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431 pages, ebook
First published September 25, 2018
“Witch-fire the villagers named it. An ancient magic woven into the flesh and fabric of a single girl child born each generation in Beroe. No one knew from whence it originated or why only one woman from every generation in a small village inherited it, but the village elders had kept its secret close and had deceived the Empire for decades.”
“Be still. Be silent. Some lust for beauty, others for fear. Don’t show them yours.”
“Surely, he couldn’t recognize her. She’d returned to the capital time and again with a different face. Her skills with illusion were as refined as they were with fire. The slavers never knew they brought the same woman from Beroe to Kraelag year after year.”
“I will conquer all of the Empire to bring you back.”
“She and this slave fighter shared a common truth. He dealt with sword and ax, and she with fire.”
“This is why I hate the Empire most of all. Because it's twisted us into people we despise.”
For Gilene, spring was the season neither of rain nor of planting, but of suffering.
To endure was to survive.
“This is why I hate the Empire most of all,” she said. “Because it’s twisted us into people we despise.”
“I once thought I would always hate you, gladiator. That isn’t true now.”
Fate was a vicious taskmaster of cruel, arbitrary humors, but every once in a while, it granted a boon in its own twisted way.
Beautiful, soft, and perfumed, Dalvila of Krael could raise an erection in a corpse, and Azarion wasn’t immune to her physical charms. He couldn’t be. He’d learned quickly that to displease her in bed courted imminent death.
”Sometimes you do the thing you hate so others don’t have to, whether it’s from love, guilt, or blackmail.”
She envied Azarion because he’d broken free of the shackles the Empire had put upon him. Though she had been one of the Empire’s many victims, Gilene had never been one of its slaves. She belonged to Beroe instead, and those chains would hold her until she died.
“What has the Empire made of us that we both kill innocents without hesitation?”
“The two of them were bound by a common past of subjugation and a resolve to overcome the damage it wrought.”
“What if I had fallen or couldn’t keep up?” “ I would have carried you.”
“Be still. Be silent. Some lust for beauty, others for fear. Don’t show them yours.“
“No other woman in Beroe is safe from fire. It would be wrong and cowardly of me to let them burn when I can go in their place and survive. It doesn’t mean I have to like it because I’m willing to accept it.”