Sylph Series #1
Sometimes, love means war.
He is one of many: a creature of magic, unrelentingly male. He is lured through the portal by pure female beauty, a virgin sacrifice. When she is killed, he is silenced and enslaved.
Such a dark ritual is necessary, you see. Unlike their elemental cousins-those gentler sylphs of wind and fire-Battlers find no joy in everyday labor. Their magic can destroy an army or demolish a castle, and each has but one goal: find a Queen, then protect and pleasure her at all costs. What would a woman do if she were given such a servant, and what would befall any kingdom foolish enough to allow a Battler to escape?
Young Solie and the people of Eferem are about to find out.
4 1/2 stars at RT Book Reviews.
“Lovers of Stardust and The Princess Bride rejoice! A must for every Fantasy library.”
—Barbara Vey, blogger, Publishers Weekly
“Refreshingly different, with an almost classic fantasy flavor…an exceptional literary debut.”
—John Charles, reviewer, The Chicago Tribune and Booklist
“A fresh new voice in fantasy romance…. I loved the characters and mythology!”
Bestselling Author of The Paladins of Darkness
“An exciting new fantasy world!”
—Ellen Higuchi, Borders Romance expert and bookseller
“A fabulous read, cover to cover.”
—New York Times Bestselling Author C. L. Wilson
“Unlike anything I’ve ever read. A brilliant adventure with tremendous heart. You’ll love this book.”
—New York Times Bestselling Author Marjorie Liu
“A remarkable new voice and a stunningly original world…. An amazing start to what promises to be a truly engaging series!”
—Jill M. Smith, RT Book Reviews
“Wonderful, innovative and fresh. Don’t miss this fantastic story.”
—#1 New York Times Bestselling Author Christine Feehan
They brought the sacrifice in before dawn, while the streets were mostly empty and the roads still dark. Only the castle and its inner environs were lit, the Fire Sylphs mostly concerned with keeping the buildings warm in the frigid winter air. Keeping the streets outside the walls lit was less important.
Devon watched them bring her in from where he stood on the ramparts of the castle, huddling in his cloak and waiting for the ship. At least, he assumed it was a sacrifice as the cart was driven in through the old back gate, three armed men sitting in it around something covered in canvas. Whatever it was, it moved. There’d been whispers that they were going to summon another Battle Sylph. The prince was of age and no simple Sylph would ever be considered good enough for him.
Devon sighed, glad that his Sylph at least hadn’t needed anyone to die before she could be bound to him. He could feel her, hovering incorporeal in the air around him, waiting like he did for the ship. When she wanted to, she could take on solid shape, as all Sylphs could, but she preferred to be invisible most of the time, dancing on the air she could control. First summoned by his grandfather, she’d been passed down to him through his father for a gift of music, bound to him for the rest of his life. She didn’t mind. He felt her contentment in the back of his mind. It was said the men who bound the Battlers felt nothing but their hate. Certainly anyone near them felt it.
The wind was cold, snow blowing across his body as he stood there, huddling deeper against the lee of the castle. “Hey, Airi,” he called, teeth chattering. “It’s freezing. Can you do something about the wind?”
The presence grew closer, a face forming out of swirling snow. It’s a big ship, she reminded him.
“I don’t think keeping me from freezing to death will use up too much of your energy,” he replied and the wind stopped around him, the air not quite warm but not so bitterly cold anymore either. “Thank you.”
A silver laugh answered him and he shook himself, brushing the snow off his cloak and looking up. Where they stood, there was a wide space a hundred feet across, easy for a ship to land on. Usually they docked during the day, but this one wasn’t the usual trade ship. It was rumoured it had been bait for pirates instead. Three ships they’d attacked so far, taking the cargo though releasing the crew, but the King wasn’t known for tolerating anything and this latest ship had gone out armed with two Battlers. Whatever they’d found, they were on their way back now in a damaged ship. Devon’s job was to use Airi to help Tempest, the Air Sylph on the ship, land. They hadn’t told him when it would be arriving though and he’d already been out half the night waiting.
He wouldn’t complain about it though, he thought with a sigh. The same as he wouldn’t ask what happened to damage the ship or about that cart he’d seen. Air Sylphs were easy to get, as were those of Earth, Fire, and Water. Someone like him could be replaced if they started questioning too much, and it had happened before, especially when Battlers were involved. Theywere rare, fortunately. Devon didn’t like to think about what kind of damage even one could do.
Even though he knew better and had just finished reminding himself how expendable he was, he did look back down over the ramparts at the cart, now vanishing inside. A ship sent out for bait with twoBattlers on it. A sacrifice brought in to summon a new Battler for the prince. That upset the normal world Devon was used to, where he didn’t have to worry about anything but his work and Airi. Devon was happy being an Air Sylph master. He didn’t want to think about anything else.
He felt sorry for the girl who was going to be killed though.
“Do you sense Tempest yet?” he asked.
Devon sighed, leaning back against the rampart again. At least he wasn’t cold anymore. He closed his eyes, trying to catch a bit of rest. Late night or not, he still had a full day tomorrow. Airi would wake him if anyone came though. Sylphs rarely slept.
Devon looked up. Enough time had passed while he dozed that dawn was starting to break, and on the skyline, he could finally see a ship coming towards them. It was huge, its hull rounded on the sides like an ocean going ship, but the bottom of the hull was flat and the sails rigged the sides. The only waves this ship sailed were those of the Sylph who bore it. Tempest was a major Sylph, one much more powerful than his little Airi. Devon was almost envious as he watched the thing float silently in.
I’m just young, Airi told him.
“I know,” he soothed, not wanting her upset. An upset Sylph was nearly painful for their master. He didn’t know how the Battlers’ masters handled it. “If you weren’t, we’d spend all our time on a ship.” He’d hardly see his father again.
The ship slowed to a stop overhead and he felt Tempest’s winds beat against him harshly as Airi went to help the other Sylph. Together, they lowered the vessel into the stone of the castle and lifted a ramp up to it.
The ship’s sides had gaping holes torn in it and one of the sails was torn, Devon noted as he walked forward. It was no wonder they wanted the extra help to land her. Devon looked at the burns marks she’d suffered and he felt a cold that didn’t have anything to do with the weather.
As he approached, a man came down the newly set ramp, pulling his coat closed around him. Shortly after, a behemoth in full armour stomped after him, light gleaming out through the eyeholes of his helm. Recognizing them both, Devon bowed deeply and the man in the lead swept by him without even slowing. Jasar Doliard was dressed like a dandy, his face pinched with pride and he didn’t even see the man he passed. He was one of the courtiers, in favour with the King and the council enough to win himself a Battle Sylph. Mace stomped after him and Devon wished the creature would ignore him as well. Those glowing eyes within the helm locked on him anyway. At least, it looked like a helm. It was very probable that the armour was physically a part of the Battler and not separate at all. Devon could feel the hate rolling off the Sylph. He didn’t do anything, not without his master’s command. Mace usually didn’t do anything other than hate either. He just stood around near his master and looked impressive. It would have been a waste of a Battler if they weren’t so horrific when they did act.
Behind Jasar came the second Battle Sylph master. He was a well built blond man, though nowhere near the size of Mace, and his Sylph didgo into battle. Leon Petrule had been the King’s head of security and lead Battler Master for years. Leon’s Battler took the form of a red feathered hawk, perched on his shoulder, and Devon felt its hate as clearly as he had Mace’s. Ril’s was even sharper than the first Battler and the bird’s grip tightened on his master’s shoulder when he saw Devon, cutting into the leather.
Devon just bowed deeper, not wanting either of their attention on him. The only thing the Battler’s knew how to do was hate. All they were good for was killing and he was beyond grateful no one ever suggested he master one, though a man could only be master to a single Sylph at a time anyway. Even if that weren’t so, he didn’t have the spirit for it. You had to have a certain hardness to your soul to hold one of them in thrall. Leon had it. For all his frilly clothes and brown-nosing attitude, Jasar had it. Devon wondered if the King’s pansy son would and found himself doubting it.
Airi flowed around him, taking on shape as a whirlwind of leaves as Leon, to Devon’s dismay, stopped before him. Ril shifted on his shoulder, looking at the Air Sylph out of one eye. Devon bowed again.
“You didn’t see anything tonight,” the man told him. “Understood?”
Devon bowed even deeper. “Yes, my Lord.”
“Good.” He continued on.
Devon waited until they were gone before he straightened. His hands were shaking. “Airi,” he managed. Her attention focused on him, a breeze in his mind. “Tell no one about tonight.”
There was no argument. That’s what it meant to be a master. She was beholden to him, unable to disobey. Should he die, she would return to the otherworld she came from, never to return, unless he passed her on to a new master first. She’d been his father’s and grandfather’s before him, but now Devon held her there and he owned her loyalty. Even the Battlers followed that rule.
Devon shuddered, turning back to the ship to help unload as the crew started to emerge, and an explosion shocked him to his knees. Gasping, he scrambled to his feet and ran to the edge of the ramparts he’d been standing beside for most of the night. Looking down, he saw a massive hole blown out of the side of the castle, near the base, and heard a cry of something inhuman. It was an outraged scream, one he’d heard only once before, on a day he still couldn’t forget in his dreams. A moment later, a winged shape shot out of the hole, wings beating as it angled upwards. Devon gasped as he felt its hate.
A Battle Sylph shaped like a cloud filled with lightning flew up into the sky, already vanishing in the early morning light. It was carrying something, something with long red hair and pale limbs, something that shrieked with fright and clung to it.
“Airi,” Devon gasped, not knowing what he was thinking or why he did so. “Follow them.” In a moment, the Sylph was gone, chasing the air currents after them.
Devon stood alone on the ramparts, staring after them and wondering how any girl could manage to handle a Battler.