Timeless Changes, Knight Traveler series

Timeless Changes is the fourth installment and the second full length novel in the Knight Traveler Series  (Reading order is: Heart of Time, Timeless Vision, An Heirloom Amber, Timeless Changes)

timeless-changesAvailable October 25, 2016

Preorder today Amazon or your favorite bookseller!

USA TODAY bestseller Regan Black returns with the next exciting installment of the Knight Traveler series!

Diana Walsh, descended of an Avalon priestess, has inherited a treasured piece of amber and the repsonsibility of keeping it safe for Sir Kay, its rightful owner. She’s studied the history with an eye to the future so she can support and assist Sir Kay, should he return in her lifetime in the 21st century.

Since making a vow to King Arthur during his first life in the sixth century, Sir Kay has been chasing his nemesis Mordred through time. When he wakes in a strange new world, he knows the evil sorcerer is making another attempt to restore a powerful immortality talisman. In his pursuit of Mordred, he discovers an unexpected ally in Diana.

Knowing there is no hope for humanity if Mordred succeeds, Diana and Kay must unravel a wealth of long-buried secrets and magics before evil grows out of control.

 

~~~Reviews~~~

“Regan Black SHINES!” –Authors On The Air Global Radio Network

“These books are freaking amazing!” -Cynthia R., reviewer

“beautiful story fraught with emotion, mystery and love” -Gloria L., Paranormal Romance Guild reviewer

“5-star read! Oh, the surprises in store!” -Tessa, Poised Pen Productions

~~~Excerpt~~~

Prologue

Sir Kay swore under his breath when he caught Mordred’s rotten scent on the wind. Kay and his bear companion had been tracking the black-hearted betrayer of the Round Table for weeks, following Mordred’s latest attempt to seize King Arthur’s throne.

Kay had no doubts what had brought Mordred sniffing about Camelot, risking exposure and worse. A year ago, Kay, King Arthur, Sir Eiddlig the dwarf knight, and an orphan from a family of healers had thwarted the sneaky bastard’s attempt to steal an amber amulet. A beautiful piece, the amber talisman was rumored to grant the wearer never-ending life. It had come down through family to the orphan and from him into Eiddlig’s care and study, yet it had taken the three of them together to keep it out of Mordred’s evil hands.

Through combining their magic they’d broken the amber into three parts, vowing never to bring those pieces near each other again. For most of the year, Arthur and Eiddlig had kept the orphan in hiding, but clearly Mordred’s spies had learned the truth of the talisman. Constantly thirsting for power and never satisfied, Mordred had been making some unfortunate gains.

While Kay and his bear hunted for food by necessity and battled to protect king and country and to preserve the peace and Arthur’s ideals, they were not assassins.

Until now.

His orders from the king were to stop Mordred at any cost. The foul devil had just enough magic in his blood and a powerful new charm in his possession that meant no prison could hold him. The most recent discovery had come at a dear price. With the slippery influence of a Biblical serpent, he seemed to sway honorable, clear-minded people to his cause, killing them swiftly once they’d served his purpose.

Two against one, Kay thought as he and his bear followed Mordred’s trail. Too arrogant, confident he could overpower any pursuit, the shameless weasel made few attempts to hide his direction as he headed for his established territory. Enough horror, enough suffering, Kay decided. This time when he struck, his sword wouldn’t leave a pesky, un-healing wound behind. This time he would strike true and part Mordred’s head clean from his shoulders. It was the only way to be sure of success.

Kay and his bear halted as Mordred made preparations to shelter for the night under a stone outcropping near a small stream. The time would never be better and waiting only increased the odds that Mordred’s men would come out of hiding to ride the last leg of the return journey with their master.

Still, the obvious vulnerability encouraged Kay’s caution. His bear padded off, moving with a predatory silence despite his size and breadth. They could strike now, in the graying twilight and rid the world of Mordred’s tenacious evil once and for all. He crept closer. At the sound of Mordred’s oily voice, Kay held his position, straining to hear who or how many might have joined him.

“No more lies!” Mordred snapped. “Cut out his tongue. Let him wallow and choke on his blood a bit before you kill him. Then find me another who knows the path to the amber pieces.”

Hearing no response, no tortured shrieks of pain, Kay realized his enemy had reached out to his allies by magical means. The black knight remained alone in the hollow of rock above the stream.

Kay crept to the edge of his cover and studied the terrain, planning the swiftest route to trap Mordred and cut him down.

To his shock and chagrin, Mordred stepped into the open armed with a bow and an arrow at the ready. Kay swore. The miscreant had not been armed at any point on this trek. Seeing Mordred’s bow aimed at the bear, Kay’s skin went cold and his heartbeat slowed in his chest. Against a normal adversary he had no fear for his bear. Mordred, however, was notoriously devious. The arrow was likely tipped with poison or charmed by an evil force.

“It’s over, Mordred.” Kay strode forward, heedless that his target had the higher ground. “Stand down and settle this man to man.”

Mordred’s lip curled. “Give me that amber around your neck, Sir Kay and I’ll spare your friend.”

