I think I am more nervous about this one than I was with the release of Twin Flames. So much happens with Tristan and Ushna. And the sex--holy freaking cow--they burn on the pages. Hands down, my favorite room in that house is the office... He-he, you'll find out why.
At midnight I'll post the purchase link but while we wait here is an excerpt for Songs of the Earth to entertain us. For those who seen a the sneak peek at Caitlin's blog lost week--have another look--this excerpt is 1500 words longer.
Purchase Link: Silver Publishing - Songs of the Earth
Blurb: Tristan Janick, Prince of the Lycan race, wades through a life of lies and secrets. Hurt by a Goddess who is supposed to protect him, Tristan learns a valuable lesson in trust. Desperate to protect his consort, Ushna, from a growing number of dangers, he prepares to face the worst even as he hopes for a safe future for his family. When a murderer escapes and targets Tristan and Ushna, their small tribe must come together and make a stand.
I sat on my horse, Dancing Socks, in the middle of the river that cut through my property. We were stuck, trapped between two creatures of myth and a Goddess of the Lycan race. Behind me, trying to protect me, were six of my warriors in Lupe battle form.
I was in deep, deep shit. For the life of me, I couldn't see a way out. Two Shirdals―lion-eagles also known as gryphons―one in front of me and one behind, effectively cut off any escape I'd planned to make. There was no way Socks and I could outrun these Sumerian creatures of myth. But they were the least of my problems. What had my full attention was the woman standing before me.
The Goddess Ki, clothed in a long flowing gauzy dress, wore a crown of ram's horns, with a bow and quiver of arrows over her left shoulder and a cudgel hung from her waist. She was holding a lion cub's leash while watching me with stern, assessing eyes.
"Tristan Javed Ksathra Janick, Prince of the Enkidu, do you know who I am?"
How could I or any Lycan not know her? Regardless of what had happened today, I'd believed there was a solution. There was always a way out as long as I was breathing, but this, her, I couldn't fight and win.
"You are the Goddess Ki, consort of Enki, Lady Life, mother of all living things, Nourisher of Kings. I greet you, Goddess. Do with me as you will."
The Goddess smiled a very white smile at me from across the water. "Come to me, Tristan. We have much to discuss," she commanded.
I nudged Socks with my knees and she reluctantly finished crossing the stream, rolling her eyes at the Shirdal. Once out of the water, I guided her a safe distance to the side and dismounted, removing her wet saddle and blanket. Her muscles twitched as she held still for me.
For a moment, I leaned my forehead on Socks's shoulder. She reached around and nibbled at my brown hair. Not a half hour ago, I had left the ranch to go for a ride. The morning had offered many revelations and events that would change the course of my life.
I hadn't expected to find happiness after breaking the bond with my Twin Flame, Theo Sullivan. I hadn't planned on falling in love with my best friend, but I had. Last night, I'd made love to Ushna, and it had been the best night of my life. This morning I'd awakened to find out I was born of royal blood, and Ushna was my chosen consort. Before I could grasp what this meant, the Magi, Caspian MacCuill and a group of Lycan warriors invaded my home and tried to kidnap Ushna and blackmail my friend, Gregori Borchetta, which led to Ushna being shot trying to protect me.
All I had wanted was an hour. One single, measly hour to get my thoughts in order and figure out what the hell to do next. Instead, I was trapped with no way to escape. The only thing I could do now was try to save as many lives as I could. No one stood up to a Goddess and lived.
Reluctantly, I straightened and petted Socks's velvety nose. I reached over and removed her bridle, giving her a smack on the rump to send her away. With luck, she'd make it home safely and not be eaten.
I turned to Ki, ready for whatever fate awaited me at the hands of a Goddess who hadn't walked the Earth in a very, very long time. I didn't take it as good fortune that she was here now.
"So gloomy, Tristan? Do you think so poorly of me that you expect to be struck down by my hand?" Ki asked, head tilted to the side as she looked at me with almond-shaped black eyes.
The Shirdal lay at her feet, allowing the Goddess to scratch the feathers between its ears. It was surreal seeing two things that shouldn't exist in this modern world of skyscrapers, automobiles, space shuttles, and nuclear bombs. Yes, I had an altar in my room where I left burnt offerings to the Warrior Goddess Anat and Shamash, God of Justice. I believed in the Gods and Goddesses, but I never thought one would manifest into my world and actually speak to me.
