Extras!!!


Deviation: Altera Realm book 2 Sneak Peak

The Village

Morning

Syney woke up and reluctantly opened her eyes. This wasn’t the first morning when her dreams had been better than her reality, but weren’t most dreams? She stretched and sat up just as a knock came at her door. It was Noelle; it was always Noelle. Syney smiled and called her into the room. It was so nice to have found someone who was so in sync with her; it felt as though Noelle could read her mind. Syney wondered, not for the first time, whether her personal assistant and friend really did read her mind; she always appeared with breakfast moments after Syney woke up and was by her side when she needed a helping hand or a springboard for ideas. It was a dream come true to have someone she felt so close to.

As Syney scrambled out of bed, Noelle walked in carrying two trays. “They had your favorite this morning!” Noelle said with a smile. She tucked her blond hair behind her ears showing off her flawless light skin. She looked more like a model than a servent to be honest.

Syney’s mouth watered at the thought of the egg-and-cheese-like dishes the Village occasionally served. It wasn’t her father’s sandwiches made of pork roll, egg, and cheese, but it was the closest thing to them the Village served. “Yummy!” she exclaimed, as she jumped onto the couch and dug into the food.

“How are you this morning?” Noelle asked, her brown eyes searching Syney’s violet ones for any sign of distress.

Syney smiled back. “Good. Same as always. Not looking forward to a busy day, but who ever is, right?”

Noelle nodded. “So you don’t feel any…older or anything?”

Syney’s smile fell. “Damn! How did you find out?”

She laughed. “It was put into record when you first came here a year ago.” She paused and flashed Syney a smile. “Happy birthday, Syney.”

Birthday, ugh, Syney thought. That was when this had all started. A year ago Syney was living a normal life in the Human Realm with two loving parents and a best friend who would do anything for her, but then her powers were activated when she had read an incantation engraved on a medallion her birth mother had left with her when she was abandoned as a baby. Those powers led a great race called Magic Users—it turned out she was their long-lost queen—to come looking for her, but they weren’t the only ones trying to find her. They were, along with their Protectors, the Lycins, the only great race that didn’t want her dead, which counted for something. Now, a year later, Syney had been crowned seated queen, which meant she was next in line for the full queenship, and all the other races—the Vampires (killers for hire), the Shifters (who changed into animals when fighting), and the Daemons (who mysteriously had been awoken only months prior)—were still trying to kill her and had succeeded in murdering her adoptive parents, mainly because of a prophecy made years ago. It stated that the Chosen One, the last Vilori, would come to the Altera Realm and change everything while ending the Great War, which had raged for more than a hundred years, and bring peace to the Altera Realm.

It was a lofty goal and one Syney wasn’t quiet sure would come about. She wasn’t an amazing fighter, although she’d received some lessons from Leaf, head of the Royal Guard of Lycins, and she wasn’t very good at magic. The last part she blamed on the Village, the main Magic User settlement. They taught barely any magic to the population, claiming that most magic had been lost, but Syney and Noelle had messed around with it quite a bit during a trip to the Human Realm. There they had met a Magic User named Becca who hadn’t been raised in the Village and owned hundreds of magic books the girls had experimented with. Using magic made everything inside Syney tingle with excitement; to her nothing felt better than using it. Well, that wasn’t totally true. She quickly pushed the thought from her mind.

“Thank you. And if you tell anyone, I’ll kill you,” Syney said, stuffing food into her mouth.

“Oh, well, that’s not going to work. Helen found out before I did.”

Syney rolled her eyes. Helen was actually Seated Princess Helenandrianna,, royal princess of the Crystallianna line of Magic Users. There used to be four royal family lines of Magic Users: the Crystalliannas (the current ruling line with Queen Mellisandrianna and her three daughters Helenandrianna, Adandrianna, and Cassandrianna), the Grendalins, the Blocadrians (who died out when the Great War started), and the Viloris (of which Syney was the only member still alive).

Syney loved Helen like a sister, but Helen, the older of the two, got overly excited about celebrations. “I’m going to have grab her early,” Syney told Noelle. “I really don’t want anything large.”

“You’ll get what you’ll get,” Noelle said.

Syney narrowed her eyes at her, even though she loved that Noelle felt comfortable enough with her to talk that way. When Syney first came to the Village, Noelle had been assigned as her handmaiden, which didn’t sit well with Syney. She didn’t like the idea of having a servant and immediately squashed it by telling Noelle they were friends, not master and servant. That notion had taken a while for Noelle to embrace, but now they were very good friends; in fact Noelle was the best friend Syney had in the Village.

“What do I have today?”

Noelle took out a large, black, leather-bound journal she used as a datebook. She recently had received a promotion of sorts as Syney’s assistant. Every queen had one, and after Syney’s coronation, Queen Mellisandrianna had tried to assign some girl she’d never met before, which didn’t go over well with Syney. Ever since Syney had come to the Village, Mellisandrianna had made it no secret that she didn’t like her and would do a whole hell of a lot to get rid of her, preferably through death. No way would Syney let her assign an assistant she had chosen. Syney had stood up at that council meeting and requested Noelle but was not so nicely informed by Princess Adanna, who was almost a clone of her mother, that handmaidens couldn’t move up in position. So Syney did the only thing she could and made a motion to abolish the stupid rule, thus allowing Noelle’s promotion. It passed, with seven votes to three. Not bad for her first move toward change in the Village.

