“What’s better than a story about a stubborn, likable heroine thrust into events fraught with danger, wizards, and gods? Well, all of the above, plus a goshawk” (Kristen Britain, New York Times–bestselling author of the Green Rider series). Experience the complete epic fantasy trilogy set in a unique magical world, where an orphaned healer becomes a guardian of her land and fulfills her ultimate destiny.
Path of Fate: When a goshawk named Saljane swoops into her life, young healer Reisil discovers she can communicate telepathically with the bird of prey, an undeniable sign that she has been chosen by Lady Amiya, the goddess of Kodu Riik, to become an ahalad-kaaslane—a guardian of the land. At first, Reisil resists accepting her call to service, but when a kidnapping threatens to trigger war, she embarks on a dangerous pursuit of the traitors in order to save two kingdoms.
“This delightful debut . . . intrigued me . . . and swept me away.” —Carol Berg
Path of Honor: As a deadly plague ravages the country, Reisil is horrified to find that she has lost her ability to heal. Without power, and with only the companionship of her goshawk, she is determined to figure out what is truly ailing the land. She soon realizes she must seek out the wizards she once fought against in order to defeat the scourge.
“Likable characters and plenty of action keep things entertaining.” —Locus
Path of Blood: Accompanied by her sentient goshawk, Saljane, and her loyal lover, Yohuac, Reisil travels across a war-torn land into a realm of dark sorcery. She is the only one with enough power to gain entrance to the spellbound city of Mysane Kosk and close a magical rift that threatens to consume everything and everyone she loves.
“Generates a lot of page-turning.” —Booklist
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Reisil's spine twinged protest as she lurched into a shadowed wagon rut. Her next step caught the lip of the uneven furrow and she sprawled on the hard-baked road, scraping her chin and inhaling a mouthful of powdery dust. Coughing, she struggled to her feet. She brushed the graze on her chin with tender fingers, pleased when they came away unbloodied. An anxious glance revealed that no one had witnessed her clumsiness. She sighed, licking the dust from her lips.
Not that she wasn't willing to be the brunt of a joke, but people in Kallas still saw her as the child she had been thirteen years ago, rather than as a capable tark. Tripping over her own feet didn't do much to revise that perspective. She snorted. The fever that had swept through the town three months ago had done even less. Never mind that it was one of those illnesses that had no cure, and could be treated only with sleep, fluids and time. Never mind that only two men had died — one with a weak heart and the other with bad lungs. Many more would have died if Reisil hadn't been there.
She shook her head. All Kallas knew was that there had been a major illness three months after her arrival and she'd been helpless against it.
No, she admonished, pulling herself up short. That wasn't fair. The townspeople knew well enough that things would have been worse without her. But she had wanted to shine. She wanted them to see her as a rock in the storm, not as the little abandoned girl they'd fostered.
Reisil bent and dusted herself off, scowling at the tear in her trousers. If only the fever hadn't been so recalcitrant ...
But she still had time, she reassured herself for the umpteenth time. She had six more months before the council voted on accepting her. They'd paid for her upbringing and her training. Surely they'd want some return on their investment? Surely they wouldn't decide they'd prefer to have no tark at all.
Strain pulled the corners of her mouth down. The fact was, the council could very well vote against throwing good money after bad in support of a less than competent tark. After all, for the seven years since her predecesssor's death, Kallas had made do with wandering tarks who preferred the rambling life. Which was not what she wanted to do. She meant to settle down, and right here.
Humor wriggled up through the morass of her fears. Certainly tripping over her own feet would not make them reject her, she chided herself. She giggled. Any more than dribbling food on her shirt or bumping into furniture. It was her skills that counted, and she had confidence in those.
She gripped the handles of her pack firmly. Six more months. Plenty of time. She nodded sharply and strode forward, her back straight as she set her feet carefully on the uneven ground.
