DANCE IN THE STORM
The grand finale to the Dance with the Devil series
Ettore resumed walking, but awareness had come and he could not go back to that state where nothing at all existed, not even him.
"Am I finally dead?" he whispered before he could stop himself. The idea made him sad, but mostly it brought only relief. No more beatings. No more violations. No more starving or darkness or futile begging.
"You're not dead quite yet, but there's no going back," said a soft, but thunderous voice. It brushed over his skin like gentle caresses he missed and would never feel again.
He turned around and around, looking for the source but seeing only fog. "Wh-who's there?"
Turning around, shivers of fear and anticipation sliding down his spine like fingers, Ettore finally faced the voice.
A shadowy form stood before him, like smoke filling a human-shaped glass figurine. No, not smoke. Clouds. Lightning flashed here and there, like a living storm trying to take human shape. As it drew closer, the shape seemed to solidify to a black mass, a living shadow, but Ettore could still see those bursts of lightning. "Demon," he whispered.
THE HEART OF THE LOST STAR
Sequel to The Pirate of Fathoms Deep
"Papa!" Chiri cried out, throwing her hands up in the air.
Though he still felt like crying, Kamir was helpless against smiling to be greeted so warmly. Rare was the morning his daughter didn't cheer at his arrival, and he dreaded the day she grew too old to be happy her father had entered the room.
Reaching the breakfast table, he kissed the top of her head, ruffled Chara's hair, and took his seat. Velina bustled over and set down a plate heaped with food and the teapot. "Good morning, my lord."
"Good morning, Velina. Thank you. I hope the visit to your sister goes well, I appreciate you lingering long enough to watch over the children until I arrived."
"Always a pleasure, my lord. I'll be back late tonight, I hope your day goes well."
"Thank you." She bustled out the door, and Kamir poured himself a cup of fragrant jasmine tea, sipping it leisurely for a few minutes before he felt awake enough to start on his breakfast. Velina always gave him too much, insisting he needed more meat on his bones, but Kamir seldom ate much. The only exception had been when he was pregnant.
He picked away at the spiced potatoes for a few minutes, smiling and murmuring dutifully as Chiri talked so quickly she tripped over her words, then switched to the flatbread and chutney.
By the time he'd finished a second cup of tea and half his plate, Chiri was winding down and actually eating her food, and Chara was waking up properly. Poor boy had inherited his father's inability to function for the first couple of hours after waking, where Chiri had inherited Kamir's ability to be wide-awake and ready to go practically immediately upon waking. In so many ways it was obvious they were twins, but in so many others…
Well, he hoped they got along better than Kamir and Theorin had.
THE STOLEN COURT
Sequel to The Painted Crown, conclusion of the Unbreakable Soldiers trilogy
It was incredibly, frustratingly difficult to go about unremarked when Bertin was one of only a handful of people in the entire palace who wasn't white.
Back in Belemere and Tallideth, his red-brown skin and hair had been one in a thousand, easily passed over and forgotten. He hadn't even draw terribly much notice wearing a uniform, and further separating himself out as part of the Army Corp of Engineers.
Ruemri, however, was an entirely different story. He was the brown-skinned, foreign Steward of the House, one more strange component of King Fessia's abrupt demise and Tallideth's assuming control of Ruemri. Prince Sesta, now King Sesta, sat on the throne, but everyone knew it was only because Tallideth permitted it. The ruler of Tallideth, King Perdith, had married his young sister to Sesta to secure Tallideth's hold.
Nobody was happy, and every day felt like the one where something would finally go horribly, violently wrong and plunge them all back into war.
It didn't help that with every waking moment Bertin wanted to throttle Sesta and go home. He'd been happy working under Consort Vellem, helping Tallideth rebuild and recover in the aftermath of the explosion that had killed two thousand people, most of them royalty and nobility, and nearly destroyed the country.
Instead he was stuck supervising a bratty false prince and sliding right back into the kind of work he'd been happier leaving behind him. Engineering was so much more interesting than playing spymaster.
But a soldier did his duty, and after all that he'd been given, Bertin could only do his best to serve.
THE FESTIVAL PRIZE OF THE HIGH SECRETARY
Sequel to The Heart of the Lost Star, likely conclusion of the Tales of Harken
Myra always started work three hours before the work day officially began. Given how late his duties often required he stay, he spent his life perpetually sleep deprived, but that could be said of everyone in the office, from the High King and Consort all the way down to the servant responsible for cleaning up at night.
He'd been more than a little miffed when High Consort Allen started showing up two hours before everyone else, because he counted on those three hours of solitude to keep him on schedule and even on rare occasion ahead of schedule. The last thing he needed was to spend his valuable alone time tending to the High Consort.
But outside of a few questions while he was still learning everything, Allen was content to leave him to his business and focus on his own. The only significant change he'd made was an early tea be brought for them, which Myra was not going to complain about. He'd always gone to the kitchens to fix a cup that he brought with him. Far be it for him to complain if Allen wanted to have a full breakfast brought.
There was also, when he felt like being honest with himself, the bonus of Jac. She was at least a decade younger than him, and he had the sinking feeling the number was more like two decades, just starting on her path to grand and glorious things. The position of bodyguard to the High Consort was nothing to be sneered at, especially with her youth, but he could anticipate her going even farther than that. Not High Commander, that wouldn't suit her, but Captain of the Palace Guard? Yes, that he could see. She would shine.
Shine so brightly she'd never notice, let alone consider, a secretary. Not even the one everyone liked to snidely or laughingly call the High Secretary, the High King's Pet, and other names that made him roll his eyes.
Also working on: Close Enough to Touch (Anti-Heroes 3), but I wrote the first chunk by hand and still have not gotten around to transcribing it.
And that's all I've got. Have a lovely weekend!