Diamondsong_02_cover_final

E.D.E. Bell (she/e) writes unique fantasy fiction that blends traditional and modern elements. She combines rich world building, magic, and fancy with philosophical themes of identity, prejudice, non-violence, compassion, personal burdens, and the bonds that connect us. A passionate vegan and enthusiastic denier of gender rules, she feels strongly about issues related to equality and compassion. She revels in garlic. She loves cats and trees.

Diamondsong - Capture 02 by E.D.E. Bell

Diamondsong is a high fantasy saga told in ten parts. For lifetimes, the Ja-lal have prevented contact with the dangerous fairies of the forest. As tensions grow, those barriers are beginning to crumble. Blending rich worldbuilding with progressive themes, Diamondsong is a tale of identity, relationships, and magic.

In Part 01: Escape, Dime has just left her career as a Ja-lal Intelligence agent, ready to roll her own dice. When, instead, she's accosted by winged invaders, some truths quickly fade—while others solidify. This unexpected tale of pursuit and discovery offers Dime the reality that her new path is not yet unencumbered, but she still has the choice how she will approach it.

In Part 02: Capture, Dime has discovered the startling truth about her history, and now she wants to know why. Determined to find and question the High Seat of the Fo-ror, Dime marches into the Heartland forest. In this fantastical tale of fairies, power, and secrets, Dime encounters an old friend, and learns that the answers she set out to seek have only complicated matters further.

CURATOR'S NOTE

E.D.E. Bell's Diamondsong is the entrance into a ten book series. I love the thoughtful world that Bell has constructed and her world has not just hope, but an innate kindness and gentleness to it that shimmers underneath the surface. It's also a book that deals with gender, exploring it in a way that is careful, considered, and nuanced. – Cat Rambo

 

REVIEWS

  • "One thing I love about E.D.E. Bell's stories is her ability to craft fascinating fantasy worlds unlike any I've encountered in other books. 5/5, would recommend."

    – J.S. Bailey, F&SF Suspense author
  • "I like that it was an easy read with thought provoking content. Looking forward to reading the rest in this series."

    – M. Weber, customer review
 

BOOK PREVIEW

Excerpt

Terms

You still doing this?" Ella asked. Behind her, the kettle started to steam.

"Delightfully rhetorical," Dime murmured, running her fingers through Friend's plump needles. Ella seemed increasingly concerned about Dime's decision to travel to Pito, but Dime was going, and she wasn't changing her mind.

This was also something she needed to do alone. Instinct told her that. Ella had offered to go with her, but Dime had reasoned it would help her more if Ella stayed back, keeping an eye on events in the city, and on Dime's family. And if anything went wrong in Pito, someone would know where Dime had gone. Ella had finally agreed.

"I'll take another cup, if you don't mind," she added, lifting her hand from Ella's evergreen companion to motion toward the stove.

As Ella poured the hot water over the brew beans, a nutty aroma filled the tower room. Dime breathed in deep, then returned to packing her things. She folded a pair of thick socks and pushed them into an inside pocket of her new backpack.

Ella was quite the tailor. Dime now had a full ensemble, with at least one extra of everything. As her usual velour had already proven not great for travel, this new set was mostly a plain, sturdy fabric, yet still dark in color. She'd have to do without the usual glass and metal accents she liked; she wanted to minimize anything that could draw attention.

Perhaps not wanting her to be too plain, Ella had worked in a few embroidered vines along the garments' edges, echoing Dime's facial tattoos. On top of that, her new jacket had about every clip and pocket Dime could ever want, and the arms actually fit right. With her petite height and plump build, her arms never fit quite right.

Dime's wardrobe was accompanied by an expertly-made pair of boots, oiled on the outside—Ella said this was for keeping out water—and cushy on the inside. She also had something called tree shoes, which Ella indicated were for use on floors above ground level. Despite her nerves at how she'd be treated there, Dime was most curious to see what a fairy tower looked like.

She was less thrilled to carry a set of small flares Ella had given her. They were similar to the emergency flares travelers carried, but Ella said she'd ground and wrapped these herself and they had a unique color to them. Apparently, she gave them to a few contacts in the city in case they needed to reach her. Dime had started to ask if they could really be seen so far away, but when Ella started to brag about their "extra snap," Dime had decided she didn't need to know.

Less alarming, Ella had even given her a complete set of wood-handled tools, travel dishes, and miscellanea that must have taken a hearty dent from her savings—in addition to a full set of climbing gear from the storage room. Ella had completely eschewed the concept of repayment, insisting the existing debt of a good draught of ferm covered it. "I don't need it," she'd add, before changing the subject.

"I think that's everything," Dime said, leaning the large backpack against the wall.

She sat back at the table, tilting her nose over the brew and enjoying the fragrant steam against her face. She was most definitely going to borrow one of those filter bags and take as many of the beans as she could reasonably carry. Her gaze wandered around the living floor, lined with small windows and colorful sketches of flowers and plants, each in a styled wood frame.

Even after only two turns here, Dime was going to miss this little tower. Nestled into the old woods with just four floors, it was spacious enough for living, but cozy compared to the massive towers of Lodon.

The ground floor held mostly storage, along with walkways to a pantry and a washroom. The second floor, where they sat now, held the cooking and living areas. Above was Ella's sleeping area, large enough to split with a guest. And above that was a small library, divided into three parts. Dime would have liked to have spent more time in the top rooms, but she sensed that Ella was protective of them and so she didn't push.

There was no more reason to delay, as Dime was feeling just about herself again. Her ankle was back to normal, and even the worst of her cuts had closed, replaced by angry little red lines to which she kept a layer of balm applied.

While Dime had rested, Ella had gone off to the city. When she'd returned, she reassured Dime that her family was well—her spouse, children, and father—and that she'd been able to deliver Dime's note to Dayn. Whom she noted to be charming, which made Dime smile.

Ella confessed that, from the little she'd seen, the situation had only worsened in the city. No more fairies had been spotted in Lodon, but Sol's Pillars had ensured the tension stayed high, keeping the incident fresh in everyone's minds. The Circles had barely maintained an overall state of calm, and Ella was worried what might happen if that balance tipped. One of the downfalls of a system predicated on obedience was the lack of safety net if that order fell.

Dime couldn't solve any of it herself; she wouldn't know where to start without more information. It was Intel she needed: knowledge, understanding, insight. So, today, she would go to Pito and learn what she could. Dime wasn't the best with big decisions; sometimes she just had to make them.

"Here," Ella said, holding out a dark, hooded cloak. By now, Dime knew to stifle her gut reaction against cloaks and hoods, which were strictly forbidden in the Ja-lal city of Lodon, where covering one's head spoke only of ill-intent. Besides, she didn't really want another lecture from Ella on the Circles' hypocrisy.

Not to say Ella was wrong. Dime was learning the hard way that the clean lines the Circles ensured everyone was taught weren't truly so clean. Hoods were forbidden to prevent pyrsi from hiding any hemsa, which denoted that a pyr had been convicted of a crime. It was a protection for all.

Yet these rules—they didn't just expose your hemsa; they exposed you. Everyone in plain sight of the Circles. A lack of public privacy for those who desired it. Also—and Dime had always said this—permanently marking pyrsi for all past crimes felt like something pyrsi should be protected from.

The same with the Violence. The Violence did not exist. It had been eradicated through the Ja-lal victory in the Great War. Ungranted touching, stealing, harm to property, these were no longer threats to the Ja-lal.

Then, if the Violence did not exist, what were the hemsa even for? For matters of distaste? It didn't make sense, once she'd considered it.

And the fairies, no one had seen them. But, Dime had seen them. Others had seen them. They weren't legendary; they lived right over the cliff. One could just go there.

All Dime's lines had started to blur, and what upset her the most was that it had taken a series of jarring events to blur them. Dime had always prided herself on reflection and thought.

She hadn't thought enough.

Doing her best to keep a calm face, Dime folded the cloak into the bag, pulling the embedded strings tight.

"If you wear it over the backpack, it might look as though you have wings," Ella said. "From a distance," she clarified.

Speaking of keeping fairies at a distance, there was a question she'd been meaning to ask. "The Light didn't give you a hemsa to keep you out of the city." Ella had told her that a previous Light, not Sala, had visited her and her Fo-ror spouse, Suzanne, ordering Suzanne to leave. When Suzanne refused—and no pyr refused the Light—he spread a story painting Ella as a hexing witch of legend, hoping at least to keep pyrsi from learning her secret.

Yet, a hemsa would have resolved the issue.

"Oh, no, hemsa aren't for secrets." Ella said with a squint. "Have you met anyone with a hemsa?" She waved off Dime's response. "No, not met them. Known them."

With the clarification added, Dime could only think of one pyr, and his hemsa was old and minor; friends had learned to overlook it. Not thinking that was Ella's intent, she shook her head.

"They can get a little reckless. Wouldn't you? If you can't fully return to society, if you're always an outcast, one starts to consider what's left to lose. They wanted to leave me with something to fear, not nothing to lose.

"Besides," Ella added a chuckle, "Suzanne wouldn't have let them. The way she told the Light to skedaddle back to his golden tower, he wasn't going to try a thing. The Light's power consists solely of that which pyrsi grant xem. Remember that."

Ella was always telling Dime to remember things, so she smiled politely. More interestingly, Dime had never heard of a hemsa being refused, whether directly or not.

Lines. So many lines.

Pyrsi like Ella and Suzanne threatened every method by which the Circles held order. They were dangerous. By dissent, not crime. By simply living outside the Circles' strict boundaries, they might show that those boundaries were subjective in the first place. Dime could imagine the Light's dilemma in hoping—gambling, really—that they would just stay away.

"The thing about hemsa," Ella continued, as she wiped off the table, "is they aren't offered the same to all. Who from the Circles have you met with hemsa-bearing family? Who from the upper class? Oh, but that's because the high class know how to behave. They are raised properly."

Dime cringed. Certainly upbringing impacted behavior, but when pre-judged by class, it sounded like a Sol's Pillars speech. She knew Ella was speaking satirically, but her words were uncomfortable to hear. "We'll see what the Seats think of my upbringing," she quipped, mostly out of unease.

Ella stopped in place, the dishcloth in her hand. Her lips tightened, and if she was going to say something, she didn't. But now she had Dime thinking. What would the Seats do? What would Dime do?

"I wish I knew what problem I was trying to solve." The words fell from her mouth, as if she'd been holding them there a while. "I'm going to Pito to find out why the Fo-ror wanted me—and why now." She left out and why someone cut off my wings as an infant, a crime whose magnitude had only been growing in her mind. "But if Sol's Pillars are rallying in Lodon, maybe the problem is in Lodon. Maybe this isn't just about me."

"Heh," Ella grunted, draping the cloth over a bar. "Being forced into the middle of something doesn't make it about you."

Sometimes Dime had a retort for Ella's comments, but that one actually struck her. Events couldn't be separated from the pyrsi who lived through them. It was about her now, even if it was about others as well. She felt like Ella would understand that.

"Ok," Dime tried again, "whatever's going on in Lodon, it's because the fairies showed up there. And the fairies showed up there, for some reason, because of me." The fact that it was Dime they'd tried to find was why she pyrsonally needed to find the High Seats and confront him. "It's all connected."

"Feels that way," Ella said with a shrug. "But you do know you're attempting to waltz in on the most powerful Fo-ror, the one who tried to capture you? I mean, I'm just checking."

Did Ella think Dime hadn't thought this through a thousand times over the past two days and nights? "Sure, I'm going to where he wanted me in the first place, but I'm going on my terms. Not his. That's different. Second, maybe he's not the most powerful Fo-ror."

"Oooh," Ella teased.

"Not me. Suzanne."

"What?" Ella's face froze, and Dime worried she'd gone too far.

"Suzanne. If it weren't for her, you wouldn't be here with the knowledge that you have. You wouldn't have found me or stopped me back at Lodon. You wouldn't have told me things I'll need to know and given me things I'll need. I don't know what I can do, but if I can do anything, it'll be because of Suzanne. Because she chose her own path."

"I need some kindling," Ella mumbled, grabbing a curved wood staff and starting down the tower's spiral staircase without another look.

Well, it was true. Ella and Suzanne, living here together, not caring that the world said they couldn't . . . it moved Dime. If they could be bold, Dime could as well.

And that included the fact that she was not a Fo-ror, or at least not just one. She didn't know what she was, but she had grown up among the Ja-lal. She knew them. She loved them. She'd married one. Her children were Ja-lal. Her life was Ja-lal. Maybe she was more than she'd realized, but no one was going to define her by what parts or abilities she had or didn't have.

Dime was defined by who she was.

Sipping her brew, Dime walked back over to Friend's window. She'd grown attached to the spiky plant, and now that she considered it, she'd never seen one similar. Friend's needles were not sharp like many in the surrounding woods, but plump, rounded at the ends. It didn't literally respond to her, but she felt an energy from it, as though it did.

A small glass contraption protruded from the soil at one end. She'd seen them in midcity shops. A bulb held extra water, so if Ella left for a while, Friend would have a few turns of wet soil.

Noticing her wrist compass as she ran her hand over the plant, she inspected the little metal needle. It had seemed to stop working when she was staying with the newts in what they called the Beds, but now it pointed sur again, at least somewhat sur. She hoped it was working. The going-away present from her Circlemates had been given to her just before this whole ordeal had begun; she felt connected to it now.

In fact, other than her utility knife and a couple other simple tools that had been in her old work jacket, the compass was one of only three things she had from her own home. Another being two small stone dice, a gift from her friend, Ador, less than a take before the fairies had burst in. And, of course, her diamond pendant.

Ella had told her diamonds were sacred to the Fo-ror, and the uncut one she possessed was of immeasurable value, not just for its size but quite literally, as the Fo-ror despised and did not use currency. Dime clutched the octagonal pendant protectively before tucking it back under her shirt. Another mystery to unravel.

She rinsed out the brew cup and set it on a drying cloth. The view through the window caught her eye, as it often did. Sol's light bounced and danced over the needled trees and hanging vines. Though part of Ja-lal lands, she wondered how many knew such a treasure existed here, at the wesside edge of Sol's Reach.

Probably very few.

Compelled to feel the fresh breeze on her face, she padded down the spiral stairs, admiring the fit of the new boots on her feet.

Pushing open the smoothly carved door, Dime stepped into the light. A breeze smelling of sap and wood and dirt tickled her nose, and squips bounced from branch to branch. Ella was walking back up the hill, her curved stick in one hand and a bundle of small kindling tucked under the opposite arm.

"Did I upset you?" Dime asked. Not always having the best read on pyrsi's reactions, she'd learned long ago that sometimes it was best to just ask.

"No. Here, look at this." Ella set the sticks next to the stone tower wall and pointed over to a tree. "Not too close."

Dime gasped. A nest was built into the crook of a large branch, each layer woven as though by expert hands. It wound over the contours of the tree, asymmetrical yet elegant in each turn. She'd never seen anything like it. Birds nested in the towers of Lodon, but only in small walkside trees, or wherever they could find a nook amongst the walls and ledges.

"Creatures are good at different things. And when you encourage those things, and otherwise let them be, they create pure beauty."

Dime didn't bother to object to the ch'pyrish parable, as if she weren't into her Gamh. She did consider that, like this nest, Ella had lived here a long time. It must be lonely, though. Dime knew better than to ask why she didn't return to the city. Maybe if Dime lived here, she wouldn't either. But, still.

"I hope that we are friends," Dime offered.

"Well, I'd hope so too. I mean, what does it take?"

The two fe'pyrsi laughed together at the edge of the old woods while the bird with the elaborate nest chattered down at them and the trees' needles shook above like a thousand little rattles in the breeze.