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The Crow Queen [Lord of Wind and Fire Book 2] [MultiFormat]
eBook by Elaine Corvidae

eBook Category: Fantasy/Romance EPIC eBook Award Winner
eBook Description: Vengeance. Passion. Magic. Power. In order to be crowned King of Jenel, Lord Auglar must first convince the Conclave of Lords to choose him over his rival, the cruel Lord Fellrant. Against his better judgment, Yozerf joins Suchen and the Sworn in their mission to protect Auglar. Betrayed by the other lords, the companions soon find themselves fleeing for their lives into Segg's decaying ghettoes. Trapped in the city with enemies on every side, their only ally seems to be mysterious assassin known as the Crow Queen. Yozerf has a hidden weapon which may prove their salvation; the magic gifted to him by the ghost of his ancestor Telmonra. But as Telmonra's presence grows ever stronger in his mind, Yozerf begins to wonder if the price of his power will be everything he holds dear.

eBook Publisher: Mundania Press LLC/Mundania Press LLC, Published: 2004, 2004
Fictionwise Release Date: November 2005


88 Reader Ratings:
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"The worlds presented in this series are vividly drawn, so that one will see them through the characters' eyes. Emotions are wrung from readers, causing them to gasp in fear, feel the shiver of danger, and the heat of desire."--Kelley A. Hartsell, Love Romances

"5 Stars! From the beginning until the end this story goes at full speed. Excellent tale and recommended to all fans of Fantasy!"--Detra Fitch, Huntress Reviews.

"I defy you to read the last chapter of The Crow Queen and not clamor for the sequel."--K. G. McAbee, author of Escape to Malmillard


Prologue

The Crow Queen crouched in darkness, feeling the cool whisper of a breeze touch her cheek. The plants that grew in the garden stirred restlessly with the wind, the soft scrape of their large leaves against one another enough to cover the faint sound of her steps. The stone wall of the mansion in the heart of the garden lay to her left, half-hidden beneath climbing vines. A torch flickered wildly above a recessed entrance onto the lower floor. A quick motion of one hand, and the light died.

A soft oath came from within the recess. A guard stumbled out, fumbling in the darkness for tinder and flint. Only a few moments later, he succeeded in restoring the comforting light of the torch. Cursing the wind and the night, he went back to his station and took a sip from the cup of mulled wine waiting there for him, having never seen the slender figure that had slipped in and out while he was otherwise occupied.

Within moments the guard was slumped on the floor, a thin rivulet of wine trailing like blood from his dropped cup. The Crow Queen stepped over him, pausing only long enough to ransack his belt for keys. She would return them before she left, and no one would ever be the wiser, not even the guard who would awake the next morning with a splitting headache and no recollection of the previous night.

"You take too many risks," Yozerf had said once, his voice angry and bitter. "Dead men cannot remember your face. Why don't you just kill them and be done with it?"

"Finesse," she had replied disdainfully. To spare the lives of the guards and servants who unwittingly crossed her path--that was the mark of the professional.

He had not said anything--had not needed to for her to know that he believed it the mark of a fool.

The door into the mansion yielded to one of the keys from the guard's belt. The Crow Queen ghosted up the stair inside, her passage barely a flicker of black amidst deeper darkness. She'd heard rumors that claimed she could hide the shadow cast by a poker, and the conceit had pleased her. She wished it were true.

Most of the mansion slept, except for the few guards set about the perimeter. Their master had no true fear in him, believing that his wealth would be enough to keep him safe, and so the Crow Queen found herself able to move unimpeded through his home. Following the route she had memorized, she came at last to the door of his study.

As his wife had promised, he was up late, scribbling in his ledgers. The flames of the candles might have bent slightly as the door at his back opened noiselessly, but if so he never noticed. The Crow Queen's boots made no sound on the sumptuous Undish carpets that covered the floor. No premonition of danger caused him to look up or shift position.

Her gloved hand knotted in his hair, jerking his head back hard. A curved knife sharpened to a lethal edge sliced through jugular and windpipe before he had a chance to cry out. A torrent of blood splashed across the papers on his desk, obliterating whatever had been written there. His eyes went wide with shock, and his hands scrabbled helplessly at the terrible wound in his throat for a moment before his life bled out. Then he slumped in the chair, the look of surprise still stamped across his features.

So many of them looked surprised, and it never ceased to annoy her. She wondered if the gods would tell him that his wife had hired an assassin to kill him after he had raped their daughter on her tenth birthday. Chances were he would still miss the point.

A few sestarrii gleamed golden amidst the papers and blood, and she took them without guilt. Let the city watch believe that he had been murdered during a robbery. They would never learn the truth anyway.

* * * *

She had only walked three streets away from the mansion when the wizard found her.

One moment, the night was empty, silent except for the near-noiseless whisper of her feet on the cobblestones. The next ... there was something more to the shadows, as if they had gained a weight and depth that they had previously lacked. She froze instantly, all her senses attuned to the night around her, straining to unravel any possible nuance.

White robes caught the faint light of torches locked beyond manor gates; the flames turned them red, as if they had been washed in blood. Between the ivory bristle of beard and hair, his face looked dark, his expression lost to her. "I have come to ask of you ... a favor," he said.

The Crow Queen slowly rose from the defensive crouch she had dropped into, but her daggers remained in her hands. Not that they would defend her against magic, she thought bitterly.

"What do you want, Ax?" she asked, her voice as cold and expressionless as she could make it.

"To retain your services."

"No."

He chuckled softly. "You have not even heard my offer yet."

"I don't need to." She would have walked away, if she'd trusted him at her back.

"There is a lord coming to this city. An important man. I want you to keep him safe."

She laughed. "I kill. I don't save."

"If you do not, you will be the last of your kind."

Ice slid through her veins, and she hissed softly. "If you threaten--"

"I merely prophesy. Auglar of Kellsjard must live through all that is to come. If he does not, your son will die as well."

"What could the fortune of a lord of Jenel possibly have to do with my son?"

Ax smiled briefly. "You will see, Londah Jonaglir. You will see soon enough." And with that, he was gone.

Londah stood alone in the street, her fingers gripping her knives so hard that her knuckles had gone white. Then, with a curse she had learned from the sailors who frequented Segg's port, she slammed her weapons back into their sheathes and stalked off.

Damned wizards.


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