Prologue for Amber Queen: Book Three in the Age of Azuria epic fantasy series
Below, you’ll find the prologue for Amber Queen, book three in the Age of Azuria series.
“Rowan, wait!” Yvayne reached out toward her lover. The elf’s spirit-shape flared brighter. She looked nearly corporeal, poised atop her grassy grave.
“I must go,” Rowan whispered. Her bright green eyes met Yvayne’s. “We will find one another again.”
“When?” Yvayne’s distress reverberated out from her chest and struck each of the burial mounds around them. “We just brought you back.” The slither of quick-growing ivy and vines filled the silent hilltop. Don’t you dare leave.
In a flash of garnet and peridot, Rowan disappeared from the barrow.
Yvayne choked back a cry and a curse. The folly of falling for a phoenix.
Behind her, Vaxis squealed. “Where did she go?”
Amethyst, the Brightland fae’s forest-green fox, blinked its purple eyes at Yvayne. How was it that these creatures were never surprised?
“I can think of one of two places,” Yvayne answered slowly. And to only one of the two would Rowan have invited her to follow.
“And?” Vaxis leaned closer, her hesitant smile a light through the clouds that gathered around Yvayne.
“She’s either returned to her fortress, her soul searching back through her past records to see what she missed . . .”
Vaxis waited, eyes wide.
Yvayne revealed the second with a sigh. “Or she’s following her soul’s beacon, returning to the call of her amulet and its binding to Marcon.”
“And . . .” Vaxis cleared her throat, hesitating to respond. Restraint did not suit her autumnal personality.
“Go ahead. Ask me.”
“Well, I have been thinking about what you told me about your meeting Marcon again. But I don’t understand. Why does he not remember her?”
Yvayne nodded. “It’s a long story.” She herself had discovered, piece by piece over the course of years, what had transpired between Rowan and Marcon. How much she owed to the fiery warrior, without whom they would have utterly lost the War of the Champions. And without whose sacrifice she would never have met Rowan. “But I believe the memories will return to him, given time.”
She told Vaxis what she knew of the betrayal that had separated Rowan and Marcon. One of the champion’s closest companions had turned Rowan over to Lucien’s power. The resultant spiral of events had ushered in the end of the War of the Champions. “As you might imagine, Rowan preferred not to speak of those days.” Even years afterward, night after night, Rowan awoke screaming, consumed with nightmares from her time spent as Lucien’s prisoner, when he had departed from his life as a guardian and fallen into the soul-consuming lichdom that still held him in its thrall.
“And it was after her time in the Shadowlands that the two of you met?”
Yvayne nodded. “I was there when she returned to life in Faer Haven.” How similar that cemetery was to the one where she and Apollo had buried Rowan, where she and Vaxis now stood.
Marcon and Quindythias had made a deal with her mother, Yvayne was certain. “I cannot ask the Shadow Queen to explain—she forbade my return long ago.” Yvayne understood her mother’s reasoning, but still she longed for the black fields and dark stone castle of her homeland, the violet moors she had roamed as a gar. “I do not know the deal they made with my mother for certain, but I suspect that Marcon, and his friend Quindythias, traded their memories of Rowan in exchange for her return to life.”
Vaxis settled onto the thick bed of moss beside the barrow next to Rowan’s, where another of their friends of old had been laid to rest. One after the other, Yvayne had buried her friends and allies. In some periods, the deaths came quickly, one after the next after the next. At other times, years would pass between her farewells, but they came all the same. Only a lucky few had been granted death after a peaceful descent into old age.
Her friend laid her burgundy head back against the flower-laden side of the moss-covered casket. “So what now, Yvayne?” Vaxis shrugged and poked out her lower lip, eyes turned to the mist-clad sky. Places of death and loss were difficult for Vaxis. They ran counter to her nature and dimmed her smile. Worse still, they blanketed her in memories Yvayne knew she would rather forget. “Do we follow these new druids on their quests, watching over their journeys so as to keep them from true danger?”
Yvayne gave her friend a small smile. Though the three druids were still at the start of their adventures, the growth in their magic, their coming into their own powers, into connection with the natural world, left a trace on the breeze for those who knew how to sense it. She closed her eyes and inhaled.
Persephonie’s travels through the streets of Andel-ce Hevra carved a sparkling path along the stone roads—fae laurel mingled with spices and dark berries. Iellieth’s path, deep in the Caldaran forest, was harder to catch, but her vervain-scented aura whispered all the same, citrus grasslands waving along a rocky seaside. Genevieve was the most difficult to find. Of the three, the lycan-druid was most resistant to her own magic, still coming to terms with the wolf who dwelled within. Yvayne’s shoulders relaxed as she caught the aromatic trail of soft florals and wild pepper amid the roiling ocean waters, a sprig of rosemary whose aroma lingered on the hand.
Vaxis’s question churned in her stomach. The two fae could watch over the burgeoning druids, waiting nearby and out of sight should their fortunes turn or their enemies discover their precise whereabouts. And while she and Vaxis could sense the druids’ locations, their enemies would not yet be able to. The natural world did not answer their call in the same way.
But if she and Vaxis were to intervene . . . Lucien and Syleste, Alessandra, and whoever else was searching for them might quickly find their trails. Magic such as Yvayne’s left an indelible mark on the world around it.
Yvayne leaned toward Vaxis, her lavender eyes brightening. “What if I told you that there were other tasks we might accomplish, ones to shift the stakes in our favor without drawing undue attention to the three we protect?” If they could continue to take steps Alessandra would fail to expect and keep the dark goddess off her guard, Iellieth, Marcon, and Quindythias stood a better chance on their mission of uncovering the final seal piece.
Vaxis grinned, wiggling on the bed of funeral mosses. “Tasks like what?”
“Are you aware of the disappearances in the Brightlands? There are a few scattered across the Elven Realms as well.” She had been preparing to investigate such occurrences before she and Vaxis had decided to awaken Rowan instead.
Her friend shook her head. “We have not heard of these in the Autumn Courts.”
Of course you haven’t. The fae courts had retreated behind their own enchanted walls, unwilling to intervene in the fast-changing workings of the worlds. Another of Alessandra’s wars loomed before them, whether the Brightlands fae wished for such a recurrence or not. “I think it’s time to see if we can uncover what’s happening to these fae and druids.” Yvayne had been too fixated on Lucien’s movements to find out what was happening to them, but now, such an activity might be exactly what she and Vaxis needed to keep her charges safe.
She had promised herself this conflict would be different. They would act offensively and not simply respond to the dark goddess’s assaults. Uncovering lost souls who had likely been imprisoned was precisely the sort of task they needed to undertake.
Yvayne rubbed her fingertip over the emerald of Mara’s ring. She was still keeping her promise to watch over Iellieth. Drawing Alessandra’s eye elsewhere could only help their cause.
“My Lord”—Senator Antonus Ignatius bowed before the flickering image of Lucien that had appeared before him—“the girl cast something. There was nothing we could do.”
The towering lich chuckled. “Nothing you could do? You place a great amount of faith in the saudad’s magic then. The dark goddess will be pleased.”
“No!” Ignatius’s hand shot out, calling back the spectral form. “That is not what I meant, Lord Lucien.” He bowed his head lower. One day, his work in Andel-ce Hevra would earn him an audience with the goddess herself, but in the meantime, he would have to abide by her servant’s rules and follow his whims. “We destroyed the druids, and with Aylin gone—”
“Aylin was still to be of use to me.” Lucien’s image grew taller as his voice thundered across the room. “The druids’ souls give me strength and, as your soldiers can undoubtedly attest, Aylin’s possesses a powerful magic. But no matter.” Lucien swept his cloak to the side and turned, calling Ignatius’s gaze outside to look over the city’s expanse. “There are others who can find her for me and bring her into my realm.” Lucien spun back, his yellow eyes glowing. “But I still require a sacrifice from you, Ignatius.” The lich smiled. A cold wind wheezed through the room and into Lucien’s throat. “Bring me the saudad girl, or I shall demand your son’s soul instead.”
Amber Queen, Age of Azuria book three is available now!
New to the world of Azuria? The adventure begins with Buried Heroes, book one in the Age of Azuria series!