PRAISE FOR THE NOVELS OF KATIE MacALISTER
Memoirs of a Dragon Hunter
“Bursting with the author’s trademark zany humor and spicy romance…this quick tale will delight paranormal romance fans.”
“Balanced by a well-organized plot and MacAlister’s trademark humor.”
It’s All Greek to Me
“A fun and sexy read.”
—The Season for Romance
“A wonderful lighthearted romantic romp as a kick-butt American Amazon and a hunky Greek find love. Filled with humor, fans will laugh with the zaniness of Harry meets Yacky.”
—Midwest Book Review
Much Ado About Vampires
“A humorous take on the dark and demonic.”
“Once again this author has done a wonderful job. I was sucked into the world of Dark Ones right from the start and was taken on a fantastic ride. This book is full of witty dialogue and great romance, making it one that should not be missed.”
The Unbearable Lightness of Dragons
“Had me laughing out loud…This book is full of humor and romance, keeping the reader entertained all the way through…a wondrous story full of magic…I cannot wait to see what happens next in the lives of the dragons.”
Also by Katie MacAlister
A Born Prophecy
REBEL BASE BOOKS
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First Electronic Edition: December 2019
ISBN-13: 978-1-63573-075-3 (ebook)
ISBN-10: 1-63573-075-9 (ebook)
First Print Edition: December 2019
Printed in the United States of America
PRAISE FOR THE NOVELS OF KATIE MacALISTER
Also by Katie MacAlister
“Who would like to read their poem?”
The room was stifling hot, so hot that the faint sheen of reddish-brown dust blown in through the glassless window seemed to dance on every surface in the schoolroom. Lala, apprentice in the Temple of Kiriah Sunbringer, ignored the heat and dust to focus every ounce of energy, every iota of power in her being to will Peebles to see her wildly waving arm.
It seemed as if the priestess must be blind, because as she cast her gaze over the class of approximately six young apprentices, all between five and ten summers old, only Lala’s arm was in the air. After a moment’s consideration, Lala raised her second arm, feeling it greatly increased the odds that Peebles would call on her to read her epic poem.
And epic it was. She had worked for many a long hour on the poem, and she was not going to have the bad eyesight of her teacher snatch away the praise that was sure to be heaped upon her head after everyone heard her work.
A gentle cough, really more a clearing of the throat, came from the rear of the room, where Lady Sandor, head of the order of priests, sat. Lala waved her arms with even more vigor, thrilled to the tips of her sandals at the thought of Lady Sandor hearing her poem.
Visions of honors danced in her head. Sandor might be so overcome with her handling of the poem that she would make Lala a full priest right then and there, eight years sooner than usual.
The cough repeated itself, and Peebles, with a sigh, said, “Yes, Lala? You have a poem you wish to share with us?”
Lala didn’t waste time explaining that she did. She didn’t even stand at her desk as the other, more reluctant, apprentices did. She grasped her much scribbled-over pages, and marched to the front of the room, little eddies of dust swirling behind her.
With another sigh, Peebles moved aside and gestured to her. “You may begin, Lala. But mind you, speak clearly and concisely. Lady Sandor is a busy woman, and she has only a few minutes to spend with us.”
Lala ignored Peebles, filled as she was with confidence. This was her moment, her time to shine before the goddess Kiriah and Sandor together. With a business like throat clearing that mimicked Lady Sandor, she picked up the first sheet, and began to read. “The Saga of Allegria Hopebringer, by Lala Smalls, apprentice priest.”
“Allegria? I’m not sure that’s a fitting subject for our class,” Peebles said, casting Sandor a questioning glance. The latter said nothing.
Lala gave the two youngest apprentices in the front row, who had burst into nervous giggles, a quelling glance before returning her attention to her paper.
“’Twas a year ago, on this very day
That Allegria, warrior priestess, rode away.
To join Lord Deosin, she did plan,
and fight the dread invading Harborym!”
“Plan and Harborym don’t rhyme,” Peebles interrupted.
“I couldn’t very well say Harborham,” Lala replied, frowning. “You said that poets sometimes varied their rhyming scheme, and that to do so was allowed.”
“Yes, but those are poets who have much experience—” Peebles, with another glance at Lady Sandor, heaved a third sigh, and said, “We will leave that discussion for another time. Proceed.”
Lala shook her papers in a meaningful manner. Really, to be interrupted was most vexing. She had to count on Lady Sandor recognizing genius even if Peebles didn’t.
