Mage Strike | The Enslaved Chronicles: Book 2

The fight for freedom begins.

The hard part should have been over. Former slave Miara and Crown Prince Aven have escaped with their freedom and their lives. From kidnapper and captive, they’ve grown into a powerful partnership. And they’ve returned to the mountain fortress of Estun, triumphant, to warn his people of the rising menace just across their border.

But escape was only the first step. War looms. Hundreds of mages still live in slavery. Neither the king nor the queen believes the people will support a foreign spy as crown princess, no matter how loyal Miara truly is. And enemy agents plot to keep Aven from the throne by any means necessary, be they mundane—or murderous.

On top of it all, the Dark Master has plans of his own: to enslave a vast mage army bound to his will alone. To obliterate all knowledge of the forbidden star magic, no matter the cost. And to get a little revenge too, while he’s at it.

Powerful new enemies, tenacious new allies, and earth-shaking magic join Aven and Miara in this second volume of the Enslaved Chronicles.

 

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Chapter 2: Rumors & Agendas

Jaena missed the blast with her staff. Her body spun sideways, off-balance, and she cursed as she went down. She’d blocked the last dozen, but one had finally gotten through. Damn.

Face in the dirt. Hell. That would be the last time. She let herself indulge in the soft vibrations of energy emanating from the soil for just a brief moment. Just to recharge. Not that she needed it. She wasn’t tired. She was fine.

She sighed. Her sister would not have fallen. She had rarely made mistakes like these. But then again, Dekana had been a natural at everything. Jaena was not much like her in that respect.

It didn’t matter. She had determination and little else. She would be a great fighter or die trying. Someone would pay for what had happened to Dekana.

She spread her fingers as though readying to push herself up, only slightly nestling them into the calm reassurance of the soil. The bark-colored, packed earth of the training grounds had more clay than most, leaving it not quite as dark as her skin, but close.

Steps approached. She scrambled to her feet but not fast enough. She adjusted her tawny leather vest and the white tunic underneath, brushing off the dust with her fingers. Much as she loved the earth, she didn’t love it on her outfit. Sorin, their teacher, stopped in front of her. Wherever he’d been a few days ago, he’d returned with a fire under his arse. She straightened to her full height and looked down her nose at him. Although he was tall, she was still a good two fingers taller.

“Back at it, Farsai.”

He turned on a heel and stalked away. She scowled after him. Ignorant bastard. He liked to throw around epithets, a pathetic attempt at intimidation that only proved what an idiot he was. She wasn’t even from Farsa. If he actually listened to a word she said, he would hear no accent. But she wasn’t holding her breath for that to happen.

Kae gave her a sheepish shrug and mouthed a silent “Sorry.” Although similarly blond and pale, Kae couldn’t be more different from their teacher. She waved off his concern. Her friend was just doing his job. After dozens of practice blasts, she was bound to miss one or two. And how would she get better if he didn’t push her? If it were a real battle, those one or two blasts could be deadly.

It was good to have goals. Like revenge. And not missing another volley for the rest of the day. And maybe deflecting one at Sorin’s backside.

Kae had far less interest in buffeting her with blasts of energy than she had in deflecting them. At least for her it was a practical skill. Earth mages did not take so easily to combat as air mages like Kae. If they took to it at all. But she would. She had to.

“Again,” barked Sorin. He was pacing up and down the rows of practicing mages, observing and “correcting” but mostly just being a nuisance.

She placed one hand on the staff two handbreadths above the other, sunk down into horse stance, and held the weapon straight in a plumb line to the earth, listening for its rhythm, making the connection as quickly and instinctively as possible. This wasn’t just any staff, but one spelled to defend against air attacks in particular, or else she couldn’t have managed. Fortunately, there was little disadvantage to relying on a weapon beyond the fact that you could lose it.

Supposedly they would also learn how to fight back eventually. Every morning she hoped that was the day, but they hadn’t gotten to it yet. If they ever would.

Kae sent another wave of energy, a shock of lightning this time, and this one she managed to capture and channel down into the welcoming earth in spite of her wandering thoughts. Good. It was becoming more automatic.

Sorin had reached the far end of the mages, as far out of earshot as he would get, and Kae seemed to be waiting for him to do so, eying their teacher over his shoulder every few moments. “Have you heard the rumors?” He cupped his hand and kept his voice low, otherwise putting all his body language into readying another blast.

“What?” The next wave hit. The gentler gust of wind sent her a little off-balance to the left, but she worked with it, spinning a little and righting herself quickly. Back in position.

“I’ll take that as a no.” Kae eyed Sorin’s position again, hesitating. “Rumor is a mage escaped.” Her eyes widened, and he grinned. “See, I thought you’d like that. Was surprised you wasn’t the one telling me.” Kae, unlike her, did have an accent, some kind of backcountry farm dialect. Refreshing, when those who talked like her mostly had nothing nice to say. Len, a mage to his left, shot him a dangerous look.

“Don’t go spreading lies, Kae.”

“No lie, if it’s true.”