Hello, friends! My third book, Najee: A Queen’s Ransom, has not yet been released, but you can read Chapter 1 right now! Feel free to check out the sample chapters of my other two novels, Najee A Glimmer of Hope and Najee: Awakening, at my website, NajeeSeries.com
Najee: A Queen’s Ransom – Chapter 1:
Akinia lurched upright in her bed, casting the blankets aside with one hand as she reflexively reached for her wajun with the other. The blade snapped open as the young warrior’s feet hit the floor. Panting heavily, Akinia’s eyes searched every corner of the darkened room, her weapon held in a ready position as she searched for the threat.
Rofa whined uneasily from her place on Akinia’s bed, giving her mistress a perplexed look.
As her breathing and heart rate began to slow, Akinia lowered her wajun. It must have been a nightmare, she realized, closing the weapon again. The hair on the back of her neck remained standing as she hesitantly lowered herself back onto her mattress. “I’m sorry, Rofa,” she whispered, absentmindedly stroking her pet’s thick fur. “I didn’t mean to scare you.”
The cub huffed and laid her head back down, almost immediately falling back to sleep.
Akinia, however, was unable to. The images from the nightmare had been so real… It was almost as though she had been there.
But where was ‘there’?
With every moment that passed, more of the nightmare faded from her memory, but she struggled to hold on to it.
A woman… A senator? Alania? Katarina?
A shadowy figure, obscured by the smoke…
That laugh… It was so familiar, but whose was it?
Frustrated, Akinia leaned back against the headboard, staring up at her ceiling as though it may contain answers. I need to talk to Tanlaish, she realized. This wasn’t a regular nightmare, it was different, somehow… Could it have been a vision?
She hesitated a moment before lowering the barriers around her mind, wincing as she felt the sudden onslaught of unfamiliar consciousnesses brushing against it. Why were there always so many people awake, no matter the time of night? Sighing heavily, the young Najee carefully searched through the minds until she found the vaguely familiar one.
Tanslaish was awake, but only barely. Several other minds were also touching the old woman’s; Tanlaish barely seemed to register Akinia’s presence.
The young Najee didn’t try to eavesdrop on their conversation, but she could feel the tension radiating from everyone involved. Hesitating only a moment longer, Akinia pulled her mind back into itself. I’ll just find her in the morning, she decided, still troubled. A part of her wanted to try and go back to sleep, but she knew that it would be impossible now.
Sighing heavily, Akinia stood and slowly stretched her arms and back. She stifled a yawn as she stepped into her closet, grabbing one of the dresses at random. It took her only a moment to discard her nightgown, but it took her several to figure out how to put the dress on. Once she did, she glanced at her reflection in the mirror, barely visible in the darkness.
The blouse of the strapless gown fastened snugly to her figure, the seams accentuating her curves. The sweetheart neckline was lined with a thick band of tulle, which draped across her upper arms, below her shoulders, before attaching to the back of the blouse. The floor-length skirt was made of a very thin, light material that did little to obscure the form of her legs, but it was also full enough that it wouldn’t inhibit her movement during a fight. In the darkness, it was hard to tell what color the material was; the pale blue could easily have been lilac or even a soft shade of green.
Akinia gave a wry smile as she fingered the silky material on the skirt. Katarina had sent it as a gift a few days after the young Najee had returned from Sigadia, but this was the first time that she had worn it.
Pulling her hair around to the front, Akinia quickly un-braided it. She used her fingers to fluff and separate her hair, not particularly caring if the part was straight or not. Pausing only a moment longer to slip her feet into her black flats, Akinia turned and walked over to her nightstand. She strapped her wajun around her waist and then slipped her com-link onto her wrist.
Rofa heaved a sigh as she lifted her head and looked at Akinia.
“You don’t have to go with me,” the girl laughed. “You can stay here and sleep.”
The cub hesitated a moment before laying her head back down and closing her eyes again.
