Elemental Trials Book 1
by Ronelle Antoinette
Genre: Fantasy Romance
How can you afford to risk it all for love when your life is not your own?
They say to keep your friends close and your enemies closer, but In Egalion’s Imperial court, you can't tell one from the other...especially when they change at the flip of a coin. Behind the luxury and splendor lies a realm of treachery where cloak-and-dagger political maneuvering threatens to destroy the peace of two thousand years.
Twenty-five-year-old Battlemage Jex Xander has a mouth that frequently gets him into trouble, while in contrast, Enari Namelum speaks not at all. When Jex becomes the target of a faceless curse-slinger, Enari, the girl he has protected since the day they met, must now protect him. A string of ritual human sacrifices coupled with Jex’s growing inability to keep his feelings (and hands) to himself only serve to complicate matters. Amidst the mounting chaos, passion and romance should be the last thing on their minds, but life and the Goddess seem to have other ideas.
In a world as enticing as it is perilous, love, danger, and magic will collide, leaving lives irrevocably changed. The events of a single summer stand to change the course of more than just the kingdom of Egalion and the ones dismissed as pawns may yet prove to be the most important players.
“Errant Spark” is the hush before the storm, the last deep breath before the plunge. The flint has been struck and it’s possible the whole world might go up in flames…because love in the Imperial court is as dangerous a thing as backroom politics and jealousy can be as much a driving force as silver and gold.
Fantasy? Action? Romance? Yes! This romantic fantasy novel by Ronelle Antoinette is a broad, epic, sweeping fantasy with more twists and turns and ups and downs than a wild roller-coaster! The first installment of the Elemental Trials series is one of those books that really is so much more than what the blurb can convey. Described as “surprisingly complex and visionary” by one reviewer, “Errant Spark” will leave you mesmerized from the first page to the last.
Hailed by Amazing Stories Magazine’s Ricky L Brown as “a simple story about interesting characters with just enough romance and magic to make it work. […] Errant Spark is as complex as George RR Martin, with a world that is well-suited for conniving and cavorting. Rest assured, there is plenty of sex and violence, but not as raw and stabby as the aforementioned works. It’s more like a big kid’s version of a fairy tale.
•Mature teens and up
•Fans of epic fantasy and romance
•Those looking for characters they want to eat…or take home and enjoy
•Readers who can appreciate a gorgeous tapestry of magic, myth, and mayhem
•Connoisseurs of fine love stories that complement the plot and that ‘slow burn’
•Lovers of surprises, twists-and-turns, and well-placed, necessary supernatural elements
•Anyone looking for sex, magic, love, fantasy, and a story that will sweep you away
•Those who don’t mind staying up all night so they can turn that final page
Update: As of 11/21/16, a series glossary has been included at the end of this novel (in ebook and print form only).
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True night had fallen on Tor’s Alley, with only a few pale squares of light cast by nearby windows to illuminate the way ahead. The far end of the street was utterly dark, a patient maw waiting to swallow them whole. A dog barked in the distance and they heard the hiss and yowl of fighting tomcats somewhere much closer. Tipping her head back, Enari gazed at the stars that were clearly visible in this poorly lit part of the great city.
“We shouldn’t dawdle,” Jex said in a low voice. He moved down the steps, putting them on a level when he faced her, and bent to pull a dagger from the top of his boot. She hadn’t even noticed it before and wondered what else he had hidden on his person.
Holding it up, he took her hand and curled her fingers around the leather-wrapped hilt.
“Do you know how to use this?” he asked seriously.
When she shook her head, he closed his eyes in dismay and exhaled heavily. She watched the faint glint of starlight trace the razor edge as she tilted it slowly. He shook her once, snapping her attention back to him.
“Eyes, throat, belly, groin.” He touched each body part on himself as he spoke. “They’re soft and the blade won’t stick. Any part of a man will do, but those will drop him fast.” Placing his hand over hers, he showed her a simple thrust-and-twist motion.
“Put it in your belt, like this. Good. Now let me see you draw it. Watch you don’t cut your fingers.”
Enari did as instructed and once he was satisfied she could draw the weapon without catching on anything, he took her hand again. They started down the dark street at a brisk pace and Enari observed a change in the way he walked. His stride was still confident, but there was a new alertness in his posture, a deadly grace that proclaimed he was not someone to be trifled with.
“What did she give you?” he asked more casually than she would have expected.
