Banished on a quest to test her claim to the throne, Ravana must free a dragon from enslavement to stop its attacks on her people #PitProm
The king is dead, leaving the Wolf Tribe without an heir. The elders, blinded by greed and ambition, seek to seize power for themselves until a dragon attack forces them to change their plans. As they cower in the castle, leaving the people to fend for themselves, rumors abound: have they angered the ancestors?
RAVANA isn’t one to sit idly by while others suffer. She is willing to risk the wrath of the ancestors themselves if it means saving her brother from his foolish attempt to contend for the throne. But in doing so, she never meant to contend herself. Or win. And while the choice of the ancestors is clear, the elders are determined to punish her for it. Instead of crowning her, they accuse her of witchcraft and send her on a quest to defeat the dragon—though Ravana knows it’s not the true enemy.
Along the way she befriends DRAYCEN, a mysterious stranger with his own score to settle against the beast. Together they journey into the heart of the Eagle Tribe, which has been at war with the Wolves for as long as anyone can remember. They risk discovery and death at every turn, but Draycen seems to blend into this foreign environment a little too convincingly…
THE WOLF QUEEN AND THE DRAGON is a 90,000 word coming-of-age story that can be read as a standalone, but I’ve already written and begun revising the sequel, The Witch’s Revenge, which is set a few years later. Fans of Tamora Pierce, Shannon Hale, Laini Taylor, and Marie Rutkoski will enjoy my novel’s enduring friendships, diverse characters, humor, and romances.
Thank you for your consideration.
First Ten Pages:
“That’s impossible, girl! Dragons don’t exist.”
Ravana blinked at the old man. She pressed her lips together and nodded once, slowly, her black eyes masking her irritation.
Perhaps he was right. After all, what did she know? She’d only spent the past day treating the wounded. She’d only spoken to tens—if not hundreds—of burn victims, each of whom had described the fire-breathing creature in the same vivid detail. She’d only heard a first-hand account from her best friend, who had actually helped guard the city from the beast. But yes. Perhaps they were all wrong.
Her eyes moved from the man to the tent around them. Healers and volunteers rushed between the wounded, who lay in rows of blankets on the ground. The cries of infants and children pierced the air as mothers and fathers tried to soothe them while tending their own wounds. The heat within the tent, radiating from their burns, was almost unbearable. But perhaps it was all an elaborate scheme to deceive the skeptical man.
Ravana closed her eyes and sighed. She wasn’t there to convince him. She was there to care for him.
She knelt at his side and took his pale white hand in her bronze ones. “What do you remember?”
His brow furrowed, and he stared, not really seeing her, before he shuddered. “There was screaming outside… And then my roof… My roof collapsed…”
Ravana nodded slowly. “I’m told you don’t have any serious injuries. You are one of the lucky ones.”
His eyes narrowed. “You were told? You’re not a healer?”
“I’m a shepherdess. I’m just a volunteer.”
“Why didn’t they send me a real healer?” the man bellowed.
“Because you don’t have any real injuries,” a familiar voice said.
Ravana looked up to see her best friend, Phoenix, dressed in a leather tunic and leggings, a sword strapped to her belt. Her once-white shirt and her tanned skin were covered in soot.
Before the man could respond, Ravana pushed a small vial into his hand. “You’ll want this for the smell.”
He plastered the peppermint ointment under his nose and breathed in deeply before settling back down against his blanket.
Ravana returned the vial to a pocket in her leather dress and rose to greet her friend.
“Have you rested?” Phoenix asked, offering her a water flask.
Ravana shook her head, suddenly parched, and took it gratefully. “There hasn’t been time.”
While others had abandoned their homes and villages and flocked to the city of Alliam for protection, Ravana had sought to be of assistance. Despite her parents’ pleading that they stay home, she’d arrived at Alliam with her brother the day before and fallen into work, changing bandages, giving comfort, and taking water to victims of the creature’s attacks. The healers hadn’t even questioned what she was doing or offered her anything beyond the briefest instruction.
“You need to make time,” Phoenix insisted. “Or you’re going to end up on one of those disgusting blankets yourself.”
“I’ll be all right.”
Phoenix narrowed her eyes. “It’s just like that time...”
Ravana held up her finger. “Don’t say the hail storm.”
