Kana Morel, the most cunning tactician in all of the Sanctum, has been outmatched. The source of her undoing--her acolyte, Jamyn Siska.
Following their successful defeat of a demon ambush, Jamyn confessed his true feelings to her. He didn't merely lust after Kana like she had thought. He loved her.
Kana's world, already thrown into chaos by his revelation, quickly becomes even more complicated. Her magic is suddenly unreliable. An official inquiry is called against her acolyte. During a procedure to lock down Jamyn's magic afterwards, something goes wrong and he disappears without a trace.
Kana must gather her wits and her powers to stop Jamyn before his rapidly expanding knowledge of the Voice destroys them both. His feelings--and her own--will have to wait for another day.
That is, if they both survive.
Two figures faced each other upon the recently cleared battlefield. Despite the earlier carnage, silence hung heavy in the air, broken only by the soft swish of a breeze filtering through the long grass of the valley.
Kana stared at her acolyte, shocked by his sudden revelation. "What did you say?"
Jamyn sighed in annoyance. "Exactly what you think I said. I love you."
"No," she replied almost instantly, holding up one hand to him. "That's impossible."
The effect of the simple question on her was anything but. While her body had been all in favor of pouncing upon her acolyte, her mind now held it firmly in check.
"No!" she cried, now holding up both hands to him in denial. "We've only known each other for...what now? A few weeks?"
"You've known me for that long," he replied smoothly, as if he had played out this conversation numerous times already. "I've been studying you for years."
"Studying!" Her mind was now creeping toward a full panic and she struggled to reel it back in. "All you know is what I've done. Just missions. You don't know anything about me."
"Then how did I know you'd have this reaction?" he asked, waving a hand at her. "Why did I know that as soon as I told you how I felt you would freak out like this?"
"Because you're being stupid! If you know anything about me, you know I can't stand stupidity."
He shook his head and sighed again. "I didn't just study the official records, you know. I talked to a lot of people."
She tossed her head back and laughed sarcastically. "Yeah, I heard you asked Donta about me. Bright move there, kid!"
"I talked to Lash too."
The sinking feeling in her gut instantly plummeted to her feet at the mention of her friend and ex-lover. "You what?" she whispered in horror.
"I talked to Lash. He told me what happened. And what you did afterward."
"But, but he didn't--" she stammered, taking one nervous step backward.
"I know," Jamyn said quickly before she could launch into a full retreat. "He recovered and later realized he had made a mistake." He gave her a gentle smile. "But I haven't."
"Oh, yes, you have!" she shouted, her anger rising again.
He clenched his jaw and took one step toward her. "Kana, I--"
She sent a frantic mental command to the darkweave clothing him. Instantly the bands of black fabric covering his arms and torso intertwined, pinning his arms to his sides. The fabric hardened and tightened around the rest of his body, forming a virtual cocoon and effectively paralyzing him where he stood.
"You're wrong!" She started to take a step forward but then spun on her heel. She bowed her head and held her arms close to her sides as the conflict raged within her. "You're wrong," she said, quieter this time. "There's no way."
"Yes, there is," he said softly, "and you know it. I love you, Kana."
She sent another command and the darkweave wrapped itself tightly over his mouth. She stood there, trying not to follow her first instinct and run away from him as fast as she could. Her mind, heart, and body continued to shriek in outrage at one another, the inner tumult nearly masking the sound of multiple vehicles approaching.
"Off-worlders," a male voice said through a loudspeaker, "identify yourselves at once."
"Damn it all to hell," she muttered.
She turned and saw five multi-wheeled transports parked a stone's throw behind where Jamyn stood imprisoned. Ignoring the way his gaze continued to silently caress her, she raised her voice.
The transports opened and three heavily armed and armored men leaped out of each. They hurried into a tight formation in front of the transports with their guns at the ready. One stepped forward from the rest.
"Who are you to know that term?" the apparent leader asked.
And now a diplomatic incident on top of everything else. Could the day possibly get any better?
"A First Seer of the Sanctum," she said with an authoritative snap.
The troops shared shocked glances with one another before all falling to one knee and bowing their heads. The one who had stepped forward did the same and held a clenched fist to the center of his forehead.
"Our eternal thanks to you."
Despite her earlier exchange with Jamyn, this display drew a brief chuckle from her. She walked to them, pausing briefly as she passed her acolyte.
"At least they know their place," she muttered to him out of the corner of her mouth.
The ache in her gut flared but she ignored it and stopped in front of the kneeling leader.
"You really need to work on that."
"What?" he said in confusion.
"You believed I was from the Sanctum just like that. Didn't ask for credentials or anything. If I was an enemy, you'd all be dead right now." Lowering her voice, she said, "Not too bright, Hajis-Corol."
The confused man raised his head and studied her face. After a few seconds, his eyes widened.
She smiled. "The very same."
He shot to his feet. "It has been a long time!"
"It has." She looked around him at the men still kneeling before her. "They've tasked you with your own squad?"
"Indeed!" he said with a wide smile. "At ready!"
The troops stood in unison and snapped to attention.
Kana nodded her approval. "Wow. You have done well."
"As have you! A First Seer now?"
"Yeah," she said with a sigh. "It wasn't my idea."
"Still, it was a fine one." He looked past her at Jamyn's immobile form. "Is he an enemy?"
She choked back a few choice words and shook her head. "No. He's just terribly confused so I had to tie him up." She looked back over her shoulder at Jamyn and raised her voice. "Before he could do anything else he might regret."
"Shall we take him?" Hajis-Corol asked.
She turned forward again. "Tempting, but no. I have to take him back to the Sanctum with me." She swallowed once. "He's my acolyte."
"You have taken on a learner?"
"Yeah. Once again, not my idea."
"A very fortunate man indeed. His name?"
"Jam--" She stopped abruptly, recalling the Letronan custom of swapping first and last names. "Siska-Jamyn."
Hajis-Corol nodded. "I bid you greetings, Jamsiska-Jamyn," he said loudly in Jamyn's direction.
Kana stifled a groan. "It's just Siska-Jamyn."
Hajis-Corol's genial nature vanished in a heartbeat. "No, you said Jamsiska-Jamyn."
She fixed Hajis-Corol with a firm stare. "I did. My apologies."
He relaxed and smiled again. "What brings you back to the Sacred Fields?"
Her mind raced to come up with a plausible explanation. "There was an accident. My acolyte ended up here so I came to fetch him."
"An accident, you say?"
"Yes. A spellcasting error."
Hajis-Corol made a face. "Evil ways."
Kana winced. The mercenaries who had attacked the planet years ago had employed a band of rogue wizards. Their twisted spells had wreaked havoc upon the Letronans until the Sanctum intervened.
"Not all magic is evil," she said.
"They took the mist giants from us."
Kana bit her lip. The Letronans referred to phase dragons as mist giants and had revered them. The loss of the huge lizards was a crushing blow to the Letronans' spirits. It was one of the reasons behind Donta's objection to Kana taking Lester's egg all those years ago.
"May they one day return to you," she said solemnly, repeating a phrase she knew would resonate with the soldier.
"You are truly noble, Morel-Kana," Hajis-Corol replied in a somber voice.
Suddenly, he noticed the trampled grasses in the area where they stood. "It almost looks like one has returned!"
Crap. Kana spun up a story to explain the flattened grass. "That's my fault. I sent out a shockwave when I arrived to clear the area. I can fix it if you wish."
"No, no. That's not necessary," Hajis-Corol said with a smile. "It is a fitting tribute sent by the mist giants to the one who helped save their home."
More like the work of one named Lester that I just sent back to the wilds. She suppressed a chuckle.
"I did what I could," she said, adding a slight shrug. "I was only an acolyte myself back then, after all." Her words swung her attention back to Jamyn and she turned to him. "I suppose we should be getting back." With this, she started walking back to where he stood.
Hajis-Corol motioned to his troops to return to their vehicles before joining her.
"It is good to know the Sanctum still watches over us," he said.
"We keep our eyes on everybody." Kana stopped and faced Jamyn. The look in his eyes had changed from adoration to panic. The dramatic shift unnerved her.
Hajis-Corol frowned briefly. "He appears upset."
She silently commanded the darkweave to move away from his mouth. Jamyn drew in a shuddering gasp and quickly expelled it in a dire warning.
Kana immediately extended her senses and her own eyes widened in shock. She lunged forward and tagged Jamyn roughly on the cheek before turning back to their host. She grabbed Hajis-Corol's upper arm and pulled him along as she broke into a full sprint back to the transports.
She shouted at Hajis-Corol. "Move it!"
"Wh-what is happening?" he stuttered, stumbling into a run beside her.
Several of his troops saw the commotion and had started to exit their vehicles. Kana saw them emerge and yelled at them as well.