A city besieged by evil…
Secure in his stolen stronghold, Baron Reen continues to sow chaos in Albia’s capitol. Nowhere is safe from his malice and the King’s Guard is powerless to stop him. Crucial pieces of his plan are falling into place and soon his vengeance will be complete. All he lacks is the final game piece that will force his archenemy to her knees before him.
Sullyan works frantically to solve the mystery of Reen’s newfound powers. She knows she is getting closer to the truth, but will she be too late to save the scarecrow’s captives?
“What the hell’s going on, Brynne? What can have happened to Jinny?”
Taran had gone through elation, fear, anger, puzzlement, terror, and confusion after Sullyan’s startling statement that the burned skeleton in the ruins was not Jinella. At first Taran’s soul had swelled with hope and gladness. But then his memory of her frantic mental contact intruded, and the terror or pain that must have engendered it plunged him back into fearing what had become of her. Knowing he had lain insensate for twenty-four hours, useless both to her and his King, ate away at him, and he completely missed the thing that most troubled Sullyan.
Sullyan could hardly blame him. He was looking at the personal danger and terror, thinking only of his love and what had become of her. Sullyan, worried though she was for Jinella’s safety, was much more concerned by the murder and elaborate subterfuge perpetrated here: the killing of a woman who superficially resembled the Baroness and the planting of her body, dressed in Jinny’s jewels and clothing, in order to … what? Throw them off the scent long enough to spirit her away? But the fire alone did that. By the time the conflagration had burned itself out, whoever had taken Jinny was long gone.
No. This elaborate charade had an entirely different purpose. There was a pattern here, a clue, she was certain. She just was not sure yet what it was.
She turned to regard Taran, her heart lurching with pity. He burned to do something to help Jinny, yet he was helpless, bound by his commitment to Elias and without any clue as to who might have taken her or where she might be. Sullyan could only imagine how she would feel if it were Robin. She would be climbing the walls to find him.
“I cannot say, Taran. I am as confused and fearful as you. But I will pledge you this: once I have attended the duties that await me, we will sit together and reach for Jinella’s mind. If she was able to overcome her lack of talent once, she might do so again. You and I together might be able to sense her. I will stand for you; you can use my strength and skill, along with your intimate knowledge of her, to seek her out. More than that, I cannot offer you.”
Taran squeezed her shoulder, too full of fear and hope to express what he felt.
They arrived back at the castle just before mid-morning and rode into a garrison courtyard strangely devoid of people save for a lone swordsman on patrol. Sullyan shot Taran a look as she slid from Drum’s back, leaving him to dismount as best he could with his injured leg. She yelled for a groom to take Drum’s reins as the patrolman caught sight of them. He raced to meet them, panting as he threw Sullyan a hurried salute, but she gave him no time to catch his breath. “Where is everyone? Why is no one else patrolling the garrison?”
“They’re all inside the castle, Colonel. Something’s happened …”
Sullyan sprinted for the side door leaving Taran to hobble after her. Fear knotted her stomach—not more bad news! She pounded up the stairs, calling urgently for information.
On the upper floor, Sullyan accosted a servant who appeared flustered and confused. He gabbled an incoherent message in which the only clear words were “dying” and “Levant.” Sullyan took off at a trot and Taran followed more slowly as she made for Levant’s suite.
She ignored the quick, soft footsteps on the carpet behind her, her attention riveted on the tight knot of people gathered outside Levant’s door. She wheeled to face Taran as he reached her, but then stared angrily past his shoulder at someone behind him.
“Princess. What are you doing here? Why are you alone? Where is your maid?”
Her tone was sharp. Seline drew herself up to deliver a proud retort, but Sullyan was in no mood for the young girl’s pertness. Whatever had happened was one strange occurrence too many, and her duty to her King overrode the sensibilities of anyone who got in the way of her execution of that duty.
She swung round on the nearest guard. “You. Take the Princess back to the nursery and give her to her maid. Do not leave her alone. See that they both remain there, do you hear?”
Seline drew an outraged breath, gray eyes snapping with haughty pride. “I don’t have to do what you say. You’re not my father; you can’t order me about like that!”
Sullyan stared at her coldly. “Colonel Vassa and I are responsible for your safety while your father is away, and you will follow any order we give you. Protest to the King when he returns, if you wish. Until then, Madam, you will obey me. Now go to your rooms.”
She waved her hand and the guard led the spluttering Princess away, her angry protestations loud in the hushed hallway. Sullyan ignored her, reserving her pity for the hapless guard, who had to endure Seline’s spleen all the way to the nursery.