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You can’t hide the truth of your blood.

Seers are born to die young and Sillar is no exception. That doesn’t mean that death is something that he has accepted. In fact, he’s done everything he can to ensure that it does not take him before he is ready.
Indebted to the village that saved him, Sillar vows to protect Cascara against those who murdered her mother. Even if it costs him his chance at crossing over. He never expected the interference that he’s facing though, nor the complicated nature of Cascara’s existence.
The paths of life and death twist together, drifting toward the gateways.



Chapter 1

Chapter 1

Cascara slowly shifted her bound wrists, attempting to slip from the coarse rope that kept them fastened behind her. Her eyes darted around the room, looking from one cloaked figure to the next as she worked to find something to distinguish one from another. Two men stood with their backs to her, keeping her pinned on the floor in the corner, while three others were conversing with a fourth at the opposite end of the room.

“Even if you get your hands free, you won’t be going anywhere. Surely you realize that.” The man nearest her whispered. “A bit of advice—don’t draw extra attention to yourself.”

Cascara paused and stared at the hunch-backed figure. He seemed to be the largest of the men in the room but his imposing air was diminished by the large round mass on his back. For a moment she considered her options, reflecting that if she were to get her hands free, this man’s deformity would likely make him easy enough to get away from. However, that still left her with five other captors to contend with. Even if she would slip away from the hunch-backed guard, he would no doubt warn the others before she could escape.

“She is a near copy, isn’t she?”

A deep voice travelled across the room to her ears and Cascara quickly shifted her focus, watching the men turn to face her.

“But a near copy won’t be good enough. There is one thing and one thing only that is needed from her.”

Cascara forced herself to remain focused on the men as they approached, rejecting the fear that was threatening to take over her mind. “Why am I here?” she questioned.

“By the gods, you even have her voice.” The man smiled and seemed to pause. “I haven’t heard that voice in so many years.”

“Whose voice?” Cascara’s words shook and she was fearful that she knew the answer.

“Dear Chessa—she was your mother, was she not?” The man nodded, the dark smile remaining. He knelt in front of Cascara. “Your eyes are far brighter green but you are otherwise her match. I knew your mother well. In fact, I was with her when she died.”

Cascara held her breath to keep from shaking.

“If you are calm and cooperative, then you won’t meet her fate.” He shrugged, getting back to his feet. “At least, not at our hands.”

“What do you want from me?”

“Stay out of trouble,” he answered. “You are cargo to me, nothing more. You will be delivered into your new master’s hands tomorrow afternoon. What will become of you from that point, I can’t say, nor do I much care.”

Cascara bit her lip then took a breath and straightened her back.

“Take her below and keep her unspoiled. These sorts are hard to come by.”

Cascara watched the hunch-backed figure nod before turning and peering down at her. From beneath his hood, she could see two slightly glowing golden eyes and she quickly realized that he had turned with far more ease than she had expected.

“On your feet,” he ordered and when Cascara did not respond he reached down and grabbed her shoulders, lifting her in a swift smooth motion and placing her on her feet. “Don’t make me drag you,” he growled.

Cascara focused on the ground and nodded.

“Good girl.” The hunch-backed figure cocked his head then turned his back on her. “Follow me.”

Cascara followed quietly, aware that another man was walking very close behind her. After passing through a large wooden door, the air around them became stale and the floor began to slope downward. The smoothness was replaced with a jagged and haphazard ground that seemed to have been hastily developed and it wasn’t long before Cascara misstepped and fell against the hunch-backed figure. With her hands still bound behind her, she continued her fall, striking the ground on her knees and falling forward where the side of her face struck the jagged path.

Cascara gasped in pain and quickly realized that there was a warm sensation coming from her cheek. She opened her eyes and for a moment did not attempt to move, blinking back tears as she tried to compose herself. When her vision cleared, she noticed a few black feathers protruding from the bottom of the hunch-backed figure’s cloak and glanced back up toward the hood that covered his face.

“Clutz,” the man behind her grunted, pulling her to her feet and staring into her frightened face. “So much for not spoiling this one.”

“How bad is it?” the hunch-backed figure questioned, turning and shaking his head at the other guard when he saw where the man had placed his hands. “I would advise you to keep from going any further.”

“She’s not fighting me.” He shrugged and tightened his grip around her thin waist.

“We were told to take her below.”

“She’s pretty.” He smiled, reaching his hand up and cupping her cheek before brushing the golden locks from her face. “Even with the blood running down her cheek.”

“You’re disturbed.” The man shrugged. “Let’s get her to her cell.”

“Good idea—I don’t want to share with everyone else.”

“That’s enough,” the hunch-backed man growled, reaching forward and pulling Cascara out of the man’s arms. “Are you that depraved?”

The man scoffed. “Are you jealous that I approached the subject first? You can have her after—if that disfigured body of yours permits such a thing.”

Without a word, the hunch-backed man took Cascara’s arm and ushered her forward, muttering beneath his breath in obvious annoyance as he forced her to continue down the path.

Cascara did her best to keep pace with his long angry strides, stumbling a few times but staying on her feet due to his hold on her arm. Even as she stumbled, her captor’s steps never faltered. This was something that seemed impossible due to his deformed appearance. Nearing the end of the hall, Cascara yelped as she was ripped from his grasp and shoved onto the ground.

“You don’t honestly think that I’m going to just let you walk away with her like that, do you?”

Cascara looked up at the angry guard towering over her, trying to push herself away from him with her feet and quickly finding her back against the corridor wall. She swallowed nervously, staring at him and watching as he drew his sword and held it toward the hunch-backed guard.

“Put that away.” The hooded guard shrugged.

“I will take her to her cell and you will get out of my way,” he growled, motioning wildly with his sword.

“Is she worth this fight? Is your life worth nothing more than a quick moment of dominance?” he asked calmly and slowly shook his head. “Put your sword away before I decide that you are threatening me.”

Cascara continued to watch the exchange between the two men, glancing down the dark hall trying to determine if there was any chance that she could get away while the two argued. There seemed to be nothing but shadows in either direction and she wasn’t confident that her aching legs would carry her very far before one of the men could grab her. While she had no intention of sitting quietly and awaiting her fate, now did not seem like the moment to attempt an escape.

She instead focused her attention on the interaction between the two guards who seemed to be doing nothing more than posturing. One continued to wave his sword wildly, obviously he intended to threaten, but the hunch-backed guard had yet to do anything in response to him.

“Draw your weapon,” the guard snapped.

“I only draw my weapon when there is a need for it,” he stated in annoyance. “At present, I see no threat. I see only a fool waving a sword.”

Cascara gasped and looked away as the agitated guard lunged forward, his sword poised to strike. She heard a moan from ahead of her, followed by someone choking and the thud of something striking the ground. She forced her eyes open and stared at the guard laying motionless ahead of her. Before the scene had a moment to make sense in her mind, the glint of a torch caught her attention and she looked up to see the hunch-backed guard cleaning off a dagger. He placed it unceremoniously back in the sheath on his belt, before turning his attention to her and lifting her to her feet.

She did not react as the guard once again ushered her forward and instead followed in stunned silence, entering her cell without a sound. She made no attempt to move as her hands were freed and stood rigid as the guard stepped away, listening as the door clicked closed behind her. Cascara heard the clank of the lock and the footsteps of the guard walking away and stood completely still in the darkness trying to make sense of what had happened in the corridor.


The clash of steel and the rush of battle surrounded Sillar as he made his way through the melee, sword in hand, defending himself and his comrades while crossing the battle toward where he knew he had to be. Each tree trunk he passed and each foe he faced seemed to vibrate with a familiar energy. He knew what was happening around him, he knew where each sword would strike and he knew of many of the souls who would cross from the battle into the realm of the dead.

He sidestepped, avoiding the assailant behind him before striking the man across the back of the head with the butt of his sword. Sillar paused briefly, watching an arrow fly just past him and strike the ground before continuing forward. With each step, the vibrations intensified around him, becoming almost palpable. He quickly pulled a large man off one of the more inexperienced warriors, shoving his sword through the man’s chest before forcing him back to the ground.

“Get up,” Sillar ordered. “Take your sword and move to the middle.”

“I can’t,” he stuttered, the fear evident in his voice. The young man took a breath. “I’m going to die here, aren’t I?”

“The edges of the battle are death. There are archers in the trees. Llock, make your way to the centre. Keep your head up and I guarantee you will survive. You know my word is true,” he said firmly. “If you run, you’ll die. Find Dante, you’ll be safe to use magic if you’re near him.”

“I shouldn’t have come.” Llock shook his head. “I shouldn’t be here. I’m not a warrior.”

“Go!” Sillar reached down and pulled the man to his feet, shoving his sword into his trembling hand and pushing him forward.

He turned from Llock, taking a few steps on his original path before he paused and glanced around, realizing that the sensations that had been bombarding him were dissipating. “I’ve made a mistake,” he muttered, looking back toward where he had left Llock and finding him gone. He held his breath and focused on the sky, straining to listen to the sounds around him.

Don’t linger! Something within urged him forward and he dropped his sword as he ran, ducking and dodging through the chaos of battle. With each step, the sensation slowly began to return, though it was slightly different than it had been. He stopped abruptly, grabbing a sword off a nearby body, and blocked the one that quickly came his way. After a frantic fight, made all the more challenging by the unfamiliar weight of the dead man’s sword, Sillar breathlessly retook his path through the battle.

“Aran!” Sillar hollered over the battle as the man came into view. “Archers!”

Aran looked briefly toward Sillar but his attention was quickly focused on the men who had begun to surround him.

Sillar held his breath, the faces of the men were clear in his mind though they were still too far for him to see. “Cascara,” he whispered. “Chessa, I won’t fail them. I’m sorry I didn’t realize it.”

Sorry for what?” Rally demanded. “What didn’t you realize?

“Where have you been?” He glanced toward the spectre.

I couldn’t get to you. Something kept me away,” she answered.

“I didn’t know that was possible.” 

I’m not bound to you—mostly.

“You’re all right though?”

I’m fine.” Rally looked around indifferently at the chaos. “You aren’t answering my question.

He nodded. “You don’t really want me to. You won’t like the answer.”

What are you going to do?” she snapped. “Sillar, what’s going to happen?

“What needs to.” With the awkward sword in hand, Sillar rushed to Aran’s aid, slashing at the first man he could reach. The battle moved quickly around him and the air felt thick. To his left, he saw Aran forced to his knees and he made quick work of his attacker before hurrying to the man’s defence. Sillar struck out with his sword, startling the men who held Aran.

While Sillar took the main attacker’s attention, Aran shook free of the two who had held him down and retook his sword.

“One,” Sillar whispered, “two, three, four, five.” He took a breath and shoved his sword through the man in front of him, sending him stumbling backward before letting go of his sword and quickly turning his attention to the trees. “Six, seven, eight.” Swallowing hard, he leapt forward. “Nine, ten, eleven.”

Sillar’s chest burned and he took a moment to stare at the black feathers that sat now useless at the end of the arrow embedded in his chest.

Sillar!” Rally cried from somewhere near him.

“Twelve.” He swallowed, forcing his feet to move. “Thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen.” Sillar stumbled but forced himself back up. “Seventeen.” He lunged forward and grabbed the sword arm of the man ahead of him before the blade could come crashing down on Aran’s back. “Eighteen.”

Having dispatched the man in front of him, Aran turned toward the sound of Sillar’s voice and gasped. He hurriedly pulled the attacker off of him, slicing his throat with a swift motion.

“Nineteen.” Sillar sighed and closed his eyes as he slumped back.

Sillar?” Rally knelt next to him, gently touching his hand.

“It’s not over,” he whispered. “You know it’s not over. You were there.”

“By the gods.” Aran knelt next to Sillar and watched him slowly open his eyes. “Don’t move,” he ordered. “I’ll get someone to help you. Hang on.”

“Cascara,” he stuttered staring up at Aran, “she’s not safe.”

“She’s not with us. She is safe at home,” he answered. “Just stay still. The battle is over for you.”

“You must listen to me,” he said slowly. “The arrow is barbed, take a look at the other ones if you don’t believe me. If I die today, it means that your daughter has been taken. I’m sorry, Aran. I will find her and bring her to you.”

“You’re delirious.” Aran shook his head.

You saw all this, didn’t you?” Rally whispered, running her fingers through his shaggy light brown hair.

Sillar nodded gently and reached his hand up to her. “Maybe now you’ll be free.” He smiled and trembled.

Not now,” Rally gasped. “Not now.

“You always could sense them.” He smiled and closed his eyes before his head tilted back gently. A moment later his eyes opened wide, now glowing brown spheres. His lips moved but no sound was uttered and with each silent word the bloodstain on his shirt grew wider until the cloth was saturated.

Aran sat back and stared in disbelief. “Sillar? What—”

“He’s having a vision,” Dante interrupted, kneeling next to Aran and touching the young man’s shoulder.

“You don’t seem shocked by that,” Aran stated.

Dante nodded. “Chessa told me when he first came to us. She was afraid that you would reject his presence in our community if you knew that he was a seer.”

“Why would I have done that?”

“You don’t exactly accept magic and you never have. Something he said caused him to be cast out of his community and led to the death of his scribe. She feared what would become of him if he were to be cast out again.”

Aran shook his head and stared at the arrow. “I heard him counting and the next thing I knew he’d been shot. From where he had been fighting he should not have been in the way of that arrow.”

Dante nodded and looked down at Sillar. “It won’t be long,” he said sadly. “This vision couldn’t have come at a worse time.”


Chapter 2

Cascara took a breath and moved slowly through the dark cell toward the small source of light that she could see. Each step was hesitant, carefully picking her way through the darkness to ensure a firm floor beneath her feet before she took the next. Crossing the cell took very few steps and the light source turned out to be nothing more than a small oval opening in the wall. She peered through the opening but could make out very little. Still, she took comfort in the tiny shaft of light and the source of fresh air.

She soon turned and leaned back against the wall next to the opening, peering into the shadows of the cell and holding her breath as she caught movement ahead of her. At first, she managed to convince herself that her eyes were playing tricks on her—after all, there was very little light and it was impossible to see anything clearly. When a moan erupted from the shape, she was forced to admit to herself that she was not alone. Fear gripping her, she pressed against the wall and remained as silent as she could.

“Light,” a groggy voice ordered, yelping as the light appeared.

Cascara looked on in amazement as a small orb of light appeared next to the figure then watched him struggle to sit up.

“I guess I wasn’t wrong,” he muttered.

The voice slowly registered within her and though it seemed slightly off, she knew that it was familiar.

The figure stood on unsteady legs and she watched him start to scan the room, the small orb of light bobbing around and following his line of sight.

“Sillar?” she whispered.

The figure turned abruptly, losing his balance and dropping back to the ground. He took a breath and nodded slowly. “Cascara.” He sighed. “I wanted to be wrong.”

Your visions are rarely wrong,” Rally whispered.

“Rally?” Sillar closed his eyes tightly. “I thought that . . . I hoped that you—”

I know but it’s not that simple.

“You deserve to be free.”

You fool, I am free. I choose to stay with you.


Because your kind do foolish things—like this,” she answered. “My kind have always tried to stop you, though without much success. I suppose, in the end, we do more after the fact, helping you from trouble, not preventing it.

“This wasn’t foolish,” he replied, forcing himself back to his feet. “It had to be done.”

“Who are you talking to?” Cascara questioned after watching Sillar seem to converse with the air. “Wait, how did you even get here?”

“Her name is Rally. She’s a—spirit—who has been with me since I was a child.” Sillar turned his focus to Cascara. “As for how I got here—that’s not important. What is important is that I’m here to help free you.”

“A spirit. You can talk to spirits?” Cascara stared ahead nervously and shook her head. “And do magic?”

Sillar looked up at the orb of light and nodded, sensing that Cascara was growing tense with each passing moment. “You don’t believe that I am who I say I am, do you?”

Did you think she would?” Rally questioned.

“I . . .” she hesitated. “You’ve never spoken of magic to me before, never spoke of spirits or anything of the sort. To be in this place and find you here—it can’t be real.”

Sillar nodded slowly. “I admit, I never thought much of this exact moment. I thought only of getting here to set you free.”

“I don’t understand.”

“I had a vision of this when I was very young. In fact, I hadn’t been living within your community for long when it occurred. Chessa was with me at the time.”

“My mother?”

Sillar nodded. “She helped me through many of my visions in those early days of being within your village. If it hadn’t been for her, I may have been cast out as I was from my own home. I owed a great debt to your mother, Cascara, and it was for this reason that I knew I had to find a way to get to this place at this moment. In my vision, I saw you taken captive, I saw you in danger, long before it ever happened.”

Cascara sank to the ground. “You are supposed to be with my father,” she started slowly. “If you’re here, does that mean he’s been taken captive as well?”

“Aran is far from this place.” He answered. “You will be reunited with your father but the journey will not be easy.”

“One of my captors said that he knew my mother.”

Sillar nodded solemnly. “These people are responsible for your mother’s death. She died resisting them.”

Cascara nodded gently.

“So long as I remain in the realm of the living I will ensure that you do not meet your mother’s fate,” Sillar explained, kneeling slowly in front of her. “I want to find a way to reassure you of who I am but I’m not sure how.”

There isn’t time for that,” Rally stated. “Someone’s coming.

“I know.” He nodded toward Rally. “I can sense him too.”

Just how do you plan on getting her out of here?” the spirit questioned.

“A gateway.” He shrugged.

You can’t be serious.

“I’m not going through it—she is,” Sillar said calmly. “And seeing as you’re here, Rally, so are you.”


“She’ll need a guide. At least until I can reach her,” he explained.

“What’s a gateway?” Cascara interrupted.

“A way for you to escape this cell unseen.”

A guide? She can’t even see me.

“You can be seen in the moonlight and in the shadow realm,” he said flatly. “The sun sets in a few hours. I know you’ll find a way to help her.”

I don’t like this,” Rally said slowly.

“I know you don’t.” Sillar smiled toward the spirit. “Do you ever like anything I do?”

Less and less these days.” She sighed.

“Cascara, I know you aren’t sure if you should trust me and I wish there was time for me to ease your fears but there isn’t. In a moment there will be a mirror that appears in front of you. You’re going to step through it and just keep moving forward. You will see a woman’s shadow as you move, follow that figure and she will lead you out of Tishowla.”

“The shadow realm?” Cascara whispered. “Mother once spoke of that place. She warned me about it.”

Sillar nodded. “You’ll be fine so long as you don’t linger. As soon as you find your bearings, head west and that will take you home. I will meet you as soon as I can.”

“Why won’t you be with me?” she asked suspiciously.

“I can’t cross through a gateway.” He sighed. “Just follow Rally. When the moon comes out, look for the shadow that will be travelling with you. She will help you. She will guide you until I can find you or until you reach your father’s home.”


“Please, Rally, I need your help.”

Rally sighed.

Sillar slowly raised his left hand into the air, gently twisting his wrist before finally raising his arm above his head and making a large oval in front of him. Soon a shimmering mass had appeared between himself and Cascara.

Someone’s watching.” Rally looked toward the cell door. “Sillar, we’re not alone.

“Guide her—please.”

You’re not safe,” she growled.

“Rally, I will be safer if she’s not here,” he said as firmly as he could manage and shook. “Cascara, you’ll see the mirror ripple in a moment, walk through it at that point.”

Rally stared at Sillar. “Your stubbornness is going to—

“What? Get me killed?” he questioned.

Rally took a breath then moved to the gateway. “Be careful.

Cascara stared at the mirror uncertainly then looked fearfully toward the door as the sound of a key entering the lock echoed around her. “What happens to you?”

“If I can do this,” he smiled and pointed at the gateway, “do you really think that I will have an issue with the guards?”

Cascara looked from the door to the mirror.

“I know. Nothing is right.” He shuddered again. “I can’t hold the gateway much longer. You have to choose.”

Cascara nodded and took a hesitant step toward the mirror before it suddenly started to fade. She heard Sillar gasping for breath and saw him falling to his hands and knees and hesitated.

“Go,” he begged, “please.”


Hark stepped back from the doorway and a smirk crossed his lips.

“What are you waiting for? Go in there and get her,” the man next to him growled.

“She’s not in there. The cell is empty.” He laughed. “You all should have known she’d be harder to trap than that.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Go look for yourself. The woman’s gone.”

Hark watched his companion throw the cell door open and tolerated when he snatched the torch from his hand. He saw the light moving frantically around the small stone room and did his best to keep from chuckling. “Well?”

“She’s gone!” he gasped.

“That’s what I said.” He shrugged, turning and starting to walk away.

“What are we going to do?”

“Tell him the price went up.”

“That isn’t funny.”

“It wasn’t meant to be. I don’t work for free.” The smirk still on his face, he made his way up the passage, pausing briefly at a doorway as he awaited his companion.

“You realize he’s going to kill us, don’t you?”

“Waste of resources if he does. If you’re that afraid, this door is the quickest way out of here.”

“Yeah right, I run and you put the blame for her escape squarely on me.”

“If you think he’s going to kill you, then what difference does it make.” Hark continued down the passageway toward the main hall.

The guard stared briefly at the door before focusing his attention on his hunch-backed companion and hurrying after him. “You know, Hark, I don’t think I’ve ever seen you at a loss for a plan—so give it up.”

Hark smiled. “I already told you my plan. We caught her once, he didn’t disclose enough information, and now we have to catch her again.”

“You’re crazy. This isn’t a normal employer, this man is . . . something else.”

“You all should have thought of that before you agreed to work for him.”

“He doesn’t frighten you?”

He slowly shook his head. “If I thought he was a threat, I wouldn’t have taken the job. I make decisions that ensure my survival.”

The two men continued down the corridor, reaching a door that looked like all the others. Hark reached forward and pushed it open, entering with his head high and taking little notice of his companion’s hesitation.

“It’s about time,” a man growled.

“If you wanted it done faster, then you should have done it yourself,” Hark replied flatly.

The men in the room looked toward Hark nervously.

“How dare you speak to me like that?” he growled, getting to his feet and taking a step toward Hark. “You need to learn your place. I am in command of this group and my word is the law.”

“The only law I obey is my own.” He shrugged. “You hired me for this job, that does not mean that I will be staying after it’s done.”

“Then get out,” he growled.

“I will gladly leave this disorganized and unintelligent group behind the moment you pay me my fee.”

The man glared up at Hark. “Where is she?” he said after a moment.

“Gone,” he replied.

“What do you mean gone?”

“I’m not sure what confusion there is, she’s gone,” he answered. “You took a job to catch a necromancer then you placed her in a small stone cell. Did you expect her to stay there?”

“How did she leave?”

“She vanished through a mirror.” He shrugged. “Perhaps you all shouldn’t take jobs that have anything to do with magic. It’s a bit beyond you.”

“Necromancers from her lineage can’t cast gateways,” Varen stated from the corner of the room. “A stone cell should have been enough to keep her contained.”

Hark shrugged. “You can doubt my word if you like, it changes nothing.”

The man in the corner got to his feet and moved through the group, standing in front of Hark and peering into the hood that covered his face. After a moment, he took a step back and nodded slowly to himself. “Find her!” he snapped to the man nearest him. “All of you, get out!”

There was a brief pause but the mercenaries hurried from the room.

Hark watched the panic and scoffed, standing firm until the man from the corner turned to face him.

“I said get out.”

Hark shook his head. “I caught her once already. I am not leaving without my share of the fee.”

“Payment is made upon completion.”

“The job was completed. Your choice to keep information led to her escape,” he stated calmly and slowly removed his sword.

Varen did not flinch at the sight of the sword but instead smiled and nodded again. “These mercenaries are useless,” he said slowly, moving to a nearby chair and taking a seat. “I get the feeling you have already realized that.”

Hark said nothing but lowered his sword slightly and nodded.

“People like you and I are rarely seen these days.” He smiled and took a sack from his belt, removing a few coins from within. “Unless they find her quickly, there is little chance that these men can apprehend her again. If she vanished by a mirror, then she is no longer alone.”

Hark shrugged and watched as the coins floated up from the man’s hand and moved toward him. He reached out and took the coins then nodded and turned from him.

“So, did her servant leave through the mirror as well or did he find another way?” Varen held up another coin.

Hark paused and turned to look at the man again, catching the coin that was this time tossed his way.

“He did not leave via the mirror but he is gone.”

“You let him leave?”

“I didn’t prevent it. He opened the lock and found his way. He walked right past one of those oafs. He was hardly any of my concern.”

“But you could see him.”

“In a way, yes.”

Varen nodded and sat back thoughtfully, his blue eyes shimmering in the dim light. “As I stated, they will not be able to catch her again.” He narrowed his eyes and peered into the hood that hid Hark’s face. “Let’s talk gold.”

Hark cocked his head.

“Know this—I want them both,” he said firmly. “I feel as though you are up for such a task. The necromancer is young. If you are quick, then she should put up very little fight. Her servant, on the other hand, is skilled. He carries a stone from which he gains his power. In the end, it’s the stone that I want but he will not easily part with it. Only death will make him give it up.”

“Death comes to everyone eventually.” Hark shrugged.

Varen smiled. “Name your price.”


Aran looked up briefly as Dante approached, glancing at the injured man before returning his focus to the fire.

“You should sleep.” Dante sighed. “What’s bothering you?”

Aran tore his eyes from the firelight and stared up at the stars. “Magic,” he said slowly.

“Magic? That’s fairly vague.”

“I never set out to have magic become something that was feared in our community but that’s what I allowed to happen, isn’t it?”

“You were trying to protect Cascara. We all understood that.”

Aran nodded. “It’s been so many years, Dante. I think I had all but forgotten that you’re one of them. Did you feel like you had to hide? Is there fear in my people because of my fears?”

Dante sat down gingerly. “Chessa’s death was hard on everyone and the reality that magic played a factor in it made a lot of people frightened on both sides. It was as if magic ceased with her death but you are right, we simply avoided being seen. That wasn’t just because of your thoughts. No one was sure why Chessa was taken.”

“That’s not true.  You knew the reason just as well as I did.” Aran shook his head and focused on the ground. “Chessa knew that she was going to die before it happened. She left me letters that I found after she’d been abducted.”

“I know. It was Sillar who foresaw her death.”

“If she’d known, then why couldn’t she fight it? Why accept it?”

“Aran,” Dante swallowed, “Cascara is like her mother but your blood complicates her abilities. Your wife sacrificed herself to keep your daughter hidden from their view and a few of us have done what we could to mask her powers from the outside world ever since.”

Aran clenched his fists. “So you knew what was coming? You let your sister go to her death?”

“Be angry if you want Aran but you know that there is no way I would have stood by and let her die. I gave up everything to be here to protect her when she joined you, remember? She gave me enough information to try and protect Cascara and that was it.” Dante shook his head. “But I knew that wouldn’t last forever and I think she did too.”

“Sillar said that Cascara was in danger.” He nodded slowly. “Could he have known? He’d lost so much blood at that point that I thought he was delirious. Now I find those words echoing within me and it terrifies me.”

“We’re still a few days from the village,” he answered and looked out over the camp. “Why not let me go ahead?”

Aran shook his head.

“You need fighters to protect the wounded, Aran,” he said as he touched his hand to his right arm that hung heavy in a sling and cringed. “I’m not exactly much help. If I go on ahead, then there will be one less person to protect in the event of an attack.”

“You aren’t thinking clearly,” he answered and pointed at the bandage around Dante’s head. “I’m going to guess it’s the blow to the head. You can’t travel alone. You can’t defend yourself.”

Dante nodded. “I can remain unseen.”

“No. You’re not going alone,” he stated. “If Sillar was right, then she’s already gone. Risking your life to confirm that is useless.”


“If she has been taken,” he looked firmly into Dante’s eyes, “then I will need your help to get her back. Rest, regain your strength, and help me after that.”


Chapter 3

Rain pelted her as Cascara stumbled through the brush attempting to get her bearings. Her trip through Tishowla had left her disoriented and the miserable overcast sky gave little clue as to which direction she was travelling. With each step, she had begun to feel as though the trees themselves were against her making any progress and she had begun to hear a voice on the wind calling for her to stop.

As night fell, she caught sight of the shadow of a woman standing very near to her and backed away from it in fear. “Rally?” she questioned nervously.

The shadow nodded and pointed in the nearly opposite direction to what she had been travelling.

“I’ve been going the wrong way.” She sat down on the wet earth and sighed. “You were trying to tell me that, weren’t you?”

Rally nodded slowly and sat next to her before reaching her shadowed hand out toward Cascara’s hand.

Cascara stared at her then hesitantly took her hand.

Know this,” Rally said slowly into Cascara’s mind and watched her eyes grow wide as she pulled her hand back.

“Was that your voice?” she gasped.

Rally nodded.

After a moment, Cascara reached her hand forward again. “You startled me.”

My duty is to Sillar and it is for him and him alone that I will aid you,” she said firmly. “I do not trust you and I blame your mother for what has happened to Sillar. I would just as soon leave you here in the woods to find your own way but he would never forgive me for such an action.

“I see,” she said nervously. “My mother died a long time ago. What did she do to Sillar?”

Rally shook her head.

Cascara got back to her feet and sighed. “How am I supposed to trust you after you say something like that?” She looked around, staring in the direction that Rally had pointed and hesitated. “I might as well be on my own.”

Rally shrugged, standing and taking a step back from the woman.

“Fine!” she snapped, tears threatening to appear as fear set in. “What good is a silent guide that I can’t see anyway?” she growled and gasped as a shot of light flew from her chest and struck the shadow.

Rally dropped slowly to her knees, her hands covering where the light had struck her. She glanced down at the gentle glow that now sat on her chest, it burned slightly.

Cascara took a step back. “Did I . . . ?” She dropped to her knees in front of Rally. “I’m sorry, I don’t know what I did. I didn’t mean to hurt you. I don’t understand what just happened.”

Rally nodded and sat back, taking her hands away from her chest as the burning sensation began to diminish leaving the glow behind. “One day you will be a danger and I fear that day is not far off.

Cascara gasped, leaping to her feet. “How can I hear you?”

Necromancers have power over the dead. You might not have meant it but your wish in anger and fear brought forth your power.

“Dead? You’re dead?”

Rally laughed gently. “You are infuriatingly naive. Why Sillar thought that you should remain this way when he knew the possibilities of your future I will never understand?

“Necromancer? I feel like I know that term.” She sighed and bit her lip. “What do you mean, knew my future? I’m sorry, I just don’t understand what’s happening.”

Rally nodded and got to her feet. “We have a lot of ground to cover before the sun rises. Until your power grows, this glow on my chest will remain dim and it will be difficult for you to see in the sunlight.

“Will I still hear your voice?”

Rally nodded.

“Rally,” Cascara bit her lip, “I’m sorry for what I did—and for whatever sins my family has committed against you and Sillar.”

Your words right now mean nothing. You can’t apologize for something that you don’t even know or understand.

Cascara followed silently behind Rally, focusing on the shadow and doing her best to keep from stumbling over the uneven path. While travelling in the dark did make it easier to see her guide, it did nothing to help her pick her steps.

Stop for the night,” Rally stated as Cascara stumbled again, this time unable to regain her footing and striking the ground. “The terrain in this area is not going to get any better and you’re going to end up harming yourself by trying to move in the dark.

“But you said yourself that even with the light I created I won’t be able to see you once the sun rises.” Cascara peered into the darkness ahead and sat down. “Will you be staying with me or leaving to find Sillar now that you have shown me the way home?”

Why ask such a question?

Cascara laughed gently. “You started our encounter by telling me the truth of your mind. What would you think if the roles were reversed? Your sudden concern doesn’t make sense.”

Rally nodded slowly. “At Sillar’s request, I will remain unless some other force intervenes.

“Other force?” She sighed. “Do you expect that?”

Rally sat across from Cascara. “The men chasing you aren’t doing so because you’re pretty, Cascara, they want your power. Think about that. Think about what sort of people could find you and know you before you even do.

“But Sillar knew all this time.”

As did your mother and your uncle,” Rally answered. “Not another soul close to you was ever told the truth, nor could most of them tell. Magic is uncommon in your village.

“Have you been there the entire time? Have you always been with Sillar?”

Rally nodded. “I was his scribe before my death. When he was exiled I followed to protect him. He was just a child. He didn’t deserve to be cast into the wilderness but there is no turning back the hands of time. What’s done is done and death has come.

“But you remained.”

Rally nodded.

“By choice?”

The spirit looked away. “I’m not sure,” she confided. “I choose to stay with him now—to attempt to guide him and watch over him. True, he is no longer a child but his soul is young and he is prone to acting foolishly.

“He has always seemed impulsive.” She nodded. “Mother was protective of him. He was so sickly when we were younger and I remember he seemed prone to fits of madness.”

That madness that you recall—those were visions.

“That’s what a vision looks like?” She shuddered. “One moment we’d be talking then suddenly he would drop and speak nonsense. It would be days before he would be seen around the village. Mother and Uncle Dante never seemed to be far away. They would always rush in and take him before anyone else could react.”

Rally nodded. “Sillar was considered a broken oracle by our village. In their minds, his visions caused him too much damage. All they knew was that raw power seemed to pool within him leading up to the vision and he would be rendered unconscious when it was through. They never understood that he was the one causing the flaw.

“What do you mean?”

He disliked the reality of a seer. You see, not only do they have no control over visions but most often they can not recall what they have said. They are tortured by this power but those outside of an oracle’s circle rarely see it. He refused to hide the damage but he also refused to accept that he could not gain control. His path was leading him to death and so he was cast out for the fates to deal with.

“Not too long before Mother vanished, the madness stopped,” Cascara commented.

Rally nodded. “That was the result of what you called his impulsiveness. He was determined to find a different way to live his life and use his powers and with your mother’s help, he did.


Sillar paused and peered through the thick trees ahead of him. The early morning light was slowly beginning to cast shadows on the damp earth and his aching body was longing for the rest that he was refusing it. Since making his way out of the dungeon he had continued to push himself forward knowing that it was only a matter of time before the mercenaries would again be tracking Cascara and knowing that he needed to get to her first.

The traction beneath Sillar’s feet continued to shift in a frustrating pattern that he could not seem to anticipate and each slick spot that caused him to fight to stay on his feet left his already pain riddled body reeling. Slipping again in the muck, he caught himself on the tree ahead and finally paused, leaning his head against the bark and momentarily closing his eyes.

“It’s not hopeless,” he said aloud. “Chessa, I can do this. I can reach her first. I made a promise.” He sighed and nodded. “She can’t be that far ahead of me. She can’t.”

His eyes screamed to remain closed but he forced them open and commanded his legs to once again carry him forward. The slick ground shifted again and he found the mud gripping his boots causing his already exhausted legs to fight for each step. After a struggle, Sillar hit his knees and placed his head in his hands as doubt washed over him and he shook his head. He forced his eyes open once again, looking up at the morning sky and searching the clouds for answers. “Still nothing familiar,” he grumbled. “Maybe the vision was wrong.”

Where are you?” a whisper on the wind forced Sillar back to his senses.

Rally?” He swallowed and fought to find the voice again.

Damnit Sillar, you sent her too far.

Sillar smiled and forced himself back to his feet. “I’m not that far from you,” he answered, hopeful that his voice might reach her. “I can still make it.

With a renewed sense of hope, Sillar forced himself forward through the unfamiliar terrain, emerging from the dense trees and nearly tripping on the rocky ground that surrounded the river that had appeared in his path. As he stared at the river his shoulders dropped in frustration and exhaustion but he quickly forced himself to examine every part of the bank, hopeful that he would be able to make out a place that was nearby and narrow.

“I don’t remember a river in my visions,” he said after a long moment. “Am I going the wrong way?”

He shook his head but still wasn’t completely certain. The dungeon could very well have been positioned differently than what he thought and the overcast sky could have led him to venture in the wrong direction. Rally’s voice may have been nothing more than his imagination, after all, just a wish on the wind.

Annoyed by the growing doubts within him, Sillar had a sense that time was growing short and that somehow he had to find his way across the river. Still, the doubt made him hesitate and his weary body refused to move.

“Fine,” he sighed, sitting back on a rock and staring out at the water. After a while, he looked up again at the clouds and held his breath as a familiar formation slowly rolled into view above the treetops in front of him. “I guess I do need to cross this,” he stated and forced himself to his feet. Sillar began to carefully step across the stones, splashing into the cool water and wading across as quickly as he could, grateful that the water wasn’t deep.

Reaching the other shore he paused, visually picking his path across the menacing rocks. As he moved through the stones, his boots slipping on their sludgy surface, he realized that his instincts about them had been correct. Finally reaching the mossy ground on the opposite side he sat down and stared at the gashes that he could see on his calves through his now torn trousers. He quickly forced himself back to his feet and stumbled forward before his legs finally gave out beneath him.

Annoyed with his limitations, Sillar looked ahead at his path and nodded to himself. “I know what you said but . . .”

Sillar raised his hand into the air, his palm facing the path ahead, and slowly closed his eyes. He took a breath, focusing his mind on Cascara and gasping as pain suddenly erupted in his chest and his body grew rigid. His eyes quickly clouded over becoming glowing brown spheres and the wilderness around him vanished into a hazy vision of those he was searching for.

“Rally,” he whispered worriedly as he caught sight of the gentle glow that was coming from her chest. “How could she have done that? How could she possibly know to do that to you?”

Sillar forced his gaze from the shadow and focused on the life that slept near to her. He took a shaky breath, relieved to see Cascara unharmed and free.

He nodded stiffly, blinking his eyes in quick succession to break free of the vision. As his surroundings once again came into view he realized that the upper half of his body had remained rigid. He forced breaths into his firm chest, fighting against the pressure and trying to break free of the trance that seemed to have trapped him. As he found himself slowly able to move again, he felt that with the paralysis leaving him pain began to grow, starting at his chest and moving out in a strange line around his torso.

Sillar nervously lifted his blood-soaked shirt and stared first at the bleeding wound at the center of his chest then at the thin black line that seemed to begin there and make its way around his body. “Is this what you meant when you said that visions would be a bad idea?” he whispered before shuddering and falling forward into the mud.

Chapter 2
Chapter 3


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