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By Cayla Kluver. Across the land of Hytanica, in the villages, infant boys continued to vanish. A count was made of the number missing, but before he could determine what action should be taken, the disappearances stopped. The last Hytanican child to vanish was the newborn son of a wealthy baron and baroness.
Within the week, as the bleeding moon waned, the bodies of the infants were found outside the gates of the city, a final word from the greatest enemy Hytanica had ever known. Grieving parents collected the rotting remains of their sons, but there was one mystery that would for many years remain unsolved.
Forty-nine babies were taken, but only forty-eight bodies were returned. No one knew why the Cokyrians had withdrawn from the land or why they had not been able to destroy Hytanica and her people. The Cokyrians were superior to the Hytanicans as fighters and strategists and did not adhere to any code of honor in war, but still Hytanica had not fallen. According to lore, the first King of Hytanica, seeking to protect his foundling home, had been advised by his priests that a sacrifice of blood both royal and innocent would hallow the ground and make his kingdom invincible.
As my people settled into a long-awaited time of peace, learning to lead normal lives once more, I was brought before them and grew to be a young woman, living with a freedom the war-torn generations before me had never known. All such things must come to an end, however, and that is where my story begins. I paced in front of the barren fireplace that spanned most of one wall in my parlor, clasping and unclasping my hands.
My younger sister, Princess Miranna, had retired to her quarters after breathlessly assuring me I would have a lovely evening, but then, she was much more enamored with the man I would be meeting for dinner tonight than I was. Just try to relax, London advised, one eyebrow raised in bemusement. He picked up a book from the table beside the burgundy velvet sofa and began to leaf through it. How can I possibly eat?
I asked, my voice sounding shrill even to my own ears. If something goes wrong tonight, Father is going to be so disappointed. I stopped pacing and faced London, who had set the book back on the table and was now leaning against the tapes-tried wall by the door, arms crossed over his muscular frame.
Unruly silver bangs fell across his forehead, contrasting sharply with his deep-set indigo eyes, which were fixed upon me in anticipation of a response. I fumbled for one; every moment I could feel the noose of my impending marriage growing tighter. With my seventeenth birthday just around the corner, a betrothal would soon be arranged, with or without my approval of the gentleman. The idea that Steldor might be that gentleman….
You can survive one evening. London hesitated, then teasingly added, Besides, he may just win you over. I stared at him, unable to find humor in such an awful possibility, and he tried to alleviate the worry he had inadvertently created. I sank into one of the plush armchairs that stood near the hearth, buried my head in my hands, and moaned. My father, King Adrik, had arranged for this dinner between Lord Steldor and me, for he felt Steldor was better suited to be his successor than anyone else in the kingdom.
As the heir to the throne, I was to marry on that basis alone, for it was my husband, not I, who would come to rule Hytanica. Even I had to admit that Steldor was the obvious choice. Three and a half years older than I, he was the son of Cannan, the Captain of the Guard, and had one year ago become a military field commander at the young age of nineteen. He was charming, intelligent and strong, with stunning good looks, but I had disliked him from the moment we had met.
A rap on the door interrupted my thoughts, and London stepped into the corridor while I fretfully plucked strands of my brown hair free of its upswept style. I have just been informed that Steldor is waiting for you in the Grand Entry. London opened the door for me, and we left my parlor to walk through the second-floor corridors of the Royal Residence toward the spiral staircase at the rear of the palace.
As we walked, I hardly glanced at the intricate tapestries that adorned the walls, for my attention was drawn to the end of the hall where Steldor awaited me. Supporting himself with his left hand on the wall, he was flipping a dagger over and over in his right, impeccably positioned for maximum visual effect. Have fun, London said glibly, stopping midway down the passage, for my handsome dinner companion had noticed my approach.
I complained, irritated by the tease that had once more crept into his voice. Steldor had returned his dagger to its sheath and was striding toward me. Although he was dressed more informally than was usual for him, his deportment would have made any clothing appear elegant.
He was tall, broad shouldered and well muscled, with dark brown hair that fell in a perfectly careless manner to just below his prominent cheekbones. His brown eyes were guaranteed to make most girls swoon, and his smile was irresistible, given his straight and even, white teeth. My lady. Steldor bowed and kissed my hand. His eyes swept my form approvingly, taking in my shimmering gray gown and the silver locket that graced my neck. Allow me to escort you to the dining room, Princess Alera.
Suppressing a smile, I walked with Steldor through the remainder of the corridor, the savory smells from the kitchen arousing my appetite. At least I would be getting a delicious meal out of the evening. The first-floor dining room was designed to accommodate intimate gatherings. There were twin marble fireplaces, one on each side of the room, with an oblong table that could seat forty-five centered in between.
