One of the reasons I started writing was to write the kinds of books I wanted to read and had a hard time finding. So it makes sense that I would want to go back and re-read my older books, and I've been wanting to do so for a while. It isn't quite that simple, though. A lot of authors, including me, have a fear of reading their own books. We tend to read our own work in highly critical mode, and we're terrified of finding mistakes, or that our older writing style will make us cringe, or that we'll end up wanting to just rewrite the whole darn thing. Finally, though, I decided I wanted to read my books and revisit those stories and characters I love enough to brave the dangers. So I decided to start at the beginning and read Urdaisunia.
And it was actually a lot of fun. It's been so long since I looked at Urdaisunia that I had forgotten a lot of what happens and a lot of the neat details in it that I love. Once I got over my initial terror of finding mistakes and sucky writing in every paragraph, I even got lost in the story, reading it like a reader would. That's a rare and fun thing when it happens for an author, to be able to read their book from a reader mindset. Would I do some things differently now, 2 1/2 years and many books later? Yes. As with most authors, my writing style has evolved and maybe improved with practice. And I did find two minor proofreading errors that I have corrected in the uploaded books. But I didn't find myself cringing or wanting to rewrite the whole thing; I thought it stands very well as it is. And I was reminded of some story threads to bring into planning the sequel (which is in the development stage, though it isn't at the top of my list of projects to work on).
I hope it doesn't sound like bragging to say I enjoyed revisiting Urdaisunia and I'm proud of it. My books might never burn up the bestseller charts, but I can say that every book I write is a book I want to read, and I put my very best efforts and all my heart into each book. If I touch even one or two readers for whom that book is exactly what they wanted to read, and they feel the emotions and enjoyment that I put into writing the book, then I've done my job, and knowing I've touched readers this way is the best validation I could ask for.
It's time again for the Friday 5! This week, five-sentence (more or less) snippets from the fifth chapter of five of my books.
In Urdaisunia, Rashali has been elected to take her village's thanks to a Sazar nobleman who did them a favor:
Rashali looked across the road at Moon Bend, which she had never left in all her life. She had never traveled to Tigun’s native village on the Tabra to meet his parents, or even to the next village downriver. Zir, the great city, was very far away, four days’ walk or more.
And may she be damned to Araskagan’s darkest pits if she ever chased after a Sazar in order to grovel to him.
“You have to go, Rashali,” a woman said. “He’ll be angry if he thinks we’re ungrateful.”
From Chosen of Azara, Juzeva, traveling through the desert in search of a mysterious Source, has an unwelcome encounter:
Hours later, when the sun was sinking low in the sky, she rounded a bend in a narrow gap between two hills and found her path blocked by a red-gold cat the size of a horse. She froze as the animal looked at her through gold eyes and growled softly in its throat.
She fought back a panicked urge to flee. If she tried to run away, the beast would easily chase her down, and she couldn’t climb up the steep, rocky hillsides to escape from it. But if she held still, maybe it would lose interest in her.
The huge cat growled again, then let out a loud roar.
In The Lost Book of Anggird, Professor Rossony is anxiously waiting for a decision vital to his research:
“Sir Baril!” Professor Rossony called out as he caught up with the Lord Regent just outside the doors of the Lectorium.
The white-haired, aristocratic-looking Regent stepped aside so that they wouldn’t block the doorway. “Your application is still under consideration, Rossony,” he said with an air of impatience, as though they had had this conversation too many times already. “You do understand that this is a decision which cannot be reached in haste.”
“Of course, Sir Baril. But —”
“Be assured, Professor Rossony, we will inform you of our decision the moment we make it. Good day.”
In Sarya's Song, Sarya is undergoing a Penance lashing from a Master who has taken a dislike to her:
Sarya counted the strokes, wincing with each sharp smack of the leather thongs on her back. This whipping was harder than the other one had been, just within the bounds of what was permitted. After the fifth lash, she started to stand up, then a sixth stroke came down hard across her back. Pain ripped from her shoulder to her waist, and a warm wetness began spreading from where the lash had struck her.
