I just spent the last two hours trying to format Of Bone and Ruin for print. Everything was going fine for the first half hour. I got all the way to the end before I hit something that messed everything up. Then I proceeded to use the next hour and a half trying to undo whatever it was I did. I still haven’t figured it out.
So I decided to take a break and do something else. I.e. give you the first chapter of Firebird 5 that I’ve been promising. This was supposed to come last Friday but I kind of forgot. It’s a week late, but better than nothing.
As always, the typical warning applies.
Reading the following may inspire bouts of rage as you shake your fist at the author while demanding the rest. (She will not listen.) Also, since this hasn’t made it through all rounds of edits, I do not guarantee the inclusion of its entirety in the final version. Some things may or may not change based on feedback.
Read at your own risk.
Elena – Tsavitee Planet
Cold was the first thing Elena noticed upon being spat out of the vortex of chaos and madness she’d been swept into. That and fear. A deep seated terror she’d felt rarely in her short life. The last time being the day Uncle Jin found her cowering in the corner of a dank, dingy room. Covered in grime and other things as she struggled not to faint from malnutrition and hunger.
This situation felt like that one. The looming sense of impending doom. The bleak understanding that she’d wandered into a situation far outside the control of her young body.
Elena swallowed the whimper that tried to rise, forcing it down with the rest of her emotions. She ignored the voice at the back of her mind that whispered of the atrocities the tsavitee had committed. The things they’d done to the forty three. Her mother. Aunt Kira and Uncle Jin. Even the other children Aunt Kira occasionally brought to Aunt Selene.
Elena shook her head, determinedly dismissing those thoughts. She couldn’t allow them to influence her. Aunt Kira had given her a mission. The first one that really mattered. Survive at all costs.
She would. She had to.
But first she needed information and a plan. Cowering in a corner wouldn’t save her this time. As Aunt Kira would say—all it would buy her was a death on her knees.
Of course, she’d never say that in front of Elena. She’d wait until she thought Elena wasn’t listening and say it later. But only to Uncle Jin. And only to complain about someone she considered an idiot. Someone who might have survived if they’d only shown a little backbone. A hint of tenacity in this frightful universe. A place where you sometimes had to do crazy things and take impossible chances to make it through another day.
Aunt Kira had always tried her hardest to protect Elena from harsh reality. She’d gone out of her way to safeguard Elena’s childhood and not expose Elena prematurely to grim truths.
But Elena knew. She’d always known.
This universe was filled with wondrous things. Beauty and light and everything perfect. But it also held darkness. Horrid people who did terrible things in the name of greed. Those individuals always seemed like they went out of their way to hurt others. Like they got off on it or something.
People like that disgusted Elena. They made her want to do violent, awful things right back.
She sometimes wondered what kind of person she would have been if not for her aunts and uncle. An angry one, she suspected. A girl with a massive chip on her shoulder who might have become exactly like the monsters.
Thank goodness for Uncle Jin. She didn’t think she would have liked that person
Elena took stock of her surroundings, finding herself alone. At least for now.
She was in a medium sized room built from black stone. A pattern had been carved into the floor and ceilings, the same power that had summoned her still crackling along the lines.
It was a rune of some kind. Similar to the ones Elena had seen on Ta Sa’Riel, the home planet of the Tuann. Her mother’s people. And Aunt Kira’s.
She looked beyond the rune. Toward the smooth walls that awaited her on the opposite side of the room. There were no doors. At least not from what she could see. Only endless opaque black glass that reflected the wane and pinched looking features that held little in common with that of her parents.
Elena was told she most resembled her maternal grandmother. A woman she’d never met.
Unlike her aunts’, Elena’s ears were un-docked. They were as pointy as any Tuann’s. If you wanted to get picky about it, you could say the slant was a tiny bit less severe considering her status as only half Tuann. But they’d fool pretty much anyone.
Elena had always liked the vivid amber color of her eyes. The shade pairing well with the gold in her curly hair.
Add in her pert nose, pointed chin and the cupid’s bow of her lips and she looked insufferably adorable.
