Here is the cover:
As promised, here is a look into a scene from Sands 3 – the actual title is still being tested. This scene is part of Lhaurel’s look into Elyana’s past life and is the least spoilery of any of the content I could share. Still, I am giving you fair warning – this MAY contain spoilers if you haven’t read Sands or Storms. It is completely unedited, but here it is, for your enjoyment. Look for the book later this year:
Elyana Scene 1 – Preview
Elyana looked down at her hands, seeing the wrinkles that had formed there over the years. Lhaurel knew she was dreaming, but these dreams were like the others she’d had of Elyana, a deeper, more present dream. It was as if they weren’t dreams at all, but actual memories instead.
This one was something even more than that, however. This time, Lhaurel could feel what Elyana felt, hear her thoughts. It was as if she was simultaneously Elyana and herself at once.
How long has it been since Beryl killed my Sister? Elyana’s thoughts resounded in Lhaurel’s mind like a haunting echo from down a long, dark corridor.
The lush greenery of the Sharani Arena had started to fade, burned by almost a year of pitched battles between the Rahuli slaves and the Orinai warriors. Her people.
No! She couldn’t think like that. There was simply us and the Enemy. The Orinai were the Enemy. She had chosen a side.
Elyana got to her feet and walked over to the dim lamp on the table near her. The wick within was trimmed low, the light only a dim reminder of a solitary flame. It flickered in the slight breeze that blew through the corridors, bringing with it the soft chill of looming winter. Elyana turned the little knob on the lamp and light flooded the small room as the flame swelled.
Inside the dream, Lhaurel was able to study the room through Elyana’s eyes as the woman turned her gaze about it. A small bed rested to one side, the covers strewn in a lumpy pile among some discarded clothes. Next to it lay several small wooden shelves piled high with scrolls and various pieces of parchment among other odds and ends. A large glass container full of water rested on top of one of the shelves. Something moved within it, but that area was still cast in shadows and Lhaurel was unable to tell what it was, though it tugged at her curiosity. A stack of wood rested along one wall and a fireplace sat in a corner, though the coals were cool in the hearth.
Elyana’s gaze shifted from item to item slowly, as if reluctant to move on, then started over once again when she’d made a complete circuit of the room. After another complete investigation of the room, Elyana let out a long sigh and slumped down onto her bed, then almost as quickly got back up again and strode toward the door. Elyana flung open the door and marched into the unlit corridor beyond. It must have been night outside because there was almost no light in the long passage, though Elyana didn’t stop to find a light source.
In the darkness, time passed irresolutely, though dreaming as she was Lhaurel didn’t have a firm grasp on time to begin with. The whole experience could have been happening inside a single heartbeat. Or it could have taken the entire night. Elyana walked through the halls with the ease born from complete familiarity, working ever downward.
After what seemed like an enternity, Lhaurel realized where they were headed. The lake beneath the Roterralar Warren. At some point, Elyana found a lantern and lit it before striding through the large opening into the cavern within. Light glinted off the water and Lhaurel sensed much of Elyana’s tension ease away. It looked much the same as Lhaurel remembered, but with one notable exception. There were no cubby holes carved into the rock of the far wall, only a long, thin path of stone through the center of the lake. Elyana walked out to the middle of the path and sat down on the stone, placing the lantern on the stone floor next to her.
Lhaurel didn’t know how long Elyana sat there, but after a time Lhaurel noticed a small sound back from the entrance just as Elyana’s gaze turned in that direction. Beryl, the young version of him, walked toward her. He looked different now, taller and broader of shoulder, with a bearing that he hadn’t had before. He looked…regal. His clothes were neat, clean, and form fitting, though he wore a thick brown cloak over them. A greatsword hung at his belt.
“Beryl,” Elyana said with a small nod.
“They call me Eldriean now.”
“I thought you didn’t like that name,” Elyana said, voice echoing in the large chamber.
“It seemed most appropriate.” Beryl sat down next to Elyana, sword scraping the stone. When Elyana didn’t say anything else, Beryl continued.
“I thought I would find you here.”
Elyana spread her hands in a vague gesture that took in the lake and cavern both. “This is the only place I find peace. There is a battle going on inside me as well as without. The Rahuli revile and despise me, the Orinai call me traitor. There is no place for me but here.”
Beryl snorted. “You don’t give them much reason to do anything by hate you, Elyana. You’re the embodiment of what they’re fighting. You’re a Sister.”
“That’s exactly what I said, isn’t it?”
Beryl shifted and turned to look at Elyana, reaching out and taking one of her hands in his. “You miss my point. I am an Earth Ward. I am every bit a representation of what they hate about the Empire. But they’ve seen me fighting for them. They’ve seen that I’m on their side. There’s still others, like Serthim, who don’t trust me, but the majority accept me for who I am.”
“And who are you?”
Elyana laughed, the sound overlapping over itself as the echo returned. “Blacksmith to ruler in a few short months?”
“Stranger things have happened,” Beryl said, “just look at you. Not drawing on the blood of others had left you haggard and weak, I can tell. There’s only so much you can do.”
“You’re right. There is only so much I can do without my powers. The Rahuli keep me from the battles. They’re afraid of what I’ll do around that much blood.”
“For good reason,” Beryl interjected, “that amount of power is perverse. It taints you and turns you into the twisted devil that is Sellia and the others.”
Elyana stiffened. “You shouldn’t say her name.”
Beryl shrugged, still holding Elyana’s hand. “What is she going to do to me now that she wasn’t going to do already? I killed a Sister. She’s already going to kill me.”
Elyana said nothing and Beryl’s grip loosened on her hand.
“There are other things you can do, Elyana,” Beryl said, “other ways you can show the Rahuli that you’re on their side.”
Elyana snorted. “Like what?”
Beryl was silent for a long moment. Lhaurel found herself wondering if he actually had an answer or if he was merely trying to find something to say.
“You can tell them of the Schema and the true worth of the Progressions.”
“Are you mad?” Elyana hissed, jerking her hand out of his.
“Think about it, Elyana,” Beryl said, quickly, “most of the Rahuli have been here for centuries. The majority don’t even know what it’s like to live among the Orinai or worship the Sisters at all. They simply fear them. They have no reason to honor you when you do not honor them.”
Elyana stood up and turned away from Beryl, though she didn’t walk away.
“These here, there are dozens of lesser mystics among them. They all have the potential within them to become something more, to move up to a higher Iteration, though they don’t even know how or what they may become. None of them do. Your Sisters keep that knowledge from them and the others of their kind within the Empire. They don’t even realize the potential hidden within them.”
“That’s blasphemy, Beryl. Blasphemy.”
“I’m living proof that it isn’t. I dream things. I know who I once was and where I may yet go.”
“You tread dangerous ground. You don’t understand what you’re asking of me. I will not betray the foundation of a religion that has lasted thousands of years. I will not betray the Progressions.”
“The Progressions are pure and true. The Path is sure. The religion the Sisters preach is not. You showed me this, Elyana. Show the Rahuli.”
“I will not.”
“That is why they will never trust you.”