The release date is getting closer every day! I thought it was time to start teasing a little. Here's a first look at "Ash Bringer" from Everly's point of view. I hope you enjoy!
The room was large with one wall completely lined with old books and paintings. It smelled like burning wood and incense, two aromas that screamed Draak and made my muscles tense. In the middle of the room was a large, oval table on top of which was a tray of metal cups and a pitcher of water. Along the opposite wall stood four ladies in red, silk shirts and black skirts. Keera paced over to join them while I focused my thoughts on the three men in the room.
One was sitting at the table. Lukan. He had a cup of water in his hand and looked at me with the same, curious crease in his brows. It was almost friendly, but his eyes kept reminding me of what he was.
Standing at the end of the table was an elegantly dressed man with silvery hair slicked back from his classically attractive features. He wore a white, tailored suit that added to the purity of his appearance and his pale, blue eyes riddled with specks of gold, burned with a certain danger like all the rest. He wasn’t as tall as Lukan and his build was slender and graceful.
By the giant, brick fireplace, I studied the third Draak. He looked at me like a predator would a wounded deer. Almond-shaped eyes the color of red, burning embers pierced right through me like hot pokers through butter. Slightly sun-golden skin made him look hot to the touch and a head of copper hair hung past his shoulders. The unkempt tresses mixed with small braids made him look like he was from another era. A much older one. He was dressed in a worn, leather coat that hung to his knees, covered in studs and lacing down the sleeves. He looked awkward indoors as if he was a feral wolf being forced to sleep on a velvet bed. Sharp cheekbones and a squared jaw seemed carved from stone and despite the clean-shaven face, he looked more dangerous than the other two Draak put together. I narrowed my eyes at him and turned my attention to the one in white. Of the three, he looked to be the most diplomatic one.
“Everly Ghlass,” he said, flashing sharp fangs when he spoke. They all had them. Another sign that they were far from human. “My name is Ares. Please have a seat.”
“No thank you,” I refused.
“If you’re to request any compensation or property for your win this might take a while to conclude. There are documents we’d have to go over.”
“I don’t want any of those things.”
“Marriage to an eligible Draak of your choosing? Food for your town?” he began to list. “Passage out of the sector perhaps? If you’re on the run, your pardon can be granted. I understand that you’re from the border towns. There must have been a good reason that you entered the Red Race. Often volunteers are quite dedicated members of the sectors, and if not, they’re usually desperate. Which is it?”
I stepped deeper into the room with a firm gate. This was the moment of truth.
“Neither,” I confessed. “There’s a man in Raven Heights Prison. A Pike. His name is Taurus Black and I want him freed.”
The room fell deathly silent. I could see the men’s faces stiffen. Lukan and Ares tossed each other a glance that I couldn’t read while the man near the fire scoffed at my request as if it was a joke. No one gave me a response for a long while until I shifted my weight with impatience.
“It’s an odd request,” Ares said. “Unlike anything we’ve received in the past decade.”
“But it’s what I want. I don’t want money or food or a mansion or marriage to someone I don’t even know. I want him out of prison. It’s simple.”
“Not really,” the copper-haired Draak spoke, his voice smooth, but not like silk. Like the edge of a sharpened blade that could cut through anything. “Taurus Black is a slayer. He’s to be executed in two days.”
“Then free him before then,” I said unblinkingly.
“It’s a little complicated,” Ares said, stepping toward me. “Taurus Black isn’t just a slayer. He’s a former member of the resistance and he killed one of our own. Our brother, Valerio.”
“Valerio was a highly respected and valued Draakir member,” Lukan added. “Killing any council member is bad enough. Not only that, but he was an Ash Bringer.”
“Actually,” Ares added. “He wasn’t even just an Ash Bringer. He was the Archon. Do you have any idea what that means?”
“Was I supposed to have learned what all these titles are?” I raised a brow.
“If you’re a civilian inside a sector, yes. Even a border dweller should respect the system.”
“Taurus didn’t do it,” I said, diverting attention away from where I was from.
“His confession would beg to differ. Ash Bringers don’t just die. That slaying was not a simple crime.”
“It wasn’t a simple race. I won. You pardon people every day. You have that power, so free him.”
“We don’t pardon murderers,” the copper-haired man said with a glare.
“Bullshit,” I spit out. “Do you even know your own race? Plenty of your contestants have done worse than him and you all ignore it so you can profit. Taurus is a good man.”
“The other contestants aren’t your concern. Taurus’s execution has already been decided,” Ares said. “You have to understand that his crimes aren’t excusable. Your request is—”
“Anything,” I cut him off. “Those are the terms when you volunteer for the race. Any request is granted. I didn’t do this just to be turned down. If you can’t free him, then run an investigation. Postpone his execution. His confession is false.”
“You’re right,” Ares nodded. “You won. You almost died and eleven others did die so you could stand before us as you are, but you’re dealing with issues that aren’t easily set aside. Political offenses. Personal offenses that we can’t forget. Archons are rare and revered among our kind. I am an understanding man and I try to stay true to my word, but in the end, we make the rules and I find it difficult to grant you what you wish considering the circumstances.”
“So you’re denying me?” I snarled. “Will the Order find out about this or will it be swept under a rug somewhere?”
“We’ll make you rich. You’ll never have to work another day in your life. We could give you a place on the east side of the sector with the elite.”
“Fuck your elite. I don’t worship your kind. I don’t even care about your kind. I don’t give a shit where you came from or what you can do. All I want is Taurus. You can banish us both, but I want him freed and I’ll take nothing less. I’ll do whatever you want.”
“Fine,” the copper-haired man said, pinning me with his eyes. “But winning a race isn’t enough to pay for his release.”
“Draven,” Ares said cautiously.
Now I could put a name to this asshole’s face.
“He took the life of a family member,” Draven said. “You have to understand that.”
“So? What do you want?” I said, catching the conniving glint in the Draak’s eyes when he spoke.
“Draven,” Ares said again as if wary of his intentions.
“You,” Draven said.