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Ward Against Disaster
     

Ward Against Disaster

4.3 4
by Melanie Card
 

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Ward de'Ath should be dead by now. Instead, he's chasing after a soul-eating creature—that he unleashed— and is bent on stopping her before she slaughters more innocents. Fortunately, Celia Carlyle remains by his side, a nobleman's gorgeous and deadly daughter, who is…well, dead.

Celia claims she'll champion Ward wherever he goes,

Overview

Ward de'Ath should be dead by now. Instead, he's chasing after a soul-eating creature—that he unleashed— and is bent on stopping her before she slaughters more innocents. Fortunately, Celia Carlyle remains by his side, a nobleman's gorgeous and deadly daughter, who is…well, dead.

Celia claims she'll champion Ward wherever he goes, even when she thinks his quest is hopeless. He can only hope her pledge comes from her heart, and not because she's bound to him through his magic.

When they enter Dulthyne, they stumble upon a dark power that threatens the entire town. Ward, with his unreliable necromancy, is determined to help but finds himself ensnared in the lure of white-hot magic…blood magic he struggles to resist. But if Celia's love is a lie, it might just doom his soul to the dark arts forever.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781633751354
Publisher:
Entangled Publishing, LLC
Publication date:
01/19/2015
Series:
Chronicles of a Reluctant Necromancer , #3
Sold by:
Macmillan
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
350
Sales rank:
1,110,003
File size:
2 MB
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

Ward Against Disaster

Chronicles of a Reluctant Necromancer


By Melanie Card, Liz Pelletier

Entangled Publishing, LLC

Copyright © 2014 Melanie Card
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-63375-135-4


CHAPTER 1

Ward crouched beside Celia and Nazarius in the underbrush. Sweat from the oppressive summer heat in the Red Mountains slicked his palms and plastered his shirt to his back, and he resisted the urge to scratch at a bug bite and make it worse.

Before them sat a squat, one-room farmhouse. Two chickens pecked at the hard, mountain dirt before the front door, and a goat grazed on a scraggly bush at the side. There wasn't a breath of breeze to rustle the leaves or cut the heat. Not even a hint to sway the small wheat field in the narrow strip of valley beyond the house.

"You're sure Allette's in there?" Celia asked, her voice low. Her black hair, so dark it had a blue sheen to it, was tied in a tight braid. Not even the curl that usually escaped and accentuated her pale, sculpted cheek was free.

Nazarius kept his gaze locked on the door. In this position, crouched and ready, his shirt strained against his broad chest and thickly muscled arms, making him look even more dangerous. "This is where her tracks lead."

Ward's insides squirmed. "We can't sit here long. She's a vesperitti, all her senses are enhanced. If she hasn't smelled our sweat, she's listening to us talk right now." She'd probably already heard them approach and could hear his heart trying to pound its way out of his chest.

Celia drew the silver knife—the only thing that could kill a vesperitti—from her dagger's sheath at her hip. "We need to get her into sunlight to blind her. Get your silver ready."

Nazarius drew his silver knife and stood.

Celia glanced at Ward, freezing him with her pale blue gaze. A hint of emotion swept through her expression but, like it had been since they'd started hunting Allette four days ago, he couldn't figure out what it meant. "Stay here."

Right. It meant he was a liability in a fight. And really, going up against a creature faster and stronger than a man, he was, without a doubt, a liability.

He opened his mouth to say something. Agree, disagree, wish her to stay safe? He didn't know what, but she leapt away and dashed across the small clearing to the farmhouse's front door before he could say anything.

Nazarius was a step behind her. She reached the door, threw it open, and Nazarius rushed inside, but he jerked back into the doorway, blocking Celia from entering.

Something was wrong. If Allette was inside she would have attacked. There was no place for her to go unless she wanted to run blind into the sunlight. They were supposed to have her cornered.

Ward scrambled out of the underbrush. "What's wrong?"