Reluctantly, she fished the amulet out of her bodice and held it up so he could see. He coughed and glanced away, but not before she saw the color rising in his cheeks. Even in the dim light, the blush was visible.
“I’m sorry. That was rather, um, forward of her. Have to give her credit for perceptiveness, though. I’m not sure I’d have thought of that until it was too late, and then where would we be? Well, where would you be? As soon as Vasi found out, I’d be dead for certain. I know I don’t have to tell you to keep it out of sight unless you want people to talk. Not that I’d be ashamed, but, well, that brings us back ‘round to the me dying thing.” Throughout the entire rambling monologue, his eyes swept their surroundings and he kept a firm grip on her hand.
They’d nearly reached the market square where the encounter with the Dust addict had occurred that afternoon when a figure stepped into the alley, blocking their path.
“Thought you two would be along,” drawled a male voice, “Made us wait long enough to be sure.”
Jex stopped dead as three more man-shaped shadows joined the first. Slowly, attention never leaving the menacing strangers, he drew Enari behind him so that his body shielded her from view. As the pack moved to the center of the alley, moonlight dimly illuminated their features. Three of the ruffians were hulking, heavily muscled men, flat faced and heavy browed, while the fourth, apparently their leader, was whipcord thin. All four were dressed in dark clothing and armed to the teeth.
“We don’t want any trouble, friends,” Jex said, polite and cautions, “Let us pass.”
The men laughed. The sound was ugly and filled with the promise of impending violence.
The leader shook his head, long hair falling into his eyes. “Oh no. The Lady doesn’t take kindly to a dandy like you roughing up her people. Yeema may be a slimy, Dust-mad little worm, but he’s still Brotherhood.”
“The Lady Shadow should warn her men against accosting mages and young kvinnas in a public market, then. Your fellow was sloppy and I only gave the maggot what he deserved,” Jex shot back. “You have no quarrel with us.”
“Be that as it may, we can hardly let such actions go unaddressed. You nobles might start getting uppity.”
“Perhaps we can work somefing out,” one of the big men suggested. “The lassie there is nice-looking enough. Let her be the payment.”
“You’ll touch her over my dead body!” Jex snapped. His tone was no longer friendly. He spun his staff in one hand and planted the end solidly into the dirt at his feet. Its runes began to glow scarlet and a sphere of crackling fire sprang to life in the air above his cupped palm. Two of the men took a hasty step back.
“That can certainly be arranged,” the thin man said with a snigger, “or you can stand aside, mageling. Let us have our fun and we can all go on as if none of this unpleasantness ever happened. We promise we’ll be quick and the Lady need never hear of it.”
The man behind him made a vulgar gesture and elbowed his closest associate. “You might be quick, but I plan to take my time. She looks fresh.”
“Take one step from where you stand and before the Consorts I swear you’ll die before you can take another,” the mage warned him. The orb of flames grew a little bigger as his anger built.
Then, speaking softly so his voice did not carry beyond her hearing, he addressed Enari, “Nani, do you see the doorway to your left?” He felt her nod against his back. “I want you to walk over there, slowly now, and put your back to it. I’ll veil you until you get there, then stay down and out of the way. If one of them gets past me, you run as fast as you can and head for a lighted street. Look for a guardsman.”
Walking backwards to keep the men in view, Enari crossed the narrow space until she felt her back bump against uneven stone. She sidestepped into the dim recess and held her breath, pressing as close to the door as she could manage.
“Hiding your toys isn’t very polite, you know,” sighed the leader, although he really didn’t sound that disappointed. A dagger appeared in his hand as if by magic and he grinned. “Never mind. I haven’t had a decent fight or a good fuck in ages.” He jerked his head towards Jex. “Get ‘im, lads. She’ll reappear once he’s dead.”
The two largest thugs rushed forward together.
Crying out a challenge, Jex swept his arm forward, palm down in a slashing motion, and the ball of fire turned into a line as it left him. It streaked towards the onrushing men, who dodged aside with snarls of anger.
Jex crooked his fingers and the flames reversed direction in midair, doubling back to impact one thug between his first and second steps. It exploded with a roar and the man was immediately engulfed in snapping red and orange flame. He dropped into the dust and tried frantically to smother his burning clothes but to no avail. The mage-fire burned hot and fast and within seconds the man was a living torch.
His partner had faltered, but only briefly.
