Lately I’ve been working extra hard on Angel Blue edits & additions. I’m excited to pass this along to my new developmental editor. I’ll keep y’all posted on how that goes! Meanwhile, enjoy more of Angel Blue!
Angel Blue: Episode 3 Teaser
Year 1327 Anno Domini
“You know that you have no other choice in this matter, Etlu ina Emeuranna. You knew even as you carried the child across the sea that you cannot escape your fates.”
Etlu stared hard into the steady black eyes of Ninmulmulla. There was weight behind her scrutiny and power in her gaze. Had he not been raised among the ancients of his house, he would have been more unnerved. “Lady Nin…” Her brow arched at his use of her personal name. “I was charged to protect the princess,” he continued, “nearly a star year ago. How can I now abandon a mandate the Sarrum himself gave to me?”
This may be stretching the truth a bit, he acknowledged. But communication between houses was slow, and his first home far away.
“I believe the princess will be safe enough among the Gisnu. We are, mayhaps, a lesser house, but we are just as intelligent as you Emeuranna claim to be.” Ninmulmulla smiled, her black eyes tilting up at the corners. “You have run away long enough, Etlu. The Sarrum will not allow you to avoid this fight. And neither shall I.”
Dread filled him. Etlu knew this was possible. He wasn’t exactly unknown, thanks to the last campaign he fought for his kin. But he had hoped for more time. He had foolishly begun to believe he could give her the time she needed.
The time she needed, or the time you need with her?
“I shall send the longboats south, to aid our brethren in this war.” The lady’s voice hardened, a command. “I want you to train them for what lies ahead. I want you to lead.”
“As you wish, my lady.” Etlu bowed his head, careful to keep his gaze on hers. She may rule this house, but she would not rule him, or Anu. He found it necessary to remind her of this more often than he liked. “When are we to depart?”
Ninmulmulla seemed to tower over him then, her voice lowering as her gaze hardened. “You have until dawn to make your farewell.”
Etlu found himself moving the slow pace of a lesser, as he crossed the distance to the opposite side of the Gisnu’s vast fortress. He pretended not to notice the looks these paler kin gave him, or the hint of their whispers that reached his ears.
How can I lead these people?
Etlu had not gone to war since Ilu led him to the princess, half-buried beneath the snow near his mountain. How could he abandon her here, when he did not even trust his own people, let alone a lesser house like the Gisnu?
She will never forgive me.
He had been disappointed to find how far this house had fallen, upon their arrival ten years before. The old boodlines had intermarried with humans until they adopted their Rus features. Etlu and Anu both shared the black hair and bronze skin common to descendants of the watchers. They towered over these lesser Annunaki, yet the Gisnu presumed to order him around like another lesser.
We had no choice but to come here. I’ll remind her, make her understand.
The cursed had been closing in. They had become aware of her, the sole survivor of a doomed house. This much had been told to him by the Shiimti, the last house they had visited.
She loved that house…no doubt as the female rule their males.
His foul mood lightened at the memory, and her poor attempts at ordering him about.
“You’re my guardian, so you have to do as I say.”
Etlu adjusted his chainmail as he approached the small dwelling built near the gatehouse. Lady Nin would want them under close watch, despite all her courtesies. His steps slowed as he reached their house. The weight of her order pushed him up the steps leading to their door. He paused at the emptiness ahead of him.
He turned to the stoned wall instead, climbing the structure with ease, then perched at the top to survey the forest edge below. This wouldn’t be the first time Anu escaped the holdfast.
I would sense if she were in danger, he knew, even as it drew him to madness.
A moment later, he spied black hair, flying like ribbons above a thin gown. He forced his gaze not to linger on how the wind tugged the fabric against her curves.
She is only a child, and you are her guardian.
Banishing the thought, Eltu waited for her approach. Sure enough, she kept her head down until she reached the wall just below his seat.
Etlu saw the icy patch before she did. Before he could jump down to stop her, Anu’s feet flew above her head as she flipped backward against the snow.
Unable to contain himself any longer, Etlu released his laughter. He dropped off the walls’ edge. Anu refused to look at him, until he leaned over her prostrate form. “A youngling caught in the snowdrift. Why does this strike me as so familiar?”
“Shut up.” Anu bared her teeth at him as she sat up and pushed the now wet tresses off her face.
Etlu smiled as he held his great hand out to assist her. “Milady?”
Anu refused his hand, and his only warning was the wicked gleam in her amethyst eyes, before his feet were swept from beneath him.
Etlu’s leather armor didn’t ease his impact. “That was not very nice.”
Anu stuck out her tongue, but the corners of her mouth twitched in a grin.
His heart leapt from his chest into his throat. There were days, long stretches of time where the child she had been wouldn’t speak. It took him much longer to earn her smiles. He would make a fool of himself for her smile.
Etlu leaned back into the snow drift, until the sky and her lovely face filled his vision. “I should have thought of taking snow baths every morning long before.”
Anu huffed an unexpected laugh.
Etlu touched the corner of her wide mouth. “There it is. Just for that, I will not ask where you went this morning.”
She hung her head until her hair spilled over her face. His fingers itched to push those strands behind her ear the same moment guilt entered his conscience.
“Etlu?” Her voice called him back to her gaze.
You’ve become too attached.
“Ninmulmulla called a private council with me this morning.”
“The Lady? What did she want?” Anu pressed an innocent hand to his chest as she leaned forward. Her hair tickled his cheek and he held his breath. He didn’t have the strength to push her away yet.
“War is brewing across the sea. The cursed have joined forces near the Emeuranna.” He watched her brow crinkle with empathy.
She thought he cared. How little she truly knew of his past, he realized. How little he preferred she never learn.
He clenched his hands into fists. “The Sarrum sent Lady Nin a letter. He has chosen me to lead his armies.”
Anu pulled away from him, in a rush to stand, but not before he glimpsed the fear in her wide eyes. Not before he heard her choked sob.
“Wait!” He leapt to his feet and caught her shoulder, forcing her to face him. She kept her head bowed, her black hair a veil. “Anu, you understand that I would not leave you unless I had no other choice.”
“Leave me?” Her head snapped back, violet eyes fierce and glowing with light. Her skin warmed beneath his touch. She struggled beneath his grip.
“I have no choice!” He found himself desperate, and not because of her fear, he realized. He was as much, if not more terrified. They hadn’t been apart more than a day before this, not since the beginning.
“We’ll leave!” she declared, surging into him, then. Her fingers gripped at his tunic. “Leave now.”
Etlu took a deep, shuddering breath. He should have told her the truth.
They will hunt us, not only the cursed. They know who you are now, and it’s my fault.
Instead he said, “The Lady has given her oath. You will be well protected. Nina has graciously offered for you to stay with her in Belum’s absence.”
She released him with a scoff. “I do not trust them, and neither do you. Stop lying to me, Etlu. You are not very good at it.”
He gave into a very foolish urge to thread his fingers through hair and cup her warm face between his hands. “I wasn’t lying when I said we have no choice.” He sighed and pressed his forehead to hers. She caught her breath and he savored the feeling, craved her warmth. “We are bound together, Anu. No matter how far apart we are, I will always find you.”
She placed her hands over his and he smiled as she replied, “Promise me. Promise you won’t leave me in the dark. You won’t…”
“I promise.” He drew in the breath escaping her lungs. It was as close as he dared to get. It was always too close, and it wasn’t nearly enough. It would never be.
to be continued…
Her House is gone, making her the last of a powerful, ancient line.
Her Guardian is determined to make her into a queen, sacrificing his happiness.
Her quest for the truth of what happened the night they burnt her home and people to ash will tear their world apart.