I followed the series since I was ten years old… Please write a little snippet so we know it’s not the end… Pllllllllleesas Pleeeeeease… If you write it, it will be real. I just want to know it’s real.
It was a long email, the gist of which is that if we write something in the future of KD, then there would be world peace and end of famine and suffering. If only. 🙂
I said we were taking a break from KD, but we understand that it’s hard to see the series end, so we wrote a little story for you to show you that the world goes on.
We are working on Hidden Legacy and Innkeeper and it’s taking up all of our time, so please be patient.
Update: this is now a prologue to Aurelia Ryder series.
The King of Fire
“Why do you do this to yourself?” Grandfather sighed.
I sat on the floor of the library, basking in a pool of gentle light slipping through the narrow, arched window behind me. Blood and dirt smeared my jeans and my T-shirt. Everything hurt, and sorting through the maze of pain and aches was exhausting. My body was pretty much a single bruise. The right side hurt the most, sending a sharp spike of agony through my insides every time I inhaled. The seventh rib was broken. Probably when the bigger one kicked me. I was covering my head at the time, and the broken rib was the lesser of two evils. I was working on it, but I had to conserve magic. They would be coming for me soon.
“I have my reasons,” I told him.
“Are they good reasons?”
Grandfather sighed again. His handsome face, edged with a neat silvery beard, wore a long-suffering expression.
My brother stalked over from the spot by the wall. He moved on all fours, silent like a ghost on padded paws. When I materialized in Grandfather’s palace, he’d taken one look at the blood on my face and changed shape in a burst of flesh. In his human version, he was three feet eight inches tall, a perfectly reasonable height for a six-year-old. I knew this because we measured his height every six months. The current freaked-out iteration was about my height, armed with powerful muscle, leonine jaws with four-inch fangs, and claws that could gut a human like a fish. His fur was so dark, it was nearly black, and against that darkness, his gold eyes glowed, two blood moons hyper charged with shapeshifter hormones.
“It’s not that bad.” It was worse.
My brother pawed at the thick chain stretching from the shackles on my leg into empty air.
“Please leave it,” I told him.
He caught it with his right hand and pulled, testing the strength.
“Stop.” If he yanked it out of the wall, my whole plan would collapse.
He whirled around. The massive jaws gaped and snapped shut, fangs sliding against each other like teeth of a steel bear trap.
“That’s not nice.”
Grandfather stepped forward and rested his hand on my brother’s shoulder. “You are late for dinner.”
The kid let out a soft half-snarl, half-sigh that turned into a whine.
“I know. Your sister never does anything without a plan. Off you go.”
“Do I get a hug?” I held out my arms.
He snarled, but padded over, and nudged himself into my arms. I hugged him, petting the soft fur. “Don’t worry. I’ve got this.”
He sighed and then I was holding empty air.
“He missed my fingers by less than an inch.”
“Your brother is upset.” Grandfather snapped a huge old book closed. “Can you blame him? I am upset. Your mother, if she knew, would be upset.”
If my mother knew, she would drop everything and ride out to save me. I had to keep that from happening at all costs.
“Your grandmother will be livid.”
My grandmother was the one who sent me into this hell in the first place. She wanted to come herself, but she was too much. Too tall, too strong, too beautiful, and too full of magic. She would draw attention and be treated with fear and caution her power deserved, while I had learned to hide my power. I was unknown and easily overlooked as a threat.
“Why Moloch?” Grandfather asked. “Why now?”
“There are children in the hell fortress. He has over five hundred people building his citadel. You should see some of them. They’re walking skeletons. You look into their eyes and there is nothing there.”
The stench of it, sweat, urine, blood, feces, rot of infected flesh permeating the narrow tunnels filled with cells, barely lit with oppressive watery fey lanterns. The voices. The newer captives cried, the ones who had been there for a little while moaned wordlessly, like animals, and those who have lasted the longest just stared, wordlessly, glassy eyed. The air saturated to the brink with miasma of pain and misery. I’d cried when they dragged me to the cell from the sheer impact of so much human suffering. I had to get out. It was that or I would break and do something rash. That’s why I came here. I had to anchor myself to something light.
“This is what Moloch does,” Grandfather said. “He views his people as fuel to be consumed in order to achieve his means. He feels no remorse. He believes it is as it should be. This is the danger of proclaiming yourself to be a god-king. You start believing your own press.”
“He isn’t a god.”
“No. He is a man, but he is at least as old as me with all of the education and magic his ancient line bestows and that makes him infinitely dangerous. I know you are aware of this fact, so I will ask again. Why are you there? You can answer me, or…’
“Or I will tell your mother. Your choice.”
I was out of options. I would need his help anyway, eventually. “The seer of the Witch Oracle called me.”
Grandfather’s eyebrows rose. “I didn’t know you kept in touch.”
“We’re friends. She is only two years older than me. We used to have girl days and shop for makeup together. I call her once in a while.”
Grandfather frowned, obviously struggling with this information. I gave him a moment.
“Is there a prophecy?”
“There is.” And she’d called me frantic in the middle of the night to deliver it.
“Let’s hear it.”
“When magic crests at its peak, the King of Fire will leave his citadel of misery in the Western Desert to travel east to devour the queen who doesn’t rule and sever bloodline reborn. Only the one who shares his power may oppose him.”
As soon as I heard it, I told my grandmother and we were on the leyline to Arizona before the sun came up.
I met Grandfather’s gaze. “He’s going to kill my mother.”
Nobody would ever harm my mother. Not as long as I was breathing.
He pondered my words. His eyes grew distant and for a moment a different man emerged from his wise and kind facade, younger, harder, vicious and sharp, like a shark coming to a surface from the depths of the ocean. The immortal wizard-king who nearly killed everyone he loved to rule the world. Ah, Grandpa. I missed you.
“You cannot kill Moloch.”
“I’m going to give it a very good try.” I had planned a lot of fun surprises.
“No, child. When I said you cannot kill him, I meant he regenerates. Our family bred for power over the lands we claim. His line bred for the ability to restore themselves.
“I’ll chop his head off. I’d like to see him regenerate that.”
“He will,” Grandfather said. “I haven’t seen it, but my father has.”
He was serious. My careful plan collapsed on itself like a house of cards. “How is that possible?”
Grandfather smiled. “Magic of a bygone age. The best you can do is destroy enough of him to buy you time to get out. The magic of this moment in history isn’t strong enough for rapid reconstruction and the periods of tech will slow him down even more. Inflict enough damage to assure a temporary death and he won’t be a problem for at least a few months. Dismemberment is your friend.”
I gave him my sweet smile. “Thank you.”
“You didn’t ask the most important question.”
He paused. This was a test. If I asked the correct question, I would be rewarded. If I failed, he would be disappointed. I needed his help desperately.
I ran through it in my head. Magic at its peak, the King of Fire, citadel, Western Desert, the queen who doesn’t rule, the one who shares his power…
Here goes nothing. “How do I share in Moloch’s power?”
Grandfather smiled, his magic shining from within. The sun had risen, the clouds parted, the flowers bloomed, and the world smiled with him.
“The eyes, Julia. Moloch’s power is in his eyes.”
The library vanished. I was back on the piss-soaked straw in a dank cell, chained to the wall. The gaunt woman across gave me a blank stare. She probably didn’t even notice I was gone.
The heavy footsteps echoed through the hallway. A metal bar clanged open. Men filed into the room. Hands grabbed me and hauled me up, as someone unlocked my shackles. I hung limp. It was time.
I climbed to the apex of the hill, scrambling up the rocky slope. A strong hand caught my wrist and hauled me up like I weighed nothing. My grandmother grabbed me and squeezed me in a crushing hug. All my wounds cried out with a trickle of blood.
“How did it go?” she asked.
I glanced over my shoulder at the citadel burning behind me. The flames roared, turning the fortress into one massive bonfire staining the night with orange.
“He took my eye,” I told her.
She sucked in a sharp breath.
“That’s okay,” I said and opened my eyes wide, one brown and the other a brilliant glowing green. “I took one of his.”