QSFer Mell Eight has a new MM fantasy romance out, Oracle book 4: The Oracle’s Sprite. And there’s a giveaway.
Keir became the leader of the opposition army when he was barely eighteen years old. He led the fight against the usurper king from land while Prince Edan and Regent Egan led from the sea. Keir also had hundreds of men at his command and one invisible dragon, nicknamed Sprite, who likes to help out from time to time.
Sprite is friendly and fun-loving, happy to play tricks on Keir’s sister and keep Keir company. When a letter arrives from the Oracle asking for Keir’s presence, he expects Sprite to calmly travel with him. Instead, the strong gale that erupts sends Keir flying overboard and into an adventure he and Sprite might not walk away from alive.
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Keir smelled blood in the air. He knew that scent intimately from growing up with the Captain of the Guard as his father. He had stood at the man’s knee while his father directed the army against the marauding thieves plaguing the people of northern Altnoia. Keir had learned to wield a sword and fire a pistol in training grounds soaked with the blood and sweat of the trainees before him.
It was a scent he was all too familiar with, but he had never before smelled it inside his mother’s home. She insisted that blood belonged on the battlefield and training grounds, not on her fancy rugs. Neither Father nor Keir had ever dared allow even a speck of blood into the house for fear of her wrath.
Keir rolled out of bed and grabbed his muzzleloader out of the nearby cabinet. A fast peek into the hallway showed nothing out of the ordinary. He quickly pulled on sturdy breeches and a shirt, over which he clumsily laced a vest of leather armor. If the scent of blood was only his imagination acting up, Keir didn’t want to scandalize anyone by walking through the halls naked. He tied his sword to his belt, hiking it high because Father had ordered he train with the sword into which he would grow as an adult rather than a child-sized one, and made sure his gun was loaded.
When he opened the door this time, the smell in the hallway was even worse than in his bedroom, which he hadn’t noticed when he’d first glanced out. Keir carefully peeked around the doorway into the hall. A stranger stood in front of his parents’ room at the far end; he hadn’t been there moments before, and Keir didn’t recognize him as one of his father’s men.
“Make sure they’re dead, then hurry,” the man snarled.
Keir lifted his pistol, aimed, and fired. The man fell to the ground in a spray of blood, a hole in his forehead. Blood and death weren’t something Keir shied away from after everything his father had taught him; this didn’t faze him now. Keir ducked back into his room to reload, then poked his head back into the hall. Two men had run out of his parents’ room at the noise and stood there exclaiming over their leader’s death. They hadn’t seen Keir yet, and he killed one of them with another headshot.
It gave away his position, but one-on-one odds were better than trying to take on both of them at once anyway. With no time to reload, he tucked his gun back into its holster and drew his sword. He rushed the lone man and slashed at him. The man clumsily blocked with his own sword; he hadn’t had the training Keir had. After a few more thrusts, Keir impaled the stranger, and he fell to the floor, dead.
Keir hurried to his parents’ room and stopped short in the doorway. He gagged, trying not to vomit even as tears blurred his vision. They were both dead, their necks thoroughly cut in their sleep. Blood stained the bedclothes around their bodies, their eyes closed peacefully, as if they hadn’t even known their death was approaching so swiftly. Keir spun around and forced himself to walk away. He couldn’t do anything for them, but his baby sister might still be alive.
Her room was down the hall in the nursery. Her nurse had no doubt snuck into the kitchen for a bit of fun with the butler once Claire was asleep. Claire still slept in her crib, unknowing of all that had just happened. Keir carefully gathered her into his nondominant arm, just in case he needed to fight again, and hurried from the nursery. He went upward, traveling the many steps to the bell tower. In ringing the bell, he signaled warning and death to everyone within hearing distance. His father’s loyal troops would come, and they would find out who had murdered the Captain of the Guard of Altnoia.
Should the child test anywhere but the Air Caste, his spirit would be crushed. The Oracle knew that without a doubt. The child looked the part prior to his testing. Thin and willowy, it seemed as if his body had been carved slender by the constant gusting of air. His hair was long and pale blond, barely a shade too colorful for someone in the Air Caste. His eyes were the gray of a wind-tossed sky before a storm. A flighty child, he liked to skip while everyone else walked and to hum to himself. He was echoing the flow of air inside the Monastery and giving voice to the sounds the wind carried to him. It made him seem odd to many of his peers, yet those who knew the wind understood the strange child perfectly. The Oracle had him test first, as she did with all children destined for greatness.
He was expected to test highly, given his strong ties with the Air Caste as a child, and he did. The previous Dragon of Air had passed away forty-five years ago; the fact that no new Dragon had arrived to replace her for so very long set an unhappy record. It wasn’t a surprise that when he emerged from the testing chamber, his hair had paled to pure white, and the Dragon of Air was tattooed on his back.
The dragon was formless. His back might have still looked blank if it weren’t for the slightest blurring of the skin as if an invisible wind was forever etched there. The Oracle could see a pair of eyes hidden there, as well as a pair of clear wings attached to a massive body. She knew where to look to find the dragon tattoo, as did the watching Masters.
Her Dragon of Air remained in the Monastery only a short year for training. It was an unhappy time for him, she knew. Her Monastery was sick, and that sickness fixated on those with prestige, particularly the Dragons, and in the end made him suffer for testing well with both physical and psychological attacks. The Dragon of Air tried hiding away, and he even tried ineffectually confronting it, only to fail. Eventually, he simply flittered off wherever the Air would take him. He traveled the world on the wings of the wind. The Oracle smiled and let him go, glad to let him finally escape. Confining the Dragon of Air in the Monastery for her to eventually send him out on a quest would be cruel. Besides, her Dragon of Fire would soon come of age, and she needed to focus on his future if she wanted the world to survive for the Dragon of Air to continue his aimless travels.
When Mell Eight was in high school, she discovered dragons. Beautiful, wondrous creatures that took her on epic adventures both to faraway lands and on journeys of the heart. Mell wanted to create dragons of her own, so she put pen to paper. Mell Eight is now known for her own soaring dragons, as well as for other wonderful characters dancing across the pages of her books. While she mostly writes paranormal or fantasy stories, she has been seen exploring the real world once or twice.