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SHADOW & FLAME - Sneak Peek - Mindee Arnett
Mindee Arnett

SHADOW & FLAME – Sneak Peek



No one dared approach the gate of the prison—not by choice, at any rate. Even the guards preparing for their watches regarded the Mistfold with wariness, like conscripts heading into battle. Not their first one, but their fifth or sixth, enough experience to make them fully aware of the hardships in store and the likelihood of death.

Kate Brighton couldn’t blame them for it. The fortress was as foreboding as any she’d seen. Its red mudbrick wall, the color of dirt mixed with blood, stood more than thirty feet high, the top hidden by the thick, undulating mist that gave the prison its name. That mist was as vast and imposing as the sea, obscuring everything beyond it, even sunlight. Not that there was much of that to be seen yet, only a vague brightening from black to gray. Another dawn was here, and yet again Kate hadn’t sensed it, her magic, once stirring to life with the rising of the sun, dead inside her. She pushed away the reminder and the wave of homesickness it brought.

Almost time, she thought, raising one hand to touch the revolver belted at her right side. A sword hung from her left, hidden by her long cloak. It was a heavier, more impressive weapon at a glance, but far less deadly. If fighting broke out, the revolver was all she would need. Whenit broke out. Despite their planning, violence seemed inevitable. There was too much they didn’t know about what awaited them beyond the wall and beneath that unnatural mist. The only thing she knew for certain was that her little brother was being held in there, along with dozens of her fellow wilders.

“It’s almost time.” Corwin spoke from beside her, and hearing him echo her thoughts sent a trickle of warmth through her, easing the tight knot in her chest.

Craving a glimpse of his face, Kate turned to him, only to be met with disappointment. Although the voice was Corwin’s, the face staring at her from the shadows belonged to a stranger. It was a plain face with features so unremarkable that Kate’s brain was incapable of remembering it. But that had been the point when Harue fashioned the disguise. The magestone she’d made was perched in Corwin’s left ear, the telltale glow of its magic hidden behind a gold plate. Fortunately, Harue had the foresight to create it before they’d left Rime a few weeks ago. The very next morning after setting sail for this gods-forsaken country, her magic had vanished, same as Kate’s and the others’. It stopped Harue from making new magestones, but at least the ones she’d already made had retained their normal level of power and duration. An advantage of magist magic over wilders’, it seemed.

“Yes,” Kate replied, glancing away from that unfamiliar face. She wished Harue were a little less skillful at her craft. The magist might’ve left some trace of Corwin in the masklike glamour. Then again, such precautions were warranted. Corwin Tormane, high prince of Rime, was a wanted man. Both at home, where his older brother had labeled him traitor, and especially here, in Seva, the longstanding enemy of Rime. King Magnar Fane of Seva would sacrifice six of his seven sons to capture him.

“You hate this face, don’t you?” Corwin said, a tease in his voice.

Despite herself, Kate smiled. Here was her Corwin, for certain—the one who could always see her hidden truths. “Not at all. It’s better than your regular face, honestly.”

“Well, in that case, I will make sure Harue remains in my employ indefinitely so that I might wear it for you each night.” 

“Moderation, my love.” She patted his check. “Once a week at most, otherwise I’ll surely grow bored with it.”

“Is that so?” He arched an eyebrow, or at least tried to, but this face wasn’t made for the gesture and so both brows rose, making him look surprised instead of playful. “Does that mean you’ll grow bored of me as well?”

A smirk lifted one half of her mouth. “Let’s survive this rescue first and discuss the rest of our lives later.”

Corwin grinned back at her, a hint of himself flashing in those false, dark eyes. “Tonight then. Soon as we’re on the ship for home.”

Home. Kate longed for it. Despite the troubles waiting for them in Rime, she missed the land itself with a physical ache. The rolling hills of Norgard, covered in lush green grass and everweep flowers, the towering trees of Aldervale, the blue skies over gray mountains in Farhold, and the crystalline waters of the Penlaurel River. The life and color of Rime made Seva seem a withering wasteland by comparison. And her magic, of course. She missed that most of all. Even though she’d always heard that magic didn’t exist outside of Rime, it had been a shock to discover her abilities were so conditional to her location.

She returned her attention to the gate where the change of guard was just finishing. Although she admired Corwin’s absolute certainty about the outcome of this rescue, she didn’t share it. Too much of their plan relied on luck and chance, both in short supply. If only she were able to use her ability to influence the minds of others; then they could get in and out of the prison with relative ease. Without it they were forced to rely on stealth and tricks like ordinary bandits.

