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A note from carlyn_a

I've spent some time putting together a proper map so that everyone can orient themselves better! A map of Itrera and a list of the coalitions can be found here! Please zoom in to find details that make appearances in the story.

Thank you for reading, and welcome to new readers! 

Andiya could hardly stand. Yulia and I kept our distance as she wobbled on her feet, her face pulled with strain. I didn’t ask if she needed help. Her fury already told me she wouldn’t accept it.

Andiya staggered after us as we left the interrogation room. Just outside, a line of Eons blocked our way.

“Her Majesty requires your presence,” said the Eon with the orange braid and bear-like Bestial. Unlike the other Eons, I realized that she had two maroon dots under each eye, rather than one. So she was the Eon commander. Hadrion, if I remembered correctly. Chains clinked in her hand. “Restrain your daemon.”

“That’s not necessary,” I replied.

“I did not ask your opinion on the matter.” Hadrion swept past me and clamped the irons around Andiya’s wrists. Andiya swayed on her feet, and a low burn stung my own skin.

“Follow.”

The Eons led us down a central hall towards the new archon’s quarters. We arrived at a set of silver doors etched with the Canavar history: a longship heralding when humans arrived on the continent, scenes of righteous conquest over the daemons, and new human cities built from felled greatwood trees.

“Her Majesty is waiting,” said Hadrion. As Yulia tried to enter, Hadrion grabbed her arm. “Rozin Kain and the High Order only.” The door slammed behind me.

I hung at the entrance. I had never been somewhere so wealthy in my life. The first room had walls of white stone and floors of dark wood, silvery silk curtains hanging from the windows. A great fire roared in an iron brazier, surrounded by seats of blown glass. In a lavish octagon sitting area, furs were thrown over sofas and living chairs, and behind them, tall shelves held thousands of leather-bound books. But the real centrepiece of the room was the ceiling: made completely of pale blue ice, and carved with life-size wolves that seemed to run across it as though they were real. The cut mountains behind them wavered like a mirage, lit by green and blue streaks of light that wove between them in an aurora.

“Take a seat,” called a cold voice from one of the connected archways.

We took places on the sofas, Andiya beside me. She seemed to wilt with exhaustion as she sat, her wounds still weeping grey smoke.

I kept on my guard. No one entered the archon’s chambers but their most trusted. Why would the princess call a High Order here, when it had murdered father not hours ago?

“A true High Order, they say,” said the voice again, and Princess Irina Volkov stepped into the room. “I had to see it for myself.”

Up close, her beauty was heart-stopping. But it was not a kind, soft beauty—but razor sharp, stretched tight over high cheekbones and an angled jaw. She was in white furs and a long samite gown, the jewels on her diadem, ears, and hands glittering against the fire. Princess Irina seemed barely older than Yulia and I, but her eyes were lit with a cunning that spoke of someone twice her age.

“The daemon is looking worse for wear,” Irina said. “Seylas’s work, was it? He never did know when to stop.”

Andiya’s disgust rattled the bond. I looked at her in warning. “Remember what I promised you,” I whispered. Her nostrils flared in anger, but she didn’t make any move to lunge.

“I bid you welcome, Rozin Kain,” said Irina. She took a seat across from me, crossing her legs casually. She smiled without a hint of warmth.

“Thank you, Your Majesty,” I managed to croak.

Irina’s icy blue eyes examined Andiya head to toe. I waited in terse silence, Irina’s fingers tapping on her thigh.

My throat went dry. “Your Majesty,” I blurted. “I’m sorry. I failed your father. I failed you, Your Majesty. I will take whatever punishment—”

“You will not be punished for hastening my ascent to the throne.”

My mouth snapped shut. Andiya’s lips curled back in revulsion. But Irina only kept smiling. It never reached her eyes.

“The High Order doesn’t seem to appreciate my callousness. I can understand your protest, daemon. The death of a royal. Nasty business, it is not? For a great life to be ended in such a brutal way. Strange, however, that you dare to show hypocrisy in my own house, as my father’s murderer. I thought you would be above such behaviour, Andiya of the Kaeltan Royal Guard.”

Andiya went still. I felt a surge of terror scream up the bond, so quickly Andiya couldn’t reign it in.

“I’m not a guard,” she spat.

Something about her words was strange. It was like a small squeeze of guilt in my chest—the same one that I felt when I lied.

Irina slid her cold eyes at me.

“She’s lying,” I said. Andiya’s muscles tensed, as if to lunge. “But don’t worry, your majesty. Lying is the most Andiya will do to you, if she wants to live.”

Andiya shot me a hateful look.

“My coronation, as is customary, is set for six months’ time,” said Irina. “Between now and then, the law requires me to take a bonded for my own protection. But this practice ultimately failed my father. His feeble daemon was as useful to him against a High Order as a wooden stick. I plan to ignore the law of bonding, as it is of no use to me.” She stood and held out a palm to Andiya, who reluctantly surrendered her wrist. “Your bonded, according to my father’s advisor, bears the flame-and-antler seal of Kaelta’s Royal Guard. Unseen thus far in the flesh, but known well enough in manuscripts and hearsay. Tell me, daemon. Have you ever met Kaelta’s ruling family?”

“No,” Andiya answered too quickly. I recognized the small emotional flash that pulled the bond.

“Lie,” I said.

Irina’s grip tightened on Andiya’s wrist. “Did you ever guard the ruling family?”

“No!”

“Lie.”

Andiya’s eyes snapped to me, and for the first time, the terror was evident on her face. “Stop that.”

“If you were ever to stand against Kaelta by our side, do you believe the ruling family would hesitate to put you down?”

“They’d see me as dead. I’m just a bonded, now—”

The flash again. “They wouldn’t kill her.”

White terror blinded me. “Please,” gasped Andiya. “Please, don’t tell her—”

Irina yanked Andiya closer. A dangerous quality coloured Irina’s tone. Her gaze ate Andiya head to toe. “Her mental faculties are remarkable, after bonding. The likes of which I have never seen …” Andiya shrunk back. “My final question. Is it possible for a human to enter the daemon lands?”

Andiya only fixed me with a pleading gaze. “Don’t tell her anything, please, I can’t betray them—”

“Humans can enter their world,” I breathed. No one had ever known that. We’d never found a way in.

Something thin between Andiya and I shattered. She seemed to shut down, staring at the floor, eyes wide with panic. I couldn’t tell what she was thinking, but I could feel her galloping heartbeat.

“Thank you for your service, Kain. Ask my guard to show you to quarters better suited to your new station.”

I rose and bowed deeply. “My new station, Your Majesty?”

Irina’s smile was like the glint of a knife. “As my personal guard. Forget the law of bonding. I can think of nothing better suited to defending against a High Order than my own.”

Andiya’s revulsion pulsed the bond, but she didn’t move. She seemed resigned to silence. That suited me just fine.

Irina saw us to the door. “I look forward to our partnership, Eon Kain.”

 

*

 

Once in the hallway, Hadrion removed Andiya’s shackles. Andiya’s walking seemed even worse. She gripped Artem’s shoulder for support, but she could barely hold her weight.

“What did they do to your ankles?” I asked, but Andiya looked pointedly away from me.

“Andiya has no access to her own magic, given that it is in your control,” Artem answered. “She is not accustomed to walking on physical strength alone.”

I remembered Andiya in the Teeth, floating towards me through hissing steam.

“And how can I give her the strength to walk?”

“A daemon shapes their magic by rigorous control. You would simply need to regulate the flow of energy between you. Give her just enough to walk, not enough for more.”

That kind of mastery was beyond me at the moment. All I had so far figured out how to do was throttle Andiya’s magic with the finesse of a child’s fist. If I tried to give her any power, I didn’t think I could say how much.

Yulia stepped in front of Artem, halting him. “Artem. Release Rozin’s bonded.”

There was a single breath where I saw Artem hesitate. But he couldn’t. Bonded never hesitated.

Andiya stumbled as Artem relinquished her.

“Thank you for your escort,” said Yulia to the Eons shortly. “I must deliver our report to Shokarov.” Her gaze followed Artem carefully. “I’ll see you later, Rozin.”

The Eons led us away, and Yulia stared at us going with a harsh frown, her hand claw-like on Artem’s shoulder.

Andiya and I came to my new chambers. The heavy door locked behind us again. So we were not to have free reign of the Korongorod, were we?

These chambers were fit for a dignitary, not a guard. Several wide rooms branched off from a main entertaining area of low sofas and a crackling central hearth, the windows etched with winter-blooming roses. Handsome instruments leaned against the wall, and a harp waited beside a balcony with a gurgling fountain. Servants had left us food on the dining table, the kind that would cost a month’s pay for a single plate: delicate pastries, tropical fruit and steamed vegetables from the Korongorod’s greenhouses, entire legs of lamb, and plates of nut-crusted chocolates.