She stumbled to her feet and spun to face Master Uldo. “Damn you, that was six! And you drew blood!”
From Beneath the Canyons, Silas and Lainie are investigating the strange ore that Carden's miners are digging up:
Mr. Vendine took a bandana out of one of his duster pockets, folded it and covered her hand with it, then dropped a few of the black lumps into her palm.
Icy pain shot up through her arm, seizing her heart and her lungs in freezing agony. Dark terror wrapped around her mind, cutting off sight, hearing, and even thought. Cold ran through her veins, spreading through her arms, her back and legs, her belly and loins. It was like the night terrors, only a hundred times – a thousand times – worse.
Hi, and welcome to this stop on the Winter Warm-Up Blog Hop, put on by Hops With Heart! I'm Kyra Halland, and I love fantasy and romance - they go together like hot cocoa and whipped cream! We're going to warm things up here with some magical kisses from a few of my books :) So snuggle up, enjoy the sneak peeks, enter the giveaways, and be sure to stop by some of the other participating sites to meet some great authors, discover some amazing romances, and enter more giveaways! Each blog is doing a different giveaway, and there's also a Grand Prize giveaway for a $75 Amazon gift card!
First, from Urdaisunia, Rashali and Prince Eruz are mortal enemies, but it looks like things might be changing:
“So you traded your own hunger for that of the Urdai, and you took all our work, all the fruits of our learning and labors, for yourselves—the dams and canals, the great temples, the palace, even these gardens. You Sazars have no skills or knowledge to make such things, so you had to steal them from us. You didn’t even have writing until you began using ours.”
He flinched slightly, his pride clearly stung by her contemptuous words. “We do have skills and knowledge of our own.”
“Making swords,” she said. “And breeding and training warhorses. Nothing like this.” She indicated the Jewel with a broad gesture of her arm. “You could never make something like this. Even now, you depend on Urdai slaves to maintain the gardens.”
“Not entirely.” Eruz stopped beside one of the low trees with thick hand-shaped leaves—a nariyi, it was called—and plucked a tightly-curled bud from it. “We have skills besides those of warfare.” He looked intently at the nariyi bud, then whispered a few words and blew lightly on the bud. Slowly, the green sepals unwound from around the five thick white petals, which unfolded into a bowl-shaped blossom. The flower’s sweet, rich scent filled the air. “Here,” Eruz said. He took Rashali’s hand and placed the flower in it. “We worship Kuz more than the Urdai do, and he has given us a number of gifts.”
If she hadn’t seen it for herself, she never would have believed it. She looked up at him, her hand still in his, at a loss for words to respond to the wonder he had shown her. “That—that was—”
He bent his head down and covered her mouth with his.
She stiffened in shock, then all her strength seemed to flee and her legs gave way beneath her. He wrapped an arm around her, holding her up against his chest. Deep inside her body, a flame she had thought extinguished months ago came to life. Her lips parted beneath his, seemingly of their own accord, and he deepened the kiss. Time lost its measure, and the kiss went on until a small voice interrupted them.
They broke apart, breathing hard. Mizalilu stood beside Eruz, tugging at the leg of his trousers. The child repeated her demand. “She wants a flower, too,” Eruz said. He picked another bud and made it bloom, then gave her the opened flower and spoke to her. Mizalilu ran back towards the palace, carrying the flower with awed delight.
Next, in Chosen of Azara, Lucie has a difficult decision to make, and Sevry isn't making it any easier:
“Lucie, you have to decide now. What will you do?” His voice was quiet but firm.
“I can’t go with you. Don’t you understand that? I’m to be married in six weeks!”
“If we traveled quickly, you could be back here by then.”
Lucie gave a despairing laugh. She was tired of trying to explain herself to him—and to herself. “And do you think Estefan would still want me then? He’s already jealous, and that was just because I was talking to you. What do you think he would do if I disappeared with you for a month and a half? A broken engagement would be the least of my problems!”
