Kiss of Fire Blurb:
Joclyn Despain has a scar. In fact, it is almost like a brand on her skin. She doesn’t know why it appeared on her neck, but she doesn’t want anyone to see it, including her best friend Ryland, who knows everything else about her. The scar is the reason she hides herself behind baggy clothes, and won’t let the idea of kissing Ryland enter her mind, no matter how much she wants to.
The scar is the reason she is being hunted.
If only she knew that she was.
If only she had known that the cursed stone her estranged father sent for her 16th birthday would trigger a change in her. Now, she is being stalked by a tall blonde man, and is miraculously throwing her high school bully ten feet in the air.
Joclyn attempts to find some answers and the courage to follow her heart. When Ryland finds her scar; but he knows what it means, and who will kill her because of it.
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Eyes of Ember Blurb:
Joclyn is in hiding, hunted by the man she still desperately loves. Ryland is gone, his mind erased; no memory of Joclyn remains, but Joclyn’s heart desperately begs her to hold out hope. Meanwhile the black-eyed monster that possesses him attempts to kill her over and over again.
If it wasn’t for Ilyan, Joclyn would be dead by now.
Ilyan, the man who once stalked her, is now Joclyn’s protector, the only person she has left. He protects Joclyn from the men who seek to end her life, and all the while, she is haunted by dreams where Ryland begs her to break the bond between them.
Ilyan is there. Always there.
Ilyan trains and prepares her, teaching her everything she needs to know in the hope that one day she can avenge Ryland, if not protect herself from him.
And then, there is her father.
The man who has never been there is suddenly responsible for everything. And who he is has made Joclyn into something she never wanted to be:
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Scorched Treachery Blurb:
While Joclyn is trapped in the tormenting hell of Cail’s mind, the battle around her only continues to grow and spread.
Edmund has infiltrated the underground hallways of Prague, guiding the massacre that would end the lives of the last of the great magical race. In her attempts to stop him, Wynifred has been captured and her magic restrained. Chained up in the ancient dungeons of Prague, her fate is left in the hands of her father, who has tried to kill her before.
With Ryland’s screams and Sain’s fragmented sights as her only company, Wyn must rely on something that has been hidden deep inside of her for centuries to help them break free.
Ilyan’s whole life has been building up to one purpose. Protect the Silnỳ. He knows what he must do, and he has no doubt in his ability to do so.
But when his father’s magic removes Joclyn’s mind from her body, he is left protecting the shell of the one person he loves. Desperate to find a way to break her free of her prison, he makes a choice. And that one choice changes everything.
Now, Ilyan finds himself bound to Joclyn in a way that he never knew to be possible. They say that blood is thicker than water, but Black Water burns, and Ilyan’s heart may not be strong enough to keep the water pumping through his veins and give the girl he loves back into his brother’s care.
Even if he can, it may not be safe to do so.
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Reading order: Kiss of Fire (1), Eyes of Ember (2), Scorched Treachery (3)
Everyone remembers the day the sky went black. They remember the screams as the blackness ate those who were out in the open, those who surrounded themselves by light, and those who made noise.
Everyone remembers the voice from the sky, the way food disappeared.
Everyone remembers the day the sky went black, and the sun was wiped from the sky.
At least that’s what I hope. I hope that there is an ‘everyone’ that will remember.
I hope that I am not alone.
Because I remember.
I remember, because it was the day I became alone.
It was the day the house went silent, and the birds stopped singing. It was the day when everyone disappeared, everyone except the boy, the only person I have seen in two years.
The boy I talk to through the glass.
-Alexis Lyman, aged 19
It is Almost Time............
We have HOURS until Scorched Treachery releases. Hours until you have it in your amazing little hands.
And I know you are excited, and you have been so patient after I pushed back the release date that I really want to give you something, something wonderful.
The first TWO chapters of Scorched Treachery.
I don’t think it needs any more explanation than that. All works Copyright Rebecca Ethington 2013
It was the same dream. Always the same dream. I had been having it since Cail first marked my skin with the curse, the night Ilyan saved me from my father.
The dream usually featured a beautiful little girl dancing in a meadow. She danced through the tall grasses with flowers in her blonde hair. After about twenty years, I began wondering if it was some repressed memory, but I didn’t have blonde hair. My hair was dark; it always had been.
With time, it became clear that I was not the little girl. Instead, I sat and watched her with some guy sitting next to me. I would like to say the guy was handsome, but he was not Talon. No guy could hold a candle to Talon. Talon was tall and built like a football player. This man was sinewy, his coloring lighter. Besides, the mystery guy from my dreams was dressed like Henry the Eighth and there was nothing attractive about that. He looked like a peacock. It didn’t look good then, and it wouldn’t look good now. Not like anyone would dress like that now.
The dream had always started the same; I sat next to the man in my dreams as he talked, his lips moving, but no sound coming out. Then the dream would morph. The girl, the man, and I would move from the meadow to a village, then to a marble lined room, and then to the darkness. It was in the darkness that I would begin to hear sound. The only sound the dream ever had was in that room, when the little girl screamed as Edmund tortured her.
I would hear the screaming and see the man as he fought to save her, and in the back of my mind, I knew I was fighting too.
The dream was the reason I had never consented to try to have children with Talon. Not only was pregnancy a strange and uncomfortable prospect, but I was scared of what Edmund would do to a child. Everyone was. It was the same reason so few children were born. People had seen what Edmund had done to his own children. It was not worth it to risk him doing the same to their own.
Up until a few weeks ago, when we first heard the screams of the woman in the tunnels below Prague, the screams of my dream had always ended in the dark room. But, the more the woman yelled, begged and screamed, the more my dream changed. It lengthened until I watched the little girl succumb, her screams dwindling to nothing.
The screams in Prague continued, however.
We could only listen as the woman pleaded to and fought against those who attempted to make her give away Ilyan and Joclyn’s location.
No matter how hard we looked, we could never find them. Our failure to find them, combined with Ovailia’s decision to keep the information from Ilyan, led to her removal as the další v příkazu and the replacement of Talon in the ruling position. Something I was not happy about.
