Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Broken Aro (The Broken Ones Book 1) by Jen Wylie Excerpt

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Open your eyes to darkness. What do you see? Does the darkness frighten you? Now imagine the darkness being the cargo hold of a slave ship. Your city has fallen. Your family is most likely dead. You don't know anyone around you, and some of them aren't even human. Giving up would be so easy to do, but not for Arowyn Mason. Not after being raised in a military family with seven brothers. Every great story should begin with a plan. Aro's was to escape and to survive.

Escape comes, but at a price. As they reach the shore, Aro and the other survivors learn that freedom doesn't mean safety. The slavers want their property back and will do anything to get it. The party uses every ounce of their brute strength, a hearty helping of cunning, and even ancient magics to keep themselves alive. Sickness, danger, and even love surprise them at every turn. Dealing with danger becomes their way of life, but none of them ever considered that nothing can be quite as dangerous as a prophecy. Running turns into another race altogether as her world falls to pieces again and again.


Fifteen Years Ago

He soared high above the coast, air rippling beneath his wings. Dipping through clouds, he enjoyed the coolness of the light wind whirling around him. Sunlight sparkled on the ocean waves far below, little winking lights breaking the monotony of the empty waters.
Like a fledgling, he played amongst the wispy clouds. Snapping his giant wings open, he broke a dive, spun, and with powerful beats, rose higher once more. Even after thousands of years, the joy of flying still excited him. It was one of the few things still able to send a thrill coursing through his veins.
From the corner of his eye, a dark spot caught his attention and he turned, spiraling around it. A ship, while not uncommon along the coast, usually wasn't found this far north. He dropped lower, noting it was a large vessel capable of making the long journey across the sea. There were fewer of them now that the humans occupied the entire eastern coastline with their pathetic little cities.
He twisted, flicking his tail, and circled. There, on the secluded beach...little spots scurrying around a smaller boat. The humans of the east were mostly pirates and slavers. Few partook of practices such as legal trade or simple transport, particularly anyone with such long range ships. They were all criminals anyways, so why would someone be picked up from a beach when there were perfectly good ports available?
Even more curious, he dropped lower, expanding his senses and almost missing a wing-beat.
Fey? It couldn't be... He circled above, watching with his senses fully alert. Most of the little bodies below were human, but two were indeed Fey. He watched the humans fill the small boat with items from the shore and then head back to the larger ship.
He debated investigating further. If he was seen by the humans in dragon form it could prove troublesome. He couldn't help himself. This was interesting. Anything that could catch his attention, or give his mind something to do, was treasured. Like flight, curiosity still brought him joy.
He did take some care not to be spotted, dropping quickly, and into a cove further north. Large rocks cut the beach into small pockets and provided some cover. Once on the ground, he quickly shifted forms.
The Fey knew he was there before he emerged from the outcropping of rocks separating the coves. The only two people left on the beach, he watched their reaction to his arrival as he walked toward them. Their momentary confusion amused him.
The woman's eyes opened wide as they took in his appearance. They knew at a glance he was none of the known races. "You're not..." Shock of what stalked toward them spread across their faces.
A smile twisted at his lips as he drew closer. The male stood straighter, stepping in front of the woman. Their eyes glowed with an inner orange light.
Orange...not red. Even more interesting.
He stopped before them, extremely pleased with his decision to investigate. These Fey could easily pass for human. Young, beautiful ones, but still human. Each wore their hair long, covering their slightly pointed ears. His hair was brown, hers pale as corn silk. By the quality of their dress, he could tell they weren't wild Fey. They were not covered in scavenged rags or hides. Their clothing was handmade, clearly bought from one of the city's markets. Most importantly, they weren't raving mad. How this could be, he couldn't fathom. Since their fall centuries ago, the creatures had become red-eyed killers, locked in their fury, rarely able to escape or control it.
This pair had managed it, somehow. That they did not fall into it now, in his presence, spoke highly of them.
"Dragos," the male said stiffly. "You are not wanted here."
He smiled. As if such things would ever bother him. "I go where I wish, when I wish. You should know this, Fey." His eyes narrowed slightly. There was something familiar about them... He searched his vast memories, carefully flipping through those that involved past encounters with their kind. Yes...there. Almost six centuries ago, the last time he had visited their city and their queen. This male had been at court, though not introduced.