“You have a council meeting at eleven. I put you in for lunch at one. Training with Leaf at three. Dinner at six thirty. The welcome-back dessert thing for Prince Brian and his party at eight.”

“Do I have to go to that last one?” Syney asked, making a face. Prince Brian had made it his mission to court Syney when she had first come the Village. He was sneaky about it, though, and it had backfired in his face. Shortly after that, he had left on an extended hunting mission. Why they would let a royal prince and a party of nearly twenty out in the neutral territories in the Realm was a mystery to Syney, but the group recently had returned, and tonight the big “Let’s celebrate the fact that you’re not dead!” party was taking place.

“Yes, you do. Prince Brian asked for you specifically,” Noelle said, rolling her eyes.

“Of course he did. He wants to be king. But he needs to understand that he isn’t getting into my bed.”

Noelle shifted a little. “So how are things going…there?”

“With my bed? It’s always been very comfy,” Syney said, getting up and pulling a dress out of her closet. She looked down at the stiff purple dress and tried not to groan. The dresses worn around the palace reminded Syney of the Renaissance Faire she had gone to when she was younger. Back then she had been in awe of the long dresses and corset tops but now that she had to actually wear them on a daily basis she preferred her leather pants and sweaters. Unfortunatly, now that she was seated queen, she had to wear them.

“Um…Here, let me help.” Noelle stood and helped Syney into the dress.

They did this in silence. Syney knew what Noelle’s comment really meant but didn’t want to talk about it, ever. She gazed at her reflection in the full-length mirror and grimaced. She’d worn these dresses for four months and still detested them. Not that she looked bad. The dress did hug her waist, giving her a nice hourglass figure, and her auburn hair stood out against the light purple color. Even with that she was still debating making a motion at the council meeting regarding the royal dress code when she heard a knock at the door. She sat down and yelled, “Come in!”

She forked some food into her mouth as Leaf walked in. He towered over the girls with his large, square shoulders and long, muscular arms and legs. His dark blond hair was cut short and he was dressed in a simple outfit of dark pants and tee shirt. He was the benchmark for all other Lycins in looks and spirit.

He bowed to Syney. “Good morning. I was hoping to get a report on your new Protectors.”

When Syney patted the seat next to her, he slowly sat down. Each Magic User royal had at least three Lycin Protectors, which were chosen in an ancient magic ceremony shortly after the Magic User was born. Syney’s ceremony had been held after she was discovered; only one Protector was chosen at the time, but she’d been assigned a few since then. Most recently Leaf had assigned her two females, Poppy and Posey, and one male, Birch, to join Reed, her current Protector. Reed was assigned after Syney had been in the Village for a few months and had been attacked in her rooms by an unknown Magic User man. He recently had been promoted to her first Protector; even though he was almost half of the other three’s ages, they all reported to him.

“They’re good,” Syney said.

“I need more than that,” Leaf said in his deep, even tone.

“OK. I don’t think Birch likes taking orders from Reed, and the other two need to learn how to smile.”

That remark earned a small smile from Leaf, not something Syney had seen recently. “I’ll speak with Birch,” he said. “How’s Reed handling being your first?”

Syney shrugged. “Good, I guess. He seems unsure when it’s just us, but he turns all big and bad in front of the others.” She laughed. “It’s adorable.”

“You might want to watch Poppy,” Noelle chimed in. “The other day in the dining hall, I heard her talking about Syney. It wasn’t anything bad, but she could become a security risk.”

Syney and Leaf stared at her.

“What? I’m picking some things up. I’m surrounded by wolves all day long.” She rolled her eyes again as she picked up her tray and Syney’s.

“I’ll keep an eye and an ear out for that. Thank you, Noelle.” Leaf stood. “I’ll see you at the council meeting,” he said to Syney.

Syney nodded. “Hey, do you think I could get a dress code passed that banishes dresses?”

“Would it matter?”

“I guess not. I just don’t like them. They’re itchy.” Syney pouted.

Leaf shook his head and left the room.

Noelle took his abandoned seat. “At least yours is prettier than mine.”

They both laughed for a while. Finally Syney stood and stretched. “Council meeting, here I come. Will I see you at lunch?”

“Of course…and possibly someone else.”

Syney looked at her curiously.

“I heard a certain Vampire has resurfaced in the palace.”

Syney smiled. “Dear Gabe has returned. Good. I loaned him a book I need back.”

Gabe was the only Vampire in the Village; he had snuck in after saving Syney’s life in the Human Realm. The queen had allowed him to stay after he had invoked the Treaty of the Great Races, an ancient document written before the war had started. Syney had found out a while ago that Gabe actually had helped write the document when he was a Vampire king. He also was the most manipulative man she’d ever met, but he still had a very fond place in her heart, as well as a soft one in Noelle’s. Syney liked the match of Gabe and Noelle, but Gabe was one complicated Vampire, with a dead royal Magic User wife and all the baggage that came with that.

