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Fate of Draga: A Space Fantasy Romance (The Draga Court Series Book 6) by Emma Dean (1)

Chapter One

Joslynn

The Queen’s Solar

Planet Draga Terra

The Draga System

Joslynn splashed water on her face and took a deep breath. It had only been a few weeks and already the babe had her sick enough she could only manage a few hours a day of work. Otherwise most of her time was spent near the toilet where she vomited three hours in the morning and three hours in the evening.

It had made her eating habits strange and she ate at odd times. It was bad enough her own physicians had sent her to Draga Terra to be monitored by the best in the kingdom, and since Adelina had offered…Joslynn had gone.

Countess of Pedranus – exiled from her own planet along with the rest of her people. They nearly hadn’t made it to the safety of the Core. It was thanks to Adelina’s privateers that they had. Without their rescue, her small fleet would have perished as all the warships had gone to the front lines.

Joslynn felt guilty about it. Leaving her people in Colin’s capable hands as refugees on someone else’s planet, it hadn’t been easy. She had prayed to all the gods and goddesses to keep them safe on Avvis, wishing she could be with her people. But no one wanted her risking the child – the first possible heir to Pedranus.

Her child. And Sirus’s.

It was difficult to think of him, on the front lines. Joslynn missed him. She wished she’d listened to Adelina and at least had the ceremony so they were married before the war, but it didn’t particularly matter. He was everything to her, and a vow said in a temple was not any more powerful than her promise to him and his to her.

At least she was where the best physicians in the Draga System were. They’d warned her it would be a very difficult pregnancy and it hadn’t been easy with the last few weeks being so dangerous.

Since they’d escaped the pirates and made it behind the safety of the inner shield things had settled down, but it was still chaotic. Giselle abdicating had only made things worse, but Joslynn had hope now. Adelina seemed a far more capable ruler, though she wouldn’t have said so several months before.

Long live Queen Adelina.

It was still strange to think, to say out loud. Here in the palace they were so far removed from the danger and the war, aside from what they saw on the livestream. But it just wasn’t the same as that feeling she’d had as she wondered if the pirates would strike them all down. Yes, the death and destruction on the vid was horrible but it wasn’t experienced firsthand.

The horror hadn’t been real to her until the evacuation – until Sirus had called to say he was alive after what had happened to Scyria, though not all were as lucky.

Joslynn wiped the tears from her face that always surfaced when she thought of his family – the tiny babe that would never have a mother – that almost hadn’t survived and was born on a battlefield in blood and death and destruction, taken from its mother’s lifeless body.

She splashed more water on her face. The hormones had taken her captive yet again. There was no way to fight the mood swings, Joslynn just had to bear it and wait for the emotions to pass.

Goddess, she wished she was at her family’s seat, safe and surrounded by people who wouldn’t judge her or whisper secrets like those at court. Thanks to the war the only ones left were those too young to fight and those who held administrative positions.

Teenage females were ruthless and the constant recorders were exhausting.

“Lady Joslynn, is everything all right?” the queen mother asked from outside the washroom door.

Adelina had been right about that as well. Adele had taken Joslynn in with open arms, saying she’d received a cast from Adelina before Joslynn had even arrived. Ever since she’d had the best care, and the queen mother made sure to request her presence each day, helping to keep her fear for Sirus from paralyzing her.

“I’m fine, Queen Mother,” Joslynn called back, wiping the slight sheen of sweat from her forehead. “I’ll be right out.”

Turning to the side she inspected her stomach. She was only five weeks along, so there was nothing to see, but Joslynn always checked. Knowing something was growing inside her was a bizarre and novel idea. She couldn’t wait to see her belly swell. At least then she’d be able to see the effects of her child other than the sickness.

Joslynn opened the door and Adele smiled at her. “It should pass soon,” the queen mother told her. “Has the food I’ve recommended helped at all? I was pregnant five times and each one affected me differently, but there were always tried and true remedies.”

She bobbed a slight curtsey, still feeling a bit shaky. “It has, thank you Queen Mother.”

“I’ve told you to call me Adele, I’m no longer queen,” Adelina’s mother teased. “Are you feeling up to helping me with this next batch of books?”

