by Justine Alley Dowsett and Murandy Damodred
Would you write a love letter to a stranger?
Rygal Saline has always stood in his sister’s shadow. As heir to the Clan Chief, Rhea has been trained in the art of leadership and warfare. Rygal is just, well, Rygal.
After several years away at a College in Ismera, Rygal returns to Jaram for his father’s funeral only to find a letter from his sister. She’s gone, she’s sorry, and she expects him to take her place as the next clan chief. Never envisioning a place for himself within the clan, let alone taking on the responsibilities of leadership, Rygal finds himself alone and out of his depth.
Desperate for companionship and for someone he can turn to for help, he writes a letter to every eligible maiden on the continent, hoping to find a wife. The letters travel far and wide. Most are rejected until an accident of fate sends Rygal’s letters into the hands of two women for whom they were never intended, setting in motion a plot that threatens to bring Clan Jaram to the brink of war.
300 pages, Romance, fantasy,
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“Rhea left?” The words were out of Rygal’s mouth before he even realized he had spoken.
Cael, a man of few words, nodded. Micah frowned.
“Maybe she went out for a walk or a ride to clear her head?” Rygal suggested. Then looked from Cael to Micah, waiting for one of them to confirm his theory or at least agree it was possible, but Micah simply lowered his gaze to the letter in Rygal’s hand.
“Something tells me you’d better read that, kiddo.”
Reluctantly, Rygal broke the seal with his thumb.
I hereby renounce my claim to the title of Clan Chief of Jaram.
You are the Clan Chief now, little brother. Do our people proud.
Shock flooded Rygal. He read the letter again, then twice more, but it still didn’t provide him with any more information. She’s gone, she’s sorry, and I’m the Clan Chief now. Why, Rhea? What the hell are you thinking? Rygal was very much aware of his own inadequacies. His father had drilled them into him over the course of his life. You’re the one father trained for this. You’re the one he chose. He hated me. He was always thankful he had you and I would never be the one to take his place.
He thought of the clan, but he just couldn’t fathom how they would react to the news . It was just simply something no one had ever considered. Rhea had been father’s choice of heir and Rygal had just been there, in the background, trying to figure out where he belonged and what he wanted to do with his life.
Rygal looked around the room to find Cael watching him, his expression as impassive as always, and Micah, curious and expectant. Rygal shook his head to clear his thoughts. “Micah, I’m going to need someone to go after Rhea,” he said before he’d really had a chance to think it through.
“You want us to bring her back?”
Rygal toyed with the idea, trying to picture it. “I don’t think a herd of horses could drag Rhea where she didn’t want to go,” he concluded. “Just catch up to her and…” he thought about it some more, biting his lower lip, “…see that she gets where she’s going safely. I don’t want anything bad to happen to her.”
Micah nodded slowly, still watching him. “What’d the letter say?”
Rygal swallowed apprehensively. “That, uh…” He paced a few steps, turning away from Micah and finding Cael there, blocking the doorway. He stopped, turned back and took a deep breath to steady his nerves. “Rhea’s not coming back. She wants me to be the next Clan Chief.”
Micah shook his head with pursed lips as if he had expected this answer all along, even though he didn’t like it. “In that case,” he said, “Cael, you go after Rhea.” He put up a hand before Rygal could protest. “I’m staying here because someone’s got to help you. You’re going to need a good right-hand man.”
Rygal’s heart leapt to his throat. Me? Lead the clan? I barely know them.
Cael departed, not waiting for further instruction. Rygal turned to Micah, his lifeline in all this. “You really think the Clan will name me in Rhea’s absence?”
Micah shook his head again. “I can’t say. But Rygal, whatever happens, just know I’ve got your back.”
Rygal swallowed the uncomfortable lump in his throat and nodded before turning and taking in the wide view of the keep and the snow-covered peaks beyond. Clan Jaram. The snow was falling steadily now, swirling around his father’s tower, maybe soon to be his tower. You can see it all from here. Vast, wild, and untamable. Can this really be where I belong?
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