“I was thinking about the bridge and the boy, but since you mentioned it, the hail storm.”
“You risked your life for a lamb.”
“For a lamb,” Phoenix insisted, pressing her fingers together for emphasis. “For a lamb.”
“I didn’t risk my life...”
“You broke your leg.”
Ravana shrugged and wove her long, straight black hair into a braid. “It wasn’t my leg; it was my arm. And I saved the lamb.”
“No one cared about the lamb.”
“I cared about the lamb.”
Phoenix shook her head, clearly not recovered from the incident.
“You have to get over that,” Ravana said. “We were ten. It was seven years ago. And what does it matter? You found me. Everything turned out fine.”
Phoenix narrowed her eyes. “You know, you wouldn’t need as much rescuing if you weren’t so keen on getting yourself into trouble.”
Ravana felt a sting at the accusation. She gestured around the tent, then said in a forceful whisper, “You know who needs rescuing? These people. Someone has to help them, since the elders won’t. And a little hunger and tiredness isn’t going to stop me.”
Phoenix cocked her head. “When was the last time you ate?”
“Forget about that.” Ravana brushed the question aside with a wave of her hand. “Is there any word?”
Phoenix accepted the change in topic with a resigned sigh. “No one has seen the dragon again today. It might have moved on. But I heard reports of more villagers heading this way.
You should take a moment to rest before they arrive.”
Ravana glanced around the tent, which was already teeming with activity. Beyond, other tents had been set up end-to-end, each as full as the last. “There’s barely any room to walk in here!”
“There’s nowhere else to go.”
“Nowhere else?” Ravana echoed through clenched teeth. “We’re in the shadow of the castle. These people should be inside its halls, not out in the open where the dragon can so easily attack them again.”
“You know full well the elders are using the castle to prepare for the choosing ceremony today.”
Ravana looked down at her friend. “And you know full well I don’t care about the choosing ceremony. And why by the Moon do they need the castle when the ceremony is by the river?”
Phoenix shrugged. “Preparations?”
“And why the rush?” It made Ravana’s blood boil that the elders would be so frivolous as to hold the ceremony while the Wolf Tribe was under attack. They had delayed the event long enough while it suited them. But to use it as an excuse to avoid helping their people…
“Maybe they think a king would be better able to protect us from the dragon,” Phoenix suggested airily.
Ravana grimaced. If the new king were to be anything like the old one, she would rather be ruled by the dragon. It was just as well he hadn’t left an heir. For years, even before his illness, he’d given the elders free rein to act as they wished—to the detriment of his people.
The tent entrance flapped open and more injured people flooded in. The sight of their blistering wounds made Ravana grateful for the scent of peppermint.
She rushed forward to a man she recognized as the grandfather of one of her friends.
“Thank you,” he said weakly as Ravana helped him, careful to avoid contact with his burnt arm and chest. He hissed in pain as he settled against the ground on a newly abandoned blanket. Ravana didn’t allow herself to dwell on why it was vacant.
“The healers will be with you soon,” she said with a smile.
He returned the gesture. “I know you,” he said, his voice strained. His face hardened as he stared intently into her black eyes. “Remember this day, child,” he said, waving his finger.
“Today is the darkest day in the history of the Wolf Tribe.”
Ravana’s brow furrowed.
“The elders have closed the gates to the city. They said no other villagers can be supported.”
Ravana’s eyes widened. “You can’t mean…”
“People behind me were turned away,” the man confirmed. He added bitterly, “Wolf people turning away Wolves. I expected as much from Owls or Foxes…”
“But Alliam can support all the Wolves. Isn’t that why the elders insisted so much of the grain and produce be sent here for safekeeping? In case the outer villages were attacked?”
He shook in outrage as a healer stepped forward to assess his wounds. As she worked, Ravana fumed over the complete disregard the elders had shown for the people in the months since the king’s death. And in the wake of the dragon’s attack, they’d done nothing to ease the people’s suffering. They hadn’t even arranged for the healers’ tents. Villagers and city dwellers had made those offerings. The people were left to fend for themselves while the elders were distracted with ceremonies.
She was shaken from her musings when the healer handed her a balm and squeezed her arm as she left.