Alone in the predawn, Reisil approached the gate, fishing a handful of nut mix from the pouch dangling from her belt. Behind her, the empty road rolled toward the river like an elegant pearl snake in the moonlit morning. Rising from the gauzy darkness, Reisil heard rumbling voices from the river as captains rousted their crews out of bed. From the wall above came the jingle and thump of armor and booted feet as the watch changed shift.
She halted before the inset pedestrian gate beneath the portcullis and yanked firmly on the chain. Within, dull tin bells linked and clanked. After a few moments the spyhole slid back, revealing a lantern-lit square. Reisil could see a pair of bushy salt-and-pepper eyebrows below a wrinkled brow. She stood on tiptoe to be seen better, though in truth she was not particularly short.
"Reisiltark! Is there an emergency?" The guard scratched his beard and yawned, while Reisil scrambled to recall his name.
"No emergency, Beren," she replied, triumph at the memory brightening her voice. "I'm just going to replenish supplies. Aftermath of Lady Day," she said with a little shrug and a grin. The wrinkles in Beren's brow smoothed and he chuckled understanding.
"Just a minute," he said. The spyhole snapped shut and Reisil heard the bars slide back one at a time.
He waved her inside, the metal plates on his shoulders and chest clanking together softly, the boiled leather beneath it squeaking.
"Lady Day is one of rest. But I never lived one, but that it was the day after that saw a lot more rest than not." His teeth were uneven as he smiled.
"I didn't rest," Reisil said with a little sigh and a roll of her eyes. Beren laughed and clapped her on the shoulder.
"Reckon not. Folks like to celebrate the Lady's day. Get a little boisterous with it, I suppose. Give themselves sour stomachs and such."
Reisil nodded. "Used up a lot of my stores."
"Where are you headed?"
"East gate and up into the hills. I could go around, but it's so much faster to cut through town."
"True enough. But you be careful. That bunch of squatters in the copse is getting bigger. Made themselves a regular village. They haven't got much and they don't mind taking what they need from a body. Nobody's complained yet, and until one of them crosses the line, there's nothing we can do to roust them out. But Kallas doesn't need its tark being the one they take after. Mark my words and be careful."
"Thanks, Beren. I hadn't realized there were so many. What brings them here?" Reisil could have bitten her tongue. As if it weren't obvious. The war had never come to Kallas. Why wouldn't refugees come here, running from the burned-out shells of their homes and the fields trampled and scorched, the wells poisoned with a stew of dead animals, salt and lye? They were looking for a new start, and the isolated town of Kallas had more to offer than most places. "I mean, now that there's a truce, I'd have thought they might have gone home to rebuild," she explained lamely.
"Some have. Patverseme soldiers didn't taint much as they could have. Didn't have the supplies and wanted to leave themselves some good lands and wells. But what they did was enough to drive folks away. Can't fight if you can't eat.
"As for our squatter folk, fact is, we feed 'em. Kallas is tender about that," he declared proudly. "We're generous to those as don't have much. They know it and so they stick around, keep coming back, 'stead of going back home and breaking their backs to build up what they lost. Wouldn't be so bad, but a lot more have come the past month or two. Nest of beggars is what they really are. But now that the ahalad-kaaslane are here ..." He trailed away, shrugging eloquently.
The ahalad-kaaslane were the Blessed Lady's eyes and hands in Kodu Riik, dispensing justice, setting wrongs to right. No one disobeyed the ahalad-kaaslane without reprisal from the Blessed Lady. If even one ordered the squatters to leave, they would. Or face the Lady's wrath.
Reisil shuddered. Those poor, ravaged people had already suffered too much. She hoped they would listen and obey. The Blessed Amiya was as generous as the sun and the earth, as unforgiving as the wind and the cold. The war had already inflicted a heavy toll on them, but the Lady's retribution would be far greater if the squatters did not accept the judgment of Her ahalad-kaaslane.
