Story Excerpt Sunday: From Fires of Nuala by Cat Kimbriel

Fires of NualaFires of Nuala

Book One of the Chronicles of Nuala

by Cat Kimbriel

Never draw unwarranted attention to entrances or departures, Darame reminded herself as she slipped into her own room. Peeling off the black dress and shoes she hastily donned a loose-fitting evening robe and slippers. Now, to find out what Avis was “up to”…. If it was possible for innocent Avis to involve herself in any secrets. Guileless as clear water, Avis had quickly shown Darame that skulduggery was not her game.

Will Stephen stay the night? Even Stephen’s visits were not really a secret; only enough of one to keep the fallen suitors at bay. One or two others had shared Avis’s affections until just recently, Brant among them. Romancing both Atare women, Brant? Interesting. Maybe dangerous. Darame walked slowly down the carpeted hall, guaard Ayers still in tow, wondering about her last thought.

Not an exaggeration. Darame had done her own silent observing the last month, and she knew why Leah disturbed her so. Not Leah’s need for men constantly in her circle, or her indifference to mourning (for her dislike of her late uncle was widely known), but because of her attitude toward
Avis.

Officially, Leah was everything that was proper to her little sister: gracious, generous, instructive — even proud of the attention Avis drew without effort. But Darame had more than once done nothing but watch Leah for an entire evening… and a chilling undertow ran beneath the surface of Leah’s concern. Leah hated Avis. Hated her, feared her, was jealous of her. Watched her, constantly….

Had Sheel suspected the enmity between the two? Although Avis apparently did not hate her sister, she was no more than friendly in the vague manner one might use with a distant aunt…. Even with Cold Sleep, fifteen years separated the women. Avis liked people, however, and looked for the best in them. I am not sure you know… or if you do, how seriously you take it. I am no longer sure who Sheel would have me protect you from….

Knocking at the oak double doors of the royal quarters, Darame was admitted by an unfamiliar guard. Her first thought was that there were too many people present… and a number of them were in strange uniform.

Avis was seated in a circular grouping around a huge firepit. Darame could see her beyond the flames, dressed in a fiery coral caftan which floated from her shoulders like a cloud. Next to her on one side was Camelle, still in her widow’s weeds, pouring hot saffra into delicate cups. The young woman to the left of Avis was unfamiliar.

Moving closer did not solve the mystery — Darame’s puzzlement increased. The features were teasing, from her past….

Gavriel? Not the height: Darame could tell from the sleek lines of her black syluan dress that this woman was dainty. But the eyes were the same, irises so pale a blue they might have been glacial, while the thick braid of hair was a blonde so fair it was almost white. Nualan clothing, however… and she was speaking Nualan to Avis. Oddly accented Nualan.

Noticing her entrance, Camelle stood and reached out a hand for her, a tense smile crossing her face. “Thank you for coming. The Serae was certain you could help.” As always when Camelle helped her with the Nualan tongue, the words were slow and well-formed.

“If I can, you know I will,” Darame answered, her gaze flicking toward the stranger.

With perfect aplomb, Camelle said: “That is Quenby Ragäree.”

For a moment Darame stared at her, confused, although aware that something ominous was threaded through those words. “But… Sheel has not — ” Then she stopped, because she understood. Part of the mystery, at least. The woman was a ragäree… but not of the Atare clan. “Where is she from?”

“She is the Regent of Seedar.”

*****
In the beginning Katharine Eliska Kimbriel was nominated for the Campbell Award for Best New SF/Fantasy Writer. Kimbriel wrote literate, character-driven SF and Fantasy. Then she became really ill and tried to die. Do you know that if you win the throw with Death, you become a wizard?

Her work has been re-released as ebooks, and her Alfredas are also in trade paperback. She is finishing the third Alfreda fantasy novel and also a Nualan short. Also on the horizon is a contemporary fantasy dealing with curses, dragons, big cats and the principal that “you are what you eat.”

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