I'm excited to give you a sneak peek of Fire & Ash: A Fate of Eyrinthia Novella! It comes out October 28th, and you can pre-order the Kindle version here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B098SJYHW2?ref
The novella will also be available in paperback!
Here is the official summary:
First the flames . . .
When Desfan Cassian, the future ruler of Mortise, skips his fifteenth birthday celebration so he can gamble in the slums, he knows his father won't be pleased. Then again, the serjan hasn’t been happy with him in years. And while Desfan anticipates a reprimand for his latest transgression, he doesn’t expect to be thrown out of the palace and exiled onto a patrol ship for the next year. Then from the ashes . . . Furious to be trapped on the same sea that stole his family four years ago, Desfan is fully prepared to hate his new life. After all, the Phoenix is run by a strict captain, and Desfan's annoying new bodyguard, Karim, is his constant shadow. But when Desfan learns that a group of dangerous pirates may have been behind the deaths of his mother and sisters, he's suddenly committed to hunting down the truth—no matter the risk. He will rise.
And here is your sneak peek!
Desfan tapped his finger against the cards in his hands, his face a practiced mask as he eyed the man across the table. “Well?”
He was several years older than Desfan’s fifteen years, but his face was already weathered. A sailor, Desfan assumed. His expression was carefully neutral as he reclined in his chair, looking perfectly at ease. But Desfan could see the tension gathering at the corners of his mouth.
The man’s friends huddled around the table, rapt spectators. The Red Cobra was loud tonight with rapidly trilling pipe music in the corner, booming laughter from other tables, and the rush of many voices locked in conversation. The tavern was one of Desfan’s favorites to visit, because it was a favorite among docked sailors and he needed fresh people to play with. The regulars had stopped playing with him a long time ago; not just because they accused him of cheating—though he sometimes did—or because he was young and people often thought he wasn’t serious with his bets—which he always was. No, people avoided him after they learned who he was.
Serjah Desfan Saernon Cassian, heir to the throne of Mortise.
Desfan never shared his title, but, unfortunately, the palace guards sometimes managed to find him, and they were never covert in their extraction.
The chaotic sounds of the tavern felt a bit dull to his ears, coming in swells that rolled over him with a strange, almost dull roar. Rather like the sea, actually. Coming, then going. A rush, and then a pull. Something that buried him and took everything, leaving him with nothing.
Or perhaps he was simply feeling the effects of the olcain he’d sniffed earlier. It was stronger than the old drugs he used to take—more expensive, too, which was why he looked forward to winning tonight.
The man across the table straightened, dropping five tarnished coins on the table. “Raise.” He smirked. “I call your bluff, boy.”
All eyes darted to Desfan, who watched the rattling coins settle against the small but still impressive pile.
“You’re out of coins,” his opponent said smugly.
The man’s eyes dipped to the obsidian ring on Desfan’s thumb. “Perhaps you’ll wager that?”
Desfan’s finger brushed the cool obsidian band and his little sister’s smile flashed in his mind.
His hand tightened into a fist. “No. I have something better.” One hand dipped into his pocket, and then he flicked the small pouch onto the pile of coins.
The man’s eyebrows lifted. “Is that . . .?”
“Olcain,” Desfan confirmed. “Pure.”
Muttering rippled through the gathered crowd, and a few on the edge exchanged anxious looks before making themselves scarce.
“Highly illegal, that,” the man across from him said, his voice low. But his gaze hadn’t left the pouch, the gleam of greed in his eye captured by the light cast from the grimy lanterns.
Desfan cracked a smile. “And certainly worth more than five coins. Consider the bet raised again. Will you match?”
The man’s mouth pressed into a line, but the unfiltered hunger in his eyes told Desfan everything he needed to know.
The man was all in.
He dumped the rest of his coins on the table, as well as the shiny rings on his fingers.
Desfan’s heartbeat quickened. The rush of adrenaline sparked over his skin, igniting every nerve. He pulled in a deep breath, letting his lungs expand as he relished the feeling. The moment. It was in these seconds he actually felt alive.
The crowd sensed the tension and crept a little closer to the small table.
The man across from Desfan smirked, but the sweat beading at his upper lip wasn’t something he could hide. “Let’s see your hand, then.”
