In the second volume of the Fourth Talisman series, Nazafareen’s path takes a twist, setting her on a journey into the heart of the maelstrom…
It’s been a thousand years since the Avas Vatras tried to burn the world to ashes. A thousand years since they were imprisoned in the brutal wasteland called the Kiln. But revenge is a dish best served cold—even, apparently, by the children of fire.
In Delphi, Nazafareen joins forces with the followers of Dionysius to rescue her friends from the Oracle’s dungeons and seek out the three talismans whose extraordinary powers stopped the Vatras before. With her own breaking magic growing stronger by the day, she must walk a razor’s edge to control her volatile temper. And if the Vatras find the talismans first, their last hope will die.
In the frozen wastes of the Valkirin range, Victor strikes an uneasy bargain with bitter enemies to keep his tenuous grip on the Maiden Keep. The other holdfasts are coming for him. But it’s an enemy within Val Moraine’s walls that may prove to be his downfall.
Thena pulled a clean woolen shift over her head and gazed down at the rooftops below. The city of Delphi was a hodgepodge of mansions and hovels, teeming markets and grand edifices such as the Akademia, the Great Library, and the Philosophers’ Guild, with the Temple of Apollo perched atop the Acropolis like a crowning jewel. She always felt important looking down from this high vantage point, like a queen surveying her domain.
Foolish creature, she chided herself. You may have come a long way for a farmer’s daughter, but you’re still a humble initiate. Don’t tempt the gods with pride and vanity.
Thena burned a handful of bay laurel leaves and silently asked for Apollo’s blessing in the day’s endeavors. She hoped the fugitive girl had been caught. The Pythia was in quite a temper about it. But finding her was the Polemarch’s task. Thena had a different one.
The Oracle favors me above the others because I am steadfast in my devotion. May the light of truth shine upon us all.
Thena left her rooms and climbed the worn stone stairs to one of the formerly empty chambers. She drew a deep breath and opened the door.
“Good morning,” she said brightly. “I trust you had a good rest.”
Its new occupant stared at her. Iron manacles pinned his arms above his head. She sensed stiffness in his shoulders but nothing else. Not a shred of emotion. Thena felt confident this would soon change. Apollo had arranged for this witch to cross her path. He was a gift from the god.
“I know you’re Danai.” She smiled. “You have the look.”
The witch looked no older than twenty, though that meant nothing. The Pythia said they aged much more slowly than mortals and lived for hundreds of years. This one had short, wavy brown hair and blue eyes. They regarded her coldly.
“As I told you yesterday, your new name will be Andros.” She bustled over to the shutters, throwing them wide. He winced as the sunlight hit his face. “And we shall get to know each other very well in the coming weeks. Better than you’ve ever known anyone in your life. But first you shall tell me your old name. I need it for the records, you see.”
She studied him. He wasn’t as handsome as the exotic Valkirin witches, with their silver hair and golden skin, but he had a stern face some might find attractive. Thena cared little about such things. She was betrothed to the sun god. He even spoke to her directly sometimes, though she kept this secret. The Oracle might think Thena was lying—or worse, challenging her authority as the voice of the god on earth.
“I’m waiting,” she prompted, showing her dimples. “Tell me your name and I’ll get you a nice cool drink of water.”
“What’s yours?” he asked hoarsely.
Thena nodded serenely. She’d played this game before. They were still in the opening moves. The very beginning. If he’d known what was in store for him, he wouldn’t be so cavalier. But they never did. The witches all thought they were hard until Thena taught them differently.
“Do you know how many daēvas I’ve broken?” she asked calmly. “Five so far. I’m the best at it. Everyone says so.” She fingered the thin gold bracelets around her wrist.
“And yet you have doubts,” he said.
Her brow furrowed. “What?”
“I sense it in your heart.” The sun caught his eyes, turning them a blazing sapphire. “You’re scared.”
“That’s ridiculous,” she snapped.
“Is it? The bond cuts both ways, you know.”
“It’s not a bond, it’s a leash. And I’ve had enough of your impudence. First lesson: Mind your manners.”
She gave him the sensation of fire on the soles of his feet. His eyes widened, but that’s all. Absolutely nothing came through the bracelet. She held it for a count of ten, then released the flow.
“What’s your old name, Andros?”
A long moment passed before he replied. When it came, his voice was tinged with mild curiosity.
“Are you afraid of the Oracle? That she’ll punish you if you fail? I suppose I don’t blame you. Five’s not bad, but it sounds like you’re still new at this. If I were you—”
Thena stepped forward and wrapped a leather strap around his mouth. She struggled for composure, only speaking when she was certain she matched his calm.
Remember your rules.
“I’m sorry we’re getting off on such a bad foot,” she said. “Truly, I wish it were otherwise, mainly for your sake. All I needed to know today was your name, but since that’s apparently too much to ask, I’m forced to give you a proper demonstration of what your collar can do.” She paused. Her pulse thudded in her ears. “I want you to remember, you brought this about. This is your doing.”
No fear from him. No anger. Not even quiet defiance.
Her mouth set.
“Someday, we’ll be very good friends,” she said, reaching into the bracelet where his spirit lived. “But for now…Well, I’m sorry, Andros.”
And she was. More than he would ever know.
Publisher: Acorn Publishing
Publication Date: February 19, 2018
Series: Fourth Talisman, 02
Genre(s): Adult, Fantasy
Page Count: 344
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Kat Ross worked as a journalist at the United Nations for ten years before happily falling back into what she likes best: making stuff up. She’s the author of the dystopian thriller Some Fine Day, the Fourth Element fantasy trilogy (The Midnight Sea, Blood of the Prophet, Queen of Chaos), and a new gaslamp mystery series that opens with The Daemoniac and continues with The Thirteenth Gate. She loves myths, monsters and doomsday scenarios. For more information about Kat’s books, come visit her at katrossbooks.com.
- A paperback copy of Nocturne (book 1)