Celia rammed a finger into Nazarius's side. He jerked—she'd hit a nerve—and she shoved him aside but didn't enter farther into the house.

"By the Goddess." Her back tensed. Her whole body tensed, and cold twisted hard in Ward's gut.

"You don't want to look," Nazarius said. "It's bad."

But Ward had to. A part of him, the part that read books about the evil and bloodlust that drove vesperitti, already knew what to expect. Vesperitti survived on human souls and the easiest way to get that was through blood. They were beholden to the black necromancer, the Innecroestri, who made them, and while Allette no longer had a master, she was still a monster.

Celia grabbed his arm. "Ward, don't."

"I have to. This is my responsibility. I set her free."

"This has nothing to do with you," Nazarius said.

Ward tugged at Celia's grip. She let go and stepped aside to let him enter.

The room was dim, but clear, dark splashes of blood stained the pale plaster walls. fBloody speckles crept high, close to the ceiling. Spray from a major artery while the heart was pumping with panic. There was so much of it, as if Allette had painted all four walls with it like a manic artist.

Ward's gaze slid to the table. More blood. Then lower.

Bile burned his throat. He knew what he'd see. All that blood. It couldn't be from just one body.

His gaze landed on a dismembered arm first. It was so small that the hand, if curled into a fist, could have easily hidden in one of his.

His throat tightened and the bile rose higher. His pulse roared and panic clawed at his chest. This was his fault. He'd seen a corpse before. Many actually. He'd even dug a few from their graves to perform necropsies and further his illegal studies in medicine, but he'd never seen such carnage before and he couldn't dissociate from these victims like he could with the necropsies. Father, mother, half a dozen children, all murdered. Their blood, with the precious soul magic Allette needed to survive, slicked the floor, pooled in uneven spots on the hard-packed dirt, and splattered the furniture.

He couldn't catch his breath. "I did this."

Celia grabbed the back of his shirt and jerked him from the doorway. He stumbled, his heel catching on a rock, and she shoved him against the wall outside the house.

"This is not your fault."

"I knew she was a monster and I set her free." His stomach heaved, and tears burned his eyes with the effort not to throw up. All that blood was on his hands.

"You thought you were killing her," Celia said.

"But I didn't." His stomach heaved again. "And she's playing games with me."

Celia's eyes narrowed, her delicate black brows drawing in. "What does that mean?"

"All that blood is a waste. She needs it to survive, and out here in the middle of nowhere the odds of coming across someone else could be slim." Ward clenched his jaw and prayed his stomach would stop churning. "It also makes it pretty clear she was here. If she needed to replenish the soul magic keeping her alive, she could have enthralled any one of these people and taken their soul magic without drawing a drop of blood."

"But we know she's a monster. Remember how she killed Macerio?"

Ward shuddered. Allette had stabbed her Innecroestri master over and over again and then ripped out his heart. If there had been any part of her capable of redemption, Macerio had long ago destroyed it.

"Well, we know she can't go running around in the sunlight. So she had to have done this last night and moved on." Nazarius's gaze dropped to the ground and he took a few steps away from the farmhouse. "She could have only gotten so far."

Celia sheathed her knife and joined him. "All that blood—"

"She's got to be covered in it," Ward said. All three of them, Ward as a physician, Celia as an assassin, and Nazarius as a Quayestri Tracker, knew how messy severing an artery could get.

"Makes it easier to track her." The muscle in Nazarius's jaw clenched. "I've got a trail."

He strode past the goat, around a large granite rock, and back into the forest. Celia followed, giving him enough space to track and her enough space to fight. Ward held back even farther. He peered into the deepest shadows. Were they dark enough for a vesperitti to hide in? Sunlight didn't burn them up like the myths said, it only hurt their eyes, blinding them, that's why they preferred the night.

Allette could be laying a trap. They'd been hunting her since Macerio had died, four days ago. She had to know Ward was never going to give up until he'd fixed his mistake. Especially since she was also in possession of a part of Habil's grimoire, one of the most powerful black necromantic spell books the Union of Principalities had ever seen.

Ward knew he might not be a very powerful necromancer, but he could at least be a good one and do his duty. Even if he'd been forced to use blood magic to create a vesperitti for a very short time and that technically made him an Innecroestri, he could still live by his family's necromancer code. He shuddered at the memory of ripping that man's soul back from across the veil and chaining it to his corpse to make him a monster like Allette.

The trees parted, opening up to a road. It ran parallel to a valley, the walls falling away into sheer cliffs dotted with scrubby pines clinging to whatever purchase they could find. A few feet away stood the wide, gleaming white bridge crossing a deep valley to a city. The towering city poured down the cliff face like a carved, frozen waterfall, as if the mountain itself had once been liquid stone.

It had to be Dulthyne. There was only one city in the Red Mountains like it.

"Where to?" Celia asked.

Nazarius knelt and pursed his lips.

Celia glanced down the road. "Don't tell me you've lost her."

Ward's heart stuttered. They couldn't afford to lose her. She could kill someone else.

The image of that too-small hand lying in a puddle of blood flashed through Ward's mind's eye, and the sweat on his body turned cold. "We can't lose her."

CHAPTER 2

"We can't lose her, Nazarius," Ward said, panic surging through him. If they lost her, she could keep killing. More innocent lives would be lost. More children murdered. "We can't—"

"I know," Nazarius said, his voice sharp.

"I'd say she's gone to that city." Celia's pale blue eyes were icy and filled with a chilling rage. Ward couldn't blame her. He felt the same way. Furious and frustrated and desperate.

"That's Dulthyne. There's only one way in and out. It doesn't make sense for her to trap herself," Nazarius said.

"Everything I've heard about Dulthyne says it's a maze—the city and the mines," Celia said, her attention on the city. "I'm betting she needs to replenish the magic sustaining her unnatural existence, and she needs people to do that. She can't guarantee she'll stumble across another farm, but she can hide in Dulthyne, at least until she can come up with a new plan."

Nazarius followed her gaze. "I want to check down the road first before we commit to the city. I don't like the idea of guessing on Dulthyne without exploring all our options."

"Fine." Celia huffed and her gaze slid to Ward, sending a shiver sweeping up his spine. "I know it hasn't worked before, but can you try that essence-seeking spell again?"

He nodded, his body agreeing while his mind said no. It was too risky, and it hadn't worked all the other times he'd tried it.

"Good. We'll be back in a few minutes." Nazarius headed down the road away from Dulthyne.

Celia shot Ward one last look, then followed the Tracker. They disappeared around the curve and Ward blew out a heavy breath, his insides churning with a new fear. If they couldn't figure out where Allette had gone, Ward was their only option and that meant he needed to cast the essence-seeking spell and have it work this time. But to do that, he needed to use blood magic.

Except, casting too frequently without the proper meditations before and after was dangerous. It would put him at risk to the blood magic lure, a compulsion to cast again and again with more and more blood no matter whatever—or whoever—the sacrifice. Which ultimately led to insanity.

He hadn't had much time to rest, let alone do the precautionary meditations, since he'd set Allette free, and had used a lot of blood magic in a short period of time. The memory of all that blood—

It was so strong, his stomach heaved as if he'd walked into the farmhouse again.

The lure didn't matter. He had to stop her. Whatever the cost. He had to set it right.

He opened his rucksack. Inside, wrapped in his only change of clothes, was the bowl with Allette's dried blood. His heart sped up, and he glanced back down the road where Celia and Nazarius had gone. Please don't let them come back too soon. Yes, Celia had asked him to try, but he didn't want them to watch him fail again.

He scraped a fleck of Allette's blood from the bowl with the tip of his knife and wiped it into the palm of his hand.

If he failed more people would die.

He held the memory of the farmhouse tight. It made him nauseated and terrified and even more furious. This time he'd get the essence-seeking spell right and stop her. Even if all his attempts before had been failures, this time something would happen. All he needed to do was use his imagination like Allette had taught him ...

But Allette hadn't taught him anything. He'd been a fool to think his mystic blindness could just disappear. She'd tricked him into believing he possessed necromantic strength, but in truth, she'd only needed him to channel her own magic. He'd only been her tool to manipulate it.

Except that didn't explain the spell he'd cast on Celia when this had all started—boy, that seemed like a lifetime ago. In a way it had been. So much had happened since then. Maybe, just maybe, there was magic within him, more magic than the glimmer of necromantic power he needed to wake a person from the dead for fifteen minutes or open the veil to help usher souls across.

Goddess, he wanted so desperately to believe that. Surely the Goddess and Her Sons would grant him the strength, if only for a little while, to fix his mistake of setting Allette free, retrieve the dangerous grimoire she'd stolen, and save lives.

Hope and fear swelled, hot and cold, across his chest, sinking low in his gut into a painful knot. Clutching at hope, he shoved his fear aside and stabbed his finger. Blood swelled over the tip and he pressed it against the fleck of Allette's blood in his palm. Most spells required a chant and items like herbs and crystals to focus the power, but they weren't necessary if the necromancer's will and magical gift was strong enough.

He could only hope his desperation and determination made up for his lack of everything else. Basically, the spell created a magical trail leading to the person whose essence was being used. In this case, Allette, through her blood.

His heart raced even faster, and he sucked in a steadying breath.

Concentrate.

This time something would happen.

If he just focused hard enough and put all of his will into the spell, he'd defy everything he knew to be true about himself.

But nothing happened. He couldn't draw an imagined image of his magic to mind. There were no swirling lights, no balls of energy whirling through his mind's eye like when Allette had manipulated him. He was powerless and surrounded by the darkness behind his lids. His chest ached at the emptiness within him.

Goddess, it was ridiculous of him to think he could get the spell to work. He couldn't see, feel, or sense magic in any way before. What made him think he could do so now?

No. He squeezed his eyes tighter. He could do this. There was no need to see magic to manipulate it. He didn't see it when he cast wakes, and he'd never failed at binding a soul back in a deceased's body for the short duration of that spell. This was a simple connecting of his magic to Allette's essence. Even those without a magical gift could cast blood magic if enough blood was used.

Something nearby snapped. He jumped toward the sound. Celia and Nazarius strode toward him, the Tracker's height and broad chest making Celia appear fragile, but between the two, she was far more dangerous. Her loose shirt and pants hid a lithe, muscled form honed into a deadly weapon, and if it weren't for her skill as an assassin, Ward would be dead ten times over. She was so beautiful, so captivating, and still so dead. Looking at her made him ache with a wild jumble of feelings that he didn't know how to accept and the feelings had gotten more confusing over the last four days.

Nazarius ran his fingers through his dark, short-cropped hair and then rested his hands on the hilts of his matched sword and long dagger. "I'd say no one's gone down that road for at least two days. Which leaves us hoping we'll pick up a trail farther down the road or going into Dulthyne." Nazarius didn't sound happy about either prospect.

Ward scanned the area. He didn't know how much magic Allette needed to maintain the spell anchoring her soul in her body. But the farmhouse made it clear more than just sustenance was compelling her now. With over a hundred years of being tormented at her master's hands, her rage had to be insatiable.

"If Dulthyne isn't Allette's final destination, joining one of the ore caravans leaving the city could ensure she won't starve." Which still led them to Dulthyne. Ward stepped toward the bridge. If he closed his eyes, he felt drawn to cross it, a tugging at his heart. But was that the spell he'd just tried to cast or his imagination?


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Ward Against Disaster by Melanie Card, Liz Pelletier. Copyright © 2014 Melanie Card. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

I have always been drawn to story telling. In fact, I can't remember a time when I wasn't telling a story in my head or on paper. In grade school, we had journal writing time which I turned into story telling time, weaving tales of magic and adventure that mimicked the fairy tales and myths that I loved to read. It was there, with the help of two very special teachers, that I nurtured this love and started my journey as a writer.

I write fantasy, paranormal romance, and everything in between, seasoned with a good dash of adventure and mystery. Join me on my tales of magic, adventure, and romance.

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Ward Against Disaster (Entangled Teen) 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Jasmyn9 More than 1 year ago
I really enjoy how this series is evolving with one exception - Ward is a little whiny in this one. He is constantly overthinking everything he does with thoughts of how worthless and unpowerful he is. Even though everyone around him is trying to fix his idea of his personal worth, it just seems to do nothing. In fact, Celia begins to wonder about his powers and where they come from, and we get a pretty cool reveal as to what Ward can really do. Ward, Celia, and Nazarius are tracking Allette to try and end her wave of murder. She leads them to Dulthyne where they discover something far more sinister than anything they could have imagined. This is going to be a no holds barred fight for Ward's very soul and it is super intense. But wait, what about Allette? Well, she's in there just making the whole situation even worse. I really enjoyed this adventure but I wish Ward would stop wallowing a bit and just suck it up and do what needs to be done. Maybe after the crazy (totally didn't see it coming) cliffhanger ending, book four will see him finally come into his own. *This book was received in exchange for an honest review*
LiveLaughandLoveBooks More than 1 year ago
These were some really fantastic books to read! The story is very well written, and is excellently paced. The world building and explanations of events can be a bit tedious, but it wasn’t so bad that I couldn’t get over it. I liked the mystery elements that are in these books and the fact that there are a lot of different characters and laws at play in the story. After I got the hang of the different titles – like Innecroestri, Dominus etc – I flew through the books, enjoying all the different aspects coming together. The one thing I wasn’t too fond of was the romantic elements in the story. While I wasn’t all that fond of Celia, I felt the romance between the two was a bit lacking. Most of the time they act like they hate each other, and it was frustrating. However, that doesn’t get in the way of a really great story with lots of magic and mystery. If you’re looking for a new character to love and a new series to be completely addicted to, Chronicles of a Reluctant Necromancer is definitely one you should read. *I received a complimentary copy of the book in exchange for a fair and honest review.*
Sarah_UK1 More than 1 year ago
(Source: I received a digital copy of this book for free on a read-to-review basis. Thanks to Entangled Publishing, LLC and NetGalley.) “Bloody Necromancers,” Nazarius chuckled. A smile pulled Jotham’s lips. “literally.” This was an okay story, but it left us with one heck of a huge cliff-hanger ending! I liked Ward in this story. He was really struggling with his magic, but still managed to stay strong and stop the dark magic from taking it over. I thought this really showed his strength of character, as the magic really did want to force him to do wrong. “I gave you the perfect gift, two souls to sacrifice. But you didn’t take it.” “And I never will.” The storyline in this was okay, but I didn’t like it as much as the storyline in book 2. My attention just kept lapsing, and the pace really dragged in places. The best part of the storyline was Ward battling the dark magic, because the rest of the story just didn’t interest me. I have to say that this book did have some good lines though. “You’re supposed to be dead.” He cocked his head to the side. “And so are you.” There was some romance, and it was once again Ward lusting after Celia, even though he knew she was dead. There were some interesting revelations with regards to Celia’s ‘undead’ status though, which could certainly alter this relationship. “She gave him her wicked smile. He thought his heart would stop altogether. She was stunning – she was always stunning – and he ached with a desire he wasn’t supposed to have.” The ending to this did drag a bit, but then we got a very unexpected event right at the end, which is going to totally throw this whole story upside-down, and back-to-front. Talk about crazy! Overall; okay story, with one heck of a crazy, unexpected ending! 6.5 out of 10 “Freedom doesn’t give you permission to murder people.” “Is it murder when survival is involved?”
DaniRoo More than 1 year ago
Following the grim events at the end of Ward Against Darkness, Ward Against Disaster picks up several days later with Ward, Celia and Nazarius hot on the trail of the angry, power-hungry vesperitti, an undead creature that feeds off of soul magic. Ward has unintentionally unleashed this creature into the world, and Ward (being Ward) is determined to right this mistake before any more people die. The vesperitti’s bloody trail brings them to the city of Dulthyne, a city with a past steeped in dark magic; a city whose mounting tensions and unrest make it the perfect breeding ground for a new evil. When Ward’s compulsion to help others lands the three of them in trouble, Ward & Celia must once again take on a whole new subterfuge as Nazarius’s Quayestri apprentices to escape Dulthyne’s dungeons. As is typical, complications abound as Ward and Celia are now tasked with finding the source of the city’s disturbances, defeating the vesperitti, maintaining their cover, avoiding their growing feelings for one another, all while Ward tries to stave off the mounting allure of blood magic. Cover. I don’t normally mention covers, but since this is literally the VERY beginning of the book, I’ll start here. While I loved the slight campiness and gothic vibe of the original covers, I have to say I LOVE the series redesign. The colors, the fonts, the consistency — it all appears just a bit more put together. Fantastic job, Ms. Pelletier. Ward. Though there are so many, many things that I love about this series, Ward definitely tops the list. His ongoing search for identity and self, his desire to do the right thing, his struggle to maintain his convictions in situations that make it increasingly hard to do so, his efforts to understand his magic (or lack thereof), the numerous emotional, spiritual and physical beatings he’s endured since meeting Celia — all of these things just make him very compelling, relatable, and empathetic. He’s just a good guy fighting to stay good in a world that would have him be otherwise. Card has done a fabulous job with Ward’s journey over the course of all three books, and particularly in Ward Against Disaster. Very well done. Celia. Celia has also undergone a lot of introspective soul-searching since meeting Ward. Her journey has been interesting in that it’s almost the opposite of Ward’s. While Ward fights off the growing allure of darkness and corruption, Celia, the former assassin, has been influenced by Ward’s sense of morality, his willingness to do the right thing even when it costs. That doesn’t mean she’s totally reformed, not by a long shot. But she’s been given a second chance, however short it might be, and she’s becoming more self-aware, has grown something of a conscience, and has realized that maybe she wants different things out of this new, albeit undead, life. Her ongoing quest to find out exactly what Ward did to her when he brought her back is also interesting. And that’s all I’ll say about that. Romance. Ms. Card, you are a master of the slow burn. Holy angst, Batman. The growing attraction and awareness between Ward and Celia as they try to deny/realize their feelings for each other is just so very, very frustratingly, agonizingly fantastic. Nazarius. I haven’t quite decided what I think about Nazarius just yet, but I do find him to be a very intriguing character. Story & World. This series just keeps getting more and more exciting, the stakes going ever higher. Ward Against Disaster rarely has a calm moment. From the first page, Ward, Celia & Co. pretty much move from one danger directly to another. Their situation growing ever more tenuous and dire as they seek to maintain subterfuges, as they withhold truths and keep secrets, as they are uncertain of their allies, as they experience failure, discouragement and self-doubt, and as evil encroaches ever nearer. Card expertly weaves and develops her story, connecting all of her new and ongoing points together, all the while maintaining the plot’s rapid pace. It’s compelling, it’s engaging, it’s good storytelling. And that ending… GAH! *clutches heart* Card also expands this curious, fantastical world just a little more. Dulthyne, Brawenal, Brothers of Light, The Goddess, Quayestri, Necromancers, Innocroesti, Vesperitti, Dark and light magic, frequent references to histories and people and places — it all gives Ward & Celia’s world a depth and believability without ever being too expository. It’s a fascinating world that I’m dying to know more about. The only thing that would make it better would be a map. *hint hint* Overall. Ward Against Disaster is a thrilling, heart-wrenching, horribly wonderful page-turner that’s left me ABSOLUTELY DESPERATE for book #4.