by S.M. Boyce
(The Grimoire Saga #4)
Publication date: November 4th 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
The final chapter in the war for Ourea ends with blood.
Kara Magari is an icon. A hero. The people love her. The royalty tolerates her. She has everything—an army, allies, and a close circle of chosen family. They believe she will end the war, and they shouldn’t. She’s as scared as they are. She just can’t show it.
The war she accidentally started ends with a final battle that will either save or enslave her people. She will do anything to win—until she learns the cost of victory.
Braeden Drakonin is afraid of what he’ll become when he takes over his father’s kingdom—that much authority can change a man. But his father has already tried to kill him more than once, and it’s time to end his reign. Braeden’s armies are ready. His strategy is foolproof. His generals are waiting for the order to attack. It’s only in the final seconds before the battle begins that he realizes he missed one crucial detail—the traitor.
Illusion (Grimoire Saga #4) Excerpts/Teasers:
#1 - Deidre’s Recruits
Dozens of boots stomped up the stairs. Floorboards creaked. A rumble of voices slipped beneath the door. She took a deep breath—time for the fun to begin.
The handle turned, and the door swung inward. Andor paused on the threshold, eyes on her the moment he peered into the room. He closed his eyes and sucked in a breath, squaring his shoulders in either annoyance or preparation.
She smiled. “About time.”
“Leave. I won’t be taking you up on your offer.”
She pouted. “Pity. I was quite hoping you and I could get to know each other better.”
His Adam’s apple quivered. She smiled wider. Sucker.
He walked in and closed the door. “Deidre, I know you. You very well may be a little demon, even if the rest of us aren’t. I mean what I said before—I don’t trust you.”
“That’s what will make you so fun,” she countered.
He frowned, eyes narrowing. He stared at her with a gaze that almost stole the smile from her face. It bored into her, sending a flurry of nerves through her chest as he waited for her to crack beneath his gaze. She held on, despite his scrutiny. She’d successfully killed Niccoli this time. She absorbed a Blood. She would bring Niccoli’s remaining guild to its knees. Andor—of all isen—couldn’t shake her.
He inched closer, his boots thumping against the floor. Each slow step chipped away at her smile. He knelt on the mattress and leaned in, setting a hand on either side of her head. His fingers stretched against the wooden headboard in her periphery, cracking with his movements, but she never broke eye contact.
He inched closer until the world blurred around him and she could see only his eyes. He was turning this on her, calling her bluff. Maybe he knew her seductions were always a tease, that she never followed through. Perhaps he even figured she imagined Michael on the face of any man who invaded her space, who got too close.
“What are you up to?” His hot breath rolled over her cheeks and tickled her neck.
She grinned, letting the joy of her plan wash through her. “It’s quite elaborate.”
“You’ve always been a fool, woman. This will be no different.”
“Oh, but it will.”
#2 - War Games
Kara raced down a dark hallway, Braeden a foot or two ahead of her. The walls’ white stones whizzed by in her periphery. Their boots thudded along the stone floor, their footsteps echoing. Torches flew past, one every dozen feet or so, the fires blurring as she ran and leaving orange streaks on her vision. Open windows filled the spaces between sconces, dark portals to the night outside. Flick clung to her shoulder, tail wrapped around the back of her neck for balance. His fur itched her throat, but she pressed onward.
Kara let out a slow breath. For a training exercise, this was all too real.
A fireball blew past an open window a few feet behind them, crashing into the stones. A tremor shook the floor. Black pebbles splintered off and flew past her head, their ends orange. She flinched, but pressed forward. The Ayavelian fort through which they ran took the brunt of the assault, its stone core surviving the fire from the Kirelms above. Through the open windows, glimpses of the chaos outside blipped in and out of view: fire raging along the wooden fences; a dozen more fireballs raining from the sky, their tails red streaks in the black night. A chorus of battle cries and clanging swords rang from the ground. A shrill scream rang above the uproar.
Kara’s white vest crinkled as she ran, rubbing her skin as her arms pumped back and forth. If someone tore it off, she would be out of the game—effectively “dead.” She eyed Braeden’s vest—red to signify him as a royal. If his was torn off, he would be just as “dead” and would have to sit out—and her team would lose the game. While all red vests needed protection, Braeden carried the burden of killing Carden. The war ended when they killed his father, but if both Stelian royals died in this final battle, it would mean the genocide of the Stelian race. In fact, only the Lossian race had a surviving Heir. If any other Blood participating in the war died, their people would die with them.
#3 - No Rest
Kara rubbed her face as she headed back out into the fort’s hallways. Her shoulders ached. The torn remnants of her vest clung to her shirt, tickling her arm. She ripped the paper off and crumpled it into a ball.
Braeden wrapped his arm around her. Warmth seeped into her body as he held her. She smiled, a real one this time.
They walked in silence. Her feet throbbed, and she pushed away the thought of her tattered vest. She couldn’t deal with processing an in-game death right now. She wished for her bed, but the tension in her back tightened. She and Braeden shared a room, thanks to Evelyn. And while Kara hid her secret pleasure at that fact before, it filled her with dread now. He had that glint in his eye—there was something left unsaid, and it probably involved her staying back while he led the final battle. That wasn’t going to happen, and she wouldn’t escape the discussion tonight.
Several minutes of silence passed as they made their way out of the fort. Apparently, Braeden wasn’t going to speak first, and Kara didn’t know what to say. She’d done her best, and it wasn’t good enough. She’d lost the game, but at least Braeden made it. In the real world, only that mattered. They needed to kill Carden, and with Deidre at his side, death was a very real possibility.
Stone rang the bell again, and again, and again. One by one, men and women filed their way into the arena seats until Stone’s ringing went unanswered for a good ten minutes. About half the seats were filled, all faces covered with frowns and scowls. Regret burned along Kara’s arms as she realized she stood in the center of the arena for all to see. She resisted the impulse to hurry to Stone’s side—she had to look strong, not like a lost kitten.
Kara did, however, allow herself to shudder—these were folks who would’ve made her cross the street in her human life to avoid sharing a sidewalk with them. Some hunched in their seats, eyeing her with sneers she didn’t want to interpret. Others examined her with calculating glances, as if sizing her up as a meal. She clenched her fists and swallowed hard, suddenly regretting her decision to join Stone is this suicide mission to recruit the evil isen Niccoli commanded in life.
“What a disappointing turnout,” Stone said.
His voice echoed in the vast room, clear as the bell. Kara took another deep breath.
Stone continued. “You may know me—I am Stone, the only isen to escape Niccoli’s command. I have a present for you, brothers and sisters—one I think you will enjoy.”
Kara stood up straighter.
“This girl has come to challenge your masters for control of you,” Stone finished.
Kara expected gasps, or perhaps laughter. But the silence that followed was worse. Many sneered, and she caught the hiss of a few isen in the front rows sucking in their breath.
She tensed, wishing Stone knew the meaning of tact or subtlety, but it was probably best that he ripped off the bandage. She didn’t have much energy, and she didn’t want to drag this out any longer than necessary.
She clenched her fists.
Let’s do this.
He looked at her—really looked at her, with a gaze that almost stole the smile from her face. She held on, despite his scrutiny. She’d successfully killed Niccoli this time. She absorbed a Blood. She would bring Niccoli’s remaining guild to its knees. Andor—of all people—couldn’t shake her.
His boots thumped against the floor as he came closer. Every slow step chipped away at her smirk. He knelt on the mattress and leaned in, setting a hand on either side of her head. His fingers stretched against the wooden headboard in her periphery, but she never broke eye contact.
He inched closer until the world blurred around him. He was turning this on her, calling her bluff. Maybe he knew her seductions were always a tease, that she never followed through. Perhaps he even figured she imagined Michael on the face of any man who invaded her space, who got too close.
“What are you up to?” His breath rolled over her cheeks.
She grinned, letting the joy of her plan wash through her. “It’s quite elaborate.”
S. M. Boyce is a lifelong writer with a knack for finding adventure and magic.
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