Old enemies return, and their questions force Sarn to reevaluate everything he thought he knew about his family, and the pressure causes him to snap. He’s taken everything life can dish out and survived it, but these doubts might destroy him.
While his father grapples with his own problems, a bored Ran sets out on his own adventure. With a mind-talking creature on his shoulder, what could possibly go wrong?
The one thing he didn’t count on. For all his life, Ran was a secret Sarn kept from everyone, but he can’t keep it anymore. All the magic in the world can’t stop the truth from breaking out now.
Get Curse Breaker Trapped now to find out what happens when the truth comes out.
Curse Breaker Trapped is the second book in the Revelation Arc. All secrets will be revealed. All lies will be exposed. The truth will out, and it will drag everyone into the light. No one will be spared. Who will survive the reckoning?
Find out in Curse Breaker Trapped.
Curse Breaker Trapped is the sequel to Curse Breaker Fallout.
On sale everywhere: 07/07/22!
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Troubling Thoughts (Chapter 1 of Curse Breaker Trapped)
How can I help Queen Shayari? Sarn pushed open the door in front of him.
We could look for her, his magic said.
We could. Sarn entered the dark room. But he’d used a lot of magic today. Should he use more just to put his mind at ease? Sarn closed the door behind him and turned to lock it until he remembered this wasn’t his cave. The door didn’t have physical locks either. It didn’t need them since runes surrounded it. Were they better than physical locks?
Sarn stared at them. They weren’t his spells, so he only knew what a few of them did because Nulthir hadn’t been around long enough to ask about the others. Sarn touched the one that was supposed to lock the door, but there wasn’t a click or a glow or anything to confirm it had done anything. He grabbed the handle and turned it, but the door didn’t budge. Was his family safe?
That was another question that had no answer. Sarn turned away from the door and tiptoed around Miren and the little sheet-covered lump next to him. His eyes glowed just enough to light his way, but not bright enough to disturb his family. They slept on as he glanced out the window at the dark forest crouched a mile away beyond the two circles of standing stones. But the Queen of All Trees didn’t appear. Sarn turned away from the window and laid down next to his son. He needed rest and answers and an end to all the relighting.
We could look for her, his magic offered again.
Maybe he should let it, so he could stop worrying. All right, but don’t go too far. I’m too tired to fight with you. Sarn stifled a yawn as his earth magic radiated out of him in concentric green spheres that expanded beyond the mountain, and the meadow surrounding it, and dove into the enchanted forest. The River Nirthal flowed east to west in front of Mount Eredren’s south face, and his earth magic backed away from that shore, but that was all right because the Queen of All Trees would be somewhere within the enchanted forest, anyway.
Sarn spread his magic through the forest and searched for her. Symbols popped up on his head map, but none marked either of the two queens. What was Jerlo doing in the enchanted forest? Was he returning from his vacation already? Please don’t. Take another week or two off. Sarn willed the commander to turn around and head back into the forest when the man broke camp, but he probably wouldn’t because Sarn couldn’t make him. He could just hope Jerlo wouldn’t choose tomorrow to end his vacation.
Neither queen of Shayari had appeared on his map while he’d stared at Jerlo’s icon. Did they know he was looking for them? Could they sense his magic? How did their magic work? Is it like mine or Nulthir’s? Sarn stared at the ceiling, and his eyes cast green light on it.
But he’d taken his mind off his magic, so it stopped racing through the forest. Instead, it delved under it. Oh, no. Sarn reached for his magic. He must stop it before it dived too deep. Information pummeled him about the rocks and minerals underground, and he lost his grip on his magic. When will I ever need this information?
His earth magic didn’t answer. It just tried to delve deeper while Sarn pulled on his magic. Return to me. But it kept fighting to break free.
Delve down deep into the earth where secrets lie, his earth magic said.
No. I need to stay out of trouble or Jerlo will slap more constraints on me. Do you want that? Because Sarn didn’t. But to avoid that, he must leave those ancient secrets alone until he’d proved he could handle his magic. I hope Jerlo doesn’t see my magic. But the commander might because his magic liked to be seen. It glowed green all the damned time, even when Sarn wished it wouldn’t.
Return to me and shield my son. Sarn tugged on his magic. Things were better between them now, but his magic didn’t always listen to him.
That got his earth magic’s attention. Little Light’s in danger? That was its name for Ran since the boy was a small white star shining on his head map.
Ran wasn’t in trouble, though. His son slept, sandwiched between him and Miren. But Sarn closed his eyes and put that thought out of mind. He couldn’t lie. His other magic prevented that. But other than keep him honest, it didn’t do much else except break a curse when it felt like it. I don’t want to lose him, and a lot of people know where I live. If they saw my son, Sarn had to stop when the old fear gripped him. I can’t lose him.
His earth magic responded to that fear and rushed back into him. It wrapped around the sleeping child. We protect him.
Right now it did, but Sarn wasn’t always here. When he left later, Ran would be here with just the OwlCats. Thing would usually butt in now and allay his fears, but that OwlCat hadn’t done much mind talking over the last week since his brush with that Rider of the Apocalypse.
Sarn rested his hand on his son’s back. He should get some sleep too, but his thoughts slipped back to that last summoning. Was the Queen of All Trees all right? Probably since she was a giant magical tree. But what about Queen Shayari? She’d moved like her sword and armor were part of her and as weightless as that silver gown she’d appeared in. Queen Shayari was probably fine, but he couldn’t stop thinking about her.
“What do I owe you for this boon?” he whispered into the dark room, and her last words echoed in his head.
“Keep doing what you’re doing. Help those you can. Shield the vulnerable. Learn to use your magic. Defend the innocent. Raise your son and your brother to be good men who treat women with respect and kindness.” Queen Shayari had unsheathed her sword and touched its flat side to her forehead, then lowered her blade and stepped onto the silver branch the Queen of All Trees had extended to her.
The two queens had vanished, and he couldn’t stop thinking about one of them, even though she’d fought her own battles for a lot longer than he’d been alive. But he still worried that Rider might have hurt her. I’d be your mage if you asked me. Especially now that he’d dropped all reluctance to using his magic.
“I’d be your mage,” he whispered into the darkness. Sarn clenched his fists, but he couldn’t fight her battles. I’d shield her if I could find her. And that ate at him. He had nothing to do while lighting the lumir crystals except think about Queen Shayari and his sister. Sarn hadn’t seen either for a week now. Were they all right?
Ahead, a mage strode down the shadowy hallway, and his green glowing eyes lit his way. Straymos held a many-times patched cloak closed as he ghosted after him. Hopefully, his cloak helped him blend into the shadows hugging the ground. But the mage wasn’t his prey, just the means to reach her. Sovvan. Straymos imagined her as he’d last seen her at the party she’d crashed.
Sovvan had wide gray eyes, long dark hair in a messy braid, and an ankle-length white robe with bell sleeves that had once been white, but it was dingy with soot stains and ripped in places. How had that girl gotten so dirty?
Straymos gnashed his teeth and wished she’d appear, so he didn’t have to chase her long-legged twin through this underground maze of corridors. Unfortunately, she was dead and difficult to find, and her brother didn’t slow down either. Sarn strode toward his goal like a man on a mission. But Straymos couldn’t run after him, or the mage would hear him because this place didn’t believe in carpets.
No, he had to creep from shadow to statue and hide like a rat as he fell further behind because the floor was solid stone, and there wasn’t a drape anywhere in sight to absorb his footfalls. I hate this place. It would be so much easier to track him in a more civilized environment. But Straymos slunk after him anyway because he had no choice.
Be patient. Good things come to those who wait, Mosel said in their shared mind. The old man sounded tired, and not just from the late hour or the days of searching which had finally borne fruit tonight.
I hate waiting. You know that. Straymos hobbled as quietly as he could on his stocking-clad feet. He’d wrapped the butt of his cane in fabric to muffle its thuds, but even the smallest sound echoed in these corridors.
The man he chased didn’t make any sound either, and that didn’t help. Sarn must be using magic to muffle his boots. Straymos clenched his fist around his cane. He wanted Sovvan, and he wanted her now, not tomorrow.
I wish you’d leave her alone, Mosel said. But the old man who’d given Straymos a body after his friends had summoned a child demon instead of an adult had grown weaker.
I can’t. I must have her. Straymos hobbled after her brother. Finding him had been tough until a week ago when Sarn had glowed like the sun to his other sight.
You should never let a mage see you coming, Mosel said, and he was right. A prepared mage was hard to beat.
Straymos fell back another thousand feet in case Sarn’s power had increased. I thought you wanted me to leave him alone. Straymos skulked around the bend and stopped when his quarry stopped.
Sarn disappeared through a door a moment later. Is that your lair? Have I found it at last? Straymos hurried to the spot, but there were other doors, and two were close together. Which door had Sarn entered?
Why don’t you find a spot to sit and wait? He’ll leave again at some point, Mosel said, but why wait?
Straymos picked a door and threw himself at it, but the door didn’t budge. It didn’t even rattle in its frame. The door just stood between him and that mage like an immovable object. This must be it.
Straymos ran into the door, but other than sending pain shooting through his shoulder, the door didn’t move. Nor did the impact make a sound. A cone of silence had enveloped the space in front of the door. Sarn must be in there. But how could he get inside when Sarn’s magic held the door closed?
The bedroom door opened, and it woke Sarn from a light doze. But no OwlCat flew out of that room. Nulthir stepped over Miren and yanked at the collar of his blue uniform like it was choking him.
“Where are you headed?” Sarn sat up and rubbed his eyes. He must have drifted off for a while because dawn paled the sky beyond the window.
Nulthir smoothed his uniform. It had gold braiding on the shoulders today, and there were ribbons and medals too, giving his uniform a more formal look. “To a meeting with some nobles, so I need to look like a captain today.” Nulthir muttered something that sounded like, “even if I don’t feel like one.”
But Sarn wasn’t sure he’d heard that right. Nulthir stood on his bad side, and he’d lost some hearing in that ear years ago. “You still owe me magic lessons.” And Sarn wouldn’t let him off the hook for that.
Nulthir also owed the OwlCat sleeping in a nest of blankets on the other side of the room a lecture, but that hadn’t happened either. Sarn had waited for that too. Thing must have recovered enough. But if there had been a lecture, it had happened while Sarn was asleep or out of the room lighting the lumir crystals under the mountain.
Maybe there was no lecture. The OwlCat in question chuckled in his mind.
That was so unfair. But Sarn didn’t reply. He never got the last word with that OwlCat around, and he didn’t want to encourage Thing while that OwlCat was still recuperating.
Nulthir sighed. “I’d rather teach you than attend this meeting, but we all have things we don’t want to do, and if you can do them, then so can I.” Nulthir tugged his uniform jacket down and buckled on his sword belt. “We’ll have time for those lessons when people settle down.” If they ever settled down. Nulthir didn’t say it, but everyone wondered about that.
“You promise?” Sarn asked before he could stop himself. He sounded like his son. But once he’d said those words, he didn’t want to retract them. This was one promise he wanted with an intensity that surprised him.
Nulthir adjusted his sheathed sword. “I promise. I’ll teach you what I know about magic as soon as I can. But you don’t have to wait for me. He knows a fair bit about it too.” Nulthir waved to Thing.
“Yeah, but he knows about mind magic, and I don’t have that.” Sarn shuddered at that thought and thanked his ancestors that they’d had earth magic, instead.
“But the fundamentals are the same across all types of magic.” Thing raised a furry finger above his nest of blankets as he pontificated.
“That’s true, and he was there for every lesson. Remember, I met him when I was around Ran’s age.” Nulthir waved to the sleeping child.
Sarn rested a protective hand on Ran’s back, and his son stayed asleep. The boy kept irregular hours while they stayed here, so he no longer rose with the sun. Sarn couldn’t imagine Nulthir as a child that young, and he glared at Thing in case that OwlCat got any ideas. He didn’t want an image to pop into his head courtesy of that mind-reading owl, but Thing must have taken a hint because none did.
“Well, maybe don’t ask him yet. He should rest that mind some more.” Nulthir glanced at his long-time friend with worried eyes.
“I’m not an invalid. My beak works just fine, and I can speak aloud when I choose to.” Thing closed his eyes and settled back into his nest.
“Still, you should rest as much as you can. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring.” Nulthir turned to go after uttering that ominous statement, but he was right.
Sovvan had stalled Armageddon, not stopped it, and those Riders of the Apocalypse were still out there, doing God knew what, and that brought Sarn’s thoughts full circle. I hope you’re all right, Queen Shayari, and I hope the Queen of All Trees is too. Sarn didn’t know if there would be a Shayari without them, and he didn’t want to find out.
Nulthir pulled open the outer door and left without another word spoken aloud, but he might have mind talked to Thing. That OwlCat would never say either. Sarn laid down and pulled his son into his arms.
“Did you have a bad dream?” Ran asked, but he didn’t open his eyes. Instead, he snuggled into his embrace.
“No, I was just thinking dark thoughts, but they’re gone now. You chased them away.” Sarn rubbed his son’s back.
“Then you’ll have good dreams.” Ran yawned, and his breathing slowed.
“I hope so.” Sarn closed his eyes to hide their glow. He didn’t think sleep would come again, but it must have because a cold hand shook his shoulder and called his name an indeterminate amount of time later. She’d come for him at last. I’ll be your mage. Sarn tried to say, but his tongue was stuck to the roof of his mouth.
“Free us from our earthen prison,” a voice whispered as he struggled to wake up.
What prison was that woman talking about? Not the one under Mount Eredren, that wouldn’t make sense. Sarn couldn’t open his eyes. Lead weights pressed on them. Damn it. He must have drained himself while searching for the two queens.
“Free us,” the voice insisted as it split into two distinct voices.
But Sarn had never heard either of them before. Two strangers were in the room right now. He hugged his son and tried to call for help, but his mouth wouldn’t open, and Ran vanished from his arms. No! Give back my son. Sarn tried to reach for him, but his limbs froze.
Not frozen, you’re entombed in stone, said his earth magic, but that wasn’t helpful.
Free me. Sarn willed his magic to crack open whatever imprisoned him, but nothing happened. I thought we were one. So why wasn’t his magic helping him?
We are. You’re free, it said as darkness pulled Sarn under again. Why had his earth magic sounded confused? What was happening?
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