"A beautifully drawn story filled with lush scenery and an engaging plot. It's a story you'll enjoy reading again and again."-Romance Reviews Today
He's a ruler in a divided world...
In the magical, watery world of the Sea Forest, the divide between the rulers and the people is an uncrossable chasm. Handsome, arrogant prince Korl Com'nder has lived a life of luxury that is nothing more than a fantasy to the people he rules. Until the day he is accidentally kidnapped by a beautiful outlaw smuggler and is forced to open his eyes to the world outside his palace walls.
She's an outcast, but at least she has her independence...
Mahri Zin would stop at nothing to save her village, and when they needed a healer she didn't think twice about kidnapping one. But when she realizes that the healer she so impulsively stole is none other than the crown prince of the Sea Forest, Mahri knows that this is her only chance to change the fate of her people...
"A highly original fantasy tale...Kathryne Kennedy has done an excellent job with world building. I really loved this world."-Romance Junkies
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About the Author
Kathryne Kennedy is a multi-published, award-winning author of magical romances. She's lived in Guam, Okinawa, and several states in the US, and currently lives in Glendale, Arizona.
Kathryne Kennedy is a critically acclaimed, bestselling, award-winning author of magical romances. She welcomes readers to visit her website where she has ongoing contests at www.kathrynekennedy.com. She's lived in Guam, Okinawa, and several states in the U.S., and currently lives with her wonderful family in Glendale, Arizona.
Read an Excerpt
Beneath the Thirteen Moons
By Kathryne Kennedy
Sourcebooks, Inc.Copyright © 2010 Kathryne Kennedy
All rights reserved.
Mahri poled her boat around the base of the sea tree, the bone staff she used as much an extension of her body as her own arms. She ducked beneath a branch, a wide one, the limb as straight as the Power of a Seer could make it. The gloom of the evening blackened to inky darkness, the slap of the waves echoed eerily inside the cavern-like arch, and here Mahri chose to anchor her craft.
She flipped her wrist in the pattern peculiar to her bone pole, and it retracted with a sliding hiss; her fingers shook as she slid it into a sheath of octopus skin. She patted the bone grapnel with its length of coiled rope and then dug into the small fish-scale pouch that hung against her hip. Mahri withdrew a small piece of zabbaroot, unsure if it would be enough for her task — she'd never kidnapped a man before, how could she possibly know?
With a shrug, she popped it in her mouth and squeezed it with her molars, releasing the bitter drug of Power that shivered through her veins and allowed her to See. The world turned into bits and dots and she closed her eyes for control. The root burned her tongue and she fought the need to gag, then opened eyes that flickered with sparkled light before fading to their normal green hue. With control returned, she'd now only See when, and how, she wished.
A scurry of sound beneath her collapsed sleeping tent reminded Mahri that she wasn't alone. The tiny face of her pet peered up at her from beneath the rugged narwhal skin. The dark prevented her from making out the features, but she knew them so well her mind filled in the details. Monkey-like, with scales for fur and webbed hands and feet, Jaja had the agility of the native tree dwellers with the slippery fluidity of a sea creature. And the curiosity of a treecat.
"Stay," whispered Mahri, her mind reinforcing that command with such mental force that Jaja moaned.
Mahri breathed deeply, quieting her thoughts so that they didn't project with the equivalent of a piercing scream. I won't risk you in this, Jaja. I have lost so much already.
She only caught the most basic thoughts from her pet, but he seemed to understand hers with amazing accuracy, especially when she was filled with root Power. He scurried back beneath the tent.
Mahri leaped from her boat, hesitated a second to adjust to a firm surface beneath her feet, then crept along the narrow ledge formed by the base of the sea tree, emerging from beneath the branch with caution. Mahri looked up at the balconies that spiraled around the tree, watching for guards, but not really expecting any. Not around the Healer's Tree. The Palace, yes, and perhaps even the Seer's Tree ... but how could she know for sure, being only an ignorant water-rat?
