Love Bytes says hello and welcome to author Gus Li , joining us for the release of their new novel “Calling and Cull”.
Hi everyone. My name is August (Gus) Li, and I’m here to celebrate the release of Calling and Call, the fifth book in my Blessed Epoch series. Thanks for joining me. Here’s an exclusive excerpt from the book.
All of those who had ascended to godhood, Thalil included, had constructed realms to their preferences, havens away from the eyes of the others. His was a place of pleasure, full of the things that brought him joy: images of himself, sumptuous furnishings of red velvet, firelight, fountains of blood, the bones of enemies, the souls from which he drew power, and, of course, the bodies of comely young men ready to do anything to please him. He’d conjured a Crimson Palace of shimmering dark stone and decked it with glimmering gems, reflective surfaces that would volley his countenance back to him as he passed by. Sinfully soft cushions filled it, and candles burned behind scarlet glass, casting everything in a rubicund glow that enhanced his many natural attributes and glowed along the lithe limbs of his hundreds of consorts. His aunt and sister, Ix, venerated as goddess of the wilds and the hunt, had built for herself a boundless forest, brimming with trees and waterfalls of unimaginable beauty and populated with infinite numbers of wily prey to pursue.
Only the abode of Pherara, goddess of magic and protector of mages, was different. She let the enchantment run rampant, giving it no direction, boxing it in to no channels to suit her or anyone else.
Thalil would not dirty his feet in the realms of any of his father’s other wives, but he adored coming here. No matter what the masses believed, all of them had started out as mages, and stepping through the silvery crack in the wall of his own domain imparted a sensation of coming home.
His foot, bare except for the golden, ruby-studded chains that draped from his ankle to the ring around his big toe, met a surface as buoyant as tightly stretched canvas. It bounced back against his weight as he stepped forward. As soon as he entered, power tickled and crackled over his skin, awakening his senses in a way that was almost sexual. The magic crested and ebbed, flooding perceptions he couldn’t label before withdrawing, only to crash over him in another all-consuming wave. Thalil shook his dark hair, the beaded strands hanging from the edges of his horned crown rattling softly. He could enjoy the power here, the way it swelled the tendrils of his own magic, but he couldn’t let himself be swept away by its flow.
Almost as soon as the intent formed in Thalil’s mind, the ground beneath him grew more solid; there was less bounce as he walked a few steps into Pherara’s universe. A path formed, glimmering light separating the irregular stones. The raw arcane energy was responding to the will of a powerful caster. Pherara let the enchantment flow freely, but magic sought direction. Energy and thought wanted to become form, something palpable. To exist on the material sphere if only for a fleeting breath. It was the reason mortals drew pictures and wrote stories—to translate the intangible within them to something recognizable, something communicable to others. Here, though, no tools were needed. The magic reacted to the most fleeting of dreams. The briefest of desires.
Thalil couldn’t imagine the nightmare this realm could become to a burdened soul, one for whom guilt and memories of horror lingered close to the surface of the mind. Luckily, he harbored no such regrets. His heart held only pride in himself and his accomplishments, alongside the desire to advance further and thus entertain himself.
As far as his eye could see, the magic flowed like water, tinted with hues as if reflecting colored light. Or, Thalil thought, it looked like liquid crystal, malleable rivers of diamond, forced to obey none of the laws of the mortal plane. The glittering clear substance surged around him, dripping upward to form something resembling trees before bubbles broke from the ends of branches and took the shapes of birds, butterflies, and floating flowers. Some of the masses drifted up into what passed for the sky, where they burned as suns for a moment before fizzling out or streaked like stars across the firmament. Even without direction, the magic seemed to want to mimic the fixed world most people inhabited. Thalil had always wondered about that.
But it was a puzzle for another time. Today, he had a goal in mind, and so he made his way through a glasslike forest. Wherever he stepped, the translucent stones turned the blackish red of old scabs, and crimson roses with thorns dripping blood sprung up around his feet, only to wither, lose their pigment, and sink back into the never-ending magical stream after he had passed.
Pherara reclined on an undulating mound. The magic became vaporous and flitted in little smoky trails around her thin, pale limbs, caressing her skin like lovers. Yet her face looked peaceful and contemplative rather than aroused. Unlike his father’s other twelve wives, Pherara had never struck Thalil as a sexual being. Nothing about her slender body, draped in filmy silver material similar to the energy burbling around her, suggested fertility. She was cool and pure, but not in the prudish way of that awful bitch Fayelle. With Pherara, it was more a disinterested elegance, and one Thalil could appreciate.
At Thalil’s approach, Pherara sat up, and the substance around her adjusted to cradle her posture. It became more solid and took the shape of an ornate silver throne studded with opals. Her covering transformed into a billowy, beaded gown that exposed only her shoulders and long neck. Jewelry sprung into being at her throat and wrists, mutable gems sparkling. Is that what she thought he would expect?
Thalil bowed; the beaded ornaments of his crown brushing against his skin. He looked up through the rich waves of hair framing his face and met her eyes without rising.
Pherara’s seashell-pink lips turned up. For all her innocence—genuine or feigned—her gray eyes were shrewd. “Such formality, my brother. Or nephew. I scarcely know what to call you anymore, Thalil.”
He straightened. “Does it honestly matter after all this time?”
She brushed a long lock of silver hair off her shoulder. A large gem had appeared at the center of her forehead, held in place by twisting platinum filaments inset with tiny diamonds. “I don’t suppose it does,” she answered. “What does matter enough to draw you from your Crimson Palace? I know how you appreciate the charms of the world you have made.”
“All charms grow dull with time,” he answered. “Everything loses its shine with enough wear.”
“And the charms of your realm have grown dull? I find that difficult to believe, as they are so… numerous.”
Thalil grinned. Even after ten thousand years, he could not help but be pleased by a nod to his splendor. “Even so, I always yearn for variety.”
“And so you have come here?”
“Yes. I am planning a little excursion, and I hoped you might accompany me.”
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Publisher: DSP Publications
Whose hand will orchestrate the change in the world?
The decade-long war with Johmatra is over, but peace hangs by a thread in Garith’s kingdom. Yarrow, isolated in his island realm, refuses to abide by the treaty or to follow the dictates of the priestesses. Others—Octavian Rose among them—are uneasy with the growing military power of the temples, and the mage island of Espero remains a tenuous ally. Garith knows his people cannot weather another conflict and that infighting will leave their lands vulnerable to further invasion. The arrival of a Johmatran ambassador with his own agenda calls everyone’s loyalties into question.
Sides will be chosen, and the consequences of those choices will have repercussions no one can foresee. Even among the turmoil, Yarrow is determined to have his vengeance against the thirteen goddesses and heal the world’s magic. But how far will he go, and what lines is he willing to cross? As unlikely alliances are forged and enemies are revealed, Prince Thane seems to be the key to forgotten knowledge that will shape the future—and some will do whatever it takes to control him.
Calling and Cull, Book Five of the Blessed Epoch, is available at DSP Publications
And if you are new to the Blessed Epoch, the first four books are available in a special edition bundle. 582K words for only $9.99: DSP Publications
Thanks for reading!
August (Gus) Li is a creator of fantasy worlds. When not writing, he enjoys drawing, illustration, costuming and cosplay, and making things in general. He lives near Philadelphia with two cats and too many ball-jointed dolls. He loves to travel and is trying to see as much of the world as possible. Other hobbies include reading (of course), tattoos, and playing video games