Genre: Adult Urban Fantasy
Publisher: MuseItUp Publishing
Number of pages: 253
Word Count: 72,568
Cover Artist: Delilah K. Stephans
After five hundred years’ labor destroying worlds, half-dragon half-human Aelana returns to her home planet.
She expects to be anonymous, but instead she is worshipped as a god. She finds the reincarnation of her centuries-dead first and only love and life begins anew. Little does she know, however, that a shrewd and formidable evil lays in wait, one with the power to undo everything she’s worked for. To maintain the balance of the universe, she must confront and destroy the menace before it annihilates her and everything she loves.
Aelana cowered in the corner of her tent, her blanket pulled over her head. Her knees were pulled up to her chest, her forehead resting on them. Muffled, indistinguishable voices drifted through the canvas. Fear beaded sweat on her forehead. What would happen if someone came into her tent? She had given specific orders no one should disturb her, but that didn’t always stop them. They couldn’t find her like this. Bad things might happen if they did.
“Aelana?” a familiar voice drifted into the tiny space. It was low, masculine, and soothing.
She cringed. “Go away, Thoran.”
The canvas door flopped into place, a footstep thudded on the ground.
“I’m not leaving until you tell me what’s going on.”
She inhaled a shaky breath. “I can’t.”
A few more steps sounded, and his hands wrapped around the outside of the blanket. Panic gripped her chest, and she grabbed the edge of the material.
“I’m worried about you. What’s going on? Why have you been hiding lately?” He tugged on the blanket.
“Thoran, no!” Her grip tightened on the cover.
“Aelana, stop this! You’re acting like a child!”
They played tug-of-war with the blanket for several moments. Aelana’s panic increased, and her only concern was keeping herself covered. Thoran wouldn’t understand, he wouldn’t get it. She didn’t even know what was going on. How could she explain it to anyone else? If the changes scared her, they might utterly freak out others.
“Aelana, you can talk to me. You can trust me!” The strain was evident in his voice. He jerked on the material.
He had more leverage than Aelana, and the blanket slipped from her fingers. A squeak escaped her lips as she tried to fold herself in on her own body. He placed his hands on her knees.
“Aelana, please. Talk to me.” His voice was low, pleading.
Her heart rate increased, her breathing became rapid. The desire to push him away and run into the night, disappearing into darkness, surged through her, but she fought back the urge. She wouldn’t; she couldn’t. He’d come after her. Her resolve faltered. If it had been anyone else, it would have been easy to stay strong, overpower them and leave. Thoran, however, could make her talk, make her open up. He knew her better than anyone. That was both comforting and annoying.
He placed one hand on her shoulder and the other on her forearm, pushing gently, attempting to get her to unfurl. “Don’t make me beg.”
With a grunt and a sigh, Aelana threw her arms open and kicked out her legs. Thoran fell backward. She jumped to her feet.
“Is this what you wanted?” she growled. “Are you happy with what you see?”
Thoran moved backward, his eyes wide, his mouth open. She stepped closer and loomed over him.
“Now do you understand why I’ve been hiding?”
Thoran tried to scuttle away, to head out the door. Aelana crouched down and grabbed his collar.
“What’s wrong, Thoran? Talk to me!”
He screamed and slapped her hand away before pushing her over. He crawled out the door, and she collapsed onto her knees. The weight of sadness dropped onto her shoulders. What had she done?
* * * *
Aelana jerked awake, her elbows digging into the scales of the Queen’s neck. The Queen shifted slightly but didn’t wake up. Aelana took a deep breath and ran her hand down her face. Quietly and deliberately, she left the comfort of Her Highness’embrace and headed for the cave opening. Standing at the door, her gaze drifted to the peaks and rises silhouetted against the night sky. A few stars twinkled above; others were blotted out by dark clouds of rolling smoke. Aelana caught the faint scent of burning wood on the breeze.
Picking her way across the landscape, her claws scraped against the rocks. Visions of Thoran’s horrified face lingered in her mind. She found a small stream trickling down the mountain side and knelt next to it. Splashing her face with the cool liquid, she sighed and stared into the water. It was too dark to see her reflection, but she didn’t need to. There was a definite reason Thoran ran from her so long ago.
Her eyes were multifaceted, glittering like diamonds. They were no longer deep blue, human-like. Her pale skin wasn’t supple. Though it was still smooth, it was covered in tough scales. Her face was angular, the chin pointed and defined. Small knobs protruded from her forehead, the smallest hint of horns. Pointed ears lay flat against her head. Her teeth were sharp, her canines longer than the others, protruding slightly from her lips when her mouth was closed. Only her hair retained its human quality, rows upon rows of braids that traveled to the middle of her back. Her feet had morphed into powerful claws, and her hands were tipped with razor-sharp nails. She was the perfect mix of human and dragon, powerful and compassionate.
Thoran had asked repeatedly what was wrong, but she dodged his questions and concerns. Eventually, avoiding him all together. It worked for a while, until he barged into her sanctuary. What other choice did he give her but to throw her mutation in his face? Why hadn’t she left? She could have snuck away in the middle of the night. People would have noticed, but they wouldn’t have cared. The whispers would have continued, rumors would have spread, but things would have turned out differently, maybe better. Her leaving would have saved a lot of heartache.
She gazed at the sky. More stars were blotted out by dark smoke columns, and the stench of burning forest grew stronger. Slowly, Aelana made her way back to the cave. Thoran shouldn’t have found out like that, but there was no way to reveal it delicately. Still, given the chance to do it again, she’d approach the situation differently.
About the Author:
Pembroke Sinclair has had several short stories, novels, and novellas published in various places, including MuseItUp Publishing, Musa Publishing, and eTreasures Publishing. Her story, “Sohei,” was named one of the Best Stories of 2008 by The Cynic Online Magazine. Her two novels, Coming from Nowhere (adult, sci fi) and Life After the Undead (YA, horror), are available from eTreasures Publishing, as well as Death to the Undead (YA, sequel to Life After the Undead). Life After the Undead was a Top Ten Finisher in the Preditors and Editors Reader’s Poll in the YA category and the cover art category.
Under her real name, Jessica Robinson, from March 2008 to January 2011, she wrote scientific articles for Western Farmer-Stockman. She has a nonfiction book, Life Lessons from Slasher Films, available from Scarecrow Publishing (an imprint of Rowman and Littlefield).
Jessica/Pembroke has a Master’s in English, and is a freelance content editor for Musa Publishing, as well as a content and line editor for eTreasures Publishing.