Syney met Reed in the hall and smiled up at him, since he was more than a foot taller than her, as she started toward the large meeting room, which held all the Village council meetings. While Reed was a Lycin and a very good Protector, he was more on the lanky side than most in his position. That wasn’t to say he didn’t still look like every human girl’s ideal muscular man. “So how was your big date last night?”

Reed’s cheeks turned a deep red. He ran a hand throught his short brown hair. “I…I don’t…It wasn’t…”

“A date? Yes, it was. You even took the night off, which never happens,” Syney said with a laughed.

Reed sighed. “Fine. It was good. She’s a nice girl.”

“And pretty.”

“Were you spying on me?”

Syney shrugged. “Maybe. It’s not my fault you took her to dinner in the dining hall, where I happen to eat.”

“You should be eating upstairs with the rest of the royals,” Reed grumbled.

“Yes, well, I’m supposed to do a lot of things I don’t—one being ignoring my Protectors.” She put an arm around him. “But I’m not built that way. And you’re like my little brother now, which means I get to pick on you.”

Reed shook his head. “This is the worst assignment ever.” He stopped in front of the meeting-room door and crossed his arms.

Syney smiled at him.

After a moment he gave in and smiled back. “I’ll see you after the meeting.”

She nodded and slipped into the room, making a beeline for her favorite seat across from Mellisandrianna. It had become almost a sport for Syney to fight with the queen during council meetings. Now that Syney was seated queen, she almost felt like she had to. Everyone kept going on and on about how she was the Chosen One, the only one who could bring peace to the Realm. After she had been crowned, Syney decided all her attention would go toward that. She still had no idea what she should do, but the complete opposite of whatever Mellisandrianna wanted seemed like a good start.

After only a moment, as the rest of the council wandered in, Helen slipped into the seat next to Syney and gave her a knowing smile. “Hi, there,” she said sweetly. There wasn’t much that wasn’t sweet about Helen. She was the big sister Syney never had. Her smile reached straight to her light blue eyes, the family trademark. Her dark brown hair was straight and on the longer side but kept simply.

“All right, out with it. What do you have planned for my birthday so I can squash it as quickly as I can?” Syney said.

“Nothing big, I swear. Just some friends at lunch.”

“I only have three friends.”

“I said it was small, and you’re not counting Reed. That would be four.”

Syney sighed. “Listen, I appreciate the effort and thought, but I don’t want to make a big deal out of this. I’m another year older. Big whoop.” Syney looked down at the table thinking of all of her birthdays past, including her last, with her adoptive parents in the Human Realm. It didn’t seem right to celebrate without them so she figured why celebrate at all.

“The celebration of birthdays is a big deal here. You know that. How many celebrations did you go to last year?”

“I avoided most of them.”

“Ugh. Could you at least do this for me? I need a good distraction and celebration!” Helen exclaimed before slumping in her chair.

“How are things going with you?” Syney asked slowly.

Helen sat up. “Fine. Why wouldn’t they be?”

“Oh-kay.” Syney nodded. “I’m just going to let that go.” She didn’t really want to, but she didn’t have much of a choice. Helen had been moody for the past few months, and Syney assumed it had something to do with Leaf—a thought that was just about confirmed when Leaf sat down on the other side of Syney.

Leaf and Helen exchanged tense hellos then continued to ignore each other. Syney looked back and forth between the two. She couldn’t figure out what exactly had happened, but they seemed to be fighting about something. A lover’s spat, so to speak. There were rules against different races becoming romantically linked, but these two had done it anyway—secretly of course. Syney was only one of two people who knew about the relationship, but oddly enough, neither Helen nor Leaf had come to her to talk about what obviously was bothering them. She wanted to lean over and whisper in Helen’s ear that very thing but thought better of it. Lycins’ hearing was at least fifty times better than hers, so Leaf would hear her right away. Instead she settled on writing the question on a piece of paper and slipping it to Helen as the meeting was called to order.

Helen read it and shook her head. Then she slid the note back to Syney without a response. Syney crinkled her nose and, against her better judgment, slipped it over to Leaf. After a moment he gave her his patented “you’re annoying me” look and turned back to the meeting. That was a dead end, Syney thought with sigh.

She turned her attention to Elder Thomas as he ranted about the food at the daily meals. The whole thing was absurd; Syney felt like telling him to get his own ass into the kitchen if he wanted to complain about the food being cooked for him for free by his equals—or at least his own race. The vote to reassign all the kitchen staff and choose new ones fell short but not by as large a margin as Syney would have liked. The whole idea of eating got her to thinking about the dining hall. She hated the way the royals sat upstairs while the nonroyals and Lycins were relegated to the downstairs area. But it was all in one big room with an opening in the middle. Syney had assumed it had been arranged this way so the queen could look down on those below her, but the whole logistics of the room didn’t make sense. It wasn’t very big either. At peak times of the day, some people—royal and non—found they couldn’t eat in the dining hall. There were much larger rooms in the palace, some even more centrally located. If the dining hall moved to another space, there couldn’t be an upper and a lower dining room.

