AJ Maguire



 From the back cover: 

Bound by honor to unite the Eldur and Human Nations, Nelek Dyngannon presents his case for peace to the coastal province of Cadabyr.  But his wife has a history that no one can ignore.  Once the General of the Dyngannon Army, Trenna Silvanus-Dyngannon brings an element of fear and anger to the peace table.  When the Human’s demand nothing short of her death to appease them, Nelek finds that he must choose between peace and Trenna’s life. 

Trenna couldn’t remember the last time she’d been spit on.  Come to think of it, no one had actually spit on her before.  That wasn’t to say she hadn’t pissed off a good many people.  In fact, she could name a half a dozen off the top of her head who would have applauded the action.  Still, the lukewarm splat of liquid that landed just beside her right eyebrow managed to jar her into reality.  It began a slow, uncomfortable trail over her cheekbone that chilled in the autumn air.

Grinding her teeth to keep from retaliating, Trenna wiped the spittle onto her shirtsleeve.  All around her, the leering mass of Human bodies was only partly distinguishable from the sway of leaves cascading down from the trees.  She thought for a moment that they all looked dirty; their rustic colors blending with the autumnal woodland.  Here and there she could see a bright splash of hair, but the mob seemed to smear together, indistinguishable.

A rancid bit of fruit struck her shoulder, splitting open and soaking something greenish into her best shirt.  She was fairly certain that it was stained beyond repair, but the scent that assaulted her made her stomach overturn.  Fighting to control herself and not vomit, Trenna had a hard time keeping on her feet as she was hustled up and onto a long platform at the center of the village.  The swarm of the crowd pressed on all sides, preventing escape and broken only by the interference of sporadically placed thatch-roofed homes.  The great shadow of fortress Cadabyr loomed over the scene, its blocky shape cutting to the left and shading more than half of the people.

Beyond the teeming mass, curving and bulging into the scenery, the desertous Bray Mountains mocked her for a fool.  A half a day’s journey would have brought her to the foothills.  Another two and she could be ensconced in the jagged wilderness of Dyngannon, safe within Eldur borders and with her own people.

Something inside her shouted that they should never have left.  Nelek would have grown restless after a time, but at least they would have had more than a pitiful seven weeks of marriage before calamity met them.  Her heart twisted at the thought of her husband, memories raking across her vision and drowning out the sights before her.

Nelek Vronat Dyngannon, Duke of Kiavana, grandson of King Porrex and current Ambassador of peace to the Human race; Trenna smirked at the long list of official titles he bore.  None of them really seemed to match the man.  There was a boyish charm to his nature that went against the title of Duke, and still there was a contradicting power in him that squirmed under the restrictions of being second in line to the throne.  Beyond that, well, the ambassador thing was his own doing.

The cacophony rising into the dusk was wildly against her.  She caught tidbits of words, all urging violence, and knew if she wasn’t afforded the opportunity to speak soon that the humans would take matters into their own hands and rip her apart.  Two sturdy guards on either side of her had managed to dissuade them thus far, but the tensions were rising and she could feel it.

“My people!”

The crowd roared on.

“Good people!”

Here and there the multitude began to quiet, friends nudging each other to focus on the newest voice.  The voice wasn’t new to Trenna, however, and she felt a twitch of real alarm. Brodis Windringham broke through the crowd and hobbled his way to the platform.  Everything about the bastard spoke of hard-earned, festering spite for the Eldur race; his weathered face seemed to be in a constant state of distortion, twisting in various looks of sneering and scowling.  When she’d first met him three days prior, Trenna had thought he’d bit down on something bitter.  And she was partly right, in a figurative way.

The bitter thing he couldn’t swallow was peace, and for the moment all of his ire was steadfast on her person.  A hard knot of foreboding settled in her chest.  Out of instinct more than thought she covered the flat of her belly with both hands, cursing herself for a fool; cursing Nelek in the same light, and cursing Brodis Windringham for being a hateful creature without a soul.

“My people we have been given a gift!” Brodis outstretched his arms, his grimy cloak making a stained brown curtain spanning his shoulders.  His silvery-white hair caught the last rays of the sun, creating a dramatic scene for the crowd below. “General Lana Silvanus, pride of the Dyngannon Army, has been delivered to us!”

Trenna flinched at her former title, vaguely aware of the tumultuous greeting given by the mob.  There wasn’t a chance in hell she could escape now.  Outside of the two guards there was at least seventeen yards worth of wrathful, churning people.  Unless something miraculous happened in the next few moments, the crude, blood-stained block just beside Brodis’ left foot would claim her head.  She could plead her case to their sense of Humanity, but given that she was both Eldur and one of their more feared enemies, she doubted that would work.

Calming herself as the crowd paused to listen more; Trenna determined that she would not go quietly.  There were many things she was willing to sacrifice for the sake of peace.  Her life and consequently Nelek’s life – Eldur marriage bound two people in blood, making a union so fierce that when one died, so did the other – but she would not, could not, sacrifice the life of their child.

Not willingly.

Nelek would understand that.

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