"I don't mean to offend, Goddess. It's… well… this has been a very unusual day."
She gave me another toothy smile and looked across the water to the Lupes and the other Shirdal. "Please call your warriors to you, Tristan. The Shirdals mean you no harm. They were only playing with you."
I barely held in an ugly snort. Playing with me? I could imagine them playing with me as they tossed me about with their sharp beaks. I turned toward the Lupes and without a word, they entered the water, coming toward me in a straight line.
By the time they'd crossed, they'd changed back into human form. The harshness of the Lupe vanished in so smooth a transition, anyone watching would have questioned what they'd seen but moments before. The warriors quickly came to me and there was much rubbing and touching as I allowed my men to reassure themselves I wasn't harmed. I brushed and stroked them in return until their apprehension sank to a tolerable level, though it didn't go away completely. How could it? There were two lion-eagles and a Goddess here with us, but the men felt better being close to me.
I turned back to the Goddess Ki. I couldn't get the men to move farther away from me than arm's length and honestly, I couldn't blame them. Ki looked at each of my warriors, and I had to fight the urge to step between her and each man she eyed. I knew I couldn't protect them from a Goddess, but my body and brain weren't on the same page.
"You have chosen well in your royal guard. These men have good spirits," the Goddess said approvingly.
"Ah, that isn't exactly what happened." These men had given me a blood oath after they had invaded my territory on false orders provided by the Magi, Caspian MacCuill. It was either that or be judged and die by my hand for committing an act of aggression against the tribal alpha. Belatedly, I wondered if I had violated some God/Goddess 'oathing' rule. It's not like I'd had an instruction book to go by.
The Goddess looked at me with a sharp eye. "We will get back to that in a minute. I want to know why you and your family have hidden from Us?"
My temper flared at Ki's allegation. She had accused me of perpetrating a deception regarding something I hadn't known about nor had had a hand in. I struggled to contain my anger because this was a Goddess who could strike me down. "Pardon me? Goddess, I've hidden from no one."
"It was only recently your magic has called to me. I should've felt you when you were born, and yet here you are. A grown man. Explain this to me."
I ground my teeth together and felt my warriors move closer in reaction. They reminded me I was responsible for more than myself at the moment. "Goddess, I truly don't understand. How can I explain something I don't know myself? It was only earlier today I found out I was of royal blood."
"How is it you did not know?" Ki scrutinized me, not believing me for some reason.
What else could I tell her? I didn't know I was a prince until this morning. It was Ushna who had known what the Emblem of Enki meant. My family hadn't told me we were direct descendants of Enkidu. I'd spent my life as an unremarkable Lycan. Not once was there any indication that I was anything more than average until I claimed Ushna as my lover.
I lifted my shirt to reveal the black iridescent scales of the twin snakes that wound up my chest, "I woke up with this today."
Ki beamed with pleasure. "So, you have found and claimed your Twin Flame?"
I think I may have turned a little green. "My consort is not my Flame."
A little more than seven years ago, I had broken the bond between Theo Sullivan and myself. His lack of regard for me, coupled with his deception and lies, poisoned and almost killed me. The council had warned me I could die from the Breaking, but I'd taken my chances. Anything was better than being bound to a Twin Flame who barely tolerated me.
I had Ushna now. My rock, my best friend, lover, and consort. I wouldn't change a thing that I'd endured because it had brought me to Ushna and his love.
"Do not jest, Tristan." The horror on her face wiped away any apprehension I'd felt a moment before.
"I'm not. I broke with my Twin Flame several years ago." There was nothing abhorrent about the relationship between Ushna and me.
Ki's warm eyes turned hard again. I got the sense she wasn't looking at me but into me. "There is too much that isn't right. I have not been able to find Mithra. He should've heralded your birth and summoned me so I could teach and guide you. Bahram Majeed Ksathra was the last I was tutelary to."
"Goddess, Bahram was born more than three hundred years ago. His line died out. He was childless when he was assassinated," I replied, automatically repeating the Lycan history that had been taught to all of us.