“Is there anything else?” Queen Mellisandrianna asked, her tone more than bored.

“I have a question.”

All eyes fell on Syney.

“Yes?”

“While we’re on the subject of food, I was wondering about the dining hall. Has it always been where it is now?”

“No. Actually,” Helen said, “according to what I’ve read about the palace, it used to be actually in the Grand Ballroom. When my great-grandmother, Queen Lassandrianna took the throne, it was moved.”

“Can we move it back?” Syney asked slowly.

Mellisandrianna smiled at her—her iciest smile that matched her piercing blue eyes. “But why would we want to?”

Syney smiled back. “I was just thinking about the people. The current room is rather small. I know you have your own table, but I’m sure you’ve noticed that on a daily basis people are forced to eat at different times or take their food to go. If the dining hall were in a larger room, everyone in the palace could eat at once if they wanted.”

Mellisandrianna was silent for a moment. Syney thought she actually could see her thinking. “Why the sudden interest in dining arrangements?”

“It’s not so sudden. It’s been no secret that I’m not a fan of the eating arrangements. Haven’t been since I arrived. Moving the dining hall would not only make most people happy because they could eat when they wanted but also make me happy because I don’t like looking down on people, literally.” She placed emphasis on the last part, even though she knew none was needed. She had made her point.

The vote was in Syney’s favor, barely. She knew Leaf and Helen would vote with her. She was surprised by Adanna’s yay vote and made a mental note to look into that. She also had Elder Josephina and Elder Warren’s votes, which wasn’t a surprise. They generally voted with Syney. Elder Thomas and Elder Lawrence voted against her, which also came as no surprise; they both were snobs. They liked Syney and even supported her as queen, but they believed they were above most of the people in the Village. Both queens—Lilith, head of the House of Grendalin, and Mellisandrianna—also voted against it. Neither wanted a lot of change in the palace and showed as much with their votes. But Syney had garnered a majority, which was all that was needed to pass a measure unless otherwise motioned.

Mellisandrianna’s blue eyes turned even colder than usual. “Very well. Justice,” she said, turning to her assistant, “make arrangements to move the dining hall to the Grand Ballroom.” She stood up quickly. “Is there anything else?”

No one moved an inch.

“Good.” She swept out of the room, taking full advantage of her long skirt as she always did.

Syney looked back and forth between Leaf and Helen as everyone else filed out of the room. “Pretty cool, huh?”

They nodded but gave her sad looks.

Syney rolled her eyes. “Come on, guys! I’m supposed to be here to make changes. This is a big one!”

“It is, really,” Helen said.

“But you still didn’t have the votes of almost half the council,” Leaf said quietly.

Syney frowned. “I guess I didn’t, but it just could have been the issue.”

Helen shook her head. “It wasn’t, but it’s OK. Just means you have some more work to do. You need to get on their good side.” She stood and headed out of the room.

Syney looked at Leaf. “Do they have good sides?”

A small smile played on his lips. “Some of them do.”

“Are we gonna talk now?”

He stared at her. “About what?”

“Seriously? Come on. A very tense elephant is standing in the middle of the room, and I’m so done dancing around it. What happened with you and…you know who?”

He stood. “It’s a private matter.”

She also stood, quickly. He wasn’t getting away with that. “And I’m a friend. Whom else can you talk to?”

“No one, which sounds good,” he said with a bow. He retreated out of the room as fast as he could.

Syney watched him go. She put the two of them on her personal to-do list, which seemed to get longer by the day. At least integrating royals and nonroyals was being slowly checked off. Only about a hundred more things to go.

Character Sneak Peaks

The Altera Realm Trilogy is uniquely crafted so that each chapter rotates between several main characters giving the audience an insight into the key inhabitants of the Realm. Below is a description of Altera along with each of the main characters.

Altera Realm exists alongside the Human Realm. It is the home of the five great races; the Magic Users, the Lycins, the Shifters, the Daemons, and the Vampires; who all lived in harmony for hundreds of years before the Great War broke out leaving thousands dead in its devastating wake. It is up to the long lost Vilori Queen to save the Realm and bring peace to the once great Realm.

Syney Andrews: On the eve of her 18th birthday, Syney finds out that she has a great destiny. She is the lost Vilori Queen, born hundreds of years in the past and sent by a spell into our present. But what does a human girl know about the mystical Altera Realm? Not much, Syney decides after only one day in the gothic Magic User palace, a large stone fortress in the center of the Village. There are so many rules to follow, the number one being to keep the race pure. This is an odd request to free thinking Syney, especially with her building feelings for her Lycin Protector, Hunter.