Ravana gently applied the scented lotion to the man’s wound. It numbed the skin and provided temporary relief, but had no healing properties. She’d learned in the brief moments she’d spent with the healers that none of them had seen anything like the blisters inflicted by the dragon’s fiery breath.
Ravana started when Phoenix gripped her shoulder.
“I have to go!” Phoenix said, eyes wide. She gestured toward the entrance of the tent, where a familiar tall, broad-shouldered youth walked in. Phoenix slipped through a slit in the back of the tent to stand just outside. She peered through the opening as Finn looked around, pushing his glasses back up his nose with the tip of his index finger.
Ravana’s lips betrayed her in the faintest hint of a smile.
Phoenix removed a hair clip, smoothed down her straight, light-brown hair, and slid the clip back into place. “I’ll wager he’s going to ask me to join him at the ceremony again…”
Ravana tilted her head to study her friend. Phoenix was well on her way to becoming one of the youngest members of the Wolf army, and on the field, no man could fluster her. But in recent months, Finn had had a disconcerting effect on the Wolf girl, treating her with a tenderness she apparently found unsettling.
Phoenix glanced back at the tent entrance and yanked the slit closed to conceal herself as Finn paced over to them. Ravana tried to appear aloof, but all thoughts of Phoenix left her when she caught Finn’s gaze. His brow was creased in concern, sweat beading on his rich brown skin.
“What’s happened?” she asked, standing up and stepping forward instinctively.
“It’s Ryker,” he said, not waiting to catch his breath. “He’s contending.”
Her eyes widened as she grasped the significance of his words about her brother. “Where is he?”
“He was on his way to the river.”
“That’s impossible,” Phoenix said, parting the slit and stepping back into the tent. Finn didn’t seem surprised to see her. “If he’s not too young, he’s smart enough to know he could die.”
“He turned twenty-five last week,” Ravana said, looking at each of her friends. “He’s old enough.”
“Did you know he wanted to be king?” Phoenix asked.
“He would need to be sponsored by one of the elders,” Ravana protested. “My grandmother would never allow that. She knows the risk.”
“She was the elder who sponsored him,” Finn said, his brown eyes serious.
Ravana shook her head as they turned to leave the tent. She had to get to him. She had to stop him. Ryker was going to get himself killed.
Finn led them through Alliam’s eerily deserted market place and farther from the towering, cold gray stone of the castle. Empty stalls lined the streets. Vendors hadn’t even bothered to set up their wares or produce, either on account of the dragon or the choosing ceremony.
When Ravana and Ryker had parted at the city gates, he hadn’t even hinted he was contemplating contending. She’d assumed he had wanted to help victims of the dragon’s attack, as she had. But she couldn’t remember anything from their conversations on the road to confirm her assumption. She had come to Alliam to help strangers but had accompanied her own brother to his death.
What would she tell their parents? Had they known? No. They wouldn’t have let them travel alone if they had.
She tried to clear her thoughts as Finn led them out of the city, past clay-tiled wooden homes as empty as the market place, and then along the forest path. Even the birds were silent.
As they neared the river, Ravana gasped at the number of people congregated for the ceremony. From her vantage point, she could see Ryker on a grassy stretch before the forest, on the other side of the bank. Her pulse quickened as she squeezed between the onlookers, ignoring the grunts and hissed protests as she made her way to the front of the crowd. She only stopped when the river rocks crunched under her boots and the water lapped around them.
She felt a poke in her ribs and heard a woman behind her complaining. But her voice sounded like it was a great distance away. “You, girl. Move. You’re too tall to stand in front.”
“Her brother is contending,” Finn said gently.
Ravana didn’t spare a thought for the woman’s reaction. She didn’t care. Ryker was beyond her reach. She wanted to call out to him, to beg him to abandon his folly. But she was too late.
He and two other men stood beyond the sparse reeds on a patch of grass, facing the crowd. An elder paced behind them, dressed in elaborate robes and chanting the verses of the ceremony in an ancient tongue, calling to the ancestors to select the most worthy sovereign to lead the people of the Wolf Tribe to prosperity.
History told that many men had perished in their attempt to be king, punished for their arrogance to assume they were worthy to lead the people. Ravana had never imagined that was a risk her brother was prepared to take.