What did they do, she wondered, with water-rats that skulked around the city at night?
She pulled the grapnel from her belt.
Throw them in prison for later torture?
With an easy swing of arms strengthened by a life of poling, she threw the hook up to the first balcony.
Or maybe force them into slavery as they did the native tree dwellers?
She tugged, and the rope held her weight. Fear fluttered her stomach and was swiftly followed by the inevitable fury at that cowardly reaction, propelling her up the rope with the speed of a silver-fish.
Mahri crouched, listened to the breeze swishing through the leaves, the soft patter of rain that had just begun to fall, the constant rushing, flowing of the water surrounding the interlaced network of sea trees. She studied the row of carved doors that circled the tree, Seeing beyond each door to the occupant within.
She knew if she went up to the top balconies that she'd find the powerful Master Healers. Here on the lower level slept the apprentices and newly learned. But all she needed was the knowledge, she would provide more Power than all of the Masters combined. Besides, if she stole away with someone of importance they might come after her, and she hoped that if a lowly apprentice disappeared no one would take any notice.
So she chose the first person she Saw snug in their bed. To See into the lock of the door, move the latch from here to there, took a flick of her Power. To See into the center of the Healer gently snoring, and to make those unwilling limbs move to her boat, was a different matter.
For a moment Mahri considered waking the sleeper. Perhaps the Healer would be willing to come with her? She crept closer to the bed. She could only make out longish, light hair, a smooth yet masculine jawline.
With a flash the memories of a past she'd tried desperately to forget overwhelmed her, of another Healer with long, pale hair. But hers had been arranged in artful layers of braids and pearls upon her head, and she'd stared at Mahri as if she were some swamp creature that had oozed out of the slime.
"You truly expect me," she said, one eyebrow raised in delicate disbelief, "to get in that piece of scrap you call a boat, travel into the swamps to heal a fever-ridden village of water-rats? And blindfolded, no less?"
Mahri narrowed blazing green eyes. If this woman only knew that those "water-rats" provided the city with more zabbaroot than a year of production from the root farms, she'd be begging to go with her. And that Mahri herself was a smuggler; who defied the Royal's decree that they possess and distribute all the zabba, on the pretense it presented too much danger for the common citizen. But to Mahri's thinking, the only danger lay in lack of knowledge, and the Royals hoarded that more surely than the root.
"Without a blindfold," growled Mahri, "I would have to kill you." Then she almost slapped her hand over her mouth. She spoke the truth, for the safety of the village lay within the secrecy of their location, but it needn't have been said. She never could control her temper.
The Healer's face flickered with sudden fear, then feigned annoyance. "Use one of your own Seers then."
"They don't have the knowledge you possess, as you well know."
The woman rose, presented her back to Mahri, and flung over her shoulder, "I can't help you."
Mahri clasped her hands together, her lifemate's agonized face in her mind, and the cries of their child, the once-perfect little hands twisted in agonized deformity. She swallowed her anger, and her pride.
"Please," she whispered. "Is there no one that would be willing to help?"
The woman hesitated, her posture slumped briefly in response to the desperate appeal in that voice, and then too quickly stiffened.
"No one," she replied, then slammed the door behind her.
The Healer on the bed snorted and rolled over, bringing Mahri back to the present, knowing she was mad to even consider asking for help ever again. Brez and her little boy, Tal'li, had died — even the thought made anger and guilt burn anew — and she'd become a Wilding herself. But the fever had only hidden, to return with a vengeance to strike again that same village and the only family she now had left.
And although this time Mahri had the root tolerance she still needed the healing knowledge. She could See the effects of the illness, could treat the symptoms, but couldn't be sure of the Pattern to cure the disease itself. Only one trained to know the normal body cells could detect the shape of a virus in time to destroy it before it could mutate again.
Her eyes sparkled and she Saw into the Healer's mind, traveling the path that controlled muscular movement, manipulation at least possible with the person unconscious. Mahri lowered her face to his, could almost feel his breath on her cheeks, when a soft knock on the door made her concentration slip and her heart stop.
"My lord?" whispered a man's voice as the door opened a crack.
Light fell across the Healer's face. His eyes flew open and met Mahri's for just a moment, a second of time that felt like an eternity, and there was a flash of recognition, as if she'd known him long ago, perhaps before this lifetime.
Mahri cursed, her Vision shattered and just sufficed to keep the Healer immobile while she spun to face the intruder. She pulled her pole from her belt, flipped it once, twice, and spun a long staff at the light globe. It connected with a sharp thwack, the wooden holder cracked in two, and the globe spun along the floor.
The man, no guard — for on his head lay the bone helm of a warrior — reacted with astonishing speed. She heard the hiss of bone being drawn from a scabbard and danced away just in time to avoid his blow. His advantage lay in strength, but Mahri's in speed, the small confines of the room aiding her even more. And of course, she'd just chewed root, and her opponent looked like it had been days since he'd last felt a fresh flow of Power.
He couldn't swing wide enough for a forceful blow and resorted to thrust and parry. Mahri grinned, drew on the Power, and Saw muscles tense before her opponent could attack. Her weapon flew; the force of the blow cracked his helm and laid him out on the floor.
So, Mahri thought, the Royals don't provide Leviathan bone for their warrior's gear. Her opinion of their rulers sank to a new low.
Then she had no time for thought, for she could hear a cry being raised, and spun to where the Healer lay muscle-frozen on the bed, watching her with a combination of admiration and fury. Mahri tried to Push his muscles, but knew that she'd used too much of the Power in that brief struggle, and didn't have the strength left to fight his own conscious control. And she didn't have the time to chew more zabba.
She flicked her wrist again, in the subtle yet complicated pattern that retracted her bone pole into a short staff. With her foot, she rolled the Healer onto his stomach, and with a muttered apology slammed the bone into the back of his head. Used the Power again to See into her own muscles and adrenal glands, taking that vigor to haul him out of the room, hoist him over the balcony and fling him as far out as she could.
There followed a splash, instead of the thud if he would've hit the base of the sea tree, and she sighed with relief before scrambling over the balcony, rope-burning her hands in her attempt to get below before he drowned. Shouts from above and she looked up, two light globes bobbed on the balcony, the light reflecting off of helmed faces. One of those faces smirked, sawed a bone knife along the top of her rope, then waved at her.
Mahri had just enough time to wonder why so many guards patrolled a Healer apprentice's balcony before the rope went slack and she fell.
And hit the ground rolling. Her left shoulder slammed across an upthrust wrinkle of tree bark and she grunted with the pain of it. She spun over into the water, swallowed a good portion of it, and inhaled enough to make her strain for breath when her head broke the surface. Something bumped her and she turned and flung out her arm to haul the body of the Healer closer.
The rain of arrows that had peppered the water suddenly stopped. They drifted with the current under the branch road and bumped up against the boat. Mahri looped an arm over the side while her other hung onto the Healer and fought the pull of the current, exhaustion making her tremble. Somehow she managed to climb into the boat, but the most she could do was to get the Healer halfway in. With a sob she collapsed, her shoulder throbbed with pain and she knew she fought against unconsciousness.
Through her haze she felt the gentle caress of Jaja's webbed fingers against her cheek, the cool slide of his scales. Something pressed past her lips and she tongued the root between her teeth, bit hard and welcomed the flow of strength from the Power. And tried not to think of the price she knew she'd have to pay for it.
Mahri hauled the man into her boat, Saw into his lungs and convulsed the tissue until water spewed from his mouth, reduced the movement to gentle contractions until he breathed on his own. She covered him with the narwhal skin and positioned herself towards the bow, feet splayed, confidence spreading through her with the comfortable feel of the current beneath her boat. She sensed Jaja weigh anchor, slid free her staff, the bone almost warm in her hands, and twisted her wrist to expand it.
