Hiya peeps! We have August Li popping in today with his upcoming release Calling and Cull the fifth book in the amazing Blessed Epoch series. We have a wonderful post from Gus and a great excerpt, so join in the fun game with Gus and check out the excerpt! <3 ~Pixie~
Calling and Cull
Whose hand will orchestrate the change in the world?
The decade-long war with Johmatra is over, but peace hangs by a thread in Garith’s kingdom. Yarrow, isolated in his island realm, refuses to abide by the treaty or to follow the dictates of the priestesses. Others—Octavian Rose among them—are uneasy with the growing military power of the temples, and the mage island of Espero remains a tenuous ally. Garith knows his people cannot weather another conflict and that infighting will leave their lands vulnerable to further invasion. The arrival of a Johmatran ambassador with his own agenda calls everyone’s loyalties into question.
Sides will be chosen, and the consequences of those choices will have repercussions no one can foresee. Even among the turmoil, Yarrow is determined to have his vengeance against the thirteen goddesses and heal the world’s magic. But how far will he go, and what lines is he willing to cross? As unlikely alliances are forged and enemies are revealed, Prince Thane seems to be the key to forgotten knowledge that will shape the future—and some will do whatever it takes to control him.
Who are you in the story?
by August Li
From a young age, I’ve liked to imagine myself taking part in the stories I loved—maybe not a large or flashy part, but just living in the fantasy worlds that felt so real to me. I tried to imagine what my life might be like in various invented universes, and while I usually settled on some kind of artist, since it’s imagination, it never hurts to sprinkle in a hidden magical talent or secret noble bloodline.
I thought it might be fun to make a generator to determine who you would be in my fantasy world of the Blessed Epoch.
So what do you do?
Day of Birth
5-6: Ship’s Captain
29-30: Musician or Dancer
And where are you from?
Month of Birth
February: Fog Hollow
April: The Twenty-Nine
And who do you travel with?
Color of your shirt
Black: A bird trained to steal valuable items
White: A noble man or woman in hiding, turned into a charming grifter
Gray: You keep to yourself because of a complex past.
Red: A renowned chef with a knowledge of poisons.
Orange: Your devoted spouse and large family of acrobatic performers.
Green: An Emiri tattoo artist.
Yellow: An elderly artist who drinks too much.
Blue: Your lover, a beautiful (or handsome) pirate.
Purple: A young child who doesn’t talk but has an uncanny talent for magic.
Striped: An amnesiac necromancer.
Floral: Your grandmother, a former spy with secrets about many influential people.
Plaid: Your twin brother, whose bad temper gets you into lots of trouble.
Other pattern: A beautiful actor on the run from gambling debts (male or female—your choice).
None: A cross-dressing jewel thief, gender of your choice.
Please introduce yourself and share your story in the comments. “Hi, I’m—, a (profession), from (location), who travels with—. And please feel free to embellish! How did you become a ship’s captain with a family of acrobats? Or maybe you’re a thief, but only because the orphanage run by your cousin needs the money. I can’t wait to see what everyone comes up with. Thanks for playing along.
If you’re interested in reading the newest book in the Blessed Epoch series, Calling and Cull, it is available here: https://www.dsppublications.com/books/calling-and-cull-by-august-li-312-b
And if you’re new to the series and want to start from the beginning, DSP Publications has an awesome package deal on the first four books. 582,000 words for just ten bucks. https://www.dsppublications.com/books/blessed-epoch-vol-1-by-august-li-316-b (pre-order, release date 18th October)
And please enjoy the coloring page! (or download from Dropbox) If you’re inclined to share your finished pages with me, it will make me super happy, and you can do so here: Facebook | Fox-Hat’s Den on Facebook | Twitter
Octavian brushed his knuckles down D’Aurelian’s dark cheek. If nothing else, they could be open with their affection here. The priestesses and nobles condemned the Emiri people as much for their preference for either gender and their regard of intimacy as just a fun pastime as for their piracy. “Yarrow is powerful, but we are not exactly helpless, especially not the two of us together. Besides, he might be mad, but he always seemed to me to possess a peculiar code of honor. He despises the aristocrats, the priestesses, and the Johmatrans. But regardless of the fancy titles in front of our names, we’re mercenaries. Never doubt that polite society rates us only a small step above these Emiri. Yarrow will respect that. Now, let’s find him. If I can count on nothing else, I’ll wager my fortune he has wine.”