She watched his stoic face as three white marble-like vests were brought forward, each carried by two men. He knelt with the other contenders so the jewel-studded stone could be fitted like armor around his chest. The stone was heavy enough on the surface, but it would soak water like a sponge and be an impossible weight for any man to bear.
As the leather-clad soldiers helped Ryker to his feet, Ravana bit her lip and looked around, desperately searching for a way to reach her brother.
Phoenix held her back. “It’s too late,” she said, her blue eyes heavy. “I’m so sorry.”
“Trust,” Finn said calmly.
There was silence as the elder addressed the people. “These fine men represent the very best the Wolf Tribe has to offer. They are brave and true, and they are prepared to sacrifice their lives to prove their worth. Aymesh of the House of Elya, Ryker of the House of Ilma, Tau of the House of Makin. It is my honor to deliver you now into the hands of the ancestors.”
There was a moment of calm, a moment of hesitation, as the men were still. It felt as though all the Wolves—contenders, elders, and onlookers alike—were frozen in time. Ravana clung to hope. There was yet a chance. They could still turn back.
But then Aymesh stepped forward, and the other two followed.
Phoenix’s hand tightened on Ravana’s arm as the contenders strode into the water.
Ravana held her breath as they disappeared under the surface, as if gripped by a beast beyond. Her heart beat faster and faster, competing with the rhythm of the ceremonial drums, which was building into a crescendo. But still none of the men rose to the surface. The elders exchanged glances.
Something was wrong.
According to legend, the ancestors would select the most noble and kingly of the three to defy the laws of nature, and he would float to the top despite his load. But as her lungs burned, she knew they weren’t coming up. And as much as she loved her brother, she couldn’t hold her breath any longer. She surrendered and gasped for air.
Phoenix released her grip on her arm, and Ravana didn’t hesitate. Forgetting herself and an ageless tradition, she rushed out onto the river until she stood between the banks, looking down at the murky water, frantically seeking a sign her brother was alive. But she found nothing. The water was too deep.
An oppressive silence settled around her. The ceremonial drums stopped. A hush fell over the people on the banks. She looked up to catch Phoenix’s gaze, her eyes wide. She was gripping Finn’s arm; his brow was furrowed in concern. Behind them, the crowds of Wolves stared at Ravana. People she had known her whole life and strangers all looked at her as though she had done something unforgivable.
Confused, Ravana looked down at the water, and stepped back in alarm. She was standing on the surface. She spun around to look at the elders, who stared at her with mixed expressions of anger and awe. Her fear for her brother was momentarily eclipsed by a stab of panic for herself.
She wanted to run. To escape. To save herself from their gaze, their judgment, and their punishment. But as her eyes fell to the surface again, all thought of herself melted away. Ryker was down there.
She dropped to her knees and tried to reach under the water, but while it moved freely, it was as solid as ice to her touch. And she couldn’t save him.
“Please,” she begged of the elders, her voice sounding unnaturally loud in the silence. “Please release them.”
The men and women exchanged glances, and the elder who had performed the ceremony stepped forward.
“Please,” Ravana repeated. She willed her voice not to crack. “They’ll die…”
For an agonizing moment the Elder Babak regarded her before he waved his hand, ordering his soldiers to rescue the contenders.
Ravana stood, watching helplessly as the men entered the water. Moments felt like hours as they bobbed to the surface for air and dived back down to continue looking. She had almost given up hope when they dragged two limp bodies from the river. Ravana ran across the water, her boots leaving ripples on the surface.
She dropped to Ryker’s side as the soldiers tried to revive him. His black hair was plastered against his face and shoulders like a shroud. She held her breath until he finally spluttered and coughed up water. She leaned forward, but his gaze swept past her and settled on the nearest soldier. Between bouts of coughing, he managed a single word. “Who?”
The soldier looked to Ravana skeptically, and the creases of confusion on Ryker’s brow smoothed out as his face hardened. “What have you done?”
The coldness in his voice startled her, and she stood and stepped back.
“Seize her!” Elder Babak cried.
Ravana didn’t have a chance to react. Guards grabbed her from either side. She struggled at first, but the accusing look on her brother’s face had a sobering effect on her, and she allowed herself to be led away.
Behind her, Phoenix yelled across the river in protest.
Welcome to the final round of pitches!
Agents and Publishers,