Hunter: Duty, honor, and strength. That is the Lycin way. Although Hunter was raised in the Village, his family was given the status of outcast, a disgraceful way to not be allowed into the Palace. So when his name was pulled out of the magic fire to be the Lost Villori’s Protector everyone was shocked, including Hunter himself. Not that he is all that upset about it. It’s an honor to be chosen as a Protector, let alone the Lost Vilori’s Protector. What he doesn’t expect or even want is the strong connection he has with his charge, Syney or the growing feelings he keeps trying to push down.

Gabriel: Vampires are ruthless killers for hire, at least they are now that the War forced them to abandon their land in Altera and find shelter in the Human Realm. Gabe is not one who likes the change for his people and the only way to change this is to “get in on the ground floor” with Syney’s rule. He is smooth talking, snarky, and unbelievably handsome. But he is also plagued with hundreds of years of secrets, most not even his own.

Noelle: Being chosen as a royal handmaiden is a privilege in the class separated Village, especially for someone like Noelle who wasn’t born in the Village but in the Neutral Territories in Altera. Not only was she chosen to be a royal handmaiden but to be Syney’s no less. Although they get off to a bumpy start, with Syney questioning the very idea of a personal servant, the two slowly begin to be more than just master-servant. As they develop a good friendship, Noelle must remember not to get too close not only to keep her status in the Palace but to keep her lifelong secret as well.

Cass: Princess Cassandrianna is the youngest of the three seated Princesses and the most spirited. She used her “gift” of persuasion to be a part of the retrieval party brining Syney back to Altera but found much more than just the lost princess. While there she sees real magic being done. Although it is in their race’s name, magic is something that isn’t done in the Village. It is said that the great magics were lost when the Great War began. Now that Cass has seen it being done and the wonders of it, she decides to dedicate herself to find those magics, no matter the cost.

Helen: Princess Helendrianna is the oldest of the Princesses is the most holy. Since a young age, Helen has known that the throne was not a path for her and intends to give up the title of ruling queen to instead take up the role of High Priestess. She has a great love of the Village and its people but never really understood the “human” need to find a mate. But once Syney settles in the Palace and starts to bring about change, it seems that everyone wants to join in on the new dawning age, even Helen who starts paying more attention to the opposite sex, more specifically a certain Lycin Guard.

Leaf: Although he comes from a family of farmers, Head Guard Leaf was content with his position in the Palace. He is also part of the group who is excited for Syney’s coming to Altera. His mother was a true believer who has been looking forward to the fulfillment of the prophecy surrounding the Lost Vilori Queen. Once Syney comes, however, Leaf’s job becomes much more difficult as he deals with attacks and a demanding and sneaky queen. The only bright spot? The way his heart picks up speed when a certain woman walks into the room. But the Head Guard’s head must not be clouded with such things…if he can help it.

Mellisandrianna: Ruling Queen of the Village. There is NOTHING she won’t do to keep her crown away from Syney and to keep her close guarded secrets….NOTHING

Sneak Peak at the first two chapters

Amelia

Amelia knew her daughter was destined for greatness. The moment her daughter was born, she had the vision—her baby girl all grown up, standing in the center of the Great Hall, speaking of the future, a future more distant than Amelia even could imagine. And that was what troubled her, what scared her the most. Her daughter was meant for great things, just not now.

Amelia looked deep into her daughter’s violet eyes, the family trademark, and sighed. She had given up and risked so much to bring this child, this savior, into the world, and now she must give her up.

She placed the baby in her bed and tucked the purple blanket tightly around her. She pulled her necklace off and placed it to her lips for a moment before curling it around her daughter’s fingers. The amulet on the necklace caught the candlelight, and the purple gemstones shone in the light. The child would need the amulet to find her way home.

“And you will find your way. I promise,” she whispered, tears filling her eyes, “my sweet baby girl.”

Amelia laid one last kiss upon her check before beginning her chant.

Accipe in loco.

Alicubi quando illa opus est maxime.

Ab omnibus tueatur consilium malum.

Et experientis amor sustentet eam itineri eius domum.

A bright white light enveloped the baby, causing Amelia to close her eyes. When she looked back, her daughter was gone.

“Please, let me have done the right thing!” she cried to the empty room, before collapsing to the floor in sobs.


Syney

Syney Andrews was always up for an adventure. She blamed her sense of excitement on her parents. They had raised her to see every day as a chance to do something she never had done before. Which is why she was now waiting on line with her best friend, Jessica, to see Madam Racksha, psychic extraordinaire, at the town carnival. Seeing Madam Racksha was Jess’s idea actually, but Syney stopped and realized no one ever had told her future before, so why not now? And it only cost five bucks.

“So what are you hoping for? Six kids or three husbands?” Jess joked, her smile lighting up her caramel-colored face. Jess had an exotic beauty to her, which Syney envied at times. Jess had curves and flawless dark skin, while Syney was straight from the hips down and had pale skin, made even paler by her auburn hair. The only exotic thing about her was her violet eyes, which she had covered with brown contact lenses since the second grade, when her fellow students had begun to call her a witch.

“Um…eight kids and Brad Pitt as a husband,” Syney decided. “I could take Angelina.”

