appeared a tad uncomfortable to have interrupted us.

“Where?” King Brian asked.

The soldier spoke in a rush. “They’ve overtaken Prastis.”

“No!” I cried, my voice strangulated. Saren’s sister town. The small fishing community was only a four-hour walk from Saren. Nathan often traveled there for business, twice a month for two days. I knew those people almost as well as I knew the residents of Saren.

Eyes flicked to me for a moment with varying degrees of curiosity. Andrew rested his hands on my shoulders and squeezed.

King Brian demanded answers from the soldier. “What else do you know?”

“Nothing else, Highness,” The soldier said. “We’re gathering information from a messenger at the Thimbleton outpost as we speak.”

“Did the messenger come from Prastis?” King Brian asked.

“No, he came from Saren, Highness,” the soldier responded.

Stefan. He was the best messenger they had. Dread filled my entire being. I clutched my stomach with unease.

King Brian rose. “I expect a full report by the time I reach my study. You’re dismissed.”

The soldier bowed and ran out of the room.

King Brian said to Andrew and me, “I suggest we wait to announce your engagement to Aberronians until we have a handle on the Dregans.”

I saw no reason to object. Andrew apparently didn’t either, because we said “Fine” together.

“Isabelle, walk with me,” King Brian ordered.

I jumped out of my seat to follow as he exited the sitting room. Nerves gripped me at being singled out. I didn’t want to be a disappointment to him, especially since Andrew and I were now to be married. Andrew and the rest of our family trailed close behind us.

“Tell me what you know about Prastis.”

I jogged to keep up with the king’s long strides. “It’s a small fishing community on the coast, no more than five hundred people. Saren regularly trades crops for their fish.”

“How far is Prastis from Saren?” King Brian asked.

“Four hours on foot in good weather,” I answered. “The whole area is made up of simple folk, not fighters, and no mages.”

“Easy targets for Dregaitia,” King Brian growled.

My stomach churned.

Dregaitia was a large country separated from Aberron by a body of water known as the Sea Traveler’s Channel or the channel for short. Prastis was situated in the narrowest part of the channel. On a clear day, you could see Dregaitia from their harbor. They had kept their lands closed to Aberron for hundreds of years. I knew nothing of their customs. I had read stories of their ruthlessness in battle when they tried to conquer Aberron three hundred years ago and failed. I read they kept no prisoners of war. They would strike down men, women, and children who got in their way with no qualms.

We arrived at the king’s study, where he conducted most of his business. A sandy-haired, blue-eyed soldier stood in front of the doors. We stepped inside and took seats at the long table. The soldier remained standing.

King Brian addressed him. “James.”

He bowed. “Highness, the Thimbleton outpost has reported that a messenger arrived carrying the seals of the orate judges of Saren and Prastis. The Dregans have attacked Prastis and sent the residents fleeing to Saren. The Dregans claim an Aberronian ship attacked and destroyed one of their ports on the channel last night. They are seeking retaliation.”

A new man entered the room and bowed quickly. “Highness, the Barras outpost is under siege from the Dregans. They say they are grossly outnumbered, and men are dropping like flies. They don’t think they can hold it.”

“Above Prastis is the Barras outpost,” King Brian said mostly to himself.

“Aberron Cliffs services the Barras outpost,” I said from memory. “They raise livestock and trade with Saren for crops and Prastis for fish.”

“Retreat,” King Brian said firmly. “Have the men at the Barras outpost gather as many as they can and move to Saren to await further instructions.”

“Yes, Highness.” The man hightailed out of the room.

King Brian returned his gaze to James. “Gather more information. Which Dregan port did the ship attack? Did anyone else see it? I need numbers on the Dregans. Who is leading them?”

James nodded and left to seek out answers.

“This is ludicrous,” Joshua said. “No sane Aberronian would attack Dregaitia.”

“Was magic used to get the information to us quickly?” I asked.

Andrew spoke. “Yes. Blue magic on gold can communicate over long distances.” He gestured to the locket he wore.

“Joshua, how soon can you get the First and Second Waves ready?” King Brian asked.

“Eight hours,” Joshua said with confidence.

There was a rap on the door and another soldier entered, clutching a note. “Highness, this just came for you. I’m told it’s urgent.” He handed the paper to King Brian. “I am to wait outside for your response.” He left.

King Brian opened the note. His eyes darted across the page and then widened.

“What is it, dear?” Queen Averly asked.

King Brian folded the note but kept it clutched in his hand. “It’s Braidus. He is aware of the Dregan attack and wants to meet. He says he lived in Dregaitia and was a member of the king’s inner court. He is asking to be reinstated as a citizen and desires to help in our fight against them.”

I stiffened, then discovered everyone else had too.