Remembering those tricks, Kate reached into her pocket and pulled out two small pieces of cork, which she gently slid into her nostrils.

“Good luck.” Corwin handed her a small glass vial.

She accepted it with a quick nod, hiding its smoky contents from view with her clasped fingers. Then, stepping out from the alley, she approached the two guards standing by the gate.

The one on the left looked up at the sound of her footsteps and raised a hand to the hilt of his sword. “What goes here?”

Kate smiled warmly, counting on these men misjudging her based on her size and sex. “Pardon me, but I seem to have lost my way.” Her voice sounded strange with the cork in her nose, but neither guard seemed to notice. “Would you be able to tell me how to get to Merum?”

At the mention of the nearby pleasure district, both men’s expressions shifted, and Kate seized her chance. Before either could respond, she took a quick step forward, squeezing her mouth shut as she flicked off the stopper on the glass vial, setting its smoky contents loose. The poison rose up in a thick cloud, enveloping the guards. The one on the left tried to cry out, but the smoke filled his mouth, rendering him silent. A moment later, they both fell to the ground, unconscious.

Kate dispersed the remnants with her hand, then beckoned behind her. Corwin and the others appeared in the courtyard, stepping out from their hiding places in the alleys surrounding the Mistfold. The prison was located on the farthest northern point of Luxana, the capital city of Seva. A strange place for a prison, although rumor claimed it had been a temple long ago.

There were eight of them in all, counting herself and Corwin, a small but deadly band. Dallin Thorne and Tira Salomon appeared first, both of them former mercenaries: Dal from the legendary company known as the Shieldhawks and Tira from their sister unit, the Shieldcrows. Dal flashed a grin at Kate, teeth bared in his eagerness for battle. The cavernous scars on the left side of his face gave the expression a sinister edge. Next to him, Tira yawned broadly, as if bored. Kate supposed she might well be. In the four months Kate had known the woman, she’d never seen anything faze her. She greeted every danger with the same unflappable indifference. 

Walking a few steps behind them, Tom Bonner appeared more subdued and somehow far more dangerous than either of the mercenaries. Given his ability to manipulate metal, there wasn’t any doubt of his potential for deadliness, at least when they were at home, but still Kate didn’t like thinking of him that way. His countenance these days made her more uncomfortable than Corwin with his stranger’s mask. She missed the old Bonner, gentle and optimistic, but that version of her friend seemed to have died along with his father, the elder Bonner murdered nearly half a year ago now by the same man responsible for putting the prisoners inside these walls. 

The remaining three were wilders, too: Yvonne, an aerist, with control over air; Vander, a pyrist, with control over fire; and Francis, another earthist like Bonner. Only unlike him, Francis had a greater affinity for stone than metal. If he’d had access to his magic, Francis could’ve torn a hole in the Mistfold’s wall and given them entry that way. 

Remembering her own weakened state, Kate brought her focus back to the task at hand and stooped toward the nearest guard, relieving him of the ring of keys belted at his waist. Then she turned to the manway door off to the side of the gate and unlocked it. Dal and Tira headed in first, weapons drawn, while Bonner and Francis picked up the sleeping guards and hauled them inside.

Corwin, Yvonne, and Vander followed with Kate coming last, shutting the door behind her. She turned in time to see Tira bend toward the guards and slit their throats, one after the other, as easy as if she were harvesting wheat with a scythe.

“Dammit, Tira,” Kate said. “What’s the point of putting them to sleep if you’re just going to kill them?”

Corwin touched her shoulder. “They are our enemies, Kate, and we couldn’t be certain how long the sleep would last.”

She shrugged him off and turned away, trying to regain her composure. Corwin was right, of course. These were Sevan soldiers, oath-bound to a king who’d been trying to conquer Rime for years and was now closer than ever to accomplishing that goal—that could be the only reason why he’d been imprisoning wilders, to use them against Rime in some way, magic or no. Though surely their magic would return once they came home. Yvonne, who had visited Seva as a child, claimed it would. And these people are holding Kiran prisoner.The thought of her little brother was all it took for Kate to steel herself against the guilt. 

Quickly, the group discarded their cloaks, revealing the Sevan uniforms beneath, each one painstakingly acquired these last few weeks. Kate freed the helmet from the strap on her back and slid it over her head. The nose guard and cheek pieces hung too low, half obscuring her vision from all sides, but at least they would hide her face from onlookers. She was less certain about the uniform. The last time she’d tried to pass herself off as a man, it hadn’t gone well. 