Laughing to herself, Akinia shook her head in amusement as she turned and left her room. It only took her a few minutes to make her way to the meditation pond. The young Najee closed the door as she stepped out into the darkness. She wandered to the stone bench on the water’s edge, enjoying the sight of the stars and the three moons that were reflected perfectly on the mirror-like surface of the pond.
She pulled her necklace free of the blouse, holding the charm in the palm of her hand as her thumb absentmindedly caressed the six-pointed star. The comfort that the necklace brought to her was immeasurable. It allowed her to put aside the unsettled feeling that her nightmare had left her with, to forget everything that she had suffered in the past several years, to simply exist in the moment and enjoy the beauty of the night sky. Akinia didn’t know how long she had been sitting there when the doorway opened, flooding the small courtyard with the harsh light from the hallway.
“Akinia,” Tanlaish greeted. The old woman slowly made her way across the courtyard and took a seat on the stone bench, as well.
“Master Tanlaish,” Akinia replied, sliding over to make room for her. “What are you doing out here?”
The aging Najee laughed. “I suppose that it is surprising to see me somewhere other than the library,” she teased. “Actually, child, I came to speak with you. You tried to contact me earlier tonight, and I was occupied, but I could sense your fear, your uncertainty. What is bothering you, and why did you feel a need to speak to me about it?”
Akinia hesitated. “I had a nightmare,” she admitted, blushing as she realized how childish it sounded. “It wasn’t a normal nightmare, though; it was different, somehow. I just thought that, maybe…” The young Najee’s voice trailed off and her blush deepened.
“You thought that, maybe, it was a vision?” the old woman finished knowingly.
Hesitating only a moment, Akinia silently nodded.
Tanlaish smiled, nodding slowly. “You are so young, Akinia, but so wise for your age,” she mused, thoughtfully. “But you are still very young, and it is very unfair, everything that you are burdened with. The prophecy, the Gift, the power inside of you that still has yet to fully awaken… I am filled with a deep gratitude that I was not burdened with any of this when I was your age. You know, most Gifted do not know about the Gift, or how to use it, until they are nearly a century old? At the youngest, forty or fifty years of age? You are so young, Akinia…”
A slight crease formed between Akinia’s eyes, plainly displaying her confusion. “Do you think that it wasn’t a vision, then?” she asked uncertainly.
“Quite the opposite,” the old woman corrected. “I am quite certain that you had the same vision as the other half-dozen Gifted who contacted me; the same vision that woke me from my sleep. Can you remember any of it?”
Frowning at the almost desperate note in the woman’s question, Akinia shook her head. “Almost nothing,” she admitted. “There was fire, people screaming, but I don’t know where or who.”
“And you’re forgetting more by the minute?” Tanlaish asked, though she sounded as though she already knew the answer.
Tanlaish sighed. “I thought so; it is exactly the same for each of us. A warning, I think, but it may be some time before any of us are able to discern what we are being warned against.”
Uncertain how else to respond, Akinia nodded.
“Well, I will leave you to your thoughts,” the old woman decided, “but, please, come to me if you ever have a question, or if you are able to remember any more.”
“I will,” Akinia promised, standing as Tanlaish stood up.
Without another word, the old Najee disappeared into the base once more.
Frowning, Akinia settled back onto the bench, taking her charm in her hand once more as she stared out into the darkness. What was that vision about? And why can none of the Gifted remember it? Could Lokita have something to do with it?
The thought came suddenly, shocking Akinia. However, after a moment’s thought, she shook her head to clear it. No, that’s impossible… Lokita is strong, but she can’t block the Gifted from seeing, can she?
Then again, if it isn’t her blocking them, what is?
Feeling the power start to gather inside of her, Akinia forced her mind to clear, carefully containing the flood of energy that was welling up inside. She crossed her legs, closing her eyes as she forced herself into a careful, relaxing meditation. The vision was nothing, it was nothing important, she told herself firmly. If it was important, the Gifted would have remembered it after they woke up.
It was just a coincidence that several saw it.