We’re so excited to share that QUEEN OF DREAMS is coming out in August and you can pre-order it in digital, print, and audio already!
Queen of Dreams is a direct sequel to Consort of Fire, by which I mean it picks up shortly after the end of book one and follows the same protaganists. This also means that THE BLURB FOR BOOK TWO HAS SPOILERS FOR BOOK ONE!!! If you haven’t read CONSORT OF FIRE yet, and you hate being spoiled, go and get book one first! Do not read on!
In fact, here is a trailer to make sure you don’t accidentally see the blurb! If you don’t know anything about CONSORT OF FIRE, watch it!
For the rest of you…
Queen of Dreams
Three lovers with unbridled hope, uncanny dreams, and ancient powers join forces against the greatest evil in the world in a scorching fantasy by the authors of Consort of Fire.
Ash waited three thousand years for a consort who could break the Betrayer’s chains. Instead of one lover, he found two: Sachi and Zanya—the primordial powers that embody creation and destruction, reborn as humans. Now, his ancient enemy has returned to threaten everything he loves.
In the wake of her dazzling manifestation, Zanya seethes with magic and restless energy. Her command of the Endless Void will be a potent weapon in the coming war. To harness it, she’ll need to embrace the darkness within—but the scars of the past are holding her back.
Sachi’s unprecedented connection to the Dream deepens, leading her beyond the veil of reality… and into the heart of the Betrayer’s stronghold. Torn from her lovers, Sachi must use all her wit and cunning to survive the Betrayer’s treacherous court. Because he doesn’t simply want her. He covets the slumbering power she possesses—and plans to take it for his own.
Even if it ends their world.
Read Chapter One
Their mistake had been taking the time necessary to burn the witch.
The smell of charred wood and fabric still blanketed the chill morning air in Emmonsdale. Zanya stood on the platform where the execution had been intended, ignoring the villagers’ occasional nervous whispers and sidelong gazes. Under any other circumstances, she would have been the sole focus of their agitation and unease. But not today.
Today, the man in front of her drew their enraptured attention. As reluctant as she was to admit it, he certainly deserved it.
The Dragon was spectacular when he was in his element.
Ash wore his usual armor, a style ancient before they’d started counting time. Leather and brass had been polished to a shine that couldn’t hide the hard usage over thousands of years and countless battles. The cuirass protected his massive chest but left his shoulders and upper arms bare, where light-brown skin stretched over dangerous muscle. The greaves covered his strong legs from ankles to knees, but the leather strips hanging from his thick belt did little to hide his massive thighs.
Facing down three dozen of the mortal queen’s heavy cavalry in their shiniest steel, he looked barely dressed. He hadn’t even bothered to unsheathe the sword that rode across his back.
Not one soldier seemed willing to charge him.
A weak cough rose behind Zanya. She stole a glance over her shoulder to where the Huntress was cutting the bonds of the accused witch. Elevia’s jaw was tight as she sliced at the rough rope, but she gave no other evidence of what must be considerable rage. The old woman’s smoke-induced cough was the only injury she’d suffered from the attempted execution, but if Zanya and the rest of the High Court had come even a few moments later . . .
But they hadn’t. They’d arrived at the village just as the flames surged toward the old woman’s legs. The fire licking at her heavy woolen skirts died with Ash’s first step into the square. The torches held by her would-be executioners had snuffed out next, the flames sucked away as if the world had inhaled.
By the time they reached the crowded square, the only fire left in Emmonsdale danced in the Dragon’s eyes. The Lord of Fire had not been amused. The weak cough—a reminder of the old woman’s suffering—was unlikely to improve his mood.
As Zanya expected, the noise shattered the silent standoff. Ash stepped forward, the entire weight of his formidable attention on the leader of the queen’s soldiers.
The man’s ornate gilded pauldrons marked him to the world as a guard commander. The stiff set of his shoulders, cruel ice-blue eyes, and familiar condescending sneer identified him to Zanya as Velez, the youngest son of House Sandrake. His noble blood combined with some natural ability had secured him a swift rise through the ranks of the royal guard to a trusted position near the former king’s right hand.
