QSFer August Li has a new fantasy book out:
Whose hand will orchestrate the change in the world?
The decade-long war with Johmatra is over, but peace hangs by a thread in Garith’s kingdom. Yarrow, isolated in his island realm, refuses to abide by the treaty or to follow the dictates of the priestesses. Others—Octavian Rose among them—are uneasy with the growing military power of the temples, and the mage island of Espero remains a tenuous ally. Garith knows his people cannot weather another conflict and that infighting will leave their lands vulnerable to further invasion. The arrival of a Johmatran ambassador with his own agenda calls everyone’s loyalties into question.
Sides will be chosen, and the consequences of those choices will have repercussions no one can foresee. Even among the turmoil, Yarrow is determined to have his vengeance against the thirteen goddesses and heal the world’s magic. But how far will he go, and what lines is he willing to cross? As unlikely alliances are forged and enemies are revealed, Prince Thane seems to be the key to forgotten knowledge that will shape the future—and some will do whatever it takes to control him.
Blessed Epoch Book 5
OCTAVIAN ROSE understood the efficacy of illusion. By casting off his ceremonial golden armor and scarlet cape, the trappings of his station as Bairn of Rosecairn, and replacing them with scuffed leathers and matted furs, he could travel Selindria’s roads without distraction, unnoticed and ignored by those he passed. If he had learned one thing, it was that people focused on the shell: the gilt encasing the man rather than the flesh, blood, and spirit pulsing beneath. Sad, in a way, but convenient for his current pursuits. Just as the fancy plate sometimes nudged others toward his influence, the garb of a pauper served him now. Without outward evidence of riches and influence, he would be disregarded—just another throwaway, displaced after a decade of war, traipsing the dusty thoroughfares of the kingdom. It saved him answering questions and explaining plans he preferred to keep to himself, things he couldn’t quite articulate in his own mind yet. It had its place, and it allowed him to proceed unmolested along the Kanda River to the archipelago at its mouth, the region the crown called the South Coast.
Others knew it as the Twenty-Nine, or Twenty-Nine Pieces of Paradise. A desolate area spanning miles marked its border with the rest of the kingdom. The monarchy’s respectable subjects gave it a wide berth, though Octavian wondered how much of that owed to exaggerated tales of the debauchery along the southern shores. The sun beat down, and Octavian soon cast off his bearskin cloak. His companion and partner, D’Aurelian, did the same, a sheen of sweat coating the Esperon mage’s dark face. D’Aurelian used the gauzy blue sleeve of his tunic to mop his brow, and Octavian saw the exhaustion dragging at the corners of his eyes and mouth. They’d been on foot for weeks, ever since leaving the king’s old fortress in central Selindria. They could’ve taken horses, but horses were a sign of wealth, and intimidating. The man Octavian sought to meet with was not one he wanted to intimidate.
“You look tense,” D’Aurelian noted. “Do you have misgivings about this meeting that you haven’t shared with me?”
Octavian looked ahead, focusing on the dusty brown road distorted by the heat lines shimmering up from the ground. By now, he had hoped to have a plan in place, practiced words to offer to their formidable would-be host. He turned to look at D’Aurelian, unburdening himself to the one person who wouldn’t hold it against him. The one who wouldn’t exploit a perceived weakness. “I’m afraid.”
“Of what? It was your idea to come here, to uncover what truth we can.”
“Maybe the truth is what I fear.” Thirst and heat tickled Octavian’s throat and roughened his voice. “It would be so much easier to believe in the peace King Garith has brokered. To believe it has a chance of lasting.”
“Believing falsehoods doesn’t make them come true,” D’Aurelian argued gently. “And neither does ignoring them.”
“That is the whole problem with this damned old world. People prefer to look at a beautiful façade instead of the truth behind it, to believe what they are told as long as it is something pleasant to their ears.” Octavian closed his eyes for a moment that felt much too brief. “And the other problem is getting others to acknowledge it. Even if we chip away at the veneer, they remain blind to what stands beyond it. Because they do not want to see. Seeing means either doing something or admitting you’re too afraid—or too complacent—to change what’s wrong.”
“I see two options, amarzio. We can seek solutions to these problems, or we can give up. I have known you for over ten years, and I do not think you want to give up. All you’ll do if we return home now is torture yourself wondering. Though if that is what you prefer—”
“No.” Octavian could smell the sea, feel the cool breeze coming off the waves he couldn’t yet see. He took the salty air into his chest, held it, and let it out in a great gust. “We’re close now. By nightfall, we’ll have some idea what we’re dealing with, or we’ll be dead. I won’t turn away from what’s in front of my eyes.”
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.