Authors: Honor Raconteur
Tags: #female protagonist, #Romance, #Fantasy, #Fiction, #Young Adult, #YA, #gods
Published by Raconteur House
Printed in the USA through Amazon.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
A Raconteur House book/ published by arrangement with the author
Raconteur House ebook edition/April 2013
Copyright © 2012 by Midnight Quest
Illustrated by Katie Griffin
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights.
Purchase only authorized editions.
For information address:
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If you purchased this book without a cover, you should be aware that this book is stolen property. It was reported as “unsold and destroyed” to the publisher, and neither the author nor the publisher has received any payment for this “stripped book.”
Other books by Honor Raconteur
Published by Raconteur House
THE ADVENT MAGE CYCLE
Advent Mage Compendium
Special Forces 01
The Midnight Quest
A man does what he must
in spite of personal consequences,
in spite of obstacles and dangers and pressures
and that is the basis of all human morality.
The utter stillness of the room started to unnerve her.
The guards had taken the lamps away when she was thrust into this closed room, laughing and joking that she didn’t need the light after all, so they would make use of it. She let them come and go without a word. They were ruffians really, little better than thugs. What use would it be to banter with them?
No, her true enemies were the men who’d ordered her caged like this.
Jewel had no idea how long she’d been in this room. Without windows, and the heat of the sun to mark time with, she’d quickly lost track of the days. Three days would be her guess, but she could be off.
More than the loss of the sun, she missed
Her entire life she’d always had something to do, even if it was just make-work crocheting in her hands. She’d rarely just sat idle with no occupation to turn her mind to. This lack of things to do would surely drive her mad soon.
Well, there remained one task still within reach. She extended mental fingertips and touched the crystal that provided the protective barrier around her country. As High Priestess of Elahandra, it was her duty to monitor the barrier and to keep the crystal charged. Only three months ago, when she’d assumed the position, she’d been humbled by the calling and delighted at the chance to serve. That was before she’d understood the risks assumed with it. Now, only her mental connection with the massive crystal powering the barrier kept her from going mad.
They didn’t like that she could control the crystal even from here, on the far end of the castle.
Jewel shifted against the cool stone under her legs, seeking in vain a position that wouldn’t eventually turn her body numb. It had taken nearly an hour to drag her from her comfortable apartment to this cold, deserted space. She guessed it to be the dungeons, judging from the stone walls, stone flooring, and sturdy plank door that she could feel. The thick and cloying scent of mold and dampness lent credence to this guess. There were no chains hanging that she could find, which was reassuring. The solid feel of the walls was not.
She’d been praying nearly daily to Elahandra for some kind of instruction or help. The goddess had gently reassured her that she knew of her plight, and help was coming. While grateful that someone was coming, she couldn’t help but wish that they would come just a
The sound of metal being shoved against metal, like a key being inserted into a lock. Then a slight rasp as it turned. Jewel rose to her feet, head cocked slightly in intense concentration, ears straining for every wisp of sound as the door shoved open and someone strode through.
Heavy steps, slightly uneven because of an overly thick girth. The swish and slide of silk upon silk with each step forward. These characteristics could belong to several men, but with the sounds came the unique scent of sandalwood and the spicy tang of pipe smoke…ah. Of course. A cold fist twisted at her stomach, but she forced herself to give a cool greeting to her visitor. “Minister Corgen, this is an unexpected visit.”
“Priestess Jomadd,” he returned with false civility. His voice had more of an edge to it than normal, roughening his usual urban lilt. “I trust that you have had time to reflect on our earlier request?”
“I will not cut off Ramath from the barrier,” she responded glacially. “Your demands, Minister, are not only unethical but illegal.”
“And how would you know, my dear Priestess, seeing as you cannot read?”
The slur missed its mark entirely and she deliberately laughed out loud. “Because I cannot read the law from the books themselves, you think I cannot comprehend it when it’s read to me? Really, Minister, do you know how ridiculous that is?”
The abrupt swish of fabric and an aggravated step forward, close enough that she could nearly smell his breath on her. “Watch your tone, girl.”
“Watch your step, Minister,” she responded with matching heat. “I am not the only one who knows your actions and the
for those actions.”
“Ha! Your goddess hasn’t protected you yet.”
I’m not referring solely to her,
Jewel bit back the words before they escaped her mouth. “Yet,” she repeated with a wise nod.
“I see that I’ll need to leave you down here for a few more days. Do send word if you change your mind before then.”
