Mage Slave (The Enslaved Chronicles #1) - R. K. Thorne Page 0,1

mage-knots away, and just like that, Miara’s agony was over.

Stars and yellow splotches danced before Miara’s eyes, and she swayed as though she might fall to the marble. No, she thought. No. She forced herself steady, to reach out with her mind for anything nearby to regain her strength. But with the raven gone, there was nothing alive in this hellish place, only cold marble blackness. An earth mage could have thrived here on the energy locked in the stone, but she was a creature mage. She needed living, breathing energies, and the Mistress and her guards were sadly off-limits. Another breath, and thankfully, the stars faded. Another, and she felt like herself again.

The Mistress had seated herself on her pseudo-throne behind the banquet table and was eating a grape. Miara discovered that she was on her knees. Her body ached. She could feel the Mistress’s orders taking root, a new craving planted inside her, the seedling of a dark vine sprouting around her heart.

Kidnap a prince. She had never kidnapped someone before. Eavesdropping on the king or his advisers, sure, and the occasional theft from a noble. She had yet to go on a mission where the mark hadn’t proved to be corrupt, if not downright evil, so she had never lost much sleep over her activities, but… could anyone really deserve to be kidnapped?

“Do you have any questions?” the Mistress asked.

Yes, she thought. But you can’t answer that one. “If Dekana could not—”

“That does not matter.” Again, the eye twitch. This is not how Dekana died, Miara thought. But she would like for me to believe it is.

“I have never kidnapped someone, or even stolen anything larger than a book—”

“And that is not a question.”

“When must I begin?” she asked, trying and failing to hide the irritation in her voice. She knew to ask this from experience. If she didn’t, her cursed bond would drive her mad with an irrational need to rush off, prepared or not.

“Take time to prepare and gather what you need to be effective, but no more. Master Daes has wagered you are more than capable of this task. Your precocious nature has quite caught his attention. You wouldn’t want to let him down.” Her eye twitched again.

The Dark Master. Daes was his real name. He was the only one bold enough to let the mage slaves know his name. Why would he wager on her? She did not want his attention. But fear of him would not help her now—she needed to focus. Was there anything else she needed to know? Anything she needed to get the Mistress to amend to the orders she’d just received?

“Do I need to bring him back by a certain day? I can be quick or quiet, but not both.”

“Err on the side of stealth. No one must know that we are the ones who have him, and you must not be caught. But if you have not returned in one turning of the moon, we will send others to… assist you. Any other questions?”

Miara shook her head. She had many questions, but none for the Mistress.

“So be it,” said the Mistress with a curt nod. “Go. Do not disappoint us.”

Miara turned and left. Her horse Kres waited outside. They headed for the library, which would hopefully ease some of her already-mounting desire to be gone, to throw caution to the wind and ride full gallop for Akaria. She could not go unprepared, she reminded herself. The Mistress had commanded. The tension that had intensified at the sight of her horse eased.

As Kres led the way, her eye caught on a fallen branch from a large oak tree against the wall of the dormitory building. She whispered a bit of energy across the wind to it, and her eyes lingered to see the first buds. Leaves of a rosebush broke from beneath the bark, and fragile tendrils of roots reached down into the earth. Her blooms would be bloodred; they always were.

“It’s high time we found a suitable wife for you, Aven.”

“Suitable, yes. Excellent choice of words, Mother,” he replied. Eyes closed, Aven took a deep breath of the crisp fall air and savored the sunlight on his face. Inside, the drafts that rattled through the stony corridors would be colder than the wind out here. This terrace was his favorite spot, a shrine of sunlight carved out of the side of the mountain.

“If you never meet this woman, how will you know if she’s suitable?” He opened