Perilous adventure with a splash of romance…
Join Jemma Maynard, a vertically-challenged Amazon princess, as she discovers where legendary relics are hidden…
Peach Plains, Georgia
The goblet resembled something from the Corkwood junk shop. The fabled Cup of Fortune was made of dingy, dented metal… that needed to be run through a heavy-duty dishwasher multiple times.
Jemma Maynard, the vertically-challenged Amazon princess, crossed her arms and pulled her red cape closer around her shoulders. Her blond hair hung loose around her shoulders, and she stared at the grainy image on the screen, projected on the white wall beside the conference table in the center of the luxurious study of the underground mansion.
“It’s a cup. What’s so special about it?” she asked, smoothing her fingers along the hem of the magical cape she’d received as a gift from her best friend. She took a step to the side and the tops of her thigh-high leather boots squeaked against each other.
Leopold Farnham, the last of the Thraxians, spoke as though reading from a description. “The Cup of Fortune is rumored to give long life and untold riches to any that drink of its stormy waters at any midnight following the autumnal equinox.”
Jemma took a breath and stepped closer to the blown-up version of the time-yellowed polaroid from the 1970s. “Has this ever actually occurred?”
Leo didn’t answer, but he took a sugar cookie from the plate in the middle of the table. “It’s important that we get that cup. I have my reasons.”
Jemma continued as though he hadn’t spoken. “It seems unlikely that my people wouldn’t have heard of something like that. Immortals aren’t usually able to hide long-term from other immortals.”
Leo pressed a button on his laptop, and the image on the wall changed to show an over-sized goblet, larger than Jemma was tall, in the shape of a chalice cut into a water-covered rockface. It looked like two triangles facing each other, one on top and one on bottom, with a line connecting the points. Yet the simple shape could be something other than a chalice. On the flanking footpath, a man she didn’t recognize stood beneath it. Fir, spruce, and tree species Jemma didn’t recognize surrounded it.
Jemma considered the carving. “How do you know this refers to the Cup of Fortune?”
“We took a rubbing from an inscription at the bottom of the design.” The projection changed once more to show the paper with the rubbing. “Basically, it reads ‘the Cup of Fortune rests here.’”
“But do you read runes?” She bet he could read Greek. But if she didn’t know runes, their history was similar enough that he probably didn’t. She glanced at him.
Leo shook his head. “I never learned. We had an expert in ancient Germanic languages, but these were unique runes. None like them anywhere else.”
“Then how did he know what it says?”
Her cape drew itself up onto her shoulders, vibrating as though it was purring. The thing pretty much acted like a cat-sidekick. Jemma ran her palm along the red material.
Leo raised an eyebrow, but he didn’t utter anything critical. Jemma already knew he wasn’t crazy about the pet cape.
“By other runes in the world,” he said.
“How so? Did the expert explain his thought processes?”
“They were related to several other rune letter charts, but they were not identical.”
Jemma tilted her head and took a seat on the edge of the conference table, studying the stick letters. “Why is it in runes, though? Does that not seem odd? I thought the earliest rune stones were from the Vikings. Who did you say carried the cup into the mountain range? Wasn’t it a highland clan?”
Leo clicked back to the image of the carving. “For being an Amazon, I’m surprised you don’t your history.”
Jemma made a face. “I know my history. I’m not good with mortal history.”
Leo nodded. “I’m not certain if the people-group was displaced and moved into the highlands or originally came from there and picked up runes for some reason. The use of runes indicates one things while the immigration pattern implies something else.” He paused to stare up at the image. “It’s a puzzle.”
Jemma crossed her arms, and the cape mimicked her motions. She’d like nothing better than the chance to untangle the history of the people that lived there.
Leo continued, “The only legends I’ve ever been able to find come from the reclusive populations living around this rock. They hint of an immortal family, living underground.”
Jemma grinned. “They sound like they’re related to you.”
Leo shot her a dark look. “Yet many, if not all, of these micro-communities have long-since abandoned their homes in the mountains in favor of life closer to civilization.” He shuffled through several papers and then used a laser pointer to circle the carving. “This is what we’re after. Like most relics, it holds great power.”
Jemma shifted. “But what power?”
“The power to bring long life—some say immortality—to those who drink from it. Could you imagine if a dictator or a murderer were to get their hands on that?” An eerie light shone on Leo’s face. “If they were to drink from the Cup of Fortune at midnight following the fall equinox?”
“Is midnight important?”