"He wasn't childless if you are standing in front of me, boy. Somehow, Bahram hid his descendants from Us and I want to know why. "
"What do you mean, hiding from you?" I didn't understand how someone could hide from a Goddess.
"Mithra has always been present at the birth of future kings, and he heralds the birth to the Gods. The inherent magic of the Enkidu Kings has always called to me. I am the tutelary to the line of the kings, giving them my milk so they will rule with wisdom and compassion. Mithra has been absent a long time and I have not noticed until now. Time passes differently for Us, but for Mithra to miss so many generations of kingship causes me no small amount of alarm. Even without the herald, I should have been drawn to your power at your birth. Yet, I was not aware of you until recently and then, your magic was muted. It made you hard to find and I wasn't sure until I was able to dance with you last night. I have never come across a royal with power as restrained as yours, so I started looking for my brother Mithra, for surely he would know the reason why. But my search was brought up short. I felt the full force of your power explode across the Earth this day. You became the beacon whose call I could not refuse."
Ki moved closer to me, her eyes traveling over me until she squinted slightly at a point near my right ear. "There is a remnant of something on your aura… camouflaged and entwined… unraveling… a spell perhaps?"
Her fingertips barely brushed my earlobe as she plucked at something, as if pulling an invisible cord. Have you ever had stitches? I had stitches when I was shot as a boy by a poacher. When stitches are cut and removed, you feel that pinch and pull under your skin, not painful but an odd tugging as the string is pulled through.
Take that feeling and multiply it. I could feel the pull under my skin, under the muscle from the center of my chest, moving through me, up my neck and out of my ear. My body convulsed with the sensation. The warriors caught and steadied me until I was able to stand again.
Ki mumbled words in an old tongue and the cord, brown around the edges, came into view. It looked like a shoestring, long and sort of flat but it moved with a life of its own, the dangling tip floating in the air, straining against her hold to get back to me. Instantly, I took a step back and the warriors surrounded me, protecting me from this thing of magic.
"What is it?" I asked.
"A binding, a very good, and a very old one. The spell was made especially for you. It is a binding of magic with something else."
She grabbed the other end of the string and with both hands, brought it to her nose and sniffed. Not delicately like you'd expect from a woman, but strong, purposeful inhalations. Her tongue flicked out and tasted the string and just as quickly she turned her head and spit three times. With angry eyes, she looked at it.
"It was meant to bind your true dominance and the natural magic of your ancestral line. It was also designed to hide you, but why? Who would tempt the wrath of the Gods by hiding Our children from Us?" She stared at the magic string for a moment more before pulling a silk bag from her belt and carefully placing the brown string inside it, cinching the bag tightly and hanging it from her belt again. "You said the last king, Bahram Ksathra, was assassinated. By whom?"
"I don't think anyone knows. He was found in his bed with his throat slit. It was believed he was drugged beforehand because there were no signs of struggle. How could he have had children and no one knew about it? That's a hard secret to keep for a sovereign," I said. I tried to recall my history lessons but no other information came to mind.
"Maybe he knew he was being hunted and hid his children from the start. There is much that goes on here that does not make sense. I'll have to talk to my sisters. When did you first start feeling the stirrings of power?" Ki asked.
"When Ushna went Lupe a couple of weeks ago in Seattle. I wondered if it was a trigger." I remembered how the power had slowly released while holding Ushna in Lupe form.
"The Lupe will call to your blood because you are the anchor to all warriors but it wouldn't have broken the type of binding I found unless the binding was weakened by another event. You said you broke with your Twin Flame?"
I bristled. "About eight years ago, I had our connection severed."
I'm sure she noticed my defensive posture, but she didn't say anything. Her brow furrowed. "The royal line always finds their Twin Flame and the Flame always becomes the consort. It hasn't been any other way since the beginning." She continued to study me. "There is a part of you missing, Tristan. It was torn away cleanly, but I can still see the edges, like a wound that hasn't entirely healed. It must have nearly killed you. Was the grievance so great you had to do this to yourself?" Tears shone in her eyes.
I wasn't sure what she was seeing and I didn't think I wanted to know. Living through it had been enough for me.