Eternal-Flames-cover Read an Excerpt

Eternal Flames

A Novel of the Amagarians

Tehdra El kyn, a warrior elite of the shadow realm, has infiltrated the Nurian kingdom as a concubine for the merciless King Ajali, a man her demon has claimed as mate. Tehdra enters a court of deceit, political intrigue, and danger. Where she tries to prevent the kings’ assassination without betraying her heart and her realm. Soon she finds that she must make terrifying choices which may result in her death or war for her kingdom.

King Ajali Haddin is powerful, cunning, and ruthless in protecting those he loves. With whispers of the realms plotting his death and the destruction of his kingdom. He uses Tehdra, a suspected spy to draw the enemy into combat.  The last thing Ajali expected was to be captivated by Tehdra’s fierceness and her chilling beauty. Resisting her is the hardest battle he’s ever fought, but one he is determine to win. For to claim a woman as Tehdra means betraying his kingdom.

Chapter One

Nuria—the kingdom of eternal Fire Adara—the main city
A haremI will need to be in his harem.

Taunting laughter echoed from her demon. With ruthless will, Tehdra closed off the miniscule psychic connection she allowed. The beast was pleased it would be near the Nurian King. She was not. She had to join King Ajali’s harem to enjoy the freedom of movement needed for her mission. His haris, the concubines, possessed that which Tehdra desired—free reign of the castle.

She had spent days trying to infiltrate the castle Shelah. Several times she’d come close to being detected after slipping past the king’s warriors—a feat she had thought impossible given her skill of being one with darkness. She had breached the inner walls several times, and tried to enter the castle to no avail.

Somehow the warriors sensed her presence in the shadows, sometimes murmuring and asking each other if they sensed a witchpowerful beings who used spell incantationsor a Serangite, at work. She had assessed those who had detected her presence. Their chakra level had been stronger, and something else had buzzed within them.

With each ripple she’d created in the shadows, they’d grown more anxious, until several guards had sent out an alert to be vigilant against attack from the mind and of the spirit. She wanted no alert; the order she had been given by her brother Drac, the Archduke of the northern keep of the Darkage, was to remain undetected from the Nurians—a difficult situation with soldiers vigilant for attack.

Tehdra snarled in frustration. She was a warrior, decisive and brutal, not a spy. She had needed a simple way to infiltrate King Ajali’s castle, and now it seemed she had to transform herself into a hari pleasing to the King. And this was the opposite of keeping her distance. “Are you sure there is no other way?” she asked the man huddled beside her. Please let there be another way. The last thing she desired was to be so close to a man for whom her beast roared. Nothing must distract her from uncovering the traitors hiding in Nuria.

“I have been living in Nuria, Tehdra El Kyn, for twenty years. The castle Shelah is impenetrable,” Bylan said flatly, his dark eyes serious.

She had spent more than a week in Nuria, seeking her people in the shadows, and had discovered Bylan. He had established himself as a Nurian citizen, a respectable high merchant of Hoadecia, one of wealth who had sufficient influence to help her maneuver and infiltrate Shelah.

“Have you not been living in the town of Hoadecia?” He shifted as if on edge. “I may have resided out of Adara, but many times I moved with the darkness arming myself with knowledge in the event it was revealed to the Nurians that a Darkan lived in their midst. I have learnt much from the shadows.”

Tehdra considered his words. They were perched high in a massive tree buried in Nuria’s mountains gazing at the castle from a bird’s eye view, scanning all its entrances, traps and weak points. She smiled in admiration. No weak points existed. She had never seen anything as impressive as King’s Ajali castle in all her three hundred years. The castle Shelah boasted a thousand rooms with several wings—one alone housed all of the king’s concubines. Rumor had it that several hundred women— exotic beauties from the six kingdoms—existed in his harem to please his every whim. Now she found that hard to believe. What would one king do with hundreds of women? It was surely impossible that he could bed them all as stories whispered.

Her beast stirred, and a hiss slipped from her throat. She ignored Bylan’s curious glance. “I cannot slip in and out of the shadows. Somehow several of the warriors sense me in the darkness.”

“No you cannot,” he murmured almost soothingly. “It is the power of the witch buried inside of them.” He twisted sitting on the high branch, his leg dangling, the flowing blue robe he wore swishing. “Will you reveal to me your agenda? Mayhap then I could be of more help?” He froze in the act of removing his headband under her stare. She welcomed the viciousness that peeked from her eyes, and did not subdue her savagery.

