Her heart was frozen in her chest, but she felt the fire rising in her belly. “We’re all just a menagerie to you, aren’t we, Obsidian? We’re play things for your grotesque game of chess.” She wrapped her hands around the bars and brought her face as close as she could to them, feeling the barbs as they punctured her hands and blood ran down her wrists. “There is one thing you’ve forgotten, blood traitor,” she hissed. “In chess, the queen is the most powerful piece of the game.” And with that, she blasted the gibbet door off its hinges, and flipped onto the tree limb above her. Then she scaled down the tree, descending rapidly, until she flipped with the grace of an acrobat, and landed in the dirt in a cat-crouch in front of her uncle, the oath breaker. “And you, pretender? Will you always send others to do your dirty work? Will you not come after me yourself?”
He eyes were cold flint. “I’m the grand finale,” he promised.
Auri held her hand out over the ground, and her knife flew out of her boot and into her palm. She made no move to draw blood yet; she just waited with her eyes full of power and banked dragon fire. It built in her, but she tamped it down as she stared down her uncle, unwilling, for the moment, to test him on the shock she’d receive if she changed.
“What if I refuse?” she hissed. “What if I just let them slay me?”
He smiled. “That’s the best part. If you refuse, I kill them all—your friends, your family, your armies, your people—the elves, the humans, the dragons, the dwarves, and the animals that you have called to you. I kill them all. If you refuse, my armies will unleash a fire and destruction such as never been known upon the face of Terradin.”
Auri tried not to react outwardly, but inwardly she turned to stone—blindingly cold stone.
“And if I participate?”
“For every day that you survive, I stay my hand. Every day that you survive the game-board that I have set up for you, your people live.”
Auri looked from her traitor uncle’s eyes, to her father’s, to Liran’s, to Dhurmic’s, to Hien’s. She looked at all of them, and couldn’t find them in their faces, in their spirits, in their hearts. They were far from her, in a place that only Obsidian controlled. How he had done this, Auri didn’t know. But she knew . . . that she couldn’t let the world burn to ashes because of them.
She would fight them . . . and survive.
Her uncle—the root of all plague. Like a legendary hydra, if she cut off the head of the beast it would only grow more heads. Not this time. This time, she would cut them all off.
There would be no more Dragon Wars after this.
She turned back to her uncle, and quick as a flash her hand descended, stabbing through the outer part of his hand all the way into his thigh. They were fused together now—thigh and hand, and her uncle cursed. Liberating his sword and knife from her uncle’s belt, she ran faster than she’d ever run before into the trees of the forest.
This was a game that her people couldn’t afford for her to lose.
End-game. The point in chess where the last piece falls. Except, for Auri and those she loves, she is determined that it will be Obsidian and his armies who fall. To this end, she has brought all of the power she wields to bear. All of the combined power of dragons, men, dwarves, animals and elves, all join together in a clash that will determine the destiny of Terradin . . . and the destiny of the souls who dwell there. Then the tide of battle suddenly turns, and she is on the run from not only Obsidian and his armies, but also those she loves most dearly. In this explosive final chapter in The Chronicles of Shadow and Light series, determination and grit are paramount, love wields a power stronger than armies, and sacrifice is the key that unlocks the path between what is wrong and what is right, and what is worth fighting for.