It was why people had a tendency to underestimate her. They saw her exterior and never looked deeper. Something she often used to her advantage to escape trouble. Aunt Selene and Aunt Kira to a lesser extent were the only people immune to her charms.
“This place feels weird,” Elena muttered under her breath, registering a slightly uncomfortable and prickly sensation that was both similar yet completely different than any Mea’Ave Elena had previously experienced.
This felt sharper. More biting. Dangerous almost. Like there was something waiting to strike. One wrong move and it’d be goodbye Elena. Her psyche would be shredded to pieces. No, thank you. That didn’t sound like fun to her. Not even a little bit.
Gradually, Elena became conscious of a cold weight wrapped securely around her bicep. The memory of what happened directly before she ripped from her aunt’s side and sent to this place came back to her.
Elena stuck a hand into the neck of her shirt, searching until her fingers brushed against the scaled surface of Uncle Jin’s avatar. Relief like she’d never felt before swept through her as she stilled.
Her immobility lasted only a second before she tugged her shirt’s collar away from her body, needing the visual reassurance of his presence.
“You came,” Elena whispered in a clogged voice.
She wasn’t alone. He was in this with her.
The ruby colored eyes of the avatar were closed, giving the impression that its owner was sleeping. Created to resemble a lu-ong, a creature that looked like a cross between an eastern dragon and its avian cousin, the avatar was impressively small and delicate looking. It’s body slightly translucent. The blush color of its scales reminded Elena of Morganite. It even had the whiskers and mane-like crest that the lu-ong were known for.
Elena didn’t try to remove Uncle Jin from his hiding spot. If there were cameras in this room, it was best to leave him where he was. A secret only she knew.
With that thought in mind, she released the shirt. Her gaze darted around the room as she pressed the neck against her chest for a moment before forcing herself to drop her hand nonchalantly. Mustn’t tip off anybody watching. If Uncle Jin was unconscious and not faking it for reasons only her silly uncle would understand, it was important she protect him. At least until he was himself again.
Play it cool, Elena advised herself in her head. Nothing to see here. Just Super Agent Elena reporting for duty.
The sound of stone sliding against the floor made Elena jump. She froze as a humanoid male entered the room via an opening in the wall that hadn’t been there seconds before.
He stopped abruptly, staring at Elena in shock with his strange silvery eyes.
Mantis. He had to be. She recognized those overly long limbs that made him look like a walking stick.
Confusion and anger replaced the mantis’s surprise. “You’re not the person I was expecting.”
Elena gulped as he started toward her, backing away before she could stop herself.
Hold your ground, Elena ordered herself, stiffening her legs and sneering right back at the tsavitee.
She was brave. She was courageous. A mantis wasn’t enough to make her cower.
His knowing chuckle a second later made her question that decision. The series of staccato triggered the primitive side of Elena’s brain. The one responsible for survival.
Before Elena could react, a slash of darkness and light sundered the room. A figure was deposited in their midst. Right on top of the archaic runes Elena had landed on seconds earlier.
The person rose, sweeping a glance across the room.
The woman’s features were as familiar to Elena as her own. They should be. After all, the woman was her egg donor.
Elise’s indifferent gaze caught and lingered on the mantis as he frowned at her, looking from her to the rune in confusion.
According to Elena’s studies, that word roughly translated to half-breed. Or waste. Sometimes mutt.
The tsavitee were fans of words with a multitude of meanings. This one conveyed their utmost disdain toward the person they were applying the insult to. Often used to make the object feel like the lowest form of life.
Elena wasn’t a fan of it being used in conjunction with Elise. She might no longer consider the other woman her mother—more like an egg donor—but that didn’t mean she was okay seeing her being insulted.
“You’re not due back for months. What are you doing here?” the mantis rasped in a voice that sounded like dry branches rattling against each other.
Emotion moved in Elise’s eyes as she looked Elena over. There and gone in a split second.
The mantis reached for Elise’s shoulder. “Did you not hear me?”
His hand disintegrated. It happened so fast that Elena didn’t register what had happened. Not until his agonized scream ripped through the room.
