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The Darathi Vorsi Prince (Song of the Swords Book 0)
 

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The Darathi Vorsi Prince (Song of the Swords Book 0)


  The Darathi Vorsi Prince

  Tameri Etherton

  Also by Tameri Etherton

  SONG OF THE SWORDS

  The Stones of Kaldaar (Song of the Swords Book One)

  The Temple of Ardyn (Song of the Swords Book Two)

  Under the pen name Tameri Tiara

  Developing Cassandra

  This book is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, and dialogue are drawn from the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

  THE DARATHI VORSI PRINCE: A SONG OF THE SWORDS NOVELLA

  Copyright © 2015 by Tameri Etherton

  All rights reserved.

  No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without express written permission of the publisher except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

  Published by Teacup Dragon Publishing, LLC

  P.O. Box 240, Carlsbad, CA 92018-0240

  www.TeacupDragonPublishing.com

  Cover design and interior artwork by Carol Phillips

  www.RadianceWeb.com

  ISBN (ebook): 9781941955086

  This book is dedicated to my fabulous readers.

  Without you, there would be no Aelinae.

  Thank you for loving words as much as I do.

  Truly. Madly. Deeply.

  Table of Contents

  Title

  Copyright

  Dedication

  Maps

  Prologue

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Epilogue

  Glossary

  Cast of Characters

  A Note of Thanks

  Meet the Author

  Acknowledgements

  Prologue

  BE STILL, my love. Your wait is almost at an end.

  Gilchrist settled into the dust as his heavy body sent tufts of sand into the air. Before him, a large expanse of nothingness stretched to the shimmering veil that separated him from his home.

  Aelinae.

  How long had it been since he’d breathed the scent of fresh grass? How many seasons had they endured the scourge of this lifeless place?

  A movement at his side drew his attention.“What brings you here today, Ahmbra?”

  The youngling crouched beside him, her golden scales reflecting the morning sun.“What are you staring at? I see nothing except this canyon and the rocks below. Same as they were yesterday and the day before.”

  Gilchrist heaved a sigh.“Everything is as it has been for centuries. You were born here, young one. You do not understand what we have lost in our exile.”

  Another darathi joined them to his left. His mate, his love, his lifeblood.

  “There are so few of us left. I do not believe she will ever see our homeland.”Jinnipher’s words hung between them. She was right. Where once they were a proud race of thousands, they now numbered less than two hundred. They were once the mighty darathi vorsi, air dragons born of the terrarae and stars. Their cousins, the darathi eneari, dwelled in the seas, but Gilchrist had not seen them for many seasons. He could only hope they survived the purge.

  The elder darathi peered once more into the misty veil, looking beyond the trees. Of all the darathi left, he was the only one who could see past the barrier that kept them locked in this hell. He alone suffered the yearning that glimpsing what was denied them brought.

  “What is there?”Ahmbra’s eyes were alight with mischief.

  Yes,Gilchrist thought,what is there?Would it be the same as he remembered? Glens of wildflowers, mountains that stretched to tickle the sky, oceans the colors of jewels—did they remain? He could only see trees and the people who dwelled there. The Caretakers. Yet they had forsaken the darathi vorsi, it appeared. Not for a long time had anyone come through the mist, and he feared they never would.

  “Life,” Gilchrist finally answered.

  The desolate land they dwelled on now provided enough sustenance to keep them alive, but not much more. Water was scarce, succulent grasses even more so. They foraged what they could, but many had succumbed to the wasting disease.

  A movement beyond the veil caught his attention, and his scales vibrated with suppressed tension.

  “What is it, my love?”Jinnipher’s wing tip scraped down his back to soothe him.

  He stared into the mist, fascinated and more than a little alarmed. Even Ahmbra sensed his excitement, for she trembled beside him, her scales fluttering in waves.

  “I see our future. Our salvation.”His long snout pulled into an awkward grin. A surge of suppressed expectation raced through his veins. Hope, something he’d tenuously held onto for far too long, stretched between his world and Aelinae. At long last, it was time.“I see the birth of the Darathi Vorsi Prince.”

  Chapter 1

  SHEANNA. The word curdled his innards, twisted his veins until no blood flowed. His youthful heart pumped faster, searching for strength that was not there.

  Surely she wasn’t serious. Rhoane, a prince and First Son of the Eleri, sheanna. An outcast from his home, his family, his people. He’d never been beyond the third veil, and yet his mother, Queen Aislinn, expected him to live among the Fadair—not as one of them, but among them as if he were a part of their filth, their repugnant customs and traditions.

  No. He couldn’t do it. Wouldn’t leave his family for an oath he’d made when he still wore short pants.

  “Dance with me, my First Son. I can see by your furrowed brow you are upset with my request.”

  Rhoane glared at his mother, putting all of his angst into that one look.“Request? I seem to recall it more a royal command.”

  “You misinterpret my words, darling.”They spun into the crowd, their voices lost to the din of chatter among the partygoers. This night they celebrated Carga’s initiation as apprentice to their high priestess. It was not a night meant for family quarrels.“You cannot stay here and wait for the Darennsai to find you. You must find her.” A chill of warning bit against every syllable.

