Happy Wednesday, all! Today is a special day for me because I get to release to you the official cover for the third book in my fantasy series! Instruments of Sacrifice: Time Passers is well underway for publication in Spring 2020. I have not settled on a specific month or day, but the general time I am currently aiming for is in the spring! I posted a couple blog posts about the book itself including the official summary and an excerpt which you can read here:
Below, enjoy the cover and a new excerpt!
The following excerpt comes from what is currently in chapter three of the novel.
He lifted his right arm first. Then his left. And stretched them both behind his back. The resounding crack and pop loosed a sigh from his lips. Next, he found a linen towel and a pitcher of water.
The sun was relentless.
And so was his training. By the end of it, he had been panting as much as the dogs in the markets. And still, the Jarhira had stood opposite the running yard looking as grim as usual. You see, becoming one of the Jarhira was not a high aspiration for the youngest child and prince of Varhira. Even if it were more appealing to him than gaining the throne as his oldest brother would.
Amaziah found the room which would be the coolest and slumped onto a sofa. He poured himself a drink. The bathing pools scattered about the courtyard before him were sparkling in the sun, and the bathers were sparkling in their own sweat.
He, however, took more comfort in the shade beneath the roof that extended over a portion of the yard and the palm leaves perched over the sofa in a manner which formed a canopy.
The quiet of the courtyard siluced through him. Or perhaps it was the drink. Whatever it was, he felt his muscles relax. There were few here anyway, and as he came to realize, most of them were the maidens, the women who served his mother and sisters.
And brothers. Sometimes.
Amaziah glanced over the rim of his cup but decided that he was too tired to watch the golden-brown bodies of the women slipping through the water.
His peace was sweet, but lasted only for a moment.
He heard the obnoxious laughter first and didn’t have to know which of the Varhiran males was entering. His older brother Majah and his cluster of peacocks branded themselves in drunken laughter and incessant visits to the northern courtyard where bathing and other activities were held most.
Amaziah sighed, telling himself it was time to find a new spot. But it’s so…comfortable.
Too late. They had seen him slumped on the sofa, and Majah had called out the shortened version of his name given to him long ago against his will. Hands clamped on his shoulders and back, squeezing where the sun had just recently burned him. He winced more at the volume of their greetings than at the sting of their hands on his shoulders.
“Majah,” Amaziah said slowly, “you missed training.”
“No,” Majah said, a gleam in his eye, “I was up at dawn training while you were still smashed.”
Amaziah restrained his cringe. He didn’t want to remember last night in this same courtyard. Majah laughed, his lips lifting to reveal teeth so white they were blinding against his brown skin. The older prince’s dark eyes glittered beneath heavy black brows and a shining head void of hair. As Majah’s eyes crinkled in amusement, the rings looped through his brows and nose moved. Amaziah found no amusement but offered his brother the pitcher of the sweet henqet.
The other young men dispersed, removing clothing as they sauntered to the bathing pools. They were calling out to the women who were laughing their greetings in return. Majah, however, took his place beside Amaziah on the sofa. “The Jahira are back,” he said, his lips tilting in a smile.
“Yes, they are,” Amaziah replied, allowing his tone to indicate that he found nothing about the situation interesting in any capacity. He wasn’t apart of their cohort yet.
“All forty of them left, Zi.” Majah leaned forward, his eyes wide.
Amaziah traced a finger idly around the rim of his cup. Now that part was somewhat interesting. No more than six or so left at a time, so all forty meant…something big. “But they’ve only brought no more than twenty back. Or a few more.”
“Slaves?” Amaziah asked, taking the bait.
Majah shrugged. “I suppose. All but two of them.”
And this was the part where Majah, who adored attention and storytelling, leaned back, sipped from his glistening black goblet and pretended that the remaining details were of no importance whatsoever.
Amaziah restrained his curiosity for the duration of his brother’s drink. When Majah reached for the pitcher, the young prince finally sighed, shoved the pitcher away and gave his brother a pointed look.
Majah leaned in, his voice dropping to a confidential whisper. “They say one is a criminal who killed one of the Jahira before he fled his own execution.”
Amaziah’s brows lifted. “And they’ve brought him back to demand justice?” He nodded to his own question. “It makes sense. The Jahira wanted justice for one of their own so tracked down the man who did it.”
Majah shook his head, surprising Amaziah. “That was over twenty years ago. If they had truly been intent on finding the killer, they would have searched then. Not now.” He leaned forward farther. He was so close that Amaziah could feel his brother’s ill-scented breath on his face. “They say the criminal summoned them.”
Amaziah felt a deflation inside of him at the same time that his curiosity lifted. He found that he too was now leaning forward, brows drawn together. “You should have seen how Father greeted him, Zi. It was like…they had been friends once.” Majah shook his head. “I don’t see an execution happening any time soon.”
“Perhaps the Jarhira who was killed was unloyal and this man was appointed by our father to have him killed,” Amaziah suggested. The idea wasn’t entirely unconventional.
Majah shook his head again. “Father was friendly enough until the murder was brought up.”
Amaziah sat back, baffled. And irritated that his brother had convinced him to listen. But there was no amusement in Majah’s eyes. “There’s another thing,” Majah said.
Amaziah was beginning to grow weary of this conversation and thus looked into his goblet instead of at his brother. Majah was whispering again. “They turned all of the slaves over to Pithom and to the slums. But they kept the murderer and a girl.”
Amaziah found this statement underwhelming compared to the first revelation. “Is she pretty?”
Majah shrugged and leaned back. “That isn’t why. She had something with her. It was a crown. A regal-looking thing. The Varhira believe she is some sort of queen.” Majah laughed. “Zi, ever imagine having a criminal and a queen both as our guests at the same time? I can’t think of which is worse.”
Amaziah shot him a burning look. “You’re an insensitive brat,” he said wryly.
“And you’re a prude.”
Amaziah took the last drink from his goblet and set it down without considering the clattering sound it would make. He rose so that he could stand over his brother. “Tell me the point in telling me all this, and I might not spill your wine all over you.”
Majah rolled a shrug off his shoulders. The gleam he had borne when he had walked into this room returned to his eyes. “Father wants you to have the queen.”