His gleeful sadism had made him one of Zanya’s most dedicated tormentors.
He had courage, Zanya would give him that much. The rest of the soldiers fought to control horses who had picked up on their riders’ fear and wanted to flee. Only Velez sat rock-steady in the saddle and drew his sword, leveling it at Ash.
“You were warned twice already,” he announced, arrogance dripping from every word. “When you murdered our king, you severed any duty we owe to your wicked and corrupt court. These lands are under our protection now. Leave this place, or die.”
Ash didn’t ask him how a handful of mortals expected to expel a dragon god who had roamed this world for over three thousand years. He didn’t point out that it had, in fact, been Zanya who thrust a dragon-hilted blade deep into the king’s chest, ending his life. He didn’t even raise his voice.
The low rumble of his words still made the earth shiver. “When you are burning healers at the stake, your protection leaves much to be desired.”
“We’re not burning healers,” Velez spat. “We’re cleansing this village of heretics.”
Zanya could not see the Dragon’s face, but from the way the soldiers inched back, she imagined flames had appeared in his eyes. His voice was gentle malevolence. “And who do you name heretic?”
“Anyone who speaks out against our gentle queen and calls for treason.”
This produced an uneasy murmur through the crowd. A handful of villagers already sported bruises and shackles—those who had tried to interrupt the burning, Zanya guessed. They knelt by the soldiers, hands bound at their backs. Those who still stood free gripped makeshift weapons—staves and scythes, one or two sizable kitchen knives. The blacksmith held a hammer loosely at her side. Several burly young foresters hoisted the axes they must have been using to chop wood.
The soldiers might have cowed this village before, but the arrival of the Dragon had strengthened their resolve. If his men came for the healer again, the people would fight back.
Velez ignored this obvious fact with true aristocratic hauteur. “Every villager must turn over false idols and any token of the traitorous High Court. The queen commands it.”
Zanya highly doubted the queen had done any such thing. Princess—now Queen—Anikke had celebrated her fifteenth birthday only a few moons prior. Zanya had been there, purportedly nothing more than the handmaid hired to accompany Anikke’s eldest sister when Princess Sachielle was sent to do the family’s duty by becoming the Dragon’s consort.
Anikke had been utterly ignorant of the undercurrents at that awkward family celebration. She hadn’t known that Sachielle was no more related to her by blood than the palace cook was. Or that King Dalvish II had found Sachi as an orphaned toddler and concocted a plan to spare his own blood from the magic that bound the royal family to the High Court when they sent their centennial sacrifice. Anikke had had no idea that the doting father who watched benevolently as his two daughters shared a slice of cake had been torturing Sachi from the moment he’d brought her into his household, doing everything in his power to hone her into a weapon of seduction and deceit.
Into an assassin.
Anikke had been oblivious to all of it, shyly excited from the kind attention of the older sister she looked up to but rarely got to see, and heartbroken when she realized this was the final birthday they would spend together. Sachielle was bound to the High Court, the latest in a string of sacrificial consorts. It should have been the end.
Only Sachi had lived, and King Dalvish II had died. And now Anikke was a child queen, sheltered and ignorant of the true conspiracies entangling her court and her family. It mattered little if her uncles Doven or Bodin, or her aunt Tislaina, were the ones issuing orders on behalf of the grieving queen. Whoever was in charge wanted vengeance for the life Zanya had claimed.
And they’d take it out on their own citizens if the High Court didn’t stop them.
Fortunately for this village, the Dragon alone was more than capable of stopping them. The backing of his fellow gods—the Huntress, the Wolf, and the Lover—was practically overkill. None of them needed Zanya at all. But Ash had asked her to come, as part of her training.
Zanya was a god now, too. Of a sort.