��For Deo had taken the invader’s own magic,
and used it to create his army most tragic!
Banes of Eris were they, dire and dreadful to be seen,
They sailed to Genora, land of Deo’s mama, the queen.”
“Your timing, my child,” Peebles murmured, shaking her head. “We must have a talk about meter later.”
“But brave Deo’s father, Lord Israel of Abet.
Raced to Genora, and there he met
A handsome young arcanist, one named Hallow
Lost in a strange land, master-less, his fields were fallow.”
“Er...his fields were fallow?” Lady Sandor asked, soundly faintly puzzled.
Lala stifled her irritation at being interrupted again, and with a little frown, said, “It’s a metaphor. It means he didn’t have a plan.”
“Ah. Indeed.” Lady Sandor passed a hand over her mouth as if she had to cough. “Pray continue, child.”
“Allegria and Hallow met and fell in love,
And with them came Thorn, a wooden bird, but not a dove.
Hallow was given Kelos, land of spirits and fierce ghosts,
While Allegria wielded the light of Kiriah’s blessed sun motes.”
“This really isn’t very good,” one of the two youngest apprentices whispered.
“Shhh! She’s looking at us!” the other answered.
Lala sharpened her glare for a moment, then returned to her epic saga.
“Lord Deo, Allegria, Hallow, and Thorn, too
To Starfall city they all but flew.
Queen Dasa was prisoner of a heinous brute,
Wielder of chaos, the captain Racoot.”
“Racin,” came the correction from the back of the small room. “The captain’s name was Racin.”
Lala paid no mind to the comment, too caught up in the beauty of her vision. Besides, she was getting to the good part. She stood on a chair, and with one arm lifted high, continued in as a ringing tone as she could muster given the heat and dust.
“Deo’s sword sang with blood of the vile Harborym,
While Allegria and Hallow hacked them limb from limb.
But the captain was canny, and through his portal he took the queen,
Leaving Lord Israel behind, to face the Council’s spleen.”
“Really, Lala,” Peebles protested. “Spleen is definitely not a metaphor.”
Lady Sandor gave another one of her odd coughs.
“The Council of Four Armies was very, very mad.
They did not like Deo. They thought he was bad.
So Lord Israel used the queen’s own precious moonstones,
To send Deo far away, to a rocky outcast home.
And when Racin returned, intent on grinding us all to sand,
Allegria and Hallow and Deo cast him from the land.
Through the very portal he came in, and which Allegria destroyed,
but not before Deo, fearing for the Queen, a hasty plan employed.”
Lala paused, giving them all a look she felt was most potent. Every eye was on her, the room as hushed as a tomb. She dropped her voice until it was almost a whisper.
“Now. Deo is gone, and Lord Israel is most grave.
Allegria and Hallow seek the three moonstones to save.
Their friend, and the queen, who are captive on Eris,
Find them they must, else surely they will perish.”
Faint noises of everyday life at the temple wafted in through the window; the distant chatter of priests as they went about their chores, the gentle hum of bees on the honeysuckle that climbed along the corner of the schoolroom, and the soft lowing of cattle as they were herded in for afternoon milking.
But in the room itself, all was silent. Lala smiled to herself. Content that she had held her audience captive in the palm of her hand, and while returning to her seat, adopted a modest expression, as befitted one who was an apprentice priest.
“Er…yes. Very…imaginative.” Peebles seemed to have some sort of trouble speaking, and Lala focused her attention on Lady Sandor when the latter rose and made her way to the front of the room. She paused as she passed by Lala, her lips twitching a little when she looked down at Lala’s hopeful—yet modest expression. Then she was gone, the door closing quietly behind her.
Lala glared at the door, annoyance mingling with anger for a moment until she realized what had happened. Obviously Lady Sandor didn’t want to show favoritism by promoting Lala on the spot. It might make for hard feelings in the older girls. No doubt that’s why Sandor had to appear indifferent.
Thus it was that while Peebles called on one of the other apprentices to recite, Lala planned just how she’d make a fair copy of the poem and present it to Lady Sandor later, so it could be framed and hung in the head priestess’s bedchamber. Perhaps she might slip away from Peebles’s attention long enough to run into town and give a copy over to the local weekly newspaper. Yes. That was a satisfactory thought. A very satisfactory thought, indeed.
“You do not belong here, Allegria Hopebringer. Begone before the Eidolon make you one of their own!”
A face materialized in the almost complete darkness of the crypt, the eyes appearing black and hostile as they considered me. Little tendrils of ghostly light surrounding the face evaporated just as if bits of him were turning to dust before my eyes.
“Blessings of Kiriah, my lord,” I said politely, digging through my admittedly scant knowledge of history. This particular spirit had to be one of the Eidolon thanes, long-forgotten kings who had ruled the seven lands of Alba well before the coming of the modern races. It was rumored that the tunnels honeycombing the area under Kelos were home to beings who had been dead longer than the memory of man, and evidently the rumors were correct. “I mean you no harm, although I wonder how you know me.”
The face seemed to fade into the blackness, only to suddenly appear again, parts of his visage drifting off into nothing as he spoke in a slow, ponderous tone. “You bear the grace of the sun goddess as well as the stink of mortals. Who else would you be?” He faded again, then materialized immediately in front of me, his ethereal face thrust into mine, his voice carrying the heavy rumble of thunder. “Your kind is not welcome to walk our paths! Begone, I say again!”
I held my swords easily, one in each hand, the runes on the blades dulled by the fact that we were deep underground, out of the reach of Bellias Starsong, goddess of the night sky. “I mean you no harm, lord thane, but pass I must. I have been charged by Hallow, the Master of Kelos to search the crypt.” That was not wholly the truth, since said master, who also happened to be the man I loved, believed there was nothing in the crypt but spirits best left to them selves. But I had a bet with the captain of the guard in charge of protecting the ancient center of magic, and I wasn’t going to let him best me.
“Search for what?” For a few moments, curiosity lit the black eyes of the thane.
“Three moonstones hidden by the previous Master. Do you know of them?”
The face faded, remnants of the ghostly halo around it remaining for a few seconds before dissolving. “Mortal concerns mean little to the Eidolon. Leave now.” His voice echoed off the stone arches that lined the crypt.
The fact that he knew who I was made me wonder if we weren’t too quick to dismiss the spirits here as being of no help to us. If he knew me, he might well know the whereabouts of Queen Dasa’s moonstones, scattered after they were last used. “That’s not really an answer. I don’t want to be annoying, but a yes or no would be helpful,” I said, mindful of the way the hairs on my arms rose, warning me of unseen movement around me. “I’m afraid I’m going to have to insist on an answer. A proper answer, that is, not one that is nothing but confusing.”
A hissing noise followed, as if the thane was sucking in all the air of the already ai
rless crypt. Although I’d placed a lit torch in one of the brackets on the wall, the glow of its golden light didn’t penetrate very far into the cloying darkness. I could make out large rectangular shapes that I knew were sarcophagi of the arcanists who had once resided in Kelos, but beyond the tombs…another shiver rippled down my back. The inky black beyond the pool of light cast by the torch seemed to move and shift, little flickers of shadow visible only in my peripheral vision.
“You challenge the Eidolon?” The words seemed to roll around me like the growl of a cave bear.
“I do not challenge. I simply seek information. If you won’t answer my question, then I must search the crypt.” I gripped my swords and sent a little query to my patron goddess Kiriah. There was no answering warmth, just a claustrophic sense of being buried deep in the earth. I held onto the panic that wanted to rise at the knowledge that somehow I’d displeased the sun goddess, and she was withholding her blessings from me, and instead reminded myself that I had fought deadlier enemies than a single spirit.
But then I’d had Hallow and our friend Deo at my side.
The rush of air behind me gave me less than a second to respond, but it was enough to send me whirling to the side, both of my swords flashing. The thane emerged from the shadows fully formed, his body encased in ghostly armor from at least two millennia in the past, and his translucent white hair flowing around him as if it had a life of its own. But it was the sword he raised that held my attention, and I barely had one of my own narrow blades up in time to block the blow that would have sundered me in twain.
I leaped to the side, clambering onto one of the sarcophagi as he swung his sword low; the visible section of his near-translucent face was frozen in a snarl, his eyes all but spitting black ire at me. I didn’t attack him, using my weapons only to defend myself, but my breath came short when I spoke.
“I know you’re annoyed at being disturbed—” I dove off the stone structure when he leaped up, his sword held high overhead, only to stumble backward when he lunged after me, my swords dancing in the air to parry the lightning-fast blows that seemed to rain down on me. “Goddesses above, how is it that spirits are able to move so quickly? I just want to know if you’ve seen the moonstones! Ow! Oh, now you’re in for it!”