Title: Songbird by Colleen Helme
Genre: Romance Fantasy
As the ambassador from Braemar, Bran is sent on a diplomatic mission to the Old Country to establish trade relations. But the real reason for his mission is to uncover the secrets of a potent elixir that can give magic to anyone who drinks it.
While there he encounters the Songbird, a beautiful, exotic woman, and the king’s most prized possession. Her song is full of magic, and he determines that her people must be connected to the deadly elixir. In exchange for her help, he is willing to risk his life to set her free. What he doesn’t expect, is to fall under her spell…
The crowd parted unexpectedly and the ambassador froze at the vision of beauty standing only ten feet away. Raven-black hair flowed around her slender shoulders, falling in feathered waves and creating a sharp contrast to her porcelain skin. She caught his gaze with startling sapphire blue eyes, and his mind went blank.
After a short silence, the king’s top advisor cleared his throat, and Bran came back to his senses. An embarrassing rush of color stained his dark complexion, and Bran cursed the fates that the king’s advisor had witnessed his reaction.
“Don’t worry,” Chancellor Turner said, noticing his discomfort. “The Songbird affects everyone that way the first time they see her. Beauty like that commands attention, and no one is immune to her exotic looks. But don’t be deceived. She is not to be trusted or taken lightly. None of the Kalorians are. Their race has a penchant to hurt and manipulate others, and must be controlled. That is why we enslave them. But don’t worry.” He smiled at Bran. “You see the collar around her neck? It’s called a kundar, and keeps them under control. Without it, we would be nothing but dirt under their feet. She could devour both your mind and your soul with one look into those fathomless eyes.”
Bran was familiar with the kundar, although he didn’t agree with the reason for its use. It was said that the Kalorians were evil because of their magic, but he wasn’t sure he believed it. If the Kalorians really did have magic, it didn’t make them bad, and tales told by power-hungry men weren’t always true. It sickened him that the king would force the suppression and slavery of another race.
The Songbird was a symbol of that enslavement. Although they softened the truth and made it sound like the taming of a wild bird, it was nothing short of bondage. She had no choices, no freedom, nothing. It was wrong, and it grated on him.
Couldn’t something positive come from a reciprocal relationship with people like her? People who had magic at their command? He drew his brows together in confusion, pretending he hadn’t been studying their culture for the last several months. “Is that it? The golden circlet around her neck?”
The chancellor turned his full attention on Bran. “The kundar is much more than a simple necklace. It causes excruciating pain if the Songbird uses too much magic. It is like the safety-catch on your weapon and, fortunately for us, she can’t remove it.” His eyes narrowed. “Neither can anyone else.” His pointed look left no question of his warning.
Bran allowed a smile. “I was merely curious. My sole purpose here is to form a liaison between our countries that I hope will be mutually beneficial.” The Chancellor nodded absently, returning his attention to the Songbird.
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