by Adrianne Karasek
Twist on Chosen One trope: 18yo girl prophesied to destroy kingdom attempts to save it and stop her fate from coming true. #pitprom #ya #f
Eighteen-year-old Chrestienne hasn’t done anything evil—yet. But according to an ancient prophecy, it’s only a matter of time before she kills her first love and destroys her country, the kingdom of Renland.
Ever since mages confirmed her fate as a child, she’s lived in her family’s isolated castle, hoping rumors don’t spread. But they do. An assassination attempt on Chrestienne forces her to flee to the capital city. Disguised as an illiterate messenger boy, she finds work and even befriends Sebastien, an artistic young nobleman.
While running messages, Chrestienne discovers a plot to kill the queen and blame another country. She suspects Sebastien’s father might be the ringleader, but telling Sebastien could destroy their relationship. To make matters more complicated, she’s falling for Sebastian, but if the prophesy rings true, she will kill her first love.
Saving her country from war might be the only way Chrestienne can finally prove to everyone—most importantly, herself—that she can rewrite her fate. But when every step she takes to avoid it only stains her hands in blood, being anything more than a villain might be beyond her reach.
ESCAPING FATE is YA fantasy complete at 93,000 words with series potential.
I recently finished teaching ESL in South Korea and have written lifestyle articles for several blogs. In May 2016 I had a short story, “The Gods’ Wager,” published in New Realm ezine.
Thank you for your consideration,
First Ten Pages:
I rushed through the copse of trees, cedar branches scraping my body, green needles clinging to my dark brown gown.
Breathe. I just had to breathe.
The trees broke, and I raced into the meadow. Mountains towered around me, supporting the sky, their snowy caps rivaling the clouds. The world narrowed to this place, to the blue sky and the purple wildflowers.
Pausing, I closed my eyes and forced a deep breath, letting the soothing scent of cedar and fresh soil wash over me.
I wanted Loys. No, I needed him.
I needed to bury my face in his white fur and feel his steady heartbeat near mine. Somehow the large Aippian shepherd always knew how to calm me.
Holding my breath, I let the mountain air build in my chest. I opened my eyes, exhaling, and tried to focus on the colors and smells of my favorite place.
Cousin Marie may have taken Loys from me to ensure my attendance at dinner, but she couldn’t take my meadow away.
I gripped the tops of the golden, waist-high grass, twisting the tips into the lines of my palms. It wasn’t fair. I’d been biddable and quiet for three months, and still all they saw was a villain.
Long ago there was a seer. She saw her first vision as a child, her last the day before she died. The last had been about me. She’d never been wrong.
Wind whistled past, carrying my sigh to the craggy heights.
"Chrestienne, you will fulfill your obligations as our ward and eat supper with our guests. If you do not, your mutt will be kenneled for a fortnight. The new countess of Gasleyonne’s words rang in my ears. Traders had arrived to look at the wood our House was famous for. And I had to attend dinner.
Hot anger billowed inside me, and I took another breath of the crisp air. Loys wasn’t some pawn in their power struggle. He was my friend. My belly churned. Loys wasn’t used to strangers or the kennels, and he expected to be fed at certain times in my chamber.
He’d been my only friend through my independent childhood, and I needed him more than ever now that I was an orphan under my cousins’ thumbs. My mother had died the day I was born. With a dead mother and a distant father my entire life, I had little practice in how to deal with overbearing relatives. Now that my father was gone, the relatives had permanently moved into my home.
The sun sank toward the west, its rays making the snow of the eastern mountains glisten. I squinted at the line of light, judging the time. I’d been gone as long as possible without one of my cousins noting my absence. They didn’t like it when I disappeared—it made them nervous.
Reluctantly, I picked a path through the long grass back toward the cedar trees. My brown skirt brushed against the flowers, causing several petals to cling to the fabric.
