Water's Wrath (Air Awakens Series Book 4), p.32Elise Kova
Vhalla and Cass dismounted, and the older girl stumbled in the snow. Cass went instantly to her mother, saying nothing. Tama stared at her shaken daughter and took her child into her arms without question.
“What happened? Reona, sweetling, what happened?” Orel tried to console his hysterical daughter.
Vhalla stood in the snow, at a loss as to who she should turn to. Her arms hung limply at her sides as the information continued to sink into her. Aldrik’s gaze was upon her, his boot crunched the snow. Vhalla raised her gold-flecked eyes to meet obsidian.
“Vhalla,” he asked, he demanded.
She swallowed. Someone had to do it. One of them had to say it, and she was not about to make the girls who had accompanied her perform that duty. They were just girls, as she had once been. But her innocence had long since been lost. It was a fate she would not force, nor push, upon the Charem daughters. Vhalla’s shoulder ached all the way to her chest.
“Aldrik.” She did not care for the lack of his title before anyone anymore. Vhalla spoke only to him. “It’s Victor.”
He took another step toward her. Vhalla braced herself. She would find the words. Strength, she had to find the strength first. Her will would replace her magic; it would be just as strong as her winds ever were.
“What happened?” He kept his eyes locked with hers.
“The Emperor.” No matter what the man had done to her, to them, he had been Aldrik’s father. Vhalla’s voice softened. “Your father, the Empress, they’re dead.”
“What?” Elecia stepped forward as if she had somehow misheard Vhalla.
Aldrik tried to reach out, but only briefly. The spark that brought his hands to life was gone, and they hung at his side. His lips parted, and she saw the shock crash down on him. Her heart broke for the man she loved. First his brother, now his father, and who knew how many countless others were dead and gone.
Panic momentarily overwhelmed her at the thought of everyone she still loved in the capital, but Vhalla pushed through it.
“There was a messenger—a tainted abomination—sent from Victor. I can only assume one of many,” Vhalla answered Elecia, though her gaze stayed on Aldrik. “He was dead, long dead. But there was a crystal through his eye, and it somehow kept him moving.” She shook her head; it was magic beyond her understanding. Sehra had said as much. All the rules were gone now. This would be a fight unlike any they had ever seen. “He said Victor had become the supreme king of this world. That the old regime, the family Solaris and all who supported them in the capital, were dead.”
Her words filled the forest clearing, and Vhalla could see the moment everyone understood their meaning. Aldrik visibly swayed a moment, taking a step to adjust his balance. Vhalla’s hand rose to the watch at her neck. He was a prince without a throne. A man who had lost his mother, his brother, now his father, along with his kingdom and everything he had ever known. No one said a word. Aldrik stared blankly at her.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered. With those words, she knew it became real for him. Her sympathy, her pain on his behalf made the rest of it true, just as it had with Baldair.
He opened and closed his mouth, trying to find words. Her prince, he had endured so much death, so much loss and hurt that she could not save him from. Now Vhalla feared he was on the point of breaking. She took a step forward, at the same time as Orel.
“There is only one true king, one true lord of these lands. It is not some man whom I have never heard of before,” the head of the Charem family announced.
Aldrik turned to face the burly woodcutter, his eyes wide and expressionless.
“And that lord stands before me.” The man dropped to a knee, bowing his head. “Long live the Emperor Solaris.”
Aldrik blinked at Orel, still at an utter loss for words.
“Long live the Emperor Solaris.” Tama repeated her husband’s words dutifully, and the matriarch sunk to her knees.
“Long live Solaris,” Elecia announced proudly. Jax echoed the same, and both Westerners dropped to a knee, their heads bowed.
One by one, the Charem children began to follow suit. Each proclaimed their loyalty before sinking into the snow. To Vhalla’s shock, she witnessed the Northerners drop to their knees as well. The princess’s eyes were fixed on hers, and they spoke silent volumes, reminding Vhalla that their loyalty was on contingency. That their deal now mattered more than ever.
Vhalla turned back to Aldrik.
It was not a grand coronation in the Chapel of the Sun. There were no Crones to lead oaths. The wind replaced trumpets and snow replaced confetti of gold. He did not stand upon the Sunlit Stage, swathed in gold and white. There was no blazing crown of the sun to be placed upon his brow.
His succession came washed in the blood of his father and all who dared support his name. His gifts, his prizes of leadership, were loss and hardship. There was no mantle of the sun to settle upon his shoulders, only pain.
But she had lived to see that day. Vhalla was there the moment her prince became her Emperor. He turned back to her helplessly. For the first time in the whole of knowing him, Aldrik looked lost, shell-shocked. She tried to offer him an encouraging smile, but there was only one thing to be done. She had something more important to give him than her smiles. Vhalla dropped to her knee before the Emperor of the realms.
“Long live Solaris.”
COMING IN JULY 2016
Long live Solaris.
One bloodthirsty ruler has been overthrown by another, casting the shadow of death over the Solaris Empire. Vhalla Yarl stands upon the stage of fate, prepared to do battle one final time. Fragile alliances will be tested and new bonds will be formed as the world is reshaped. She fights as the champion of peace, but when the night is darkest will she be able to pay the price of a new dawn?
JAMIE, DANI, AND IRIS—you three prove to me that true friendship doesn’t know the limits of time and space. You three are all so important to me as an author and, just as friends.
Danielle L. Jensen, author of the Malediction Trilogy—darling, you’re wonderful. I don’t know how you tolerate me some days, but I couldn’t have asked for a better friend. From industry insights to simple encouragements, you really help me hold it together.
Nick—I can’t wait to sit with you again and have you tear apart my manuscripts. You constantly make me a better author and take time to do it just becaue you are an amazing friend, so thank you.
My cover artist, Merilliza Chan—I can’t believe we’re almost at the end of this journey together. I feel like we’ve been through so much and have learned so much as creators. I hope you know how much working with you has meant to me.
My editor, Monica Wanat—your professionalism and understanding of my odd situations and way too regular manuscript delays has been invaluable on this journey.
Jeff—your eternal love and support is essential to not only my success, but my survival in this process. There are many more nights ahead of my staring intensely at a computer screen. But, I hope that you too can find joy in the worlds I create.
Aunt Susan—I’m still in wonder at your love, support, and time for reading each of my manuscripts with your careful eye. It makes all the difference and I greatly appreciate it.
The Tower Guard—each and every one of you are amazing. I hope you believe me when I tell you this. As of writing this there are 147 of you in our little group and I couldn’t have asked for a better batch of people. Thank you for your support and for believing in me.
ELISE KOVA has always had a passion for storytelling. She wrote her first novella, a high-fantasy, in sixth grade. Over the years she’s honed her love of literature with everything from fantasy to romance, science fiction to mystery, and whatever else catches her eye.
Elise lives in Saint Petersburg, Florida, where she’s currently working on the next installment in her debut YA fantasy series: Air Awakens. She enjoys video games, anime, table-top role playing games, and many other forms of “geekdom”. She loves talking
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Elise Kova, Water's Wrath (Air Awakens Series Book 4)
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