“Naturally. It resets the world so that the next sunrise will include whatever good fortune the cup has bestowed.”
Jemma frowned at the aging man. She didn’t like the look he wore. The cape twitched its corner like an irritated cat flicked its tail. It didn’t like it either.
“Why are you interested in it?”
“Why wouldn’t I be?”
Jemma swiped a pen from the table and started clicking it, trying to sort what she thought. A reddish whip, one of two she owned, hung from her belt loop. Since they’d found the Book of Power a few months earlier, she’d taken to carrying at least one of her weapons on her hip. Though most people only saw a whip, it had been a gift from her mother, the queen of the Amazons.
“Immortality is a responsibility given to very few,” she said finally. “I don’t believe it’s good for anyone to live forever.”
In fact, while many termed the Thraxians and the Amazons as immortal, they were really only the descendants of long-lived beings from other realms. Where humans typically lived around one hundred twenty years at the most, Thraxians and Amazons could live hundreds and hundreds of years before growing old.
Jemma considered Leo. “Do you want to live forever?”
Leo’s eyes turned glassy, and he stared at the floor. He couldn’t meet her gaze. “What should I say? I am the last of my kind. The Thraxians pass into memory when I die. It weighs heavily on me.” His voice broke.
“Our home realms make us long-lived here on the human world, but we are not immortal, Leo.”
Jemma didn’t know what to say. His pain twisted in her heart. Her people, the Amazons, had been living quietly in Themiscyra, a village on the southern edge of the Black Sea, for thousands of years. They kept out of the public eye and busied themselves with surviving and thriving as they could. Many took mates and had families. How had the Thraxians dwindled until Leopold Farnham was the only one left?
Leo took a deep breath and cleared his throat. “When will Katie arrive?”
“Whenever she feels like, I expect,” she quipped, hoping her saucy retort would lighten the mood in the room. Though, Leo should have guessed that. Katie came and went as she pleased. “Once the Jinn is out of the bottle, I’ve heard it’s hard to get them to do anything on time.”
Leo gestured to the map of the Appalachian mountain. The paper rested beneath all the other papers and covered the workspace between them. “Do you think she’ll agree to go?”
“At least its closer to home this time,” she murmured.
The Appalachian Trail began in northern Georgia and ran for two thousand two hundred miles, up into Maine. Their trip to Great Britain had been a life-threatening whirlwind, to say the least. With any luck, this retrieval wouldn’t require a trip aboard or nearly kill Katie. Katie might like to see the autumn colors of the Smokies.
Behind Jemma, Leo sat at the conference table and peered up at the image with a rapturous look on his face. “I know it’s there.”
“How do you know?” she countered.
“I believe it because I saw the Kettering carving with my own eyes.”
Jemma considered him over her shoulder. “That’s you, isn’t it?” Younger and less feeble, but the glint in Leo’s eyes was unmistakable.
Leo nodded and tapped the arm rest of his motorized wheelchair. “I wasn’t always stuck in this. In fact, for a long time, I thought it was my destiny to locate the Cup of Fortune.”
“Because I am the last of the Thraxians, and it grants long life…” His voice trailed away. “Some texts refer to healing.”
Jemma considered the fifty-year old slide once more. “I haven’t been able to find anything about the artwork on the rockface anywhere. Why can’t I find any images of it online?” These days, everybody posted everything online. In fact, it made staying out of public view increasingly difficult.
Leo shrugged. “It’s a long hike, and people miss all sorts of things by hurrying to the vista.”
“Do you think someone is scrubbing the net of any references to it?”
Leo scoffed. “I doubt that.”
“Are there more carvings?”
Leo nodded. “They’re positioned along the slate and sandstone rockface leading upward and around it.”
Jemma cycled through the papers until she found the roster for the most recent expedition. Many of the names had been marked through. She pointed to the first of the heavy black lines. “What’s this mean?”
“Because they died.”
Jemma rolled her eyes. For an old man requesting help, he certainly had a prickly attitude. The cape flicked its corner back and forth.
“Leo,” she said. “That’s not what I meant. How did they die?”
“Most of them were old age, but one was a freak accident and the other died from complications of pneumonia.”
“So, no confirmable curses as a result of hunting this thing?”
“Nothing defined. None determined.” He tapped the table surface. “We only have life to gain.”
Jemma moved through the final details and compared the itinerary with her notes. It wasn’t that far off what she’d expected. The cape curved around her.