“Must you always barter with a sneer?” Kay withdrew a dagger, letting the fading light catch the blade. He had to keep the man’s attention while his bear retreated. “A smile goes so much further.”

“A smile then.” Mordred’s mouth curved upward at the corners. The exaggerated effect was worse than the sneering arrogance had been.

Kay pulled the amber from under his tunic, knowing full well he would never relinquish it. Even just a third of the amber held a curiosity of potential power and Kay would die before he gave Mordred any such assistance.

Kay sensed the charge before his bear began to move. Offering support and distraction is what he would have done for Arthur or any one of his knights, a move they’d employed in more than one battle. But this wasn’t battle and their opponent had no honor. The arrow flew from Mordred’s bow, straight and true at the bear. The bellow, the pain, ripped through Kay as the bear galloped on, full-speed toward Mordred.

On an angry shout Kay threw the knife at Mordred, hitting his thigh. Leading with his sword, he raced forward and swiped the bow from Mordred’s hands before he could nock another arrow. The bear rammed Mordred and they fought two against one. The smaller man ducked and rolled clear of the worst. Outraged, riding his wrath over the countless, deplorable crimes committed against so many innocents, Kay advanced, his sword landing hard on Mordred’s chest, splitting his tunic and scoring flesh. As a line of blood welled up Kay shouted with victory. His sword had been enchanted long ago, that no enemy would heal once wounded by his blade. Still, Mordred’s fate was death by King Arthur’s decree. Kay raised his sword to strike a fatal blow.

Mordred twisted again, curling his body closer to the bear and burying Kay’s knife deep into the animal’s side. The bear cried out, slumping to the ground, his breath rattling through his chest. Mordred rose up to strike again and Kay threw himself in front of his friend’s mortally wounded body. The knife glanced off Kay’s shoulder, and Mordred danced back from the reach of Kay’s sword. “The amber,” he said, holding out his hand, “or your life is forfeit as well!”

Kay gave Mordred his back, pressing his piece of amber into the bear’s wound and praying it would be enough. Nothing happened. Kay swore, trying again and again, pleading with the powers of nature and pulling deep on his Elder blood.

Arrows bounced off his armor as he sheltered his dying friend and a strange madness took him over as Mordred’s men rushed out of hiding to escort their master to safety.

Tormented, Kay left his friend’s weakening body and gave chase, fighting man after man between him and his target. His bones shifted and rebuilt, his skin felt ripped and raw, then at last impervious. The sword dropped from his hand to the ground, landing between two massive bear paws.

Men screamed and in his head Kay screamed with them. Mordred stared, mouth agape, his feet rooted in place not by fear, but awe. Kay growled and advanced, following the new instincts coursing through his blood. Attack. Kill. Survive.

Blood spattered fur, the scents stinging his nose as his claws tore through fabric and opened up the soft flesh of men. Mordred fled the fight. On four legs, Kay raced forward and swung out, his new claws catching at Mordred’s clothing, dragging him down. He rose up and came down hard, battering his prey with powerful blows until there was nothing left. Not breath. Not heartbeat.

In the astonished silence that followed, the men fled into the night with their master’s limp body and Kay retreated, lumbering back to his friend and lying beside him as he died.

A new day had begun without him, the sun already nearing its peak when Kay returned to his senses, his aching body curled against his lifeless companion. His amber had failed him and his friend. His prayers had gone unanswered by God as well as the magic of his Elder heritage.

Through tears, he saw armor and bodies scattered about the clearing while the stream chattered on its way. Grasses were trampled and uprooted, saplings cracked, and rocks painted with the blood and gore he’d created as both a knight and a bear.

He had become a mighty bear. He would never believe the tale had he not lived it. His bones burned from the change from man to beast and back again. Forcing himself upright, he donned the tattered remains of his clothes and gathered up his armor.

He walked by each body, only to discover Mordred’s remains were not among the debris. Kay tilted his head back and screamed at the sky in frustration. The man had been dead, was it so much to be granted the satisfaction of seeing the broken body with his own, human eyes?

At least he still held his piece of the amber, though it hadn’t helped his loyal friend in their time of greatest need. That alone stood as proof in his mind Mordred had been defeated. Alive, the terrible wretch would never have left without his prize.

His heart hollowed by grief, his head reeling from the impossibility that he’d vanquished what appeared to be at least five men and Mordred while in the shape of a bear, Kay set to the task of giving his bear, his truest companion, a fitting memorial before he made for Camelot by way of Avalon.

*

A young priestess, recently summoned to the sacred isle by the Lady of Avalon, waited behind the veil of mist and the cover of trees, too startled to move. One of the king’s knights, the tallest man she’d ever clapped eyes on, stood on the far side of the lake. Grief poured off him as water tumbled over a fall of rock. She did not need to hear his words to know he begged gods and goddesses for help, for peace.

Sitting quietly, she found herself unable to leave him while he railed and grieved on his side of the water. He fell to his knees, his sobs breaking her heart while the moon traveled through the night sky. What dreadful fate had created such sorrow? When the stars began to fade, winking out one by one, the knight tipped his face to the gray sky and gave a roar beyond the capability of any man.

With his vast size and bigger voice, she realized belatedly this must be Sir Kay. One of King Arthur’s knights known to be of magical heritage, the Lady had declared him always welcome on their isle. The young priestess reached out with heart and hand, nudging a boat across the still water of the lake. Inviting him to rest and grieve until his heart found peace.

At last, seemingly exhausted, Sir Kay clutched his head with his hands and curled forward as if bowing to the goddess on high. A moment later he stood tall and cocked his arm, throwing an object out into the lake.

Not the first man to make such an offering to the water, intended or not.

The boat was nearly to him when he shook his head as a dog might shake off water, the movement traveling down his brawny body. His gaze searched her side of the lake, but she kept out of sight. To her surprise, Kay turned his back on the lake, on Avalon, on her.

Greatly concerned for him, she focused her attention on the water, on the last ripples trailing from where the item he’d thrown had disappeared. Small, she realized, but packed with a power that made it easier to find in the depths, easier to hold as she focused on it. Concentrating, her hand and heart trembling from the effort, she brought the item up out of the water.

A small bit of amber wrapped in a cage of silver wire. Not particularly artful, but a functional setting. It warmed her palm and chased away the lagging weakness that often followed her efforts at magic. How curious.

She had the ridiculous urge to loop the chain over her head and let the stone rest close to her heart. In her head, she heard the warning that often preceded their lessons here. Such a decision could prove disastrous without knowing the power of the item she held.

Choosing wisdom, the young priestess turned from the shore, moving swiftly through the soft light of dawn to the island’s center. The Lady of Avalon needed to know what she’d seen and felt from the grieving knight.

Chapter One

21st century, near Pike’s Peak, Colorado

Diana Walsh left her orange Jeep Wrangler in the community hospital parking lot when her shift ended. She needed to stretch her legs and remember the beauty of life. Movement and breathing in the crisp mountain air always reminded her she was alive after a challenging shift. She’d only recently become part of this delightful community in the heart of the Colorado Rockies but it already felt like home. After several years, wandering from place to place, she’d known this town was where she needed to be from the first moment she drove down the main street of Central Avenue with the majestic snow-capped peaks rising toward the brilliant blue sky.

Now, with a rash of attacks and more than one death blamed on rogue wildlife, her expertise as a trauma nurse was being put to the test. For the last three hours, she’d been nearly swallowed by pain and grief while she assisted surgeons trying to save another patient who’d suffered the vicious and deep claw wounds of a bear attack.

This time the case was personal for the town as well as the hospital. The patient, Maria Giles, had lived her entire life in the small, close-knit town and worked in the hospital billing office. Maria’s attack didn’t make any sense to Diana. While this was the season when mother bears were waking up and introducing new cubs to the world, Maria had enough experience to never have put herself close enough to be a threat to a momma bear.

The strange attacks were raising eyebrows with law enforcement and wildlife management alike. Were the victims treading too close to bear territories or were the bears somehow being drawn too close to the community?

Diana hoped they figured it out before things escalated any further. Already the locals were murmuring about hunting parties. Her instincts told her the problem was bigger than territory and habitat encroachment, but she had no proof yet. She turned the corner at First and Central, heading to the Red Bird Gallery for a cup of tea and a chat with her friend and the owner, Louise Cardinal.

Louise traced her ancestors back to the first Native American Indians to walk these old mountains. Though she had at least two decades on Diana, her black hair, smooth skin and boundless energy made her seem ageless. Her first friend in town, Louise had involved Diana in the community and been her guide on many hikes through the area. Like Diana, she knew something was off about the recent attacks.

When the bell over the door jingled, Louise looked up from her work at the main counter and smiled. “The usual?”

“Please,” Diana replied. “I’m sure you’ve heard about Maria by now.”

“Big gossip travels quickly around here. How is she?”

“Stable. Finally.” Diana pulled out the band holding back her hair and pushed her fingers through the mass of curls to massage her scalp. Feeling better, she scooped her hair into a loose bun at the nape of her neck. She did a quick scan to be sure they wouldn’t be overheard. No sense making visitors wary of the spectacular views they’d traveled all this way to enjoy. “They assume another wildlife attack, but something about the presentation of her injuries doesn’t feel right,” she said.

“I agree.” Louise placed a teapot painted with violets in front of Diana. “Bears or any wild creature on a rampage should have passed close to either your place or mine. My animals haven’t shown the first sign of stress.”

“Simple geography,” Diana said with a nod as the warm scent of the steeping tea relaxed her. She and Louise had property just outside of town limits, situated between typical hibernation sites and the town proper. “I haven’t found any tracks.”

Louise’s lips pursed in thought. “Maybe we should take another pass on that old trail Maria was hiking.”

It was the very thing Diana had been about to suggest. “Name the time and I’m with you.”

“Just so neither of us goes wandering up there alone, my friend,” Louise said with a knowing smile. “The hospital needs you and the local artists and tourists need me.”