About the Book
Forbidden Romance in an Age of Veiled Magic!
When Shadyia, a courtesan of the Silver Rose, violates the tenets of the Sisterhood, she is commanded by her madam to appease an order of vicious crusaders by seducing a powerful magician masquerading as a wealthy scholar.
Caught between an ancient conflict of Order and Chaos, Shadyia and her companions must descend beneath the Silver Rose into a labyrinth of deadly traps and shadowy guardians. For only there can she defy the crusaders who threaten her sorority and avert the prophecy of a darkness that returns to consume the world.
Shadyia backed away from the window and glanced at the madam and her two mistresses. Hopefully, someone would tell her what all this was about—and why she, of all the sisters, had been invited to bear witness. Sybaris knelt and loosened a stiletto sheathed in a boot. Uttering grim predictions, the raven-haired Makayla paced, gripping the sides of her black gown.
Madam Amrita turned from the window. “Ladies, please wait for me at the back doors to the audience. I’ll be with you shortly.”
They bowed and departed.
The madam gathered her dark brown hair, streaked with gray, behind her shoulders. “I believe I know why Lord Dunstan is here. He’s come for you, Sister.”
Shadyia blinked. There must be some mistake. Dunstan wasn’t one of her coins; he wasn’t any sister’s coin. The madam forbid servicing House Mienhard. No amount of silver, she often schooled them, was worth the peril of learning the secrets of the king’s house.
“For me? Why?”
“You are the favorite of Lord William Querry. This afternoon at the Diamond, the horse owned by William defeated the horse owned by Lord Dunstan. That race was very important to Dunstan, and he is furious.”
Shadyia stared hard at her madam. The ringing bells, scrambling sisters, Sybaris appearing as if she were moments from wading into battle—all this over a horse race? Then again, nobles obsessed over such things, but what had she herself to do with—
A chill seized her. Dunstan killed men who offended him, but for women he was known to pursue a different form of amusement.
“Dunstan will punish William Querry by commanding his guard to rape and beat me.”
“Correct,” Amrita said. “That is why you must hide. Don’t go to your quarters. He may know where that is. I suggest one of the storerooms beneath the kitchens. Go now and avoid the east vestibule.” She turned to leave.
Madam, wait. Mistress Sybaris said the wolfguard knows I’m here.”
Amrita stopped. “I’ll tell him you’re not,” she said over her shoulder. “I’ll tell him you are servicing a coin and are away from the palace.”
“Dunstan will never believe you over his guard. Even if he does, he’ll just choose another sister.”
Amrita faced her. “Unlikely. To beat another would fail to send the message he desires to William Querry.”
“But it would punish you for denying his wrath. Madam, this is Dunstan Mienhard. You were with me at the plaza last month. Did he strike you as a man who will just walk away on your word alone?”
She hoped her point had hammered home. Just the month before, Dunstan had accepted a challenge from a retired knight-general, a veteran of numerous campaigns and a grandfather of sixteen. The stodgy general had little choice but to demand a duel when Lord Dunstan called him a coward. Duels were a common form of entertainment for the gentry, and seldom to the death, so quite a crowd had gathered to bear witness, Amrita and Shadyia among them. They’d watched in shock as Dunstan repeatedly sliced the elderly knight-general and finished him with a piercing stab to the throat. ‘Cowards deserve no quarter,’
Dunstan had said, using a white cloth to wipe the general’s blood off his blacksteel sword.
“What is your concern?” the madam asked.
“If Dunstan has come for me,” Shadyia answered, tapping her chest, “then it is I who should deal with him.” She didn’t know exactly how she would deal with him, but another sister would not suffer in her stead.
Amrita studied her for a moment, but Shadyia couldn’t tell if her madam’s thoughts were filled with admiration or doubt. “Very well,” she said at last. “Take your place in the audience, but keep your hood low and blend in with the others. You are not to reveal yourself until I command it. Understood?”
Amrita walked toward the back steps to the audience. Shadyia pulled up the hood on her short sapphire dress, dashed from the ballroom and hurried down the grand stairs to White Hall. She followed the last of her sisters into the audience and closed the doors behind her. Lanterns on hooks pooled light throughout the domed, circular chamber. Hood pulled low, Shadyia leaned against a pillar and crossed her arms above her waist. The others had taken various postures meant to distract, lure and entice, their faces partly hidden under low hoods. Red-haired Deresi, a sister from Shadyia’s own circle, looked particularly tempting as she sat on the lip of the fountain, her fingers playing in the rippling water and her legs parted just enough to tease a man’s attention.
The doors to the Welcome Hall thundered open and Lord Dunstan entered. He swept his gaze over the chamber, his hand resting on the pommel of his sword, and made for the madam’s chair. His wolfguard slammed the doors in the face their guardian sister escort, and then turned their backs to better observe their master. Dunstan halted before the single-step dais and scowled up at the statue of Luun standing protectively behind the madam’s chair. He removed his hat and cast it over the hand of the statue that held the silver rose.
Shadyia seethed. Luun was more than the sister’s patroness; she was an emblem of feminine strength and dignity—one that Dunstan had reduced to a rack for his hat.
The rear doors to the chamber opened. Chin elevated, shoulders back and one hand placed upon the other at waist-level, Madam Amrita entered with Mistress Sybaris and Mistress Makayla a few steps behind.
Lord Dunstan pivoted toward the approaching women, grasped his blacksteel longsword and tugged it within reach. Shadyia furrowed her brow. Was he actually afraid of the madam? Ah, of course. She grinned beneath her hood. His hilt-grip was meant for Sybaris. The mistress of guardians had a fearsome reputation.
Holding the hem of her elaborate pearl gown, Amrita dipped, her gaze lowered. Sybaris and Makayla did likewise.
“Lord Dunstan, you honor my house,” Amrita said, rising.
Dunstan puffed his cheeks behind a blond mustache. “That’s not saying much.” He removed his riding coat and flung it across the chair. Their backs still to the main doors, his wolfguard grinned like jackals over a fresh kill. Shadyia ground her teeth. The pig! He would not even allow the madam her place of honor.
“How may I be of service?” Amrita asked with—remarkably—no hint of outrage in her voice.
Dunstan faced her. “Service? I thought you didn’t service House Mienhard.”
“As a matter of policy, my lord.”
“Your girls suck half the cocks in Anderholm, but the king’s house isn’t good enough for them?”
“Take no offense, my lord. Even the most skilled courtesan can conceive a child. With any other house we are free to terminate the seed, but if the house that straddles a sister also sits upon the throne, this…solution…is inappropriate.”
Shadyia tensed as Dunstan took a step toward Amrita. “I am offended you think me fool enough to accept that excuse. But it is of no matter.” He addressed the room. “This policy ends tonight. I require one of your girls, the favorite of Querry’s third son, William. She goes by the name Shadyia. Bring her to my guard at once.”
“I’m sorry, my lord, but Sister Shadyia is away from the Silver Rose until tomorrow.”
Dunstan rounded on Amrita and struck her across her face. She cried out, fell back and only Sybaris’s reflexes kept her head from smacking the floor. Gasps erupted from the sisters about the chamber as Shadyia pushed against her pillar, her hands becoming fists.
Dunstan rubbed his knuckles in the palm of his hand. “Do not lie to me, whore. I know she’s here. Bring her to me at once.”
Sybaris reached back to her boot—but the madam caught her wrist. “She is not, sire. I swear it. She lies with her client, Lord Martel—”
Amrita cried out as Dunstan kicked her hip with a steel-tipped boot and reached for his sword.
Enough! Shadyia swept the hood off her gown. Amrita would not suffer on her behalf. No one would. She stepped to the center of the room. “My lord, I am here!”
The wolfguard rushed forward and seized her arms. Amrita shot her a seething look, but changed to an expression of pleading as Dunstan glared back down at her. “Mercy, Lord. She’s just a girl.”
Dunstan sneered, a look of victory in his eyes. “She’s no girl. And, from the way William boasted, he’s quite taken with her.” He turned his vulturous gaze on Shadyia and followed her curves. “But, after my men are finished, he won’t find her so attractive.”
Disgust nearly forced her to twist away, but she closed her mind to Dunstan’s words. Think. Don’t struggle. The calloused hands clamped on her biceps offered no hope for escape. What could she do?
About the Book
Shadyia’s Adventure Continues!
‘I will never leave you, and I will always come for you.’
Shadyia’s vow to her lover is put to the test when the Innocenti rise and envelope the sisterhood she adores.
As the magician she aided hunts for the path to an ancient city, the new madam of the Silver Rose strives to please the evil that has promised, upon its freedom, to make her a queen.
Meanwhile, the adviser to the Innocenti prepares the final stage of his strategy to crush the faith of the old gods. He needs but a bit of magic to carry out his ultimate plan.