The restless murmuring of the villagers died as Ash took another step forward. He stood with his feet parted, like a wall with the strength of the earth that answered the call of his magic. “There will be no burnings. No confiscations. You will leave this village.”
Velez slashed his sword through the air—a flashy move that was more bluster than skill. “The heretic and the prisoners come with me. Unless you’d like to see how much of sweet little Emmonsdale we can bleed out before you can stop us.”
Was he a fool, or did he truly believe he could stand against a god? Of course, it had been centuries since the Dragon had walked casually among the people. Stories had twisted him into a vicious and rageful monster, a beast with no self-control who devoured the weak and defenseless. Zanya had learned the lie beneath those words over the past weeks—but only the cruelty had been a falsehood. Not his power.
The Dragon could erase Velez with a flick of his fingers.
The disdain in Ash’s tone said as much as he stared at the lord over his flashing sword. He hadn’t even deigned to draw his own yet. “This is your last warning. Turn around and go.”
Velez responded with a sneer. He thrust his sword into the air, and the men behind him drew their weapons in a clatter of steel. Over the sound, Zanya heard the softest sigh drift back . . . Ash, frustrated that he would be forced to violence.
Then one of the soldiers screamed. His horse reared, revealing the knife buried in the soldier’s throat. The soldier next to him whirled his horse and cut down the villager who’d launched the attack.
And chaos exploded as the good folk of Emmonsdale went mad.
If it had been Ash against the soldiers, it would have been no contest. He would have cut through them as if they had no more substance than air. Zanya had seen him do it before—deftly disarming and unseating cavalry soldiers with lazy ease, so precisely in control of the battle that he didn’t even need to kill them. Just a handful of painful bruises, a few broken bones, and the gut-deep reminder that they had no hope when they faced the Dragon.
The civilians complicated everything.
They were angry and desperate, and they had no intention of leaving the soldiers who had threatened their healer with mere bruises. They came at the mounted soldiers with murder in their eyes, and any whisper of remaining discipline collapsed as the knights scattered, each one fighting his own private battle for his life.
A child’s scream of fear rose over the clash of steel. Zanya pivoted, but Aleksi was already there, plucking the child out of danger as Elevia guarded his back. Magic exploded behind Zanya in a prickling wave, and a giant wolf leapt past her, its eyes glowing molten gold.
Ulric, she thought, but had time for no more as his growl rumbled across the square. The Wolf was the god of the forest and all wild things, and the horses of the queen’s soldiers answered his call with terrified obedience. One after another began to rear and buck, doing everything in their power to dislodge their riders. The deft ones managed to fling themselves clear of their saddles. The less fortunate . . .
Zanya turned from the sight of the two foresters descending on a soldier, axes flashing in the warm morning light.
The violence called to her, sweet and chaotic. The clash of steel, the harsh cries. The sound a sword made when it sliced through air. Through armor.
People fought and died all around her, and a dark part of her reveled in it. No, not a dark part of her—the true part of her. The inner self with which she still grappled, even as the power of it pulsed in her veins.
For centuries, the High Court of Dreamers had been the most powerful entities who walked their lands. Gods in human form, each with power over their own domain. Earth and fire answered to the Dragon. The air and water obeyed the Siren. The Wolf called to the wild places, while the Witch walked those that bordered life and death. Anything the Lover touched grew, fertile and bountiful. And the Huntress never missed a mark, whether she hunted game or knowledge.
Their powers flowed from the Everlasting Dream, a place of pure hope. The heart of creation.
But destruction had a home, too. The Endless Void.
And Zanya was that elemental chaos, born into human flesh.
A handful of weeks wasn’t enough time to come to grips with the truth of something so unfathomable. Guilt still flooded her as she caressed the hilt of her sword, her blood singing with how good it would feel to draw it and strike down her enemies. Not the usual kind of guilt, either—not sickness at the weight of death. At the reality of causing it.
Zanya’s only guilt came from how little guilt she felt when her sword struck true and blood flowed. For her entire life, the world had been brutally, painfully simple: there were enemies, and there was Sachi. To protect Sachi, she would bathe in the blood of those who came against her.
