Mini Reviews · Reviews

March Mini Reviews

Hi everyone!

I had a pretty exhausting few weeks in February and early March writing long and detailed summaries for the Black Witch Chronicles by Laurie Forest. All I wanted to do for the rest of the month is read without feeling the need to write long and and time-consuming blog posts, so I’ve decided to do a mini reviews of all the books I read in March (7), as well as the 3 books I read as part of me and my friend’s 24 hour Read-a-thon on April 2nd/3rd, for a grand total of 10 mini reviews (plus a bonus). Enjoy!

  1. The Demon Tide by Laurie Forest

What to say about this latest book in the Black Witch Chronicles that hasn’t already been said…in my top five favorite series of all time for absolutely certain, it’s perfection. The characters, the plot, the worldbuilding, the romances…all completely unmatched. If you are a fan of fantasy, YA or adult, you are missing out if you haven’t read this series. 5/5 stars.

2. Dead Heat by Patricia Briggs

This is part of a long-winded re-read I’m doing all of Patricia Briggs’ books that take place in the Mercy Thompson world. These are comfort books to me, and while I think the main Mercy Thompson series is my favorite over Alpha and Omega, Charles and Anna give me the same sort of comforting fuzziness as Mercy herself does. Though these books are definitely meant to be read in order, each book has a standalone storyline, and there are a million of them. If you like books that are quick, fun, adult urban fantasy books, I can’t recommend Patricia Briggs enough, she’s my favorite. Start with Moon Called if you haven’t read any of her books before. 5/5 stars.

3. Wings of Ebony by J. Elle

Wings of Ebony is a debut novel. I struggled right off the bat with J. Elle’s storytelling style, it’s very non-linear, which isn’t bad, it was just not my favorite. It felt to me like I was reading a sequel where I’d never read the first one. I almost DNF’d it, but even though I struggled with the style, I could tell there was talent and am glad I ended up finishing it because I did go out and buy the sequel. Her characters have a lot of heart, and it’s a very interesting genre blend of urban fantasy/contemporary/sci-fi, because it takes place largely in the “real world”, but also partially on a magical island hidden from the real world. It deals with a lot of social themes like racism, cultural appropriation, and poverty. Overall, a well-written book that wasn’t quite my style, but got me enough in the end. 3/5 stars.

4. A River of Royal Blood by Amanda Joy

Another debut novel, I thought it had a really cool concept and a beautiful world with African influence, but also the author’s own take on fae and “bloodletters” (read vampires). I liked the rival heirs theme (one sibling must kill the other for the crown), it reminded me of Kendare Blake’s Three Dark Crowns series, though not as dark. I liked the narrator and the supporting cast was great too. But it didn’t quite give me that *something*, as much as I enjoyed it, but I was certainly eager to go and get the sequel, which I was happy was already out. 4/5 stars.

5. Neon Gods by Katee Robert

I think this is the first romance novel I’ve rated on this blog. As a Greek mythology nerd, I was warned that this book takes some liberties and is more like going to a party where the theme is Greek mythology rather than reading an actual Greek myth retelling. The writing itself isn’t bad and the characters are fun, their relationship is cute. There are several plot holes though. But that isn’t the point. This book is all hot, steamy smut, and I absolutely devoured it. 4/5 stars for a great erotica novel.

6. Skin of the Sea by Natasha Brown

Yet another debut novel (I read a bunch this month). Skin of the Sea is a beautiful novel inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid, but with real-world historical influence as well as a stunning African backdrop. While the story itself and the characters were on the simpler side (it’s a very short novel in true YA style), I felt absolutely transported to Simi’s Africa, and I was fully engrossed in the African mythology and history that this book taught me. Truly fantastic, but not quite long enough or complex enough to push me into giving it full points. 4/5 (though I did already pre-order the sequel).

7. A Queen of Gilded Horns by Amanda Joy

The sequel A River of Royal Blood and end of the duology. While I’m happy with the ending of the story, I found myself a bit disapointed in that I simply wanted MORE…I feel like the author chose to focus on only really one of the relationships with the narrator and another character, and that part was fine, except that the author built up the narrator’s relationships with two other characters in the first book, and I felt like their arcs weren’t quite given enough love. Honestly, I have no complaints about the content that was there, she’s a great writer, I just think that she did so much lead up but wrapped up the ENTIRE STORY in the last 50 pages, so it felt a bit rushed to me. I think this story would have been way better as a trilogy. But I still had a great time reading, so 4/5 stars.

8. A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik

This is my Book Club book for the month, and was the first book I read as part of my 24 hour Read-a-thon. I’ve seen this book all over BookTok, but I had no expectations for it. I think it’s going to be controversial among my Book Club gals but I LOVED it. Galadriel is one of my favorite narrators in a long time simply because this book is like reading her journal/magic manuel. There isn’t much plot to speak of, which normally would be a huge turnoff for me and did make the pacing pretty slow, BUT Galadriel is absolutely so hilarious that I found myself actually, physically laughing out loud and reading quotes to my reading partner. The book was so good and I’m ravenous for the sequel. 5/5 stars.

9. Night of the Dragon by Julie Kagawa

The finale to the Shadow of the Fox trilogy that I started forever ago and only just got around to finishing. I truly love Julie Kagawa’s writing and have for more than a decade now. I always compare this trilogy like reading the novel version of anime or manga (which are two mediums I don’t really partake in but I still know a lot about the tropes). This final book also reminded me of a video game where the characters are like “here we are, the final fight”, and then the bad guy goes down and they’re like “we did it!” but then an even BIGGER, BADDER GUY rises up and they have to keep fighting, and that just keeps happening? There was a lot of action and drama in this final book, which kept it moving at lightning speed. I won’t spoil the ending, but it’s pretty crazy. This book and the series overall is a 4/5 stars.

10. Mister Impossible by Maggie Stiefvater

One of my truly favorite authors of all time, Maggie Stiefvater’s novels feel like reading poetry. It’s all about imagery and vibes with her, plot is definitely secondary. This is the sequel to Call Down the Hawk and the second book in the The Dreamers trilogy. It had been a while since I’d read the first book, and unfortunately Maggie isn’t much of a recapper, but besides it taking me a little bit to get into the story, I loved it as usual. Her style is completely dreamy and her characters are deep and complex. But the pace is slow, as with almost all of her books, but somehow they’re still pretty impossible to put down. Can’t wait for the finale, 5/5 stars.

Belle Revolte by Linsey Miller (DNF)

I do not count books that I don’t finish toward my overall count for the year, but I wanted to give my review here because I rarely review books that I don’t like. This is my first DNF in at least 18 months and I am going to try and do it more with books that I’m not enjoying. I put this book down after reading 1/4 of it. The reasons were that I found the writing style clunky and confusing, the characters bland, and the plot VERY sluggish. I think she had a decent concept, but the book definitely needed editing and a better inciting event to keep the reader engaged.

I’m going to try to do a few more full reviews of my April books, but I do like this mini-review style, so I’m going to try and throw together a monthly recap of everything I read in this style that I don’t give a full review.

Let me know if you have read and liked any of these books, or if you disagree with anything I’ve said here, I’m always hungry for discourse. See ya next time!

Mini Reviews · Summaries

The Demon Tide by Laurie Forest (Summary)

Note / The Briefest Review

This is it everyone, the culmination of all my summarizing and reading over the last weeks – The Demon Tide is finally here! I had such a great time re-reading my favorite series, but they’re big long books, so hopefully these summaries will help others (if not, they will help me) in preparation for future books. I know we just got The Demon Tide, but I already can’t wait for the next book in the series.

Short summary, spoiler free – this book, as are all the others, is a 5/5 star, my favorite YA series of the last five years, my absolute obsession. Heart-warming, gut-wrenching, this series has it all. And so many characters, but somehow Laurie Forest makes you care about every single one, and I’ve never wanted a spin-off story for every single character in a book before, but I do now.

As always with these summaries, they are ALL spoilers, so do not read on from here if you have not read The Demon Tide, I’m seriously begging you. Just go out and buy the book, and if you haven’t read any of the Black Witch Chronicles, buy the whole series! I promise you will not be disappointed.

Thanks bye!

!!!SPOILERS AHEAD!!!

Key Characters:

Elloren Gardner – Seventeen years old, middle child in the Gardner family. Raised by her uncle with her two brothers out in Halfix (remote Gardneria). Wants to be an apothecary, enjoys making and playing violins. Has a connection to wood, able to see the origin tree to any piece of wood she touches.

Rafe Gardner – Eldest of the Gardner siblings, enrolled in the university. Protective elder brother, master hunter and tracker. No magical abilities.

Trystan Gardner – Sixteen years old, youngest Gardner sibling. Level five mage (the most powerful), studying at the university as an apprentice to the weapons guild.

Vyvian Damon – Member of the Mage Council, very involved in politics and obsessed with carrying on the legacy of her mother, the Black Witch. Aunt to Trystan, Elloren, and Rafe.

Fallon Bane – The most powerful young female mage in Gardneria, a level five. Desperately wishes to be wand-fasted to Lukas Grey. Cruel and power-hungry.

Lukas Grey – Powerful level five mage, a rising star in the military. Charms Elloren upon their first meeting and is interested in fasting with her.

Marcus Vogel – Gardnerian priest and member of the mage council. Hoping to be elected the next High Mage. Gives Elloren the creeps.

Aislinn Greer – Quiet, sweet Gardnerian girl Elloren’s age, loves romantic poetry and quickly becomes Elloren’s friend.

Sage Gaffney – Gardnerian girl a few years older than Elloren, lives on the estate next door. Runs away from school with a boy she isn’t wand-fasted to, gives birth to an Icaral child. Her and her child are wanted by the mage council.

Yvan Guriel – Keltic student at the university. Works in the kitchens with Elloren, seems to hate her on sight.

Tierney Calix – Water Fae girl glamored as a Gardenerian. Fellow apothecary student with Elloren.

Wynter Eirllyn – Icaral Elf, Elloren’s roommate. A soft-spoken, timid girl, she is a wonderful artist and the first Icaral to make Elloren think that perhaps her religion has gotten it all wrong. She’s also an empath, which means she can sense people’s emotions through touch.

Ariel Haven – Icaral Gardenerian, Elloren’s other roommate. Spent most of her life locked away due to being an Icaral, is somewhat unhinged and instant enemies with Elloren. But they eventually come to an understanding and Elloren learns that Ariel is connected with winged creatures and can speak with them mind to mind.

Diana and Jarod Ulrich – Twin siblings of the Lupine race – can turn into wolves and live in the forest with their pack. Currently students at the university per their father’s wishes for the Lupines to be more diplomatically integrated with the other races.

Andras Volya – Son of Professor Volya. The professor was part of an Amazkaran tribe, but she refused to abandon her child like she was supposed to when he was born male, so they’ve been banished from Amaz lands, but they both still wear the runes. Andras is incredibly skilled with horses and the Amaz fighting style.

Cael Eirllyn – Wynter’s brother, Alfsigr Elf. Elite archer.

Rhys Thorim – Cael Eirllyn’s second in arms, loyal to Cael and Wynter. Alfsigr Elf, elite archer.

Bleddyn – Urisk kitchen worker, works with Elloren in the university kitchens. Starts with a strong dislike for her and all Gardnerians, and along with Iris they bully Elloren.

Iris Morgaine – Kelt girl who works in the kitchens at the university with Elloren. Actually a glamoured Fae. Romantically interested in Yvan and hates Elloren with a passion, no matter what she does.

Lucretia Quillen – Gardnerian Vice Chancellor at the university, one of the resistance leaders along with Jules Kristian and Fernyllia.

Jules Kristian – Keltic history professor at the university. One of the resistance leaders along with Lucretia Quillen and Fernyllia.

Fernyllia – Urisk kitchen mistress at the university. Grandmother to Fern. One of the leaders of the Resistance along with Lucretia Quillen and Jules Kristian.

Olilly – Young Urisk girl, works in the staff at the university. Kind and gentle, she often tends to young Fern, Fernyllia’s granddaughter.

Kam Vin – Commander of the western Vu Trin sorceresses. Firm and resolute, gives Elloren her wand to wand test with when she first arrives at University. A good person who believes the Gardnerians go too far, even as she tries to remain politically neutral (on the surface).

Ni Vin – Sister to Kam Vin, a Vu Trin sorceress herself. She was disfigured by a fire caused by Carnissa Gardner during the first Realm War, and it has left her burn-scarred on one half of her body. Beloved of Valasca.

Marina – Selkie that is originally held captive by the University groundskeeper. Elloren and Yvan free her, and she teaches herself to speak the Common Tongue and is the first of her kind to be able to communicate with the land-dwellers. Convinces the Amaz to help her free the rest of her people from the Gardnerians. Lived for months in the North Tower with Elloren, Diana, Wynter, and Ariel.

Naga – Formerly a Gardnerian military dragon, Yvan, Elloren and the gang were able to free her before the Gardnerians broke her. Ariel and Andras keep her hidden in a cave while they nurse her back to health. Friend to Yvan and wants to help take the Gardnerians down.

Valasca – Amazkaran Commander of the Queens Guard. Powerful rune sorceress. Goat herder in her spare time. Friend to Elloren. Madly in love with Ni Vin.

Alcippe – Uriskal woman, powerful member of the Amaz Queen’s Guard. Saved her mother and carried her to the Amaz when she was just twelve years old. Went back once she was grown up and killed her tyrant of a father. Dislikes ALL men, but is a gentle protector to children in particular. Hates Elloren Gardner for what she stands for.

Queen Alkaia – Queen of the Amazkaran. Believes firmly in the morals of the Amaz people, that men are unkind and cannot be trusted. A strong and fair leader, she agrees that her people will help free the Selkies from their Gardnerian captors.

Thierran Stone – Young Gardnerian soldier. Level Five Mage. Comes from a family of the Styvian sect, the most devout to the Holy Book. Has his world shattered when Dryad families are cut down in front of him and he can’t stop it.

Sparrow Trillium – Nineteen year old Urisk girl. Wants to be a seamstress and have her own shop, her life was destroyed by Fallon Bane and she and her companion were sent to the work camps on the Fae Islands. Caretaker to young Effrey.

Effrey – Urisk child, disguised as a girl so he is not killed by the Gardnerians. Has some geomancy powers, so he needs to keep himself hidden. Savior of the pit dragon Ra’zor and ward of Sparrow Trillium.

Raz’zor – pit dragon held captive by the Gardnerians until Effrey saves him. Has sworn fealty to Elloren.

Chi Nam – a Vu Trin Lo Voi, which is a crone that has mastery of both rune and portal sorcery. Chi Nam is the Runemaster, and the most powerful sorceress of them all. She has faith in Elloren when Elloren doesn’t even have faith in herself that her terrible power can be controlled.

Vang Troi – The high commander of all the Vu Trin military, a powerful sorceress.

Vothendrile Xanthile – A Zhilon’ile Wyvern-shifter, meaning he has the power to control storms. Member of the Wyvernguard, assigned guard to Trystan Gardner. Wants to drive Trystan out and kill the Black Witch. Attracted to Trystan.

Ung Li – Commander of the Wyvernguard. Doesn’t want Trystan to be in the Wyvernguard, but had to acquiesce to Vang Troi’s insistence. Thinks the Black Witch is too dangerous to be left alive. 

Sylla Vuul – One of three primordial Death Fae in the Wyvernguard. Has the power to read your fear. An outcast even among Fae, she is kind to Trystan.

Asra’leen Filor’ian – Asrai Water Fae in the Wyvernguard. Tierney’s roommate and fast friend. Loves rainbows and waterfalls, but is tougher than she looks.

Fyordin Lir – Commander of the Asrai division of the Wyvernguard. Also has claim to the Vo River, which is Tierney’s river. Attractive, but very prejudiced against all Gardnerians, even though he’s never really known one.

Viger Maul – One of three primordial Death Fae in the Wyvernguard. Has the power to read your fear. An outcast even among Fae, he is drawn to Tierney when they meet, as she has Kelpies, which are more closely aligned with Death Fae than Asrai typically. Keeps Tierney’s secret that she wants to help Elloren.

Ra’Ven Za’Nor – Smaragdalfar Elf prince. Escaped from the sublands a few years prior, was disguised for a long time as Kelt. Beloved of Sage Gaffney and father to her child.

Sylmire Talonir – Thirteen year old Alfsigr Elf, escaped from Alfsigroth before they could control her with the Zalyn’or, begs the Amaz to shelter her and help her free the Alfsigr of the power of the Zalyn’or.

Rivyr’el Talonir – Cousin of Sylmire, Alfsigr Elf that escaped Alfsigroth. Powerful Alfsigr sorcerer, the only rebel who has been able to remove the Zalyn’or from the bodies of other Alfsigr. 

Ysilldir Illynrindor – Alfsigr Elf who has been with the Amaz for five years. Warrior and friend to Wynter.

Alaric Fynnes – seventeen year old Gardnerian priest-apprentice. Travels with Vogel to the Lost Continent of the West to seek the Shadow Wand. Tossed into the sea by Vogel because he’s the only one who knows that Vogel took it instead of destroying it.

Freyja Zyrr – Acting Commander of the Queen’s Guard. A woman dedicated to her life in the Amaz, but she is also in love with a Keltish man, Clive Soren, leader of the fallen Keltish Resistance. 

Nym’ellia – Thirteen year old girl who is half Gardnerian, half Urisk. Traveling East with her family from Valgard. Her mother is Emberlyyn and her younger sister is Tybryl.

Or’myr Syl’vir – Son of Li’ra and Edwin Gardner, cousin to Elloren and her brothers. Being half Mage and half Urisk, he’s a powerful Urisk geomancer as well as a Level 5 Earth and Fire Mage, like Elloren. 

Min Lo (Minyl) – Childhood friend of Vothe, a Vu Trin soldier. More compassionate than most, she’s dedicated to helping the refugees that flee East.

Ru Sol – Min Lo’s dedicated partner and a Vu Trin soldier.

Wrenfir – Tessla Gardner’s much younger brother. Traveled East at the end of the Realm War after the death of his sister and brother-in-law. Elloren, Rafe, and Trystan’s uncle on their mother’s side. Wrenfir is a friend to the Death Fae and a “vigilante apothecary”.

Fain Quillen – Lucretia Quillen’s older brother, he was a best friend of Vale and Tessla Garnder’s. Water Mage, fled Gardneria to the East at the end of the Realm War. Wyvern-bonded to Sholindrile Xanthile.

Li’ra Syl’vir – Urisk woman, mother of Or’myr and life partner to Edwin Gardner, though they had to separate when she and Or’myr fled East at the end of the Realm War. 

Sholindrile Xanthile – Wyvern bonded to Fain Quillen, exiled uncle of Vothe’s. Zhilon’ile Wyvern and religious studies professor.

Mora’lee Starr’lyrion – Smaragdalfar woman, member of the Eastern Resistance. Runs a restaurant out of her massive rune ship on Voloi’s sixth tier. A passionate pilot. Fyon Hawkyyn has been her friend since childhood and secret love. Takes in young refugees who have nowhere else to go, including Ghor’li, Olilly, and Nym’ellia and her family.

Ghor’li – six year old Urisk girl, Trystan Gardner saves her from drowning in the Zonor River, but her mother drowned during the crossing, so she’s an orphan. Taken in by Mora’lee.

Fyon Hawkyyn – Smaragdalfar man, specializes in metal sorcery and Varg runes. Elloren’s former professor at Verpax University, which was a cover for his work in the Resistance smuggling refugees out of the West. Recently returned to the East, where he’s been performing the traditional pre-courtship acts with Mora’lee Starr’lyrion.

Zosh Lyyo – Noi man, owner of the restaurant across from Mora’lee’s in Voloi. A prominent member of the “Noilaan for the Noi” movement, against refugees coming into the East from the West. 

Kirin Lyyo – Zosh Lyyo’s young son, doesn’t believe in all his father’s anti-refugee garbage, crushing hard on Olilly. A nice young man.

III – Also known as the Great Tree, the descendant of the Source Tree from all the myths: the central source of power in the forest, the Dryad Guardians are its protectors.

Hazel – Half Dryad, half Death Fae, a Guardian of the forest who believes that they need Elloren’s help in defending the Forest and defeating Vogel.

Oaklyyn – Dryad Guardian, dead set against accepting Elloren into their group, thinks she tricked everyone with her evil Black Witch powers.

Errilith – Elloren’s Dryad kindred, a giant Errilor raven the size of a horse.

Summary:

Prologue: 

  • The narrator is Alaric Fynnes, the prologue takes place before Vogel comes into power as High Mage. Alaric is traveling with his beloved mentor, Marcus Vogel, on a journey to find the Shadow Wand, which came to Vogel in a vision as something to be destroyed. The journey consists of only Gardnerian men from the strict Styvian sect, all already wandfasted save for the two priests. As they come upon land, all color seems to have been leached from the world, only shades of gray existing. When Alaric and the others make landfall, they see what looks like a horrible demon with horns and claws, but as they approach the demon turns out to be a Death Fae, and he morphs himself into his regular form, which is a pretty normal looking young man.
  • The Death Fae, thinking them Dryad Fae, asks them if they are here to destroy the Shadow Tool. Vogel doesn’t deny that they are Dryads, and says they come with an army to destroy the tool. The Death Fae leads Vogel and Alaric into a hillock in the forest. Inside a small room is a table with a gray wand. The Death Fae warns them not to touch it, and Vogel asks what the Shadow Tool did. The Death Fae tells them that the wand destroyed everything, except for himself. He fought it, but it was too powerful. It feeds on division, the more people are divided the stronger it gets. And if it gets too powerful it destroys the Balance.
  • The Shadow Wand upends nature, corrupting elements with power drawn from a Void that wants to consume everything. The Fae tells them that the people of this land were divided and the Shadow fed on that, and it put itself in the hands of the Keltish forces. The fracture got worse and then everyone died. The Death Fae begs them to dedicate their lives to keeping anyone from ever wielding it again. The Fae asks them if they have possession of the Great Wand, because that is the last hope to fight against the power of the Shadow Wand and restore Balance.
  • Vogel tells the Death Fae that they have the Great Wand. The Fae gives them a journal, which is his writings of all of the destruction that happened in this land, for them to distribute to ensure that it never happens again.
  • Vogel attacks the Fae, throwing an iron knife into his chest before Alaric or the Fae can even move. Vogels says that they are the First Children of the Holy Magedom and that he is destroyed in the name of the Ancient One. The Fae uses his last breath to warn Alaric that they will be doomed if Vogel takes the Wand and tries to use it.
  • Alaric is alarmed to find Vogel holding the Wand, telling Alaric to keep it a secret and say it was destroyed while they work out what to do with it. Alaric agrees. The two priests and their soldiers get back on the ship and sail back toward Gardneria, color returning as they sail away from the Western Continent. 
  • Later, Vogel approaches Alaric and asks what’s wrong. Alaric expresses his nerves in bringing that evil weapon back to the Continent of the Realms, asking Vogel how he knows the Wand won’t use them for evil. Vogels say that any weapon in the hands of a pure and holy Mage can be transformed. Then Vogel uses the Wand to blast Alaric off the side of the boat and into the sea. As he’s falling under the waves, unable to breathe, he seeks a Selkie, who transforms from a seal into a woman and tries desperately to pull him toward the surface. 
  • The Shadow makes its way into Vogel’s mind, reading him. There is a scene showing Vogel as a young boy being beaten senseless by his mother who is convinced he is an evil one and makes him repent, making him promise to follow the Ancient One’s text word for word and making him copy it in his own hand over and over again.

Prelude:

  • Freyja is out patrolling the perimeter of the rune dome that protects the Amaz city of Cyme. Wynter Eirllyn finds her there, and asks for her aid. Wynter asks Freja for her help in freeing her brother Cael and his second Rhys from their imprisonment in Alfsigroth. Wynter asks because she knows that Freyja herself loves a man, despite it being forbidden by the Amaz.
  • Clive Soren, leader of the broken Keltic Resistance, came to wait for her last night just outside of the runic dome. Freyja tells him he must go East, now, if he is to have any hope of survival. He says he won’t go without her. Freyja is dedicated to staying with the Amaz, who cannot go East because their religion and beliefs forbid them to live among men, and the Noi and the Ishkart have denied them entry anyway.
  • Clive warns Freyja that the Garnderians are coming, and that the Amaz stronghold will not be enough to keep them out. Frejya tells him she has begged the queen, begged the council to portal their people east. But they see her as compromised, because even though it is not spoken, it is an open secret that she has a relationship with a man. Freyja says there is a chance they’ll portal East anyway, and begs him to go so that just in case they do she has the chance to find him there. Clive says he will find her there, because there is nothing, no religion or barrier that can keep them apart, because he loves her always. She loves him too, and with that he’s gone.
  • Back in the present, Freyja tells Wynter that they could not save her brother and his friend even if they weren’t male, the Alfsigr are too strong at the moment. Wynter begs then for her help to bring the Amaz east to find Rivyr’el Talonir, to have him remove the Zalyn’or bindings. Moved with compassion, Freyja says that they’ll petition the queen together. But just then a group of seven Marfoir assassins step out of the trees on the other side of the barrier. Freyja summons her horse, grabs Wynter, and heads to warn the queen.
  • Narration shifts to Marcus Vogel. Vogel is with his army just outside the domed city of Cyme. He believes the Amaz to be trapped there under the dome, not knowing that he has the power to lift the lid whenever he desires. The army is led by the powerful Bane siblings, Fallon at their helm. Powerful as she is, she isn’t the Black Witch, and Vogel is determined to have Elloren serving him. Soon the Amaz will have fallen, and the Alfsigr as well, Vogel having the secret ability to take control of them through their Zalyn’or necklaces. A rune hawk arrives and the message says that they have word that Mavrik Glass, wandmaster and assassin for the Gardnerians, has defected to the Noilaan, and that the Icaral Yvan Gureyv survived due to his Fae healing abilities. Vogel is furious, but now the prophecy will have to play itself out. Soon he’ll have Elloren in his power, and she’ll strike down Yvan just like the prophecy says.
  • Narration shifts to Wynter. Wynter stands with a large group of Amaz, including the queen and a large portion of the Amaz military. A rune hawk comes through with a message from Vogel: surrender or be destroyed. Wynter feels the Zalyn’or tightening her throat, preventing her from speaking. She calls for her winged kindred through the dome and they come flocking to her. Some of them have been leached of color, corrupted by the Shadow that is taking over nature. Wynter sends them all out to find Naga the dragon and appeal for aid. As the power of the Zalyn’or takes her over, she finds that her consciousness is being pulled through the Zalyn’or into the Shadow itself, giving her the ability to read Vogel with her empathetic powers through the Zalyn’or. Wynter cries out to him that he knows not what he aligned himself with. Sensing her, Vogel casts her out, and Wynter is back in Cyme, with the brief ability to speak. She tells them that there is no stopping Vogel, that he can control all of Alfsigroth, that he can see through her right now. But when Wynter tries to warn them that he’s linked Gardneria to shadow/demonic power, she is cut off from speech again. Wynter starts to vomit shadow, and in the blink of an eye the red runic dome over Cyme blinks out of existence. 
  • Narration shifts to Lukas Grey. When he wakes, he’s in a hive of demons, most disguised as regular Gardnerians. Lukas is desperate to find out what happened to Elloren, but before he can do anything he’s knocked unconscious again. When he wakes, he’s been dragged before Vogel. Lukas is vicious, telling Vogel that Elloren has more power than he can imagine and that she is going to strike him down. Vogel just smiles and tells him that Yvan survived, then presses his wand against Lukas’s fasting lines, saying that he’s going to use the spell to connect to Elloren. Lukas threatens to kill him if he so much as touches her. Vogel tells him that the only reason he survived is because Elloren transferred Yvan’s Wyvernfire to Lukas through their coupling. Vogel tells Lukas that he will join Vogel by force or by choice, same with Elloren. Lukas is filled with protective love for Elloren, trying to send her the thought to find Yvan and any other strong allies and free herself from their sealing spell so that Vogel doesn’t have a line to her anymore.
  • Narration switches to Elloren in the Dyoi forest where she’s just realized that Yvan must be alive, having felt his fire and heard his voice calling her name in her mind. She’s thrust out of her own thoughts when the family she just rescued screams again and there are four huge waith bats soaring into the clearing. Elloren tamps down on her fear, because they feed on it, and fights them just like she did the scorpios that she just projected the family from. She takes them all down with relative ease, asking the family if they’re alright. The Urisk mother and the young child are sick with the Red Grippe, but the young half Gardnerian, half Urisk teen says they’re not hurt. Going over to the dead wraith bats, Elloren sees tendrils of shadow rising from them. She puts her hand on a shadow rune on one of the bats, and finds that her hand is stuck to it. 
  • A translucent image of Lukas appears, being tortured by Vogel. Elloren cries out for him, realizing he must have survived, but that alerts Vogel to her presence and he cuts the connection. Elloren realizes that Lukas must have survived Vogel’s magefire the same way she did: through Yvan’s Wyvernfire protection. She needs to return to the West and save him. After asking the teen, Elloren also realizes she lost a week in that portal, as can happen with portal travel, and Lukas has been in Vogel’s grasp for that long. 
  • Elloren determines that she’ll need help to rescue Lukas because her magical power is still bound up by the trees. She needs to find her brother Trystan. Looking to the teen girl, Elloren tells her that she needs to get to the Wyvernguard. The girl, named Nym’ellia says that they are headed for Voloi, and that they are close to the Zonor river. Elloren and Nym’ellia agree to head to Noilaan together to find Trystan and help Nym’ellia’s sister and mother get some medicine for their ailment.

Part 1:

