High Priest S’Rak and Captain Jisten have won their freedom, but they still have a long road ahead of them. They seek help from the nearest Temple of Night, never dreaming of the trouble that will follow them and threaten to destroy everything they’ve worked to build. Will Jisten’s love survive having his eyes opened about the nature of the man he’s bonded to? Will Rak recover from his illness quickly enough to meet the threat of a chaos mage backed by an army of savages?
“Ward the temple!” Rak fell out of bed, shot to his feet. “Ward the temple! The sprites are going to attack!” Ignoring Jisten’s swift protest, Rak raced out of the bedroom. His staff came to hand with the ease of thought and with it came certain knowledge of what he must do. Feeling the call of the altar of his God, he headed for the nave of the temple at a flat-out run. He shouted a warning to everyone he passed, alerting them to the attacking sun sprites.
He burst into the nave of the temple and pelted up the long, bare chamber toward the beckoning siastrion, the sanctuary which held the altar itself, but the Movai were in the way, crowding between the altar and himself. “Ward the temple! The sun sprites are attacking!” he shouted to the Movai who turned to look at him with expressions of shock and surprise.
“Sun sprites?” The closest Movai moved back, opening a path toward the altar.
“Thezomeh, welcome,” said others.
One whispered, “Has the high priest gone mad?”
Rak glared at that one, and the monk shrank back.
“He’s ill!” declared a voice from behind him. “He has wing fungus. Restrain him before he calls Zotien’s wrath down on all of us!”
“Traitor!” Rak snarled over his shoulder at the Therrai. “The sun sprites are attacking. The temple must be warded. Let me pass!” he directed that last at the Movai who were moving to block him now. Dread filled him as he realized the monks weren’t going to allow him to reach the altar. He could hear Scorth roaring in alarm. “Can you not hear him? My dragon is sounding the alert. Do you want to die? Do you want to see the temple laid waste? I must reach the altar.”
“No, Thezomeh,” soothed a voice—Myrtien. “There is no attack under way. The temple is safe, and here is your Valer.”
Jisten’s trembling arms came around him. “S’Rak, S’Rak, S’Rak,” he crooned between gasps, “it’s okay, I’m here.”
“The sun sprites stole his food,” Rak told them. “Look at him. He is dying. The sun sprites did this. I must ward the temple against them. Please.”
The Movai turned their attention to Jisten, who protested, “I’m fine. Help S’Rak!”
“You’re not fine and neither is the Thezomeh,” Myrtien said, and he was there, between two of the monks, his hand reaching out.
Rak shrank away, trying to avoid the healer’s touch. The altar caught his eye, and he relaxed, reaching out toward it with his mind. He could sense his Lord, a soothing presence, so close, so near, he yearned to touch the divine essence of his God.
“Do something about the wing fungus,” Jisten told Myrtien.
“We are,” Myrtien snapped back. “It takes a few days.”
A Movai asked, “Is the Valer ill, too?”
“I’m not sick!” Jisten roared, trying to avoid the many hands of the monks who were trying to push him closer to Myrtien.
“No, you’re not sick, you’re just starving to death,” the Therrai said sourly.
“Starve to death?” Rak startled, his attention snapping back into focus on Myrtien. “He will die?”
Jisten growled, a deep rumble that vibrated Rak. “Don’t upset the Thezomeh,” he warned. “I’m fine. Tell him that I’m fine.”
“I won’t lie for you,” Myrtien replied. “Yes, S’Rak. If your Valer doesn’t start eating now, and eating enough, he will die.”
“Blast the sun sprites into the deepest abyss,” Rak spat. “Now do you see? I must ward the temple. Jisten will die if I don’t.”
“No sprite did this, Thezomeh,” protested a Movai. Several others rolled their eyes.
“Sun sprites are harmless creatures. This is ludicrous,” whispered an anonymous voice.
“But they’re magical and they’re blessed by Auranz... what if the Thezomeh is right? If they were attacking, how would we know?”