“Yvonne,” Corwin said, inclining his stranger’s face toward the aerist, “you stay here and silence anyone who comes this way.”

“With pleasure,” Yvonne replied, her eyes bright with anticipation. She was one of the few wilders with them who didn’t have a loved one caged somewhere here, but her mother had been killed by Gold Robes, the magist order that had secretly been kidnapping wilders and sending them to Seva. Rescuing those wilders was Yvonne’s chosen method of vengeance. Kate often wondered what kind of person Yvonne would’ve been if it had never happened. She seemed born to be an assassin. Even without her magic, which she could use to squeeze the breath from a man’s lungs with a single, silent thought, she was just as deadly, her knives more like extensions of her hands. 

Corwin addressed the others. “The rest of us will move on in groups, staggering our approach. Try to blend in as much as possible. Our goal is to free as many wilders as we can without discovery.” He turned and headed down the corridor searching for the nearest exit out of the gatehouse and into the prison itself. They’d been able to gather ample information about the gatehouse, but little about what lay beyond it, other than that the wilders were being housed in an area called “the pit.” The dreadful name had kept Kate up late at night, especially the thought that her six-year-old brother was imprisoned there. No—Kiran would be seven by now. She clenched her jaw at the realization. 

They reached the exit without incident, and Corwin opened the door and stepped outside onto a dusty, sunlit field encircled by the prison’s walls. Kate blinked, her eyes slow to adjust to the sudden change. She hadn’t expected this. From outside the mist seemed to enfold the entire prison like a dome, but glancing up she saw clear sky. The mist was still there, but it went no deeper than the wall itself. Magic.Only, Kate couldn’t see how it was possible. No wilder could do this, not in Seva.

Lowering her gaze, she scanned the rest of the field, searching for prison barracks, but there were no structures in view. Instead, a massive hole sat in the middle of the field. The pit.

Kate and Corwin approached it quickly, hoping they appeared like nothing more than two guards going about their duty with the others following some distance behind. But when they reached the edge, Kate forgot her role completely.

“How?” she gasped, eyes drawn downward into the pit.

This place couldn’t be. It was like looking through a window that opened onto another world. The bottom lay several hundred feet below, over a sheer vertical edge. Grass so green it was almost blue covered the pit floor, even though Seva was an arid place, water scarce and the flora rough and colorless.

But the grass wasn’t the only thing that didn’t belong. There were everweeps, too, thousands of them scattered across the floor thick as a garden. The sight of those flowers, with their perpetually dew-drenched petals of every color, sent an ache of homesickness through Kate, as if Rime itself waited for her below. “What is this?” Kate said. It didn’t look like a prison at all, despite the presence of several structures down below. There were few walls and even fewer guards.

Corwin shook the question off. “Come on. There’s a stairway down.” He hurried toward it, and Kate followed half a beat later.

She swept her gaze over the pit as they descended the steep, narrow steps carved into the cliff’s side, still trying to make sense of it all. More than a dozen long, low-ceilinged buildings squatted in a pentagonal formation in the middle of the circular pit. At their center was an arena-like structure formed by a short, crumbling wall. It might’ve been the ruins of an amphitheater. Or a temple, Kate thought, as her mind at last made sense of the most startling object in the pit, one so incongruous that her eyes had at first slid right over it.

A massive stone face lay in the center of the arena, the head of some long-decapitated statue. The statue rested on its side, part of it buried in the grass so that only a single eye and ear remained visible. That and half of the crown encircling its brow, fashioned in the shape of a serpent or perhaps a dragon. Kate supposed if the statue had a body to go with it, it would’ve reached the top of the pit and then some.

Although they descended the stairs as quickly as they could, it still took several long minutes to reach the bottom. Kate did her best not to think of how hard the climb back out would be. At least she wasn’t tired. Just the opposite. She felt more awake, more alive, than she had in days.

Given the early hour, there was little activity in the pit, only a handful of guards walking scattered patrols. When one of the nearest spotted them, Kate instinctively reached out with her magic. Go away, she thought. You don’t see us.

To her surprise, she sensed the man’s mind clearly, and the sudden desire he had to turn back around again. Her magic. It was back! She nearly swayed on her feet at the realization.

“What happened?” Corwin grabbed her arm, steadying her.

“My magic. I can use it again.”


“I don’t know.” She peered around, prickles running down her skin. Some of it from the joy of having her magic again, but more of it from fear. Fear of this unnatural place, and the certainty that if she could access her magic again, so could everyone else. Including all the wilders imprisoned here. What was Magnar doing with them? 

“There’s no time to speculate,” Corwin said. “Come on. Let’s count our blessings while they come.” He made for the nearest building, testing the door and finding it locked.

Kate reached for the keys, which she’d belted at her waist, but Corwin stopped her. “There’s no need for that.” He turned and waved to Bonner and Francis, who’d been following closest behind them. “Is your magic back, too?” Corwin asked Bonner.

Bonner started to frown, then stopped, a shocked look spreading across his face. “It is. I don’t understand how—”

Corwin cut him off. “Can you take care of this lock?”

Pressing his lips together, Bonner raised his hand toward the look, melting it open with his magic. Corwin clapped him once on the back, then stepped inside.

Kate followed, the smell of too many bodies in too small a place enveloping her. She peered around at the murky darkness, her eyes making out the human shapes covering the floor. For a second, she thought they were dead, but a simple sweep of her magic told her they were only sleeping—and that Kiran wasn’t among them.

She and Corwin began waking them one by one, soon helped by the others joining them. Sluggishly, the wilders stirred. Although they looked well fed, and there was no visible sign of abuse, they remained dazed long after waking, men, women, and children alike staring up at their would-be saviors with expressionless gazes.

Kate motioned Bonner over to her. “Can you remove this woman’s collar?” She indicated the nearest wilder, who’d managed to sit up but hadn’t yet tried to stand. She wore a collar studded with glowing magestones designed to stop a wilder from using their magic. Bonner waved his hand at the woman’s neck, and the metal melted away like ice.

“I can’t believe this is happening,” Kate said, encouraged by how easily he’d performed the magic.

“I know. I feel nearly myself again,” Bonner replied, unsmiling.

If only that were true, Kate thought, watching as he removed the next collar, and the next.

She turned back to the woman. “Can you use your magic?”

“Magic?” The woman stumbled over the word, as if Kate had spoken in a foreign language. But then she glanced down at her palm, and water appeared as if she cupped a miniature fountain in her hand.

“Good, you’re going to need it.” Kate closed the woman’s fingers, and the water disappeared. “How long have you been here?”

She blinked slowly. “How . . . long?”

Dismayed, Kate plunged into the woman’s mind. A small, quiet voice in the back of her head admonished her for the invasive act. Once, not long ago, she never would’ve combed through someone’s mind like this, as if she had a right to these memories, these thoughts and feelings. But there was no time to consider the morality of what she was doing—her desperate need to find Kiran outweighed everything.

The woman’s thoughts were dull and hazy, as if she’d been drinking. The effect was so powerful that for a second, Kate nearly forgot herself. Then she pushed through the haze to find what she needed. This woman had only been here some four weeks, and she hadn’t been out of this room much at all. She hadn’t seen any young boys who looked like Kiran. Kate withdrew, impatient to move on with her search.

Corwin approached her. “Everyone’s free of the collars, but we’re having a hard time making them understand what they need to do. They must be drugged or something. Can you help?”

Kate nodded, knowing at once what he wanted her to do. A few moments before, it would’ve been impossible, but now her magic swelled inside her, making her feel both full and light and complete all at once. Closing her eyes, she stretched out with her sway, pulling all the minds toward her like kites on a string. In an instant she conveyed the plan—that they were all to wait here, silent and still, and when the time came to leave they needed to be ready to use their magic on the guards.

She withdrew a moment later. “It’s done.”

Leaving Tira and Dal to stay with this group, Corwin and the rest moved on to the next house. Instead of a single, large room, this one held a long hallway lined with doors on each side, locked and windowless. Individual cells, Kate guessed. They wasted no time opening the first few doors, Bonner using his magic with careless ease.

When one of the doors opened to reveal Kiran inside, Kate couldn’t stop the shout of joy that escaped her throat. She dashed into the room, reaching for him.

With a startled look, Kiran jumped back from her, fists raised to defend himself. Then recognition lit his face. “Kate!”

She pulled him into her arms, hugging him so tight he gave a grunt. Her mind reeled from the shock of how different he looked, how much older, bigger.

“Come on,” Kate said, loosening her grip. “We’ve got to get out of here.”

