The Bound (Ascension #2)(2)

“Then, we must be made as one,” he breathed against her neck.

She couldn’t hold back the gasp. Finally. “Yes. Oh, Kael, yes.”

The knife plunged into her back so fast that she never saw it coming. It struck her so precisely that she hadn’t even had the chance to cry out, just as he had planned it. Blood poured from the wound, soaking Kael’s hands and falling onto the stone floor.

“For you, Father,” he said. Then, he chanted the words that his forefathers had chanted before him, which translated from the ancient tongue to, “Life freely given. Power freely taken. Drawn from you. Give thus to me. Cast off the light and plunge into darkness. I surrender.”

As the life drained out of Jardana’s once vibrant body, Kael claimed the life force for his own. There was no greater force on earth than the power he was claiming from flesh and blood. Their connection, so deeply entrenched over the years, only intensified the white-hot power now at his disposal.

It was in that moment, as the power flooded his body, that he finally understood why his father had murdered his mother.

Every single part of Cyrene Strohm’s body ached.

She dismounted from her proud dapple, Ceffy, and dropped to her feet. Her knees nearly buckled underneath her, and she tried to shake off the stiff soreness that had come from riding day in and day out. Even her fingers were cramping from gripping the reins so tightly.

Pulling her bag off of Ceffy’s saddle, she prepared her horse for another long day tomorrow. Her hand reached inside the bag before it fell to the ground at her feet. She removed the golden pin of Byern from the bag and affectionately ran her fingers over its climbing vines. It was the mark of an Affiliate, the highest position in the land, save royalty. It pained her not to wear the pin anymore, but she and her companions had all agreed that it was too recognizable. So, it lay, tucked away, in her belongings.

Cyrene stifled a yawn and covered her mouth to try to bite back the exhaustion. The last thing she wanted was for anyone to see her weariness. She had been the one to convince her friends—Maelia Dallmer, Ahlvie Gunn, and Orden Dain—to flee their home country of Byern. So, she was the one who had to remain strong throughout this journey, no matter what was thrown in her face.

From an early age, she had dreamed about finding adventure and traveling the world. She just hadn’t expected adventure to be this tiresome.

Maelia hauled the packhorse through the open clearing and immediately began to set up camp. Orden scouted the hilly roads far ahead. Ahlvie had already tied up his horse, Belgar, and was collecting firewood. They had been on the run for a few weeks now and had settled into a routine.

“Cyrene,” Maelia said, grabbing her attention, “Ahlvie should have been back already?”

“Already? He hasn’t been gone that long,” she said.

But then her eyes caught the location of the sun, and she frowned.

“I don’t like for him to be too far out with Orden gone and guards on our tail.”

“I’ll find him. Don’t worry.”

“Take that with you.” Maelia pointed at a heavy broadsword hanging from Ceffy’s side.

Cyrene looked at the sword with disdain. “I’ll only be a minute.”

“I’d feel better if you had it with you,” Maelia said.

The sword was an unfortunate necessity. The group had left Albion, the second largest city in their home country of Byern, with no trouble. By the time anyone had noticed that they had left, Cyrene had thought the coast was clear.

Oh, how wrong I was.

News had traveled quickly that King Edric Dremylon of Byern believed Cyrene had been kidnapped, and a hefty reward had been issued for her return. So, even if she could tell Edric that she had not been kidnapped but instead escaped to fulfill her mission to get to Eleysia and discover how to use her magical powers, no one would hear her story. Not to mention, everyone, including herself only a couple of months ago, believed magic was nothing more than a myth.

But magic was more than a myth. After a near-death experience where she had faced a deadly Braj, her powers had manifested, and even if she was in love with the King, getting out of Byern had been a necessity. Edric would never have let her go if he had known the truth…of any of it. So, it was partly her fault that he believed she had been kidnapped, and now, their departure from Byern had turned into a game of duck and cover with guardsmen in pursuit.

Cyrene must have made a face at Maelia’s suggestion, and she fixed Cyrene with a stern look.

“The sun is setting, and the Hidden Forest is notoriously dangerous. You’ve heard the sounds at night. Strange inhuman howls and creepy slithering noises.” Maelia shuddered at the thought. “Just take it.”

Maelia had a way of ignoring Cyrene’s protests. Even though the sword was clunky, Maelia was used to a world where a sword was the best defense. So, Cyrene untied the sword from Ceffy’s side and laced it around her plain blue dress. It dragged down her waist, and she bent slightly to the right to try to adjust it.


“Thank you,” Maelia said. “Be safe.”

Cyrene ground her teeth and set out.

After the first week of trekking aimlessly through the woods, she had cursed her parents for not giving her a proper education on tracking, positioning, and other such important matters. She had thought that all she needed to know could be found in books. But the only book she had brought with her held text that only she could see and read. It was a riddle wrapped inside a mystery.

K.A. Linde's Books