Testament of the Stars
by Alexandra Beaumont
Release Date: April 26, 2021
Publisher: Gurt Dog Press
Genre: LGBTQIA+ Dark Fantasy
Astrologers govern the lives of both the blessed from the plateau of Gemynd and the downtrodden from the farming lands of Rask.
When Einya reluctantly joins the settlement’s ruling star-cult, she thinks only of the rights it will give her: the permission to marry her Raskian lover. Instead she is thrown onto a treacherous path of betrayal and political strife, trapped within the cult persecuting Rask.
Forced to drink the blood of the stars and steal their thoughts, Einya ends up at the heart of a fierce rebellion, caught between a fight for freedom and the strange luring power of the stars.
EXCERPTS (please only use one in your post):
Time crept by for Einya Arden. Locked in the astrologer’s cave for thirty days in preparation for this moment, left blindfolded, so she learnt to feel the fallen Stars without seeing them. They were so close, they felt like her own shadow, but she still didn’t feel ready to join the settlement’s star-worshipping cult.
“Initiates, your day has come. Astrologers, enter.”
Einya flinched a little as the clear voice rang out, breaking the long silence. Sounds of shuffling leather shoes echoed through the cavern, breaking the long silence as the established astrologers sidled in. She twitched as bodies bustled by, knocking against her where she knelt. Soft hands brushed her cheeks, before tugging away the blindfold. She couldn’t make out the face of the person who’d done it, as cracks of sunshine splintered around the gap in the door that led into the cave, blurring her vision in the sudden light.
Shadows of shapes slowly emerged, her vision settling. What now? Slowly she stumbled to her feet and tried to slow her breaths, watching the other initiates cluster together.
“Over there,” a voice boomed behind her. Einya jumped again, and turned to see the face of an astrologer looming over her. His strong hands jostled her into a line with the other initiates, the press of their bodies surging all around her. Too close, she stumbled over strangers’ feet clumsily.
A font etched with constellations and two carved faces dominated the middle of the Astrologers’ Cavern. Each initiate ahead of her stepped up to it and lowered their head. What happened then, she couldn’t tell in the darkness. Gulping nervously, Einya shuffled forward in the line until she stood before the font, gripping the stone handles.
She looked up, the Astrologer-Elect standing ahead of her with an imperious glare across the cave.
“Drink the star-blood,” he commanded.
Einya’s breath hitched, and she looked down to avoid the man’s gaze. The ‘star-blood’ undulated with translucent colours in the cauldron. What would happen when she drank it? Behind the stone bowl, two pitted fallen Stars they called the star-rocks dominated the chamber and grinned down at her in the flickering torchlight.
Was this really everything her ten-year struggle had led to? The freedoms of rank were all that she wanted: to marry and live as she chose. But at what cost? Now she stood between the Stars that had fallen into Gemynd a hundred years ago with disappointment tingling through her. Where were the magnificent glowing beacons of truth the Astrologer-Elect proselytised about? All she saw were dull grey rocks.
The rock floor was slick with frost, her bare feet almost slipping as she took the final step up to the lip of the font. She looked up, longingly glancing at the door to the sunlit courtyard beyond.
Egg-shell whites of all the other astrologers’ eyes reflected the low torchlight, hanging like glowing orbs in the darkness.
The clipped voice of the Astrologer-Elect grated through the cavern again; his deep-gouged wrinkles heavy-set in a frown. “Initiate Arden, mix your blood in and then imbibe the blood of the Stars. Become one of us. Do not delay your ascension. There is no choice for you now.”
Einya dragged in a shuddering breath, bile rising in her throat. Her fingers fumbled with the clasp holding her dagger in place as she tugged it free from the frigid leather. She raked the knife across her palm. Plunging her hand into the cauldron, the liquid seared her flesh as she scooped it up and raised it to her lips.
Bri gulped a little, but as directed turned the heavy iron handle and stepped into the musty darkness. Was this a good idea? Little choice now, anyway. He felt the bumps and crevasses in the wall as he ran his fingers along it, stepping further in. A very faint trembling of amber torchlight flickered deep in the cave and Bri stumbled toward it, bashing and scraping his knees on stalactites.
As the cavern finally widened and brightened, Bri gasped, the glittering spire of hewn rock spiking up high above him with gems glowing in the dim distance. In the centre of the mine’s cavern, the star-rock loomed, a pitifully misshapen form with deep drill holes struck down into its very core. Bri coughed a little, an acidic bile rising in his throat at the mining of the star. Who would have thought he could feel sorry for a star-rock?
“Is anyone here?”
“Yes. Admiring our work?” A voice sounded, a haggard woman stepping from the shadows.
“A little. Are you the custodian? I wish to see the star up close.”
“I know, the Mineral Master wouldn’t be here otherwise. Let me show you her beauty. Look here.”
The withered woman pointed at a deep bore hole, and at the centre, a blue glow quivered as if a wind rippled its surface. “That’s the star blood that Gemynd purchases from us.”
“They buy it from you? Why, when they have their own Stars?”
“They don’t know how to mine it. Everything your people do with the Stars is clumsy. They don’t know anything about them because they pride themselves over everything.”
“Can you show me more?”
“Boy, we are rich because of Gemynd’s ignorance. Gemynd’s beliefs are possible because of their ignorance. You see, we’re all too happy with the way things are between us.”
It was then Bri saw two shadows shifting at the edge of the glittering cavern. He turned, tugging the short blade from his boot and tightly gripping its archaic carved wood handle.
The first shadow rushed him, a huge woman armed with a mining pick lurching out of the darkness. Bri ducked as the pick swung into the rock of the star. He thrust his dagger into the woman’s ribs and, even as she howled, he turned to find the other shadow.
The second shadow emerged into a rag-dressed man with two daggers and a gaunt expression. Bri struggled to dart out the way of the whirling slashing blades, parrying the heavy blows as best he could. The man was too fast for him. He wasn’t surprised when he looked down and saw a deep gash in his side, the blood cascading like a waterfall to the floor.
“Fool, she wanted him to experiment on. Not to die.” The withered woman beat the dagger man round the head with her hands until he stepped away from where he towered over Bri, who had sagged to the floor. He pressed his fingers against the wound, but still the river of blood ran free.
About the Author:
Alexandra was raised on fairy tales, folklore and legends. She followed adventures at every turn: exploring the old parts of London, taking part in medieval re-enactments, and writing in every spare moment.
When not writing, Alexandra has a wanderlust for exploring new places, roaming the countryside and taking part in Live Action Fantasy Role Play. (Meaning she’s often covered in mud, grass and leaves.) Her passion for exploring new worlds drives her creative endeavours.
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