“Has he threatened you?” A dangerous edge entered his voice.
It would be too humiliating to admit that she was afraid of her own fiancé. “No, he’s just very angry. But don’t you see? If I leave with you, I would be cutting myself off from my family and friends, I would have no home to come back to, no one who cared about me. No one would want me. My life would be over.”
She tried to turn away, but Sevry caught her arm and she couldn’t pull free. “Lucie—”
“Don’t you understand what you’re asking of me? What I would have to give up? What I’d lose?”
“I know, Lucie. Believe me, I know what it’s like to lose everything.” She looked up at him, and caught her breath at the genuine sorrow and compassion on his face. “Fate, the gods, history, other people’s decisions can all leave our lives in ruins, and there’s nothing we can do about it,” he said. “I wish your family wouldn’t choose to deal so harshly with you. I wish their love and concern for you was more steadfast. If I could—” He stopped speaking and stepped closer to her. She was powerless to move away. His free hand brushed her cheek, as though he was trying to comfort her, then moved to the back of her head, tangling in her hair. He tilted her face up towards his, and his mouth pressed down on hers.
A sense of unreality mixed with absolute rightness shocked through Lucie. This was what she had longed for; this was how it was supposed to be between her and the man from her visions. Her arms went around him, and he embraced her in return. She leaned into the warmth of his body and pressed herself more eagerly into the kiss. His mouth worked hungrily against hers, his tongue brushing at her lips, tasting her, then exploring more deeply as she parted her lips for him.
And then it seemed there was only one breath, one heartbeat, one body between them. Heat bloomed deep inside her belly, and she felt herself melting against him; she was his, she would go anywhere, do anything, give up anything--
No. She pushed him away and slapped his face so hard she felt the sting all the way up her arm. “I can’t!” She turned and ran from him, fighting to hold back her tears until she was safely away.
Finally, from Sarya's Song, when Sarya returns from her self-imposed banishment from the Skola, her and Adan's complicated friendship grows more complicated:
And then the last voice she wanted to hear called out, “Sarya! Sarya dyr-Rusac!”
Panicked, she tried to push her way through the crowd towards the Masters’ offices, but Adan caught her by the arm and spun her around to face him. “Where have you been? You left without a word to me or anyone –”
“I didn’t realize I needed your permission to leave.” She tried pull away from him, but his grip on her arm tightened.
“I didn’t know where you were or what had become of you,” he said. “I didn’t even know if you were alive or dead!”
Around them, people were stopping to stare. Sarya tried to turn away from Adan, but he moved with her, giving her no choice but to keep looking at him. “I just need to speak to the Council of Masters about something,” she said, “and then I’ll be off again.”
“Why not? You said yourself I don’t belong –”
“Damn it, Sarya!” He pulled her against him and pressed his mouth to hers.
Sarya’s legs nearly went out from under her in shock, but he caught her behind her back with his other hand and held her securely. His mouth was warm and hungry against hers; his upper lip and chin were scratchy with late-afternoon whiskers. She told herself she should push him away instead of melting against him while he kissed her as though he were starving and she was his banquet, but she was too busy melting and couldn’t do it. Laughter and whistles came from the crowd around them. “You show her who’s in charge, Muari!” someone called out.
Adan finally let her come up for air. She stood gasping, her knees wobbly and her heart racing, torn between slapping him and dying from embarrassment and – Great Creator God, what a fool she was – wishing the kiss hadn’t ended.
Enter the Winter Warm-Up Love and Magic giveaway to win an ebook 3-pack of Urdaisunia, Chosen of Azara, and Sarya's Song!
***Winner has been notified by email***
And enter the Grand Prize giveaway for a $75 Amazon gift card!
