QSFer Xenia Melzer has a new MM fantasy book out:
Though some struggles have ended in victory, ease and contentment are not the fate of the gods of war. Instead they must contemplate the sometimes terrible and frightening nature of their powers—and the effect those powers have on the people they love.
After their campaign in Ummana, the gods of war return to the Valley with their ranks finally complete. Sic is the eighth Emeris to join Renaldo and Canubis in their war against the Good Mother. Even so, they must wait for their powers to manifest, and trials lay ahead.
It is only when a tragedy befalls Aegid, Kalad, and Daran that Sic learns the extent of his abilities as a Luksari. What he achieves will change Daran forever—and set him up for trauma that leaves him doubting his relationship with Aegid and Kalad. After surviving battle, torture, and rape, Daran must affirm his commitment to his lovers and his new status among them through even more blood and violence.
Even though Renaldo and Casto’s relationship has improved, they’re still struggling, which could prove to be more dangerous than they think—because the Good Mother is already plotting her next move.
Gods of War Book 4
IT WAS the third day since their departure from Ummana. Canubis had taken the first watch, eager to have some time on his own, alone in the darkness with nothing to distract his thoughts. He still didn’t know whether he should be pleased about this year’s unusual campaign or if he should write it off as a failure. Their original mission had been a success, no doubt. Not only had they gotten their revenge on the followers of the Good Mother in Medelina, they had also seen to it that the lives of those worshipping the old hag in the vicinity of the Confederation were going to be a lot more uncomfortable from now on. It was all thanks to his brother’s heart, and that was where the problems started.
Canubis liked Casto, not just because he was Renaldo’s missing part, but also for his stubborn and unbending personality. Once you got past his defenses, the young man was easy to like. He was also a king who had shown impressively what he was capable of at any time of the day. Canubis didn’t feel threatened; his own dominance was too absolute. It was his nature, after all, just like Renaldo’s nature was the fire, wild and untamed. He was worried, though. It was hard to read Casto, and Canubis still wasn’t entirely sure if he could rely on the capricious blond like he had to.
Then there was all that trouble with Noran. The Wolf of War had silently watched the affair Renaldo had with the master smith shortly after he joined them. Since he himself had rarely said no to anybody before he met Noemi, he didn’t have the right to interfere. When Noran had chosen Arja, Canubis had still held back. From his point of view, it had been a minor incident with little to no significance whatsoever. Well, he had been wrong about that one. Now he had to deal with an Emeris who was so riddled with guilt, he was hardly capable of performing his duties. Canubis wondered whether he should have a word with Noran. On the other hand, Hulda seemed to have taken this in hand. Interfering with her was unwise, to put it mildly. Besides, leaving the whole business to her made life easier for him.
Their latest addition, the demon called Sar’reff, was another problem he hadn’t decided how to deal with yet. His sudden appearance had at least shed some light on Lys’s nature, and so far, that was the best he could say about him. Canubis wasn’t too keen on having two alien creatures who did not answer to his power inside the Pack. There was nothing he could do about Lysistratos, since he was irrefutably linked to Casto, but the other one was a different matter. Noemi thought it was a good thing to have him here, a notion her husband didn’t share. If push came to shove, Lys would always side with Casto, and he was unpredictable. Most likely, Sar’reff would follow the stallion’s example, since he hadn’t found his anchor yet. And probably never would—putting him out of his misery might even be an act of mercy, just as Renaldo had suggested.
Losing the Luksari had been a low blow. Given the circumstances, they had to be grateful for getting out of their debt toward the young man almost unscathed, but the whole thing still left a bad aftertaste. Of course, it was hard to recognize a Luksari—not even Ana-Aruna was always dead-on—and there had been that damned spell, but still. He and Renaldo had not only not recognized what Sic was, they had also subjected him to their wrath and left him to Noran. It was the worst blunder Canubis had ever made in all his years as a leader. And now, of all times, when they had gotten so close to finally completing their ranks. It was infuriating. And stupid. If only—
One of the wolves who had been lying at his feet perked up. A single rider was approaching. The Wolf of War drew his sword, his eyes piercing the darkness.
“Whoever you are, come out and show yourself or I’ll kill you.”
There was a rustling in the bushes and then a thin, familiar voice answered.
“Please, don’t do that, Master. It’s me, Sic.”
The smith emerged from the shadows, leading an unhappy horse toward the warlord.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to sneak up on you, but this one here isn’t used to the wolves and she’s kind of edgy.”
Canubis indicated the predators to leave them alone and take up their posts a little farther from the camp. Once the wolves were gone, the mare calmed down enough for Sic to step closer.
“Thank you, Master.”
“Sic, what brings you here? I’m thrilled to see you, but, to be frank, I expected to never meet you again.”
