A sneak peek into The Death God’s Choice, book number two!
Suddenly it made sense for me to have been cleaned and dressed. I wasn’t just some happenstance slave girl—the old woman knew. The girls who dressed and bedecked me must have known as well. Abreem, even, must have known, for it was at his insistence and even the risk of his own life that he had fought back the other caravan man who would have seen me wed to his son. I felt a tremor run through me at the thought.
“You bastard,” I whispered under my breath, “You did this to me.”
My quiet utterance went unnoticed by all, and the clamor of sounds rising around me both frightened and intrigued me. The path was getting thinner now, and the people around me were crowding to the back, and away from the sides. Up ahead, I saw a palatial bridge that passed over a deep moat underneath the arched doorway, which was covered with green vines bearing yellow flowers with red tips, as though they had once been dipped in blood. The discord of the city began to die down as those behind us thinned in numbers, many choosing instead to return to their homes or businesses. Most stayed and tagged behind my litter and criers, but their voices quieted as we passed over the bridge.
I looked down into the brown, murky waters on either side, gauging the distance below. It was a good ten-foot drop, and the moat extended on both sides of the bridge the entire length of the city. Beneath the still, muddy waters, a small bubbling began, and a creature with skin like armor rose from the depths, his malevolent yellow eyes staring at me hungrily from below. He churned water as he clawed at the nearest bank, opening his long, enraged mouth to reveal a dank hole surrounded by razor sharp teeth, menacing and nightmarish as they glinted at me like swords from the depths of the darkest parts of Severance itself. I shuddered and tried my best to remain still, as the eldritch monster slipped noiselessly back into the muddy pool and sank beneath the surface, until he was but a memory.
“The kokadrille,” Abreem said, following the line of my gaze. “A truly ferocious creature that the Naa’dir keeps as a part of his palace’s defenses. You may think him frightening in water—would that your paths never to meet here on the land. You would find him… uniquely capable.”
“Why does he keep it here?” I asked, my voice soft and timid. Sweat beads began to sluice anxiously down my back. Whether it was fear or heat, I could not tell. I assumed that it was both.
“The creatures are kept hungry, and only served a feast of the Naa’dir’s enemies or prisoners. Thus, they have developed the taste for man flesh, and seek out the appetite accordingly. No army would dare breach the castle’s defenses when a hungry man-eating lizard roams the depths,” he answered bluntly. I glared at him.
“You have a talent for poor delivery,” I spat, and breathed a huge sigh of relief as we completed the crossing over the moat and left behind the vile looking kokadrille. The Nation people, as well, had stayed behind, most of them not willing to pass over the waters. I did not blame them their fear. There was no such beast as a kokadrille in Alryn’Njnoch, and it seemed to me to be a beast born of the evil of the world, rather than the good. I forced my sights forward, trying to remain vigilant. Ahead of my small group, a giant palace loomed, a stark white contrast to the blue sky and brown desert sands.