Kali Rose Schmidt
Publication date: July 9th 2019
Genres: Fantasy, New Adult
A fighter with a venomous grudge.
A monster with an immortal curse.
A girl with a terrible gift.
All three out for blood in a land torn apart by harsh gods and holy wars. Each entwined with the other, on their own quests for vengeance, and yet held together by strange links to sinister pasts. As their fates unravel, a dangerous romance blooms, and violent darkness beckons.
At turns both darkly humorous and utterly morbid, STRANGER RITUALS is the startling first novel in Kali Rose Schmidt’s dark new series.
She swallowed, and then moved away, ducking her face from his grasp, hating how he knew her weakness so well. She rose from her knees. The Djavul stared up at her a moment, then gracefully stood to his full height.
“What did they want?” she questioned.
Vojtech smiled. “You have a job to do.”
She rolled her eyes. “I know. That’s guarding you. It’s a thrill a minute.” She gestured toward the ruined soldier beside them.
Vojtech frowned. “I actually thought you were growing bored here. No attacks in three months, only this idiot sneaking around in the desert.” He shrugged. “It seems Olofsson is losing his fear of me.”
“Good.” Scarko’s words mingled with fury. “Let him. It’ll serve our purpose for the second Holy War.” She stalked back to the Warskian soldier’s head, lifted it by the scraggly, blood-drenched hair. “So, what did the gods want?”
Vojtech watched her carefully, hands clasped before him. “You’re to go to the city of Kezda. A boy there is immune, it seems, to Vrakan abilities. You are to kill him.”
Scarko dropped the head with a thud. “What?” she hissed. “Why me? I’m your guard. Send someone else.”
Vojtech smiled. “As much as I enjoy you bossing me around, the gods are not so easily convinced.” He wiped his hands on his black robes and sighed. “This boy is a street fighter,” he wrinkled his nose, “taking on Vrakan defectives from the Warskian army. While he isn’t able to die from the usual Vrakan methods—ice, wind, fire, shadows—I think your magic could kill him. That’s why you.”
Scarko left the head on the stone floor and stalked toward the stairwell, behind the Djavul.
“I’m sure he’d die by sword just fine. Tell the gods I won’t go. A street fighter—the nerve of them…”
She made to pass Vojtech, but he snaked a hand out and gently stroked her dark blonde braid, the color of damp sand. She spun around to face him, fury in her eyes. But it was equally matched in his.
“I am the Djavul of the Order of Saints, Scarko Kadezska. You will not blasphemy our gods here. You know as well as I do that we cannot resist their orders, and we should not. They have guided me thus far.” He took a step toward her, brushed a cold finger against her cheek. “You will do this, and you will return to me.”
She stuck her tongue out at him and turned, clomping up the stairs. She heard him chuckle softly as she pushed open the doors from the dungeon, the Shadows on guard making way for her, black thread entwined in their grey cloaks, same as hers.
“Watch him,” she said unceremoniously.”
“I guess our time together is done,” Zephir said, no emotion in his voice. He pulled a cigarette out of his pocket and knelt down before her. She clenched her jaw tight, her lips pressed together as she slid back further into the wall.
His expression didn’t change as his hands reached for her, but a shudder came over her as she thought of his gloved hand on her face, his bright green eyes morphing into the Praeminister’s watery gaze. She gasped.
He paused, his dark brows knitted together in something like surprise, or confusion.
He didn’t back away, but he lowered the cigarette, the one Scarko knew contained the mindeta. His eyes trailed over hers, down to her lips, the scowl on her face.
“Where are you from?” he asked, his eyes shifting back up, voice still rough, still cold.
Memories of the Praeminister, of the palace, of the blind eye the king turned to the bruises on her skin, on Klaus’s, the fear she always carried before his spiritual advisor.
“A village no one knows. Close to Visla.” She didn’t know why she answered, why she told the truth, but Zephir was so close, too close. She could barely breathe, and she blinked, willing him not to turn to the Praeminister again.
Ida drew in a breath. Jalde was silent.
Zephir didn’t react for a moment, merely stared at her without blinking, unnerving her.
“Your parents. Where are they?”
“Z, you know it doesn’t matter—”
Slowly, he twisted around to stare at Ida, and a flash of unease crossed her face. She looked down, and Zephir turned back to Scarko.
“Dead,” she nearly spat in answer to his question.
A flicker of something crossed his face—anger, grief, it was hard to tell. He stared at her a moment longer, as if trying to find something familiar in her face.
“Open your mouth. I won’t hurt you, but you can’t be awake for this.”
Scarko clenched her jaw.
Zephir sighed, glanced down to her knees between them, his lashes grazing his cheeks. “Those scars on your palm…how’d you get them?”
Scarko’s mouth hung open in surprise, and before she realized she had been duped, he shoved the mindeta cigarette between her teeth.
And then once more, quicker than the last time, the world went very black.”
Kali Rose Schmidt is an author, mother, and villain lover. She likes bloody tales of monsters, yoga with the lights off, and anything that goes bump in the night.
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