Rising by Celeste Harte — COVER REVEAL + First chapter sneak peek!
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With introductions out of the way, today we’re featuring the cover reveal for Rising, the second book in the Dragon Bones Trilogy by Celeste Harte.
Just like the first installment, Rising promises to be a blend of fantasy and sci-fi elements mixed together in an exciting adventure to discover lost history and connecting with the various kinds of dragons roaming around in this world to change society for the better. Celeste Harte is a Black author, and Rising features Black representation as well, with a slow burn romance coming to a crux in this second installment as Jashi and Kahmel have to deal with the situation their arranged marriage has left them in. Black royalty, dragons, and afro-futuristic elements all throughout.
Excited yet? The Fox is 🦊
Summary of Rising
Release date: May 4th, 2021
The K’sundii royals must prove themselves to the mystical Dragons Kings, and to their people. But time is running out.
Kahmel and Jashi don’t have much time to win over their people by finding the remaining three Dragon Kings and having a fighting chance against the Zendaalans when they go to war. The Courts and the Equalizers are getting tired of warning them against their brazen attitudes, and warnings may soon turn to very real threats.
Jashi is still getting used to her role as Faresha and rebel member, and it doesn’t help that Kahmel has been as distant as ever since they found the first Dragon King. She’s worried it’s because of a gap of trust.
She’s hoping to prove her worth both to the country and herself by doing her part in the research of the dragons and bettering herself as a dragon rider by researching something called the “Drake Bond”.
But she can’t fight the feeling that it won’t be enough.
Shederei Manor Raid (One)
A year ago, I would watch reports of the rebels on the news, shocked and appalled at the audacity to steal from the nation’s most prestigious clans for something as arbitrary as relics.
Now, my gloved fingers ran along the edge of a yellowed page as I sat cross-legged on the ground, open books littered around me on the floor. The glass cabinet I’d taken it from had a circle cut into it, a little wobbly as it was my first time with the glass cutter, but efficient, nonetheless. My eyes carefully scanned over the words in the book in my lap. Holding my place in the first one with one hand, I switched to another tome laid out on the floor beside me, scanning the words. My eyes then drifted to a third. Deciding the first one held the most relevant information, I turned back to the first one.
I glanced over my shoulder at my lookout, a rebel by the name of Jonis. His eyes were trained on the driveway to the house and at the skies as — disgustingly — the owners of this manor owned several ZST-trained dragons. He’d warn me as soon as he saw any trace of them, so I tried to focus on my part of the job.
I flipped the pages of the book in front of me, tracing my finger over a few key words, trying to commit them to memory. The book was obviously old, clear by the yellowing of the pages and the faded text. But this part was especially worn, decay blossoming in saturated umber spots all along the page, letters faded beyond recognition in some areas. I waited a second, and the glasses I was wearing showed a scanner starting up in the lower left corner of my vision, having detected missing passages. Within a few moments, the missing words on the page fluttered to life in my vision, shifting slightly as I got a better grip on the book and started reading.
It was a device the rebels had given me that pieced the words together based upon complicated algorithms that calculated letter and word fragments, context, and the cause of erosion to piece together what the text originally said. The technology was fairly new, acquired from making some choice trades with a rebel country, so I couldn’t be seen with it on in public. But it worked great. I would have never been able to get through this book without it, and it was proving more helpful than I thought.
I squinted at a certain line, running my finger beneath the words.
Try as I might, I could not establish the bond.
I flipped back a few pages. This book wasn’t specifically about dragons, like I’d hoped for. It was a biography of sorts, of a general in some previous Faresh’s army. From the looks of it, the book was old. I wasn’t good at calculating ages, but from the kind of language the book used, I guessed it might have even been from one of the older eras, like the Azure or Crimson Age of K’sundi.
However, though the book wasn’t about dragons, it seemed the army general rode dragons rather than horses to battle, so they were detailed in the book. I’d have to ask Kahmel, but if I was right about who this was, I remembered him being mentioned even in a couple books we had at the palace. He was famous for his fierceness in battle and his ability to tame almost any dragon.