“He wants a pardon?” Andrew asked, his face masked into something unreadable. It reminded me of the way he looked when Braidus told me to end our courtship.

“Yes,” King Brian said.

“No,” Joshua and I said simultaneously.

Braidus freed, after killing my parents? After kidnapping me and Henry? My stomach rolled at the thought.

“No.” I rose from my seat.

Joshua also stood, and both of us paced on opposite sides of the table, arms folded across our chests. This had to be a trick. Maybe Braidus was in league with the Dregans, especially if he once lived there with access to their king.

King Brian sighed and rubbed his temples, clearly deeply troubled. Queen Averly placed a hand on his back and rubbed. I felt a pang in my heart at the predicament of the king, but then memories of my recent kidnapping and near execution flashed through my mind and my anger at Braidus rose to the surface.

King Brian attempted a smile but faltered. “What should I do?” he asked his wife.

“I think you should meet with Braidus. He is your son,” she said softly.

“How are we to reconcile when I can’t ignore his murderous acts? He must pay for his crimes, and you know his penalty would be death,” he said to her with grief.

Braidus deserved to die for his crimes.

“He is all I have of Hannah, Averly. I swore an oath to his mother that I would protect him, and I’ve failed.” Tears glistened in his eyes. His face crumpled in pain. “I cannot sentence him again.”

What? He murdered my parents! Did their deaths count for nothing?

“Then don’t,” Queen Averly said simply. “Leave it up to the Gods.”

King Brian stiffened. “A Trial by Fire?”

She nodded, her lips in a thin line. “If the Gods see fit to spare him, then pardon Braidus. If they don’t, then they will carry out the judgment. Meet with Braidus and give him the option. Let him decide.”

King Brian took a breath and exhaled slowly. Then he nodded with what appeared to be grim determination. His shoulders straightened. “Agreed.”

I buried my face in my hands. Stress rose exponentially until I found it hard to breathe. I didn’t know what a Trial by Fire was or how King Brian could get the Gods to judge Braidus, but I understood the pardon part well enough. I didn’t want to accept it. I couldn’t. I had little doubt that with Braidus free, I’d see a whole lot more of him than I wanted. How could I face him again and not want to kill him?

King Brian cast his eyes on Joshua and me. “If the Gods deem Braidus worthy, then he will be pardoned. Little is known to me about the Dregans. If my son truly did live in Dregaitia, his knowledge will be indispensable in our efforts to resolve our conflict. You don’t have to agree with my judgment, but my decision is final. There will be consequences if either of you decide to go against this.”

Joshua frowned, but his eyes held resignation. “You are my king and a father to me. I’ll follow your guidance till the end of time.”

Andrew stood and pulled me into his arms. My cheek pressed into his cotton shirt, sending a wave of calm through me.

I took a breath and said words I thought I’d never hear myself say to King Brian: “I might need help to keep me in check, but I’ll adhere to your wishes just the same as Joshua. You’re my king and soon-to-be family as well.”

King Brian eyed me with what appeared to be admiration. It surprised me. “You shall have it. I appreciate your willingness and honesty.”

“You’re welcome,” I said softly.

“He kidnapped me too, you know,” Henry said grudgingly.

“And?” King Brian raised an eyebrow.

Henry sighed. “Yes, I’ll be good.”

“You’d better,” King Brian said severely.

“You’ll be all right.” Andrew led me back to my seat but kept our hands entwined. He leaned in close and whispered, “I’ll keep you safe, love.”

My heart warmed. I loved Andrew’s ability to make me feel protected in a sea of worry. I admit I had questioned our relationship when Braidus held me captive, but Andrew’s actions now reminded me why I could not lose him. He anchored me.

King Brian rose and procured a piece of paper and a pen. He scribbled a few lines.

Needing to take my thoughts away from murdering Braidus, I contemplated my engagement to Andrew. I felt a mix of trepidation and joy at the thought of becoming his wife: scared because he was the crown prince and I wasn’t thrilled to become royalty; happy because I loved Andrew more than anything. I couldn’t wait to spend the rest of my life with him.

King Brian folded the paper and stamped it with a seal. He walked to the door, handed it to the waiting soldier, and then returned to his seat.

Queen Averly rose. “This will be a long night of strategic planning and preparations to ready the soldiers for war. The sooner we get the Dregans out, the better. I will instruct the kitchens to make refreshments. We must keep our strength.”

“We cannot afford a minute of sleep.” King Brian sighed.

Malsin spoke. “I have a solution in my room that will help. I started working on it after Isabelle’s incident with the chains. I wanted something that would keep me awake and sustained for an extended period should I have a patient who needs round-the-clock care again. Fortunately, I made a big batch of it, though not intentionally.” He looked to King Brian. “Would you like to try it?”

“Yes, I would,” King Brian said.

