Cienzo has always had an affliction for metal and fire; he just never knew it would mean he was heir to the great Territories: Skies, Seas and the Underworld.
Fantasy Young Adult
||Los Angeles, California
||4 publishers interested
The novel, SONS OF GODS, is a Young Adult Fantasy novel narrated in third person, and expressed from multiple points of view. It is the first installment of a series that is expected to go for two to five more installations, and revolves around the relationship and personal struggles of Cienzo and Kayana. SONS OF GODS is heavily immersed in and inspired by Greek mythology, and takes place on a fictional continent, Thilos.
A prologue takes the reader 250 years back, just before the start of the Great War between the Gods—which is a historical event referenced often throughout the novel. Zeus has declared war against his brothers, Hades and Poseidon, forcing the other Gods and Goddesses to take sides, until not a single God is left to oversee the Territories: Skies, Seas and Underworld.
The novel then continues with seventeen–year-old, Cienzo Lansolav, an exceptionally talented blacksmith, who is slaving to pay the debts left behind by his deceased parents, and to provide for the only thing that matters to him: his ailing sister, Isla. Cienzo is a withdrawn individual who struggles with relationships, though he desires more from them. He is cautious and committed to a fault, and tends to travel the road most traveled.
The other main character is Kayana Katar. Kayana is a fierce protector, prolific huntress and childhood friend to Cienzo and Isla. Her father was murdered by the same savage tribe (the Roamers) that murdered Cienzo’s father and she is the only person known to have survived the Thilos Fever—the same Fever that threatens Isla’s life. Throughout the novel, Kayana’s battle with her mounting conflict and muddled feelings toward her relationship with Cienzo reach a new high.
When Isla does not wake from her Mender’s therapy, Cienzo plunges into a quest to fulfill his promise to her. What he does not know is that this trek will turn into a life altering voyage; completely severing life as he once perceived it. And though he is often faced with death—such as a confrontation with the Chief of Roamers, Troix, poisoning by mystical creatures and crumbling friendships—his promise and words to his sister never cease his efforts; ultimately, leading him to the alleged daughter of Aphrodite and Ares, Zendaya.
Cienzo’s shock only intensifies when Zendaya explains to Cienzo that he is a Son of Gods—descendant of the God of Fire, Steel and Blacksmiths, Hephaestus, and heir to the Territories—and that he can manipulate, control and summon fire and metal. And though Zendaya is met with resistance, Cienzo is ultimately convinced to find Alastor, the son of Asclepius, God of Medicine, who can bring life back to Isla. But Zendaya needs Alastor, because it is he who knows the location of the Glass Forest, the location where the last Jinae’ (genie) waits until the Sons of Gods return to relinquish him of his servitude and grant them access to the sacred lands of Socratone. Zendaya has waited a lifetime to be queen of the Territories. Her wait ends now.
Cienzo uncovers a world he never knew existed, which catapults his internal evolution. When the group arrives to the eastern region of Crothus, a world built around the Divines, Demeter, Selene, and Asclepius, they successfully locate Alastor. It is during this interaction that Cienzo uncovers Kayana is his Talisman and that a raid by the Roamers has taken place back home. Without preamble, they head back home and Cienzo once again faces off with a vengeful Chief of Roamers, Troix. But before Troix can lay waste to Cienzo, the Son of Gods unearths a grand truth: Troix is his father’s murderer and, Isla is the savage’s half-sister. Fortunately, Alastor is able to successfully resuscitate Isla, but accidentally divulges to Kayana that she is Cienzo’s Talisman, causing her to spiral deeper into her dark crisis.
Through Troix, the group learn of Viktor, Son of Hades, who is also chasing the throne of the Territories and the Jinae’, and rush to the Glass Forest. When they arrive, they are forced into battle with Viktor—who has already found the Jinae’, Mirek. But Mirek, who after so many years of imprisonment, has had plenty of time to outline a few demands of his own. Unfortunately, Viktor is not so much a man of negotiations nor compromises; though, he is a keen strategist. He tactfully initiates a race for the throne by killing Isla, cleverly fulfilling the Jinae’s requests and ensuring the rest follow him to the Underworld. Unbeknownst to the others, who grieve over Isla’s death and seethe with rage, Viktor has cunningly arranged the pieces for the others to do the work for his desired goal: accessing and acquiring the God’s lands, Socratone.
