Title: An Echo of Gods
Series: Briar Constance, Book Two
Author: Tallie Rose
Publisher: NineStar Press
Release Date: 03/07/2023
Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex
Genre: Fantasy, Fantasy, family-drama, gods, blood magic, lesbian, bisexual, nonbinary, witches, fae, murder, death, prime minister
The Gods are back.
Briar knew it wouldn’t be easy dealing with Eliana, but she thought the other Gods might help her. This is their problem, after all. But they don’t want to answer her call, and when they do, it’s always the same answer—blood, sacrifice, loss. All the things Briar doesn’t want to hear.
Still, with Bastianna and her group of Believers breathing down her neck, Briar has to figure out some way to banish the errant Goddess. She just hopes she can do it without losing everyone she loves.
An Echo of Gods
Tallie Rose © 2023
All Rights Reserved
Sunlight caught on the handle of Briar’s drugstore dagger, casting her room in hues of pink and silver, like a grotesque disco ball. She’d had the knife for years, an impulse purchase at the register. It was cheap, its handle made of resin mixed with glitter and delicate flowers, hardly the right choice to call on another God, but using a kitchen knife seemed even worse.
She sighed—and nearly choked on the heady fumes wafting from the marble bowl beside her. Soren had handed her the satchel the day before, saying he picked up the herbs from some overseas religious order and they would help clear her mind. Ten minutes in and Briar was pretty sure she was just burning drugs.
Fingers close to trembling, she picked up the knife and pressed the blade into the crook of her arm until it bit into her skin. Blood pooled and dripped, sizzling against the smoldering herbs. Words, ancient and harsh, spilled from Briar’s mouth and her body tensed. The dagger tumbled from her fingers and clattered against the floor.
She closed her eyes against the smoke, continuing to chant. Her power built until it was pressing on every inch of her skin, demanding to leave. She did not need to open her eyes to know she was glowing once again.
Now, she just needed someone to listen, to give her direction. The Gods had not answered their pleas in the weeks since the attack. They were lost, stuck watching the news every night, unable to help.
“Please,” she murmured into the empty space of her room.
The blood dripping down her arm ceased flowing and her skin stitched itself together. The air in the room grew brisk and an unfamiliar scent hit her nose. Mulled apples, fresh tilled earth, evergreen, and sandy beaches. Somehow it was not unpleasant. She opened her eyes.
The Deity was a vision of the highest order. Buds bloomed in the air around them, swirling and protecting them from Briar’s full gaze. The scene changed: autumn leaves, then summer rains that turned to snow and ice.
Briar’s green eyes locked on to those of molten silver. Their face was a work of art, golden skin, full sensual lips, and high cheekbones. All of it was crowned by flowing coppery-red hair. They smiled and Briar’s gaze dropped. The robe they wore was sheer, doing nothing to hide the swell of their chest or the strength of their arms.
The Deity opened their arms wide, a welcoming gesture, and Briar cleared her throat, feeling anything but pious.
Their nostrils flared and their eyes widened ever so slightly. The falling leaves turned green, and they chuckled and dropped their arms, one hand resting on a hip Briar had just been admiring. “Bold.”
The Deity laughed again, and the buds of roses bloomed in their eyes. Their body changed, hair shortening, legs lengthening, but they didn’t seem to notice. “You requested an audience?”
Blinking to clear the haze from her mind, Briar nodded, enchanted by the beauty before her. “What’s your name?”
“Oh.” Their eyes flicked toward the ceiling as if it was a question they had to think about. “I haven’t spoken to a human in so long. Nilaja. Do you mind?”
Briar had no idea what they were asking but nodded. She’d give almost anything to them if they would help her find something she could use to send Eliana back to their realm, or even better, end her entirely.
With each passing day Eliana’s death seemed a better option. Tensions had grown between witches and fae; fights were breaking out, shootings and murders. The sudden uptick in violence had not gone unnoticed by the general population but no one knew what was causing it. And if anyone had suspicions they only whispered them, the footage of the dead Beishan president too raw in everyone’s minds.
Nilaja dipped a finger into the bowl of herbs and stepped out of the mist as though it was nothing, leaving behind the changing of seasons that had engulfed them. Briar’s breath caught in her chest, and the freshly healed cut on her arm twinged.
The experience of talking to the Gods was something she would never get enough of. Her life had been spent searching for them, and now she had the truth. But could she tempt one to help her? She hoped this God in particular would be the answer she was spending all her days searching for.
As though it was ordinary, Nilaja sat on the ground across from Briar, pulling their legs beside them, their robes fanned out around their body. They waved a hand over the marble bowl and the smoke disappeared. “That is quite vile and wholly unnecessary. It is blood the universe calls for, no drugs required.”
“I’m friends with idiots but I try to indulge them.”
Nilaja chuckled again, the sound like the crackle after lightning. They pressed their hands against the floor, eyes shuddering shut. Briar didn’t know what to feel looking at them. They were the most beautiful thing she’d ever seen, and power radiated off them. She knew she should be afraid but she was intrigued by them, by how casually they interacted with her.
Power danced in Nilaja’s eyes as they slowly opened them, burning silver like flashes of lightning. “So, Briar Constance, why am I here?”
“We need help with Eliana.”
Nilaja tilted their head and coppery leaves fell from their hair, disappearing when they touched the ground. “You have already spoken to Ivian. You know how she was contained before.”
“There has to be another answer, something that doesn’t involve sacrifice. It’s barbaric. That’s not how the world is now.” She and Soren had gone over it so many times, they’d talked until their conversations were nearly scripted, but there had to be something else. The world, the universe, could not be so cruel.
“Oh, sweets.” Nilaja reached out and brushed their thumb across Briar’s exposed knee.
Her whole body went rigid, every nerve on fire with the power blasting through her. It was pure magic, sharp and hot and intoxicating. She swallowed to keep from crying out, from grabbing them and demanding more, more, more.
Unaware or unmoved by the struggle inside Briar, the Deity continued, “The universe does not care how far you have progressed. It will always be old, cold, and uncaring. You want to stop Eliana, you will do it as your ancestor Cordelia did, by blood and tears. Eliana is too far ingrained in this world for the echo of our powers still left in this place to pull her out. She is a horror, and you will become one if you wish to destroy her.”
Despair pooled in Briar’s stomach.
“Oh, don’t look like that.” Wilted flowers piled in their lap, their petals crumbling to dust. “Maybe there is another way. What would I know, tucked away for eternity? There is much knowledge out there, things you have not dreamed of. I will hope you find another answer, but it is not one I know. We have no knowledge that we are hiding from you.” They stood and the air seemed to go with them.
Briar stood as well, the reverberation of their shattering power still clanging through her. She had so many questions she wanted to ask them. Could all Gods change their form? Did they watch the humans? And was there please, please, another answer? “Can I summon you again?”
Nilaja paused, a feline grin pulling their lips upward. “Why?” They took a step closer, and Briar’s body urged her both to move forward and to run, far, far away from the Deity she had summoned, one whose name she had never heard.
Struggling for words, Briar gave in to her desire, her head still swimming with whatever Soren had given her. Her body ached with each movement, spent from the power but craving more. She stopped a breath away from them. “I don’t know.”
Nilaja pulled at the bottom of one of Briar’s curls. “Well, isn’t that fun. See you soon.” They winked and were gone.
Briar fell backward onto her bed. What in Ortus’s fiery hell had just happened?
Meet the Author
Tallie Rose lives in Charleston, SC with two kids, five cats, two goldfish, and one dog. She spends her spare time thrifting, watching bad TV, and reading books.
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