Now, he was gone all the time, and the screams of the woman still echoed through the halls.
So, the new ending to my dreams stayed. The screaming moving from one person to another before I would wake up and scowl at the high ceiling of our room.
Except this morning. This morning, I was rudely awoken by the blasting of Ilyan’s phone playing ‘In the Hall of the Mountain King’.
His direct line.
I rolled over and kicked Talon, my magic surging through him. He jerked as I zapped him, my not-so-nice way of waking him up, shooting him out of bed. He moved to get back into bed, grumbling at me for a moment, only to jump when the sound of the music hit his ears.
Talon’s fingers reached toward the phone as he sat down on his side of the bed. I chose to stay lying under the covers, my eyes focused on him.
Yes, it was the middle of the day where Ilyan was. Yes, he was free to call whenever he wanted. However, the fact that he would have known it was the middle of the night here, and he was calling the white phone that was a direct connection to Talon, set my nerves on fire.
Talon pressed the phone to his ear, the skin contact triggering the magic and completing the call.
“Ilyan?” Talon asked, his voice drowsy but still on edge, my mood mirrored in his clipped words.
I waited, reluctant to move, hoping for something exciting, but knowing, absolutely knowing that nothing positive was going to come out of this call.
“Princess Mudgy.” Talons voice was low, the statement making no sense to me. For all I knew it was a code word, and if it was a code word…
I watched Talon as he listened to Ilyan talk, his shoulders knitting together more and more, his body language spelling danger to me. Talon stayed silent as Ilyan spoke, his voice a mellow buzz that slipped through the air until the line went dead. Talon never said anything more after the code words, his silence only making me more nervous. He lowered the disconnected phone to his lap, his movements tense.
Talon didn’t turn to me; he didn’t say anything. He just sat with the phone in his hands, his knuckles white from clenching the small white box. I watched his broad shoulders flex, the tension never leaving, and found my own fears growing.
The silence was painful. I wanted to hear. I wanted to pry, but I knew it would not be right. I placed my hand on Talon’s back, willing him to turn and smile, but knowing it wasn’t going to happen.
“Meet you in my dreams,” Talon said tersely. Not once did he look at me as he lay down and opened his arms for me.
I was seriously on edge now. Whatever had happened was monumental enough that neither he nor Ilyan wanted anyone else to know what had happened. I laid down next to Talon and closed my eyes, letting the magic of the Tȍuha take me away to meet with him.
My mind pulled right into his, the large expanse of the Münzenberg Castle Courtyard surrounding us. Wispy projections of people walked around us as Talon’s memories fueled the Tȍuha. The castle was whole and intact as it once was centuries ago, the cobbles of the road pristine. I was never alive in this castle’s time, but this was Talon’s mind, what he envisioned our Tȍuha to be.
“Talon?” I asked as he wrapped his arms around me as we stood in the middle of the courtyard. His tense muscles strained against me as he held me, the movement not helping to ease my anxiety.
“They were attacked.” My body froze, my eyes flying open in shock. The tension that now flowed between both of us was too much to contain, and the people around us zapped into vapor, colors floating through the air as they disappeared, leaving us alone.
“Are they all right?” I asked. I didn’t want to hear the answer, I didn’t. I did not need to hear of injuries or brutal battles. I could already feel what hearing this had done to Talon.
He had reacted the same way a few years ago when Edmund’s men captured Ilyan. Talon had felt like a failure. He had been raised to guard Ilyan. It was his job, but Ilyan had dismissed him when he took me as his mate. No matter how much he tried, Talon could never move past what had been his entire life up until a hundred years ago. He still felt responsible for Ilyan, and blamed himself if anything went wrong. I knew he was doing it now, putting the words of guilt into his own head, even though there was nothing he could have done.
Ilyan was far more powerful than Talon. If Ilyan could not protect himself, then nothing could be done. Except now, there was Joclyn too, and I had no idea if she was capable of protecting herself or not.
Talon shook his head no in response to my question, and I felt my stress intensify. His muscles tensed, his arms pressed uncomfortably into me as he lifted me off the ground to his eye level. I wasn’t surprised to see the sparkling sheen in his brown eyes, the tears threatening to escape from him.
“It’s not your fault,” I said before he had a chance to let the words he was painting himself with become more of a weight against him. He nodded once and held me against him again, his hold tight as his breathing slowed. He lowered me back down to the ground, releasing me.
He pulled away, the wetness gone from his eyes, his composure back. He did not show emotions like that very often, but when he did, it was my job to build him up and always love him. I would always do that.
“Does he know who betrayed him?” I asked as Talon moved away from me and toward the large, carved stone bench we always sat in. I followed him, my bare feet slipping against the slickness of the cobbles that lined the courtyard, before sinking into the hard, unrelenting seat next to his.
“No,” Talon answered simply. His hands brought my feet onto his lap, and he began to trace the dark marks that graced my left foot, the jagged swirls matching the ones that ran along the entire left side of my body.
“He wants me to watch for signs that someone might know what happened before we announce it. It is probably our best chance at tracking whoever it is down.”
I nodded, not knowing how to respond. Everything Talon had said only re-affirmed that someone was inside of our perfectly protected shelter. Someone who should not have been able to had gotten past Ilyan’s protective shield. You had to have Ilyan’s blessing in order to get past the gate, you couldn’t even use a stutter to get inside. But, somehow, someone had managed it.
All it would take was one.
Get one of Edmund’s men inside, and then, like ants, the rest would follow. They would place themselves in dark corners and hide where no one else would go, waiting until the time was right. Then they would jump out and attack, and within moments, the last of the Skȓíteks would be gone. I had seen it happen before. There was a reason there were so few of the Skȓíteks left. It was probably the sole reason I still was not fully accepted in these halls. I had marched against them once upon a time.
I shuddered at the thought, for once actually wishing I wasn’t so morbid.
“Are you okay?” Talon asked, his voice worried.
