You’d think anything with a pu**y was pretty.”

The scowl this time . . . for her. “First off, we don’t do that anymore. Second, not al Northland males did it in the first place. And third, I have no idea how pretty your pu**y is, but I do like your face.”

Rhona reached up, patted his cheek. “You’re sweet.” She closed her eyes. “And I’m tired. Can we have sex another time?”

“Were we planning to have sex?”

“I was. But I’m too tired. So another day, yes?”

“Al right.” The Northlander lay down and snuggled in close, his nose tickling her ear. “Another day of lots of sex,” he murmured, his breath warm against her neck.

“I didn’t say anything about lots.”

“No. You didn’t.” And she could feel him smile. “But I did.”

Junius Bato Toranius of the House of Toranius knew he was one of the most powerful dragons in the Quintilian Sovereigns. Only Overlord Thracius held higher rank. But when it came to actual power . . . wel , that was one area the good Overlord never tested Junius on.

Yet, as with al things, there was a price to pay for his power, for his skil as a mage. It wasn’t too high a price, though. Junius merely had to ensure that al Irons worshipped one, and only one, god. And that as the power of the Irons spread throughout the world, this worship of one god would spread along with it.


Not easy. Some were quite attached to their multiple gods. But the Quintilians knew many ways to get and keep the loyalty of those whose countries they invaded and eventual y conquered.

The lands to the east of the Provinces would be no different.

Junius stood alone in the dry riverbed and waited. Like his father before him, he was very good at waiting, patience being important for any mage.

The hard earth in front of him stirred and cracked and the one god pushed his way up and through.

Chramnesind. The Sightless One. A name he’d received because he had no eyes, for Chramnesind saw wel enough without them. In fact, he could see everything.

“My god,” Junius said softly. “You summoned me.”

“I did, Junius Toranius. Good fortune has shined upon you.” He smiled. “And my true reign is about to begin. . . .”

Chapter 11

A fist slammed into his chest twice, but he wasn’t surprised to open his eyes and find a scowling Rhona staring down at him. He’d had a feeling she’d be dealing with some remorse this morning, and he’d be facing her wrath. But he’d been more than wil ing to risk al that because he real y liked Rhona. A lot. And he was wil ing to risk a little Fire Breather rage if it meant getting closer to her.

“I know you’re mad, but—”

She held her finger to her lips, silencing him. Then with the same finger, she pointed to a spot in front of them.

Vigholf raised his head, blinking hard.

There was an early morning mist over everything, the suns just peeking over the low hil s in the distance, and yet Vigholf could see her. She stood there. Alone. Watching them. One hand gripping a stuffed toy dog, the tips of her fingers from the other hand stuffed in her mouth. Curly silver hair surrounded ful cheeks and stark violet eyes stared at them.

Vigholf sat up, looked around. There were no Kyvich. None of Rhona’s kin. No nanny. No one was watching a girl who was never alone. How had she gotten out here on her own . . . ?

“Hel o, darling girl,” he said softly, resting his arm on his raised knee. “You al right?”

“They’re here,” the girl whispered.

“Who’s here?” Rhona asked, keeping her voice equal y soft, unchal enging.

“She sent them. From the west. They’re here.”

“We better get her inside,” Vigholf said, getting to his feet, but the girl stepped back.

“It’s too late for us. We’re in it. But not for her. Not for them. They stil have a chance. But someone has to help them before it’s too late.”

“Do you have any idea what or who she’s talking about?”

“Not at al ,” Rhona admitted. “But that doesn’t matter right now.” Rhona walked toward her. “We need to get her inside before—” The sudden cal from the Kyvich cut off the rest of Rhona’s words.

“Damn.” Knowing how the Kyvich could easily overreact to Rhian being outside the castle wal s without the usual protection, Vigholf quickly picked the girl up.

There was another cal from the Kyvich and, scowling, he locked gazes with Rhona. They both knew a warning cal when they heard it and he was sensing it had little to do with them and the girl.

“Let’s move,” he ordered while running, knowing Rhona would fol ow.

But Rhona cal ed out, “Vigholf!”

He stopped. Looked at the girl in his arms. “They’re here,” she said again, her expression much older than her six winters in this world would suggest.

Realizing what she meant, Vigholf dove behind a cart, Rhona landing right by his side mere seconds before everything went dark from the onslaught of arrows.

“We need to get her inside,” Rhona said once the arrows stopped.

“I know. But we have a bigger issue than getting her inside.”

“What?” Rhona demanded.

“Catching them before they clear the fence.”

With smal swords in hand, the twins charged past them, shooting around the gate.

“Piss and fire!” Rhona snarled, scrambling to her feet and running after them. “Get Rhian inside!” she yel ed to Vigholf.

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