The Edge of the Blade
Author: Jeffe Kennedy
Publisher: Kensington Publishing Company
Released: December 27, 2016
Series: The Uncharted Realms #2
Genre: Fantasy Romance
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A strange sound cut across the ubiquitous creaking and snapping of a ship in full sail running before the wind. Something… animal? Zynda heard it, too, lifting her head in a way that reminded me of a predator pricking its ears into a downward wind. Or prey.
I drew my blades, muscles singing from exhausted to hyperalert. “What is it?”
“I don’t know. It sounded like a hunting cry. It registered like a wolf calling to the pack that prey had been sighted, but… avian?” Her eyes went deeper blue. “So much for conserving energy.”
Scanning the skies, I spotted nothing. Kral came skidding up, broadsword in one hand, a huge knife in the other that, on a smaller man or woman, would suffice as a sword in its own right. “Lookout spotted something strange ahead. Advice?”
We’d come a long way, at least, since the battle with the river monster, when I’d had to browbeat Kral into listening to us. He gave Zynda an expectant stare, pressing his lips over the evident desire to ask her to use magic—she hadn’t responded well to the last request. Tala were funny about doing things only on their own agenda, according to their own moral code. Their values were nearly as far from those of the other twelve kingdoms as the Dasnarians’ were, only in another direction.
“Strange how?” she asked crisply, all languid ease gone. The tiger looking out of her eyes.
“Climb to the crow’s nest with me and see. We can haul in sail to slow momentum, but we’d lose maneuverability. If we’re going to turn her, I’d rather know sooner than later.” Kral was already striding to the rigging, taking time to sheath the broadsword on his back, but keeping the knife out. He climbed rapidly, even one-handed, and Zynda and I exchanged a glance before she followed, climbing with agility.
With no intention of being left behind, I followed them on the rigging—after sheathing my blades. I’d rather climb two-handed and have to draw than risk missing a handhold. I hadn’t scaled anything this high since the forest pines when I was a kid.
At the very top of the mast, the swaying motion of the ship became more pronounced. Charming. I’d thought Kral’s name for the thing a Dasnarian euphemism, but a couple of hobbled crows cawed a greeting, and I stepped up at Kral’s impatient gesture.
“Ma’am.” The lookout, a Dasnarian I didn’t know, handed me a scoping device, using an honorific Dafne had said applied only to women of high status. At least somebody had manners. He held it for me, showing me how to adjust the focus. What had looked like a black cloud on the horizon resolved into whirling pieces.
“Avian. I think you called it, Zynda. Hard to get perspective, but I’d guess smaller birds, no more than hand’s length, flock structure like swallows, moving in waves. Could be feeding on something? Definite sheen of magic. Colors are all wrong—unnatural greens. Brighter even than the Nahanaun birds. Can’t get much more detail from this distance. I don’t like this, though.”
Zynda snatched the glass from my hand, muttering something in Tala.
“Never seen anything like them, but you’re right, Jepp,” she said. “Definite feeding pattern. Looks like they’re taking something apart—I can make out blood and, oh, yes, bones. Stripping flesh at an amazing rate. Whatever it was, we can’t help it.”
“Curse helping it,” Kral growled. “We want to avoid the things.”
Zynda handed the long-distance glass back to the lookout with a smile that had him nearly choking, though she seemed not to notice, turning it on Kral. “Good luck with that—we’re headed straight for them.”
A HAWK’S PLEDGE
“The Twelve Kingdoms rest uneasy under their new High Queen, reeling from civil war and unchecked magics. Few remember that other powers once tested their borders until a troop of foreign warriors emerges with a challenge . . .”
Jepp has been the heart of the queen’s elite guard, her Hawks, since long before war split her homeland. But the ease and grace that come to her naturally in fighting leathers disappears when battles turn to politics. When a scouting party arrives from far-away Dasnaria, bearing veiled threats and subtle bluffs, Jepp is happy to let her queen puzzle them out while she samples the pleasures of their prince s bed.
But the cultural norms allow that a Dasnarian woman may be wife or bed-slave, never her own leader and Jepp’s light use of Prince Kral has sparked a diplomatic crisis. Banished from court, she soon becomes the only envoy to Kral’s strange and dangerous country, with little to rely on but her wits, her knives and the smolder of anger and attraction that burns between her and him . . .