“No,” said a voice from the other side of the room. Kate looked up to see Vianne, Kiran’s mother, standing in the far corner and watching Kate with blood-shot eyes. Her face was bruised with fatigue.

“What do you mean, no? We’re getting all of you out of here.”

Biting his lip, Kiran took a step back from Kate and shook his head.

“We can’t leave, Kate,” Vianne said. “You don’t understand—”

She broke off at the sound of a commotion outside, voices raised in anger. Kate turned to the door as Francis stepped through it, dragging a woman behind him—Anise, one of the wilders captured at the same time as Vianne and Kiran.

“Kate!” Francis said through gritted teeth. “Make her stop fighting me. Make her come.”

“Let go of me, Francis.” Anise tried to jerk free of his grasp, her face purpled with anger. “I’m staying. Let go!”

Kate gaped, confused that Anise, Vianne, and Kiran would refuse to be saved. What was going on?She began to ask, only to be silenced by the sound of gunfire. She and Francis exchanged a startled look. It could only be one of their people—revolvers were as rare as magic outside of Rime.

“Let’s go.” Kate grabbed her brother by the arm. He pulled back, but Kate didn’t let go. Not until Vianne stepped forward and sunk her nails into Kate’s forearm.

Anger cut through her disbelief, and without a second thought, Kate reached into Vianne’s mind, grabbed hold of her thoughts, and forced her will into submission. A moment later she did the same to Kiran and Anise. She didn’t understand what made them want to stay, but she wasn’t going to wait around to find out with armed guards on the way.

Kate stepped out into the hallway, dragging her wards behind her. She felt them fighting against her at each step, their minds like eels, slippery in the hands of her magic.

Corwin dashed down the hallway toward them. “Go . . . go . . . go!”

“What about the rest?” Kate ran her gaze over all the open doors.

“They won’t come,” Bonner said, joining them. “Can you make them?”

Kate reached toward the other wilders, sensing them, but the moment she tried to engage, she almost lost her grip on Kiran, Vianne, and Anise. They fought her so relentlessly it took all her concentration and strength to hold them. She shook her head.

“Watch out,” Corwin said, as several Sevan guards came through the doorway. He pulled out his revolver, but before he could fire, Bonner crushed the guards’ swords with his magic, rendering them useless. Then he and Corwin mowed them down.

Turning away from the carnage, Kate moved toward the exit with her captives in tow. Outside, Tira and Dal were leading the first set of prisoners out of the house. As before, the wilders remained sluggish and dull-witted, only a couple of them using their magic against the attacking guards.

The entire prison was aware of their presence by now. Still, with the help of their revolvers, they were able to keep the danger at bay until they reached the steps. Dal led the way up with the wilders following behind him. Vander went next with Tira quick on his heels. Behind her, Francis dragged Anise along by the arm. Reaching the steps, Kate sent Vianne and Kiran up first. Corwin and Bonner brought up the rear behind her. Bonner paused several feet up the stairs and turned around long enough to destroy the stone steps with his magic, preventing the guards from following that way.

They climbed as fast as they could, the stairs steep and treacherous. On the ground below, a dozen Sevan guardsmen had formed a line, bows in hand. They nocked arrows and drew back to fire.

“Bonner!” Kate shouted. “Stop them!”

Bonner raised his hand as the guards loosed the arrows. They took flight, only to be halted by Bonner’s magic. But already the bowmen were drawing again, even as more guards swelled their numbers. It seemed if they couldn’t prevent the prisoners from escaping, they would kill them instead.

“I can’t stop them all!” Bonner shouted, his face contorted from the effort.

A loud crack echoed over Kate’s head, the sound like lightning striking the ground. She looked up to see a huge chunk of the pit wall being wrenched away. Another glance showed her it was Francis, his arms outstretched as he guided it, his face strained with the same effort Bonner had shown. The huge slab of stone hovered beside them as a shield.

“Keep going,” Francis yelled through gritted teeth.

They charged onward, their steps punctuated by the sound of arrows bouncing harmlessly off the stone. Kate’s legs began to burn, and her breathing grew labored. The top loomed far above them, an eternity away. But they only needed to get out of reach of the arrows.

“Kate,” Tira called from ahead of her. “You’ve got to kill those guards before they kill us.”

“I can’t!” She didn’t have the breath to explain how Kiran, Anise, and Vianne struggled against her even now, worse than before. Kate could feel their panic—their terror—at leaving the pit. If she let go, she didn’t know what they would do.

“Please, Kate,” Francis said, his face purpled from the effort of holding the stone.

