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

Mini Reviews · Reviews · Uncategorized

Camping Trip Mini Reviews

Hi friends! I’ve recently returned from a big camping trip where I got to read a whole handful of books. So I’m just going to do the tiniest of mini-reviews for each one, and if anybody wants to know more or talk more about any of these books, hit me up in the comments. Without further ado, camping trip mini reviews (all are spoiler-free)!

# of Pages: 439

Time it took me to read: 2 days

# of pages a day to finish in a week: 63

Rating: 5 out of 5

This book was a Secret Santa gift given by a co-worker who doesn’t read, he just picked it out because he thought it looked cool on Amazon. And I have to say, I was excited to read it regardless because I’d heard great things about it, but my friend really made a great pick! I started out thinking this retelling might be a little cheesy, because the character’s names are “Roma” and “Juliette”, so pretty on-the-nose, and in the setup it’s pretty obvious who the other side characters are supposed to be if you’ve read Romeo and Juliet. But this is not the simple love at first sight then die unnecessarily story. Both Roma and Juliette are well-developed characters with a past history, and the ruthless, bloody gangster backdrop makes for a really interesting read. I’m not super familiar with early 20th-century history, so I’m not sure how much of the 1920’s Shanghei is fiction and how much is history, but either way it was monstrously compelling. I’d say the story is a little slow to start, but ramps up quickly and is impossible to put down after a point. I’m so very excited for the sequel later this year, and would definitely recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of YA, classic story retellings, or historical romances.

# of Pages: 511

Time it took me to read: 2 days

# of pages a day to finish in a week: 73

Rating: 5 out of 5

I’ve only ever done a Throwback review way back in the day where I got to talk about Leigh Bardugo, so I’m stoked to finally be getting that chance again. If you haven’t heard of Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse, I’m not sure what rock you’ve been hiding under. A few months ago the wildly popular Shadow and Bone series premiered on Netflix, which covers characters from a few different series of Bardugo’s. The events of King of Scars have not been covered in the show (yet), but I’m hopeful for the future. Anyway, King of Scars is a re-read for me, because I read it years ago when it first came out, and the sequel was recently released, and I wanted to read them back-to-back. I could literally spend pages talking about why Leigh Bardugo is no-doubt one of the top authors in YA currently, but I’ll try to keep it to a few sentences. The “Grishaverse” world she has built is incredibly detailed and vivid, with each country based on the cultures of real-world places (Ravka = Russia, Kerch = The Netherlands/Amsterdam specifically). Having a fantasy world based on the real world in some ways really grounds the reader and makes it immersive. For characters, these books are pretty large cast, and she does a great job flipping perspectives while keeping the reader engaged no matter who’s story you’re reading. These books are incredibly fast paced and impossible to put down. I loved it just as much this time around as I did the first time.

# of Pages: 588

Time it took me to read: 2 days

# of pages a day to finish in a week: 84

Rating: 5 out of 5

Sequel to King of Scars, Rule of Wolves is equally fantastic. I really enjoyed the opportunity I had to read them back to back, I think it added a lot to my understanding of all of the details and plot points of this final installment. Not a whole lot to say here that I didn’t say in the previous review, Leigh Bardugo is a master world-builder and storyteller. Each of her many characters are pretty much equally engaging, and her pacing is always perfect. I think of all of my camping books I finished this one the quickest, because I honestly, truly could not stop reading it. Rule of Wolves did not end as I expected in a lot of ways, but I think all of the storylines that needed to be wrapped up were, but Bardugo always leaves herself room for writing new adventures, and I’m hoping I guessed right and she teased a new story with old favorites coming someday. Anyway, if you haven’t read any Leigh Bardugo, just do yourself a favor and get into the Grishaverse. Here is my official recommendation for the order you should read her three Grishaverse series: Six of Crows duology, Shadow and Bone trilogy, King of Scars duology. This order is not entirely chronological, but as someone who has read all of these books originally in chronological order, I can tell you you’ll have more fun reading it in the order I provided.

# of Pages: 365

Time it took me to read: 3 days

# of pages a day to finish in a week: 52

Rating: 4 out of 5

This book was a big shift from everything else I was reading on this trip, I really wanted to have a little bit of variety after reading only YA fantasy. The World That We Knew is a historical fiction novel set in Europe during the Holocaust, and like most of Alice Hoffman’s work that I’ve read, has just a touch of magic added to move it along. Lea is a young Jewish girl living in Berlin during the second world war. Her mother will do anything to get her out of the country, so she works with the daughter of a rabbi to construct a golum, a being made of clay that will serve the wishes of its master. Lea’s mother names the golum Ava and sends the two off to Paris, where she hopes they will be safe. The World that We Knew tells the story of men, women, and children across Germany and Paris who fight for the survival of themselves and others. It’s very well researched and provides many facts and figures of the devistation wrought by the Nazis during the Holocaust. Alice Hoffman is a wonderful writer, her historical novels are some of my favorites, but one thing kept me from falling completely in love with this story, and it took me a while to put my finger on it. I think that, personally, I was sort of brought out of the story because it focused on too many different characters, it left me hard-pressed to become particularly attached to any of them. And in certain sections she’d be telling the story of a character fleeing arrest by the Germans, and then it would flow into an objective, real fact about the prison those that were arrested that day were sent to, and how many died. While I appreciated the facts as a history buff, it sort of transported me out of the story and back to reality, which was for me not my favorite decision she made. But overall I’d definitely recommend the book to anyone who enjoys WW2 historical fiction.



Thanks for hanging in there everybody, I’ll be back with more regularly scheduled reviews and summaries soon. Hope everyone has a great August ❤

Mini Reviews · Reviews

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore (Book 3)

# of Pages: 539

Time it took me to read: 5 days

# of pages a day to finish in a week: 77

Rating: 4 out of 5

A quick personal note:

Hi everyone! I apologize for disappearing without a trace! I’ve been trying to do a post every 7 to 10 days, but have failed spectacularly the last three weeks or so, and for that I’m sorry. My friend and I are currently doing Camp Nano, so we have a goal of each writing 30,000 words this month, which takes up most of my free time! Bitterblue is genuinely the only book I’ve read since my last post, and I’m glad to finally get to bring you the last of the mini reviews for the Graceling series.

Thanks for your patience, those who have stuck with me!

Ever since the death of her father when she was only ten years old, Bitterblue has been queen of Monsea. Now eighteen, she is doing her best to help her people escape from her father’s horrific thirty-five year reign. But how can she help the Monseans who live in her city if it feels as though her advisors keep her trapped in her office all day under a mountain of paperwork?

Bitterblue thinks she has a pretty good idea of what it was like to live in terror under the rule of her father, but when she starts sneaking out at night in disguise and meeting her citizens, she finds that she really has no idea. She finds that her citizens are still suffering, and someone with power is working to make sure that Monseans stay in the dark about the crimes of their former king. Bitterblue’s new friends think that the queen is behind it all, but how can she defend herself when no one knows who she truly is?

With the help of some familiar faces and new allies, Bitterblue works to get to the bottom of what is going wrong in Monsea. Because someone is working against all that she has tried to build in the eight years of her reign, and if Monsea is ever to recover from the memory of Leck’s cruel kingship, the truth must be revealed so everyone who ever knew him can heal.

Review:

This is the only Graceling book that I haven’t read more than once, which was when the book was released in 2012, so almost ten years ago. At the time I was seventeen, and I thought the book was a bit of a letdown. Almost no action, little romance, especially compared to Graceling and Fire I found this book a disappointment.

Well, I can’t tell you how happy I am to have given this a re-read as an adult. Because though this book is YA, there are a lot of adult themes throughout this story, and I feel like when I first read it I was too young to appreciate them. 

Honestly, I think I would personally rank this book above Fire and below Graceling and here’s why: though this book is even more of a political intrigue than Fire is, Bitterblue has a much more engaging plot that kept me turning the pages faster than I did for Fire. Fire had a little bit more action, but it was mostly a character study wrapped in a spy story, which I still enjoyed, but Bitterblue had a big mystery threaded throughout, and the consequences and fallout are devastating, Cashore does not shy away from some unhappy endings here, which is I think a large part of the problem I had with it when I was young.

Another thing that Bitterblue has that Fire doesn’t is pretty much all your favorite characters from the previous books, which is great if you, like me, did not get nearly enough Po and Katsa in Graceling alone. 

As far as pacing goes, I mentioned it above, but I thought this book was quite well paced, despite being the longest of the three books in the series so far. There are so many puzzles that Bitterblue is trying to solve all at once, so there is certainly enough to keep one engaged page after page.

One of my favorite things about Bitterblue that I think wasn’t quite as strong or memorable in the previous two stories were the rich, well developed side characters. This story has a large cast, but I feel as though a lot of time and effort is given to developing backstories and personalities of the many people who revolve in and out of Bitterblue’s world. She isn’t the most unique or “special” protagonist out there, but those who surround her make her very interesting to read about, if only due to her interactions with others.

I’ll only spend a line or two talking about world building, because you know if you’ve read these books, or if you’ve even read my last two reviews, that Kristin Cashore is a brilliant worldbuilder, and the rich uniqueness and diversity of her world and her kingdoms is evident, despite the entire story taking place in Bitterblue’s capital city.

One of the beautiful things about this group of books is that in each Kristin Cashore seems to push herself to do something different, to challenge herself, and even though all three take place in the same world, each story brings something new to the table. I really can’t wait to see what the latest installment, Winterkeep, has to offer.

I’m going to briefly return to my longer-form summary format for my book club book this month, so keep an eye out for that. After that I’ll be back with my thoughts on the final Graceling book Winterkeep.

If you liked Bitterblue, try:

Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

The Brilliant Death by Amy Rose Capetta

Bloodleaf by Crystal Smith

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Mini Reviews

Fire by Kristin Cashore (Book 2)

# of Pages: 461

Time it took me to read: 5 days

# of pages a day to finish in a week: 66

Rating: 4 out of 5

As the only human “monster” in the Dells, Fire is different from anyone else she’s ever known. Well, besides her father, who was cruel and revelled in his power to use his looks and his mind to control people. Fire, on the other hand, simply wishes to be left alone. She can’t help that slipping into an unguarded mind comes easily as breathing, or that her flame-like hair sends animal monsters and many humans alike into a frenzy. 

But that wish seems less and less likely as her kingdom slips closer and closer to all-out civil war. Though she knows only by word of mouth that the king is a better ruler than his father was, Fire knows he must be the lesser of three evils, as the lords to the north and south are driven to war only by greed.

After saving the lives of a group of the king’s soldiers, King Nash and his younger brother, Brigan, must put aside their distrust of the daughter of the man who controlled their father his whole life and ask for her help. For if Fire’s power is good for one thing, her control over minds makes her a wonderful spy. But if she agrees to become an agent of the king, and of his brother, is she any better than the powerful and cruel father who’s legacy she’s been fleeing from? Is helping save the kingdom worth truly embracing what she has always been: a monster.

Review:

This second book in the Graceling world takes you away from the seven kingdoms and their Gracelings to a different kingdom, the Dells, which is completely cut off by mountains on all sides. This land has no Gracelings, only monsters, creatures of unbelievable beauty, who have the ability to slip inside an unprotected mind and take control. For animal monsters, like leopards and raptors and wolves, this means luring in humans and other creatures as prey. For Fire, the only human monster left in the Dells, her vibrant flame-like hair and stunning beauty means she must protect herself from those who wish to possess her, as well as those who would rather kill her because of their mistrust of monsters – a mistrust that is earned, for her father exploited his power over minds in every way he could.

As much as I like Fire, I can’t really put it on the same level as Graceling, which is why I only grant it a 4 out of 5. This novel is much more of a political intrigue, much less action than Graceling, and I think a good adventure book is much more up my alley.

But despite the fact that there is less action, Fire is a wonderful addition to the series. It definitely has that fantasy element, but it really is a character study for Fire, since she is constantly in a battle with herself, trying not to be the person everyone expects her to be – which is cruel, controlling, and dangerous. Those who can protect their minds are distrustful of her, and those who can’t protect their mind completely lose control at the sight of her – they either want to kill her, assault her, or take her prisoner for the power she possesses.

I feel as though she is a very realistic character, if you take away the whole “able to control minds” bit. She really just wants to be more than her father’s legacy, and in the beginning the way she does that is to completely hide herself away, avoid using her powers at pretty much any cost, except for self-defense.

But as she opens herself up to making more friends, and finding that if she gets to know people, they’ll get to know her and trust her in return. And as she opens herself up to forging new relationships with people, she finds that using her power to help people, to help her kingdom, doesn’t make her like her father, who only used his power for his own gain.

Due to the fact that this book has less action, I feel that it doesn’t quite have the snappy, engaging pace that Graceling does. However, for the type of book that it is, I think that it’s well balanced and evenly paced throughout. And it does have a really sweet love story, and even though it’s not explicitly stated Fire is the kind of character who expects to never have anyone that she can fully trust to love her for who she is, that’s sort of implied. So I think the fact that it took almost the whole book for the love story to come to fruition was well done and another point toward the character driven story that this is.

I don’t feel as though I had all that much to say about Fire, it’s great, if you like Graceling you’ll like Fire, there is a callback to one of the main characters in Graceling in Fire, though technically Fire is a prequel, you can read them in either order.

If you like Fire, try:

These Rebel Waves by Sara Raasch

And I Darken by Kiersten White

King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo

Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian

Mini Reviews

Graceling by Kristin Cashore (Book 1)

# of Pages: 471

Time it took me to read: 2 days

# of pages a day to finish in a week: 67

Rating: 5 out of 5

In the seven kingdoms, if you meet someone with one eye one color and the other eye a different color, you’ve met someone Graced. No two people have exactly the same Grace. You may meet someone Graced with swimming, or sewing, or counting. You may meet two people Graced with fighting, but they won’t ever be exactly the same.

Katsa has always known her Grace is killing. Ever since she killed a man at eight years old, even though it was an accident, she has felt that her hands can deal death without even thinking. It has taken her every day since then to hone her skills as a fighter so that she will never kill anyone she doesn’t mean to ever again. Though her uncle, King Randa, uses her indiscriminately as his blade, she fights him in whatever small ways she can.

It isn’t until she meets Prince Po of Lienid that she finds that she is more than just her Grace. So when Po asks her to leave her life behind to help him find the man who had his grandfather kidnapped, Katsa sees her chance to escape her life of doing King Randa’s bidding.

But what they do find is that the man behind it has a Grace more dangerous than even hers, and that Katsa is vulnerable for the first time in her life. But when she has only herself to rely on, she may find out that her Grace is more than she ever thought it could be. It could be enough to save herself, and those she comes to love the most.

Review:

This is the first in a series of mini reviews that I’m going to start doing this year, so I want to take a brief moment to explain. Mini reviews are going to cover books that I’ve read before, and they’re pretty much all going to be five stars. These are books I’m re-reading for whatever purpose, usually to prep myself for a new book coming out. Normally I try to read a new book for ever re-read I do, so I don’t always review books I’ve already read, but I’ve got quite a few re-reads coming up, and I want to hold myself accountable for posting, so here we go.

This is somewhere between the third and the fifth time I’ve read Graceling over the last ten years or so, and it truly never gets old. It’s one of those rare, timeless YA classics from the early 2000s. I imagine if I were to go back and re-read everything I read in 2009 (if I had kept track of my reading at that time), I wouldn’t get nearly as much satisfaction from most of those books, so Graceling is truly special.

Katsa is a strong, angry female protagonist, from a time where I don’t recall reading a lot of books where the female protagonists were particularly angry as a character trait. She holds true to her morals of never wanting to marry, even after finding a man she’s willing to open her heart to, which is something I don’t think I’ve seen even to this day, which is awesome. You can still be committed to someone you love without marrying, and without being with them every day for the rest of her life. Katsa has her own goals and from the first page asserts that she is her own woman, and that never changes even as she goes through a lovely cycle of character development, and a lot of it for a “standalone” novel.

This book is extremely well paced, engaging from the very beginning, and though the “magic” of this world, the Graces, is completely unique and fascinating, I never feel as though I’m getting info-dumped. Something that I feel is unique about this story as well is the amount of time Cashore spends on certain aspects of it. For example, there is a lot of travel in this story, across the seven kingdoms, and Cashore spends a lot of time documenting it. And there is nearly one hundred pages after the “climax” detailing the aftermath, which is typically relegated to an epilogue in most stories. And the climax itself is only one chapter, ten pages maximum. While in other stories I may feel that the buildup wasn’t worth the payoff, I wouldn’t say that was true at all. Because despite the face-paced, engaging plot, this story really is about character development, and I think that shows in the short climax and long aftermath.

I think the only complaint I can really register is that when Katsa has sex for the first time, though her partner is supportive, it is described as a sharp pain that “women always feel”. Which isn’t something that I think should be spread to young girls. Sex doesn’t have to be painful, in fact it shouldn’t be if you’re properly prepared for it. But this book was written in 2008, and the fact that there is a pretty obvious scene in which Katsa and her partner have sex is pretty unique to YA in that era.

I’m moving through the whole Graceling series as I make my way toward Kristin Cashore’s new book, Winterkeep. I think it goes without saying that I strongly recommend Graceling as a wonderfully well written novel that has held up exceptionally well since its release in 2008.

If you liked Graceling, try:

Furyborn by Claire Legrand

The Diabolic by SJ Kincaid

Renegades by Marissa Meyer

These Rebel Waves by Sara Raasch