A Shadow in the Ember
by Jennifer L Armentrout
Published by Blue Box Press
Book 1 in the Flesh and Fire Series
Born shrouded in the veil of the Primals, a Maiden as the Fates promised, Seraphena Mierel’s future has never been hers.
Chosen before birth to uphold the desperate deal her ancestor struck to save his people, Sera must leave behind her life and offer herself to the Primal of Death as his Consort.
However, Sera’s real destiny is the most closely guarded secret in all of Lasania—she’s not the well protected Maiden but an assassin with one mission—one target. Make the Primal of Death fall in love, become his weakness, and then…end him. If she fails, she dooms her kingdom to a slow demise at the hands of the Rot.
Sera has always known what she is. Chosen. Consort. Assassin. Weapon. A specter never fully formed yet drenched in blood. A monster. Until him. Until the Primal of Death’s unexpected words and deeds chase away the darkness gathering inside her. And his seductive touch ignites a passion she’s never allowed herself to feel and cannot feel for him. But Sera has never had a choice. Either way, her life is forfeit—it always has been, as she has been forever touched by Life and Death.
A Shadow in the Ember by Jennifer L Armentrout is the much anticipated first book in her Flesh and Fire series, which is a prequel spin-off of her incredibly popular Blood and Ash series. It centers around Seraphina, who was promised to become Consort to the Primal of Death before she was even conceived, in a desperation to save the Kingdom of Lasania from a rot that was killing crops. But Sera isn't born to just become Nyktos's Consort ; she is also trained to become an assassin, and end the rot for good. The only way to kill a Primal: make him fall in love, and become his weakness. Trained to be a deadly weapon, and seductress, she is confident she can save her kingdom. Only Nyktos isn't as she was trained to believe, and his words and touches seduce her. No matter her feelings, she must bring down the Primal of Death, and save her kingdom from a slow and brutal death, no matter what it does to her in the end.
So Jennifer Armentrout promised ASITE would give Blood and Ash fans some answers ... and boy did she deliver. ASITE .... was ... amazing! Here is why below:
Characters: I worried that Nyktos and Sera would be too much like Casteel and Poppy, but Jennifer did an amazing job making her ASITE characters unique, while still blending in some personality/physical aspects that Poppy inherits as their granddaughter. Of course, there were some similarities when it came to banter, but I could get over that. Both Nyktos's and Sera's character arcs and growth was lovely, and I can't wait to see where these two go.
Plot: Holy shit, this book was RICH with plot. We get lots of information that is important in both series' Blood and Ash and Flesh and Fire. We get lots of action - and I mean, well written, clear action that plays out in your head like a movie - yet involves things I have NEVER seen or read before. We get quiet moments, where our characters bond with one another strengthens. The best part though, is how its written, combining all these moments into a flawless flow. I never felt bored. I never felt like something was written for the sake of giving readers information, or for a steamy moment. It just worked. It felt natural.
Romance: I love romance, and ASITE didn't disappoint. Nyktos and Sera's chemistry was ON FIRE. The whole book. Just ... wow. Their romance is obviously expected - but it doesn't happen the way I thought it would, which I loved. There were moments I was fucking swooning, and moments I was bawling (specifically towards the end). With the romance, we get a side of steamy, and oh. My. God. This book was HOT without being over the top.
Jennifer Armentrout hit the ball out of the part once again with this spin off of her Blood and Ash. While there are definite similarities between From Blood and Ash and A Shadow in the Ember when it comes to personality traits and banter, and a similar romance arc (just with switched roles), there is enough differences that makes this story unique - despite it being in the same world. The way this book ends, not only does it have my head filling with theories (which I will post below, hidden in a spoiler tag, so I can compare when the next book comes out), but has me eagerly awaiting the next ASITE book ... which I hope comes out next year, because I am not okay, and how dare you, Jennifer? :)
Below are my theories on what is coming in the next Flesh and Fire book, and Blood and Ash - because while different series', they are intertwined. Only read if you are caught up on the Blood and Ash series, AND have read ASITE. Highlight the text below to read.