Glancing down at the guards below, she knew she could kill them with her sway, easily and quickly, and likely not risk losing the wilders’ minds completely. But she didn’t want to. She’d killed that way only once before and it haunted her still. She could just put them to sleep instead, but that would take longer. Indecision taunted her. They are our enemies, she heard Corwin saying to her once again.

Reaching the limits of his magic, Francis let out a strangled cry and stumbled to his knees, arms dropping to his sides. The stone slab fell as he did and struck the side of the steps with a noise like a mountain being rent in two. Below, the guardsmen seized their chance, bows raised for another volley. At once, Kate reached out with her magic to subdue them, but she was slowed by the strain of holding Kiran, Vianne, and Anise. Before she could reach them all, one guard let loose an arrow. It flew toward Kate, so fast it was almost invisible. A heartbeat later, she felt the pain tear through her mind, realizing too late that it wasn’t her pain.

But Kiran’s.

Turning, Kate saw the arrow protruding from his chest, his features already slackening, his body going limp.

“NO!” She reached for him, but her hands found only air as he slid off the edge. It was over in a moment, his body crashing to the floor below. Before Kate could even scream, she watched another body plummeting to the ground after Kiran. In Kate’s distraction she’d let go of her other wards, and Vianne had jumped, compelled both by her son and whatever force had been working so hard to draw her back to the pit. With a sickening lurch in her stomach, Kate turned to see that Anise too was trying to leap off the edge, held back only by Francis’s tight grip on her.

“Stop her, Kate.” The muscles in his arms rippled from the effort to hold her. 

Kate grabbed Anise’s mind with her magic. As before, the woman fought her, but Kate wrestled her under control. All the while the terrible truth beat in her brain—Kiran is dead. Kiran is dead.She hadn’t saved him. She’d hesitated and he’d fallen. Oh gods.

“Move!” Corwin shouted from below Kate. His voice cut through her thoughts, reminding her there were other lives at stake. Staving off her grief, she renewed the climb with the others.

They didn’t make it far before there was another crack like lightning hitting ground. A violent tremble rocked the stairs, throwing Kate forward onto her hands and knees. The crack sounded again, louder and nearer than before. She glanced behind her toward the source of the noise and saw Corwin and Bonner were on their knees as well, but farther away then they’d been. A rift had appeared in the steps, dividing her from them.

“Corwin! Bonner!” she screamed. “Jump!”

Corwin scrambled to his feet, but before he could make the leap, there was a third crack, and this time the rest of the stairs beneath Corwin and Bonner fell away, a landslide of stone and dirt that dragged them both down, slowly at first, then faster, until they both plummeted toward the ground as Kiran and Vianne had done moments before.

Kate lost sight of them in the cloud of dust and didn’t know where they’d fallen. But she didn’t need to. She’d seen Kiran’s. It was a fall no one could survive, and the truth of it made the world shatter around her, her heart seizing in her chest.

“Come on, Kate.” Hands grabbed her shoulders, pulling her up, forcing her to stand.

“No,” she said, reaching for her love and her friend, as if she could will them alive by her mind alone. She stretched out with her magic as far as she could, but she couldn’t sense either Corwin or Bonner down below.

Dal knelt beside her, mouth to her ear. “They’re gone, Kate, but Corwin would want you to survive.” Dal’s voice was like steel, hiding his own pain beneath it. Corwin had been his best friend for years, same as Bonner had been hers.

Dead dead dead. The truth filled her mind, overwhelming her until nothing else existed.

“Come on,” Dal said, hauling her forward now. “You can’t give up, Kate. Signe is counting on us.”

At the sound of her name, Signe’s face appeared in Kate’s mind, through the black of her despair. Signe, another close friend, someone she loved. If Kate died here, Signe would feel the same pain Kate felt now. Dal was right. They needed to escape, alive.

Blinded by tears, Kate finished the climb. Once up, they crossed the field back to the wall and out into the city, sneaking their way down alleys and side streets until they reached the harbor where Signe waited on the ship to carry them back to Rime.

Home. Just as Corwin had promised.

Only he’d been wrong. He wasn’t there to tease her with his stranger’s face as she lay down for sleep that night. She was alone. And when the ship reached Rime’s shores at last, she stepped onto her home soil feeling like a person rent in two. For a part of her remained in Seva, lying dead in that pit with Kiran, Bonner, and Corwin. Three parts of her heart, torn asunder.

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