Choices Meant For All
Coming from ArcheBooks Publishing
It’s the finale fans have begged for…
Every demon in Onweald knew the armies would clash in the Arcanan Vale, but no one expected an abducted bride to bring prophecy to such an end. When ancient evil erupts from exile, a jealous emperor goes up for bid. Even the world’s greatest wizard can’t hold back the forces conspiring against Chariss, and it takes the will of the gods to bring her spells to fruition. These choices weren’t meant for one goddess to make alone; they were meant for all.
from Chapter 2 | from Chapter 7
An Early Excerpts
from Chapter 2
As always, Arcana breathed Nigel in, pulling him back into her embrace with the essence of roses and mahogany. The immediate entryway’s wide doors symbolized the dynasty’s open invitation to the Geasa’n children that had been welcomed there over the years. The dark, polished wood shone with the sort of care that only hard-working folk used for such details.
A pair of doors to Nigel’s left stood open wide with an air of gallantry that beckoned newcomers into the ornate ballroom beyond. Nevermind that it had recently become a war room filled with serviceable tables and sturdy chairs amid the more graceful furniture and jeweled sconces befitting a wealthy family’s hall of entertainment.
To Nigel, these things were common. Ordinary. He’d grown as accustomed to the presence of maps laid out among knives in his late mother’s ballroom as he was accustomed to fine scented candles of heather and roses in the foyer he stalked tonight.
Arcana’s tapestries and carpets muffled his footsteps, and the reassuring tick-tock tick-tock of the sturdy hall clock in the foyer synchronized with his heart beat as he strode by, forming his next course of action.
“Lahs, get a hot meal for Brendan and Henry,” he ordered to the retreating servant.
“Henry can’t eat anything,” the frustrated wizard Hrazon snapped at Nigel.
At any other time, Nigel would treat Hrazon with utmost respect. This moment was a little trying for Nigel. Offering merely a glower at the old wizard standing in the parlor doorway, Nigel continued to walk through the halls of his grand home with purpose, and people hurried out of his way.
His normally brown hair seemed a deeper brown tonight. His Arcanan brown eyes seemed almost black. The square set of his jaw and high nobility of his cheekbones sat atop a full muscular frame that barreled through his home as if his mission had been set for him ages before. He had a finite amount of time before the moons would rise and the dragon nature would take him, giving him leave to fly north, toward the Arcanan Vale, toward the Dreorfahn Army where he was sure his bride had been taken. He would put everything he needed into motion before then.
“Nigel,” Hrazon called, arresting the gentleman on his way up the enormous staircase. The wizard winced as if the entire house turned to look at him with Nigel’s dark gaze.
“What?” There was no mistaking the impatience in the man’s question. He spoke it like a command to get to the point immediately.
“Henry isn’t going to survive,” Hrazon said, approaching the stairs. A passing servant scurried faster to get down the hall toward the kitchen and the family’s dining room. Everyone knew the wizard’s power was hampered by the loss of the geasa from the world, but no one wanted to be between him and Nigel when both were worried about Amanda Chariss.
“The doctor will be here as soon as Becca can get—”
“You could heal him,” Hrazon hissed.
Nigel frowned. “I have arrangements—”
“He’s your friend.”
“She’s my bride!”
Hrazon stamped his foot. “Henry can help you get her back.”
Nigel turned on his heel and stormed past the wizard, back toward the parlor. He wouldn’t rail at Chariss’s mentor tonight. Not after the news they’d just learned. Instead, he bit his tongue against an angry retort about Henry’s inefficiency so far.
“I don’t have time for this when there’s a doctor already on the way,” he muttered as he swooped into the parlor.
The servant Loetha kneeled beside the gray overstuffed couch where Henry lay, dabbing at the man’s forehead and bearded cheeks with a wet cloth. Other servants moved about in various stages of helpfulness—stoking the parlor’s fire, lighting candles in silver, jeweled sconces on the walls, bringing gray or light-blue cushioned chairs from the shadows for the meeting Nigel had ordered.
Ignoring them all, Nigel crossed the room with his wide strides and grasped the panels of Henry’s dusty shirt. Brendan had forced some fabric, some material out of some pack into Henry’s shirt to stanch the blood, giving Henry the look of a deformed woman. That’s all the time the captain had given to the wound. His priority had been getting them back to Arcana.
‘As it should have been,’ Nigel thought. He tossed the clump of bloodied material aside, barely registering that the servant Loetha blanched and gasped at it, stepping back from the soggy lump as if it were some sort of poisonous animal.
