by Elexis Bell
Genre: Dark Fantasy with Straight and LGBTQ Romance
A broken-hearted priestess and a deposed prince team up with a ranger and a rebel with one too many secrets. In the name of The Allmother, they go to war to save their lands.
A coup in a neighboring kingdom brings threats of invasion and fire to Priestess Rising Veliana’s home in the forest. Under the guidance of her goddess, The Allmother, she forms an alliance with the deposed prince, Tyrvahn, and his ex, Garle, the leader of a rebellion that’s been brewing for years.
But Garle has many secrets, one of which could unravel Veliana and Tyrvahn’s budding romance and the future of these uneasy alliances. Veliana’s best friend, Kivala, tries to soften Garle with the ways of their fallen homeland, but what she learns chills her to her core.
At war with a vicious man twisted by the god of greed, they can’t afford to fight amongst themselves. Can they overcome their differences to save their home and their goddess from the new king? Or will the forests burn over blood-soaked earth?
Fans of magic and grit, high stakes and godly secrets will love this dark high fantasy novel with straight and LGBT romance.
A maelstrom stirs within me as the doors click softly shut. Suddenly far more anxious, I ache for something to do. My eyes wander to the tray of ointments, but I know my parents will tend to each other’s wounds when I leave.
The sun of renewal hides, seeking shelter behind clouds and letting us fend for our own warmth. It sends only faint light in through the windows, so I light a few candles and gather furs from a chest. I drape them around my parents’ shoulders, careful not to nudge their maimed, bloody ears as I pull the plaits of their hair from beneath the thick pelts.
They settle into carved wooden chairs near the window and motion for me to join them. Nervous glances pass between them, and the storm inside me intensifies. A million terrifying scenarios play out in my mind.
Are King Kelgon and Queen Halde really dead? Did Paikon really murder his own sister, his brother-in-seal, his nephew… All for the throne?
I can’t imagine a land with so little of the Allmother’s influence as to allow Aia, the god of greed and power, to poison someone so deeply.
Do they not know her? How will the new King lead without her hand to guide him?
My mouth goes dry, and I swallow hard.
Does the new King want some of the Allmother’s land?
My questions go unanswered as my parents struggle for words. I glance out the window at Kin territory, eyes lingering over every branch of the magnificent Sailon Forest. Homes dot the trees at varying heights, connected by rope bridges. Moss hangs from them, and vines wrap around rope railings.
The High Seal has governed this forest, guiding the Kin according to the Allmother’s will for so many generations.
If Paikon or his son, Tumai, want part of this land…
I shudder at the thought and turn my attention back to my parents. “Are the rumors true?” I ask, unwilling to wait any longer.
My mother nods, crisp blue eyes finally meeting mine. “Paikon has… taken the throne. The Furen family rules with no intention of peace.”
The churning in my stomach intensifies and my palms begin to sweat. I rub them gently on my robes but it does little to help.
“He demands a third of the Sailon Forest,” my mother says.
I gasp and my jaw falls slack. “He can’t! They control so much land, already!”
“Aye,” my father says. “But they have abused their land. Trees are scarce, and they tear great swaths of minerals from the earth for the sake of ‘progress.’ The Allmother’s presence faded quickly as we moved into Jun.”
“I wept for the loss of her, for the loss of so many feats of nature,” he continues. “Crops and animals are butchered in great numbers. The surplus is gluttonous, yet so many go without.”
He touches my cheek and the silver undertones of his skin glitter in the faint sunlight. “Darling Daughter,” my father whispers apologetically.
My mother’s hand finds mine upon the table, and she squeezes it tight.
“Paikon demands more than land.”
A choked sob escapes my mother’s lips, and I tense, preparing myself.
How bad is it?
“He wants a third of the forest, now. But he knows it is unusual for a Priestess Rising to go unsealed for so long…” my mother says, trailing off.
My stomach drops, filling me with dread. She struggles for words, mouth opening and closing silently.
A burst of loneliness spreads through me at the mention of my seal status, colored by images of Materva, the Light Watcher I could have been sealed to years ago. Shadows flood my mind, tinged by his betrayal.
The smiles he seemed to save for that other girl, another Light Watcher. Laughter shared only with her. The sound of his voice telling me that he wanted her, wanted a life in the sun at the top of the trees with the freedom of the skies… without the burden of Rising.
Finally, Mother continues, “His son has recently… come unsealed. He wishes the two of you to be sealed so that, on his own death, Tumai will rule all of Jun and Kin territory. Kin will be no more.”
“What?” Outrage burns hot within me, coursing through my veins, but it is not strictly my own. The Allmother’s fury surges alongside mine, boiling my blood. “What makes him think we’d agree to that?”
“If we don’t,” my mother says, voice so small I barely hear her, “he promises to burn the entire forest to the ground.”
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Elexis Bell writes gritty and emotional novels. Born and raised in the midwestern United States, she dreams of a cabin in the woods rather than a house surrounded by cornfields.
She loves writing well-developed characters facing real problems in vibrant, magical worlds. Armed with a degree in psychology and a rollercoaster past, she sprinkles gut-wrenching emotions over high fantasy romance, science fiction, and the occasional thriller.