About the Author
Rhi is the weird one in the red lipstick. She writes Young Adult Fantasy, Dystopian, Urban Fantasy and sometimes Contemporary. When she’s not writing she’s reading minds, singing karaoke, and burning cookies. You can find her sipping iced cappucino at http://www.yafantasyauthor.com
How far would you go to save everything you ever loved?
Kaliel was warned about her love for the Ferryman. One day he will marry the land and leave Avristar forever. She doesn’t listen, and because of what she is– a Flame– one of nine apocalyptic weapons, she sparks a war. In a desperate attempt to save her home and her love, Kaliel tries to awaken Avred, not knowing she may have to make the ultimate sacrifice.
Excerpt from SURRENDER (first one)
The banks of the river were sloppy and full of muck. Krishani watched as clumps of mud were drenched by more of the murky waters, eventually forcing the clumps to fall into the river entirely. He never knew where he was when he dreamed, but they always began like this, in the dead silence, in the din of places he had never been before. The only place he had ever seen rivers were in his dreams, and the only time he heard about rivers was when the brothers talked about the Lands of Men. This river was no exception. He waited for the other thing he would see, the things he had seen since he woke up a child in a forest, abandoned by the men. He remembered they smelled like sweat and firewood. It was a musky male smell that the elders in Avristar never possessed no matter how blistering hot it got in summer.
Water babbled as it rushed over the rock bed of the river. Little pools of ripples fluttered across the surface. Krishani grew anxious. He hung there, seeing nothing but clumps of mud let go of the banks and follow the ride of the winding river. He peered down-stream and saw it curve and curl as it cut through the tall spruce trees on either side. Part of him wanted to wake up, but part of him hated the reality he would wake up to. Days of careful planning, of menial tasks, nothing like what he endured during the rites; this was much more intense. He was always aware during his dreams, as though he was really there, watching from the shadows. He turned his attention upstream. There was a body floating face down, moving towards him. A white shirt swished around the body and clung to tanned skin underneath. Sandy blond hair covered its head and bare ankles floated up out of the water. Krishani moved instinctively, throwing off his cloak, planning on diving in after the body, but a hand on his shoulder stopped him.
Krishani looked to his right and saw nothing but the river bank. A tall man with his back turned came into view, plodding along the banks with body language that said he was equally disappointed. The floating body belonged to a child, maybe nine or ten.
Krishani hung his head and watched the body float downstream, knowing there was nothing he could do to help. The boy was already dead.
Excerpt from SURRENDER (second one)
Krishani tried to turn away, escape into the courtyards, but as the dance floor cleared, Kaliel came into view. She was a vision. She wore a deep purple linen gown that clung to her body and a purple mask edged with silver tear drops. She twirled with the last of the kinfolk and her white hair danced around her. She smiled and laughed, but when she saw him, she stopped, letting her hands drop from those of the kinfolk. She nodded for them to go to the tables and ran her hands down her dress, trying to smooth out imaginary wrinkles. As the song hit a sorrowful lull she stepped towards him.
“Krishani.” She sounded surprised and confused.
Krishani searched the crowds beyond her for Benir. The scent of her was like freshly-cut herbs and grass and apples. Beautiful, he thought. Knots formed in his stomach as he longed to pull her into his embrace. He knew she would protest. “I apologize. I didn’t mean to interrupt.”
“It’s fine,” she said. Her eyes had a pleading look to them, like she wanted something else but couldn’t say it. Krishani thought she must have seen the Brotherhood arrive. They were intimidating with their full robes and ignorant attitudes.
Krishani let out a sigh. He knew how much it might hurt, but he couldn’t take the tension any longer. He wanted to hold her closer, to smell her hair, and to feel her body pressed up against his. “Would you . . .” he began.
She stared at him, curious, her green eyes meeting his. They were cloudy and full of despair.
Krishani let out a nervous sigh as he took her eyes in. He cleared his throat and tried again. “Would you like to dance?”
She glanced over at the kinfolk at the tables. Krishani followed her gaze. One of the elvens had her hands full with them and none of them seemed to be paying attention to her. She took a deep breath. “Aye.”
He caught her hand and pulled her into his embrace, rocking back and forth to the song. At first she was inches away from him, but as the song swelled he found himself against her tight, her head buried in his chest. It seemed so natural that everything but her faded away. Whatever the Brotherhood would say didn’t matter to him. He only hoped it was the same for her, that her kinfolk wouldn’t notice her dancing. Krishani carefully moved his feet in a small circle as the song reached its climax. The only question he wanted to ask pounded at the front of his mind.
“I’m afraid,” she whispered as though he had spoken his thoughts aloud. Krishani wound his fingers through her hair, caressing her neck and sliding them down her back. He wanted the moment to last forever. The song neared its end, the notes dwindling down. He opened his eyes and pulled. As the last notes were struck, he twirled her under his arm once and dropped her hand.
She pulled back and took a wide step away from him. “Thank you,” she said with a wan smile.
Krishani went to speak, but she turned and fled towards the lower west wing. He looked to his right to see the elven girl staring at him with a fiery blaze. He passed it off and looked towards the exit. Benir had taken off in that direction, the Brotherhood’s table was on the other side of the fountain. He took a deep breath and walked towards the west wing, determined to face Kaliel in private.
Excerpt from SURRENDER (third one)
“Lord Istar of Avristar has called a match between our finest warrior and his. I present to you Wraynas, winner of the Beltane Tournament!” The crowd went wild for Wraynas. Istar nodded to himself as he mentally sized up Krishani’s opponent. This would be a good match.
Falnir didn’t waste time. He called the match seconds later and limped away from hearth, keeping his eyes on the boys as they circled each other.
