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A Turn of Curses by Melanie Nilles

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A Turn of Curses by Melanie Nilles
Ebook Synopsis

Nineteen year old Selina has a life many would love--praised, served, and spoiled. The only problem is she didn't choose that life, because it comes with a heavy price. She will soon die, like all Healers, when the mark of Y'dom completes its pattern around her neck, and hers is nearly complete. Her gift of healing powers are sought after by all, including the ruling prince of a neighboring kingdom to heal his ailing father. Seeing this as her last chance for adventure, she makes the journey to Vastorn. En route she encounters Faldon, the fallen leader of the feyquin, and his band of rogues. Cursed by a demon and swearing vengeance on the human who shares his curse, Faldon does all he can to stop Selina from completing her journey. But he also knows how to save Selina, if she survives the night mares.


Excerpt:

The faint light from the mark on Selina's neck confirmed the release of power. When it faded, she sat back and blinked away the dizziness from expending her energy. The room's sparse décor spotted before her, from the bare wood walls to the bed with its handmade quilt.

The boy lying beneath the quilt groaned.

"Toby!" The distraught mother kneeling on the opposite side of his bed bent over and pulled her son into her arms. She kissed his forehead and held him tight until he squirmed away. "Thank you, Na'Y'dom! Thank you!" Tears filled the woman's eyes.

"You're welcome." Healing the sick was Selina's calling, although she wished she could heal in other ways. To be chosen  as a child of Y'dom was both a blessing and a curse.

The boy reached for Selina's hand and smiled. "Thank you, Na'Y'dom."

She gave a gentle squeeze of his hand, glad to know she could do some good. "Avoid the needles of the baru blossom.

They don't care who touches them." "I will."

"Good." She let go and stood, eager to leave the reminder of what she would never have.

The mother released the child and stood with her. She moved around the bed, a worried look on her face as Selina took the sheer, green scarf from her attendant, Beth, and covered her head. The mother spoke in a low voice. "Blessed Na'Y'dom. I have nothing to give in return."

"It's my place to serve. I saved your son's life but I won't see it fade because you can't feed and clothe him. I ask nothing but that." The lack of decorations in the small, one-room dwelling proved the family had nothing of material wealth. That didn't matter to Selina. She freely gave of her healing gift, whether the priests of the temple approved or not. All needed healing, rich and poor alike.

The woman's lips quivered, her eyes puffy and blurred with tears. "Thank you!"

Selina smiled and strode from the single room of the house, Beth a step behind. Her green robe over her pantsuit  billowed behind her. The gold trim on the high collar highlighted the swirling and looping pattern of the mark around her neck, while allowing the top of the growing mark to show only from the front to hide its progress to completion. Her long brown tail of hair ended at her waist.

Outside in the chill of the night, Selina gazed down the quiet, darkening street splashed by the light of the lantern Beth held. While using her powers to save a life tired her, it also gave her a rush of satisfaction. This time had been different,  though. She would never have children.

"Selina?"

"Go on ahead. I'm not tired." Beth knew better. It was late and had been a busy day. Of course Selina was tired, but she needed to get away. She rarely had time alone. Always in demand. Always surrounded by worshipers or servants. She often wished for a quiet, normal life.

"You're sure? You didn't look too well this time. It's been a long journey and we've far to go." Beth had joined her when the request came from the White Prince, Sorvin fay Renald, to make the journey to heal his father. They traveled a full cycle of the first moon already. Selina vowed to make the most of what time remained to her and to experience what she could on the journey. It would be her only true adventure in her short life.

"I know. That's why I need a walk. I'll be sitting the rest of the journey. Some time alone to stretch my legs is what I need more than sitting in a room staring at four, boring walls."

Beth gave her a look of worry. "You shouldn't go off alone."

Selina pointed down the dusty street. Two armored men bearing poleaxes stood near the end. "I'll be fine. See, two of the soldiers patrol the area."

"But the reports of the feyquin, Faldon—"

"I thought you better than to trust rumors. Go on. I'll be at the inn shortly." Selina had heard a few stories—most of them conflicting about the nature of the intelligent, magical creatures. She saw no reason to avoid the feyquin, despite the warnings reported of recent, questionable activities by Faldon's band.

Beth hesitated but held the lantern out to Selina.

Selina waved the offer away. "Moonlight is enough for me." "I don't like this. I should stay with you."

Exactly what Selina didn't want. "I need time alone, Beth. I don't get that in the carriage. I mean no offense." "All right. You win." Beth shook her head but turned and walked away with the lantern dangling before her.

Selina took a deep breath and walked the opposite direction. A small walk before bed was what she needed, and she should be safe there. Safe enough for a little walk. She wouldn't wander far.

No one understood what it was like to know one's life would soon end. Such was the fate of any bearing the mark of their god. Selina had only been fifteen, younger than most, when it appeared with the healing power; betrothed but not married, nor did she marry. She would have no children, no family. Beth would. Seeing the mother's adoration for her child cut through her sharper than Selina cared to explain. She needed time alone. Time to think and forget. After four and a half years, the mark around her neck was nearly complete. She would die before her twentieth birthday.

Selina passed the soldiers in their armor and helmets, who acknowledged her with nods. She held a hand up to stop them from following. Always someone. Even alone she was never truly alone.

Cast in moonlight, the trees beyond the clearing at the edge of the small town took on a new life and bowed under the weight of their fruits, a fresh treat to savor and maybe a few for their journey. The people wouldn't mind. She was touched by  a God. Any offering to her was as good as those to Y'dom for his favor. There was one benefit of being Na'Y'dom.

She reached for one of the largest of the yellow, oblong fruits, her mouth watering with anticipation for the freshness.

A movement among the shadows stopped her. She watched but saw nothing. Only the wind. She plucked several fruits.

Beth would enjoy the sweet ponan, too.

Selina turned—

And gasped. The fruit tumbled to the ground.

"Go back." The strange man wore a scowl on a face shadowed by wild black and gray hair. She had seen no one approach, nor heard any sound. Where had he come from?

"What?"

"You're not safe here." He brushed his hair aside, giving her a clear view of his features. Shadows defined the strong lines of a face too young for gray hair.

"Who are you?" Untucked shirt and oversized pants... Who dressed him? "Go back, Na'Y'dom. Do not set foot in Vastorn."

"Why? Who are you?"

He took a step towards the trees.

He wasn't getting away until she had an answer. Selina grabbed his arm. "Tell me why I should return. I've almost reached Vastorn."

"It's not your concern. Go back!" He yanked his arm away and turned to the trees.