Malsin followed Queen Averly out.

King Brian retrieved the magical map Haldren had given him, the one that allowed people to see a city as it stood. Just as he unfurled it, James entered.

He bowed. “Highness, an Aberronian merchant ship called the Wind Rogue has just docked at the Elan outpost with news of the attack on the Dregan port—”

King Brian cut him off. “I want the name.”

James read from a piece of paper. “The Dreskenar port.”

I recognized it. “That’s the narrowest part of the channel. On a clear day, you can see the Dreskenar port from Prastis.”

“Thank you, Isabelle,” King Brian said.

James continued, using his notes for reference. “Two Nistier ships also witnessed the attack. The captain of the Wind Rogue says his sister ship, the Night Crusader, captained by his cousin, was armed with supplies for the Callan outpost. The Night Crusader suddenly veered into the Dregan’s half of the channel and set the Dreskenar port ablaze with bombs thrown from their ship. The Dregans destroyed them with bombs of their own. There are no expected survivors. We are unsure whether any Dregans perished. The captain says he and the captains of the two Nistier ships immediately turned around and headed for their home port.”

An older man in the crisp white-and-black clothing of a noble entered the room and bowed. “Highness, the Nistierans have just learned of the attack and are demanding answers. They are threatening to end all alliances with us if we have deliberately chosen to start a war with Dregaitia.”

Queen Averly appeared and took her place by her husband’s side.

King Brian spoke. “Tell the Nistierans we haven’t sanctioned an attack on Dregaitia, that this is under investigation.”

Multiple maids came in with trays of food and an assortment of drinks.

The older nobleman bowed and left.

The maids set the food at the end of the long table and rushed out with alarmed faces.

Meanwhile, King Brian spoke to James. “I want to speak with the captain of the Wind Rogue. Now.”

“Of course.” James hurried out.

Malsin and James nearly collided at the door. Malsin poured steaming tea into cups. He unscrewed the cap on a silver flask and poured a green liquid into each drink. “Better take it with tea; I haven’t perfected the taste yet.” He handed them out. “I haven’t detected any side effects yet, but I would recommend getting real sleep as soon as an opportunity arises.”

As we sipped on the tea, I noticed my body gradually becoming more alert. My eyes gained a sharper focus as energy poured into my veins.

James returned with a gold locket glowing blue and handed it to King Brian. “This is King Brian Sorren of Aberron speaking. Is this the captain of the Wind Rogue?”

A gravelly voice floated out of the locket. “This is Mark Stimms, captain of the Wind Rogue at your service, Highness.”

“I’m told you witnessed a ship attack a Dregan port,” King Brian said.

I found myself holding my breath. The room thickened with tension.

“Yes, Highness,” Mark said. “My cousin’s ship, the Night Crusader. My cousin Brett and I are—were—business partners. We deliver supplies to the outposts and various docks. Highness, I trusted Brett with my life. He had a family, a wife and three little girls he adored. I can’t believe he willingly attacked the Dregans.”

“But you saw the Night Crusader launch an assault on the Dreskenar port?” King Brian asked.

“Yes. Even in the dark, I knew it was one of our ships,” Mark said with rueful conviction.

“Did you notice anything suspicious about the crew before they shipped off?” King Brian asked.

“No,” Mark answered.

“I appreciate your insight, and I’m sorry for your loss. Please remain at the Elan outpost in case I have further need of you. That is all.” King Brian returned the locket to James, who then vacated the room.

Joshua set his teacup on the saucer. “This doesn’t sit well with me. A single merchant ship attacking a Dregan military port? It’s a suicide mission. No sane crew would do it. I’m not apt to believe all of them went crazy at once.”

“Agreed,” King Brian said.

“The Night Crusader attacked at night, right?” Henry asked rhetorically. “What if a crew in smaller boats, rowboats, or something not easily seen in the dark commandeered the vessel? They could’ve held the crew hostage and assumed their positions, then used the ship and their military supplies for the Callan outpost to attack the Dreskenar port.”

“And kill themselves?” Joshua asked dryly.

“Not necessarily.” Henry leaned back. “They could’ve had a yellow mage to camouflage them as they jumped into their escape boats. With the ship and original crew destroyed, there’s no one to pin it on but the men who died.”

“You think we’ve been played.” King Brian didn’t seem to disbelieve the validity of the suggestion.

“I think Dregaitia, or someone, was looking for an excuse to start a war for their own enjoyment or profit,” Henry answered energetically. “Our natural resources, like our hot springs and fertile growing lands, are the envy of the surrounding kingdoms. Land-wise, we have everything we need to viably sustain ourselves.”

A soldier entered and announced the arrival of Braidus.

My stomach clenched. This is it.

“Send him in,” King Brian said.

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