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Thursday, August 15, 2019

Spotlight: The God Queen by M.L Tishner

The return of the God Queen is not what everyone hoped…
Humans have long since spread their numbers among the stars. Now far, far into the future, war has torn the Tyre Star Cluster into two major political factions. The militant Dominion have gained the upper hand in the last decade with the murder of Niklaryn Ettowa, the progressive Federation’s champion. Some considered the war to be almost won.
Yet there are those who claim the war will not be ended by mortals…but by the rebirth of the gods.
Rei lived most of her life bartending on one Earth’s backwater towns. She daydreams of something more, traveling the stars, and destroying the man who murdered her brother Niklaryn. Her dream is within her grasp only if she accepts her fate as the God Queen.
Bronx is disillusioned with being a reincarnated god, let alone a reaper. He pays his penance by isolating himself and taking up the mantle of a combat medic. When the sister of his old mentor Niklaryn storms in to join the cause will he find something worth fighting for?
Together with others, they must help the Federation tip the scales in their favor, but clashing plans for the gods threatens to tear it all apart.
Jupiter Ascending meets X-Men in this epic New Adult space opera bursting with star-crossed romance, elemental magic, and an adventure across the star cluster, perfect for fans of A Spark of White Fire.

Rei yawned as she surveyed her handy work. She, Hotara, and Sagitan stayed up most of the night ripping up boards from around the temple windows and doors before piling them in front of the basilica of the One True God on the other side of the square. Rei continued on her own later, sweeping the temple, lighting the incense, and laying flowers at each of the twelve statues inside.

The temple matched the buildings around it with its low walls and aluminum roof, but the stained-glass windows made it unique. Its large weathered wooden doors were open. One image portrayed the God King Manden with a war hammer held high, while the other portrayed the God Queen Mica with her bladed staff. The soft smoke of incense spilled out down the steps and around several locals already gathered around the entrance. Most of them fervently wiped their faces of the dirt that permeated every inch of the town before entering. It didn’t help.

Ballarat was cradled at the base of the Panamint Mountains, just at the outskirts of Death Valley. There were a few plants that managed to thrive in the heat, but they all had a perpetual layer of dust that allowed the vegetation to blend in with the dry earth around it—just like Ballarat’s residents.

Rei picked the petals off a Golden Evening Primrose from her perch at the dead fountain as she continued to observe. The crowd had grown steadily since she arrived after breakfast. A few were even the recent “converts” to the One True God. She smiled. One stone at a time. Niklaryn would have been proud. Even from this distance, the smell of Princesplums and incense from the temple tickled her nose.

“Rei, darling.” Virga, Sagitan’s wife, appeared at her side. She planted a soft kiss on Rei’s cheek. She wore a bright scarf with pink and purple flowers, and her light blue eyes twinkled when she smiled. She had a round face made more prominent by the scarf. “How are you?”

Rei stifled another yawn. “Tired from doing the gods’ work, but good. Yourself?”

“I’m well, thank you.” Virga gave her a knowing smile.

Rei glimpsed another familiar face towering over the older woman. His attention fixated on the touch screen in his hands.

“Hello, Arram.”

Virga’s grandson was a head taller than she was, yet a few years younger. He slouched as though he didn’t want to draw attention to himself. Like a shadow, he always kept to his grandmother’s side. He met Rei’s gaze and blinked at her with violet eyes. However, he didn’t respond.

“Arram,” Virga muttered.

“Hi,” he said, although it sounded more like a grunt.

“I don’t know what to do with this boy.” Virga linked arms with the younger woman, pulling her off the fountain. “Shall we?”

Rei hesitated. She knew she probably shouldn’t linger at the scene of the crime, so to speak. It was enough to reopen the temple for Ballarat, but she wasn’t sure how much she should push her luck. The cleric didn’t look pleased when he found the pile of wood at his doorstep this morning. It would only be a matter of time before he retaliated, and she would have to watch her drinks for poison from now on. For now, she would rather remind him these people belonged to her gods, not his.

“It’s not a good idea. I’m supposed to be converting.”

Virga laughed and released Rei’s arm. “Sagitan told me. Next time you plan a stunt like that again, let me know. I love to rebel.”

Rei covered her mouth in an attempt at feigned shock. “Stunt? Virga, I don’t know what you’re talking about. The temple was open when I arrived here this morning. Maybe our darling cleric finally realized we can all live in harmony?”

Both women glanced at the cleric, who scowled from his post at the entrance to the basilica, its hideous structure towering high above the buildings around it. Its golden roof reflected a sun beam into Rei’s face.

Virga chuckled softly. “Of course. You are a model citizen and incapable of doing anything illegal.” She cupped Rei’s cheek. “Then run along before the cleric decides he wants a word with you. Your mother invited us over for dinner tonight, so we’ll see you later. All right?”

Rei nodded and Virga turned to leave. “Come along, Arram,” she called to her grandson.

“I’ll be right there.” His head tilted to the side as he edged closer to Rei.

She never liked the way he studied at her, the same way the cleric would look at a bug before squashing it under his shoe. She didn’t know where Arram and his grandparents lived before they came to Ballarat, but she smelled privilege and it reeked.

“Why does it matter who worships many gods or one god?” he asked.

Rei blinked. “That’s a question for the cleric. He’s the one who believes we should choose one over the other. I don’t care who people worship.”

