Take a Sneak Peek!
Excerpt from The Book of Queens
“…only an immortal can kill an immortal.”
“Beza carefully slid out of bed, slipped the black leaf into her dress, and grabbed the knife Vohar had given to her not so long ago. She snuck out of the room and walked onto the shore. The moon was bright and cast a tinged glow over the shore, making it seem as though the beach emitted a magical light. Tiny grains of sand found their way in between her toes as she made her way into the water. The remnants washed off easily as she treaded through the small waves toward the rope that tied down the dinghy.
Three figures approached her but did not frighten her for she had asked them to come.
Without a word, she climbed aboard the skiff alongside the crewman. The men huffed as they rowed the small boat out to The Peaceful Lady, anchored a short distance away, and helped Beza climb aboard the massive vessel.
They pulled the anchor aboard, and the boat slowly drifted out to sea.
Beza could not look back. She knew Vohar might have followed her, might be swimming out to her at that very moment, but she could not let him deter her. She tried to keep her fears from her mind, but it was not so simple to push aside her deep love for Vohar. Nor could she set aside her determination to save her family. She gazed out into the darkness.
All the while she clung to the knife in her hand and the knowledge that this night might be her last.
The gash on his forehead gushed crimson red stripes down his nose and chin. His light-colored hair, disheveled from the altercation, matched the sand on which he knelt. He gazed up at Elia with a pleading expression, and she knew that, although he was large in stature, his physical strength would only last so long. She had looked mental fortitude in the eyes many times before and this man’s weakness blazed like a carefully kindled flame. Kneeling before her and her men, alone and without a weapon, he was as vulnerable as a person could be. His arms were tied behind his back, and he leaned slightly forward, as though it took everything in him to not fall forward onto his face.
Elia of Vexia removed the clean blade from his neck, replaced it in the belt at her waist, and tucked her wind-blown strands of hair behind her ears.
She studied the man’s features momentarily. He was young, probably not much older than her twenty-three years, and he was quite handsome (if one could look past the cowardice and blood). But more than his looks, she noticed a gold ring on his thumb, thick leather boots covering his feet, and a fine wool overcoat that hung heavy from the ocean water that had soaked it when Higil overtook him.
Higil, who stood adjacent to her, with his blade still unsheathed, snorted. It was a blatant display of aggression to this stranger, not that the man needed any more hostility shown to him.
He said, “I mean no harm to any of you. I am a simple fisherman. If you need fish, I have plenty of supplies…in my boat.”
“You think we need fish?” Higil guffawed. “We need anything but fish!”
“It’s your boat that we need,” Elia said, quietly understanding that this was no simple fisherman.
“She’s an old one,” he replied, obviously referring to the small and weather-torn skiff. “She needs me and at least one other to run her.”
“Where’s the other?”
“Fool that I am, thought I could run her myself. Hence the reason I am here. Drifted too far and couldn’t make it back on my own.”
She knew he had to be telling the truth for when they saw his boat push into their island, he was alone.
“How many can fit on the boat?”
“Two,” he said, then revised his answer after looking her men up and down and seeing their scanty, famished bodies. “Possibly four.”
When he first stumbled upon the island, Elia’s immediate thought was to kill him. They had no use for a lone fisherman, and they desperately needed his boat and supplies. She knew that Higil had the same thought. He was in a stance that she’d seen before. Weapon drawn, feet planted firmly, his dark eyes settled on his target, waiting for the signal from her to make his move.
Elia glanced at Higil and gave him a quick, furtive shake of her head, indicating he was to stand down. He slowly lowered his blade and snorted again, as if to make extra sure Elia knew of his distaste for her decision.
“Where do you come from?” Elia asked, plainly.
She tried to hide the look of excitement on her face upon hearing his answer. She quickly decided upon another fate for this man. Unfortunately for the fisherman, it would be worse than death.