But the world was no longer simple. She had power now, too much to use recklessly, and that was all that stayed her hand now as the violence sang to her. That had been the Dragon’s command to her: to watch. To learn. To not engage, unless she was called upon.
All of those noble intentions crumbled when she saw Velez melting through the shadows.
He’d abandoned his horse and skirted the main battle, leaving his men to their fates. His target was clear—the old woman and the cluster of apprentices still tending to her.
Thought ceased. Instinct took over. Zanya reached for the shadows that had always obeyed her, wrapping herself in their caressing darkness. The power to summon them when she stood in broad daylight was new. So was what she did next, an internal twist that carried her into the Void for a heartbeat. There was no time in the Endless Void. No distance. Every place touched it, and it touched every place.
She didn’t even have to take a step. But she did, bursting from the Void and her protective wreath of shadows directly into Velez’s path.
He recoiled, fear flashing through his eyes before rage replaced it. “Abomination!”
Zanya drew the sword the Huntress had gifted her, and it felt like a feather in her hand as she smiled. “Will you name me heretic, too? Try to burn me?”
“You should be burned,” he spat back. “Purged from this world. You were always unnatural, but now evil surrounds you like a dark halo.”
Yes, that had been the price of claiming the power she’d needed to save Sachi’s life. For twenty-five years, Zanya had known she was other, but for the most part she’d been able to hide it. Now anyone who looked at her could see the truth. Her mind and heart might feel fragile and human, but her body and spirit were anything but.
And her power came from the Void.
“I am what I am.” Zanya advanced. “What I have always been.”
“Foul and corrupt,” Velez snarled. “Just like your traitorous mistress.”
Ice crept through her, far more dangerous than the heat of battle hunger. He could insult her all day if he wished, but if he turned that poisoned tongue toward Sachi . . . “You will not speak of her.”
“Will I not?” he taunted, raising his sword. “The queen is still mourning the betrayal of her beloved sister, you know. But soon enough she will dry her tears and listen to the counsel of her elders. And on that day . . .” Joy lit his face. “Oh, the price on dear Princess Sachielle’s head will be legendary.”
It was all bluster and lies. Sachi was safe at Dragon’s Keep. The castle sat at the top of a mountain, in the middle of a caldera lake. It was so well fortified as to be impenetrable, and entirely self-sufficient besides. As long as Sachi stayed safely within its walls, nothing and no one could hurt her.
But Velez wanted to. The hunger for Sachi’s pain lit those blue eyes, just as it had when he’d done his best to beat Zanya into submission during her endless training sessions. Once, when she’d been just fifteen, her trainers had tossed her into the sparring ring with seven men armed with swords. She’d had only a simple wooden practice knife for defense. The soldiers had been promised one gold piece for every time they drew her blood.
The wealthy heir of House Sandrake hadn’t needed the fifteen gilded coins that had glistened in his palm at the end of the night. Oh no. He’d made her bleed for the pleasure of it.
The same memory shone in his eyes. “I still have my gold coins,” he murmured, swinging his sword in a lazy arc. Testing her. She swatted it away with a clash of steel that only widened his grin. “When I strike Sachielle’s golden head from her pretty little neck, I’ll put the reward next to them.”
He couldn’t. He wouldn’t. But the ringing of steel and the low, tormenting sound of his voice twisted through her, dragging her back to that claustrophobic time during her training. Her heart beat faster. Fear tasted like ash on her tongue. When he lunged at her, her body brought her sword up out of pure muscle memory, her block jerky and uneven.
“She always was your weakness, wasn’t she?” Velez taunted, his eyes glinting as he circled, the tip of his blade flicking out in another testing advance she barely managed to block.
Where was the heat of battle she’d just savored? Where was that terrifying darkness that reveled in the kill? Her breath came too fast, and her limbs moved too slowly, as if the chains she’d slept in most nights in the capital still weighed her down. She could feel the cold iron around her wrists.
