Monday, January 28, 2019
Warrior of the World Tour and Giveaway
Warrior of the World
Chronicles of Dasnaria #3
by Jeffe Kennedy
Genre: Dark Fantasy
Pub Date: 1/8/19
Just beyond the reach of the Twelve Kingdoms, avarice, violence, strategy, and revenge clash around a survivor who could upset the balance of power all across the map. . .
Once Ivariel thought elephants were fairy tales to amuse children. But her ice-encased childhood in Dasnaria’s imperial seraglio was lacking in freedom and justice. With a new name and an assumed identity as a warrior priestess of Danu, the woman once called Princess Jenna is now a fraud and a fugitive. But as she learns the ways of the beasts and hones new uses for her dancer’s strength, she moves one day further from the memory of her brutal husband. Safe in hot, healing Nyambura, Ivariel holds a good man at arm’s length and trains for the day she’ll be hunted again.
She knows it’s coming. She’s not truly safe, not when her mind clouds with killing rage at unpredictable moments. Not when patient Ochieng’s dreams of a family frighten her to her bones. But it still comes as a shock to Ivariel when long-peaceful Nyambura comes under attack. Until her new people look to their warrior priestess and her elephants to lead them . . .
Despite the rain, I went to see the elephants. Especially Efe.
In the endless downpour, it hardly mattered what I put on. Whatever it was became soaked within moments. I’d finally adopted the habit of the Nyamburans, wearing light fabrics that at least didn’t hang on me like iron manacles with the weight of all that water. When I returned to the house, I’d then hang them next to one of the fired clay stoves, switching them out for another set.
It gave me an excuse to sit quietly and try to recover my strength—and wind—while hanging onto my pride. Perhaps I fooled no one with my attentiveness to drying my clothes.
Especially as nothing ever seemed to dry completely. Even Ochieng’s elaborate descriptions hadn’t done the rainy season justice. It poured nonstop, day and night. Below the granite butte the D’tiembo house perched upon, the river swelled until it seemed to fill the entire valley. No longer shining bright like a polished sword, it lay gray and sullen, deceptively still—until debris sweeping downstream revealed the lethal currents that tumbled them past, a great beast masticating its treasures as it carried them away.
Though I felt naked without my leathers, I’d given them up as too impractical in the pervasive damp. I’d even stopped wearing the vambraces, which had always been more to cover up the scars on my wrists from my wedding bracelets. I wouldn’t say I no longer cared who saw them, but they were certainly no longer secret. All the D’tiembos knew what I came from and what had happened to me. Another reason not to bother with pride, though I couldn’t seem to help myself.
There seemed to be very little I could control about myself. I hadn’t picked up my knives and sword since I’d returned either.
I didn’t trust myself with a sharp weapon.
Slipping out of my little room, I left the sodden curtains hanging in place instead of tying them back, so it wouldn’t be obvious I wasn’t within. Though I’d given up my vow of silence—and of chastity, though I’d yet to do anything there beyond giving up the silver disk of the promise—I didn’t often feel like talking to people. You’d think I’d have a lot of words dammed up inside me, like the debris in the river fighting to race to the sea, but once I’d told Ochieng my story, I didn’t seem to have much left to say.
Or, more precisely, nothing I felt comfortable articulating. Back to that pride. The legacy of my mother, a curse I perversely treasured for its cool familiarity.
I’d killed Rodolf, my now late husband, in a blur of blood and violence I barely remembered. But that hadn’t killed the hatred he’d planted in me. As my body healed from that brutal battle, all of my fear and pain gained life again, too. Sometimes it overcame me, the rage-terror, the many-faced emotion that flashed like a fire no amount of rain could quench. Sometimes I thought another person lived inside me. Perhaps Imperial Princess Jenna, daughter of Empress Hulda, the most ruthless bitch in the Dasnarian Empire, hadn’t become Ivariel. I might have created Ivariel, Warrior Priestess of Danu, but she only provided a calm shell over the dark face of Jenna.
Jenna, who couldn’t seem to stop hating, and whom I couldn’t seem to control.
The antechamber was empty, as usual, since my room sat on a less-frequented edge of the many-tiered house, and I moved silently through it and down the woven grass steps few people besides me used, suppressing a groan at the aching protest of my body. Amazing how simple movements like going down steps made my abdomen protest and my always-strong legs tremble with weakness. I thought I’d endured pain before and understood it. Had conquered it.
But those had been mostly surface pains—from flogging and my late husband’s rough attentions. Mostly skin deep, except in my woman’s passage, which was meant to open to the outside anyway. These wounds had penetrated through layers of tissue and muscle and organs, deep inside me, hindering my smallest movements. Pointed reminders that I should be dead.
With determination, ignoring the pain, I descended the slow steps to the terrace. When I’d arrived, in the dry season, the large D’tiembo clan had spent most of their time on the big, low-walled terrace that overlooked the river. These days it mostly held puddles of rainwater. One of my young students, Ayela, and her brother, Femi, used long-handled tools to push water that collected in the corners and deeper indentations over the edge of the terrace. It seemed like an exercise in futility to me, but all the kids took turns doing it. Maybe to keep them occupied as much as anything.
Ayela spotted me and waved, a cautious gesture, her normal ebullience carefully muted. They were all careful with me. I could hardly blame them. She and my other students were anxious, I knew, to resume lessons with me. I also knew their parents had spoken firmly with them that they should not ask me, that I needed time to get strong again. The first eighteen years of my life had been spent in the seraglio of the Imperial Palace where the ladies all honed eavesdropping to a fine art. The D’tiembos with their curtain walls and privacy that existed only via courtesy could hardly keep secrets from me.
I smiled at Ayela, but quickly turned away so she wouldn’t get the wrong idea. If only I could go down the cliff steps. However—exactly as Ochieng had predicted—the lower levels had been swept away, even before I managed to escape my sickbed for the first time. So, I went around, skirting the edge of the terrace rather than going through the house, making my way to the back side, where the covered steps descended to the storehouses.
“Ivariel.” Ochieng stepped out from a room I passed, his lean face smooth, his dark eyes full of concern. “Going to visit the elephants?” he asked.
I nodded, then remembered I should give him words, since he seemed to crave them from me. “Yes. Is that all right?”
A slight line formed between his brows. “Of course. This is your home. You may do anything you wish. I simply thought to offer to go with you.”
“You don’t have to,” I replied, my gaze going to the opening leading to the steps. I’d been so close. “I’m sure you have other things to do.”
He laughed, though not in a genuine way. “It’s the rainy season. Nobody has anything to do that they haven’t done dozens of times already. I’ll go with you.”
Because it felt churlish and ungenerous of me to refuse, I nodded and continued walking, Ochieng falling in beside me. “How are you feeling today?” he asked me.
I never knew how to answer this question. “Better,” I said, as I usually did. Not an untruth—I certainly felt better than I had when I first awoke in the D’tiembo home, swathed in bandages, with no idea why I was there instead of dead. One day I wanted to feel again as I had before my eighteenth birthday, before any of this occurred. I missed feeling limber, vital, and beautiful. I hadn’t appreciated what a blessing those things were when I had them. Now that I would value them as precious gifts, I suspected I’d lost those, too, forever.
Exile of the Seas
Chronicles of Dasnaria #2
Around the shifting borders of the Twelve Kingdoms, trade and conflict, danger and adventure put every traveler on guard . . . but some have everything to lose.
Once she was known as Jenna, Imperial Princess of Dasnaria, schooled in graceful dance and comely submission. Until the man her parents married her off to almost killed her with his brutality.
Now, all she knows is that the ship she’s boarded is bound away from her vicious homeland. The warrior woman aboard says Jenna’s skill in dancing might translate into a more lethal ability. Danu’s fighter priestesses will take her in, disguise her as one of their own—and allow her to keep her silence.
But it’s only a matter of time until Jenna’s monster of a husband hunts her down. Her best chance to stay hidden is to hire out as bodyguard to a caravan traveling to a far-off land, home to beasts and people so unfamiliar they seem like part of a fairy tale. But her supposed prowess in combat is a fraud. And sooner or later, Jenna’s flight will end in battle—or betrayal . . .
I crept up to the Valeria’s deck in the predawn dark to watch the sun rise. Though I felt safer, and smarter, keeping to the confines of my cabin, this one excursion had become a sort of habit. I clung to the small rituals, the basic routine I’d been able to establish. Otherwise, I was as unmoored and unanchored as the Valeria on her long ocean journey, sailing over unfathomable depths to unimaginable lands.
Perhaps this was the nature of exile: that all the thrust was in the escape, the moving away. After that, what did you have? If I am any example—and I’m the only example I had—then the answer was not much at all.
I did have my habits, though.
The Valeria was powerful in a way I wasn’t and would likely never be. Ideally suited to her environment, an extension of the waves and master of them, she possessed a singular direction and purpose. The very things I lacked. Thus, I’d become oddly grateful and attached to the ship, inanimate though she was. As long as I was aboard the Valeria, she provided purpose and direction for me. I clung to her the way an infant burrowed into her mother’s breast, murmuring fervent prayers of thankfulness that she hadn’t shrugged me off to drown in the cold, uncaring sea.
Mostly I kept to my cabin. The servant boys and girls brought my meals and fresh water, took away my waste, and otherwise left me alone. It had been easy to adjust to being waited on, as I had been my whole life, and I would’ve been at a loss to put together more than the most basic meal for myself. I wouldn’t let them come in otherwise, which was a new freedom and power I enjoyed flexing. No servants in the walls here, listening to my every movement. And I felt better with the door barred, even though it was only one thin, wooden thing against the world. A world of a sailing ship on a vast, unknowable ocean.
I slept a lot. Which was good because my body began to heal more. And I danced, to relieve the boredom and to encourage flexibility, so I’d heal strong. Dancing felt familiar, too. Something I could do alone in the dim cabin, one of the few things left that remind me of who I’d been.
No matter how much I slept, though, I always awoke early. Well before they brought my breakfast at the seventh bell. In the darkness of my cabin, I marked time by the watch’s bells, practicing the simple count from the longest toll at midnight to the dawn call. I woke. Listened for the six bells. Then unbarred my door, made sure the passage remained empty, and slipped out.
A sort of daily exercise in escape.
Moving silently down the passageway of closed doors, I allowed myself to exult in that ability, one I’d never expected to be what saved my life. All those years I practiced the traditional dances, particularly the ducerse, which required utmost skill to keep the many bells from making sound until the precisely timed moment. I’d thought I was preparing to dazzle my husband and make my emperor proud. Not teaching myself stealth.
But stealth had turned out to be far more useful. It let me keep to the shadows, unnoticed. In my brother Harlan’s too-big clothes, my hair shorn into a short fluff, I looked nothing like Her Imperial Highness Princess Jenna of Dasnaria. If anyone on this foreign ship had ever heard of that doomed girl. Nevertheless, I wrapped myself in the thick wool cloak, pulling the cowl deep around my face. It made me feel safer, for no good reason, and I needed it for the chill. After a lifetime in the cloistered warmth of the seraglio, it seemed I’d never be warm again.
On deck, the sky shone with incipient day. I hadn’t understood this before, that the sky lightens in color before the sun appears. The paintings never show it that way. They depict night or day, sometimes sunrise or sunset, but never those moments before or after. But predawn is different than night, and in its soft in-between-ness, I could see well enough.
Keeping to the edges like a cat might, I skirted the main paths the sailors traveled as they did their jobs. It meant I picked my way through the ropes, barrels, and other supplies lashed to the deck, but I viewed that as another way to improve my dexterity, especially in the clunky boots I couldn’t seem to get used to. In my cabin, I went barefoot, which felt natural and right, but going on deck, I put on shoes like I wore the cloak. The more covering, the better.
It had been nearly a week, but I harbored no illusions about my ignorance of the world outside. I had no idea how long I would have to run, or how far I’d have to travel to escape my pursuers. I’d been unforgivably stupid about this in the past, so it seemed the only wise choice would be to assume that no amount of time or distance would be enough.
At least that gave me a guideline. Never and nowhere might be places without finite boundaries, but I could understand them.
The goats mewed at me from their pen next to the chickens as I passed, making the sounds so oddly like the newborn kittens in the seraglio of the Imperial Palace, where I grew up. I stopped to scratch the little horns on their heads, their fur soft and scraggly against my fingers. We’d become friends on this journey. Goats and the Valeria—they kept me alive and kept my secrets.
Prisoner of the Crown
Chronicles of Dasnaria #1
She was raised to be beautiful, nothing more. And then the rules changed . . .
In icy Dasnaria, rival realm to the Twelve Kingdoms, a woman’s role is to give pleasure, produce heirs, and question nothing. But a plot to overthrow the emperor depends on the fate of his eldest daughter. And the treachery at its heart will change more than one carefully limited life . . .
The Gilded Cage
Princess Jenna has been raised in supreme luxury—and ignorance. Within the sweet-scented, golden confines of the palace seraglio, she’s never seen the sun, or a man, or even learned her numbers. But she’s been schooled enough in the paths to a woman’s power. When her betrothal is announced, she’s ready to begin the machinations that her mother promises will take Jenna from ornament to queen.
But the man named as Jenna’s husband is no innocent to be cozened or prince to charm. He’s a monster in human form, and the horrors of life under his thumb are clear within moments of her wedding vows. If Jenna is to live, she must somehow break free—and for one born to a soft prison, the way to cold, hard freedom will be a dangerous path indeed…
Jeffe Kennedy is an award-winning author with a writing career that spans decades. She lives in Santa Fe, with two Maine Coon cats, a border collie, plentiful free-range lizards and a Doctor of Oriental Medicine. Jeffe can be found online at JeffeKennedy.com, or every Sunday at the popular Word Whores blog.
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