Queer Fantasy fans, rejoice! In honor of Ginn Hale’s upcoming release of The Long Past, out on October 3rd, she’s rebooting her Lord of the White Hell series today, and we’ve got an excerpt! Best of all? The book is on sale for just $2.99 this week only! (Buy links below.)
Kiram Kir-Zaki may be considered a mechanist prodigy among his own people, but when he becomes the first Haldiim ever admitted to the prestigious Sagrada Academy, he is thrown into a world where power, superstition and swordplay outweigh even the most scholarly of achievements.
But when the intimidation from his Cadeleonian classmates turns bloody, Kiram unexpectedly finds himself befriended by Javier Tornesal, the leader of a group of cardsharps, duelists and lotharios who call themselves Hellions.
However Javier is a dangerous friend to have. Wielder of the White Hell and sole heir of a Dukedom, he is surrounded by rumors of forbidden seductions, murder and damnation. His enemies are many and any one of his secrets could not only end his life but Kiram’s as well.
And now, here’s the excerpt!
“The White Tree is here.” Javier strode to the center of the circle of gnarled trees and dropped to his knees.
“But there’s nothing there.” Kiram frowned at grassy clearing.
“I’m here.” Javier smiled up at him and then lifted his hand to Kiram. His fingers were gashed. Streaks of his blood stood out like dark strokes against his pale skin. “You’re here.”
Kiram came forward and laced his fingers with Javier’s.
“Don’t let go,” Javier told him.
Then Javier placed his free hand on the ground and bowed his head. He whispered a Bahiim word again and again. White sparks flared over his fingers. Where they struck Kiram’s skin a hot, pulsing sensation flared up but then faded at once to a dead cold. Javier’s entire body tensed and his voice grew rough with the force he pushed into each word.
Above them the jays shrieked and swirled and then, as a mass, they dived. Kiram hunched over Javier, shielding his face. If Javier noticed he gave no sign.
Kiram felt the wind of hundreds of wings descending and steeled for their impact. A single sweep of talons clawed across his bowed neck and then an explosion of white fire ripped up from Javier. A wave of intense heat washed through Kiram. The jays screamed and then went suddenly silent. All around Kiram the world burned away and strange forms rose from the waves of power emanating from the white hell.
A curling gray smoke hung where brambles had once formed dark walls. Where twisted oaks had stood, now thirteen tangled black knots loomed up. Like crooked fingers opening from huge fists they unfurled the way the simple letters of Calixto’s diary had opened. But these trees were far more complex. Every twig and branch twisted into forms of script. Roots erupted and surged forward like black eels, all of them swimming straight for Javier’s extended hand.
A blinding white symbol glowed from beneath Javier’s fingers. As Kiram watched it grew more intense, turning Javier’s flesh luminous as a paper lantern and casting shadows of the bones of his hand. A trembling, electric sensation shot up from Javier through Kiram’s arm. The sensation grew painfully hot but Kiram hung on.
Cold, black roots slithered over Kiram’s feet and ankles as they swarmed up over Javier’s outstretched hand. They writhed up his arm and for a horrifying moment Kiram thought they would engulf Javier, but as they touched his skin, light scorched along their tangled lengths and shot up into the surrounding trees.
In moments all thirteen trees were ablaze with light. Their writhing branches traced glowing golden script into the air and the symbols seemed to take flight, spreading over the brambles and woods, then filling the sky. The symbols shone like stars and then fell like snowflakes.
One drifted down to Kiram’s arm. It looked like the symbol for protection. It felt like the lightest kiss against his skin, and then it melted away leaving Kiram feeling somehow safer and stronger, despite the fierce heat rolling over him.
All around the symbols settled, illuminating the surrounding wilderness, and suddenly Kiram realized that this was the White Tree: the entire glade, lit and luminous with blessings.
Still kneeling at his side, Javier didn’t seem to see anything. Kiram felt tremors of exhaustion rocking his muscles.
“Javier, I think it’s done. We should go.” Kiram tugged at Javier’s hand. “You can stop now.”
Javier raised his head. The black shadows of his skull and teeth showed through his luminous, pale skin. Blinding white fire filled the hollows of his eyes. It was as if the face of death leered up at him.
Kiram jumped and almost lost his hold on Javier’s hand.
“Javier!” Terror lifted the pitch of Kiram’s voice. “Close the white hell! Close it!”
The jaw of the skull dropped as if to speak but only white vapor rose from the gaping mouth.
Award-winning author Ginn Hale lives in the Pacific Northwest with her lovely wife and their ancient, evil cat. She spends the rainy days admiring local fungi. The stormy nights, she spends writing science-fiction and fantasy stories featuring LGBT protagonists. (Attempts to convince the cat to be less evil have been largely abandoned.)