Fiction Friday: Stormrise by Jillian Boehme
by Jillian Boehme
A combat warrior will risk everything to awaken the dragons and save her kingdom. Stormrise is an young adult (YA) fantasy published by Tor Teen, to be released September 24, available for pre-order now (Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and other fine outlets).
If Rain weren’t a girl, she would be respected as a Neshu combat master. Instead, her gender dooms her to a colorless future. When an army of nomads invades her kingdom, and a draft forces every household to send one man to fight, Rain takes her chance to seize the life she wants.
Knowing she’ll be killed if she’s discovered, Rain purchases powder made from dragon magic that enables her to disguise herself as a boy. Then she hurries to the war camps, where she excels in her training—and wrestles with the voice that has taken shape inside her head. The voice of a dragon she never truly believed existed.
As war looms and Rain is enlisted into an elite, secret unit tasked with rescuing the High King, she begins to realize this dragon tincture may hold the key to her kingdom’s victory. For the dragons that once guarded her land have slumbered for centuries . . . and someone must awaken them to fight once more.
STORMRISE — EXCERPT
From Chapter 3
Papa’s voice filtered through the layers of my thoughts as I scribbled words I knew I’d only have to discard later. I looked up from my bed to see him framed in my doorway, his features soft in the lamplight.
“Yes?” I stuck my pen behind my ear.
He raised an eyebrow at my stained fingers. “Am I interrupting your poetry?”
“It’s not going well, anyway,” I said. “Do you need something?”
“Since we’ll be leaving the day after tomorrow, I thought this might be a good time to give this to you.” He walked to my bedside and handed me a thin wooden box.
It was heavy in my hands, and something inside it shifted. “What’s this?”
“Half of your dowry.”
I stared at him for a moment before opening the box. More tak than I had ever seen at once lay piled inside.
“Fifty tak isn’t enough to secure you a husband, but when I come home, I will provide the rest.”
The weight on my heart came from words unspoken. If he didn’t come home, I would at least have half a dowry to build upon. After a few years of laboring in the fields, I could, perhaps, make up the difference.
“Why give this to me now?” I asked. “Why not leave it in Mama’s care?”
His smile was sad. “Somehow, I think you will do just fine, Rain L’nahn. Even if you marry at thirty, I don’t fear for you.”
Something half laugh, half sob came out of my throat. “Thank you, Papa.”
He kissed the top of my head. “We will weather this storm, my daughter.”
But I had no intention of weathering the storm. I would face it head-on—and take it down. Like the Neshu fighter Papa had trained me to be.
I hugged the coin chest for a long time after he’d left. And for even longer, I sat in the dark, unable to sleep.
“Rain.” Storm’s whisper was husky at my door.
I pulled my blanket over the money box. “Come in.”
“I had a bad dream.”
“Tell me about it.”
He sat on the bed and rubbed his eyes. “I can’t remember. But there were soldiers. And monsters.”
“Did you kill the monsters?”
“I don’t remember.”
I took his hand. “Are you afraid to go to war?”
“No. I’m a brave soldier.”
“Being brave doesn’t mean you’re never afraid.”
He sighed, long and deep. “Can I sleep in here?”
“No, Storm. Papa and Mama want you to sleep in your own bed.” I kissed his hand. “I love you.”
He stayed a while longer, sitting quietly, probably hoping I’d change my mind. Finally I gave him a gentle nudge, and he rose and shuffled out, already half a sleep.
It should have been me, waking in the dark with the dreams of a child. When Storm and I were sick, the healer had only enough medicine for one of us and said he’d come back the next day with more. Of course my parents had told him to give the medicine to their son, but he had given it to me instead. Overnight, I improved, and Storm grew worse. And never fully recovered.
I couldn’t let him go to war. The likelihood that he and Papa would return was lower than I could bear to admit. But the only alternative would be for someone else to step up in his place.
A nephew or cousin, second male in their own families. A second son, sound in mind and body.
We had none of those options. There were only Papa and Storm and Mama and Willow.
I should have been a son.
I could be a son.
At first, the idea terrified me. True, I was quick on my feet and not curvy— and I looked so much like Storm. With a military hairstyle and armor, maybe I could create the illusion. But how long would it take for me to be discovered? Would the first words out of my mouth betray my true sex?
And what would I do during my monthly bleed?
Discovery would mean death. If I were caught, my punishment would be swift and sure.
What if there were some way to strengthen my disguise?
Madam S’dora’s shelves were filled with mixtures and powders and potions beyond my imaginings. And she had sold Willow a tea that would make her bleeding stop for her wedding night. Surely she had something similar that I could use to stop my bleed in definitely?
My heart battered my chest, forcing my breaths to come fast and shallow. If my disguise were good enough, no one would know. The possibility of meeting someone who would recognize me was small; I spent most of my time at home and had no friends from town. And because we’d kept Storm quietly hidden away since he was six or seven, there was little chance anyone would recognize him by sight, either.
If I left at night, while everyone else slept, I could make my escape without worry.
A hundred things could go wrong, but in my heart it was settled.
I would go in the morning to Madam S’dora’s. If she had what I needed, then nothing would stop me.
I would become the son my father needed.
My hands curled around the money box, guilt prickling the edges of my heart. This was dowry money, entrusted to me in good faith. Even if I only spent a quarter of it at Madam S’dora’s, that was a lot.
But if I went in Storm’s place, then Papa could stay home, too. He wouldn’t have to worry about never returning. And if I died, I wouldn’t need a dowry, anyway.
“I’m doing this for you and Storm, Papa,” I whispered. Then I slid the box beneath my pillow and willed myself to sleep.
STORMRISE AUTHOR BIO—JILLIAN BOEHME
JILLIAN BOEHME is known to the online writing community as Authoress, hostess of Miss Snark’s First Victim, a blog for aspiring authors. In real life, she holds a degree in Music Education, sings with the Nashville Symphony Chorus, and homeschools her remaining youngster-at-home. She’s still crazy in love with her husband of more than thirty years and is happy to be surrounded by family and friends amid the rolling knolls of Middle Tennessee. Stormrise is her debut novel.
You may find her online in these places: her author web site (where you may enter a Stormrise preorder contest), Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Goodreads, and Miss Snarks’s First Victim.
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