Grand Prize giveaway not run or sponsored by Kyra Halland/Welcome To My Worlds
Last year for Father's Day, I wrote a tribute to my amazing dad. This year, since the role of fathers is so essential and yet so often undervalued and overlooked, I want to emphasize the importance of fathers in my own writing with this sneak peek look at one of my characters who is a father, Prince Eruz from Urdaisunia:
A FEW DAYS after that, Eruz sent for Rashali to meet him in the gardens again. This time, the prince brought his young daughter, Mizalilu, with him; he explained that the child’s mother was awaiting the birth of a new baby and had little attention to spare for her. Rashali watched the little girl run along the garden paths, and pictured her own daughter in Mizalilu’s place. Fresh grief squeezed her heart. “My Lalana was the same age,” she said without thinking.
The prince was silent for a moment, also watching Mizalilu. “How do you survive such a loss?”
She shrugged, wishing she hadn’t said anything. “Along the rivers, so many children die, it’s only to be expected. Still, you hope that you’ll be the lucky one, that your child will be spared… And when she dies anyway, you either die too, or you live on. I chose to live on.” To destroy the Sazars who caused her death, she added in her mind, but didn’t say out loud.
Mizalilu had brought a sack of raisins with her. She ran ahead, tossing raisins on the ground while Luzak the peacock trotted after her, gobbling the treats. Eruz and Rashali followed, keeping the little girl in sight. “I told my father that moving the Urdai away from the stretch of the Uz the Kai-Kalle want might be more complicated than we thought,” Eruz said. “I didn’t tell him that the Urdai would fight, only that there would be considerable difficulties involved in relocating such a large number of people.”
“Did he decide against it?”
“He only said that we may have no choice, but he’ll wait to take action until the Kai-Kalle’s and the Sanghs’ intentions become clearer. I did tell him that I hoped to persuade you to convince the villagers to cooperate.”
“I suppose you can tell him that.” Not that she would ever agree to do such a thing, but letting him tell the king that she might seemed like a harmless concession.
Mizalilu had run ahead and now came back to them. The bag of raisins had been discarded somewhere along the way, and the child’s small fists were now filled with flowers and pebbles. Rashali watched the little girl’s shining dark eyes and smooth, flushed amber cheeks as she showed her father her treasures. The prince’s worries and burdens seemed to fall away as he squatted in front of his daughter, admiring the things she had found and replying to her babble. This was yet another odd thing—that a Sazar nobleman who needed a son as an heir would love a daughter so openly and completely.
They walked on in silence, along one of the ponds that dotted the Jewel. Mizalilu ran around to the other side of the pond, and stood there throwing her pebbles into the water and laughing at the splashes they made.
I am so excited! After more than a year, I decided it was time for my first novel, Urdaisunia, to have a cover refresh. I love the picture on the original cover, but I felt like it doesn't do much to convey what the story is about. So I asked Mominur Rahman, who did the Daughter of the Wildings covers, to do a new cover for Urdaisunia, and I love what he came up with!
Here's the full wrap-around illustration, without text:
And here's the ebook version, with text:
The paperback edition is uploaded and awaiting file approval, the ebook version will roll out across the various retailers over the next few days or so.
And to celebrate the new cover, here's a sneak peek into Urdaisunia for the Weekend Sneak Peek! After being parted from Rashali under difficult circumstances, Eruz finds her in a Scorpion Nest (group of Urdai rebels) that's about to be raided by the Sazars:
“If I can save this Nest, that might make up for the lives I took there. And now that I know you’re part of it—” He pulled her into his arms again. “No matter what else happens,” he said against her hair, “if you’re safe, then that’s something that’s right with the world.”
Welcome to this week's weekend sneak peek! Here's another peek into Urdaisunia: After being sent on an errand by her village to the Royal Palace, Rashali was taken to a guest room and left to cool her heels for three days. Finally, she's summoned to meet with Prince Eruz, to find out why he's been keeping here there:
“I’m sure you’ve been wondering why I’ve kept you here.”
Rashali’s heart pounded; finally she would learn what her fate was to be. During the last two days, she had wanted only to find out, just to get it over with, but all at once she wished she could go on wondering a little longer. Delaying the knowledge wouldn’t change her fate, though; the only thing she could do was face it. “I assume that if you meant to imprison me or put me to death, I wouldn’t be in that room. Therefore it seems more likely that you mean to make me a slave or a concubine, though it would seem strange for a slave to be given such a room.”
