Well before Drake reached Daniella, Rosaliy was dealing with her own kidnapping. After a heated yelling match ended in Iketa declaring that under no circumstance was Rosaliy leaving her locked room, Dalor and Ocery waited for Iketa to leave before escorting Rosaliy out of her locked room. Once she was freed, the men argued over who needed her more while Rosaliy ogled her new surroundings.

She was on Flifary Island. She knew from the sweltering heat and the jungle vines creeping their way into the shattered stone building where she had been transported. This crumbling stone building looked like it had been the epicenter of an explosion. There were wide holes in the walls and cracks in the floor. Dust and rubble would occasionally rain down from the ceiling. One of the massive columns near the entrance was smashed across the middle, and Rosaliy worried about the stability of the roof. Through the night, Workers hauled away broken stones and dug up jagged shards of floor. Their work looked miserable; sweat poured down their dark, bare skin as they hauled away rocks and leveled the ground.

“What happened here?” Rosaliy asked.

“The Seer happened,” growled Ocery, the tall one with the spiky hair. After Iketa, Ocery was the most intimidating of the three. His massive arms could break her wrist with a snap if his hot temper called for it. Once Rosaliy’s love potion wore off, she wanted to be nowhere near him.

“Arlana did this?” she clarified.

Ocery tensed at the name. “Rather than let us take the temple, she sent it crashing down around us.”

“We’re still working on the divination room,” said Dalor ruefully, “but as soon as we get that up and functioning, we’ll be back on track.”

Dalor was shorter and rounder. He was more interested in playing with magic than the others. Rosaliy felt less in danger from him, but the difference was something like being eaten by a vicious bear or being mauled to death by a bear cub who just wanted to find out how well attached her arms were. They were both dangerous men.

“If we had the divination stone,” Ocery corrected him. “Who knows where Arlana stashed that thing?”

“She’ll crack,” Dalor said confidently.

Rosaliy felt cold. “She’s here?” whispered Rosaliy.

“Of course not,” scoffed Ocery. “That would be stupid.”

“I still say we toss that crazy Malum woman in with her,” mused Dalor with a frightening half grin. Maybe he was not the nicer one after all. “Foretell that.”

Rosaliy was barely hanging onto the threads of this conversation, and before she could dig for more information, two men with menacing spears dragged in a struggling Flifary woman with long, flowing red hair and flashing, dark eyes. Her ripped, breezy clothes trailed behind her as she was pulled along. The men spotted Dalor and Ocery and dragged over their prisoner, promptly rattling off an explanation in their native tongue.

“What’s happening?” Rosaliy asked.

“They found another rebel,” Dalor explained cheerfully. “Silana,” he greeted the woman. “Want to tell us what the rest of the loyalists are up to? Where the divination stone is?”

She raised her blood-streaked face, fixed on him with her defiant, dark eyes, and spit at him.

Ocery chuckled. He said something to her spear-holding captors. Whatever he said, his words sent Silana into a rage. She yelled at him, kicking and screaming as she was dragged away.

“Can’t fail when you’ve seen the future, Sil,” Dalor called after her.

Rosaliy was in the middle of a civil war—a hostile takeover. Coming to this island may not have been a great idea.

“Why now?” she asked Ocery and Dalor, trying to keep her voice from trembling. “Why take control now? You’ve been so peaceful for thousands of years.”

“Timing, yes, that’s it exactly,” Dalor mused. “The monarchies are crumbling. There are so few influencers in play right now. There’s this little sliver of time between—” His eyes were dancing, excited, and his fingers closed in on each other like he was holding that pivotal sliver of time between his fingertips. He cut himself off with a wistful sigh. “I’d love to show you, since you’re so interested, but the divination room is a mess, something Ocery should be working on right now.”

“I’m heading there now,” grumbled Ocery, trying to pull Rosaliy along.

Dalor grabbed her other arm. He needed Rosaliy to track Daniella, he insisted. That was unfair, Ocery argued, unfair to keep Rosaliy all to himself. The bickering went back and forth while Rosaliy wondered if the belt protected her from being pulled in two. Eventually, Dalor decided he could work in the divination room while Ocery forged ahead on repairs. Their compromise suited Rosaliy. She stayed in one piece, and the more she could see of this place, the more she might understand what was going on and how she could stop it.

The place they called the divination room was in shambles. Whatever had destroyed the building had blown up here, and the repair work had focused on speed rather than quality. Rocks had been wedged at odd angles into holes in the tall ceiling and broken walls. By torchlight, workers smeared glowing green paste in every crack on every broken surface of the stone room.

“You wouldn’t believe what it looked like when Arlana was through with the place,” he joked.

Rosaliy could form no words around the numb horror in the pit of her stomach. Why would Arlana have done this?

Dalor, meanwhile, dragged in a trunk stuffed with magical odds and ends and a scratched table to use as a makeshift workspace. He pulled in a chair for Rosaliy and sat across from her, pressing his hands together in excitement. “Would you mind if I took some of your blood? I have so many experiments going where Sorceress blood would be so useful.”

“I do mind,” she said, pretending to be very sorry instead of panicked and horrified. Since he was asking, she’d rather not assist in the creation of dark enchantments.

“You do have very pretty skin,” he said, disappointed, but understanding. “So, let’s track Daniella.”

Rosaliy was still not sure she was on Daniella’s side, but she did have the uncomfortable inclination she might be on Daniella’s side. Hopefully Dalor would tell her more.

She smiled broadly, ignoring the impulse to steal a torch from the nearest worker and run. “Why are you looking for Daniella?”

Conflict crossed Dalor’s face. “I really shouldn’t tell you too much.”

“But I so want to know,” Rosaliy begged. She felt like she should toss her hair, but she decided against.

Dalor craned his head to see how far away Ocery was. A girl with feathers stuck in her copper braids seemed to be explaining with dramatic hand gestures and a barrage of words why a few larger rocks had fallen out of their places. Ocery was distracted.

Dalor kept his voice low. “She’s one of the influencers we were tracking before Arlana did—well, all this,” he said, waving at the destruction around him. A pebble skittered down the wall to prove his point. “So we need to account for her. We’ve gotten everybody else.”

Everybody who? Issabeth, certainly. Athena? Talyrin? Rosaliy felt the weight of the fate of the world shift onto her shoulders. This was so much worse than anything she had imagined.

“That Daniella is already messing up all our plans.” Dalor sighed. “So now we need her to find those kids. We know she’s hiding them. We just don’t know how.”

“What do you want with the children?” asked Rosaliy, trying her best to smile in an alluring manner and failing because the world was crumbling around her.

Dalor’s bright white eyes popped a little from his dark, round face. “I definitely can’t tell you that,” Dalor balked.

Rosaliy had a dozen alternate questions to try, but Iketa chose that moment to barge in. If Rosaliy found the men intimidating, they held nothing on Iketa. Rosaliy was sure even the wall sealers increased their pace when the fire-haired woman swept in the room exclaiming, “What is she doing here?”

“It’s just so nice to have her around,” Ocery explained.

“Besides, if we keep an eye on her at all times, we know exactly what she’s doing,” Dalor added.

“That is it,” Iketa fumed. “I knew this would happen. I have something that will end this.”

Iketa gripped a wooden bucket, and Rosaliy had never felt so sure of a painful death as she did in that moment.

Rosaliy shrank away, but Iketa was blocking the only exit, and she was determined.

“Hold her down,” Iketa snarled at the men. They were only too happy for the excuse to leap forward and clamp down on her arms.

Iketa stomped forward. With a heave, Iketa swung the bucket back and thrust it forward so the contents cascaded over Rosaliy’s head. A liquid that was ice cold and burning hot all at once seared through Rosaliy’s body. The concoction oozed all over, dripping into her face and stinging her eyes. After dealing with the shock of not being dead, the worst part was the smell—part dying rat, part rotten egg, part sweaty boot. Rosaliy gasped and choked, trying to breathe against this explosion of terrible sensations.

“Get her out of the divination room,” barked Iketa to Ocery.

Ocery wrenched Rosaliy back out to the entryway of the temple and shoved her to the ground. She slid harmlessly across the broken stone floor due to the belt’s protection.

“Best not outlive your usefulness, Sorceress,” he threatened, no trace of adoration in his eyes now. “Protection or no, I’ll find a way to kill you when we’re done with you.”

That was ominous. Rosaliy scraped putrid ooze off her face so it would stop dripping into her eyes. In her blurry field of vision, Ocery stalked away as Iketa snapped her fingers at a spear-wielding guard and waved him over. Dalor scurried out, looking the least murderous of the three. He would find Daniella eventually. He had everything he needed. Rosaliy did not even like Daniella. She did not so much as trust Daniella. She was unsure whether stalling the inevitable was helping anyone. Her best bet was to be there when they found what they were looking for.

“Taragon,” Rosaliy blurted out. “I’ve tracked Daniella to Taragon.”

“Excellent,” Iketa sneered. “An entire protectorate. That really narrows things down. Let me know when you’re ready to be more specific.” The guard clamped a broad hand around her arm. “Arlana’s going to be so thrilled to see you,” Iketa mocked.

As much as Rosaliy wanted to talk to Arlana, if they could hold the powerful Seer prisoner, there was no way Rosaliy was going to escape.

“I can’t narrow down her location from here,” Rosaliy insisted in a rush. “I need to track her from Taragon.”

She felt a chill run down her body as the ooze tingled against her skin.

“You think we’re going to take you with us to Taragon?” Iketa laughed.

She nodded, trying to look confident and not like a smelly drowned rat. “You know Daniella’s a step ahead. She’s planned for you. You need to find her quickly, and she knows all your tricks.”

“And you’re so much smarter than Daniella?” Iketa mocked.

“No, but—” Rosaliy very much wished she had more time to think. How much should she give away? “Daniella’s been leading me to her. She wants me to find her.”

Dalor’s curiosity was piqued. She saw a tiny ray of hope. “How?” he asked.

Since she could not tell him how because the book, despite its distance, was still controlling her, she was spared having to come up with her own answer.

“She’s in Taragon,” Rosaliy repeated stubbornly. “And if you want to find her before she disappears, you need my help.”

Iketa and Dalor traded a look. He nodded, just slightly.

“If you don’t find her by tomorrow night, you’re dead,” promised Iketa in a singing voice.


About the author


Bio: From the (usually) rainy Pacific Northwest. Enjoys writing words! Some of them are in books:

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