She’s little more than a feral wolf.
She could hear their laughter. The guards. The cocky young lords. Velez, smug and safe on the other side of the bars that caged her, his handsome face curved in a cruel grin.
The king would do better to put her down.
Zanya bit her lip and tasted blood, bright and metallic. The king couldn’t put her down. She’d driven a blade deep into his heart. She’d knelt in a puddle of his blood and watched the life go out of him. He could never hurt Sachi again.
He could never hurt Zanya again.
She knew that. Somewhere in her mind, she knew the truth. But her body wouldn’t obey, wouldn’t calm. Fear raged through her as Velez swung at her in earnest, his sword coming so close she barely managed to block the blow. His body pressed in, his face staring at hers across their crossed blades, the deadlock as intimate as a kiss.
“I always knew I’d be the one to end you.” In his voice, she heard the echo of every man who had promised her misery and pain from the first time they’d put a weapon into her hand at less than ten years old.
Rotten to the core, every last one of them. Twisted and wrong, willing to hurt Zanya and Sachi if it gained them lands and riches. Willing to hurt them just for the joy of having power over someone helpless and afraid.
Shadows curled up her body. Zanya tasted her own blood on her lips. Remembered Sachi’s blood on her hands, spilled in an attempt to escape the curse these mortal bastards had placed upon her.
They’d come so close to losing everything. So close Zanya still woke every night, sobs of terror trapped in her throat.
“No.” It hurt, like she was speaking through broken glass. Her entire body pounded with the frantic beat of her heart. She remembered being small and wounded and helpless—
But even when she’d been all of those things, she’d always fought back.
“No?” Velez mocked. He broke their stalemate with a surge of muscle, and suddenly a dagger glinted in his hand. A flick of his wrist scored a line of bright pain across her cheek, and his dark laughter curled around her. “How about I send you back to Princess Sachielle in pieces? A fitting gift for a traitor.”
Rage roared up from within, shattering her fear. Shadows enveloped her, and Velez hissed and stumbled back, all playful cruelty swallowed by superstitious hatred. “Witch!”
“Worse,” Zanya whispered.
Then she struck.
Her sword shimmered in the sunlight like black diamonds as she swung it with all her strength. Velez flung his own up to block it, but Zanya’s blade slid through it as sweetly as it would have cut through flesh.
The choked word was all she let him have. He was still gaping at his cleaved weapon when she reversed her swing and sliced through his neck. But it wasn’t enough. She could still hear the pounding of that fearful heart—her heart, her childhood heart—and a snarl erupted from her lips as shadows caressed her fingers. She punched into his chest and tore his heart free, crushing it in her fingers as if she could silence the frantic beating inside of her for good.
Time wobbled. The top half of his sword bounced in the dirt with an odd clang. A moment later his head joined it, his face still twisted into an expression of horrified realization.
It took another moment for his body to topple over. In that quiet, stately heartbeat, she realized the rest of the village had gone deathly silent.
Zanya heard the creak of her leather armor as she stepped back. She heard her own harsh exhalation, as well as the sound of Velez’s blood as it dripped off her sword and splattered on the dirt. She forced her fingers open and released the mangled heart, letting it fall next to its heartless former owner.
She couldn’t hear her own pulse anymore. She couldn’t hear anything but the wind and the drip of blood and the unnatural stillness of so many people too aghast to even whisper.
Then gentle, insistent hands closed around her upper arms, digging into her armor and pulling her back. Elevia.
“Come away now, Zanya,” she murmured.
Velez’s empty eyes stared at the sky, his mouth twisted in shock. There was no thrill in seeing him vanquished, just the sick feeling that somehow, even in death, he would still manage to claim this day as his victory. Whenever she played the vile games devised by those at the capital, she always lost. One way or another.
“Come,” Elevia repeated softly. “He belongs to the vultures now.”
Zanya shuddered and turned her back on the nightmare from her past. “He always did.”