Download Book 1: Crown of the Realm Download Book 3: The Sword of Pallens
All Derora Saxen ever wanted was to be a warrior. Now, she is on her way to join the finest warriors in the world, the Silver Dawn Dragoons. But before she can begin her training as a Dragoon Knight, she has a slight problem to deal with ...
Thomas Delauncey knows better than mix it up in other people's affairs. That's always trouble. But a young girl is dying, a young girl with a dangerous gift. A young girl he has sworn to save. To do so, he must seek an ancient talisman, and he needs help to recover it.
So he kidnaps a young woman. A young woman who claims she was on her way to be a knight, and who actually expects him to believe she fought in the war against the chemmen. A young woman he soon wishes he had never set eyes on.
"She's dying, Erastus."
The elderly man's legs creaked like an old door as he sat on the edge of the pallet. Sorrow scarred his wizened features. Methodically, he put his head in his hands. Each finger touched his face one at a time until all ten digits dug in. His voice finally rasped, "She's only seven summers old."
The village healer tapped his chin. "We could bleed her."
Erastus scowled. "What do you mean?"
The healer thrust his hands deep into his canvas bag. "We only do this these days when we don't think that... It's just the last chance..." A wooden bowl and a slender knife emerged from the bag.
The old man felt his skin tighten at the sight of the knife. "Don't you dare!" His hand shot forward for the blade, slid beyond it, but managed to bat the bowl across the room.
The healer recoiled away from the old man and lifted the knife out of reach. "Then there's nothing I can do. I've already done everything I know!"
Erastus turned back to the child and tucked the coarse blanket under her chin. Gently, he ran a wrinkled hand over her forehead. Her feverish skin seared his fingers. The fair hair, as yellow as a flower, stuck damply to the straw pillow. Her eyes remained closed, and her breath was as shallower than before.
The old man whispered, "I wish I could save her." The sweat instantly felt cold on his fingertips as he withdrew his hand.
"I know." The healer dragged a hand through his own chestnut hair. He glanced around the single room, bare-bones cabin. "You're doing everything yourself around here. I could send one of my sons to help you."
The old man shook his head. "No, no, I've already stocked up."
"I saw the firewood outside. You're old, Erastus, you shouldn't do that yourself."
The grandfather grunted in reply.
The healer fought against a shiver at the sickly sound. "I also don't think you should live out here all alone. I know she's here with you, but she's too young to do much, and now she's deathly ill. You should move into the village."
"No, no, I can't." His voice rasped as dryly as if it had arisen from an abandoned well.
The healer sighed loudly. "How did you even get this cabin built at your age? I remember, it was exactly seven years ago, when she was brought to you after her parents died. You weren't young seven years ago, and you ain't younger now."
The old man sat motionlessly. The purple canyons under his eyes seemed to darken further.
On the bed, the girl erupted into coughs. The men rushed to her, tripping over the mismatched floorboards and each other to reach her. She never truly woke, but her brown eyes flashed open for the briefest of seconds. The healer forced a waterskin against her lips when the coughing subsided.
Erastus shuffled to the back of the room. "Her shirt's all damp again from the sweat. Time to change it."
"'Tis about all we can do." The healer pulled the waterskin back. "Damn, man, I don't even know what she's dying of."
Erastus's face hardened, and he looked away.
"Magic!" the healer burst. The air around him thickened at the word, and shadows seemed to lengthen out from the corners. He scrambled away from the bed and made a warding symbol with his fingers. "That's why you wouldn't say!"
This time, the old man's shoulders drooped.
The healer began to pace, and he wiped the sudden, cold sweat from his forehead. "I'll write to Second Acron, perhaps get a wizard."
"No! I couldn't afford one anyway."
"Right. What about Ahtome's temple? They don't charge for healings."
"No. They could do nothing."
"But if it's a magical ailment..." The healer shivered. "Oh, why didn't you tell me before, Erastus?"
The old man looked away. "It is a secret."
"Tell me. I might be able to do something, or, at least write a letter to someone who can. Somebody must know something!"
"There is one." Erastus's voice darkened like an oncoming storm. "He's gone for help. He's out there tonight, traveling by starlight."
"Who? Hired help? I didn't think you had any."
"No. No one you know."
"In this village? We know everyone."
"Not him." The grandfather buried his head in his hands again. "If he returns and if she's cured, we're leaving this place. Somewhere he can't find us. I pray such a place exists."
The healer retreated a step. "Who is this man?"
Erastus inhaled deeply. "He's not a man."