  “What if Verdaine is wrong?”

  Aislinn placed a cool palm upon his cheek. Her power thrummed below the surface of her skin, tempered but vast in its scope. There was no warmth in her touch, no gentleness in her words.“A goddess is rarely wrong.”

  Rarely, yes. Which meant there was the slight possibility she was wrong this time. But Rhoane wouldn’t argue further with his mother. It was Carga’s night, and he was determined to show his sister how proud of her he was. When the dance ended, he bowed low to his mother, then faced the dais, where his father sat on his imposing throne. They nodded a greeting to one another, and Rhoane excused himself to find Carga.

  She stood with a group of young women, all dressed in long skirts and short, midriff-baring tops. Jewels glinted from the garments, sewn into delicate patterns of hummingbirds or flowers, depending on the maiden’s preference. They wore their hair in long braids nearly touching their buttocks. Rhoane gave them all an appraising glance and ignored the more suggestive smiles directed to him. None of them knew he was promised to another. A Fadair. A woman without Eleri blood in her veins, who would one day destroy them all.

  “Brother, is there something you wish to say?”Carga
teased.“Or did you simply want to stare at these lovely creatures?”

  Rhoane jerked his attention away from a particularly pretty girl’s chest and cleared his throat.“I was hoping you would join me in a dance.” Without waiting for an answer, he held out his arm for Carga.

  She shrugged an apology to her friends and smiled sweetly at her brother.“What has you agitated this night? Now hush. I can see from your expression something is vexing you, and I know for fact it is not one of those ladies we just left.”

  Carga always had a way of cutting to the core of his thoughts. Her ability to connect to all Eleri, able to tap into their collective thoughts, was what made her a candidate for high priestess, once she completed her novice training. He shut off his mind, even though she’d not tried to pry into his secrets.

  “I am fine, dear sister. Just tired from all the training Father is putting me through.”

  “He expects you to be a great leader. It is necessary, First Son of the Eleri.”

  Rhoane slid a glance to his brother, Bressal. Someday he would rule the Narthvier, the forest kingdom the Eleri called home, not Rhoane.“I suppose. But let us not speak of that. Tell me, are you happy, Carga?”

  Her eyes shone as she answered.“Desperately so. As you have trained your whole life to rule, I have spent my entire life preparing for tonight. That Verdaine saw fit to choose me at such a young age, I am honored beyond compare.”

  “You will be a wonderful priestess. Verdaine is lucky to have someone as devoted as you.”He reached into his tunic pocket and withdrew a snippet of wood. On it, he’d carved the symbol for the trinity of power: Eleri, Light, and Dark. Some saw a single triangle with a swirling, continuous line from one corner to the next. Others saw three triangles interconnected. Still more saw a heart within the webbed design. Rhoane saw an elegant symbol that expressed the importance of each strain of ShantiMari. A simple reminder the three made up the whole.

  Tears shimmered in her green eyes, turning them the shade of new moss.“This is lovely, thank you.”She rolled the talisman over in her hand.“I can sense your ShantiMari within. You have infused it with a powerful spell of protection.”

  He hid his surprise with a cocky grin.“How do you know I did not supplant a spell of compelling into the wood? Then I could make you stay. With you gone to study at the temple, I will lose my fiercest competitor at cards.”

  “Your future is far from the gaming table, I am afraid.”Her eyes grew misty, and she looked through him to another time, another place.“You will soon leave the vier. I see much redness surrounding you. Not blood. Anger.”She blinked and glanced up to meet his steady gaze.“Is this true? Are you to leave us?”

  He brushed her forehead with his lips, cursing the premonition that came with her enhanced power.“No. I am not leaving the Weirren. This is my home, my family. I will never forsake them.”

  “Nor will they forsake you. But you will leave, Rhoane. Sooner rather than later.”

  His gaze drifted to settle on his mother. She eyed him steadily as she sat on the dais beside her husband. Sadness clung to her frame, tugging her shoulders forward, her smile down. A lone tear glistened on her cheek.

  “Then let it be later,”Rhoane said.“Tonight, I wish to dance with my favorite sister before she abandons us for her duties.”

  Carga slapped his arm in a playful manner.“What has you so morbid? Truly, Rhoane, this is unlike you.”

  He spun her into the dance and forced a smile to curl his lips. For the next several bells, he didn’t mention leaving the vier, nor did he let his mother’s words upset his evening.

  IT WASN’T until the next morning he discovered his sister had not been fooled.

  Carga arrived at his door before the birds began their morning greetings. In her hands, she held a tray overflowing with plentas—pastry stuffed with sausage and cheese—berries swimming in a bowl of fresh cream, and two steaming mugs of grhom. Rhoane’s stomach gave an appreciative growl.

  Carga glided past him into his room and set the tray on his desk, not bothering to move the papers scattered across the top. She turned to him, hands on hips, her face set.“Before you take one taste of this meal I have prepared just for you, you will tell me what was bothering you last night. Do not try to lie to me, or I will take this tray away and never speak to you again.”

  He stifled a laugh at her dramatics. She always knew how to get what she wanted.“Fine, I will tell you, but you must promise to tell no one. Do I have your word?”

  She arched an eyebrow and studied his features a moment, then nodded.“I give you my word.” She kissed her thumb before she touched it to her forehead and then her heart.

  He let out a deep breath and sank into his desk chair. The spicy sharpness of her grhom teased him, and he reached for a mug with one hand, a plenta with the other. He devoured the pastry in two bites. After a long drink of grhom, he leaned back.“When I was a young lad, too young really to understand what I was doing, Verdaine bound me to an oath. She told me there would be a woman born to the Fadair who would possess special powers. This woman would destroy the Eleri, but save Aelinae.”

  Rhoane remembered the day with acute clarity. The way the leaves had rustled in the trees with solemnity, unlike most days, when their music was lighter, full of promise. The trees had understood the magnitude of his oath, even if he had not.

  “What of the woman, Rhoane?” Carga prompted, and Rhoane returned his focus to the present.

  “Verdaine told me I would be her life mate. She was my intended, and I would know no other but her.”

  Carga’s brow lifted, and she whistled.“So, Verdaine sentenced you to becoming sheanna?”

  “Yes, but that is not all. She told me the day would come when I would leave the vier to live among the Fadair. As an outcast from my home, I would be accepted into their lives with disgrace hanging above my name. Last night, Mother informed me the time has come.”

  Tears shimmered in Carga’s eyes.“If Verdaine commands it, you must obey.”

  Rhoane didn’t reply. It wasn’t a matter of not obeying his goddess. If the woman in question was Eleri, he’d have no qualms about keeping his promise, but the Fadair weren’t Eleri. They were lesser beings who didn’t understand his people or their ways. The Eleri kept apart from the rest of Aelinae. They had to keep their bloodlines pure to protect their power.

  “Rhoane,”Carga interrupted his thoughts,“you need to do this. I have read Verdaine’s prophecy. I know there is turmoil brewing beneath the surface of our world. The Eleri are not immune to the devastation the Fadair will cause.” She paused, a crease markingher brow.“Never in my wildest imaginings did I consider the prophecy was about you. Why did you not tell me before now?”

  “I did not want it to be true.”

  “You have read the prophecy, yes?”

  He looked away, not wanting to meet her accusing stare.“I have skimmed it.”

  “Rhoane, this is serious. You cannot deny your place in our future. If the woman who can save us, save all of Aelinae, is a Fadair, so be it.”

  “No!”Rhoane slammed his mug on the desk. Grhom sloshed over his papers.“Why would Verdaine punish me? Punish all Eleri?”

  “Oh, my sweet brother. You have been listening to Bressal and Father. Eleri are special, yes, but we are not above any creatures on this terrarae.”

  He ran his hands through his hair, intentionally loosening several braids. Carga tsk-tsked him and began to tighten the mess. He knew his sister well. She’d never been able to keep her fingers still if there was a braid needing repair. He wasn’t ashamed to admit, on more than one occasion, he’d used the ruse to divert her anger.

  Her fingers laced his tresses with expert precision. The familiar tug and smoothing calmed his racing heart, cleared his mind.

  “I do not understand why a goddess needs a prophecy.”It was something he’d pondered many times over the seasons. Certainly gods knew the future.

  “It is not technically Verdaine’s,”Carga
began. The crispness to her tone set him on alert.“The young woman who uttered the words was an ill-educated farm girl living near Lake Eion.”When Rhoane jerked to look at her, she tugged hard on his braid, and he bit back the scornful comment.“Yes, an Aelan. She went into a trance, which frightened the dickens out of her father, and babbled about the destruction of Aelinae. Her father, not much better educated than she, called for the town cleric, who happened to be visiting a neighboring farm. He was able to scribble down every word.”

  “How fortuitous for them,”Rhoane drawled as Carga finished her work and sat on the edge of a chair, arms folded across her chest.“Has it ever occurred to you they made it up?”

  “Yes, it has. In fact, it occurred to several people. Until five other instances all across Aelinae were discovered where a young maiden went into a trance, said nearly word for word the same thing, and then fell over dead.”

  “They all died?”

  “Yes. They call it Verdaine’s prophecy because each girl said Verdaine’s name. No other gods or goddesses were mentioned. Only our goddess.”

  “How terrible for the young women.”Rhoane had never heard that part of the tale. He’d believed all this time Verdaine wrote the prophecy.“I suppose that changes things.”

  “Does this mean you accept what must be done?” a lyrical voice questioned from behind him.

  Rhoane and Carga shared a look of surprise and turned to greet Verdaine. Carga curtseyed nearly to the floor, while Rhoane stood to bow low, as was expected.

  “Welcome, Holy One. We are honored by your presence.”

  Verdaine floated toward them. Her rust, olive, and golden hair hovered around her shoulders like a frame of forest.“I have come to fetch you, my young apprentice. When I did not find you in your rooms, I followed the sound of your voice. This conversation has been most stimulating.”

  Heat flared up Rhoane’s neck. Was Verdaine here to force him into honoring his oath? Certainly she would make him leave his home as she’d made Carga agree to leave her people.

 
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