“I still don’t like it, Leo. There’s something odd about it, something I’m missing. We should do more research before jumping in with both feet.”
Leo drummed his fingers on the surface of the table. “That’s not what you said last time. What was it?” His eyebrows met in a crease in the center of his forehead.
She knew what he meant, but she wasn’t going to help him. He seemed too intent on this one. Something else was going on with him. There was another reason he wanted the cup, and she hadn’t been able to figure it out.
His eyes lit up. “Ah, yes, I remember now. Curiosity killed the dragon…” He stared past her, thinking. “Satisfaction brought him back? Perhaps you are in this for the satisfaction?”
He would use that on me. Jemma squinted at the stacks of papers on the table, willing whatever was bothering her to leap into view. “I feel like I don’t have all the information. My gut says there’s some kind of big beastie guarding the place.”
Leopold glowered. “Use your whips, then.”
“I don’t just whip things willy-nilly, Leo. You should know that by now.” She had to have a twinge of fear to unlock her battle magic.
Leo didn’t answer.
Jemma glared. Using her magic red-orange whips didn’t make Jemma happy, but, sometimes they came in handy. As the daughter of the Queen of the Amazons, they were her birthright.
Leo glanced up and met her gaze. His expression hardened, and he switched the image back to the artist’s rendering of the mystical cup. “Your job description is literally ‘relic retrievals.’” He pointed. “This is the one you have to get next.”
Jemma chuckled. “But I decide when to risk my life, and I’m not sure this is it.”
The muscles worked in Leo’s jaw. The last Thraxian might have a temper, but Jemma didn’t falter in the face of Leo’s fury. He meant well enough.
She opened her mouth to speak, but a jaunty whistle sounded out in the hall. A mourning dove trill filled the corridor beyond the study, and then a jaunty whistle followed once more.
A moment later, Katie Champagne strolled in, wearing a sparkled-up wind suit. Even her lipstick glittered. As usual, Katie had tucked her hair into a high ponytail, and it bounced with every step. The scent of grape-flavored bubble gum wafted around her.
Jemma’s grin nearly cracked her cheeks. “Eighties, much?”
Katie hitched her hips to the side and struck a pose. “If the decade fits,” she drawled in her Cajun accent.
Jemma caught Katie’s neck in a hug. “How’s New Orleans?”
Katie winked. “Same as always. Vampires live in the shadows, and I pretend to be the normal one.”
Jemma stepped back and studied her friend. “Have you recovered fully from the last trip?”
Katie didn’t quite meet Jemma’s eyes. “Well enough.” She waved to the floating cape. “Have you named it yet?”
“Not yet. It might be stuck with ‘cape.’ Nothing seems right.” Jemma didn’t add anything else. They could talk about it later. Katie’s magic hadn’t quite been the same since their last retrieval. That had been six months ago.
The corner of Leo’s eye twitched as though he might burst into an angry fit, but he smiled at Katie instead and moved back toward his spot at the conference table. “It’s easier to show you, if you’ll take a seat.”
Jemma raised an eyebrow as Leo stuffed every terse thing he had been about to say. He wasn’t frightened of Katie, but he knew Jemma wouldn’t go unless Katie agreed, and he didn’t want to get started on the wrong foot with Katie.
Leo re-explained everything he’d explained to Jemma earlier. Jemma looked through the paperwork, mentally cataloging the important information. In the morning, she’d have a look in the indexes once she reached the Corkwood Public Library. Maybe she missed some snippet of lore in her last search.
At the end, Katie clapped. “Well-stocked cabins in the mountains? I am so in.”
Jemma put a hand to her forehead, and the cape fluttered in the air.
“That’s not quite what…” Leo began.
“Listen, I told you on our last coffee date. You didn’t even have to ask.”
Jemma frowned, blinking at her best friend in the whole of the paranormal world. Katie wasn’t hearing what Leo was saying.
“It’s more like tents and hiking,” Jemma corrected. “It’ll take some legwork to reach the location where the Cup of Fortune was last recorded.”
Katie blanched and backed up by one step. “You’re kidding.”
“Is there a problem?”
“Backpacking and camping…” Katie sniffed. “Dealbreakers.” She shook her head. “These are not things I do. I’ve spent enough time in temporary dwellings. Though, I might be persuaded to go glamping, though. Or…” Katie paused. “Have you ever stayed in a yurt?”
Jemma’s eyes widened. “I don’t think ‘glamping’ yurts are available along the hiking trail.”
“Well, I’ve never been camping or hiking. How would I know that?”
