Author's Name: Ashley Darling
Genre: Fantasy (historical)
Stage of Completion: Mostly polished
Preferred Critique Style: Straight to the point with some flails.
Cat Person or Dog Person: Both, but if I really had to choose, CAT. :D
Tea or Coffee: Is this a real question? Coffee!!
In the martial city-state of Scythica, women are warriors and men are slaves. Aella has trained her whole life to join her mother in the highest ranks of the military and finally earn her respect. But when Aella is chosen as a potential heir to the Queen instead of her mother’s student, she knows one thing for certain: the future she’d hoped for as her mother’s equal is gone. Though an ambush at the Summer Festival is written off as an accident, a direct attempt on the Queen’s life sends Aella on a hunt for the truth behind the brewing rebellion. But the truth might be more than she can handle. And Aella must decide what’s more important: honoring the warrior code she’s always believed in or fighting for what she knows in her heart is right.
My mother expects me to drown.
She hasn’t said the words aloud, but it’s there in the sharp twist of her mouth, in the glint of her eyes. Surrounded by girls on all sides, I walk down the beach toward her, bare feet digging into the sand. Fear shakes my knees and panic expands in my chest, squeezing the air from my lungs, but I swallow my doubts.
Supreme Commander Sappho—my mother—stands at the head of the beach, arms raised and spread wide to welcome us.
“Welcome, initiates.” Sappho’s voice carries easily over the waves. “Tonight you will be offered to the Sea Goddess Amphitrite and be judged by her. She will determine your honor, loyalty, strength, and resilience through trial by water, as is her custom.”
We’ve been preparing for this ritual for weeks. We know the words she will speak, and trust that our hearts are pure and true, worthy enough to return and live the life of an adept.
I kneel in the shallow water, my body gently rocked by the waves. I close my eyes as my mother begins to speak, and as I sink into the sea, I recite the prayer in my mind:
Let your warrior be born again from the sea. Bless her with salt, bless her with sand, bless her with steel. Let the sea wash her vanities and earthly allegiances away. Let the sea fill her lungs. Let her rise from your depths, harder and stronger, to serve you forevermore.