Lance is a healer and wielder of slave magic, a power that demands sacrifice. He gave up his health to gain the ability to heal others, but he's powerless to cure his beloved Sara, who sacrificed her soul to save Lance and all of Kandrith. Returning her soul would negate her gift, at the cost of his life and the freedom of his homeland.
Now Sara is but a shell of the noble, spirited woman she once was. All that Lance saw and loved in her is gone, but he refuses to give up on her. Charged by his sister, the ruler of Kandrith, with a mission to encourage a budding rebellion within the aggrandizing Republic of Temboria, he leaves with Sara in tow. But not before Wenda's soulsight detects a spark within her.
Amidst the escalating dangers in hostile territory, Lance will have to risk both his beloved and his homeland in a final gambit to save them both
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The mewl of an animal in pain jarred Lance out of his stupor.
Distracted, he stumbled over a rut and fell to his knees on the ill-kept road. He scraped the palms of his hands, but the agony in his belly obliterated the other sensations.
Goddess, it hurt.
Breathing harshly, Lance waited for his suffering to ease, then raised one knee. It took far too much effort to push himself back to his feet, and he ground his teeth as the pain rolled over him again.
He hated to admit it, but he couldn't go much farther.
How close were they to Wexford? He'd been walking in a daze. Now he became aware of the darkening sky and the low clouds threatening rain. Should they press on and hope the village lay around the next bend or seek shelter off the road among the pine trees?
He knew he should make a decision, but his mind felt thick.
A second animal yowl from the woods abraded his nerves. It sounded like a cat being strangled.
Any other time Lance would've tried to track down the injured creature and heal it, but right now it took all his willpower to take another step. When he and Sara departed from Gatetown, he'd thought his latest gift from the Goddess a mere bellyache. But over the last five days the pain had only worsened as a tumour swelled his abdomen. He could barely eat for the false sensation of fullness, and what he did choke down he usually retched back up mixed with blood.
Most of the illnesses caused by the sacrifice of his health passed in two or three days, but this one...this one could kill.
He didn't fear death. He knew the Goddess of Mercy would be waiting for him on the other side. But the thought of dying now made his heart thud. His mother and sister, already grieved by the death of his father, would be hurt anew at a time when they needed all their wits. The breaking of the Hostage Pact had left Kandrith in a precarious position. They needed to find a new way to keep the rapacious Republic of Temboria outside their borders.
And then there was Sara...If he died, she would be helpless.
"Sara," he rasped.
She paused on the path ahead, then walked back toward him. He winced when he saw that her long hair was uncombed and the seams of her dress showed, inside out. Even so, her beauty made his throat ache. A perfect oval face, rosebud lips, high breasts only her blue eyes lacked depth. Life.
Driven, he searched her face for some spark of her former selfand found nothing. Her expression showed no hint of impatience as she waited for him to speak.
She would wait forever.
The thought made him shudder. "If I fall unconscious," or die, "you must keep going." He gestured down the road.
Praise Loma they'd escaped the Republic of Temboria. Anyone in Kandrith would be happy to help One who Wore the Brown, but Sara with her blue eyes and herwell, Sara was another matter entirely.
"Find Julen. He'll help you." The faint hope that Julen could help Sara in other ways was the reason Lance had decided to swing by Wexford on his way home to the Hall. Lance hissed at another stab of pain before doggedly continuing. "If you can't find him, go to my sister, Wenda. Tell her I made an oath that she would protect you "
He trailed off as another caterwaul split the air. This one, however, ended in a human wail, "Motherrr."
Shock widened his eyes, followed by chagrin. That wasn't a beast, that was a shandy. He knew of only two cat shandies, but during the recent invasion more people could've sacrificed their human form for that of a powerful beast's.