When Alex is traitorously given feyweed, she loses her hard-earned mage powers. Suspicion falls on the queen’s lover, Jackson, but Alex refuses to believe him guilty. When Alex’s 4-year-old daughter becomes a target, too, Alex and Anders travel north to Spreebridge, searching for an antidote and the reasons behind the attacks. Finding an unexpected ally in Kimmer Frehan, an old friend of Alex’s father, some of the answers point to a plot by Spreebridge mages to eliminate any magic that does not conform to their craft. Returning home, Alex, with the help of family and friends, connives to thwart the assailants. But danger and betrayal faces them at every turn – along with the possibility that Alex may never regain her power.
“I’ll wait here.”
It was obviously that a bridge in Port Alain, or even Edgecliff, was not a bridge in the sparsely populated Keshtang Mountains. My heart dropped to my feet in clear horror when I saw the northern version of a bridge. Far, far worse than the bridge in Edgecliff…which still haunted my dreams every now and then.
How could I possibly cross this abomination?
We’d left the boat quietly at Plymborne-on-Jendlan, just south of the border in the Duchy of Ardsbrook, and trudged up through the rough foothills of the Keshtang Mountains without a single problem, until this point. Crossing the pass to reach Derbarry by this circuitous route and find Kimmer Frehan was impossible. No sane person could have conceived the suicidal, intricate, zig-zagged rope bridges that spanned the chasm.
Only a lunatic, indeed.
The bridge over Jendlan Falls, north of Port Alain, was a breeze, a short swift gallop, compared to this nightmare. The bridge at Edgecliff, though terrifying, at least offered a plunge into the river and a scant chance of survival. But the bridge in the Keshtang Mountains, appropriately named Lunatic’s Crossing, offered a plunge into a black, bottomless ravine, annihilation, and a painful death. My vivid imagination painted the scene in my mind in excruciating detail.
“I’ll wait here,” I repeated, when neither Anders nor Maylen responded to my earlier comment.
Anders stood at my back, hands resting on my shoulders. “Unlike my poor judgment in Edgecliff,” he said quietly, running a hand along the back of my neck, “I’ll change the rope here to stone and you’ll be able to cross without worry the bridges will sway.”
“I’m the great and esteemed Crownmage, Alex, and I’m on solid ground. No more puking. Of course, I can.”
Anders peered around my shoulder to stare at me, hearing in my voice indisputable fact. “Why not?”
“The rope isn’t natural. It’s made of some peculiar fiber.”
Cool seagray eyes, filled with skepticism, didn’t blink. “How can you tell?”
“I was raised in Port Alain,” I said evenly, fighting the urge to flee. “I’ve tied more sailors’ knots than you could ever dream about. Trust me.”
“Well,” Anders began, sounding unconvinced, “At least, let me try.” With confidence, though knowing full well my fear wasn’t imagined, Anders faced the nearest span and concentrated on nudging his mage talent awake. I watched my husband’s rugged face as his calm features transformed from confidence to confusion and, finally, to defeat, his shoulders slumping in resignation. Sending Maylen a sidelong glance, Anders turned a somber gaze in my direction. “We’ll take each span very slowly. Maylen and I won’t let you cross alone.”
I set my pack down on the ledge. “I’ll take my chances by boat. I should be able to bribe a local to cross the border.”
“Fine.” Another glance at Maylen. “Then we’ll meet you at the dock in Derbarry. Be careful, and don’t trust anyone. Let’s go, Maylen. We’re wasting time. I want to reach the end of the passage before dark.”
Without another word, Anders blew me a kiss as though he were heading into Port Alain for the day, tested the narrow span for steadiness, and began to cross. Maylen followed him in silent concentration, her pretty face neutral, guilty eyes avoiding mine. Envious and yet appalled that Anders would leave me behind to take a separate route, I watched them inch their way over the first span, testing each one before and after crossing. Anders never looked back, didn’t see my wet cheeks or clenched fists, or hear my angry, terrified, whispered curses. I lost sight of them as the chasm veered westward. By that time, my sight was so blurry from tears, I wouldn’t have noticed Anders if he stood on my toes. Forlorn, I leaned back against the cool cliff face, lonelier than I’d been in a long, long time.
Lonely and lost and sorry for myself.
No mage talent. No courage. Not a drop of self-respect.
With a rough move, I wiped my eyes and cheeks with the back of my hand. I’d come this far to find my enemy. I didn’t need to be one to myself.
Shouldering my heavy pack and strapping it firmly in place, I took a deep breath and a tentative, shaky step toward the first bridge. Clutching the rope tight, knuckles stretched white with strain, I refused to look down or even think about looking down. I put one foot cautiously on the span, and whimpered as the bridge swayed, though it steadied swiftly. The lunatic who built the bridge wasn’t a complete fool. Stronger than it looked, the span held firm. Shutting out the void below, the cliffs to either side of me, and the never-ending sway of the rope, I lost count of my steps and the spans, focusing only on my boots, setting one foot in front of the other for what seemed a lifetime.
Until I bumped my head into Anders’s chest as he caught me at the last span, holding me close without a word.