Exiles: Realms of the Infinite, Book One
by R. J. Larson
For daring to trust their Creator, Araine and Nikaros are swept from their homes into a foreign land—slaves to their enemies.
Araine Khalome of ToronSea follows the goddess Atea. But Araine secretly questions Atea’s power as a goddess. Wrestling with her spiritual doubts, Araine finds old scrolls containing verses that come alive, beckoning her soul. Within those words, Araine senses the presence of the Infinite, the despised Most Ancient God, enemy to all Ateans, and she’s captivated—secretly risking her life to read the Books of the Infinite.
You are forever in My sight . . .
Betrayed and condemned, Araine is swept away to the kingdom of Belaal, where she is swiftly apprehended and marked as a slave. Caught up in the lethal political and religious struggles within Balaal, Araine joins forces with another slave, Nikaros, a hostage and exiled son of an Eosyth Lord. As they fight to survive the antagonistic royal court, Nik and Araine soon realize that they must also protect the despotic god-king who has enslaved them.
But the god-king, Bel-Tygeon, has plans of his own.
Child of Dust, are you My servant?
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Other books in the series: Queen: Realms of the Infinite, Book Two
EXILES — EXCERPT
ToronSea would be a lovely place to live if it weren’t for her own people.
Clutching her marketing basket, Araine Khalome halted in the puddle-edged street and glared at two gangly young men—scrawny, cloak-clad Borii Kon and his only friend, Otris. As the smirking Otris stood guard, Borii swirled a black oil-stick against a pristine white wall, leaving a crude variant of the goddess Atea’s sacred serpentine coils.
“Borii!” Araine marched toward him, her sheer blue veils a-tangle with the spring breeze, their snapping briskness quite fitting her mood.
Spying her, Borii and Otris darted away, silently taunting her with wicked grins.
Araine stopped. Chasing those two was the last thing she wanted to do. Oh! If only the homeowner beyond that wall could catch those troublemakers and bloody their noses! Did Borii truly believe he was paying homage to the goddess with his unsanctioned artwork?
And how could divine Atea possibly be pleased? The elegant serpentine symbols of her powers had just been reduced to a blotchy mess, which would undoubtedly stir local ire against the goddess and against every Siphran Atean who’d immigrated to this quiet Traceland town of ToronSea. It would serve Borii and Otris right if the divine Atea were to overcast them this instant and banish their souls to the Nightlands. Scowling, Araine tugged her unruly veils closer. “Why can’t people behave? Where, for goodness sake, is their honor?”
Delicate footsteps clicked toward Araine in her sister’s distinctive dancer’s pace. Despite her wood-soled shoes, worn to defeat the mud, Iris was exquisite in her fine rose tunic and the sheer pink gossamer veils covering her gold braids. Her lilting voice amused, she linked her arm with Araine’s. “Talking to yourself again, little sister? Or are you now praying in the streets?”
“The only thing I’m praying right now is that fools such as Borii and Otris don’t cause the rest of us to run out of town!” She nodded toward the smeared goddess coils. “Why doesn’t Atea concern herself with mortal wrongdoings? Or right-doings, for that matter?”
“Sst!” Swiftly guiding Araine onward, Iris scolded beneath her breath, “Rain, hush! How can you dare to say such a thing? Your rebelliousness might call down woes from the heavens, and you sound like Grumps!”
“Well,” Araine huffed, secretly pleased by the comparison to Grandfather, “I’m only saying what I think, and Grumps might agree—as you should! Anyway, I’m not being rebellious. I’m longing to set things aright instead of bowing to wrong just because wrong is easier.”
“Safer!” Iris hissed. “It’s—”
“Poo!” Araine met her sister’s frosty, lovely gaze. “Setting wrongs aright will make things easier in the future. It’s wrong of that stupid Borii to scribble on other people’s clean walls, just as it was wrong of that brainless lordling to torture you in Atea’s . . .”
Iris flinched at Araine’s mention of her faithless love, and Araine bit down her impulsive rant. Heedless of any onlookers, she hugged her sister in the middle of the muddy street. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry! Don’t ret. As soon as we’re settled today, I’ll burn my finest incense and prostrate myself in utter remorse before our shrine.” As best she could. Irritability didn’t lend itself to worship though divine Atea commanded her reverence.
Iris blinked back tears and shook her gold-braided head, in command of herself again. “Forget him, as I must. Oh, Rain, please be careful! And thank you for the incense. I dread to think of what might happen if you didn’t atone.”
But why must she atone? She wasn’t entirely wrong to wish the goddess would intercede, was she? Araine sniffed and rummaged through her basket for rose water and cleansing herbs and oils. “Borii and Otris are the ones who are heading for a cursing. And not from the goddess. Just look at that wall! I can’t endure it. I’m going to alert the owner, apologize, and then scrub the symbol from—”
“No!” Iris dragged Araine toward the opposite side of the street, almost running into a brown-robed woman carrying a tall clay water vessel.
The woman gasped, “Watch yourselves! Silly girls.”
Regaining her balance, Araine blushed and nudged her sister. “What did you do that for?”
Iris glanced around then muttered, “I won’t allow you to destroy the sacred symbol.”
“A mockery of the sacred symbol. There’s a difference.”
“There isn’t,” Iris argued. “If you’d attend lessons more often, you’d understand. Once the symbol is given form, it exists and becomes an instrument of her power.”
Nonsense. That smear of charcoal simply clung to the wall, looking ugly. What power? Araine swallowed her urge to voice the words. She didn’t mean them. At least not entirely. But what was wrong with her lately? Araine Khalome, daughter of Darion, leader of the Atean colony in ToronSea, should never fall prey to such impious notions. Indeed, she loved Atea. Even so . . . As soon as she reached home, she would send an anonymous note and some money to the homeowner to pay for a nice coating of plaster. Hiding the symbol wouldn’t destroy it, and—
Iris gave her a startling shake. “Stop! Your mood’s written all over your face! If you’re finished buying your supplies, then let’s whisk you away before someone from the gathering sees or hears you! What would our parents say if you’re dragged before the council at the next meeting? Really, Rain, what’s taken hold of you today? Perhaps you don’t fear for your well-being, but I do. Come away.”
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AUTHOR BIO—R. J. Larson
R. J. Larson is the author of numerous devotionals and is suspected of eating chocolate and potato chips for lunch while writing. She lives in Colorado with her husband and their two sons. The Books of the Infinite series marks her debut in the fantasy genre.
“Larson makes the fantasy genre thrilling even for readers who wouldn’t normally venture into mystical realms. Though the battles waged resemble tales from the Old Testament, there is no preaching here, merely a compelling story of good versus evil in which good is sure to triumph.” –Booklist