Monday, June 15, 2009

Cavern Dancer Collection by Kate Hill

Cavern Dancer (Collection)
by Kate Hill
Cover art by Angela Knight
ISBN: 978-1-60521-153-4
Genre(s): Paranormal, Action/Adventure, Dark Fantasy
Length: Collection


Cavern Dancers... Handsome, athletic, and powerful, their name speaks of mystery and magic.

Gilana knows she cannot afford to marry for love. Yet in her secret dreams she longs for one of the exotic divers she's glimpsed from the safety of her carriage. Still, she clings to her dreams.
Two men fated to love women who will never be theirs...

The Cavern Dancer... Jehf, half brother to King Tabor, must do what the king cannot -- get the new queen, Gilana, with child. By day, Gilana despises the man she has married, yet every night he fulfills her deepest desires. Just when Gilana realizes she is dealing with two different men, Tabor orders Jehf's execution. Only with the help of the mysterious Soothsayer can the couple hope to survive the king's evil plan.

The Soothsayer... Vlas Sascha Evgenyl sold his soul to free his brother from an existence far worse than death. For sixteen years the powerful Soothsayer has served an evil master, trapped by the power of a spell whose very use has exiled him from his own people. Free at last, he seeks the only solace his tortured soul has ever known -- the love of a woman he can never have.
Publisher's Note: This collection contains the previously released novellas Fantasy Flames: Cavern Dancer and Fantasy Flames: Soothsayer.


