Yiloch, the newly crowned Emperor of Lyra, stands accused of arranging the assassination of the Caithin royal family. Torn between love for Yiloch and her close ties with the royal family, Indigo wants nothing more than to prove the accusation false, but the evidence puts the blood of the family on his hands.
Trying to protect the Lyran prince from the swift descent of Caithin justice, Indigo exposes the workings of an enemy who is willing to kill to protect his secrets. In desperation, she unleashes magic that sends Yiloch deep into the desert of Kudan before fleeing for her life. She must find him again to save his life as well as her own.
Betrayed by ally and by love, stranded by uncontrollable magic, Yiloch struggles to make his way back to the Lyran capital before Caithin can declare war, but standing between him and his empire is a lethal new enemy, wielding magic unlike anything his people have faced before.
The sound of growling woke Yiloch. The evening was still warm, though nowhere near as stifling as the heat of day. His hand went to the sword, the strange hilt one of many things that brought the misery of his situation into stark relief. An echoing growl rose in his own throat as he looked around. There were several wild dogs nearby, tearing at something that looked disturbingly familiar. It only took a second to recognize that the something was his pack of supplies. The exhaustion of many days spent walking through the desert without Ferin’s skills to ease the burden were telling on him. He had slept hard enough for the dogs to drag his pack away without waking him. They could have easily gone after him instead. All the food and water he had were in that pack.
Drawing the sword, he rose and went after the dogs. They darted away, keeping a wary distance, but still lingering much closer than he would like. They were cautious of him, not afraid. He used a touch of ascard to speed an attack, bringing the curved blade around to cut deep into one dog’s mottled flank. The animal let out a piercing yelp and darted away. The wound gaped open, blood flowing free. That one would die a slow and painful death unless another predator put it out of its misery. The other dogs backed away, giving him more space.
A burning hunger to make something suffer pulled at him, compelling him to go after more of the dogs. The exhaustion he felt from the small exertion, however, was enough to counter that desire. He simply didn’t have strength to waste right now. Reining in the bloodlust, he turned to the remains of his pack. The dogs had decimated it with remarkable efficiency. Both of the water skins were torn, bleeding life out into the dry soil. He picked up each one in turn, hoping to preserve some of the water. It was too late. All of his food was gone as well.
He hurled one of the useless water skins at the nearest dog. The animal darted out of the way and came back almost instantly to investigate the item, watching him as it licked at the moisture. The wounded dog was laying a short distance away, panting hard. It had given off licking the still-bleeding wound. Some of the other dogs were milling around it now, sniffing at the injury.
Glancing up at the sky, he determined which direction he needed to continue. He didn’t have the ascard skill necessary to search out Kudaness villages. Without Ferin, he would have to walk north and hope he got lucky enough to come across a village or, at the very least, a water source. He glared at the dogs. It was more than possible that they had killed him by destroying his supplies.
It was hard to move on. His arms and legs felt tied down by the same weight that dragged at his chest and made his head feel heavy. It was a feeling he knew, one he had hoped never to feel again after escaping his father’s prison. Despair.
Nikki lives in the magnificent Pacific Northwest with her husband, two horses, two cats, and one slightly crazy dog. She feeds her imagination by sitting on the ocean in her kayak gazing out across the never-ending water or hanging from a rope in a cave, embraced by darkness and the sound of dripping water. She finds peace through practicing iaido or shooting her longbow.