Hello, Seekers! You may have noticed in our last post that J has been working on a solo fantasy novel. There’s still a long way to go before it’s finished, but we wanted to share a little preview of what else will emerge from the world of J & K Writing in the near future. Read on for an exclusive excerpt from Bloodreign!
First, let’s set the stage. Bloodreign is an adult fantasy novel that will appeal to fans of Final Fantasy XVI, the Malazan Book of the Fallen, and Dragon Age Inquisition. It is the first installment in a planned series. The story features a gay male protagonist, Ellian, who awakens into incredible magical power at the price of becoming an outcast. His unique abilities make him the most wanted man in the land of Veldre. Hunted by the agents of a theocratic empire and a capricious goddess, Ellian searches for a place to call home. Along the way, he finds love, but as his feelings deepen he draws ever nearer to his destiny–and a betrayal. A new age of magic is dawning, and Ellian’s decisions will forever alter the balance of power in his world.
Excerpt from Bloodreign
NOTE: The content below is subject to change prior to publication and does not represent the final version. It is the sole property of J & K Writing and is currently unavailable for reproduction or use by any other party or entity.
Rain drummed the cobblestone streets of Andis at a relentless tempo. Ellian raised the hood of his cloak to ward off the precipitation’s cool, insistent touch, as he stepped out into one of the city’s broad thoroughfares. The springtime downpour reminded him of his growing-up years. He and his grandmother had weathered countless seasonal tempests. With Andisaravana’s blessing, they would shelter together through many more. He heaved a sigh. Though his grandmother believed in the goddess’s magnanimity toward her faithful, he did not share her devotion. Which was why he was now braving the elements to reach the western market. One of the merchants there would have herbs that, when brewed into tea, could temporarily alleviate the worst of his grandmother’s symptoms.
A thunderclap shook the ground beneath Ellian. He frowned. It was rare for the rains to escalate into storms this early in the year. Glancing skyward, he took in the ominous gray clouds that blanketed Andis. The priests would have warned them if it was unsafe to be outdoors, but something about this storm made him uneasy. He chalked it up to his anxiety about his grandmother’s illness and forged ahead to the market. Gas lamps in black iron housings lit his way and aided him in dodging a horse-drawn carriage that careened unexpectedly down the street, scattering pedestrians in its wake. Ellian’s frown deepened into a scowl. A wealthy noble or priest, no doubt, with little regard for their lessors. Whatever the goddess’s followers might say, she seemed not to care about the vast gulf between her wealthy followers and the common folk who worshiped at her shrines. Then again, why would she? Mortal affairs were not the problems of deities. He wondered whether such inequities existed in the pantheon the goddess ruled, but shrugged off this train of thought to focus on the task at hand.
It was nearly midnight when he reached the western market. Only a few shops and stalls remained open at this hour, which reduced the miasmic chaos that usually enveloped the area. Raucous laughter drifted from one of the taverns that ringed the market’s periphery. Ellian smiled to himself. Some of his fellow cadets doubtless numbered among the taverns’ patrons. One of his acquaintances from his training class had invited him to join them.
“Sorry, Ves. Have to take care of my family,” had been his excuse.
The red-haired cadet snorted. “That’s what you always say. Doesn’t your family ever let you have any fun? It’s spring break, and we’re twenty! That only happens once.”
Twenty was the legal drinking age in Andis. In the two months since their birthdays in January—only a couple of days apart—Ves had discovered a fondness for liquor, while Ellian only touched it in social settings. His grandmother took no issue with him drinking. She had been sneaking him sips of her wine on special occasions for many years. And yet, Ellian could not shake the fear that if he lost control, he might not be there for her when she needed him most.
“I know,” he had apologized to Ves, “but we have a whole week off from training. I’ll go with you next Friday.”
Ellian knew that each time he said ‘no’ he reduced his chances of getting asked again. That didn’t bother him unduly. His grandmother had taken him in and raised him when the rest of his family shattered into pieces. The least he could do was take care of her.
Lightning traced a jagged line across the swollen clouds overhead. The ensuing thunderclap made the cobbles tremble underfoot. Ellian quickened his pace. Even if it was a normal storm, no Andisian could escape the uneasiness that came with inclement weather. His shoulders relaxed as he stepped into the herbalist’s shop and the rain’s patter on his head and shoulders finally ceased. A plethora of aromas wafted into his nostrils, from the soft tingle of lavender to the sharp bite of patchouli. The store’s proprietor bustled toward him from the back of the shop, a warm smile on her wrinkled face.
“Ellian!” she greeted him, “So good to see you, although I hardly expected to see anyone at this hour and in this weather.”