  • The story moves backward in time a bit, to the sixth month, and the narration is with Vothendrile Xanthile. During his time as Trystan Gardner’s guard, he has to begrudgingly admit that he’s never caught Trystan in a lie, and that his motives for being here with the Wyvernguard are pure. But nobody else seems to believe that, and if Vothe ever said anything, he’d be ostracized as well. Trystan is currently at weapons practice, where a team of Vu Trin attempt to attack Trystan, but before they can do anything Trystan lashes his wand forward and knocks each weapon from their hands, disabling the runes on the weapons themselves with his lightning. The soldiers retaliate by throwing bolt after bolt of runic power with murderous intent. Ung Li has to stop them from killing him, saying that they cannot learn from him if he’s dead.
  • Ung Li says that’s enough for today but Trystan, despite being hurt, tells them to go again, that he only threw out a small bit of his power, that they needed to keep working trying to get the upper hand on him. Later, when Vothe walks him back to his room, he sees Sylla the Death Fae in the hall. She tells Vothe that Trystan truly fights for the East, and that Vothe fears him. Vothe denies it and says for her to tell him exactly what he’s afraid of. She says he’s afraid that Trystan is telling the whole truth.
  • Narration switches to Trystan. He realized straight away that Vothe was interested in men. He can always be seen with other beautiful men, flirting and stealing kisses, casual touches. This kind of thing would get him arrested and probably executed in Gardneria. But Trystan also realizes that Vothe’s angry demeanor around him is changing, that he’s more conflicted about Trystan being in the Wyvernguard. 
  • Narration switches back to Vothe. Back at weapons training, Vothe’s childhood friend Heelyn tells him that she switched Trystan’s wand for a rune-blocked one, which will ensure that he is seriously hurt when the soldiers attack him and he can’t defend himself. Unable to watch as that happens, Vothe steps forward and tells Ung Li that Trystan has a blocked wand. Ung Li checks it and confirms, getting him a new wand and saying she’ll be checking his weapons from now on. Later, Trystan asks why Vothe stood up for him. Vothe tells him it’s because he knows that Trystan is there to fight with them, that he’s telling the truth. Trystan thanks him and goes into his room.
  • Heelyn approaches Vothe, asking if he’s a Mage lover now. Vothe says he believes in fairness, and what they did was unfair. Heelyn demands that he choose, asking if he’s forgotten that her parents were killed by Mages. He says of course not, and Heelyn demands that Vothe renounce Trystan and choose the right side. Vothe tells her he doesn’t know what side that is.
  • Narration shifts to Tierney Calix. She is wondering where Elloren is, why it’s taking her so long to get East. She has heard of Yvan’s death, and wonders if Elloren knew who he really was. She snaps out of her thoughts and back to weapons training. Commander Fyordin Lir tells the Asrai contingent that they will be shipped out to the western border to fight the day after Xishlon, the purple moon festival.
  • In practice, as Tierney draws her power from the Vo, she gets tangled up in Fyordin’s power as he tries to do the same thing. Fyordin tells her she needs to get control over her powers or she’ll not deploy with the rest of them. They argue, and then Tierney grabs his arm with one hand, draws on their combined power, and raises her other hand to the sky, which causes a fierce and powerful storm to form across the river in the capital city of Voloi. This little display causes them both to be summoned to Ung Li’s office.
  • Rather than disciplining them, Ung Li promotes Tierney and moves both her and Fyordin to a new rank of Fae Military Advisors. They are to continue to train together, as equals, and they will deploy after the rest of the Asrai. Ung Li dismisses Tierney for the rest of the day, telling her to go to Or’myr Syll’vir’s geomancy lab to help him with a project.
  • Or’myr Syll’vir greets Tierney as she bursts into his lab like a building storm. Tierney, in quite the mood, doesn’t shake his hand and just says that he should know that she’s been a bit shunned around here, and that he’ll likely harm his standing here by working with her. Or’myr tells her that this would be impressive, considering he’s already controversial by being a grandson of the Black Witch. And that’s when Tierney is able to place him: even though he’s clearly half Urisk, his features are like Elloren’s set in a male face. His father is Edwin Gardner, who had an affair with his mother and refused to renounce him upon coming East because she loved him. So he’s the cousin of the Gardner siblings. The two of them have very similar personalities and Tierney believes they’ll get along swimmingly.
  • Tierney asks Or’myr if he’s gotten to meet his cousin Trystan, and Or’myr says they haven’t let him. Tierney suggests that they sneak over to the sister island of the Wyvernguard to meet him, because they’re both so powerful they can’t possibly get kicked out of the military. Or’myr agrees.
  • Narration switches to Vothe. He’s guarding Trystan down by the Vo when an Asrai, who can be none other than Tierney Calix, and Or’myr emerge. Trystan and Tierney fall into a happy embrace. Tierney introduces Trystan to Or’myr, who tells him that he’s Edwin’s son and it’s so nice to meet his cousin. This obviously means so much to Trystan that Vothe decides that he won’t turn them in for this interaction, which is very much against the rules the Wyvernguard have set for Trystan. When their visit is over, Trystan thanks Vothe for letting him have that time with them.
  • Narration switches back to Tierney. She’s down by the Vo, worried about her precious river’s vulnerability, and how she doesn’t really want to deploy and leave it behind. Fyordin approaches her to chat, and though Tierney is constantly infuriated by him, she can’t deny the physical attraction. He flirts with her pretty hard, and she admits she’s not used to this kind of attention because she spent most of her life in an “ugly” Gardnerian glamour. Fyordin tells her he was briefly glamoured as a Kelt, and is able to pull it up to show her, proving that he was attractive as a Kelt and his natural Asrai. Then Fyordin asks Tierney to spend Xishlon, the Lavender Moon festival, with him. It’s a fairly romantic holiday, with many people asking others to be their Xishlon’vir, which means they’ll kiss under the moon and begin a formal courtship. Tierney doesn’t know how to react to this. His attentions are very intense, and flattering, but she feels as though she wants to save her first kiss for someone who really knows her, which she doesn’t feel that Fyordin does.
  • As attracted as she is to Fyordin, there is someone else, someone more forbidden, that she thinks about kissing. As if summoned by her thoughts, she realizes that Viger is around as well. Fyordin notices him there, and makes fun of him for having a crush on her, saying the Death Fae are traitors. Tierney shuts Fyordin right down, saying she came from a place where pretty much everyone was labeled an “Evil One” just for being different. Viger approaches and Tierney greets him. Fyordin asks if Viger has given his Vu Trin oath yet, and Viger says that Death is aligned with nobody. 
  • Fyordin and Viger get into an argument about alignment and the understanding of the natural order, Viger calling Fyordin shallow waters while saying Tierney understands the deep. Fyordin says that he’s aligned with the Vo, he knows the deep water. But Viger states that just because Fyordin has claimed the Vo, doesn’t mean it fully claimed him back. Fyordin just calls Viger a traitor again, and tells Tierney to be careful who she associates with, saying she is friendly with the Death Fae and was seen in Voloi with her Gardnerian family in Gardnerian blacks. Which she only did because her adopted family as well as her Asrai brother still trapped in his Gardnerian glamour were being harassed by the Noi. Tierney tires of this argument and says the boys can continue to fight, but she’s going down to the Vo and that Fyordin had better stay out of her waters.
  • When Tierney comes back to the surface late that night, Viger is there waiting for her. They sit together and Viger asks her, in spite of himself, if she plans to kiss Fyordin in the Vo. Tierney doesn’t answer, just opens up her fears to Viger, including her fear of falling for him. Viger responds by sharing a thought, that he wants to court her. Tierney tells him straight up that there is clearly some mutual interest, but asks him if he can just be her friend right now. He agrees, and Tierney says that she doesn’t want to spend Xishlon kissing, but surveying her waters, trying to find out where the danger is coming from. She senses that this war is bigger than Vogel and the realms, that the natural world might be at risk. Viger says that he trusts her gut, and that he agrees. On Xishlon they will work together to figure out what is happening and how to stop it.
  • Narration switches to Sparrow Trillium. Sparrow, Effrey, Raz’zor, Thierren, and Aislinn are traveling with a Vu Trin contingent through the desert toward the East. Sparrow and Effrey have been immediately taken under the wing of Ulluwyn, one of the Urisk soldiers, but she and the rest of the soldiers range from weary to downright hostile toward Thierren and Aislinn, despite Thierren’s undercover intel from his time in the military and Aislinn’s obvious abuse suffered at the hands of her fastmate. Ulluwyn warns Sparrow to stay away from Thierren, because she’s seen how Thierren looks at her and she doesn’t want Sparrow to fall under his evil Mage grasp.
  • Sparrow tries a bit weakly to defend Thierren, but it’s difficult when the Mages have so oppressed the Urisk since the first Realm War. And though Sparrow knows that Thierren is a good man who has protected her and Effrey since they met, she still looks at him and sees a Gardnerian.  But Sparrow feels herself more and more drawn to Thierren, and just by the way he looks at her she can tell he feels it as well. Aislinn comes over to Sparrow and confirms it, saying she’s seen the way they look at each other, and to not let anyone tell her who she can and cannot love, because she could have had her true love, but now she feels it’s lost to her because she didn’t leave with Jarod when he first asked.
  • Sparrow and Aislinn go to the bathing corner of the cavern, where the Vu Trin have set up blades with water and fire runes to pour a warm stream of water down for those standing under it. Sparrow looks over at Aislinn to see that her body is absolutely covered in bruises, lashmarks, and even some healing bite marks. A small sandstorm picks up just as two giant gray spiders covered in Vogel runes pop up out of the sand and attack. Sparrow screams for Thierren, who comes around the corner with the rest of the Vu Trin, the group of them dispatching the spiders, but not before the two women are tangled up in their web. Thierren picks up Sparrow and carries her away from the carnage, his heart blazing in his gaze on her. He cuts the webs from her naked body. Ulluwyn drags Sparrow out of Thierren’s arms protectively, saying that the spiders might have been the work of Thierren himself, despite his outrage.
  • Later that evening, Sparrow seeks out Thierren where he sits alone. Thierren tells her he loves her, saying he knows it’s impossible for them to be together, but telling her it’s true and it always will be. She can’t say it back, though she longs to, but she’s still too close to the West, where she was treated as subhuman her whole life by Thierren’s people. She stands up and goes to bed crying.
  • Later that night, when everyone is asleep, Sparrow stands and goes to curl up with Thierren, mouthing the words “I love you” before falling back asleep next to him. Sparrow dreams that she snuggles herself into Thierren’s arms and kisses him, telling him she wants him. Thierren wakes her from where it seems she was doing those things to him outside her dream as well. Everyone is awake and looking at them, and Ulluwyn is furious, calling her a crow whore in Uriskal. Sparrow apologizes to Thierren for her actions, saying she can’t talk about anything until they’re east, and Thierren tells her to wait until they’re in the east and she knows for sure how she feels.
  • Narration is back with Vothe. He’s sitting outside the library with Basyl, a flirtatious friend, waiting for Trystan. Vothe is torn, wanting to help Trystan and being staunchly against how the rest of the guard treats him, but also knowing he will alienate himself from all his friends and allies if he does. As Trystan emerges, Vothe draws Basyl into a kiss, knowing Trystan is watching them. But instead of teasing his desire like Vothe intended, Trystan just looks at him scathingly and leaves. 
  • Narration switches to Trystan. He’s back in his room and Vothe has just come to his door, asking to speak with him, to take a walk and talk. Trystan just tells him that Vothe should continue quietly guarding him and shuts the door in his face. Because though he is deeply attracted to Vothe, he can’t let Vothe or anyone else walk all over him.
  • Switch to Vothe for narration. Vothe is approached by Heelyn, asking him to sign a petition to forbid Trystan from wearing the Wyvernguard uniform. This makes him mad, seeming so pointless and futile. This isn’t about protecting the East like she says, it’s about forcing a Mage out of the Wyvernguard, where Vothe believes he belongs. The two argue in front of an interested crowd, and Vothe takes the petition and burns it to ash.
  • The next day Ung Li calls Trystan into her office. She tells Trystan that he must now wear Gardnerian blacks instead of the Wyvernguard uniform, Heelyn’s petition clearly a success. Trystan says no, he won’t wear them. After a tense argument, Ung Li orders Trystan to wear them, so Trystan takes them and stalks out of the office, Vothe on his heels.
  • Vothe tells Trystan to just wear them and deal with it. Trystan says he seeks to be Noi’khin, and Vothe says that’s impossible as the son of the Black Witch. Trystan asks what he’s supposed to do, just go back? And that’s when Vothe realizes that in the West they hate men like Trystan and Vothe, who like other men. Vothe tells Trystan that he knows that Trystan is attracted to him. Trystan says that everyone is. Vothe asks if Trystan had to hide who he was back in Gardneria, and Trystan ask what he thinks. Vothe tells Trystan that people around here don’t understand that, that because of who he was he could never belong in Gardneria. Vothe says he wants to understand. Trystan tells him that not only would both men be arrested if they were ever found together, but they would be imprisoned and likely killed, their families punished as well if they did not renounce him. Trystan says he was never Gardnerian and he never will be, and he’s never wearing these clothes again. So he lights them on fire.
  • Vu Trin soldier Min Lo sees Trystan use unsanctioned magic, but Vothe talks with her, convincing her that she shouldn’t turn Trystan in. He tells her that Trystan likes men, and Min understands that this is illegal in Gardneria, and as Vothe’s childhood friend, listens to him.
  • Narration switches to Trystan, who is nervous about being tossed out of the Wyvernguard for his brash action, but when Vothe and Min Lo come over, Min says she’ll petition Ung Li for his right to wear the Wyvernguard uniform. The attraction between Vothe and Trystan is growing so strong, but Trystan knows that if Vothe rejected him it might be the thing to break him, so he just leaves. Trystan turns to his friend Sylla for understanding, and finds that she has decorated the inside of his room with beautiful webbed designs, using beautiful calligraphy to write “Noi’khin”. He thanks her, and she says to embrace the complexity of the situation he’s in. Trystan admits he feels like he’s drowning in loneliness. She tells him to embrace his feeling, and be patient with Vothe, because Vothe is lost just like him.
  • Narration switches to Tierney. Tierney goes to Fyordin’s room, waking him after midnight. He’s shirtless, and she tells him she wants to swim at the bottom of the Vo with him, but not romantically, but because she needs his help. She needs a better sense of the river. But when she touches him, a light caress, their powers explode and their attraction ignites and they embrace. Fyordin admits he’s falling hard for Tierney, and as attracted as she is to him, she thinks it’s a mistake, as most of the time they don’t even get along, though Tierney says that she does think about him like that sometimes. Lost in the moment, Fyrdin says they should go to the Vo right now and merge their power in Asrai’lure, which is Asrai marriage. Tierney shakes her head, trying to clear the haze of power and attraction, trying to convince Fyordin that neither of them are thinking clearly because of it, that the pull toward each other is because of the power, not because they actually have real feelings for each other. 
  • Tierney tells him that she doesn’t want to go with the Vu Trin west, that the Vo needs them, and that something unnatural threatens it. Fyordin says he’s felt it too, and Tierney asks him to go with her to the Vo, right now, to see what their joint power can see. Fyordin says he thinks that he’s falling in love with her for real, not just the Vo in her.
  • Narration switches to Vothe. His friend Min Lo is looking for volunteers to mount a rescue mission of refugees that are trying to cross the Zonor river to safety in Noilaan, but don’t realize that there is a manufactured vortex in the river, and people are drowning in droves. Vothe, along with the other soldiers and apprentices, think that the problems of the West need to stay in the West, that the people can’t just bring their problems with them to the East with no restrictions. Trystan volunteers to help. Originally Min Lo wants to deny his offer, but Trystan is powerful and he’s a refugee too. To the dismay of the rest of the group, Min accepts his offer, making Vothe an automatic volunteer as his guard.
  • Narration switches to Trystan. He and Vothe are with Min on a rune skiff, heading toward the storm that is brewing on the Zonor river. Vothe and Min are arguing, Min saying it’s easy to say no refugees should be allowed in from the West when you’re removed from it. There is a massive tent city on the Western bank of the Zonor, where Min tells them disease is growing rampant. Perfectly curable disease, but Min is still petitioning the military to send apothecary and physician apprentices across the border to help them. Vothe is clearly listening and is torn, and this is the vulnerable Vothe that Trystan yearns to be with.
  • Narration shift to Vothe. They’re in the storm now, a raging storm that buffets their shield on the skiff. Trystan is able to hold the shield while Vothe gets out there, where refugee boats are smashed to pieces and people are clinging desperately to the detritus. It’s a punch to the gut for Vothe to see people, not refugees, just people, drowning below him. He dives into the river to save a young Urisk girl, dropping her on the skiff with Trystan and Min, the little girl terrified of Trystan because he’s a Mage. Vothe goes back out there, grabbing people out of the water, Trystan diving in as well with a shield around himself. Vothe finally finds the little Urisk girl’s mother,  but it’s too late to save her. Trystan comes up with a blonde Keltish baby in his arms. All the survivors on the skiff recoil at the sight of Trystan, the little Urisk girl screaming that it’s his fault her mother is dead, and Trystan is so alarmed by their fear he drops his wand to the floor and raises his hands, just as the teen Kelt boy rushes forward and pushes Trystan into the Zonor. 
  • Vo dives in after Trystan, who seems to have just let go and stopped fighting, the pain of all those he helped rescue looking at him with such hatred the straw that broke the camel’s back. At first Trystan struggles, but then he lets Vothe save him. 
  • Back at the Wyvernguard, Vothe senses Trystan’s power unraveling. Ung Li says she has to consider all the facts, even though Trystan’s unsanctioned wand use could be grounds for expulsion. Back at Trystan’s room, Sylla asks what happened, and Vothe tells her. Min Lo comes striding down the hall with Wyn Juun, the Wyvernguard’s Vo priest. Having been filled in, Wyn Juun asks to speak with Trystan, addressing him as “Noi’khin Gardner”. Trystan opens the door, sobbing, saying he tried to save the Urisk girl’s mother, blaming himself and all Mages for everything that is happening. Wyn Juun consoles him, saying that they’ll pray together for the little girl and for everyone who is fleeing East and risking their lives. Wyn Juun goes with Trystan inside his room and closes the door. Vothe just sinks down against the wall outside and lets the sorrows of the day overtake him.
  • The next morning, Vothe arrives back at Trystan’s room early and Trystan is wearing a Vo’lon necklace and wishing to go to the dawn Vo’lon service. When they arrive, most of the worshipers rise and leave when they see Trystan, all besides Min Lo, her partner Ru Sol, and three other military apprentices. Trystan goes to sit down, and Minyl (Min Lo), goes to sit beside him, Ru Sol sitting on his other side. Vothe desperately wants to be the one sitting next to Trystan and giving him comfort, but feels trapped in his role as guard. After the meditation, Trystan asks Wyn Juun to teach him the ways of worship to Vo, because he spent the last night reading “The Way of Vo”, one of their holy books.
  • Narration switches to Trystan. He never expected to find religion in the east, because all he has ever known religion to be is hatred toward others who aren’t like you, and looking for ways to make yourself feel superior to others. But at the center of the worship of Vo is love, and Trystan can feel the presence of Vo in the room, awakening something within him.
  • Narration switches back to Vothe. He witnesses Trystan changing as he finds himself in the worship of Vo, something that Vothe has never been able to do even though it is his own native religion. As Trystan becomes more centered, Vothe feels like he is drifting further away, drowning in nightmares of the storm on the Zonor.
  • Trystan is called to Ung Li’s office. She tells him that she is lifting his guard after Xishlon, and that he’ll have the same privileges as the other Wyvernguard apprentices, along with more approved use of his wand. She is also giving him his military stipend pay, which was being withheld, and tells him to go take a day in Voloi to get himself some clothing and belongings to replace what was vandalized. She also grants him leave to see his family, his brother, Tierney, his cousin Or’myr who he isn’t supposed to have met yet.
  • Ung Li said that she heard what he did on the Zonor, saving all those people, and she’s seen him endure countless hardships in weapons training, and she admits she was wrong about him. She tells him that he truly belongs with the Wyvernguard, giving him official leave to wear the uniform. She also says that, on her recommendation, the Noi Conclave is granting him full citizenship in Noilaan. 
  • Narration shifts to Trystan. He and Vothe have gone over the river into Voloi, but Trystan is having trouble at the market because not a single merchant will sell to him, a Gardnerian. Some are cruel, some seem to regret it, but all the same he seems to be out of options, despite his acceptance by Ung Li and his official citizenship status. Vothe offers to help him, and Trystan can tell that Vothe wants to go off somewhere private and kiss him. But Trystan realizes that it’s the same way that Vothe likes to kiss Basyl and other apprentices, as a distraction, not anything serious. And Trystan can’t take that. Suddenly, a woman calls Trystan over. She’s a Zhilon’ile Wyvernkin, like Vothe, and she’s running a clothing and tattoo shop.
  • Narration switches to Vothe. The woman is his renegade great aunt, Sithendrile. Vothe introduces Trystan, and Sithendrile asks Trystan what he’s looking for. Sithendrile is an empath, so Vothe warns Trystan before he shakes her hand. But Trystan doesn’t hesitate and shakes her hand, telling her that he seeks transformation into the person that he truly is, not the Gardnerian Mage that he looks like. Sithendrile gestures for Trystan to come inside her shop, without Vothe, who’s stung by this. Sithendrile touches his cheek gently, and clearly takes in everything Vothe is feeling about Trystan and the whole situation. She advises Vothe to not give up on the Zonor, and not to fear the transformation he himself is going through. Vothe admits that he was wrong, that his people are wrong, about wanting to wall off the refugees coming from the West, that their situation can’t be ignored. His aunt advises him to go back to the river and take a stand.
  • When Trystan emerges after quite some time alone in the shop with Sithendrile, he is completely transformed. His hair is dyed sky blue, no more Mage black, and his eyes are lined with kohl, which is all the rage for Noi men. Trystan also got pierced, multiple times, multiple hoops in his eyebrows, ears, and one in his lower lip. He also got a tattoo, a sapphire dragon head that covers the whole side of his neck and the rest of the dragon body appears to go down underneath his clothes, which are now a tunic and pants in the traditional Noi style. Vothe feels like he’s seeing the real Trystan for the very first time.
  • Back at Trystan’s bedroom door, Vothe finally gets the courage to ask if the dragon’s body goes all the way down his chest. Trystan simply takes off his tunic to show him, and the dragon goes all the way down his side, the tail dipping down below his hip bone underneath his pants. Vothe wants Trystan more than he wants anything, but is too afraid to make a move, because he knows that this would change everything in his whole life. So Trystan just shuts the door on him.
  • Trystan and Vothe are falling for each other, but Trystan believes he’ll never have Vothe, because Vothe has to commit to him in a way that he’s clearly unwilling to do.
  • Narration is with Vothe. HIs brother Gethindrile comes to visit, and tells him he cannot be with the grandson of the Black Witch. That his family will cast him out if he takes Trystan to mate, just like they cast out their uncle for mating with Fain Quillen. Vothe tells Geth all that Trystan has done, converting to the Vo’lon faith, saving refugees, getting the shit beaten out of him by apprentices who hate him just so they can practice fighting against a Level Five Mage. Geth also tells Vothe that he needs to stop volunteering with Minyl to save the refugees, as their conclave does not agree with letting any more refugees in, telling him that the border will be tightening soon.
  • Narration switches to Trystan. Vothe tells him that his brother visited and forbade him from volunteering to help any more refugees. Trystan asks what Vothe is going to do, surprised that Vothe is telling him something this personal. Vothe says he’s going to continue to volunteer with Minyl, and that the two of them are going to punch down the undertow in the Zonor that is the reason so many are drowning while trying to cross.
  • Narration is back with Vothe. Trystan agrees to go with him, but Vothe is suddenly worried about things going the same way as last time, that Trystan might give into the undertow if things get bad again. But Trystan is stronger, and he says that the refugees shouldn’t be so afraid of him anymore, he no longer resembles any sort of proper Gardnerian Mage. And Vothe realizes that the main reason that Trystan changed his looks so drastically, with the hair dye and the tattoos and the piercings is that no one will look at him now and think “Gardnerian”, he did this all so he could go back to the Zonor and help more refugees. At training the next day, Vothe and Trystan practice combining their joint power, and they are so much stronger together. Ready to tackle the problem with the Zonor, with Ung Li’s support.
  • Narration with Trystan. Two days later, Minyl, Trystan, and Vothe are back on a rune skiff, heading toward the Zonor. The two of them use their power to calm the swirling undertow, while also creating a dome to keep the raging storm away. They manage to save all the refugees currently attempting the cross, with no drownings and no fear toward Trystan, and he and Vothe have a beautiful connection, standing hand in hand, keeping the storm at bay.
  • Narration switches to Aislinn. She has arrived at the new Lupine territories, accompanied by a few Vu Trin soldiers as guides. She feels dirty and sullied by what happened at the hands of Damion Bane, but hopes that she won’t be cast out on site, that despite everything that she was forced to be part of, Jarod will still at least consent to change her into a Lupine and allow her into their pack. Rafe and Diana are there, and they see her first, running to greet her joyously, as well as every other Lupine that’s there, about thirty in all. But none of that matters when she sees Jarod, who comes running toward her, and Aislinn is seized by memories of when they were together back at University, how they met and fell in love over their enjoyment of literature and their understanding of each other. And she’s hit hard with all that she’s felt she’s lost forever. So when Jarod embraces her, she breaks down sobbing, falling to her knees, Jarod going down with her. She tells him she’s sorry, she ruined everything by not going away with him when she had the chance. She tells him that her family forced her to fast with Damion Bane, that she’s destroyed any chance of their happiness, that she’s ruined.
  • Jarod tells her that this isn’t true, that she’s not ruined. He says that he loves her, mating for life means that you give your whole heart to the person you love forever, no matter what happens. That she couldn’t possibly be ruined. He tells her he was to leave tomorrow, going West in a portal to find her. He assures her over and over that he loves her, no matter what happened and whatever happens in the future. It takes some convincing, but Aislinn finally realizes that her love is not lost to her, that they really can be together. She tells him that she can’t be with him, fully, for some time, as Damion really did a number on her. Jarod tells her that he is going to kill Damion Bane, but Aislinn says no, she’ll be the one to do it, and asks Jarod to change her into a Lupine, that very night, even though it’s not the full moon.
  • With the full blessing of the pack, Jarod and Aislinn go alone deep into the forest that very night. Jarod bites her, and Aislinn is immediately taken by the transformation, filled with the strength and love of the forest and her new pack. She opens her new amber eyes, filled with the perfect thought that she will never be a part of the Magedom again.
  • Narration is back with Vothe. Vothe tells Trystan he seems happier, and Trystan tells him that he’s finally carved out a place for himself with Minyl, RuSolyl, Sylla, Viger, and with Vothe. Vothe asks Trystan to be his Xishlon’vir, meaning the one that he’ll kiss under the purple moon on Xishlon, starting a formal courtship. Trystan is about to accept when four soldiers tell him that he needs to go see Ung Li immediately. 
  • Narration switches to Trystan. Ung Li tells them that Elloren has been found to be the Black Witch. This is a complete shock to Trystan and Vothe. Ung Li tells them that Elloren was most likely killed in the attack of the Western Vu Trin against the Mage Council. But on the slim chance she’s alive, she is likely trying to make her way east. Ung Li tells Trystan that he is to bring Elloren straight to the Wyvernguard “for protection” if she seeks him out. Trystan says he will do so, which is a lie because he plans on finding her himself.
  • Narration switches to Vothe. Vothe knows that Trystan lied to Ung Li about bringing her his sister. Trystan turns to him and says that Vothe can either be his Xishlon’vir or his guard. Because the two of them can’t be together if Vothe is against his sister. Vothe tells him that she’s potentially a realm-destroying weapon. Trystan says that she is his sister, and that she would never fight for the mages. Trystan says that his people, his family, every family in the East had loved ones destroyed by Carnissa Gardner’s fire. Trystan asks him one more time: Xishlon’vir or guard. Vothe says that he wants to be with Trystan, but has to choose guard. 
  • Sylla is there to comfort Trystan, who asks her how the world got this way, everyone killing each other, religion enthralling everyone to hate others. Sylla says that it’s because people like following a flawed story thinking it’s absolute truth. 
  • Narration is switched to Trystan. Vothe is gone, and Trystan asks Sylla to read every single one of his fears. She does so, but then tells him that the Black Witch’s power could bring the end of nature. Trystan accuses her of believing in a flawed story as if it’s absolute truth. Sylla goes full spider and asks him what he wants of her. Trystan asks her if she’ll help him find his sister before the Vu Trin do.
  • Narration switches to Fallon Bane, in the seventh month (present day). She is soaring through the air on dragonback, side by side with her brothers. Her wand is strengthened by Vogel’s Shadow Wand, and their flight is taking them into battle at Cyme, where the Amaz are shouting their battle cries even as their defenses crumble around them. The forest has been turned to shadow and the Amaz runes stripped of all their power. Fallon rallies the Mages and gives the order to fire.

Part 2:

  • Narration is with Elloren, in the seventh month, two days before Xishlon. Elloren is doing her best to tend to the little family she joined forces with in the Dyoi forest. Little Tibryl and her mother Emberlyyn are in the late stages of the Red Grippe, a very serious but curable disease. Elloren is determined to get them to an apothecary to get them some medicine, but she’s doing the best she can with her rune blade and local fauna. She’s also consumed with thoughts of Lukas’s imprisonment and also Yvan being alive.
  • Just as they’re about to get on the move again, two Vu Trin soldiers come out of the trees and approach them. They are very suspicious of Nym’ellia because she looks so Gardnerian, but once they see that her ears have been cropped they realize she is part Urisk, just like her mother and sister. They ask Elloren, in her guise as Ny’lea Shizorin, where they’re headed. She tells them they’re going East, and they ask the group if they’ve seen anyone with Elloren’s Gardnerian description. When they say no, the one soldier, Heelyn (Vothe’s childhood friend) tells them to turn around and go back, that the border is closed. To everyone. The other soldier, the much more sympathetic Ru Sol (Minyl’s partner) tries to convince Heelyn to do something, as the family is obviously sick. Heelyn says they wouldn’t be allowed into the East anyway, ill with the Red Grippe as they are, and warns them against trying to cross the Zonor, as there are kraken in the water, and the manufactured storms are being moved up to the other side of the river soon to block any more from coming East.
  • Elloren’s companions are heartbroken, since they obviously can’t go back to Gardneria, they’ll all be sent to the Fae Islands if they stay in the West. Elloren promises them they’re going East despite what the soldiers said, that they’ll cross the Zonor anyway.
  • When they reach the river, Emberlyyn gives Elloren a coin that is supposed to show that they paid for passage across the river already, purchased from a group of Kelts. Just as they’re wondering where their boat is supposed to be, a Keltish man approaches them. He’s armed, but not with rune weapons, so Elloren is sure he can take him even though he gives her the creeps. He asks if they’re looking for a boat, and Elloren tells him their passage is already paid for. He says it’ll be 200 more guilders, which is more than Elloren even has in her coin purse given by Chi Nam and Lukas before they shoved her in the portal. She reluctantly offers the 170 guilders that she has. The Kelt takes the money and says she can “make up the rest to him” after they cross.
  • The Kelt leads their group to a small boat that doesn’t look like much, but the Kelt pulls out a rune stone and the boat starts to propel itself across the river. As they cross, Elloren idly asks the man how the boat works. He crudely tells her to come sit next to him and he’ll show her. She doesn’t want to, but he insists, and not wanting to cause trouble for her companions, she complies. He tells her that the boat has a navigation rune that pulls the boat East across the river on its own. Then he tells her to take her tunic off, and he’ll start shaving guilders off the rest of the money they owe him. She agrees, but instead of doing it, she throws her rune blade into his shoulder and he’s overboard. She tells him if he approaches the boat, she’ll kill him, but he tries anyway, but before long he’s pulled underwater by a kraken. 
  • And suddenly there are kraken everywhere, and Elloren is trying to protect Nym’ellia and her family, as well as all the other boats trying to cross that are suddenly under attack by kraken as well. A giant beast rises up right next to their boat, but Elloren throws herself off the boat and onto the kraken, driving her rune blade into its head and it explodes into flames, but she goes down with it into the unforgiving waves.
  • She’s pulled underwater, and she opens her eyes to see that the kraken have a horrifying Vogel eye, and they’re trying to drag her away to him, back to the west side of the river. Breaking the surface, Elloren cries for help, and just then a group of rune skiffs breaks through the clouds, miraculously floating on air. One of the rescuers on the skiff casts a spell that pierces her Vogel kraken right through, and Elloren manages to swim away, toward the skiff. She’s pulled aboard by a Mage, but she can’t afford to hesitate. At the same time she recognizes him, he recognizes her. It’s her brother Trystan.
  • Trystan tells her he needs to hide her face, that she still resembles their grandmother too much despite her glamour. Trystan tells the others that she’s badly injured, and he’s taking her back to the border medic. As soon as they’re away, Elloren tells him that Vogel can destroy military runes, that he can take down everything that protects the East with a swipe of his Shadow Wand. She tells him about the attack of Vogel in the desert, how he killed Chi Nam and took Lukas captive, but she couldn’t do anything because the trees had bound up her magic.
  • Once they’ve gotten to a secluded place, they embrace and Elloren asks how he found her. Trystan tells her about Sylla, that she told him that there would be refugees crossing the Zonor today, but he never dreamed it would be her he pulled from the river. She asks about Rafe, and Trystan says that he, Diana, Jarod, and Aislinn are fine, their pack established in the forest north of Voloi. Then Elloren tells Trystan everything, everything that happened from the time they parted, the Vu Trin separating her from Yvan, then turning against her, and being forced to seal with Lukas Grey, and how she eventually fell truly in love with him. Elloren stresses that Trystan has to tell the Noi and Amazkaraan immediately that Vogel can destroy those military runes. It will still take him some time to get his army through the storm bands that separate the West from the East, but Trystan thinks that in that time the Noi might be able to bolster their defenses using Smaragdalfar runes, since the subland elves developed anti-demon magic to protect themselves from the Alfsigr monsters.
  • Elloren also tells Trystan that she’s pretty sure Yvan’s alive, that she’s felt his fire. He tells her that everyone thinks he’s dead, and he has no idea where he would be if he was alive. They discuss Lukas and the fact that Vogel can track her through their fasting lines, but that once Elloren’s power is unbound, she can use the fasting lines to track him as well. Trystan asks if she still has the wand, and she shows it to him and how it turned green, but tells him that she believes it really is the Wand of myth. As they leave to go somewhere safer, Trystan tells Elloren that they have family here in the East. Their mother’s brother, Wrenfir, and their Uncle Edwin’s son. He also tells her that their parents weren’t murdered by Kelts in the war, but by Carnissa Gardner because she found out they were part of the Resistance. 
  • While she grapples with this shocking new info on her family, Elloren tells Trystan about the Gardnerian/Urisk family she traveled with, and how they’re so sick and she promised she’d help them. Trystan says he’ll send someone after them to help them get medicine. Before they can reach safety, another skiff approaches them and Trystan tells her to get low and hide her face again. He speaks to the woman, Minyl, telling her that he’s taking her to get proper medical care for her broken leg, that he’s taking her to Wrenfir. She tells him that this is supremely against the rules, but to find Vothe as soon as he can and report back.
  • As they continue on their way, Trystan tells Elloren that Tierney made it as well, that she’s in the Wyvernguard with him, and that Sage also joined. She is able to live with her partner, Ra’Ven, and their child, under guard to keep him safe. Gareth joined the navy, and Olilly, Fern, Jules Kristian, Lucretia Quillen, everyone that Kam Vin promised she’d take after Elloren and Tierney poisoned everyone at the University made it safely.
  • They pick up a tail on their skiff–it’s Vothe. Trystan tells her they won’t be able to shake him, and to do her best to shield her power, since he’s a power empath. Trystan tells her that he’s taking her to Fain Quillen’s estate, which is Lucretia’s brother who has been settled here for some time, since the Realm War. They land on the terrace, Trystan telling her to stay put for now as he approaches Vothe.
  • Vothe tells Trystan that he thought the second wave of kraken had taken him down, that he’s been searching everywhere. Trystan tells him that he was planning on checking in soon. Elloren, listening to their conversation, realizes that this man is in love with her brother. Elloren reveals herself when she’s surprised by a searching burst of Wyvernfire: Raz’zor is searching for her as well. Caught, Elloren steps out. Vothe’s power builds and Trystan steps between them. Trystan begs Vothe to give her a chance, but Elloren steps up and asks Vothe if he fights for the East. He says he does, and she tells him since he can smell a lie, he should know she’s telling the truth when she says that she’s here to fight for the East, and that Vogel can break the Noi military runes, as well as take out the runes on rune weapons. He asks how she knows this, and she tells him that Vogel came when she was in Chi Nam’s Vonor, destroyed it, and killed her. Vothe tells her that he senses Wyvernfire in her, and she tells him about Yvan and Raz’zor. Vothe tells them to get inside or else the approaching military will find her.
  • Trystan hustles Elloren inside and away from the approaching military skiffs. They are joined by a Mage that Elloren doesn’t know, one who quickly assesses the situation, tells Trystan to sheath his wand, and that they’ll both go out and report with Vothe to the military. He introduces himself as Fain Quillen, then goes back out the door with Trystan. After a few moments he comes back in, alone, telling Elloren that Trystan went with Vothe to report back formally, but everything is fine for now.
  • They are joined by Lucretia, who immediately recognizes Elloren (goes to show how effective her glamour is). Elloren blurts to them that Vogel can destroy the runes with his Shadow Wand. She has the Great Wand, but she can’t use it because her powers are bound up by the trees. She needs help to get her power unbound so she can find Vogel and rescue her fastmate. Fain asks when she last ate or slept, but she tries to insist it doesn’t matter, danger is coming. Fain tells her the same thing Trystan did, that it’ll take Vogel some time to get across the desert with his forces, but even if he was here right now they have enough Mages with power and a small dragon horde nearby, so nobody is getting to her tonight. He tells her he’s in the Vu Trin navy, with Gareth. He assures Elloren that they’re going to help her, and that she can relax for a moment, she’s with family now.
  • Fain and Lucretia take Elloren into a small library, where people are already gathered, including a heavily tattooed and angry looking Gardnerian, a violet-colored Urisk woman, and a young purple-hued man who looks strikingly like her. She’s introduced to Or’myr, her cousin, who she finds out is not only a geomancer but a Level Five Earth and Fire mage, same as her. He works with her friends Sage and Tierney at the Wyvernguard as magical researchers. She’s then introduced to Li’ra, Or’myr’s mother and Edwin’s love, who is so happy to meet her. 
  • Elloren also has an uncle there, the tattooed Mage, Wrenfir. He’s her mother’s much younger brother, who she was always told had died long ago. Fain tells Elloren to take a seat and process while he takes a look at what the trees have done to her lines. He says that they’re expertly bound, that the forest threw everything it had at her. And that they’re both power empaths, like her mother was. Or’myr tells her that they’ll need resonance runes to free up her lines, which Sage can help with. Once she’s unbound, they can put their own tracking spell on her fastlines and use them to track down Lukas, but she’ll need an army if she’s to go West and free him. They’ll likely need the help of Rivyr’el Talomir, a rogue Alfsigr, as well.
  • The plan forms: they’ll move Elloren somewhere safer at dawn, find somewhere to get her power unbound, get her Light magelines amplified with purple, then hide her in Or’myr’s unfindable, unenterable Vonor. Then they’ll get the Vu Trin on their side and secure a portal West to go and get Lukas. She tells them that she wants the Lupines as a guard when they go and talk to the Vu Trin, and also possibly Yvan. She tells them the story of how she believes he’s alive and that she’s his bound mate, even though she wandfasted to Lukas when she thought Yvan was dead. She also tells them about how the dragon Raz’zor has sworn fealty to her, and he might be of some help.
  • Fain tells her it’s unlikely she could track Yvan through his Wyvernfire bond, but he could track her. In the meantime, the Xishlon festival will be an excellent time to keep the Vu Trin off Elloren’s scent because everyone will be so distracted. At this time they are joined by Sholindrile Xanthile, Fain’s bonded mate, who is Zhilon’ile Wyvern, though he’s dressed shockingly like a traditional Gardnerian in Mage blacks. Fain assures Elloren that she is safe with Sholin, that he and his partner are aligned with Jules Kristian and Lucretia in all things. Sholin is a convert to the Gardnerian faith and a professor of religious studies. He does not see the word of the Ancient One so rigidly and hatefully as the current Gardnerian regime reads it.
  • Trystan returns, joining them. Vothe is outside keeping watch, and Elloren’s news about Vogel’s rune-destroying powers has been given to Jules Kristian, and Elloren’s refugee friends have been retrieved by Bleddyn Arterra and will be brought across the border to safety with Kristian. Elloren is surprised that Bleddyn has joined the Eastern Realm Resistance, is surprised there is even a need for one here. Fain tells her that the Resistance in both realms has been in place since the Realm War, and operates when needed. Elloren tells them her friends are very sick with the Grippe, and Wrenfir, a rogue apothecary, says he’ll send the needed medicine to them right away.
  • Everyone sits down for the evening meal, and Elloren asks Fain what happened to her parents, and he tells her how her parents and Uncle Edwin were increasingly active in the Resistance toward the end of the war. Vale and Tessla were involved in trying to rescue a group of Asrai children before they were shipped to the Pyrran islands. Carnissa Gardner found out about it and had them executed, their shame hidden by spreading the story that they were killed by Kelts. Lucretia and Jules couldn’t tell Elloren before, because everyone who knew the true story was killed at the time.
  • Elloren asks about something Vyvian told her, that her mother and Jules Kristian were involved. When they were young, Jules had a thing for Tessla, but the feelings weren’t mutual and he got over it when she fasted to his closest friend Vale. Elloren then asks Li’ra how she got to the Eastern Realm. She tells Elloren that during the Realm War the Black Witch found out about her relationship with Ediwn. Carnissa told Edwin that he’d have Li’ra killed if he didn’t send her East and break off all contact. Luckily, Carnissa didn’t know about Or’myr, or she would certainly have tried to kill him too. Edwin stayed in the Western Realm for the rest of his life, not only to save Li’ra and Or’myr’s lives, but to save Elloren and her brothers, because otherwise they would have been raised in the hands of Vyvian, and certainly would have turned into the same kind of monster she was.
  • Edwin gave Li’ra all of his money and sent them away, though Li’ra says she would have given anything to have him with her. This brings so much to light about Edwin, why he would never employ Urisk servants, and why they were all so poor growing up, which wasn’t typical for Gardnerians. 
  • Elloren looks over at Wrenfir and asks how he got East. After the Mages killed his sister and brother-in-law, he went East with Li’ra, Or’myr, and Fain, who accompanied them because he knew he’d be persecuted for being gay in Gardneria. 
  • Long story short, all of them are alive to sit around and tell the table largely because of Edwin Gardner, who his son never got to know. Elloren feels guilt for this, but Or’myr embraces her and tells her it’s not her fault. They all give a toast to Edwin Gardner.
  • Later that evening Elloren and Trystan sit in the bedroom Elloren has been given, musing over all they know about their quiet, gentle uncle. Trystan tells Elloren a little more about their uncle Wrenfir, and how he grew up in extreme poverty, and was so sick with the Grippe that he almost died from it. He was miserable until he was able to escape East during the Realm War, but then everyone in the East hated him for being Gardnerian. He fell in with the Death Fae, the only ones who didn’t hate him for who he was, and his tattoos are a token of that friendship. Now Wren spends all his time as a vigilante apothecary, stealing materials and delivering medicines to those who can’t afford them, including Elloren’s new friends from the Dyoi forest.
  • Elloren tells Trystan that she can sense his strong feelings for Vothe, and vice versa. She then tells him how she was in love with Yvan, but thought he died, and then let herself fall in love with Lukas, and she needs to save him. But she also needs to find Yvan. Elloren asks Trystan if he’s in love with Vothe, and he can’t answer. Elloren tells him that life is too short, no matter who tries to stand in the way, if you love someone just go all in. Trystan spends time telling Elloren all about his rocky start in the Wyvernguard and his growing acceptance, as well as the fraught relationship between him and Vothe. Elloren tells him that she’s happy Trystan has found his place here, and Trystan assures her that this is where she belongs too, with family, fighting for what they believe in.
  • Narration switches to Trystan. He goes out to where Vothe is standing guard, and all he has to say is Vothe’s name before Vothe tells him that he’ll help Trystan keep Elloren safe. He admits she’s telling the truth, just like he was the whole time, but Vothe won’t fight against it this time, no matter how crazy it seems to be defending the Black Witch. Because if Vogel can do what Elloren claims, they will need every single ally they can get.
  • Trystan tells Vothe that he’ll fight to the death for this realm, and Vothe says that’s part of what makes him want Trystan. He asks again if Trystan will be his Xishlon’vir. They share a moment filled with friction, and Trystan asks for a favor. He asks Vothe to shield Elloren with fog when they are working on unbinding her power the next night, and then to go West with them once they’ve secured the alliance with the Vu Trin. Vothe agrees.
  • Narration switches to Valasca Xanthrir. She is thrown from the portal, weeks after entering it, only to find herself in the Shadow-ruined city of Cyme, all of her runes completely wiped except for the few Smaragdalfar runes she has, which seem to be powering the other ones. The city is under attack, the small contingent of Amaz soldiers fighting the Mage onslaught with weapons rendered nearly pointless without runes.
  • Valasca runs to the city to help, but is side tracked by a child screaming for her mother. Valasca uses her blades to kill the dragon and the Mage rider before they can harm the girl, grabbing her and continuing to run through the streets, past the bodies of women and children both, some who Valasca recognizes. All struck down in a night by the Mages. An Alfsigr girl approaches them, chased by a Mage Valasca recognizes: Sylus Bane. Valasca gives the child to the Alfsigr girl and challenges Sylus, making quick work of him once he underestimates her, believing her free of rune powered weapons.
  • The Alfsigr girl is Sylmire, Wynter’s friend who warned the Amaz of the Zalyn’or necklace, though this all happened while Valasca was away. Sylmire tells Val that everyone is gathering in the Queenhall Cavern, where the emergency portals are. Valasca tells Sylmire that the three of them are getting to those portals and going to Noilaan.
  • Narration switches to Wynter. She is held on either side by Amaz soldiers with weapons pointed at her, as Shadow power burrows underneath her skin from the Zalyn’or. The Amaz women and children are bottlenecked trying to get through the portals. A green-tinted protective shield is held in place by Alder Xanthos and the sole Smaragdalfar rune sorceress Vestylle Oona’rin. 
  • Wynter’s winged kindred warn her of Fallon Bane’s approach just as Valasca comes tearing around the corner toward the protection of the Smaragdalfar shield. Before Valasca can make it, she is caged by a shadow tree crashing down on her, the branches of the shadow tree taking her weapons and binding her in place. Sylmire and the child just make it through the Smaragdalfar barrier before Fallon Bane comes into view on a broken dragon, accompanied by her brother Damion and a contingent of horrible shadow Marfoir soldiers.
  • Each of the Marfoir is dragging a net filled with Amaz women and children who have been captured, among them the Icaral child Pyrgo. Fallon demands that Queen Alkaia surrender herself and her lands to the Holy Magedom. Alkaia says if the Mages allow her people to go freely to the East, she will surrender herself and her lands. The Amaz warriors all protest, saying they are ready to die for their lands and for their queen. Queen Alkaia commands them to leave for the East and make a new homeland there, naming Freyja Zyrr the new queen of the Amaz. Just as the Queen is about to leave the safety of the shield, Fallon states that they demand that Wynter be part of the trade as well, as the Alfsigr wish to destroy her themselves. Wynter thinks of all the women and children who need to get to safety, and tells them that if everyone else gets to go, she will surrender herself with the Queen.
  • Valasca yells at her not to do it, and the Queen tells Valasca to stand down. But that draws Fallon’s attention to Valasca, who she is pissed at because Valasca saved Elloren. She encases Valasca’s body in ice, but rather than kill her, says they’ll bring her back to Vogel. Wynter and Alkaia surrender themselves to Fallon and the Magedom.
  • Narration returns to Elloren. She settles in to sleep in her bedroom, worry for the Amaz and for Lukas overwhelming her. She immediately starts to dream, and she dreams she’s in Lukas’s arms, a tearful reunion as they kiss against the background of Lukas’s bedroom in Valgard, but the location shifts to the little wooden shelter back West, and Elloren realizes she’s there in Lukas’s dream. She thinks Vogel has something to do with it, so she has to work hard to make Lukas realize this isn’t a normal dream. Elloren tells Lukas to give her his location, which he describes as a catacomb filled with Shadow-corrupted Mage soldiers. But then he tells her to get the fasting lines off of her, and not to come for him because he’s a trap set by Vogel. The dream ends.
  • Elloren wakes to Wrenfir and Or’myr shaking her. They tell her to be quiet, the Vu Trin seem to have been tipped off. Fain goes out to greet them, but they ignore his pleasantries and set up a runic net around the estate. Wrenfir and Or’myr pull her down through a staircase built into the mountain the estate rests on, pulling her to safety. Out the far back, a military skiff awaits, piloted by Bleddyn Arterra. Or’myr assures her they’ll come for her as soon as possible, that she just needs to blend into Voloi for now. Bleddyn and Elloren take off, Bleddyn giving Elloren some identification papers to hold onto.
  • They’re stopped at a checkpoint, but Bleddyn knows the soldier there. Just as the soldier, Yu Zo, starts to look too closely at Elloren’s papers, Bleddyn flirts and flirts hard, essentially asking Yu Zo to meet her on Xishlon. Suitably distracted, Yu Zo lets them through, and Bleddyn tells Elloren she’s taking her to someone used to dangerous company.

Part 3:

