Bloodfire: Prequel to the Chay Trilogy

Bloodfire: Prequel to the Chay Trilogy

by Gloria H. Giroux

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781475989038
Publisher: iUniverse, Incorporated
Publication date: 05/07/2013
Pages: 624
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.38(d)

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Bloodfire

Prequel to the Chay Trilogy


By Gloria H. Giroux

iUniverse, Inc.

Copyright © 2013 Gloria H. Giroux
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4759-8903-8


CHAPTER 1

"God's Blood, Sarashi—move!"

Shayne's voice was saturated with the frustration he felt nearly every day as he tried doggedly but usually in vain to instruct and guide his younger brother in the athletic pursuits that he found so enticing and easy. Both teenagers were elegantly designed by nature, with tall, lithe, well-muscled bodies and nearly identical faces etched from the genes of their father and mother. They, and their little brother, Sabriel, had a version of their father's dark eyes and shiny, raven-black hair, strong, square jaw, and the high, well-defined cheekbones that all Chay males seemed to thread down through the generations. Their younger twin sisters, Waneta and Wakanda, favored their mother, Rue Sabra, with their vivid red-brown hair and green eyes, setting off their gentler, far less aggressive personality and manners. Her slightly cleft chin echoed in her sons' faces, but that was essentially the extent of her contribution to the Chay male heirs.

The sixteen-year-old Heir-Prince to the Crown of Chay was by far the more outgoing and demanding of the two oldest brothers, and rarely acted any other way. On occasion he allowed his thirteen-year-old brother to see a vulnerable, sensitive side, but those happenstances occurred few and far between. Anyone who observed the siblings would doubt that the older had a heart or conscience, let alone a soul whose depths were unfathomable even to him. The boys' father had pounded his implacable philosophies into them from the first weeks of their lives, and brooked no dissension as to his lofty expectations and demands. Shayne was fast following suit and rarely gave leeway to anyone, even the younger brother he secretly adored. It wouldn't do to allow Sarashi to know just how much his frequent, devoted companion and best friend meant to Shayne; that would provide the younger Chay with an edge over his older sibling. As Heir-Prince to the most powerful Kindred on Osiron, Shayne couldn't permit that. Wouldn't permit that.

Shayne frowned and glared menacingly at Sarashi, who was struggling to pull himself up the huge, slick wall with a well-worn, fraying rope that chafed his raw hands. Sarashi cursed his clumsiness, his overbearing brother, their judgmental father, and the damn rope as he methodically placed hand over hand and ascended the wall slowly but surely as a booted foot occasionally slipped against the smooth rock surface. Beads of perspiration popped out all over his intense, handsome face as he clenched his teeth and proceeded upward.

"Grasp the rope tighter! Less distance between your hands, Sasha!" Shayne barked, gesturing wildly.

"Shut up!" Sarashi retorted as he ignored the familiar commands and continued his sweaty efforts.

"You need to keep your feet flush against the rock. That's why you're slipping," Shayne responded, secretly enjoying the torment as well as instruction that he was inflicting on his sibling. And, of course, he also made allowances for his brother that he wouldn't for any other person, if only because Sarashi was one of the few people--adult or child--who had the audacity and courage to defy him or respond verbally with an attitude and verbiage much less deferential than expected for the young Crown-Prince-in-waiting.

"Shut up!" Sarashi echoed as he cursed audibly under his breath, tightened his grip, expelled a final raspy wheeze, and made the top of the fifty-meter wall that had defeated him on every other occasion. He gave a wild whoop of exhilaration and success as he gingerly positioned himself with one long leg on either side of the half-meter thick wall that had up to this moment been an unbreachable enemy. He had an exceptional view of the Chay compound from his height, and enjoyed the soft, salty breeze that washed across his face as a dozen huge, white clouds ambled silently across the sapphire-blue sky. He felt at peace, but knew it wouldn't last; it never did when he was with his impossible older brother. Still, he wouldn't have it any other way. He glanced down at Shayne, who was standing far below glaring up at him impatiently, hands on hips, a temperamental cast to his finely chiseled lips and a dangerous squint to his warm brown eyes.

"All right," Shayne sighed loudly as he flexed his shoulders and drew himself up to his full two-meter height. His face relaxed just a bit. "You took long enough, but you finally made it. Now come down so we can wash and change before we eat."

"I'm not hungry," Sarashi lied languidly, making no attempt to comply. He was calm and enjoying his temporary respite from his brother and their family. He leaned back casually and rested his palms against the narrow rock top. His lively, perceptive eyes took in every aspect of his luxurious but restricted world: the immense quadra-tier Chay home sprawled out across the bluff overlooking the Meditteran Sea; the relatives and servants scattered about the outside of the compound as they prepared for the feast that would follow his manhood ceremony that very night; the small fleet of commercial and personal crafts that docked a half kilometer away, and were still disgorging busy people attending to every demand made by Chay Warrick; and the marvelously crafted, extensive, manicured grounds replete with trees and flowers of every Osiran species, and a few rare Ptolemii ones. The wall on which he sat was at the center of a huge, circular athletic training ground along with archery, gymnastics and track courses; the Olympian swimming pool was indoors at the west end of the main house, sheltered by a shimmering transparent lucitium dome that let in both the bright sun and glistening moonlight and stars. His world was undeniably beautiful and desirable; he wondered why that knowledge didn't soothe him more. He wondered why he was so different from his brother.