“You’ve never been camping?”
“Why would I?” Katie crossed her arms. “I lived in nomad tents in 17…” She tipped her head to the side. “Huh. In 17-something or other. Does that count?”
Sometimes, Jemma forgot that Katie had spent thousands of years magically tied to one pottery bit or another. Jemma’s heart twisted a little each time the reality of Katie’s life smacked her in the face.
“Were you linked to a bottle?” Jemma asked.
“At that time, I was in a lovely Ming porcelain vase that belonged to the matriarch. It had a phoenix on one side of the exterior and a peacock on the other.”
Jemma shook her head. “Then, no, that’s not the same thing as camping at all.”
Katie glanced at Leopold. “Can’t one of your helicopters drop us in and get us out?”
“I’m afraid not. The drafts are too much, and I don’t have a specific location. I only have a general idea. That’s not good enough for a heli.”
Jemma tapped her foot on the ground. She wasn’t ready to agree yet, but the more they talked about it, the more excited she got. Maybe not for this particular mission, but the adventure of it all appealed to her as much as it always did.
Katie gestured in the air. “Who would go camping by choice?”
“To commune with nature. Take a time out. There’s a million reasons togo camping.”
Katie tapped the map. “But hunting a cup rumored to give the drinker long life and great fortune? Possibly inside a hidden temple?”
“There is no evidence of a temple.”
Katie’s mouth twisted, and she turned to the image. “It is unlikely that this mythical bauble is just hanging out in a cave without someone or something protecting it.”
“So, what? It wouldn’t be the first time.”
“Is the world in danger this time?” Katie asked.
Leo looked uncomfortable. “No, not—”
Jemma stepped between them both. “You two stop.”
Katie grimaced. “Listen, I don’t think this is just going to be regular camping. There’s no way.” She pointed at Jemma and then at herself. “Our lives don’t go that way.”
Jemma pushed a piece of paper across the table. “Of course it won’t be easy. But we get there, we get in, we snag the cup from its hiding place, and we get out.”
Katie remained unconvinced.
Leopold grimaced. “I suppose I forgot to mention…”
Jemma spun toward him. “You forgot to mention what?”
“There is a highland clan, guarding the chalice.”
Katie snorted. “Of course there is.”
Leopold went on. “They brought the cup with them when they migrated from Scotland in the late 1700s.”
Jemma glanced from one to the other. “They’re a friendly clan, aren’t they?”
Leopold rolled forward in his wheelchair. “No one really knows. They could be.”
“’Could be?’” Katie repeated.
Jemma chewed her bottom lip, staring at the map and the blurry photographs on top of it. “Why doesn’t anyone know if they’re friendly, Leopold?”
He shifted in his chair and then cleared his throat. “Of all the expeditions conducted to retrieve the Cup of Fortune…”
Jemma stared at the fidgeting older man and then met Katie’s gaze.
Leo wouldn’t meet her eyes. He studied his feet.
“Go on,” Jemma commanded. “Why doesn’t anyone know if they’re friendly?”
Leo took a breath. “No one has ever returned from their expedition into the Smoky Mountains.”
“Ah. There it is.” Jemma pursed her lips.
Katie’s expression turned pale, and the cape threw itself over the back of the nearest chair.
That’s the detail she had been missing…
What does a highly trained Amazonian princess who wants to leave war behind do? How about treasure hunting in the mortal realm with her freed Jinn best friend, Katie? Jemma’s peace (and fun) is interrupted when a supernatural war spills into the mortal realm - and it’s up to her and her ragtag group of supernatural associates to stop the ensuing apocalypse. This is a fun, quick, clean read filled with lots of action that calls to fulfilling one’s higher purpose, even when one is reluctant. Bokerah Brumley weaves wonderful tales, and this one is perhaps one of her best. Highly recommend!
The main character is Princess Jemma a highly trained Amazonian Princess ,daughter of Marina head of the Amazons.
Her friends Katie,Jinn etc are also amazing characters who help to make this such an awesome story.
Jemma must find the Book of Power to save the world from evil domination.
With the help of her friends will she succeed or will the world be lost to evil.
Great story ,well detailed and before you know it you will be lost in the plot until you run out of pages....forget about sleep just use matchsticks to keep your eyes open..
A must read.
Indigo Leigh lives on ten permaculture acres, complete with sheep, goats, peacocks, turkeys, geese, guineas, ducks, chickens, five home-educated children, and one husband.