The two girls laughed as the pink-and-gold curtain moved, revealing Brigit Nolan, a fellow senior at Middleton High School.

“So?” Jess asked Brigit.

“Oh, my god. She’s amazing! She totally guessed, like, everything and told me Bobby Williams was going to ask me out!” Brigit squealed.

Jess and Syney exchanged looks. Bobby Williams was the hottest guy in school. He dated a different girl every week, including Jess last year.

“You guys are going to love her!” Brigit said, before heading off into the carnival crowd.

The curtain moved again, and this time Madam Racksha herself appeared dressed, just as Syney had imagined, in a long, flowing, gypsy-like dress. Her eyes were heavily outlined in black, and her blood-red lips matched her dress exactly. Syney stared at her eyeliner, wondering, not for the first time, how anyone could get the exact thickness and straightness for it to look just right. Makeup, in general, never had been her thing.

“Who’s next?” Madam Racksha asked, her voice laced with a thick New York accent.

“Wasn’t expecting that,” Jess leaned over and whispered to Syney.

Syney stifled a laugh and shot her gaze to the ground.

“Well?” the psychic asked, balancing an impatient hand on her hip.

Jess nudged Syney’s arm. “You go.” She smiled slyly. “See if Brad’s in your future.”

Syney looked over at her best friend and sighted. “OK.” She stepped forward and followed Madam Racksha into the large cloth tent.

The inside was dark, the only illumination coming from a few scattered candles. The air was thick with musky incense, and the psychic sat down at a small wooden table covered in tarot cards and a crystal ball. She began to blow on the cards and the ball. Syney glanced around, unsure of what to do. She opted for the seat across from the psychic and waited patiently as the woman continued to blow.

“Need to clean the instruments,” Madam Racksha explained, as she looked up at Syney.

Syney nodded, not really understanding but not wanting to ask.

“So what would you like?”

“Um, I’m not sure,” Syney said. “What’s…best?”

“Nothing is best, honey. It’s all about what you want to know. The cards aren’t very specific—more about roads you have taken and ones you could take. The crystal ball can give me exact things, but only if your mind is tuned to it.”

“OK, well, I guess we can do the crystal ball.”

Madam Racksha nodded, not seeming to really care one way or another. “Rub your hands together, and think of a question you want answered.”

Syney did as told but took a moment to choose her question carefully. There is so much a girl her age would want to know. When would she get married? How many kids would she have? Would she get the job she’d dreamed about for years? But those were all questions Syney would joke about, even though deep down she always believed that what is meant to be will be, and why know about it now? Not that she even believed in psychics. So she settled on something that seemed right for her—What’s the biggest adventure I’m going to take?

“Ready?”

Syney nodded.

“OK, place your hands on the ball, and repeat the question in your head.”

Syney took a deep breath and placed her hands on the crystal ball. The second she did, the clear ball began to glow a deep purple. The color grew in intensity every moment her hands remained. She pulled her gaze from the light show to look at Madam Racksha, expecting this to be nothing out of the ordinary. But the older woman’s face gave away all of her surprise.

“Is this…OK?” Syney asked, feeling a little uncomfortable.

The psychic looked at her with wide eyes, not speaking at first. She swallowed audibly and looked back down at the crystal. “Fine, yes.” She looked up again. “Each person has his or her own ‘in-tune-ness’ to the natural forces around them. Some are more pulled toward the supernatural, like me…and you.”

“Me?” Syney looked back at the crystal ball. “That’s what that means?”

”Yes. The color is different for everyone. Mine is red. But your connection strength is relative to the color strength,” Madam Racksha said, all traces of boredom removed from her voice.

Syney laughed without humor. “So I’m psychic?”

The psychic looked back at her. “Oh, no, not necessarily. There’s just a connection to the forces.” She paused. “It’s a great gift.”

Syney smiled, unsure of what to say.

“Now let’s see what we get here.” Madam Racksha placed her hands slowly over Syney’s, and the purple light flashed with some red. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “Happy birthday, Syney.”

Syney caught her breath and gazed at the psychic suspiciously. She hadn’t told her her name. Maybe this was all an elaborate rouse Jess had set up. “My birthday is on Saturday. Got two more days.” She wasn’t falling for another crazy Jess scheme. Jess was always pulling some kind of practical joke on someone. She was famous for it in school.

“No, it’s tomorrow. At midnight you will be eighteen.”

“Listen, I’m pretty sure I know my own birthday.”

Madam Racksha shook her head. “Tomorrow.”

Syney sighed. Why even argue? She smiled at the absurdity of it all.

“Oh, I see,” the psychic said, nodding. “You’re adopted. You celebrate the day you were found.”

Her smile fell. No one knew Syney was adopted but Jess, and her friend, although a little crazy at times, would never go that far.

“Your adoptive parents found you…in a church, it looks like.”

Syney tried to pull her hands from the crystal, but Madam Racksha held them still.

The psychic opened her eyes. “You mustn’t break the connection!”

“Sorry,” Syney mumbled.

“It’s all right. You don’t believe any of this. I could sense that the second you walked in. But I promise that I’m not lying or tricking you.”