“A concubine, then. Is that what I should do with you?”
Her face burned, and she found herself shaking; whether more from anger or fear, she couldn’t tell. “I’d rather die than be made a harlot.”
“Would you really?”
She didn’t want to die, but there was no other possible answer when being given such a choice. Her heart pounded harder, and she swallowed as she tried to gather her courage to say yes.
Welcome to Love and Magic Week here on Welcome To My Worlds! I'm celebrating Valentine's Day and my 1-year publishing anniversary with some fun events. There are some couple character interviews coming up, some romance and magic-themed sneak peeks (including from my forthcoming novel Sarya's Song and the Daughter of the Wildings series, possibly a guest blog or two, and a playlist of love songs for the couples in my novels.
Here's the first couple interview for Love and Magic Week: Rashali and Eruz from Urdaisunia:
1. How did you meet?
Rashali: I was preoccupied, walking back to my village after getting water from the river, and I started across the road without seeing him, and he rode his horse right into me.
Eruz: Actually, it was you who walked into Teshkarizaz. I tried to pull around you, but couldn't.
2. What was the first thing you noticed about the other person?
R: All I noticed was that he was a Sazar warrior and nobleman. That was all I needed to know about him, that he was the enemy.
E: Her eyes, full of fear and sorrow but also full of pride.
3. Did you know when you met that you would end up together?
R: The thought of an Urdai and a Sazar together was.. It was unimaginable.
4. What do you like best about the other person?
E: Rashali speaks honestly to me, and sees me as a person rather than as just a provider of wealth and prestige, as my former wives did.
R: He's a good, brave, honorable man who is committed to doing what's right no matter how hard it is or the consequences to himself.
5. What is something you enjoy doing together? (Besides the obvious!)
E: We like to discuss the best ways to serve our land and both the Urdai and the Sazar people.
R: We also enjoy walking together in the Jewel of Zir, the great garden behind the palace. It's a very special place to us.
6. How has the other person changed you?
R: Because of Eruz, I have learned to see the Sazars not as faceless enemies but as real people who in truth want the same things anyone else does, a place to call home, safety, a way to provide for their families.
E: Rashali gave me the courage to act on the things I believed, instead of just thinking about them.
7. What are the biggest differences between you? How important are these differences?
R: He is Sazar, I am Urdai; that is the greatest difference. To an Urdai, the idea of being with a Sazar is... disgusting. And the Sazars feel the same way about the Urdai. As though the Urdai are somehow less than human. Also, he was born a prince, heir to the Sazar throne; I was born a peasant, and became a rebel against the Sazars. At first, these differences seemed insurmountable to me, but we eventually overcame them in the face of greater challenges to us and to our land.
E: The differences never mattered very much to me. For me, the barriers between us were more a matter of what was expected of me as heir to the throne. I was expected to choose my wives from a certain class of women - Sazar women, of course - and to adhere to certain ideals about the superiority of the Sazar people.
8. What do the two of you have in common?
R: I lost a young daughter to plague. Eruz has a daughter, about the same age that mine was, so he understands my love for my daughter and my grief. And I understand his love for his daughter.
E: We both also love our land, Urdaisunia. Rashali's people have lived here for thousands of years, while my people only came here seventy years ago. But it's home to both of us, and we both want it to thrive again and become the great land that it once was.
8a (new question!). What are the greatest challenges you have faced in your relationship?
E: Besides the fact that our people are mortal enemies?
R: I hated Sazars. I found it impossible to believe that a Sazar could be a good person, never mind that I could be happy falling in love with one. I'm glad that Eruz changed my mind about that.
E: I had to make choices between doing what my father the King expected of me and doing the right thing for Rashali and her people, between my role as Heir and being with Rashali. Those were difficult choices, but, regardless of how difficult it was, I know I made the right decisions in the end.