Desfan spread his cards against the table, his pulse kicking fast. “A full guild,” he said.
The man across the table froze.
Desfan grinned. “No hard feelings, I hope. I’m very good.”
The man’s nostrils flared and his eyes lifted to meet Desfan’s gaze. “You cheated.”
“Not tonight.” He stood and reached for his winnings, but the man snared one of his wrists.
Fury burned in his eyes. “You’re only a child.”
“Yes, and I beat you. Embarrassing, isn’t it?”
The bones in Desfan’s wrist ground together as the man tightened his hold. With his other hand, he drew a knife from his belt and brandished it between them, the tip aimed at Desfan’s face. “How about we pretend I was the one with the full guild, and you get to keep your pretty face?”
Desfan’s heart pounded against his ribs. The rush of fear was followed by a hot wave of excitement. He grinned. “Who’s the cheater now?”
The man’s glare sharpened. “You’re dead, urchin.”
“Funny. I didn’t know the dead could do this.” Desfan rammed his knee into the table and the lamp fell against the man’s bare arm. The heat was not enough to truly burn him, but it was enough to jerk him back. He recoiled with a bellow, dropping Desfan and his knife so he could clutch his arm.
Desfan grabbed the olcain along with a fistful of coins and darted for the door.
The sailor growled behind him. “Don’t just stand there—get him!”
Desfan ducked to avoid a grasping hand and then leapt, his boot landing hard on the seat of an empty chair so he could vault over a table.
It was amazing what olcain helped him do. He was focused. Unstoppable. He knew exactly where the door was, even through the crowd. He knew exactly how much force to put in each jump, the best way to spin around the next obstacle. He was in perfect control of his body.
In this moment, he was in control of his fate. And that was a rare and fleeting thing.
He landed hard, the impact jarring up his legs. He kept moving, the coins biting into his palm as he ran. He heard the scramble behind him, the shouts of protest as people were shoved aside.
The door was right there.
Desfan grabbed the handle and shoved it open, swinging into the dark street. He bolted, but hadn’t gone far when a hand snagged the back of his shirt. He was jerked to a halt, and then spun until he smashed face-first into the brick front of the Red Cobra.
The olcain dulled the worst of the pain, but it still hurt.
“Ouch,” he complained, his cheek stinging.
Rough hands turned him and shoved him back against the wall, holding him there. He counted four shadows. The one right in front of him was none other than the sore loser.
Hmm. Maybe the olcain just made him feel faster.
The sailor’s knife was once again in front of his face. “I’m going to shove every last coin down your throat,” he growled, his weathered face twisted in rage.
Desfan snorted. “If you really don’t want the coins, I can think of easier ways to be rid of them.”
The sailor used his free hand to grab Desfan’s throat and he squeezed, cutting off most of his air.
The first spark of panic flared throughout his body, tightening his muscles.
The man leaned in, his foul breath clouding the air between them. “Once you’ve died from choking on them, I’ll cut them out of you.”
“A bit excessive,” Desfan choked. “But I admire your creativity.”
The man’s forehead knotted, and his grip flexed. “The fates have addled your brain, boy. Don’t you understand? I’m going to kill you.”
Desfan eyed the man, his crushed throat burning. “I don’t fear death,” he rasped.
“Then you’re a fool.”
No. He’d simply lost his reason for living. But even if he had enough air to say the words, he wouldn’t have said them. He had never uttered them, no matter how often he thought them. He wasn’t really sure why.
Maybe it was because whenever he thought them, he could see his mother’s face. The way her long brown hair curled against her rounded cheeks. Her compassionate smile. Her soft, beautiful brown eyes. He knew the words would make her cry, so he didn’t give them air.
It was the same reason he would always fight to stay alive, even if he didn’t always want to.
Desfan’s fingers found the knife at his belt. He gripped it, but before he could draw it, a voice boomed out.
“Unhand him at once, on pain of death!”
The sailor’s head cranked toward the squadron of soldiers, and his fist loosened almost reflexively, allowing a thin trail of air to burn down Desfan’s raw throat. The man’s knife remained poised before Desfan’s face, though. “Good, you’re here. This boy is a thief and a cheat—”
“I already said I didn’t cheat tonight,” Desfan muttered.