Reisil's mind skipped to Juhrnus and she nearly groaned. Newly chosen ahalad-kaaslane, he had been the bane of her childhood. Time had done little to make him grow up. He was as malicious and hateful as ever, more so now with the power of being ahalad-kaaslane. To have him sit in judgment of those devastated people ... Reisil shuddered again. "They're back? When?" The four of them — two newly minted and two experienced ahalad-kaaslane — had departed nine weeks before, and Reisil had been grateful for the respite from Juhrnus's endless pestering.
"Last night, just as we were shutting the gates. Not that they can't come and go as they please. I expect Varitsema will talk to them first thing this morning about the squatter problem. He's been frothing at the mouth about it."
"That's good. Until then, I'll be careful," Reisil said with a ghost of a smile, uncertain that running the refugees off was the right answer, and departed with a little wave.
The streets of Kallas were mostly deserted. Lady Day ribbons and streamers still decorated doors, windows, trees and lampposts. The smell of cedar burned in the Lady's honor wafted through the still air. Here a figure skulked along, huddled in a cloak too warm for the balmy morning, hastening home before an illicit absence was noticed. There a stray dog galloped after a scent, whining eagerly.
Upstairs above a cobbler shop, a rectangular window glowed, and from it emanated the wailing cry of a baby mingled with the sobbing of a woman. Reisil hesitated on the walk below, wondering if she should offer aid. The baby shrieked and Reisil made up her mind. In all likelihood she would be summoned later, after daybreak, but they would not find her then and she was here now. The baby was Shen's and Ulla's first child, only three months old, born in the last days of the fever. The boy's unrelenting wail, despairing and frantic at once, told Reisil his colic had not not subsided in the week since her last visit.
Reisil rapped on the door, then dug in her supplies for what she might offer. She hadn't brought much, intending to fill the pack with her harvest.
The door swung open. Inside stood a young woman clutching her hastily donned wrap tightly at her throat, her wide eyes shadowed, her sleep-tousled hair framing her face in a fuzzy halo.
"Yes? Oh, bright morning, Reisiltark!" Relief washed her voice and Reisil smiled sympathy. She doubted the neighbors had had much sleep in the night, much less the servants.
"I was passing," she explained. "I have some things that might help your mistress, if you would take them to her?"
"Oh, but ... don't you want to come up?"
Reisil shook her head. "It's not really necessary." And Ulla would not welcome being seen in such a state. She was a young wife, and Shen was his mother's favorite son. Though she desperately desired Nevaline's approval, Ulla knew Shen's mother found her wanting. And certainly as soon as news reached Nevaline about yet another wakeful night, she would bustle over to take charge, once again proving how deficient a wife Ulla was. All Reisil wanted to do was quiet the baby and let Ulla and Shen have a few hours' sleep before the invasion.
"Give these to your mistress," she said, handing the girl a jar and a pouch. "One spoonful of each into a cup of water every four hours. No more than that."
Reisil made the girl repeat back her instructions twice.
"I'll return later to see how he is," she said, then shooed the maid upstairs.
The sky had begun to lighten, though the moon still leached color from the world. Reisil hurried along the side streets like a ghost, keeping her eyes fixed on the walk in front of her. Old pain pricked as she passed a narrow brownstone with deep windows and a dark door. The home of Bassien and his wife Kivi. When had she lived there? Maybe when she was seven or eight? Reisil shook her head. She couldn't remember.
There had been so many houses, so many families. Dozens. Good families with money. No one who took Reisil in was forced to. Every three months she would move to another house — so that no one family would have to bear the burden of her keep for too long. They fed her, clothed her, kept her clean, gave her a place to sleep. As much as they'd do for any stray they took pity on. But she wasn't one of theirs. They never forgot that. Neither did Reisil.
She sighed. It hadn't been all bad. Not even mostly bad. The adults had always been kind. The worst had been the children, who had been ... children. They had liked to tease her about having no parents: that she'd been found in a horse trough, the dustbin, a midden wagon, the gutter, a rain barrel. She made an easy target.
Reisil had also been a slight girl, all bones and angles. The children, often led by her nemesis, Juhrnus, called her a walking skeleton, and just as deaf and dumb, for her habit of restraint. Nor was it wise to invite further persecution by protesting or tattling. When they tired of name-calling, they liked to pelt her with the crab apples and juniper berries that grew abundantly in town, chanting rhymes like:
Who is Reisil's mother?
She could hear them even now, and remembered running away, remembered the black bruises from the hard-thrown missiles.
Kolleegtark's cottage had become Reisil's refuge. He'd always let her in without any questions, leaving his back door open when he wasn't home. He encouraged her to sit at his table as he worked, to watch as he treated his patients. It was there she'd learned to love healing. She'd coveted Kolleegtark's independence and the esteem the townspeople showed him. She envied the way everyone seemed to be his friend. She swiftly concluded that being a tark meant a person's background didn't matter. Kolleegtark's father had been a ragpicker, his mother a laundress. No one cared. Tarks were welcomed and respected everywhere.
Reisil scrubbed her hands over her face, surprised to find her cheeks wet. Idiot. That had all been long ago. It didn't matter anymore. Or it wouldn't, once she was confirmed as Kallas's tark. Most of those who had teased her so unmercifully hadn't done so out of real malice. She had just been different and an easy target. Usually Juhrnus started it and the rest just followed like sheep. Now those same children invited her into their homes, confiding their secrets, entrusting her with the care of their families.
Reisil squared her shoulders. She was no longer a child to cry over old hurts. No, her tears were in honor of Kolleegtark, who had died while she was away. He had been her first friend, kind and gentle, and he deserved the tears far more than the scrawny memory of Reisil, who now had so much.
Kallas continued to wake around her. Maidservants appeared with swinging baskets, heading to market. Fragrant scents of baking bread and roasting meats drifted tantalizingly in the air. Bells jingled, doors slammed, and birds erupted into song.
The eastern gate bustled with wagons loaded with vegetables and meat for market. Many of the farmers carried long-knives, cudgels, and bows. Several of them surrounded the gate guards, voices raised in complaint about the squatters village.
Reisil edged past a sweet-smelling cargo of melons, carrots, radishes and lettuce. Good as it smelled, she couldn't help but notice the melons were tiny, the carrots thin and leathery, the lettuce stunted. The farms were too far from the river to make use of its water, and there had been little rain.
Just outside the gate, Reisil paused at the common well, saving the water in her flask for her ramble. Situated just beyond the walls, the well was a kindness to thirsty travelers. Reisil selected a chipped pottery mug from those dangling from wire hooks around the well-house roof and scooped a cup from the already full bucket.
The wind brushed dry fingers over Reisil's moist brow as she drank. She closed her eyes and lifted her face into it, drawing a deep breath, tasting dust. It was looking like a third drought year. Added to the damage caused by the Patverseme invaders, there would be precious little food for people like the squatters who already had nothing. Even Kallas was feeling the pinch, with a number of its wells running low and gritty. Several enterprising men had begun hauling water from the river in wagons and selling it in town. At least the truce meant an end to the fighting for a while. If only it would rain, there was still time to salvage crops before winter.
Reisil opened her eyes. The sky glowed sapphire, and she squinted against the sun's fiery brilliance as it crested the eastern hills. Feeling time pressing at her, she drained the water from the cup, making a face. It tasted like metal. She replaced the cup on its hook and set off over a grassy swell, avoiding the traffic and dust on the road.
By the time the sun had risen overhead and the shadows had shrunk away, Reisil's pack bulged with collected booty, as did the string sack she'd brought with her. Sweat dampened her undertunic and her stomach growled. She munched more nut mix from the pouch at her waist. Her day had been profitable. She was most excited about the seedlings she'd collected to plant in her garden. Growing the plants herself would not only save time and energy hunting for them, but it was another claim laid on her cottage and on Kallas.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Path Trilogy"
Copyright © 2018 Open Road Integrated Media, Inc..
Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews