QSFer K. Aten has a new queer comedic fantasy romance out (gender fluid, non-binary, pan), a stand-alone story in the “Mythworld” shared universe: Elemental Attraction.
Two people find themselves in a quandary: Aderri, a powerful dragon shifter with some light defensive magic, and Ellys, a half-elven swordswoman for hire, one of the best across the six nations.
When Aderri gets news that she must come home for the naming ceremony of a new hatchling, she’s forced to hire Ellys and her telepathic steed, Roccotári, to see her safely there. Of course, things are never as simple as they seem. Not only do they have to traverse the land between two kingdoms on the brink of war, but Aderri’s Clan expects her to return with a romantic interest. So, for the added promise of triple Ellys’s normal fee, the half-elf agrees to pretend to be Aderri’s suitor.
Ellys and Aderri have to convince a Clan full of magical mixed-shifters for a week that creatures of differing elements can burn with the flames of love, without actually lying. A situation made even more difficult by a matchmaking mare, steamy baths, and an innkeeper with mischief on the mind.
Caught between the weight of the past and expectations of the future, they must find their true destiny within the heat of fire.
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I’m tired of sleeping outside.
Ellys spoke aloud in answer to the telepathic whine. “You’re an animal, and animals sleep outside.”
Roccotári gave a little hop that ended in a stiff-legged, bone-jarring stop in the middle of the road. Her mental voice was as indignant as only she could muster. I am a nine-hundred-and-forty-two-cycle-old elven mount with intelligence and wisdom greater than that of half this Moder-forsaken country. I…am…not…an…animal.
There was no arguing with Rocc when she was in this kind of mood. Ellys tried one last tactic. “We’re low on coin right now, cara. You know that.”
Roccotári blew out a breath and began walking again. And just whose fault is that? I believe you used the words, ‘she promises to show me Aphora and all the stars in the sky,’ right before you went off with that tavern wench. Then shortly after that, she went off with our coin pouch. And it wasn’t the first time that has happened! I sure hope you fight better than you fuck, because falling asleep like that was a pure disgrace.
Ellys adjusted the leather headband that circled her short, black hair. Half elf, as proclaimed by her pointy ears, silver eyes, and pale skin, she was taller and stronger than most humans. “If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a dozen times, I’m certain she used sleep magic on me.”
The towering steed snorted and blew out a good bit of steam in the cool air. The only magic she used on you was her magical mouth—
“Enough! We’re nearly to Longoria. We have enough coin to book you a stable and a hot rubdown, and if Toroc wills it, I’ll pick up some work.”
As usual, Rocc got in the last dig. As long as it’s only work you’re picking up.
They traveled in silence for more than a candle mark, heading east around the bay. The road got a lot busier as they traversed the surrounding region outside the capital. Eventually, they found themselves amongst a throng of people and Ellys grew progressively more agitated as they approached the wall that surrounded the city of the Carthunian king.
“Why’s it so mage-blasted busy? For that matter, why are people coming into the city so late in the day instead of heading out into the countryside to their homes?”
Luckily, Rocc was significantly larger than a normal horse and most people gave them a wide berth on the bustling main road that led into the capital of Carthune. The rapidly falling sun cast an orange glow around the spires of the castle in the distance. Ellys took note of the brightly-colored, woven banners that flapped from the buildings and poles beyond the gate ahead of them.
You could try asking someone.
“Fine.” Ellys raised her voice and called to the soldier on duty at the gatehouse. “Ho there, what’s with all the people and what are the banners about?”
The woman motioned for her compatriot, “Watch the incoming crowd.” For what, Ellys wasn’t sure. Then she moved closer to be heard over the sound of horses and wagons going by. “It’s the Springrise Festival. We’ve got five days of tournaments starting tomorrow. But many people come into the city each night to see the performers that are paid for by the crown.” She paused to eye the swords on Ellys’s back. “You should enter the tourney if you’re any good with those. There’s a coin purse for the winner of each event.”
“Tomorrow, you say?”
The soldier nodded.
“Is that all events? And where do I sign up?”
“Just sword tomorrow. The other four days will be”—the guard ticked off the rest on her fingers—“jousting, unarmed combat, archery, and mage craft. Sign up tomorrow morning in the field across the river. Take the bridge closest to the castle, and you can’t miss it.”
I think that sounds like our best bet to score some coin until you find a contract.
Ellys muttered, “Says the one who won’t be risking her furry ass against a score of sword fighters.”
Ellys gave an embarrassed cough. “Sorry, talking to my horse.”
I’m not a horse!
“Anyway, is there an inn you recommend for a night or two?”
The soldier frowned and shook her head. “If you wanted a room in the city, you’d have had to arrive days ago. The only bed you’re likely to find will either be full of vermin or rented by the candle mark. Possibly both if you know what I mean.”
Ellys slapped her thigh. “Fenwith’s balls!” She blew out a frustrated breath then gave a nod to the other woman. “What about a stable?”
The soldier gave her a confused look. “You’d rent a place for your beast and not yourself?” She got laughter and an indignant whinny for her words.
“I owe her one.”
“Very well. There’s a livery called The Noble Steed. It’s across from Gul’s Tavern and The Sleepy Sheep. Tell Berg that Moli sent you. He’s my mate’s cousin and may let you sleep in the stall with your horse if you slip him an extra copper.”
Still not a horse.
“Thank you kindly for the information, friend. I hope Toroc’s balance flows through your blade with every swing.”
Moli’s mouth dropped open at the mention of the mysterious Binary Goz of War, but she didn’t get a chance to say more. Rocc had already moved them back into the crowd pushing through the gates.
Award winning author and Michigan native, Kelly Aten-Keilen brings heroines to life in a variety of blended LGBTQ fiction genres. She specializes in speculative fiction, focusing on extra-ordinary women who are as flawed as they are compelling. She’s not afraid of pain or adversity, but loves a happy ending. Kelly’s goal with each new novel is to make people #Think, #Feel, and #Discuss.
“Some words end the silence, others begin it.”