“You do, you little hypocrite. The two of you have been butting heads since before my grandparents and I arrived in this one-horse town. Why does it matter to you that people worship many gods?”

“Because they’re real, Arram!” she growled, her face growing hot. “The Volocio are real. One of them has already been reincarnated, and it’s only a matter of time before the god queen returns.”

Arram raised an eyebrow. “You mean Kazimir Ettowa, claiming to be the god of illusion?” He snorted. “If that Ettowa is the real thing, I’m the son of the death god.”

Rei’s heart stopped at the mention of the name. Her name. “What does being an Ettowa have to do with it?”

He leaned against the side of the fountain and ran a hand through his hair, the same shade of brown as hers. “That family is rich, disgustingly rich, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they paid the holy father to give him the title.”

Rei pursed her lips. She knew the brotherhood who raised Kazimir was humble and lived a life with little to no earthly possessions. She didn’t think these monks were so easily bought by her family’s money. She liked to think they were men who took the religion seriously, unlike other monasteries with their jewel-encrusted walls who used their religion solely to make a profit. She never told anyone her relation to Kazimir.

“Well, my brother saw Kazimir’s powers work,” she said. “I believe him.”

He chuckled. “Of course, the brother you bring up all the time and yet I’ve never met. He’s probably some other illiterate yokel from this backwoods town,” he sneered and barked a laugh. “You’ve convinced me, Rei. But please, satiate my curiosity: what’s your brother’s name?”

Rei felt the name Niklaryn Ettowa on the tip of her tongue. She wanted so much to say it, to boast about it. He was legendary; he was the best of the Daer Knights. She was so proud to be his sister. But unfortunately, everyone knew who he was, and revealing her relation to him would also reveal who she really was.

He smiled. “That’s right. You never say. Makes me wonder if he exists, or he’s some lie you use when you know you’re losing an argument.”

Rei shook and her muscles quivered. Her hand itched to slap his face, but she knew she had to take the higher ground. It’s what her brother would have wanted. She breathed in loudly through her nose, trying to compose herself.

“This conversation is over.” She pointed toward the temple, where Virga had long disappeared. “You should catch up to your grandmother. She appears to be missing her shadow.” Now it was her turn to flash her teeth at Arram. “Now fuck off.”

“Duly noted.” He pulled away from the fountain and sauntered over to the temple. “See you at dinner later.”

Rei rubbed her face and held back a yell. Any euphoria she had left was gone. She hated how much he got under her skin.

She crossed the square with the intent of heading back to the bar, replaying their conversation over and over in her head. She didn’t stop until she reached the other side of the square, next to the pantheon of the One True God. Its hideous gold-painted roof left her angrier. It only reminded her how much this religion and Arram were monumental thorns in her side, and she was not looking forward to dealing with more of the young man’s colorful remarks over dinner. The day had started out so well.

Rei turned the corner and collided with a figure.

“Ope, careful, little lady,” said a light accented voice.

“Sorry.” She stared at the stranger, her jaw dropping. His hood had fallen off, revealing a head of deep-red hair. He was older than she was; there were lines around his bright green eyes that smiled as he met her gaze. But the feature that drew her attention most was that every inch of visible skin was covered in freckles.

She had experienced this before. Her eyes relaxed as her vision multiplied, as though she were in two places at once. Swords clanged in the distance, crashing together, and her nose filled with the metallic scent of blood. The man stood in full battle gear, covered in blood that was not his; some had even splattered onto his face. He raised his war hammer, Nature’s Wrath, as he yelled. His green eyes locked with Rei’s as she held her own bladed staff high in the sky and she screamed in response. Lightning flashed above her, dancing across the clouds while the thunder clapped. Around her periphery, she could see long vines writhe and thrash.

She knew him. The gods had sent her this vision. They used to send more when she was child, but their silence the last few years had caused her to doubt their faith in her. They wanted her to meet this man and her heart raced at the thought of it. She shook her head, the vision disappearing. She gave the stranger a shaky grin.

“I’m sorry.” Her voice cracked. “This may sound odd, but I feel like I’ve met you before.”

He let out a huge breath and a slow smile crept across his lips.

“I have the same feeling too,” he said.

A lightness bloomed in her chest like she waited years for this moment. She was unaware of what the moment was, but she knew she had to trust the gods. She extended a trembling hand.

“I’m Rei.”

From the Author on why they wrote the God Queen:
I first toyed with the idea of The God Queen when I was about thirteen-years-old (I am thirty-three now). Star Wars Episode One had just come out and I was (and still am) a die-hard Star Wars fan as well as a huge fan of the magic girl genre (Sailor Moon to be more specific). I began to have these day dreams of a girl with powers who would have cool space adventures like Luke Skywalker. At that time, I wanted more books with female heroes, so I decided to write one for myself. Between then and now, I have written at least four or five different versions of my story. There is a very basic skeleton that's the same (Rei can channel lightning, Bronx is a reaper, reincarnation, a prophecy, etc), but as I grew older and learned how to write better, I would apply what I learned in the newer incarnation of my story. It never bothered me when I started over - I knew the story wasn't ready yet.

Even after all these years, it's still why I wanted this story (and what will be series) to be the best it could be. I wrote it for my thirteen-year-old self, because I wanted to be someone she could be proud of. Granted, I don't think my current book would be appropriate for my younger self, but I proved to myself that as long as I didn't give up, I could still fulfill my dreams.

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