“OK.” Syney took a deep breath.

“You still don’t believe me,” she started. “That’s fine, but please listen to what I have to say.” She closed her eyes once more. “There’s a lot I’m getting, and it’s all important.”

Syney didn’t respond; she really didn’t know what to say. It was shocking that the woman knew about her parents, but she wasn’t quite ready to accept everything hook, line, and sinker. She could play along, though. “So can you see my real parents?”

Madam Racksha took a deep breath, and again the crystal flashed red over the purple for a moment. “Not both of them. But…yes, it’s your mother. She’s coming through strong. Looks just like you…only your eyes…why do you hide them?”

Syney thought back to those nights when she would cry herself to sleep. Those cruel things the kids would say about her and her unusual eyes.

“Oh, kids are such little bastards sometimes.” Madam Racksha opened her eyes. “Don’t buy into anything they said. Your eyes are beautiful. And special. Your mother shared them. A family trademark, I think.”

Syney caught her breath in her throat. The nonbeliever started to slip away quickly. But that’s how they rope you in, the little logical voice in her head screamed. Still, everything else inside her wanted to listen and believe anything this crazy-looking woman said about her birth mother.

Everything Madam Racksha had said so far was right. Syney’s amazing and loving parents, Joyce and Richard Andrews, had been working late one night at the local church, him being the organist and her the cantor for weekly masses. Joyce always told the story as if Syney herself were the miracle and not how she had come to be all wrapped up in the choir loft. An abandoned baby in a church isn’t unheard of, but a quiet baby—through all of the organ playing for three hours before she had started to cry—was hard to come by.

“You had to have just appeared,” Joyce always said. And Syney had no doubt she meant it. The Andrews had been praying for a child for years before Syney had showed up. Plus, the church doors were locked from the inside. Growing up with the Andrews was anything a child could ask for. They were unconditionally supportive and never hid the truth from her. Syney grew up knowing she was adopted but always saw Joyce and Richard as her parents, plain and simple. That’s not to say she didn’t think about her birth parents. They were a part of her; she cold never deny that.

“Do you know… I mean…can I ask a question?” Syney asked.

“Of course.” Madam Racksha opened her eyes. “You want to know about her…why she left you.”

Syney bit her lip and nodded.

“Well, it’s not all clear, but she was afraid for you. You had…a destiny, and it wasn’t with her. So she sent you away…to the place where you were needed.”

“Do you know what that destiny is?”

Madam Racksha looked down, lost in thought. “This…this is strange.”

“What is?”

“I’m not getting a clear picture…just…” Her eyes widened. “Oh, my goddess.” She grabbed Syney’s wrists and pulled both of her hands off the crystal ball, which slowly began to cloud with black. “You’re the one. I should have seen it earlier. I’m sorry.” She glanced around. “We don’t have much time. Listen to me carefully. The amulet is the key. It holds all of your answers when you whisper to it. There aren’t many people you can trust. You’ll know deep down who you can. Just feel with your heart.”

The flames on all of the candles jumped up, and Syney yelped.

“They’re here,” Madam Racksha whispered. She tightened her grip on Syney’s wrists. “It’s important. Just remember to trust his eyes! You’ll know it when you see them!” She looked down at the crystal ball, which was completely black now. “I saw this, you know,” she said quietly. “This right now. This is what I was born to do.” She looked back at Syney with tears in her blue eyes. “I was meant to guide you.”

“But…I don’t…” Syney started just as the crystal shattered, a thick black smoke oozing out as if it had been trapped. She jumped up to try to get away from it, but Madam Racksha remained seated. “Come on. Let’s go!”

An unseen wind blew through the tent, throwing Syney’s hair into her face.

“You must go!”

The wind picked up, becoming like a small hurricane, throwing objects around in its wake.

“I don’t understand!” Syney yelled.

Madam Racksha smiled. “But you will, my dear. Yours is a great destiny. I’ve seen your future, and it’s so beautiful.” She paused as tears ran down her cheeks. “Now go!”

Syney glanced toward the smoke, which seemed to form a hand as it billowed toward her. She screamed and ran for the exit as fast as she could.

*

“Syney!” Jess yelled as she tugged her friend into a stop. She had been chasing her for at least five blocks after Syney had run out of the psychic’s tent. “What the hell happened?”

Syney looked into her best friend’s face, unsure of what to say. The carnival psychic told her she had a great destiny, and then a black smoke arm came after her? Yeah, that was believable.

“I’m sorry.”

“Syn, you don’t have to be sorry. Just talk to me.” Jess paused. “I know you, hon. You’re scared to death. What happened?”

Syney shrugged. “That lady… She creeped me out. She told me I was going to die young.” She hated lying, but the truth was even more unbelievable.

Jess’s eyes widened. “That bitch. I’m gonna go kick her fake psychic ass!”

“No, don’t. It’s OK.” She shivered a little. “I just want to go home if that’s OK.”

“Of course.” Jess put an arm around her, and they began to walk. “We’ve already run half the way anyway.”