Jewel listened intently as he left, the door slamming with unnecessary force behind him, the key grating once again in the lock. She stood trembling for a moment more, trying to still her shaking hands by gripping them tightly together. She recognized Corgen’s visit for what it truly was—a warning that he was growing quickly impatient with her. If he grew impatient enough…
she prayed silently,
whatever help you are sending me, make it quick. I’m afraid I’m out of time.
Sarvell was having the weirdest dream. It felt like he floated, wrapped in a cocoon of warmth and rich, velvet softness. He was so comfortable that he couldn’t fathom why any part of his brain wanted to be aware. Yet, at the same time, a small part of his mind screeched in alarm. He hummed to himself and tried burrowing into the softness a little more.
Ah, a voice was saying something. He wisely nodded to himself, still not truly awake. Loathe to move, he seriously contemplated ignoring the voice and going right back into the deep depths of true sleep.
Sarvell Sorpan, wake up right now!”
How odd. His head rang a little from that, but his ears didn’t hear anything…
In less than a heartbeat, Sarvell sat bolt upright in bed, scrambling for bedcovers, and trying to get both eyes open and focused. The glowing figure at the end of his bed did nothing to help him gather his scattered wits.
There, in all of her frustrated glory, stood the Goddess of Light and Protection. At the moment, she clearly leaned toward her
side, as she did not wear the airy white gown normally depicted in pictures, but instead dressed in thick metal armor from head to toe, a long sword strapped on her hip. Her long dark hair lay in a workmanlike plait over one shoulder, and the delicate crown normally on her forehead had been exchanged for a sturdy helmet. Her toe tapped in an irritated rhythm, and she stared at him through narrowed eyes.
Sarvell could hardly do a proper bow while still in bed, tangled up in covers, but he did manage to find his tongue. “Elahandra, how may I serve?”
Some of her irritation eased when he spoke. “Sarvell Sorpan, my high priestess has been locked away in the depths of Belthain Castle. You are to go rescue her and then stay with her, protecting her from any harm, until I release you.”
The alarm that he had felt finding an angry god at the foot of his bed tripled. “Someone dared to lock up your high priestess?!”
“They’ll do more than that in a few days’ time unless she caves to their demands,” Elahandra informed him grimly, frown deepening the furrow between her eyes. “She won’t, though. She will die before doing anything those drecks want her to. Sarvell, you have very limited time. I suggest you move tonight.”
move or have lightning strike you
without difficulty. This was not the time to point out that she was not his god and that technically he didn’t have to move when she ordered him to. Sarvell sensibly chose to live and said instead, “I’ll leave as soon as I can. Am I the only one you’ve called?”
“No, there will be one other. His name is Rialt, from Ramath.”
He’d met people from the Ramath Clan before. They were devout, certainly, but had interesting ideas of how a goddess should be worshipped. The fact that Elahandra was not technically their goddess just complicated matters even more. Hoping not to get his head bitten off with this question, he ventured, “You’ve already spoken to him, then?”
She knew full well what he was truly asking, and her mouth quirked up slightly. “He’ll agree, even if I have to bash his fool head in. You have two days to get her out, Sarvell. I can’t guarantee her safety beyond that.”
Breaking into a castle as heavily fortified and guarded as Belthain in two days…would be difficult at best. With just two men? Well, he’d say impossible if a god hadn’t ordered him to do just that. “I leave within the hour,” he assured her.
“Good.” About to turn and go, she paused and looked back to add, “Don’t take the main highway.”
That would lengthen the trip to Belthain by a good two hours, but Sarvell didn’t even think to question her. “I’ll take the back way in.”
With a nod of approval, she disappeared, taking all of the light with her.
Sarvell took a moment to breathe, flung the covers off, and dove for his pants.
"You want me doin’
Elahandra sighed deeply. As a goddess, she was used to being obeyed without question. After all, what mortal would dare to argue with a god?
Someone had obviously failed to teach
that. "Rialt, stop arguing with me. The safety of your people depend on
"I ken," the irritable man snapped. Like everyone else at this time of the night, he had been deeply asleep when Elahandra had shown up at his bedside. Unlike Sarvell, who’d taken the nightly summons in stride, Rialt awoke like a bear just yanked out of his winter hibernation. The wild snarl of dark hair around his head served as an excellent frame for his scowl. His thick brogue, already steep because of his northern heritage, became even more incomprehensible with a half-asleep tongue. "But what be you about, wanting me to guard her? I be no pet guard dog!"