As a member of the nobility, Sora had always dreamed of adventure. Instead, she became proficient in the ways of a Lady. Now aged seventeen, she is required to select a husband and marry. She decides to run away, but just as she leaves, she is kidnapped by a mysterious man.
Sora is thrown into a world of magical folk, esoteric jewellery and forgotten traditions. She finds herself at the mercy of a dangerous assassin, haunted by an even darker past. She longs for freedom, but he won't release her. Not when the only thing that can save his life is her Cat's Eye necklace.
But this is no ordinary necklace: it is an ancient device with the ability to steal souls.
Sora's Quest is a YA Fantasy adventure written in the spirit of Tamora Pierce, Sarah J. Maas and Maria V. Snyder, and was winner of the SKOW Best Fantasy Award 2006.
Blood stained his hands. Blood and flower pollen and the sickly smell of spilled perfume.
Volcrian grasped the body, crumpled in front of the apothecary, cold and limp in the doorway. Petals were strewn around the cobblestones, glints of yellow, blue and white. It had been a horrible mistake. He had warned his brother--but his brother had not listened.
He had hoped to meet him here on these steps, to convince him to leave the city, but he was too late. Etienne's enemies had arrived first. His brother had been too friendly, spreading word of their practice to the wrong people. There were dangers in using magic, risks that one should not take, especially in a world where magic was thought dead.
"We're the only ones who can use it, Volcrian," his brother said, his eyes gleaming with a passionate light."Don't worry! Humans are weak. It will be like the olden days, before the War, when Wolfies were powerful."
But magic was dying for a reason....
Two days ago, a member of the nobility had bought a potion from them. A tonic to make a woman fall in love. But young Etienne botched the tonic; he had forgotten a key ingredient, and it hadn't worked as planned.
He read of the woman's death in the papers: a well-respected noble Lady, suddenly taken with a mysterious illness. The paper insinuated she had been poisoned. With a gut-sinking dread, he immediately realized the truth.
And, knowing the nobility, he knew there would be repercussions. He raced back to the apothecary...but not fast enough.
Volcrian's nostrils flared as he touched his brother's face, and then he saw the sticky red pool of blood on the ground. His brother's blood crowned the tips of his fingers like expensive paint.
Something trembled within him, crawling from the tips of his fingers to the back of his throat. He could feel his brother's blood like a rush of heat, an itch, a knowledge carried as deep as his bones. On the outside he was silent, calm, still...but inside, magic surged through him, thick like black water. He was drowning in it.
Who did this?
Suddenly Volcrian didn't see the apothecary, or the cobblestone street; his eyes clouded over, turning from ice-blue to chilly silver. A vision came to him of his brother's final seconds. He saw the bushes across from their shop, the long stretch of paved road, a clutch of stars high overhead, twinkling in the solemn night, and then--a shadow. A knife. A face. The last image that had flashed before Etienne's eyes: his killer.
Volcrian memorized what he saw: a man dressed entirely in black, a veil hiding the lower half of his face. A knife: long, wicked, curved to a vicious point. The man fleeing down the road.
Then the vision slowly faded, leaving him dizzy, momentarily disoriented. He blinked, his eyes dry from staring, his nose filled with the fresh scent of his brother's blood. He glanced down at the body again and watched the slowly widening pool of blood on the ground. His brother had only been dead for minutes. It should take no longer to catch up with the killer.
Volcrian leapt to his feet. There was no time for funeral rites; he would take care of that after he took his revenge.
He took off running in the same direction the assassin had fled, racing down the cobblestone side streets. Volcrian's body hummed with energy, with the ancient power of his race. This magic was his birthright, his heritage--his blood--more natural than learned. His eyes were lined with silver, and he could see the assassin's trail like a bright light against the ground. It led straight and true, no alleys, no jumped fences. Perhaps the killer did not know he was being followed.
Mist rose with each breath he took. Volcrian passed scores of sleeping houses. The only light was from the moon overhead. Faster. Faster. There was a beast inside of him roaring to be released, tearing up the ground in fury. If the assassin got away, it would be the worst disgrace, a complete dishonor, a final insult to his Wolfy kind.
Suddenly the city gates rose before him, giants in the night. Two guards stood silently outside the gates. Yet the blood-magic resonating in his veins said that the killer had passed this way. His eyes flicked to the left, where a dark alley cut between the houses. He saw a large stack of crates leaning against the wall.
Volcrian ran into the alley and up the pile of crates, then leapt over the wall, landing smoothly on the ground. He stumbled slightly, unprepared for such a long drop. Then he paused in the darkness. No human would have been able to hear, but he had Wolfy ears: keen and pointed. He noted a disturbance in the forest, felt the path that the assassin had taken, and followed.
The woods were dark and tangled, heavy with the scent of spring. Pine needles brushed his face. He pushed his way through the trees. No sooner had he entered the forest than a figure leapt out before him, as silent as a ghost. A glint in the darkness indicated a knife--probably the same poisoned blade that had killed his brother. Volcrian was no warrior, but he had the advantage of magic and rage. All of his senses were heightened.
With incredible swiftness, he knocked the knife away from the assassin's skilled grasp and pulled his own knife from beneath his cloak, then lashed out wildly. The Goddess was on his side, and his blade sunk deep into flesh, striking the man just above his hip. Bearing his fangs, Volcrian dragged the knife up the man's body all the way to his neck, gutting him from navel to jaw. He smiled grimly.
A true human would have collapsed within seconds, but not this assassin. Instead, impossibly, he grabbed Volcrian's hand and twisted it back. Volcrian heard his bones crunch, saw his fingers twist into unnatural shapes. Excruciating pain shot through him as his strength crumbled. He screamed and fell.
The man yanked the knife out of his own flesh and threw it into the darkness. Then he turned and fled, darting into the shadows, swift as a phantom. Volcrian hit the ground hard, stunned and breathless, his mangled hand cradled to his chest. He stared after the man who had killed his brother.
The assassin left a trail of blood behind, marking a clear path through the trees. Its scent was overpowering, clogging Volcrian's nostrils, imprinting his mind. He tried to climb to his feet and stagger forward, but he was in too much pain; he could barely focus his eyes. Wearily, he sank back onto the dirt. In that moment he hated his body, his weakness, his powerlessness to control his own limbs. Guilt clawed at him, mixed with the cold knowledge of failure.
It would be impossible to follow the assassin now. He had to find a Healer, someone to bind his hand. He wanted to slam it on the ground in frustration, or else cut off his arm with the missing knife.
He would have to return to Etienne's body, bury his brother while the killer still lived. And afterward...he would slit the noble's throat, at least partial justice. The guilty must be put to rest.
He was alone now, friendless, a stranger in the world. Etienne was his only family, his sole companion, one of the few remaining from the Wolfy race. How long had they struggled? How long had they fought to stay alive, to survive in human cities, to protect their lineage and magic?
I failed him. The thought crushed him like an avalanche, pressing him down into a pathetic, bestial position. He wished for his own death; perhaps it was only seconds away, lying in wait, eager to pounce. "Finish me," he grunted, eyes darting about the bushes, desperate. "You coward! Kill me and be done with it!"
But the woods did not answer.
Something dark writhed in his gut, something wrathful and ravenous. He bared his teeth. The mage raised his head and howled to the trees, to the moon, to the cold silence of the night. I failed him. Etienne was dead, never to grow old, never to find peace. I failed him. All of their plans--gone, blown away. Nothing left....The overwhelming thought kept spinning around him, flashing. The vision of Etienne's face, curved into a smile. His smooth, clear voice.
"Nothing left," Volcrian murmured. He felt himself slipping from reality. Spinning, falling...."Nothing left...Etienne...."
No, nothing but revenge. His brother deserved as much. Blood demanded blood. The noble would die first...and then he would follow the assassin's trail, crystal-clear through the trees.
A rictus of pain split his face, the gaping mouth of a predator.
Oh, no, Etienne. I will not fail you again.