  • The story backs up a little bit, five days before Xishlon, narration with Mora’lee Starr’lyrion. Bleddyn Arterra has brought Mora’lee, a Smaragdalfar Elf, restaurateur, and rune ship pilot, another stray. Olilly, the Urisk girl who used to work in the kitchens at the Verpacian University, has had trouble fitting in since coming East with the military, and so Mora offers her a job working in the kitchen at her restaurant, since Olilly loves to cook. Bleddyn has told Mora Olilly’s story: how she was in the Verpacian market on the Night of the Burning Blessing Stars, and how Olilly was caught by the mob and had her ears cropped and her hair shorn. She was saved by Elloren Gardner and her brothers, who also helped to bring her here to the East. 
  • Olilly accepts Mora’s job offer, which comes with room and board. Mora introduces Olilly to her other charge, an Urisk child named Ghor’li, who is the orphan Trystan Gardner rescued from the Zonor a few weeks ago. The little girl isn’t speaking currently and is very shy, but expresses herself through art.
  • Mora and Bleddyn talk while the young Urisk eat. They discuss the growing popularity of the “Noilaan for the Noi” movement, which is against letting in refugees from the West for fear of losing their land, culture, and magical uniqueness.  
  • Soon the women are joined by Fyon Hawkyyn (also known as Professor Hawkyyn from Verpax University), Mora’s childhood friend and secret love. Fyon asks for some tea, formal as always and using the Smaragdalfar formal language, which isn’t translatable with the Noi translation rune. Smiling knowingly, Bleddyn takes her leave. Fyon has brought Ghor’li’s papers, forged by Jules Kristian, so now both of Mora’s young Urisk charges are authorized to be there. Fyon also brings news that the Gardnerians are threatening immediate invasion of Amazkaraan, and they’ve already invaded Issan’o, the westernmost Issani outpost in the Agolith Desert. 
  • Fyon tells Mora that Ra’Ven Za’Nor, the monarch of the Eastern Sublands, wants to take in all the Issani refugees into the Sublands, but more than half of the Smaragdalfar are against it, as well as the Noi conclave. Many Smaragdalfar think that the sublands should only be for the Smaragdalfar. Mora says that’s ridiculous, and that the future is diverse, and the Noi and Smaragdalfar have to be careful about going down the same dangerous path as the Gardnerians and the Alfsigr. Fyon argues that it’s more complicated, that most of the incoming Smaragdalfar refugees from the West have never known freedom, and that they want to fight for a Smaragdalfar homeland. Mora understands that perspective, but still she stands with Ra’Ven in his quest to make the Sublands a home for any who wish it.
  • Mora has had a crush on Fyon since she was a teen. He returned to the West to work actively in the Resistance when he was just seventeen and has been gone for several years. He’d only recently returned, both of them grown up, but found that their old friendship, and Mora’s old spark for him, was still there. Fyon asks Mora if she’s considered relocating to the Sublands. But Mora was raised by a Noi fisherwoman and a Noi soldier, and as much as she loves being Smaragdalfar, she loves nothing more than sailing the skies in her runeship. She’s as much Noi as she is Smaragdalfar, worshiping the Goddesses in both religions. She struggles, because in the Sublands she feels she isn’t Smaragdalfar enough, but up here with the growing Noilaan for the Noi movement, she’s seen as not Noi enough. But with her young charges, neither Noi or Smaragdalfar, she wants to show them that they belong no matter who they are or where they come from. So she stays. 
  • Fyon invites her to come have tea in the sublands later, so she can see what they’re building, and Mora tells him that after they can take her skiff up into the skies so she can show him her world too. They have a great time together drinking tea and exploring the sublands and the sky. After she returns home, Mora ends up flipping through a book on Smaragdalfar culture that Fyon gave her recently. And that’s when she sees a paragraph on courtship traditions of the Smaragdalfar; a male interested in a female may only ask of her tea, with no other expressions of interest. If the woman returns his interest, she’ll offer him thirty cups of tea on thirty different occasions, and only then may the man express his interest in courting her. Which is why Fyon is always asking for tea, nearly thirty cups now.
  • Olilly comes to Mora, and Mora asks her if she finds the room she was given to her liking, which Olilly confirms. Mora gives Olilly a gift that Bleddyn bought for her, which turns out to be ear ornaments, typically worn by Wyvernshifters, that fit over their ear points and are covered in decorative gems. Bleddyn wanted Olilly to understand that she is beautiful either way, but thought these might help. Olilly loves them, and Mora helps her put them on. 
  • Back to the present, one day before Xishlon, Elloren is the narrator. At dawn, Bleddyn and Elloren arrive in Voloi proper. Elloren sees, for the first time, the large wanted posters with her Gardnerian likeness on them. They’re exaggerated, and she’s scowling, but if she were unglamoured she would have no chance of escaping notice. As they walk through Voloi, Elloren sees a large statue, sort of the opposite of the large one in Valgard, of Yvan’s Icaral father mercilessly throwing fire to destroy Carnissa Gardner. 
  • Bleddyn tells Elloren she’s taking her to stay with a Resistance friend of hers, who doesn’t know who she truly is, for her safety. She’s to work in her rune ship kitchen for a day or two, the whole place guarded by Smaragdalfar runes that should keep her safe from Vogel and the Vu Trin both. They take rune lift after rune lift up to Voloi’s sixth tier, where Elloren sees a startling variety of people, and Sanjire root on display. Bleddyn and Elloren commiserate on the sexism in both of their cultures, where women are expected to be bred upon and little else. Elloren is also surprised and elated to see homosexual couples out in the open expressing affection, something that isn’t done in any Western land except for Amazkaraan. 
  • Bleddyn and Elloren look around at the shops, one a toy stall owned by a kindly older woman. She has wooden figurines of all kinds for sale, but the most startling is one in her own likeness, the Black Witch, which comes with a little hammer to smash her head in, a lucky prize inside. The woman offers it to Elloren for free, thinking she wants it, and to show the shopkeeper across the way, who is giving them a dirty look, a thing or two. Bleddyn tells Elloren about the “Noilaan for the Noi” movement, which the toyseller is clearly against and her neighbor clearly supports. As they move away, Elloren expresses her dismay at this very Gardnerian sentiment, that Noilaan should only be for the Noi. Bleddyn tells her that there have even been some mob attacks on refugees, which reminds Elloren horrifyingly of the Night of the Burning Blessing Stars.
  • The two arrive at Gylloryyon, Mora’lee’s restaurant, which is cheerful and has a variety in patrons, everyone from Wyvernkin to Issani, whereas the restaurant across the street is emblazoned with “Noilaan for the Noi” and filled with only Noi patrons. Bleddyn tells Elloren she’ll be safe here for the day, but that Olilly is here. Elloren worries that Olilly will turn her in, but Bleddyn assures her that Olilly is on her side. She says to keep an eye out for Fyon Hawkyyn, her old professor, who would definitely recognize her and would almost certainly turn her in, traditionalist that he is. Elloren feels that this is too risky, but it’s the only option.
  • Bleddyn and Elloren sit at one of Mora’s tables, at her insistence, and wait for their meal. Bleddyn points out the irony that now Elloren is the one in a country illegally and needs Bleddyn’s help to hide in the kitchens, an almost exact reversal of their roles in Verpacia. Elloren apologizes for how she treated Bleddyn initially, while Bleddyn admits she was initially harsher than she needed to be. Elloren asks if Bleddyn has seen Iris, and Bleddyn informs her that their friendship has fractured, since Iris has become a Lasair Fae zealot, convinced they are better than everyone else.
  • On that note, Bleddyn says she heard about Yvan, saying he was a great friend and she knows he loved her. Despite her internal knowledge that Yvan must be alive, Elloren keeps it to herself. She tells Bleddyn that her one purpose now is to destroy Vogel and the Gardnerian forces. Bleddyn points out the struggles that everyone, East and West, is facing. Everyone is growing more and more fractured and divided, but they will all need to fight together if they want any chance of survival against Vogel. 
  • Mora comes over and welcomes Elloren, disguised as Ny’laea, to Voloi. Elloren thanks her for offering the work. Bleddyn teases Mora about kissing Fyon Hawkyyn on Xishlon the next night, asking when he’s coming by. Mora says not until the next night, which is good news for Elloren’s staying under the radar. But just then a group of Kin Hoang Vu Trin soldiers come into the restaurant, asking Mora about her sheltering a Gardnerian. This makes Elloren panic, but Mora calls out Nym’ellia, the girl that Elloren met with her family in the Dyoi forest. The Kin Hoang ask Nym’ellia some questions, Mora hotly defends her and shows the Kin Hoang her identity papers, and the King Hoang leave the restaurant. 
  • Nym’ellia embraces Elloren, saying that she thought Elloren died in the river. Elloren asks after her sister and mother, and it turns out Mora’lee has taken them in too, and they’ve been given their medicine by mysterious Wrenfir and are on the mend. Mora makes sure everyone is introduced, and Olilly is shocked when she shakes Elloren’s hand, clearly recognizing her through the glamour. Mora notices, and they make up a hasty story about knowing each other from the University. Mora goes off with Nym’ellia to take care of her family, and Olilly tells Elloren that she will never forget how Elloren gave her medicine for the Grippe and is the reason that her and her sister got to come East. 
  • Elloren notices a boy, around Olilly’s age, looking besottedly at her from the restaurant across the way. The boy’s father comes out and gives them all a disgusted look, just as Nym’ellia and Mora come back out with the tea. The man, Zosh Lyyo, comes over and confronts Mora, telling her off for taking in “Roaches” now. The young girls all go inside, and Mora tells Zosh to get the hell away from her restaurant and her charges. 
  • Bleddyn and Elloren finally get to eating the food Mora brought them, and Elloren asks after the little Urisk girl Fern, who it turns out Sage and Ra’Ven have adopted to raise alongside their son. The two women tost to Fernyllia, their Resistance leader friend who sacrificed herself so that they could all get East.
  • Narration switches to Lukas. He’s still trapped in the shadow hive with Vogel, who comes to tell Lukas that he’s stepped down from the priesthood as of this morning. Vogel starts casting a spell over Lukas’s fastlines, turning them from black to gray. Vogel tells Lukas he’s going to undo the fasting and then fast and seal to Elloren, “purifying” her and bringing her into his power. Lukas tells him that he’ll kill Vogel, or she will. Vogel thinks she’s cowering in the Eastern Realm, hiding from everyone, waiting to be unbound. But when she is, he’s going to find her and take control over her. 
  • Narration is back with Elloren. Evening has fallen and she’s making desserts for the Xishlon festival in Mora’s kitchen. Elloren has an uncomfortable flash through her fastlines, gone as quickly as it came, but deeply concerning. But not as disturbing as Fyon Hawkynn arriving in the main room, unannounced, Elloren praying that he doesn’t come back to the kitchen and see her. Mora hands him a cup of tea, he takes a sip, and Mora holds up the book he gave her, saying that this is thirty cups.
  • Fyon puts the tea down and asks, passionately, if he can court her, saying that she consumes his nights. He adores her, he wants to take her in his arms and kiss her. Mora asks him, very clearly, if he knows what he’s in for. He loves the sublands, she loves the skies. He says he doesn’t want to take her away from what she loves, that he knows who she is, and wants her for all of it. Mora tells him that this is a relief, as she’s wanted to kiss him forever. 
  • He asks her out on a date tonight, she says they should wait until tomorrow, to start their courtship formally on Xishlon, saying that delayed gratification is satisfying. She tells him that she has to go check on her charges, but not to moon over her, as she’s always been sweet on him. After a stunned moment, Hawkyyn turns and walks directly at Elloren through the kitchen doors, recognizing her immediately.
  • Elloren tells him that she’s here to fight for the East, and that Vogel can destroy runes. Having secured his attention, Elloren tells him everything from her time with the Vu Trin, Chi Nam, and having come to the realization that the only runes safe from Vogel’s Shadow Wand are the Smaragdalfar Varg runes.
  • Fyon tells Elloren that she can’t stay here, putting Mora in danger. Mora, who just happens to walk into the kitchen in that moment and demands an explanation. Mora is mad, mostly at Bleddyn and her for not telling her what she was, endangering the children. Chastened, Elloren apologizes. But Mora looks at Elloren and says she knows what she did for Olilly, Bleddyn, and Nym’ellia and her family. So in exchange Mora will help Elloren.
  • Back in her bedroom, Elloren drifts off to sleep. She has a nightmare about Vogel, waking with a jolt to see her fastlines visible through her glamour, and infused with smoke rather than solid black. But Wyvernfire suddenly courses through her lines, clearing the shadow, and Elloren realizes that Yvan has finally found her.
  • Elloren runs outside to try and find him, only to hear Zosh Lyyo talking to some Vu Trin soldiers about her, having reported her presence to the Vu Trin. Elloren realizes that they must know she’s glamoured and be looking for her. She takes off, the soldiers noticing her running and chasing after her. After being faced with more and more soldiers at every turn, Elloren raises her blade to fight, though she quickly comes to the realization that she’s vastly outnumbered, but just then Yvan arrives.
  • He comes down from the sky, sweeping her into his arms, blasting the Vu Trin with his fire (they’re hurt, not killed, due to their fireproof armor), and flies off with Elloren. They soar far away from the city, across the river to safety. They have an emotional reunion and share a passionate kiss. She tells him about the trees having bound up her power. Yvan tells her that Vang Troi told him that she was likely dead, but he could still feel her fire even if he couldn’t find her, but he kept it a secret from the Vu Trin. They know the Vu Trin will find them soon, so Elloren asks Yvan to take her back to her room on Mora’s ship until the rest of her allies gather.
  • They go back to the ship, and Elloren tells Yvan about everything that happened with Lukas. He asks if she loves him, and she tells him the truth, that yes she does, she loves them both. Yvan is clearly struggling with this fact, but tells her that he knows she was doing what she needed to survive, that she thought he was dead. He’ll always love her, but he understands what happened.
  • Having reached an understanding that Elloren can’t take their relationship any further at the moment, the two talk deep into the night, telling each other absolutely everything that has happened since they parted, and Elloren is awash in the feeling that she’s back with her best friend. Then the door opens and in walks Jules Kristian, Lucretia Quillen, Mora, and Fyon, along with Kam and Ni Vin.
  • The group, besides Mora and Fyon, all board a rune skiff and head out from Mora’lee’s place. Kam Vin informs them that a tracking dragon has been sent out to search for them, since unfortunately they revealed themselves to everyone so now the Vu Trin knows that “the prophecy” has been unleashed on the East. But luckily everyone also saw them fly away north of the city, so that’s where their focus is. There is a nice fog cover for them, created by Vothe. They’re going to a strongly warded area of the sublands, where their allies are meeting to unbind Elloren’s magic and buy time so that someone can talk to Vang Troi and the Vu Trin to try and convince them to ally with Elloren instead of kill her.
  • Just then the tracking dragon approaches, Yvan rising to do battle with it, but Elloren realizes just in time that it’s Raz’zor, her bonded dragon. But he’s full sized now, the rune collar that was keeping him small removed by Or’myr. Elloren tells them that she has a horde-bond of fealty with this dragon, and that he won’t be turning them in because the Vu Trin do not know this. Raz’zor acknowledges Yvan and his power, and seems upset that she is bound to another as well. Yvan speaks to Raz’zor in the dragon language, thanking him for saving her life.
  • Elloren asks Raz’zor if he’s found Naga, he says he hasn’t yet, but she will return soon in fiery glory. Elloren asks Raz’zor to lead the Vu Trin away for now and they’ll reunite when Elloren’s power is unbound and they’re ready to fight Vogel. Raz’zor agrees and flies off. Elloren and Yvan are still so drawn to each other physically due to their bond, and they can both feel the other one’s draw, so it makes for awkwardness. 
  • They make it to the sublands, where they find Sage and her partner Ra’Ven waiting for them. Ra’Ven warns them that the Vu Trin are searching parts of the sublands, so they don’t have long. Sage asks Elloren if she still has the Wand of Myth, and says that Trystan filled them in on everything. Sage immediately puts a rune on Elloren’s wand hand to block her power from coming through her hand while they work to unbind it.
  • Ra’Ven and Yvan catch up, apparently old friends from when they were young. Yvan expresses his happiness that their Icaral son is well, Yvan saying that he felt awful that he was being hunted when Yvan was in hiding. They all go further underground, where it’s safer, and Kam and Ni wait near the entrance as guards.
  • They go and meet the others and get gathered together. Already there is Or’myr, Trystan, and Wrenfir, along with an outrageous looking Alfsigr Elf who can only be Rivyr’el Talonir, the rogue Alfsigr royal. They are joined quickly after by Tierney, who came to them on her Kelpies, and Elloren and Tierney have an emotional reunion. 
  • This is when the Lupines arrive: Rafe, Diana, Jarod, Aislinn, and Andras. Elloren is so relieved to see her eldest brother again, and of course Diana and Jarod, her siblings now too. Their pack is strong and growing fast, over a hundred already, they are a new branch of the Vu Trin army. Rafe tells Elloren that part of the reason they’re here is to turn her Lupine if something goes wrong with unbinding her power. As much as Elloren doesn’t want that, she’d much rather be Lupine than dead. Elloren asks who the alpha is, and Jarod says they both are. It’s unprecedented, but they fought for a day and neither could best the other. They’re a perfect match. Andras also tells her that his mother is living with the Lupines, and she is very close with his son, which was once beyond comprehension for the Amaz Professor Volya. 
  • The rune is charged and it’s time to go. Rivyr’el examines Elloren and declares her bound very cleverly, and it’ll take clever magic to undo it, keeping their work hidden from the trees until the last possible moment is imperative, or the trees might strike a counterattack. While the elemental magic users are here helping Elloren, Yvan says he’ll go to Vang Troi and convince her to treat with Elloren. Otherwise they can just get the hell out of her way. Rafe says that if Vang Troi and the Vu Trin won’t ally with them, the Lupines will break from the Vu Trin. 
  • Elloren and Yvan take a moment alone before he goes. He tells her when she’s unbound he’ll go west with her to help Lukas. He’s worried about her, this unbinding is dangerous, and the last time Yvan left her so many terrible things happened, and she had to fall back to Lukas. Elloren tells him that safety isn’t a given, and they have to do it to protect everyone they love. Elloren says that she can’t kiss Yvan, Yvan says he knows, but he also knows that she wants to, but he understands that Elloren belongs to Lukas now. Elloren says she wishes she could set him free from their fire bond, but first and foremost she’s the Black Witch, and she doesn’t know what the future holds for her. Yvan says their bond holds them together as allies, they share another tremulous moment, then Yvan goes.
  • It’s time for the magic. Ra’Ven takes off her Elfhollen glamour, then removes Sage’s Varg runes, so Elloren is a clean rune slate besides the blocking rune Sage put on her an hour ago. Thierren and Sparrow arrive, called by Aislinn for Thierren’s wind power. Everyone takes their turn with their magic on Elloren, charging up the elemental runes of her weaker lines, starting with Tierney, Lucretia, and Trystan, aided by Or’myr. Then Thierren with wind, then Sage with light. Elloren’s fire and earth lines are already powerful enough, and with all five elemental runes charged and ready, Sage gets ready to link them. But just then the trees realize what’s going on. They put an illusion on Elloren that they’re in the cave, attacking her, but they are really cutting off the air from her lungs. Elloren’s allies manage to beat them off, but Rafe was seconds away from turning her, his teeth at her throat. Rafe says if they cut off her air supply again, he will change her. 
  • Sage quickly wards Elloren, and though the trees give one more effort to stop it, it’s all in vain: Elloren is unbound, and balanced for the first time in her lines. Sage puts flow runes from Elloren’s shoulder down to her wand hand. They will take around a day to charge, but when the glowing rune reaches her wrist, she’ll be able to access her power again. Rivyr’el puts a tracking rune on Elloren as well: once she can access her power she can use it to track Lukas through their fastlines.
  • Just then there is the sound of an army coming, and Ni Vin enters, saying the Vu Trin are here, and Or’myr needs to get Elloren to the Vonor now. The two take off, Sage yelling after to keep Elloren AWAY from the trees.
  • Narrations switches to Lukas. Vogel knows Elloren will have access to her power in just a few hours, and Vogel is working his corruption into Lukas bit by bit. A demon envoy comes and tells Vogel they’ve lost track of Elloren in the East, and that she will be going into Or’myr’s Vonor, which is untraceable. Vogel says it is for now, but by the time Elloren comes back into her power, she will already belong to Vogel. 
  • When Vogel leaves him, Lukas works on shielding his lines from the shadow magic that’s creeping through him, fogging his brain and graying his vision. Lukas is connected to Vogel through a sort of shadow leash, and he uses this to briefly take over one of the shadow scorpios, just for a moment, but long enough to know he can do it, he just needs to keep working at it.
  • Narration is back to Elloren. She and Or’myr make it to his Vonor, which is camouflaged so perfectly into the side of the mountain it renders it absolutely invisible. Inside is decorated beautifully with landscape artwork made by Or’myr. He’s also got books of love poems, scientific equipment, art supplies, etc. Or’myr wraps a strand of zoisite stone around her wand arm, the gems theoretically amplifying Sage’s magic and shaving  a few hours off of the charging time before Elloren’s power is ready to go. While they wait, they can study defensive spells and place a geo-shield around her.
  • Elloren worries about her family and allies, in the hands of the Vu Trin. She’s worried Vang Troi won’t listen to Yvan, but Or’myr thinks she will, as she’s a bit of a maverick and an overall reasonable person. But either way, Or’myr is with Elloren, even if it’s against the Vu Trin.
  • Or’myr and Elloren get to know each other a bit, finding that they both have an affinity for wood, with the ability to see the source tree. She also finds out that he plays violin, just like her, and that Winter’s Dark, her and Edwin’s favorite piece, was actually the song that Li’ra and Edwin chose for their private Luth’yllion (mating) ceremony in Gardneria all those years ago. Elloren is awash with grief, missing her beloved Uncle, upset that his own son, who is so like him, never got to know him at all.
  • Elloren and Or’myr get a little sleep, and when they wake it’s daytime on Xishlon. They study together all day. Elloren asks about the effect of the Xishlon moon, whether it’s like spirits. Or’myr explains that it’s more a shift of focus, hard to think about anything else but love: romantic, family, friends. It’s especially potent for Or’myr, since it’s the purple moon, and his whole thing is purple.
  • A rune hawk arrives with a message saying that Yvan has met with Vang Troi, who is portaling in from the Western front tonight, and will meet with her in the morning. Elloren will have her chance to stand in front of the Vu Trin and win them over after all.
  • That night Elloren and Or’myr go out to the balcony to watch the moon turn purple as celebrations down in the city below explode. Elloren is overcome with thoughts of kissing Lukas, of being held in Yvan’s arms. She expects to feel pain over loving them both, but Xishlon lets her have her love, without judging herself.
  • Or’myr and Elloren settle down with some tea to wait Xishlon out. Or’myr says he’ll have to go get more zoisite stone, as hers will be depleted in a few hours. Or’myr asks if she loves her fastmate. Elloren says she does, but she loves Yvan too…it’s endlessly complicated. Elloren asks Or’myr if he’s ever partaken in the Xishlon festivities. She saw a beautiful sketch of Tierney that Or’myr did, clearly crushing on her. Or’myr admits he fancies her, but assures Elloren it’s unrequited, saying she’s such a good friend and one of the few who doesn’t judge him for his lineage. Elloren realizes he’s enraptured with Tierney not just for her looks, like many others, but for who she is. Emboldened by the moon, Elloren encourages Or’myr to seek out Tierney this Xishlon, saying she felt her magic respond to his back in the cavern in a way that seemed interested. 
  • Or’myr says that even if Tierney were interested, one kiss from him would scare her away. Elloren asks why, and it’s because his fire lines are so strong, his kiss shocks anyone not fire aligned. He learned that the hard way with a girl a few years ago, who went running after one kiss. Elloren realizes the same thing would happen if she tried to kiss someone not fire aligned: both Yvan and Lukas are, so she’s never run into it. Elloren assures him after the war is over that she’ll help him find a nice Wyvern girl to settle down with.
  • The two talk about Trystan and Vothe, and their “forbidden” romance, which apparently everyone knows about. Vothe’s family is firmly against it, but since when has that ever stopped anyone? Elloren and Or’myr find that they’re growing close quite quickly, and Elloren is so grateful to have a growing circle of family. 
  • Or’myr takes off to get more zoisite, despite Elloren’s concerns. He just tells her not to leave, he’ll be back in an hour or so. He gives her a rune stone to use if she needs him. Almost as soon as he goes, the tracking rune on Elloren’s hand flashes silver, hours before it should be working. But somehow she can, she’s reading Lukas’s location through the rune.

Part 4 (the events of this part all happen simultaneously during the Xishlon moon):

  • Narration is with Or’myr. He’s gone into Voloi to get the zoisite for Elloren, but is having trouble concentrating with all the damn purple and the Xishlon moon high in the sky. He’s very cynical of this whole holiday, but he can’t keep his mind off of Tierney. He finds himself walking to the dock where Tierney would be on watch duty.
  • Almost in spite of himself, he approaches her, and he finds that she has two Xishlon love necklaces, said to make the wearers even more drawn to each other, in her hand. Or’myr has it bad, thinking much more about who Tierney is on the outside than even her radiant beauty. Tierney tells Or’myr that a fellow soldier handed her the necklaces, likely in jest. She then goes on to say, as if she can’t help it, that all of her loves have been unrequited, but that she’s not interested in meaningless Xishlon kisses with someone who only likes her for her looks. 
  • Boldened by the moon, Or’myr confesses his interest in Tierney, and says that he felt that their magic connected when helping Elloren earlier, and feels that the interest may be requited. He says it’s truly her mind and her self that he’s drawn to, not just her beauty. Tierney tells him that she does find him attractive, but she didn’t really think of it until their power connected earlier. She tells him what she likes about him,that he’s mysterious, but he cares. She tells him she’s given a small amount of thought to kissing him.
  • Or’myr bitterly tells her of his lightning bolt kiss, and how it sends people running who don’t have fire power. Rather than look uncomfortable, Tierney looks intrigued, asking if it will actually harm the person. Or’myr tells her that it’s more of a phantom affinity sensation. Seemingly decided, Tierney hands Or’myr one of the Xishlon necklaces she holds, saying that they can use them as an excuse to kiss and blame it on the necklaces. They both put them on, and Or’myr is suddenly overcome, confessing to Tierney exactly how strongly he feels for her. Embarrassed, he takes the necklace off and so does she. Tierney asks how long he’s felt this way, and he tells her since the first day they met. 
  • Tierney puts her necklace back on and moves to put the other necklace back on him. They move together and kiss, and they both seem to be enjoying it until lightning escapes Or’myr’s hold on it, shooting into their clasped lips, and Tierney steps back with a cry, massaging her lips as they both remove the necklaces. Or’myr apologizes, but Tierney waves him off, saying she’s fine, but Or’myr is distraught, especially when Tierney reveals that was her first kiss. Tierney says they’d get on quite well if she was Fire Fae, then steps close to him again and kisses his cheek, wishing him a happy Xishlon. Or’myr, still under her spell, tells her she’s welcome back in his lab any time after the war, to talk, drink tea, or kiss him on the cheek again.
  • Tierney says she might take him up on that, but that she has to go up to the Vo Forest now, as her Kelpies found something strange in a stagnant pool up there, something possibly connected to Vogel’s shadow. Not a very romantic moment. But Tierney assures Or’myr that she likes him, and that she doesn’t regret their kiss, and maybe they’ll figure out a way to try it again sometime without the lightning. 
  • Narration switches to Tierney, just after her encounter with Or’myr. She’s in the Vo forest, waiting for Viger, looking at the stagnant pool shown to her by her kelpies. Small tendrils of Shadow smoke are curling up from it, everything in the pool dead. Viger arrives and proves the Xishlon moon still has a hold on her, as she’s just as drawn to the mysterious Viger as she always has been, even on such a serious occasion. Viger puts his hand in the pool as Tierney asks, seeing what he can sense from it. He tells her this is not the clean death of the natural world, that something in this pool is twisted. Viger sends his ravens and bats out to scan the forest, just as Tierney has done with her kelpies, looking for more signs of the Shadow. Viger tells Tierney to take a vial of water from the pool to bring to the Wyvernguard, to prove something wrong is going on.
  • Tierney and Viger talk about Xishlon, and it’s clear from his scorn that Viger has never truly gotten to experience the holiday as intended. Tierney wonders aloud what it would be like to kiss a Death Fae, and Viger tells her it’s supposed to be terrifying. Tierney tells him that perhaps he should find another Death Fae to kiss, but he tells her that the Death Fae don’t pair together, there is no balance in it. Tierney confesses that she is very drawn to him, and wants him to show her this intimate part of himself. They kiss.
  • The outside world disappears for Tierney as she’s completely taken under his thrall. For a moment she’s panicked, because it’s like she’s been drawn down to the deepest center of Earthia, as there is nothing but claustrophobic darkness, even her sensation of Viger gone for a moment. But as he pulls his lips away and Tierney returns back to the world, everything is pulsing with glorious, intoxicating life. 
  • Viger asks Tierney if she understands now, and Tierney says that she does, that the Death Fae are a pause, not the end as everyone believes. Viger nods, and tells her to go back to the pool to see what she can sense now. She does so, and unlike the sense she gets from Viger, a pause, this pool is unnatural, it’s not the pause of natural death but an endless, blank void, the end of everything.
  • Viger’s winged kindred return, telling him that there is water like this all through the forest. Tierney and Viger realize that this means that Vogel is here, he’s infiltrated the Realm already. They don’t have time to waste, they have to warn the Vu Trin and ward the Vo river now, as well as all of the Eastern waterways. Tierney asks Viger to help her, and he promises he will.
  • Narration shifts to Vothendrile. Vothe and Trystan are at a teahouse, discussing the momentous news that Vang Troi will meet with Elloren and her allies tomorrow morning. Trystan is nervous that Vang Troi will not agree to an alliance, but Vothe is confident. Trystan can’t stop worrying about not just Elloren, but how Vogel is poised to decimate the Eastern Realm just like he did to the Lupines. Vothe tells him there is nothing he can do for now, and to just take tonight before they prepare to meet with Vang Troi and go immediately west to fight Vogel. Vothe tells Trystan that this is his festival now too, that he belongs here in Noilaan.
  • Heelyn and some other soldiers arrive to harass Trystan for wearing Xishlon clothes. Trystan is calm and doesn’t rise to the bait, but Vothe can sense his power churning, Heelyn saying everything that he feels deep inside. Heelyn continues, despite Vothe asking her to stop. Heelyn tells Trystan to wear Gardnerian blacks, to stay out of her culture and go back to his own. Finally, Trystan turns to her and asks if she really thinks it’s his culture. Heelyn is outraged, telling Trystan that his grandmother killed her parents. Trystan quietly responds that she also killed his. Heelyn won’t believe him, accusing him too of knowing where his sister the Black Witch is. Vothe tells her that he stands with the Eastern Realm, and so does Trystan. But Heelyn isn’t poised to back down until Sylla Vuul, in all her creepy Death Fae glory, arrives and tells her to back off. She successfully scares Heelyn and her entourage off.
  • Trystan is clearly moved by Heelyn’s hatred for him, and Vothe wants nothing more than to pull him into his arms and show him that he does belong. Trystan says he’s terrified for his sister, that if people treat him like this, what will they do to her? Even if Vang Troi does give orders for her protection, soldiers may rise up together and defy orders, trying to kill her. Vothe assures him that she’s safe for now, she’s with Or’myr and nothing more can be done tonight.
  • Vothe is more and more overcome with how in love he is with Trystan, and how he doesn’t even care if his family casts him out like they did his uncle when he fell in love with a Mage. Vothe just dives right in, asking Trystan once again to be his Xishlon’vir. And not just that, but to let Vothe formally court him. That this is important, because what they have is worth fighting a war over. Freedom to be who they are and be with who they love.
  • Trystan asks what courting entails, and Vothe tells him that he’d bite him, which is the formal claim of a Wyvern. Trystan asks about Vothe’s family, and Vothe tells him firmly that he’s done caring about what they think. He takes Trystan’s hand, but Trystan quickly pulls away, looking around nervously. He is still scarred by his life in Garnderia, how even something as simple as holding another man’s hand would be grounds for arrest. Vothe tells him he wants to take Trystan to the square and kiss him in front of everyone, that he can’t let backwards Gardnerian morals hold him back forever. Trystan warns Vothe that when they kiss it might trigger true lightning, so they need to be cautious. Vothe relents, saying they can find somewhere more private, but that they must kiss tonight, otherwise he’d be dishonoring the Noi tradition.
  • They go on a walk, Trystan finally relenting, and find an isolated stone inlet along the Vo River. Trystan leans in suddenly and kisses Vo, lightning sparking and things quickly becoming heated. Vothe asks Trystan again to let him court him, dismissing Trystan’s weak protests about Vothe’s family. They kiss again, Trystan saying how strange and new it is to feel happy, something he hasn’t had much before.
  • Narration switches to Lucretia Quillen, who is with her matchmaker friend Soollyndrile at a restaurant. Soollyndrile can scent attraction, and she knows that Lucretia and Jules Kristian want each other desperately. Soo convinces Lucretia to take a leap and go to Jules tonight, where they can claim each other. Lucretia works very hard to abandon her Garnderian sensibilities, and agrees. War is coming, who knows how much time they all have?
  • She goes to where Jules is working in his apartment, distracted from the pull of the purple moon by the preparation he is doing to meet with the Vu Trin along with Elloren in the morning. Lucretia swallows her nerves, convincing Jules to come out to the balcony with her to look at the moon, telling him that this is what they are fighting this war for. He finally agrees.
  • Lucretia just comes right out and tells Jules that her friend the matchmaker told her that Jules is attracted to her. Jules blushes and apologizes, saying he’s always tried to keep his feelings to himself, that he didn’t want to make her uncomfortable. She tells him she feels the same way, that she’s been in love with him for years. Lucretia asks why he never said anything. He said because he couldn’t believe she could possibly be interested in her. They both held their feelings for each other so tightly locked away.
  • Emboldened, Lucretia pulls out a vial of Sanjire root, telling him she’d like to stay the night and asking him to be her Xishlon’vir. They talk some more, then confess their love for each other, and Jules offers to make her some tea to go with her Sanjire root.
  • Narration switches to Aislinn. She is standing under the Xishlon moon at the Wvyvernguard base, on the bridge suspended between the twin islands over the Vo river. Jarod finds her there, giving her a Xishlon gift: a book of Noi poetry along with a translation glass so she can read it in the original language. Aislinn so badly wants to be with him fully, but she can’t stop thinking about what Damion Bane did to her. She has spent the last month sleeping curled up with Jarod, both of them able to fully sense their desire for each other, but knowing that Aislinn is unable to act on it.
  • One night, recently, Jarod woke up to Aislinn trapped in nightmare memories, and he held her as she sobbed and she was finally able to confess to him with angry sobs exactly what Damion Bane did to her. On this Xishlon night, Aislinn decides she’s ready, knowing that being with Jarod will be nothing like what Damion did to her. Jarod is all love while Damion is cruelty and violence.
  • Aislinn says she wants him to take her to mate, but cannot announce it to the group as is tradition with the Lupines. Jarod assures her that there aren’t any rules they have to follow. She worries that she’s asking Jarod to give up something culturally significant, but he assures her that tradition can yield to more important things, like true love. They decide to go to the forest together so they can be together in the way of the Lupines.
  • Narration switches to Sparrow. She’s in the dress shop where she was recently employed, showing off her gorgeous Xishlon gown that she made for herself out of silk flowers that represent the Xishlon holiday. Mii Vun, the owner of the shop, compliments her, and Fyya Lo, one of the apprentice seamstresses, tells her that everyone is talking about her, that she’s taken the Voloi fashion world by storm in the short time she’s arrived here. Fyya tells her that Syr Vho, a rising star in the Voloi architecture world, wants to spend Xishlon with her. Knowing that this may completely ruin her reputation here, Sparrow tells Fyya that she’ll be spending Xishlon with Thierren. Fyya is very dismayed by this, very much caught up in the Noi hatred of all Gardnerians. They argue, and Mii Vun stands with Sparrow, agreeing that the East is for everyone, no exceptions. Thierren and Effrey arrive, and Effrey has changed as much as Sparrow has since arriving in the East, apprenticed with Or’myr. Sparrow and Thierren share a whispered flirtation, though she can’t stop thinking about how Thirren will deploy West first thing tomorrow with the Vu Trin army.
  • Mii Vun offers to take Effrey for the evening, listing out so many fun children’s Xishlon activities they can do together. Effrey is overjoyed, and Mii tells Sparrow and Thierren to go off and have a wonderful time together, and she’s sent a bottle of wine for them to Sparrow’s apartment. Mii wistfully reminisces on her first Xishlon with her love, Feng Loi, who was killed in the Realm War. Thierren is distraught by this, but Mii Vun assures him that it’s not his fault, and that he belongs here, gifting him with a Vo dragon pendant with white birds on it. 
  • They walk toward the cocktail bar Sparrow wants to take Thierren to, and she takes his hand, asking him to be her Xishlon’vir. He tells her he’d be honored, in fluent Uriskal with his translation rune. Once at the bar, talk goes to the war, and Thierren tells her that they should fight with the Dryads, most if not all of whom are trapped in the West, but who all stand against the Gardnerians. Sparrow agrees, but asks Thierren to give her tonight, before war breaks out, and to kiss her here in front of everyone. Thierren asks if she’s sure, knowing that her relationship with him could damage her reputation. Sparrow says she’s done hiding. They tell each other they love each other, and they kiss, ignoring all the disapproval around them.
  • Narrator is now Mora’lee. She waits in the garden for Fyon, absolutely buoyant with Xishlon energy. Fyon arrives, a serious romantic, whereas Mora is flirty and joyous with love. Fyon tells Mora he wants her more than just to touch and hold, and Mora tells him that she knows, that she’s been his for quite some time even if he didn’t know it. They kiss, and it’s just as amazing as Mora always dreamed it would be. She invites him back to her ship, telling him she has Sanjire root. He isn’t sure they should move so fast, the Smaragdalfar have this whole twenty day ritual, but Mora is very non-traditional, and Fyon ships off West tomorrow–Mora wants this between them. Fyon tells her he loves her with all his heart, and Mora says she knows.
  • Narration switches to Olilly Emmylian. Olilly is out on the balcony, looking at the moon, when she hears crying from inside the ship. She goes in and asks Nym’ellia if she can come in. No answer, but Olilly is concerned so she goes in anyway. Nym is crying on Olilly’s bed, an angry bruise on her forehead. Olilly asks what happened, and Nym’ellia says she tried to go outside to see the festival, but people called her names, told her to go back to Gardneria, and one threw a rock at her.
  • Olilly’s heart goes out to the girl, already a fast friend, and Olilly takes off her new ear cuffs and offers them to Nym, who says she can’t take them. Olilly insists, saying that they were both cropped, but at least people know she’s Urisk because of her skin color. Nym says that if she wears them people will try to rip them off and tell her she has no right, just like they say she has no right to wear Noi clothes. Olilly insists, saying that even if she just wears them inside and remembers who she is, not who everyone sees. The girls hug, and Olilly helps Nym’ellia put the cuffs on. Olilly tells her she’s going to go down to the pier to get them Xishlon necklaces, and the girls vow to be friends forever.
  • Olilly goes down and stops by the edge of the ship, and she hears someone calling to her. It’s Kir Lyyo, from across the street. He gives her a river lily, tells her he thinks she’s beautiful, and wanted to wish her a happy Xishlon. He introduces himself, giving her use of his Noi informal name Kirin. He asks her what happened to her ears. Olilly looks at him right in the face and tells him that a mob cropped her back in Verpacia. She says they were chanting “Earthia for the Gardnerians” while they did it. This hits Kirin hard, as it’s the same vibe as “Noilaan for the Noi”, which his father is a proud supporter of. 
  • Olilly tells Kirin she gave her ear cuffs to Nym’ellia, because they cropped her too, because she may look Gardnerian, but she’s also Urisk like her. Kirin says he’s very sorry they both had to go through that. Olilly challenges him, saying his father wouldn’t want them talking. Kirin says he knows, but he doesn’t believe all that “Noilaan for the Noi” nonsense. He’s glad Olilly is here. He asks if she’ll walk to the pier with him. Olilly believes him, and takes his hand and the walk to see the festival together.
  • Narration switches to Elloren. Her tracking rune, lit up far before it should be, says that Lukas is right here, in this room with her. But how can that be? Suddenly she’s blasted with a blow of power from the West, and her fastlines break through her new purple glamour, curling with Shadow smoke again. Someone calls her name, and she looks up and sees him: Lukas. She runs to grab him, but he’s as insubstantial as smoke. She thinks she’s dreaming. Lukas says she’s not dreaming, but he’s not really here. He tells her that Vogel is turning him into one of his Shadow drones, and that he thinks Vogel has him somewhere near Amazkaraan, which has fallen. Elloren says she’s coming for him, tonight, right now, but Lukas says there’s no time, as soon as she’s unbound Vogel is going to take them both. 
  • Lukas is able to show her, through his eyes, what he sees, the Shadow hive he’s building. It’s a nightmare, but Elloren insists they can make it there in time to rescue him. Lukas insists that there is no more time, that they need to destroy their fasting link now before Vogel can use it to get to her. She says that’s impossible, but while it is impossible for her lines to be removed, he can take himself out of the picture, with his death. Elloren tries to tell him no, but Lukas insists that it’s the only way, that as soon as Lukas has the power spelled up enough that he’s got a physical presence there with her, she needs to push all her power through to him so he can blow himself up, along with Vogel and his whole Shadow hive. He warns her to keep her Wand away from Vogel, that he wants it, so it must be more powerful than they know.
  • Lukas tells her to ally with Yvan, with anyone she can that’s powerful enough to stop Vogel. Elloren asks Lukas how he knows about Yvan, and Lukas tells her that Vogel tried to turn Lukas against her by showing him visions of her and Yvan. Elloren apologizes, but Lukas says don’t, that he knows that she chose him, that he’ll love her forever. The spell is finally charged, and Lukas pulls her in for one last kiss, and it’s filled with all the fire and love between them, and then Lukas raises his wand arm at Vogel and casts the fire strike spell, Elloren’s power inside of him, but it ricochets off and bounces back at them.
  • Vogel smiles and says that he knew all along what Lukas was doing, that he never let his guard down around him. He’s got them both bound with Shadow, and tells his Shadow envoys to consume Lukas. Elloren cries out, but the world goes black.
  • When the world comes back into focus, she’s somehow now in Vogel’s body, looking down at Lukas writhing on the ground at his feet. Elloren rages against him from within his own body, but then he moves to show Elloren her worst fear: that the mountain they’re within is the Vo mountains, that he and his Shadow army are here, now, in the East, not trapped by storms in the Western desert. They are out of time.
  • Elloren breaks free of Vogel, and is back in her body in Or’myr’s Vonor. Her fastlines are still overtaken by Shadow, but she tries to push it all out of her. She looks toward the mountain in the distance where Vogel and his army must be, but she can hear his voice in her head saying that he can see her. Elloren takes up the Wand, and it seems to be powering up in her hand, but all of the sudden it burns up in her hand and she drops it, the wand immediately rolling off the balcony and down the mountain. But before she can grab at it a kestrel swoops down and picks it up, carrying it away from her. Elloren figures it knows she’s about to become Vogel’s pawn and so it left her behind. 
  • But Elloren is defiant, so she runs into the Vonor and grabs every single one of Or’myr’s wands that she can find, and holds them all up, using her one last chance as she throws all her power out over the entire Eastern realm as she calls for Raz’zor. 

Part 5:

  • Narration is with Vothe. He and Trystan are still kissing by the river when an explosion rocks the world. They look up to see that the side of the Vo Mountains has exploded, leaving a huge gash as Shadow floods out and toward the river and the city. They realize Vogel is here, and Vothe immediately shape shifts into Wyvern form so they can go to their battalion and defend the East from the Mages.
  • Narration is with Tierney, she and Viger are still in the Vo Forest, having spent the last hour working on warding the Vo River. The world explodes, and Tierney and Viger see the Shadow roll out from the mountains as the purple moon goes gray. They realize their rune lights don’t work, that Elloren was right that Vogel can destroy runes. Tierney accidentally reveals Elloren’s presence in the East to Viger, who immediately starts muttering in a language Tierney can’t understand, and it looks like Viger is summoning unbroken dragons, and for a moment Tierney doesn’t know if Viger is truly on her side. But the huge creatures aren’t dragons, they’re giant ravens. Viger confirms he is with her, and tells her to get on the back of a raven so they can strengthen their wards and find Elloren. 
  • Narration switches to Aislinn, in the forest with Jarod shortly after their mating. Jarod took perfect care of her, both of their Lupine senses telling them exactly what the other wanted or didn’t want, and it was truly perfect, helping Aislinn wash away the stain of Damion Bane. The world explodes and the purple moon goes gray. Aislinn and Jarod watch a flood of Garnderian dragons come from the mountains, and Aislinn says she’s ready to fight, and if Damion Bane is on one of those dragons, she’s going to rip him apart.
  • Narration switches to Lucretia. She and Jules have been drinking their tea and flirting, and Lucretia has just taken the Sanjire root. They begin to kiss, and Jules asks if she’s ever been with anybody else, and Lu tells him no, she’s a “proper Gardnerian maiden”, and Jules says he’s honored to be her first. She tells him she wants him as her only, and Jules says he wants that too. Just as they’re about to go to bed, an explosion rocks their apartment and they rush to the window to find the war has come early. They quickly pull their clothes back on, and Lucretia tells Jules to come with her to her battalion, she’ll protect him, and he can deflower her after. They love how they can joke together even when things are tough.
  • Narration switches to Sparrow. She and Thierren have left the bar and are back at her apartment, where Sparrow tells Thierren that she’s obtained Sanjire root, and just thinking about how difficult that was for her. Sex without the possibility of making children is forbidden not just for Gardnerians but for Urisk in their culture as well. The two of them decide that they’ll start the evening with the wine and see where things go. They’re drinking the wine, flirting boldly, and then they abandon the wine and prepare to go to bed, Thierren murmuring to her romantically in Uriskal. 
  • The world explodes, and the two of them witness Vogel’s army pouring from the mountain. Sparrow is immediately panicked about Effrey being out in the open in the Voling Gardens, but Thierren tells her they’ll find Effrey together, but she needs to stay close to him because Vogel’s Shadows will snuff out her rune blade. The two hurry down the fire escape, and Sparrow almost gets knocked down by the panicked crowd on the street. Thierren grabs her, reminds her to stay close because even if nothing else, his wand will keep working.
  • The two run toward the gardens where Effrey is, dodging dragon fire as they go, Thierren putting out people that are on fire with his wand along the way. They find Effrey at the edge of the plaza, with a purple geo shield protecting him, Mii Vun, and a few other children. Thierren pushes Sparrow toward the shield to get herself protected while he takes on another onslaught of dragons and their Mage riders. 
  • Before Sparrow can get to Effrey, she’s blocked by a horrifyingly familiar Mage on dragonback: Tilor, her old tormentor from the Fae Islands. Tilor wraps her up in shadow and tells her that Vogel is going to use her to draw Thierren Stone to him, and in the meantime he gets to do what he wants with her. Sparrow screams for Thierren, but it’s too late as Tilor hoists her on to the dragon, completely bound, and Sparrow only has time to scream to Thierren it’s a trap as he watches her be taken away in horror.
  • Narration switches to Mora’lee. She and Fyon are in bed together, just cuddling, when the world explodes. They immediately jump into action, Fyon confirming that the children are all on the ship, and they realize Vogel is invading NOW. They are going to see as many other people from nearby on the ship and take everyone to the sublands. Their ship is the only one that will be able to fly when Vogel wipes out all of the runes, because her ship is powered by Varg runes. 
  • They both go out to the ship’s deck to find Ghor’li, Nym’ellia, and her family watching the Shadow tide in fear: a moment later Olilly and Kirin arrive, hand in hand. Mora sets everyone their tasks, and Kirin worries about his father. Mora tells him to go get his father and anyone else they can on the ship now, that despite his distrust of foreigners he will die if he does not come with them. Kirin nods and races off. Mora gets everything ready, and once everyone possible is loaded up on the ship, Mora takes off, and watches in horror as the rune dome blinks out, and other rune ships fall from the sky and buildings all throughout Voloi collapse. Mora looks back to see a group of dragons flying right toward them.
  • Narration switches to Olilly. Olilly, Nym’ellia, and Kirin are with Fyon in the kitchen as Mora flies the rune ship. Fyon has the teens fill all the copper kitchenware into a big pot, quickly melting it down and filling his magnesium arrow tips with the molten metal mixture. To the teen’s shock, when Fyon shoots the arrow from his crossbow at a dragon, the dragon goes down in a ball of green flame. Fyon stays on deck to take out the dragons while a shell-shocked Olilly is dragged inside by her friends. 
  • Back in Olilly’s room the trio encounters Zosh Lyyo, Kirin’s hateful father, nursing a wound and looking around dazedly. Ghor’li is in there as well, huddled up and crying in a corner. The little Urisk girl huddled in her arms, Olilly turns her fear to anger as she turns on Zosh, letting him have it for how he treated them and asking him if he understands now why they had to come here, what the Mages are capable of.
  • Olilly is flooded with her past trauma, being assaulted by the Mage mob, being cropped, fleeing Verpacia. But then Olilly sees a giant pale dragon flying, breathing fire at all the dark Gardnerian dragons. And then she thinks of Elloren, wondering aloud where she is. Nym’ellia asks who Olilly is talking about, and Olilly tells them the Black Witch is here, in Noi lands.
  • Narration switches to Elloren, just as Raz’zor lands on Or’myr’s balcony, opening her mind to her dragon kin to tell him everything she knows. She asks if he’ll fight, even if it means blowing up the mountain and them with it in order to stop Vogel. Raz’zor is with her. Sliding her handful of wands into her pocket, Elloren mounts Raz’zor’s back. Just then Or’myr arrives back at the Vonor, asking what is going on. She tells him, and Or’myr insists on coming with her. She tells him it’s too dangerous, but he insists, saying that they’re family and that he’s with her no matter what. Elloren pulls her cousin up on Raz’zor’s back and they go to war.

