Chapter Two




The forests thinned as Kynan, Hafwen, and their party of Upperworld royals rode hard toward the Dark Sea. Ivar flew overhead; he’d left the rest of the lads at home. Kynan was glad to have his familiar close by because a whirling storm of emotions battered him as he urged Osian onward. The steed’s black mane whipped across his cheeks, but he barely noticed. 

Maren, the love of his life, was in the hands of the worst man Kynan had ever known.

“He won’t hurt her seriously,” Hafwen said for the fifth time as she adjusted the wand sheathed at her belt. She turned, and the morning light reflected off of her one golden eye. 

“I know. But there are degrees of suffering…” His blood curdled in his veins, and a wave of impotent rage washed over him. “What are our chances?” The question pained him, but he needed to know the truth or as much as his dearest friend—and the only shadow elf witch—knew of the truth. He had to prepare his mind and body. Had to tally the odds.

“You don’t want to know what I think.”

“Usually when someone asks a question, they want an answer.”

“Don’t get snippy with me. I understand your anger and fear. I feel it too. But we are on the same side, and you had best control your moods, High King.”

Kynan clenched his jaw. She was right, but the feelings he had were overwhelming at times, making it impossible to act rationally. “I apologize.”

They rode onward, and he didn’t ask about their chances. She was right again. He didn’t need to hear that their quest to find the Calon y Dderwen was a wild grasp at a solution to a problem no one had ever experienced. The magical stone had been lost for ages, tossed into the Dark Sea by a long-ago mad king. And the stories of what dangers resided in the sea…well, they would soon learn if those tales held any truth.

The rest of the party rode behind them—Filip and Aury, Rhianne and Werian, Brielle and Dorin. The foreign army had been escorted back to the Upperworld by the spirits. Only this group had demanded to remain in the Underworld despite the spirits’ warnings. 

Kynan gave Brielle, Maren’s close friend, a nod, and the party drew to a stop in a gently sloping area dotted with purple heather and prickly gorse. A wide stream ran between a line of low boulders, its trickling sound disappearing under the noise of the waves crashing at the base of the cliffs one hundred yards or so away. 

Ivar landed gracefully on the ground, tucking his wings against the wind and raising his chin to scent the air.

Kynan slid from Osian’s back, then stroked the horse’s sweating neck and slipped the reins over his head. “Let’s have a drink, shall we?” He knelt beside Osian, and both drank the cool, sweet water. 

The others did likewise, and once the horses had been rubbed down and fed, everyone gathered in a rough circle to talk.

The mood was grim.

A memory of Maren’s bright eyes and the defiance in their depths stole his breath. His hands fisted, and his blood caught fire. He couldn’t wait to lay Tiergan at Maren’s feet so she could end him. The way he had spoken to Maren… Kynan’s jaw tensed, and his nostrils flared. She was his and his alone. His territorial instincts urged him to shadow his way to Maren’s side immediately and claim her, to destroy anyone foolish enough to stand in their way. With his shadows, he would unmake Tiergan’s warriors…

“Do you want me to speak?” Hafwen whispered. 

“No. Thank you. I am fine.”

“You are not, and it would be best if you don’t pretend. This lot feels just the same as you, I imagine. Feigning a cool head will only show you to be false. Tell them, show them your pain, and lead them anyway.”

Kynan closed his eyes briefly, then took a slow breath. He kissed Hafwen’s hand and looked at her. “Thank you. I don’t know what I would do without you. Are you holding up?” Tiergan had captured her during the battle and destroyed her home. She had to be suffering quietly just as he was.

She patted his shoulder. “I feel like a pile of dung.”

Surprise pulled what was almost a chuckle out of him, and he turned to face the group. “We have arrived at the Dark Sea.” Ivar rose into the air, then landed lightly on Kynan’s shoulder. Kynan welcomed his presence.