- Publication Date: July 19, 2020
- Genre: Futuristic Fantasy
- ASIN: B084FLVJP8
Chief Magistrate Lela of the House of Asheema is truth and wisdom incarnate or so she proclaims the day she is inducted into the Council of Magistrates, the ruling government of her homeworld. Charged with assisting the regent negotiate a peace treaty between warring planets, Lela is determined to prove she is worthy of ruling alongside chief magistrates thirty years her senior. But when the peace talks turn deadly, Lela’s mission shifts from negotiating reconciliation to capturing dangerous mercenaries.
Lela must uncover the truth in a miasma of lies. Who hired the mercenaries to assassinate the peace delegates and why? Who else is in danger?
Can Lela and her security team stop the culprits before more lives are lost?
The path laid out for Lela is one she is not yet prepared to walk. But leaders are rarely born or the circumstances of their ascension ideal.
Lela eased out of the kiss, recalling what Ammon had said when he’d first appeared behind her. “I didn’t think he would give it to you as part of the ceremony.” Had he been referring to …? Lela removed Yusef’s gift from her cloak pocket. It was lightweight, so she’d forgotten the offering. It was a …
With sure fingers, Ammon plucked the item from her hand. “This is the tactical knife my father gave me when I turned fifteen anulls.”
“At your Rite of Pala?”
“Yes. Sometimes, I think he forgets the rite proclaimed me a man and ready for Shielder combat and tactical training. I’m double that age now, but I love this knife as much today as I did when Ab’ba handed it to me.” His fingers slid over a well-maintained custom-fitted sheath. “The weapon has three finger choils and contoured scales for a comfortable grip. It also comes with a neck paracord.”
Combat and tactical knives were weapons of a bygone era. Lela had grasped Yusef’s link to ancient Paladins when he’d proclaimed his band “blade and armor.” But, as she listened to the pride in Ammon’s voice, as well as the expertise that came with being a well-trained soldier, her understanding expanded.
“The paracord is for inverted carry as a neck knife. It’s small enough to be easily concealed under a blouse. If you will accept another gift from me, I also have a hunter’s knife I’d like to give you. It has a fixed blade and a good grip.”
“A fixed blade and a good grip,” Lela repeated, the words rotten fruit in her mouth. “I’m not going off to war, Ammon. It’s a peace negotiation.”
“Among warring planets. That’s why I’m giving you my Rite of Pala blade. I also hope you’ll accept my hunter’s knife. It’s made of mor’up, which means it’s sharp enough to gut anyone who may threaten to do you harm.”
Lela gaped at Ammon, astounded into silence. She’d never thought him like his father, but it could’ve been Yusef speaking to her. True, regardless of the band, everyone received basic self-defense training from Paladin instructors. Only Paladins, however, received extensive training, their band responsible for regional law enforcement and planetary defense.
She should’ve objected when he slipped the paracord around her neck, the knife’s tip touching the ver’ty. But she could do nothing but stare at him, surprised by how casually he’d spoken of gutting an enemy. But Lela was also touched by Ammon’s concern for her safety.
“The hunting knife can be hidden in a boot or in a sheath strapped to your thigh.” A bright smile formed, and his eyes darted to her lap. “If you like, I could show you how to arrange the strap on your leg. You wouldn’t want it falling off at an inopportune time.”
“Yes, I could help you—”
Lela playfully pushed away the hand reaching for her cloak-covered thigh. “Not about that. I know we haven’t begun the courting rituals, but I’m certain none of them involves the exchange of deadly weapons.”
Ammon sobered. “My father and I may disagree more than we ought, but we take the safety of those we care about seriously. It says much that he turned what should’ve been a private gesture into a public offering. I’m unsure if you are aware, but mor’up, the natural resource the Affiq use to make many of our weapons and all of our transporter shields, is undetectable by any known scanner. Do you know what that means?”
“I cannot bring a weapon into peace talks.”
“You sound quite appalled and very Verity, my sweet Lela.”
“You’re asking me to lie.” She also didn’t appreciate the criticism of her band, no matter how gently the comment was stated. “Do you know what will happen if I’m discovered with your Paladin weapons on my person?”
“You’ll be alive, and the person who dared to harm you will be at your feet bleeding out,” Ammon responded so matter-of-factly it took Lela’s breath away.
“I … I …” There were no words. Well, there were plenty, but she couldn’t get the image he had painted out of her mind to form them.