Elia felt a gentle tap on her leg and looked down to see Metta at her feet. The child, her child, still so small at two and a half years, had a look of mischief displayed on her tiny features. She reached her chubby arms up, barely reaching the height of her mother’s waist, then wiggled her tiny fingers.
“Mama,” the girl said in her tiny voice and reached higher to get her mother to pick her up.
“Fenic?” Elia called out, not wanting to break from her present situation.
“I am here, Kona,” she heard a gritty voice nearby.
Fenic burst into the hut.
“Baby is a fast runner,” Fenic said, breathing heavily.
“Don’t let it happen again,” she said, and brushed Metta’s hand off her leg.
“Forgive me, Kona. I will find some coconut for her,” he said, his red face covered in sweat. He picked Metta up, a tiny doll in his large arms, and whisked her away.
She could feel the heat of the day, a flush rising in her face, and then the sudden let-down that reminded her that Metta needed to be nursed. She ignored it. She planned to wean her by the time they left the island. The girl must learn how to be without her mother for, soon enough, she would be.
“Show me again, Leof,” Elia said, gesturing to the crumpled map sprawled out before her.
“This is our w-w-way in,” Leof said, running his finger over the west side of the land that was straight cliff. “Fisherman said they call them the Fjer. They think them impassible, a b-b-barrier.”
Leof’s stutter had become so commonplace that she hardly noticed it anymore. It’d become progressively worse since they were exiled but so had many other ailments in their party of twelve.
“But they are foolish,” Wulf added, chuckling under his breath.
“It’s as if we are being guided,” Elia said, thinking of how perfectly their plan was falling into place, and how Vexia prepared them for such a task. Cliffs were their playground growing up. All Vexians were versed in scaling rocks. Anybody who could not stand the test of the cliffs would surely die, leaving only the best to inhabit its lands. Vexia had prepared them, then it had spat them out.
However, great fortune looked upon them when they arrived on the island. Although they’d been forced into exile unwillingly, they’d found that the island had inhabitants before they arrived. There were abandoned huts and large crates of supplies that proved to be very useful. A map was one of the greatest treasures that they had stumbled upon. Rurik surely hadn’t thought of that when he shoved them out of the boat at knifepoint, never thinking past his anger. That was why Elia had been at the receiving end of his abuse on so many occasions—exile being his last great act of fury against her.
Fortune found them again with the fisherman. He had become the key that helped to unlock the last steps in their plan. He’d provided the third boat, (the first was a two-man skiff left on the island and the second, a four-man boat which took over a year to make after many failed attempts) and with some ‘nudging’ he’d given them the information necessary to understand the new land.
They’d found out enough during their interrogation to keep him under their thumb. They would send him home on the two-man boat with Wulf straightaway. As soon as Wulf located the fisherman’s mother, the fisherman would be sent to act as spy and a coordinator, of sorts. The fisherman would send all correspondence to his own home, to not raise suspicion, and Wulf would communicate with their group at each checkpoint planned out by the fisherman himself.
She ran her finger over the map in the direction that the men were supposed to follow to get to the new land. The parchment was brown and faded, and it was hard to differentiate sea from land, but she had looked upon this map every day, and knew it by heart.
The hut shook momentarily, sending beads of dust gently to the ground, as Higil pushed the door open to enter.
He came up behind Elia and put his arms around her waist. He kissed her on the neck, and she caught the distinct smell of a man who hadn’t bathed in years. He then proceeded to immerse himself in the conversation, and she watched him closely as he took charge over the planning process.
The jagged scar on his cheek looked more red than usual and she imagined Rurik would be happy about the damage he had bestowed upon Higil’s face. It was something that he would never be able to escape and had acted as a constant reminder of Rurik’s power over them just like he assumed exile would be.
Elia’s plan would free them of the bonds that Rurik had placed upon them and although her new path required blood to be shed, it would all be worth it. Nothing mattered more to Elia than restoring the power that was stolen from her, even if it meant committing the same crimes that were committed against her.