He embraced the old woman. “It’s good to see you too, Nomia.”
“I assume you’re here for more gilweed tea?”
Ellian nodded, and Nomia motioned for him to follow her deeper into the store. “How is Alma doing these days?” she asked over her shoulder.
“Grandma has her up and down days. This kind of weather always makes her worse.”
Nomia’s head bobbed. Silver strands nestled among her abundance of black hair glinted in the light of the lamps scattered about the shop. “Ah, I’m sorry to hear that. I pray that the goddess takes this affliction from her soon.”
For all the good that will do, Ellian thought to himself. “Thank you, Nomia. I know that Grandma appreciates that.”
She turned and patted his hand. “Wait here. I usually restock on Mondays, as you know, but I think I still have some.”
The herbalist disappeared into a back room, humming to herself. Outside, the wind picked up, rushing through cracks in the shop’s window frames. Sprigs of dried sage and thyme hung from the ceiling and swayed in place. Ellian shivered as the gusts danced across the wet fabric of his cloak and raised goosebumps on his forearms. He made a mental note to offer to patch the frames. It was the least he could do for a family friend who, though she never said so, he knew always undercharged him for the medicinal tea he came for every week.
A soft rustling of fabric heralded Nomia’s return from the back of the shop. She cradled a small burlap pouch tied with twine in her hands. “You’re in luck. I always keep a reserve for my best customers.”
Ellian smiled as she deposited the bag into his much larger palms. “Thank you, Nomia.” Dropping the tea into a pouch sewn into the lining of his cloak, he withdrew a handful of polished coins. “Five embers, right?”
The herbalist shook her head. “This is on the house. Give Alma my regards. And if she ever feels up to it, tell her to come visit her old friend.”
Ellian blinked back tears that suddenly threatened to spill from his eyes. Gilweed tea was expensive even at Nomia’s discounted price, and the purchase of it each week consumed a large portion of his pay as a cadet. He had not planned for this expense, so to have its burden lifted made his spirits soar. Replacing the money in his cloak, he embraced the shopkeeper again. “Thank you so much, Nomia. May the goddess smile upon you.”
A loud bang behind him made Ellian jump and whirl. His left hand grasped the hilt of his sword, ready to be drawn in an eyeblink. The door to Nomia’s shop was flung open, and upon its threshold stood three figures in deep navy cloaks. Unlike Ellian’s, theirs were not stained from the rain. Water beaded and rolled off the fabric to pool on the ground. He swallowed. Moisture-wicking enchantments were expensive and rare; between that, the color of their garments, and the thin veils that covered the upper half of the figures’ faces, he knew who they had to be. Ellian and Nomia bowed.
The middle figure in the trio addressed him. “Cadet Ellian Ramirez?”
His eyes widened as he looked up at the speaker. “Yes?”
“We represent Purity: The First Eye of the Inimitas,” the figure to Ellian’s left replied. “We come with a message.”
“Due to your exemplary performance in your training class, you have been chosen as a candidate for our organization. At the conclusion of the spring recess, you will report to our headquarters at the Yard. We trust that you know the way,” the third figure said.
Ellian nodded. The middle figure extended a hand, palm up.
“We have arranged for your personal effects to be transferred from the academy,” they said, answering one of his unspoken questions.
“This is a great honor,” the leftmost figure added. “Tell no one else, and do not be late.”
The trio bowed in unison, then left as abruptly as they arrived. Ellian straightened. A million thoughts clamored for supremacy. Rain blew through the open door and splattered his face—a cold shock similar to the news he had just received. He closed the door and pressed his hand to it. The rough wooden planks felt reassuringly solid beneath his touch.
Nomia’s fingers closed gently around his shoulder. “Ellian? Are you alright?”
“I… I don’t know.” He realized that he was trembling.
“If you want to talk about what you are feeling, I am here.”
Ellian squeezed his eyes shut, as if closing them and wishing hard enough would make the last few moments an unreality. “I feel… afraid. How can I take care of Grandma if I’m pledged to the Inimitas? They would own me, and my time.”
“And your soul,” the herbalist muttered. “They turn soldiers like you into Sundered.”
A chill ran down his spine at the mention of Purity’s dreaded weapons. He gritted his teeth. “I won’t let them make me into a monster.”
Want to know what comes next? Stay tuned for additional updates on this project. We hope you enjoyed this excerpt from Bloodreign and look forward to sharing more in the future. For now, always remember: by your compass stay true!
Enjoyed this excerpt and want more from J & K? Check out Trials of the Innermost, now available in print and digital format.