Just off the dining area was a bedroom with single, enormous bed, and beside it was a small, curtained alcove with a sleeping area for a bonded. Andiya leaned against the wall. Arduously, she staggered into the bedroom and collapsed onto the main bed.

With a sigh, I sat on the couch. I didn’t feel like fighting her on the sleeping arrangements, not when a small knot of guilt wound in my stomach. Andiya was in pain, she could sleep wherever she wanted.

But I shouldn’t feel guilty. I had to remember what the daemons truly were. Beasts. Killers. Monsters the elvhen had freed from hell, that had ravaged the continent and left it a waste of ash and salt.

But why Andiya feel so human?

“I had to tell the princess everything,” I said, loud enough to be heard in the next room. “She is my regent. You would have done the same.”

In response, Andiya pulled a tasselled pillow over her head.

I gritted my teeth. “I can’t believe I’m about to have this conversation.” Bonded never disobeyed, never questioned, never expressed opinions. They didn’t have any. They were beasts with a collar, and little more. Andiya’s response, her impossible autonomy, her sentience, were unexplored territory. “But you should spend some time accepting your new position. You belong to the archon, just as I do.”

Andiya said nothing.

“Whatever you were before means nothing now. What I was before joining the military means nothing now. Together, we serve one purpose: that which the archon requires. Nothing more, but also nothing less.”

Silence.

“Your silent treatment changes nothing. When you wake in the morning, you’ll still be bonded.”

I felt along the bond, trying to feel her emotions. Instead, I met an impenetrable wall between us.

There would be no point in continuing. Andiya could pout all she liked.

“You could at least be grateful to the princess for sparing you. She would have been perfectly justified in sentencing her father’s murderer to death.”

And she might have, if she didn’t have better use for Andiya.

I decided to take care of myself while I had the chance. I wolfed down some of the lavish spread in the dining area, filling my gnawing stomach. The bath was practically large enough to swim in. I sank my head into the hot water, hushing the Korongorod to slow, liquid thuds.

The reality of my new situation was hard to clear from my mind. An Eon. I’d never seen myself as one of them. I’d told Andiya to accept her new position, but I would have trouble doing the same.

Sage Jawahir had trained me for three years. He’d said there was a determination in me that overshadowed all his previous pupils. I needed to prove myself, he said. Everyone else merely wanted to.

Now all my training to produce fetters was useless. I couldn’t create a new bond, now that I had a bonded myself. Three years wasted. If Irina hadn’t taken me on as an Eon, I don’t know what might have become of me. How many torture sessions I would have had to endure as the Korongorod tore Andiya apart for information.

I wrapped myself in a plush robe and made a hot cup of siteria, a tea from Bel Arben with strong calming qualities. On a lounge chair by the balcony’s cacophonous fountain, I let myself relax for the first time since leaving for the Teeth.

Andiya was still only a wall. She’d likely not notice if I just …

“Rozin.”

My eyes creaked open. The sun was much farther along in the sky than I’d last seen it. How long did I sleep for?

I squinted blearily at Yulia. She looked worried.

“I’m all right,” I said to assuage any fear of Andiya taking over. “Haven’t slept much lately.”

“Then I won’t keep you too long.”

“Where’s Artem?”

Yulia’s eyes shifted nervously. “Guarding the door. I don’t want him to listen in.”

I sat up straighter. “What could Artem hearing possibly matter?”

Yulia dashed about and did a quick sweep of my chambers. “Seems safe to talk here, the fountain’s loud. Can Andiya hear your thoughts?”

“Not right now. She’s ignoring me.”

Yulia drew me to the edge of the balcony, almost close enough to the fountain to get splashed. She held her arms against her stomach.

“I couldn’t feel Artem,” she whispered shakily.

“What? What do you mean?”

“When he was walking Andiya back. The bond just … vanished. I was alone. Then he answered your question, and it felt like it came from a different person. Not—not from me, like it should, with a bond. Artem answered you by himself. I didn’t know why Andiya couldn’t walk. Artem did.”

I wanted the fountain to drown her words.

“I think …” Yulia continued. “Remember what Andiya did to the archon’s guard? They all just fell from the air like she’d paralyzed them. What if she can destroy the bond?”

I shook my head. “If that were the case, those bonded would be freed right now. But we saw Hadrion’s Bestial earlier, and it’s still hers.”

“So if she can’t … a High Order can control the lesser. And that control is enough to override their loyalty to the bond.” Yulia was pale. “How many do you think Andiya can control? She took out all of the archon’s guard in seconds. What if she can control more than that? Hundreds, maybe thousands …”

“An army,” I breathed. “If I lose control of Andiya, she could take control of the Korongorod.”

“Or march on the entire continent.”

Yulia sat heavily on the fountain ledge, her hand clenched in her hair.

“I don’t think she knows about Artem,” I assured her. “I felt nothing in the bond. It might be unconscious.”

“Then you need to find out how much she does know. Because if Andiya finds out she can threaten the Korongorod …”

“I can hold her now.”

“No. I mean that if she uses her ability and and others figure out she can take over bonds, then they’ll kill her. Even if Princess Irina wants Andiya, she’ll be overruled. The Canavar councillors won’t let her keep a national threat as a toy.”

“We figured it out. Other people can too.”

“I talked to Shokarov. All they think is that Andiya used some kind of petrifying magic on the other bonded. They don’t know about Artem. To them, Andiya is just powerful and that’s all.”

“Will you say anything?”

“No. No, Rozin. Never. I don’t care about the Korongorod’s politics or what they want. You are my friend. This secret will die with me.”

I sat beside Yulia on the fountain and leaned my cheek on her shoulder. I knew I should have been concerned, or felt more about this newest revelation. But so much had happened in the past few days that I had no feeling left. I wasn’t the Rozin that had left for the Teeth with Shokarov’s riders. I was someone new. An Eon. Potential terror of the Canavar Coalition. And I was just so tired.

“We’re all looking out for you, Rozin,” Yulia whispered. “We’ll keep an eye on your bonded every second we can. Shokarov told me to remind you who your friends are.”

I stared out over the balcony. The Korongorod sailed over sunset fields of cattle and wheat, a lazy river cleaving the land in two.

“Thank you.”

“And … how do you feel?”

“I’m fine.”

“You can’t just be fine. We can talk about it. What it means to have a bonded. I’m sort of an expert at that, you know.”

“If it’s all the same … I’d love to sleep. Really, Yulia, I’m all right. Takes more than this to take me out.”

Yulia didn’t seem convinced. She wrapped her arm around my shoulders and squeezed once. “I’m always here if you have anything to say. Good night, Rozin. Chin up.”

And so I was alone, staring at the endless fields with a familiar emptiness to my heart.

 

*

 

I woke to the gentle notes of a harp.

I uncurled from the couch and crept to the entertaining area, careful not to make a sound.

Andiya was playing.

Her fingers slid deftly on the strings, drawing gentle notes. Every pluck was a blur. The song was slow and sombre, echoing through our chambers like a lament.

I moved to listen closer, and Andiya slammed her palms to the strings, silencing them.

“Going to tell me to stop?” Andiya growled without looking at me. Her bruises were darkening now, mottling every inch of exposed skin.

“No. You’re free to entertain yourself, there’s no harm in it. You can continue.”

“Lost the moment.”

“I won’t interrupt.”

“Why don’t you order me to play, master?”

“Rozin.”

Andiya faced me for the first time since meeting the princess.

“Rozin is fine,” I said. “Is there a name you prefer?”

Her eyes narrowed. “Andiya is fine. No surname for you to tell your princess.”

“Didn’t plan on it.” At least not right away. “How are you healing?”

Andiya snorted. “Slowly. I don’t know how slowly, if you must know. I’ve never had anyone throttling my magic before. I don’t get bruises, if I have my magic.”

I sat across from her. “So. How long have you been playing?”

“Twenty minutes.”

“I mean generally. A few years?”

A small, cruel smile pulled Andiya’s lip crooked. “Surely the humans are aware of High Order immortality. We find ways to pass the time.”

“More than a few years, then.”

“Enough.”

“And how old are you?”

“Hard to say. I don’t know your calendar.”

There were several well-known legends of the High Orders. Some were said to be thousands of years old, some older—since before the conquering of the elvhen, before humans had even arrived on the continent. The queen of Quar’ma Vak, a northern daemon country just west of the Canavar Coalition, was known to be in her third millennium. How many years did it take a daemon to be trusted enough to become a royal guard? From the way Andiya smirked at me, a lot longer than I thought.

“How many centuries?”

“And why do you need to know? Are you concerned about what ancient magic you have bound to your soul?”

