NAME: Laura Valín-Peñalba
GENRE: YA Fantasy
WORD COUNT: 98,000
THEMES: Own Voices (Spanish-American MC), LGTB themes, non-European/Western setting. AN EMBER IN THE ASHES meets THRONE OF GLASS.
PITCH: In an Egypt-esque realm, universe-jumper Nile meets her match, Raeki. His plans to take power will allow her to become Empress and protect her people. The cost: betraying everyone she loves, including the current Pharaoh–her more-than-best friend.
FIRST 500 WORDS:
Chapter 1– Beta Universe, Hieros —Apraesis
The all-too-familiar walls of the Stone Room seemed to mock me as I tried to stare out of a non-existent window, the lingering smell of water still fresh on the rocks.
As heir to the throne, or Hierisa, private training was my favorite moment of the day, the few hours when I got to let off some steam, when I was allowed to be myself. I excelled at it, and no one bested me when it came to the Mystic Arts, except for my mentor Raeki. Standing at the other end of the chamber, he stretched out his arms and got ready to attack.
I had long stopped being afraid of him, so I just held his unwavering gaze and wondered whether our two moons would be up in the sky by now. It wasn’t time for dinner yet, but today’s training had already drained me.
“Create a fireball,” Raeki ordered. In the always cold Stone Room, only ten feet separated us and the rock wall, circling the space like a prison cell. The area remained windowless for privacy, and the permanent darkness made Raeki look like nothing more than a whispering shadow.
But I had never minded darkness. I lived with and for the shadows, and pretended to rule under the light.
“Piros!” A flame sprung from my fingertips, a blazing raindrop of orange heat that crept up my hands. I released the fire, allowing it to spread across the chamber like an uncaged tiger.
Although I had been practicing The Mystic Arts for years, I still wondered how I didn’t get burned. I could not age. I could not die. The first time I generated fire with the power of my mind, I hadn’t said a word out of fear in three days. Now that my eighteenth Red Moon had passed, I was supposed to control my nature. Now I was supposed to become Queen, Sun of the Four Kingdoms.
“That’s not enough, and you know it,” said Raeki, as if he had read my mind. You’re not enough, he seemed to imply. “Not enough rage.”
“Don’t pressure me.” My hesitant voice echoed across the chamber.
“I can do whatever I please,” he said. “Maintain the flame, but summon some sparks.”
“Truenio!” I screamed. A feast of sparks gathered over my hand as a storm of thoughts exploded in my mind, fear thundering within me like a laughing god. But fear wasn’t a god. Fear had a name: Arem.
In less than a month, I would have to marry Arem, my childhood best friend. I had once thought of him as a brother… but not quite. His father Daereon, Pharaoh of Haleos, and mine, King of Hieros, had been allies and close friends since their early youth. I wondered if Arem would ever love me, or if he would accept me. He didn’t know what I had become, what my father Ragno had forced me to become.