Part 6:

  • Narration is with Elloren. Raz’zor flies at breakneck speed toward the mountain where Vogel is, and Elloren helps Or’myr take out a few dragons along the way by telling him the magic affinities of the Mage dragon riders. Elloren can feel Yvan’s Wyvernfire coursing through her, Yvan certainly trying to find her to help. Suddenly, the Shadow Tide sweeps over them and Or’myr is leached of color, his magic disappearing along with his purple, completely wiped. He’s not a full Mage, so he is indisposed like all the other magic users. Elloren feels Vogel’s Void tree in the back of her mind, letting her know Vogel is aware of her. Raz’zor works to restore his depleted power from taking out the dragons and Mages they’ve already come across. 
  • They near Vogel, near enough to see him on the side of the mountain, and Elloren raises her hand with all the wands, ready to cast the firestrike spell, but then some of Vogel’s guards drag not only a bound Lukas out, but also Sparrow Trillium. Elloren hesitates, knowing that with Lukas’s fire affinity he might survive, but Sparrow certainly wouldn’t, and she isn’t a soldier, she didn’t sign up for this war. Elloren’s hesitation costs her, as it causes Raz’zor to hesitate as well, and that’s enough for Vogel to bind them all with Shadow, all three of them caught in separate, Shadow nets dragged by Garnderian dragons, straight toward Vogel. 
  • Elloren is dumped at Vogel’s feet and bound by Shadow to the rock, Sparrow looking at her with panicked eyes, and Lukas’s expression completely gray and void, as if he sees or thinks nothing at all. Raz’zor and Or’myr are bound just as Elloren is, and she begins to panic, she can tell by Yvan’s Wyvernfire that he’s almost here and that it’s a trap, Vogel is using Elloren to draw Yvan here. Raz’zor calls out for Naga the Unbroken to come to their aid.
  • Vogel and his soldiers hit and beat Or’myr and Raz’zor, Vogel ordering Or’myr to be absorbed into the Shadow hive, and Raz’zor to be broken like the other Gardnerian dragons and to be used as bait for them. He also tells Tilor, the Mage holding Sparrow, to take her West to use as bait for Thierren, doing whatever he wishes with her in the meantime short of death.
  • Dragging Lukas over, Vogel murmurs and unfamiliar spell and Lukas’s smoking fastlines transfer to Vogel’s arms, making Elloren now Marcus Vogel’s fastmate, the only thing remaining on Lukas is their Sealing lines. Which means Elloren is now Elloren Vogel (big EW). Vogel puts his wand to Elloren’s neck, sensing her Wyvernfire bond with Yvan. He asks if Yvan forced his Icaral kiss on her, and Elloren taunts him, saying she wanted it. He slaps her and says she’ll speak no more of it, that soon they’ll be properly Sealed as well (bigger EW). Vogel says they’re both tainted, but they are each other’s destiny, and the Ancient One will purify them together. 
  • Elloren works with all of her might to tell Yvan to stay away, but he draws ever nearer, and Vogel has complete control over Elloren and her power with his Shadow wand, and he is going to force Elloren to destroy Yvan, thus fulfilling the prophecy. Unable to stop him, Vogel brings his mouth down on Elloren’s, using the kiss to steal Elloren’s Wyvernfire bond to Yvan, as well as her fasting bond to Lukas. 
  • Vogel gets Elloren a wand, a powerful Snow Oak wand, and puts her on a dragon into the sky, on a collision course with Yvan. She is completely under Vogel’s power, he can make her do and say anything he wants. Even though they’re not bonded anymore, Elloren screams the thought out to Yvan that he has to destroy her first.
  • Narration switches to Trystan. They join a Vu Trin stronghold on Voloi’s first tier, which holds their battalion commander, Heelyn. Vothe shifts back to human and Heelyn tells Trystan he’d better not touch his wand. Trystan wants to link his power to Heelyn’s to charge it up so they can power a runic barrier that will withstand Vogel’s Shadow.
  • Heelyn says no way, but Jules and Lucretia show up, and Jules explains how it would work, adding that any Smaragdalfar Varg runes they can whip up will also help in the city’s defense. Heelyn insists that they’re all lying, even with Vothe telling her that he can sense that they are not. Rafe arrives, saying that the Lupines keep killing the Mage army, but the Mages just keep on coming. Sylla Vuul has woven a web barrier around the North Twin island, but the Mages are already breaking it down. Fain, Wrenfir, and Sholindrile have secured part of the Voloi’s Third Tier, but they can’t hold the Shadow army off for long, and hundreds of civilians are trapped there. Fyordin Lir arrives on the scene, asking for Tierney, saying she warded the Vo, keeping it safe but also keeping Fyordin and the other Asrai from accessing the river for their power. 
  • Trystan begs Heelyn, again, to join with him so they can put up a barrier to protect the city. Heelyn looks torn, almost agreeing, but just then Yvan Guryev’s power lights up the sky as he flies overhead, toward Vogel. Heelyn says that now that Yvan’s here, she doesn’t need him. Vothe closes his eyes, opening them again, yelling at Heelyn to get the barrier up now, as the prophecy is about to be enacted: Vogel has control of the Black Witch, who is on a collision course with the Icaral of Prophecy.
  • Narration switches back to Elloren. She mentally screams at Yvan to stay away as he fights his way toward her, through dragons and Mages. Vu Trin are getting cut down around her, horribly outnumbered as Yvan draws ever nearer and Vogel draws cataclysmic power into her wand hand. Close enough to speak now, Yvan tells her to drop her wand, connect to his fire, and fight Vogel’s hold. Vogel forces her to say horrific things, his hatred for Yvan through her lips. Vogel points Elloren’s wand hand up and has her release a blast of power that sends Yvan and the Vu Trin reeling. Pulling on her Shadow corrupted earth power, Vogel has Elloren shoot her wand hand down and build a tree of Shadow that erupts straight from the Vo River. The branches shoot out and bind Yvan, and Vogel forces Elloren to say that she’s going to rip his wings from his body in the name of the Ancient One. Elloren rails against Vogel’s hold, trying with all her might to turn her wand on herself so she can end it before she kills everyone and everything she loves. 
  • Without warning, Yvan’s very blood seems to catch on fire and he blasts free of his Shadow bindings and straight for Elloren, slashing through her own bindings and ripping her free of the dragon she’s seated on. In midair, he pulls Elloren to his body and kisses her. And Yvan’s Wyvernfire is enough to make Elloren’s mind once again her own, filling her with so much fire that it goes into her Sealing lines and in a vision, Elloren sees Lukas far below seem to wake up, his eyes going from gray to green. Yvan realizes what is happening, and he and Elloren share a wordless moment that says that the three of them are bound together for the greater good. Yvan and Elloren blast their combined fire into Lukas, which sets his Shadow bonds on fire and he’s free as well, Lukas immediately fighting his guards and grabbing a wand. Yvan and Elloren continue to flood Lukas with their fire, and his eyes turn Wyvernfire gold and they all realize that they are ready to give their lives to take Vogel down. 
  • Lukas mouths “I love you” to Elloren and casts a spell that causes the mountains that hold himself, Vogel, Or’myr, Raz’zor, and Sparrow to explode. Elloren’s Sealing lines melt away from her wrists, and so does the Shadow tree that she and Yvan are standing on, Yvan falling away from her grip as his massive power finally runs out. Elloren is scrabbling for purchase, sure she’s going to be next to plunge toward the river so far below, when a group of Western Wyverns, lead by Naga, suddenly appear. Elloren starts to fall toward the river, sure she’s about to die, but as she’s falling she feels Shadow curl around her fastlines once more, and she realizes that somehow Vogel survived.
  • Strong arms grab Elloren as she’s falling, pulling her away from the dragon fight, and she thinks it’s Yvan who holds her, wings somehow restored, and as they fly away from the fight, she sees a white blur speeding away from the decimated mountain, and she hopes it’s Raz’zor with Or’myr and Sparrow safe on his back. But then she sees Naga with Yvan clutched in her claws, and she turns around and realizes it’s not Yvan who holds her, but Ariel Haven.
  • Ariel flies Elloren to safety in a clearing in the Vo forest, but Elloren can already feel Vogel trying to get control over her once again through her fastlines. But Elloren marvels that Ariel is here before her, strong and whole. Elloren begs Ariel to kill her, now, before it’s too late and Vogel has her under his control again. Vogel pushes power into Elloren and all of the sudden she’s seeing through his eyes again, and Vogel walks them through a portal where Vogel is met by Damion and Fallon Bane, and they’ve got Valasca Shadow bound between them. And Elloren realizes that the army that just attacked the East is but a fraction of what Vogel has, the rest of his vast and evil Shadow army buried in the Northern Spine mountains in the West.
  • Vogel releases his hold on Elloren, and she begs Ariel again to kill her, and warn the Vu Trin that Vogel has the entire Spine filled with his Shadow army. Ariel knows, Wynter’s wingeds told her. Elloren is only able to tell Ariel to not let her get hold of any wood before Vogel takes over her body again, and Ariel has to tackle her to keep from grabbing a branch, any branch, and turning it into a wand. Vogel talks to Ariel through Elloren’s voice, telling her how he’ll break her, tear her wings off and feed her nilantyr again. Ariel says she’ll bring Elloren back to Naga and the horde and Naga can burn Vogel out of her. Elloren says it’s too risky, but Ariel won’t do it. Just then Gardnerian dragons come down to where they are and attack, Ariel struggling to hold her back, telling Elloren to run. She does, knowing all is lost if the Mages get hold of her. 
  • Elloren can feel the forest’s hatred of her, and she begs it to tangle her lines again, saying if they do she’ll cast a spell that will bounce back and kill her, just like they tried to get her to do last time. Elloren grips a tree, and the forest begins to do as she asks, but then Elloren sees the Watchers, looking down at her. And that moment of distraction costs her, Vogel wrenching her lines back from the forest’s hold. Elloren rages at the Watchers, wondering why they’ve come to keep her tethered to her power, why, just so Vogel can use her for evil. Elloren hears Ariel call for her, and Elloren decides to keep fighting, if Ariel can survive all she has, then Elloren can keep fighting. But just as a flock of ravens explode into flight, Elloren gets hit hard on the back of the head and passes out.

Part 7:

  • Elloren wakes and realizes she’s bound up in a net, being carried through the forest. Her power is entirely taken over by Shadow, and Elloren looks around and realizes she’s been taken captive by Dryads, forest Fae that were supposedly entirely wiped out during the Realm War. 
  • Elloren struggles as Vogel’s power entrenches itself deeper within her, as if Yvan and Lukas had never helped her burn it away at all. Elloren is struck with grief, the knowledge that if she lives Lukas’s sacrifice will have been for nothing at all. Elloren yells at her captors that Vogel is about to have full control over her again, and that they can’t let her anywhere near a wand. The Dryads just wack her over the head and tell her to keep silent.
  • Elloren asks after Ariel, and the Dryads say that they freed her. Elloren begs them once again to kill her, telling them that Vogel is tracking her. But instead they just continue to beat into her, and yell harshly at her in their unknowable language. She asks where they’re taking her, and one of them tells her, in Common, that they’re taking her to die. 
  • The Dryads continue to make their way through the forest, and Elloren just says to herself all the names of her loved ones that she’ll never see again. Finally their group comes to a portal, and Elloren knows wherever it takes her will be the end. They go through the portal and they’re in an Ironwood forest. One of the Dryads tells her that someone named “III” is going to destroy her. They come to a gigantic Ironwood tree in the center of the forest, and Elloren realizes that this is the III of myth, descendant of the sacred Source Tree at the center of everyone’s religion: the Mages, the Fae, the Urisk, everyone. III’s power beats back Vogel like a sapling in the wind.
  • Suddenly, Yvan arrives in the clearing, his wings streaked through with gold as he heals the damage Vogel’s Shadow vines did to them. Yvan tells the Dryad’s to release Elloren to him, and they say no chance. Vogel pushes his power viciously through Elloren, giving her Shadow claws that cut through her bindings and everyone leaps back. Vogel drops his hold on her enough so she’s back in control, and she realizes that it’s a trap, if she steps toward Yvan and away from III, he’ll have enough power over her again to force her to take up a tree branch and kill them all. So Elloren looks at Yvan, realizing that the love in their hearts, the love she shares with Yvan, Lukas, her brothers, everyone, is what will prevail over Vogel’s Shadow forces. She tells Yvan she loves him then turns toward III and runs, flinging herself at the tree. 
  • Elloren hits III’s trunk and then sinks right through it into the tree, and Elloren can feel the tree’s fury at her corruption as Vogel rages inside her. Elloren tells III that it’s won, it’s killing the Black Witch, and that she needs to die, but she wants it to know she never wanted to be this twisted, evil thing. The tree sweeps Vogel’s power away, and Elloren thinks that this is what it is to die. 
  • But then she feels III’s fury withdraw, and instead it feels like the tree is cradling her gently, waiting for her to say more. So she tells it that all she wanted was to use her power to help her loved ones, to free the world from the Mage’s cruelty. She tells III the whole story of her life, of everything she tried to do and be, and all of her failure. After a long time she fades into unconsciousness, completely spent.
  • Elloren wakes to a different darkness, as if she’s at the very center of the world. She thinks that she would give anything to fight with her loved ones again, to free the world of the demon tide. Life fills her again, and it feels as though she is being knit back together, broken ankle and all. Her lines are not veins in her body, but roots that connect her to the whole world. III calls her a Dryad Guardian, and for the first time she feels as if all five of her affinity lines are perfectly balanced: Fire, Earth, Water, Wind, and Green Light. 
  • III shows Elloren a vision of how the Shadow Wand, in the hands of an ancient Keltic king, completely destroyed the Western Continent, only a few small shipfulls of Kelts making it to the Eastern Continent that is the home of the Realms Elloren knows. 
  • III invites Elloren to join the power of life, and to bring not just the Dryad’s but everyone and connect them to the forest. Elloren feels hope, and she accepts the second chance that III has offered her.
  • Elloren wakes, laying on the ground next to III, her vision clearer than it’s ever been, all the gray and Vogel’s Shadow power completely gone from her body. Yvan says her name, and she looks at him and sees that he’s completely healed himself, and all the Dryads are looking at her with astonishment. She realizes that her ears are pointed, and then III drops one of its branches into her lap, and she picks it up with her wand hand and feels that it is a living wand with the power of the Great Tree coursing through it.
  • Elloren feels the forest’s power, but instead of hated whispers of Black Witch, the power is kind, and its power flows through her rootlines. One of the Dryads, the one Elloren named in her mind Vicious, says that this cannot be, that she’s enthralled the forest. One of the other Dryad’s, the one Elloren thinks of as Pine, says that no, III has accepted her and named her a Guardian. Yvan notices that Elloren’s fastlines are gone, her only connections are to that of the forest and Raz’zor’s hordebond. Elloren realizes that she’s speaking in the Dryad language, as if she’s always known it. She’s become the Dryad she always was.
  • Vicious tells Sylvan (aka Pine) that they need to kill Elloren now, that clearly this is some kind of trick. But Sylvan has Elloren show them her palm, where an image of III is imprinted, just like on the hands of all the Dryads around her. Sylvan says that this is the mark of a Guardian of the Forest.
  • Yvan tells her he feels like he’s meeting her for the first time, and Elloren says it feels like she’s meeting herself for the forest time. Yvan embraces her and Elloren finally gets her chance to cry about Lukas’s death. Elloren asks how Yvan found her, and he tells her how Raz’zor and Or’myr were able to escape the mountain, and Yvan joined Elloren and Raz’zor’s horde so that Raz’zor could share his tracking ability with Yvan. So the three of them are a horde now.
  • Yvan tells her that the tide turned in the East when Naga and the Western Wyverns arrived, Trystan and the Lupines helping the Vu Trin and the Wyverns beat back the last of Vogel’s Eastern forces.
  • Elloren notes that their Wyvernfire mate bond is gone, the only link remaining is that of their horde, and Yvan says her fire feels like green sunlight now. Elloren says she feels entirely reborn. 
  • Elloren looks at the Dryads around them and asks how she became so altered. The Dryad that Elloren named in her head Darkness reminds her that the Gardnerians were born from the mating of Dryads and Kelts so many hundreds of years ago. The Dryad, named Hazel, tells her that the Dryads and Kelts were vicious enemies, and the Mages were hated by both, and as punishment to the Kelts when the Mages came to the Dryads for help, the Dryads used all their magic to keep them uprooted from the forest because of their “impure” blood. 
  • Vicious, real name Oaklyyn, says that all of this is twisted, that the Kelts nearly destroyed the Dryads and that is why the Dryads had to do everything to keep their magic to themselves. Hazel and Oaklyyn get into a disagreement. Hazel tells Elloren that his mother was a primordial Death Fae, and his father was a Dryad. Since Death Fae live a very long time, his mother was there hundreds of years ago to witness how the Mages pleaded, desperate, with the Dryads to help them, only to be turned away. Hazel asks Oaklyyn where “blood purity” has gotten them, has gotten any of them, that Hazel just wants to help everyone live. He says that the Circle is expanding, that III has deemed it so, so they’ll just have to accept it.
  • The Dryad Elloren has named Flora asks about a kindred, if she is a Guardian she must have a kindred. Another Dryad, Lyptus, asks about the prophecy, given by their very own forest, that the Black Witch and the Icaral will kill each other. Yvan says he doesn’t believe in the prophecy, that he loves Elloren and clearly they aren’t going to kill each other. Yvan says that they are not enemies, but he will defend himself and Elloren if need be. 
  • Just then a caw sounds and an enormous flock of ravens, ravens the size of horses, settle down in the clearing, and riding one of them is Tierney Calix, along with a young Fae man Elloren doesn’t know (Viger). The Dryads marvel that the Errilor have returned, and the biggest of them strides over to Elloren, leaning its head down for her to touch. She does, and she hears his name, Errilith, in her mind. Elloren wonders where they came from.
  • Viger says that the Errilor have returned to fight their enemy, the Shadow Death. Elloren says that III showed her a vision of what the Shadow Wand did to the Western Continent. She says that she had a vision of every kind of person on Earthia coming together as Guardians. This breaks Oaklynn, she says the Dryads are the only Guardians of the Forest, that they’ll continue to protect it long after everyone else has killed each other.
  • Tierney says there won’t be anything left, that she felt Vogel’s Shadow Void seeping into the natural world, and it will destroy everything if they don’t stop it. Elloren begs Oaklynn to show her what it takes to be a Guardian, saying that they need each other. Elloren wants to learn the Forest’s spells and how to wield them. She said that III showed her a vision of the green Wand that she was once the bearer of, and the Dryads speculate that it could be the Verdyllion, which is a central line that accesses all the power of the Forest. 
  • Yvan says that they need to do everything that they can, that Vogel’s power can’t destroy a few key types of magic: Smaragdalfar Varg runes, Wyvernfire, and the Forest magic. Tierney says that Vogel will be coming back for Elloren, so they need to link her to all of the things that can defend against Vogel’s Shadow, ASAP.
  • Yvan tells Elloren that he wants to restore their Wyvernfire bond. Elloren says no, it’s not just some defensive ward, it’s part of him. Yvan says he loves her, that he’s never stopped, and that this bond means that they are allies forever, and that’s what he wants. He says they should burn the prophecy to ash, subvert it like Ariel said. Elloren agrees, and they kiss, their Wyvernbond restored.

Epilogue:

  • Verdyllion, the Forest Wand, flies with the kestrel through a number of portals back to the Western Realm, and after a few days the wand sparks and the kestrel drops it, into a stream, where the wand eventually summons its power and flows, getting sucked down into the Western sublands.
  • Narration is with Wynter, who has been brought back to Alfsigroth, where she is dragged through the streets of the capital city of Maeloria. The crowd of Elves, normally so subdued, has been whipped into a frenzy, shouting slurs and vicious insults at Wynter along with rocks. She’s brought to the Monarchall, where she’s confronted with the Elf high council and her parents, who completely renounce her in front of everyone as being no child of theirs. The high priestess removes Wynter’s Zalyn’or from her skin. A violent vertigo washes over Wynter. The monarch and council denounce Wynter, formally sentencing her to life in the sublands.
  • Wynter falls through a hole down into the sublands, landing hard as the light above snuffs out. The only thing besides darkness is a faint green light. Wynter crawls toward it in desperation, reaches into the stream, and takes hold of the Green Wand. As she does so, she feels a shock, silver runes lighting up her vision as Watchers appear perched on the stone ridges of the cave. 
  • The green light brightens and Wynter realizes that it’s not just a wand but a rune stylus as well. The vertigo begins to lift, and Wynter tells herself that she is NOT a Deargdul demon, that she is Wynter Eirllyn, Elliontora of Alfsigroth. Wynter’s brother Cael and his friend Rhys find her, along with a few Smaragdalfar Elves. Wynter rises, holding the Wand, and smiles.

End of Book 4

Summaries

The Shadow Wand by Laurie Forest (Summary)

Note:

Hi everyone! So this month in preparation for the release of The Demon Tide, the long awaited new book in the Black Witch series, I’m re-reading the three previous Black Witch books. I’m going to be posting my summaries here, just in case anyone else wants to check them out if they don’t have time to re-read the series before The Demon Tide.

Same stuff I said in my previous post, do not read on, dear friend, unless you have read the book. This is my favorite high fantasy YA series of ALL TIME, I recommend reading it. Please don’t spoil yourself. Just click away unless you’ve read the book already. I’m begging you.

Exciting update that the author of this series, Laurie Forest, shared this blog on her Facebook page today, March 1st, so exciting and such an honor!

Thanks bye!

!!!SPOILERS AHEAD!!!

Key Characters:

Elloren Gardner – Seventeen years old, middle child in the Gardner family. Raised by her uncle with her two brothers out in Halfix (remote Gardneria). Wants to be an apothecary, enjoys making and playing violins. Has a connection to wood, able to see the origin tree to any piece of wood she touches.

Rafe Gardner – Eldest of the Gardner siblings, enrolled in the university. Protective elder brother, master hunter and tracker. No magical abilities.

Trystan Gardner – Sixteen years old, youngest Gardner sibling. Level five mage (the most powerful), studying at the university as an apprentice to the weapons guild.

Vyvian Damon – Member of the Mage Council, very involved in politics and obsessed with carrying on the legacy of her mother, the Black Witch. Aunt to Trystan, Elloren, and Rafe.

Fallon Bane – The most powerful young female mage in Gardneria, a level five. Desperately wishes to be wand-fasted to Lukas Grey. Cruel and power-hungry.

Lukas Grey – Powerful level five mage, a rising star in the military. Charms Elloren upon their first meeting and is interested in fasting with her.

Marcus Vogel – Gardnerian priest and member of the mage council. Hoping to be elected the next High Mage. Gives Elloren the creeps.

Aislinn Greer – Quiet, sweet Gardnerian girl Elloren’s age, loves romantic poetry and quickly becomes Elloren’s friend.

Sage Gaffney – Gardnerian girl a few years older than Elloren, lives on the estate next door. Runs away from school with a boy she isn’t wand-fasted to, gives birth to an Icaral child. Her and her child are wanted by the mage council.

Yvan Guriel – Keltic student at the university. Works in the kitchens with Elloren, seems to hate her on sight.

Tierney Calix – Water Fae girl glamored as a Gardenerian. Fellow apothecary student with Elloren.

Wynter Eirllyn – Icaral Elf, Elloren’s roommate. A soft-spoken, timid girl, she is a wonderful artist and the first Icaral to make Elloren think that perhaps her religion has gotten it all wrong. She’s also an empath, which means she can sense people’s emotions through touch.

Ariel Haven – Icaral Gardenerian, Elloren’s other roommate. Spent most of her life locked away due to being an Icaral, is somewhat unhinged and instant enemies with Elloren. But they eventually come to an understanding and Elloren learns that Ariel is connected with winged creatures and can speak with them mind to mind.

Diana and Jarod Ulrich – Twin siblings of the Lupine race – can turn into wolves and live in the forest with their pack. Currently students at the university per their father’s wishes for the Lupines to be more diplomatically integrated with the other races.

Andras Volya – Son of Professor Volya. The professor was part of an Amazkaran tribe, but she refused to abandon her child like she was supposed to when he was born male, so they’ve been banished from Amaz lands, but they both still wear the runes. Andras is incredibly skilled with horses and the Amaz fighting style.

Cael Eirllyn – Wynter’s brother, Alfsigr Elf. Elite archer.

Rhys Thorim – Cael Eirllyn’s second in arms, loyal to Cael and Wynter. Alfsigr Elf, elite archer.

Bleddyn – Urisk kitchen worker, works with Elloren in the university kitchens. Starts with a strong dislike for her and all Gardnerians, and along with Iris they bully Elloren.

Iris Morgaine – Kelt girl who works in the kitchens at the university with Elloren. Actually a glamoured Fae. Romantically interested in Yvan and hates Elloren with a passion, no matter what she does.

Lucretia Quillen – Gardnerian Vice Chancellor at the university, one of the resistance leaders along with Jules Kristian and Fernyllia.

Jules Kristian – Keltic history professor at the university. One of the resistance leaders along with Lucretia Quillen and Fernyllia.

Fernyllia – Urisk kitchen mistress at the university. Grandmother to Fern. One of the leaders of the Resistance along with Lucretia Quillen and Jules Kristian.

Olilly – Young Urisk girl, works in the staff at the university. Kind and gentle, she often tends to young Fern, Fernyllia’s granddaughter.

Kam Vin – Commander of the western Vu Trin sorceresses. Firm and resolute, gives Elloren her wand to wand test with when she first arrives at University. A good person who believes the Gardnerians go too far, even as she tries to remain politically neutral (on the surface).

Ni Vin – Sister to Kam Vin, a Vu Trin sorceress herself. She was disfigured by a fire caused by Carnissa Gardner during the first Realm War, and it has left her burn-scarred on one half of her body. Beloved of Valasca.

Marina – Selkie that is originally held captive by the University groundskeeper. Elloren and Yvan free her, and she teaches herself to speak the Common Tongue and is the first of her kind to be able to communicate with the land-dwellers. Convinces the Amaz to help her free the rest of her people from the Gardnerians. Lived for months in the North Tower with Elloren, Diana, Wynter, and Ariel.

Naga – Formerly a Gardnerian military dragon, Yvan, Elloren and the gang were able to free her before the Gardnerians broke her. Ariel and Andras keep her hidden in a cave while they nurse her back to health. Friend to Yvan and wants to help take the Gardnerians down.

Valasca – Amazkaran Commander of the Queens Guard. Powerful rune sorceress. Goat herder in her spare time. Friend to Elloren. Madly in love with Ni Vin.

Alcippe – Uriskal woman, powerful member of the Amaz Queen’s Guard. Saved her mother and carried her to the Amaz when she was just twelve years old. Went back once she was grown up and killed her tyrant of a father. Dislikes ALL men, but is a gentle protector to children in particular. Hates Elloren Gardner for what she stands for.

Queen Alkaia – Queen of the Amazkaran. Believes firmly in the morals of the Amaz people, that men are unkind and cannot be trusted. A strong and fair leader, she agrees that her people will help free the Selkies from their Gardnerian captors.

Thierran Stone – Young Gardnerian soldier. Level Five Mage. Comes from a family of the Styvian sect, the most devout to the Holy Book. Has his world shattered when Dryad families are cut down in front of him and he can’t stop it.

Sparrow Trillium – Nineteen year old Urisk girl. Wants to be a seamstress and have her own shop, her life was destroyed by Fallon Bane and she and her companion were sent to the work camps on the Fae Islands. Caretaker to young Effrey.

Effrey – Urisk child, disguised as a girl so he is not killed by the Gardnerians. Has some geomancy powers, so he needs to keep himself hidden. Savior of the pit dragon Ra’zor and ward of Sparrow Trillium.

Raz’zor – pit dragon held captive by the Gardnerians until Effrey saves him. Has sworn fealty to Elloren.

Chi Nam – a Vu Trin Lo Voi, which is a crone that has mastery of both rune and portal sorcery. Chi Nam is the Runemaster, and the most powerful sorceress of them all. She has faith in Elloren when Elloren doesn’t even have faith in herself that her terrible power can be controlled.

Vang Troi – The high commander of all the Vu Trin military, a powerful sorceress.

Vothendrile Xanthile – A Zhilon’ile Wyvern-shifter, meaning he has the power to control storms. Member of the Wyvernguard, assigned guard to Trystan Gardner. Wants to drive Trystan out and kill the Black Witch. Attracted to Trystan.

Ung Li – Commander of the Wyvernguard. Doesn’t want Trystan to be in the Wyvernguard, but had to acquiesce to Vang Troi’s insistence. Thinks the Black Witch is too dangerous to be left alive. 

Sylla Vuul – One of three primordial Death Fae in the Wyvernguard. Has the power to read your fear. An outcast even among Fae, she is kind to Trystan.

Asra’leen Filor’ian – Asrai Water Fae in the Wyvernguard. Tierney’s roommate and fast friend. Loves rainbows and waterfalls, but is tougher than she looks.

Fyordin Lir – Commander of the Asrai division of the Wyvernguard. Also has claim to the Vo River, which is Tierney’s river. Attractive, but very prejudiced against all Gardnerians, even though he’s never really known one.

Viger Maul – One of three primordial Death Fae in the Wyvernguard. Has the power to read your fear. An outcast even among Fae, he is drawn to Tierney when they meet, as she has Kelpies, which are more closely aligned with Death Fae than Asrai typically. Keeps Tierney’s secret that she wants to help Elloren.

Ra’Ven Za’Nor – Smaragdalfar Elf prince. Escaped from the sublands a few years prior, was disguised for a long time as Kelt. Beloved of Sage Gaffney and father to her child.

Sylmire Talonir – Thirteen year old Alfsigr Elf, escaped from Alfsigroth before they could control her with the Zalyn’or, begs the Amaz to shelter her and help her free the Alfsigr of the power of the Zalyn’or.

Rivyr’el Talonir – Cousin of Sylmire, Alfsigr Elf that escaped Alfsigroth. Powerful Alfsigr sorcerer, the only rebel who has been able to remove the Zalyn’or from the bodies of other Alfsigr. 

Ysilldir Illynrindor – Alfsigr Elf who has been with the Amaz for five years. Warrior and friend to Wynter.

Summary:

Prologue: This takes place fifteen years prior, and details Edwin’s experience at the death of both Tessla and Vale, the Gardner children’s parents, and Carnissa Gardner. Elloren’s parents were against everything the Gardnerians were doing during the Realm War, and had joined the Resistance, helping smuggle Fae families to safety. But they were caught during a rescue of Fae that were being sent off to the Pyrran Isles, and they were quietly executed, and everyone called them war heroes instead of traitors to save the reputation of the Black Witch, who died very shortly after at the hands of Yvan’s father.

Vyvian demands that the children be wandtested, though she agrees to let Edwin raise them. Rafe is powerless, Trystan is powerful but gentle and timid, and then there’s Elloren. Edwin prays that she’ll be powerless, because otherwise she’ll be expected to live up to her grandmother’s destiny, but when she displays a frightening amount of power at her wand testing, Edwin makes the decision to hide it from her and lie to her about it in an attempt to keep her from what was certainly to come.

Prelude:

  • It is the fourth month, and the narrative follows Thierren Stone, a young level five mage of the Styvian sect who is part of Commander Sylus Bane’s unit. The unit is up in the furthest reaches of the northern forest of Gardneria, looking for Dryad Fae that have managed to escape the Gardnerians. Thierran is the picture of a perfect Gardnerian soldier – powerful, dedicated to his young fastmate, and a firm believer of the teachings of his religion, that they are the First Children and everyone else are Evil Ones that need to be purged. It must be all in his head that the trees seem to be whispering to him, demanding that they leave the forest and those within alone.
  • But when they arrive, he gets his first look at the Fae, and finds that they don’t look anything like the illustrations that he’s seen – they look almost like Gardnerians with their deep green skin and dark hair. And these aren’t warriors, they’re old women, children, babies even. The soldiers that were already there poured iron dust over all of them to keep them from using their magic, but they’re not attacking, they’re just forming a barrier between the Gardnerians and the deep wilds. Trying to protect their home.
  • The children are crying and the women are begging, and this is not the glorious reaping that Thierren was told to expect, this is the destruction of families. So he speaks up against his commander, but his commander just repeats the same old story – that these are Evil Ones, disguised to trick you into sympathy. But Thierren knows in his gut that it’s wrong, and he won’t stand for it. So they hold him down as the rest of the soldiers aim their magefire and kill the Dryads where they stand.
  • The narrative follows Vyvian Damon as she attends a mage council meeting in the fourth month. Vogel gives the news that their spies have confirmed that in the Noi lands there is a male Icaral with his wings, Yvan Guriel, the son of the Icaral that slayed the Black Witch even as she killed him. Vyvian realizes that this is the Kelt that her niece was found in bed with, the same niece that has disappeared without a trace, not even her fastmate knowing where she is.
  • Vogel brings in Mavrik Glass, a wandmaker, who displays some runic magic that they’ve been using to try and level the playing field with the rune-wielding Vu Trin. Vogel’s got this creepy bird with too many eyes, one eye that matches Vogel’s eye exactly, so that Vogel can use it to spy. At first the council is weary, their Holy Book saying runic magic is evil, but Vogel convinces them that the Gardnerians should have all the magic in the land, consuming it like they are consuming everything else, and this resonates with Vyvian and the rest.
  • Vogel has Glass show what else the rune magic can do, and Mavrik puts a glamour over himself to make him look like a Vu Trin sorceress. They also have access to a runic portal. Vogel says that he’s going to send Mavrik Glass through the portal with the glamour and the spy bird, track down Yvan Gurial, and slay him to end the prophecy then and there.
  • A military courier comes in and tells the council that Dryads have been found in the northern woods, and that though they were all killed, there could be more of them and that before they died they threatened the Gardnerians that the trees and their guardians would come and take them down. Vogel says that all the forests should be razed and any other Dryads or other Evil Ones will be exposed and taken down.
  • It’s now the fifth month, narration is back with Thierren Stone. They are threatening to dishonorably discharge him from the Mage Guard, which will make him unhirable even as a lowly farmhand. Thierran has not been doing well since the event with the Dryads. He’s been drinking and consuming nilantyr, both illegal, just to block out the nightmares of the Dryads being murdered. He’s been speaking like a heratic, and his own fastmate ran from him in terror. His well-to-do parents tried everything, but no amount of exorcisms or time away has helped him. He’s convinced that the Gardnerians are murderers, not righteous reapers. His current commander, Sylus Bane, has told him that one commander is willing to take him and try to get him into shape. Lukas Grey.
  • In the fifth month, narration switches to Sparrow Trillium, a nineteen year old Urisk girl in the labor camps on the Fae Islands. She and her companion Effrey were once assistants to Mage Florel, the finest dressmaker in Valgard, until the day Fallon Bane decided to ruin everything. She got Mage Florel blacklisted for making Elloren Gardner’s dress in the same fabric she’d chosen. Mage Florel went out of business and Sparrow and Effrey were sent to work for the Banes until all Urisk were ordered out of Gardneria and sent to the Fae Islands.
  • Sparrow is planning escape for herself and Effrey when one of the Mage guards, a creep named Tilor, tells her that a boat with a few Uriskal had tried to escape the night before, but the kraken monsters had consumed them before they could make it half way to the continent. This frightens and saddens Sparrow, as she had friends on that boat, and one of the passengers was only a little girl. Tilor tells her that he expects her to come to his quarters that night, or he’ll report her to the commanders. Sparrow knows that it must be tonight that they’ll make their run for it.
  • Sparrow loads Effrey and their supplies into their small boat. Effrey is in fact a little boy disguised as a girl, as all Urisk males are killed immediately since they are the only ones who have access to powerful geomancy. Effrey has also stolen a little pit dragon, likely from some wealthy guard. Sparrow rows hard, but their boat is overtaken by a kraken. Just as it looks as though all is lost, the little dragon rushes forward and seems to be communicating somehow with the kraken monster. Rather than eat them, the kraken actually pushes them all the way to shore before disappearing, the dragon Raz’zor having saved their lives.
  • Having made it to land on the coast of Gardneria, Sparrow finds an abandoned barn to shelter them in for the rest of the night. But shortly after, a Gardnerian mage comes in, drinks some illegal spirits, and is clearly about to blow up the barn with himself inside it. Sparrow jumps out and tells him to stop, asking him why he would do such a thing. He tells them that his Mage Guard unit murdered more than a dozen Dryads, women and children, and he tried to stop it but failed, and that he won’t be a part of it anymore.
  • Sparrow says if he won’t be a part of the Gardnerian’s reign of terror anymore, then he should help them. She tells him that they came all the way from the Fae islands that night to try to make it east. The mage (Thierren) asks why they did it. And Sparrow answers that they did it to escape the monstrous mages.
  • It is the sixth month, and the narrator shifts to Wynter Eirllyn. Wynter has been staying with the Amaz since Ariel saved her life from the Marfoir. She has been sending her birds, winged kindred, out into the world in search of the dragon Naga. Wynter is overcome with a vision, a vision of a shadow rising, something that goes against nature itself. And then she sees her friend Elloren, and knows that the evil shadow is coming for her. The prophecy is here, Black Witch vs Icaral, and there is no stopping it.

Part 1:

  • It is the sixth month, and we’re back with Elloren Gardner. She’s with the Vin sisters, Kam and Ni, along with a small contingent of Vu Trin, including two powerful Lo Voi, older women who are adept at powerful rune and portal sorcery. They’re in the middle of the isolated Agolith Desert, and she’s been separated from Yvan for long weeks now, missing him terribly. They’re finally going to wand test her, for real. But she’s afraid. She knows what she can do with a random twig and the candle-lighting spell, what destruction might she wreak with a real wand. So before she goes forward, she demands the least powerful wand they have, plus a powerful rune barrier completely surrounding all of the bystanders. Kam Vin thinks this is unnecessary, but Elloren insists.
  • Finally, once everything is prepared, she takes the wand and casts the candle-lighting spell. And releases a fiery inferno so powerful she should be burnt to a crisp, only Yvan’s Wyvern kiss protecting her from the fire, and only the rune barrier protecting the Vu Trin. This is more wand magic than even her famous grandmother could wield, and it is completely out of her control.
  • One of the young Vu Trin immediately tries to come and kill Elloren, only Kam Vin’s decisive action stopping her from killing Elloren. The Vu Trin that Elloren is with seem to be divided, one side wanting to kill her immediately, the other seeing her powerful potential. Eventually, one faction gets on their horses and races off, and Elloren is left only with the Vin sisters, a young warrior named Chim Diec, and the Lo Voi named Chi Nam.
  • They tell her that the others have gone off to tell the Vu Trin leadership of her power, and they will send out assassins for her. The only place safe for her, Chi Nam says, is back in Gardneria with her fastmate Lukas Grey, who seems more and more inclined of late to break with the Gardnerians. Elloren wants to live, obviously, but it’s clearly risky for her to go back to Gardneria and keep her powers hidden. But it’s the only choice while the Vu Trin who are on her side go to their leadership and plead her case. Chi Nam also wants Elloren to look for the weapon that took down all the Lupines in one night, saying that if Elloren can bring them this weapon, Vang Troi might be willing to spare Elloren’s life. Once the execution notice is off her head, they’ll come back for her and begin training her. Elloren agrees.
  • Elloren travels back to the now Gardnerian-controlled Keltania with Ni Vin. Ni Vin almost kills Elloren before she can walk away, but Elloren tells her that her power is the only chance she has to protect literally everyone she loves from the darkness being spread by the Gardnerians. Ni Vin eventually relents, but tells her that if she is captured or broken by the Gardnerians, Ni Vin will have to come and kill her. Elloren understands and takes her leave, back to Lukas Grey.
  • In the sixth month, narration shifts to both Trystan Gardner and Vothendrile Xanthile on the North Twin Island in the Eastern Realm. Vothendrile is a powerful storm Wyvern-shifter in the Wyvernguard that Trystan Gardner is arriving to train in. Vothendrile, along with everyone else in the Wyvernguard, believes that Trystan Gardner, grandson of the Black Witch, does not belong among them. But as soon as he and Trystan meet each other’s eyes, neither can deny that they have a strong attraction to each other, though they’d both be loath to admit it.
  • Trystan knows that the Wyvernguard, even their leader, nobody wants him there. But he is determined to stay. Because he needs to fight the Gardnerians, and the only way he can win is with this army of the East. Vothendrile is assigned to be his personal guard through the day, while there will be another to stand guard outside his room at night. Trystan doesn’t think this is necessary, but the Commander Ung Li demands that Trystan give up his wand and accept the guard, so he does.
  • Vothendrile is determined to break Trystan is make him leave the Wyvernguard, but when they are walking together to Trystan’s room, he is surprised at Trystan’s determination and the truth to his words on how he hates the Gardnerians and what they represent, what they’re doing to the world.
  • Commander Ung Li has roomed Trystan right next to all three of the Death Fae, the primordial Fae who are feared and ridiculed even by the Wyvernguard as well as their fellow Fae for being none-elemental. Vothendrile respects them, but few others do. Trystan, however, when confronted with Sylla Vuul in the hallway, does not seem to fear her, even as her poisonous spiders and scorpions crawl all over him.
  • What does shake Trystan, surprisingly, is that his room has already been graffitied. “Roach” a racial slur for Gardnerians, has been written all over his room, and his uniforms have been slashed to pieces. Vothandrile finds himself shockingly torn, and impressed despite himself at Trystan’s resolve. Trystan goes back out into the hall after Vothandrile is gone and sees that Sylla Vuul is still standing there. She seems surprised that Trystan doesn’t fear her, and tells him that what he does fear is Vothandrile’s beauty. She also tells him that he is as beautiful as Vothandrile, in his way, and to be patient with the Wyvernguard, that she knows his intentions are true. She tells him that what the Wyvernguard should fear is what everyone should fear: the Great Shadow.
  • The same day, in the sixth month, the narration moves to Tierney Calix, Asrai water Fae. She is assigned with the other Fae in the Wyvernguard to the South Twin Island. Immediately upon landing, she is drawn to the powerful Vo River, the biggest river in the whole continent. She dives down into it and fuses with the river, finally feeling as if she’s home.
  • Tierney is introduced to her new roommate, Asra’leen Filor’ian, an Asrai just like her. This is the first time she’s seen another Asrai since she was a young child, and it strikes her again how much of a relief it is to finally be free and among her people. Asra’leen is kind and accepting, immediately taking Tierney under her wing as they go to meet the other Asrai in their unit.
  • Tierney is bathed in the glow of being among her people, for the first time, as they accept her into the fold. She’s introduced to the very beautiful Fyordin Lir, who is the division commander. She’s told that he has also laid claim to the Vo, and is immediately defensive because her gut says that the Vo is her river.
  • The other Asrai ask Tierney about her Asrai name, saying that she should start using it now, leaving behind her old “Crow” ways, another slur for the Gardnerians. But even though Tierney is so happy to finally be among her people, she loves her Gardnerian parents, and her Asrai brother is still trapped in his glamour, and the three of them are living as civilian refugees. Tierney stands up for them, saying that there are Gardnerians who don’t agree with what’s going on, who are ready to fight their own people. Fyordian says that the “Roaches” don’t belong here, especially Trystan Gardner, grandson of the Black Witch. Fyordin says that he should be driven out of the Wyvernguard. Tierney defends him, saying he’s her friend, and she won’t speak ill of her Gardnerian parents, who adopted her and saved her life from their own people during the Realm War, when all Fae were being slaughtered or imprisoned.
  • Fyordin states, in front of everyone, that maybe she doesn’t belong here either if she’s siding with them. Tierney seethes, wondering aloud what happened to all the kinship she was just offered, seemingly retracted the first time she spoke up for herself. She challenges Fyordin for the Vo River, and the river explodes to her call, the river and her fierce Kelpies coming to her side.
  • Across the courtyard she notices one of the Death Fae, watching everything unfold, and she’s aware that Kelpies are not usually aligned with Fae, as they are more primordial than elemental, more like the Death Fae than the Asrai.
  • Tierney goes over to approach the Death Fae, figuring once again she’s an outcast just like they are. Her roommate Asra’leen follows her away, stating firmly that she’s still with Tierney, despite the other Asrai seeming to reject her for her ideas that not all Gardnerians are bad. Tierney tells Asra’leen that she’s going to ask to be assigned to a different division, that she will not work with Fyordin. As she goes over to talk to the Death Fae, Asra’leen warns her that they are seen as demonic in all Eastern religions, that they can thrall anyone with their worst fears. Tierney decides to go over there anyway.
  • Tierney goes over and asks the Death Fae why he’s watching her. He says that her Kelpies are kindred to him as well, and because Trystan spoke of her. Tierney thanks him for being nice to Trystan. In response, the Fae sends tons of poisonous creepy crawlies up and around Tierney, then ends up trying to thrall her, which Tierney cuts off, and the Fae stops. She says he can’t intimidate her, that she’s not like most of the Asrai, she likes the darkest parts of the river, with the Kelpies and all the secret dark things that reside in the bottom of lakes and rivers. He once again tries to thrall her, which she fights off once again, asking him why he keeps trying to do it. He says it’s because he’s curious. They end up having sort of a battle of wits/power.
  • Finally he introduces himself. Viger Maul. Tierney tells him that he will not have an easy time taking over her mind. Viger tells her that he can’t control her mind, just that he can read fear. Tierney asks him to tell her her fears. He says she fears Vogel, she fears for everyone she loves, she also fears never being seen for who she truly is, but also never belonging. Then he tells her she can’t have both of those last two things. She tells him to get out of her head, but he says that she approached him, and all of the sudden he shows her all of the worst fears of her life. Finally Tierney just runs away.
  • Later that evening Tierney sits near the Vo, musing about the defenses of the Eastern Realms. They were enough to keep the Black Witch out during the Realm War, but still she wonders if they will be enough to keep the Gardnerians at bay this time. She notices Viger watching her from afar once again, but when she notices him he disappears into smoke, which is pretty cool. And then she’s approached by Fyordin once again. Tierney asks him what he wants, and he apologizes for making her feel like she no longer belonged. He tells her she’s powerful, and asks her to stay in their Asrai division. Tierney tells him that despite her Western upbringing, the Wyvernguard has her fealty, and so do the Asrai, no matter what. However, so does Trystan Gardner. Fyordin is stubbornly assured that the Gardnerians have no place in the Eastern Realm. Tierney levels with him and tells him about how she and her varied group of friends back at the University were able to accomplish so much. But only with each of the unique strengths they brought to the table, including the Gardnerians. She tells him that he has no idea what’s coming for them.
  • Needing to be away from Fyordin, and away from Viger’s distant gaze, she dives back into the Vo, down to the bottom. Just as she’s about to let herself dissipate and become part of the water, she senses the darkness, the shadows, leaking into the waters of the Vo from one of its tributaries. Tierney promises the Vo that she’ll protect it from the Gardnerians and not let them poison the waters of her river.
  • Still in the sixth month, narration returns to Thierren Stone. Having decided that the only thing that made his life worth living was trying to atone for the horrific things he’d been a part of, Thierren agreed to help Sparrow and Effrey. He spent pretty much all his savings on getting them false work papers for Valgard, so just as soon as he can get his tracking rune off, he’ll take them East, join the army in the Eastern Realm, and fight the Gardnerians that way.
  • Working to earn Sparrow’s trust wasn’t easy. He got into the habit of handing her his wand every time they met, so that she’d be armed with her knife and have the source of his power. It didn’t really shift the dynamic between them, but it helped ease things a bit.
  • Now Thierren is facing his new commander, Lukas Grey, and tells him he’ll do whatever it takes to earn his freedom. Lukas clears the room and says that the reason he took Thierren into his division when nobody else wanted him was because he was unapologetically against what the Gardnerians are doing. Thierran is confused, but then Lukas takes the tracking rune off of him and says that he wants Thierran’s help to bring down Marcus Vogel. 
  • Narration shifts again to Yvan Guryev, hidden away at the Oonlon Military Base in the East. Working with Vang Troi and the other Vu Trin, he exercises his fire power, but cannot help but dwell on missing Elloren.
  • All of the sudden, when Yvan has exhausted his powers, he sees a creepy bird with an extra eye and senses that it’s Vogel, spying on him with rune magic. Before he can do anything, one of the Vu Trin breaks from the rest and attacks him. Yvan realizes, too late, that it must be a glamoured mage, but he doesn’t have any power to fight back, so the vine spears impale him. As his world fades to black and he realizes this is the end, he wants Elloren to be strong without him and fight back against the Gardnerians.

