Hello and welcome to the Author Roast and Toast! We are celebrating Donna Hatch’s Queen in Exile today in grand medieval style. For those of you who believe in magic, telepathic powers and knights in shining armor, we invite you into the medieval castle overlooking the peaceful Arden countryside.
“Almost tripped over my dainty feet,” she snips, peering over her shoulder and into the darkness shrouding the forest. “Are we there yet?”
“Quiet,” Mary hisses in her ear. “We don’t want to disturb the sacred chayim…or get him mad at us.”
“Relax, sisters,” Sharon nearly jumps out of her skin when a giant leap frog splashes into the lily pond. “Donna assures us the beast is a gentle creature with telepathic powers. If we get lost before we find the castle, his thoughts will enter our brain cells and show us the way.”
A nightingale whistles as Mary passes. Puffing out her chest, she smiles. But when the sky turns as dark as midnight, her smile freezes on her face. Grabbing her sisters hand, she screams loud enough to wake the living dead. “We’re lost!”
“Let’s try and form a telepathic bond with the sacred chayim,” Sharon announces. “It’s our only chance.”
“Hmmmmmmmmm….” the sisters chant, forming a circle in the deep, dark woods, fingers pointed to their temples. Soon they are feeling the vibes sent from the chayim, and within seconds, the full moon bathes the castle in an eerie light. “There it is!”
Lyn beams as they enter the courtyard. “And once we cross the bridge, we transform from lowly peasants into beautiful princesses for the gala. And even though we will be serving the food and drinks Sir Oliver has prepared, we will have a few knights in waiting winking our way for a dance or two.”
But before they cross the bridge leading to the courtyard, they must win the respect of the sacred chayim keeping vigil. Standing on all fours, the enormous golden-brown animal stares down at the sisters with intelligent eyes, its iridescent fur shimmering in the moonlight. Proceeding with caution, they reach out and stroke the magnificent creature until he blows on their faces and grants access to his castle.
Greeted at the door with a tune of welcome by a knight in shining armor, the banquet is off to a lovely start. “Welcome me ladies!” The knight shouts with gusto. “If you will please follow me right this way.”
He leads the hostesses up the castle steps and across the draw bridge before going onward to the upper Great Hall where Sir Oliver is preparing the banquet for the Queen of Exile.
And as if by magic, as Sharon, Lyn and Mary enter the great hall, their peasant clothes transform into gorgeous medieval gowns worthy of a royal gala. Cuddles and Junior appear, wizard hats gleaming with silver stars. They leap about the polished marble floor, kicking up their feet to the sound of fiddle, harp and violin floating across the great hall. A gorgeous terrace overlooks the forbidden forest where night creatures roam free.
“Before the Queen is served,” Oliver proclaims with great ceremony, “A taster will sample each course in the unlikely event that someone might wish to bring harm to the queen.”
The hostesses set out heaping platters of turkey legs, grilled salmon from the sea, Tomato Bisque, fresh fruit and crusty brown bread with whipped butter.
But when the shrill cry of the trumpet announces the arrival of the Queen in Exile, all heads turn as Donna saunters in, looking drop dead gorgeous in a lovely medieval gown. Sir Oliver dashes off to escort her in, the music escalating to a staggering crescendo.
For an autographed copy of Donna’s book, please answer the following question as a comment:
What would you say to win the respect of a telepathic chayim?
Rumors of war hang over Princess Jeniah’s peaceful country of Arden, a land that shuns both magic and warfare. Following a lifelong dream, Jeniah forms a telepathic bond with a revered creature called a chayim, who is prophesied to save her kingdom. But when a Darborian knight comes upon Jeniah with her chayim, he sees only a vicious monster about to devour a maiden, and he slays the beast.
Devastated by the loss of her chayim, and fearing that her own magic is evil, Jeniah doubts her destiny. When an enemy invades Arden City, they slaughter the people, storm the castle, and execute the entire royal family except the princess. Rescued by the knight who slew her chayim, Jeniah is now heir to the throne of Arden and the only hope for freeing her people from tyranny.
On the run and hunted by enemy soldiers, Jeniah must place her life and the fate of her kingdom in the hands of this trained killer. Torn between embracing her destiny as queen of Arden, and her love for a mere knight, she must ultimately rely on her magic to save herself and her people from death
Jeniah stepped over a log peppered with mushrooms and walked deeper into the woods, following the irresistible call. Fallen leaves crunched under her riding boots. She hurried along the sun-dappled path, eager to discover the source of the compelling summons. At the rise of a hollow, she stopped. Chills of excitement tingled her spine. She held her breath.
An enormous golden-brown animal stood on four legs at the far edge of the hollow. Sunlight slanted down through the woodland trees, giving his thick pelt and mane an iridescent shimmer. Jeniah gasped. Truly, it could not be! She stared in disbelief at a sacred chayim.
He was magnificent. She felt as if she were in the presence of deity, ancient and wise beyond human comprehension. Her mouth went dry and she fell to her knees.
She’d heard the stories, of course. She’d listened, enraptured, as minstrels related accounts—legends, some said—of a chayim choosing a maiden of surpassing purity and courage, bonding with her, and guiding her as she led her people to a bright new future. In private moments of hope, Jeniah had dared to dream a chayim would choose her.
Jeniah’s heart pounded as if trying to escape her chest, and her breath came in gasps. Nearly overcome, she waited for the chayim to determine her worthiness. She stood and lowered the hood of her cloak, careful to make no sudden movements lest she frighten him away.
Moving with regal grace, the chayim padded down the slope into the hollow and stopped barely out of reach. His shoulders were level with her head, and he was even longer than he was tall.
Quivering in excitement, she held out a hand. The beast took another step toward her. His long neck curved and his head dipped down while a pair of dark, intelligent eyes probed hers. She waited, trembling in anticipation, as if poised at the summit of a mountain. A step to one side would mean death. A step to the other would bring limitless freedom.
He blew gently into her face, a sign of acceptance. Her heart soared and tears of joy streamed down her cheeks. Driven by a compulsion to touch him, she raised her hand higher. When the beast opened his mouth, revealing two rows of sharp teeth, she felt no fear, only wonder, peace, and light. Her heartbeat slowed and she felt a smile curve her mouth as she spoke softly to him.
After a brief pause, the chayim answered with a low growl others might have found fearsome. Jeniah continued to extend her hand until it finally touched the long, square muzzle, finding the golden fur softer than she expected. The chayim closed his mouth and uttered a noise much like a purr.
Acceptance and an all-consuming love flowed into her as the chayim’s mind gently touched hers. Through the images he sent her, she witnessed changes to the land the chayim had seen during his long life. He mentally deepened their connection, wrapping her in warmth and safety and truth.
For the first time, she saw herself as more than an annoyance, more than a pretty distraction, more than her father’s pawn to forge a political alliance. She saw herself as a young woman of much greater worth. That knowledge filled her with indescribable joy and a renewed dedication to her duty. And it gave her hope.
Using her powers for others now became paramount, a realization both humbling and liberating.
Through emotion and image, the chayim assured her that her ability to blur was not a power to fear, but merely a small part of a greater magic that would serve her, and serve her people.
Donna Hatch has had a passion for writing since the age of eight when she wrote her first short story. In between caring for six children (seven counting her husband), she manages to carve out time to indulge in her writing obsession, with varying degrees of success, although she writes most often late at night
instead of sleeping.
A native of the Southwest desert, Donna writes Regency romance and fantasy, and she thrives on a happy ending. All of her heroes are patterned after her husband of over twenty-two years, who continues to prove that there really is a happily ever after.