QSFer Gus Li has a new Fantasy book out:
An assassin’s unexpected mercy granted Octavian Rose his life and freed him from his father’s control, but it left him with little more than the clothes on his back and the determination not to waste his chance at a life of his choosing.
As Octavian sets out to make a name for himself, he refuses to compromise his ideals for money or status–a decision tested as he works his way up the ranks as a mercenary fighter and novice mage. Along the way he forges friendships, takes lovers, and makes bitter enemies, all while striving for the power he feels he deserves and can wield fairly.
With the advent of the Blessed Epoch and the discovery of new cultures, the world is changing. Octavian’s decisions will affect not only those closest to him but will have profound worldwide consequences that he cannot begin to imagine. For twenty years, Octavian does what he must, and his choices bring him brilliant victories alongside crushing losses. Time and again, he must choose between what is right for all and what is beneficial to him, while hoping for the wisdom to tell the difference.
Book Four of the Blessed Epoch series
AS ALWAYS, the road stretched out before Octavian Rose looked long, barren, and lonely. The last of the autumn foliage had shriveled to a few curled brown leaves that skittered across the dirt path, and the tall grass alongside it had withered to hollow, washed-out stalks. Octavian hoisted the pack containing all his worldly possessions onto shoulders that didn’t feel strong enough to bear it. He checked the dagger he kept on his belt to protect himself and the pouch on his opposite hip that held a handful of copper coins. After a last look back at the quaint farmhouse and barn that had been his home for the past few months, he turned toward the muted gray sky and landscape and started out. The lower the sun sank beneath the mountains to the northwest, the less the contrast between the ground and the heavens. Slowly, all the color bled out of the world, leaving it chilled, numb, and as void of life and energy as Octavian felt as he forced his feet to carry him along the path.
He was dead, at least in the eyes of his father and anyone else who mattered. That spring, he’d left his torn and bloody cloak in the lair of the bandits who had kidnapped him. The memory of the unlikely accomplice he’d found for his ruse coaxed a rare smile to his chapped lips. Whenever he felt like he could no longer be strong, Octavian summoned the memory of the assassin—probably not much older than his eighteen years—who’d killed a dozen men and aided Octavian in feigning his demise. That assassin, who’d refused to tell Octavian his name even after they’d been quite intimate, had been strong, more than capable of taking care of himself against anything the world hurled in his direction, and Octavian aspired to the same.
With renewed determination, Octavian headed north, hoping to encounter a village, a tavern, or a small camp before full darkness fell. He’d slept along the road before, but it was dangerous, not to mention cold this time of year in northern Selindria. He’d spent the summer helping a family mow their hay and harvest their wheat, and in exchange, they’d given him a share of their meager food stores and a cot in the barn. With winter pounding insistently at their door, the farmers could no longer afford to offer Octavian hospitality, and he didn’t expect their generosity or pity, not when he’d never received either from his blood relatives.
The assassin who could have just as easily killed him had granted Octavian a chance to make his own way in the world, to choose his path and live without another’s yoke around his neck. Octavian shivered. His belly hurt from too many months of too little food, his muscles ached from too many hours of work for too little coin, and he wanted to collapse in the dry grass by the roadside, but he couldn’t. He’d partially earned and partially been given his freedom, and he couldn’t squander it, so he forced himself a few hundred yards farther along the rocky path.
Goddesses, he didn’t know what he wanted to do with his independence, but he knew it wasn’t this: working odd jobs from dawn until dusk for barely enough food to sustain himself. The assassin who had let Octavian go after killing his captors had warned him against displaying weakness, and so Octavian had never asked for charity. He’d earned his keep, but he wanted more. He wanted much more: power, respect, and influence, though not in the way of his Cast-Down savior. He didn’t want to live relegated to the shadows, cutting life down from the periphery, unable to walk into the light and claim his just rewards. No, if he played the game, he wanted to win, and more than that, he wanted to hoist his spoils into the air to the cheers of the masses. He wanted greatness, and he wanted recognition. As he trudged along the road, he tried to formulate a plan to achieve his goals. He knew he needed to make a name for himself, a name others would one day speak with reverence.
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August (Gus) Li is a creator of fantasy worlds. When not writing, he enjoys drawing, illustration, costuming and cosplay, and making things in general. He lives near Philadelphia with two cats and too many ball-jointed dolls. He loves to travel and is trying to see as much of the world as possible. Other hobbies include reading (of course), tattoos, and playing video games.