The two laughed and walked the remaining blocks, talking about the last outrageous Gossip Girl episode. They parted in front of Syney’s house—Jess’s house was the next one down—and promised to call each other the next day.

Once inside the house, Syney threw herself onto the living room couch and reviewed the night’s events. Maybe she had hallucinated the whole thing. She shook her head. Nope, it had all been real. And what did the woman say about an amulet? It was the key.

“Hey, there, honey bun. Calling it an early night?” Joyce Andrews said, walking into the room. Cradling a cup of tea, she took a seat on the adjacent love seat. Syney had always envied Joyce’s comfortable style and mannerisms. Nothing seemed too much for the older woman, which showed through her lack of wrinkles and grey hair, or so Joyce loved to say. Joyce was a little curvy with a round caring face that was always open for a chat.

“Yeah. Got tired.” Syney sat up a little and forced a smile.

Joyce nodded. “I see. Saving your strength for your big birthday bash on Saturday. It’s going to be rad, I promise.”

Syney smiled, for real this time. “Rad, Mom, really?”

“Was that wrong? How about ‘dope’?”

“Oh, no, please. Just stop.”

Both mother and daughter laughed.

“Well, whatever the word is nowadays, it’ll be that.” Joyce smiled. “I can’t believe my little girl is all grown up. Eighteen, my word. Seems like yesterday you just started walking.”

“Mom, come on,” Syney said, embarrassed.

“I’m sorry, but you know me. I get sentimental.”

That was true, no doubt. Joyce still had every report card and birthday card all boxed up. A thought came to Syney. Her mom kept everything. Maybe she would know.

“Mom, did I have anything with me when you and dad found me?”

Joyce’s smile turned somber. “Well, let me think. You were wrapped in a blanket, a beautiful blanket actually. Soft purple with a design on the front in a darker purple. That’s the color of royalty, you know.”

Syney nodded. “Yeah. I must be a long-lost princess.”

“You’re my princess.”

“So just the blanket?”

Joyce stared down at her tea. “Why so curious all of a sudden?”

“I don’t know. Just thinking about it, I guess.” Syney stood up. “Don’t worry about it.” She kissed her mother’s check and headed for the stairs. “I’m gonna read for a bit then hit the sack.”

“A necklace.”

Syney stopped just before the stairs and looked at her mom. “What?”

Joyce looked up. “You had a necklace. Big charm on it. It had the same symbol as the blanket.”

Syney swallowed. She had found her amulet. “Really? Do you still have it?”

Joyce nodded. “Attic. Let me get it.”

A few minutes later, the two sat on Syney’s bed, the blanket and necklace between them. Syney looked at her mother. She looked so sad. It had to be hard, Syney thought, to have your daughter interested in her real parents.

“Well, this is it. Your life before us,” Joyce said and headed for the door.

“Hey, Mom…” Joyce turned, and Syney smiled at her. “You know you’ll always be everything to me. You and Dad.”

Joyce nodded and smiled. “I know, honey bun. Goodnight.”

“ ’Night,” Syney said as her door closed. She slowly looked down at the objects in front of her. She picked up the blanket. It was soft, just as a baby blanket should be. A flash caught Syney’s eye, so she held the blanket to the light. Woven into the soft threads were tiny metallic ones that shone like opal, changing to a different color as the blanket was moved under the light. It was lovely.

She put the blanket down and picked up the amulet. It was heavy metal with a design of a circle with “U”s off to each side made out of deep purple gemstones. Moving it back and forth between her hands, Syney wondered what to do now. She had found the amulet, and now she had to…whisper to it? She rolled her eyes. That was just dumb. She looked down at the design again. This was all crazy. A stupid coincidence. She sighed and tossed the amulet onto the blanket. It landed on the design. Syney looked at the back of the amulet; an etching caught her eye. She picked it up and rubbed her thumb along the etching. It seemed to be words, and they warmed her thumb up as she rubbed it over them. She squinted and pulled the amulet closer to her face as she tried to read it.

Susciitatio mens. Agmosco vox. Memor of phasmatis recipero vestry destiny. Quinquein unus,” she read aloud, stumbling over the unknown language.

She shook her head. It meant nothing to her. She flipped the amulet back over. She was taken aback a little as the purple gems seemed to be glowing. It was more than a little strange but amazingly beautiful. It was unworldly, this glow that seemed to get stronger by the moment. Transfixed, Syney ran her fingers over the stones. Pain shot through her fingers. She pulled them away quickly, dropping the amulet onto the bed. A red dot formed on her finger. She brought it to her mouth and sucked on the blood for a moment. One of the gems must have been a little too sharp, she guessed.

Syney sighed. None of this made any sense. Maybe none of it was even supposed to. That lady at the carnival was just some crackpot looking for money and a way to scare teenagers. The smoke thing was probably just a trick she used. And all she accomplished tonight was upsetting her mom and cutting her finger. Syney put the blanket and necklace into the drawer in her nightstand and started to get ready for bed. Her life was just fine the way it was. Why would she even want to change it?

Jennifer Collins 2013