9. What does your family think of your partner, and what do you think of your partner's family?
R: Although Eruz is a Sazar, my sister (the only surviving member of my family, along with her two surviving children and her new husband) is very happy for me, that I've found love again after losing my husband Tigun. As for Eruz's family, I've no use for them. They've been cruel and hateful to him. Except for his daughter, of course. She's adorable, and I love her like my own.
E: My father and brothers were horrified at the idea of me being with an Urdai woman. To them, such a thing is as bad as treason. I don't know Rashali's sister and her family very well, but they seem like good people and I'm glad they're willing to accept me.
10. What role does magic play in your relationship?
E: The first time Rashali truly softened towards me was when I did a small magic trick, making a flower bud come into full blown. Her reaction was unforgettable.
R: It was one of the most wonderful things I'd ever seen. The Sazars worship Kuz, the god of sorcerers, more than the Urdai do, and I'd never seen anything like it. I was amazed that this man who was an enemy could do something so beautiful.
11. What are your plans for the future?
R: To raise Eruz's children from his prior marriages, and have children of our own.
E: And to see Urdaisunia restored to a great land, a comfortable and prosperous home for all those who live there, Sazar and Urdai alike.
12. "The whole is greater than the sum of the parts" How is this true for the two of you?
E: We overcame more than seventy years of hatred and prejudice between our people and the vast gulf between peasant and prince in order to be together. We hope that our relationship is a symbol of what the land and people of Urdaisunia can achieve.
R: If an entire land can be saved through love, then we hope that is what we are able to do.
Valentine's Day is coming up, and so is my one-year publishing anniversary! (Urdaisunia was published on Feb. 9, 2013) To celebrate, I'll be having a special week of love and magic here on the site, Feb. 9-16. Here's what I have planned so far:
And to kick things off, here's a romantic moment (with a little magic) from Urdaisunia: (this scene happens right after this part)
He pulled her into his arms again. “No matter what else happens,” he said against her hair, “if you’re safe, then that’s something that’s right with the world.”
He was her enemy; he was the man who had sacrificed part of his soul to try to protect her people. And now he was endangering himself to bring her this warning. Rashali pushed back a rush of emotion that made her want to lose herself in his arms and forget everything else. “I’ll warn Kefel, or try to. In truth, he only hears what he wants to hear. Now let me warn you—That drunken Sazar by the bar is one of your uncle’s spies. I knew you, even with the salik. If he recognized you, and notices that we’ve both left the tavern…”
Eruz’s back stiffened. “Damn. He came in right after me—he must have followed me in. I have to get back to Zir before my father hears about this.” He pulled away from her just enough to close his hand around the dolphin pendant that lay against the bodice of her dress. He spoke softly, then breathed on the pendant, briefly fogging the silver. “If ever you need to contact me, for any reason, hold onto that and think of me, then send your message. Be careful not to let anyone else get hold of it, or find out what it is.”
She believed it would work; she had seen him use Sazar magic. “Can you contact me, too?”
“No. The token has to be prepared by the person it’s meant to contact. It’s not difficult to make one, but I don’t have time to teach you now.” Still holding the pendant, he bent his head down and kissed her deeply, hungrily, as though he was a starving man and she was his banquet. The world around them disappeared, and Rashali clung to him, the only solid, real thing she knew.
Too soon, he pulled away from her. “I have to leave now. The gods watch over you.”
“The gods watch over you, too.” There was more she wanted to say, but before she could put it into words, he disappeared into the dark tangle of alleys.
Here's another peek inside Urdaisunia. Earlier, Rashali and Eruz parted under difficult circumstances, thinking they'd never see each other again, but now their paths unexpectedly cross again:
The noise of shouting, laughing, and gambling assaulted Eruz’s ears as he entered the tavern. The smell of wine, burning aksa-weed, fish, and bodies that had been working in the heat all day was almost overwhelming. Smoke from the lamps and torches fogged the room. He made his way across the crowded room to a spot on a bench along one of the walls. No one took any notice of him in his plain tradesman’s clothes and white salik; he also wasn’t the only person in the room who wasn’t Urdai. A small group of Xaxan men sat in one corner, drinking and gambling. Three Kai-Kalle youths in brightly-striped robes laughed and bragged and harassed the Urdai serving girl. An extremely drunk Sazar man stumbled into the tavern and began arguing with the barman, then slumped to the floor in a stupor.