We know, because of Blood and Ash, that Ash/Nyktos and Sera do end up with one another, and have twin sons - Malec and Ires. But I don't think its a happily ever after ... yet. I think that while we are lead to believe that Isbeth is the big bad, but I think ultimately its going to be Kolis. I think that while they were able to overpower most of the "bad" Gods (as Jennifer's list of the God's line up with Ash's court that she posted a while back), they were only able to contain Kolis. Maybe the reason they all entered a deep sleep was because it was the only way to keep Kolis contained until the later couple in the prophecy (Casteel and Poppy) were born, and they had full power to defeat him.
Sera is going to wake up and kick some serious ass in the next Blood and Ash book. Sera thought to herself that if anyone hurt her children or any of her decedents, that she would come back from the dead and kill them. Poppy is going to war against her mother, who is batshit crazy and cruel. Things are going to happen, and when all seems lost, I think Sera will step in and fuck shit up.
I think/hope that Tawny is Jadis ... and Isbeth did something to her, and make her think she is a mortal named Tawny. We get so much draken in ASITE, especially with Jadis and Reaver. I don't think that is a coincidence. We know that Ires and Jadis ran off to the mortal realm, and have gone missing. We know that Ires has been captured by Isbeth, and is in that cage Poppy and crew encountered at the end of Gilded Bones. So we can assume Isbeth took Jadis as well. But where is she? She could have been killed ... but I truly hope not. Maybe she tries to turn Tawny into a revenant to subdue Poppy, and instead, it undoes whatever was done to her, and she gets her memories and form back? If she IS in fact Jadis, I think Ires and her both withheld that she is a draken, because there is no way Isbeth would have handed Poppy a draken. Anyway, I need to believe that Jadis is still alive, because I love her, dammit!
It's going to come out that Ector is working with Kolis. I guarantee, Ector is the one who pushed that human to try to kill Sera, and that is why he killed him before Ash could question him.
<--------------------------end of spoilers------------------------------------------
Ash kissing Sera to hide themselves from the gods
Ash's reaction to Sera accidently stabbing him
Sera bringing the wolf back
"Show me what you like" ... HOT
Ezra hugging Sera
Ash's reveal, and him getting that Sera wasn't begging for Tavius's life, but wanting to end it herself
Ash helping Sera wash her hair
Ash saving Sera when she went into the woods
Reaver teaming up with Sera to be nosy
Ash killing that draken after telling him to shut the fuck up. Awesome
Sera's "Don't tell me how how I feel" speech
Nektas knowing that Sera never would have went through with her plans
Ash feeding from Sera and the sex OH MY GOD
Nyktos going fucking Primal and killing the Gods that were there for Sera
Ash and Sera finding out about the prophecy
Sera: “Are you going to let me go?”
Ash: “I don’t know. I’m not sure I’m ready for whatever it is that you’re about to do.” Sera: “Have I given you any indication that I care about annoying you?”
Ash: “I have a feeling you don’t. But I’m hoping you discovered whatever smidgen of common sense exists inside you and have decided to use it.” Sir Holland: “While his behavior towards that animal was abominable, blackening the Heir of Lasania’s eye and then threatening to use the whip in the same manner as he did was not the wisest choice.”
Sera: “But it was the most satisfactory,” Sir Holland: “You’re not unworthy. You’re not a curse or anything like that. You carry the ember of life in you. You carry hope within you. You carry the possibility of a future,” Odetta: “Death wants nothing to do with life. None of you can be surprised.” Ash: "What drowns out that fear and pushes you to run so eagerly toward death?" Ash: “You stabbed me.”
Sera: “I did.”
I took another step back, throat now too dry to swallow. Ash: “In the chest,”
he tacked on. The front of his tunic was torn, but there was no stain of blood. Nothing. If it weren’t for the smear on the blade, I wouldn’t have believed I had actually done it.
Ash: “Almost in my heart.”
A tremble ran through my hands.
Sera: “Well, it seems it had very little impact on you.”
Which was terrifying on a whole other level.