They walked back to the Queen’s Solar together and Joslynn was grateful summer was finally over. Autumn on Draga Terra was still much hotter than Pedranus, but it had a cool breeze that eased the stifling heat.

Ever since Adelina had sent a request to her mother with access to the secret royal library, Adele and Elara had studied non-stop when they weren’t dealing with shipments for the war.

They entered the Queen’s Solar and Joslynn saw that Elara was the only one currently there, reading a book with her tea and an array of foods and such on the low table before her. She looked so beautiful and happy in that moment, and Joslynn felt her heart swell knowing Adele and Elara could openly be with one another now.

“Find anything useful, love?” Adele asked, settling down in her new spot. Since she was no longer queen the throne was left empty, waiting for the day Adelina would sit there.

Joslynn sat on the velvet chair opposite Adele and glanced out the floor-to-ceiling windows at the palace gardens and grounds. She would never forget that day they’d all learned the Crown had passed to another yet again and so soon – never in her life.

The recordings from Giselle, Asher, and Adelina had swept over the kingdom like wildfire a few weeks before. Joslynn had just arrived on Draga Terra – two weeks after the battle on Scyria. They’d been eating dinner in the Great Hall when the livestream flickered on, and everyone’s simulcast pinged with the urgent royal message.

Everything had stopped as the holo had displayed on the largest wall in the Great Hall. Joslynn had never heard silence like that before. When Giselle appeared before them, the queen mother and Elara had stood in alarm – looking back on the events Joslynn knew they’d somehow guessed what had been about to happen.

There were no other royals left in the Draga Royal Palace with Prince William and Prince Asher off to war with the ex-queen Giselle, and Adelina in the Hai System. Even the royal cousins were with the Draga Royal Army.

It was strange to be in the palace with only the queen mother, but it was rather empty regardless. So many were either at the Core’s border, or with the main armies. Anyone left made sure to send supplies and medicine and personnel where they were needed. All factories had been commandeered to produce weapons and starships.

Everyone who was physically capable had joined up to fight. Newly trained warriors were constantly being sent out. A new batch every week to join those at the Core’s border.

Even the jewelers were making delicate technology, working on whatever was sent to them. Clothiers helped make armor and cheap clothing for refugees. Every single life had been touched by the war, even the courtiers that were still living in the palace.

The queen mother had made sure to use them as well, putting the courtiers to work managing shipments from the capitol – helping those who fled the borders and then putting them to work or training them.

Joslynn hated that the grounds were no longer a place to relax and enjoy life, but she understood it. What she actually hated was how young those faces were. They all trained so they would be ready the day they turned eighteen cycles.

Despite all this preparation for the horrors of war, she had not been prepared for what had happened after the battle on Scyria.

Giselle’s abdication speech had shocked Joslynn. She’d known the second-born hadn’t been suited to royal life, let alone ruling, but she’d never expected an abdication. Not after only a few weeks. Retiring was one thing, but this—this was cowardly.

Then Adelina had appeared in a room that had made chills run down Joslynn’s spine. It wasn’t obvious, but one of the windows showed a fiery landscape in the background and it only added to the intensity of Adelina’s words.

Joslynn had felt them in her very bones as Adelina took the Oath of Queen.

The entire Great Hall had watched with rapt attention while the queen mother’s face turned a sickly white. Joslynn had feared she would faint, but she’d stayed strong.

When Asher came next and accepted his role as Hand of the Queen, Joslynn had set down her cutlery. She’d retired to her rooms shortly after that to speak with Sirus on the matter. Her fiancé hadn’t much to say, but just seeing his face and hearing his voice had helped settle her.

The palace had been empty and haunted a few days after the announcement as everyone adjusted. The queen mother had given a speech and had it put on the livestream to reassure the people and update them with the war efforts.

With the distance between them, the Core and Draga Terra were about a week behind in news and announcements from Adelina on Hai Delta and a few days behind the outer rim. The delay kept them all in the dark, and Adele had the best scientists working on improving the signal speed.

The improved engines on the starships made messengers more viable. They could travel faster with a recording on a disc than a signal could at the moment, especially with the shields slowing things down even further.

Joslynn sighed.