They will meet again in the Underworld for the sequel to the SONS OF GODS: BLOOD OF GODS.
SONS OF GODS
**It should be noted that almost 30% of all chapters are preceded by a short mythological anecdote.
This chapter provides a flashback scenario to the Great War. The Great War dismantled the relations between the Gods and people, and consequentially brought to end a gleaming era, which began the Age of Shadows—the time in history the novel in Chapter One takes place.
Though the rift between Zeus and his brothers had been long known, it was for the inception of Selene’s, Goddess of the Moon’s, daughter—Aerosia, that caused the true dismantle of the dynasty. When she was casted down on to Mt Olympus, the battle for her ownership had begun, and on the night of Jupiter’s rising, in celebration of Zeus, when Aerosia’s disappearance led for Zeus to land blame on his brothers. Aerosia was never to be found and the Great War erupted, lasting for many years, until not a single God was left to survive.
CHAPTER ONE: CIENZO
This chapter is told from the perspective of Cienzo Lansolav, the storie’s main character. It immediately sets up his motive and reason for life: his sister, Isla. She is ill, and rapidly falling to death from a disease that took their mother from them at a young age. Cienzo does not handle nor navigate emotions well, but with Isla, his steely exterior is softened. She is set to have an Incantation Therapy the following day with a Mender, one that has only been known to work once in its lifetime.
When he visits Isla on the eve of her therapy, she asks of her brother for a story—her favorite of all things. She asks specifically for the one pertaining to Aphrodite’s daughter—the one who is said to be living in secrecy. Cienzo, to try and get her to rest her mind, promises that if she goes to bed and can commit to bravery, that he will seek the so-called daughter of Aphrodite that allegedly exists. Their relationship is tender and unique, and it is unlike any of the other relationships Cienzo is able to form in the novel.
CHAPTER TWO: CIENZO
As Cienzo exits the tent, he is approached by the Mender who is to work on Isla. He reminds Cienzo that he has yet to remit final payment for the therapy, and that without it none would take place. This places Cienzo in a panic and he hurries to the Forge, where he anxiously expects to request the loan from his despicable boss, Astran. The reader is provided a beautiful glimpse into Cienzo’s city, Kepria-which is on the province on Kenslan. While at the Forge, Cienzo begins to experience his first odd effects with fire and metal. He dreams with a friend of soon turning “of age” and finally being free of Astran—the man who was his father’s nemesis—and took Cienzo in only as pleasure. But by the end of the chapter, an incident at the Forge causes Cienzo to forgo his will and resign his next ten years to Astran.
CHAPTER THREE: KAYANA
The chapter introduces one of the secondary pivotal characters, Kayana Katar. She is a master huntress, scouring the mountains for food to provide for she and Cienzo and Isla. Kayana begins to explore unexplainable feelings of guilt and affection for Cienzo. It begins to cloud her judgement and fill her with doubt, which is unsettling for her, because the reader in this chapter is given an understanding of her strong and ultra-keen characteristic. You are also introduced to Kayana’s centaur, Caleseus.
CHAPTER FOUR: CIENZO
Cienzo is guilt-ridden by his new circumstance. He is unsure how to tell Kayana. This chapter is the first interaction between Kayana and Cienzo, and it lays the foundation for the reader. This chapter is extremely important, for it expands on their relationship—their distance and closeness. It also explains how the role the two play in each other’s lives, and how Kayana was the only other person in all the lands to have ever survived Thilos Fever—the disease that Cienzo’s sister, Isla, battles.
Kayana finds herself humiliated and frustrated at Cienzo’s lack of intimacy with her. After all the years as friends, how could he still not allow her in? Her centaur, Caleseus, recounts a pivotal moment in their lives and makes note of how he has always been aware of her dangerous magnetism toward Cienzo. This takes Kayana aback, for until now, she has held herself oblivious to any emotion for him, tried her best to distract and deny. She thinks:
"Only a fool would subject our friendship to the tarnishing of love. Instead, she loved—no, not loved—him from a distance, watching and admiring him from a faraway island from which she’d casted her heart away.'