Nigel had ripped Henry’s shirt open by then and placed his hands over the ugly stab wound just as Hrazon had taught him such wounds required. His fingers touched clammy skin and crusted blood before his palms came to rest against the wetness that meant his friend hovered close to death. It worried him that he’d not done this for real. He’d not healed wounds before. He’d only learned the words, the thoughts, the method the wizard had taught him.
This was the actual art of healing.
The act reminded him of laying on the training arena floor months ago with Chariss’s hands closing the ryfel wound on his own chest.
As if Hrazon knew this memory distracted him, the wizard spoke lowly to Nigel, “Carefully, then, paint in your mind the tissue coming together.”
Hrazon’s patience was unending, and Nigel wondered if that’s where Chariss learned it. Could a person learn such a thing, or were you born with it?
“He’s mending nicely,” Hrazon said. “Good job, son. You can relax. Relax the spells now. Bring your mind slowly away from the spells.”
Earlier in his friendship with Hrazon, such a statement would have meant nothing to Nigel. Because Chariss and her guardian had been teaching him through the summer, he knew what the old wizard tried to explain. He slowly opened his eyes, gazing down at Henry with his newly healed chest.
“You fixed the lungs, too, without me having to remind you of it,” Hrazon complimented him. “You know what you’re doing. You’ll make a fine Geasa’n.”
Nigel smirked at the wizard. “You don’t say it as well as Amanda. She’s less patronizing.”
Hrazon clapped him on the shoulder. “Henry will rest now. You can get back to your…What?”
Nigel’s eyes had come to rest on the wad of bloodied material then, seeing on the floor what had alarmed Loetha. Brendan had grabbed the first pack he could as he had left the scene where Julette had attacked; he’d grabbed the first handful of fabric that he could cram into Henry’s shirt to blot the blood coursing out of the fallen ruffian. It was one of Chariss’s dresses.
An Early Excerpt
from Chapter 7
Chariss’s heartbeat quickened when she heard and smelled the arrival of Julette and one of her minions in the tent. She didn’t need to see the ancient being to know this interview would not be pleasant. It might be better to feign sleep a while longer.
“Check her,” the goddess’s voice commanded.
Lessons Hrazon had taught her snapped to the forefront of Chariss’s mind. She let her muscles relax in perfect imitation of sleep as what she knew was a hairy, disgusting claw fell to a covering over her stomach. The claw shook her mercilessly from this midpoint, and she let the motion ripple her as if she remained unconscious. It shot pain through her shoulders that nearly forced a cry from her.
“Still asleep,” the creature sputtered through its slime-lined throat.
Its spittle dripped, plopping with a small splattering sound onto the cover. Chariss could smell it—rancid and disgusting. She resisted the urge to gulp back revulsion and remained inert, as calm as if Hrazon whispered the lessons to her even then. She wondered if the poisonous spittle would burn through the cover like a fat, stinking ember. Her knowledge of edras blood was vast; she’d used it in the past. Her knowledge of their other fluids was limited.
“Get out,” Julette told the edras. Apparently, it was no longer useful.
A confusion of sounds at the tent flap suggested the hairy, ugly creature obeyed without question and a heavier person entered the space.
“Did you wake her?” a man asked.
It was all Chariss could do to keep her breathing calm. She knew the voice of Jamieson Drake.
“She won’t wake up,” Julette snorted.
“You’ve probably damaged her.”
Chariss could hear his voice approach the bed. As he neared, the scent of leather and rusted armor came with him. The stink of the edras demon was slow to dissipate with the thing’s departure, but Drake’s strange aroma filled the space it left behind. It reminded her of too-close-for-comfort combat from the spring.
“What if I did?” Julette asked. “We’re better off with this one damaged. I’ve told you before that she’s dangerous.”
“Without her geasa?” He made some sort of scoffing sound. “She’ll be easy enough to tame without her geasa to interfere.”
Julette cackled at that. “You’re a fool if you believe that. What’ll you use to break her? Hrazon? Don’t see him around. My stupid son? He’s busy lamenting His own fate like the coward He is, so He’s not winning any favors from her. Give up, little sorcerer. She’s never going to love you—”
“I’m the one with the power in this situation,” Drake finally interrupted. “And the hair she sent.”
Chariss couldn’t see Julette’s reaction, but judging from the growl emanating from Drake, it must have been condescending.
“You think the talisman you made from that hair will influence her in any way?”
“You’ve yet to offer a better idea,” Drake sneered.
As much as their conversation rattled her nerves, Chariss knew she had to assess the situation to which Drake referred. The sorcerer was right. While she lived without her geasa, Drake was the one with the upper hand.