Congratulations to author P.J. Braley on the release of her dark fantasy novel, The Fire Slayers! Read on for an exclusive excerpt and a chance to win some AMAZING prizes!
The Fire Slayers
Publication Date: November 10th, 2020
Genre: Dark Fantasy
Publisher: Liminal Press
“I understand, Venzel. I will be your servant forever. I will never leave your house. I will keep your secrets. Now, if it pleases you, tell me the words that are worth a man’s tongue.”
Ezri sat in stunned silence as Venzel told him about his life with a subterranean brotherhood bound together by a commitment to survive at any cost. Although resembling other ranches dotting the desert landscape, it is not long before Ezri realizes that Venzel’s home is not what it seems. The house is lavish, but empty, the horses in the immaculate stables are rarely ridden, and any woman who enters their gate never leaves.
Everything changes when Venzel brings home a bride. Passionately in love, the empty house is suddenly filled with life and laughter, but it does not last. A tragic mistake robs their son of his human identity and whisks her away too soon. Inheriting the most dangerous traits of both species, Timaeus’s struggle between the love for his human parents and the responsibilities to his alien brotherhood transforms the Fire Slayer he was created to be into an assassin dreaded and despised by the brotherhood who fears him almost as much as it needs him.
Venzel crossed his arms in front of the tent and waited.
“Halil, yes or no?”
Halil looked around and saw nothing except this man and the tent. “Maybe, but there is something wrong. Where are his horses, wagons, companions? No one travels in the desert alone, and no one carries a tent this size on his back.”
“Do you want me to fire it?” an older man asked, pulling a lighter from his pocket.
“Not yet. If it comes to a fight, we will have to kill him, and I don’t want him dead. I want her, and there is much this man can tell us–if he is the right man. A dead man will tell us nothing.”
Halil bowed in Venzel’s direction.
“I’m looking for a woman.”
“Aren’t we all?” replied Venzel to the general amusement of the other men.
Halil ignored them. “I’m looking for a very specific woman who was hired as a servant by a man who owned a tent with blue and purple stripes. What I want to know, and we will kill you if you lie, are you that man?”
“How will you know if I lie? There are many blue and purple striped tents.”
“Not as many as there were three weeks ago.”
Rapidly putting together a plan, Venzel took the scimitar and knife out of his sash, knelt down and laid them on the ground in front of him.
“If you intend to destroy his tent, please kill me now before my master returns for he will kill me a hundred times before I will be allowed to die.”
“Where is he?”
“He is hawking with the rest of his company.”
Halil nodded. “How long have you been with him?”
“Were you with his last caravan?”
“I am with all of his caravans.”
“Did you see any of the women?”
“It is death to go near the women, but we see them sometimes. Most are very beautiful.”
“Do you remember one with soft golden hair?”
“Two or three.”
“With eyes the color of the morning sky?”
“Lalei,” he said quietly.
Without warning, Halil backhanded Venzel across the face. “Do not say her name, dog! Servant of a dog master! Do not even breathe her name. Never!”
Venzel’s face burned as he stared at the sand in front of him. Slowly moving his hand towards his pistol, he heard the simultaneous lever action of four rifles. He was so close, but it was impossible to fight them all.
For a few moments no one moved.
Venzel turned and saw Destani at the tent’s opening. The point of the dagger in her left hand hovered above her heart. Standing behind Venzel, she put out her right hand.
“Please do not kill him. It is not his fault.”
The men lowered their rifles. They had been searching for three weeks. Now, at an oasis in the middle of the desert, the loveliest woman they could imagine would finally answer Halil’s questions.
Halil stepped forward.
“Who are you?”
“I am Kizi. I was also hired as a servant on the last caravan.”
“You may lower the dagger, Kizi, we will not harm you.”
“So you say, but I have been lied to before, and as you have already struck one innocent person, the dagger will stay where it is. Even if you speak the truth, it would not be worth my life for my husband to return and find his servant dead and the tent burned. He…” she paused and lowered the ivory and gold scarf so that they could see her hair, “can be cruel.”
At the sight of her short hair, Halil fell to his knees and screamed, “Lalei!”
“Halil…” she said softly, “La… she is not harmed. When I last saw her, she was not happy, but she was well. No one has hurt her, nor will they. Not anymore.”
He looked up at her. “You, you can say her name. I… I don’t mind.”
Destani smiled gently. “Lalei is fine, not one hair on her head has been harmed.”
Halil stood up and took a step towards her.
“Stop,” she said, pressing the dagger into the fabric. “Please do not come any closer. If you touch me, he will kill me himself.”
Halil stopped. When Destani relaxed drops of blood stained the ivory silk above her heart.
“Why do you say no one will hurt her anymore? What has happened? Where is she? I have money…” he said, patting his saddlebag, “…to bring her back, I just need to know where she is.”
Destani’s sad smile broke Halil’s heart. He knew, even before she spoke, that Lalei was lost to him.
“We were hired as servants, Halil, and were given the choice to remain servants, or become wives. Each of us, including Lalei, willingly chose to become wives. We were not forced, and we were given three chances to change our minds. Our husbands,” she said, smoothing the fine fabric with her hand, “are very generous.”
Swallowing hard, Halil managed to choke out, “When?”
“How long has it been since the wedding, Venzel?”
“Fourteen days, Mistress.”
Halil could not hide the hopeless anguish he felt.
“I am so sorry if I have caused you pain, Halil. If you let me live and I see her again, is there a message I can give her?”
Words burned in Halil’s throat; words of undying love and devotion that he could not speak because she had three chances to stay true to him, and willingly chose a different path. Looking into her eyes, he said, “I will let you live, Kizi, though I am uncertain as to what kind of life you will have. As for La…” he bit down hard and clenched his teeth, “…her, no. I have no message for such as she.”
“Thank you, Halil,” she said, bringing her hands together over the glittering hilt of the dagger and bowing slightly. “It shall be as you wish.”
Available on Amazon!
About the Author
Copy editor turned fiction writer, PJ Braley divides her time between writing essays for her master’s degree and stories about a race of aliens willing to make any sacrifice to save the planet. When she isn’t researching or writing, you will find her sitting on the back deck sipping sangria with her husband, Jim, and their rescue corgi, Nymeria. Learn more about PJ or The Fire Slayers, at pjbraley.com or follow her at @pjbraley.
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