His biography was a gold mine.
Ever since last year, our main purpose has been to find the remaining Dragon Kings and convince them to support us in eradicating the Equalizers. But finding information to even know where to find them was a slow and steady process. The rebel agents Kahmel could trust, Rand, Arusi, Khes, Asan, and myself, spent whatever time we could spare pouring through data found in old books and scavenging what hints could be found in relics and artifacts. Other rebel agents retrieved information in raids, though they weren’t always told what it was for — not until we had more conclusive reasons for them to believe our impossible mission.
It was easy to feel like we’d never accomplish it. The demanding Courts and Zendaalans always requiring Kahmel’s time and energy made progress all the more stagnant. Pushing against his constant fight for progress for more humane dragon laws.
But still we pushed.
“What are you doing?” Kahmel’s voice came through my earpiece, making me jump.
“Reading,” I whispered.
Kahmel’s tone was unamused. “Where are you reading?”
“Now, that’s a different question entirely.”
Even without seeing him, I knew he was kneading the space between his eyes, like he always did when I exasperated him.
Which was often.
“When you said you were going on the Shederei clan mission, I thought you were going to attend the dinner to distract the Shederei clan, not the robbery of their manor.”
“Serves you right for assuming.”
I sighed, then hissed, “How did you even get access to our comm link anyway? This line is supposed to be for rebels on the Shederei clan mission only.”
“I’m the rebel king; do you think there are any rebel missions I don’t have access to?”
Groaning, Kahmel continued. “Jashi, how many times do I have to tell you . . .”
Whatever he was complaining about was drowned out by a passage in the book that caught my eye as I was scanning the page.
The author was describing how one of his best dragons had died, and that he needed another one for an upcoming battle. He found one, but it was a rowdy dragon that he couldn’t “bond” with, and he was recounting how his luck had changed when he was taming a group of dragons for his soldiers.
Ever since the Dragon King advised us to investigate the Drake Bond and Kahmel set me on researching it, I was determined to see it through. Despite his concerns, Kahmel didn’t understand I needed this.
Politicians and news outlets had no shortage of opinions about me. They saw me as an incompetent street-rat that somehow managed to sneak her way into the palace. There was no telling anyone what the real reason Kahmel had for marrying me was, and people not knowing things was a homing beacon for rumors.
It wasn’t like I could disagree with what they were saying; they were right. I had no idea what I was doing in the palace. I was by no means anyone’s idea of a proper Faresha, so I used these missions to serve my people in a different way.
I could at least do this much.
Focusing on the words and tuning Kahmel’s nagging out, I held my breath. This might have been exactly what I was looking for.
… but this one was different. The strength and power it wielded was clear in its eyes, and I knew I had to try again with this one before I bought the dragon that Sir Jendathi was offering me. I attempted the Drake Bond.
“Jashi, are you even listening?” Kahmel complained.
“I won’t be able to finish if you keep interrupting!”
There was a sigh, thankfully, of resignation. “Just be careful.”
I closed the book, a small smile on my face. I was almost done here anyway. I knew which book to take. The other ones were interesting, but not nearly the well of information that this one was. This book, the autobiography, was the most important.
“I will,” I assured Kahmel.
A tool the rebels gave me was in the pack by side, so I slipped it out, then stood up the little machine on the floor beside me, extending the legs so it would stand. I set the book down in front of it on the designated tray. As I turned it on with a touch, the tool sparked to life silently, little blue lights switching on. Then it went to scanning the pages with a special x-ray tool that could detect where each page began and ended, displaying its progress with a little screen on its back that showed the pages it was going through. It could scan several a second, so the process wouldn’t take long.
I toppled a lamp onto the ground, the bulb smashing as it hit the marble floors, aglow with silver light spilling from the moon outside through the windows.
“What was that?” Kahmel asked, worry apparent in his tone.
“Sorry,” I apologized, knowing he must have assumed the worse. “Just setting the scene, you know. Really, Kahmel, I would think you of all people know how a raid goes.”
“If I get white hairs, it’s going to be because of you.”
“Ah, lighten up a little, old man.” I pulled drawers out of the desk in front of the window, careful to check if there were any eyes outside before stepping in front of it.
“Old?” I could hear him stiffening, and I suppressed a chuckle. Then Kahmel was mumbling something to himself, something about me aging him early. Whatever.
The machine I’d set down let out a small beep to indicate that it had finished the scanning process, and I picked it up, folded it back, and stowed it away in my pouch, knowing the information was safely copied inside. When I got back, I could read the pages as often as I liked from my eWatch. But now that I’d gotten used to it, I enjoyed the feel of holding a book in my hand, turning the pages for myself, so I’d have it printed and bound by the rebels and brought to my and Kahmel’s private library, if they had the resources and time to do it for me.
I looked at the scene and nodded to myself, satisfied that it looked like a believable break-in. Finally, to really sell the story, I swiped a few valuable-looking trinkets here and there, just to throw the scent off the rebels. The Zendaalans might figure it out eventually once they pieced together that the Shederei clan was very fond of ancient book relics as part of their decor, but the initial investigation would still point to thieves, giving the rebels a head start before suspicion was thrown their way.
“Will you be back home soon?” Kahmel asked, and I caught the way his voice softened slightly. He missed me.
As we had a mutual unspoken agreement not to speak about the status of our relationship, I didn’t want to linger on the gentle affection in his voice. The slightest change in his usually stone and level voice that reminded me that he didn’t see our marriage as just convenient.
Or at least, it was convenient for someone, but it wasn’t me.
Now that I didn’t need to be as careful, I strode out the library and tapped Jonis on the shoulder, nodding to indicate we should start leaving. I knew our movements were being captured by security cameras, but a mask covered my features, and I wore platform shoes that made me seem taller, my shirt and pants with padding that made me look heavier. I looked nothing like the current Faresha of K’sundi.
“I should be back within the hour,” I estimated quickly, suddenly wanting to get out of the conversation as quickly as possible. It took me a second to realize the awkward silence that followed must have been Kahmel saying something to someone else. And not because he was about to break the unspoken rule.
Of course, there was no reason to believe he would. It had been months since our interaction with the Dragon King, Aithel, and he’d never broken it since. A raid mission was hardly the place to discuss it, and Kahmel would never be so rash.
Still, my heart raced because of that small pause before his voice came again.
“All right. Just be careful, Jashi,” he repeated.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” I said shortly.
At the same time that Kahmel went silent, Arusi came from the other hall, giving me a thumbs up. Looked like we’d finished at around the same time. Her mouth was covered, but by the way her eyes creased, I could tell she was grinning. I gave her a thumbs up as well. Today looked like a good day for raided information.
Together, the three of us arrived at our exit—a guest bedroom with a draft coming through, wind gently swaying the curtains because of the window Arusi cut open with a glass cutter. The section she had cut away had crashed to the floor, leaving glass shards twinkling white with the moonlight.
Kneeling at the edge of the windowsill, I looked out into the desert night, at an expanse of sand. The city lights glowed in the distance. The chilly wind cut through my clothes and touched the skin around my eyes with icy fingers. Below, there appeared to be nothing more than a plummet straight down into a shrub. But a voice came into my ear. Not Kahmel’s, thankfully.
Without a second thought, I leaped straight down.
A breath later, the air beneath me split, revealing a hatch that had slid open to a stealth vehicle waiting beneath the window. Having practiced the landing, I managed not to hurt my knees or ankles like I did the first few times I practiced the jump earlier today, hopping from a wall of a similar height in a hidden part of the garden. The other operatives that came with me followed, and the hatch above us closed.
We were in a vehicle built like a small spaceship. It was round, with room for at least ten people to stand around comfortably. The driver had a seat in the front. I gripped a bar that poked out from the floor in a loop and pulled it up, revealing that it was a seat, retracted into the floor to make more room for the landing.
The rebels having access to things the Faresh could slip them unnoticed was one of the reasons now was one of the best times to be a rebel. High-tech camouflage vehicles, disguises, and virus technology that disabled security systems made raids much safer for everyone involved. Which was why I allowed myself to come on such excursions. I couldn’t risk it if it were a threat to my position.
It was still a risk, but I would go stir-crazy if I just sat around having dinner for my assignments all the time.
Arusi taught me how to find and read rebel messages and mission statements. There would be some indication of a claw somewhere around the message. Whether it was drawn, a sticker, a cut off from an advertisement, or whatever. The claw would be encrypted with a message that could be read with the decryption code on my eWatch. Then I would discreetly scan the air above the claw, and the message would appear on my eWatch for me to read later. The message would destroy itself five minutes after opening it. Any rebel in the area could find the mission and report that they’d attend it.
When I read this one, I knew it was something I could take a chance on, given that there’d be all the preparations necessary for me to disguise my identity.
The two other rebels pulled up seats as the driver set us on our way back, charting the path and then turning to us.
“Great job,” Khes said as he turned around, grinning, the scar over his right eye twitching with the motion. Now that the war was over, Kahmel’s war general was able to spend more time with rebel missions like these. A good thing, because it made Kahmel feel better when I told him I went with one of his close friends. Our close friends, now.
Arusi peeled off her mask and smiled. “This place was a well of information.”
The rebel beside her nodded, taking his mask off as well, revealing a soft face and an easy-going expression. I’d only met Jonis a few times, and he always smelled like bubblegum, since he always had a piece in his mouth. He wasn’t K’sundii—he was from the now-rebel country, Vahdel, but he lived in hiding with the rebels here. His hair was wavier than the tight coils of the K’sundii, a brown that tinged with bluish light from the control panels surrounding him.
He sat in his seat with his legs crossed, a lopsided grin spread across his face. He admired a jeweled necklace he must have swiped to help with the burglary set-up as he made crunching sounds with the gum in his mouth. “A well of other things, too.”
I chuckled. The burglary angle was necessary to throw the scent, but I didn’t feel sorry for the owners. The Shederei clan was one that was always complaining about something Kahmel did and was one of the groups pushing for the Court to eradicate him.
Arusi shook her head and shoved Jonis playfully. “That’s not what we were here for.”
He laughed and pretended to be shaken from a stupor. “Oh, right, right. Information.”
Khes chuckled with them. “That’s right, Jonis. Reduce the resistance to common theft.”
Jonis put the necklace away. “I’m just kidding. But still, it’s entertaining to see these greedy people squeal like pigs when you take their precious things.”
That was true. Whenever raids happened, the best part was hearing the rumors about it afterward. All the wrong guesses and people sounding like it was their very life taken away from them rather than small treasures that were insured to the teeth.
One other rebel had come to this mission, assisting Khes with keeping an eye on the area while we went in. He was Jonis’ brother, Michan. He nodded out the window.
“Just in time, too.”
I stood up to look with him and watched as the couple came home. I thought they’d taken their car, but I was mistaken — they took their dragon. It landed on the driveway with robotic stiffness, following the commands of the man guiding it with a holographic control panel. It was odd how a sight I’d gotten used to seeing all my life from rich people like seeing them own exotic cars now turned my stomach. It was like seeing with new eyes, and what everyone saw as a machine was now a tortured creature in agony to me. This was what the K’sundii reduced the dragons to because of their folly. This was our fault.
But we were making it right now. We would figure out how to save them, us in the rebellion. And we would make the rest of K’sundi see reason, too.
We had to.
And now, the cover for Rising. As always, be sure to support your indie authors as best you can! Add their books to your TBR list on Goodreads, write reviews when you like them. Rising can be found on goodreads here:
When a pre-order link is available, you’ll be sure to hear about it first here, so keep your eyes peeled!
Celeste Harte is an African-American writer living in Spain. She loves reading and writing sci-fi and fantasy, and is obsessed with all things mermaids and dragons.
When she’s not building worlds and getting lost in her own fantasies, she’s probably dancing to random music or watching (yet another) Korean drama. In addition to her native language, she speaks Spanish and Catalan almost fluently, some French, and would love to learn Korean.
Author, and the brains behind Glittering Fox Reads, you can find Celeste on social media here: