Authors: Eliza Tilton
A Division of
P.O. Box 2160
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Cover Art by Eugene Teplitsky
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ISBN 978-1-62007-994-2 (ebook)
alk of war reached Lakewood before the first snow hit. Order after order for weapons rolled in as the soldiers made camp outside our borders. There hadn’t been a battle of this size in centuries. The blade hissed as I dumped it into the basin. Having slaved away over the scorching forge since the suns rose the day before, by now, my mind and body moved on instinct. Father had left soon after sundown, but not me. Work kept me busy, and staying busy kept my mind off Jeslyn.
Sweat dripped off my forehead, splashing the blade. With this last sword cooling, I could finally close shop. I stretched, flexing out the muscles in my arms. When Avikar returned home, I’d put him in a chokehold he’d never be able to break free from.
I left through the backdoor, and locked it closed. When I turned around, a girl dressed in tight black breeches and a matching cloak leaned against the shop’s outside wall. With clouds from the early rain blocking the moon, and her black hood up, her face stayed in shadows.
“I don’t think we’ve ever been formally introduced,” she said.
“Do I know you?”
“You should.” She stepped forward and let her hood fall to her shoulders.
I grabbed the great sword from my back. Sorceress …
“Oh, you’re not still mad about that silly kidnapping are you?” Lucy grinned.
Lucino’s sister, a girl we should’ve killed long ago. A wicked smile played on her full red lips that contrasted with her alabaster skin. Her long black hair blew with the midnight breeze, matching the darkness of her heart.
“Put your sword down, Derrick,” she singsonged.
Her brow twitched. Her grin vanished.
“Your voice won’t work on me.” I charged forward to push my blade tip against her rib cage. “No magic will ever put me to sleep again.” If she was confused as to why her songspell had no effect, she didn’t show it.
And of course, I was no more inclined to share that after the battle in Daath I had blood crystals tattooed into my skin. The magical stones warded me against any of these creatures’ tricks. I bit back the sting as they pulsed; stealing them from my father was more than worth it.
“I come in
.” With the tip of her fingers, she pushed the blade away from her chest. “Stand down. I have a proposition for you. One that includes your dear Jeslyn.”
Jeslyn … she’d left over three months ago to stay with her grandfather in Luna Harbor. She wouldn’t admit she left because of me, but I knew the truth. She had refused my proposal. After Avikar and I had risked our lives to save her, she’d said no, and I still didn’t understand why.
“Talk and talk quickly.” I stepped back, but kept the blade between us.
Lucy straightened. “That’s better … see … I have a bit of a problem. My brother is missing, and I have a feeling he’s with your little sweetheart.”
I gripped the blade tighter, controlling the river of anger threatening to sweep me under. Jeslyn’s and Lucino’s names should never be lumped together. “Lucino’s dead.”
Lucy laughed. “Did you really think you killed the Reptilian Prince? Silly boy.” She laughed again while her words sunk in.
Lucino’s not dead. Reptilian? Prince? “Even if he is alive, why would you think he’s with Jeslyn?”
“Because Jeslyn’s not in Luna Harbor anymore.”
“Goodbye, Lucy.” I pushed her aside. If I didn’t leave now, my sword would land in her heart.
“That’s it? Aren’t you worried?”
“Jeslyn can take care of herself.”
Lucy laughed again, and I left her by the shop. Jeslyn was no longer my problem.
As soon as the suns entered the sky, I rode to Avikar’s. Talking with his father would clarify Lucy’s outrageous claim. I could never believe anything that witch said, but if Jeslyn was missing…
Mr. Desdar was walking out the front door when I arrived. His normally short dark hair had grown since Avikar and I had first left, and gray sprouted throughout his beard. While Jeslyn and I had returned months ago, Avikar had stayed in Daath.
I dismounted. “Morning, Sir.”
He nodded. “Morning, Derrick. Early for you to be out this way. Everything all right?”
“Yes, sir. I had some time before the shop opened, and wanted to see if you had any news from Avikar or Jeslyn.”
I had been stopping by regularly so the question wasn’t completely out of character.
Mr. Desdar’s shoulders sagged. “Still no word from Avikar. I wonder if he’ll ever return.”
“He will. I know it. And Jeslyn?”
This time he grumbled, standing straighter. “That girl is living a fantasy working for Harold. She belongs here with her family.”
“I guess she’s enjoying Luna Harbor?”
“Who knows? She hasn’t written in weeks. As soon as this last horse is trained, I’m heading south and bringing her back home. She needs to marry and stop this beading business.” He shook his head. “Sorry, Derrick …”
“Please, Sir, it’s fine.”
“I’m frustrated, and with Avikar gone, things are … difficult.”
“I know. How about I take a few days off and head there? I’ll check on her, make sure everything’s okay.”
“You can’t leave the shop now.”
“I finished the last big order last night. It’ll be fine. Maybe some time away has helped.” I didn’t want to elaborate anymore.
It was no surprise Mr. Desdar was unhappy when Jeslyn refused my proposal. As a blacksmith, I had a nice station in Lakewood. I’d provide a good home and I loved her. At one point, she had loved me too.
Mr. Desdar clamped a hand on my shoulder. “You’re a good lad. She’ll come around.”
I prayed often that she would.