Tag Archives for " YA "
Dindi is kidnapped to be the bride of a shark... To escape she must untangle a terrible curse caused by a love and magic gone wrong.
This stand-alone novella is set in Faearth, the world of The Unfinished Song. Available here ONLY.
The Unfinished Song - This Young Adult Epic Fantasy series has sold over 70,000 copies and has 1,072 Five Star Ratings on Goodreads.
Check out Roy Huff’s latest release, Book 3 of his Everville series, The Rise of Mallory.
As the epic journey continues, a victorious Owen Sage stands undefeated against his enemies. His last battle in Everville gave rise to a new insidious evil, Mallory; whose determination to defeat him opens an unexplored Pandora’s box. Owen’s search for truth will unveil the mystery and surprising insights surrounding himself and his friends at Easton Falls University. New creatures will be uncovered and the true value of friendship will be tested, as Owen embarks on yet another battle in Everville.
Download Everville: The Rise of Mallory on Amazon.
Amelia sat down next to Owen and started watching the movie with him, but not before she purposely messed up his light brown hair with her hand after sitting down.
“Hey! Quit that,” Owen said with an irritated expression on his face.
Owen then reached over and did the same thing to her. She chuckled, turning her attention to the television screen.
‘You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato. There’s more gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!’
Owen lost himself in the screen, as he often did when watching something he was interested in. He imagined himself as Ebenezer Scrooge looking upon Marley’s ghostly face. Marley’s face morphed into the image of Owen’s father, the same image
that was the face of The Second Pillar.
Owen shook it off and got up to go grab some leftover turkey from the refrigerator. He reached in and pulled out a leg and some moist dark meat with a bit of gravy and stuffing. He popped the plate of food into the microwave for a minute and then returned to the comfort of the couch.
Visit Amazon to download the rest of Everville: The Rise of Mallory.
Today I’m excited to feature the third volume in Summer Lane’s YA dystopian science fiction Collapse series: State of Rebellion.
Everything has changed. After a devastating ambush that left the militia group Freedom Fighters struggling to survive, Cassidy Hart has been lucky to escape with her life. Along with her Commander and former Navy SEAL Chris Young, she’s made a shocking discovery concerning the whereabouts of her father. The militias have moved further into the mountains. And the secret that is kept there will come with a price. But when the National Guard arrives, Cassidy is faced with a choice that will force her to decide between her friends and her family. Omega is getting stronger. The fight for freedom looms on the horizon. It’s all or nothing. And Cassidy has no intention of giving up.
You can download State of Rebellion from Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
In the Kingdom of Destiny, King Chance decreed any female be she high or low born may earn a place at court by winning an archery competition known as the Tournament of Chance. Although no commoner has ever won before, this is Heather’s year. To prevent her from winning the tournament, however, King Chance will stop at nothing. The king does not yet realize Heather of the Jagged Peaks will be the spark that ignites a revolution — in time.
Now available in all e-formats from Musa Publishing HERE. Also available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other e-book retailers.
A muscle in Dane’s jaw rippled. “We must move faster. The longer she’s alone, the more likely it is she’ll encounter something dangerous.”
“She’s done well enough so far, no thanks to you,” Joe muttered.
Dane peered at Joe with narrowed eyes. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“You’ve shown your distaste for Heather upon more than one occasion.”
“I would never let my personal feelings interfere with my duty to protect the child,” Dane exploded.
“Really? Then why is she lost?”
Dane hands formed fists at his side. As the two men squared off, Shimmer stepped in between. “Jovander, I’ve known Dane much longer than you have. You accuse him unjustly.”
“That is so,” Manny concurred.
“No, no. Don’t bother to defend me. It won’t make a difference. Jovander Chance has a deep seated resentment toward the royal class and doesn’t believe we could ever act unselfishly,” Dane scoffed.
“Forgive me for saying so, but this whole quest is selfish!” Joe yelled. “If it succeeds, you Ormvalders resume ruling the kingdom. Heather gets nothing except for a pat on the back. She’s the only one of us here who has acted in an unselfish manner.”