On the other side of the trees lay Castle Gasleyonne, my ancestral home. The great cedars swayed above me as I walked through. I paused, putting my hand to a trunk, feeling the prickly bark beneath my palms. “Grant me strength,” I whispered. “For my fate and my ridiculous cousins.” I let the silence of the trees seep into my bones. Wind whispered through the branches, blowing hair in my eyes. Fingering my long braid, I smiled against the caress. Cousin Marie hated unkempt hair.
Finally, I held my chin high and walked through the outer courtyard to my home. Visiting the meadow wasn’t as good as having Loys nearby, but it would help me get through this supper. I’d do anything to get Loys back.
Supper found me at the Great Hall with hair pinned up. Servants poured wine in the cups at the dais, then moved to the lower tables. Green tapestries covered the high, stone walls around us and a massive wood-and-metal candelabra hovered over the middle of the room. Cousin Andre, in the center of the table in my father’s gilt chair, frowned at me. I glared right back.
The too-small gown made it hard to breathe. And a hairpin was stabbing into my skull.
Cousin Andre and Marie’s daughters, dressed in complementing shades of green, our House’s color, sat on the far end of the table. Their mother, my cousin Marie sat at her husband’s side. I squeezed between Cousin Marie and her daughters. Three men, finely dressed and wearing the most ridiculous hats I’d ever seen, complete with large feathers, sat at the other end of the table, commenting on the vintage of wine. Below the dais in the Great Hall mingled other members of our House, vassals and distant cousins. They shot me sideways glances, then murmured amongst themselves. I held my head high and pretended they were beneath my interest. Meeting strangers always made me nervous. Father had kept me from going out much, afraid rumors would spread.
“Your hair looks terrible,” Cousin Marie hissed. “Who did it?”
“I did,” I hissed back. “Because the only joy in my day comes from ruining yours.” The maids were superstitious and wouldn’t come near me.
Cousin Marie looked me up and down, nostrils flaring. “And what are you wearing?”
“My gown. I thought about coming naked, but that seemed a little much.”
“It’s hideous.” She looked ready to murder me right there, so long as it didn’t ruin the table spread.
My cheeks flushed as I glanced down at the brown dress. “You seem to have forgotten my father died only three months ago. The mourning clothes are for him.” She hadn’t forgotten. Her husband was the new count and she loved their new status.
Her blue eyes flashed. “We both know you didn’t love him. You are incapable of it. You did this on purpose, didn’t you, Chrestienne?”
My eyes stung from the reminder of my father’s death. I had loved him, I thought. I’d cried when we buried him in the crypt—that meant something, didn’t it? A real villain couldn’t love anyone. Or a real villain would be smart enough to fake grief. Or maybe there was enough of my heart untainted that I could be both loving daughter and destroyer?
I bit the inside of my cheek, using pain to break my looping thoughts. What had she mentioned? Ah, dresses. I had very few formal dresses, but she didn’t need to know that. When one was fated to destroy the country, seamstresses didn’t want to waste fabric on her.
She rolled her eyes, somehow still keeping a ladylike appearance. “It’s too late to change. But mark me, this will not be forgotten.” She took a sip of wine from her goblet, knuckles white.
“No one wants my presence here anyway,” I whispered. “I should sup in my chambers.”
Cousin Marie stiffened. “Your presence is required,” she stated, repeating her husband’s words. “It is necessary for the traders to see that you are uninterested in conspiracy or intrigue. Hiding you away will invite suspicion. Skies know you and your prophecy have damaged the respectability of this House enough over the years.”
“I’m only here for Loys,” I muttered.
She sighed and flicked two stray crumbs that landed upon her skirt. The servants would receive a tongue-lashing from her later for their clumsiness. They didn’t like her any more than they liked me, and that was saying a lot. “Really, that mutt is an unsuitable companion. And for one with your…future, common folk may mistake it for a familiar.” Somehow she was never intimidated by me, even though she thought the prophecy was real.