He looked to the woman. She had been. "Dalsia." He tilted his head slightly to her. "Seer's daughter."
She stiffened, her eyes widening and shifting slightly more toward red. She tilted her head, not at him, but to whisper to her mate. "He is the Dragos named Damon."
He pushed slightly at the males mind, searching for a name. Ketheris.
The Fey glared at him. "Stay out of my head."
He ignored the demand and stepped to the side. He'd found more than just a name, also the Fey's current most frantic thought. Behind him, tucked against Dalsia and hidden in her arms, was a young child.
"What do you want?" Dalsia stepped forward, no longer hiding, but still holding the little one tightly.
Damon regarded her a moment. His curiosity now fully piqued, he smiled slightly. "Did you not fall in the fury? Or did you somehow recover?"
"We did not," Ketheris replied tersely.
They were strong then, stronger than most. Not only for keeping their sanity, but for surviving the mindless slaughter that came after. "Why are you going west?"
They blinked at him, perhaps surprised he knew their destination, or that he would care. "We are just traveling," Ketheris said.
Lie. He looked to Dalsia. Her lips pressed tightly together. He slowly pushed at her mind until she spoke.
"We're searching for an artifact to heal the Fey," she snapped.
He smiled. Her words intrigued him. "Continue."
The two exchanged glances. He could see the intelligence in their eyes. That intelligence meant he would have his answers one way or another. As a race, the Fey were not telepathic and few had learned more than rudimentary methods to shield themselves. These two had decent protection for their thoughts, but their walls were only weak little barriers he could push through in the blink of an eye.
"Some of the Seer's prophecies give us hope," Dalsia finally answered.
He knew of the Seer, of her garbled prophecies. All of the races did, except the brainless humans who were concerned with nothing but themselves. Being the only mortal race, he didn't particularly blame them. He had not been aware knowledge of the prophecies had survived. Of course he never really cared or bothered to find out either. He had been occupied and amused for decades with the chaos that ensued and then went on to other pursuits.
Dalsia, he recalled, was the only daughter of the Queen's Seer. She had been the Recorder, attempting to put the prophecies into order and decipher them.
He held out a hand. "I would see them."
Her jaw trembled in anger as she glared at him. She looked to her mate and nodded once sharply. Ketheris pulled a small book from a leather bag at her side, her hands being full with her child.
He took it graciously. They were cooperating after all. "Thank you."
He flipped through pages, worn and old, the ink fading but still readable. Each page contained a garbled mess of words and underneath, her interpretations of them, sometimes going on for pages. Reading and memorizing quickly, he stopped at the prophecy they spoke of.
Damon looked at the Fey and laughed. "You're looking for some ancient, broken weapon?"
Ketheris nodded, his face grim. "We've spent centuries scouring all the eastern lands. Unless the Elves have it, it is not here. Besides..." He stopped and glanced at his wife.
She shook her head slightly.
Damon looked back down at the worn book, flipping through more pages. Suddenly he stopped. He read the short line of prophecy twice and then looked up. "I see." His gaze went from Ketheris, to Dalsia, and then to the small child in her arms. "You think you'll find it now."
Dalsia reached out and when he didn't argue, took the book back. "It is time. We didn't understand that at first..." She smiled down at her son. "But now we do."
Damon stepped closer, ignoring how the woman froze. He bent over slightly, taking a closer look at the child. "What is your name, little one?"
The boy blinked up at him with innocent golden eyes.
Damon frowned.
"Kei," his mother said quickly. She held the boy tighter to her chest. "Don't you dare go into his mind. You know what that would do to a child."
He leaned back, chuckling at the vehemence of her words. Mothers and their young.
"Will you tell him?"
"When he's old enough to understand his part," Ketheris said.
Damon nodded. "Very well. I will let you be on your way. Safe seas to you."
The Fey regarded him warily, but spoke a soft farewell.
He wandered slowly up the beach, and kept walking, lost in thought. Could the Fey be healed? If they were...yes, things would certainly become interesting again. He was curious how the other races would react.
He paused and looked out to sea at the ship waiting to take the first Fey to the west. It was not a trip he would care to make, the currents over the sea could be vicious, as would the human's reaction to a dragon in their lands. No, he would watch and wait for their return. He would mull over the prophecies he'd memorized.
With another smile he continued walking, his boredom forgotten.

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