His brother's terse voice broke Sarashi's rambling thoughts. "That doesn't matter. Father has scheduled the ceremony and meal for specific times, and whether you want to or not, you will eat. And eat a full plateful, boy, or there'll be hell to pay." The threat came through Shayne's voice loud and clear; their father had made plans, and no one would be permitted to alter those plans, particularly the boy who was their immediate object.

"Now climb down here immediately," Shayne barked coldly, that familiar and dreaded iciness creeping into his deep voice for the tenth time that day alone. Sarashi's own voice was changing, and he was painfully shy and aware of the occasional tonal crack that made him unsure of himself, and too self-conscious. He reluctantly gave a short nod of the head, swung a leg over the top of the climbing wall, and awkwardly slipped a half-meter into a back-down position as he instinctively wrapped the rope around his strong hands. He descended fairly easily, although he felt typically awkward under the relentless scrutiny of his silent brother. He released the rope and dropped down the last meter, nearly losing his balance. Shayne said nothing, to his credit and Sarashi's embarrassment.

Shayne grinned unexpectedly, and clapped his brother on the shoulder. He nodded his head in approval as he glanced up at the imposing obstacle the younger Chay had just overcome. "You did very well, little brother," Shayne said seriously. "I couldn't scale that beast the first time either," he added graciously. He had actually taken two times to conquer the wall they had breezily named Diablo; their father had scaled the wall his first time out at the age of ten.

"Try five times," Sarashi confessed mournfully as he enjoyed the close rapport they rarely failed to share. "Father wasn't pleased when I failed the last time."

"You didn't fail," Shayne interjected quietly. "You just didn't succeed. Failure lies in not attempting to try, and you've never been guilty of that."

"Tell Father," Sarashi replied irritably as he shrugged off his brother's hand and began walking towards their house. Shayne fell into step with him and the brothers were silent until only a few meters away from the wide sliding doors of the rear enclosure that opened to a wide expanse of lawn that disappeared over the bluff. Sarashi stopped, closed his eyes, and drank in the wonderful smell of the sea breezes that caressed his smooth cheeks. He loved the sea, and the mountains. He never felt more alive or graceful than when he was treading water in the relentless, crashing salt waves or the glacial lake at the family lodges. His father had promised to take him and his brother there after the ceremonial gatherings ended, and the father and sons could have some quiet, quality time together. Too rare, these days: Chay Warrick was always so busy since returning from a mandated conclave on Ptolem and setting up a series of regional parliaments. The ubiquitous Heir-Prince was immersed in his studies and the new exploration of carnal pursuits. Shayne interrupted Sarashi's peaceful thoughts with an oddly gentle hand on his shoulder.

"Father knows how hard you try," Shayne said seriously. "He only wants what's best for you."

"A full psychological meltdown?" Sarashi replied archly, as one eyebrow rose to its full height.

Shayne grinned artlessly. "Hardly. It wouldn't do to have the second son of the household babbling in gibberish that sounds like Ptolemii while bound in tritium restraints at the Psyplex."

"That actually sounds good right about now," the younger brother muttered as a slight blush crept across his close-set ears and under the short, perfect hairline.

"It won't be that bad," Shayne replied. "A few ancient intonations, some Holy Oil, a little bloodletting--"

"Bloodletting?" Sarashi gasped as he stared into his older brother's amused face.

"Didn't Father mention that part?" Shayne asked mildly. "Nothing to worry about--the stilon is sharp and the patri usually knows what's he doing."

"Stilon? Sharp?" Sarashi's face had completely drained of color, and Shayne found himself caught between a catty amusement and a mild annoyance that his sibling wasn't of a heartier disposition in the things that mattered. He decided to string his brother's taut composure out just a bit more, and see if the fragile tendril would snap.

"Indeed," he said, nodding seriously as he fought back the urge to laugh. "A little slash here, a tiny cut there, and it's done. It's hardly likely that you'll be unable to sire children, but of course, there's always that potential."

"Where, here and there?" Sarashi stuttered as he managed to find his voice, but it cracked and he thought about throwing himself off the bluff. He felt his face grow warm and red as his brother pointedly let his gaze run down the length of Sarashi's long, lean body to rest on a place just below his midsection. At that moment, Sarashi knew Shayne was simply tormenting him, and there was no 'bloodletting.' He groaned and whirled around, and wordlessly covered the last few meters to the back of the house as his brother's laughter echoed in the vast expanse of the Chay enclave and burned his ears like the very fires of Hades.