Wraynas was the first to land a blow to Krishani with the wooden sword. It tapped his shoulder and Krishani briefly fell to one knee. He scraped the ground and rubbed his fingers together, then was back on his feet, twisting around and avoiding the very forward advances that Wraynas made towards him. Eventually, Krishani’s wooden sword met with Wraynas’s and they moved across the dirt in a pattern of blows, each of them defending themselves with skill. Their sparring didn’t get interesting until Wraynas shoved Krishani with his free hand and Krishani fell onto his back. Wraynas was on him in an instant, ready to end the match, but Krishani sprang to his feet, his expression colder, harder.
Istar was curious as to what he was doing. He wasn’t striking Wraynas back; he was only defending himself and not letting go. He seemed focused, but he wasn’t doing what Istar wanted him to do. He turned his eyes away from the sparring match for only a second and that was all it took.
Krishani didn’t even touch Wraynas, but there was a loud crack followed by a rumbling under their feet. The sky darkened with clouds and Wraynas flew onto his back and coughed, blood pouring from his mouth and staining his vest and breeches. Krishani knelt in a ceremonial position, the tip of his wooden sword pointed to the ground. It smoked at the hilt. Krishani panted as the crowd screamed in horror. Istar rushed to his apprentice. He needed to reach Krishani before the villagers realized what happened and attacked his pupil. He briefly glanced at Wraynas, who was passed out unconscious at the edge of the crowd. There was a group of younger maidens fawning all over him, not knowing what to do. Istar placed a hand on Krishani’s shoulder and the boy looked at him, his cheeks stained with tears.
“What was that?” Istar spat.
Krishani’s expression turned from sad to cold again. He shrugged off Istar’s hand and stood, throwing the sword on the ground like it was a deadly weapon. “I hurt him, didn’t I?”
“You . . .” Istar’s gaze moved towards the crowd around Wraynas. Falnir had managed to reach him now and was parting the girls and kneeling at his side. “But why would you?”
Krishani looked down at his hands. They were red, but he wasn’t harmed in any way. “I didn’t mean to. I just let go.”
Istar had never actually witnessed what happened when Krishani let go, and he felt punched in the stomach at having to see it there, in a group of villagers. He took Krishani by the elbow and began leading him towards the thin path back to the Elmare Castle. The clouds were darkening overhead and large droplets of water were beginning to splash onto the dirt.
Before Istar could pull Krishani through the crowd, Falnir glanced up and caught them fleeing. “Your boy is dangerous!” he shouted, clearly upset.
Istar glared at Krishani. “I’ll send Hernadette to help Wraynas.” He tried to be diplomatic, but he knew it was no use. Krishani had harmed their champion, and what was supposed to be a fun sparring match had almost turned into bloodshed.
Falnir nodded. “It is no fault of yours, my lord.”
Istar only nodded, then pushed Krishani through the crowd and into the forests. He didn’t say a word as he led the boy back to the Elmare castle, but he was afraid—afraid of what Krishani was and what he could do.
Excerpt from SURRENDER (fourth one)
Shimma snickered as she gazed through the bushes at the waterfall. She had seen Kaliel and Krishani come and go from it frequently every day for the past few moons. It was no secret they were trespassing, and who knew what they were talking about inside the cave. She waited for them to emerge and, minutes later, saw Krishani descend the stone stairway, followed by Kaliel. He stopped, grabbed her hand and spun her around, his lips finding hers.
Shimma felt the hairs on the back of her neck stand on end.
“Why are you lurking?” Kazza asked as she sidled up beside her in the bushes. She followed her gaze and saw Kaliel and Krishani kissing against the stone by the waterfall. “That’s disgusting.”
“It’s unfortunate,” Shimma muttered.
“I hope she’s still pure.” She nervously chewed on her lip as the two broke apart and Kaliel laughed.
Kazza rolled her eyes. “They’re acting like feorns. You really think Istar will allow them to remain together?”
“I don’t think he knows.” Shimma ducked further into the bushes as Krishani’s gaze pierced the forest. He seemed to be the type who would be cautious enough to make sure he and Kaliel were alone, but Shimma was sly.
“That’s interesting. I thought he knew everything that went on in Avristar,” Kazza said.
“Apparently not.” Shimma was disgruntled about their attempts to help Kuruny, their sister, all of which had failed because of Istar.
“You still want her blood for the ritual, don’t you?”
Shimma shot her a foxy smile. “It’s not want, it’s need.” She turned her attention back to the lovebirds that played near the edge of the pond. “If that continues I won’t get my chance.”
Kazza shook her head as Krishani pulled Kaliel into his embrace again. “I have to stop watching this. I’ll let Kuruny know. Maybe we can separate them somehow.”
“Aye, with him around we’ll never get near her.”
“With him around you’ll likely get hurt,” Kazza said as she slunk into the forest brush, preparing to leave.
Shimma turned and crossed her arms, stepping away from her vantage point. “Then I’ll wait until she’s alone.”
excerpt from SURRENDER (fifth one)
He turned, his eyes full of sorrow.
“Will you stay?” she asked, sitting on the bed again.
Krishani nodded. “Won’t they check on you?”
She glanced at the trap door. “Can you be quick?”
He moved closer. “I can try.”
She took his hand in hers, running her fingers along his palm. “I don’t want to have more nightmares tonight.”
Krishani dropped his head and moved towards her, almost like he was a dead weight. She hated seeing him like this, the pale flickers of candlelight washing over his sullen features, outlining the angle of his jaw and tapering off into shadows in the crook of his neck. She didn’t say anything as his hands circled her waist, gripping her ivory dress firmly and pushing her onto the bed. She had been with him long enough to know instinctively what he wanted and yet, this was different. This was her bedroom in the castle, not the cave behind the falls. Without the cover of the falls and the coarse grass poking into her back she felt comfortable and nervous.
Krishani stood over her thoughtfully and she raised her face to study his contemplating eyes, one blue and one green. It was like he wasn’t sure what to do with her next. She gulped as she waited for him to do what he had done so many times before, arcing her neck towards him, meaning to wrap herself around him, but he took a step away from the bed, his fingers still locked in hers.
She gave him a puzzled look and he shook his head. “You’re sure they won’t come back?” He stole a glance at the closed door.
Kaliel sighed, and looked at the trap door. It was no secret this would be their last night together for awhile, until she had her abilities under control, until they knew what was hunting her, until she could protect the Flames the way Lotesse had told her to. She bit her lip and Krishani reached up and brushed his thumb across her cheek.
“We could hide in the tower,” she said, her eyes finding the string that dangled from the ceiling. Krishani lifted the corner of his lips and before she knew it she was on her feet and he was pulling down the creaky stairs. He let her go first and she brushed past him, climbing the capricious rungs to the dank wooden floor in the tower.
She stood up and reached towards the curvature of the turret just above her head. There was the faint slit of a window in the rock, moonlight filtering through it, casting a rectangular shape on the floor. She almost moved to the other side of the tower when hands found her waist and fingers locked together and she felt weightless as Krishani pulled her against him. Her stomach was filled with throngs of butterflies as he dropped his lips to her elongated ear and instead of saying anything he moved further south to the baby soft skin below her jaw. She gulped and tried to hold back the urges racing through her, she wanted him, she always wanted him in a way that was irrational and irresponsible. She closed her eyes as he rocked back and forth like they were dancing. Her hands covered his as he dropped them lower, one hand trailing to the fabric against her thigh, the other hovering somewhere above her naval. She took a sharp breath and Krishani stiffened, his lips moving from her shoulder to her ear.
“Do you want me to stop?” he whispered and she felt faint as he pressed himself against her harder. She curled her fingers against his hand, the one on her thigh. She wanted to drink him in like he was the crystal clear waters of the lake and drown in him like she had forgotten what it was like to breathe. She didn’t have to say anything as his hand flowed in sync with hers, hitching up the hem of her dress and pressing his warm skin against her bare thigh. He pressed his other hand to her stomach harder and she felt heat spread through her.
“Don’t move,” he whispered. His forehead rested against her shoulder, his breathing ragged as she guided his hand between her legs. He slipped a finger inside her and she moaned, ecstasy trilling through her. Even in the cave he hadn’t ventured to touch her like that, but desperation to escape her nightmares and his came to a climax. She belonged to him, and wasn’t afraid of the things he wanted to do her.
Excerpt from SURRENDER (sixth one)
She didn’t wake up as the dream faded away, however, she felt her eyes open, the scene around her completely changed.
His eyes were different; one shone gold, the other a rich brown. She traced the patterns in the irises, noting their intricate architecture. There was something about him she recognized, but all she could concentrate on were those eyes. A gold band wrapped around his forehead, a headdress attached to it, golden snakes hanging off it. It resembled a chandelier, aside from its obvious use as a crown. He had olive skin and a narrow nose. His mouth was drawn up in a bright smile. His warm hand was on her shoulder. She tried to tear her gaze away from him. Something begged her to look at the sun, but her eyes were locked to his. Nausea kicked in and her heart raced.
Something is wrong! she thought.
Kaliel tried to move, but his grip and his focus on her sharpened. His eyes pleaded with her, imploring her not to look up. She closed her eyes; there was no way she could let it go. She felt the chalice in the other hand. There was water in it. She had drawn this scene over and over in her journal. She fought to lift her head to look at the sky.
“We have fulfilled our purpose.” His voice was even and calm. She feared that he caused the reasons for her distress.
“What purpose?” she asked.
“The war is over,” he said.
Why would that scare her? She fought to gain control of her emotions, but her knees buckled and heat rose up around her feet. It burned, sending pain shooting into her torso. She cried out and tried to pry her eyes open.
“Relax, my love. It will be over soon,” he said.
“Nay, they call me the Ferryman.”
She tried to fight, but the fire was intense. It wrapped around her body, threatening to crush her insides with its intense heat. There was something else, though, a barrier between herself and the heat, a shield. She felt the violet aura surrounding her. It spiked off the edges of her body in its own wisps of flames, protecting her from the final axe of destruction.
“And you are the Flame.” There was no compassion in his voice.
The flames engulfed her face in their fury and she forced herself to look up. Smoke covered the sky. Flame-laced pieces of molten rock rained down on them. She gasped and tried to fight it, but with his hand on her shoulder, and his eyes on her, they seemed lost in their own world. She looked at him, his body engulfed in flames, only his mismatched eyes staring into hers through the waves of heat. “It’s over.” His smile faded as fire licked away his flesh.
“Kaliel!” A new voice. “Kaliel!”
Her eyes opened. She was drenched in sweat, her body trembling uncontrollably.
“What did you see?” Mallorn demanded.
She put a hand to her head, trying to shake away the horrendous images that stung. Her mouth moved, trying to form words, but her tongue was dry and her throat was scratchy. She longed for water. The waters. She needed to go to the lake. She pushed the covers aside and shook her head. She refused to explain what she saw, anything to keep him from knowing her dark secrets.
“I can’t stay here,” she said as her feet found the ground.
Mallorn had his hand on her arm, but she wrenched it away and ran out of the cabin into the night.
Excerpt from SURRENDER (seventh one)
“You’re a Ferryman.” His tone was blunt, unwavering.
Krishani felt like he had been stabbed in the chest. “I’m a Child of Avristar.”
The Ferryman ignored him, pulling a pocket knife from his breeches. He turned to the enemies. The Ferryman pierced one of them in the gut as the others continued running across the field. The man fell and then scrambled to his feet to flee. Krishani turned to see the Ferryman stagger and fall backwards. Blood poured from a wound on his side. Krishani drifted to him. Feeling a mix of confusion and anxiety, he dropped to his knees. His eyes surveyed the wound and the blood, the soul inside restless to escape the body. He trembled as he took the Ferryman’s hand in his own and stared into his eyes.
“It’s your time now,” Krishani said.
“It’s your time now,” the Ferryman repeated. His head slumped into the grass, his eyes frozen. Krishani let out a sob as the wispy smoke began rising out of the Ferryman. He hung his head and recited a blessing from his childhood. Everything happened too fast; he was unprepared. Shaken with grief, he wanted to return home, stay in Avristar, but he knew the chances were slim.
He opened his eyes and saw sheets below him. He sat and glanced around the room, making sure none of the enemies followed him. There was nothing but silence, no wispy smoke, no battle cries. He breathed a short sigh of relief and tossed the blanket off his legs. He hung his feet off the bed and buried his head in his hands.
The Ferryman is dead . . . and I’m the next.
Excerpt from SURRENDER (eighth one)
She flushed with fear as she tried to stay calm and still. There was a splash behind her and her heart did a double jump. She clenched her fists together and gritted her teeth. She trembled to the bone and her mouth threatened to erupt in a succession of screams. She held her lips together and stifled the faint whines in the back of her throat. A sharp strike of flint sounded against the stone, and she cringed as she turned to witness the foe.
En guyen naha lin sanse.
Kaliel understood it this time. The Flame inside of her struggled with all of its might to emerge. As she closed her eyes, it rushed out of her. She took a sharp breath as she looked at the people in the cell. There was a body on fire next to the girl now, flames smoking out of his form as the foul smell grew thicker.
The one with rosy pink eyes stared at her and the meaning of the words flooded her mind. Run. Hide. He will take your soul.
The foe didn’t seek to kill the Flames, he sought to possess them. Kaliel felt sick to her stomach as she fought to bring herself out of the dream, back to reality, back to the place where she could find Krishani, warn Mallorn, tell the elders everything she had seen. She tried to close her eyes, but she felt like they were fused open as the foe crouched beside the girl and presented a tiny crystal clear orb. She watched as the pink essence from the girl’s eyes flowed into the orb, turning it into milky pink vapors. The foe stood as the girl slumped to the side, dead.
Desperate, Kaliel tried to back away, but the foe turned his gaze towards the darkened tunnel. His white-lightning eyes sparked, making contact with her amethyst enflamed ones until everything fell away into awful blackness.
Excerpt from SURRENDER (ninth one)
She looked back at Mallorn. “What is Avred?” Desaunius never told her, but she was clear that in their darkest hour, he had been the only thing that pushed the Valtanyana back.
Mallorn creased his brow and hung his head. “He is the male spirit of the land.”
Kaliel let her eyes whisper with hints of anger as she met his blue ones. “What is he?” she asked more earnestly, knowing the answer was something that scared all of the elders in Avristar.
Mallorn ran his hand along Umber’s neck. “A volcano.”
Kaliel gasped. Spasms raked over her flesh. She could face the foe or face the volcano. She could hide and let Crestaos rip Avristar apart. She could let Krishani face him and die. She felt dizzy with grief. “Will he help?”
“The Shee will tell you that. I don’t know.”
She frowned. “Why not?”
Mallorn dropped his hand and met her gaze. He tried to smooth out the wrinkles in his forehead. “The Shee speak for Avred, the way the Gatekeeper speaks for Avristar.”
Kaliel rubbed her arms at the mention of the Gatekeeper. There was nothing she feared more than the voice of Avristar. Even the Valtanyana ran a close second. “I can’t ask Avristar for help.”
Mallorn didn’t say anything.
“Will you speak to them?”
He shook his head and took her hands in his. “They need to hear it from you.”
Revelation came over her as he moved away and mounted the horse. She was all alone. This was something she would have to do, no one else. No help. No support. No anything.
How far would you go to destroy yourself?
Krishani always knew he would have to go to the Lands of Men, but he never thought it would be like this. Enemies everywhere, an ancestor he can’t respect, elders he can’t trust, a curse he can’t stop and friends he can’t help but hate. Desperate to end the pain, he sets out on a quest to find the other Flames and face the enemy that took everything from him.
Excerpt from JUSTICE (first one)
Kuruny pulled another jar off the witching wall and stuffed it into the bag straddled between her legs. She tried not to shake, but her hand quivered as she reached for another jar.
“Leave that, we can get more of it,” Kazza snapped. She sat on the other side of the cauldron, twisting the beads of her necklace with her fingertips. She shot a warning glance at Kuruny, watching as the younger sister put the jar back on the wall. Kazza swiveled on the stool and crossed her legs. Her white gown swept the floor as she stood and crossed the room. Brown hair fell in waves down her back. She studied the wall for a moment and grabbed something glittering and gray.
“This doesn’t grow in the Lands of Men.” She dropped the jar into the sack and met Kuruny’s gaze.
“He doesn’t know yet,” Kuruny said. It was half a question, half a statement. Eventually Istar would find out what she had done. She closed her black eyes and shook her head, sending locks of straight black hair falling over her shoulders.
“Nay, but others . . .” Kazza paused. Kuruny listened for sounds in the halls of the Lower East wing. She kept her thoughts close on their protection spell; none had bothered to check for supplies, yet there were plenty of herbs for healing in their quarters. Kazza eyed the rucksacks against the wall.
“Will come soon,” Kuruny finished for her. She ran her hands along the inside of the black sleeves of her dress. They tightly wrapped her arms to her elbows and loosely cascaded towards her wrist. She wasn’t used to this feeling. Avristar was meant to be home, a place away from the distortion they suffered in the Lands of Men, but Istar would have her head if Avristar herself didn’t sentence them to death. She shuddered at the thought and closed her eyes, thinking of Shimma. The third sister was lost in the forests where the enemy had retreated. They had barely enough time to communicate their wants to the youngest of their trio, and yet, they had to trust she would find what they needed—a way to salvation.
Kazza crossed the room and opened up a large armoire. Inside were three cloaks: one black, one beige, and one blue. Kazza handed the black one to her sister as she slid the beige one over her own shoulders, fitting the hood over her brown hair. Kuruny felt melancholy, as though the guilt had seeped into her bones.
“Come, there is no sense in facing him. You know his anger will know no bounds,” Kazza said.
Excerpt from JUSTICE (second one)
Pux frowned. “Can you tell me something?” He didn’t know where to begin. Atara said nothing. “I thought I saw her eyes change color. She said she was a Flame, but I’ve never heard of them before.”
Atara hung her head. “The Flames are what the Valtanyana want. They are unlike any other being Across the Stars. Each one is created differently. Kaliel was the Amethyst Flame, one of the most important, from what lore has to say about her.”
Pux’s eyes widened. “You mean there are volumes about her?” He never ventured into the library in Orlondir. He never had a reason to read, but if there were books about her, he would read every day for the rest of his life.
Atara shook her head. “Their lore is kept in the Great Library with Kemplan. Even I was not aware she was a Flame. Not until it was too late.”
Pux’s heart dropped. All memory of her was being erased and there was nothing he could do to hang onto the pieces of her that lingered. One day she would be distant in his mind. He feared what life would be like years from now when he was an Elder, and she was still dead.
“I think I’ll go to the orchards,” Pux said. He drifted down the corridor towards the courtyard and Atara didn’t follow him.
“Seek Grimand. He will be leaving for Evennses soon.”
Pux gritted his teeth and turned to face Atara. “I don’t need him to return to Evennses.”
She sighed. “You cannot walk alone, it will take you days.”
His emotions unwound as he became angrier and sadder at the same time. “Kaliel would understand. How can I return to the forest when every tree reminds me of her? When we lived in the same house, ate the same food, played in the same trees? Knowing she was alive and well in Orlondir was all that made it bearable. Even the Great Oak thinks I’m invalid. How do you expect me to return without her?”
Atara hunched her shoulders. “Be patient.”
Pux stared at her with disbelief. For all of his new found knowledge she still treated him as though he was completely unworthy. His mouth dropped open, but he had no words to say. He clenched his fist tight and thought about the orchard. “If all I am to you is useless, I’m better off invisible.” He turned and vanished.
excerpt from JUSTICE (third one)
“That’s no battle scar,” he said. He sized up the boy, focusing on his hand. “You’re turning. This is because of your calling.”
Krishani regretted returning to the castle. Not more talk of Ferrymen. He wrenched his hand out of Mallorn’s grip. “I don’t want to be the Ferryman.”
Mallorn scoffed. “You can deny it all you want, but you cannot escape it.”
Krishani went down the hallway. He knew Mallorn would follow him, but he needed air or relief, something to help clear his head. “I’m nothing.”
Mallorn grabbed his forearm and pulled up his sleeve to show him the black marks. “You have no choice. This will spread until you are no more.”
Krishani half-smiled. Mallorn meant it as a deterrent, but it made Krishani happy to know there was a way out. After all he had been through there was a way to die.
“The end of me,” he breathed.
Mallorn whacked him across the back of the head. “Stop it. The Ferrymen are important.”
Krishani let his head throb. He didn’t raise his hand to rub the spot Mallorn struck. From the dream he knew just how important the Ferrymen were. People died by the thousands in the Lands of Men and no one protected them. He stopped at the sixteenth corridor. “I have nothing to live for.”
Mallorn’s forehead creased in tight wrinkles. “Death. You must live for that.”
Krishani wanted to smack him for his answer. Instead, he balled up his fist and descended the stairway, heading towards the kitchen. “Hernadette!” he called. There had to be another answer, a cure for his condition or something to alleviate the aching he felt throughout his body. He passed the archway and paused at the mouth of the kitchen. A plump woman in soiled linens appeared in the doorframe.
“You’re well!” she exclaimed.
Krishani shook his head. “Alive.”
“Which is well. Do you need something?”
He extended his hand. “I need a cure for this.”
Hernadette covered her mouth with her fingertips. “That is a plague.”
Krishani pulled his robe over his hand and shrank away from the kitchen. When he turned around, Mallorn stood in the hallway, staring at him. The Kiirar had a soiled gray robe underneath his cloak, a cord tied around his waist.
“Come to Nandaro with me,” Mallorn said.
“Avristar will sentence me to death.”
“You should leave before that happens.”
Krishani’s face twisted into disbelief. “She loathes me that much?”
“It is the price one pays for that crime.”
It was like knives stabbing his insides as the land he called home turned against him. “Does she blame me for the existence of the foe, too? Does she blame me for Kaliel’s death?” He sunk to the floor and covered his face with his arms.
“Nandaro was the last place she called home,” Mallorn said gently.
Krishani couldn’t stay. He couldn’t face Avristar’s wrath. Defeated, he glanced at Mallorn and nodded reluctantly.
“Aye,” he whispered. “I will go to Nandaro.”
Excerpt from JUSTICE (fourth one)
“There are things you must know about being a Ferryman,” Tulsen said before he could leave the hall.
Krishani turned, pain mushrooming across his chest. His heart felt like a dead weight, heavy and black. Adoron taught him to mind his manners in front of the elders, but Tulsen Tavesin didn’t carry the demeanor of an elder of Avristar. He was human, incapable of manipulating the tides or forging the forests with his mind. The Brotherhood of Amersil wouldn’t have accepted him and Krishani wasn’t ready to accept him as his flesh and blood either. Anger flared up inside of him, a hot searing pain shot through his chest like a thousand flaming arrows. He staggered along the red carpet, his shoulder bumping into a wooden pillar. He put a hand to his shoulder and made eye contact with Tulsen.
“You mean, how I can die?” Krishani spat. He wanted nothing to do with the stodgy man before him. He reeked of sandalwood and mold; his brown robes clearly hadn’t been washed in weeks. Krishani made a guttural sound to show his disgust. He pulled his black tunic taut.
Tulsen shot him a bewildered glance. “Nay, you need to know about the Vultures and how to fight them.”
It was like Tulsen had rammed him with a solid oak tree. He fought to keep his balance, but dread crept into him, making it difficult to see. Tulsen must have been talking about the black thing with the self-contained black storm circling its shapeless body, the thing that seemed a void of the world itself. Tulsen sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose with his thumb and index finger. “You’ve already seen the Vultures.”
Krishani’s anger reached the boiling point. “Tell me why Davlin died,” he hissed.
Mallorn groaned and turned away, his gray robes scraping along the ground. Krishani went to say something about Mallorn’s blind trust in Tulsen but stopped.
“Are you asking because you saw him die? Because you are afraid of your own death?” Tulsen’s tone was acidic. “I can assure you that your death is not your concern.”
Krishani lowered his infected hand, his shoulder throbbing. He tried to keep the fury in his eyes as Tulsen strode forward, nothing but three feet between them. Krishani met his hazel eyes, noting their flecks of deep brown.
“There isn’t a way to change it. You will be the Ferryman until your successor gives you passage to the Great Hall. You’re immortal until that happens, unless . . . you become a Vulture.”
Krishani flinched, the heat that burned through him turned to ice. Shivers ran the length of his spine. He wanted Tulsen to stop staring at him, memorizing his black hair, mismatched eyes and elongated ears. He wasn’t Istar’s champion and he wasn’t Tulsen’s. He was nothing. He tore his eyes from Tulsen’s scrutinizing gaze and found Mallorn. With a sudden pang he realized what the black marks meant.
The curse was turning him into a Vulture.
Excerpt from JUSTICE (fifth one)
“I miss her. I miss everything about her,” Pux said, barely able to breathe.
Krishani felt like he had been slapped. It burned knowing how much Pux hurt over the loss of Kaliel. He tried to keep the memory of her from being said out loud, but now that it was out there was nothing he could do. He sucked in a breath through his teeth.
“We need to find the other Flames.” He tried to keep his voice even, but it wavered with a hint he might let his own emotions weaken him. “I need you to be strong.” He broke away from Pux and stood. The feorn continued shaking as Krishani turned and froze.
Not three feet ahead of him a Vulture hovered in the air, blocking his path. Its footless form floated mere inches from the ground. Krishani stared at it, the wisps of blackness curling around its torso, creating a storm of darkness. It moved closer, towering over him. Frostbite licked at his heart, stinging him with its iciness. Needle-like pricks crawled across his infected arm, making him want to rip it off. Numbness pierced his insides as the cold poured into him, making him stiff and archaic. He knew he should have fought against it, but all reason left him. He raised his blackened hand, reaching for the vile creature. It was so close it could fold him into its darkness and he would be gone for eternity. He wouldn’t feel remorse over what had happened to Kaliel if the Vulture devoured him. It was a grim form of freedom he was thirsty for.
“No!” Mallorn roared, hands clamped onto Krishani’s shoulders, pulling him away from the invisible creature. The force knocked both of them to the ground, the boy sprawled on top of Mallorn. The elder slipped out from under him and rose to his feet. Krishani dug the heels of his palms into his eyes as the sensation of fire and ice washed over him. Through blurry eyes he watched Mallorn standing like a statue. He stared right at the Vulture, though Krishani wasn’t sure if the elder could see it. Krishani convulsed, tremors ripping across his flesh. He rolled onto his side and coughed; blood spattered the ground. He pushed himself onto his knees and pounded a fist to his chest, wheezing and rasping. He broke into another fit of coughs and more blood appeared on the dirt.
Pux stood and approached Mallorn. “What was that?”
“It was a Vulture,”
Excerpt from JUSTICE (sixth one)
Dark figures moved through the fields with precision and grace. The four of them stretched across the land like an impenetrable wall of riders against thousands. Hooves hit the ground, leaving marks with spiked horseshoes. Nostrils flared, smoke billowing out, rising into the sky. They hit the trees and forged a path of ashes through it, trees catching fire. The riders had no souls; they were remorseless creatures traipsing through unconsecrated lands, destroying everything they came into contact with. Their faces were covered in darkness, hidden beneath long flowing cloaks draped over the backs of the giant beasts. Their hands were covered with shiny armor concealing their flesh. One of them gripped the reins and made a sharp right. The others followed in succession as they found the east shore. There were thriving lands across the channel. The riders wanted to bring nightmares to their children, burn their houses, hear the cries of women as they devoured the towns in haste.
Their minds were full of nothing but blind hatred and hunger for blood. There was no sense in reasoning with them. Death came swiftly by their hands, and when it came, so did the Vultures, and when they came, the souls were silenced.
The Horsemen thrived on silence.
It was far better than the screeching noises filling their ears. No matter how far they traveled, it wouldn’t stop. The constant agonizing sounds followed them, and when the souls were devoured, the screeching ceased. It remained quiet until the beating hearts of souls in the distance caused it to start again.
And then they hunted them.
To silence them.
Their horses were beast-like, with sharp teeth, red eyes, scales. Their armor covered what little bristles of prickly hair they had. Their hooves were covered with sharp spikes. They breathed fire. Only their riders could control them, because there were no words for what these beasts were.
Krishani watched in horror as they hit the shores and led the beasts into the foamy waters of the ocean. He watched until their forms disappeared under the waves, and shuddered as one of them turned back and glanced at him. Krishani averted his gaze and saw a little girl. She had beautiful midnight black hair that fell to her ankles. Her skin tinged blue, her lips bruised purple. She had coal colored eyes, full of hatred. But she was under four feet fall. A pale blue nightgown fell to her bare feet. She pointed at the sand and he followed her gaze. Blood lapped up against the shore, covering his boots in a thick red paste.
The sight of the blood made him jolt. He wrenched out of the cot, a fierce ringing in his ears. He clenched his fists to the sides of his head and tried to quiet his urge to scream. He was alone in the hut, on the west shores of an island on Terra. He closed his eyes, but the image of the girl clouded his vision, a little girl, one that called the Horsemen to do her bidding.
She was one of the Valtanyana.
Excerpt from JUSTICE (seventh one)
He fell on his knees near the opening to the crevasse, a snivel escaping the back of his throat. Black drops of blood dripped onto the sand as the wound festered. He winced at the stitches of pain and pulled at the hole in his tunic. Cringing, he pulled it over his head. As he looked at his midsection he huffed. Black wisps ensnared his stomach, crawling across his chest, forcing themselves into his heart and lungs. Krishani felt the sting of emptiness as the curse spread across his collar bone and trailed down his left arm.
There was a gasp behind him.
Krishani turned to see Shimma standing there shaking and covering her mouth. He glanced at his blackened torso and back at her. Standing, he grabbed her by the hair. She yelped, then shut her mouth as he dragged her to the tent at the far end of the village. Once inside he dropped onto the cot and pulled Tiki out of the knapsack to be sure none of the Daed had taken her.
“What is the matter with you?” Shimma asked, terror lacing her voice.
“I need you to stitch me up.” His voice was raspy. He let the Vultures have the humans on the beach. He didn’t even try to give them safe passage. He took a deep breath and tried to let some compassion enter his heart, but Shimma stared at him in shock.
She gulped, pulling her blonde hair into a wrap. She tied it with a sash from around her neck and went to dip her hands in a bowl of water. She said nothing as she rummaged around in the hut. She stole a glance at him.
“What are you?” she asked.
“A Ferryman. What are you?”
Shimma looked pained. “A witch. We were trying to help the Flame.”
“Where is it now?”
“Hidden in the cave.” She brought the needle and thread to his shoulder. Taking a deep breath she carefully pricked at his black skin.
Krishani looked away, he couldn’t feel the needle. It was like the more he let the Vultures seep into his soul, the more he felt little of anything. It was like he was slipping away into the nothingness he longed for.
Excerpt from JUSTICE (ninth one)
Krishani sighed and looked at the stars. The vastness of the lands stretched into a thousand tiny dots. The day had felt the longest since he left Avristar. He closed his eyes, getting lost in memories of Kaliel all over again, the softness of her smile and the shining greenness of her eyes.
Shivers ran up his spine. He would never let Kaliel go. She had entwined herself into his heart and it was her Flame that kept it beating day after day even when he had nothing left. He only fled Avristar because she told him to. If it had been up to him he would have had the axe of destruction fall on him, forcing his return to the Great Hall and leaving the Tavesins without a Ferryman, immortality or not.
He sighed and opened his eyes. Aulises stared at him, her green eyes full of innocence and curiosity. She looked away when he looked at her. He turned his back to her, but there were shuffles behind him, footsteps in the sand, a dress swishing around in the wind. He felt the log shift as she sat. He stole a glance in her direction. She focused on the fire, grief etched into her features. He thought she must have seen roughly sixteen summers, give or take a couple. Her tiny body made it hard to judge.
“I have no home,” she whispered.
Krishani gulped. He remembered the morning he had woken up with Kaliel in Nandaro. She said the same thing. Even with melancholy making the girl look distinctly unlike Kaliel, it was still a biting thought.
“I know the feeling.” He went rigid and watched the salamanders dancing in the flames. He tried to let his thoughts drift away from the girl and her similarities. As the silence ensued, he slipped back into the dark thoughts that kept him occupied every other moment of the day since the attack on Avristar. He loathed the idea of facing off with the Daed a second time. He needed to see the cold terror of the one who had taken her life. He shuddered unexpectedly and felt a hand on his leg. He glanced down, Aulises’s hand on his thigh.
Wild anger rushed into his body. He glanced at her, an apologetic and suggestive young girl with bright green eyes bored into him. It took no time at all to know what the girl wanted. He was disgusted and appalled. He ripped himself off the log and drew his sword.
“Harlot!” His eyes went wide and she turned fearful. Krishani held the sword at her throat, his entire body pulsing with debasement. “Look at me that way again and I won’t think twice about cutting your throat.” His voice was low and uneven. It hurt to get the words out.
Aulises scrambled backwards and fell in the sand. Her eyes flashed with the same murkiness as her family. “You like me,” she said with a sneer, her lips twisting into a devious smile.
Krishani stepped over the log, his lips turned up in disgust. He clenched the sword tighter and pushed it to her throat. “You’re a thief’s daughter. I feel nothing for you. I won’t hesitate to kill you.”
Aulises dipped her head back and let out a sob that sounded more like laughter. “End me. I have no family and nowhere to go.” She said it slowly, her bare neck exposed, the sword pointed at it.
Krishani froze, blinked, heat rushing into his extremities.
“Krishani!” Shimma called from the cabin. She ran across the sand, pausing when she was close enough to the girl. “What are you doing?” she asked, her eyes panicked.
Krishani hung his head. Deep down he knew he couldn’t kill her, not when she looked so much like Kaliel. It would be like ending her himself, and he could never do that. He blinked and pulled the sword away from Aulises’s throat. He fumbled with it and eventually shoved it back into the scabbard. Shimma knelt beside Aulises as she sat up.
“He looked like he needed comforting.” Aulises sounded meek again, nothing like the devious girl Krishani faced moments ago. He made a guttural noise with his nostrils and stalked towards the cabin.
“Keep her away from me.”
How far would you go to betray everything you’ve ever known?
Kaliel didn’t think second chances came with this much turmoil. Exiled from her home, surrounded by strangers and in love with a boy she barely recognizes, she can’t take it. She has her best friend, a new mentor, and a chance to win the war against the Valtanyana, but it’s all wrong. Desperate to salvage some semblance of her former life, she makes a deal that shatters everything.
Excerpt from VULTURE (first one)
“I missed making you want me,” she whispered, taking his earlobe between her lips. “It’s never been this intense. Every time I touch you I want more.”
He couldn’t speak. Pitching forward he cupped her face with both hands, forcing her to him, his lips exploring hers with a rough hunger he had denied for moons. His teeth grazed her bottom lip, locking it in a vice grip until she moaned. He reached for the knot of fabric at the back of her neck and untied it hastily. She grated her hips against him and he gasped, unable to stave off his desire. He pressed his forehead to her chest and his lips clamped on her nipple as he used his strength to force her up. He wanted her naked and underneath him. She followed his lead, the dress pooling at her ankles. Instead of doing anything he expected, she wrapped her legs around him and he pivoted, falling on top of her as he hit the bed, burying himself inside her. She had her hands everywhere on his body and he had his everywhere on hers.
Being with her made him lose track of time, of stars, of everything except the energy surrounding them. She wasn’t like anyone he had ever known. She was an all consuming need, an unyielding demand, a fiery necessity. Love like this paled everything Across the Stars. It was a love so powerful he would destroy everything in his path to keep it, protect it, and make sure it lasted forever.
Excerpt from VULTURE (second one)
“Are you afraid of the Horsemen?” the little girl asked. Kaliel didn’t look at her, but she nodded in response. “You should be. Morgana brought them.” Her voice was syrupy sweet.
Kaliel carefully lifted her head from her knees. The little girl’s eyes knifed into her, crackling with jagged lines of lightning. The Horsemen kicked dust into Kaliel’s eyes and she recoiled, blinking rapidly, tears streaming down her cheeks.
“Why did she bring them?” Kaliel asked, scowling at the girl. Blood dripped off the little girl’s hands. She held them palms to the sky, like offering the blood to the stars.
“Because she’s coming for him,” she said.
“Who is she?”
The little girl smirked. “She’s me of course.”
There was a loud gust of wind and Kaliel fell on her hands and knees as laughter erupted from the little girl. The sour sound of chimes rose into the tornado of brambles and dust. It pierced Kaliel’s ears with the fortitude of a thousand bells ringing all at once. The sound made her cover her ears, trying to muffle the noise. “What do you want?” she shouted through gritted teeth. Her hands splayed across either side of her head to protect her eyes from the threat of the thorns but it was no use. They whipped her body with needles, the fresh scent of blood rising into the air as her skin broke open.
“I want him,”
Excerpt from VULTURE (third one)
There was dancing the way there was always dancing, only when Pux wrapped his arm around Jack’s waist, the shy boy he had come to know pulled out of his grasp and left the hall. Pux had frowned, checking to make sure nobody noticed the minute gesture and followed Jack. He found him leaning against the side of the mess hall, hands stuffed into his pockets, hazel eyes downcast. Pux neared him until they were face to face. He didn’t say anything until Jack felt him there and looked up, his eyes saying more than his lips. The other boy was upset, scared and embarrassed, but Pux was Pux, he never pried. Pux left his hands at his sides, his eyes drifting to Jack’s dry lips. Jack looked away.
“I should stop dancing with you,” he said.
Pux didn’t move. “Why?”
“Cause it makes me feel weird.”
Pux wasn’t sure how to react. “Good weird?”
Jack let out a sigh and closed his eyes. “Alive weird. Like all those stories about you Children of Avristar are true.”
Pux didn’t have words this time, and he wasn’t sure if he needed them. His body crashed forward, capturing Jack’s jaw in his hand as he pulled him closer, their lips meeting in a tangle of tongues and teeth and lips. Jack kissed him back with all the ferocity of an animal and Pux felt his heart thud through the fabric of his tunic. It didn’t last long enough, and when Pux pulled back he couldn’t help but feel a pang of guilt for the way Jack looked at him, scared, excited and sad. Pux pressed his forehead against Jack’s, his hand caressing the other boy’s throat, feeling his elevated pulse.
Jack seemed to catch his breath, his words coming out in a hoarse whisper. “Father won’t like this.”
Pux tried to quirk a smile, feeling like his own heart might explode. He never understood before Jack what Kaliel was so obsessed with, and now, with his hands on Jack, all he wanted to do was press his lips against every part of him. “Do you like it?”
Jack smiled that same rueful smile Pux had mastered and Pux laughed. He didn’t need to say anything for Pux to know exactly what he was thinking.
In the present, Jack squeezed Pux’s knee, pulling him out of his daydream.
“I’m sorry,” Pux mumbled.
“Don’t be. I think it’s endearing,” Jack said.
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LANTERN & POISON
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Praise for SURRENDER:
“Conceptually, it is one of the most stunning and beautifully written fantasy novels, that I’ve read in a long time. The world bends to desire, melts into gorgeous scenery, and delights in telling a story that will definitely take you on an epic journey that you won’t soon forget. The fantasy is rich and deeply beguiling. The characters and their world is intriguing and full of so much mystery and suspense, that you won’t want to put the book down. It has every element that a fantastic fantasy novel should have and so much more to offer the reader.” Suz at A Soul Unsung
“My head is still spinning a bit about the plot though because I can’t believe it. It’s better than ice cream for a break up. The plot was original, the characters were relatable and down to earth despite not living on Earth.” – Courtney at Readable Charper
“Surrender is definitely full of emotion and will take you on an incredible journey through the eyes of these two incredible characters.” Lucy at Moonlight Gleam
“Reading this book felt like reading a classic, but with everything I love in a book: romance, heartbreak, and lots of action! I would recommend this book to EVERYONE and then dare them not to fall in love with it!” – Sammie Spencer, Author of Amaretto Flame
“Rhiannon Paille creates a unique and beautiful world that will draw you in and make you remember what it was like to be young, innocent, and full of wonder.” Cory Putman Oakes, Author of The Veil
“Surrender is hands down one of my favorite fantasy books ever. YA or not, this is just pure awesomeness and every fantasy fan should read it. It’s a delectable, rich in detail, numbingly brilliant and swoon-worthy read that you can’t afford to miss out on.” Evie at Bookish Evie
Praise for Justice:
“Paille paints a portrait of a desperately grieving hero – whose stubborn devotion just makes him all the more desirable. You will root for him, even when you believe deep down (as he does) that he doesn’t have a prayer.” – Cory Putman Oakes, Author of The Veil
“He believes in their love when no one else does, and never wavers in his devotion.” – Natasha M. Heck
Praise for VULTURE:
“Expect more passion, more deceit, more war, and more nightmares, and don’t be fooled into thinking this is a love story with a happy ending.”