The wicked heroine, p.1
The Wicked Heroine, p.1Jasmine Giacomo
The Wicked Heroine
Book One in the Immortality Archive
By Jasmine Giacomo
Copyright © 2010
All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the publisher.
This is a work of fiction. The events and characters portrayed herein are imaginary and are not intended to refer to specific places, events or living persons.
Cover art by Streetlight Graphics
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To the next generation: may you never lose your sense of adventure. You, too, can save the world.
My editor, Gerry Huntman, and M. L. Strickland were invaluable in creating the story that you see today. Without their unique assistance at two very different time periods in this story’s history, this book would not exist. A huge thank you also goes out to my beta readers.
My continual thanks go to my family, for letting me live my passion.
Four hundred years ago
The woman on the galloping black horse threw a glance over her shoulder. Past the low, proliferous shrubbery of the rising plains, through the gentle steam of hidden hot springs, she saw the red dust cloud rising around the last bend in the road. Dark hair that had escaped her braid whipped across her eyes as she turned to look forward again. She spurred her mount, hoping for more speed.
Her companion, riding slightly behind her, shouted, “Jacasta! I can delay them!”
“You know how long it would take them to kill you, Arisson. I couldn’t bear sensing that!”
“We’re beyond that now, Jacasta! Our queen has been assassinated; the very land itself is torn. There is far more at stake than just us. You know that!”
“Yes.” She caught her breath, gasping, “I know, but I don’t want to lose you now. We’ve come so far. So thrice-damned far!”
“We might not make it.” The blond man looked back as the riders bearing down on them rounded the curve into sight. His mount pulled even with hers.
“We have to!” Fear tightened the cords in her neck. “We’re almost there.”
“So are they. I will stop them, so you can succeed.” Arisson lifted the reins and turned his shoulders, looking back again, ready to wheel his mount around on the narrow country road. His free hand flared with silvery light.
“By your Oath, you will not!” shouted the woman, command ringing in her voice. She glared at him, daring him to argue.
Arisson gritted his teeth silently and kept riding, clenching the light into nothingness. The faint thunder of the distant hooves behind them could be heard now; there were so many.
“You know the power of the Oath,” Arisson finally murmured. “Yet you still want me at your side, Jacasta?”
“Yes,” she responded, eyes grim. She might not be able to pass the Warding alone, let alone navigate the Crypt, or thread the Dragon’s Labyrinth.
“You would hold our love more dear than the lives of all our people, at a time like this?” Only the accusatory concern in his voice made his words discernable over the thudding of hooves and the horses’ snorting breaths.
“Allgods damn, yes!” she cried, tears springing to her eyes. “I need you, Arisson. I can’t do this alone!”
His hand slipped onto hers, gripping it tightly for a few moments. She had not noticed him urging his mount so close to hers. Their horses galloped along in perfect rhythm as he said, “You can. And you know it. What’s in your saddlebag could destroy us all. What’s in your heart could save us. I believe in you. You can do this alone.”
Eyes wide with sudden fear, she turned to him. “Are you breaking our Oath?”
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