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"I suppose you're wondering why I've sent for you?" King Tabor of Julius fixed his squinty gaze on his bejeweled hand rather than on his half brother, Jehf, who knelt directly in front of him.
"I admit I am curious."
"How is your injury?" asked the king, the disinterest in his voice at war with his question.
Jehf's insides twisted with anger. Drafted into the war between Julius and the neighboring kingdom of Sun Isle, he had been taken prisoner, sustaining a severe leg injury that had nearly cost him his life and his ability to dive. "It's almost healed."
"Good. Very good. I imagine such an injury caused your love life to suffer."
The question took Jehf aback. He stared at his brother, who finally met his gaze. "Excuse me, Your Majesty?"
"It couldn't have been easy pleasuring women while you were in such condition."
"What does this have to do with --"
"Are you healed enough now to perform?"
"Come, come, Jehf. A strapping male such as yourself mustn't be shy about such things. And, after all, this conversation is between brothers."
Jehf's curiosity suddenly turned to suspicion. Tabor hated recognizing his peasant relations. Other than the king's rare public appearances, Jehf hadn't seen his brother since they were children. Even then Tabor had hated their physical resemblance to one another, one of the reasons Tabor had ordered Jehf, unlike the rest of the old king's illegitimate children, banished from the palace.
Not that Jehf minded. He preferred the life of his mother's people, Cavern Dancers who had settled on Julius's southern coast. From his mother's race he'd inherited the "water magic." Although the Cavern Dancers were little more than slaves to Julius's Royal House, their aquatic gifts were revered by many. Cavern Dancers were able to hold their breath for up to an hour, diving to depths which would kill ordinary humans.
The Cavern Dancers were used to dive for the world's most precious jewels, Hell's Eyes. One of the world's biggest supplies of Hell's Eyes was located in the deepest, darkest ocean caverns just off the coast of Julius. The Cavern Dancers' underwater mining supported Tabor's kingdom well, even if the divers saw little of the rewards from their work.
"I need to know if you are fit to sleep with a woman, Jehf."
Jehf flinched. "Why?"
"You have served your country well, but I have one last duty for you to perform for the sake of Julius."
He didn't like the sound of this. "In what way?"
"As you know, next month I am to marry the princess of Minor Ives."
"I have no desire to consummate the marriage, but it is necessary that I secure an heir."
Tabor's reply didn't surprise Jehf. Though no one dared speak of it openly, it was rumored that the king preferred men in his bed. "With all due respect, what does that have to do with me?"
"You and I are so similar in appearance that we could be twins." Though Tabor offered a frozen smile, his distaste shone in his eyes. "I will marry Princess Gilana, but you will spend the wedding night with her, and every night thereafter until she conceives."
If the plan hadn't disgusted Jehf, he might have laughed in his brother's face, king or no. "I refuse."
"To refuse me is to risk imprisonment."
"Then have your guards take me away."
An evil smile spread across Tabor's face. "I had a feeling you would say that. You're brave to the point of being stupid. I also know your savings from diving for merchants in addition to diving for Julius itself have been depleted. Your mother is ill and the medical care she requires is expensive."
Jehf's teeth ground. It seemed Tabor had been keeping close watch on him. With each passing moment, Jehf hated his brother more.
"Do what I command, and I will see that your mother is given the care she requires directly from the royal healers. If you refuse, you will be jailed. And then who will look after your mother and young sister?"
"You're a damn tyrant."
"If I didn't need your flesh all in one piece, I'd have you whipped for that comment. What is your answer?"
"All right." The words left a bitter taste in Jehf's mouth.
Tabor smiled. "Don't look so upset. After all, your child will inherit the crown of Julius, something that you never could have hoped for."
"Something that never mattered to me."
"My servants will arrange your training."
"Though you are to avoid conversation with the princess, we must make sure you will pass for a king, should you be forced to speak with her. Of course no one must ever know about this, including your family."
Of course. Jehf nodded.
Glancing away, the king waved his hand. "Leave me now. My guards will take you to your chamber. From now until your task is complete, you will live at the palace."
"But my family --"
"Will be informed that you are serving your king. Remember, as long as you cooperate, your mother will be cared for. Should you cause any problems, you and your family will be executed. Do you understand?"
Jehf gritted his teeth and nodded. Two guards approached. One prodded him with the flat of his sword and guided him out of Tabor's chamber.
* * *Princess Gilana, dressed in her wedding finery, walked through the public garden in the center of Julius's capital city. Hundreds of guests gathered around, anxious to witness her marriage to King Tabor. It seemed they were far more excited about it than she was. Still, part of her duty was to ensure prosperity for her kingdom. Marriage to a man as powerful as Tabor would do just that. Not that her land of Minor Ives wasn't a force to be reckoned with, but once she inherited the throne, Minor Ives and Julius would unite. Under the joint rule of her and her husband, their lands would become one of the largest, strongest forces in the world.
Gazing toward the fountain of the chief god and goddess where Tabor stood with the priest, she wished she felt differently about the king. It would have been nice to at least like her husband. She knew better than to ask for love. Love was reserved for those without political responsibilities.
Tall and slim, with thick chestnut hair, Tabor was considered attractive by most women. Gilana found him a bit too arrogant and his gestures almost effeminate. Not that effeminate men offended her; she simply didn't relish the idea of marrying one.
When she reached the fountain, the priest smiled slightly in greeting while Tabor examined the delicate lace decorating his shirtsleeve. He squinted badly, making his rather small, close-set eyes appear unattractive. If not for his eyes, he might have been handsome.
Gilana was thankful that wedding ceremonies in Julius were short.
The crowd fell silent when the priest held up a small silver bowl and began speaking. "On this day, Tabor Bradley Garrad and Gilana Francine Kees will join for life. Under the protection of the all-seeing god and goddess, they will love one another. Honesty and respect will prevail over any temptation which may threaten their happiness."
Gilana tried to catch Tabor's gaze, but he was staring blankly across the garden, so she turned her full attention to the priest.
"To purify themselves and begin a fresh life together, they will drink from the sacred fountain."
The priest offered the bowl to Tabor who filled it and drank. As ritual demanded, he then held the bowl to her lips.
As she sipped, she glanced at him again, thinking how beautiful the ceremony could have been, had they actually shared the love the priest had spoken of.
The priest took back the bowl and said, "Do you, Gilana, accept Tabor as your husband, to love as purely as the goddess loves the god?"
"I do."
"Do you, Tabor, accept Gilana as your wife, to love as purely as the god loves the goddess?"
Tabor covered his lips with a delicate hand to stifle his yawn before he replied, "I do."
"You are now wed."
Gilana tried to smile at her new husband as she stepped forward, expecting the traditional wedding kiss. Turning abruptly, Tabor, followed by two of his guards, exited down the pathway leading out of the garden.
Drawing a deep breath, Gilana glanced around, noticing that many of the guests looked as surprised as she felt. His insult enraged her. One of Gilana's flaws was her horrible temper. In her youth, her instructors had tried to curb it, but when something angered her, Gilana's wrath was almost uncontrollable.
If Tabor thought he could snub her like this, she would make him pay. She wouldn't say a word to him at the wedding banquet.
* * *An hour later, Gilana's anger had reached a dangerous peak. Her plan to ignore Tabor throughout the meal failed because he didn't so much as glance at her. The man looked thoroughly bored with the entire feast, especially with his bride.
Finally he stood and turned to one of his guards. "I've had enough of this. I require time alone."
"Yes, Your Majesty."
Tabor turned to Gilana. "I will see you in your chamber in half an hour."
"You think so, Your Majesty?" she said through clenched teeth. "After you ignore me you believe I will crawl obediently into your bed?"
He curled his lip, then leaned close to her ear and whispered, "Yes, unless you want this marriage declared null and void."
Gilana's teeth ground. She longed to fling her goblet of wine in his face, but she couldn't. Her mother and her kingdom expected this marriage to succeed.
"Well?" Tabor stood, squinting down at her.
"In half an hour."
He turned on his heel and swept out of the hall, followed by his guards.

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