While Krag and her mage-mentor, Brana, are traveling for pleasure, bad news arrives. Evil traitorous mage, Owen, is free. Believing herself in danger, the young queen, Jaime, designates a reluctant Krag as her heir. In time, Krag suspects Brana of setting herself as bait to lure Owen from hiding. Her fears come true when Brana is captured.
Owen delivers an ultimatum to Jaime: Yield the throne or face five days of disaster before he, ultimately, destroys Brana. Jaime is determined to fight, and Krag determined to save Brana. As Krag relies on deception and magic to find a solution, the risk to all she loves is terrible.
|Series||The Firewing Trilogy|
|Author||Virginia G. McMorrow|
|Release||February 7, 2017|
|Tags||Magic, crown, evil, sisters, family, trust, mentors and friends, adventure|
Without a word, I scooped the worn travel pack from the ground and tossed it on the bed. Grabbing the tunic and vest I'd cast aside when we'd first arrived two days earlier, I stuffed them in the pack and searched the room for anything else I missed. My comb, soap, and dirty wool socks caught my eye and landed in the pack, too.
Sweaty hands gripped the bulging pouch for safety as I jerked my head around to see what Brana could possibly want. Couldn't she see I had to move?
"What are you doing?"
"Packing. Stuffing my clothes into my bag," I growled, returning my attention to the stubborn belt that wouldn't quite fit into the heavily laden bag. "What do you think I'm doing?"
"Panicking, for one."
"Your mage shield is slipping."
Brana held my tense gaze as I released the death grip on the leather pack and spun around to face her, my skin burning with shame and embarrassment at being caught careless. Without a word to my teacher, I focused on magic and rebuilt the shielding that hid its presence with more difficulty than usual, a sure sign of my distress and, yes, panic.
"Sit down," she said quietly, as though I were a wild, desperate beast she was trying very hard not to provoke.
"I can't. You know I can't. I have to go back to the Isle of Bourney and tell Jaime she's crazy."
Brana glanced at her sister. "I imagine the queen had legitimate reasons for her, ah, unorthodox, decision."
"The, ah, queen," Jassy cleared her throat with delicacy and left the window ledge to sit on the bed next to my travel pack, "did have some compelling reasons that she asked me to share with Krag." The shapechanger patted the bed, treating me more like an errant child than a wild beast. Obviously, Jassy had children of her own. Brana only had me. "Sit down, girl."
"No offense, Jassy, but I'd rather not."
I can't speak civilly to a tall, lanky girl towering over me when I have to discuss something of grave importance." I obeyed the maternal authority, though not without a grumble or two, which fazed the shapechanger not one bit. "Thank you. And yes, Jaime had several reasons for choosing you. One. She needed to designate an heir. She'd been planning to do it, anyway, but Owen's escape has made everything precarious. And, might I add, the girl had been thinking of you all along. She just didn't want to spook you into disappearing," Jassy murmured, keeping her expression bland.
“The proclamation is in writing, witnessed by Mage Farras, as royal master mage, and Chase, as regent. No one else knows. But don’t misunderstand, Krag. It’s official."
"Don’t you see? If she doesn’t want everyone to know, it proves I'm the wrong choice."
"It proves Jaime doesn't want to place you in jeopardy, not with Owen on the loose."
When I started to argue, Jassy placed a finger over my lips. "You asked about Jaime's reasons."
"Brana asked," I mumbled around her finger.
"Same thing." When I started to protest, she covered my mouth with her hand. "Hush, girl. Reason number two. Jaime needed to place someone in that position in whom she had absolute trust, absolute confidence to protect the welfare of her people. Although she trusts Martha, the mage isn't her family. Now I know you're not blood kin," Jassy said with aggravating calm before I could sputter around her fingers, "but you're the closest thing Jaime has to family."
"The law—" I managed to slip around her fingers.
"Yes, the law. Thank you, Krag." Jassy's smile widened a slight bit. "That's the third reason. You may think that, as you're not her blood relative, the law of Chandoria will not permit your succession. Jaime stated, and Martha confirmed, that there have been precedents for passing on the crown in this manner. In fact, Jaime's family came to the throne generations ago by a similar transfer of power. And last," the small smile that had escaped moments earlier blossomed into a bright grin, "with a nickname like Kragen Firewing, you're a symbol of hope and freedom and courage."
When Jassy didn't say anything else, yet still kept her hand over my lips, I glanced at Brana, certain to find mockery and disapproval on her face. What I saw instead was acceptance. The serenity on her weathered face unnerved me more than anything she might have said or done in our short acquaintance.
Frantic, I shoved Jassy's fingers from my mouth. "Please don't tell me you think it makes sense," I whispered to Brana, unhappy to find my fingers trembling.
"But I do." Brana sat on the side opposite me, her expression thoughtful. "I don't think you're ready to step into Jaime's shoes, not because you're not good enough," she added, "but because you haven't been trained as she’s been from birth. But I think if you had to do it now, you'd give it your heart and soul."
"But what if I don’t want to give it my heart and soul?" My voice danced a trembling little jig to accompany the shaking of my hands. "Do you know what she's asking? You just told me downstairs that people don't know what they're getting into before they jump into something, so it's not fair to judge them. Fine. I understand that lesson. But when it comes to this insane decision, I don't even want to guess what it might mean. I can't. And I don't care if you think I'm a coward or selfish," I said, lying through my teeth, disheartened when Brana only raised her eyebrow in disbelief. And still I argued. "Jaime's not being fair."
"Jaime," my teacher said, unusual softness in her voice, "is doing what she has to do for her people. Can you do any less?"