A Kiss of Fire (A Kiss of Magic #2)

A Kiss of Fire (A Kiss of Magic #2)

Jacquelyn Frank


Ariana Colla sat across from the Kiltian leader and shifted in her seat as she found him staring at her once again with steady, unnervingly dark eyes. The irises of those eyes were so dark a brown that they were almost black, almost blending in perfectly with the black oval that was his pupil. She wished then that she was Aspano, a high enough level majji that she could read his thoughts. And he was thinking some very intense thoughts. It was written all over his face. Which was odd because he had been otherwise inscrutable during these past seven days of negotiation.

But now his expression was speaking to her. Saying…something. She knew not what. She glanced over at Dendri Adiron, the Aspano majji she had seconded to monitor the thoughts and intentions of the Kiltian delegation, so they might know they were negotiating peace in good faith. But the Kiltian Jadoc, what they called their Aspano majji, was keeping Dendri from reading their leader’s thoughts in entirety. All he had been able to tell her thus far is that they were indeed honest in their desire to make peace.

And what a peace it would be. It would come at a very heavy price. The price of land. Land that would expand the Kiltian country by half. Land the Kiltians desperately needed to house their crowded people. It would mean de-homing thousands of Sarens, but it must be done. Peace must be achieved and maintained.

For the war was going badly.

Oh, at present they were winning, taking back the lands the Kiltians had occupied slowly but surely, but…but war was an expensive undertaking and the Saren coffers were empty. They could no longer afford to feed their troops. Not to mention the extraordinary loss of life on both sides.

Which put them in an untenable position of having to make peace at near any cost. The Kiltians had first wanted to double their land property, wanted to take over the Triagle Territory, a territory that bordered almost the entire length of the southern Kiltian borders. The rich, wide open farmlands would make them independent of the need for grain and produce to be imported. The Kiltian lands were in a highly mountainous region, rich in gold and gemstones, poor in land and the ability to provide food for its people. It had only two ports, one on either coast both east and west. If anything were to happen to either of those ports, the Kiltians would starve by the thousands. By the tens of thousands.

Raja Sin, the Kiltian leader sitting across from her, was to be commended on his bargaining skills; his dogged refusal to do anything but the best for his people. So they had negotiated. Only half of the Triagle Territory would be given. But that half would be enough to feed all the Kiltians independently of the ports and importing and it would allow them to finally spread out into open land.

According to Sin, his people were living in cramped quarters, generations of families in one structure. Dark and cold, these structures were all they had to keep from freezing to death in the brutal Kiltian mountain winters. That and the abundant store of coal those mountains produced.

Coal the Sarens needed.

The Kiltians would not be getting this land for free. They would pay for it with enough gold and precious stones to see the Saren coffers to overflowing. The trade for coal would resume…for it had been suspended these three autumns of war. It had been expensive to import their wood and coal from other sources off continent. This would bring much needed relief to that cost as overland trade resumed at a much cheaper price.

The Kiltians, who occupied the northern tip of the continent called Greuze, were, in Ariana’s opinion, little more than barbarians.

And Raja Sin was the most barbaric of them all.

Still, he negotiated well. She had to give him credit for that. Each country knew they had the other in a tight spot, that they had fought to a standstill, that now negotiating peace was the only way out. The Sarens did not think the Kiltians knew what dire straits they were in…otherwise the Kiltians would have simply pressed onward, waited for the Sarens to weaken, and taken what they wanted that way. Taken more than what these negotiations were giving them.

But Dendri protected the triumvirate’s minds from exposing the truth of their situation and thoughts to the Kiltian delegation.

The Saren government was run by a triumvirate of three of the most powerful majji…made powerful by way of personal power, political power and in military power. Ariana was one of that trio of leaders.

Raja Sin was a monarch. He alone controlled the fate and futures of his people. He alone had decided to declare war on the Sarens. He alone sat across from them negotiating a peace with rabid intensity. His aides…she had forgotten their names…were only there to support Raja Sin by means of personal and mental protection. They spoke very little, leaving every minute negotiated detail fully up to Sin. He consulted with them when he needed to know a certain detail, i.e. how much coal they could initially produce for the Sarens once the war was ended and other such things. But for the most part he was already well versed on the riches his country had to offer.

And the Kiltians were indeed a wealthy people. The same mountains that hindered their ability to spread out and build homes produced riches beyond what they would ever need. So Ariana and her compatriot triumvirs had sold them the land at an exorbitant price, and had negotiated an annual tithe to be paid as well. True, once the Kiltians were occupying the land they could simply refuse to pay the tithe and challenged the Sarens to try and remove them, but these were peace making negotiations and they were each extending a measure of trust to the other.

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