Grinding my teeth, I studied the tablecloth pattern. The words of the prophecy echoed through my head.
Five acts will the dark child accomplish, four which will break the hearts of men:
A longed-for babe from the House of gryphons shall take her mother’s life,
A girl from the House of pines shall destroy her father’s greatest treasure,
A maiden with the mark of a scorpion shall pierce her first love’s heart,
A woman with a heart of iron shall weaken the kingdom’s defense,
A villain with no remorse shall bring her lands to dust and ashes.
The visitors shared latest gossip from their ends of the country. Even though they had entered the castle worried about me, or so I’d overheard a servant report, now they seemed more interested in the wine.
Poor Loys, probably cooped up without food or water, wondering why I had abandoned him. I cleared my throat and took another bite of pheasant.
“That dress looks ancient,” Elois, one of Marie and Andre’s daughters, whispered to me.
Sighing, I ripped a piece of bread from a loaf and shoved it in my mouth.
“Chrestienne, how long has that thing been hiding in the bottom of your trunk?” Annette, the other sister, was three years younger than me and not as bright as her older sister. “Buttons on gowns are all the rage in the cities now.”
I sawed furiously on the meat. This is for Loys. All for Loys. My grip on the food slipped, and the pheasant shot out of my platter and onto the tablecloth.
Anette and Elois tittered, hiding their laughter behind manicured hands. When their mother was nearby, they were brave. But when Cousin Marie was distracted, they were mice.
Cousin Marie shot me a warning look, then went back to conversing with the guests.
A servant stepped beside me, wiping up my mess. He dropped another piece of meat from his tray onto my plate, and gravy splashed onto my dress. The servant flinched.
I bit back a sigh of frustration. If I frightened him away I’d never be served again. Already it was near impossible to get food from the new servants, as they were too frightened of my reputation.
“If you continue to cut your food that poorly, you will draw blood.” Elois delicately twirled her spoon in the soup.
I frowned at my cousin. ¨Perhaps I mean to draw blood. A great many spells can be cast with one’s own blood.”
Annette gave a little squeak and burrowed into her older sister.
Elois, with an air of authority because her father was now lord of the mountain and mine was dead and buried beneath it, blustered. ¨Blood magic is frowned upon. If you attempt it, Father will stop you.¨
“If I already know blood magic, nothing your father can do will stop me.” I raised an eyebrow. They thought they were so superior just because they wouldn’t betray king and country one day.
Annette squeaked again, her spoon and knife clattering onto the table.
Elois glared at me, though her hands trembled. She touched all five of her fingertips of her right hand to her forehead, a ward against evil. Elois grabbed her sister’s hand in comfort and took a swig of wine. She turned to focus on her parents’ conversation, leaving me all alone.
I rolled my eyes. Mice.
And to think that when they’d arrived for my father’s funeral I’d shown them my favorite views of the mountains. As soon as I’d smiled at them I realized it had been a mistake. Warned of my wickedness, they sneered and always stayed on the far side of the room. It shouldn’t have surprised me—we’d known about the prophecy for ten years now, ever since I was eight. Closing my eyes once their attention went elsewhere, I ignored the hum of voices around me.
Belated regret stung me. I wasn’t sorry about offending those girls, but perhaps I had been stupid. Cousin Andre, their father and new count of the House Gasleyonne, had hinted at sending me to a cloister, far from kith and kin, in hopes my evil ways would wither away under the ministrations of the mages. The only reason he hadn’t yet was the concern that once at a cloister I might learn magic and later wield it against him. But if his wily cousin already practiced blood magic, it might remove all obstacles to his plan. People wouldn’t judge him, either. Those who knew about me would agree that something had to be done to slow, if not halt, the prophecy.
Much later, when everyone, even ramrod Cousin Andre, was tipsy and the servants cleared dishes, the men from Phelenne were still talking. Cousin Andre was selling our pinewood as best he could, promising wood perfect for carvings, the sweetest smelling wood in the world, wood as white as milk, and so on. He could convince them if he didn’t sound so desperate.
“So these are your lovely daughters, I assume,” one of the men, the drunker of the three, slurred. He gestured to us with his wine goblet.
The girls blushed and giggled, flush with wine.
My lip curled in disgust.
“And where is the witch of the Aippes, the one who would destroy our fair land?” He turned toward Cousin Andre. “Still alive? Locked in the dungeon?” His gaze flicked to me for the first time that evening. Then he turned away, as if dismissing the idea that the witch could look normal.
“She should be burnt at the stake, if you ask me,” another dignitary suggested. “Anyone that dangerous has no right to live.”
“Do you think she would scream?” The dark-haired man chuckled and the others cackled with him.
My jaw clenched. I had to hold my tongue or Cousin Andre might send me away for good. I tried to remember how I felt beneath the silent mountains and the sighing trees surrounding the meadow.
Cousin Andre’s lips pursed and his brows drew together. “She is of little concern, I assure you,” he hastened. “The prophecy has never been confirmed, and there is scant evidence to suggest she will burn the castle down any time soon.”
Cousin Marie forced a tinkling, high-pitched laugh, as though talk of the prophecy over dinner was ridiculous.
“Should’ve been drowned at birth,” the second man continued. “Like a kitten.” He laughed, somehow amused at the idea of drowning defenseless animals.
“I can understand that affection probably clouded the former count’s decisions,” the third man spoke, who had a gray beard and was the most sober of the group. “She was, after all, his daughter. And, of course, the crown was too busy in other pursuits to investigate on its own initiative. But I hope you are much more clear-minded. She is a danger to the kingdom, and should be brought before the king to assess how near the danger is. Perhaps she should be kept locked away from others.” He frowned, so noble and thinking of the greater good.
I cleared my throat, words filling my mouth, pressing to be released.
Cousin Marie shot me a look edged with venom.
I ignored her. “Do you feel threatened right now? With me in the room, surely you feel the danger.” My lips twisted into a sharp smile.
The middle-aged man, the most inebriated, jerked to look at me, splashing wine on his sleeve in the process. His flushed face paled.
“I have posed no threat to the people of Renland or the king, so I fail to see why I should be brought before a trial and imprisoned.” My temper took hold of my tongue. “Only a half-forgotten prophecy scrawled at the bottom of a mage book suggests I may harm anyone. That should be considered before you take me away in chains.”
My fingers gripped the underside of the table. I had never spoken so boldly before. But between the way Cousin Andre had taken over my father’s position without a hint of grief, the way the girls had spurned what little kindness I could offer, and the way these buffoons prattled on in ignorance, I could take no more. Three months of silence was all I could manage.
The youngest visitor gaped at me, his body leaning toward the nearest exit.
Cousin Marie clutched my wrist, digging her fingernails into my skin. “Chrestienne!”
I jerked my arm away from her as I stood. “Really, Cousin, you can stop telling me to be silent. I’m almost done.” I glared at the oldest of the men. “By all means, go back to the king and tell him you have seen me, and once I have actually moved against the kingdom, arrest me.”
Cousin Andre stumbled to his feet, his face red and his mouth agape.
“Dear cousin Andre, I do hope you won’t hold this against Loys. I appeared to dinner, and was a perfect image of hospitality until they insulted me. So I expect, since our bargain held, that Loys will be returned to my chambers.” I smiled.
Whirling, I stalked out of the Great Hall, up the stairs, and into my chambers. Had I said those things? What was I thinking? My chest near exploded with outrage and injustice of it all. Idiot. I wasn’t just a villain, I was a fool.
Welcome to the final round of pitches!
Agents and Publishers,
please vote on your favorite pitches.
Simply request your favorites in the comments on that particular post!
To see the individual pitches, click the title below in "Categories" or you can scroll down. The Sci Fi category will take you to all the Sci Fi pitches and same with Fantasy.