The scarecrow’s evil knows no bounds …
Robin’s fate plunges Brynne Sullyan into despair. With vengeance her only desire, she races to the scarecrow’s lair in Bordenn. But Reen’s power is greater than she knows, and his trap is cunningly set. Sullyan is faced with a terrible choice: surrender to the scarecrow and see the Veils destroyed with her own power, or abandon her loved ones to an eternity of torment.
The only glimmer of hope lies in rediscovering an ancient Artesan discipline that is the stuff of legend. With nothing to go on but a page from a long-dead Supreme Master’s diary—and a vague message from beyond the Void—Sullyan embarks on a desperate search for the Gateway to the realm of Spirit.
Yet even hope has its price, and the Gateway demands a terrible toll.
Timar Pharikian looked down on his son’s bowed head and smiled in genuine pleasure. The marriage contract had been approved and all was in readiness to fetch his son’s beloved for her official state visit to Caer Vellet. Now Aeyron knelt before him, formally asking his blessing to wed Princess Lirina of Dalkia. This was what he had longed for: the fulfillment of Aeyron’s desires in the form of a young woman who could share his vision for the future and who would help free Andaryan women from the yoke of subservience that had hung around their necks from time immemorial.
He looked forward to the reactions of the nobles when they realized what Aeyron had in mind. The court at Caer Vellet led society’s fashions; lords all over Andaryon would find it hard preventing their ladies from claiming the same privileges Lirina would enjoy. The lord who kept his women from sharing the duties of her province would incur Prince Aeyron’s wrath. Reluctant nobles would soon fall into line when faced with trade restrictions and withdrawals of privilege.
Pharikian’s smile widened. He would take great pleasure from the discomfiture of not a few noble lords.
Stretching out his hand, he laid it on his son’s head. “Arise, my son. Gladly do I grant my blessing. Bring your beloved here that she may see her future home and learn the courtly duties she will be expected to perform. The Princess may stay as long as you both wish. Quarter her within our private apartments and assign guards to her person. Her father will expect us to treat her as one of our own—she must have an escort of Velletian Guard, both for herself and her ladies.”
Aeyron rose, his face flushed with pleasure. He had waited long for this moment and could scarcely contain his excitement. Not only would he see his love again and bring her to her new home, but today was the first day of the late winter Trade Fair, and the Citadel exuded a holiday atmosphere. The Fair traditionally heralded the approach of spring, even though there was still a month to go before winter loosed its grip, and Caer Vellett used it as an excuse to forget winter’s hardships and revel in the season’s turning.
Aeyron was unable to hide his chagrin. In his eagerness he had forgotten to make even these most necessary arrangements. “Very well, Father. I will speak with Barrin before I go. I am sure he already has it in hand.”
“Barrin will go with you,” the Hierarch added, fixing his son with a stern eye. “Anjer has already instructed him to lead your honor guard.”
Aeyron’s face paled as he inclined his head. Pharikian knew he had buried their knowledge of Baron Reen’s unquantified threat, and the day’s excitement would have pushed it further from his thoughts. He regretted the necessity of mentioning it, but they could not ignore the threat. Sullyan’s warnings and the chaos in Albia were too fresh to be forgotten.
Pharikian took his son’s maimed right hand. “Take good care, my son. Be vigilant and wary. Do not let the anticipation of future happiness and the love in your heart distract you from your duty. You must convey the Princess safely, and you must protect yourself as well. Once you are here, you can relax. Until then, keep your shields up and remain on guard at all times.”
“I will, Father.”
Aeyron held his father’s gaze, answering the deep fear he read there. Having so nearly lost his only son, first to the Baron’s malice and then to the resulting depression, Aeyron’s life was doubly precious to him. Now that his son had found someone to fulfill his life’s purpose, Pharikian feared even more for his safety. If anything were to happen to further blight his life, he would not survive it. Not even with the loving support of his father and his adoptive sister combined.
Putting aside these thoughts with an effort, the Hierarch smiled. “Go, Aeyron. Go to your Princess. I can see how you yearn to be gone. I will arrange for her quarters, and there will be a full royal guard awaiting you on the Plain. Go and bring your intended home.”
He handed Aeyron a parchment. “Take this for her father. It is my seal of approval and my pledge for the match. Give him my regards and tell him I look forward to seeing him here for the wedding. Now go, with my love.”