After losing his master to the Lunar War, Luron, the Speaker of the East, tries to internalize his pain. On a secret mission, he found solace at Spiral Mountain. There, he encountered a disheveled woman and a newborn hidden under her cloak. As they embarked on a quest, Luron once again confronts his dark past. But worse things are ahead, the newborn is the second prince of Talon'arc, and his homeland will do anything to reclaim him.
The laboring pains of a queen brought a day of celebration. In the capital, citizens would eat and drink themselves merry, and townspeople would light bonfires through the night. Others couldn’t give a damn. It could be a donkey’s foal for all they cared. But labor was a private matter for the royal Denoni. No one but Queen Sarita’s servants was permitted to roam her halls. A knight stood watch, just outside her chamber, guarding her privacy while her moans echoed through the night.
“Another,” the royal physician demanded.
Bora, a twenty-five-year-old maiden, whisked another plate from one of the handmaidens dressed in the same grey dress like her. They were both lower class, but Bora had fewer rights. She watched with bitter eyes as Queen Sarita gritted her teeth against a slab of stone. The plate could shave the enamel and dentin of teeth but not to Denoni. It went between her jaws to give her fangs something to pierce. Having worked at the palace since she was stripped from her village, Bora knew the queen long waited for this day. The queen feared she would die of childbirth and lose the crown. She had seen her jealous hate and clenching teeth whenever a noblewoman visited the king.
Queen Sarita could not endure another moment. Spitting the plate, she moaned and slammed her fists against the mattress. Her sandy-colored eyes darkened to red. A narrow mist rose from underneath her bed like a snake. The tip crawled and expanded; frost layered the ground. Bora wanted to step back, fearing she would slip—or worse, find the Queen’s elemental take a deadly turn. The royal physician squeezed her shoulder and moved her to the end of the bed.
“Steady the sheet,” he said.
The queen cursed in Denoni tongue. “If something goes wrong, I’ll snap everyone’s neck!”
Bora steadied the white sheets while the handmaidens struggled to keep their lady’s knees apart. “Your Highness, the head is surfacing!” they cried.
Queen Sarita’s eyes flickered into a haughty red hue. The handmaidens grunted, unable to keep her legs apart. Bora helped by stabilizing her thighs. When she touched her soft skin, she almost pulled back. It was ice-cold, like death’s touch to a corpse. The queen growled, her muscles in her abdomen squeezed. She spat a curse as the head emerged. The ladies-in-waiting grew closer. Excitement molded their faces.
“One more,” the royal physician instructed. “This is the last push.”
The queen wailed. Black claws replaced her fingernails and tore the mattress like a knife splitting the fibers of cotton. The sight made Bora’s heart leap. Her end had come—why else did they summon a lowly slave to the queen’s chamber? After a few seconds of silence, a pale and slippery body wiggled out. Bora stepped out of the physician’s way and watched the royal physician wipe the mucus from the gargling babe. As the mist underneath their feet evaporated, the midwife steadied the knife that had long cut the cords of the prince and princesses of Talon’arc.