I ripped my eyes away from the blob of mud on the cobblestone path that I had been unwittingly staring at to smile at him, my smile more like a grimace. It seemed somewhat fitting, so I didn’t try to fix it.
“Who do you think it is?” I asked, avoiding his question and moving to snuggle into him. He welcomed me into him, his arms wrapping around me as he held me tightly against him.
“I don’t know, Wynny.”
I didn’t know what else to say. I didn’t know how to phrase what I was feeling. I wished we could find the traitor, and fast. I wished I could tear their arms from their sockets and torture any of my kind they had let into the halls of Prague. It was my sanctuary now too, my home after my father had exiled me and my brother had tried to kill me. I felt my magic increase in eagerness beneath my skin, my heart thumping erratically in either excitement or fear; I wasn’t quite sure which.
“I will keep you safe, Wynifred.”
I froze, my breathing caught in my chest, my heart lost between beats. Usually, I would have screamed at him and clocked him upside the face for insinuating that I couldn’t take care of myself, I didn’t need him to protect me. But, I heard what he said between the lines; I heard how much he cared, and so, my frantic heartbeat continued. I listened to the sound of my full name on his lips, the promise of my safety heavy on the air.
“You promise?” I asked, not needing to hear the answer. I asked because I knew that he needed to know that I had heard him, that I had understood.
“I will protect you above all else.”
“Even Ilyan?” I asked, unable to help the question and the accompanying laugh from seeping out of my lips.
“Even Ilyan. I took a vow to protect him the day he was born, but that vow was broken the day I sealed myself to you. It is the vow I made with you that is the most important bond to me. I will honor and protect that before all else.” His voice was serious, his tone so true and honest. I felt it melt into me, and our magic surged with the feeling of love.
As our magic intertwined and seeped into our souls, everything inside of me caught fire. I felt a dulled version of this connection outside the Tȍuha, but here, inside the Tȍuha, everything was heightened. It was a feeling we could only get here.
I was not sure how long we spent in the shadow of the castle, but before either of us was ready, we were pulled away, only to find ourselves in each other’s arms in the flesh, the door already being banged off its hinges. I sighed as Talon left me, his další v příkazu responsibilities already in full force, just as I assumed they would be.
He was gone most of the day, leaving me alone to attempt to clean the huge mess I had made when I had attempted to make dinner the night before, something I never do.
Talk about a nightmare. I had cut my finger off when trying to chop carrots. Yes, off. Luckily, I was magical, or I would have forever been walking around reverse flipping people off. As it was, I just reattached it. But, after the soup became inedible and more solid than it should have been, and I had burned the Galder – I remembered why I never heated food. It was better cold anyway.
The whole experience was a great reminder as to why I hated human food. It’s gross, and the texture is so off. I don’t know how or why, but humans can take a simple tomato and turn it into a slime-covered bit of goo. I mean, just leave it alone. Don’t touch it. Just put it in your mouth and eat it.
Humans eat weird food.
After I had cleaned the house, it became quickly evident that I needed to wash the lace tablecloth. After the finger-loss induced bloodletting, it was clearly required. Unfortunately, the dratted thing was bearing the label ‘hand wash only’.
Hand wash only!
Whoever had created such stupid fabric needed to be shown a washing machine. There was a reason that washing machines were created, and that was so hand wash only items need no longer exist. But some fool decided to make an un-natural fabric that needed to be hand washed only. Then another silly fool (ah-hem, Talon) decided to buy a bright white tablecloth for his lovely wife (that would be me) made out of said abhorrence of natural fabric.
I took the tablecloth down to the old guards’ chamber, the closest place that the freezing cold water of the underground spring ran. The dark grey stone of the cavern was jagged, unlike the rest of the tunnels we called home. The roughly hewn walls arched high above my head, the only light source a small collection of magical orbs that floated and bobbed amongst the shallow cavities of the stone ceiling. The green light that blossomed from above gave the room a dark glow that cast hundreds of eerie shadows around me.
The underground spring ran through the lowest level of the tunnels below Prague, well the lowest level that anyone dared to go to anyway.
This room and the ancient dungeon below were old relics of when Edmund had first declared war on all magic. In the beginning, the dungeons were used to house traitors, and Edmund’s men that Ilyan had captured but refused to kill. There had been at least ten of the Skȓítek army in here at any time, guarding the prisoners in the rooms below.
That is what the Skȓíteks were after all, an army. An army with the sole purpose of guarding the wells that sat in the lowest points of these caves.
The wells of Imdalind, the center of magic.
Ilyan and Edmund were the last ones alive who knew the way through the labyrinth of tunnels that led down to the muddy wells. Which is why it was so scary that someone could be letting Edmund’s people in here. If Edmund got in, he could stroll right down to the source of pure magic as if he were walking into a Denny’s.
Now, however, the dungeons were bare, the rooms below and the guard chamber I now stood in only a reminder of how the war had started and how many magical beings there had once been.
Putting the tablecloth into the water, I scrubbed the fabric before letting the majority of it trail away with the flow of the water. I held onto the corner, letting the white lace swirl through the freezing water. In only a few minutes, my hands had become a lovely red color, although I couldn’t feel the burning tingle of the cold. If my skin was threatening hypothermia, I had no idea.
Everything inside me had heated when my skin touched the stone of the floor I kneeled on. I had always reacted to the stone of these caves this way. It was as if my magic sensed the deep magic of the world that was hidden somewhere far below me and grew in response. As far as I knew, I was the only one who did that, but there weren’t many Trpaslíks around to ask. It could be perfectly normal, and I would never know. Besides, it definitely had its benefits. My personal explosion factor increased by ten when my skin was in contact with the stone. Not like there were many things to explode around here, but it was still cool.
I jumped – like, full on jumped – at the disembodied voice that bounced into the air around me. The high-pitched scream shot through my body with electricity that perked every hair on my arms to full attention, my heart rate jumping with the speed of a twenty thousand volt reaction.
The woman was back, which meant that whoever was torturing her was back too. They were close, close enough to find me. Close enough for me to find them. I didn’t know why my heart was thumping so wildly. It was either the fear of discovery or excitement for the battle. I narrowed my eyes as my muscles tensed, definitely excitement. I dropped the wet wad of lace down to the stone floor and perked my ears toward where I could only assume the voice was coming from.
I took a step forward without thinking, my nerves on high alert, eager to attack. If only I could find her, I could end all this.
“I…I…w-won’t t-tell you!”
My head spun, the voice seemed to have moved from one area of the cave to another. This time, the voice echoed down a darkened hallway that led toward the dungeon. I looked at the dark cavern, my nerves mingling with fear. No way was I going down there alone. No way. For all I knew, that was exactly what they wanted. Last thing I needed was to run into someone in the dark and then accidentally collapse the cave with my magic. Yep, that would be just my luck.
Why did this voice, this woman, only seem to appear when everyone else was busy? It didn’t make sense. I needed to get Talon; we needed to find her.
“L-leave me a…alone,” her voice broke and stuttered as she once again begged for her life.
The timber of her voice was so close to that of the little girl that haunted my dreams that my heart tensed in a reflex reaction, the contents in my stomach spinning uncomfortably.
I made sure the tablecloth was out of the water and went to take off toward the sparring hall where the pull of Talon’s magic told me he would be, but my wet Chuck Taylors squeaked on the stone on the first step. I froze, waiting to see if the noise would alert whoever was down there to my presence, but the crying remained. The last thing I needed was to scare her off before I could get Talon, and we could investigate.
I began walking again, moving slowly this time until the volume of the crying had lessened enough that I figured I was out of earshot, allowing me to take off on a dead run toward the training hall.
The sounds of battle hit my ears before anything else, the grunts and explosions mixed with laughter as everyone enjoyed the spectacles of combat.
I barreled into the large hall and wove my way through the small groups of sparring Skȓíteks, each group covered by the shimmering orb of a shield. I worked my way through them, looking like a fool when I jumped at an explosion that rocked against a barrier near my head.
I smiled at the two Skȓíteks enclosed in the fighting space and made my way toward Talon.
“Hi, baby,” Talon said softly when I ran up beside him. His face dropped at the look in my eyes and the transmission of my panic that I am sure he felt through our bond.
“I heard her again. I think she is in the old dungeons.”
Talon said nothing more before dragging me behind him out of the training hall and toward the underground spring.
His feet moved quickly, his gait and cumbersome shape unable to be quiet as we bounded through one dark tunnel and another before arriving in the same large cavern I had just left, the dark entryway to the dungeons staring at us hauntingly.
“Are you sure you heard the voice from down there?” Talon asked, his voice shaking, as he looked wide-eyed into the abyss in front of us.
I could only nod. Talon was scared, that alone was enough to freak me out. I had never been down there, but Talon had, hundreds of times I was sure. The place was probably full of more haunted memories than crazy, flesh stripped skeletons. Although, I was sure there was a few of those too, there always were in dungeons.
“You’re sure?” Talon asked again, and I felt my confidence waiver.
“Of course I am not sure, Talon. Her voice echoes around like an Olympic game of Ping-Pong. She could have been a mermaid in the water for all I know.”
“Don’t be silly,” Talon said, his voice still shaking, although less than before. “Mermaids don’t exist.”
Talon took a step away from me, toward the cavern, and I could feel his magic surge as he put on a small shield. Dude, he wasn’t thinking about going in there, was he?
“Talon?” I asked from behind him, my voice catching at the petrified anger on his face. “Baby, let’s go. We can’t hear her anymore; she’s gone.”
I pulled on him, but he didn’t move. I waited, but he didn’t respond. His eyes stayed glued to the dark opening as if they had been sewn there. It was creepy watching him stare at something so intently. My heart rate began to accelerate to match Talon’s, the quick pick up triggering a warning inside of me. I didn’t know how much I could take, my heart was beating too fast, and even I was starting to feel some creepy vibe from whatever was down there.
“Talon?” My voice was weak with the heavy vibe of fear that Talon’s stare had given me.
I couldn’t do it. Like a wet dog, I shook off the anxiety that was trying to take hold of me and grabbed the sopping tablecloth from where it still lay on the stone floor by our feet. In one smooth movement, I threw it over Talon’s head, the wet fabric covering him with a loud smack.
It did the trick. He howled and pulled the cold thing off him.
“Let’s go, Talon,” I said, before he could get angry with me.
His jaw hung heavily for a moment before his brain clicked back into place, reminding him of what had happened before I hit him with a wet tablecloth. That was the problem with being married to such a big guy; sometimes their brains moved a bit too slowly.
Talon nodded and put the tablecloth in the basket, only to freeze at the sight of something over my shoulder.
“What are you two doing here?” Ovailia spat with as much icy venom as she possibly could. I whipped around to see her standing before us, her feet moving back and forth as if she was walking in place, her long arms folded over her slender torso. I instantly moved back into Talon, content to let him take the lead and thankful when he squared his shoulders defiantly against her.
I guess that was the one good thing about growing up with Ovailia; he was used to her. When you can think of someone as a tantrum-throwing toddler with a stinky diaper, their fits as an adult don’t truly bother you.
“That is no longer your concern, Ovailia,” Talon said simply, his voice making it clear he didn’t feel the need to elaborate.
“What?” Ovailia said, her voice airy with surprise. Why she was surprised, I had no idea. I had always assumed it would take pigs standing and walking on their hind legs to surprise her.
“I do not need to remind you of Ilyan’s proclamation regarding who is acting in his stead, do I?” Talon wrapped his arm around me, pressing my shoulder into him.
“No, I remember quite well,” she said snottily, the airy confusion in her voice gone now.
I stared at Ovailia intently, the nerves in my spine jumping sporadically. Something about the way Ovailia shifted her feet was freaking me out. Her whole body was screaming, liar! Run! I couldn’t tear my eyes from the icy blue of hers and the way her lips curled in warning.
“Speaking of Ilyan,” Ovailia asked, her voice hesitant, “how is my dear brother?”
“Wonderful,” Talon said, his voice pinched.
Ovailia smiled but said nothing. Talon began to lead me out of the large room, the basket perched on his hip.
“Oh and Wynifred,” Ovailia sneered the moment we had passed her, “I wouldn’t go poking around in corners if I were you.”
“Is that a threat?” I hissed, my body pulling away from Talon as my magic surged angrily.
I wanted to lunge at her, but let Talon’s strong arm around my waist serve as a warning. I let him drag me out of the roughly carved chamber and into the smooth stone halls that would take us to our room. I didn’t feel comfortable just leaving her there, but something in Talon’s body language begged me to.
I complied, choosing instead to stick my tongue out at the stone wall that stood between us.
Yes, sometimes I was just that childish.
I wanted to curl up in a ball and go to sleep, but I couldn’t. Joclyn still hadn’t called.
It was probably foolish of me to expect her to, but I considered her my best friend. I knew she thought the same, and besides, she had called me about everything else. They had been attacked. I didn’t even know where they were. It was getting hard to ignore that angsty, creepy crawly feeling that was working its way up my spine. She should call. Maybe I should call.
I could call, but the way Ilyan was so hush hush about everything, made me question if I should. I was not sure I was allowed. Hell, I was sure I wasn’t allowed.
So, I waited. I curled up in the blankets like a guinea pig and waited until sleep took me, the blonde girl and the Henry the Eighth wanna-be occupying my thoughts almost immediately. I watched the girl dance and the man laugh as he chased her.
He had never laughed before. He had never talked. I had seen his mouth move every night that I slept, but no sound had ever escaped.
It was a dream and I shouldn’t have cared. But even in the dream, I was acutely aware.
The image jumped and bobbed as I watched, the girl flashing from one side of the field to another, the man doing the same before he ended up right beside me.
“We should go,” he said, his voice conspiratorially low.
I would have jumped at the sound of his voice had I been in control of my body. But I wasn’t in control, and I could do nothing. My voice spoke on its own. The dream me smiled and felt joy, while inside, I only felt more and more panic.
“Go where?” I said. At least I thought it was me. It came from me and sounded a bit like me, although the voice was different, more mellow, adult, not the electric youthful tones I had now.
“Away,” he said as he turned to look at me, his blue eyes smiling. I tried to scream and push him away, but I didn’t have control over my arms. My body didn’t move. I could feel my lips smile, even though I didn’t want them to. I could hear my mind think about his eyes, the eyes of his father, royal blue.
It was my thought. I felt it form inside of me, but it wasn’t mine. It wasn’t true. How could it be? How could I know, how did I know?
“We can’t get away,” that wretched voice spilled out from me again, even though I still fought to control the body.
“We can run,” he said, his voice desperate.
I felt myself screaming, but the body I was trapped in didn’t follow suit. Instead, the body smiled and touched his face. I screamed until my eyes flashed open, the silence of our dark room filling the air in the wake of my nightmare.
I wasn’t sure what had woken me. Not the dream, surely? I always slept through those. But then, the man had never spoken to me before.
I lay still, my mind pushing away the images of the dream while still trying to recall pieces of it. Why would I want to recall that? It was a dream, and I was not a Drak. My dreams had no meaning.
“I understand.” I jumped as the voice came out of the dark. Even though I recognized it as Talon’s right away, I had not expected to hear it or the stress that lined the words behind it.
“Only a week? Is it that unsafe?”
I could tell Talon was trying to be quiet. The light from the phone lit up his face, making the deep stress lines look even darker. My heart clunked as his stress leached through our connection and into me.
So that was what had woken me.
“What about Ovailia? She has been asking questions…”
Talon’s voice cut off as Ilyan interrupted him, his head bobbing in agreement with something Ilyan said. I pulled the blankets up around me as I watched him, fighting the temptation to go back to sleep. I wanted more information.
Only a minute later he lowered the phone. The light from the screen went out leaving us alone in the brightening yellow shades of dawn that seeped in through the vent in the ceiling of our cave.
“Is everything okay?” I asked, my voice startling him.
“I didn’t know you were awake,” Talon said as he moved over to me, his weight indenting the bed enough to make me roll toward him.
“Yeah, someone’s stress woke me up.”
“Not mine surely?” he smiled as he moved to sit next to me, his arms draping over me as if he was locking me in place.
He looked down at me, and my stomach twisted. I knew what the fire behind his eyes meant, what the deep surge of magic I felt tumble through me was leading up to. I smiled back at him, arching my back as I lifted my face to meet his, my lips pressing deeply against his.
My magic surged violently at the intimate connection, our magic rejoicing as it met its mate and curled around each other.
Talon lowered himself onto me, his body heavy against mine. I sighed as his hand moved up my arm to cup my face. His tongue dragged against my bottom lip before he left my lips and peppered deep, longing kisses along my jawbone and neck.
I couldn’t help the moan that escaped my lips. I couldn’t understand where this was coming from, especially with the stress that had lined his voice only a moment ago, but I wasn’t going to complain. I was enjoying this far too much.
Talon kissed my neck once more before he stilled against me, his breathing deep and ragged. I closed my eyes and savored the way our contact moved through my body, the way every nerve ending felt illuminated. I could have stayed like that for hours, but I could still feel Talon’s erratic heartbeat, and I knew he needed more from me.
“Are you okay?” I asked again, changing the question to get the answer I really wanted.
Talon shifted his weight, moving back to sit at the edge of the bed, his hand moving to cup my face. I looked at him, wishing he would answer, not even knowing if he could. His dark eyes glistened as more light filtered into our room, the sparks of dawn igniting around us.
“I think I know who the crying voice belongs to,” Talon said, his bold statement making my arms and legs feel like lead. I hadn’t expected that. I sat up and leaned closer to him, my heart thumping, desperate for more information.
“Who?” I asked, my voice only a whisper, the sound swallowed by my jumpy nerves. I could feel my magic skitter around inside of my skin, ready for a fight.
“All day yesterday, only one person asked me about Ilyan’s welfare – several times, each more desperate. It was very unlike her to care…”
“No!” I gasped. His statement combined with what he had said on the phone a moment ago putting the name in my head. “Not Ovailia! I mean, she’s wicked, yeah, but she wouldn’t betray him, not again.”
“What would stop her from doing it again?” Talon asked softly. I held my tongue. He had a point. Ovailia’s personality was not one that lent itself to loyalty; she would go where the chips lay thickest.
“Besides, the crying we keep hearing, it is like she is fighting against the bind Ilyan placed over everyone to keep his location secret.”
I could only stare and nod. He had a point. Ilyan had placed that little touch of magic inside of everyone when he first went on the run, hundreds of years ago. I shouldn’t be surprised it was still around and strong enough to keep Ovailia’s tongue at bay.
“I’m going to go talk to her,” Talon said, his voice making it sound as if he was walking into a death camp, not simply speaking with Ovailia. I didn’t want to face Ovailia, not in the slightest, but I couldn’t let him face her alone. This confrontation would not be pretty.
“Let’s go,” I said, trying to ignore the foreboding pulse of my nerves.
I jumped out of bed and took the two quick steps to my dresser. I didn’t even look as I grabbed random items of clothing in my rush to leave: Styx shirt, red skinny jeans, black converse.
Talon, now dressed himself, nodded once before moving toward the door, my converse squeaking as I followed him.
Everything was tense inside of me. My muscles and magic were tight against my skin, just waiting for Ovailia to pop around a corner and attack us. Talon walked in front of me, his hulking form leading the way, his fists clenched to his sides. I wanted to reach out and hold his hand, but he did not need that kind of comfort.
We had just passed the orchard when a loud robotic song began to play from the pocket of my jeans. I pulled the phone out to find Ilyan’s name lit up. On the screen was a picture of him and Talon from when they dressed up in some medieval armor they had found in a storage room.
Now? She would call right now?
I stared at the picture, a heavy need to talk to her temporarily clouding the fear of where Talon and I had been heading.
“You should answer that.”
“But, Talon,” I began, my voice laced with a whine.
“Stay here. Talk to Jos. She needs you.” I could only nod. I wanted to say that he needed me too, but I couldn’t. He was right. I wasn’t very happy.
Talon ignored my surliness and leaned down to kiss me, a soft peck on my lips his sweet goodbye.
“You will be back, right?” I asked trying to put a laugh on my lips, but the way he had spoken was making me uncomfortable.
“I was raised to protect my people, my King, and now my wife. I will return, Wyn, don’t worry.” He smiled before he left, his eyes shining with his promise.
I smiled at him as he left, before turning back toward our room, pressing the phone to my ear.
“Jos!” I yelled into the phone as I made my way back down the hall. “Oh please tell me you are okay! I’ve been so worried since Talon told me what happened. Then you didn’t call me at all yesterday.” I really wanted to yell at her, berate her for not calling me sooner, but I was so happy she was calling in the first place that a little berating could wait until later.
“I knew I should have gone with you!” I continued when she said nothing. It’s not as if I gave her a chance, which is probably why she cut me off. “This never would have happened if I had…”
“It would have happened either way, Wyn,” she interrupted, our voices overlapping a bit. “If you were here, you would have gotten hurt too.”
“Too?” I practically screeched. “You got hurt?”
“Nothing a little magic can’t fix.” I breathed out like I had been holding my breath my entire life, my exhale loud and obnoxious.
“I can still come out if you want. An extra pair of hands doesn’t hurt,” I said as I moved into an old, empty bedroom, fully aware I was practically begging.
“No!” I jumped as she screamed in my ear, her panic taking me off guard. “Stay where you are. You’ll only get hurt if you get too close to me.”
What was that about? She was talking about herself as if she were a curse. I would have rolled my eyes and laughed at her, but I could hear the stress and the nerves in the undertones of her voice. Something had happened, something more than just being attacked.
“Joclyn?” I asked, my worry guiding my voice forward whether I wanted it to or not. “What are you saying? I’m not going to get hurt.”
“I don’t want to risk anything. People seem to get hurt around me.”
I heard her sigh, and my heart broke just a little for her. Even though I felt like we were close, she had never genuinely opened up to me. I wanted her to do so now. I needed her to, for her sake.
“Is Ilyan okay?”
“He’s fine,” her voice was dead, belligerent, and lonely… So lonely.
What had happened? The last time I had talked to her, she and Ilyan had almost been buddy-buddy. Joclyn got away with more around him than even Talon. I had never known anyone to yell at him to put on a shirt and stop leaving hair in the shower only for him to laugh. Maybe that is what she had needed, a friend. If Ilyan had been one for her before the attack, the stress of the situation must have zapped that out of him.
“Are you sure you don’t want me to come out?” I asked again, careful to let just enough cheer into my voice, hoping to zap her buzz-kill attitude.
“I’m sure, but can you do something for me?”
“Sure! What’s up?” I responded playfully, I would have jumped off a bridge at her request right then (but only because I can fly). I was ready for whatever she was going to lay on me. What she actually laid down on me though was surprising.
“Sing me a Styx song.” I laughed aloud. I couldn’t help it. Joclyn not only liked crappy music like Katy Perry, she also never listened to music for the joy of it. I would have liked to believe I had magically converted her to good music (aka 70s music), but I doubted that was the case.
“You’re a dork,” I managed to squeak out through a laugh.
“I can’t help it. You’ve got me addicted,” She pleaded. Nope, sorry, babe, I still don’t believe you.
“Addicted to Styx?” I asked.
Fine, prove it.
“Alright then, when was their first album released?” If the girl was going to lie to me, she needed a test, okay a trial by fire, but whatever.
I laughed so hard I might have broken the phone’s mouthpiece. 1840 really? I guess when she lies she goes for the blatantly obvious ‘I’m a funny moron’ lies.
“Liar.” I taunted once my laughter had died down.
“Come on, Wyn; just sing me one of their stupid songs.” No way had she said that. No freakin’ way. This girl deserved a full on beating. I stood before I was aware of it, my feet pacing me around the room in my agitation.
“I thought you said you liked them?” I snapped, unable to keep my own irrational response at bay.
It took me a moment to realize that her voice had jumped back to the distraught tone she had started with. She was stressed, alone, scared and had just been attacked, presumably by Ryland. God, Ryland had attacked her, and I hadn’t even asked her about it. I felt like the world’s bottom of the bar worst friend right now. I didn’t know how to make up for that. Well, yes I did. I didn’t ask. I didn’t apologize. I just sang her a Styx song. It was not my favorite of their songs, but it was a good one, and one I hoped would help her. After all, the lyrics were far and away awesome.
“…Free to face the life that’s ahead of me.”
I was about halfway through the song when I noticed it; Talon’s magic was gone. The pull that told me where he was only a moment ago had vanished. It wasn’t gone like when he shielded himself because even then I could feel something that would lead me in his general direction; this was just gone. I froze; everything inside me turned icy with dread.
The words of the song faded as my focus left it, my fear growing. “And, I’ll try, oh lord I’ll try. To carry on.”
“Thanks, Wyn.” I barely heard her.
“No problem, are you okay?” I said automatically, my mind and magic both distracted and searching for Talon. I was barely able to get the words out, barely able to focus on her.
“I’m better now.”
“Good,” I said a little too stiffly, “I’ve gotta go find my husband now, okay? I’ll call you in few hours.”
“Sounds good, Wyn.” I had already pulled the phone from my ear when she spoke, her voice almost drowned out by the disconnecting phone.
I put the phone in my pocket and made my way toward the door, my fingers tingling as I turned the knob. I stood in the wooden doorframe for one solid minute as my magic searched for him, my heart rate picking up as no sign of him came. I couldn’t focus. I couldn’t think. What had happened? I waited to hear something, almost expecting parades or riots, but heard only the buzzing in my ears as my stress took over.
Everything slowed down to a snail’s pace before my brain moved into overdrive in my panic. My feet moved without asking, taking me nowhere before I was able to stop and attempt to refocus.
Talon had gone to speak to Ovailia. The last I felt of him had also been in that general direction, so I turned, my heart beating angrily as my feet ran toward him, my mind moving from panicked to focused with each step. I reached Ovailia’s room quickly and found the door open slightly as several voices filtered into the hall toward me.
The voices overlapped each other and bounced around the smooth stone of the walls that surrounded me. The sound contained more than Talon and Ovailia’s voices. I could hear at least two others in there, both male, their voices deep and scratchy. I tiptoed toward the door, flattening my back against the dark stone of the wall as I closed my eyes and expanded my vision into the room. I had to work to press it that far, but what little I could see was enough to make the contents of my stomach turn and my heart thump against the thin bones in my chest.
My father and Edmund were in there.
It was not just henchmen that had made it in; they were here. Edmund and my father. They were here. I knew they wouldn’t travel alone either; they never did. Somewhere in the once safe halls of Imdalind, an army stood in waiting. I clasped my hand over my mouth, trying to keep the panic stuck inside, my breath trapping itself inside of my chest. Everything inside me constricted, my body freezing in place even though my feet were threatening to run in and attack.
Don’t move; don’t let them know you are here.
Ovailia sat in one of her many large, carved chairs, filing her nails as if she was bored out of her mind. In the corner of the large room, a man was crumpled and chained, his own blood staining his clothes and dark beard. The beaten man moaned and rocked as his fingers clawed against the wood of Ovailia’s floor, large scratches appearing as black sparks flew from his fingertips.
My father stood in the middle of the room, Timothy’s short squat frame barely enough to hold Talon’s wavering form steady, his neatly trimmed beard glistening with blood I knew didn’t belong to him. My whole body jolted at seeing Talon. I saw him, but I felt nothing aside from my own fear. There was no magical pull alerting me to his presence, no surge that would normally fill the air. Something had happened. They had done something to him.
Edmund paced the floor in front of Talon, his tall, muscular body draped in black as he smiled wickedly toward him. Edmund moved to slick his curly hair back against his head, and my stomach muscles tightened, his knuckles were bloody from having turned my husband’s face into a punching bag.
I watched them for only a moment before trying to let my panic subside enough for my logical thinking to step in. I shielded myself the moment my rational brain burst strongly to the forefront of my mind. My eyes narrowed, my back straightened, and even through the fear and stress, I knew what I had to do.
The shield around me was strong enough to block me from sight as well as hiding any magical signature I might have been broadcasting; at least I hoped it was.
One breath. I let one breath escape my lips before I walked into the room, careful to keep my steps silent, my eyes watching the reactions of all those in the room, wary of being noticed. No one reacted or even looked in my direction.
My chest loosened, although just briefly. I was not walking into a surprise party – I may as well be walking to greet my death.
“Tell me what I need, Talon, and I won’t hurt her.” I froze at Edmund’s words, his voice dark and chilling, as I turned toward him, worried he had seen me.
His focus was not on me, it was on Talon, whose face was already swollen and bloodied at Edmund’s hand. I restrained a gasp as Edmund pulled his arm back, his fist glowing white, before a strong sucker punch to the gut winded Talon with one shot. I froze as Talon grunted in pain, my hand flying to my own stomach as anger lurched up my spine.
“What about the rest of your men, Edmund? What would they do to her? I know how your deals work.” Talon’s voice was broken and pained, blood spattering around him as he forced out the words.
“Oh, we won’t kill her if that’s what you are asking,” Timothy said, my father’s voice full of pure enjoyment. Edmund only smiled at his response, before wiping his hand on a bright white cloth, smearing it with red.
I moved toward the back of the room, my magic crackling under my skin as it kept the shield in place. The angry energy rippled through me in a raw need to defend my husband. My toes curled as I begged myself not to react and to wait until the most opportune time. If I began an attack now, I would be dead before I could get within reach. It was all about the timing. Running in to face the three most powerful people in the room was only a death sentence. Hell, attacking them on my own was a death sentence. But I wasn’t scared, a fool yes, but not scared.
I stared at Talon’s face as I moved; my conviction growing as my magic surged. I would protect him, just as he would me.
“And the others? Will you hurt them too?” Talon asked, his voice continually fading. I fought the urge to run to him, choosing instead to knot my fingers around each other, hoping the tension in the small joints would dispel the panicked anger that was building in my heart.
“Oh, what do you care?” Ovailia snapped from the chair she sat in. “It’s not like you are their rightful leader anyway.”
“Very well put, Ovailia,” Edmund said with true pride in his eyes. “She was always my good child,” he said, more to himself then to anyone. “Took us a bit to break through Ilyan’s spell and get the information I needed, but we got there in the end.”
“Will you hurt them?” Talon repeated, his jaw tightening.
“Save whom you can, Talon. Don’t worry about the others. They will be in capable hands, I promise.” Edmund leaned down close to him, his lip sneering only millimeters from Talon’s face.
“Give me what I need, Talon,” Edmund snarled.
“You better make it look good, Edmund,” Talon laughed deeply, his voice loud as he taunted him, Timothy strengthening his hold at the sound.
Talon’s eyes widened and he attempted to fight against my father’s hold, yelling out. The struggle only lasted a moment before Edmund placed his hand against Talon’s skin, his struggle for release turning to one of agony as Edmund’s magic seeped into him, the powerful attack torturing him.
No. I couldn’t let this happen anymore.
The time was now. Talon had risked everything for me, but I had done nothing for him. Now I would.
I slipped my right shoe off, letting my skin come in contact with the floor of the cave. Even through Ovailia’s carefully preened wood floors, I could still feel the energy of the caves. It prickled up my spine and down into my arms. I smiled as it seeped through the rock of the cave and into me. It flooded me as the power controlled me. That was why I always had to wear shoes in this space, why I could never risk skin contact with the walls of the caves. The magic that rested in the belly of this mountain flooded through the rock and, in turn, me. It was only here, in this mountain, that this much energy was at my disposal.
Now. I lifted my toe and let it drop to the floor, a rumble spreading out from me as I shook the floor. Edmund swore as the energy hit him, the power rushing up into him. I focused as my magic spread from the floor and into Edmund and Timothy. It moved right into their bones, shaking them within their bodies. They called out as their bones grew and vibrated, the pain of my attack sending them to the floor.
Ovailia stood in fear just as I took a step forward, each hit of my skin against the ground sending more ripples of energy across the surface and into Ovailia as well. All three writhed with pain as I lifted Talon with my magic and pinned them to the ground. Their calls of surprise mixed with those of agony as his body lifted into the air in front of them.
“Wynifred!” My father’s voice yelled as he fought against the painful restraints my magic held him in.
I moved forward to grab Talon just as Edmund broke the magical bond that surrounded him. His voice howled as he stood, his body moving to block my path to my mate, his eyes boring right into where I stood.
I wanted to say he couldn’t see me, but the way his eyes seem to bore into me, I was sure he could. I froze, carefully calculating the possibilities and my chance of survival.
I knew it was low, but right then I didn’t care. Right then, I just wanted Talon, even if it meant we would die in each other’s arms.
“You will live to see Talon again, Wynifred.” I froze at the voice that rasped through the air, the familiar tones triggering some memory long forgotten. I didn’t dare turn to see who had spoken. I trained my eyes on Edmund’s fingers as they flexed and glowed.
Edmund sent a surge shooting toward me, without even a flex of energy. I threw myself to the side, the heat of his attack warming my skin as it grazed the air beside me. I caught my scream in my throat before it escaped me, as my body landed roughly against the wood floor.
The impact of my body against the floor was hard enough that a strong surge of magic rushed out of me unrestrained, the floor shaking as I sent everyone to the ground again.
“Run!” The voice came to me again, the yell pounding into my head.
I didn’t want to listen. I didn’t want to leave Talon. I could hear each beat of my heart as it begged me not to. I could hear the voice’s statement echoing around my head. Talon would live. I wanted to believe him.
I needed to believe him.
I jumped to my feet before anyone else had a chance to find theirs. I looked one last time toward Talon, my feet feeling like lead as they carried me away from him. I ran down the hall, their screams following me as I bobbed and weaved through the web of halls.
I didn’t look back. I didn’t dare. I only had a matter of minutes before they would regain their strength. I needed to draw them off my path while I figured out what I needed to do next.
I attempted to slow my heartbeat as I ran, but it was no use. Edmund was inside the caves of Prague, and now, he was after me – if anything my panic only increased.
They were here. There was no safety here anymore. Edmund had gotten past Ilyan’s protections, and Ovailia was the one to guide him through.
Ovailia had betrayed us all.
My soul froze as screaming began to fill the halls. The sounds of fear, loss, and battle exploded through the once safe halls.
I could easily hide, stay back, and stay safe. But even if I did, it wouldn’t benefit anyone. Not even me.
There was no safety here anymore. There was no place to hide. I needed to get everyone out of here.
I needed to get out of here. But I couldn’t, not without Talon.
The screams increased as I continued to move through the halls. I knew bigger things were at play here, and I needed to stop them. Stopping my father, and stopping Edmund was my only way to get Talon back.
The cave vibrated as the battle increased, screams ricocheting around the stone halls as the battle broke out all around me.
Edmund’s final execution had begun. Only one race stood between him and the wells of Imdalind, and if Edmund had his way, there would be nothing left by the time the sun had risen.
Edmund had started a war, and I was not going to back down.
About the Author:
Rebecca Ethington is a story teller and author from Salt Lake City, Utah. She has been telling stories since she was small. First, with writing crude scripts, and then in stage with years of theatrical performances. Rebecca’s first stint into the world of literary writing, The Imdalind Series, was released in October 2012 and since its release each book has been found in several top 100 lists on Amazon. Rebecca is a mother to two, and wife to her best friend of 14 years. Her days are spent writing, running, and enjoying life with her crazy family.
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