Rishona unclasped her cloak and flung it to the floor at Mechnes’s feet. “You are not to question my wisdom or my will in public. Ever.”
Mechnes could not help but smile at the sight of his niece, now a grown woman pretending to give him orders. “With all due respect, San’iloman, I am your military advisor. It is my duty to speak my mind when the weight of my experience contradicts your rather naïve instincts.”
She moved to strike him, but he caught her wrist and forced her arm until she gasped. “It is a little early in the day to start with these games, my Queen. But if you desire a spark of conflict to brighten this weary morning, I am more than willing to please you.”
Rishona kept her eyes hard as stone and her voice taut with menace. “Speak your mind, Mechnes, but do so with discretion. I will not have our disagreements heard by those who would use them to spread malicious rumors against me. Nor will I have our men, who have struggled long and hard up this wretched pass, fall victim to any suspicion that our unity of purpose is wavering.”
He brought her body tight against his, let his breath fall upon her silky skin until he felt a shiver pass through her, followed by the softening of her shoulders and the almost imperceptible tilt of her face that always preceded that ardent kiss.
Before their lips met, he released her. “We must open up this road if we hope to bring a proper army through it.”
“We cannot bring down any more trees,” she insisted. “We are undermining the power of this forest. We need its magic for everything that is to come.”
“This is a very big forest.” He drew out one of their maps, passing his hand over the moss green crescent of impenetrable woodland that swept north toward East Selen and south along the foothills of the Paramen Mountains. “And a very small pass.”
Rishona stared at the map, lips protruding in that familiar charming frown. She rubbed her arms to ward off the damp chill. Noting her discomfort, Mechnes retrieved a dry cloak and placed it about her shoulders.
“I hope you are right,” she said. “It is just that every time we bring down one of those trees, I feel strength torn out of the earth. I fear I went too far by clearing the valley where my parents died.”
“You are Syrnte, Rishona. Your magic derives from the air.”
“Yes, but these creatures were not banished to the Underworld by Syrnte magic. They were imprisoned by the mages and magas of Moisehén, and they must be summoned by the same powers. I will need the air to anchor my spirit when I summon them, but without the earth I cannot control them.”
Mechnes narrowed his eyes. “If you have doubts regarding your ability to manage these beasts, you should have mentioned them before now.”
“I have no doubts.” She looked up at him, defiant. “I know how to gratify the Naether Demons and bring them into our service. But there are many elements involved, and they must be integrated carefully. No one has attempted this before, uncle. Or if they have, they failed miserably, and hence we know nothing of their fate.”
“Are you ready to summon these beasts or not?” He did not bother to hide the threat in his tone. Already he had poured tremendous resources into this conquest. He would show no mercy if she had deceived him.
Rishona straightened her shoulders, expression resolute. “Yes, I am ready. For tonight, I am most ready. And for what is to come, I have time to prepare.”
Lands Ravaged. Dreams destroyed. Demons set loose upon the earth.
War strikes at the heart of women’s magic in Moisehén. Eolyn’s fledgling community of magas is destroyed; its members killed, captured or scattered.
Devastated yet undaunted, Eolyn seeks to escape the occupied province and deliver to King Akmael a weapon that might secure their victory. But even a High Maga cannot survive this enemy alone. Aided by the enigmatic Mage Corey, Eolyn battles the darkest forces of the Underworld, only to discover she is a mere path to the magic that most ignites their hunger.
What can stop this tide of terror and vengeance? The answer lies in Eolyn’s forgotten love, and in its power to engender seeds of renewed hope.
HIGH MAGA is the companion novel to EOLYN, also available from Hadley Rille Books.
Genre – Epic Fantasy
Rating – PG-13
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