(The Droseran Saga Book #1)
By Ronie Kendig
SciFi, Space Opera
Hardcover & ebook, 400 Pages
December 3rd 2019 by Enclave Publishing
There’s a price on her head, and it has everything to do with the brand on her arm.
Tertian Space Coalition has blessed every planet in the quadrants with high technology, save one: Drosero. But in spite of their tenuous treaty with the ruling clans, TSC has plans for the backward planet. And they’re not alone.
After a catastrophic explosion, Kersei Dragoumis awakens in a derelict shuttle, alone, injured, and ignorant of the forbidden technology that has swept her into a nightmare. The brand she’s borne since childhood burns mysteriously, but the pain is nothing to that when she learns her family is dead and she is accused of their murders.
Across the quadrants, Marco Dusan responds to the call of a holy orderâ€”not to join them, but to seek a bounty. Giftedâ€”or cursedâ€”with abilities that mark him a Kynigos, a tracker sworn to bring interplanetary fugitives to justice, Marco discovers this particular bounty has nothing to do with justice and everything to do with prophecy. One that involves the hunter as much as the hunted.
â€œYou are sure of this, my lady? Itâ€™s Myles.â€ Weighted eyes drove home the point. â€œOur fiercest.â€
â€œIt was a fair draw.â€
â€œLet it not be said that I, the lone female in the training yard, whinged.â€ Not when she had pleaded so hard for training. As it was, she was thankful Uncle Rufio had left express word before he left for the middle lands that she should be allowed to continue her levels.
Jamming her fingers into thick hide gloves, Kersei Dragoumis stalked toward her destrier. She smoothed a hand over Bastienâ€™s broad skull, then pressed her forehead to his and closed her eyes, stroking his powerful neck. â€œMay I serve you well, friend.â€ She swung up into the saddle, ignoring the heat and dust that clung to her. Thank the Ancient women in Kalonica wore split pants to accommodate arduous tasks. At least in this she conformed to tradition.
Squinting against the strength of the full rise, she stared down the training yard at her opponent. Courage curdled inside her.
Seek strength where it may be found.
Approaching on her left, Minos lifted a javrod. â€œMyles will not take into consideration that youâ€™re a female, nor that youâ€™re a second-year. He is ruthless.â€
â€œThen I must be at my best, aye?â€
Minos thrust the javrod into her grip. â€œYou have the iron of the machitis in your blood, Lady Kersei.â€ His sun-leathered face grimaced. â€œAncient help us all.â€
She laughed, more because of her nerves than out of amusement. â€œNow you sound like Darius.â€
Had he been here, he would have forbidden her to spar against Myles, one of Fatherâ€™s favorites. Myles had gained the rank of aerios faster than mostâ€”faster, even, than Dariusâ€”though only by a month. Yet her father would threaten his position on the elite guard of the realm if anything were to happen to her today. Sheâ€™d never taken on a warrior of his caliber. Still, she knew Minos was right: Myles would give no quarter, while everyone else had taken into account that she was a female and that her father was Xylander, Elder of Stratios, one of the Five, and Chief Counsel to Medora Zarek.
Minos secured the strap around her arm. â€œPrince Darius will have my hide and your father my shield if harm comes to you.â€
She cut him a glare. â€œThen I am glad neither is here.â€
With a sigh, Minos backstepped.
Kersei again studied her opponent. â€œHe thrusts at the last second,â€ she muttered.
â€œAnd at an angle. Give it room to bend.â€ His eyes held the worry of a warrior facing his last battle. â€œPull off ifâ€”â€
â€œBlood and boil!â€ someone shouted. â€œKersei has drawn Myles!â€
â€œShe canâ€™t be going through with it. She wouldnâ€™t be thatâ€”â€
â€œAye, she would.â€ Another laughed.
Kersei blew out a breath as her periphery filled with the grubby green tunics of machitis lining the edge of the hay-strewn training field. She ignored their mocking murmurs and focused on Aerios Myles, who sat in quiet confidence on his mount, bored. Even though he wore a training jerkin and armor, it was how he wore it. Stretched taut against his chest and arms. Comfortable as a second skin. The destrier stamped impatiently. Myles had long been intent on proving she should not be here. Her mother liked him for that reason alone.
With gloved hands, Kersei slid down the face shield. Mentally patted armor that should protect her ribs and stomach. Wouldnâ€™t Maâ€™ma love her to come home the night of Adaraâ€™s Delta Presentation with a black eye or broken limb?
Then best not get injured.
â€œRiders, ready!â€ Minos called over the chatter of the other machitis.
Both she and Myles hefted javrods to readiness and nudged their mounts into position on either side of the long dividing fence.
â€œHo! Look to the ridge,â€ a spectator called. â€œThe Kalonican lion!â€
Sucking a breath, Kersei flicked her attention to the rise overlooking the training field. Royal banners snapped in the breeze. A cluster of horses cantered ahead of the detachment coming down the hill. One rider broke ahead in a full gallop. And though she could not see faces at this distance, she knew that golden-brown hair.
â€œItâ€™s Prince Darius!â€
Now he returns? No no no. He had always said she should not spar or joust. If he sawâ€”
Her gaze darted to Minos. He held a fist to his chest in recognition of his prince. â€œVanko Kalonicaâ€ rang out from the warriors. Blood and boil! Darius would end this match.
â€œReady,â€ she shouted, hunching into Bastien.
â€œReady!â€ The shout from the other end of the field pulled her up straight.
So, Myles is as anxious as I. But which of them would stand proudly before their prince when this was over?
Kersei swallowed. Tucked the javrod into her shoulder, its length standing straight. Lighter than a lance, it was a formidable weapon even if she were dismounted.
Aerios Minos lifted an arm, then violently swung it down.
â€œHuah!â€ With a jab of her knees, Kersei committed.
Bastien reared, his raw power surging beneath her. He vaulted forward like the mighty war horse he was. She leaned into the charge. Breathing in through her nose and out through her mouth, she urged Bastien to eat up the distance.
As Myles stormed her, he grew. In size. Formidability. Ferocity.
Heart thundering with Bastienâ€™s hooves, Kersei focused her advance. Bend with it. Dariusâ€™s instruction from their days of sparring nudged attention to her rigidity. Expecting failure, she loosened taut muscles. Lay upon the buffeting wind streaming between her and Bastien.
As she aimed her javrod, Myles did the same.
Shouts pushed past the wind to reach her ears.
Her javrod wobbled in her grip. It vibrated up her arm. Shook her. She stiffened, fearing sheâ€™d lose the rod before even engaging her opponent.
Bastien responded, tensing beneath her stress.
Kersei shed the fear. The expectation of failure. Guided Bastien to the rail and firmed her grip. Felt it nock perfectly into her gloved hand. Targeted down its length to Mylesâ€™s chest.
Just forward more. Almost there â€¦
As she thrust, she held her breath. She must do this. She was Kersei, daughter of Xylander, the fiercest machitis in Kalonica!
The thick, dulled tip of Mylesâ€™s javrod beamed right at her. Firm. Solid. No uncertainty. Pure experience. Ferocious determination. His scowl bled into focus behind the rod. Dark eyes. Forbidding. His rod swung down.
Ah! Just as expected. Heâ€™d miss. She would stand before Darius. She wouldâ€”
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