Iren’s will steeled. Minawë needed to get to Ziorsecth. He couldn’t surrender. With nothing left but a desire not to let down this woman who genuinely believed in him, Iren hauled the unconscious Kodama onto his back. He tried drawing on magic to restore some of his stamina, but he couldn’t feel it at all.
The storm crashed with more intensive fervor, as though nature itself wanted to keep him from accomplishing his goal. Nevertheless he marched on a slow, inexorable trek west.
He didn’t know if he was awake or dreaming. He wasn’t even certain he was still alive. Minawë’s body pressed against his, limp and breathless. With her on his back, her face rested on his shoulder. Even in this state, appearing as old as Rondel had, she still looked more beautiful than anyone he’d ever known. Though her eyes were shut, he recalled their emerald hue like two tiny forests, strong and frail at the same time.
He leaned his head against hers and rubbed her fine hair, undamaged despite her many ordeals. Its vibrant green, however, had vanished. All the hair he could see was white. Her lips, too, had lost their fullness and luster. Only now, staring at her lifeless visage, did he realize how much, in just a few days, he’d come to love her. He blamed himself for her misfortunes. If only he’d ridden faster, he might have saved her. If they could have stayed in Akaku just a few more hours, perhaps that would have given her the time she needed.
Her skin felt cold. It was over; he had failed. Reluctantly, he let her body fall.
As her face drifted from view, he started. He thought he’d seen a movement in her lips, or perhaps a shred of color in her cheeks. He pulled her tightly to him again, but she gave him no further sign, if indeed she’d given him one in the first place. Nevertheless, that wisp of life, real or imagined, motivated him. Despite the pouring rain, despite the dead weight of her body on his back, and despite his own exhaustion, he would continue until the end.
He tripped often, slipping in the ubiquitous mud of this vile place. Several times he stumbled not from the wet ground but from his own weakness. In desperation, he set down Minawë, then discarded his shirt, cloak, and even the sheath to the Muryozaki. His load that tiny bit lighter, he hefted Minawë onto his back and continued trudging.
As Iren became certain he could not take another step, he finally saw, at the limits of his vision, a line of trees. Hope came to him at last. It was the forest! It must be, for in a few more moments he would surely die. With the last of his strength he forced himself under the shield of its canopy. Beneath its boughs he gently set the lifeless woman he’d sacrificed himself for on the ground. His task completed, he collapsed amid the leaves and surrendered to the void.
From fantasy author Josh VanBrakle comes an epic new trilogy of friendship, betrayal, and explosive magic. Lefthanded teenager Iren Saitosan must uncover a forgotten history, confront monsters inspired by Japanese mythology, and master a serpentine dragon imprisoned inside a katana to stop a revenge one thousand years in the making.
Lodian culture declares lefthanded people dangerous and devil-spawned, and for Iren, the kingdom's only known Left, that's meant a life of social isolation. To pass the time and get a little attention, he plays pranks on the residents of Haldessa Castle. It's harmless fun, until one of his stunts nearly kills Lodia's charismatic heir to the throne. Now to avoid execution for his crime, Iren must join a covert team and assassinate a bandit lord. It's a suicide mission, and Iren's chances aren't helped when he learns that his new katana contains a dragon's spirit, one with a magic so powerful it can sink continents and transform Iren into a raging beast.
Adding to his problems, someone on Iren's team is plotting treason. When a former ally launches a brutal plan to avenge the Lefts, Iren finds himself trapped between competing loyalties. He needs to figure out who - and how - to trust, and the fates of two nations depend on his choice.
"A fast-paced adventure...led by a compelling cast of characters. Josh VanBrakle keeps the mysteries going." - ForeWord Reviews
Genre – YA epic fantasy
Rating – PG-13
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