Authors: Kelly St. Clare
Fantasy of Fire
Book Three of the Tainted Accords
KELLY ST. CLARE
Copyright 2015 by Kelly St. Clare
First Published: 14th January 2016
Publisher: Kelly St. Clare
The right of Kelly St Clare to be identified as author of this Work has been asserted by her in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in retrieval system, copied in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise transmitted without written permission from the publisher. You must not circulate this book in any format.
All characters in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
To my lovely Nan, Frances.
For telling me the greatest readers make the best writers.
— You have no idea how those words stuck.
I hope they help other aspiring authors too.
When Kelly St Clare is not reading or writing, she is lost in her latest reverie. She can, quite literally, drift past a car accident while in the midst of her daydreams, despite the police sirens and chaos.
Books have always been magical and mysterious to her. One day she decided to start unraveling this mystery and began writing. Her aim: to write stories she would want to read. As it turns out, she failed miserably. Do you know what it is like to read something you've written? It’s impossible. Not to mention, the ending is ruined before you've begun. Nevertheless, Kelly loves writing and wishes she had more time to squeeze it in alongside her day job as a physiotherapist.
Fantasy of Frost
, the first title in The Tainted Accords, is her debut novel. Its sequel,
Fantasy of Flight
, was released May 2015.
A New Zealander in origin and in heart, Kelly currently resides in Australia with her ginger-haired husband, a great group of friends, and some huntsman spiders who love to come inside when it rains. Their love is not returne
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I’m continuously surprised by how different each book is to write. But the people who help me bring these stories to life remain constant.
To my husband, Scott. It still feels rather strange to be calling you husband. But I hope to have a while to get used to it. Thank you for your encouragement, your hugs, and your support.
To my beta readers. You guys are so much fun! I always look forward to hearing your thoughts on the book. You take my work to the next level and your comments have only cut me to my very soul like five times … Here they are (in no particular soul-cutting order): Jill Meroiti, Philippa Cox, Frances Lindsay, Kelly Lindsay, Catherine Irvine, Ashlea Lawry, Chelsey Dean, Callan Dean and Kate Roband.
Then to the big guns: thank you to Melissa Scott, who continues to content edit my novels; Akira, who takes my stick-figure drawings and turns them into ah-muh-zing covers; to Robin Schroffel for copy editing; and to Joseph Murray for formatting.
These are the guys and gals who add the bells and whistles. Thank you all for your hard work!
And of course, multitudes of thanks to my readers. Meeting you guys and hearing your thoughts on The Tainted Accords is one of the best parts of the author bizzo (in my opinion).
– Kelly St. Clare
Table of Contents
An army is halfway to Glacium.
And not just any army—it belongs to my mother.
The only reason Mother’s army hasn’t been able to slaughter hundreds of Bruma in their sleep is because it takes a month to travel from Osolis to Glacium by foot. Even with this distance, Mother still may have been successful, if not for an unexpected warning I’d received.
I rise through the Oscala, the wings of a Soar strapped to my back. The floating islands I dodge between form the treacherous pathway between the two worlds that the Tatum’s army currently marches upon. I follow an Ire boy named Jimmy, who flies ahead of me. Our flight from the castle in Sector Six, where I left King Jovan and Olandon, has been frantic.
Because every second the army draws nearer.
The history between Bruma and Solati is bloodied and unrelenting, but for the last one hundred years we’ve managed a tentative peace. It was written in the accords that every three years, a peace party of twelve would travel from one world to the other. This party would seek to refresh negotiations and ‘strengthen bonds.’ When I was the innocent Tatuma of Osolis—next in line to rule—I believed this actually happened. Things had changed. I had changed. Now my eyes were open to the taint of the accords.
My mother, the Tatum of Osolis, has been planning her invasion of Glacium for quite some time. She hid this, acting the part during the peace delegations for revolutions. And had the relationship between our worlds remained tenuously peaceful, she might not have showed her true face just yet. But the murder of one of Glacium’s princes and my subsequent kidnapping provided the Tatum with an opportunity—or rather, an
to invade, too good to pass up. Now we knew Mother’s attempts to negotiate were merely a farce, designed to distract the king while Mother sent her army to attack.
An entire year has passed since my abduction from my home in the palace of Osolis. After Prince Kedrick’s murder, the eleven remaining peace delegates from Glacium stole me away to be tried before their king. They’d believed me to be guilty of Kedrick’s murder. During our journey through the Oscala, they found the opposite was true. I’d loved the prince of Glacium, and his loss devastated me. Apart from a select few, he’d been the only person who was aware of the abusive treatment I received from my own mother. He remained in my heart as the first person I could be completely open with. A dear friend.
Tracking his murderer became my sole purpose as I struggled to cope with Kedrick’s death and my own past. While attempting to find his assassin, I survived months in the fighting pits of the Outer Rings, only to discover a hidden community of mixed people, tucked away in the highest of the suspended islands of the Oscala. This place was called the Ire.
Now, the Ire folk are my only hope of stopping the army.
One thing binds me to the people here. It took a full sector after Kedrick’s death to discover the truth myself; to understand the cause of my mother’s hatred and the reason she’s made me wear a veil my entire life.
I’d thought I was deformed or ugly for a long time, but my blue-black hair, olive skin tone, and height are all normal for a Solati woman.
My blue eyes are not.
Prior to my discovery of the Ire, there was only one place where you could find people with blue eyes. Unfortunately for me, that place was Glacium. I was the Tatuma of Osolis, but I had the features of an inhabitant of Glacium. I was half Solati and half Bruma, caught between the two worlds, just like the Ire folk. One fleeting glance into a mirror and my hopes and dreams to rule Osolis were crushed and swept away, along with everything else I’d ever known. My people will never stand behind someone who is half Bruma. They wouldn’t even stand behind my mother if they discovered she'd slept with a Bruma, much less had a
with a Bruma. I didn’t have to imagine their disgust. There’s just one certainty in this: My mother’s treatment has left me so scarred, I don’t even know how deeply the scars go. Most days I’m surprised she didn’t just kill me.
Life with the veil on is hard physically, but the loneliness is worse. People don’t feel comfortable talking to a face they cannot see. It took me a long time to understand this sentiment. I know the isolation of my childhood still affects me a great deal. King Jovan and my brother, Olandon, are the only others who have seen the evidence of Mother’s affair: the eyes. But I’ve told too many lies in the last half-revolution. I’ve created too many personas to keep them all straight anymore. The walls are closing in around me. One slip and Mother’s sordid secret, which is now my own, will be unveiled.
“Willow?” Jimmy calls. I'm startled out of my morose thoughts. I flash the red-haired boy a semblance of a smile and correct my veering route.
Willow is one of my personas. In fact, I borrowed the name from my whore friend in the Outer Rings. Here, I couldn’t use Olina, my real name, or even Frost—the name I used in the fighting pits. I feared someone would link the names and out me. Crystal, my friend from Alzona’s barracks, told the Ire I was a pit fighter. Since Frost was the only woman to have ever fought in the arenas, it wouldn’t be hard to find out who Willow really was if they went searching. Hopefully anyone curious enough to investigate would stop there. It’s the reason I gave a different name to the Ire in the first place. Olina was the identity I had to protect at all costs. It’s a traditional Solati name and I couldn’t be sure how many Bruma and Ire folk knew about the Tatuma Olina, the hostage of their king.
I look ahead at Jimmy, who’s drooping with exhaustion. Solis knows how many hours he’s been without sleep. The usually energetic boy has been far too quiet. The last remnants of my smile fade as I recall another problem, almost as big as the impending war.
I groan aloud as I remember the screams and gasps of the assembly as Jimmy
from the castle ceiling. Jimmy warned us of the army’s presence in the Oscala. Unfortunately, his prompt forewarning came at the expense of the Ire’s secrecy.
Before that moment, the Ire had remained hidden for over five generations. Now the Bruma knew a whole other people existed … somewhere. They knew these people had strap-on wings, too. I don’t know if anyone has the Ire’s general location figured out yet—I wouldn’t be surprised if Jovan has guessed. But even if he hasn’t, it wouldn’t take long for other Bruma to realize the only place dangerous enough to warrant the use of wings are the perilous islands of the Oscala.
Secrets are almost considered a currency on Glacium. The assembly is close-mouthed. But eventually someone will pass on the information.
Word of the ‘flying people’
get out. A circumstance I’m not eager to relate to the Ire leader, Adox.
* * *
I touch down onto Adox’s island behind Jimmy. The Ire is quiet.
The low, dusty tents erected on the surrounding islands are still. The occupants within, asleep.
We made good time with Jimmy leading the way—unlike my solo journey not so long ago. My legs threaten to buckle beneath me, weak from the long flight. I wobble behind a bouncing Jimmy. Having grown up flying, he’s experiencing none of my current troubles.
“Jimmy, go wake Adox,” I say. I feel a little bad about waking the Ire leader. He must be pushing twenty-six revolutions, but the situation is dire and his reaction at being woken is the least of my worries. Every moment we wait means the Tatum’s army draws closer.
The boy hesitates for the barest moment. He’s seven years old, and it’s just occurring to him that his angry mother is the least of his problems. Adox will be furious to hear the child has singlehandedly destroyed the Ire’s secrecy.
“I have to tell him,” I explain softly. Jimmy’s breath begins to come short and fast as soon as I utter the words. I hurry to finish. “But I’ll also tell him how brave you are, and that you came because I asked.”