Mahri poled, offering a brief silent thanks to the Leviathan of the deep for the gift of his bone, and the Power that made the forging of it possible, for the structure of it wouldn't yield to any other means. It took great skill to wield a bone staff, and many long years of training to learn the intricate movements that released the hidden locks to expand and contract the pole. But it had been worth it, for the price given had already been repaid with the saving of her life many times over.
Mahri used the current, as only a skilled water-rat could, by sensing its flow and nudging it with the Power. With long practice she kept her contact shallow, knowing that the sea lay just below, flowing around the roots of the sea trees, unobstructed by the enormous growth that hampered its movements above the surface.
The sounds of alarm grew faint behind her, and she allowed herself to relax. In the maze of water channels lay a measure of safety; the real danger of pursuit would be when she reached the cove, a large stretch of open water that led to the open sea. From there thousands of channels led into the "swamps" — what the city-dwellers called the younger part of their forest — but any direct routes to them were heavily patrolled by the guards.
They occasionally passed other boats. The light globes that hung on their bows, and her Sight, made them easy to avoid, as long as the passage stayed wide. No lights lit her small craft; they crept along the inky water, the rain now a light misting that clung to her eyelashes like dew drops.
Mahri bottom-poled through the city channels, for the roots of this old forest lay thickly woven together, and the sea flowed over them at a shallow depth. She imagined the city as a safe haven perched atop its tangle of roots, protected from the monsters that swam beneath it. In the swamps lurked places of deep water where she'd have to tap her pole against the edges of the trees for steerage, and be twice as vigilant against the dangers that lurked in those bottomless channels.
Mahri sighed. She still preferred the swamps. For although the sea spewed forth some nasty beasts, it also produced beautiful, astonishing creations that never ceased to amaze her. Every journey through those snaking passages resulted in a discovery, made her marvel anew at this wondrous world. She watched the peacefully sleeping city they traveled through and knew that it would bore her to death.
Jaja hopped on her shoulder, his favorite perch when they traveled, and patted it reassuringly. Mahri winced, for her injury still pained her, and used her thoughts to distract her from it.
Somewhere below she knew the sea must stop, and wondered what lay beneath it. Only the trees were solid in her world, they sustained life; animals, insects, and plants all parasites on their bodies. She couldn't imagine what something could sustain the all-powerful trees. Perhaps her ancestors had known but that knowledge had either been lost or lay buried within the Royals' hoard of records.
They cruised through a warren of city homes; caverns hollowed from thick bark, or branches twisted into curved structures by the Power of a Seer. Front doors opened onto the water, balconies a few paces wide created small landings which tethered boats in all shapes and sizes. The white gleam of seashells used for decoration reflected the glow of the myriad moons overhead.
The Healer moaned and her attention centered on her unwilling passenger. Now would not be a good time for him to wake. Mahri centered the boat, went aft, and trussed him like a pig-fish. She frowned, remembering that feeling she'd had when their eyes had met, and with a feather touch she brushed the long, pale hair away from his face. Curled from the damp, the silky strands of it wrapped around her fingers, tumbled across his smooth brow. High cheekbones, a strong chin. A straight nose that tipped up at the end saved him from being classically handsome, to just boyishly so.
Mahri sighed, ran a callused finger along the fullness of his bottom lip, and Jaja hopped from her shoulder in apparent disgust. She snatched back her hand as if it'd been burned, tried to think of the nastiest curse she knew, gave up and just spit. She'd never reacted like this toward another man, not even her lifemate. Why couldn't she have stumbled across an ugly, old Healer?
Excerpted from Beneath the Thirteen Moons by Kathryne Kennedy. Copyright © 2010 Kathryne Kennedy. Excerpted by permission of Sourcebooks, Inc..
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