She remained silent. We are best friends, she told herself, almost too forcefully. Something peculiar was working its way into her mind. It was an invading feeling that put her at unease. Could it be that she was allowing her feelings to interfere with the reality of what really was? She hoped not. This weakened hunters.
And weaknesses like love, ended in tragedies."
CHAPTER SIX: CIENZO
It is the morning of Isla’s therapy. Cienzo has his final moments with Isla before she goes through her procedure. He is unsure whether he will ever see her alive again. He peeks into the tent and glimpses otherworldly spirits surrounding her body, as part of the therapy, and is quick to want to stop it—but Kayana intervenes in time.
CHAPTER SEVEN: CIENZO
The therapy does not work on Isla and the Mender gives her five moons before she officially dies. Cienzo grieves, but remembers his promise to Isla. He has never broken a promise to Isla—and he will not begin now. Kayana disagrees, but when the Mender attacks her disbelief it is uncovered that there may be more knowledge in the Cross Market of true Living Gods—one being the son of Asclepius—the God of Medicine. Immediately, Cienzo decides to take the risk. He has nothing else to lose. He made a promise to Isla, he has ten years in addition to serve to Astran, and there might be a living God to bring his sister back from the brink of death. He decides he will voyage the distance to find the truth. Of course, against her inner will, Kayana decides to tag along. Not even she can understand why.
The Mender says to travel to the Cross Market and seek the God Worshiper with one eye, for she will know the answers to what he seeks. But, they must be careful because it is the Festival of the Fallen, and it is known to be prime hunting time for the Roamers—a barbaric, brutal tribe that hunt those who hold faith in the Gods (also, they murdered both Kayana’s and Cienzo’s fathers.)
CHAPTER EIGHT: KAYANA
Kayana, Cienzo and Caleseus must trek past the Valley of False Fires, until they reach a land known to be where Zeus had been slain—the Waste Lands. The set up here is to identify the landscape change in the world. The territories are becoming uninhabitable; Shallows (spirits from the Underworld) are walking the grounds, etc., earthquakes are more plentiful, ice is falling in areas never to have known to be present, etc.
They are attacked by three Stingers, massive-sized and deadly scorpions.
CHAPTER NINE: KAYANA
A battle ensues. At the end of it, Cienzo is stung by the beast’s poisonous stinger, as he is trying to protect Kayana. She is mortified by his loss. But shortly after, as she lies with his breathless body in her arms, mind reeling with all of the things she meant to tell him, Cienzo is magically revived. The three of them are stunned by the revelation. No one has ever survived the sting of a Stinger.
CHAPTER TEN - TWELVE
Cienzo, Kayana and Caleseus arrive to the Cross Market, which is buzzing with energy, albeit the risk of Roamers. They find the hut of the God Worshipper, Alcina, whose one whole half of her face has been cursed to ruin by Aphrodite. In exchange for a reading, Cienzo promises her the most beautiful mask that she can wear at all times. During the reading, it is revealed that the daughter of Aphrodite and other Sons of Gods, are in fact, alive. Alcina provides Cienzo directions to follow and precautions, and wishes him a very strange luck.
As suspected, the Roamers attack, and there is significant bloodshed amidst the celebration. Kayana and Cienzo are intercepted by the Roamer’s Chief, Troix and his wife, who ride on the backs of bloodied and armored winged feral horses. Though the combat comes to a close end, the only death is that of Troix’s wife—and it is Cienzo who beheads her. Troix vows to murder him, and thus, a significant nemesis is formed here.
CHAPTER THIRTEEN - FOURTEEN: CIENZO
Cienzo is reeling from the murder of Troix’s wife. He cannot come to grips with the fact that he has actually killed someone, and in such a brutal form. Kayana suggests returning home, but Cienzo persists on continuing the trip, for the sake of Isla. He asks Kayana to go back to Kepria and look after Isla, for Troix could come looking for him. She gives in and offers Caleseus as his guide.
Cienzo and Caleseus wander in silence for two days through the continent, in search of the city of Cypro (as directed by Alcina). Caleseus accuses Cienzo of playing Kayana of her weaknesses. Cienzo is truly confused by this and for the first time, Kayana’s potential true feelings toward Cienzo are exposed.
Cienzo is beguiled by a group of sirens—the only creatures known to bring death even to a God. Before being pulled underwater, Caleseus is able to rescue him.
CHAPTER FIFTEEN - SIXTEEN
Cienzo and Celesues arrive in Cypro, a small village where everyone has the one same characteristic: red hair. They find a boy who ferries them across a lake and directs them to a giant white willow. At the willow tree, Caleseus suspects they are being watched, and he leaves Cienzo to scour the area. Cienzo is apprehended by Zendaya, who asks for his identity. She is absolutely radiant with fiery red hair. Here, we meet Zendaya’s guardian Nymphs—most notable, Phalan. Through the course of this conversation Zendaya realizes that Cienzo is something more than an ordinary blacksmith and grows excited. She invites them into her willow tree, which is really nothing more than a façade, and really an underground holding where Aphrodite and Ares once hosted their secret affairs.
She explains that they are to rule the Great Territories together, that he is heir to a profound God, and that he has always had spectacular abilities. Of course, he does not believe it, and continues to urge her to help his sister. But when an earthquake attacks, Zendaya forces Cienzo to dig deep and find his abilities to save the people of Cypro who are all at risk of dying.
CHAPTER SEVENTEEN- EIGHTEEN:
Zendaya watches over Cienzo as he sleeps, thinking of the future possibilities. For her entire life, she has dreamed and trained of this moment: the awakening of a new era. When Cienzo wakes, she gives him little option of joining her: he will help her take over the Territories and she will in turn help him locate the Son of Asclepius, Alastor, who can bring life to Isla. But first, she must show Cienzo how to use and control his abilities. They must be awoken. And to help, she introduces them to her electricity-bearing dragon, Phobos.
Cienzo takes a droplet of the Drops of Fate from Phalan, and is provided a glimpse of the past. It eases his fears and questions. They fly on the back of Phobos to the eastern tip of Thilos, Crothus. Cienzo is amazed at the perspective of the world from this point, for he has been hidden from it all.
CHAPTER NINETEEN – TWENTY:
They arrive in Crothus, a beautiful world lit by bioluminescent critters, glittering crops and gargantuan charred trees. Zendaya’s and Cienzo’s relationship is established here the most, where they speak of important topics such as immortality, family and other relationships. They reach the secret cave of Alastor and discover him and his talisman, a lazy-eyed rare gryphon. More secrets are uncovered through Alastor, especially one pertaining to Kayana, which explains everything about Cienzo’s and her relationship.
Alastor also explains there are a total of five living Sons of Gods. He also divulges that though he used to know where the Glass Forest is, the entrance to where they must find the Jinae, he no longer does, for he has lost his eyesight. The Roamers took from him his vision. But, he knows of a person who has recently uncovered its location: the Chief of Roamers. The only problem? Cienzo has beheaded his wife.
CHAPTER TWENTY- ONE: KAYANA
Kayana watches over Isla while she is in a coma. This intimate moment reveals much about their sisterly bond and relationship. In the midst of her mourning, her biggest fear has been realized: Troix, Chief of Roamers, and his tribe, have come to avenge the murder of his wife. And he has found Isla.
CHAPTER TWENTY- TWO: CIENZO
Cienzo learns of the Roamers’ attack on his town. It causes him to lose control of his powers, but Zendaya helps him regain it. Cienzo is faced with guilt and anger for putting his sister in danger and risking her life for what he now deems a fairytale.
CHAPTER TWENTY – THREE - TWENTY –FOUR
The group travel back to Kepria, to fight for Isla. They find Kayana, who meets the outsiders with trepidation and questions. Cienzo calls on Troix for battle. In the midst of battle, Phalan’s Drops of Fate is spilled while Cienzo is face-down in a puddle. He is granted a revelatory vision from the past, causing him to prohibit Zendaya from killing him and having them apprehend him instead. Down against Troix. Alastor is then taken to Isla to pass his magic over her.
CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE: KAYANA
Kayana watches Cienzo from afar, wondering what change it is she has seen in him. She’s just witnessed him command fire and appear with Gods. She sneaks into the Mender's tent and watches Alastor perform his ritual. It is here where Alastor conveys to Kayana the secret that Cienzo had learned from him earlier; the reason for their absolute tether. The reason why she has always felt so connected to him. She confronts Cienzo with the news and when he confirms it, she is crushed by it. In her eyes, everything has changed.
CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX - CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN: CIENZO
Cienzo is taken aback by Kayana’s reaction to the news, but he is interrupted by an angry mob, led by his former boss, Astran. With Cienzo’s newfound abilities and confidence, he seeks the revenge on Astran he has always wanted. His enjoyment, however, is cut short by Alastor’s announcement coming from the Mender’s tent to report on Isla’s condition.
When Isla emerges, alive, from the tent, Cienzo is immediately pumped with hope. He introduces her to Aphrodite and finds solace in being able to have fulfilled his promise to her. Isla is mesmerized by Zendaya.
He feels inspired by the hope that he can provide, for once, more for his sister and his people.
CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT: CIENZO
Together, they unite the team in celebration after helping to rebuild not only the buildings, but their sense of hope. But as he watched Zendaya's undeniable natural ability to connect with the townspeople, he doubts the ability to fill the role of king of Territories.
Kayana continues to patronize him, treating him as a stranger.
Eventually, Cienzo approaches Troix, he explains to him that he would like him to be a part of Isla’s life—for she has requested it, and admits that she is old enough to make her own decisions. He also asks for Troix’s help in locating the Glass Forest. This is when Troix makes the first mention of another Sons of Gods—one that is dangerous: Viktor, Son of Hades.
CHAPTER TWENTY-NINE: TROIX
Troix is brutal and savage. He loves that Cienzo has asked for his help and explains that he entered the Cross Market without notice with the help of Viktor, Son of Hades’ Crown of Invisibility. He does agree to help Cienzo, but only because for him, the first to get him to the Underworld will be forced to release his slain wife from the grips of death.
Isla approaches him. She is sweet and kind, and unlike anything he has ever encountered in his lifetime. How could she be of half his blood? Oddly enough, he feels connected to her. Their bond is immediate.
CHAPTER THIRTY – THIRTY-ONE: CIENZO
Cienzo warns Zendaya of Viktor and they immediately flee to the Glass Forest. During their trek, they continue seeing odd distortions in the air, but consider it nothing.
Cienzo is riddled with grief during their voyage to the Glass Forest. He does not know what to expect from Viktor, and Isla’s and Troix’s relationship has seemed to flourish organically. She even admits her admiration for him and asks if he can stay with them long-term.
They finally locate the entrance of the Glass Forest, and it is entered by only a small troop of them. It is a magnificent world built of textured glasses and crystals. A land of ice sprawling before them, glinting and shining, with giant trees carved of crystallized material standing tall, luminous and transparent.
In the midst of their gazing and gawking, Cienzo notices another air distortion and the connection is made in his mind: it’s Viktor using his Crown of Invisibility, and he’s been following them the entire time!
Viktor makes himself appear, condescending and chiding them every way he can. He ensures to display his power, which is to control the Shallows of the Underworld and ice, and builds a wall of ice to block them from entering the Glass Forest. But this wall is a piece of art, a mural, built of sculptures of winged lions, horned octopuses and skeletal fairies. It was a showy manifestation of the ease in which Viktor commands his powers. A demonstration of his skill and control.
CHAPTER THIRTY-TWO: VIKTOR
This chapter is a service to Viktor, to explain his origins and how he developed his powers. It is set up not pointlessly, but while he watches his men and women, who are dressed in black and pale blue armor with ram helmets, as they search for the cave of the Jinae.
CHAPTER THIRTY –THREE: KAYANA
Kayana and Alastor have a brief, but very intimate bonding moment here. It’s one that actually quite helps heal Kayana’s heart a bit, for her it has been torn open and wounded by such revelations.
During their conversation, she feels a wave of nausea sweep suddenly over her. Fear and urgency surfs in her veins. She knows immediately that something is wrong with Cienzo and that they must leave to help.
CHAPTER THIRTY-FOUR: ZENDAYA
Cienzo’s doubt takes the best of him. After witnessing Viktor’s master abilities, he questions everything. But by the time Zendaya has had her way with him, he is emboldened by courage and faith, and the wall has been melted.
CHAPTER THIRTY-FIVE: VIKTOR
Viktor locates the Jinae’s cave. Viktor crosses the titanic glistening crystal spider webs encasing the lamp and awakens the Jinae, Mirek. Viktor is not satisfied with the news that the Jinae coveys: All the Sons of Gods must be present for Mirek to lift the force field from over Socratone. Also, the terms were set long ago, the old Titans promised him eternal freedom and that must also first be granted. One of the Sons carries the key.
CHAPTER THIRTY-SIX: CIENZO
This scene is extremely pivotal, for it sets up so much for the second book. There is a massive battle scene between Cienzo’s people and Viktor’s warriors. Troix decides to takes sides with Cienzo.
When the battle has ceased, the Jinae offers his terms: his chains are to be released for his freedom, then he will take them all to Socratone and they can fight for the Territories. However, no one knows who has the key. They must venture to the Underworld and ask the fallen Gods. This is when Viktor challenges everyone to a ‘race for the throne.’ But before Viktor makes his dramatic exit, he murders a pivotal character.
CHAPTER THIRTY-SEVEN: MIREK
Mirek, the Jinae, watches on as the new age of Gods and Goddesses, and ordinary folk gather to mourn the loss of innocence. Here he describes his experience with death over his immortal life.
This chapter is the closing chapter and sets up the story arc that will prevail in Book 2: Cienzo, Zendaya, Mirek, Alastor, Kayana, Phalan, Caleseus, Troix must uncover the missing Sons of God and immediately then traverse to the Underworld. Only then can they seek the key to releasing the Jinae’s ensalevement, and unleashing the kingdom of Socratone. The Age of Hope is upon them, but who will rule it unknown.
This story is jam-packed with magic, fantastical creatures and mythical tales. It is the perfect story for anyone who is a fan of Greek Mythology. It relies heavily on the relationships and character development, but also on the development of plot.
For me, connecting with readers is paramount. I have a pretty strong platform on Wattpad, with 12K followers and I expect to use that to help catapult this book. With that, I intend on a social media ambush. One of my best friends is a social media guru, and I have already enlisted his help to build out my platform for Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook. It will be important for me to meet people in person, so I will also plan on positioning myself at as many conventions, high schools and demographic-heavy venues as possible. For one, this allows me to connect with my readers. For me, this has always been a strength. I want to know more about why my readers read, and what they want more of. And who knows? Maybe one reader might inspire the next book's story arc.
But I am ready, energetic and motivated to sell my story.
SHE STORMED OUTSIDE, fueled with irritation. The aggravation that stirred within her toward Cienzo was unrelenting. But why? Why did she care? It’s not as if she wanted to. He somehow had a hold over her, without having to ask for it. This is your fault, she chided herself. Not his. She knew she could not blame him. It’s not like this is new to you. Her thoughts were mush. She begged for clarity. None came. It never did.
The stench of charred fat wafted from the platter she gripped. She turned to call on Caleseus, but noticed him speaking with a tribe of vagabond centaurs just down the way. They were stunning. An arrangement of colors that mesmerized her: aqua furs with pastel-yellow manes, white furs with red manes, and gray furs with rose manes. The sight brought her a sense of relief, and she watched him for a moment, wondering if he, too, had ever yearned for something beyond his eternal commitment to her. Could it be absolute truth that once a centaur was tethered to its master, it was all their souls could desire? She couldn’t imagine it. A life compelled to serve another. The idea made her sad. Often guilty.
She felt obligated to protect Isla and Cienzo, and the stronghold of that very desire held her back from ever leaving Kenslan. From ever finding her own way. Since the very day news came of hers and Cienzo’s dapa’s murders by Roamers, she found herself dreaming of a life free of worry or expectation. The yearning had grown into impenetrable mountains the older she grew. So many times she tossed the idea around with Cienzo, but he feared anything than the safety of known comfort. And she could not imagine abandoning them. Not ever. Milos was right. The sting of irritation flushed her cheeks.
She gazed upon the moon as it slid to the forefront of the clouds, reminding her of the Diamond Moon that dazzled in the sky seven years prior; so crisp and clear it resembled a fine-cut gem. It was the only time she remembered feeling a sheer sense of freedom. And it was on that night of that Diamond Moon, where she participated in the Tethering Ceremony.
So engrossed by the memory from that day that she had not sensed Caleseus come up from behind her. “Can I speak?” he asked.
She smiled to herself before turning around. It was that very separation—the one that could disarm her of her keen hunter instincts—which she longed to experience as freely as the falling snow. The freedom of all things. Invisible wings.
“Has anything ever stopped you in the past?” she teased, resting the platter of meat on the ground. “If your answer is yes, please do remind me.”
He peered up into the sky, chest inked with symbol eternal moons, torso wrapped in leather, steel and fur. “Do you remember the Diamond Moon that guided you to me the night of our Tethering Ceremony?” he asked.
She remembered it vividly. She and a group of five others—Milos being one of them—were instructed to drink from the Goblet of Artemis. The liquid inside, said to be from the sweat of the Goddess, tingled as it dripped down her esophagus. The power of the fluid made her light on her feet; she felt high, hypnotic and loose. She had been relieved of any conscious inhibitions; an out-of-body experience that defied the natural laws of her physical world.
“What did it feel like?” he asked.
She wondered where he was going with it, but she gave into him. “When I drank from the goblet, my vision ebbed and shapes turned to blotches of color. I remember glancing down at my hands and feet. They were nothing but swarming, pulsing blurs of silver. Strings of energy around me had been replaced by colors.” She paused to savor the memory. “Then I felt a push. It was more of an instinct. To find you.”
“To think,” he said, “that in all the enchanted lands of Nephele you found me. A land filled with wandering, free centaurs, satyrs and minotaurs. How very lucky I was.”
“Nothing is left to luck,” she said. She looked up at the moon again, breathed in the past. It was sweet, and she unraveled with her every step toward reminiscence. “Finding you was not random. My feet were firm on the ground, but I felt like Hermes. As though small wings had been clipped to my boots. I was not hunting for you, I was floating toward you. I could hear the great Artemis’ voice in my ears, urging me on. Guiding me.”
“And when you located me?”
“Warmth fell over me. I turned to spy a silver cloud across from me.”
“Is that when we marched toward one another?” he asked.
“It was,” she admitted. She recalled the explosion of energy that was inscrutably exhilarating. The desire, the need that penetrated her so painfully to the core.
“I think I recall tears from you,” he teased.
“There was no such thing,” she chuckled. She remembered they stood before one another; the edges of their energies begging to unite. “Then I asked you what your name was. And when you told me, it was like I already knew. I reached out to grab the strands of your energy and cupped my hand around your chin and said—”
“‘Caleseus, creature of the night and Son of Artemis’,” he finished for her. “‘I am Kayana Katar. Will you pledge this life, and those many lives that follow, to me?’" He pressed his eyelids shut. “And I vowed to protect you. To honor you in all our lifetimes.”
She rubbed her finger over the scar on her lip. He nodded at her and said, “Then we drew blades and sliced our lips. We swiped our fingers over the other’s wounds and drank each other's blood. Do you remember what we said last?”
She narrowed her eyes. “To forever.”
He lowered his head at her and repeated the words. “To forever.”
Even then she could feel the tiniest remnants of the freedom.
“You remember it all,” she said.
“How could I not?”
“And I assume you have a very specific reason for bringing it up?”
He galloped beside her, the pearl beads in his hair clanking against one another like chattering teeth. “I’ve been at your side since that very night,” he continued. “You have always watched him in secrecy. I’ve witnessed every moment. A part of me even watched him for you. It is the only time you shed your huntress skin. I’ve witnessed the way you drink his eyes and felt the pain caused by the actions of his guardedness. And still, you wait for him to change,” he added. “For the day that he openly shares his heart with you. So you can feel better about not leaving. About staying here. You know better than I, that day will never come.”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said, waving him off.
“But I do,” he said.
Kayana recounted all of these moments in her mind. She would never reveal to Cienzo the way she truly felt for him. She was not even certain what that feeling was. Only a fool would subject our friendship to the tarnishing of love. Instead, she loved—no, not loved—him from a distance, watching and admiring him from a faraway island from which she’d casted her heart away.
“You can’t continue chasing after him forever. He is damaged. And you are no slave to him.” Caleseus’s eyes, the color of fiery bronze, held hers. “I only hope for your heart to find the peace it deserves. And that peace does not lie here.”
She remained silent. We are best friends, she told herself, almost too forcefully. Something peculiar was working its way into her mind. It was an invading feeling that put her at unease. Could it be that she was allowing her feelings to interfere with the reality of what really was? She hoped not. This weakened hunters.
And weaknesses like love, ended in tragedies.
THEY HADN’T WANDERED far from the hut, but Kayana couldn’t shake the tightening in her chest. An alarming energy enveloped her. The tiny hairs on the back of her neck tingled. She sensed something. She just wasn’t sure what.
Wild animals ran around freely. A peacock here, an elephant there, a fire-eyed phoenix just beyond them. A couple clunked by on wooden stilts, dressed in nothing but gold-feathered briefs and enormous wings fashioned to their boots. Beside them, three drunken men ensued in a sluggish sword fight.
The music blared throughout the air. It was a blissful sound, full of hard beats and energetic strings. Zendaya glanced down at her boots—which she realized had been tapping along to the rhythm of the music. She stopped herself. She turned her focus onto the drunks that paraded and stumbled around them like fools, masks drooping sloppily from their faces. She couldn’t believe how careless people were. They had drunk themselves defenseless. In the event of an attack, a blade would barely have to be lifted to take a life. It’s as if these people wanted to die.
“How do these people not care?” she asked, eyes set on detecting the smallest swing in the normal rhythm of the crowd.
“That’s quite the accusation,” Caleseus said. “Some would say they are here because they care. They cherish their fallen Gods and hope that celebrating them shall directly impact the state of their afterlives. I find it admirable.”
“Admirable?” She turned to face him, breaking her concentration.
His eyes lingered on a group of men and women hoisting wooden sticks attached to the bottom of long and massive paper puppets of peacocks, lions, dolphins and serpents. Beside them, women with beautifully silver-painted faces spun torches of fire in the air. Magenta flames streaked the air with outlines of flowers and birds.
“To think,” he continued. “That even after all these years, their beliefs and faiths are so strong they are willing to sacrifice their safety.”
She raised a brow at a yellow-hooded Carnal bent over a barrel. A man behind her chugging from a steel flask fondled with her laces, trying to pry them free. “Right. So they run around like fools …all in faith? How wise.”
Caleseus turned to her and tilted his head. “You know yourself, that wisdom and practicality don’t always follow the same course.”
She knew exactly what he meant and grunted. “Okay, Cal, I get it—”
A loud shriek tore through the air. Kayana felt the terror in it, and without preamble she drew her bow and arrow. The feeling in her chest. She knew it. She launched onto Caleseus’s back, feeling the contraction of his muscles beneath her hands. She glanced up and watched as a group of Roamers spilled into the Serpent’s Head, wielding sharp, double-bladed swords dripping with the appetite for destruction. Where did they come from? How had she not noticed them? They had appeared as if from thin air, riding the backs of their winged horses, the Pegasi. Each of them was robed in the Roamer’s armor: bone helmets accented by flame-engulfed wings, half-masks with painted mandible skulls that covered only the bottom half of their faces.
“Cienzo,” Kayana gasped. “We need to hurry back to him.”
Caleseus had already spun to gallop toward the pale charcoal hut. The tightening in her chest clutched its fingers around her heart. How could she have left his side? How could she have not sensed their presence? If he were injured again—or worse—
Itit would be on her. And there was no remedy known to even the Gods that would cleanse her soul of that guilt.
She would die before allowing that to happen.