Title: Stranger Shores, Dalya III
Author: Katie Zaber
Busy learning how to kill with her gift of life, Princess Megan craves time to practice how to heal, but knows that only death will win the upcoming war.
For the first time in Megan’s life, she has fallen in love, and with the wrong man, at that. As much as she loves Mana, will she have to end their relationship to keep her promise to the soon-to-be king of the Syreni, Prince Aenon?
Meanwhile, Kevin is busy preparing for his child with Dana and trying to keep Megan out of trouble. When Brynjar takes him to the Saoirson Fighters hideout, he realizes he knows nothing and if he wants answers, he’ll have to talk to people he never expected to meet and never wanted to.
On Earth, Carmia is learning what makes this foreign world spin. She discovers an island with inhabitants that appear primitive but are more sophisticated than anyone on Dalya. Their technology is more advanced than the inventions in her dreams. She flirts with the idea of staying on Earth forever until tragedy sends her sailing back to Dalya and into a deadly storm. She promises to return and never leave Earth again.
At the same time, the king of the Paradise Kingdom and secretly all of Dargone, Megan’s father, plans his next move against his daughter, giving her a surprise she will never expect.
Giggles are a rare commodity and in recent months have become all but eradicated. When I hear them, actual signs of happiness, I savor those scarce moments like a bottle of vintage wine, afraid they will be gone forever. Especially when they come from the youth. They don’t get these moments often. One of my fears is later generations will never know the true meaning of being content.
None of them know happiness. They never had the privilege of experiencing it. Many of the younger generations have never lived a happy day in their life. Only a few have, but that’s because they come from wealth and they haven’t figured out they’re owned. They will soon. Everyone realizes it. Sometimes too late.
“Bequin, stop splashing! You’re making a mess!” a young girl cries out while taking a bath in the women’s servant pool. Thirty women ranging from young to frail bathe together in a heated pool. The older ones watch the children splash and play. Some look remorseful, but some of their eyes reflect the watery image with a nostalgic glow, remembering better times.
This is where I come to be free, if only for a brief period before returning to my duty. Some treat me differently because of my title. I don’t take offense. If I were them, I’d stay far away. It’s safer. Still, when I have time to relax, I come here for some sense of normalcy. I need to witness compassion, kindness, even if I’m not involved. Knowing that it still exists gives me hope.
“Mainil, you’re needed at the table.” A female slicer appears by the robes hanging on hooks.
I nod and watch the slicer disappear. They aren’t allowed to slice individuals about the castle since the king’s daughter convinced her own slicer to escape. My slicer, Wex, has been moved to a different position, if he’s still in the fortress or alive. He wasn’t only a confidante, but my bodyguard as well.
No one is allowed those anymore. Nobody is guarded. No one is safe. But it’s not like I ever was. He removed our false senses of protection and now I can’t pretend I’m safe. I know I’m in danger. We all are. Danger is coming and the battle looming in the back of our minds will arrive sooner rather than later. I’ve heard whispers that the Druids are ready to share their weapon with us, to introduce her to the Fae who support her. The girl—she’s an ignorant child thrust into a war, and soon, if the Saoirson Fighters get their way, she’ll lead their army into battle when I’m uncertain if she’s ever been in a fight.
I shake my head and get out of the pool. Beads of water run off my body as I walk to the hooks lining the walls hung with dry clothes and towels. A clean yellow dress hangs ready, my council pin attached. I’ve always hated how heavy the clasped hands felt on my chest. They’re supposed to symbolize unity. All I see is the king’s hands, how he sits on his throne when deciding judgment with a wicked sneer.
What could be the problem now? What could have happened within the last hour? Who does he want dead? What law does he want to pass to further enslave his people? And do I have enough strength left in me to do his bidding?
As I pull the dress over my head, a waft of prisenta flowers comes off it. They add prisenta oil to the pools too, so not only are our clothes scented but our skin too. All the female servants smell like the delicate, pink flowers. Sweet, fragrant, abundant, and easily grown, just like all of his slaves. We’re to be pretty to look at, unable to defend ourselves, and easily replaceable.
My braids cascade down my back as I free them from the water cap I wear to keep them dry. I’ll have to apply more oil to them tonight.
Dressed and ready, I walk down the corridor and up three flights of stairs until I’m in the central hallway of the castle. From here, it’s another four floors and two corridors to his chamber. I hurry, not wanting to keep him waiting, though it’s hard with the sheer vastness of the fortress.
Inside the chamber, Andel with her piercing yellow eyes, Tepyine with his sour expression, and Rapquin with his hopeful outlook, are already seated around the black wooden table. I pull out my matching chair and wait to be needed.
We don’t speak. We don’t move. We have perfected the act of being still. Of being silent.
Any noise might distract us from the slightest sound, warning us of impending death. Death, in the form of a substance we didn’t have a name for prior to his return. No one recalled him being this powerful before his brief furlough, though no one ever pays attention to the middle child. When he arrived to claim the throne, after both his siblings were assassinated, he showed us what he was capable of and said he would use his gift to protect everyone. Help everyone.
He lied. The substance that flows from his fingertips is a river of desolation.
His victims only scream audibly for a moment before they are snuffed out, but even I have watched the bubbles and waves that continue long after their death and wonder about the morbid movement. If I utter a word about my thoughts, I know I will meet the same fate.
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It is a new release and the third book in my fantasy series, Dalya. Right now, the first book in the series, Ashes and Blood is free on September 23 & 24th. The second book in the series, Below Dark Waters is on sale with a Kindle Countdown promotion.
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Katie Zaber, author of the series Dalya and DNA, is a fantasy author whose imagination knows no bounds. As a child, her parents read stories about Atlantis and other fictional places that she dreamed of exploring, fueling her love of history, adventure, and fantasy. She loves to spend what little free time she has winemaking, baking, and reading. When she has a full day to herself, you can find her at the beach or at a winery. Her favorite meals are the ones her boyfriend cooks, and she loves spending quiet nights at home with him, binge watching new fantasy shows or play video games.
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