Shadowstorm (Sorcery and Science Book 6)By: Ella Summers
Sorcery and Science: Book 6
~ The Summit ~
527AX January 8, Marina Bay
WINTER HAD BEEN slow in coming to Marina Bay. Overhead, a downy sky foretold the coming of the seasonal rains; below, a crusty breeze tossed around a scattering of fallen leaves, blowing away the lingering remains of an erratic autumn.
Snow rarely fell there, in the temperate climate of the Learan Peninsula, but morning frost was a regular wintertime visitor. It just didn’t stay long. As Emperor Aaron Selpe trod down the long, sandy-colored planks of Marina Bay’s dock, the frosty crust cracked and dissolved under his boots. The chilled air nipping at his cheeks, he turned to watch the sun rise. A splotch of pink light smeared the horizon, fading quickly with every passing second.
That pale but vibrant pink—it reminded Aaron of Terra. His mind conjured up an image of his Elition wife, just as she’d looked on their wedding day. Her bright eyes, like sparkling sapphires, wide and nervous. Her long hair, naturally pink-blonde, swept across her forehead and tightly braided into coils, complemented nicely by the pink diamonds in her drop necklace. Her ice-white dress, long and elegant on the bottom, criss-crossed with ribbons in the back.
Aaron dropped his eyelids for a second and sighed. She was magnificent.
And he hadn’t seen her in nearly a month. She’d returned from Cape Midnight broken, blood dripping from her hands. Veronica’s blood. She’d killed Veronica, and her mind had paid the price. She hadn’t been the same after that. She had always been capable, always strong—but she had also been innocent. She’d managed to live nearly eighteen years in their cold world without committing any of the many atrocities of which he himself, for one, was undeniably guilty. He could see it in her eyes, the tormented guilt over what she’d done, her first and only kill.
Aaron knew her anguish was made doubly worse by her condition. Rarest of the Elition gifts, Terra was a Prophet. When she closed her eyes to sleep, she saw foresights of what was to come—or, in Veronica’s case, the murdered potential of her life, all that would never be. And from the way she’d screamed out in terror in the middle of the night, her tortured wail echoing off the walls, Aaron could hardly entertain the idea that this was a pleasant experience for her.
He regretted sending her to Veronica, not just because of her resulting pain, but because that pain had caused her to flee from him. He should never have listened to Lord Adrian, Aaron decided as he looked at the robust man walking on his left side. The veteran member of the Selpe Advisory Council—which included the Empire’s most prestigious rulers—Lord Adrian had settled himself deeper than most inside the emperor’s inner circle.
He was almost as tall as Aaron and considerably less fit, though the past year had seen a significant trimming of the once paunchy nobleman. This new figure—combined with his stately silver-grey hair and his smart jet-black suit—made him a force to be reckoned with. Nora, Aaron’s travel organizer, flirted with him shamelessly, even though she couldn’t be a day over twenty-five, and Lord Adrian was… Aaron laughed to himself. Fifty? Sixty? He’d never gotten around to asking him.
“What’s so funny?” asked Lord Adrian.
Aaron shook his head. This was no time for fun.
“Sarah Avan has brought Nemesis along,” Lord Adrian said, staring at him with narrowed eyes.
They’d just reached the end of the dock runway. Surrounded by a thin perimeter of grass, a dome-topped aquamarine building stood before them, the front doors swung wide open in mock friendliness. A lone figure stood silhouetted in front of the wall, her spiked, fiery orange-red hair contrasting violently with the blue-painted background. Nemesis. Her eyes, brilliant turquoise—though Aaron had witnessed firsthand that they sometimes shone blood-red—studied their progress, but she was posed in perfect statuesque stillness. Like a tiger lying in wait for its prey.
As they moved in closer, Aaron noticed that Nemesis’s eyelids were crested with orange-red eyeshadow—the shade a perfect match to her hair—and a mixture of colorless and red sparkling gems darted across the skin from the corners of her eyes to her ears. Her bare arms, shimmery pale like the rest of her skin, were planted rigidly on her hips. She didn’t appear cold in her spaghetti-strapped, short-skirted, red leather leotard dress, but just looking at her made Aaron shiver. The metal studs that decorated Nemesis’s dress, and formed a line up her knee-high matching leather boots, gave her a hard edge, like she was ready for battle. The belligerent sneer upon her lips only seemed to confirm this.