Hello! I’d love to write a cheery introduction, but I am dying of a cold right now. (DYING, I tell you.)
Please enjoy this sneak peek at In the Forests of the Night, releasing November 15th! Here’s Book I, Burning Bright, if you need a refresher.
In the once-fair city of Olencia, high in one of the unbroken towers of the Kisaran, the Lady Inizre slipped through a door and shut it softly behind her. A girl sitting by the bed stared in the dimness of one candle, then started out of her chair.
“My lady! Your veil startled me. I thought—” She took a deep breath. “I did not sleep. I have been pinching myself—” she held out her arm as proof.
“Peace, child.” Inizre waved her off. “Has he been restless?”
“No, Lady Inizre.” The girl shook her head. “Not a sound while I’ve watched.” She smiled, as they taught healers early to do. Smile, and project confidence to the frightened family. “He sleeps, my lady. He will heal.”
Either she had no healing talent, or she lied extremely well. Inizre did not care to learn which. “I cannot sleep,” she said, “so I will watch him. Go to your bed, child.”
“As you will.” The girl dropped a curtsy and slipped out. When the door had closed behind her, Inizre approached the bed.
“Eshan,” she breathed. “My son. Ten long years I yearned to see your face, now it hurts to look on you.”
But for the void within him that made her stomach churn, he did look asleep. A true sleep, a healing sleep. With the furrow between his brows, even, the tiny frown that when he was a boy told her he’d fought slumber’s call to the last, probably with the aid of a book now lost in the covers. Just the same as always.
“You were ever the scholar,” she whispered, smoothing hair from his forehead with a steady hand. Another lesson of the healers. “You had that from your father, but not his ambition, thank the highest. Nor his cruelty.” Her fingers brushed his cheek. “Your compassion—would that I could claim the credit! But you are far beyond me in compassion and courage both, my precious, precious son. I—”
A soft knock came from the door, then Kiban slipped in.
“You are late,” Inizre told him, straightening.
“I was assisting Ume as you requested,” Kiban answered. “The spell had to rise with the tide.”
“My son.” Inizre turned from the bed to take Kiban’s face in her hands, and when he bent to her tug she kissed his cheek through her veil. “You have been a support to us all. Forgive my sharp tongue.”
He looked astonished as he straightened. She should have kissed him more when he was a boy. She should have done many things better, for both of them.
“I—of course, Mother, with all my heart.”
“Dawn comes,” she said, turning away, “and I have much to do.”
“We,” he said, not questioning. He trusted her, as his father had. He didn’t remember that she’d stabbed his father in the back.
Then as now, she had acted to save her family. One day Kiban would understand.
Inizre began a cleansing of the room as Kiban moved things out of the way. Then they moved the bed, aligning it to the balcony and the coming dawn before creating a circle. Together they banished anything that might lie within to affect spellwork. Then Kiban lifted Eshan’s body and took him into the bathing room. Inizre moved swiftly through her own preparations.
Damp Kiban returned, to lay Eshan’s awake but unresisting body in the clean linens of the bed. Together they dressed him in his Keeper uniform, clean and as repaired as possible. Inizre kept her head down, so as not to meet those vacant, so-familiar eyes.
When Kiban made to lay his Keeper’s sword in the bed, Eshan’s hand clasped it tightly as she’d hoped.
“Some of him still in there,” Kiban grunted, tugging to get the sword lain by his side. Eshan’s body held it, though, now in both hands on his chest. “Strong…”
“It’s fine where it is,” Inizre said, “but the blade must be bare. Take it, son, I must begin before the sun touches the horizon.”
Kiban tugged on the sheath and pulled it free of the sword. He laid it next to Eshan’s body, in the crook of his arm. “Now what do you want me to do?”
Inizre kissed him again. “Hold the circle only, my son. You have labored already this night, and we will need your strength more in the coming days.”
Kiban caught her hand and brought it to his lips. “My strength and my life are ever at your service, lady mother.”
“I know,” Inizre said, putting her smile into her words. Then she cast the compulsion spell and Kiban stiffened. “Sit, my son,” she told him. “Sleep, and do not wake until I command.”
Kiban stepped over the edge of the circle, sat down, and closed his eyes.
Inizre faced east, dropped her veil and began to chant as she cast out her awareness. The dome was broken, but the old Kisaran stood and the currents remained, flowing, pulsing. Generations of mages had built power into the very walls, awaiting a rightful hand. Even Skah could not take it all, could not mar it all—it was hers more than ever it had been his. Hers to defend the blood, hers to claim and shape and fashion into a shield and strength for the Kisaragi line, the purpose and goal of the Kisaran always. Here in this room where she had birthed her son Eshan Kisaragi, firstborn, true scion, strength and courage and honor, true heir to the mages before him, aid him now, save him now, give to him now—pulsing, whirling, a tempest inside her, Inizre drew the power and bent it to her will and would not lose herself to it though her body glowed like Eshan when he’d faced the demon, he did not yield and she would not, mold it, hold it, wait—
The first light of dawn burned through the sea mist, a single ray of sun fell on Eshan’s face, and Inizre put her hand over his eyes. With the gift of dawn she gave her own gifts.
“Memory, to guide you,” she breathed. “Let your eyes see.” With delicate strokes of power, she drew the seeking pattern, set its goal. “Remember the color of the dawn.”
The currents of the Kisaran pulsed with her heartbeat. Her body throbbed with the flow and flux as she rode white rapids of power. The sunbeam strengthened, spreading to Eshan’s chest and the sword there caught the light in gems and sharp edges. Inizre put her hand to the blade.
“Strength, to know who you are,” she breathed, amplifying the shades of Eshan in the sword he had carried for years, the imprint of his soul there.
“Vitality,” she said, and drawing her hand across the blade of the sword, she pressed her bloodied palm to her son’s chest. “You will live, body of my son, live until you shelter my son once more. Live, my son, I gave you life, I give you life, you will live.”
Power jolted through her and into him; Eshan’s body arched as if struck by lightning but she chained the power, held it, poured it into the patterns of life that she knew so well, a healer all her days and now her son…held it, focused and molded and secured the patterns and the last bond, her ultimate gift, and then…through the currents of the tower she reached, pulling, tugging, to the Watchstone beneath the tower and through it she found the Stone she sought. Inizre painted patterns to link the Stones and as Eshan’s eyes stared at her like he almost knew her, she pushed him through her spell-wrought gate with the last of the power she’d drawn.
Then she fell gasping onto the clean linens of an empty bed in a room filled with the common light of day.
A moment she gathered herself, then she took her veil from the floor and bound her hand with it. With a mighty effort of will, she pushed to her feet. She broke the circle and dispersed it, and sinking into a chair next to Kiban she put her hand to his face. “If the day comes,” she breathed, “know that I did not choose him over you. It is but the price of atonement. Now wake rested, my beloved son.”
Kiban stirred and opened his eyes. Looked around, took in the sun and the empty bed and his mother without her veil and beginning to shake with exhaustion.
“Mother,” he breathed as put an arm around her, “what have you done?”
“He was fading,” she murmured, relaxing into her son’s shoulder as the weariness took her, freeing her tongue from thought’s constraints. “He could not last much longer. But now—I have given him time. I have wrought my redemption.”
“My shame remains,” she breathed her confession against his chest. “I knew. As soon as my grief and horror let me think, I knew—the only harm Eshan ever gave his wife was choosing her to wed.”