Elena jumped as fear crawled up her throat.
Elise’s gaze was dispassionate, her expression emotionless as she watched the mantis cower in front of her. “I can’t tell if you’re brave or arrogant.”
Elena shook with the need to flee.
This wasn’t her mother. It couldn’t be. This person was someone else. A monster that wore her mother’s face and spoke in her voice.
Elena was forgotten as Elise advanced on the mantis.
He backed away, moaning.
“There is a price to pay when you make mistakes,” Elise informed him gently.
Fear twisted his features. “Please!”
“I’m afraid it’s much too late for that, dahna,” Elise said, using a tsavitee term that meant unfortunate one.
Elena’s shriek was lost amid the mantis’s screams. She forgot her earlier resolve, retreating to wedge herself in the furthest corner of the room. She crouched and hid her face against her lap. She didn’t want to see.
Auntie was wrong. So very wrong. Elise was no hero.
Elena tried to tune everything out as she rocked back and forth, covering her ears and humming to herself to drown out the sounds.
She was okay. She wasn’t here. This didn’t matter.
A soft touch on her shoulder a long time later made Elena realize how silent the room had gone. It had been for a long time.
“Let me get a look at you.”
The hand on Elena’s shoulder slid up to her jaw, forcing her to lift her head to focus on the woman squatting in front of her.
Specks of blood dotted Elise’s face, the bright splashes of purple and silver almost obscene against the elegant features of her egg donor. Thick eyebrows and high cheekbones lent drama to her features, turning them into something divine.
Her mother was a beautiful woman. No wonder her dad had fallen for the psycho. Elena was a little depressed that she hadn’t inherited some of that beauty.
The sight beyond her egg donor made her swallow convulsively before she snapped her gaze back to Elise.
That had been blood dripping from the ceiling. Along with other matter she tried not to think too hard about.
Elena widened her eyes, desperately focusing on her egg donor. Don’t see. Don’t you dare look again.
“You’re okay,” Elise whispered.
No, Elena was not okay. She was so far from it she might as well have been in another galaxy.
“What are you doing?” Elena flailed as Elise patted her clothes, working her way over to the bicep where Uncle Jin clung. “Stop!”
Elise easily quelled Elena’s struggles, dragging the neckline of her shirt over so she could see the sleeping spawn. Relief showed on her face. “Well done, Jin.”
Elena yanked herself out of Elise’s grip, slapping her shirt over the lu-ong and holding it in place in case her egg donor tried anything.
Elise’s lips tugged up in a smile that reminded Elena of her Aunt Kira’s. It held a similar level of self-deprecation. Acknowledging her faults with a wryness that made you want to smile along with her.
“We don’t have much time, little light. There are two things you must always remember.” Elise’s gaze roved Elena’s features with a yearning that Elena might have believed if not for the way the other had pretended she didn’t exist when they were on Ta Sa’Riel. “The first—your Aunt Kira has never made a promise she hasn’t kept. She will come for you. She’ll tear the universe apart if that’s what it takes.”
Elena scoffed. “As if I need you to tell me that.”
She’d read the old mission reports. She knew what her aunt was capable of and how much she’d suffered when she thought the egg donor and the Curs had died. There was nothing and no one who would stand in Aunt Kira’s way when it came to the people she cared about.
Sooner or later, Aunt Kira would come for her. Mercy on anyone who tried to stop her.
The only problem was that the universe was vast. It might take Auntie longer than she could afford.
The smile that lit Elise’s face made Elena stop and stare. It was like watching a ray of sunlight pierce a bank of storm clouds. The severity in her features vanishing for a brief moment.
This must be what had drawn Elena’s father and aunt to the other all those years ago.
Elise’s face softened as she cupped Elena’s cheek. Love overflowed from her gaze. “Of course, you don’t.”
Elena struggled to ignore the tacky feeling she suspected was blood.
“I love you and your father more than anything in this world.”
There was such pain and agony in those words that Elena found herself swayed for a brief moment. She forgot the crimes this woman had committed and the cruel manner with which she’d killed the mantis.
