Wolfkin [Lord of Wind and Fire Book 1] [MultiFormat]
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eBook by Elaine Corvidae
eBook Category: Fantasy/Romance
eBook Description: A kingdom on the eve of war. A queen held captive. A land in turmoil. A shape-changer's heart. Suchen's life as Steward of Kellsjard is a good one, if uneventful. But the arrival of the exiled wizard Ax threatens to upset her quiet existence. The task he sets for her seems simple on the surface: escort Trethya, a young noblewoman, from the southern reaches of the kingdom back to the safety of Kellsjard's walls. Soon, however, Suchen and her companions-five warriors Sworn to the service of her lord-discover that the fate of the entire kingdom depends on keeping Trethya alive. For only Trethya is privy to a deadly secret: Rozah, Queen of Jenel, is held captive by her regency council. If she is not freed, the treacherous Council will force her into a marriage with a necromancer intent on making Jenel his own. Pursued by enemies, attacked by shape-changers, and threatened by hidden traitors, their path seems doomed to end in death. But into this mix comes an unlikely ally: Yozerf Jonaglir, scion of the non-human Aclytese race, heir to a forgotten throne. Haughty, bitter, and haunted by the darkness of his past, Yozerf at first seems the antithesis of everything Suchen has ever known. Yet from the first, she finds herself drawn to this wild stranger, finding in him an answer to the longings of her own heart. But is Yozerf the friend he seems to be--or will the dark secrets he hides ultimately destroy them all?
eBook Publisher: Mundania Press LLC/Mundania Press LLC, Published: 2003, 2003
Fictionwise Release Date: November 2005
This eBook is part of the following series:
112 Reader Ratings:
"Wolfkin is a beautiful story and well written.--Joy Spear, Coffee Time Romance
"An action romance any lover of fantasy should read."--Patricia Weeks, Round Table Reviews
"A page-turner from start to finish."--Amy L. Turpin, Timeless Tales
"I recommend Wolfkin as a fantasy with a satisfying cross-cultural romance. 5 Stars!"--Science Fiction Romance
"Superb romantic fantasy.--Harriet Klausner, The Best Reviews, Amazon.com's #1 reviewer
"A rich world peopled with realistic characters that will not fail to move you.--Amanda Killgore, Scribesworld
He crouched in the pose of a hunter: body taut, senses extended. His eyes glittered in the night, like gray ice set in a face the color of old bone. The wind scrabbled curiously at his threadbare black clothing, seeking to touch the thin flesh stretched tight over his ribs. Unkempt hair, the crimson of freshly-spilled blood, gusted across his face.
The wind smelled wrong, tasted wrong, he thought. More like the bitter wine of winter than the sweeter cider of autumn. He shivered with the dread of the lean, cold months that had been bred into the blood and bones of his kind.
He smiled sardonically at that thought. My kind? And what kind would that be?
The skeletal grasses rattled dryly around him, as if in commiseration. An enormous, dark shape moved nervously at the lip of the small dell in which he hid. Reaching out blindly, he laid a reassuring hand against the warhorse's warm hide. Iron muscles flexed under his callused fingers, and a velvety lip brushed his skin. The animal's familiar scent filled his nostrils, comforting.
It's an ill night to be out on the Kellsmarch, he thought. Wide, canted eyes scanned the vast plains, which stretched off to every side. The ivory moon shone down, illuminating every blade of grass with silver fire. There's no cover out here, nowhere to hide.
Damn your stony heart, Ax, where are you?
A pale shape gleamed suddenly on the other side of the dell. He leapt back, snarling, before realizing it was the wizard who stood there. A moment later, Ax's scent--not exactly that of a normal human, but not really definable as anything else, either--wafted to him on the breeze.
Ax bowed slightly, and a mocking smile touched his withered lips. "Forgive me, Yozerf Jonaglir. I did not mean to startle you."
And I'm a human. Yozerf looked away, as if the wizard hardly concerned him. "Trihychyl. It's Trihychyl."
Ax shrugged negligently. "It hardly matters to me what clan name your family chooses to skulk under these days."
Yozerf ground his teeth together in silent fury. But he was accustomed to bearing the offhand taunts of humans, and in this, at least, the wizard seemed no different from his brethren.
Pretending to ignore the jibe, Yozerf tilted his head to one side and glared balefully at Ax. "What do you want of me?"
"I think you know. It's time for you to pay your debt."
Yozerf transferred his malevolent stare to his hands, which rested lightly on his knees. My debt.
If I can survive whatever task he has for me, I'll be truly free for the first time in my life. No more wondering when he'll come, what he'll ask of me. Free.
But freedom through slavery? Is that even possible?
Wariness caused the hair to prickle on the nape of his neck. Ax smelled smug, but a sour whiff of fear tainted the wind as well. Anything dire enough to worry the wizard, let alone make him afraid, was likely to be perilous in the extreme.
Although he knew it to be a futile gesture, he met Ax's stare with one of his own. Yozerf's gray gaze was inhumanly cold, challenging the wizard's deceptively mild expression. "And if I refuse to do your bidding?"
Ax inclined his head, and his smile sent a spike of ice through Yozerf's heart. "You could try. Thirty-four years ago, I used my healing arts to keep death from claiming you before you even drew your first breath. I gave you your life. Therefore, it is mine to do with as I will."
Hatred clogged Yozerf's throat, and he spat on the ground. "So you will throw me away as a pawn in some unfathomable game."
"My 'game' is unfathomable only to you," Ax said, and now his voice was steel and stone, all pretense of goodwill flung aside. "I work solely for the good of Jenel. Not for my own aggrandizement, not for power, not for revenge. For my kingdom."
"Jenel is nothing to me," Yozerf hissed. "Hel can come take this kingdom and everyone in it--it is no concern of mine."
A wall of force punched into him, heaving him off his feet and slamming him hard against the earth. All the air left his lungs, and for an instant he lay stunned. The warhorse behind him screamed, and its hooves cut across the stars above his head. Gasping for breath, he forced himself to roll away from the frightened animal.
No sharp pains accompanied the movement--at least Ax hadn't seen fit to shatter his bones. Undoubtedly because I couldn't perform his little task then. Chest heaving, Yozerf came up into a crouch. His head still spun with the force of the blow, and he had to stretch a hand out to the ground to steady himself. The taste of blood filled his mouth.
Ax glared angrily from the other side of the dell, not even looking wearied from his display. "Jenel is my kingdom, and I work to defend her," the wizard said in a low, dangerous voice. "And so will you. You will not question me, only do what I say."
Yozerf rose slowly to his feet, careful to keep any sign of pain from his face. "I will do as you ask," he said quietly. "I would have done so anyway. Whatever else you might say of me, I never reneged on a debt--not even one to a human. There was no need for force."
Ax chuckled softly, the sound melding with the sere rattle of the dead grasses. "Perhaps. But this way, you'll never forget who owns you."