Essentially nothing had changed except who was Queen. Everything else went along as though everything was normal – aside from the mass weapons production and the children training for war.

“A lot of these books are in the Ancient tongue,” Elara confessed. “And I’m embarrassed to say I’m rather out of practice. But the ones in the Draga tongue all say the same thing. The Drakesthai did not aid us during King Beo’s reign, and they never asked us for help.”

The queen mother grumbled and handed Joslynn one book while taking another for herself. “How’s your Ancient, dear?”

Joslynn cracked open the book. “Decent I suppose, but I’ve never had to use it outside prayers and the like.” Hours of reading gave her a headache, but this was all that she could do currently to assist her queen and kingdom.

When the queen mother had received the cast from Adelina regarding the true issues with the Drakesthai she’d kept it secret. Only Elara and now Joslynn knew. Joslynn wasn’t sure why’d she’d been chosen to confide in; perhaps her friendship with Adelina had been why.

But Adele was already mothering her, taking her to see the physicians so she wasn’t alone. Joslynn would never say it out loud, but she’d always felt incredibly sad she wouldn’t have her mother through this experience. And yet, she didn’t feel that way thanks to Adele.

She supposed it wasn’t that much of a stretch for the queen mother to ask Joslynn for help when her own daughters were dead, on the front lines, or in the Hai System. Joslynn’s heart ached for Adele. She had gone through so much in such a short time, losing so many loved ones.

They all had.

Turning the page she sat up suddenly. The word ‘Drakesthai’ instantly caught her attention.

“When was the last time you ate something?” Elara asked, studying Joslynn closely.

“I might have found what we’ve been looking for,” Joslynn murmured as she scanned the lines of Ancient as quickly as she could. Eating was not important at the moment. “There is mention of the Drakesthai and King Beo here.” She handed the book over to Adele carefully. It was centuries old and still in good condition, but it was still a perishable.

Adele was quiet as she scanned the pages, reading much faster than Joslynn had been capable of. “Yes, this is exactly what we needed. It even references livestream footage. Perhaps I’ll be able to find that livestream recording in the royal library’s archives. I doubt it would have been allowed in the public one if King Beo had truly scrubbed the information from our history.”

The queen mother sounded as exhausted and disappointed as Joslynn felt. How could they have abandoned their allies so carelessly?

None of them were old enough to partake in the atrocity, but Joslynn assumed all those people Adelina had requested to see in the Hai System might know something about it – especially her grandmother. Joslynn wouldn’t put it past that old crone to commit that kind of evil.

“Excellent. Now we can prove the Drakesthai didn’t lie which will help our people accept the new alliance,” Adele murmured, taking pics of it with her simulcast. I’ll have to find more, but this should suffice for now. I’ll have a copy made and send it to Adelina.”

Elara glanced at the book and shook her head. “How could no one remember this?”

Joslynn watched as the two of them discussed the information Adelina had sent, making no effort to hide the details from her. Apparently the Neprijat hid in Draga, wiping memories. She shuddered and wondered how many she’d never seen but had been right there, cloaked and plotting.

“Everything all right?” Elara asked Joslynn.

Both females were attuned to every move she made after the physicians had said it would be a difficult pregnancy. Joslynn shoved down her ire. They were simply looking after her, even if the constant barrage of questions was exhausting.

“Queen Mother?” a young courtier said breathlessly as she ran into the Queen’s Solar.

Joslynn studied the female and noted that she wasn’t a noble, but from a wealthy family. She was one of the queen mother’s favorites since she obeyed without question or attitude.

“What is it?” Adele asked, her face turning white as she no doubt feared the worst. Elara took her hand and squeezed as they waited for the news they all worried was dire.

“A new message from the queen has arrived. She’s requested you.”

Adele stood and beckoned for Joslynn and Elara to follow her. Curious, Joslynn didn’t argue. She missed Adelina desperately. The female she’d come to know and care for had grown – bloomed into a rare and exquisite flower.

Their friendship hadn’t been the easiest. Joslynn had never been close to a true royal, and as such she’d been unprepared for the predator underneath the princess’s skin. That had been entirely her responsibility, and it had hurt Adelina.

But thank the Goddess Adelina had such a large heart. They had been able to walk the road back to trust and forgiveness together. Joslynn would do anything Adelina asked of her now. Not only had she proven herself as a queen, but she’d forgiven Joslynn.

She would never forget that.

What had the queen sent them that couldn’t wait? What could they even do for her this far from the actual fight?

It didn’t matter. Joslynn knew they would all do anything Adelina asked of them. After all, she’d somehow managed to get the Drakesthai to agree to an alliance, despite their assumption that Draga had poisoned and then willfully abandoned them.

As they rushed through the palace to the communications hub, Joslynn remembered the vid that had come on after the Queen’s Oath. She’d been in her room after having fled the Great Hall.

Oaths sworn over a volcano in blood.

Adelina was fearsome.

The distance to the hub wasn’t anything Joslynn hadn’t run before on Pedranus, but now she was breathing heavy and sweating. She wasn’t sure why, but this pregnancy was affecting her in ways she’d never anticipated.

When they finally reached the military center Adele’s DNA scan got them through, but Joslynn had to take a minute to rest, wiping more sweat from her forehead. She followed behind slowly. Elara turned and came back for her, staying by her side as Adele went on ahead of them.

“Do you need water?” Elara asked as they walked.

Joslynn put one hand on her lower back to ease some of the sharp pain and nodded. “Yes, please,” she said through panting breaths. “That would be lovely.”

Elara brought her to Adele and then disappeared. One of the males gave her his seat in a rush and she thanked him profusely. How was she going to survive ten months of this?

“Play the message,” Adele demanded, ordering the few remaining personnel in her ‘queen’ voice. It must be a difficult habit to break, Joslynn mused. After all, most of her life had been spent as queen. And at the moment she was the highest ranking person on Draga Terra.

“Of course, queen mother,” a soldier acquiesced.

Then the recording of Adelina appeared on the screen. The new queen wore a velvet pantsuit that Joslynn thought made her look so regal. Goddess, she looked so much older than she had only a few weeks ago. Adelina looked into the recorder with steely amethyst eyes and her hands clasped behind her back.

“The Neprijat can upload their consciousness into a host body,” Adelina began.

As she continued Joslynn felt silence close in around her until all she could hear was the ringing in her ears.

The Queen of Draga explained about the mark and the Neprijat’s hand in the Drakesthai’s sterilization. She told them to search everyone starting from the palace outward, highest ranking positions downward. Then the queen requested her mother send the royal guard Darius, Raena’s old personal guard, to a specific location.

Joslynn hadn’t thought the room could get any quieter, but it did. The ringing stopped suddenly and even the rustle of clothing felt loud as Adelina handed over revelation after revelation.

The Queen explained about Alpha and what had happened to him, how they’d burned him on Hai Delta so his soul may be at rest among the gods and goddesses. She told her mother that part of the alliance was a marriage to a Drakesthai prince and that they would be heading into battle soon to retake the Hai System…

Joslynn dropped her head in her hands as she tried to absorb everything.

This was too much – too much for her to deal with at the moment, but she needed to be strong for her friend, and her queen.

Darius’s presence was requested.

Due to the length of time it would take him to travel to Adelina, he was to go to Asher. Then the forces that had withdrawn to inside the Core’s shield would advance on Khara.

Adelina explained she’d sent a request to Brogna and managed to recruit the notoriously peaceful Unchanged as well. That all she needed was for her mother to hold the capitol and keep supplies and weapons going to the armies.

Per the time stamp on the vid, the recording had taken place on Hai Delta. Adelina had already left for battle. It was most likely already over and done with. All they had to do was wait to see what message they received next. Where was their queen now?

Adelina…fighting the Neprijat.

If she could find the courage to face them, then Joslynn could find the strength needed to get through this war – even burdened with sickness as she was.

Standing, she turned to the queen mother with her spine straight and shoulders back. “Tell me if there is any way I can be of service,” Joslynn said, voice strong and clear. “Anything Pedranus or I can offer, do not hesitate to ask.”

Elara rushed to her side with the cup of water, face pale. “The only thing I need you to do right now is lay down.”

Joslynn looked at her in confusion, but moved to obey since she suddenly felt light-headed and nauseous again.

That’s when she saw the chair was covered in blood – her blood.

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