It’s only fair that I own up to my part of the blame. Yet one more promise I haven’t been able to keep. It seems there have been a lot of those. Kedrick’s killer still roams free, after all.
Jimmy gives a miserable nod and a few tears run down his freckled cheeks. He moves off with dragging steps and I turn my attention to the Soar, loosening straps and snapping rods to take the taut pressure off the stretched material of the wings behind me.
I told Jovan and Olandon I had a plan when I left them on the castle roof. And I do. But whether the plan will work depends on Adox. If he refuses to let the people of the Ire help me, then all hope is lost. The two worlds will fight, to the loss of hundreds of lives. And this would just be the beginning. It wasn’t one battle my mother planned, it was a war. The Satums, similar to the ministers on Glacium, and the court revered my mother for her foresight in building up the food supplies. She’d spouted lie after lie about contingency plans in case the Fourth fires spread and burned Osolis to the ground. Now, I knew the truth.
The stores were war rations.
I doubted my people were aware of her deception, even now.
My mother wanted what every Tatum before her had coveted. She wanted Glacium’s materials, their stone and iron. And if I was correct, she wanted control over the people. Her own private workforce. Slaves. Even knowing all this, the invasion still made no sense. She hated the Bruma and could barely stand the First Rotation on our fiery homeland, let alone the extreme cold of this world. Glacium could be the only thing she might hate more than me.
I unfold my arms as low murmurs in the tent turn to shuffling. Adox is limping my way when I turn toward the sound. He appears older than last time I saw him. Does he lay awake at night wondering if his fears of discovery will come true? That the Ire will be exposed? Little does he know it has already come to pass.
“Willow, what brings you to the Ire? These are not good times to be soaring. The Tatum’s forces are making their way through the pathway. Apart from the traders, flying is restricted to the Ire only while the army passes below,” he says, glancing irritably at Jimmy. The boy takes the hint and scuttles over to his Soar to leave.
I feel my own flash of irritation. How long ago did the Ire’s scouts spot the army? How could Adox stand back and watch while two worlds killed each other? I swallow my anger and straighten under the seasoned leader’s gaze.
He’s not intimidating in the way I’m used to. With Jovan, it’s his power—his strength. With Adox, it’s his experience which makes my palms sweat.
“It’s for this reason I’m here,” I say, stepping forward. “We must talk.” I see how my words cause him to close. How they shutter his expression and put him on guard.
Adox’s father founded the Ire after his exile from Osolis. Those of mixed heritage were outcast from Osolis—a fact I’d been unaware of until I found this sanctuary. It was astonishing to discover so many of these people existed. People just like me. Some of the Ire could pass for Bruma, as I could, while others could pass for Solati, but those with obviously mixed features were unable to travel to the other worlds. Guilt sweeps through me as I realize it was probably my grandfather who exiled the founder of the Ire.
I follow Adox, watching with repressed impatience as he lights a fire. He’s trying to regain composure. Once the flames are going to his satisfaction, he lowers himself onto the smoothed stone seat across from me. He places his hands palm up on trousered knees and raises his head until his hard brown eyes meet mine over the fire.
“The Solati are coming through the … great stairway,” I begin lamely, tripping over the Bruma word for Oscala. He nods and I continue.
“I come from King Jovan. Tatum Avanna has tried to trick us with a peace message while she sends an army to slaughter us. I read the deceitful words myself.” This wasn’t
true, but I trusted Jovan. “She seeks control of Glacium, and has betrayed the Peace Accords to do so.” Adox frowns at this, but otherwise doesn’t move.
“War is assured if the army should reach Glacium,” I say. The words turn his growing suspicions into understanding.
“Of course they will reach Glacium,” he says in a harsh tone. “Unless they decide to turn around.”
My heart sinks. I’d depended on Adox’s desire to save lives—depended on his morality.
“They wouldn’t if the Ire stepped in,” I say softly. My words fall on deaf ears. They fall so hard I wish I could take them back and try a different strategy. His expression hardens until it looks like it could be carved from stone.
“You get to your point,” he says and leans back, observing. I resist the urge to fidget.
“You hold a position near to the king,” he guesses. I keep my face smooth. In truth, his question digs up memories I’m still trying to repress. I’ve been closer to Jovan than anyone can ever know.
“Yes. I do.” I leave it at that, hoping he’ll assume I am some kind of relation or advisor.
He takes in a breath, not meeting my eyes. “Have you told him of us?”
I ignore the thudding in my chest as my heart pounds. “No,” I say. I hear his long exhale of relief and close my eyes to finish. “But Jimmy soared through the food hall in the castle. The whole assembly saw him.” The damning words are out.
I open my eyes after a few seconds.
Adox sits frozen, his expression beyond horrified. He looks like I must have the first time I saw my face. His world has been upturned, and he cannot imagine what to do next. The floor beneath him has collapsed and caved inwards.