Conversation begins with Shirisae, the flame-haired Phoenix Elf, heiress to the role of Priestess of the Flame in the west, and adopted daughter of the Empire in the east. She's one of the Barbarian Generals of Ji, the Bearer of the Storm Blade, the perceived mortal likeness of the goddess Shi Tan, and the wife of the famed Imperial Tactician and presumed ascendant Xu Liang.
I start with her, because she's starring on the cover of Celestial Empire Book 5 (and this post doubles as a cover reveal). Four of her fellow bearers preceded her, which leaves just one remaining for Book 6. The reason she was made the star of the fifth cover was to satisfy the order in which the bearers were either met or acquired their respective blades in the stories. The Empress was first (having acquired the Sun Blade by inheritance), Xu Liang followed as the one charged by the Empress' father to bring all of the Swords together, and it was he who then met Alere, Tristus, and Shirisae. Guang Ci was already on duty as a guard, but he was the last to actually acquire a blade and all that accompanied.
*Some of the following information may be considered spoiler material for those who have not read the previous books.
So, by Book 5 we have the Bearer of the Storm Blade, and two dragons at war. As with all of the titles, it makes a literal reference, but also alludes to several other themes, situations, or characters experienced throughout the series. The literal refers to the kingdoms of Ji and Du, each represented by a dragon, who are by now at war with each other. The previous era of suggested revolt and the occasional skirmish over political differences has come to an end.
This puts Shirisae, who's on the side of Ji (the Imperial seat of power), at odds against what's technically her married-in family. Since this is a scramble for ascendancy, there are heirs at stake on both sides, including her own child (the existence of said child is an announcement of potential, not of fact).
Shirisae has been struggling with the options on her future for some time. At first, a child seemed an ultimate qualifier in her naive ideas on her rise to the role of High Priestess at home, but she'd been very misdirected on where and when (and with whom) such a child would come. She only knew that it had been prophesied, and would happen. Once she knew where and with whom that child would likely come from, she became quite nervous about it, as it would involve a transfer of power that essentially renders the father obsolete. While the Phoenix Elves are not necessarily a black widow matriarchy, it can certainly feel that way for the next heiress in line when her time to partner comes about.
At this point, Shirisae is faced with conflicted obligations to her homeland and to her adopted land; to her blood relations and to her husband. A daughter would, by rights, be in line to one day become the next Priestess of the Flame and, upon having her, it would be Shirisae's obligation to return home and assume that role from her own mother. A son would potentially have swiftly recognized blood claim to the throne of Sheng Fan, if her husband takes power. Regardless, she has supported Xu Liang for years at this stage, and cannot bring herself to leave before his vision of safety and peace for the Empire is realized (if she can bring herself to leave at all--it depends on circumstances that would be revealing too much to talk about right now).
Behind the politics, there's the rise of the mortal dragons of Dryth, who actively take part in the warring, and who have their own ideas on ascendancy. Their presence is both boon and curse to Xu Liang and the bearers of the Celestial Swords.
And that is where Shirisae stands as of Two Warring Dragons, Book 5 of the Celestial Empire Series (which is a subset of the greater Dryth Chronicles). There is no official release date yet. I am actively working on it, and it will very likely be available this summer. Books one through four are available now at most stores (a print version is still pending on Three Fates).
For buying options visit Raventide Books.
Cover Art by Charlie Creber