Three candlelit chandeliers were suspended above the table, and oil-burning lanterns were attached at intervals along the walls. A small, round table draped with white linen had been prepared for us at the far end of the room in front of the bay window. I sat across from Steldor and he offered me a glass of wine, which I accepted with some trepidation, having no more liking for wine than I did for the man extending the goblet.
He paused as if permitting me an opportunity to extend my flustered thanks. When none were forthcoming, he smiled. Some food may restore you. With a flick of his hand he indicated to a servant that we were ready to receive our meal. Some sustenance may enable you to find your voice as well.
I stared at the man my father desired me to wed, feeling ill-equipped to deal with his overly familiar attitude. The arrival of the kitchen staff with vegetable-laden platters, warm bread and roast grouse saved me from having to reply.
Steldor nodded curtly to dismiss the servants, then placed a slice of the sizzling game bird on each of our plates, permitting me to select my own vegetables and bread. We ate in silence for a time, although I found it difficult to do more than nibble, for his eyes continued to shamelessly peruse me. I hope we shall come to spend a great deal of time together, he finally said, his voice a practiced blend of honey and conceit, velvety smooth but with an undertone of boredom that not even he could conceal.
Clearly this was not how he would have chosen to spend his evening free of duties. Although I should caution you that the military demands much of me. I am well suited for such a life, of course—when I was at the Military Academy, my combat instructors had nothing but praise for me.
As you probably know, I was allowed to graduate a year early due to my abilities. After fifteen months as a foot soldier, I went into officer training and became the youngest field commander in Hytanican history. But despite the demands of my position, I find time to help train the students at the academy in hand-to-hand fighting.
The instructors at the military school continue to hold me in high esteem and readily welcome my assistance. I found myself paying more attention to his gestures than to his words as he droned on, for his movements were so fluid they seemed almost rehearsed. He paused to settle back in his chair, slowly swirling the wine in his goblet, once more perfectly posed.
I was simply born with enviable talents. It was natural that I would become the favored one. She speaks, he gently mocked, then elaborated. More admired than my father? Well, then, I suppose I should feel honored just to be here with you. Your father is revered. But I have the eyes of an entire citizenry on me at every moment. That you cannot deny. The churning in my stomach could no longer be attributed to nervousness.
When I did not converse further, he glanced to the other side of the room where London was sitting in a chair, booted feet resting on the oblong table. I only meant that, if we were alone, things could be a bit more…intimate. He leaned closer and reached for my hand, dark eyes lazily scanning me as if I were a gift for him to unwrap. That would be improper, would it not?
I reproached, picking up my napkin to spoil his attempt. And have you never done anything improper, Princess? He stood when my only response was a deep blush. In combination with my dry mouth, I found myself speechless. To the garden, shall we? He rose, his eyes connecting with mine. No need to keep such close watch, Steldor told him with a dismissive wave. We walked down the corridor that London and I had earlier traversed, toward the rear of the palace and the garden that extended to the northern section of the walled city.
Steldor acknowledged the Palace Guards who were stationed at the rear entrance, then held one of the double doors open for me, but I vacillated, reluctant to go into the dusky grounds with him. The temperature was still comfortable, but since it was the beginning of May, a chill would advance as night settled over the land. I nodded, and Steldor again draped his arm about my waist to guide me onward, one of the Palace Guards alerting the others who patrolled the area that I had entered the grounds.
Stars were beginning to glimmer in the clear nighttime sky as we strolled along the stone footpaths that wove through the walled garden, dividing it into sections.
Legacy (novel series)
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By Cayla Kluver. Across the land of Hytanica, in the villages, infant boys continued to vanish. A count was made of the number missing, but before he could determine what action should be taken, the disappearances stopped. The last Hytanican child to vanish was the newborn son of a wealthy baron and baroness. Within the week, as the bleeding moon waned, the bodies of the infants were found outside the gates of the city, a final word from the greatest enemy Hytanica had ever known. Grieving parents collected the rotting remains of their sons, but there was one mystery that would for many years remain unsolved.
Legacy is a series of novels by Cayla Kluver that follow a young princess that must decide between a forbidden love and her obligations to her kingdom. Kluver first began writing the series around the mids and finished her first rough draft of Legacy at the age of fourteen. Kluver initially self-published the first volume in the series with the help of her parents,  but was later re-released by AmazonEncore in Legacy follows Princess Alera of Hytanica, a willful young woman that cringes at the idea of marrying over bearing Steldor, her father's chosen suitor.
Ready to be impressed? The young author, Cayla Kluver, has just published her third book at the age of twenty, which is the last installment of the Legacy Trilogy. The series was published in quick succession, with Legacy in July of , Allegiance in March of , and Sacrifice earlier this month. She says writing has always been her form of self-expression and is how she coped with things. Cayla grew up right here in Eau Claire, moving to the Valley at about 6 months old. She lives with her family, which includes an older sister Cara, a younger sister Kendra, their lawyer parents, and a cat named Nina. In that moment, I realized, why am I waiting?