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Authors: Melissa Myers

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The Crow King's Wife

BOOK: The Crow King's Wife
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The Crow King’s Wife

By

Melissa Myers

 

 

 

 

Smashwords Edition

Copyright © 2013 Melissa Myers

 

This book is a work of fiction. Names,
characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s
imagination or are used fictitiously.

 

Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or
persons living or dead, is coincidental.

 

All rights reserved, except as permitted by
U.S. Copyrights Act of 1976.

 

No part of this publication can be
reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any
means, or stored in a database or retrieval system without prior
written permission of the author.

Prologue

 

 

The choking sweet smell of rot filled the
darkened room with a pungency that made him want to vomit. Shade
would have complained, but he knew he was the source of the stench.
It didn’t seem right to complain about something he was causing.
The right side of his face felt like an overripe melon, and he
couldn’t even bring himself to look down at his leg. If not for the
chains binding his wrists and holding him tight against the rafter
he knew he wouldn’t be on his feet.

Even if the Blights had released him and
waved him toward the door he didn’t have the strength to escape.
That didn’t seem likely in any case however. He had been hanging
from the rafter for what seemed like days without so much as a word
from the Blights. He wasn’t really sure exactly how long it had
been, and he no longer cared to put thought into it. Everything
beyond his personal misery seemed trivial, even the passing of
time.

At first he had been energetic in his demands
to speak with someone about his mission, now he simply didn’t care.
All he really wanted now was sleep. The deep restful kind of sleep
that couldn’t be achieved while hanging from a rafter and slowly
rotting in the dark.


Look at what you have done to us. Of all
of the arrogant idiotic things. What did you imagine would happen
when you lit that campfire
?
Did you think the Blights would
simply announce themselves and offer a parlay
?” The voice
echoed through his skull like thunder and Shade flinched in
response.

The pounding of his pulse was agony enough,
but to actually hear a voice was excruciating. Licking his cracked
lips Shade lifted his head just enough to stare at the darkness
around him. The room was empty as far as he could tell through the
blurry vision of his remaining eye. His head slumped back to his
chest and his eye closed once more. It was too much effort to
bother answering the voice, and his throat was too dry for words at
any rate. If he wasted the energy for words it would be to plea for
water from his captors. Not that that would do any good, he had
already tried begging for water days ago or maybe hours, it didn’t
matter which. He certainly wasn’t going to waste his strength
answering whoever had chosen to taunt him with the same point he
had been kicking himself over since his capture.


You think you can simply ignore me and
I’ll go away
?” The voice grew louder with a note of anger
etched in its tones. “
You brought us to this point with your
choices and brilliant planning and you will not ignore me on the
matter. I had things perfectly in control and we were safe under my
guard
.”

Confusion welled in Shade’s mind as a choking
sob escaped his lips. The voice was a familiar one, but his mind
refused to give it a name. By rights the only one that should have
been able to make such accusations was the poor pitiful goblin he
had drug into this mess, and he knew it wasn’t the creature’s
thoughts tearing through his mind. Had the creature been able to
communicate mentally it would have done so in its requests for
food.


Idiot. Does this help you
understand
?” There was a long pause and for a moment Shade
thought his tormentor had finally tired of the game. “
Open your
eye fool
.” The quiet demand was impossible to ignore and once
again Shade forced his eye open. The shadows blurred before him
then sharpened just enough for him to make out a pair of black
polished boots in the dirty straw. Forcing his head up slowly Shade
let his gaze trail along the knee high boots to the fine linen
trousers and waistcoat. Swallowing heavily Shade paused and stared
hard at the dark blue and silver of the fine clothes, the colors of
house Morcaillo.

Bracing himself Shade forced himself to
continue until his vision rested on the man’s face, his face. In
every detail right down to the blue etched glasses it was his own
face he was staring at. His confusion doubled as he tried to force
his mind to sort through what he was seeing. It made no sense at
all to be faced with his double, unless of course the Blights
intended to use this duplicate to trick Jala. She would see though
it though, Shade was certain of that. This image of him was too
outdated. He hadn’t dressed like that in nearly a year, not since
the Academy.


I’m not a Blight you twice damned idiot.
I suppose you could call me your voice of reason. You know the
little nagging voice that you have been ignoring for so long
?
Can’t quite ignore me now can you
?” The image of him leaned
closer and stared hard at his face as the words filled Shade’s
mind.

“Go away.” Shade croaked. The effort of
speaking and holding his head upright grew unbearable and he
allowed his head to slump to his chest. His gaze locked on the
shiny black boots once more, but his confusion was already fading.
It took too much effort to think, and it didn’t matter regardless.
If this was a trick Jala would sort through it. He didn’t have the
will or the energy to worry about it himself.


So you can simply allow us to rot away
without even attempting to escape
?
I don’t think so
.”
The voice was harsh and filled with disgust.

“Nothing else to do but rot.” Shade muttered
in a voice that was barely audible.

“I can’t believe you are still alive
Morcaillo.” The black boots vanished instantly at the sound of the
new voice leaving nothing but empty shadows in the place of his
double. It was as if the man’s quiet words alone had been enough to
banish the demon that had been tormenting him.

Shade struggled to raise his head once more,
but his strength was too far gone. The room had seemed empty, but
apparently he had been wrong. The faint scuff of shifting straw
rose from the shadows behind him. He tried to twist in his chains
enough to glance back, but his body refused to move. “Barely.”
Shade whispered to his unseen savior. He didn’t know if it was a
Blight or another captive, but it hardly mattered. Whoever it was
had saved him from further torment and he was grateful.