“Let’s find him quickly, then, and hope he’s in a mood to be hospitable.”
For the next several hours, they meandered between islands and over bridges, discovering majestic waterfalls and lagoons so perfect they seemed painted in a storybook. Under different circumstances, Octavian might be content to never leave, if everything he’d built hadn’t been at stake. But as the sun started to melt and spread molten gold across the surface of the water, they were no closer to finding the fortress of the legendary mage. Octavian had expected to see a castle atop a cliff or sitting on a knoll surrounded by high walls, yet all the little houses, with their patterned curtains instead of doors or window glass, looked the same. They hadn’t eaten since breakfast, and Octavian salivated as the scent of roasting fish reached him from the fires the Emiri were lighting along the beach.
“I’d hoped to avoid announcing our presence here, but we might need to ask for directions.”
D’Aurelian looked at the nearest bonfire, glowing bright against the darkening sky, sending up clouds of sparks. Probably a dozen people had gathered around it. “These folk seem friendly enough.”
D’Aurelian approached a willowy man standing at the edge of the firelight. The Emiri’s gold hair and eyes contrasted sharply with his dark skin, the flames behind him gilding the edges of a lean but muscular form. A frayed strip of floral-printed cloth barely concealed his choicest parts, and he held a clay jug between his ribs and his upthrust hip. He spoke a few phrases in his melodic but indecipherable language, and D’Aurelian held up his hands.
“I regret that I don’t speak your tongue. Do you know the common language of the kingdom, or perhaps Esperon?”
The Emiri man grinned. “My Esperon is not so good, but I can talk in the common language. I’m called Toumo. Will you drink with me?” He extended the jug, and before Octavian could warn his companion, D’Aurelian took it and knocked back a healthy swig. He handed it back to Toumo, sputtering.
“Your liquor is potent,” he rasped out.
Toumo laughed and clapped D’Aurelian on the back the way one would a choking infant. “Muri-ku can be an acquired taste, at least for you land people and your delicate constitutions. You handled it well. What are you called by your mother and her syrai?”
Toumo draped an arm over D’Aurelian’s shoulders. “Come, then, D’Aurelian. Food is cooking and there’s plenty to drink. Join us. The mages of Espero are allies and always welcome in the Twenty-Nine.”
Octavian went to stand a few paces behind D’Aurelian. His partner had things well in hand; there was no need for Octavian to assert himself. Once his ego might have demanded he make himself the focal point, but he’d learned to trust in his companions. He’d paid a high price for doubting them in the past, and he had greater faith in D’Aurelian than any other.
“Actually, I am hoping for some direction,” D’Aurelian said. “My friend and I have come here with the hopes of meeting your valen… the one who watches over these islands. Yarroway L’Estrella.”
Toumo’s hospitable grin never faltered, but Octavian didn’t miss the slant of his eyes or the way his spine stiffened as he pulled away. “And what do you want with Yarrow?”
D’Aurelian held his hands out to his sides and bowed slightly in the Esperon fashion. “My traveling companion and I were fortunate enough to meet him at King Agarick’s old fortress in Selindria. He was kind enough to extend to us an invitation to his lands. We are here in acceptance of that offer and wish to pay our respects.”
Toumo’s golden gaze snapped to Octavian. “What is the name of your syrai?”
Octavian stepped forward and extended his hand. “Octavian Rose, of Rosecairn.”
Toumo grasped his wrist and squeezed with what might have been a challenge. Octavian squeezed back, never looking away from the Emiri’s eyes. “I can assure you we mean Yarrow no harm.”
Toumo chuckled and tossed his head, the ornaments in his magnificent hair rattling softly. “Your name is known here, Octavian Rose. You are held in high regard, but Yarrow has little to fear from you or anyone else. Come, I will take you to his land home.”
A dark-haired Emiri with large, pensive eyes joined them, and Toumo introduced him as Kin. Octavian and D’Aurelian followed them along the shore to a small raft. Toumo gestured for them to step aboard, and when they did, he maneuvered the little vessel around the islands until they reached a midsized one at the southern end of the archipelago. He moored the craft in the shallows, and the four men stepped into the knee-high water. Round lamps made of bits of colored glass hung on iron hooks and lined the sandy path up the hill, casting flecks of shifting tincture on the sand as Octavian and D’Aurelian followed the two Emiri toward the cluster of houses atop the knoll. It was quiet save for the waves cresting behind them and the soft whisper of the breeze through the high grass lining the trail. Octavian’s muscles tensed as they stepped beneath an open arch and into a courtyard with a burbling fountain in the center.
Five of the modest brown structures typical of the islands stood in a star formation, with the tallest to the center. Walkways not unlike the rustic rope bridges connected the upper stories, and more colorful lanterns dangled from the boards, tossing scraps of wavering color across the sandy ground like confetti. Chimes hung from the eaves echoed erratically. A snuffling drew Octavian’s attention, and he turned to see an older Emiri man atop a stack of barrels, passed out drunk and slumbering happily with a jug clutched to his chest.
D’Aurelian leaned in. “It’s possible we’ve been deceived.”
“Let’s wait and see,” Octavian whispered. Though this place resembled a tavern or brothel more than the fortress of a landed aristocrat, cousin to the king, Octavian sensed something tickling at the edges of his perception. The two of them stood next to the fountain while Toumo went to the curtain over the door of the main building and called out, “Syrai!”
He got no answer and called again. Voices and noise grew louder behind them—probably as the evening celebrations spread and the revelers drank more. Toumo shouted for his friend a third time, and finally the gauzy drape over the arched doorway rustled, and a man appeared, backlit by the golden illumination within the dwelling. Assuming this was some servant of Yarrow’s, Octavian continued to wait. The man greeted Toumo and Kin with embraces and kisses, and then a flash of lightning blue from his eyes indicated his defensiveness—or his irritation. Clutching D’Aurelian’s hand to pull him forward, Octavian hurried toward the door. He stood in front of Yarrow, who appeared cut from the darkness, save for the glow of his eyes and the long white ropes of his hair.
Octavian felt like someone had poured icy water down the back of his shirt, and he shuddered despite the heavy, wet heat as Yarrow’s magic, with its sharp, crystalline edges and unfathomable depths, scraped against his own. He struggled against his instinct to back away and forced a smile. “Valen Yarroway. I am Octavian Rose, of Rosecairn. I hope my companion and I are not imposing by calling upon you at your home.”
The tension dropped from Yarrow’s posture, and the luminescence dimmed from his eyes, though they remained unnaturally blue and bright. His teeth flashed white in a genuine smile. “Haven’t I told you to call me Yarrow, Octavian Rose? We don’t stand on ceremony here in the Twenty-Nine. I’m glad you’re here. I hoped you would come. You and your lover are most welcome.” Yarrow held the curtain aside and indicated that they should enter.
Octavian didn’t know what he’d expected to find inside the residence of the Valen of the South Coast, cousin to King Garith of Selindria and Gaeltheon, and irrefutably the most powerful magic user of the age, but it wasn’t the…mess that greeted him in the foyer. During a decade of fighting the Johmatrans alongside the Emiri, Octavian had learned a little of their ways. The concept of ordering possessions, or even of valuing material goods, was as alien to them as restricting themselves to a single sexual partner or ten. They couldn’t understand why anyone would bother. Yarrow appeared to have embraced their philosophy wholeheartedly. Chests, jugs, barrels, and bolts of cloth sat stacked against the walls. Books and scrolls covered the small tables and spilled over onto the floor, discarded clothing heaped among them. Some Emiri, two women and a man, sat cross-legged in a corner, playing a game with smooth round stones. Despite the chaos, Octavian couldn’t ignore the wealth on display—coins and jewels overflowing from wooden crates, fabric so fine as to be metallic and see-through, art, armor, and weaponry worthy of the king piled like a peasant might pile turnips for the winter. Octavian had been a mercenary too long for all those shiny, expensive goods to escape his eyes.
August (Gus) Li is a creator of fantasy worlds. When not writing, he enjoys drawing, illustration, costuming and cosplay, and making things in general. He lives near Philadelphia with two cats and too many ball-jointed dolls. He loves to travel and is trying to see as much of the world as possible. Other hobbies include reading (of course), tattoos, and playing video games.