Author: Sarah Delena White
Publication date: July 19th 2022
Genres: Fantasy, New Adult, Romance, Young Adult
An ocean consumed by rage. A challenge that demands blood. A love that defies everything.
Battle-hardened warrior Evya Atathari longs for a truce between her sea-dwelling tribe and the elven invaders. But her mother, the powerful and vengeful Seamother, will stop at nothing to see the elves destroyed.
Then the Seamother enacts a brutal rite of challenge for Evya’s hand to gain a powerful ally in the war. But even as the greatest warriors of the sea vie for her favor, her heart is captured by a man who should be her mortal enemy.
Keliveth Dalzana is a failed prophet of the elven king’s court—until a vision leads him to Evya and a chance at ending the war. Drawn to Keliveth’s idealism, Evya agrees to help him win the deadly contest for her hand and establish a peace treaty through their marriage. Together, they dare to dream of a better future.
But when their own peoples turn against them, Keliveth and Evya must find the courage to embrace their true destinies—and decide how great a price they can pay for their love.
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“He’s a fool if he thinks he can survive a challenge made for the warriors of the sea,” my mother spits.
“Of course he is. So why not let him join, and enjoy his downfall in the competition? If Falamar means to insult us, he will only insult his own kind in the end.”
Each harsh word grates me, and I pray my face doesn’t betray my bluff. I don’t glance back to see Keliveth’s expression. I can explain this to him later—while I’m helping him escape to someplace where the Seamother’s gaze can’t follow.
Unless I really could convince him to join the challenge.
The thought wrings my heart. Keliveth is a healer, a dreamer, nothing like the vicious sea warriors who want to claim me as their mate. My shoulder still tingles with the remnants of his magic—beautiful, impossible energy that felt as if it were singing life back into me. His soul remembers everything mine has forgotten, and if anyone could help me heal the seas, I believe it would be him.
But he wouldn’t stand a chance against the other contenders. It would be cruel to ask it of him.
“If he wishes to challenge, why does he not speak for himself?” the Seamother demands.
“To be fair, you haven’t given me much of an opportunity.” Keliveth’s voice rings out clear and confident behind me.
I glance back in surprise. I thought he’d be cowering at the sight of my mother, but instead he’s standing with his arms folded and a frown on his face. He is shorter than the Seamother by nearly a head, yet he looks at her if thoroughly unimpressed with her.
My mother’s face crinkles in disgust. “And what would you say that would be worth hearing?”
“Perhaps nothing.” His mouth turns up into a small, sly smile. “Or perhaps you would be interested to know the elven customs of marriage as they pertain to political truces.”
“… what?” My mother goes very still. I see the confusion in her eyes. She knows little of the elves besides their language and their warfare tactics—certainly nothing of their marriage customs. But I know the elves much better, and I begin to guess how Keliveth is going to play this. My heart speeds as inexplicable yearning rushes through me.
Keliveth takes a deep breath as if bracing himself. When he speaks, his words are calm and measured. “There’s only one form of agreement which my people consider unbreakable, and that is marriage. If I were to win the hand of the princess, and she were to accept me, our union would serve as a permanent truce between our peoples. There would be no more battles, no more attacks in the dead of night. No one else would have to fight and die.”
Depths, he’s playing along perfectly. A spark of admiration flares within me. For months I’ve known him only as a singer, a fantasy set apart from the brutality of life. Now I see the elven lord—the cunning in his gray eyes and the confidence in every word and gesture, as if the deadly machinations of rulers and realms are a familiar game to him. Where did he come from, before Dalzana House and the elven kingdoms were scattered?
The Seamother grips her knife so hard that every joint and bone in her hand bulges. “I do not wish a truce with your people.”
“Would you rather this war continue until the seas are stained red forever and there is no trace of life or beauty left? I know you care nothing for my people, but you care for the lives of your own, of course.” Keliveth almost looks smug, like he’s begging the Seamother to contradict him. “I swear I had no hand in the attack tonight, but I do have the ear of the king and a place of authority among the elves. I want peace for your people as well as mine. Let me challenge for Ev—for the hand of the princess. If I die in the attempt”—he glances at me—“then at least I will have died in pursuit of the most noble goal I can imagine.”
The words are something out of an old tale, and they hit me like stones. No one speaks like that. No one believes that after so many years of war and bitter survival. Yet Keliveth sounds utterly serious—and so naive. I step closer to him, keeping my gaze fixed on my mother in case she lashes out for a quick strike. I need to end this conversation and get Keliveth out of here before he provokes her any further. And before he speaks any more impossible hope to my heart.
Sarah Delena White writes eclectic speculative fiction that weaves world folklore and ancient concepts into vibrant, original story worlds, with a fine balance of poetry and snark. When she’s not writing, she can be found exploring nature, creating art, and seeking to make the perfect cup of coffee.