“Shadows of the Past” — excerpted from DAUGHTER OF ASHES
Amusement tugged at the lines on Seoman’s unnaturally aged face, but it was icy humor. “I know what you did.”
Telyn blinked. “Excuse me?”
“Do you even know the man you’re screwing? Do you even have an idea what you’ve done?”
The snide, gloating tone of his voice plunged a cold fist of dread straight through Telyn’s gut. She told herself sex with Nacaris was permissible, last night. She told herself she could keep it neutral, friendly, and uncomplicated. All along, she knew she was lying to herself. And all along, she couldn’t help the small trickle of doubt, that he wasn’t telling her the truth.
“What do you know?” She rasped.
Seoman chuckled in that sinister, high-pitched way of his that set her teeth on edge and made her consider bodily harm as a means of getting what she wanted from him. “Ah, so that’s not why you came here. Still, this man is a shadow from your past — a shadow you would do best to face before the end of your journey.”
She blinked at Seoman. How could Nacaris have anything to do with her past? She’d only just met him at Raiador. Hadn’t she?
She wanted to ask more about it, but Nacaris wasn’t why she’d come here, or parted with so many of her small stash of gelem. She had more important tasks.
“I’m looking for something — an artifact. It was stolen from its rightful owners hundreds of cycles ago, and I want to return it.”
Seoman’s gaze probed hers intently, and suddenly he looked far too interested. “A book.”
“Aye.” Wariness crept through her. She always hated that probing look that said he was looking into her mind and soul.
“A very special book, indeed. It belonged to… the Aerai Majin?” His eyes widened in surprise. “It’s the Phoenix Book.”
An uncomfortable feeling passed through Telyn, and she saw his eyes narrow further as his gaze bored into hers, clearly searching for something.
“Can you tell me where it is?”
He sat back, blinked, and his eyes went glassy in a way Telyn recognized. He was having a vision. “The tome resides in the Keep of the Risen Dead, guarded by He Who Steals the Bones. To vanquish him, ye must ford the River of Fire, and free the soul of She Who Guards the World Forge. Be mindful, for two who share the same Majik and space are like swords striking in the night.”
She had no idea what he meant by the last statement, and she wasn’t interested in pursuing it. She was more interested in her prey.
“How do I find this man you speak of?” She wasn’t even sure he could hear her.
“Within the City of the Holy Tower rests an ally in yon quest. Hie there and find the Puppet Child who bears the secret of the one ye seek.”
The city of the Holy Tower? Telyn’s heart leapt. That could only be Ulambara, a city on the edge of the Purat Mountain Range, where rumor said the Aerai Majin‘s Tower was. She was already heading toward the door, new energy coursing her veins, as she tossed out her farewell. “Thank you, Seoman.”
“Beware, Phoenix.” His voice stopped her dead in her tracks, but she dared not turn around. She didn’t want to see that blank look of prophecy, following those words.
“Beware the Man with Two Faces. He holds the Key of Past, Present, and Future. Give him your heart at your own peril.”
A chill passed through Telyn at those words. Of any uttered today, they held the most damning ring of all.