“You’ve acted unselfishly too, Joe,” Manny said.
Dane smirked. “No, he hasn’t. Haven’t you noticed? Young Joe is quite taken with the lass.”
Joe flushed bright red. “Don’t act so smug, Your Highness. I’ve seen the way you look at her.”
“First you practically accuse me of doing her in, and now you accuse me of having designs on the woman?” Dane thundered. “Make up your mind.”
“First you call her a child, and now a woman?” Joe pointed out. “You should make up your own mind.”
A long, smoldering silence followed in which nobody spoke.
If you’re looking for a young adult thriller, check out Michelle A. Hansen’s Before They Find Us.
I’m going to make you wish you were dead.
Just a text. Seventeen-year-old Rebecca Hales tries not to worry. Probably a wrong number. Not really meant for her, and definitely not related to the crime she witnessed six years ago. Right?
Then two states away, a bomb goes off in her best friend’s locker. Soon Ryan is labeled a terrorist and runs to the safest place he knows—Rebecca’s house in small-town Wyoming. It doesn’t take long for the FBI to show up asking questions. Rebecca lies, of course, and says she hasn’t seen him.
Now she’s neck-deep in it with him, whatever “it” is. The only way out is to return to Vegas, where Ryan is a wanted man. The city of lies and illusion tests Rebecca’s wits as she struggles to find the person who framed Ryan and why.
Is Rebecca’s text linked to the bombing? And what does it have to do with a six year old murder? Rebecca needs to find out before she loses Ryan—and her own life.
Download Before They Find Us at Amazon.
For a lot of girls, comfort food was chocolate. For me it was thirty-two ounces of lemonade mixed with Sprite on tap at Skip’s Mini Mart. I tugged on Bullet’s leash and led him out of the park. Three blocks later, I tied Bullet to the post of what used to be a phone booth. Now it was a hideous blue and white box with nothing but graffiti inside. Bullet lay down on the sidewalk and set his head on his paws while I went inside.
Full cup in hand, I approached the counter. The cashier was used to seeing me late at night. He was used to Bullet waiting outside looking bored to death. I set exact change on the counter before he rang up my drink.
Bright lights swept into the parking lot and came to rest outside the front door. The lights were tall, definitely a truck. The driver hopped out, but didn’t come inside. Instead, he went over to Bullet. I didn’t think anything of it until I stepped outside. It looked just like the truck that slowed in front of my house this afternoon.
The guy who knelt on the sidewalk in front of Bullet had shoulder-length, blond hair and a goatee. He didn’t look very old—early-twenties maybe—but it was a hard-lived twenty. This guy, he had all the rough edges. He balanced a cigarette between his lips while he scratched Bullet’s ears.
Happy for the attention, Bullet licked the guy’s wrist. I tried not to cringe. Stupid dog. That guy could be a hundred kinds of trouble, but Bullet didn’t care as long as his ears got scratched.
“Blue tick?” He ran his hand down Bullet’s back, and the dog nudged closer.
“Yeah.” If I hadn’t just dreamed of Kyle, if I hadn’t just stood on the ground where Darla died, if I’d met this guy in daylight, I would have reached down, untied the dog and walked away. As it was, I sipped my Sprite and kept two yards between us.
“Bet he’s a good hunter.” The guy looked up. His smile was too friendly, his manner too casual for a stranger. A shot of fear pulsed in my blood.
I really wished Bullet was more of a guard dog. “He treed a hundred and fifty pound mountain lion a couple years ago.” Okay, it was an exaggeration. It was more like a ninety pound lion, and it was young, but Bullet wasn’t helping me at all by rubbing his head on this guy’s leg.
“What a good boy.” He rubbed Bullet’s fur. Seeing that I wasn’t getting any closer, the guy untied the leash and stood. Other than his truck, the parking lot was completely empty, and so was the street. “Kind of late for a girl to be walking around alone, don’t you think?”
I wouldn’t let myself back away as he approached. I stood my ground and shrugged like it was the middle of the afternoon. “I have Bullet.”
“And—he’s vicious.” His sarcasm fell short of amusing. Bullet drooled on the guy’s cowboy boot. He offered me the leash. “You want a ride?”
Yeah, right. I might be mental, but I’m not totally gullible. “No, we’re good.”
“Want me to walk you?” His eyes scanned the streets, the wide trees offering long stretches of shadows. The breeze lifted the hair from his shoulder and sent cold gusts through the fabric of my sweatshirt.
“It’s not far—” I tried not to stammer. I’d sneaked out without a phone. How stupid was that? Going into the park. Coming here at night. Dr. Kipla would have a heyday with this one, not that I would ever tell.
“Stick to the streetlights.” He took a long drag on the cigarette then dropped it on the sidewalk and smothered the ashes under his boot. “You never know what’s lurking in the dark.”
Download the rest of the novel at Amazon.
Find more from Michelle on her website, Facebook and Twitter.
After a mysterious virus makes its way into the United States, the government demands that states seal themselves off from one another and do their best to protect their surviving residents. When the state of Florida is bordered off from the surrounding states, Taylen Fincher, a seventeen-year-old girl with a yearning for her former life finds herself wondering how much of what they’ve been told is true.
When Troum took control of the state, he told the residents that the other states had fallen to the virus and that he wouldn’t allow the same thing to happen to them. But Taylen doesn’t believe it. She insists that there is still life outside of the state, and she is going to do whatever it takes to prove it… but her actions will cost her more than she ever expected.
Troum kidnaps Taylen’s sister, Penelope, in hopes of coaxing her into behaving – into being a submissive resident, much like the others. But Taylen isn’t one to give in that easily.
Eager to rescue her sister, Taylen will set out on an adventure that’ll force her to open her heart to the unexpected and to uncover secrets that will change everything.
Get Submerged on Amazon.
“What’s wrong, princess? You couldn’t stand to be away from me?” He winked.
“You are aware that I have a knife in my pocket, correct?” I reminded him. “I’d be more than happy to use it if you’re going to continue being a jerk-face.”
He burst into laughter, his body vibrating the mattress. “Anyway, back to what I was saying.” He ran his fingers along my spine. Goosebumps developed over my body, alerting me of just how close he was. “We have to locate Troum’s headquarters. If we find his headquarters, we’ll find Penelope.”
It sounded easy enough, but nothing was ever that simple.
Not with Troum.
I lay down beside Glate and closed my eyes. I thought that escaping the Family Sector would bring me a sense of happiness, but it didn’t. It only brought me more pain. Lex and his men were still searching for me, and I’d yet to rescue Penelope. Nothing was going as planned. I should have had Penelope by now. I should have been half way out of this state, not curled up on a mattress with a boy that I hardly knew.
That wasn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy Glate’s presence because I did. He was the comfort that I needed; the only thing keeping me sane throughout the chaos. It wouldn’t be hard to fall for Glate, hell, it’d be easy, and that frightened me.
Even though I wouldn’t admit it, I was still heartbroken over Lex. He was the boy that I had grown up with. He was my best friend. He was someone that I thought would always be there, someone that I could start a life with, and then he betrayed me.
And it was his betrayal that led me to Glate.
Being this close to him, with his body pressed against mine, it felt wrong; wrong because I barely knew him, wrong because he wasn’t Lex, and wrong because I didn’t want him to leave.
What is wrong with me? I thought.
“Taylen,” Glate whispered, wrapping his arm around my waist. “Are you okay?”
Was I okay? No. I was a complete and utter wreck, but there was no way in hell I was going to show him that. “I’m dandy.”
“You’re a terrible liar.” He propped himself up on his elbow, and leaned in closer, resting his chin on my shoulder. My body was well aware of how close he was, and it took everything in me to fight the urge to turn and face him. Teenage hormones were the absolute worst. “You know how I can tell?” he asked, running a single finger down my arm.
“How?” the word barely escaped my lips.
“Your voice trembles,” he whispered. Glate moved his hand to my hips and pulled me back towards him. “Whenever you lie, you get this slight tremble in your voice. It’s almost as if you’re scared to admit the truth, so you try to conjure up a lie, but the fear engulfs your words on the way out, calling your bluff.”
He pressed his lips against my neck, and my body quivered, welcoming the feel of his mouth against my skin.
The right thing to do would have been to move away, to tell Glate that this wasn’t right because it wasn’t right. I was supposed to be rescuing my sister, not getting it on with the first cute guy I met outside of our Sector. But every cell in my body was eager for his touch.
Get Submerged on Amazon.
Celina Bayberry never thought a part-time job could change her life, until she meets the hot and untouchable Aaron Jamison. Strangely enough, she can’t shake the feeling that he’s stalking her. And when a yellow-eyed stranger takes interest in her too, Celina discovers a dangerous secret: Her co-workers are Miew Demos–creatures linked to Bastet, the feline goddess of Egypt and members of a clan called Miews, shifters who can transform from human to feline in an instant.
They, and she, are being hunted by a wolf clan, the Iew Keftey, who will not rest until every last one of the Miews is annihilated. Celina’s life unravels as she is thrust into this age-old battle of brother against brother. Meanwhile, she’s losing her heart to Aaron who may or may not have lost his to her. And her own Bayberry family history is hiding something… something that will forever link her destiny with that of the Miews.
Celina and the clan need each other, but is either strong enough to face what is to come?
Buy Markings on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
Find more from S.B. Roozenboom on her website, Twitter and Facebook.
Darkness is covering the land. As the city of Mezrah grows with power and greed, the rest of the world can only stand by and wait for their inevitable destruction. The only hope against this growing power is an ancient prophecy that people have stopped believing in.
Then a star begins to fall.
Princess Kyla of Taramon stopped trusting in the power of light the day her father died. Trapped in a city she does not care for, under the watchful glare of her mother, the queen, she struggles to accept her fate.
Then a star begins to fall.
Jethro has loved Kyla for as long as he can remember. Learning that she was to marry his cousin drove a wedge between him and the feisty princess. Watching her from a distance is a torture he is unable to free himself from.
Then a star begins to fall, sparking an ember of hope and sending these two seekers on a treacherous journey into the unknown.
“Nikara?” Mordekai poked his head into the room, he saw the small lump in the bed and hurriedly approached his apprentice. “Nikara, my dear.” He shook her shoulder.
She let out a soft groan and turned towards him. “Morning already?”
“No. No.” He shook his head. “Sorry to wake you, but this is of the utmost importance.”
Her wide, slanted eyes looked dry as she gazed at him. He knew she would never have the impudence to consciously show it, but he could sense her reticence.
“Please, child. You must see this.”
Biting her rosebud lips together, she slid out from beneath the covers and took the candle he held out to her. Throwing a robe over her shoulders, Mordekai danced like an excited child as he beckoned her to follow.
Her steps were too sleepy and slow for his liking, and he found himself dragging her through the streets. She knew not to question him before she must and stayed silent throughout the short journey. They reached the top of the stairs and stepped out onto his small perch.
“Mordekai, what are we doing up here?”
He turned away from the inky blackness below and gazed up at the sky. His white teeth beamed through his grey beard. “Look through the telescope.”
Nikara covered her yawn with delicate fingers. “Mordekai…”
“Just look, child.”
She blinked slowly. He knew she didn’t like him calling her child anymore; she was nineteen years of age and quite a beauty. He noticed how men now stopped to glance at her, something he was struggling to adjust to. To him, she would always be the little waif he found bleeding on his doorstep.
He bit his lip as she stepped towards the telescope he had spent hours gazing through. He knew the night sky better than anyone in the city.
Nikara squeezed her left eye tight and peered into the lens.
“Do you see my star?”
Her small fingers swivelled the telescope to the north. “Yes,” she mumbled.
He watched her in agitated silence. Her body was rigid, her fingertips turning white as they pressed against the smooth wood.
Had she noticed? Why wasn’t she saying anything?
Finally unable to bear it, he whispered, “Do you notice—”
“It’s moving.” She glanced up at him, her lips parted. “I thought I was seeing things, but…” She bent down to have another look. “It’s…” Stepping away from the telescope, she leaned against the wall. “Mordekai, is it falling?”
He let out a chuckle. “Look for a diamond glowing in the north, though it falls, it will not fail.” He quoted the second part of the prophecy with a laugh.
“What does that mean?”
“It means I was right. The diamond of the prophecy is not the crystal in Taramon Tower. It is this star.”
The one he had discovered sixteen years ago.
Nikara swallowed. “Mordekai, it’s been too long. No one believes the prophecy anymore.”
“Well maybe they should.”
Her lips pressed together in a tight grimace as she looked out into the inky blackness. “Do we tell—?”
“No. No, we mustn’t. He forbade talk of the prophecy years ago; we must keep this to ourselves.”
His face scrunched in thought as he turned his gaze to the far borderlands.
The tremor in her voice was hard to miss, and he felt a touch of guilt as he turned to her. “Pack your things, child. It’s time to leave Mezrah.”
Find more from Melissa on her website, Facebook and Twitter.
Seventeen year old Nikki and her twin brother, Nathan, move to the small town of Shore Lake to start over after their mother is brutally attacked. When a missing teenager washes up on shore during their first night at the cabin and there are whispers of vampires in Shore Lake, Nikki begins to realize that there are things roaming in the darkness that are far more sinister than what they left behind in the city.
Blur is recommended for mature readers. You can download it at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iTunes, Sony and Kobo.
A strange noise jolted me awake, and I looked towards the window, only to find myself alone.
Must have been dreaming…
Sighing with relief, I checked the time and noticed I’d been in the tub for a half hour. The water was too chilly to enjoy anymore so I decided to get out. I toweled myself dry, put my robe on, and unplugged the bathtub. I then padded into the bedroom where I stopped dead in my tracks. Ethan was on my balcony, leaning against the railing watching me. He reminded me of a predator studying its kill before striking.
Time seemed to stand still as the realization of what Ethan really was sunk in. Obviously, he’d made it up to my balcony all by himself, and yesterday, we’d soared through the night faster than what was humanly possible. There could only be one explanation now, and it chilled me to the bone.
We stared at each other for what seemed like forever and then he pointed to the door.
Swallowing hard, I stepped over and unlocked it.
“Aren’t you going to invite me in?” he asked softly.
My heart was hammering in my chest and I bit the side of my lip, trying to decide what to do.
“Well?” he asked, smiling devilishly. “I promise I won’t hurt you, Nikki. In fact, I imagine you’ll enjoy my company immensely.”
I let out a ragged sigh and nodded.
He stared at my mouth. “I’d like to hear you say it.”
“Come in, Ethan.”
Download Blur at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iTunes, Sony and Kobo.
A dangerous secret. A deadly skill.
Nya is an orphan struggling for survival in a city crippled by war. She is also a Taker—with her touch, she can heal injuries, pulling pain from another person into her own body. But unlike her sister, Tali, and the other Takers who become Healers, Nya’s skill is flawed: she can’t push that pain into pynvium, the enchanted metal used to store it. All she can do is shift it into another person, a dangerous skill that she must keep hidden. If discovered, she could be used as a human weapon.
But one day Nya pushes her luck too far and exposes her secret to a pain merchant eager to use her shifting ability for his own sinister purposes. She refuses—until Tali and other League Healers start disappearing mysteriously. Now Nya must decide: How far will she go to get Tali back alive?
You can find The Shifter on Amazon, Barnes and Noble or IndieBound.
Danello lived in one of the better boardinghouses on Market-Dock Canal, in a neighborhood I could only dream of affording. His family had three rooms to themselves—two bedrooms attached to a small kitchen and dining area. Though a woman’s touch still showed, it had been a long time since it showed strong. Two dying plants—possibly coriander—sat on a shelf near the window, holding back faded and singed curtains bunched on one side. A rack of worn copper pots hung above a small stove, its skinny pipe chimney snaking up the side wall. They did have a view, though it was only a grassy corner of a market square. Two people were huddled under a bush, a ratty blanket tucked around them. I looked away.
“Did you find her?” a boy called, running out of the room on the left. “Oh, I guess you did.” His mouth wiggled as if he was unsure whether to be happy I was there or scared that I had come.
“This is—” Danello turned to me and laughed sheepishly. “I don’t even know your name.”
He nodded. “Nya, this is Jovan. The other two are with our da.”
Not knowing what else to do, I waved, and the smaller version of Danello waved back. Same rich brown eyes, same pale hair, same determined yet sad set to the chin.
“Da’s unconscious now,” Jovan said in the measured tone of someone trying very hard to sound grown-up. Saints, he was so young. Too young to carry pain that wasn’t his. “Do we need to wake him?”
My stomach twisted, but I shook my head. “Don’t wake him. I can do it while he’s asleep.”
We moved into the back bedroom, small but cozy. Paintings of flowers hung on the walls, some painted on wood, others on squares of cotton. By the bed, Jovan’s twin brother sat on a yellow stool, his unhappy face pale and tight. Their little sister sat on the floor at his feet. Her blond head rested on his
knee and her arms were wrapped around his shin. Neither looked up.
“That’s Bahari, and Halima there on the floor.”
I backed away. No bed was worth this. I wasn’t healing, I was deciding who suffered. Saints did that, not me. “I can’t do this.”
“Yes, you can. So can they.” Danello squeezed my hand, drew me forward. “What do we do?”
“Change your mind, find a pain merchant who’s buying, drag him here by his hair if you have to, just please don’t make me do this.”
He took both my hands, held them tight. They were warm, and for one irrational moment I felt safe. “What do we do?” he asked.
What we had to, even if we didn’t like it. Hadn’t I always wanted to be a Healer? It might not be what Tali did, but I could help them. The shift was only for a few days, until the pain merchants were buying again. It wasn’t as if I were permanently hurting them. I gulped down air and reluctantly pulled my hands away.
“Nothing yet,” I whispered. “I have to see how badly he’s hurt first.”
His da’s forearm bent the wrong way, so that was broken for sure. The thigh was bloody and gouged, but the leg was straight. I glanced at Jovan and my stomach rolled. Just think about their father . I went to the opposite side of the bed and placed my hand on his forehead. Cold, wet strands of the same pale hair as his children’s stuck to my fingers.
Tali’s voice echoed in my head. She’d been teaching me what they taught her, claiming it was in case the League ever let me in one day, but I wasn’t so sure of that. I figured it was just her way of making it up to me ’cause she got accepted and I couldn’t.
I took a deep breath. Feel your way through the body, to the injury. My hand tingled as I felt my way through blood and bone. Broken arm, as expected. Three broken ribs. Torn muscle on the leg, but not broken. Cuts and bruises all over, but he’d heal that on his own.
“It’s not as bad as you thought.” I explained his injuries as best I could without scaring the little ones. Bahari already looked ready to bolt.
“I’ll take the arm and leg,” Danello said as if ordering dinner. “They can each take a rib. That won’t be too bad, will it?”
Spoken like someone who’d never had a broken rib.
“It’ll hurt to breathe deep. Bending and stretching will be hard.” Three sets of brown eyes went wide. I almost smiled, but figured my grin would scare them more than the pain. “No roughhousing ’til the pain merchants are buying again.”
Bahari jumped up, his fists clenched at his sides. “I don’t want to do this.”
“We have to. It’s for Da,” Jovan snapped back.
“I’ll”—Bahari looked around the room—“do something else to help. Go to the herb sellers.”
“Bahari!” Danello gasped. “Half the time they sell you poisons. I’m not risking Da’s life like that.”
I shuffled back against the wall. I wasn’t sure I wanted to do this either, and I didn’t want to shift anything to Bahari if he didn’t want it.
“It’ll hurt,” he said.
“Yes, but you can handle it for a few days.”
“Do it, Hari,” Jovan said in a voice too old for such a small boy. “Da’s never let us down, and we’re not letting him down now.”
Bahari didn’t agree, but he didn’t say no again either.
“Fine, then it’s settled. Me first.” Danello dragged over a chair from under the window and sat down, grabbing the arms tight.
Find more from Janice on her writing blog, website, Facebook, and Twitter.
To break up my writing time, I design book covers for fellow authors. Here’s my latest cover design and a bit about Edward L. Cote’s Violet Skies, the first book in his new series of the same name. Each book is a novella, short and easy to read. This is a fresh twist on classic fantasy, but it keeps its essential nature intact.
Taya Mindaerel and her mother, the Oracle of the Prairie Winds, must flee their home or face certain death at the hands of a dark hunter and his man-eating horse. Their journey takes them to Aurum, the City of Gold, where they seek the aid of the Great Magus Olbinaar.
On the way they meet three allies- Alex, a vagabond, Brand, a master swordsman, and Ogger a wild creature. They will need all the help they can get to surmount all the obstacles in their path.
In the city however, they learn that their journey has just begun.
Download Violet Skies on Amazon and Smashwords, or purchase the paperback.
Olbinaar stood in the Grand Library of the Hall of the High Council. Two stories of books lined the walls, which were divided by oak doors at regular intervals. Six ladders granted access to the higher bookshelves. Two huge windows stood opposite each other, displaying grand views of Aurum, the City of Gold. Through each he could see the city’s aqueducts, markets, buildings and towers short and tall. The window on the western side brought light from the setting sun.
The blue robes Olbinaar wore and the insignia decorating them spoke plainly of his station and power as a Great Wizard of Aeovas. Long years and hard days had worn upon his face. Thick gray hair formed half a ring around the bald spot on top of his head and matched his well-groomed but bushy beard. His blue eyes studied the room, and his stocky frame stirred impatiently.
“Ah, Olbinaar. I thought I’d find you here,” a jovial voice said.
Olbinaar turned to find a younger colleague entering the room. “Dibian,” he said. He offered a slight bow, a courtesy not returned. “I’m waiting for the Council.”
Dibian closed the door behind him. “Yes, I know.” He wore not the blue robe of his official position, but his own black robes of fine silk. His flippant self-indulgence and habit of overeating gave him a large gut and a soft visage, but his weight was not the first thing most people noticed when they saw him. No, that would be the damnable smirk he always had on his perfectly shaven face. He kept his brown hair trimmed with the same meticulousness, but that did not draw the eye in the same way.
“You’re out of uniform,” Olbinaar said, adjusting his own robes proudly.
“Trust me, you’re the only one who cares.” Dibian walked over to a table, where he found a bottle of blue wine that had been left for Olbinaar. It was an excellent vintage, carefully crafted from blueberries and four other fruits, each more rare than the last, then aged for decades. Dibian examined the bottle’s markings and nodded in approval. With a quick gesture, he chilled it. He poured himself some of the rich dark blue wine in a crystal glass. “Are you sure you don’t want any?”
The elder wizard shook his head. “I hate to think of what that bottle must be worth. I wish the Council would spend its taxes more wisely than on attempts to impress us.” He sighed. “But frankly, I’m wondering what’s keeping them so long.”
Dibian smiled. “I wouldn’t worry about it.”
Olbinaar scoffed. “Really? They’re scared, Dibian. Ultimately, there’s no telling what they will do. They must have some reassurance that we won’t simply run roughshod over them, but what . . .” he lowered his voice, “what can they really do to protect themselves?”
The younger man peeked over his glass, clear blue eyes shining. “What indeed.”
Olbinaar allowed himself a small smile. “This is unlike you. I’ve grown accustomed to you opposing everything I say out of habit.”
Dibian laughed quietly. “Whose habit is that, old man? I do what I do for my own reasons. It is you who always react to my moves, and second-guess my motives.”
Just when he thought his colleague might say something to soothe the sting from that barb, Olbinaar saw something through the western window. Three explosions lit the evening sky, quieted by distance. People filled the streets with panic.
For a second, Olbinaar stood shocked, but he roused himself to action. “The city is under attack! We must warn the Council!”
“The Council is dead,” Dibian replied flatly. He took a drink of wine then set his glass down on the table.
Olbinaar’s knees wobbled. “What? Are you mad? How do you know this?” He started off toward the Council Chambers. “If this is some kind of prank—” Another explosion tore the top off of a tower. Rubble fell to the streets below in a violent cloud of dust. Olbinaar stopped walking when he saw it through the window, which shook with the roar of the blast.
Dibian sharpened his voice. “It’s no joke. They’re dead, old man. Every last one.”
“I killed them.”
The silence stood thick, until broken by another explosion, this one closer to the window.
Olbinaar turned to face Dibian with eyes wide in shock. “Why?”
The younger man laughed. “Why? Isn’t it obvious? Did they think they could ride us like donkeys? Or leash us like dogs? What good is a law, against us? Against this kind ofpower?” As if to punctuate his words, another explosion shattered the great window behind him. Glass shards rained on the wizards, but both protected themselves with shields of their own power, raised by well-trained reflex. The wind howled through the broken window.
Dibian raised his voice. “Pieces of paper won’t stop this. When Ruegar went mad and took it upon himself to exterminate the rest of us one by one, what did they do?”
“There was nothing they could do!”
“Exactly! We’re practically gods!”
“Are you mad? What gives you the right?”
“What right do they have to try to bind us with their laws? And now this latest farce? Do they expect us to surrender the very means to defend ourselves?” Dibian shook his head.
Olbinaar slowed his breathing, and closed his eyes.
The murderer sighed. “Would you prefer it if I turned them into puppets? I’m fed up with even pretending to subjugate myself to those petty politicians. We all are, whether we admit it or not.” He paused. “It will be better for us to rule openly. You’ll see.”
The elder frowned. “You mean for wizards to rule the world? What of democracy?”
Dibian laughed. “Democracy is the rule of the best con artist. Let those who have true power rule over those who do not.”
The explosions continued, growing more intense. Olbinaar knew there had to be a terrible panic in the streets, and untold dead and wounded. What he could see would not be the half of it. He looked out the broken window, a breeze blowing his robe and beard. He asked, “Are you doing this somehow?”
Dibian scoffed. “What would I have to gain? This city could stand to be redecorated, but there must be some easier way to do that.”
Olbinaar rounded on him, but before he could speak, Dibian scowled and said, “Who do you think it is out there? Telaron and Sela are in the city as well, and that makes four. Did you really think Ruegar would pass up a chance to come after four of us at once?”
Olbinaar sighed. “I did not know you were here, or that you had brought your lover.”
“Ah yes, but I am, and I did. Hmm.” Dibian paused to take a fig from the tray and bite into it. “I wonder if he simply followed me here. I’ve made no secret of my whereabouts.” He finished the fig and licked his fingers. “Oh well. What’s done is done. Ruegar is here, and I know none of you can defeat him alone.” He walked over to the broken window and put a finger to his lips. “Perhaps . . . I could . . . but I’ve too little to gain to risk my life on those odds.” Dibian looked down, where Olbinaar could see a crowd running through a street below. The murderer looked back at Olbinaar with that arrogant smirk. “It seems we’ll have to work together this time.”
Olbinaar looked out the window, at the fire and crumbling buildings. He knew what Ruegar wanted— he was trying to smoke them out. He also knew that he could not hope to defeat Ruegar the Mad on his own, but Dibian had some skill in magical combat, and his lover Sela was twice as fierce as any man. Olbinaar’s apprentice Telaron might already be dead, but if he were not, only swift action would save him. Justice for Dibian’s crimes would have to wait. The only way to prevent much more bloodshed was to fight alongside a half-mad devil of a woman and a cold-blooded murderer.
Olbinaar growled, frowned, and fumed, but there was nothing else he could do. He looked over his shoulder and said, “For now.”
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