“I’ve slept on it. And I think I should take my own advice. You’re my bonded, as much as I don’t like it. I should get used to that. Or, at least, find some way for us to live with this.”

“I’d prefer if you kept your distance, if it’s all the same.”

“Unfortunately, this is not a choice.”

“It is.”

“You will speak with me, Andiya.”

Andiya snapped up and swiped her hand across the harp. The strings broke as though cut by a burning knife. Andiya’s fingertips were red hot. I felt her magic pulling towards her, gathering strength.

“That’s right, master. I almost forgot. I have no choice. You took that away.”

“When you tried to kill me.”

“For Khalid!” Andiya screamed. Steam curled from her hands. “If I had put your precious Yulia in chains, if I’d carved out her mind and stuffed her hollowed husk in a cloak, what would you have done? Would you have let me go?”

“I would have killed you,” I admitted plainly.

“Then don’t you dare justify what you did. I did not deserve this punishment. You, and this entire vermin-run palace, do.”

Her hand went dangerously close to the flammable divan. “Stop the magic, or I will.”

“If you can,” Andiya snarled.

In reply, I tightened the bond. Andiya’s magic stopped trickling through, and she collapsed on her hands and knees.

Andiya’s voice shook. “I know what you call me. I heard you say it. Monster. We’re all monsters.”

“That’s right.”

“But who are our monsters, Rozin Kain? What do daemon parents warn their children of, by the bedside?”

“I don’t care.”

Andiya’s fingers curled like claws. “Then we’re done here. I will not bother you with morality again, master.”

“Rozin.”

“No. No pretence, no respect. You said it yourself. I am a bonded. I should act like this.”

I crossed my arms. That knot of guilt grew colder. Andiya could playing me, manipulating me into a false sense of security. So why did it feel so real? Why did the word “master” suddenly make me feel like a slaver——when no one else seemed to? Our sureness that the daemons were evil, that their instinct was kill-or-be-killed, was what gave us the certainty that they needed to be tamed. But the way Andiya had said “Khalid” … in such pain. The kind that came from love. Something I had always known——still knew——daemons couldn’t feel.

“I won’t apologise.”

“I know,” Andiya spat.

Someone knocked on the door.

“Yeah?” I called.

A small group entered: a short, bald man in embroidered silver, a pair of women holding heavy leather cases, and an older woman with a tight bun and severe lips.

“I am Her Majesty’s clothier,” said the severe woman. “I am to fit your uniform.”

I look at Andiya. “You’ll need to prop her up to do it.”

Andiya glared back at me, hating me, that fire burning up the bond. In defiance, she pushed herself to a wobbly stand. I expected her to fall, but she held herself with defiant strain.

In no time at all, Andiya and I were fitted in the notorious garb of the Eon Guard. A wolf fur sat on my shoulders over a heavy black cloak, bound at my neck by a silver chain. Under it, I wore a close-fitted suit of black, supple leather boots, and silver bracers etched with the Canavar wolf. The clothier pressed a finger beneath each of my eyes, leaving two dots of dark maroon ink. My face could be mistaken for nothing else, now.

They’d put Andiya in matching colours and fur. But her ink was a red slash through the centre of her lips, and the clothier drew Andiya’s hood over her shaved head. In its shadow, all we saw were those infernal scarlet eyes.

A group of palace guard led us through the Korongorod, but this time they bowed and deferred to someone of a higher rank. Me. I could feel the soldier that had been Rozin slip further away. This was the respect due to Eon Kain.

We took winding stairs down, down, deep into the Korongorod’s bedrock. We found Irina in the council chambers.

It was a smaller room than I expected, and seemed to have been carved straight from out of the stone. The walls bore depictions of the ancient greatwoods, the eyes of the slaughtered elvhen peering at us from between the branches. The back of the chamber was no wall at all——it was open to the world, a waterfall pouring over it in a roaring sheet.

A long stone table sat in the centre of the room, surrounded by twelve dark wood chairs. Each seat bore the iconography and colours of its respective state, and in them, councillors in their traditional dress sat. Most of the seats were empty. Only the Canavar Coalition, and our ally Seo Jie Go, were in attendance. Irina was at the place of honour at the table’s head.

“Behind me, Kain,” Irina said.

I took my place with my back to the waterfall. No one in the room even bothered to look at something as lowly as a guard. All but one. Lying behind a red-and-green seat representing Seo Jie Go, a bonded glowered at Andiya. It was a Bestial, as hulking as a lion but black scaled and golden maned, its eyes like scorching lanterns. A single horn curled back from its head, fangs protruding below its lips. A low growl began in its throat.