Magicians. Zealots. Madams. Whores. It’s all the same to he who waits within the enchanted box. Soon he will unleash his servants, and every horror of the abyss will once again consume humanity.
IN THE SHADOW of the Black Tower, Shadyia nudged the shoulder of the scruffy, tired woman strolling by her side. When Deresi turned her head, she offered her a spirited wave. Hello, my sweet friend. They both needed a hot bath and a good night’s rest, but that hardly mattered. Deresi was alive. They had each survived the horrors of Mirrikh’s labyrinth with whole skins and sound minds.
Deresi crossed her eyes and stuck out the tip of her tongue.
Shadyia shifted her attention to the damp street. Yes, I know. I should stop gawking at you. She couldn’t help it. Her fingers ached to get lost in the tangles of Deresi’s red curls; her ears yearned for the sounds of Deresi’s passion, and her skin craved the warmth they had not shared often enough. I almost lost you. The death they had faced during the past two days made her crave another night, like the smallest fox in a litter peering at the last quail egg. Words Shadyia had spoken that morning they lay entwined in arms, legs and blankets—the morning Deresi had pledged her love—coursed through Shadyia’s veins and spurred her heart to beat. I will never leave you, and I will always come for you. Shadyia had never made such a promise to anyone before.
She yanked her thoughts from the past and listened in on the men walking a few paces in front of her. Aaron was asking his apprentice what it had been like to hear Verthandi’s voice in his thoughts.
“I didn’t know it was his voice,” Benjamin replied. “I thought it was mine.”
Aaron swept a hand through his graying hair and narrowed his gaze at the young man. “But you had no idea how to open the tower. Didn’t it seem odd to you that these thoughts were in your head?”
Benjamin shrugged. “It does now. At the time, I thought I was just guessing, experimenting. Do this, turn that, push, pull—and then the doors opened. I couldn’t believe it.”
Shadyia seized the pommel of her blacksteel sword. She couldn’t believe Benjamin had left Janell outside while he bumbled around inside the Black Tower. Janell may be a fellow sister of the Silver Rose, but for all of Madam Amrita’s training, she was a mewling kitten lost in a rainstorm. Anderholm was no city to walk about alone, even for a veteran with a drawn sword and a stern gaze on every dark alley. Shadyia tamped down her anger. If Benjamin hadn’t opened the doors of the tower and entered, she, Deresi and Aaron would now be facing a slow death from thirst and starvation in Mirrikh’s oubliette, the place the ancient magician had used to forget people who had angered him.
Aaron led them north. They followed the smooth stones of Queen’s Way, the scrape of their footfalls the only sounds in the damp streets. Shadyia glanced around. Too quiet. Today was the second day of Samprina and so the citizens were either fasting in their homes or visiting relatives in the country, but the silence didn’t feel right. Anderholm was a city of noise. The clap of hooves, the roll of wagons, merchants bellowing over one another, armed guards hollering to clear a path for a snobbish lord on horseback, the squeal of orphaned children, the bark of dogs—chaos was the lifeblood of Anderholm. Quiet did not become the trade capitol of the northern realms.
“Here, this way.” Aaron turned them down a long alley between the Ministry of Art and a pottery warehouse. As Shadyia recalled, the alley ended at the Rum Barrel Inn near the Bridge of Swans. Aaron’s Featherquill Manor, packed with the historical books he had written over his many centuries, was a short walk up a winding road past the other mansions in the Artisan Quarter. When they arrived, he had promised to treat them to an evening of relaxing and recovering. Shadyia blew a gust through her lips at the thought. After two days and a night in the dark, twisting halls of labyrinth, pits of spikes hidden under false floors and shadow beasts that drained the life from their victims, she craved a quiet evening in Deresi’s arms more than all the gold in Anderholm. I just hope Janell made it back there without trouble.
Midway through the alley, a single-horse cart, driven by two cloaked men, rolled toward them. Shadyia and the others flattened themselves against the wall. She turned her head as it passed. Some mortified soul lay wrapped in a heavy cloth in the back of the cart. Likely the men were gravediggers on their way to—The corpse! Shadyia recognized its white boots.
“Stop that cart!”
The driver snapped his reins against the horse as Aaron grabbed the air and twisted his fist. The wheels locked and dragged until the cart screeched to a halt. The driver lashed his reins again, but the horse only reared. The men, one thin and the other large, jumped back off the bench, stepped around the wrapped figure and dropped to the street. They threw open their cloaks and pulled out a pair of long knives. Shadyia drew her blacksteel sword as she and Aaron met them halfway. Aaron twisted his hands, palms outward, and the fat one was hurled against the wall by an unseen force. The other stood dumbfounded until Shadyia knocked the knife out of his hand with a downward slash and pressed the tip of her sword under his chin.
“Over there, move,” she said, urging the driver, a man with dark lines tattooed on half his face, to stand next to his fat companion. He lifted his hands in surrender and complied.
The force holding the large man released, but Shadyia moved the tip and pricked the fleshy pouch under his chin. “Drop the knife.”
The knife clattered to the street and the fat man lifted his portly arms.
“Dee, check the cart.”
Deresi snatched the thin man’s knife off the ground and leaped into the cart. Shadyia heard her cut the ropes. She glanced down the alley to make sure no others were coming, but only Benjamin stood there, ringing his hands and looking as if he were not sure what he should do.
Silence from the cart drove Shadyia to risk a glance. Deresi was sitting back on her heels, her shoulders slumped, staring down at the person she had partly exposed beneath the cloth. “Dee, who is it? Is it Janell?”
Deresi’s mouth moved but no sound came out. “I…”
What’s wrong with her? “Dee!”
“I can’t tell!” Deresi briefly covered her lips with trembling fingers. “I think it is.”
Benjamin charged, jolting Shadyia as he passed, and leaped into the cart.
A freezing wave passed over Shadyia. Deresi couldn’t tell? She glanced at Aaron, who had remained at her side, then faced the portly man and jabbed him with the tip. “What did you do to her?”
The fat man’s jaw shuddered and a drop of blood leaked down his pouch. “She asked to join us.”
Shadyia nearly stabbed him again when Benjamin’s wail echoed along the alley. “Mentor, please help!”
Aaron rushed the cart as Shadyia coiled back her sword, daring either man to move. She glanced as Aaron further pulled open the cloth, stained dark red on the inside, to reveal a naked body. Benjamin wailed anew as Aaron placed a hand on her forehead. Deresi scooted back into the corner of the cart and stared at Janell, as motionless as one posing for a sculpture.
Benjamin sobbed. “What have they done to her?”
“She’s alive,” Aaron said.
Movement from the tattooed man caught Shadyia’s attention. His hands came down—back!—and she stabbed deep in his shoulder.
He snarled, reeled and fell against the wall, his hand over the wound. “You bitch.” He checked the blood on his fingers.“Next time it will be your eye.”
A bellow of anguish tore Shadyia from the men. Aaron fell off the cart, hit the cobbled stones hard, and rolled on the ground. Benjamin called his name and jumped down as Deresi stood high on her knees, her face pale.
Benjamin kneeled and grabbed Aaron by the shoulders. “Mentor, what’s wrong, what’s happened?”
Aaron knocked the hands away and rolled on his side, agony twisting his face. He howled and thrashed as if someone had set fire to his clothing. Shadyia glared at the men. Had they done something? No. They stood with gaping mouths and baffled stares.
His hands covering his face, Aaron seemed to bring his torment under control. He sat up and turned eyes of pure rage on Shadyia’s prisoners. “Innocenti. They mutilated her,” he said through seething gasps. “That one and that one. There was a third, but he’s not here. They raped and tortured her for hours.”
He pushed Benjamin back, rolled to his feet, and brought his hands up as if he were lifting the end of a table. The men slammed against the wall and slid up until their feet dangled.
“Vile warlock,” the tattooed one said then spat. “Fate will be your judge.”
About the Author
The Shadyia Ascendant Book Series is the kind of fantasy book I wanted to read, but could never find. Sexy, powerful, positive.
The heroes are beaten, but are never broken.
Although this is a medieval setting (more or less 15th century Renaissance), the characters don’t scratch at fleas and trug through the book ass-deap in mud and blood and disease. I’m sure all that is accurate, but I never wanted to read about it.
I wanted magic that is rare, women that are bold and beautiful, mysterious magicians with a hidden agenda, and gods that move mortals about like pieces on a chessboard. That’s the book I wanted.
I was inspired by the fantasy writer David Gemmell in terms of pace. When you read one of his books, you get your money’s worth. He won’t spend eleven chapters with this characters arguing in a castle. The term “I could never put it down” fits a Gemmell book perfectly, and it’s what I have striven to accomplish in the Shadyia Ascendant series.
Get ready for a sexy adventure you won’t soon forget!
A graduate in history, specializing in Central-European history, I’m an avid computer gamer, reader enthusiast, and teacher of English as a foreign language. I’m American and currently reside in Poland.
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