All she saw was the mother she’d dreamed about every night since Uncle Jin and Aunt Kira started telling her the stories.
Elise’s features lost their gentleness, smoothing into lines of detachment and disinterest as a door formed behind her. She rose, imparting one last piece of advice. “From this moment forward, you’re not to believe a single word out of my mouth or trust me in any way.”
What did that even mean?
Elena was still wondering as Elise withdrew to face the tsavitee general who stepped inside the room.
“Lothos, you’re late,” Elise said lightly.
The genera didn’t look up from his study of the mantis’s body, taking in the slaughter with impassive yellow eyes.
Like most of his kind, the general was tall with skin as black as the void of space. Red, glowing symbols were etched into the left side of his torso, arms and face. Only a few appearing on the right side of his body. His immense rack of horns showed his age spanned centuries and that he was among the highest echelon of the tsavitee ranks.
He treated Elena’s existence like air. So unimportant it didn’t bear acknowledgment as he focused on Elise. “You were not supposed to return in this manner. Your presence suggests your mission did not go as planned.”
Elise’s lip curled. “Blame your contact for that. He was useless. Not even able to arrange a proper distraction. He tipped off not only the Phoenix but the Tuann as well. Because of that, I was compromised. It was either abandon the planet or face capture.”
“Our masters won’t be pleased to know you’ve once again failed in your assignment.”
Elise’s scoff was scathing. “They should have let me do things my way. Targeting anyone in Kira’s vicinity was bound to alert her to our presence. You know the lengths she’ll go to protect her own.”
The general looked unmoved. “That is why we suggested you kill her.”
Elena’s small sound of protest attracted the general’s intimidating stare.
Elena fought the urge to duck her head and hunch in on herself. Auntie always said when up against a bigger predator you couldn’t show weakness. You had to bluff so they didn’t relegate you to being food and attack.
Elise made a restless move, somehow making it seem like an accident as she blocked his line of sight. “We had an agreement. Touch the Phoenix and this alliance is over.”
Lothos made a noncommittal sound as he moved his attention back to Elise. “This reflects poorly on your record. They will punish you.”
“Nothing I haven’t faced before.”
“Where is my nephew?” Lothos made a show of looking around the room. “I do not see him with you.”
“You’ll have to talk to him about that the next time you see him. I broke him out of the prison where he was being held. He is the one who decided to return to their custody.”
Lothos pinned Elise with a penetrating stare. “That’s difficult to believe. Aeron knows the stakes.”
Elise’s shrug was careless. “I created the opportunity as you requested. His subsequent decisions are his own responsibility.”
“Aeron is of vital importance to our cause. My other brothers won’t look kindly on his continued absence. You want them on your side.”
“You’re not telling me anything I don’t know.”
That response seemed to satisfy Lothos as his attention shifted to Elena. “Who’s this?”
“She’s nothing. Nobody important.”
Heat flooded the back of Elena’s neck as embarrassment and something worse filled her.
She’d spent years yearning for the woman in front of her. Nights and days dreaming about their first meeting.
And this was how her egg donor described her. As nothing.
Elena felt her heart breaking. Cracking into tiny little pieces as her girlhood dreams shattered around her. It was one thing to refer to Elise as the egg donor in her head. Another entirely to hear her mother dismiss her so casually.
Elena kept the pain those words caused off her face. Survive. That was the only thing she needed to do. Just survive.
Lothos’s gaze remained locked on Elise’s face, his expression considering. “Then it won’t matter if we dispose of her.”
“I considered that,” Elise admitted. As if it wasn’t her child’s fate up for debate. “But she was seen in Kira’s company on more than one occasion. She has ties to the Phoenix that we might be able to exploit.”
“You want me to protect her.” Lothos’s face left no doubt as to how much he disliked that suggestion.
“You know how Kira is. She won’t abandon a child she feels responsible for. She’ll come for her. You can use that opportunity for your plan.”
Lothos looked like he was considering. “It would be better to give her to the masters. They can vent their anger on her instead of you.”
Elena’s stomach curdled. Her breathing stuttered for a brief second before she caught herself, forcing it resume a normal cadence.
She knew how bad that would be for her. She’d overheard Aunt Kira and Uncle Jin talking one night. They were two of the strongest people Elena knew. Anything that could put that amount of pain and fear in their voices was better off avoided at all costs.
“I disagree. We need the Phoenix’s cooperation. If the child is harmed, she will not bargain,” Elise said. “I can take anything the masters throw at me. The child can’t say the same. She’s far too weak to survive their anger.”
Lothos narrowed his eyes at her. “You’re not trying to hide something from me, are you?”
“Of course not,” Elise answered lightly. “I learned my lesson the last time.”
The moment dragged as Lothos stared. Suspicion forming behind in his eyes.
Elena found herself holding her breath. What would she do if he realized Elise was lying? Fight? She’d die.
But maybe that would be better. Being ripped apart at the seams didn’t sound like a bucket list item.
No. Survive. Those were Auntie’s orders. Survive at all costs. No matter who you had to sacrifice or what you had to do.
Easier said than done.
An eternity later, Lothos seemed to come to a decision. “Very well. I’ll believe you. For now.”
Elise’s face remained apathetic. As if it didn’t matter to her whether or not Lothos believed her.
Lothos’s gaze shifted to Elena. “Does she understand our language?”
“Of course not. She’s Tuann. You know their kind. Only ever interested in their own matters.”
Lothos’s frown sent another jolt of adrenaline through Elena system. “Are you sure?”
Shit. He knew.
And Aunt Selene would have sent her to time out for using that word.
Elena fought the desire to flee, trying not to react outwardly in any way.
Of course, a Tuann wouldn’t know the tsavitee language. They would have no reason to. They hadn’t fought in a war against them. Even if they had, Elena doubted most would have taken the time to understand their enemy.
A human might have. A Haldeel scholar definitely would have. But not a Tuann who were the very definition of arrogance.
If not for Elise’s disguised warning, Elena would have already given herself away.
She couldn’t help but be upset about that oversight. Only a few minutes in and she’d already endangered her cover. She needed to be better than this.
“If she knows a little, it’s probably due to the Phoenix’s influence. She was obsessed with studying the tsavitee and everything about them,” Elise answered, sounding bored.
The comment offered a way for Elena to “learn” the tsavitee language faster than if she was newly exposed to it.
A door appeared in the same place it had earlier. A second general stepped inside, pausing at the sight of the dead mantis before continuing.
Possessing a smaller stature than Lothos, the newcomer still towered over Elise by nearly two feet. His horns weren’t as impressive or as well developed as Lothos’s either, placing him lower than the other general in the hierarchy. His face was impassive as he stopped a few feet away, clasping his hands behind his back as he waited to be acknowledged.
“Speak,” Lothos ordered.
“The masters are aware of her return and have asked for her presence.”
Elise’s chin lifted. There was a note of fear before it was gone.
“I can’t protect you from this,” Lothos informed her.
“I didn’t ask you to.”
Lothos sighed. “Do what you can to appease them and hurry back.”
Elise sauntered toward the door. “You don’t have to tell me that.”
Her hands moved briefly. A bare flutter of movement that was hardly noticeable. Only someone who’d grown up learning the self-developed sign language of the forty three would have recognized the motions as something other than a nervous tick.
It was a message. A brief one.
That’s all Elena got before the wall reformed.
“She’s hiding something,” the second general announced in tsavitee.
“What do you want to do?”
“For now, we’ll wait.”
Elena allowed fear to form on her face. She didn’t have Aunt Kira’s training in hiding her emotions. They’d expect a scared little girl so that’s exactly what she’d give them.
The fact she really was terrified made the deception easier.
“Throw her to the pits,” he said after a long moment of consideration. “We’ll see if she survives long enough to be worth protecting.”
Responses to “Sneak Peak”
Wow that is so good. I am so excited to read the book!!! Almost time for a reread!
I have been patiently waiting for firebird 5, this crumb was a treasure. Cants wait to see what happens next 👏🏻
Holy moly!! Can’t wait for the book!!!
Great beginning, can’t wait for more.
OMG OMG OMG!!!
I can’t wait for the rest. It’s going to be awesome.
Great googly moogly! Eleana is going to have to grow up pretty quickly. I’m so excited to dive into a Elsie finally.
I can’t wait for the rest. I just finished rereading all the other books.
CanNOT wait!!! Eeeee! Gonna have to go reread AGAIN!💜💜💜
This is torture 😭 but I enjoyed reading from elanas point of view.
Do we get a release date yet? Lol
If I could insert a GIF it would be the one of Mr. Bean waiting on the side of the road. So very looking forward to this book.
I have no idea where it’s going to go! There are so many things to think about!!! I love this series. This story can last forever!!!
Hoooow good!!! Thank you
Can’t wait! I am already hooked.
Squee!! So very good! But oh why did I read that? Now I have to wait for the rest. Guess I’m gonna have to go back and reread the series. Thank you for the sneak peek.
Love it and can’t wait for the rest!!!
I haven’t done enough reviews to be eligible to be a beta reader, but in case your beta readers miss some, here are a couple of edits (in between the **)that I saw:
Thank goodness for Uncle Jin. She didn’t think she would have liked that person*.*
Gradually, Elena became conscious of a cold weight wrapped securely around her bicep. The memory of what happened directly before she *was* ripped from her aunt’s side and sent to this place came back to her.
The genera*l* didn’t look up from his study of the mantis’s body, taking in the slaughter with impassive yellow eyes.
Elena’s stomach curdled. Her breathing stuttered for a brief second before she caught herself, forcing it *to* resume a normal cadence.
Fabulous excerpt, and I can’t wait for the book. Now I am starting my re-read of the series. Fun Fun Fun for me. Thank you for the teaser. You have such a great imagination and a gift to bring us readers into the story with you. Kira, Graydon, Jin, Elena, and all the rest, are like family to all of us in readerland.
I can’t wait! I am feeling the pull to re-read the series, but in my super weird nerdy approach to things, I usually read the newest book – impatient devouring! – and then double-back and re-read the whole series after, ending with a second, slower read of the newest book to get all the tasty details. I’ve found that is the most fun for me, because in the initial read of a new book I’m so excited that I read super fast. That second read is where I really absorb it.
Hi absolutely amazing start to the next book! It’s interesting to get a little bit more of Elise. She is such a complex woman and it’s sad to see a little hint of what she has had to endure while with the Tsavitee. I was terrified for Elena in this chapter. Line that made me tear up the most thought was “As if I need you to tell me that.” AGHHH such faith and love she has in her auntie and uncle! Also will be interesting and weird to find out how Lothos is involved in this secret alliance of generals, considering he is the Phoenix’s biggest enemy from the war.
The first book I read by you was Firebird, so it has a special place in my heart and I will always love more books for the series. I hope whatever genre you choose to write in for your next book will give you great joy and fun! I am just a bit confused though. You mentioned the title of a book called Of Bone and Ruin that your formatting for publication at the start of this post. Is the title for Firebird 5 or another book for another series? I’m so excited that I’ve already starting rereading the other Firebird books haha. Although honestly I have reread the previous books so many times that nearly every chapter of each 4 books has some sort of bookmark for a favourite scene.
Wow, great start … thank you!
I absolutely love the Firebird Chronicles, my alltime favourite series. The suspense is killing me. Waiting for release day is excruciating – I do know that brilliant books need time but aghw … (desperate groan)
I am so excited…thank you for snippet. What do I do with myself now?! Sigh…going back to re-read the series so that I can deal with wait.
Thank you so much for that small taste, can’t wait for the book!
The excerpt began rather slowly in Elena’s voice, and I was confused about the writing style. A few paragraphs later, the flow returned to what I associated with the series. My appetite is now whetted, and I eagerly await book 5.
Just finished rereading the previous books in preparation and I can’t wait!
So excited for the fifth book to come out. Thankyou for this first chapter!
It was both a blessing and a curse, as it’s whet my appetite for more, but now I have to be patient and wait 😂
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