Eruz ordered beer from a serving boy; though he usually preferred wine, the wine served in a place like this was likely to be sour and watery, while, it was said, it was impossible to make bad beer from Urdaisunian barley. He slowly nursed his drink while he observed the activity around him.
A small group of Urdai came in and went to a low table in a corner that was quieter than the rest of the tavern. A tall, lean Urdai man sat there with a number of other people. He had a quiet, authoritative air, and seemed to listen more than he spoke. Most likely he was the leader of the Nest, or at least high up in the leadership. Seated next to him was--
Eruz blinked to clear his smoke-hazed eyes and looked again. Rashali.
Relief and joy surged through him, along with an odd, sudden twist of dislike for the man sitting next to her. Eruz watched as the group that had come into the tavern spoke to him. They seemed to include Rashali in what they said, and the man frequently turned to her, as though asking her advice or opinion before replying. It was almost as though they were partners in running the Nest.
Fear quickly overshadowed Eruz’s relief. The Nest was in danger, which meant that Rashali was in danger. He hadn’t known how to deliver his warning—it was unlikely that any Scorpion would listen to a Sazar—but she would listen. He hoped. If she didn’t hate him for what he had done at Three Leaping Fish.
Here's another peek inside Urdaisunia for Sneak Peek Sunday! Rashali is on the run from some nefarious men [Zashtag is the goddess of birds, Rashali's patron goddess]:
AS SHE FLED, Rashali didn’t dare stop to look for signs of pursuit. The Kai-Kalle had warhorses; once the Kifa and his men escaped from the attacking birds, it wouldn’t take them long to catch up with her. But by the time she had put several miles between herself and the Kifa’s camp, there was still no one following her. Had the birds pecked Helku, Jeru, and their men to death? She could only hope, she thought with vicious pleasure at the idea. Gods preserve her from ambitious, lecherous men.
Her satisfaction at the fate she imagined for Jeru and Helku dimmed as she continued running. The relentless sun beat down without mercy, her mouth and throat were parched, and her stomach was knotted from hunger. Running into the desert with no water or food wasn’t the most intelligent thing she had ever done, she thought, but Zashtag had given her this chance and all she could do was throw herself on the goddess’s mercy and take it. Surely the goddess hadn’t helped her escape only to let her die of heat and thirst in the desert.
After a few more miles, though fear still urged her on, Rashali finally couldn’t take one more step. She dropped to the ground in the meager shade of a thorn tree. Despite the heat, she was no longer sweating—a more alarming sign than hunger, thirst, and fatigue combined. She pulled the shimmering feather from the stitching at the hem of her dress. Zashtag, you did not bring your daughter this far only to let her perish, did you? Zashtag, help me!
In response to her prayer, there was only emptiness; something that had always been there before, unnoticed, when she prayed to the goddess was now noticeable by its complete absence. True fear gripped Rashali’s heart—had the goddess indeed abandoned her? She closed her trembling fingers around the feather. “Help me!” Her voice came out as little more than a dry gasp.
To her left, a flock of small birds suddenly rose into the air with a rush of wings, and circled in place. It was probably nothing, Rashali told herself, trying to suppress the flare of hope she felt at the sight, but she was in no position to ignore any possible sign from the goddess. Stumbling on shaking legs, still telling herself it was nothing, she ran to where the flock was circling.
There, amidst a jumble of rocks on a low hillside, a stream sprang from the earth and flowed less than an arm-length before disappearing underground again. Rashali fell to her knees and drank of the cool, pure water, forcing herself to take only small sips so that she wouldn’t upset her parched, empty stomach.
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