When the Red Pelican Assassin's Guild offered Sarenka a job she thought she was getting a safe cottage to live in while she spied on philandering innkeepers. She had no idea it would lead to wanted posters flapping in the ocean breeze and eating scraps from dog bowls. Branded a murderess, her only chance for survival is to escape Burmtin.
Without friends or allies she's lonely, desperate. Yet she dare not reveal her true face for fear of what the slavers, mercenaries, pirates, and petty thieves will do. Caught within a broiling cloud of deception, where psychics and ghosts fight to control the twists of fate, Sarenka finds in the end that only one thing matters: Can the same illusions that doom her, save her?
“Enter a world of decadent opulence and primitive tribalism. Unleash your imagination and ride the tide of fantasy with shape-shifters and quicksilver demons. Lose yourself in a labyrinthine world, Kyron’s Worlde.”
This is a stand alone book in the Kyron's World saga. Other books in the series include Foretold: Betrayal and Foretold: Seduction's Blade. More books coming!
“The conscious mind is a stone skipping across the liquid fabric of reality.”
Frevellian Seven Mouthpiece of 711 BB
Parian rammed through the ceiling of Leanor Manor and threw his arms forward, flailing about in a vain attempt to stop as horror filled him. (6) He grasped at empty air, ricocheting off the walls before crashing to a halt midair. Panting, striving not to touch the walls, the ceiling, the floor, anything, he couldn't help but whisper, "My god! So much blood!"
He was too late. They were dead. A gut wrenching sob broke loose as he hovered at ceiling level, looking down on the slaughter. Blood covered everything in long sweeping sprays of red. Parian gulped for air through immaterial lungs before remembering that he wasn’t really there. His body waited for him elsewhere, in another city, another time. He was as insubstantial as the breath he had tried to draw.
Determined to return to his body, he threw himself upwards, but, as if tethered to the room, he merely bounced off the travertine ceiling. He shuddered. Turning back, he took in each detail with growing dread. "I can’t be stuck here. I’ve got to get away from this... this slaughter."
A Seven, he should have been immune to the death, the brutality. As a psychic, he picked up the worst depravities from people’s minds. He was past shocking. Or at least he thought he was, until now. It’s one thing to read a sick thought, another to meet death face-to-face.
Parian searched the rough stone walls for whatever was anchoring him. Guttering torches threw flickering red and yellow light across the bodies below. A slight movement caught his eye. He peered closer. The strands of the freni-kyn woman’s hair lifted and swayed, dull embers dancing across the tips.
She’s alive! His gaze settled on the man, searching for life but finding none. The baron was dead, not even his spirit lingered.
He turned back to the woman. She had to be the reason he was here. A heavy chain ran from her shackled ankle, lacing a path through scattered puddles of blood and disappearing into the shadows of a far corner. Blood seeped from shallow cuts, swaths of scarlet across indigo skin. Her nostrils widened and her eyelids twitched, fluttering the long freni-kyn lashes. As the haunting scent of blood joined her dreamscape, he brushed the edges of her mind, and recoiled, sickened.
“No... no... I can’t,” she murmured, fingernails sheathing and unsheathing, catlike, as she fought against the dreams, the reality. Her hands jerked up to cover her face, revealing wrists scraped raw and the mottled green of finger-shaped bruises along the backside of her arms.
Even the welcome release of sleep brought only surreal battlefields—a residual effect of the foreveron drug racing through her bloodstream. He saw that, knew it. Nothing could be done. He dared not touch her mind. Not while that drug was in her system. Not without risking his sanity. Tethered, unable to leave, he remained—an immaterial guard, hovering over her unconscious body while blood dripped from metal sconces in a steady irritating patter.
The air went cold and still. And into that silence, while the half-life of dawn rose over the city of Burmtin, a whisper of the past stepped from the darkness. Crackling energy sparked against Parian's immaterial form, raising the hairs on his arms and head. He shivered and wondered if his real body was also being affected.
A slight form materialized in the distant corner. Barely chest high, feet gliding above the floor's surface, she approached the freni-kyn woman. Parian's heart gave a resounding thump of fear. Kneeling, head tilted as though curious only, the transparent figure watched the slumbering woman’s struggles before reaching to touch her forehead.
Parian fought to surge forward. To stop her. To keep the child wraith from doing... Kyron-knew-what to the woman. He willed his limbs to move but they would not budge, not even a scant hand span. Trapped in that giant icy grip, frozen, he was forced to watch.
Her transparent fingers rested against bloodied skin. The silence drew out, stretching forth its scream, blending past and present into a perfect pitch of knowing. The freni-kyn drew a startled breath, quieting, as though drawing solace or even, Parian dared to think, peace, from that ghostly touch.
A tiny lift of the lips, the barest suggestion of a smile, touched the child’s face as she looked up at him, locked gaze with him, and faded from view.
Blinding hot tendrils of consciousness crept through Sarenka’s mind. And with that dawning awareness came the aches that always tormented her after a night with....
No! I won’t think of that bastard! Not yet. Not before I’m even awake.
She struggled towards clarity, pushing away fragments of memory, fighting the drug-fog. Flashes of body parts and leering faces whirled past, each jarring memory slashing at her brain with knife-like accuracy, lacerating her very soul.
How many people this time?
Sarenka curled into a protective ball, pulling against a shackle and chain, the ever present reminder of who, and what, she was. A slave, a plaything for the wealthy and powerful. A commodity to be bought and sold. Stomach churning, she fought past the clinging lethargy.
No opening the eyes. No letting the guards know I'm awake. She chided, drumming up the courage to face the worst.
She was sore but without the ache of new bruises. Her thoughts drug-muddled, yet able to begin a rigid assessment—the same survival training that had cost her freedom. Torchlight flickered red through her eyelids but brought no warmth. Her nostrils flared as the scent of raw meat provoked another round of protest from her stomach. Leather soles scuffed their way down the hallway, nearly drowning out the intermittent sound of water droplets. She stopped, focused, her ruffled ears lifting. Water? Why water? And why does it even matter? A gust of cool air blew over her skin, provoking her to shiver and reach for the thin blanket. Instead, her fingertips scraped against a wooden floor.
I shouldn’t be... this is wrong. I should be... Her thoughts reeled, searching for answers. On my cot, clean and bandaged, not... sticky... and smelling like....
The pervading scent of blood burst through her mind, creating explosive tingles throughout her body. Sarenka’s scarlet eyes snapped open. The lights of her freni-kyn hair sparked, throwing off bits of glowing color. She threw herself backward, scrabbling to get away. The chain anchored her there. Too close. Oh god!
The master’s glazed eyes stared coldly across the short space. Her stomach wrenched into dry heaves, sending shards of pain stabbing through her mind. She squeezed her eyes shut, fighting off the morning-after-nausea of the foreveron drug. A single pain-tear trickled down her cheek before she forced her eyes open.
Dead... he’s... dead. Dizzying relief flooded her senses. She stared at the man’s broken body, lip lifting in a snarl. And he’ll never touch me again.
Gaze landing on the chain attached to her ankle, the relief faded into panic. A silent scream of denial stuck in her throat. She lunged for the heavy chain, hair throwing off alarmed bits of floating light. No! No-no-no-no-NO! This can’t be happening! How long? How long before someone comes?
Her eyes raked the room searching for answers, and settled on the low flame of the torches, extending less than a hand’s span above the grip of their metal bases. Morning then.
Heart racing, she let the chain clank to the ground and gave the baron’s arm a tentative nudge. It moved flaccidly and if not for the way he lay, the lacerations covering his body, she would think him asleep. She flinched and swallowed back a rise of bile before peering into his eyes.
Still moist... not dead long. Couple of hourglass turns... maybe... even that’s too long.
She shifted, looking from his body to the heavy wooden door separating this room from the rest of the manor. Before long, someone would arrived. Frantic, she pulled at the chain tethering her to the floor. Her gaze shot to the key hanging from a peg across the room.
“Please... please-please-please,” she whispered, straining toward the bit of metal, begging it closer, a pointless attempt, like holding the palm of a hand up to stop an attacker’s knife. Some distant more logical part of her knew that, but she couldn’t help herself.
Too far... it’s too far... She dropped her hands to the ground, giving up. Her shoulders slumped forward and she stared down at the blood splattered wood without seeing it. I’ve failed. And this time the price will be death.
The torches burned low and still Sarenka sat there, mind consumed with death scenarios. The chill of the room seeped into her bones, and a shiver reminded her that she still lived, turning her mind from the morbid future and back to the present danger. Drawing a long breath, she realized that her gaze had shifted of its own accord onto the master’s body. She stared at his pale limbs, all lying at unnatural angles in a pool of congealing blood, and grimaced with disgust. He had no clothing, no tools, nothing that could help.
She stared at the locked door. Despite her resolve, despite the steeling breath she had taken, an unbidden sob of frustration broke free. Shaking off the momentary weakness, she cursed the baron. Damn you! Kyron damn you to his deepest hell!
Through the glimmer of brimming tears, the key hung, taunting with a promise of freedom and the ridicule of defeat.
Sarenka scanned the room once more, searching for something, anything, which would help. The windowless stone walls gave prisoners no opportunity to cut, break, or burrow their way free. Bloodied velvet cushions lay scattered across the floor, obscene in their opulence, bringing back fractured memories of their use. A wardrobe stood on the opposite end of the rectangular room, outside the chain’s limits. A tangled pile of embroidered sleep garments lay before the mirrored door, silent reminders of the baron's self indulgent strip-tease. Wrapping arms around her chest, she curled inwards, warding off the memories. Even the simple silver sconces—whose pronged fingers might serve as a pry bar on the chain links—were out of reach.
She shuddered with disgust for the room’s expensive indulgence, evidence of the baron’s sick habits. But the cost of this special chamber, even that of hauling in the ancient stone, was negligible when compared with what had been spent to purchase her servitude. She was the valuable commodity, the shimmering jewel in a setting of stone.
Like the poison it was, the throb of foreveron withdrawal thundered through her head, distracting her from searching the room. Antidote... I need the antidote....
No! I have to get out... I’m dead if... She slipped a fingertip between the shackle and a scar-ribbed ankle, trying to gauge the size of the space.
There’s a chance, just a chance, now that I’ve lost weight. Gritting her teeth against the expected pain, she extended a blade shaped claw and sliced the skin. One more scar would join the mute testimony of past failed attempts and the constant rub of metal against flesh. Retracting the claw, she worked the blood under the metal, hurrying now.
Part of her knew that it wouldn’t work. Knew the weight loss wasn’t severe. Knew that, had they been lax enough to let a slave lose significant weight, they would have refit the shackle. She picked up speed, rushing to shove her fingers under the manacle, twisting it back and forth, clanking the chains against the ground in her rush.
The sound of approaching footsteps came from the hall. Oh Kyron, no! Please don’t let them find me. Frantic, she gave the shackle a last twisting tug as the door swung open.
The guard’s step into the room faltered to a halt midair before falling to the ground with a thud. He stood, half in, half out, his normally placid countenance shattered by a roulette wheel of flitting emotions. His expression settled on cautious neutrality; it seemed walking in on a murder were nothing. Pushing back a stray lock of hair, he surveyed the hallway before stepping the rest of the way into the room and shutting the door.
The metal band slipped through Sarenka’s fingers, forgotten. She stared at his brawny frame, frozen in uncertainty.
She expected angry accusations, maybe a beating. Instead, he sounded strangely satisfied. That he dared call the master the slang equivalent of burning lizard shit, even in death, was a good sign. She couldn’t help but hope for an ally, despite the improbability.
“I didn’t do it on purpose. When I woke up he was... please D’trav... you know I didn’t. Please... help me.” Anxiety twisted Sarenka’s voice upward.
The guard rubbed his fingers back and forth across his cheek, scraping against night-old bristles and creating a soft scratching noise. It meant nothing. He did it without thinking, a habitual gesture she had seen him make many times over the last few months. She searched his face, looking for the compassion he had shown in the past. Her hopes climbed when he gave an understanding nod, only to be dashed to the bloodied ground when his eyes shifted to the man she had so brutally killed. He wouldn’t help her, not with that evidence right before his eyes.
“Nope, don’t suppose you did. That foreveron..." He frowned and gave his head a disparaging shake. “Probably right out of your mind with it. Bet you don’t even remember the night. Not that they'll care.” He shook his head again. “Sorry Darlin’, I’ll not be lettin’ you go. They’ll think I did it.”
Sarenka lowered her head, staring through dark-brown hair at his feet. No matter what she did, no matter how far or long she ran to escape it, the despicable part of her father’s heritage always caught up. Now, three years after running away from home, she still needed that childhood training. With loathing she turned to the ‘freni-kyn underbelly,’ as her h'euman brothers had taken so much delight in naming it. Wetting her lips to accent their full shape and widening her eyes into pools of innocence, she looked up.
“Please, I’ll do anything. Anything. Just let me loose. They’ll kill me.”
“Anything?” Running a fingertip along his jawline, D’trav traced the jagged edge of a scar. Pupils dilated, he swept his gaze over what remained of her hourglass figure, lingering long enough to make Sarenka fight the urge to cover herself.
She knew that all-too-familiar look of hunger. Knew that, despite the garish blood, she was still enchanting to the other races, though quite ordinary to her own people.
“Anything..." he repeated, gaze traveling along the length of the chain. Aroused, breeches tightening, he shifted position and seemed to come to a decision. Turning to the single key hanging on a nearby peg, he scooped up the bit of green metal and dangled it in front of her. “For this here key, you’ll do what I say?”
“Yes,” Sarenka answered so softly that it barely moved the air, and knew he had been watching her lips when he threw the door bolt.
“Tell you what. I’ll let you go, Darlin’, but first you’ll do for me, what you’ve done been doin’ for..." He kicked the baron with enough force to cause a limb to flop, splattering more blood across Sarenka.
Her futile efforts at wiping the wetness away only succeeded in creating larger red patches. Shame stirred the rage that always simmered just beneath the surface. His shift from the trustworthy guard who had slipped her extra rations into the man commanding her to perform should have surprised her. And it would have. If she hadn’t grown up surrounded by men who expected her to wait on them, obeying their commands at the snap of a finger, taking the punishments they doled out—every kick, every slap, her lot in life.
Hatred sheared through Sarenka in a sudden overwhelming rush, slicing away at her self-control. The tips of her hair, filaments swaying with a life of their own, settled into embers of red. She stared up at the lust in D’trav’s face and ground her teeth. I won't! Not ever again... She shook her head, throwing off tiny sparks of red.
The man dangled the key above her head, just out of reach. “Well, what’s it gonna be, Darlin? Me or the hangman? I spect you’ll be dead within the week, lessin’ you choose rightly.”
His words hammered a spear of fear through her heart. The key rocked back and forth in the dim room, light reflecting in a green glint off the riseen metal, taunting her once more with a promise of daylight. Without it, she was trapped here in the twilight of a torch-lit room. Without it, she was a dead woman.
Sarenka lowered her lashes, knowing that the fully dilated slits of her pupils would betray the rage seething just below the surface. She sought to bring the sparks in her hair to a more passive color, but gave up, knowing she was wound too tight for that kind of subtlety. Hopefully, he would take the red to mean panic or some other, less aggressive, emotion. The raking slashes across the baron’s body caught her eye, each vicious groove a testimony to her true freni-kyn nature, strengthening her resolve.
“Okay,” she mumbled without lifting her head. The metallic sound of his belt unlatching filled her with dread.
“Hurry up!” D’trav’s harsh voice grated against her already shredded nerves, making her jump. “If I’m gonna get you outta here, we gotta make this quick like.”
Steeled against what she was about to do, Sarenka avoided eye contact and swallowed back the rise of bile. She hated this; the vileness of it—of how low she was being forced to stoop. Rising to her knees, she slid a hand up his leg and lowered her mouth, waiting for his body to tense with needful expectation. She risked a peek through her eyelashes and saw D’trav’s eyes slip closed in anticipation.
She tensed her hands, flexing the nails, sinking the blade-like tips into his groin. With a muffled shriek, his eyes flew open and he jerked backward, causing yet more pain. She clenched her fist tighter, momentarily stunning him. He drew back a hand to strike.
“Do it and I’ll slice them off!” Sarenka fired out.