Part 2:

  • In the sixth month, narration is back with Elloren. As Elloren is whisked away in a fine carriage toward her fastmate Lukas, all she can think of is Yvan. When she arrives at the military base where Lukas is currently assigned, she is brought to his tent. She waits in the background while he takes care of all of his military business, then finally he asks her what she wants. Still hating him for fasting to her against her will, but knowing she needs his help, she says she is ready to take her palace with him. Lukas dismisses her, and Elloren thinks that this is it. She’s failed. Lukas won’t take her in. But Thierran, Lukas’s right hand man, tracks her down and says that she’s to travel to the Grey estate in Valgard to await Lukas as he finishes up some business. She’s shown her belongings and sets off again, relieved that Lukas hasn’t actually turned her away.
  • Elloren is brought to the Grey estate, home to Lukas’s parents, and right away she is brought in to meet with Lukas’s mother. Who knows everything, how she fought Lukas at the fasting, how she was found in bed with a Kelt, how she doesn’t wish to be fasted to her son. Mage Evelyn Grey despises Elloren, her feelings that she will never be good enough for her perfect son. She demands that Elloren go to the Victory Ball in Valgard tonight.
  • Evelyn Grey assigns two Urisk, Sparrow and Effrey, to be Elloren’s lady’s maids. Elloren soon recognizes them as the two assistants from the dress shop all those months ago in Valgard. Little Effrey almost knocks over an expensive vase, and Mage Grey threatens to have them beaten, which sickens Elloren.
  • Elloren gets shown to her room, where she is able to stash her luggage away safely, including the White Wand. While in the room, Effrey actually knocks over a vase, one that Elloren hated anyway. Elloren immediately claims responsibility for having broken it, but matters are only worse when Effrey gets down to clean it up and cuts their hand. Elloren immediately wraps it up and asks Sparrow to go to the housekeeper and ask for some apothecary supplies, telling her to say it’s for herself, since she broke the vase. There is a moment of solidarity between Elloren and Sparrow, which strengthens when Elloren notes that Effrey needs glasses, and that’s why they’re so clumsy. This makes Sparrow panic, but Elloren won’t sell Effrey out.
  • Dressed in a dress in flagrant violation of all Gardnerian dress code that Evelyn Grey sent for her, Elloren goes to the ball accompanied by Sparrow. Since Elloren helped Effrey, Sparrow tells her what she knows: that Evelyn Grey will do whatever it takes to break Elloren’s fast with Lukas. The only way a male Gardnerian can have their fastlines removed so they can fast to someone new is if their fastmate dies. And nobody wants Elloren dead more than Fallon Bane, who is furious that Lukas fasted to Elloren. Sparrow warns Elloren that Fallon Bane was at the estate earlier, seemingly conspiring with Evelyn Grey.
  • Armed with a tiny splinter of wood under her fingernail, hoping in desperation that she can use that to defend herself if desperately needed (without setting all of Valgard aflame), Sparrow and Elloren plan to find a place to hunker down in the Council Hall and wait for Lukas to arrive to keep her safe from Fallon Bane.
  • In a hall full of military mages, Elloren knows that to reveal her power, even in self-defense, would be putting herself in Vogel’s power, so she drops her little splinter wand. Sparrow and Elloren settle in to wait, but it isn’t long until Fallon Bane finds her anyway, dismissing Sparrow. Fallon tries to bait Elloren, saying that she and Lukas are together now, that Lukas has given up on her. Fallon has her wand against Elloren’s throat when Sparrow runs back into the room, momentarily distracting Fallon so that Elloren can punch her in the face and run away.
  • Fallon gives chase furiously, determined to kill Elloren, despite the audience in the ballroom. But Elloren doesn’t have fancy shoes on, and Fallon makes the floor icy, intending to trip Elloren but really slowing herself down enough that Elloren manages to escape, out into the garden and away from the crowd.
  • Thinking she’s finally safe enough to wait for Lukas, she finds she isn’t alone. Damion Bane has found her, a threat even worse than his sister. Damion stalks Elloren, telling her that he was about to fast to her that day when Lukas stepped in and stopped it. Lukas saved her from the terrible fate of being fasted to Damon, Elloren realizes, but then Damon is on her, binding her with magic and choking her, saying that Lukas doesn’t care what happens to her, that he’s going to break her himself like he broke his fastmate, who Elloren finds is her dear friend Aislinn. 
  • Before he can really hurt her, Lukas arrives and beats the daylights out of Damion, nearly killing him until Lukas’s father arrives and stops him. Lachlan Grey says that he should have let Damion have her, that she’s a disgrace to Gardnerians and that Lukas should beat some sense into her. Lukas simply says that if Damion Bane touches Elloren again, he’ll kill him. 
  • Once everyone else leaves, Lukas takes Elloren back inside. Sparrow has been sent safely home and the Banes are gone, the brothers to the physician and Fallon herself to the military base for questioning, as everyone in the hall saw her attacking Elloren with wand magic.
  • Lukas takes Elloren somewhere they can talk alone. Elloren needs to ascertain whose side Lukas is really on, because he’s against Vogel, but Elloren needs to know whether he’s against Gardneria as well, since he’s still so firmly entrenched in their military. It’s not safe to tell him who she is and what she can do until she knows. But he saved her life. Damion Bane would have fasted to Elloren, taken her home and raped her, had Lukas not stepped in. Like he probably did to Aislinn, which sickens Elloren to her core.
  • Lukas gives Elloren his word that he’ll protect her, because they are friends, and Elloren is grateful, but still holds back in telling him where she’s been and what she can do. Lukas has to go join Vogel for his address, and Elloren goes back to the hall with everyone else to wait.
  • When Vogel is speaking, Elloren realizes that he has the Shadow Wand. She also is filled with firm resolve to save Aislinn, Sparrow, Effrey, everyone who is still trapped in Gardneria still and needs to get east. Vogel’s big Victory Day announcement is that his spies have found and killed Yvan Guryev, the Icaral of the prophecy.
  • Elloren knows if she stays in the hall she’ll burn it all to the ground, so she runs out, away from everyone, as she sobs and rages and grieves at the news of Yvan’s death. Her true love. Lukas finds her out there and asks to know who else besides him and Vyvian know that Yvan was the Kelt she was found in bed with. She says she doesn’t know, she can’t think, she just has to get out of there. Lukas holds her as she cries over Yvan and their love that could never truly be, and now never will. Lukas can feel that her power has grown simply by the skin-to-skin contact, and he wants Elloren to tell him the truth, but she can’t yet. 
  • Lukas gets them his family’s carriage back to Grey estate, the two of them riding together. Suddenly they’re under attack, Lukas just managing to get a shield up around them before sharp throwing stars are hurled at Elloren. The Kin Hoang have found her. Lukas fights back with his fire, but the assassin is already running, having failed her mission. Lukas and Elloren try to pursue, but she gets away through a portal before they can take her down. The carriage is destroyed and the driver and horses are dead in the crossfire. Lukas and Elloren have to flag down another carriage to take them back to Valgard. 
  • Back in the relative safety of Valgard, Lukas tells the soldiers at the garrison his version of the story, that the Kin Hoang are after him, but before she escaped the assassin swore vengeance on his fastmate as well, which is why Elloren needs a strong guard. One is appointed to her and she and Lukas are bundled into a new carriage and once again head in the direction of the Grey estate.
  • Lukas demands to know why the Kin Hoang are after her. Elloren hedges, still unwilling to tell Lukas her secret until he says the words she needs to hear, that he is against the Gardnerians completely, and she knows he won’t try to use her power for the Gardnerian military. He asks her about the rune stone she was given by Chi Nam, which she’s shocked to find he picked off of her at some point. Lukas tells Elloren that he and Chi Nam are well acquainted and have been playing cat and mouse war games for years now. 
  • To put Lukas off about her powers, she tells Lukas that Chi Nam has sent her to find the weapon that killed the Lupines, which is true. Elloren thinks that it’s Vogel’s Shadow Wand, and Lukas confirms that the Shadow Wand is the most powerful wand he’s ever encountered and he’s pretty sure it played a part in the slaughter of the Lupines. 
  • Elloren asks Lukas straight up if he’s aligned with Vogel or the Gardnerians in ANY WAY. Lukas says no, he’s not aligned with either of them. In fact, he’s been trying to work out the runes protecting Vogel so he can kill him, and he’s been recruiting powerful mages to go and work for the Vu Trin for the eventual overthrow of the Gardnerian military.
  • Finally convinced Lukas is on the right side, Elloren admits her power has been growing, and Lukas asks her to show him through her kiss, which is the only way he could read her before. Elloren tells him that she’s got more power than her grandmother and kisses him. That connection, their lines perfectly mirrored in each other, overwhelms her as usual when she kisses him. Before they can stop kissing their carriage arrives and the door opens to show none other than Marcus Vogel, a young priest, and a large contingent of Level Five mages. The young priest turns out to be Lukas’s brother Silvern.
  • Vogel tells Lukas he’s just triggered a war between the Gardnerians and the Vu Trin. Lukas tells his version of the story, once again, and says that the Kn Hoang assassin was probably looking for Chi Nam’s rune stone. Vogel says that they just captured a large group of the Kin Hoang, who seemed to be trying to break into Lukas’s estate, and an army of the Vu Trin is forming in the Eastern Pass. Vogel wants to know what the Vu Trin could possibly be looking for.
  • Lukas realizes that Elloren must be the Black Witch, but he tells Vogel he has no idea why the Vu Trin are after him. Vogel tells Lukas he needs to come back to Valgard with him. Lukas arranges for her guard and then asks Elloren, in a whisper, how much power she can access. She tells him all of it, then makes her swear to tell no one.
  • Alone in her room, all Elloren can think about is escape. She and Lukas both need to get out of the Western Realm, along with their allies. The sudden urge to keep the White Wand close overwhelms her, so she wraps it up tight so it doesn’t touch her skin and puts it back in her boot.
  • Lukas and his father arrive home, and Elloren is able to crack the door open and spy on their conversation. Lukas lies smoothly to his father about why the Vu Trin might be so angry at him. But then Lukas says that he has one month to assassinate Chi Nam, for real, or else he’ll be permanently stripped of his rank and assigned to Damion Bane.
  • Lachlan tells Lukas that Elloren is trouble, but Lukas assures him that their fasting is a good thing, that good, strong Mage babies will come from their union. Lukas says that Vogel is insisting upon a sealing ceremony the next night, which he will preside over. Lachlan demands to know the truth of why he let Elloren go after their fasting without sealing the union. Lukas tells him that he was busy with work, and that he was considering whether or not to dispose of Elloren. The two have a further discussion about how Lukas will need to assert control over Elloren and their future children.
  • Sickened, Elloren goes back to her room and locks the door, hoping to take a moment to figure out what, if anything, that Lukas just said was true.
  • Lukas easily unlocks the door and Elloren levels her wooden hairbrush and brandishes it at Lukas, telling him that she heard everything and that if any of it was true she’d fight him. Lukas promises none of it was true except for the fact that Vogel insisted on the sealing ceremony. Lukas asks Elloren to tell him everything that’s happened, and she fills him in on her time with the Vu Trin in the desert and the insane power she possesses. 
  • Lukas confirms that they need to get out of there, but they’re under heavy guard from the Gardnerians. Their only chance to escape will be after the Sealing Ceremony, when the couple goes off into the wild for the Blessing of Dominion. But they will have to go through with the Sealing. Elloren tells him about her White Wand, that she believes that it can stand a chance against Vogel’s horrific Shadow Wand. Elloren insists that Sparrow and Effrey also escape East with them, along with Aislinn Greer, saying she won’t leave them behind in Gardneria. Lukas agrees, mostly because he already intended on taking the Urisk lady’s maids, and also because taking Aislinn would not only save her from a horrible life with Damion, but also because it will draw Damion to Lukas and give Lukas a chance to kill him.
  • Elloren is very nervous about being intimate with Lukas for the Sealing. There is obvious attraction between the two of them, but Elloren can’t help feeling that her first time being with a man should be with someone she loves and who loves her in return. That it should have been with Yvan. This hurts Lukas, she can tell, but she can’t take it back.

Part 3:

  • It is the sixth month, and narration is back with Sparrow. Lukas gives Sparrow and Thierren the news that Elloren is actually the Black Witch, and he asks for their help in smuggling the two of them, along with themselves, out of the Western Realm as soon as possible. Sparrow considers the implications of this, and Thierren seems to be of the same mind. They’ll do it: they’ll all head East tomorrow morning.
  • Sparrow goes about her daily tasks in the Grey household, thoughts consumed by their impending escape. She is approached in the linen closet by Silvern Grey, Lukas’s priest brother. Silvern comes on to her, aggressively, threatening to get her sent back to the Fae Island if she so much as tries to fight back. He’s about to rape her when Evelyn Grey finds them and dismisses her son. Then she tells Sparrow that she should dress more conservatively, put her hair in a cap, and do her chores earlier to avoid being caught by the men in the house. She needs to stop tempting them.
  • Sparrow tells Thierren about what happened with Silvern, and Thierren is so enraged, he wants to kill him. Sparrow can barely look at Thierren, he looks so much like all those hated mages who have taken advantage of Urisk like her for her whole life. Thierren is still raging, saying that he can’t treat her like that, and Sparrow explodes, saying that of course he can, they all can, and it’s a miracle that she hasn’t been repeatedly raped. Thierren seems to realize that he really cannot imagine the life or experiences of Urisk women like Sparrow. Sparrow gathers herself and says that they have to make it east so they can join the Vu Trin and come back with them to fight the Magedom and liberate the Fae Islands.
  • Still in the sixth month, narration shifts to Elloren. Sparrow is helping her prepare for the Sealing Ceremony, doing her hair. Elloren asks Sparrow if Lukas told her the plan, and Sparrow confirms it, saying she also knows that Elloren is the Black Witch. 
  • Suddenly the door opens and in strides Aunt Vyvian. She dismisses Sparrow and takes over doing Elloren’s hair. Vyvian makes it clear that she thinks Elloren is the worst of all the race traitors, even worse than her brothers and her uncle. Then she tells Elloren that Edwin was once in love with an Urisk woman and gave her all of his money to travel East to safety. Elloren didn’t know this, but so much about her uncle now makes sense. Vyvian makes it clear that Elloren is to do exactly as Lukas and his family command her, and that she will have children as soon as possible, because one of them will be the next Black Witch. She finishes off by saying that they have a pretty good idea where Elloren’s brothers are, and if she fights Lukas in any way, Vyvian will make sure that they are tracked down and killed in the most brutal way. Then she leaves.
  • Sparrow re-enters and starts working on Elloren again. Elloren tells her that Vyvian killed her uncle. Sparrow tells her that the Magedom will destroy everyone she loves unless she survives to fight them. Elloren tells Sparrow to stop her work and sit and have tea with her. Sparrow does, and the two of them talk about Elloren having to seal the fasting, and Sparrow asks if there is someone else she wishes she could be with. Elloren says yes, but he’s dead. Elloren asks how Sparrow is treated here with the Banes, and Sparrow says Lukas is good to her, but that his parents are cruel, and then she confesses what Silvern tried to do to her earlier. Elloren asks Sparrow to tell her the whole story, how she came to be here rather than the assistant in the dress shop. Sparrow hesitates, but then tells Elloren the whole ugly, sad story.
  • Later in the evening, Elloren is dressed by the dressmaker and her aunt in her green Sealing Ceremony outfit. When the dressmaker leaves, Vyvian tells Elloren that as her only female relative, she is supposed to have a talk with Elloren about what the evening will entail, because as an unfasted woman she is not privy to the secrets of being with a man. But Vyvian says she will not be doing that, because she wants Lukas to surprise her in the worst way and for her to be bound and beaten into submission. Then she is the first to tell Elloren the traditional phrase of sealing “Sanguin’in”, which means “bloody the sheets”.
  • Elloren is overcome once again by grief for Yvan, how all of this should be with him. But she steels herself, knowing that she can’t fall apart with grief if she’s going to survive.
  • The time nears for the ceremony, and Elloren goes into her sitting room to wait, where she sees Sparrow and Thierren in close conversation, clearly much more closely acquainted than she was led to believe. Before she can say anything, an Ishkart assassin drops from the ceiling into their room. The assassin grabs Elloren and almost kills her, Thierren and Effrey unable to do anything despite their efforts, but then Raz’zor the dragon leaps onto the assassin from the rafters, distracting the assassin enough to get away. With Raz’zor’s help, Thierren is able to kill the assassin. Elloren comes to a few stunning truths: that there is an unbroken dragon in her room and that Effrey must be male, because only male Urisk have geomancy powers like he just displayed. 
  • Just as Elloren is recovering, Raz’zor leaps for her neck this time, and Effrey jumps forward to stop him just in time. As Effrey and Raz’zor communicate, Elloren realizes that Effrey is the even more rare type of Urisk male who can mindlink to dragons. Effrey tells Elloren that Raz’zor knows she is the Black Witch, and that the trees tell him that she is an evil power that must be destroyed. Elloren says that she isn’t a threat to the trees, and that she is a friend to Wyvernkin. Raz’zor escapes Effrey’s hold and sinks his teeth into Elloren’s shoulder, and then Effrey tells them that Raz’zor confirms that not only is she an ally, she is bonded to Wyvernkin, with Wyvernfire in her mage lines. Raz’zor says that he will not kill Elloren, but that he wants to know the truth, so they mindlink together, forehead to forehead. 
  • Effrey translates, saying that Raz’zor sees that she helped save Naga the Unbroken, but that he sees that Elloren is mate bonded to a Wyvernkin, but he is angry that she is about to be bound to another. Elloren lashes out, saying that she doesn’t want to, but her Wyvern mate is dead and she has no choice. Everyone in the room realizes that it must have been Yvan Guryev, the dead love she references. Raz’zor is sympathetic, but will not pledge fealty. After some thought, Elloren asks Raz’zor if he will, in fact, pledge fealty to her, promising him that if she ever gets control of her power and escapes those trying to do her harm, she will use her vast power to fight for all unbroken Wyvernkin. Raz’zor agrees, and the two of them form a blood bond of fealty, and now Elloren can speak mind-to-mind with Raz’zor as well. And with that, it’s time for Elloren’s Sealing Ceremony.
  • Aunt Vyvian leads Elloren to the altar where Lukas and Vogel are waiting. Lukas and Elloren join their hands together and Vogel begins the ceremony. It starts with Lukas showing his dominion over every element: fire, wind, water, light, and finally earth. The traditional way to show dominion over earth is by destroying a little tree. The small tree is brought out, and it recognizes Elloren as a Dryad and speaks to her mind. She finds that when Lukas destroys this small tree it destroys a little part of her too. Vogel speaks the final words and presses his wand to Elloren and Lukas’s joined hands. 
  • Elloren is suddenly overcome by the power of Vogel’s Shadow Wand. It invades her lines and she and Lukas brace against it, she is sure she’s about to be overcome. But then suddenly the power is gone, leaving Elloren with the crippling ability to sense the mage lines of every single guest at the ceremony.  She can also see that the mage lines of the four mages that guard Vogel flow directly into his wand, giving Vogel direct access to their power. Vogel can sense the power in Elloren, and demands that Lukas bring her to him tomorrow morning for wand testing, even though Lukas says he’s already tested her many times.
  • Lukas and Elloren kiss, and the ceremony is over. Lukas uses Elloren’s power to cast a shield around her lines, protecting her from the now overwhelming sense of power within her, and from Vogel’s probing. The two of them head into the reception, where there is dancing and food. “Well wishers” come up to them in the receiving line, many are Lukas’s military comrades, who make euphemistic jokes that fully exclude Elloren, as she has not been let into exactly how things will go on her sealing night. Elloren is really uncomfortable and just wants to leave, so the two of them sneak off. Elloren tells Lukas that she can sense everyone’s power, everyone’s lines now. Lukas says that Vogel was probably trying to take her power, but when he couldn’t he just left her lines wide open to the reception of everyone else’s power.
  • The two of them are finally able to fully excuse themselves from the reception and go to the Sealing Chamber, aka Lukas’s bedroom. But not before Lukas notices that there is a ridiculous amount of military power gathered. Dragons, battalions, so many Level Five mages. Vogel says it’s to protect not only them from the Vu Trin, but most of the Mage Council is there as well, and they need protection. Still seems like overkill to Lukas, but they shake it off and go on their way, feeling like Vogel knows exactly what Elloren is capable of and unwilling to let her get away.
  • Back in Lukas’s bedroom, away from the guards at last, Lukas surprises Elloren once again by using a rune wand to form a rune barrier around the room. They can now talk freely and it has the added benefit of blocking Elloren’s perception of the guard’s mage lines. They discuss their escape the next morning and how much tougher it’s going to be now that the suspect Vogel knows what Elloren is. Elloren also tells Lukas she wants to stay sealed with him once they go to Noi lands, and even though the sexist fasting spell allows Lukas to be with whoever he wants while locking Elloren to Lukas alone, Lukas tells her he doesn’t want to be with anyone else, only her.
  • Elloren is nervous about being so intimate with Lukas, but Lukas assures her he doesn’t believe in aggression when it comes to sex, that he’d never force himself on anyone. Elloren says again that she hates all the jokes and the “sanguin’in” talk, saying that she feels like the target of the jokes, but she’s not allowed to be in on them. Lukas assures her that none of this is a joke to him, and that once she’s got control of her power she can come back and blast a hole through anyone who ever said “sanguin’in” to her.
  • To help relax her, Lukas got some illegal wine, per Elloren’s request, and they drink the fancy tree wine that Lukas brought, Elloren enjoying it very much because it’s so woodsy. Elloren asks Lukas if he’s been with many women, and he tells her he’s been with a few Vu Trin sorceresses of a similar rank who expressed a mutual interest in him. Sex isn’t such a rigid, traditional thing with the Eastern cultures, so though he’s experienced, he didn’t go ruining anyone’s life by taking their virginity without being sealed to them. This relaxes Elloren, and they drink more wine and then start to get into it. He gives Elloren some Sanjire root, which prevents pregnancy. They talk about Elloren’s time in Cyme with the Amaz, and how she made friends with Valasca Xanthrir. Lukas is a patient, thorough lover, making Elloren’s first time enjoyable and using Ellusian oil (aka ye olde lube) to make sure she isn’t hurt, and they certainly don’t “bloody the sheets”. But by the end of it, though it was very enjoyable, Elloren feels Lukas pulling away somehow.
  • Elloren wakes up in the morning to find Lukas already dressed and ready. She gets caught up in feelings of shame and regret, regret that she’ll never get to do this with Yvan, and shame that she’s naked and uncomfortable. Lukas comes over and tells her that he plans on courting her properly once they’ve made it to safety, and that she isn’t alone. She’s grateful to him trying to make her feel better, and they have a tender moment before Lukas once again helps her weave a solid shield over her mage lines to protect against Vogel.
  • The two of them go down to the Sealing Breakfast, everything that was green for last night’s ceremony now awash in red to symbolize the bloody sheets in crass Gardnerian tradition. Elloren is uncomfortably aware that everyone in that room is staring at the new lines on their wrists that confirm what they did last night. They approach the table with Vogel and the rest of the Mage Council, and Vogel makes her so angry that a tendril of her fire magic breaks through Lukas’s careful barrier, just enough for Vogel to pick up on it. He tells Lukas once again that he’s to bring Elloren to him after the Blessing of Dominion for wand testing, and Lukas agrees. Vogel also tells them he has a small guard to send with them into the forest, which is completely against tradition, but Vogel insists. 
  • Elloren and Lukas head into the forest with their guard, and they are forced to implement the contingency plan they came up with just before the breakfast. Lukas makes a show of forcing himself on Elloren as she pleads for him to stop, knowing full well that the guards will turn away so that Lukas can do whatever he pleases with her. Using her kiss as a way to pull her power, Lukas is able to cast a blazingly fast spell, using vines to impale every single guard before they can so much as raise their wands. However, one does utter a loud death rattle, so they know their time is short. Grabbing the supplies they stashed behind the tree, they make a run for it.
  • Just as it looks like there are too many guards and their head start wasn’t good enough, a blue explosion rocks the garden where the majority of the guards, including the Mage Council and Vogel, are. After they recover, Elloren and Lukas look back to see that the Vu Trin are attacking the survivors of the blast, along with a contingent of sapphire blue Noi dragons. Elloren realizes that this means everyone is dead: Vogel, Vyvian, most of the Mage Council, Lukas’s entire family. Lukas just shakes his head and says that they got the diversion they needed, so they’ve got to keep moving. But they don’t move quick enough to see gray magic clearly and methodically taking down all the Vu Trin. It’s Vogel, having somehow survived. He kills every last Vu Trin, every last Noi dragon, and then he sends a blast of searching power toward them. Lukas tackles Elloren to the ground, mouth to mouth, throwing every bit of power he has into the shield, entirely suppressing all of her magic. It’s enough, because Vogel’s power passes over them and continues on.
  • Lukas and Elloren continue to run through the wilds until they find Thierren, who has three horses saddled and ready as well as a change of clothes for Elloren. Lukas tells Thierren what happened at the estate, then puts an extra shield on Elloren to keep the Vu Trin from tracking her as well. The three of them ride a distance to an abandoned guard tower to find Sparrow, Effrey, and Raz’zor waiting for them, along with Aislinn.
  • Aislinn and Elloren have a brief but emotional reunion, Aislinn clearly the victim of prolonged abuse at the hands of Damion Bane. She tells Elloren that she is going to join the new Lupine pack in the East. Elloren is overjoyed that she’s going to get to be with Jarod again, but Aislinn is quick to say that Jarod will never want her now, that Damion made her do terrible, vile things, holding over her the threat of doing them to her serving girl instead, who is only twelve years old. So Aislinn is going to have Jarod turn her into a Lupine and then she is going to come back and take care of Damion Bane herself.
  • Elloren and Lukas have to go, they will be separating from the others so as to travel faster. Thierren will be going with the women and Effrey to protect them as they travel, and Elloren sends Raz’zor to go with them, even though he wants to stay with her. But she convinces the little dragon that the other group needs his protection more, so he agrees, saying he’ll find her in Noi lands.
  • Elloren and Lukas ride hard to the east, stopping only occasionally to give the horses some rest and to kiss for a moment to help renew Elloren’s shield. They get to a section of the forest that feels particularly ancient, and those ancient trees clearly hate Elloren. Lukas can feel it too, but assures her that the trees are like Level One mages: all power, no access. Once they make it to a thinner part of the forest, a storm brews in and they have to stop for the night. Lukas builds them a little shelter using his earth magic. Lukas doesn’t think that Vogel will be able to find them where they are, but his magic is clearly demonic and growing beyond what should be possible.
  • Elloren can’t help but start to panic, that Vogel will catch her, that this war is her fault, that everyone she loves in the East will be destroyed by the Gardnerians. Lukas tells her that she needs to keep control of herself and keep calm, her panic is causing her magic to flare and try to break through the shields. Lukas helps calm her down for now, and assures her that he will teach her everything she needs to know to protect herself and control her magic. The two of them share a tender moment and then Elloren asks for the Sanjire root, and the two of them share a night of passion while on the run.
  • Elloren wakes up the next morning to find that the trees have managed to take action against her, pulling her mage lines in all the wrong directions so they can’t flow into her wand hand, something they shouldn’t be able to do. Just when she’s trying to come to terms with that, a blast of Vogel magic hits her, letting her know that Vogel knows she’s alive and knows what direction they’re traveling in. The two of them get on their horses and continue East as fast as possible, Lukas telling Elloren that he knows of a Noi portal that they can use to get further East.
  • Soon Elloren realizes that they’re not alone. Luckily, the two riders they encounter are none other than Chi Nam and Valasca. Lukas had called out to Chi Nam using the rune stone, and he’s relieved to have the two powerful sorceresses join them. Valasca tells them that the Amaz sent her to kill Elloren. But she and Chi Nam are of a similar mind that it’s better to keep her alive for now.
  • As the four of them ride toward the portal, Chi Nam tells them from the Vu Trin perspective what happened the day before. The Vu Trin forces were able to take out the Mage Council hall in Valgard as well as a few other military bases before their forces were struck down by the mage guard. Most of the Council, including Lukas’s family, is dead, Vogel the main survivor. He has taken sole control of the government, sent out a draft to all male Gardnerians, and declared war on Noilaan. 
  • Elloren asks if Kam and Ni Vin, as well as Chim Diec, the other sorceresses that defended her life in the desert, are okay. Valasca says they were fine, not even disciplined because they were simply following Chi Nam’s orders. Chi Nam has a warrant out for her arrest however. Elloren tells them that the weapon that took out the Lupines was Vogel’s Shadow Wand, which the sorceresses already figured out. They believe it is the mythical counterforce to Elloren’s White Wand.
  • The group reaches the portal, which takes about an hour to charge up and be ready to go. In the meantime, Valasca tells Elloren that she’s going to put a glamour on her to disguise her as an Elfhollen maiden, because she’ll be far less recognizable and there is a lot of sympathy in the East for the Elfhollen. The powerful, one of a kind glamour belonged to Ra’Ven Za’Nor, Sage Gaffney’s love and the father of her baby. Once the glamour is in place, Chi Nam puts a Noi language rune on her as well, so now she can speak and understand any of the major languages in both Realms. Chi Nam also strengthens the anti-tracking shield that is already on Elloren, hoping to keep both the Vu Trin and Vogel from tracking her easily.
  • Lukas and Chi Nam go off to patrol the perimeter while they wait for the portal to charge, leaving Valasca and Elloren to chat. Valasca tells Elloren her theory that the reason all of the prophecies, the ones from each land, paint her in a bad light as the Black Witch is because the prophecies all come from trees, and the trees have made it very clear that they are biased against her. Then Valasca asks about her and Lukas’s relationship. Elloren confirms that they are very good friends now and lovers both. Valasca tells Elloren how sorry she is to have heard about Yvan. But then she tells Elloren that every single one of them fighting in this war are going to lose things precious to them, but that they do it so that others don’t suffer the same fate. Valasca is putting the fates of all of her people, every woman and child in the Amaz, on Elloren’s shoulders, that her power is the only thing that can save them. Elloren understands what this means and is filled with determination to master her power.
  • Chi Nam and Lukas return just as Elloren’s demonic rune starts to tingle, and without any warning a giant scorpio monster bursts out of the trees, attacking them. It’s covered in runes, including a deflection rune, and eyes, so many horrifying eyes. Lukas and Valasca manage to fight it off, but Elloren can feel Vogel’s shadow power in her lines, even after the creature is dead. She’s filled with panic, sure that Vogel is going to enslave her magic. Lukas tells her that she has to get it together, that it’s just a thrall, it’s not real, but Elloren can’t escape her wild panic. So Lukas, Valasca, and Chi Nam blast her with their magic, telling her she needs to fight back against their thrall. Fear and panic turning to rage, Elloren fights them off with a deafening blow. Elloren whips out her wand and points it at Lukas’s throat, telling him to never attack her again, that she could destroy him right here. Lukas says that she could, which is why she should stop acting weak. Elloren comes down from her anger and tells them that they need to train her like a warrior, she needs to be combat ready. Lukas agrees.
  • The four of them consider the creature that just attacked them, which was generally shaped like a desert scorpio, but warped with Vogel’s shadow rune magic. As the portal becomes almost fully charged, a whole swarm of the horrific scorpios, all as warped and cursed as the first, burst into the clearing, ready to attack. There are too many to fight off, but the warriors do their best, Elloren’s only weapon a pile of sharp rocks that she throws to distract them. Each beast has a large, pale green eye that Elloren realizes is a Vogel eye, and once again his panic-inducing thrall comes over her. But this time she’s ready for it: thinking of all those in the East she loves and is sworn to protect, she blasts her magic power out, destroying Vogel’s thrall over her. 
  • Finally, the portal is ready, but the scorpios are still coming. One attacks Lukas, blood spraying, as Elloren is prevented from trying to help him by Valasca throwing her bodily through the portal.

Part 4:

  • Elloren tumbles through the portal, followed by Chi Nam, Valasca, and finally Lukas, who has a horrible gash from the scorpio across his chest. Chi Nam uses rune magic to seal the wound, but his power continues to drain, so Elloren kisses him and floods him with her magic, almost to the point where he’s Magedrunk. But her magic along with Chi Nam’s saves Lukas’s life. Elloren tells everyone that one of the scorpios was marked with Vogel’s eye.
  • They’ve arrived in the Agolith Desert, at Chi Nam’s Vonor, which is a Lo Voi sanctuary created by the crone to practice her sorcery. It is incredibly isolated, with military level protections, not to mention surrounded by desert storms from all sides, difficult if not impossible to get to, even if you knew where it was. Even still, it’s too close to Gardneria for comfort, and Chi Nam immediately starts charging it again to bring them even further east, but the charging process will take around four weeks so that all of them can get through it.
  • Though they are all eager to get to Noi lands, this environment provides a great area for Elloren to train with her magic: it’s remote, and Elloren can learn to guard herself against wraith bats, which feed on fear.
  • Valasca comes in from the perimeter with a large snake for them to eat for dinner. She also gives Lukas her flask of tirag, to help with the pain as he takes the evening to recover from his wounds. Valasca serves up the cooked snake, which Elloren actually really likes. Lukas gets a bit drunk off the tirag, letting himself be more open and vulnerable, particularly with PDA and flirting. After dinner Chi Nam takes them inside the Vonor proper, which has multiple rooms separated by curtains. Elloren elects to share a room with Lukas, but puts her bedroll on the opposite side of the room. Lukas tells her that he’s never wanted anything in his life as much as he wants her. She says that he has her, they’re fasted. But Lukas confirms what Elloren feels in her heart when he says that no, he doesn’t. Elloren thinks about how she can only give Lukas a tiny piece of her heart, when the rest of it is shattered over the loss of Yvan.
  • The next morning the group goes out to the desert to start Elloren’s wand training. Lukas wants to control the power through Elloren’s wand, but he wants her to use her own power and cast the candle lighting spell. Remembering the last time she tried this, Elloren forces Chi Nam, Valasca, and Lukas behind a shield for protection, even though right now she doesn’t have a real wand, it’s just a tree branch in the shape of one. But when she casts the spell, rather than pushing fire out, her fire is lit within her and were she not protected with Yvan’s Wyvernfire, it would have burnt her alive. It turns out the trees spent weeks mapping out her lines, waiting for the perfect moment to turn her own power against her. Now Elloren can’t train in wand magic, she has to wait until they can get east and get her to sorcerers that will be able to untangle her lines and break the hold the trees have on her.
  • For now, they’ll train Elloren in runic weaponry instead. Valasca gives her a knife and tells her to throw it at a nearby target. Despite never having used a weapon before, Elloren senses the White Wand powering up, and she’s able to throw the knife with perfect precision and accuracy. They test it a bunch, and even with Lukas holding the Wand, Elloren has been given this gift by the Wand of perfect aim. Next they throw rune sorcery back into the mix. Lukas and Valasca spar with their rune weapons, Valasca besting Lukas each time. Then Valasca and Lukas try to double team Chi Nam, but she takes them down without a hair out of place.
  • Valasca gives Elloren the Ash’rion blade, the most powerful runic weapon the Amaz people possess. It’s complex, but preloaded with spells, so all she needs to do is press the runes in the right combination to attack and defend. Elloren says it should be easy, since she can get a sense of what kind of magic is charging before the user casts. This is unusual, apparently, and Chi Nam tells Elloren that she’s magically empathetic. 
  • The group decides on training Elloren in righting with rune weaponry, as well as honing her Wand-gifted skills with the blades themselves. Elloren asks Valasca to train her like an Amaz warrior, which is going to be rough, but Elloren finally feels like she’s ready to begin.

Part 5:

  • It is the sixth month, and narration is with Wynter Eirllyn in the Amaz city of Cyme. The Gardnerians and the Noi have just declared war on each other. Wynter is going to meet with Queen Alkaia due to a mystery summons. The women and children of the Amaz all fear the war that will soon be at their doorstep, because the Amazkaran are the only ones left in the Western Realms not allied with the Gardnerians and Alfsigr. 
  • Wynter is brought before the queen only to find another Alfsigr, a young girl, already there. Wynter recognizes the girl, Sylmire Talonir, from her time living in Alfsigroth. The girl is only about thirteen, and it’s clear she traveled a long way on her own.
  • Sylmire pleads protection from the Alfsigrs with the Amaz, because her own people will kill her if they find her. The queen asks why this is, and Sylmire tells them it’s because she escaped Alfsigroth with the Zalyn’or, before it was fused to her. The Zalyn’or necklace is fused into the skin of every Alfsigr Elf when they are thirteen. It is said to imprint them with knowledge of the Alfsigr religion and traditions. What Sylmire tells them is that she’s discovered it is actually used for mind control. Not only does it control every Alfsigr to be of one mind of their traditions and culture, it tamps down on emotion and all feelings of sexual attraction. She also tells Wynter that her brother Cael and Rhys have been captured by the Alfsigr and will be shunned and cast down into the sublands with the Smaragdalfar, where they will likely be killed for being Alfsigr.
  • Wynter and the other Alfsigr in the room, Ysilldir, are shocked by this. Both have the Zalyn’or within them, but they were able to be strong enough to escape. Sylmire says that only the strongest of the Alfsigr are able to keep even a fraction of their minds once the Zalyn’or has hold. And when Sylmire challenges Wynter and Ysilldir on things they have only ever thought in their own minds, they know it to be true. Wynter has hated herself for being born Icaral, has wanted nothing more than to be a true and pious Elf, free of her evil wings. But little Pyrgo, the Gardnerian Icaral that was saved by Elloren and Yvan, comes into the room and is proud of her wings and her fire, and Wynter looks at the little girl and wants that for herself.
  • Queen Alkaia says that she believes Sylmire’s story, but that all of the powerful sorceresses of the Amaz have tried to lyft Ysilldir’s Zalyn’or, but have been unable to. Sylmire says that only an Alfsigr rune sorcerer can lift the Zalyn’or, and that the Amaz should seek the help of her cousin Rivyr’el Talonir, who is male. The Amaz refuse, because to work with a male goes against everything the Amaz stand for. Alkaia offers Sylmire refuge, but says that she will have her own sorceresses work with renewed energy on figuring out how to do this themselves, so that they can free all the women of sunland Elfinkin.
  • After the meeting is over Wynter goes to talk with her friend Ysilldir about what they have just found out about themselves. They both wish to be free of the Zalyn’or, though even thinking that is difficult. Wynter remembers how her brother Cael and his friend Rhys were both so rebellious that they were given the Zalyn’or when they were only eleven years old, and that it tamped down their anger and rebellious actions, though they never gave up their love for Wynter, despite the fact that they were told she is an evil Icaral. And even before Wynter was given her Zalyn’or, she was always withdrawn due to the hatred of her kind in Alfsigroth, but she had moments of contentment and peace. It wasn’t until she had the Zalyn’or fused into her that she truly believed she was an evil, demonic creature. 
  • Ysilldir wonders if they would be able to experience romantic attraction without their Zalyn’or, because Ysilldir has another Amaz woman, a Smaragdalfar Elf named Tamalyyn, who is deeply in love with her and convinced that they belong together, but Ysilldir is unable to feel that desire. Wynter wonders if she could have returned Ariel’s love were it not for her Zalyn’or. Ysilldir and Wynter decide that they are going to find Rivyr’el, against the wishes of the Amaz, because he can free them from the Zalyn’or.
  • It is the sixth month, in Alfsigroth, and the narrator is Rhysindor Thorim. Rhys and Cael have been imprisoned by the Alfsigr for weeks, and now the time has come for them to be formally shunned and cast out of Alfsigroth, cast down to the sublands to be imprisoned with the Smaragdalfar. Rhys sees two Alfsigr doves, and worries that they might be messengers, bringing the image of himself and Cael being tortured back to Wynter, his beloved, though he’s never told her how he feels. But not even the Zalyn’or has been able to suppress his feelings for his best friend’s sister. 
  • The monarch and a priestess come and remove Cael and Rhys’s Zalyn’or necklaces from within their bodies. Rhys is lit up for the first time in years with an emotion long suppressed by the Zalyn’or: rage. Cael calls out the Alfsigr for what they do to control their people, but the priestess simply opens up the ground and casts them down to the sublands, inside the mountain. Where they are immediately apprehended by Smaragdalfar, weapons pointed at their heads.
  • It is the sixth month, narration is back with Vothendrile Xanthile. Vothe and Trystan Gardner have been summoned before their leader, Ung Li, who tells them that Elloren has been found to be the Black Witch. This is a complete shock to Trystan and Vothe. Ung Li tells them that Elloren was most likely killed in the attack of the Western Vu Trin against the Mage Council. But on the slim chance she’s alive, she is likely trying to make her way east. Ung Li tells Trystan that he is to bring Elloren straight to the Wyvernguard “for protection” if she seeks him out. Trystan says he will do so, which Vothe knows is a lie. Vothe is resolved that if the Black Witch still lives, she won’t for long, because he’ll take her out himself.
  • It is the sixth month, narration is with Tierney Calix. Tierney has just found out that Elloren is the Black Witch, and though the notices throughout the Wyvernguard say that they are looking for Elloren to protect her, she knows that Elloren will be killed without mercy if they find her. The Death Fae Viger feels Tierney’s fear for Elloren, and asks why she would be afraid for the Black Witch. Tierney is unsure whether she can trust Viger, but he senses what she’s about to do anyway: send her Kelpies out to look for Elloren. Tierney tells Viger that Elloren is not what they think she is, that she wants to fight the Gardnerians and bring balance to Earthia. Viger says he will not reveal what Tierney is going to do. Before she can send them off, the Kelpies tell Tierney that something unnatural is here, desert scorpios in the forests of the Eastern Realm, far from where they should be.