As the choked screams began to die out, he reached Jex and brought a sword whistling down on the other’s head. Jex raised his staff in time to catch the blow across its length, stopping the steel inches from his face. The blade stuck and with a twist of his shoulders and arms, Jex sent
the weapon spinning away. Lightning quick, he kicked out and caught the tough squarely between the legs. The man dropped with a winded curse, but dodged aside from the follow up strike aimed at his head.
Unfortunately for him, he wasn’t fast enough to avoid the lance of fire the mage flung down on him. He, too, was alight in an instant. Smoke and the smell of charred meat filled the night air.
The fourth assailant, the one who’d hung back from the initial charge when the order was given, had managed to sidle around the mage in the moment it had taken him to dispatch his attackers. Spotting Enari, he advanced on her with a leer.
“Come here, little dove,” he crooned, holding out a hand. “I won’t hurt you, I swear. An’ if you cooperate, we might be inclined to not kill your lover. Maybe just rough ‘im up a bit.”
She backed away slowly, eyes darting between the huge thug and the skirmish behind him. Two lay sprawled in smoking, unmoving heaps, but the wiry one had closed with Jex and he tossed his staff aside as the other hit him. They tumbled and rolled, each seeking to gain the upper hand. Steel flashed and dark splashes stained the ground in their wake, but in the gloom it was impossible to tell whose blood was being spilled.
Taking advantage of her distraction, the man lunged for her and caught her wrist before she could flee more than a few steps. Laughing, he jerked her against him.
“I’m going to enjoy this. These mages, see, sure they can burn you or freeze you or whatever, but they’re all one-trick in the end. Get past the magic and they’re naught but a whimper. You should pick better company if you’re gonna be out in the dark.”
Enari turned her face aside as he tried to kiss her and his rough beard scraped her cheek, the gesture more chaste than he’d intended.
“Oh come now, don’t be that way,” the man chided and grabbed her chin. “This’ll be easier if you settle down.”
She wriggled frantically, kicking at his shins. A sharp blow stung her face.
“Stop squirming!” he growled, angry now. He reached down with one meaty hand and tore open her dress from neckline to knee, snapping her belt like fine thread in the process and revealing the dainty chemise beneath. With one tug, it too was in tatters. He shoved her roughly against the wall and her head struck the stone hard enough to make her vision swim. The alley revolved drunkenly and blackness began to close in on her, but she fought it, knowing what would happen if she lost consciousness. She reached for the power she’d felt that day with the Greater, only to encounter the same wall she’d run up against the other times she’d tried. The magic was there, but she just couldn’t get to it, no matter how desperately she needed it now.
Holding her by the throat, he pressed a hand between her thighs and tried to force her legs apart. Enari clawed at his eyes and it earned her another slap, this one bloodying her nose. Panting now, her attacker threw her to the ground and descended upon her, using his knees to spread her legs as he pawed at her breasts. She managed to eel out from under him and roll to her hands and knees, scrambling away only to be caught by one ankle and yanked backwards. She winced as skin was peeled off her knees and the palm of one hand.
She’d known she wouldn’t be able to escape him, but the attempt had given her just enough time.
Enari flipped onto her back and as her would-be rapist dropped onto her, she brought her dagger up between their bodies. His weight drove the blade into his vitals at an upward angle and she twisted it as Jex had shown her. The man let out an agonized howl and she felt a flood of
sticky warmth coat her hands and stomach. He toppled away from her and flopped in a spreading pool of dark blood for a moment before going still. A foul stench filled the air and she gagged.
A short, high pitched shriek of pain resounded from further down the passage, but it cut off abruptly and was replaced by heavy silence. Enari hardly noticed, unable to tear her eyes from the hilt protruding from the dead man’s belly. Hurried footsteps approached her and she turned her head woodenly.
Jex’s anxious face stared down at her, blood running from his nose and a cut above one eye. He dropped to his knees, blocking out the grisly scene, and pulled her to a sitting position.
“Are you hurt?” Hands ran over her, checking for injuries. Finding no obvious wounds, he embraced her tightly, pressing his face to her hair and letting out a whisper of thanks to the Consorts. She just stared at the blood staining her hands, so dark in the night that it looked black. Dimly, she heard him order her to stay where she was, that he’d be right back. His footsteps retreated.
Jex knelt and examined the limp form of his final adversary, watching the narrow chest rise and fall for a moment before reaching down to rip the dagger free of the man’s shoulder. He slapped the other’s face harshly until his eyes fluttered open on a moan. They went wide in terror as he saw the mage hovering over him. He sucked in a sharp breath and tried to scamper away, but fire blossomed around Jex’s fingertips and the thug squealed and threw up an arm to protect himself.
