Betrayed by ally and by love, stranded by uncontrollable magic, Yiloch struggles to make his way back before Caithin can declare war...
Publication Date: December 11, 2015
Series: Forbidden Things, Book Two
Genre: Epic Fantasy
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.
Forbidden Things, Book One
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.
The sound of footsteps on the stairs tickled at the edge of Indigo’s consciousness. It was important that she acknowledge the sound, but she still hadn’t solved her dilemma and the distraction was unwelcome. When the sound finally drove into her awareness like an arrowhead piercing the skin, she glanced at the door in alarm. She didn’t recall bolting it and that quick glance confirmed that she hadn’t done so. Jumping up from the chair, she reached out with a tendril of ascard, jerking it back when the door flew open before she could correct her mistake.
Jayce stormed in, slamming the door behind him, his face flushed with wrath or drink, or both.
“How could you disgrace me like this?” he snarled, the slight slur in his speech confirming the excess of drink involved.
Her heart pounded and she stepped back, realizing too late that it would be her second mistake of the evening.
Encouraged by her show of fear, Jayce sneered and came forward.
“Jayce,” she managed a soothing tone despite the tremor of remembered fear that vibrated through her. “Let this go. It’s over and done with.” She opened to more ascard, feeling that power fill her. As she did so, she also checked her masking to be sure she wouldn’t draw attention if she had to use it against him.
Please, just let it go.
She wasn’t supposed to know how to do most of the things she could do with ascard and it would bode ill to let him in on those things. If only she could talk him down this time, get him to give up.
Jayce’s lip lifted in a silent snarl. “You aren’t going to get the last word, Indigo.” He hissed her name like it was some foul thing that people only whispered of in dark corners. “That isn’t the way this works.”
He moved forward again and she backed a few more steps, trying to maintain distance between them. This time she came up against a table and had to move to one side to clear her way. “Why don’t we sit down and talk about it? Maybe we can find a way to settle things that works for both of us.”
He shook his head. “No one else gets to have you.”
She narrowed her eyes, the ring becoming heavy on her finger, reminding her that someone else had already had her, someone handsome and powerful who needed her. Stopping her retreat, she stood tall and stared hard at him. “It’s too late for that.”
Lightening flashed in his eyes and she cursed herself for letting her emotions get the upper hand. One moment of reciprocated anger, a mere flash of defiance, was all he needed to keep his rage burning hot.
“Whore,” he yelled, his voice cracking. A tear ran down his cheek and her stomach twisted into knots. Did he actually believe he ever loved her or that she somehow belonged to him? “I’ll drag you down to the docks and sell you to the slave traders. Maybe they can find a use for you.”
Anger and frustration pounded their way to the surface. She was wasting precious time arguing with him. People she cared for were in danger. “Get out.”
Jayce lunged at her then, the movement so sudden that she didn’t manage to dodge him. He grabbed a fistful of hair, using it to pull her head back and down. She staggered, a second of panic overriding rational thought. One knee struck the floor, sending a bolt of pain up through her hip. His eyes were wide and a lunatic grin warped his handsome features. He drew back his free hand to strike her. The gesture took her back to the last time he had attacked her, before she had gone to Lyra. Everything stopped, a razor edge of hatred erasing all of her fear. She wasn’t about to let him strike her again. Not ever.
The sun crept over the horizon, spreading its scalding light over the canyon-scarred lands of the Rhuakine. The extreme depths of the canyons stayed buried in shadow, defying the early light. Undaunted, it continued to reach westward, toward the eastern edge of Kudan. In some regions, this crisp morning light was the harbinger of day. For the Kudaness, day started long before the light came. When the first light kissed the northernmost village of the Denilik, it found the dark skinned inhabitants already busy with daily chores—tending scant crops, mending clothes, preparing meals, gathering water from a river that reduced to little more than a trickle in the heart of the dry season—anything to make life in the desert possible. They worked with single-minded intensity to finish their tasks before the full heat of the day settled in.
The day that dawned was clear and bright, but thunder rolled in the early hours, bearing down on the village. The rumble gave some warning. It wasn’t enough. Denilik warriors sprinted through the village, retrieving weapons and heading on toward the eastern border. The rumble preceded its source by several minutes, growing in volume and shaking the ground. It also shook the confidence of those waiting.
Then the horizon darkened with the mass of surging horseflesh. The horses were dark, compact, and strong like the men who rode them. The eyes of the men were dark and determined as they leaned low over their horses’ necks, short bladed spears held ready at their sides.
The Denilik faced that charging horde. There was no choice but to defend that which they had spent their whole lives building. Women and children retreated to their huts. There was nowhere else to go on such short notice. With the widely separated villages of the Kudaness tribes, there was no running to find help or sanctuary. The dark skinned Kudaness set themselves into fighting stances, ready to cripple the mounts or take down their riders, whatever opportunity provided. Most carried the wide curved blades favored by the Kudaness warriors while the front line carried longer, ornate spears that could more effectively bring down a horse. Weapons they hadn’t needed to use against outsiders in generations.
The horsemen showed no sign of slowing as they rushed the waiting line. Other than the pounding of hooves, they came on in silence. The Denilik warriors let out a battle cry to bolster their courage. The dark riders leaned forward, rising up in their stirrups to prepare for the attack. As the front line of riders reached the village, the Kudaness attacked with spear and sword, only to have their weapons knocked aside by some unseen force. The mounted warriors swung their bladed spears and cries of pain rose into the air as the weapons bit deep into flesh.
The riders continued forward, charging anyone, man, woman, or child, who got in their path. When all defenders lay dead in the sun and the village was overrun with the compact horses, the riders dismounted and entered the huts. They cut down the elderly, women, and children with a callous efficiency, adding to the blood that already ran thick on their blades. Within moments, the screaming stopped and silence fell. The riders searched every hut, gathering food and supplies, and regrouped in the center of the village. Here they took time to clean the swept blades of their spears and wipe blood from their faces.
When the last of the army gathered around the village, there were no Denilik left alive to slick their blades with blood. In the center of the village, one of the horse warriors watched while several others divided and packed pillaged supplies. His small eyes, almost black, observed the activity with satisfaction, not from greed so much as vindicated ambition. Like the men around him, he was stocky and strong with olive skin and near black hair. The armor he wore was a lightweight hide with thin plates of a red hardwood woven in layers over the chest, back, and thighs.
This man, like the others in all but the air of authority that surrounded him, leapt up on his mount with the ease of a cat. His dark eyes swept the area once more, seeing that the army was already set to move on. The day was young and the sun’s heat not yet prohibitive. They would continue, leaving silence in their wake. With a single command, he turned the storm and continued north.
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.