About the Author

Jae Waller

Books by this Author
The Call of the Rift: Crest
Excerpt

 

In the distance, a speck floated on the water, growing larger. It shifted on the left, right, left. Someone paddling a canoe upriver toward us, but the motion was weirdly off-pace.

 

“Let’s go back,” the leatherworker said. “I didn’t sign up for getting caught.”

 

“Nei, wait,” I said. “Are they in trouble?”

 

“Kaid,” Rokiud swore. “They will be if they lose to the current. There’s rapids further down.”

 

Something yanked in my gut. This felt like a test from our ancestral spirits. A brave person would help, but a responsible person would obey the rules and turn back. Maybe I hadn’t attuned yet because I didn’t know what I was. I thought of the gouge in Rokiud’s canoe, imagining the stranger’s craft hitting a boulder.

 

“Fuck the rules,” I said. “We’re going to rescue them.”

 

The leatherworker dropped his protests when Nili told him to shut up. We paddled hard and soon neared the stray boat. Its prow was uncarved and tall enough to handle ocean swells. A man slumped inside, clutching a paddle that dragged uselessly through foaming water. I grabbed at his canoe and missed. The current yanked it out of reach.

 

We’d nearly caught up again when the canoe disappeared around a bend. We rounded it too and hit rapids coursing through a ravine. Echoes roared off the rock walls. The stray canoe spun this way and that. Whitecapped waves struck its hull, rocking the man’s limp form.

 

“I’m going for it,” Rokiud yelled over the thunder of water. “Gonna need your help, Kateiko.” He yanked off his boots, dove into the river, and swam toward the stray canoe.

 

I kept paddling as I dropped my mind into the current, struggling to restrain it. Nili tossed Rokiud a rope. He looped it around the stray canoe’s prow. She hauled it in while the leatherworker kept them afloat, but rapids kept pulling the crafts in opposite directions. I called on as much water as I could, sweat running into my eyes, and guided all three canoes forward until the ravine widened to reedy banks.

 

Nili and the leatherworker tumbled ashore and pulled in the stray canoe. With a last surge of strength, I ran Rokiud’s canoe aground. The boys lifted the stranger and eased him onto the mud. He sagged, breathing shallowly, gripping his paddle like it was fused to his hands. One leg of his breeches was rolled up, exposing a sticky poultice over a crusted wound. I choked at the stench of infection.

 

Rokiud drew his fish knife and sliced open the man’s sleeve. Underneath was a kinaru tattoo. The man was Rin like us, yet I’d never seen his face. Neither had my friends, judging by their confused looks. I reached for his sleeve to tear it further and check his family crest.

 

“Stand back,” a voice commanded.

 

I whirled. Fendul stood on the riverbank. Birds landed around him and shifted to their human forms — an owl and falcon to Rin warriors, a black-billed swan to my dark-haired, tattooed mother. Rokiud and I backed up, hands raised.

 

My mother drew forward as if she was in a dream. She dropped to her knees and stroked the man’s hair. My eyes widened. No one in our confederacy would do that to a stranger. Touching someone’s hair was an intimate act saved for blood relatives and loved ones.

 

“Yotolein?” she breathed.

 

Before I could find words, Nili bent over the man’s canoe, pulled back a tarp, and yelped. Huddled in a pool of river water were two shaking children.

 

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The Call of the Rift: Veil
Excerpt

 

“Ai. Look out.” I nodded ahead.

 

A pair of rotting masts jutted up from the water’s surface. We steered around them, gliding over the shipwreck. Taut ropes still snapped in the current. Greenish-white sails billowed underwater. I couldn’t see deeper than the upper rigging, but when we’d passed it before, Ilani had swum down and found corpses and Sverba’s pale blue flag. I tapped two fingers to my forehead in salute.

 

Last winter, Suriel had sunk half the ships on this inlet in a windstorm. Rutnaast, the only major port between Ingdanrad and Toel Ginu, had fallen to a Corvittai attack the next day. Sea traffic had abandoned these waters after that, along with many of the area’s survivors. We’d seen just three intact ships our whole trip – a galleon carrying plows and harrows forged in Ingdanrad, a heron-prowed canoe from a southern jouyen, and a cod trawler.

 

Ilani stared into the cloudy water. “Think Wotelem would let me swim down again? There’s stuff to salvage.”

 

Esiad snorted. “Whatcha gonna do, porpoise girl? Haul crates up with your flippers?”

 

“Hush,” Dunehein said. “Mereku’s back.”

 

An osprey streaked across the grey sky. The bird dove and struck the ocean with a plume of water. A tanned woman broke the surface, flipping black hair out of her face. Mereku hauled herself into a canoe. “Ship coming,” she called.

 

The foremost canoe spun and looped back. We maneuvered together, holding each other’s boats so we didn’t drift apart. Wotelem, the Okoreni-Iyo and second-in-command of their jouyen, wound up next to me. Esiad dried Mereku’s clothes with a few waves of his hand.

 

“Armed and moving fast,” she said, shivering. “Shot crossbow bolts at me when I flew too close. Their shields have Suriel’s kinaru sigil.”

 

Dunehein swore. “Corvittai. Guess we only killed their army, not their navy.”

 

Esiad squinted back east. “They’re not here by accident. Someone in Ingdanrad must’ve sold us out. They don’t want us passing on what we’ve discovered.”

 

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