“Hush, Hae,” said its master, the councillor. “Remember. We are among friends.”

Those seated around the table did not seem to agree. I appeared to have entered amidst a heated argument, and it was clear who was the centre of it.

“The Empress can spare no more than her originally proposed amount,” said the councillor in Seo Jie Go’s seat. She was a young woman, as all of Seo Jie Go’s empress’s trusted were. Her long black hair was tied high on her head, her round features painted in deep red. A bonding tattoo ran the length of her arm, but it was almost lost amongst the hundred other tattoos that wrapped around her neck, stomach, and hands. She wore the cropped coat and thin blade of Seo Jie Go’s infamous Shadows, sworn swords of the empress. “We do not have the resources to involve ourselves further.”
“A thousand sovereigns is an insult,” said the diplomat from Azherbal. “If I were Ustaad, I would refuse it on principle.”

Ustaad was a small nation that lay nestled between Alta and Sabatah. Their economy had been weakened in the past year or so by a constant flooding of their twin grand rivers. I looked around the table, and I didn’t see a Ustaadian representative.

“I was not aware Ustaad was in a position to refuse aid,” the Seo Jie Go diplomat replied coolly. “If that is the case, I shall inform my empress that none is needed, after all.”

A vein stuck out in the Mehraki councillor’s forehead. “Then the next time your empress requires assistance from the coalitions, she will be refused.”

“Ah. A dire threat, dear Onyekachi, as you all have been so helpful in the past. How jealous we are of your precious coalitions.”

The Azherbali councillor opened his mouth to protest, but Irina raised a silencing hand.

“Ten thousand sovereigns,” she said. “Seo Jie Go will provide the manpower necessary to repair the eastern levees. In return, I shall look over your empress’s revisions to the Canavar Tax Treaty. Look over, Jiyi. I sign nothing yet.”

“The Empress accepts,” said Jiyi with a small nod.

“I thought you lacked the resources,” growled the Azherbali councillor.

“We do, where you are concerned. But a deal with the Novoski is never wasted.”

“There is no difference between a deal with the princess and a deal with us. Her Majesty is Canavar, she speaks for us all.”

“Certainly. She is so impartial, as you say, that the Novoski felt no need to send an independent representative for this meeting. I admire the trust you place in your ruler, honoured ones.”

An uncomfortable glance passed between some of the councillors, but that didn’t concern me right now. Jiyi’s bonded still hadn’t looked away from Andiya.

“Saleem,” Irina said to the Azherbali councillor. “You wished to discuss a Sabatan import of …” She consulted a finely written itinerary. “Cotton?”

The meeting continued dryly. The councillors haggled over the price of goods, shifted patrol positions around certain borders, and discussed attendance lists for Irina’s coronation.

And that bonded never looked away from Andiya.

“Your bonded has a pointed interest in my Eon, Jiyi,” said Irina. “One might think he had never seen a High Order before.”

The waterfall roared. No one spoke.

“Kain, return me to my chambers. I would like to take my lunch now.”

I shifted to stand in front of Irina as an escort. But as I began to lead her out, Jiyi’s leonine bonded blocked my path.

“You’ve really tamed a High Order,” Jiyi said with amused curiosity, dark eyes cutting through Andiya. “Fascinating.”

Saleem chuckled. “Your Majesty,” he said, “forgive me. But a High Order cannot take a bond. My experts can examine it for you, if you’d allow. Surely you’ve acquired some unique style of Elemental we haven’t yet identified.”

Irina smiled gently. As all her smiles, it held no hint of kindness. “Thank you, Saleem, but I must decline. This High Order has already slain an archon. I do not wish to put you or your servants in danger. Kain, lead on.”

The bodies parted as Irina exited, her chin high. A tense silence followed our wake.

Alone in the hallway, Irina gave me a satisfied look. “And my father said the councillors were difficult to manage.”

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About the author

carlyn_a

Bio: Hello there! I'm Carlyn, an amateur writer currently publishing free-to-read fantasy stories. I write diverse worlds featuring LGBT+ characters and romances, because I believe that we need those stories too (even if they are about magic and demons and brave sword-lesbians). I want to create worlds that are free of homophobia and sexism, so that everyone can enjoy the ride without feeling like they don't belong.

Thanks for reading, and have a great day!

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