Part 6:

  • In the sixth month, Elloren is the narrator. It’s the same afternoon as the last time we saw Elloren in part 4, having just learned about her ability to have perfect aim and use runic weapons. Valasca gets her set up right away with a large Noi runic text to start memorizing the runes and their combinations. Only light mages or runic sorcerers can charge the runes, but anyone who knows the spells can use the rune charged weapons. Mages like Elloren and Lukas can also amplify the charged ruins with their affinity power. Elloren finds that the finger combinations are made easier due to her years of training with the violin.
  • That evening Elloren gets her first glimpse of the wraith bats, huge monsters in the shape of a bat but the size of a panther. Lukas tells her that they’re drawn to her fear. He tells Elloren she has no reason to fear them, that she could take them all down with just the power she learned today. It doesn’t really relieve her fear, so Lukas goes out and shows her, dealing with them himself. Elloren steals herself to be strong like Lukas.
  • Elloren and Lukas go in to bed together, taking their bedrolls far into the cave system of the Vonor for some privacy. Elloren takes the last of the Sanjire root, so this is to be their last coupling until they are able to restock in Noi lands. Elloren is finally able to realize some of what she’s been holding back, her love for Lukas finally able to come through her hurt from Yvan.
  • The next morning everything changes. Elloren is woken by a bucket of freezing water thrown over her, Lukas and Valasca coldly telling her this is the true beginning of her warrior training, that she asked to be trained like the Amaz apprentices are. They force her, naked, to the underwater river below and make her dunk. Valasca then draws runes all over her body, runes that will draw on her affinities to power up the runes on the blades she’ll be using, along with weapon-retrieval runes for her hands, so she can call back thrown weapons with a press of her palms. Elloren tries and mostly fails not to be upset at the way they’re treating her, even though she asked for it.
  • Three weeks go by as Elloren continues her training in the Amaz style. Every morning she dunks in the cold water to reign in her reactions to discomfort. She is pushed hard by Lukas and Valasca morning, noon, and night, throwing stars, blades, any weapons they have, and after that studying until the rune spells and patterns on the blades are second nature. And still Elloren must fight the resentment for how they’re treating her, especially Lukas, even though she knows it’s all to help her.
  • On day twenty she’s finally alone with Lukas for the first time since they were last in bed together, and she loses her grip, turning on Lukas, venting to him that she feels like she’s nothing but a weapon to him now. They kiss and Lukas finally admits it, says the words that he loves her, but that they cannot coddle her if she wants to survive, that her chances of surviving Vogel are very slim and he’s doing everything he can to give her that best chance she has. Elloren understands, and things are back to how they were, trainee and master, the distance between them firmly in place, but the resentment gone on Elloren’s part.
  • Valasca, Lukas, and Chi Nam also train Elloren on her Elfhollen identity, Ny’laea Shizoryn. They train her until she knows her whole backstory, speaks comfortably in Elfhollen with her translation rune, and answers to her new name.
  • On day thirty six at the Vonor, Elloren faces off against Valasca and Lukas together in mock combat, never having bested them before. But today she’s mastered the rune combinations on her blade, and is able to take them both down. A few nights later is their last night at the Vonor, the next day the portal will be ready and the four of them will head to Noi Lands. Elloren prepares to face the wraith bats, feeling strong. But instead of facing the wraith bats she ends up flirting with Lukas, the two of them allowing their passion to seep through their forced barriers. They talk about what it’ll be like when they get to Noi Lands, and Elloren says she doesn’t want to be separated from him, ever, and Lukas says that he wants to be with her always.
  • But trouble has finally found them. One of the wraith bats is a Vogel monster, with too many eyes, and before they can so much as call out, Chi Nam’s military-grade shield around the Vonor just flickers to nothing. Gardnerian military dragons are approaching fast, Vogel having found them at last. The portal isn’t quite ready, and when it is only one will be able to go through, maybe two. Elloren says she won’t go unless everyone can, but Lukas tells her that she needs to go to Kam Vin and tell her that Vogel can take down military shields, that everyone in the East is at risk, the Amaz too, nobody safe from the  Gardnerian military power. Valasca makes Elloren promise to find Ni Vin, and tell her that Valasca loves her. Elloren doesn’t want to go, can’t let them sacrifice themselves for her. But Lukas makes her believe she is a warrior, she can do this without them. Elloren finally says the words, she loves Lukas, though her love for Yvan is not lost, she just loves them both.
  • They’re out of time, Vogel is here, demanding that they give him his Black Witch. Vogel tries to send his thrall over Elloren and it’s working, she’s powerless, but then her White Wand tries to rise up to fight it. But Vogel is too strong, and she can’t move. But that’s all they need, the portal is charged for one. Lukas moves and throws Elloren, then Valasca, in through the portal, and the last thing she sees is Chi Nam and Lukas being enveloped by black magefire.
  • Elloren crashes through the other end of the portal, in the Dyoi Forest right where she’s supposed to be. The portal disappears, leaving her alone, her calls for Lukas, Chi Nam, and Valasca in vain. She’s entirely alone. Elloren wants to break down, it wasn’t supposed to be like this, everyone from the Vonor that meant so much to her gone in an instant: Chi Nam, Valasca. Lukas. 
  • The Dyoi forest is beautiful, but just as viciously against her as the Western forests were, knowing her as the Black Witch despite her glamour, working against her. Elloren hears a cry in the distance along with a sound she knows all too well: the desert scorpio, not native to this area.
  • Elloren runs and finds a family, part Gardnerian and part Urisk, being attacked by three of Vogel’s horrible scorpios. Rage overshadows her grief and she’s able to take all of them down, on her own, stabbing the last one through Vogel’s horrible green eye, feeling the slightest bit of relief at getting to attack a representation of the person who just killed all her friends and her fastmate. 
  • The family seems a bit frightened of her, but grateful, and Elloren introduces herself with her disguised identity, Ny’laea Shizoryn. The family is all sick with the Red Grippe. Elloren says that if they help her find her way, she’ll protect them. The Watchers arrive, and Elloren trusts that this means she was meant to find this family, meant to help them.
  • All of the sudden, Elloren feels flushed with a familiar fire she thought gone forever. Yvan’s Wyvernfire. She hears his voice in her mind calling her name.

End of Book 3

Summaries

The Iron Flower by Laurie Forest (Summary)

Note:

Hi everyone! So this month in preparation for the release of The Demon Tide, the long awaited new book in the Black Witch series, I’m re-reading the three previous Black Witch books. I’m going to be posting my summaries here, just in case anyone else wants to check them out if they don’t have time to re-read the series before The Demon Tide.

Same stuff I said in my previous post, do not read on, dear friend, unless you have read the book. This is my favorite high fantasy YA series of ALL TIME, I recommend reading it. Please don’t spoil yourself. Just click away unless you’ve read the book already. I’m begging you.

Thanks bye!

!!!SPOILERS AHEAD!!!

Key Characters:

Elloren Gardner – Seventeen years old, middle child in the Gardner family. Raised by her uncle with her two brothers out in Halfix (remote Gardneria). Wants to be an apothecary, enjoys making and playing violins. Has a connection to wood, able to see the origin tree to any piece of wood she touches.

Rafe Gardner – Eldest of the Gardner siblings, enrolled in the university. Protective elder brother, master hunter and tracker. No magical abilities.

Trystan Gardner – Sixteen years old, youngest Gardner sibling. Level five mage (the most powerful), studying at the university as an apprentice to the weapons guild.

Vyvian Damon – Member of the Mage Council, very involved in politics and obsessed with carrying on the legacy of her mother, the Black Witch. Aunt to Trystan, Elloren, and Rafe.

Fallon Bane – The most powerful young female mage in Gardneria, a level five. Desperately wishes to be wand-fasted to Lukas Grey. Cruel and power-hungry.

Lukas Grey – Powerful level five mage, a rising star in the military. Charms Elloren upon their first meeting and is interested in fasting with her.

Marcus Vogel – Gardnerian priest and member of the mage council. Hoping to be elected the next High Mage. Gives Elloren the creeps.

Aislinn Greer – Quiet, sweet Gardnerian girl Elloren’s age, loves romantic poetry and quickly becomes Elloren’s friend.

Sage Gaffney – Gardnerian girl a few years older than Elloren, lives on the estate next door. Runs away from school with a boy she isn’t wand-fasted to, gives birth to an Icaral child. Her and her child are wanted by the mage council.

Yvan Guriel – Keltic student at the university. Works in the kitchens with Elloren, seems to hate her on sight.

Tierney Calix – Water Fae girl glamored as a Gardenerian. Fellow apothecary student with Elloren.

Wynter Eirllyn – Icaral Elf, Elloren’s roommate. A soft-spoken, timid girl, she is a wonderful artist and the first Icaral to make Elloren think that perhaps her religion has gotten it all wrong. She’s also an empath, which means she can sense people’s emotions through touch.

Ariel Haven – Icaral Gardenerian, Elloren’s other roommate. Spent most of her life locked away due to being an Icaral, is somewhat unhinged and instant enemies with Elloren. But they eventually come to an understanding and Elloren learns that Ariel is connected with winged creatures and can speak with them mind to mind.

Diana and Jarod Ulrich – Twin siblings of the Lupine race – can turn into wolves and live in the forest with their pack. Currently students at the university per their father’s wishes for the Lupines to be more diplomatically integrated with the other races.

Andras Volya – Son of Professor Volya. The professor was part of an Amazkaran tribe, but she refused to abandon her child like she was supposed to when he was born male, so they’ve been banished from Amaz lands, but they both still wear the runes. Andras is incredibly skilled with horses and the Amaz fighting style.

Cael Eirllyn – Wynter’s brother, Alfsigr Elf. Elite archer.

Rhys Thorim – Cael Eirllyn’s second in arms, loyal to Cael and Wynter. Alfsigr Elf, elite archer.

Bleddyn – Urisk kitchen worker, works with Elloren in the university kitchens. Starts with a strong dislike for her and all Gardnerians, and along with Iris they bully Elloren.

Iris Morgaine – Kelt girl who works in the kitchens at the university with Elloren. Actually a glamoured Fae. Romantically interested in Yvan and hates Elloren with a passion, no matter what she does.

Lucretia Quillen – Gardnerian Vice Chancellor at the university, one of the resistance leaders along with Jules Kristian and Fernyllia.

Jules Kristian – Keltic history professor at the university. One of the resistance leaders along with Lucretia Quillen and Fernyllia.

Fernyllia – Urisk kitchen mistress at the university. Grandmother to Fern. One of the leaders of the Resistance along with Lucretia Quillen and Jules Kristian.

Olilly – Young Urisk girl, works in the staff at the university. Kind and gentle, she often tends to young Fern, Fernyllia’s granddaughter.

Kam Vin – Commander of the western Vu Trin sorceresses. Firm and resolute, gives Elloren her wand to wand test with when she first arrives at University. A good person who believes the Gardnerians go too far, even as she tries to remain politically neutral (on the surface).

Ni Vin – Sister to Kam Vin, a Vu Trin sorceress herself. She was disfigured by a fire caused by Carnissa Gardner during the first Realm War, and it has left her burn-scarred on one half of her body. Beloved of Valasca.

Marina – Selkie that is originally held captive by the University groundskeeper. Elloren and Yvan free her, and she teaches herself to speak the Common Tongue and is the first of her kind to be able to communicate with the land-dwellers. Convinces the Amaz to help her free the rest of her people from the Gardnerians. Lived for months in the North Tower with Elloren, Diana, Wynter, and Ariel.

Naga – Formerly a Gardnerian military dragon, Yvan, Elloren and the gang were able to free her before the Gardnerians broke her. Ariel and Andras keep her hidden in a cave while they nurse her back to health. Friend to Yvan and wants to help take the Gardnerians down.

Valasca – Amazkaran Commander of the Queens Guard. Powerful rune sorceress. Goat herder in her spare time. Friend to Elloren. Madly in love with Ni Vin.

Alcippe – Uriskal woman, powerful member of the Amaz Queen’s Guard. Saved her mother and carried her to the Amaz when she was just twelve years old. Went back once she was grown up and killed her tyrant of a father. Dislikes ALL men, but is a gentle protector to children in particular. Hates Elloren Gardner for what she stands for.

Queen Alkaia – Queen of the Amazkaran. Believes firmly in the morals of the Amaz people, that men are unkind and cannot be trusted. A strong and fair leader, she agrees that her people will help free the Selkies from their Gardnerian captors.

Summary:

Part 1:

  • Elloren finds herself wanting more and more to be with Yvan, but knowing that despite their clear attraction he doesn’t want to be with her.
  • Elloren meets with some resistance members, Vogel is now in charge essentially of Gardneria and Verpacia, because the Verpacian ruling council now has a large Gardnerian majority. Iron testing is happening at the borders in an attempt to catch disguised Fae blooded folks. The wandfasting age for Gardnerians has been lowered to sixteen, anyone not fasted by the fifth month will have a match chosen for them. Elloren and Tierney promise to make medicine to help with an outbreak of illness among the refugees.
  • The resistance leaders ask Elloren to maintain her relationship with Lukas Grey to see if he can be swayed over to the Gardnerian side. Elloren agrees.
  • Lukas Grey arrives back in town, Elloren agrees she’ll still go to the Yule dance with him, but she tries to suss him out to see where he stands. He won’t speak against Vogel, but he does think the religious fervor is getting out of hand. The two of them are more and more drawn to each other as Elloren’s fire and earth lines develop.
  • After being bullied in Apothecary class, Tierney demands that Elloren write to her aunt about going to the ball with Lukas so she can get the most stunning dress and make all of those bitchy Gardnerian girls, especially Fallon, absolutely weep. Elloren agrees, and they go to a Verpacian dress maker who has a dress from Vyvian that is considered scandalous and revealing and covered in realistic iron flowers.
  • As Elloren heads to the Yule dance, she thinks she hears the trees whispering to her about being the Black Witch, and they seem to crowd in on her, only interrupted by the arrival of Jarod, who escorts Elloren to the dance.
  • The two of them go to the dance, Jarod hoping to see Aislinn. They hide out of the way of the crowd, people watching, Jarod mentioning that more than half of the wand-fasted couples there have no interest in one another. Diana and Rafe make a dirty and wild sweep through the dance, scandalizing everyone, before making a quick exit. 
  • Aislinn arrives and tells Elloren and Jared that she tried to tell her father she didn’t want to fast to her betrothed, Randall, but he threatened to pull her from the university, so she agreed, and now Randall follows her everywhere. Jarod asks her to run away with him, right now, and Aislinn almost agrees but Randall comes over and Jarod threatens him when he puts his hands on Aislinn. Aislinn cannot make the decision to leave her family behind for Jarod so she goes away with Randall and Jarod leaves the dance in torment.
  • Lukas arrives at the dance and the two make an entrance together, dancing and showing off Elloren’s glorious dress. The two of them have a conversion, Elloren still trying to suss out whether Lukas’s loyalties can be changed, but though he seems to disagree with the religion and the purity, he doesn’t believe there is any reason to stand against what the Gardnerians are doing.
  • After the dance, Elloren goes to visit Naga and finds Yvan there, along with Trystan and the Icarals. Tierney arrives soon after with her kelpie, a water horse, who tries to attack Elloren before Yvan and Tierney get him under control. Tierney is desperate for her kelpies, the Gardnerians are driving iron spikes into the river to kill them, and Tierney feels like she and her pets will be trapped forever until they’re found and killed by the Gardnerians. The kelpie also tells Tierney that he and the whole forest believe that she is the next Black Witch, despite her not having access to her magic.
  • Elloren speaks to Andres, who was also there checking on Naga, and he tells her and the others about how he was briefly in love with an Amaz woman named Sorcha, despite all the Amaz rules against feelings for men. He impregnated her, which was her goal, and she left him behind and never returned. Diana tries to convince Andras to join the Lupines, where he could find love and be accepted. He doesn’t think he could ever do that to his mother, who gave up her life with the Amaz for him. But Diana wants him to talk with her father’s beta, who is a man who was given up by the Amaz as a baby for being born male.
  • Aunt Vyvian comes for a visit. She pesters Elloren about fasting to Lukas, which she says she’ll do, but not before talking to her uncle about it. Vyvian is very disappointed in Rafe, who doesn’t care at all, but she’s proud of Trystan who seems to be the perfect Gardnerian boy. She demands that the boys find a fasting partner by spring, no exceptions. She gifts Trystan with a powerful military wand and tells him to try and straighten his siblings into line. They all pretend in order to get Vyvian to leave. The next night Trystan comes to Elloren and gives her the White Wand back now that he has his own, even though she can’t use it.
  • On Founder’s Day, family comes to visit. The Lupines, including Diana and Jarod’s parents, younger sister, and the alpha’s guard, are there. Rafe stands his ground against the alpha and states his intentions with Diana. He seems to impress Gunther despite the alpha’s best efforts not to be impressed. Andras is there and he meets the beta who was abandoned by the Amaz, along with his mate and their child, who turns out to be Andras’s son by Sorcha, who brought the boy to the Lupines. Andras is floored to find out he has a three year old son and that his adopted parents want him to be a part of the boy’s life.
  • Uncle Edwin arrives to visit with the Gardners, and is immediately taken with Kendra, Diana and Jarod’s little sister. Aislinn’s family arrives, and Jarod has a hard time seeing her. He’s talking with Elloren and his mother, and his mother realizes that he’s in love with a Gardnerian girl who he can’t have.
  • Andras tells his mother that he intends on leaving in the spring to join the Lupines, so he can be a father to his son. Professor Volya is dismayed by this, truly believing that if Andras does this, he’s turning his back on the goddess and they can never be together after death. He says he does not believe in their religion and that he must do what’s right for him and his son. It seems as if they are destined to be forced apart, which greatly upsets Andras after his mother leaves.
  • Elloren and Tierney are out in town getting ingredients at the apothecary shop, but as they head for home, mobs of Gardnerian soldiers begin rioting and defacing shops belonging to non-Gardnerians, all as a reaction today of the sentencing of a group of Urisk workers who attacked a Gardnerian farmer who was abusing them. As Tierney and Elloren hurry back, they spot Bleddyn from the kitchen, obviously injured, so they gather her up, conceal her in a cloak, and hurry her back to the kitchens at the University to be tended.
  • Yvan and Fernyllia are there to tend to Bleddyn, but young Olilly never came back to the market. Tierney offers to go and get Trystan to help look for her. Shortly after, Rafe barges into the kitchens with a screaming Olily, who has been cropped by the mob – the tips of her ears cut off along with all her hair, permanent disfigurement. 
  • Trystan and Tierney ward the windows and doors with magic and volunteer to sleep outside the Urisk quarters to make sure the mob violence doesn’t spread and continue. This is really the last straw for quiet, measured Trystan. He is alight with fury and purpose, vowing to go East and lead an army back to take the Gardnerians down.
  • Elloren and Yvan meet and Yvan tells her that despite his mother’s wishes for him not to be involved, he needs to fight the Gardnerians, so he’s also going to go east.
  • Diana visits Olilly and Bleddyn and scented their attackers as third division Gardnerian military apprentices. Rafe has talked her into not killing them now to start an all out war, but she will never forget their scent and as soon as she can she is going to rip them to shreds for what they’ve done. Elloren agrees.
  • Elloren goes to Kristian and Quillen, desperate for justice for the attacked Urisk. All they can do at this time is provide false identification papers for Fern, Bleddyn, and Olilly so that they won’t be deported until they can be moved east.
  • Elloren reaches out to Lukas via runehawk and tells him that they have to meet in private.
  • Lukas takes Elloren away from the university to the military base on dragon-back so that they can talk uninterrupted. She is given a glimpse into Lukas’s life as she sees his office and his bedroom at the base, which has more than recovered from the recent attack when they broke Naga free. Elloren asks Lukas straight up what he thinks of Vogel, and Lukas says that Vogel is unhinged. The two of them argue about what the right thing to do is. Elloren says that they must fight for equality among all races in the Western Realm, and Lukas says it’s impossible, that Gardnerian might be too much. Elloren also finds that Lukas knows everything, that her friends are responsible for Naga and the destruction of the base. But Lukas is not going to sell them out. But he also doesn’t want to try and take on Vogel, and that’s when Elloren gives up on him.
  • Elloren returns home to find Marina the Selkie the only one there. Together, they discover that if Marina manipulates her gills just so, she can communicate in the common language, especially if she’s underwater. She frantically tells Elloren that her sister is trapped in one of those terrible Selkie taverns and that they have to save her. Elloren agrees.
  • Gareth Keeler returns to university, his maritime guild studies having kept him away on the ocean until now. Elloren catches him up on everything, he’s obviously an ally, and tells him about Marina. He asks to meet her, and despite Marina being terrified of men, Elloren agrees to introduce them. Elloren also agrees that if Gareth cannot escape before he is forced to fast, because he is clearly not fully Gardnerian, they will fast as friends.
  • Gareth comes to meet Marina. Immediately Marina is taken with him, telling him that he is part Selkie, which is not a huge surprise to Gareth, as his father is a mariner. Gareth has incredible abilities related to the ocean that he has always concealed, but he cannot breathe underwater and cannot shapeshift. He is, of course, willing to join the cause to help the Selkies escape the cruel Gardnerians and save Marina’s sister.
  • Marina asks Elloren to take her to where Naga is, so she can meet with the others and be a part of the group, despite her fear of men. Elloren agrees and takes her to visit Naga, where Marina is introduced to those she has not met, particularly the men of the group.
  • Tierney and Marina connect, because Tierney smells of the water like home. Yvan and Elloren have a moment where they can feel each other’s fire and it’s very obvious the attraction and connection between them to everyone in the group with extra senses, but nobody says anything. Elloren realizes she has four of the five affinity lines strengthening inside her, all but light.

Part 2:

  • The prologue of this part puts us with Gwynnifer Croft, a young mage at a Vogel rally in Valguard. She is just as swept up in the religious fervor and Gardnerian military glory as the rest of the Gardnerians. She’s got a fastmate she loves and she is a true believer from the hyper conservative Styvian sect. But she was once Sage Gaffney’s best friend, and it was her who originally stole the White Wand and gave it to Sage for safekeeping. 
  • Gwynnifer suddenly has a vision that Vogul’s guards are demons in disguise and that Vogel in fact wields the Shadow Wand, the mythical dark counterpart to the White Wand.
  • Yvan arrives at the North Tower to ask Elloren to travel to Keltania with him. He says he has a contact there, the leader of the Keltic rebellion, that may be willing to help the Selkies, but he needs her to help convince him. Though uncertain about her ability to convince the Kelts of anything, she agrees to go.
  • Since Vyvian would never allow Elloren to go on this trip, Yvan takes them directly over the Spine, which shortens the normal long journey to only a day. Elloren, being afraid of heights, clings to Yvan as he carries her over the Southern Spine. Arriving in Keltania, they meet Andras who gives them a horse to borrow to ride inland to Lyndon, Yvan’s hometown.
  • Yvan brings Elloren to see Clive Soren, a Resistance leader and a surgeon, and though he is angry and dubious at first that Elloren Gardner isn’t exactly her grandmother, he listens to them both eventually. He argues that trying to save the Selkies is pointless, there aren’t enough of them to even stand up for themselves, much less the Selkies. Plus, there are certainly Kelts who participate in a similar practice with Urisk girls.
  • Clive recommends that Elloren go and petition the queen of the Amaz, because the Amaz are fierce and will do just about anything to stop women’s suffering, and the Selkies are all women.
  • Yvan takes Elloren home to stay at his mother’s, but when his mother sees Elloren she refuses to take her in, despite everything that Yvan says to defend her, his mother refuses to acknowledge that Elloren isn’t an evil Gardnerian just like the rest. So the two of them are forced to leave and find an inn to stay in.
  • There is only one room and one bed (love that trope!), and Elloren and Yvan lay there talking, and slowly they work at admitting their attraction to each other. But they both know it wouldn’t work, because if anyone ever found out, not only Yvan would be in danger from the Gardnerians, but his family as well, because Gardnerians believe it is their divine right to take revenge on anyone who “steals one of their women”, and it just happened to the Kelt that Sage Gaffney ran away with.
  • The two of them travel safely back to the university, quiet and distraught at the knowledge that they can never act on the feelings between them, but that they can be friends and allies only.
  • The next day, Ariel arrives at the North Tower in a panic. Naga burned the bag with all of her nilantyr berries in it. Nilantyr is an illegal drug that the Gardnerians used to subdue Ariel since she was a child, and she is very addicted to it. Naga burned the berries on purpose because they were making Ariel weaker.
  • Ariel goes through a horrific withdrawal, but the women of the North Tower all band together to take care of her as she fights the week-long battle of withdrawal from the drug.
  • Yvan arrives after a few days to look in on her, but there is nothing she can do to help, though he believes she’ll survive it despite how weak the drug has made her. Elloren and Yvan spend some time talking, and he finally admits to Elloren that his mother is part Lasir fire Fae, making him a quarter. He tells Elloren that not only was his father killed during the Realm War, but every single member of his mother’s family was as well for being Fae.
  • The two of them talk and fall deeper and deeper for each other, though they know it cannot be. Finally Yvan leaves and Elloren understands that she needs to walk away from her feelings for him.
  • Ariel survives the nilantyr, and is uninfluenced by the drug for possibly the first time since she was a child.
  • Marina, Diana, and Elloren set out for Amaz territory as soon as the winter storm ends.

Part 3:

  • Diana, Marina, and Elloren go to plead Marina’s case for the Amaz to help free the Selkies once and for all from the Gardnerian taverns. They are escorted by Trystan, Rafe, Jarod, Andras, and Yvan, who will take the women as far as the border of Amaz lands.
  • Upon arriving at the border, two Vu Trin sorceresses try to attack them, but Trystan puts up a magic shield, and Kam and Ni Vin arrive shortly after, along with a contingent of Amaz warriors on the other side of the border. The sorceresses say they were just holding up their end of the deal, that if Elloren tried to go to the Amaz lands, they would kill her. Elloren knew nothing of this, and she tells everyone present that she is just going with Marina to help advocate for the rescue of the Selkies. Marina speaks and everyone is surprised to hear that she can. They agree that the women can go to Amaz lands as long as Elloren is kept under guard by Ni Vin, who agrees. Valasca, one of the Amaz guards, agrees to be Elloren’s guard and guide in Amaz lands.
  • The group departs, leaving the men behind to wait for their return the next day. They travel to the largest of the Amaz cities for an audience with their queen. The Amaz have formidable fortifications, with a rune ward protection that can keep dragons at bay.
  • Many of the Amaz are not thrilled to see Elloren, as she so resembles her vicious grandmother. Alcippe, the fierce Urisk woman who is in the Queen’s guard, tries to stop Elloren from going in to see the queen, but Marina convinces her to step aside.
  • Diana, Marina, and Elloren meet Queen Alkaia, the fierce old queen of the Amazkaran. Marina starts by proving that she can speak the common tongue and pleading her case, but it isn’t until Elloren tells the whole story that the Queen agrees that they can stay and present their case tomorrow morning.
  • Valasca tells Elloren the story of Alcippe, who saved her mother at age twelve from their vicious father who beat Alcippe’s mother to within an inch of her life. Alcippe is headstrong, but she loves her adopted people and is a fierce believer in their anti-male ways.
  • Elloren sees Sorcha, Andras’s old flame, and pulls her aside to tell her about Andras and their son, who will soon be united in Lupine lands. Sorcha doesn’t seem to care and scorns Elloren, who cannot imagine that anyone can be that unaffected by the whole situation, and she doesn’t understand what Andras ever saw in her. Valasca tells her that she held Sorcha for two weeks as she cried over Andras and her son Konnor, and that Elloren should remember that people aren’t always what they seem.
  • Valasca takes Marina, Ni Vin, Diana, and Elloren to a remote lodging where they’ll be staying for the evening, and Elloren finds that there is a powerful barrier up that prevents her from leaving, which shows just how afraid of Elloren they are, despite her having no access at all to magic. But as everyone is settling down, Elloren sees the Watchers, and follows her instinct, using the White Wand to cross the barriers to follow the bird. The bird takes her through the forest to a small dwelling, where Elloren finds her friend Sage Gaffney and her son, the Icaral. 
  • Her guards chase her down, but they see the Watchers and Elloren finds that it is Sage that all of the Amaz and the Vu Trin were afraid she’d find, they thought she might be here to fulfill the prophecy and kill Sage’s baby. Sage is unafraid of Elloren and asks to speak with her alone. Diana, Ni, and Valasca retreat.
  • Sage is so much different than Elloren remembers. She’s now an accomplished Level 4 Light Mage, the rarest kind, and she has completely broken free of the Gardnerian brainwashing. She broke her fasting to be with the man she loves, Ra’Ven, who is a Smaragdalfar Elf who was glamored as a Kelt. Sage plans to head east soon, as her protection with the Amaz will end soon. She wants to work with the Wyvernguard in the Eastern Realm and find a way to break the wandfasting spell (which currently cannot be done) and protect her son Fyn’ir from the Gardnerians who want him dead. Sage is also a true believer that the wand she gave Elloren is the White Wand, and as the current and former bearers of the wand they have a duty to use it for good.
  • Sage gives Elloren a few runes, one so that she can pass through any rune barrier, and one that will deflect demonic search spells, so she can look them in the eyes and they won’t detect the presence of the White Wand. Elloren is happy and proud of her friend, but also sad that so many that she loves are going to be forced East by the threat the Gardnerians pose.
  • After leaving Sage, Elloren heads off on her own for a while, wanting to be with Yvan and tell him all she’s learned. Valasca finds her and offers Elloren some Tirag, a fermented spirit, which Elloren has never tried. The two of them end up getting a little bit drunk and having a very personal conversation. Elloren tells Valasca all about Yvan and how they cannot be together. Valasca tells Elloren how she is in love with Ni Vin, but they cannot be together because Valasca cannot bring herself to abandon the Amaz, but Ni will be going east eventually with her sister and the other Vu Trin. Valasca also talks about how she doesn’t particularly agree with the Amaz stance on men, despite her loyalty to this culture. She has seen so many women here who have had their hearts broken because they cannot be with the men that they love, or that they have had to abandon sons, brothers, and fathers for the safety the Amaz lifestyle provides.
  • In the morning, the Queen states that her council has made the decision that they cannot help the Selkies now, not until something changes. She says that if they go and rescue the Selkies now, the Gardnerians will simply destroy their skins and turn them all into soulless husks. Alkaia says that the Amaz will rescue all of the Selkies if Elloren and her friends can find their skins.
  • Elloren, Diana, Marina, and Ni leave the Amaz city of Cyme and head back to their male companions, who have big news. In the time that has passed, they managed to find Marina’s skin, buried in a box behind the groundskeeper’s house. Gareth is the one to give Marina her skin back, and with it she transforms from the waifish seal in a woman’s body to her powerful human form that can compete with the strength of a Lupine. Marina is finally fully equipped and ready to help save her people.
  • Rafe, Trystan, and Gareth go off to the three Selkie taverns in Gardneria to see if they can discover what happens to the Selkie’s skins, and Yvan goes with Clive Soren to the single Selkie tavern in Keltania. Wynter has drawn pictures based on Marina’s memories and illustrated guides to show the Selkies that the men are there to help them.
  • Gareth returns and tells the women that he found out that all of the taverns keep the Selkie skins locked up in trunks made of Elfin steel. Yvan, Trystan, and Rafe return as well, having found much of the same systems at each tavern, each of the men sharing their thoughts with Wynter so she can illustrate guides for the Amaz for when they rescue the Selkies. Rafe also found Marina’s sister in the final tavern, but he saw Damion Bane with two Selkie’s who’d had their skins destroyed and were husks.
  • Yvan and Elloren talk on the Equinox, which also happens to be Yvan’s nineteenth birthday. They have a tender moment which they force themselves apart from, again.
  • Diana, Marina, Wynter, and Elloren travel immediately back to Amaz lands and are brought back before Queen Alkaia, who after hearing their accounts and looking at Wynter’s drawings agree that they will free the Selkies after the next full moon, so that they can make sure and catch any that were brought in with the tide, and prevent any Selkies from being captured and forcibly brought to shore ever again.
  • A few days before the rescue is set to take place, Valasca and another one of the Amazkaran, Alder, comes to visit everyone in the North Tower. Valasca has come without the knowledge of her queen to talk to the men, the ones who were actually in the taverns, to learn as much as she can. Elloren finds out that Valasca is actually the commander of the Queen’s Guard, not just a simple goat herder as she led Elloren to believe. 
  • Tierney beseeches Alder, who is part Dryad Fae, for help for her and her family. Tierney tells them how she and her brother were bound by the tightest of glamours when they were small children, and they along with their Gardnerian parents will need help escaping the wrath of the Gardnerians before they’re found out. Alder and Valasca promise Tierney that after they help the Selkies they will figure out a way to help Tierney’s family.
  • Yvan and Elloren share another moment, and Yvan tells Elloren that if they kiss, they will be bound, and that it is because he is not just Lasir Fae, he is something else as well, but he will not, cannot tell her what that is.
  • The day of the Selkie rescue arrives, and Elloren and Diana stay behind at the Amaz military base while all of the Amazkaran warriors, and Marina, go to rescue the Selkies. Dawn arrives, and the warriors come back, all of the Selkies successfully in tow. Alcippe is in a right state, forcing Elloren to look, really look, at the irreversible trauma that each and every Selkie has suffered. Alcippe says that if she is ever face to face with a Gardnerian man, even if it is her friends or her brothers, Alcippe will split them in two. Elloren is struck hard by the beatings, rape, and torture administered to all of the Selkies by the Gardnerian men. She works in the camp to help the Amaz care for the Selkies until night falls again and they can take the Selkies back to the sea. Marina and her sister bid goodbye to Elloren and Diana, and they know they will likely never see each other again, but Marina can finally go home to the ocean.
  • Elloren and Diana return to the university, and Elloren is struck by grief and rage and the firm belief that all Gardnerians are evil and should be smote from Earthia. And of all people, Ariel comes over and gives Elloren one of her chickens to console her.

Part 4:

  • Days pass, and there is no news of Gardnerian retaliation for the Selkies against the Amaz, who are pretty much the only group that it could have been who freed the Selkies. The only sign the Gardnerians even noticed was that wanted posters went up warning of dangerous escaped Selkies and the new Mage Council ruling that Selkies can be executed on sight if found on shore.
  • Yvan and Elloren are working in the kitchen, Yvan scouring iron pots when suddenly he drops the pot and leaves the room. Elloren follows to find him suffering from painful red welts on his hands, his reaction to the iron worse than ever before. Elloren uses her apothecary skills to work up a salve that heals him pretty effectively, but clearly his Fae powers are growing if he’s becoming more affected by the iron.
  • Elloren talks with Jules Kristian, who gives her more books, religion this time, to read to gain important alternate perspectives. Kristian is convinced that Gunther Ulrich will take in the refugees, Fae, Icaral, Gardnerian, and Elloren begins to have some hope as well.
  • A few days later Diana announces that both her pack and the Northern Lupine pack will be granting amnesty to the Fae and their families. And not only Fae, but the Icarals and other refugees in danger as well, without the normal requirement of becoming Lupine. This means that Elloren and Trystan can go too, Trystan without losing his magic. It seems like a dream come true, and in celebration Elloren takes out her violin and they all dance, Elloren eventually doing a dance with Yvan while Trystan plays. If everyone is going to Lupine lands with their families, perhaps there is some hope yet for Yvan and Elloren.
  • The next morning Elloren wakes to Watchers, dozens of them, sitting outside the window of the North Tower and all through the trees when she goes outside. This is very concerning to Elloren, so she heads toward the dining hall to make sure her friends are okay. On the way she runs into Brendan, Diana’s friend from the Lupine pack, carrying Konnor, Andras’s young son. Brendan has horrifying news. The whole Southern Lupine pack has been slaughtered in the night. Every single one of them, men, women, and children all, besides him and Konnor. Brendan only escaped because he was out hunting at the time, and Konnor was concealed underneath the bodies of his Lupine parents. But Diana and Jarod’s parents, their younger sister Kendra, all dead.
  • Elloren takes Konnor while Brenden goes to find Diana and Jarod. Elloren runs into the kitchens and tells everyone there what Brendan told her, only to hear a scream from the adjoined dining hall. Elloren, Trystan, and Rafe run in to see Diana screaming and Jarod chalk white from shock as Brendan tells them the news. Diana transforms into her wolf form right there in the hall and runs out. Brendan and Yvan go after her, and some Gardnerian apprentices howl suggestively at Rafe. Rafe, in a rage, beats the snot out of him, and Trystan raises his wand at the others, daring them to retaliate.
  • Elloren runs to Andras at Rafe’s suggestion. She fills him in and he is of course relieved that his son is safe. He says that rather than trying to flee, which the Gardnerians will never allow, he’s going to get the Vu Trin, because they will need an army to stand against the Gardnerians that will obviously be coming for Diana and Jarod. They all hole up in the North Tower for now to wait for Andras. Brendan and Yvan return with Diana, who threw herself off a cliff to escape the pain for a few hours, she knew it wouldn’t kill her.
  • While waiting for Andras, Aislinn shows up frantically looking for Jarod. He’s in shock and doesn’t see her, doesn’t react, but Aislinn confesses her love for him and apologizes for the way she’s treated him.
  • Andras arrives with the Vu Trin, Rafe tries to argue that they have to run, right now, but Andras says that they need to wait and let the Vu Trin guard them, because Diana and Jarod are in no condition for a frantic, likely deadly flight from the Gardnerians, who somehow took out two entire Lupine packs in one night. Those who can mobilize do: Yvan takes Ariel and Wynter to Naga’s cave while Trystan goes to find Cael and Rhys to send to the Icarals. Rafe goes to find the Rebellion leaders, Elloren knowing full well that if her brothers don’t get out they’ll be arrested for the stunt they pulled against the military apprentices at the dining hall.
  • Andras, Brendan, Konnor, and Professor Volya are set to go East immediately with the Vu Trin, since the Gardnerians don’t know that Brendan and Konnor survived. Aislinn refuses to leave Jarod’s side, and just as the Gardnerians arrive Diana wakes up, and she wakes up screaming with the immediate knowledge of the fact that her whole pack is dead, her parents, her precious younger sister. Rafe is able to talk her down enough that she won’t immediately rampage, reminding her of what her father would do in this situation. He’d wait until the opportune time to strike, not get killed swinging alone at an army. He doesn’t want to leave her, but he has to for now, promising that he’ll be back for her as soon as he can.
  • The Gardnerians arrive, and despite the Vu Trin’s best efforts, Aislinn will not leave Jarod’s side, so the Kam and Ni Vin, along with their warriors, go out to meet the Gardnerians, who send the Elfhollen archers from the Verpacian guard along first. Kam Vin speaks to their leader, Orin Morlyr, and convinces him and his archers to break with the Verpacian guard with the cold knowledge that now that Gardneria and their allies the Alfsigr have complete control over the Western Realm, the Elfhollen and their families will no longer be safe in Verpacia, hated as the Elfhollen are by the Alfsigr, regarded as half-breeds. Orin and his Elfhollen soldiers agree when Kam Vin promises their families refuge in the East this very day.
  • Lachlan Grey, commander of the Gardnerian forces, along with Aislinn’s father Pascal Greer arrive and Kam and the rest of the Vu Trin go out to treat with them. Commander Grey orders that the Lupines be turned over to the Gardnerians. Commander Vin refuses, the Vu Trin prepared to fight. The two commanders argue over who has the power, and they arrive at an impasse because the Vu Trin are aligned with the powerful Amaz, and the Gardnerians clearly don’t have the strength to challenge them openly while they are still recovering from the attack on the Lupines the night before. 
  • Commanders Grey and Vin agree for now that the only way forward is for a joint guard of Gardnerians/Verpacians and Vu Trin shall be placed to keep the Lupines in the North Tower to prevent either side from using them to create an army of shapeshifters at the full moon. To avoid a fight, Kam Vin agrees to let the Gardnerians in to confirm that Jarod and Diana are really in there.
  • Aislinn’s father is coming up to check on the Lupines, and Aislinn makes Elloren promise not to interfere no matter what, because she needs to stay free so she can make sure that Jarod gets out safely. Elloren promises.
  • Aislinn’s father orders her away from Jarod at once. She refuses, and the Gardnerians grab hold of her, ripping her away from Jarod as she fights them with everything she has, screaming at the soldiers and her father that she hates them and they’re murderers. Aislinn spits in her father’s face and he slaps her, ordering the guards to take her back to Valgard, bound and gagged if they have to. Since he is her father and she is unfasted, he has every right to do this and the Vu Trin and Elloren can do nothing to stop it.
  • The other council mage confirms that Jarod is in fact who they say he is, but he’s still in shock and cannot answer. Elloren goes into their room to fetch Diana, but she won’t move, transformed from the forearms down, frozen with rage and hatred. The Gardnerians take Elloren away to alternate lodgings her aunt has arranged. Elloren must push past her grief and figure out a way to get them all out.
  • As Elloren is led to her new residence in Bathe hall, she finds out that both her brothers have been found and arrested, they are being held at Lukas’s military compound. Aunt Vyvian has sent a letter that she’s to be under guard until she can be put in Lukas’s protective custody. Lukas sends her a message that he’ll be in Verpacia that evening and he’ll send for her. She puts on one of the scandalous outfits that her aunt has sent for her and prepares to find out where Lukas really stands. Because she knows she cannot work with him unless he is firmly on her side, which is against Vogel and Gardneria at all costs.
  • Tierney arrives and gives Elloren the updates. Wynter and Ariel are going off to Cael’s ancestral home in Alfisger lands with Caela and Rhys, and Yvan is desperate to reconnect with Elloren, but cannot with the new guard. Tierney says that Elloren has to let Yvan go and do what she must do with Lukas, it’s the only way her brothers will get free and have their chance to flee east. Elloren steels herself and lets Tierney help her get ready, doing her best to look and play the part of Carnissa Gardner in front of the Gardnerians at the military base.
  • Elloren arrives at the base in time to see the leader of all the Vu Trin arrive on dragonback from the East, along with Vogel on a broken military dragon from Valgard. Vogel looks right toward Elloren, as if he can sense her there with the White Wand tucked in her boot.
  • Elloren meets with Lukas, demanding how he could be a part of the slaughter of the Lupines. Lukas wasn’t there and he didn’t know it was going to happen. He’s upset that Vogel has just destabilized the whole realm, and Elloren calls him out, saying the he should be upset because what happened to the Lupines was a genocide and that’s the problem he should be having. Lukas says that for Vogel to be taken down he would have to be deposed, removed from within by the military. Lukas does not believe that there is enough opposition for Vogel for that to happen. Elloren demands that her brothers be freed and that her guard be dismissed. Lukas agrees. He then asks, once again, for Elloren to fast with him. He says that his fire and earth lines were strengthened for weeks after they kissed at the Yule ball, and he suspects he can draw more power from her if they become fasted. Elloren demands that he break with Vogel completely, and says she’ll need his word that he will fight to overthrow Vogel no matter the cost. Lukas can’t do it. So Elloren leaves him behind, despite knowing that this might be the only chance for her brothers to be freed.
  • Elloren walks back home, completely downtrodden, distraught that she’s so powerless to help everyone that needs so desperately to escape Verpacia. But then she has an idea. An idea that will allow her and Tierney to help save everyone.
  • Lukas keeps to his word and frees Trystan and Rafe, the apprentice that was attacked by Rafe dropping the charges against them in exchange for a promotion within Lukas’s division. Tierney comes and Elloren tells her of the plan, and together they use the Iron flowers along with their magic to make a poison.
  • Once the poison is ready, Elloren and Tierney meet with the Resistance in secret, along with Kam Vin to tell them the plan: the poison will be put in all the food, the food that is distributed to the whole army, and it will render everyone unconscious for six hours, which is plenty of time to get the Lupines, Rafe and Trystan, everybody out that needs to get out, including the kitchen workers, Yvan and his mother, everyone except Fernyllia, who will be staying behind to act as the poisoner. She knows this means her execution, but she is old and unable to travel, and has been fighting a long time. She wants to do this to give everyone, especially her little granddaughter, the best chance at escape. Gareth and Tierney’s family will also be going. The only ones staying behind are Elloren and Tierney, who will take the poison along with everyone else to avoid suspicion. Elloren cannot leave her Uncle Edwin and Tierney is going to go to the Amaz, hoping they can break her glamour so she can go east in her full form. Kam Vin agrees to these terms and the plan is set.
  • Elloren says a tearful goodbye to her brothers, who promise to be back for her. Elloren and Yvan also have their goodbye. Yvan doesn’t want to leave her, but knows this is his only chance to go East and live to fight another day, and save his mother as well. 
  • Elloren wakes the next day, groggy and in pain from the effects of the poison. The only thing she’s able to glean right away is that it worked, and her aunt is there, questioning her, sure she must know where her brothers and the others have gone. Elloren plays her part well, it isn’t hard with the very real pain the poison has caused her. Everything went according to plan, everyone got away, and fifteen Gardnerian soldiers are dead. The university groundskeeper was decapitated and the military apprentices that cropped Olilly had their ears ripped clean off. Fernyllia was executed immediately, before Elloren ever even awoke.
  • When Elloren has recovered more from the poison, she’s brought before her aunt, who is reeling at the betrayal of Trystan in particular, Rafe she’s not surprised about. She states that it’s all her mother’s blood, who was apparently a simple country Gardnerian girl who was about to go off and get married to a Kelt, Jules Kristian in fact, when Elloren’s father stepped in and fasted to her. Just an elitist, wicked rant against the tainted bloodline her mother must have infected her brothers with. Aunt Vyvian says that despite the fact that the university has been shut down, she’ll be staying here for now to fast to Lukas Grey, within the next three weeks, or she and her uncle will be completely cut off from funds and tossed into the streets. Elloren doesn’t know what she can possibly do now, she’s out of options.
  • Alone at last, Elloren goes back to the North Tower, now empty of its prisoners, for some comfort. Instead, she finds Ariel and Wynter, Cael and Rhys there in hiding. Wynter has officially been shunned from Alfsigr culture, so they cannot go back to Alfsigroth lands. Wynter, who loves the Alfsigr people and culture, believes this is her righteous fate. Cael explains that were she not born an Icaral, she would be considered an Alaiontora, which for the Alfsigr is a great artist, prophet, spiritual leader for their people. But since she is an Icaral, all of her accomplishments and everything she is means nothing to the Alfsigr. Cael is going to petition their aunt, the queen for Wynter’s life, but if that appeal fails, they will find a way to escape east, join the Wyvernguard, and take up arms against Gardneria and the Alfsigr. 

Part 5:

  • The Gardnerians now rule over Verpacia as well, and have annexed the Lupine lands, the Northern territory going to Alfsigroth and the Southern territory going to Gardneria.
  • Damion and Fallon Bane plot against the Gardners. Fallon says she’ll take care of Rafe and Trystan, while she wants Damion to destroy Elloren.
  • Elloren waits with Wynter and Ariel in the North Tower for Cael and Rhys to return from Alfsigroth, where they’ve gone to petition their aunt the Queen for Wynter’s life. The university has reopened, all of the professors that weren’t loyal to Gardneria or Alfsigroth having been replaced. All the Icarals that were formerly being kept in the Sanitorium have been moved to the prison, where Vyvian is pulling them one by one to be publicly executed, trying to restore the family name after having to Banish Trystan and Rafe.
  • Tierney tells Elloren that the Amaz have figured out how to remove her glamour, and they’re taking off of her in a week, and when they do she’ll be leaving for the East. Elloren will miss her friend, but is happy she’ll be safe and that she’ll get to rejoin her family.
  • The next night, Elloren is looking out the window in the North Tower when she sees Tierney rush out from the trees on the back of one of her Kelpies. Elloren, Ariel, and Wynter rush down to meet her, and Tierney tells them frantically that the Marfoir, the dark assassins of the Alfsigr, are coming right now to kill Wynter, Cael and Rhys’ plea clearly having failed.
  • Ariel tells Wynter to trade clothes with her, that Ariel will use it as a distraction so that Tierney can get her away, to the Amaz. The Marfoir won’t kill Ariel, but they will turn her over to the Gardnerians, and she’ll be taken back to Valgard as a prisoner, where they’ll likely cut off her wings before killing her. Ariel confesses her romantic love for Wynter, though Wynter already knows due to her empath powers. Knowing that Ariel will fight the Marfoir if Wynter doesn’t do this, guaranteeing her death at their hands, Wynter agrees. Elloren thinks that Ariel is the most heroic person she’s ever known. Tierney and Wynter ride off toward Amaz lands while Ariel goes to meet the Marfoir.
  • She doesn’t have to wait long, the Marfoir emerging from the trees as Elloren’s demon rune that Sage gave her starts to tingle, and when the horrifying Marfoir emerge, Elloren can’t help but run toward Ariel, desperate to help. The two of them are unable to fight the Marfoir, and they are about to kill Ariel when Elloren screams that she’s not Wynter, and the Marfoir pull off her scarf and she’s revealed to be a dark haired Gardnerian, not a whitehaired Elf. The two Marfoir bind Ariel and ride off with her, surely to turn her over to the Gardnerians.
  • Distraught, but determined to save Ariel from the Gardnerians, Elloren hatches a plan and sends it in a missive to Valasca, Alder, and Tierney in Cyme. While she waits for her reply, Yvan returns. He came back because he found out the grave danger Ariel and Wynter were in, that the Alfsigr Elves were sending the Marfoir after them. Elloren tells him what happened, and he promises to help Elloren save Ariel.
  • Gathered in an isolated barn on the edges of the university, Valasca, Alder, Tierney, Elloren, and Yvan meet. Alder removes Tierney’s glamour and saves it in a runestone. Tierney is finally free and in her true Asrai Fae form for the first time since she was three. Her skin, hair, and eyes are blue like deep water, and whereas she was considered “ugly” as a Gardnerian, she is beautiful in her real body. Alder is able to use the glamour they’ve just removed from Tierney to make a temporary glamour for Elloren and Yvan, who disguise themselves as Vyvian and one of her trusted guards. They are going to break Ariel out of the Valgard prison.
  • Elloren and Yvan make it Valgard without any problems, and are even more horrified than they could have possibly imagined seeing all the Icarals being tortured at the Valgard prison. There is a young Icaral girl, no more than three years old, who is not yet broken. They are trying to force feed her drugs to make her complacent, and she has not yet had her wings removed. This causes Yvan to break his cover, rescuing the little girl and force feeding the nilantyr to the guards and the surgeon. They find Ariel, having once again completely succumbed to the nilantyr addiction once again after only a few days as a prisoner. One of her wings has been torn almost clear off and she seems close to death. 
  • They’ve almost made their escape when the guards catch onto them, as the real Vyvian is on her way to the prison. There looks to be no way out, and Elloren prays, the only prayers she knows, for a miracle. And that miracle comes, in the form of Naga swooping down, breathing fire on the guards and soldiers. Ariel’s raven is with her, the brilliant bird must have found Naga and brought her here. On Naga’s back, the group makes their escape.
  • Naga takes them to Cyme, because it’s the only safe place in the realm, despite the firm chance that Yvan will be killed on sight for daring to enter Amaz lands as a male. Naga lands in Cyme to the outrage of the Amaz, who think her to be a Gardnerian military dragon. Elloren shouts that Ariel needs a healer, and that she needs to speak to the queen, that Ariel and the young Icaral girl that Yvan saved need sanctuary. Alcippe is there, she takes the little girl from Yvan and is about to strike her axe down on Yvan when Freyja arrives, stopping Alcippe from killing Yvan. Luckily, at that moment the queen arrives with Valasca and Alder. Shortly after Wynter arrives too, having been staying safely with the Amaz. They hold off on killing Yvan as healers assess Ariel’s condition. They say she is too far gone from the poisonous nilantyr, that she’s overdosed and beyond help. 
  • Wynter puts a hand on Naga to speak for her, and Naga says that Ariel’s life force is ebbing, she is in no pain, but she will be dead soon. Naga is leaving and taking Ariel with her, so that she can take her last breath where she belongs, in the mountains with the Wyvernkin, the true people of the Icarals. Queen Alkaia gives Naga a rune axe to be buried with Ariel, so she’ll have it in the next life, and Naga tells Elloren and Yvan that they are true friends to her, and that they must prepare for the fight that is coming. Before leaving, Naga tells the Amaz  that they must prepare for the war that is coming, and they must know they cannot fight the Gardnerians and the Alfsigr alone, but that she will be back to fight with them.
  • The queen lets Yvan go, telling her guards to take him to the edge of their territory, but wants to talk to Elloren before she goes. Yvan thanks Alkaia for taking in Wynter and the little Icaral girl he saved before being led away. Alcippe takes charge of the little Icaral girl, naming her Pyrgomanche, or Pyrgo. Elloren turns to the queen and thanks her for sheltering Wynter and Pyrgo, and for freeing the Selkies. The queen says that Elloren is welcome to join the Amaz, that they would train her as a warrior. But she’d have to let go of her male attachments. She thinks of her brothers, her uncle, of Yvan, and knows she could never do it. Elloren says goodbye to Wynter and her friends in the Amaz before going off to rejoin Yvan.
  • Yvan and Elloren hold each other and grieve Ariel, heartbroken that they were too late to save her. Yvan tells Elloren that he loves her, and she says it back. They finally have their first real kiss. They go back to the North Tower together. They’re kissing, Elloren tries to take off his shirt but he stops her and they get into bed together, Elloren in her underthings and Yvan with his clothes on. It’s getting heavy, but Yvan stops them from taking the final step, and Elloren agrees that it’s not the right time.
  • The next morning they wake up to find Aunt Vyvian in the north tower. And Elloren is in bed with, for all Vyvian knows, a Kelt. Vyvian tells Elloren that her uncle Edwin is not doing well,  that it’s his heart and she needs to go back to Valgard to see him now. Yvan leaves her to get ready, and Elloren embarks on the journey to Valgard with Vyvian.
  • But they don’t go to Valgard. They stop at an isolated Gardnerian military outpost, where Elloren is shoved inside a cell with her uncle, who has been beaten within an inch of his life. Vyvian says that Edwin has to say the words, as her guardian, giving her permission to fast. And Vyvian says that Elloren will be fasting. Today. Edwin refuses, but Elloren begs him to do it. Vyvian gives them ten minutes to decide, otherwise she’ll kill Edwin, then she leaves them alone.
  • Edwin is not doing well, he apologizes to Elloren and says he was wrong, that he raised her to think she was weak, but she is NOT weak, that she must fight them. And then he dies, his heart giving out. Elloren breaks down, the only parent she’s ever known killed on the orders of his own sister. Vyvian comes back into the room, and since Rafe isn’t quite twenty, Vyvian is officially Elloren’s guardian for three days. And Vyvian intends to use that power. Her guards drag Elloren to the carriage and to some town magistrate somewhere. 
  • She leaves Elloren there on the floor, sobbing, and then comes back with Lukas Grey in tow. The guards force Elloren to clasp hands with Lukas. Elloren snarls at him, hating him for doing this. Lukas is furious too, saying it’s him or someone far worse, Vyvian will not leave her alone until she is fasted. Lukas is doing this because he’s her friend and he cares what happens to her, but he’s not exactly thrilled to be fasting to someone who’s there against her will. But the priest says the words, and though Elloren cries against it, she is fasted to Lukas in the blink of an eye, the black lines etched permanently into the skin of her arms and hands. Lukas owns her now. The guards ask what they should do with her, and Lukas says she can go wherever she wants and leaves her behind.
  • Elloren returns to the North Tower, where Yvan is waiting for her. She tells him that her uncle is dead, that Vyvian good as killed him. Elloren, desperate, numb, kisses Yvan, and then she asks him to take her to bed. But that’s when Yvan notices her fastmarked hands. He knows that it’s Lukas Grey, that she was forced to fast. She asks Yvan to help her break it, despite the pain and the agony she knows it causes. Yvan won’t do it, and Elloren falls apart, thinking he doesn’t want her anymore, but he assures her that he always will, that he loves her. And that’s when Elloren finally, ultimately breaks down, and Yvan just holds her as she cries, the only thing keeping her from drowning.
  • Elloren can’t get out of bed. Tierney arrives, telling Elloren she’s headed to Noi lands with her Kelpies. Elloren is defeated, saying it’s no use, nobody can win against the Gardnerians. Tierney says that she’ll go down fighting in the east, and that Elloren will be there to meet her someday.
  • It takes a few more days, but slowly Elloren starts to eat again and Yvan feels able to leave her for a bit. Elloren watches him out the window as he goes, and sees a Watcher. Elloren dresses and runs to the forest, following the Watcher, which leads her to Yvan, where he’s about to jump into the lake to take a dip. He undresses, and Elloren sees what looks like a huge tattoo on his back that looks like wings. Then the tattoos become actual wings, huge feathered Icaral wings, and Elloren gasps, revealing herself. The pieces fall into place, and Yvan confirms that his father was THE Icaral that the Black Witch killed at the end of the Realm War. And that being Icaral makes Yvan part dragon, not just the Lasir fire fae that comes from his mother’s side. 
  • Elloren despairs that her Yvan could possibly be the Icaral of the prophecy, not Sage’s baby, and that the Gardnerians would stop at nothing to see him dead if they found out about him. She wishes that she had power, calling herself worthless, Yvan assuring her that she’s not. But Elloren picks up a stick, intent on proving him wrong, but when she casts the candle-lighting spell, the fire comes out so intensely she sets a whole bunch of trees ablaze. Yvan realizes that Kam Vin gave Elloren a rune-blocked wand, that’s why nothing happened when she tried to cast the candle-lighting spell all that time ago. Elloren realizes that she is, in fact, the Black Witch.
  • Yvan and Elloren are likely the two points of the prophecy, who obviously have no intention of trying to kill each other. But they realize that Kam Vin knows about Elloren, but never said anything. Both Yvan’s mother and Uncle Edwin never wanted their children to be part of this conflict, but Yvan and Elloren agree that they were wrong to keep their powers from them, to ask them to stay out of it.
  • Yvan tells Elloren another important thing about him being part dragon-that when they kissed, he bound himself to her. He’ll be able to sense when she’s in danger, and any pain she experiences. If Elloren were to die, he’d be stripped of his fire and power for a time.
  • The two of them ride out of Verpax City that night, intent on finding Commander Vin. Yvan seems to know where to go, and out in the countryside they find Professor Hawkynn, Elloren’s old professor. They tell him Elloren has power and Yvan has wings, and he allows them in. He takes them underground, where Elloren realizes the Resistance never left, they just went underground.
  • Lucretia and Jules Kristian are there, along with the Vin sisters. Elloren confronts Kam, who admits to giving her a blocked wand, to knowing that she probably had quite a bit of power when she dropped it at her testing. Kam had to wait, to see her character, and only the White Wand choosing her stopped her from cutting Elloren down to stop the prophecy.
  • Yvan reveals himself to, in fact, be another male Icaral with his wings intact, and EVERYONE is surprised. The decision is made that they have to split up, to each be trained in their powers. They cannot stay together, it would make it too easy for the Gardnerians to find and kill them both. The Kin Hoang Vu Trin warriors take Yvan away, East, to train. Leaving Elloren behind.
  • Commander Vin dresses Elloren for battle and then they’re off, Elloren ready to face her destiny as the Black Witch and do everything she can to take down Vogel and the Gardnerians.

End of Book 2

Summaries

The Black Witch by Laurie Forest (Summary)

Note:

Hi everyone! So this month in preparation for the release of The Demon Tide, the long awaited new book in the Black Witch series, I’m re-reading the three previous Black Witch books. I’m going to be posting my summaries here, just in case anyone else wants to check them out if they don’t have time to re-read the series before The Demon Tide.

I’ve already reviewed this book, if you’re looking for a spoiler-free review you can check it out here (it was one of the first ones I ever did): https://sarahs-shelf.com/2017/08/07/the-black-witch-by-laurie-forest/

Otherwise, do not read on, dear friend, unless you have read the book, and as it is my favorite high fantasy YA series of ALL TIME, I recommend reading it. Please don’t spoil yourself. Just click away unless you’ve read the book already. I’m begging you.

Thanks bye!

!!!SPOILERS AHEAD!!!

Key Characters:

Elloren Gardner – Seventeen years old, middle child in the Gardner family. Raised by her uncle with her two brothers out in Halfix (remote Gardneria). Wants to be an apothecary, enjoys making and playing violins. Has a connection to wood, able to see the origin tree to any piece of wood she touches.

Rafe Gardner – Eldest of the Gardner siblings, enrolled in the university. Protective elder brother, master hunter and tracker. No magical abilities.

Trystan Gardner – Sixteen years old, youngest Gardner sibling. Level five mage (the most powerful), studying at the university as an apprentice to the weapons guild.

Vyvian Damon – Member of the Mage Council, very involved in politics and obsessed with carrying on the legacy of her mother, the Black Witch. Aunt to Trystan, Elloren, and Rafe.

Fallon Bane – The most powerful young female mage in Gardneria, a level five. Desperately wishes to be wand-fasted to Lukas Grey. Cruel and power-hungry.

Lukas Grey – Powerful level five mage, a rising star in the military. Charms Elloren upon their first meeting and is interested in fasting with her.

Marcus Vogel – Gardnerian priest and member of the mage council. Hoping to be elected the next High Mage. Gives Elloren the creeps.

Aislinn Greer – Quiet, sweet Gardnerian girl Elloren’s age, loves romantic poetry and quickly becomes Elloren’s friend.

Sage Gaffney – Gardnerian girl a few years older than Elloren, lives on the estate next door. Runs away from school with a boy she isn’t wand-fasted to, gives birth to an Icaral child. Her and her child are wanted by the mage council.

Yvan Guriel – Keltic student at the university. Works in the kitchens with Elloren, seems to hate her on sight.

Tierney Calix – Water Fae girl glamored as a Gardenerian. Fellow apothecary student with Elloren.

Wynter Eirllyn – Icaral Elf, Elloren’s roommate. A soft-spoken, timid girl, she is a wonderful artist and the first Icaral to make Elloren think that perhaps her religion has gotten it all wrong. She’s also an empath, which means she can sense people’s emotions through touch.

Ariel Haven – Icaral Gardenerian, Elloren’s other roommate. Spent most of her life locked away due to being an Icaral, is somewhat unhinged and instant enemies with Elloren. But they eventually come to an understanding and Elloren learns that Ariel is connected with winged creatures and can speak with them mind to mind.

Diana and Jarod Ulrich – Twin siblings of the Lupine race – can turn into wolves and live in the forest with their pack. Currently students at the university per their father’s wishes for the Lupines to be more diplomatically integrated with the other races.

Andras Volya – Son of Professor Volya. The professor was part of an Amazkaran tribe, but she refused to abandon her child like she was supposed to when he was born male, so they’ve been banished from Amaz lands, but they both still wear the runes. Andras is incredibly skilled with horses and the Amaz fighting style.

Cael Eirllyn – Wynter’s brother, Alfsigr Elf. Elite archer.

Rhys Thorim – Cael Eirllyn’s second in arms, loyal to Cael and Wynter. Alfsigr Elf, elite archer.

Bleddyn – Urisk kitchen worker, works with Elloren in the university kitchens. Starts with a strong dislike for her and all Gardnerians, and along with Iris they bully Elloren.

Iris Morgaine – Kelt girl who works in the kitchens at the university with Elloren. Actually a glamoured Fae. Romantically interested in Yvan and hates Elloren with a passion, no matter what she does.

Lucretia Quillen – Gardnerian Vice Chancellor at the university, one of the resistance leaders along with Jules Kristian and Fernyllia.

Jules Kristian – Keltic history professor at the university. One of the resistance leaders along with Lucretia Quillen and Fernyllia.

Fernyllia – Urisk kitchen mistress at the university. Grandmother to Fern. One of the leaders of the Resistance along with Lucretia Quillen and Jules Kristian.

Olilly – Young Urisk girl, works in the staff at the university. Kind and gentle, she often tends to young Fern, Fernyllia’s granddaughter.

Kam Vin – Commander of the western Vu Trin sorceresses. Firm and resolute, gives Elloren her wand to wand test with when she first arrives at University. A good person who believes the Gardnerians go too far, even as she tries to remain politically neutral (on the surface).

Ni Vin – Sister to Kam Vin, a Vu Trin sorceress herself. She was disfigured by a fire caused by Carnissa Gardner during the first Realm War, and it has left her burn-scarred on one half of her body. Beloved of Valasca.

Marina – Selkie that is originally held captive by the University groundskeeper. Elloren and Yvan free her, and she teaches herself to speak the Common Tongue and is the first of her kind to be able to communicate with the land-dwellers. Convinces the Amaz to help her free the rest of her people from the Gardnerians. Lived for months in the North Tower with Elloren, Diana, Wynter, and Ariel.

Naga – Formerly a Gardnerian military dragon, Yvan, Elloren and the gang were able to free her before the Gardnerians broke her. Ariel and Andras keep her hidden in a cave while they nurse her back to health. Friend to Yvan and wants to help take the Gardnerians down.

Summary:

Part 1:

  • Prologue is a very young Elloren being wand-tested in the forest. She is so powerful she sets fire to the trees and the forest burns. Elloren is too young to remember and is told it was only a nightmare when she dreams of it. She is told by her uncle Edwin that she has no power.
  • When she is seventeen, Elloren’s beautiful, powerful, and intimidating Aunt Vyvian arrives to try and insist that Elloren be wand-fasted immediately. The practice of wandfasting binds a male and female Gardnerian together for life in a sealed betrothal. This is often done to children when they’re very young (particularly in the more conservative sects) as a way of enforcing purity and controlling Gardnerian youth. Uncle Edwin insists that Elloren will go to university first and then have a choice in who she will be fasted to. Vyvian does not wish for this, but as Gardneria is a male-dominated society and Edwin is the eldest male of the family, he has the final word.
  • Elloren is to travel to the university in Verpacia with her brothers and study to be an apothecary, which is what she’s always wanted. Her uncle makes her promise not to let Vyvian convince her to fast to anyone before she’s gotten her education. She promises, particularly since she’d like to have some say in who she gets fasted to.
  • The next morning she wakes up early to a mysterious white bird at her window. She follows it out into the fields to find her old neighbor, Sage Gaffney, waiting for her. Sage has been missing and has her child with her, a child she admits to having with a man she is not fasted to. Sage gives Elloren a white wand, for protection, and says it’s the White Wand of legend. Elloren doesn’t really believe it but promises she’ll keep the wand safe and hidden. Sage flees before Elloren can try to help her.
  • Elloren travels with her aunt to Valgard, the capital of Gardneria, where her aunt buys her fancy clothes and introduces her to some of her peers, including Fallon Bane, who is the most powerful young female mage. Fallon Bane is also a racist bitch who is jealous of Elloren because she is the spitting image of her grandmother, the famously powerful Black Witch.
  • Aunt Vyvian hosts a party, and there Elloren meets Lukas Grey, the fine young gentleman that Vyvian wants Elloren to fast with. Lukas whisks her away and gives Elloren her first kiss, which she enjoys. 
  • Vyvian tries to arrange an immediate fasting to Lukas Grey, but Elloren stands her ground and says she’ll obey her uncle’s wishes and wants to get to know Lukas better first, which makes Vyvian angry.
  • Outside of church, Elloren once again follows the white birds, Watchers, and is ambushed by a few escaped Icarals, who attempt to kill her because they think she’s the next Black Witch. Lukas saves her life, but Elloren is traumatized. 
  • Elloren and Lukas travel together to the university in Verpacia.

Part 2:

  • Elloren arrives at school in Verpacia and is immediately apprehended by the guard, consisting of Gardnerians, Elfhollen, and Vu Trin sorceresses. She’s wand tested in front of everyone, and though she feels a power rise in her, nothing comes out the end of the wand they give her, and they all reluctantly admit that she’s not the next Black Witch and dub her as officially a Level 1 mage, the lowest level, no magic at all.
  • Elloren is given her class and living assignments, along with her labor assignment which she needs to pay for school. She goes immediately to the kitchens for her labor assignment, where she meets the staff that consists of Urisks and Kelts, including Yvan, who somehow already seems to hate her despite the fact that they’ve never met.
  • Iris and Bleddyn, two of the female kitchen workers, shove her in the mud and slap her around, sparking immediate animosity between Elloren and the rest, particularly when nobody else in the kitchen believes her. 
  • She trudges miserably to her lodgings, where she finds that her roommates consist of two Icarals, the monsters from her nightmares. One of them chases her into the closet and keeps her trapped there all night. In the morning Elloren goes to the lodging mistress, who tells her that her aunt had her placed there, and there she will stay until she agrees to fast immediately to Lukas Grey. Elloren holds her ground.
  • Elloren goes to Lukas and tells him of her experience, and he is surprised she won’t agree to fast to him under these circumstances. But he goes to the kitchen and threatens and intimidates the workers who picked on Elloren, which makes her feel guilty because he is crueler than she expected or wished.
  • Elloren learns that her roommates are a Gardenerian Icaral named Ariel and an Elf Icaral named Wynter. She is assured that they are harmless and have the same standing as a student that she does. This infuriates her, but she refuses to break.
  • She goes to her classes, a few of which she shares with Fallon, who continues to bully her in ways that nobody can do anything about. She enjoys her Gardnerian history class with the priest professor. In Apothecary studies, she is partnered with Tierney Calix, who is the “ugliest” Gardenerian Elloren has ever seen. But she is talented and hates Fallon as much as Elloren does, so they form an uneasy alliance.
  • Lukas and Elloren grow closer together. One night they sneak into the music room and perform together, after which they begin to kiss. Lukas is drawn in by the power of their magic lines, and pushes her a bit too far too fast, and Elloren decides after that she wants no more to do with him.
  • Elloren exists uneasily with her roommates. Ariel has a chicken that knocks over a prized portrait of her parents, ruining it. In retaliation, Elloren puts the chicken outside for it to wander away. Ariel, in retribution, destroys the quilt her mother made for her, the last thing Elloren has of her parents. This being the last straw, she breaks her own word and goes to Lukas, asking him to help her get Ariel kicked out of school.
  • Lukas finds Ariel’s chicken and tortures and kills it, handing it on their bedroom door. This completely breaks Ariel and she attacks Elloren, kicking and punching, exactly as Elloren had planned. But she never wanted Lukas to do something so horrible, and she realizes that she’s made a grave mistake. So she tracks down Lukas and lays into him for it, which he seems surprised about, he just thought he was doing her a favor.
  • A crowd amasses and asks Elloren who attacked her, and in that moment is the first spark of redemption in her prissy, sheltered, irritating persona: she says she tripped, and doesn’t tell anyone that it was Ariel. After being treated by the medic, she steals a chicken from the barnyard and brings it back for Ariel, which seems to bring Ariel back from the edge, and earns her Wynter’s respect.
  • After this, there is an uneasy understanding between Elloren and her roommates.
  • Tierney and Elloren become slow friends, each realizing the other has a sort of strange, non-wand magic; Tierney with water and Elloren with wood. Since this is an indication of Fae blood and means they may not be “purely” Gardnerian, they are quiet about it.
  • Elloren goes with Tierney back to her room that she shares with Diana Ulrich, the Lupine, as well as Fallon Bane. Elloren ends up accidentally breaking, and then stealing, a small portrait of Lukas that’s there. Hiding from Fallon, Elloren witnesses as Fallon attempts to cut Diana’s beautiful hair while she sleeps, but Diana gets the better of her and breaks her wand.
  • After this, Diana and Elloren form a sort of strange half-friendship, as she shares a class with Diana and her twin, Jarod. 
  • Diana and Elloren’s brother Rafe start to become close, and Elloren worries they will become involved, which is NOT allowed in either of their cultures.
  • On the other hand, Jarod and Aislinn find that they share a love of books and poetry, and develop a mutual crush, which will go even worse for Aislinn that in would for Rafe, because Aislinn comes from the Gardnerian ultra-conservative and has long been fasted to a man she does not love.
  • Elloren finds out that her brother Trystan is gay, which is also forbidden in Gardnerian society, and makes him swear not to tell anyone.
  • Elloren begins to realize that just about everything that she thought she knew about her family and her people might be completely skewed, if not flat out wrong. This is brought into direct relief when Yvan comments that her fine silk clothing is made by Urisk slave children in the Fae Isles. She cannot believe it’s true, but something about it bothers her.
  • Elloren goes to her history teacher, the priest mage, and asks him about it. He parrots things that she’s heard all her life, that Gardnerians gave the Urisks a better life than they had before, and that they appreciate the hard work that the Gardenerians have them do. Though that’s nothing new, somehow it seems wrong to her.
  • Elloren goes to the only other history professor that isn’t a Gardnerian, Professor Kristian, who is a Kelt. She asks him the same question about her clothing that she asked the priest mage, and his answer matches Yvan’s: that while it isn’t technically out-and-out slavery, the Urisk’s “wages” are not enough to mean anything, and the Urisk are not allowed to leave their work posts without specific papers, which are almost impossible to get. This sickens Elloren, so she throws her old clothes in her trunk and wears her simple homespun garb from then on, earning her harsh judgment from the other Gardnerians, but new looks of respect from Yvan and others who know where her old clothes came from.
  • Professor Kristian gives Elloren the “real” history of the Western Realm, which includes how Gardnerians are not in fact “the first children” that their holy book claims, but the result of the Dryad Fae and Kelts from hundreds of years ago. She also finds that though it is true that Gardnerians have long been oppressed by other races in the realm, it has also gone both ways in that her longtime great grandfather led an army that killed thousands of Kelts and took their land, and her grandmother, the great Black Witch, lead the Gardnerian army that killed and oppressed thousands of Kelts, Urisk, and Fae. Kristian gives Elloren additional history books from multiple perspectives and tells her to learn what she can and make up her own mind.
  • Returning to the kitchen to grab the books she’d forgotten, Elloren stumbles upon Damion Bane, Fallon’s horrid older brother, tormenting Olilly, an Urisk girl who is on the staff. Damion thinks that Olilly stole Fallon’s portrait of Lukas, and despite the immense power inequality, Elloren is about to take a cast iron pan to Damion when Yvan arrives, moving crazy fast and with incredible strength, and disarms Damion, freeing Olilly. 
  • Elloren confesses to stealing the portrait after breaking it, making sure Damion will stay away from Olilly, even though she’s damning herself to retribution from Fallon.
  • Elloren goes home and realizes that just about everything she’s ever known has been wrong, that she comes from a people that oppress not only other “impure” races, but their own women as well. Gardnerian men can get away with just about anything. Elloren decides from then on that she’s going to make up her own mind about the way of things and starts reading Kristian’s books.

Part 3:

  • Elloren realizes she can no longer afford to ignore the politics of her people, so she starts meeting Tierney in the archives to read the Mage Council rulings each week. She truly starts to understand what the growing group of “radicals” supports, such as killing all Selkies and iron-testing Gardnerians to root out anyone with Fae blood.
  • Fallon gets her hands on Elloren’s beloved violin that she hid in her brother’s room and splits it clean in half, as revenge for what she did to Lukas’s portrait.
  • Jarod and Aislinn grow closer, and Randall, Aislinn’s future fastmate, Randall Grayson, comes to visit. He already acts as though he owns her, and Aislinn has told Elloren that she essentially thinks that she’s not attracted to any man and she’ll just have to suffer through her “womanly duties” when she’s fasted. Jarod overhears Randall and Aislinn talking and is upset that Gardnerians “mate” with those that they share no attraction or love for.
  • Jarod, Aislinn, Elloren, and Wynter go to an Elfin art exhibit, where they see all of the beautiful, sort of “living” art that Alfsigr Elves are able to make. They ask Wynter to show them her art, which is stored in a crumbling barn next door because it is made “impure” by her being an Icaral. But she has fantastic statues and tapestries, and the group decides to take most of it back to the north tower and decorate their home with it. Elloren sees that Jarod and Aislinn are truly starting to fall for each other, though they deny it.
  • Aislinn’s two sisters and their children come to visit. Her sisters are different, but friendly, and clearly considered to be “virtuous Gardnerian women”. They’ve brought traditional “Icaral wing” cookies, which you are supposed to snap in half before eating to symbolize destroying Icarals, which makes Elloren realize that even the smallest Gardnerian traditions are rooted in hatred.
  • Professor Hawkkyn, the Snake Elf, recognizes that Elloren is working to change her perspective and is not the traditional Gardnerian. He gives her some tricks to block Fallon’s ice magic.
  • Aislinn comes to visit, and confesses that she and Jarod were kissing and that she actually liked it. She’s upset because how can she ever be with Randall now that she knows what it’s like with Jarod, and her family will disown her if she tries to make a match with Jarod instead. Jarod comes to the door and Aislinn hides, and Jarod admits that he loves Aislinn and wants to mate with her, but his family would disown him unless she agreed to become Lupine. So they’re stuck in this miserable situation.
  • Diana moves into the north tower with Elloren, Ariel, and Wynter because she says if she stays living with Fallon Bane, Diana will hurt her.
  • Her crush on Yvan only growing, Elloren follows him when he goes into the woods one day. They hike so far that they make it across the University boundaries and to the outskirts of a Gardnerian military base. Yvan shows Elloren an unbroken dragon that the Gardnerians have caged up, and Yvan expresses his desire to save her, despite the bars being made of Elfin steel, which is supposedly impossible to break by any means.
  • On their way back, Elloren sees the Watchers and follows them to find the university groundskeeper, a Gardnerian, abusing and chaining up the very same Selkie Elloren saw in Valguard all those months ago. On essentially a whim, Elloren and Yvan free the Selkie and flee with her back to the north tower.
  • The girls of the North Tower (excepting for Ariel) immediately take to the Selkie and agree to hide her there. The Selkie is obviously awash in fear, and she doesn’t speak the common tongue so they can’t communicate with her. Diana feels particularly enraged when they help the Selkie to the bath and see that she is covered head to foot in bruises and whip wounds. Diana declares she’s off to kill the groundskeeper, and Elloren tries and fails to explain that this is a bad idea for so many reasons. It isn’t until Rafe arrives and is able to talk Diana down (barely), that she agrees not to do anything rash.
  • Diana comes back after her temper has faded and Elloren overhears Diana and Rafe confess their love for each other before kissing, and Elloren is once again awash in sadness and fear for her brother and her friend, both in love with Lupines, which the Gardnerians will never accept.
  • Elloren has to go and find Andras Volya, because he saw her and Yvan smuggling the Selkie into the north tower. His mother, Professor Volya, overhears them talking and they both swear to secrecy in regards to the Selkie. Elloren learns a little bit about Amaz culture and their creation story, which explains why they hate men as a rule and will not allow any man to be part of their culture.
  • Elloren confronts Diana about her and Rafe, and they talk about Rafe becoming Lupine in order to be Diana’s mate. Elloren feels as though she will be all alone at some point, and she and Diana bond, with Diana saying that even if Elloren does not become Lupine, she will be part of Diana’s family, and that she should come and stay with them this summer.
  • Ni Vin, sister to Vu Trin commander Kam Vin, comes to search the north tower for the Selkie. Though Ni sees the Selkie, she clearly agrees with what Elloren and her friends are doing, because she claims to not have seen the Selkie and goes on her way.
  • The allies to the Selkie, named by the group Marina, meet together in the North Tower. These allies include: Elloren, Diana, Wynter, Ariel (on a technicality), Jarod, Aislinn, Cael (Wynter’s brother), Rhys (Cael’s second), Andras Volya, Yvan, Rafe, and Trystan. It is a beautifully diverse group of people who can, if nothing else, agree on one thing: that the way that Marina was treated was cruel and wrong, and she should be protected at all cost until they can find her skin and help her return to the sea.
  • Elloren and the group decide that they should camouflage as much as possible, so she starts dressing in her Gardnerian silks again, though they disgust her, and ties a white Vogel support armband on herself to blend in with the other Gardnerians. Lukas sends Elloren a brand new violin, a Maelorian, the most beautiful and expensive kind, as recompense for Fallon destroying hers on his behalf.
  • The high mage, Aldus Worthin, who was due to retire in the spring, dies suddenly, and the council elects Marcus Vogel immediately to their highest seat of Gardnerian power. This is the worst fear of everyone besides Gardnerians, because all of the terribly vicious laws will be able to be passed by Vogel, and this affects everyone in the western realm, especially Gardneria and Verpacia, which has a Gardnerian majority on its ruling council.
  • Professor Hawkynn, the Snake Elf professor, is no longer heading his class, seemingly having fled at the news of Vogel’s appointment. All of the non-Gardnerians take it really hard, because it’s the beginning of what will likely be another brutal war, and Gardneria has the strongest, most lethal military in the western realm. Rafe and Trystan receive notice of an impending military draft. Rafe runs off to find Diana, refusing to entertain the idea of joining the military that will wage war against the Lupines. Trystan is more afraid of the required wandfasting, because it will inevitably lead to him being revealed as gay.
  • Notice has come for the Icarus as well. After the end of the year, all Icarals will be required to return to their country of origin, and will no longer be allowed at the university. That will mean Ariel will be sent back to Gardneria, to the sanatorium to be imprisoned simply for being born an Icaral. And Wynter will be forced back to Alfsigr lands, where they will possibly decide to execute her for her mere existence. Elloren and Aislinn come up with the idea that some of their most persecuted friends might be able to flee east, if they were on the back of a rescued military dragon.
  • Elloren takes Yvan aside and tells him she wants to help him free his dragon. They argue, and Elloren finds out that her grandmother was responsible for the death of Yvan’s father (a prominent Resistance leader), and Elloren tells him that the Kelts killed her parents in the last war. They find out that their lives have been surprisingly similar.
  • Elloren gathers the allies and they plan how to free the dragon. Elloren finally tells her brothers and Yvan about the white wand that Sage gave her, and that if Trystan uses it, along with the right spell, they might have enough magic to break the cage, especially if Aislinn can get her hands on the military spellbook from her father’s study.
  • The Elfin steel proves impossible to shatter, bend, or melt, despite the allies’ efforts. Trystan resolves to keep experimenting.
  • A group of the allies go to check in on the dragon, bringing the Icarals with this time, since Ariel and Wynter will be able to communicate with her mind-to-mind since they are winged kindred. Ariel breaks down at the sight of the dragon, beaten bloody and broken in body, if not mind. Wynter is able to communicate that the dragon’s name is Naga, and she finds out a secret about Yvan, what he is…but will not communicate it to the group. Elloren is determined to figure out what Yvan actually is, because he is clearly not just a simple, magic-less Kelt.
  • Elloren is talking with Fern, the Urisk child who is sometimes found in the kitchen. Fern falls from a tree and her leg breaks, the bone poking through the skin. Yvan arrives on the scene, and is able to heal her leg pretty much completely, in front of Elloren’s eyes, in a way that can only be magic. Elloren demands to know what that was, but Yvan just leaves.
  • Elloren and Aislinn do research and Elloren resolves that Yvan must be at least part Lasair fire fae. Diana and Elloren have a bit of a tiff, mostly because Elloren is hurt because it doesn’t seem like Diana’s family will take her in over the summer after all.
  • Tierney finally admits to Elloren that she is a full Asrai water fae, both her and her younger brother were glammoured by her birth family and given to her Gardnerian parents to raise, with her birth parents never being seen again. Elloren goes to Professor Kristian again, asking what happened to the Fae, and he gives her a forbidden text that details the torture and genocide of the Fae on the Pyrran Islands after the Realm War. This sickens Elloren, clearly, that her people had done this thing less than a full generation ago, and it hardens her resolve to help the Fae and Marina escape before the Gardnerians hunt them down.
  • Trystan figures out how to break the dragon’s cage, the metal can be shattered if it is frozen to the point of brittleness first. The allies make their plan to free Naga.
  • Fallon Bane approaches Elloren outside of the tower, and Fallon admits she’s been watching Elloren and is convinced she’s getting up to some shit in the tower and resolves to go and find out what it is. Elloren is desperate to stop her, but suddenly a contingent of assassins come out of the trees and put a knife in Fallon’s side. Both Fallon and her guard are able to fight the assassins off, but Fallon almost dies in the attempt. Elloren finds out that these are Ishkart mercenaries, from the East, sent to kill the next Black Witch in an attempt to stop the Gardnerian’s rush to power. Fallon is rushed back to Gardneria under armed guard, and Vogel locks down the borders and starts implementing iron testing at the border crossing, making the need for escape dire for some of Elloren’s friends. They’ve got to free Naga.
  • A group of the allies go to the military base when it’s relatively empty and Trystan attempts to freeze the bars. It doesn’t work until Elloren puts a hand on Trystan’s shoulder when he’s working the wand, and all of the sudden the magic is so powerful that all the cages for every dragon at the base shatters. That’s hundreds of broken dragons, unable to do or think anything besides following commands from their mage master, heading toward them.
  • Naga is free, she’s hurt so badly Diana and Jarod have to carry her off, but the rest of them are stuck fighting off the broken military dragons. Elloren is wounded in her leg, badly, and Yvan is able to heal it a little bit, but there is one more dragon coming at them, and as Trystan aims a crater spell at it, Elloren touches him again to amplify it, and not only does it blow the dragon to bits, the whole military base is essentially destroyed. Tierney is with them, and is able to send a snowstorm to cover their tracks.
  • Away from the scene, Yvan heals Elloren more fully as Ariel begins to tend to Naga. Elloren finds out that all Gardnerian military dragons were once wyvern shifters, meaning that they had a human form as well.
  • They all head back except for Ariel, who stays with Naga. Elloren confronts Yvan once again, demanding to know what he actually is, wanting him to admit he’s Fae. He doesn’t, and they almost kiss, but Yvan instead just leaves her and goes home.
  • The wanted posters appear for those who stole the dragon and destroyed the base. Elloren finds out Lukas is coming back, he sends her a beautiful necklace and still intends on taking her to the Yule dance that’s coming up.
  • Yvan had told Elloren that she should take Tierney to Professor Kristian, as he might be able to help Tierney and her family escape before they’re found out. Elloren takes Tierney to Kristian, where they are joined by Vice Chancellor Quillen, a Gardnerian. The two of them tell Elloren and Tierney that they smuggled out hundreds of Fae during the Realm War, and they seem to know that Elloren and her allies are the ones responsible for the destruction at the military base. They welcome her to the Resistance.

End of Book 1

Reviews · Summaries

Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao

Wu Zetian has lived her whole life bound: everything from the shape of her feet to her cultural role has been decided for her simply because she was born a woman. She has two options for her future: find a good match for marriage, or sell herself into service as a concubine pilot, giving her lifeforce to help the male pilots control the giant Chrysalis warriors in the neverending battle against the invading hunduns. Zetian was determined that she would never give her life in service of that abominable tradition.

Until Big Sister died.

Now, despite despising everything the Chrysalis pilot system stands for, Zetian will infiltrate it to understand once and for all what happened to her older sister. When she comes out of her first Chrysalis battle unscathed, and on top, she is labeled an Iron Widow and paired with Li Shimin, the only male pilot able to match her mental strength to power a Chrysalis.

Zetian did what she never knew was possible: used her mental strength to overpower her male copilot. And now that she knows what she can do, she is determined to find out why so many young women are killed when she was able to rise. And prove once and for all that women can do everything the men can and more.

Review (SPOILER FREE):

I can genuinely say that I have never read anything like this book before, and as a self-proclaimed connoisseur of young adult, that’s saying something. I loved this book. I’d climb to the top of a mountain and yell to the heavens how much I loved this book. This is the kind of dystopian/sci-fi/fantasy blend that I am here for. This may as well now be an Iron Widow stan blog. Seriously, definitely my favorite book of the year so far (out of six, but that’s still pretty good considering four of them were rated 5 stars).

I’m going to be brief and spoiler free, because I think that every single person who stumbles upon this blog post and hasn’t picked up Iron Widow should shut this window, go straight to wherever you get your books, and start this one right now.

First worldbuilding/story setup: definitely one of the better sci-fi/dystopia books I’ve read in terms of getting pretty much all the information I needed on the way this world worked in about the first 20 pages (or less). Normally I especially suffer when trying to read sci-fi because they tend to be heavy on the (often necessary) info-dumping right at the beginning. Since it’s not my favorite genre, that’s where sci-fi usually loses me. However, I really feel like I understood the world: obviously based in Chinese culture, with specific details such as the pig cage drowning for adulterers and the lotus feet practice. But also they’ve got these crazy alien hundun creatures that they have to battle using giant mecha robots that are powered by qi (spirit power). And lower class and rural families sell their daughters for a “glorious” death powering these Chrysalis robots in exchange for prestige and a healthy payout. All of this is covered in the first two chapters, and other less important snipits are woven in well throughout. All in all, I was never bored and was engaged in the world from the start.

Next, characters: I’ll come right out and say that I have NEVER read a protagonist (particularly a YA protagonist) like Wu Zetian. In the wise words of the author in one of their TikToks “She is unhinged”. Truly. She is vicious and bloodthirsty and hell-bent on revenge throughout the whole story. Female characters (even tough ones) are almost always softened in some way. Love of family, love of children, love of animals, even their love of their romantic interest is often made into a weakness of some kind. Zetian has none of this weakness. She is intrinsically driven by revenge and her arguably sketchy moral code. She believes women are not the weaker sex, good, feminist, yay, but also she is willing to be the sole prosecution, judge, and jury for those who wrong her: you mess with her, she’s just gonna kill you. And while I would certainly fear her if I met her in real life and I don’t find her particularly relatable, she is awesome to read about her and I love her vicious nature. Without revealing too much, there is a love triangle in this story, and I do love both of these characters so much. Personally, love triangles are my least favorite YA trope, BUT, this author makes what I believe is the only acceptable romantic ending for a love triangle, and I will just leave it at that. Long story short, characters are great, pick up the book and read all about them.

Pacing/Style: I thought this book was paced very well. Normally it’s very difficult in my experience to classify a sci-fi/dystopia as fast paced due to, as I mentioned, the necessity of world/technology building. But this book takes off like a speeding bullet and never really slows down. I easily consumed the last 200 pages of the book in one evening. Particularly at the end I found it really impossible to put down. And for style I have to say I’m always so impressed with the quality of some debut novels. It really didn’t read like a first publication, and I think that the author is such a talented person, and I cannot wait to see what they put out in the future.

Summary !!!SPOILERS AHEAD!!!:

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE for the love of all things holy stop right here if you have not read Iron Widow. I am such a passionate believer that everyone should check this book out, and this will spoil everything, and there are so many delicious moments that I want you to experience yourself so please stop…unless you’ve finished the book, in which case feel free to check out this summary!

  • Zetian decides to sell herself off to the army to be a concubine pilot to Yang Guang, the Chrysalis pilot who killed her older sister, who was also his concubine pilot. Chrysalis pilots fight the hunduns, faceless creatures who try to invade human settlements.
  • Zetian wants to be Yang Guang’s copilot so she can kill him for the brutal murder of her sister, who didn’t even die in battle so their family didn’t even get the compensation they would have gotten. Zetian knows they’ll execute her and her whole family for Yang Guang’s murder, but she blames her family for her suffering (warrented) and so doesn’t care that they’ll die.
  • Her best friend Yizhi is the son of the richest man in the city, and tries to stop Zetian from carrying out her plan by offering to marry her. Zetian is undeterred and kisses him once before heading to her destiny.
  • Zetian is tested for her spirit ability, and she has a much higher number than average, assuring she’ll be accepted quickly by Yang Guang, allowing her to get close to him. She is in fact chosen the same day she arrives.
  • She goes with Guang to his suite, where he begins to seduce her and she doubts her plan, he seems kind, could he really have killed Big Sister? But before they can go to bed together, they are pulled into a battle, which Guang has to carry her kicking and screaming to the Chrysalis. Zetian is sure she’ll die before she can carry out her plan.
  • Zetian is pulled into Guang’s mind realm, where she learns to take control and fight through his mental barriers. But she also sees images, that he says the same things he said to her to all the other girls, and that he did in fact kill Big Sister in cold blood. So within the mind realm, the two of them fight and Zetian kills Guang, the second most powerful Chrysalis pilot, and takes over the Chrysalis herself, fighting on her own. When the battle is over she wakes up to see she’s killed Guang for real, fulfilling her plan, if not the way she intended. She exits the Chrysalis, holding his body for all the media to see.
  • Zetian is proclaimed the Iron Widow, and paired with the strongest pilot they have, Li Shimin, who with pure spirit power kills every female concubine pilot who he ever fights with. Zetian is determined now to live, to beat Shimin somehow. They go into battle, and Zetian is unable to overpower him, and they somehow manage to do something to the Chrysalis nobody has ever seen, and the two are declared equal partners.
  • Zetian is determined to hate Shimin, despite what she hears about him: that he killed his abusive father and brothers for raping a local girl, and that the military forces him to fight, that he’s not killing his copilots on purpose.
  • Yizhi arrives at the military compound in disguise, determined to help them. Shimin is a drunk, and Yizhi helps him work on getting sober. Zetian and Yizhi learn that the military forced alcohol on Shimin to keep him compliant.
  • The hunduns are becoming more aggressive, and there is a campaign to go and destroy their emperor and their nesting grounds to take over those lands. But nobody in the military wants to see them succeed, so Zetian makes a deal with Yizhi’s father, the lecherous king of media from the capital. He paints Shimin and Zetian as the powerful, scandalous couple that they appear to be.
  • Zetian admits her feelings for Yizhi, and they begin their relationship, which Zetian tells Yizhi that she can’t be constricted to being just with him, and Yizhi understands and is supportive.
  • Shimin and Zetian have gotten closer during their battles together and have mastered the copiloting of their Chrysalis. They are matched together in an extravagant wedding-like ceremony, where Zetian and Shimin also enter into a real, physical relationship to match their persona. Both Yizhi and Shimin are equally dear to Zetian (yay for polyamory).
  • Zetian and Shimin torture and kill a military leader who is responsible for torturing Shimin over and over and forcing him to fight and become addicted to alcohol. They do this so they can get information about why female copilots are so much more likely to die. They find out that the female pilot seat is literally designed to drain their qi (power) so that even if the girls are equally as powerful as their male pilots, they are far more likely to die, making Iron Widows like Zetian one in a million. This is the reason why Shimin’s previous girlfriend, who he loved, died in the Chrysalis when she should have been his equal.
  • Armed with this knowledge, Zetian plans on revealing to the world that the military has been killing their daughters for hundreds of years to sustain the Chrysalis’s, simply to keep women imprisoned in their place as the “lesser sex”. But first they have to go and save the world from the hundun emperor.
  • Zetian and Shimin (with Yizhi along for the ride to offer them extra qi), lead the army of Chrysalis’s to fight the hundun’s on their territory.
  • There are two huge emperor class hunduns, who seem to be able to talk a little bit into Zetian’s head, calling them invaders and asking them to stop. They are able to kill one and damage the other, but before they can finish them off, one of the other Chrysalis’s attacks Zetian and Shimin’s Chrysalis (the Vermillion Bird), with the intent of killing everyone inside.
  • Shimin sacrifices himself to save Zetian and Yizhi, who are able to escape the Chrysalis unharmed. Blinded with rage and grief at Shimin’s death, Zetian follows a tribe of people who have been living in the hundun lands for generations to where the last great Chrysalis pilot and former emperor is said to be waiting to be reawakened.
  • With the help of his protectors, Zetian wakes the emperor and convinces him to let her take the male pilot’s seat in the great dragon Chrysalis. Zetian rides it back to the battlefield, ending the battle and declaring victory over the hunduns.
  • Zetian finds out that the pair of pilots who killed Shimin in the Vermillion Bird did so on orders from command, who said that they’d kill the pilot’s two young children if they didn’t kill Shimin and Zetian. Zetian does not take this as an acceptable answer and uses the dragon Chrysalis to crush the two pilots who betrayed them.
  • Picking up Yizhi on the way, Zetian pilots the dragon all the way back to the city, where Yizhi’s father has held her family captive, saying that if she doesn’t stop her absolute revenge rampage that he’ll kill them.
  • Yizhi goes out to try and reason with his father, but instead just kills him and the two of them leave Zetian’s family to their fate. Zetian is determined to remake the world with her at the helm, ensuring that no women will ever have to die at the hands of a male Chrysalis pilot.
  • The ending finds Yizhi contacting Zetian from where he is going through the old Sage’s archives, discovering that their entire civilization is a lie: this is not earth, and the hunduns are the native species, with humans being the invaders. And then the “gods” up in the sky cut off Yizhi’s message with a message of their own: stop what she’s doing and submit to them, or they’ll finish off Shimin, showing what appears to be Shimin’s preserved remains. The book ends with Zetian falling to her knees with a scream.

The End

!!! END SPOILERS!!!

# of Pages: 391

Time it took me to read: 4 Days

# of pages a day to finish in a week: 56

Rating: 5 out of 5

If you liked Iron Widow, try:

Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

Blood Heir by Amélie Wen Zhao

Furyborn by Claire Legrand

These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong

Reviews

Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé

*The following blurb was taken from Amazon*

When two Niveus Private Academy students, Devon Richards and Chiamaka Adebayo, are selected to be part of the elite school’s senior class prefects, it looks like their year is off to an amazing start. After all, not only does it look great on college applications, but it officially puts each of them in the running for valedictorian, too.

Shortly after the announcement is made, though, someone who goes by Aces begins using anonymous text messages to reveal secrets about the two of them that turn their lives upside down and threaten every aspect of their carefully planned futures.

As Aces shows no sign of stopping, what seemed like a sick prank quickly turns into a dangerous game, with all the cards stacked against them. Can Devon and Chiamaka stop Aces before things become incredibly deadly?

I’ve seen this book pop up on all my social media for months now, so I was amped when my book club chose it as our bonus book this month. Because I’m allowed to buy new books when they’re for book club and it doesn’t break my resolution of trying to buy fewer books this year 😉

Alrighty, straight into my spoiler-free review. Even though this is not the type of book I’d normally gravitate towards as a contemporary YA novel, I absolutely love love LOVED this book. I am so impressed that it is a debut novel by a young writer who took on this project while she was still in school. Mind blown. One of the most enjoyable standalone novels I’ve read in quite some time.

Now, I’m not a Gossip Girl fan (never seen it), but this book DID bring me straight back into my high school adoration of the Private book series by Kate Brian. Chiamaka at the beginning of the book would have fit right in with the girls in that series. But I really liked reading a book from the perspective of the “queen bee mean girl”, and I was just really intrigued from the beginning about her motivations and her personality. Devon is pretty much the opposite: quiet, sensitive, content with being invisible and just getting through high school. The way that these two come together is very authentic and their reluctance to trust each other really makes the relationship they build by the end seem very earned. Overall, they were both well-rounded protagonists, and the side characters were all A+ as well.

In terms of pacing, I felt that this book was pretty fast-paced and engaging from the get-go. It took me about 40-60 pages to really get into, simply because it’s a bit of a genre departure from what I usually read these days, but I was invested into the mystery and the characters right away, and that’s certainly enough to get me through an initial genre-difference shock.

Overall I felt the themes of this story were really important. This is a story with POC and LGBTQIA+ topics, and as a cishet white woman I really cannot imagine what these characters go through, but I know that this kind of thing is real and out there and happening today, no matter how “progressive” we seem to be here in 2022. But ultimately this book is about black power and perseverance, and I cannot express how much I enjoyed it.

As much as I’d love to say more, I really don’t want to spoil anything because the payout is so high for the amazing mystery that debut author Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé presents. All I can say is seriously, go read it.

# of Pages: 415

Time it took me to read: 4 Days

# of pages a day to finish in a week: 59

Rating: 5 out of 5

Normally I try to recommend similar books to the one I just read, but I really don’t think I have any other that qualify that I’ve read recently, so I’m just going to recommend some of my other recent favorite debut novels by POC authors, so if you liked Ace of Spades, try:

A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Rosanne A. Brown

The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna

These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong

The Blood Heir by Amélie Wen Zhao

Reviews

A Tale of 3 Books: Blood, Metal, Bone vs The Storm Crow Duology

Happy new year everyone! I know I’ve been absent for a few months now, but I had a crazy-busy end of the year. But when I have the time, I always want to keep up this blog because I so enjoy sharing the books I read out into the world. But sort of in a whirlwind, I read three books at the first half of this year, and I have two more to read for my book club, so I’m consolidating these first few reviews this year into a comparison, because I could not have felt more differently about the first book I read vs the duology I read back-to-back.

My first book of the year was Blood, Metal, Bone by Lindsay Cummings, and the next books I read were The Storm Crow and The Crow Rider by Kalyn Josephson. I’m going to compare the different aspects of both of these stories and then give a final score to each at the end. Let’s get into it.

First, pacing. Blood, Metal, Bone is a standalone novel, which in my opinion means that the story should waste no time in grabbing your attention. Setup is important for any novel, of course, but when you have less than 500 pages to tell your entire story from start to finish, the action needs to start early or the characters have to make you care early on. Neither of which happened for me with this story. I found the pacing to be almost agonizingly slow, which does not bode particularly well, especially in the YA genre, where I expect to be grabbed early on. The Storm Crow, on the other hand, had action and tragedy strike quick, so not only was I invested in the narrator and what was going to happen to her from the get-go, but the inciting action set my expectations within the first fifty pages. I was hooked.

Next, characters. Blood, Metal, Bone had a mid-size cast of characters, and two very different narrators. Normally, I don’t mind a split narrator situation, in fact I often write stories that way myself, two different perspectives can add a lot. However, in this case, I didn’t really care for either of the narrators, and I felt like one of them was the main narrator and the other one was sort of added in there as an afterthought, since I would say that probably 2/3 of the book was in one narrator’s perspective and 1/3 was in the other’s. It gave sort of an unbalenced feel. The Storm Crow duology was told entirely from a single perspective, and in this case I felt like it added to the attachment I felt to the narrator and kept me invested in the main storyline. The cast of the Storm Crow duology was also smaller, and while I do often enjoy a large cast story, I find with many small cast stories I care much more deeply about the outcomes of each one because the time is dedicated in the story to make me care about them.

Next, worldbuilding/genre. In Blood, Metal, Bone, I believe the author was going for a bit of a genre blend, but I don’t believe it was particularly successful and just left me feeling as though this book has a bit of a identity crisis. The prologue sort of tricks the reader into believing it’s a fantasy, but then all of the sudden in chapter one, the narrator changes and the book is suddenly set in space, turning it into a sci-fi somehow? And then we switch back to the original narrator and she’s this kind of desert outlaw, and the book then tries to read like a western? Too much, in my opinion. Pick one or two. I think if the author had made it more clearly a sci-fi from the first page, it would have been simply a space-western, and that could have been more successful. And since the genre was so confused, that left the world-building all over the place and I never had a clear connection with the setting at all. With Storm Crow, it was relatively simple yet fun fantasy world with giant, intelligent crows that have elemental magic. I think Josephson did a pretty good job with giving a history and backstory to the magic and mythology, and then having that become relevant in the second book.

Finally, overall story/endings. I’ll keep it spoiler free, but try to give as much detail as I can. For Blood, Metal, Bone, the prologue sets you up with this kind of mystery from the very beginning, which is honestly the whole reason I read this book to the very end. There is so much lead up to the discovery of this mystery, and the truth ends up being, in my opinion, a huge letdown. The ending also takes a bit of a wild turn, and not in a good way. I found myself to be pretty dissatisfied with the resolution of both the plot and the characters. For Storm Crow, I liked the story pretty much immediately, and am very happy with how it ended. My one gripe is that it did contain a love triangle, particularly in the first book, which is not my favorite trope, but it did end up resolving in a way that I was very happy with (both the love triangle and the story overall).

It should come as a surprise to nobody after reading this that the Storm Crow duology was a clear favorite. I gave the first book in the Storm Crow series a 4/5 and the second a 5/5, because I was hooked from beginning to end and absolutly devoured the series in about five days total. Blood, Metal, Bone, on the other hand, I almost DNF’d (did not finish), and only really kept going because I didn’t want to set a bad precident for my first book of the year, and also I was sort of invested in the resolution of that mystery, which ended up being a big letdown. I gave that one a 2/5, because I did indeed finish it.

So in the end, I can’t recommend Blood, Metal, Bone, but highly recommend the Storm Crow duologies for fans of YA fantasy that enjoy a quick, engaging read. I also felt as though the Storm Crow books gave a really realistic, thoughtful representation of grief, PTSD, and a character with depression.

P.S. I probably won’t do many of these comparison-style reviews and will return to my traditional formatting, but if you enjoyed this side-by-side review, please let me know and I’ll throw some more in there. As always, thanks for reading, and let me know if you agree or disagree with my assessments, I always love discourse.

If you enjoyed the Storm Crow duology, try:

Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian

Defy by Sara B. Larson

Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim

The Glass Spare by Lauren Destephano

Reviews · Summaries

Red Tigress by Amelie Wen Zhao (Book 2)

# of Pages: 425

Time it took me to read: 4 Days

# of pages a day to finish in a week: 61

Rating: 5 out of 5

With the kingdom of Cyrillia now in the hands of the powerful false empress Morganya, Ana and Ramson are on the run and in desperate need of allies. Because though she has no title, no army, and few friends, Ana knows she is the only one who can save her kingdom from destruction as Morganya’s army sweeps through the kingdom, killing non-Affiniates and anyone else who gets in the way of her plans.

When the last of her kingdom’s strongholds falls to Morganya’s power, Ana is forced to turn her gaze overseas, where foreign kingdoms with powerful armies could be the answer to the alliance she’s been looking for. But will Ramson be able to return to his home, the kingdom of Bregon, after all these years of self-imposed exile? And will the effort of Ana, Ramson, and their friends to expose Morganya’s plot to steal a powerful weapon from Bregon expose even more dangerous secrets brewing in the courts of Bregon?

Review (!!!Spoiler Free!!!)

I’ve been excited beyond belief for this book, as it’s the sequel to my 2020 Book of the Year, Blood Heir. If you’re unfamiliar, think dark fantasy retelling of the Anastasia fairytale (animated movie or awesome broadway show, take your pick). Anyway, this book has been out for a while but I’m trying to have much better self control and read books mostly in the order I buy them, alternating between sequels and new standalones/new series. So I’ve been waiting for this one to make its way to the top of my stack.

Everything about the first book was great, and Red Tigress did not disappoint. Ana’s story is just as compelling as it was in the first book, and there is the continuation of the lovely slow-burn enemies-to-lovers romance. Something that I don’t see as often as I wish I did but is a component in lots of my favorite books is when both there are multiple protagonists which include both members of the romantic pairing, because I just feel like it makes it more satisfying when they admit their feelings for one another, because both of the characters are being developed individually, so it’s not like “oh, I love this boy, is it possible he loves me too”, you get to watch the feelings develop from both ends, and it’s awesome.

There is also a really great third protagonist in this story in the form of Linn, Ana’s friend who is briefly introduced in the last half of the first book. She’s a super cool badass also, and seeing her work to overcome her struggles and her distrust of others is a wonderful addition to this story.

I’ll wrap up this brief review, I obviously don’t have too much to say that is different from the first book: world-building is top-notch, characters are compelling and well developed, magic system is *chefs kiss* and pacing is great.

The one thing that I’ll say is I do wish I’d had time to re-read the first book before I jumped into the sequel. There was enough of a refresh that after a few pages I remembered who all the characters were and generally what happened in the first book, but a lot of the details were referenced here in the sequel but not fully refreshed, so it was like “oh yeah, I remember that this character died in the first book and it obviously had an impact, but what exactly happened again?”.

So I’m obviously going to move into my summary of this book so that the above scenario does not happen to me again when it comes time to read the third book, which will be coming spring of 2022 *sob*.

Cast (!!BIG SPOILERS AHEAD!!!)

Ana – main protagonist, true heir to the throne of Cyrillia, last of her line. Also known as the Blood Witch of Salskoff, her Affinity is to blood. She mostly came to terms with it in the first book and has stopped seeing herself as a monster. Her goal is to regain her throne from Morganya, who is the reason her family is dead and currently sits on the throne. Best friend of Linn and in love with Ramson.

Ramson – bastard son of Roran Farrald, Admiral of Bregan. A talented hand-to-hand fighter, former con man who worked for Aleric Kerlan. His goal is to hunt down Kerlan and get rid of him once and for all, mostly for all the harm he’s done to Ramson, but also for his role in helping Morganya take the crown and his trafficking in Affinates. In love with Ana but convinced it’ll never work out between them.

Linn – Wind Affinate who was trafficked in Cyrillia when she was searching for her brother. Freed by Ana and Ramson when they liberated the Playpen in book one, was captured by Morganya’s soldiers and taken to prison. Broken out of prison by Kais. Linn is Ana’s closest friend and finds her mission in liberating Affinates and fighting for their freedom.

Kais – A yaeger Affinate, meaning they can block or control the Affinites of others. Formerly a soldier for the royal army, decided to desert and helped Linn break out of prison. Son of Shamaira, a friend of Ana’s who was captured early on in the book. Mother and son have been searching for each other for years. Kais wants to find her more than anything, and when Ana promises her help, Kais is infinately loyal. Possible love interest of Linn.

Daya – Sailor from the Crown kingdom of Kusutri. Hired by Ramson to take him, Ana, Linn, and Kais to Bregon. Saves Ramson’s life when Kerlan tries to drown him, and ends up joining up with Ana’s cause by the end.

Yuri – lifelong friend of Ana’s, former soldier at the castle, leader of the Redcoat rebellion. The Redcoats are anti-monarchy, so they won’t ally with Ana, even though Morganya is a common enemy. Loses his mother to Morganya’s reign of terror, vows to end the monarchy no matter what, even if it means Ana has to be eliminated.

Sorsha – Ramson’s half sister, legitimate child of their father. Certifiably insane, the victim of a tortuous life of experiments on her due to her Affinity. She’s naturally an iron Affinate, but due to the power of the Affinity siphons, she also has power over fire and stone. Wants revenge on her father for giving her up to the experiments and Kerlan as well for being the cause of them.

Roran – Admiral of the Bregan navy, father of Ramson and Sorsha. A cruel, harsh man who killed Ramson’s best friend in front of him when he was only a boy. Submitted his daughter to excruciating experiments regarding the Affinity siphons. Wanted to take over the entirety of Bregon, was poisoning the king for years.

Kerlan – Former gang leader in Cyrillia, trafficker of Affinites. Ally to Morganya, power-hungry. Former boss of Ramson. Discovered the ability for searock to siphon the power from an Affinate and grant it to someone else.

Morganya – Current empress of Cyrillia. Flesh and mind Affinate. Killer of Ana’s family, determined to have entire power and domain over Cyrillia under the guise of caring for Affinates and killing any who persecuted them.

Darius – Fourteen year old king of Bregon. Ally of Ana in her quest to retake the throne of Cyrillia.

Summary (!!!BIG SPOILERS OBVS!!!)

Ana and Ramson arrive in Novo Mynsk looking for allies. Ana is there to meet up with someone from the Redcoat rebellion which is tied to her friend Yuri. She meets this person, Seyin, who tells her that the Redcoats believe the monarchy should be abolished, so unless she gives up the claim to her crown, they will not ally with her. Ana leaves, discouraged, but still wanting to meet with her friend Yuri directly in hopes she can change his mind.

Ramson goes to the former mansion of Kerlan, his old boss, where he meets an old collegue who makes a deal with him: she’ll give him information and help keep Kerlan’s thugs off of him if he’ll help her find her husband, who went with Kerlan overseas and hasn’t come back. Ramson agrees, since he’s looking for Kerlan anyway.

On her way back to meet up with Ramson, Ana gets into a fight with a bunch of Morganya’s new Inquisitors that are rounding up anyone who owned or trafficked Affinates, punishing their family members as well. Ana reveals herself and has to flee, hiding briefly with an old friend Shamaira, who advises her that she should go to Goldwater port.

Ramson is waiting for Ana at the hotel when he is almost killed by some thugs, so he goes out to look for Ana before she gets back. Ana arrives back at the inn, where she is met by Seyin, a shadow Affinate, and he stabs her, intending to kill her and end any competition for the monarchy. Ana survives, takes her horse, and makes for Goldwater port without Ramson.

Linn is trapped in prison. She finds that Kais, the yaeger Affinate who she battled at the end of the last book, is there too. He says he wants to change sides and free her so they can both go to Ana’s aid. She doesn’t trust him, but he ends up saving her when she gets in over her head with an escape plan, and they flee the prison together.

With the help of Yuri, Ana makes it to Goldwater port. Yuri brings her to his home with his mom and sister and gets her cleaned up, but says they cannot ally with her as Seyin said, though he did not order Seyin to try and assassinate her. Just as she finds Ramson again, Morganya and her troops arrive at Goldwater port and wreak havoc.

Ramson and Ana manage to flee the port on a ship with Linn and Kais, who have made it there as well. The ship is owned by a sailor, Daya, that Ramson has hired to bring them to Bregon. Ramson is going to Bregon to find Kerlan, as he has intel that’s where he’s gone, and Ana is going because she needs allies to fight Morganya, and hopes the Bregonians will be those allies. They also have intel that Bregon has some sort of powerful weapon that bestows Affinities that Morganya wants, and Ana knows they have to stop her from getting it.

Ramson won’t tell Ana anything about his past in Bregon, who his father is, etc. Thinks he can avoid it by going off on his own while Ana and the rest of the crew go to meet with his father and the king. They arrive in Bregon after a long journey, and are shortly thereafter beset upon by Sorsha, Ramson’s half sister. She is an insanely talented fighter, and tries her best to kill Ramson before Ana and the rest step in. Sorsha begrudgingly agrees to bring them before the king and courts. Ramson’s identity as the son of the Bregonian admiral is revealed to the rest of the group.

Something is off in the Bregonian courts, they realize it right away. Ana, Linn, and Kais stay to work on getting their alliance, while Ramson dips back out to search for Kerlan. Ramson and Daya find Kerlan’s ship in the harbor, and it’s loaded with searock. A second look the next day reveals that it’s a siphon made out of searock that is the weapon that allows an Affinity to be stolen from an Affinite and bestowed upon someone else, Affinate or not. Kerlan discovers Ramson, weighs him down, and throws him into the harbor to drown, but not before revealing his whole diabolical plan with Morganya to harness the power of the siphon and put Kerlan on the throne of Bregon, another jewel in Morganya’s crown. Daya is able to save Ramson’s life.

In the Blue Fort, Ana tries to get to the bottom of what’s going on, but it’s Linn happens upon the king, only to find that the poor young king, only fourteen, is being poisoned into submission by Ramson’s father the Admiral Roran so he can rule himself. Linn also finds the secret labratory where Affinites are being kept against their will and experimented upon with the searock siphon. Linn finds that Sorsha is deeply involved, and that Kais seems to have betrayed them.

Ana is about to go and confront the king and the Admiral when Sorsha and Kais come upon them. Sorsha commands that Kais take her prisoner for the coup that is about to happen. Sorsha leaves, and Linn arrives, willing to fight and kill Kais for his betrayal. Kais reveals that he didn’t want to betray them, but he found out that Morganya had captured his mother and would kill her without Kais’s complete cooperation. It’s revealed to Ana that Shamaira, Ana’s dear friend, is Kais’s mother. Ana vows to save her, and Kais gladly switches back to their side. Linn and Kais rush to save the trapped Affinates while Ana rushes to try and stop Sorsha.

Ramson makes it back to the Fort, hoping to warn his father about Kerlan’s coup. He realizes his father has been behind the whole Affinate siphon plot the whole time, but is too late to save him. Sorsha arrives, takes the key to the secret blackstone collar she’s been wearing, and kills their father. Unlocking her collar, she reveals that she’s been the only successful subject of the siphon’s power, adding fire and stone Affinities to her natural iron Affinity. She is by far the biggest, baddest boss with all the powers.

Attempting to kill Ramson, Sorsha is stopped by Ana, who arrives just in time. Sorsha is late for the coup, so she runs to find Kerlan. Ana and Ramson know they have to ring the war bells to bring the Bregonian navy to the fort to stop Morganya’s forces, which should be arriving any time to aid Kerlan’s coup. The two share their first kiss before going into the final boss fight.

Kerlan and Sorsha have already killed much of the three courts of Bregon, but they don’t yet have the king. Ramson tries to ring the bells, but Sorsha catches him. Ana rushes in and is able to ring the bells while Sorsha and Kerlan are distracted. Sorsha manages to cut Ana and siphon’s her Affinity. All seems to be lost, but Linn and Kais arrive with a dozen Affinites that they were able to save from the dungeon. Kerlan’s men fight the Affinites. Before Sorsha can absorb Ana’s blood Affinity, Ramson is able to best her and lock the collar back on her, so she’s once again without access to her Affinities. She flees.

Kerlan captures Linn and threatens to kill her unless they call off the navy. Linn says she’d rather die than have him win. So he throws her over the cliff. Kais is able to dive after her and save her, aiding her in the use of her wind Affinity. Ramson finally kills Kerlan and the action is over.

The story ends with Darius taking his throne properly and granting a huge fleet to Ana so she can return to Cyrillia for her throne. Ramson isn’t going with her, he agreed to head a special task force to find the rest of Kerlan’s men. Ana thinks that he doesn’t want to be with her, and the kiss wasn’t what she thought. Ramson does totally love her, but thinks it’ll never work out once she’s empress so is just dipping out to save himself heartbreak (lame).

Linn and Kais agree to be Ana’s ambassadors to Kemeira, Linn’s homeland, where she wants to return and convince them to aid Ana and fight for the freedom of Affinites everywhere. Ana sends a bird to Yuri, letting him know she’s returning to wage war on Morganya. Yuri has just discovered that his mother was killed by Morganya, and he reinstates Seyin as his second in the Redcloaks, with the intent of ending the monarchy, no matter what.

End Book 2

!!!END SPOILERS!!!

Thanks to everyone who made it this far. If you love these books as much as I do, let me know in the comments. If you think they suck and wanna tell me why, I’d love to hear from you anyway. Catch ya’ll later, I’ll just be curled in a ball waiting for Spring of 2022 and the release of Book 3, Crimson Reign.

If you liked Red Tigress, try:

Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian

Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

Furyborn by Clare Legrand

Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

Reviews · Summaries

The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna (Book 1)

# of Pages: 415

Time it took me to read: 3 Days

# of pages a day to finish in a week: 59

Rating: 4 out of 5

This is the most important day of Deka’s life. Today is the day she will go through the Ritual of Purity, which will mark her as a true member of the village where she has always felt like an outsider. So long as her blood runs red, she will be welcomed by her community with open arms and will prepare herself for marriage.

But when the ritual goes horribly wrong and her blood runs gold, she is subjugated to the punishment of all girls who fail the Ritual: the death mandate. Just when Deka thinks all is lost, a powerful stranger arrives and offers her a choice: remain in the power of the village elders, or be conscripted into the Emperor’s army of elite alaki warriors, made up entirely of the girls who would otherwise have been under the power of the death mandate.

Abandoned by everyone she thought cared for her, Deka is whisked away from her tiny village and travels to the capital for training, because the alaki army has one purpose: to rid the kingdom of its most terrifying predator, the deathshrieks.

Though it’s not the life she always wanted, Deka is determined to make the best of her situation, and she quickly finds that though she has always felt powerless in the face of her fate, she may be the key to saving her kingdom from the monsters that hold it captive.

Review (No Spoilers):

Oh boy, what a breath of fresh air! It’s been a while since I’ve read a new fast-paced YA fantasy, and The Gilded Ones totally delivered. Namina Forna’s debut novel is extremely engaging with a fantastically immersive world.

Just going to post a brief review here, as I’m going to spend most of this post doing a summary, but this section will be spoiler-free, and I’ll definitely give a warning before I get into the section with spoilers, because I highly recommend this book and you don’t want to be spoiled if you haven’t read it yet.

Starting with pacing, which as I stated above is fast. The reader is undoubtably hooked within the first few chapters because the action starts right away. The way that the author builds mystery after mystery kept me asking questions, which kept me turning pages. As much as I love intense world-building, it often slows down the pace of the story if there is heavy-lifting to be done story-wise, but despite an impressibly imaginative world in Oterra, I felt that the information about the world was thoroughly interspersed, which I love over an info-dump anyday.

Moving briefly into world-building, as I said, fantastic for a debut novel. Oterra is a bright and vibrant world with rich cultures and fantastical creatures galore. The one thing I’ll say, and I won’t get too much into it here, is that there was one creature that should have been left out of the story all together, and that is the equus. They’re supposed to be like centaurs, kinda, but with horsy facial features. But what really alarms me is that they have what appears to be human intelligence and speech patterns, but they seem to be content to be the pack mules to humans, and a lot of their commentary revolves around liking apples, which makes them seem much more like they have horse brains in their human heads. Long story short, I don’t think they add anything to the storyline at all and they creep me out, I wish they weren’t there. Other than that though, I love the world and I love the creatures.

Now characters. I thought that Deka had a really nice arc. She starts out as meek, keeping her eyes down and wanting nothing more than to be the traditional subservient woman that her religion tells her is the only appropriate way for a woman to be. She has an understandable, realistic struggle with completely shifting from subservient woman to elite warrior. The transition happens a little fast in terms of actual timeline of the story, but I think it mostly makes sense for it to happen quickly because there is so much going on with the plot, and Deka has to keep up. Regarding side characters, I think Deka has a really lovable, well-rounded group of friends, including her love interest. I thought their relationship was very sweet, very pure, and I was into it, I wish there was more of it to be honest but hopefully that’ll all be in book 2 *fingers crossed*. But probably the “best” character was Deka’s mysterious benefactor White Hands. Deka goes up and down and up and down with whether or not she trusts her, and I as a reader really enjoyed trying to guess whether or not White Hands had Deka’s best interests at heart or not.

Lastly, I’ll take a moment to talk about style. As a reader, I could tell this was a debut novel, simply because the flow was occasionally a little rough around the edges. Forna is certainly a talented writer, and I can only imagine that the writing will get better as the series progresses. But once again, not a bad writer, I could just tell there was some inexperience there as someone who’s read a lot of YA. However, from the perspective of being a writer myself, I know how hard it can be to make a story flow, so I’m just proud of her for getting it done! And something that was sort of funny was that a habit that I think Forna has is that she really spells out every single one of her tropes. There is pretty much no subtly, which cracked me up. Because normally in YA, the tropes are really obvious, but the author usually at least tries to bury the lead a little bit. For example, a big theme in this story is found family, and where normally in YA the author would just write a nice scene where the found family comes together and leave it at that. But Forna takes it a step further by writing that heart-warming found family scene, but then ending the chapter with a sentence like “and it was like I finally found my family.” Literally spelling out the trope. I’m not mad about it though, because it’s totally something that I would do, because as a writer and a person I’m about as subtle as a punch in the face.

Now, the next book doesn’t come out until spring of 2022 (curse you paper shortage!), so I’m definitely going to do a summary for this one. I’m really going to work hard to make these summaries still contain all the important, juicy information about characters and plot points while being condensed because these summaries are really exhausting to write.

!!!SPOILERS AHEAD, DO NOT READ PAST HERE UNLESS YOU HAVE READ THE BOOK. IT’S SERIOUSLY NOT WORTH BEING SPOILED IF THERE IS ANY CHANCE YOU’LL READ THIS BOOK!!!

Characters:

Deka – The sixteen year old protagonist of the story. Always wanted to fit in, but her mother is from a different province so she’s darker than all of the other people in her village. Taken from her village to be an alaki warrior when her blood runs gold. White Hands is her mysterious benefactor, and she is best friend to Britta. Love interest to Keita. She starts out meek and completely affected by the brainwashing that women are weak, but transforms into a strong, feminist leader of the alaki warriors.

Britta – Sixteen year old alaki, travels with Deka to the capital to train and becomes her protector and best friend. Chatty, optimistic, gentle-hearted, fiercely loyal.

White Hands / Lady of the Equus – All we know about her from the start is that she is a noble, but we find that she is the emperor’s “cousin” and has a lot of influence, so she is able to protect and influence Deka. She’s mysterious, and plays it close to the vest. By the end we find she is one of the firstborn, a daughter of the Gilded Ones (goddesses).

Ixa – Deka’s loyal pet/sidekick. He’s a shapeshifter, and can communicate a little in Deka’s mind. Commonly seen as a little cat with horns, but can also transform into a fierce dragon-type creature for battle.

Adwapa – Friend to Deka, one of the fiercest alaki warriors. She’s from the tribe that always worshipped the Gilded Ones in secret.

Belcalis – Friend to Deka, young alaki warrior. She suffered greatly before coming to the capital to train, it takes her quite some time to lower her walls enough to let in Deka and the others close to her.

Keita – young jatu soldier that is paired with Deka as his alaki partner. He’s got a hard exterior, but he respects Deka for the warrior that she is, and they fall in love throughout the story.

Summary:

I’m going to try a new format, list format rather than whole rambling paragraphs. As I said, I’m trying to reap the benefits of summarizing the book for myself (and hopefully others) without having to write 3000 words. Alrighty, let’s see how this goes:

  1. We meet Deka, sixteen years old and excited for the purity ceremony that will prove she is a faithful woman of her village. She has always felt different, especially since her mother died a few months prior.
  2. During the ceremony, monsters called deathshrieks attack. Deka seems strangely unaffected by their bloodcurdling wails, and, desperate to save her family and friends, she commands them to stop and leave. However, she gets hurt in the process and her blood runs the cursed gold. The boy she has a crush on puts a sword through her stomach.
  3. We find that Deka is an alaki (descended from demons), which means she cannot die, no matter how many times they try and kill her. She is tormented for months by the elders in her village, who want to kill her but also take her golden blood to sell. She’s rescued by White Hands, an emissary of the emperor. She is told that if she wants to escape the torture, she must come to the capital and join an army of alaki warriors to fight the deathshrieks. She agrees.
  4. Deka travels with White Hands and another alaki, Britta, who is from a village north of Deka’s. They bond over their faith and shared experience.
  5. The girls arrive at the capital and are left by White Hands. They go through the process of being conscripted. Their hands are dipped in gilded gold blood and they are such marked. They are paired with a male jatu soldier to be their partner on the battlefield. Deka is paired with Keita.
  6. Deka and Britta make an alliance with the other girls in their transport to the training camp, two sisters from a southern tribe and Belcalis, who is very reluctant and angry, but not about to turn down an alliance.
  7. The girls get to the camp and are introduced to their teachers, who are all human, non-alaki women. The training begins, and the girls go for a run and learn that they can enter a combat state where they are inhumanly fast and strong. They are meant to be warriors, and this is a time where Deka and the other girls come to terms with their demon blood and accept that it makes them strong and worthy to be warriors to fight the deathshrieks for their empire.
  8. One of Deka’s friends is killed (her final death) by some deathshrieks who make it into their camp. Deka feels that her mother was part of the legacy of this place, and finds that she was a shadow, which is an elite female assassin before she was exiled to the north with her father when she was pregnant with Deka.
  9. Deka realizes she can command the deathshrieks, and trains with White Hands and her friends to form an elite deathshriek killing squad, along with their jatu partners.
  10. Deka realizes that she has special abilities that even the other alaki do not have, and tries to solve the mystery, but White Hands doesn’t really give her much.
  11. During a deathshriek raid, Deka discovers Ixa, a shapeshifter creature unlike anyone has ever seen. She feels in her gut that they are meant to stay together, so she starts bringing Ixa with her everywhere. He is often a little kitten with horns, but also can transform into a giant dragon like creature for battle
  12. Deka and Keita form a close connection, Deka learning that Keita is the final male in his family line, his entire family was killed by deathshrieks. While Keita obviously has a lot of emotions toward the deathshrieks, he’s never vicious or cruel to them. Deka and Keita are in love.
  13. Deka realizes that after some time, she can understand the deathshrieks, that they have language and are intelligent, not mindless monsters like she was led to believe. She is not sure what to do, since they are going on campaign soon, the whole army, to destroy the deathshriek nest and “rid the land of the monsters forever”. But she knows she will be destroyed by the Emperor and the rest of the army if they find out she is having doubts about their mission to erradicate the deathshrieks. Especially since she’s found out her commanding voice not only works on the deathshrieks, but on the alaki as well.
  14. During a battle on the campaign trail, Britta is fatally wounded, and it looks like she’s about to die her final death, but Deka commands her not to die and that somehow heals her enough to stop her final death.
  15. During the next battle, Deka comes face to face with a deathshriek that looks to be her friend that was killed at the beginning in the deathshriek attack. Deka can talk with her and believes it’s her, which makes her realize that all deathshrieks are alaki that have died their final death, they come back as deathshrieks. She refuses to fight them anymore.
  16. The emperor wishes to have her killed for this, and Keita says he’ll do it, he’s her partner. But he says it in such a way that she knows it won’t be her final death, because her village elders already tried to kill her that way and it didn’t work.
  17. So Keita takes Deka’s prone body and flees with it away from the army, where they happen to meet White Hands and an army of deathshrieks.
  18. White Hands explains that she is one of the firstborn, a direct daughter of the Gilded Ones, from which all alaki are descendants. Also the Gilded Ones were not demons, they were the goddesses of this land. The first emperor of Otera and the original jatu sought power for themselves, so they trapped the goddesses and wrote history saying that they were demons, and that their descendants needed to be killed.
  19. White Hands tells Deka that she is special, and that she is the only one who can free the goddesses from their prison. The goddesses created her “soul” (basically) hundreds of years before, and White Hands carried it until the time was right, then gave Deka’s soul to her mother to carry to term as an alaki. The deathshrieks who came to her village in the beginning were actually trying to save her, but their plan didn’t work.
  20. White Hands was the mastermind behind all of this, she says it is now Deka’s time to lead the charge, to bring all of her alaki sisters over to their side, and fight the emperor’s army and free the goddesses.
  21. Deka is able to do it, she realizes her destiny. She goes down to the battle between the deathshrieks and the alaki and imperial army, and tells the alaki to not fight their sisters, the deathshrieks. She tells the deathshrieks to hurt none of their jatu partners either, so long as the jatu do not try to harm them.
  22. Deka goes to the cave where the goddesses have their prison, and finds that the emperor is already there, with Britta and Keita prisoner. The emperor gives his villain speech, how he always knew exactly what him and his family did for generations, killing and oppressing woman, human and alaki alike, to keep power. The emperor and his elite army are REAL jatu, which are the male descendants of the Gilded Ones, the ones who imprisoned the goddesses in the first place.
  23. The emperor and his jatu are just as strong and fierce as the alaki, so Deka and the emperor have their final battle, but it doesn’t take Deka long to dispatch him (not kill him).
  24. Deka is able to free the four goddesses, and they plan on uniting the deathshriek and alaki armies to take back their kingdom and bring peace and equality to all of Otera. But with years of oppression, they will likely meet a firm resistance from the men and women alike. But Deka is up to the challenge and believes in the mission of the goddesses.

End of Book 1

!!!END OF SPOILERS!!!

Well, that was still pretty long, but we got there in the end. Thanks for reading along everyone, I really recommend The Gilded Ones, and if you’ve read it, hit me up in the comments and let me know what you think. See ya’ll next time!

If you liked The Gilded Ones, try:

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown

Blood Heir Amelie Wen Zhao

Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan