Robbed of her husband by the arrows of assassins, Tia must flee to the Northern Prince who has always wanted her. But the price of Hilgi’s protection is too high. Separated from her land and her Goddess, can Tia find a way to return to them…and to a love that may redeem her?
Light flooded through the opening. Hilgi’s tread was heavy upon the stone floor; he was a big man. He looked just as I had seen him some months earlier. He still wore the circlet of a Northern prince, the gold armbands of a Chieftain’s son, and his Havacian battle axe strapped to his chest. His furious expression was the same, as well. So he had looked the day he clove our mutual enemy King Edred of Tumagia in twain with that axe or its twin.
“What have they done to you?” he asked in Omani. It was the only language we had in common. But I did not care to speak on that day and I was the Queen and could do as I liked, so I kept silence.
“What have they not done to you?” he demanded again, wrenching open the drapes. I flinched as he sank into a knee-bend beside my chair, taking my chin firmly inhis big hand and looking into my face. “When did you last eat, Tia? You look like death!”
I made no reply and he backhanded me. I blinked.
“That’s the first one,” he said. “Every time you ignore me, you’ll get another.” I was more shocked than hurt and the hot seep of rage began to fill me like water soaking through a sponge. “Bad enough I was beaten by King Edred and a slave dealer in Omana…but you?”
“That’s better.” Tipping me forward to wrap the quilt from my bed around me, he lifted me, effortlessly. The world spun when he changed my position and I clutched him in panic as he bore me from that chamber, pausing only to kick my chair across the room so hard I could hear the solid oak splinter like kindling.
“That was a perfectly good chair,” I objected.
“I’ll make you another.”
In the hallway, Alcinic guards were deep in conversation with some of Hilgi’s Ancient Order fighters--men feared throughout the world for their habit of cutting out their enemies’ hearts still beating.
“No crying, little Tia,” Hilgi said softly. “If you want your men to live, be silent.”
I was weak from starvation, grief and near-madness and it took me a few moments to realize that Hilgi and his men had not come from the last fighting in Tumagia to pay honor to my dead husband. They had come for me.
That is why the Prince of Havacia carried me like a doll into pounding surf to one of the oiled leather skiffs Havacians used for passengers. Other craft would not attempt to come past the offshore island called Lady’s Weeping for its habit of causing wrecks, but the red and white striped sails of King Maruk’s fleet bobbed there on a fierce undertow and men took me speedily to Hilgi’s ship, the Boar’s Head. Ships of the Ancient Order--their macabre prows carved in the shape of gods and demons--surrounded it, but only skeleton crews were aboard. The other men who had sailed with Hilgi held my soldiers at swords’ point while their Prince absconded with me.