The kiv leading the squadron stepped forward, his expression murderous as he glared at the sailor. “Release the serjah now, or die.”
The sailor’s jaw dropped, his mouth dangling open.
Desfan had seen the same expression a thousand times, and he knew exactly what would happen next. After the shock, a double-take. Then dawning realization. Horror filling the eyes. And—
The sailor dropped Desfan like he was poison. Desfan slumped against the wall and rubbed his throat. He eyed the kiv, paying no heed as the sailor and his friends fell to their knees. “You were moderately quick tonight. I’m impressed.”
The kiv did not look impressed. He was a middle-aged man, and one Desfan recognized, though he didn’t know his name.
Truth be told, he recognized most of the city guard by now. Just as they knew him on sight. Even if he was bloody, bruised, and puking his guts out in the gutter.
The kiv turned to the sailor and his friends. “Forget you saw the serjah here tonight, and you may go free.”
The man might be a horrible loser and have bad hygiene, but he wasn’t an idiot. He muttered his promises and backed away quickly, his friends with him.
Alone in front of the Red Cobra, the kiv faced Desfan and extended a hand.
Desfan sighed. “I don’t have any.”
“Excuse my disagreement, Serjah, but it is in your hand.”
Fates blast it. He thought he’d tucked the olcain up his sleeve, but there it was, staring up at him among a bed of tarnished coins. Perhaps the effects of the drug were wearing off. It would explain how he’d managed to get caught—not once, but twice. First the sailor, then the guard.
He expelled a heavy breath and surrendered the drug.
What happened next was rote.
“Any more of it?” the kiv asked.
“You don’t mind if I search?”
He was already turning to face the wall, his palms resting on the cool brick.
Sometimes, he fought them. Yelled at them. Tonight, he simply didn’t care.
After the quick search, they trooped back to the palace. No one said anything.
Also not new.
At the palace doors, the city guard turned him over to his bodyguard, a hulking man named Borahk.
The annoyance between them was mutual.
Borahk hated that Desfan always managed to sneak off and make him look bad.
Desfan hated that the man existed.
Well, to be perfectly fair, he just hated that Borahk was the newest replacement for Darkol, his old guard; the one who had watched over him and his sisters since their births. Darkol had died on the ship with his mother and sisters.
Just another person fate had ripped from him.
The olcain really must be wearing off. He was becoming morose.
Borahk glared, his jaw rigid as he watched Desfan climb the stairs. His massive arms were folded over his wide chest, and every tensed muscle in his square face screamed fury.
“Nice evening, isn’t it?” Desfan drawled.
Borahk grabbed Desfan’s elbow and jerked him into the castle.
“Easy,” Desfan griped. “I am the fates-blasted heir to the throne, you know.”
“Oh, I know,” the large man growled. “Do you?”
He scoffed. “You have no right to lecture me.”
“Do you even know what night it is?” Borahk demanded.
Of course he did. That’s why he’d sniffed half his olcain supply.
It was his birthday. He was fifteen years old. And every year he aged and his sisters did not, well . . . each one cut him deeper than the last.
Borahk shook his head. “The palace is full of nobles who traveled from across the country to celebrate you, and you can’t be bothered to be there. Your father had to make excuses for you—again.”
Desfan’s jaw tightened. He tugged at his arm, but Borahk’s hold was like iron and he soon gave up. “As much as I treasure our time together,” he drawled, “this escort isn’t necessary. I do remember the way to my chambers.”
Borahk didn’t so much as look at him. “We’re not going to your room.”
One of his eyebrows ticked up. “It’s the middle of the night. Where else would we go?”
“The serjan demands your presence.”
That penetrated the fog of olcain shrouding Desfan’s brain. He straightened. “My father wants to see me?”
Borahk grunted. “I think he wants to do a fair bit more than that.”
I hope you enjoyed the first chapter of Fire & Ash! Don't forget, the novella comes out October 28th!
You can pre-order your Kindle copy here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B098SJYHW2?ref
You can also add it here!
What was your favorite part of chapter one? Let me know in the comments!