Ash: “It stung. Deeply.” Ash: “Color me surprised. I expected you to have some sort of retort.”
Sera: “I’m trying to employ common sense and remain somewhat quiet.”
Ash: “How is that working out for you?”
Sera: “Not very well, to be honest.” Ash: “Come now, do you believe someone who harbored ill will towards you would’ve announced their presence?”
Sera: “No. I believe that someone who doesn’t, would. All others would end up with a dagger in their chest.” The corners of my lips turned down.
Sera: “That is if I had a dagger.”
Ash: “Perhaps you would still have a dagger if you didn’t go around stabbing people.”
I actually still had one. Tucked in my boot. Not a shadowstone blade, but a slender iron one. However, that was beside the point.
Sera: “I don’t go around stabbing people.”
Usually. Ash: “That’s not how it works. There are things that gods and Primals can and cannot do." Curiosity sparked through me.
Sera: “Are you telling me that not even a Primal can do as they please?”
Ash: “I didn’t say that. A Primal can do whatever they want.”
I threw up my hands.
Sera: “If that’s not the most contradictory statement I’ve heard in my entire life, I don’t know what is.” Sera: “What does liessa mean?”
The god didn’t answer for what felt like a small eternity.
Ash: “It has different meanings to different people.”
The eather pulsed in his eyes, swirling once more through the silver.
Ash: “But all of them mean something beautiful and powerful.” Ezra: “Did you kill that man?”
Smoothing out the skirts of the gown, I crossed my ankles.
Sera: “I believe he slipped and fell upon my blade.”
Ezra: “Was it his throat that fell upon your blade?”
Sera: “Odd, right?”
Ezra: “Odd, indeed.” I didn’t cry. Hadn’t since the night I’d failed. But I had a soft spot for animals—well, except for barrats. Animals didn’t judge. They didn’t care about worthiness. They didn’t choose to use or hurt another. They simply lived and expected to either be left alone or loved. That was all. Sir Holland: “What you can do is a gift, a wonderful one that is a part of who you are. But it could become dangerous for you if others were to learn that you could possibly bring back their loved ones. It could anger the gods and Primals, for you to decide who should return to life and who should not. It is a gift given by the King of Gods, one that should be held close to your heart and only ever used when you’re ready to become who you were destined to be. Until then, you are not a Primal. Play as one, and the Primals might think you are.” Sera: “Pervert.”
Ash: “Guilty.” Ash: “It’s amazing to witness.”
Sera: “What is?”
Ash: “These moments when you suddenly remember what I am. Is this another attempt to use common sense?”
Ash: “Is it not going well again?”
Sera: “Not exactly.” Ash: “Did I not tell you to go home? That this does not concern you?”
Sera: “You did.”
I ducked under the creature’s arm.
Ash: “I have it handled.”
Ash cleaved through the midsection of another Hunter.
Sera: “Then I guess I should’ve allowed him to stab you in the back?”
I grabbed the creature’s sword arm and twisted, spinning him away from me.
Sera: “A thank you would’ve been sufficient.”
Ash: “I would’ve said thank you.”
Ash wheeled around, shoving his sword deep into another creature’s chest. The scent of stale lilacs smacked me in the face.
Ash: “If there was a reason to do so.”
Sera: “You sound ungrateful.”
Ash: “Well, you would know what ungrateful sounds like, Wouldn’t you?”
Another Hunter came at me, weapon lowered. I kicked out, catching him in the stomach as I eyed the sword he held.
Ash: “On second thought, thank you for doing that,”
he said, and I glanced over at him. My breath caught at the inexplicable and somewhat idiotic tug in my stomach and then lower when I saw the heated intensity in his stare. There was definitely something very, very wrong with me.
Ash: “Please continue to fight in just a…well, whatever you call that very flimsy piece of clothing. Is it distracting? Yes. But in the best possible way.”
Sera: “Pervert,” Ash: “There was this flower that once grew in the Shadowlands. The petals were the color of blood in the moonlight and remained folded in on themselves until someone approached. When they opened, they appeared incredibly delicate, as if they would shatter in the softest wind, but they grew wild and fiercely, any place there was even a hint of soil. They even grew between the cracks of stone, and they were incredibly unpredictable.”
Did I really remind him of a delicate, beautiful flower? I wasn’t sure what part of me could be considered delicate. A fingernail?
Sera: “How are flowers unpredictable?”
Ash: “Because these were quite temperamental.”
A laugh burst out of me. The wisps of white pulsed behind his pupil once more, churning slowly. His gaze shifted back to the lake.
Sera: “Is that the part that makes you think of them?”
Sera: “I’m curious to learn how a flower is temperamental, especially such a delicate one.”
Ash: The thing is, they only appeared delicate. In truth, they were quite resilient and deadly.” Sera: “Deadly?”
Ash: “When they opened, it revealed the center. And in that center were several spiky needles that carried a rather poisonous toxin. Depending on their mood, they released them. One needle could take down a god for a week.”
Sera: “Sounds like an amazing flower.”
And slightly horrifying.
Sera: “I’m not sure if it’s a compliment to know that I remind you of a murderous plant.”
Ash: “If you’d ever seen them, you would know that it is.” Ash: “You taste like the sun.”
Sera: “What…what does the sun taste like?”
That curve of his lips was wicked.
Ash: “Like you.” Ash: “If I stayed, I think I’d find myself obsessed with trying to count just how many freckles you have.” Tugging the blade free, I stepped aside as the guard’s legs went out from under him. He fell to the side, twitching. A pool of crimson swept across the ivory carpet, joining the other deep red stain. Sera: “Gods. The carpet will definitely require more than a spot clean, won’t it?” Sera: “Whose blood are you covered in? Do you need help burying a body?”
Ezra: “Good gods, I hope you’re joking.”
Ezra: “Though, you are who I would come to if I needed help burying a body. I feel as if you would be adeptly skilled at such an endeavor, and I know you would take that secret to your grave.”
Well, that didn't feel like a glowing attribute one should be proud of. But what she said was no lie. Ector: “He seems angry,”
Saion: “You…well, he’s been moody lately,”
Saion replied, and I felt another laugh taking form.
Saion: “Let him have his fun.” Ash: "I see I was correct about you striking me as the type to fight even if you knew you wouldn’t succeed.”
His chin brushed the top of my head.
Ash: “It’s exhausting always being right.” Sera: “Let me go.”
Ash: “I don’t think so.”
I bit back a retort that surely would not help me.
A deep chuckle rumbled out of him and through me. My eyes widened at the sensation.
Ash: “You saying please makes me warier of letting you go.” Sera: “You knew who I was then and said nothing? You knew the night we found that body and didn’t say a word? And the night at the lake? You knew then and didn’t tell me what the name Ash was short for?”
He bit his lower lip as he glanced at the still-impaled body.
Ash: “I have a feeling if I answer that question honestly, you will be inclined to go back on your promise.”
Sera: “I’m already halfway there,” Ash: “Choice ends today. And for that, I am sorry.” Ash: "You acted fearlessly. Each time I saw you. You interested me, and I hadn’t expected that. I didn’t want that. But at that lake, you were just Seraphena. And I was just Ash. There was no deal. No perceived obligations. You stayed simply because you wanted to. I stayed only because I wanted to. You let me touch you because that was what you wanted, not because you felt as if you had to. Maybe I should’ve told you, but I was…enjoying myself with you. I wasn’t ready for that to end.” Ash: “They are gods. And they serve as a reminder for all.”
Sera: “Of what?” Ash: “That life for any being is as fragile as the flame of a candle—easily extinguished and stamped out.” Ash: “You have beautiful hair. It’s like spun moonlight. Stunning.”
Sera: “I think I will cut it all off.”
Ash: “You would, wouldn’t you?” Ash: “I remember how you showed me the way you like it. I play that over and over in my head. I could write a fucking tome on it by now.”
His thumb continued moving.
Ash: “When I’m fisting my cock, I remember how you held my hand against you at the lake.” One side of his lips curved. A piece of egg may have fallen from my mouth and quite possibly plopped onto my plate. All the training I’d gone through was a waste. I was terrible at seduction. Ash: “Here,”
Ash said to him and reached up, plucking Jadis off his shoulder.
Ash: “We disturbed her morning nap, so she’s in need of another.”
The god’s forehead wrinkled as he took the limp draken.
Saion: “And what am I supposed to do with her?”
He held the draken the way I imagined one would hold a child that’d soiled itself. Jadis squawked at him.
Ash: “Rock her to sleep. She likes that.”
Saion stared at the Primal. Saion: “Rock her? To sleep? Seriously?”
Ash: “That’s what I do.”
Ash shrugged. I was also gaping at him now.
Ash: “It always works for me. If you don’t, she’ll resist falling asleep. Then she’ll get cranky, and you don’t want that. She’s been able to cough up sparks and some flames lately.”
Saion muttered, draping the draken over one arm.
Ash: “Have fun.” Ash: “My interest in you is a very real, very potent need.”
His fingers skimmed the curve of my jaw and then the line of my throat. They stopped over my wildly beating pulse.
Ash: “It’s almost as if it’s become its own thing. A tangible entity. I find myself thinking about it at the most inconvenient moments,”
he said, his breath dancing over my lips. Against my better judgement, anticipation sank into my muscles, tightening them.
Ash: “I find myself recalling the taste of you on my fingers a little too frequently.” I sucked in a heady breath as tiny shivers hit every part of me. My palms flattened against the wall.
Ash: “I try not to,”
he continued, tilting his head as his voice lowered to barely above a whisper.
Ash: “Things are already complicated enough between us, aren’t they? But when I’m around you, the last thing I want is to be uncomplicated.”
Ash’s lips coasted over my cheek, dragging a ragged gasp from me as they neared my ear.
Ash: “Or in control. Or decent,”
he said, and I shuddered at the decadent, wet flick of his tongue across my skin.
Ash: “What I want is your taste on my tongue again. What I want is to be so deep inside you that I forget my own fucking name.”
His sharp teeth closed around my earlobe. My entire body jerked, and nothing about it was forced.
Ash: “And I don’t even need to read your emotions to know how much you want that, too.”
A shameless ache settled in me, and I didn’t even bother trying to muster up the idea of not enjoying this—him and his touch.
Ash: “So, keep that in mind the next time you doubt the realness of my interest. Because I won’t have you up against a wall. I will have you on your back, under me, and neither of us will remember our fucking names.” Ash: “I want you to be silent,”
Ash repeated, slamming his hand onto another’s face. The silvery energy washed over it, and the thing shrieked. He pushed it aside, and it spun, flailing and falling.
Ash: “And I want you to think about what you just did.”
Sera: “Do you want me to find a corner to sit in, too?”
Ash’s head snapped in my direction, and my stomach tumbled. His eyes were brighter than the stars.
Ash: “Will that help you think better?”
He snagged another creature by the shoulder, catching it without even looking at it.
Ash: “If so, then by all means, find a corner.” Sera: “Need I remind you that I never asked for you to do anything to keep me safe?”
Ash: “There is no need to remind me of such, but dealing with you does remind me of that saying.”
Sera: “I can’t wait to hear this,”
Ash: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Perhaps you’ve heard that?”
Sera: “Sounds like something you’d have embroidered on a pillow.” Ash: “I know one thing, liessa. A monster wouldn’t care if they were one.” Ash: “Don’t do that.” Sera: “Do what?”
Ash: “Smile at me,”
Ash: “Because when you do that, there’s utterly nothing I would not allow you to do to me.” Nektas: “I have never seen him sleep so deeply. Not even when he was just a babe. The slightest sound would wake him.”
Surprise rippled through me as the hand under mine remained relaxed and still.
Sera: “You knew him then?”
Nektas: “I knew his parents. I called them my friends, and I call Ash one of my own,”
he answered, head straightening. His gaze caught mine and held it.
Nektas: “I think I will call you one of my own.”
I really had to be asleep.
Nektas: “Because you’ve given him peace.” Reaver’s head snapped back to mine, and his bright crimson eyes narrowed.
Sera: “I have a feeling you listen to orders about as well as I do. But I’m hoping you come along with me. I want to be nosy and see what’s going on. Don’t you?” Draken: “Oh, Nyktos, my boy. You have something…you shouldn’t have, and you know better. You’re going to be in so much trouble when he—”
Ash: “Shut the fuck up,”
Nyktos growled and brought his sword down. In one clean, steady strike, Nyktos severed the draken’s head. Sera: “Stop reading my fucking emotions!”
I shouted, and Saion peeled away from the wall, his eyes growing wide.
Sera: “Especially if you aren’t even going to believe what you’re reading, you jackass!”
Nyktos stilled. Everything about him ceased. And that probably should’ve been warning enough that I may have finally pushed too hard. But I was beyond…I was simply beyond everything.
Sera: “Do you really think I wanted to do this to you? To anyone? It was the only way we believed we could save our people. It was all I’d been taught. For my entire life. It’s all I’ve ever known.” My voice cracked, and I drew in another sharp, too-tight breath. “I would say I’m sorry, but you wouldn’t believe me. I don’t blame you for that, but don’t you dare insinuate that what I’ve done with you was purely an act or that what I’m feeling is fake when I’ve spent my entire godsdamn life not being allowed to want or even feel anything for myself! Not when I spent the last three years hating myself for the relief I felt when you didn’t take me because it meant I didn’t have to do what was expected of me.”
Nyktos stared at me. Silence drenched the room, and I realized that I was shaking. My entire body. I’d never spoken those words out loud. Never. My heart thundered as a knot expanded and grew in my throat, threatening to choke me.
Sera: “I know what I am. I’ve always known. I am one of the worse sort. A monster,”
I whispered, my voice hoarse.
Sera: “But don’t you ever tell me how I feel.” Nektas: “Let me ask you a question. Would you have followed through if you never learned that killing him would not have saved your people?”
I opened my mouth. The word yes slithered up my throat, but it didn’t go any further than that. It wouldn’t go past my tongue because I didn’t know if I would have. I couldn’t say yes. Nektas: “That’s why. I think he knows that, too.” Ash: “You need to leave.”
Sera: “I’m not going to.”
he roared, and I flinched at the guttural sound as a tiny kernel of fear took root. A tremor ran through him.
Ash: “If you don’t leave, I’m going to feed from you, and I’m going to fuck you while I do it,”
he warned. A disturbing rush of silky heat appeared upon hearing his words. Something I would need to evaluate deeply.
Sera: “Is that a promise? Or just more talk?”
Nyktos made a sound, a low growl I never would’ve expected to come out of his throat. The tiny hairs on the back of my neck rose as instinct urged me to back away.
Sera: “I think you know that is one of my talents.” Eather pulsed in his eyes, bright and brief.
Ash: “I may kill you. Do you understand that? I haven’t fed in…decades. I don’t trust myself right now. Do you understand, liessa?”
Something beautiful and powerful. Queen. I lifted my chin, letting the hair slide behind my shoulders. His now-lifeless eyes tracked those strands as I revealed my neck.
Sera: “You’re not going to kill me.”
he purred, his lips parting as his torn chest rose and fell rapidly.
Sera: “Maybe, but I'm still standing here."
Ash: "So be it." Ash: “Your faith in me…”
His hand curled into my hair.
Ash: “Is admirable but reckless.”
Sera: “Your fear is misplaced,”
I returned, drawing my legs up to his hips. Both of us lost our breath. Pressing my knees against his sides, I rolled him onto his back, an act that was only successful because I caught him off guard—an act that punched the air from my lungs at the exact moment it sent pleasure thundering through me as the change in position intensified the feel of him, somehow bringing him even deeper. I planted my palms on his chest, steadying myself.
Sera: “But I am reckless.” I held him through it, running my fingers up and down his back even as sharp, swift aftershocks still rocked my body. He remained there for an indefinable amount of time, his weight braced on an arm but still heavy. It was time that I cherished—soaked in. The closeness, how we were still joined. The nothingness between us, and his scent and mine. The way I was Sera in these moments, and he was Ash to me. That was what I devoured. Greedily. Us. Nektas: “Every person has a unique scent.”
Sera: “What do I smell like?”
Nektas: “You smell of…”
He inhaled deeply as my lip curled.
Nektas: “You smell of death.”
I stared at him from my pile of pillows, mouth hanging open.
Sera: “That was rude.” Nyktos cleared his throat as he lowered his chin.
Ash: “He may be speaking of me.”
Nektas: “I am,”
the draken confirmed. I glanced at Nyktos and then realized what he meant. Warmth crept up my throat.
Sera: “I did bathe—”
Nektas: “That will not wash away such a scent,”
Nektas countered. I stared at them.
Sera: “Well, that’s...even more rude to point out.” Aios: “You’re going to behave yourself, right?”
Sera: “I don’t understand why everyone expects me to do something—”
I cut myself off as both of them looked at me.
Sera: “You know what? Don’t even answer that question. I will behave myself.” Sera: “Well. None of that sounds good.”
Penellaphe: “But I also saw her. I saw them. A Chosen and a descendant of the First.”
The eather burned brightly in Penellaphe’s eyes as they met mine.
Penellaphe: “A Queen of Flesh and Fire. And him, a King risen from Blood and Ash, who ruled side by side with man. And they…they felt right. They felt like hope.”
From the desperation of golden crowns and born of mortal flesh,
a great primal power rises as the heir to the lands and seas,
to the skies and all the realms.
A shadow in the ember,
a light in the flame,
to become a fire in the flesh.
When the stars fall from the night,
the great mountains crumble into the seas,
and old bones raise their swords beside the gods,
the false one will be stripped from glory until two born of the same misdeeds,
born of the same great and Primal power in the mortal realm.
A first daughter,
with blood full of fire,
fated for the once-promised King.
And the second daughter,
with blood full of ash and ice,
the other half of the future King.
Together, they will remake the realms as they usher in the end.
‘And so it will begin with the last Chosen blood spilled,
the great conspirator birthed from the flesh and fire of the Primals will awaken as the Harbinger and the Bringer of Death and Destruction to the lands gifted by the gods.
Beware, for the end will come from the west to destroy the east and lay waste to all which lies between.’
Holland: “Your paths have always ended in your death before you even saw twenty-one years of life.”
I went numb. Before age twenty-one…? That was…gods, that was soon. Nyktos stepped forward, partly blocking me.
Ash: “That’s not going to happen.”
Holland: “You may be a Primal, but you are not a Fate.”
Ash: “Fate can go fuck itself,” Penellaphe: “It’s an unexpected thread. Unpredictable. It is the unknown. The unwritten. It is the one thing that not even the Fates can predict or control. The only thing that can disrupt fate.”
Ash: “And what is that? And how do I find it?”
Penellaphe: “It can’t be found. It can only be accepted.”
Ash: “You’re going to need to give us a little more detail,”
Holland: “It’s love. Love is the one thing that not even fate can contend with.” I blinked. That was all I could do. Nyktos appeared to be as dumbstruck as I was, unable to formulate a single response.
Holland: “Love is more powerful than fate.”
Holland lowered his hand, and all but one thread disappeared. Only the broken one, and the shadow of an ever-changing string remained, glittering in the space between us.
Holland: “Love is even more powerful than what courses through our veins, equally awe-inspiring and terrifying in its selfishness. It can extend a thread by sheer will, becoming that piece of pure magic that cannot be extinguished by biology, and it can snap a thread unexpectedly and prematurely.”
Sera: “What exactly are you saying?”
Holland: “Your body cannot withstand the Culling. Not without the sheer will of what is more powerful than fate and even death.”
Holland looked to Nyktos.
Holland: “Not without the love of the one who would aid her Ascension.” Penellaphe: “It’s not fair to either of you. But life, fate, or love rarely is, is it?”