“I see.” He swallowed and smiled tightly. “Is it safe for me to assume that our relationship now terminates?”

She threw a bag of gold and his hand darted out to catch its heavy weight.

“You gave me all the information you have gleaned from living in this land?”

“I have.”

Tehdra held his gaze until he twitched. She frowned. Darkans did not fidget. “Will I have to kill you, Bylan?” She murmured her tone smooth and toneless.

He smiled at her gently. “Nay, you will not, Tehdra El Kyn. I escaped the Darkage to live away from the brutality of our kind. I have a tsari, to whom I am happily wed, who bore me three fi children. I do not know enough to betray you, and I have only aided you because you found me in the shadows. I urge you to consider…If you attack, you may not win.”

Tehdra’s laugh pulsed from her throat, low and dangerous. “Living in these lands has changed you, Sir Bylan. I can taste your fear. Our relationship has concluded. Depart.”

The shadows surged, swallowing him, and leaving her alone.

Tehdra slammed her hand into the tree, shattering the bark. She had to be in the light to complete her mission.

Her directives were simple, yet dangerous. Infiltrate the Nurian castle, and remove all traces of her people.

Assassins from Mevia, the kingdom of sound, worked with traitors from her kingdom to kill the Nurian King, and also to unseat her Darkan king from his throne. To what end, they had yet to discover. Above all else, the death of the Nurian king must not be laid at the feet of Darkans.

Or war would visit her home further obscuring the beauty and rich culture they wanted to share with their world. Because her people would retaliate with the cruelty and brutality they were known and feared for, unfolding a third Great War of Amagarie and undoing all that her king worked for—prosperity for the Darkage. Tehdra launched from the tree, landing with predatory grace, and moved with the shadows into Adara, the City of Fire and Nuria’s hub of activity, ferreting information and plotting her next move. She entered a grand tavern unseen. Tehdra slid into a booth and slouched deep into a chair, and several moments later, a server placed a goblet in front of her. She sipped the famed Nurian wine as she surveyed the crowd, ensuring no one thought her presence suspicious. She drew the shadows to her, so that if anyone glanced in her direction, they would be unable to provide a description.

Bylan had gleaned that King Ajali’s realm of alliance, Aria, the kingdom of earth and sands, sought beauties to gift the king for his harem. She unrolled the parchment Bylan had provided. It held the name and location of another Darkan posturing as an Arian, hoping to live a normal life away from the viciousness of their realm. She assessed the information, accepting the inevitability of becoming one of King Ajali’s concubines. Taking such a step…it would be inevitable for him to take her to his bed. She fought the ripple of response between her thighs; she would have to be ruthless in preventing herself from falling for the king.

With three unladylike gulps Tehdra emptied the goblet and shiktred—used the shadows to travel—from the grand tavern to the inn, her temporary abode. Within a few minutes she had her minuscule belongings packed, the room cleared of all evidence she had ever been present and her tab was discreetly paid.

Tehdra shiktred, travelling thousands of miles with unparalleled speed from Nuria to arrive in Aria in less than a day. Tehdra hoped to uncover something that would aid her mission before she approached her contact. Her darker side inhaled in pleasure at the stories repeated in hushed whispers of his feats during the second Great War of Amagarie. The Nurian King was powerful, respected, revered, and feared. Many called him a tyrant for he had slain thousands in the last war. It was also well-known that he despises Darkans. Nothing unusual there, the Darkage was a shadow world, where all its citizens possessed the chakras of demons, for which they were reviled. While unease had stirred inside her at such wanton destruction, her beast had luxuriated in his savagery.

Nuria was the only kingdom of Amagarie that controlled and wielded fi with mastery and deadly destruction. They honed their chakra to such a level they were able to bend and reshape their weapons with fire and utilize them as extensions of themselves.

All warriors of the seven kingdoms in Amagarie honed their taijiu—dismembering and killing with their hands at close range—to an art. But to develop such skills the Nurians possessed was unheard. She absorbed the stories of swords being aflame. Was enraptured by tales of their ability to meld and bend weapons into liquid fire. Her beast loved it, and fear sliced through Tehdra. Her king, Gidon Al Shar’s throne was threatened by the kingmaker—a man who was a shadow in Amagarie, lauded for his brilliance and cunning. His identity had been a mystery for centuries, and whenever he stirred, destruction ensued because he was brutal and incited anarchy. If Gidon fell to an assassin’s blade, there would be no heir to take his place. The Darkage would choose its next leader based on traits it respected—cunning and ruthlessness. Even with the kingmaker’s promise of a new leader he had selected for their realm, the fight for who would rule if Gidon was murdered would stain their kingdom with bloodshed.

She needed her wits about her while she hunted the betrayers; nothing in her should be panting after King Ajali. Her kingdom needed her, and she could not fail. Her brother had fallen in love so deeply with his mate, that when assassins had taken her, he had betrayed the royal family, which had almost resulted in their annihilation. Hundreds had died, including her king’s sisters and brothers. Though the El Kyn line had been spared from retribution, the stain of their brother’s treachery lived on. She could never atone fully for his perfidy, but she wouldn’t open herself to a weakness like love, which could cause her to betray Gidon. She had to be strong and incorruptible, where Vlad had been weak. Tehdra was grateful she was not bonded with her demon beast, for surely it would be flooding her soul with lust for the king.

Ruthlessly stopping her mind from its furious thinking, she shadow-stepped into a large manor house. The man Bylan had arranged for her to meet was one of the Arian king’s trusted advisors. He was also responsible for selecting women of beauty from across his entire kingdom to gift to the Nurian King.

She moved through his house until she found him. “I am Tehdra. Bylan sent me,” she said, speaking Darkanian. The man swirled his hands reaching for the sword on his hip. His eyes shifted, searching, and Tehdra knew she had the right man when he spied her in the shadows cast by the crystals in the room. She stepped from the shadows, surveying his robes that were inlaid with actual gems. It seemed Darkans who fled their realm prospered. That was what her king worked so tirelessly for—prosperity for their people…but not by having to hide their very nature.

“You were expecting me, were you not, Sir Morell?” she asked gliding around the room, her hands drifting over the furniture, admiring the exquisite craftsmanship. “Yes, I received the missive from Bylan, but I expected you to come through the entrance like an ordinary citizen, not with the shadows,” Sir Morell hissed, squinting at her. “No one here knows I am a Darkan, not even my tsari of fifty years.” His teeth snapped together, clicking hard enough that Tehdra wondered if he mayhap chipped a tooth.

“I am only here for the information you pledged. I will depart from your life as soon as you reveal to me what was promised by Bylan.”

Sir Morell lifted the chest on the mantel and took out a red parchment, inhaling deeply as he handed it to her.

He hesitated releasing his end. “This is a special order from my house recommending a close friend of mine’s third daughter as a concubine for the Nurian king. My reputation is of such in Aria that it will not be questioned. I have recommended several houses before.”

“I thank you, Sir Morell, for your aid to your realm.” Tehdra raised a brow as he had yet to release the papers. She rocked back on her heels, giving him time to speak. “This parchment will get you inside castle Shelah.” He cleared his throat, and his fingers tightened on the parchment. “Is our king planning to assassinate

King Ajali?”

Tehdra admired Sir Morell’s courage. He must know that she was a warrior of the elite to be undertaking any mission that included infiltrating another royal’s main stronghold, yet he hesitated.

“Of course not. Our king seeks alliances for the prosperity and acceptance of the Darkage,” Tehdra assured him.

She did not respond to the skepticism in his eyes, simply waited for him to relinquish the parchment.

“And if I refuse because I do not believe such a thing?”

Tehdra allowed the promise of death to show in her eyes, and he slowly released the paper.

He took several quick steps back and smiled tightly. “Please do not shadow my life or house again.”

Tehdra inclined her head and darkness swallowed her.

It begins.

***

Tehdra was accepted without further complications as a concubine for King Ajali. She suffered through the procurers’ examination to verify that she was still a virgin, and underwent their ministrations to prepare her for delivery to Nuria with grim resilience. She was bathed in scented water and massaged with precious oils. To her mortification they removed all the hair from between her legs. She ignored the women as they pinched her several times to get a blush to her pale skin. Her waist length hair had been brushed for what seemed like an eternity, and then she was dressed in garments so sheer that when she beheld herself in the mirror, they finally got her skin to blush.

She gritted her teeth until her jaws ached. It was humiliating that she should react in such a manner. She was of the warrior elite. Tehdra’s stomach dipped at the realization the material she wore was so sheer that her Cerja, the vivid tattoo of her demon beast painted across her shoulders and the top half of her back, would be seen. Thank kings she was not fully bonded with her beast. Otherwise, the tattoo would have covered her entire back, hips and ended at her feet, impossible for her to conceal in such ridiculous garments.

The silky skirt, that slinked low on her hips, bared her entire midriff. With each movement, the loose material whispered against her legs in a gentle caress and flowed down to pool at her feet. What covered her breasts, she could not comprehend. It hugged her body, and had a thin over-top that flowed and settled above her rib cage. Kohl rimmed her eyes, darkening them seductively, while a deep, blood red coated her lips.

Murmuring rippled from the castle ladies as she exited.

She is a Witch.”

“She is so pale.” “She is unnatural.”

The whispers were because of the vivid black of her hair which created an eerie contrast against the pallor of her pristine white skin. Tehdra was painfully aware she was different from the other similarly dressed and perfumed females with their dusky and rosy skin.

What would the king’s reaction be to her?

Grimacing, she allowed herself to be bundled into an elegant carriage along with several other females, who eagerly reclined in the plush conveyance, sipping fruited wine. A party of Arian warriors rode alongside the equipage to guard the Nurian King’s precious gifts.

Tehdra snorted. They tittered and chattered with excitement over being chosen from their villages and families to be a hari for King Ajali. The status and wealth they would gain from such a position as concubine to a powerful king was immense.

A subtle tremor flowed through her limbs. She would see King Ajali soon. Even without the urging of her beast, the woman in her admired the power and grace that had seemed infused in his body. Tehdra closed her eyes in defeat, tilting her head to rest against the cushion. She was known for her deadly taijiu skills, along with her cunning. She’d faced her beast’s malignity to learn its chakra without fear, and instead of planning her strategy for uncovering the traitor in Adara, she was practically salivating over King Ajali.

This weakness was abhorrent.

She could sense the curious glances from the other women, and ignored them. She was silent, while they chattered incessantly. If only they knew a Darkan sat with them.

After three days of travelling and resting at inns, they entered a sentried gated post to Nuria, which appeared to be manned by hundreds of ever vigilant warriors. The Arian warrior handed the sentries some papers, then they were waved through. Their carriage sped past rolling mountains and forest dense with massive, thick trees. They raced across vast flatlands for miles before they entered the hub of Adara—one of the most powerful and glamorous cities in the seven kingdoms of Amagarie. Adara teemed with life, and energy pulsed and cackled like the flames the Nurians wielded.

Hundreds of people swarmed the paved streets. Harps played and music danced on the air, and combining with the buzz of a multitude of voices, they gave life to the city in a way Tehdra had never seen or heard. Naiyma— the capital city of the Darkage never had such bustle, nor was there so many Darkans gathered in one place at a time. Madness. She listened to the laughter, the revelry, smelled the spices and slightly hummed to the music. The number of people gathered in one place was considered by Tehdra to be foolhardy. They could so easily be attacked, and defense would be difficult with so large a crowd. Darkans who accessed their demon beast’s chakra fed from the negative energy others released. Instinctively, she inhaled, seeking the darkest of emotions. Her beast was completely suppressed, and no negative emotions rushed in to fill her.

How fascinating.

Tehdra’s breath caught as they came upon the castle Shelah. Beautiful. The castle, a mixture of grey stone and white marble, stood several stories high and stretched for miles. Green grass surrounded the keep, and the waters of the lake glistened and shimmered under the sun. Towering trees rose and spread for miles to the entrance of the castle. It was like a city unto itself with dozens of turrets, arches and balconies with majestic glass windows that twinkled with pinpoints of light under the vicious sun. Tehdra almost choked when she realized that precious gems, diamonds, rubies, emerald and stones of amethyst formed the huge sigil of the ruling house—the Phoenyx.

A party of ten warriors appeared, moving like graceful predators. The other haris nervously clutched each other, and some vibrated with excitement. They were really daft. The realms hovered on the brink of war, and they only wanted to spread their legs for King Ajali.

The carriage door opened. Liveried servants ushered them out, and she held herself still at the cursory inspection by an official. With an imperious command, he bade them to follow.

Tehdra’s gut tightened, and anxiety seared her. Perhaps the other haris were not so silly after all. Her darkness thought the king was its mate…their mate. She hoped the quick, but powerful flare of hunger for him would not be repeated, because then her mission would be compromised. Protection of her mate would supersede everything else, whether she claimed him or not. The idea was unbearable. She would have to do all in her power to complete her directives without calling forth her demon beast. That way she would not have to suffer the call to mate with a man who would revile her, nor could she ever betray her kingdom.

Want to know what happens next?

Amazon

Copyright © 2015 by Stacy Reid. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means.

Reviews

More from Series