CHAPTER 2

Chay Warrick frowned deeply in concentration as he watched his teenage sons amble back to the compound. He had observed his younger son's efforts to breach the wall and actually succeed. He was pleased at Sarashi's success, but concerned that it had taken so many efforts. He himself had made the climb up and over the first time out, and he expected nothing less from his sons. At least Shayne had only taken two tries to conquer the daunting physical challenge. Not bad, but Sarashi was another matter. The boy was clearly not as proficient in any pursuit as was his older sibling. He didn't move through his young life with the same ease as his brother, and likely never would. He was painfully awkward and unsure of himself, and needed to be brought up to scratch as soon as possible. The second son was always constrained in their ancestral line, and Sarashi's fate had been set before he was even born. He had obligations, however, to his immediate family and his lineage, and had no right to expect to circumvent those responsibilities in any way.

Not that Chay Warrick didn't appreciate his younger sons--Sabriel, anyway--but Shayne was definitely his heart, soul and hope, and of necessity and desire he had always expended much more care and time on his oldest. Sarashi understood; he had made the matter clear to the boy on his fifth birthanniv in a heartfelt albeit somewhat one-sided discussion. The boy had nothing to complain about, however, since his older brother was a devoted if demanding companion and guide through their carefully crafted life and set of expectations. Sarashi would be just fine, and Shayne would establish and seed a magnificent line down through their impressive dynasty. Chay Warrick had planned and bred well, and his offspring would show the true fruits of his labor. Five-year-old Sabriel was already showing a remarkable aptitude for logic and mathematics, and his father was studiously devising a well-crafted future for the youngest Chay son in the highest scientific sectors.

A small hand tugged relentlessly on his sleeve and he scowled down menacingly at his small daughter, who grinned impishly at her imposing but adoring father. Wakanda was alone, a rare occurrence for the twin. He wondered where Waneta was as he suddenly picked up the little girl and hugged her tightly. His rough black beard tickled her soft cheeks and the two-year-old giggled wildly as her father whirled her around and enjoyed a rare unguarded moment with his adorable child. He chucked her under the chin, and brushed back a lock of long, silky auburn hair, her mother's hair. He carried her out of the hearthchamber to find his wife and check on the preparations for the evening's elaborate feast and celebration of his son's manhood ceremony. If all was going well and not in need of his attention, he'd have the time and opportunity to make a quick visit to central Etrusca and enjoy the unique pleasures of his longtime concubine, Cassandra, and spend some time with their young son Cayden. Yes, that's what he'd do.

He'd have to ensure a bit more discretion than usual since his wife, although usually tolerant of his fleeting infidelities, could barely repress her frustration and rage at his unfathomable passion for the common, yet stunning daughter of gem merchants. She could understand his attraction to women of impressive lineage and accomplishment, but not to someone so terribly beneath him--in more ways than one. And Chay Warrick couldn't explain his attachment to himself, let alone to his wife of nearly twenty years. He'd stopped trying years ago, after his bastard son had been born. The boy barely resembled his mother in his unremarkable features, but thankfully did so in his kind, cheerful nature. Cayden would never rise to the intellectual or social heights that his legitimate brothers would, but he had a keen sense of steadfast self and honor that radiated through even at the tender age of three. Someday, Warrick hoped to be able to bring his special son enough into the Chay fold to interact and enjoy his brothers and sisters. Someday. If he could persuade his wife that the boy was no threat to their sons. Except, of course, in his heart.

Sarashi caught a glimpse of his father leaving their spacious hearthchamber, with one of his little sisters slung over their sire's broad shoulder. Her high-pitched giggles receded as he threw himself down into his father's favorite chair, and eyed his older sibling skeptically. Shayne sashayed over to the hidden spirits' store, pressed a none-too-well-hidden indent, and popped open the middle layer that held their father's precious store of Corson annise. He flashed a conspiratorial grin at Sarashi as he defiantly overrode the individual flask lock and smoothly removed the shimmering, pyramid-shaped lucitium flask and its golden liquid and wiggled it at his brother. He raised his eyebrows in a distinct challenge. Sarashi hesitated, then shook his head. He was tempted, but not suicidal.

"Coward," Shayne threw out as he reached for a tall, tapered goblet, pulled out the platinium cork, and carefully poured in a significantly impressive draught of the forbidden drink. He closed his eyes and lifted the goblet to his nose, and breathed in the sweet, tangy, rich scent of the secret cluster of herbal and floral ingredients that comprised the rare and impressively expensive beverage. His father had allowed him a half goblet on his sixteenth birthanniv, right after he had presented his firstborn with the ritual Chay signet ring bearing the carefully etched sphinx. Although Shayne reveled in the strength and honor of the ring, and the fact that it had been presented before the traditional ceremony, once he had tasted the strong spirits he found himself craving that pleasure even more than he'd ever thought possible. He'd managed to sneak a few sips here and there when Chay Warrick wasn't looking, but he had never had the temerity to appropriate a full flask in broad daylight as he was now doing.
(Continues...)


Excerpted from Bloodfire by Gloria H. Giroux. Copyright © 2013 Gloria H. Giroux. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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