Even though it’s book two, don’t be shy. Reviewers have said it stands alone well:
If that’s not enough to convince you to pick up your free copy, here’s an excerpt from Call of Sunteri, Keepers of the Wellsprings – Book Two in which Azi, now dubbed a knight, is summoned by a bored Prince Eron for a duel. The prince, who has always had a strange obsession with Azi, is being escorted by her family’s guild to a castle in the north along with his pregnant wife, to shield him from accusations of treason while the princess gives birth to their son. This takes place at a tavern where they’ve stopped to rest.
The courtyard is open to the sky, but closed in on all sides. It’s clean, but run down. The ground is packed dirt and the fountain in the center is cracked and empty. Several royal guards line the peeling stone walls, and two lords Eron’s age lounge in an alcove to one side. The lords are his cousins, Fresi and Kris. They met up with us in the last village, right on schedule.
The prince himself is waiting for me across the yard. He makes a show of his footwork as I approach, demonstrating a fancy combination that seems a little too flowery to have any practical use in battle. I try to look impressed anyway, just to cover up my nerves. The lords call out to Eron, telling him how formidable he looks, applauding his sword dance. When they see me, one of them whistles low.
I bend my knee and bow my head as the prince turns to face me. He lets the tip of his sword drag in the dirt as he comes to stand over me. I curse my heart, which is thumping so loudly that I’m sure he can hear it. He stays there awhile, as if he’s making sure I’m well aware of my place: in the dirt, kneeling to him. Finally, he addresses me.
“Sir Azaeli,” his tone is merry, but his words are slightly slurred. I can smell the drink on him. “Armed and ready, I see.”
“Yes, Your Highness.” I keep my head bowed. I can almost feel his sneer.
“Stand up, then, and show me your skills. I wish to spar with the legend,” he laughs, and the lords in the alcove echo him.
“If it pleases Your Highness,” I say, mustering my patience as I stand up and take my sword from the sheath on my back. One of the lords makes a crude remark, but I ignore it. I’ve trained for this. Thanks to Dacva and his crew, I know how to keep a level head even when my opponent is spitting venom and insults and doing everything he can to rattle me.
I try not to think of how ungrateful Eron has been since Rian and I lifted Viala’s enchantments on him. I try not to let it bother me that he treats me this way, despite all we’ve done and all we continue to do to ensure his comfort and clear his name. He’s my prince. The heir of Cerion. The son of my liege. It’s my duty to respect and obey him, even if he doesn’t return that respect.
We face each other and raise our blades in salute. He eyes me with a hunger that makes me uncomfortable, but I try to ignore it and concentrate on the bout instead. I’m growing used to my new sword, which Da forged for me in the weeks after the battle at Kythshire. It’s lighter than my old one, but the grip is still too new. I miss the one I lost. It was a good friend to me. Still, this one is well made, with a broad blade and a long, slender handle that requires two hands, like my last one.
Lord Kris calls out to start the spar, and Eron advances immediately. His sword is two-handed as well. It’s similar to mine, but richly encrusted with deep red jewels that glisten like fresh blood. Our bout starts smoothly. We’re evenly matched as we swing and parry against each other.
We go on for a while, easily driving one another back and forth across the yard. His style is much showier than mine. I ease up, since he obviously feels like he has something to prove to his cousins. He performs the dance again and arcs the blade in a quick and complicated combination that drives me backwards across the courtyard.
“I’m disappointed,” he announces loudly. “All that talk about your skill, and I’ve got you backed into a corner already.” I raise my sword to block his, and our blades meet at my chest. He presses closer, and I shove him back with all of my strength to gain some ground. He stumbles a little but quickly regains his footing. We clash together again, driving each other back and forth across the space while the young lords call out to Eron, congratulating him for every small advantage he gains over me. Finally, right beside the alcove, I pin him against the wall with my sword.
“You’re as good as they say,” he says through clenched teeth. “Would you be so skilled with my sword?” He thrusts his hips lewdly. Lord Kris laughs at the prince’s banter. Lord Fresi gives a halfhearted chuckle. Eron keeps his sword up and reaches with one hand to grope my chest plate. I dodge his hand and skip backwards and he comes at me with a new fury that leaves me breathless in my defense. I gain some advantage again and touch him with my blade once, twice, three times. Every time I do, his rage grows. The lords go silent as the spar grows more furious, more dangerous. Eron doesn’t hold back, and neither do I. The clash of our swords rings out loud and fierce over the courtyard. A storm cloud drifts overhead, casting a shadow over us.
My mood shifts. I don’t care if he’s my prince, I want to see him bleed. I want him to hurt. I want him to know that he can’t do what he does anymore. Not to me. Not to anyone. Not with his wife suffering in her room, heavy with his child. This isn’t a game. This is life. His cruelty, his unseemly behavior needs to stop.
He advances and I drive him back with an elbow to his nose. Slash at him with fury, with rage. I know I’m screaming battle cries. I don’t care. I don’t even see his face anymore, I only see the enemy. He has to learn, and I’ll be the one to teach him. My sword is swift and true. It meets its mark again and again. One touch after another, and at first the lords stay silent. The prince stumbles backwards, and when I don’t let up, the guards close in on me, shouting. I drop my sword and start punching. I don’t stop until a heavy hand clamps over my shoulder and drags me back. I blink back to my senses to see Eron kneeling in the dirt, cowering.
When he realizes that I’ve stopped he jumps to his feet, adjusts his chest plate, and raises his chin dubiously. His lip is bleeding and he taps it with his fingertip and looks at the blood with anger.
“I’m bored of dueling,” he says petulantly. “Let’s go for a hunt. My horse!”
He storms off with the lords and the guards trailing after him. The lords look over their shoulders at me as they go with a mixture of awe and fear. The hand on my shoulder loosens a little.
“Great guts, Azi, what’s gotten into you?” I turn to see Bryse looking down at me, his stony gray brow deeply furrowed with concern.
“You really laid into him,” Cort says from behind him.
“I just…I guess I got carried away,” I retrieve my sword and slide it into its sheath with a little trouble, my hands are shaking so hard. I flex my fingers. My knuckles ache.
“Serves him right,” Bryse mutters, “maybe he’ll keep his eyes to himself from now on.”
“Mya won’t like it,” Cort says. “We’re supposed to be protecting him, not killing him in the sparring pitch.”
“I wasn’t trying to kill him,” I say, scowling.
“You sure looked like you were,” Flitt says at the same time Bryse speaks.
“Come on, let’s have a drink. Forget about it for now. No harm done.”
I know as an author I’m supposed to love all of my children equally, but to be honest, Call of Sunteri is my favorite book in the series. I could tell you why, but I don’t want to spoil it. I will admit it’s partly due to a new character named Tib, and his interactions with a mysterious character with ambiguous goals.
The Keepers of the Wellsprings series is available on Amazon.com and free to read for members of Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program.
For more details about this series or to sign up for my mailing list, visit my website: www.missysheldrake.com