The young man evaded his gaze.
“Can we go to the camp? I’d better show you.”
Canubis furrowed his brow but followed the smith back to the fire in the middle of the camp. He could tell there was something strange about the young man, probably the awakening of his Luksari nature. At the fire, Renaldo was waiting for them. He had felt his brother’s surprise and was curious about the reason. When he beheld Sic, his eyes widened.
“Sic! What are you doing here?”
The Luksari stepped into the light, his eyes shyly cast downward.
“Some things have happened, and now I want to ask your permission to return to the Valley with you.”
“Something bad? You don’t look very happy.”
Thrilled about the prospect of getting Sic back, Canubis had to concentrate on not showing his excitement. The smith looked so crestfallen, his reason for returning had to be something serious.
“After you left, I had a visit from Ana-Isara. She kissed me.”
Stunned silence followed these words. Then Canubis rushed forward.
Demurely, Sic took off his riding coat and opened his tunic. The warlords stared at the black runes glowing on the unmarred skin, unable to believe their own eyes. Here stood the last Emeris, the one they had been waiting for so long—it was too good to be true. Renaldo reached out to touch the signs with an expression of sheer awe on his regal face.
“This is so amazing. And so perfect.” He hugged the smith gently. “Welcome to the family, brother. It’s good to have you finally here.”
“My brother is right—I’m glad we’re now complete. Welcome, Lord Sic.”
The oddly formal words made Sic realize how drastically and completely his life had changed. All of a sudden, he felt exhausted.
“I’m very tired, Masters. May I rest?”
“Of course. This must have been difficult for you.”
Canubis patted his shoulder. “Go and have a good night’s sleep. We can talk tomorrow.”
“Casto will be thrilled. I can’t wait to see his face.” Renaldo radiated happy excitement, which made Sic feel even more miserable than before. Then again, seeing Casto was the one thing he was actually looking forward to. He went to lie down and hesitated. On their journey to Ummana, things had been painful but clear. He had helped the other slaves to set up camp, served Noran as his personal toy, and then slept on the ground in the master smith’s tent. It was not a place he wanted to visit right now, so he directed his steps toward the area where the common slaves slept. A heavy hand on his shoulder stopped him.
“What do you think you’re doing?” Renaldo sounded apprehensive.
“I wanted to lie down. But if there’s anything you want me to do, Master….”
“No! You don’t have to do anything. And you’re most certainly not going to sleep with the slaves. Come with me. You can have my place.”
Sic was close to panicking. Having the aloof Angel of Death treat him like a treasured friend was too much after all the strain he’d had to endure. Desperately he tried to find a way out, but Renaldo was already dragging him toward his own tent. He shoved the struggling smith inside, pressing a finger to Sic’s lips.
“Shh. Casto’s sleeping, so try not to make too much noise. My furs are right next to him. Now take off your boots and rest. We’ll talk about everything tomorrow.”
Sighing, Sic obeyed the commands of his god, too tired to argue with the empty air, for Renaldo was already gone. Casto was sleeping soundly, his soft blond hair surrounding his face like a halo. He looked very young and vulnerable in his sleep, nothing like the stubborn, arrogant, and short-tempered man Sic had come to call his friend. When it came to hardships, they both had gotten more than their fair share. Being with Casto again was the only good thing he’d gotten out of the bargain with Ana-Isara. He was still afraid of her sons, and he dreaded having to deal with Noran again. It was too confusing, too painful. If he had still been a normal human, he could have evaded the master smith somehow, but now that he was an Emeris as well, there was no way he could ignore him. Sic would have to address his issues with his former owner, and the sooner, the better. The mere thought terrified him.
Well, there was nothing he could do right at the moment, so he took off his clothes, made himself comfortable on the furs, and was asleep before he even noted the velvet softness of his covers.
Xenia Melzer was born and raised in a small village in the South of Bavaria. As one of nature’s true chocoholics, she’s always in search of the perfect chocolate experience. So far, she’s had about a dozen truly remarkable ones. Despite having been in close proximity to the mountains all her life, she has never understood why so many people think snow sports are fun. There are neither chocolate nor horses involved and it’s cold by definition, so where’s the sense? She does not like beer either and has never been to the Oktoberfest—no quality chocolate there.
Even though her mind is preoccupied with various stories most of the time, Xenia has managed to get through school and university with surprisingly good grades. Right after school she met her one true love who showed her that reality is capable of producing some truly amazing love stories itself.
While she was having her two children, she started writing down the most persistent stories in her head as a way of relieving mommy-related stress symptoms. As it turned out, the stress relief has now become a source of the same, albeit a positive one.
When she’s not writing, she teaches English at school, enjoys riding and running, spending time with her kids, and dancing with her husband.