“You gambled and lost, friend,” Jex stated calmly
“We were only protecting one of ours,” the man whimpered, “Please don’t kill me!”
“The only reason you aren’t dead already is because I need someone to run a message.” The smile that crossed the mage’s face was as pointed as the blade in his hand.
“I, I, yes, anything you want!” He licked his lips, nervously eyeing the dancing flames.
“Tell Moravelle that Jex Xander will be paying her a visit and that he is not pleased.”
“Xander? Diu, I didn’t recognize you. We didn’t know—”
“Shut up” with a snap of his fingers, the fire vanished, “and get out of here before a guard comes along or I reconsider your usefulness.”
The man scrambled to his feet and fled, stumbling and nearly falling once as he ran. In a flash, he disappeared around the nearest corner and his pounding footsteps faded. Jex stared after him for a moment, eyes glacial, before returning to where Enari sat.
She seemed to be coming out of her shock, and was scrubbing her palms against her torn skirt in an attempt to remove the residue that clung to them. He was relieved and more than a little impressed to see that her eyes were clear and dry, no hint of panic or hysteria in evidence. He retrieved the loaned dagger and when he beckoned, she climbed to her feet and came to him, leaning into his side and putting her face against his chest. He slid an arm around her shoulders and they began to walk.
Not far from their fateful alley, they came upon an unconscious nobleman propped up against a wall with an empty bottle beside one slack hand. Jex relieved him of his cape, leaving a gold coin in the drunk’s lap as payment.
“He’ll wake up without it, and a good deal more besides, but that’s not my fault,” he said, draping the light garment over Enari’s shoulders. It fell to below her knees and when she clutched the edges together, it covered her torn clothing almost entirely.
A fountain in the middle of a tree lined courtyard was their next stop. Using a handkerchief Jex found in one of his pockets, they cleaned the blood and grime from their hands and faces. It
was then that Enari saw the long slash in his right forearm. The cut ran from wrist to just short of his elbow and the blade had missed opening the vein by half the breadth of her little finger.
“It’ll need stitches to close, I imagine,” he grumbled, examining the injury. Even now, blood continued to ooze from it, sliding down to drip from his palm to the cobbles beneath his feet. Enari bent and tore a strip of linen from the hem of her ruined chemise, then pushed at Jex until he sat on the edge of the fountain. She was more in her element here and he watched her with a faint smile as she rinsed and then bound the wound securely, tucking the ends of the makeshift bandage in neatly when she’d finished.
That had been more than an hour ago and they’d been walking ever since, avoiding the busier areas of the city in favor of quiet residential avenues. She was tiring rapidly.
Feeling the tug on his hand as she began to lag behind, Jex stopped, bent, and lifted her into his arms. Enari gratefully rested her face against the side of his neck and closed her eyes.
In seconds, she was asleep.
Elemental Trials Book 2
A 2017 Book Excellence Award finalist in fantasy
Scandal will shake foundations.
A night of careless passion leaves Battlemage Jex Xander and Adept Enari Alycon in a precarious position. Long-time lovers they might be, but the Imperial ambassador and the daughter of Egalion’s High Mage have rather public roles in the court—whether they wish it or not—and scandal couldn’t come at a worse time.
Treachery will tip balances.
When a hostile kingdom reluctantly agrees to parley, the fate of two-thousand years of peace is on the line. In the midst of negotiations, Enari becomes the target of one of the Greater Maelstrom. She and Jex must race against time to save her life and that of her unborn child. What happens when an earth-shattering secret, a demon bent on destruction, and a kingdom teetering on the brink of war collide is anyone’s guess.
Choices will have consequences.
The decisions of a few will determine the fate of many, and who or what will remain standing in the end is still uncertain. Hearts and lives are on the cusp of irrevocable change…and not necessarily for the better.
And secrets? Those will change everything.
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“Would you share my room with me?” Jex asked as they walked. “You don’t have to, of course. As part of the Imperial family, you can have your own if you like or—well, they’re the same as when you were here last, if that makes any difference in your decision.”
She laced her fingers through his and swung their clasped hands between them. “I’d be happy to. It might be nice not to sneak around like naughty children all the time.”
“You don’t think Vasi will have me killed, do you? This is the place to find a contract hitter if you’re looking.”
Instead of laughing as expected, Enari stopped mid-step and pulled him to a halt with the tether of their clasped hands.
“I’m not her apprentice anymore, Jex,” she said. “Consent is mine and mine alone to give. Stop worrying about Vasi.”
They studied one another for a long moment before his face broke into a broad grin.
“As it please you, my lady.” He sketched her a courtly little bow.
“Besides,” Enari added with a quirk of her eyebrow, “she’s a master apothecary. If she wanted you dead, she wouldn’t need to hire anyone.”
He blinked at her, mouth open. She sounded more sure of that than he was comfortable with.
She did laugh then, and darted up the stairs ahead of him. He was quick to give chase.
They reached his room on the fourth floor and Enari was watching him over her shoulder as she reached for the knob. His expression changed to one of dismay and he started to call a warning, but it was too late.
Her fingers closed around what should have been cold metal and blistering pain lanced up her arm. An ominous crackling filled the air and the door emitted an angry
orange glow. She tried to pull away but found herself rendered immobile by the hostile magic.
Jex was at her side in an instant, muttering a few words under his breath and slashing a hand through the air. The noise, light, and heat vanished and Enari jerked back, tears beginning to stream down her cheeks.
“Diu, I’m so sorry. I completely forgot!” He took her hand and examined the reddening skin. “I’ve had to ward the door to keep unwanted ‘servants’ from going through my things.”
He raised her palm to his mouth and blew on it before planting the most delicate of kisses against the inside of her wrist. Then, without releasing her, he took the key from his pocket.
Once the door shut behind them, he dropped their packs to the floor and started rummaging in a side table. He finally turned up a small jar and a roll of bandages and came back to her.
“This should help ease the sting,” he said, spreading a thick cream over her palm and rubbing it in with his thumbs.
“I take it I’m not the first to have a run-in with your little booby trap?” she quipped.
“Eh, no. I’ve burnt myself twice,” he admitted with a sheepish smile. He raised his left hand and showed her the scar.
Securing the bandage around her hand, he examined his work before raising his eyes to hers. “Are you hurt anywhere else?”
Enari shook her head, biting her lip to keep from smiling. “I think I’m fine, but thank you for asking, sir.”
“Are you sure? We’ve been riding an awfully long time and Astraeus was a little overenthusiastic. Maybe I ought to check the rest of you.” His hands dropped to her hips, then slid around to cup her bottom.
Her giggle became a moan as his mouth descended on hers.
“Jex…” she protested between kisses. “They’re expecting us for dinner and there’s something I need—”
“Shh,” he murmured, working at the clasps of her tunic, “I know what you need, and don’t worry about dinner. No one will mind if we’re fashionably late.”
A stray, lust-driven thought that was not her own flitted into her mind’s eye as his mental barriers relaxed for just an instant. She saw her own body arching to meet his and heard tiny moans as he thrust into her again and again. The image was gone almost as quickly as it had come, but the intensity of it left her heart pounding and her breath ragged. Psychomancy could be distracting if they weren’t careful, as strong emotions made it difficult to maintain the protective barrier around one’s thoughts. With Jex, it was also intimate on a level most never experienced. It enhanced their pleasure, looping back on itself and feeding the arousal of one to the other.
Her hands went to his belt and began pulling at it. He was right; dinner could wait. They couldn’t.
Just as his hand slipped into her tunic and cupped around her breast, the door behind them began to open.
“Jex, some important messages came while you were gone and Mama said—oh.”
A pained look crossed his face. Eyes closed and teeth clenched, he counted under his breath before turning to face the intruder.
“Torina. I know you’ve been taught to knock.”
Kylan’s wide and startled eyes darted from his aggrieved expression to Enari, who was fumbling to secure the front of her tunic.
“Oh. Ohhh. Um, sorry! I’ll just…I should go.” She started backing out of the room but stopped when Jex shook his head.
“You’re already here.” He held out a hand. “Let’s have them.”
Ronelle Antoinette lives in western Colorado with her husband, two cats, and one dog-who-believes-he's-a-person. While she is a mother of none, she’s an auntie to what should qualify as a small army. She is an admitted caffeine addict, chocoholic, and hopeless romantic who has carried on a passionate affair with the genre of fantasy since she was old enough to read 'chapter books'.
Ronelle dabbled in creative writing for many years before making it a career. (She even considered it as a major in college, though she ended up getting a Bachelor's degree in Counseling Psychology.) She published her first novel, Errant Spark, in July of 2016.
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