“I can tell. By the smell your wounds have
gone putrid, and you’ve been mumbling for hours. I can only imagine
the fever that must be gripping you right now.” The voice was soft
and cultured with faint hints of an Arovan accent.

“Fever.” Shade murmured and almost smiled at
the word. It explained the voice and his double so well. He had
heard of fever dreams before, but had never believed he would be
subject to them. It was so rare that anyone with Elder Blood was
ever reduced to the pathetic state that he was in now that most
never even considered the possibility. Typically if you didn’t kill
an Elder Blood swiftly, you didn’t kill them. Circumstances such as
his own current predicament were few and very far between. Most
Elder Blood weren’t stupid enough to allow themselves to be
captured as easily as he had been, and most would have fought to
the death before being hung like a slab of meat and forgotten.

“I told them you needed healing, but of
course they didn’t listen.” The man sighed and there was more
movement behind him. “I’d help you myself if my own bonds would
allow it. I’m not much of a healer as far as magic, but I know a
bit about binding wounds. I’m afraid you are well beyond that being
enough to help though. If you don’t get a healer soon I’m afraid
you are…” his words trailed off leaving the last word unspoken. It
hardly needed to be said though. Shade knew well enough how close
he was to death.

“Who?” Shade asked as loudly as he could,
which wasn’t much more than a harsh whisper. His voice sounded like
a croaking frog to his own ears, and he could only hope his fellow
prisoner could understand him.

“I’m not sure if you are asking who I am or
who I told you needed healing so I’ll answer both. My name is Caleb
Faulklin of Lord Micah’s Honor guard, or at least I was. I remember
you from the Academy, but I doubt you remember me. I was graduating
when you were arriving, and we only met once. As to whom I asked,
well the Blights of course. They are our current hosts in this
lovely place.” Caleb explained quietly.

The image of a young man with pale grey eyes
flashed in Shade’s mind at the name. Caleb had been soft spoken,
but memorable with short dark hair that frosted to white at the
tips and a quiet charm that seemed to hold women captivated. Shade
could remember the meeting quite well. It had been in a tavern near
the Arena. He had started out drinking alone and had ended the
night in quiet conversation with Micah Arovan of all people. They
had discussed everything from politics to current laws and had
parted on good terms despite the differences of their houses. Caleb
and Honor Hai’dia had been silent shadows behind the heir of Arovan
in the beginning. They had guarded over their young lord as if they
expected Shade to poison him, but by the end of the night they had
been relaxed and even offered their own thoughts on the various
topics.

“Always liked Micah. Respected him.” Shade
murmured softly. He wanted to say more, to offer condolences for
Micah’s death, to voice outrage over his murder, but he was fading
and he knew it. “Any words for him? I’ll see him soon.” He chuckled
weakly at his macabre words, but it was the truth and there was no
use denying it.

“Tell him I found her and she is safe. Tell
him that she doesn’t need my protection like he feared she would,
and that she misses him, but she will be fine.” Caleb’s voice
cracked with the words and he was silent for a long moment. “Don’t
tell him where you saw me. I want him to pass onto his next life
without the full truth. I want his spirit to rest peacefully. He
deserved that much. Micah loved her and this would break his heart
were he still living. It nearly broke mine when I arrived and I
wish he had never sent me after the bitch. I would have much rather
died in blissful ignorance beside him in Arovan.”

“Who?” Shade asked again. It wasn’t his
business, but the pain in the man’s voice had stirred even his
lethargic mind to curiosity.

“Onvalla, Micah’s wife. Though I promise you
he didn’t know what she was when he married her. I spent months
around the woman and never realized she was Blight, and now she
leads them. With luck the knowledge will die with us. I don’t want
my Lord’s reputation tarnished by his choice in love, and it would
be. After all, we set out to extinguish the Blights, not bed them.”
Caleb’s voice grew bitter and he fell silent once more.

Shade digested the news in silence. It
explained perfectly why Caleb was still alive and sounded in better
health than he was. Onvalla had known him personally, and it was
doubtful that Caleb had offered any more of a fight than he had
when captured. The bitter irony of the entire situation made him
want to vomit. Both of them had been sent to help the Blights in
one form or another, and both of them were rotting in the dark
because of it. Of course Caleb hadn’t actually known he was charged
with helping a Blight, which made his story even more depressing.
Both of them had walked blindly into their situation, and both of
them would likely die from it.

“Fate you cruel fickle bitch.” Shade muttered
as his eye closed once more. His mind slowly released its last
attempts at thought and everything began to fade to an empty fog.
The pain was finally fading away as well. The agonizing pounding of
his pulse was becoming a faint echo that was gradually slowing.
Rationally he knew he was dying, but it was blissful none the
less.


God damn you fight
!
Don’t
surrender
!” The voice broke through his thoughts once more and
Shade smiled faintly in response. Once again as he had done so
often lately Shade quietly ignored the voice of reason. He was too
far gone to argue or fight and he knew it, there was nothing else
to do but ignore it.

 

* * *

 

Pain tore through his body like daggers and a
sob broke from his throat. The dead are not supposed to hurt
Shade’s mind screamed as another wave of agony washed over him.

BOOK: The Crow King's Wife
12.97Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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