Cursed with fearsome eyes and a dangerous gift, any chance of Damian Sires having an ordinary life was dashed the moment she was born. All her life, she has hidden her abnormalities and fought for acceptance behind the shadow of a veil and her respected merchant father.
When Damian’s power spirals out of control and casts her out alone into the world, she finds herself caught up in plots as old as the gods themselves. Bitter exiles, deposed nobility, clandestine knights, and a divine being with an ancient grudge all close in on the unstable power radiating from Damian.
Desperate to keep that power contained, she sets out with mysterious allies in an attempt to find someone who can help her in a world that fears magic. Yet the source of Damian’s ability is far more deadly than she imagined.
Damian Sires stood at the bow of the ship, her veil and gown rippling softly in the breeze. The river water lapped at the hull close below, the deck of the flat-bottomed barge floating barely out of arm’s reach above the surface. To her right, rolling pasture broken up with groves of trees and the occasional rocky bluff stretched away to the horizon, a few flocks of sheep or cattle grazing in the distance. To her left, forest encroached straight to the bank, trees reaching out over the river and even growing up out of the water, roots submerged beneath banks flooded from the spring melt. The single sail, used to carry the barge against the current, remained furled, the river’s flow pulling the ship downstream.
One other person stood at the prow, staring out toward where the river disappeared in the distance alongside her. He let out a breath.
“Well, here we go again.”
Butterflies fluttered in Damian’s stomach with the thought.
Her father, Claude, turned to her with a smile. She wondered if she reminded him of his late wife, the mother Damian never knew. Damian’s movements and manners replicated her father more than her appearance. His hair, now half gone to grey, had given her some of its darkness and its straight texture, though his square and moustached face, darker than Damian’s fair complexion, showed only a passing resemblance to his daughter. Both, however, dressed well.
More slender than shapely, Damian’s jade green gown drew more looks for its style than for the small curves it enhanced. She had pulled her long auburn hair back into a plait with ribbons and pewter clasps for travelling. As for her oval-shaped face with its high forehead and delicate features, that remained covered by a charcoal grey veil, patterned with flowers about the brow and the hem that rippled across her shoulders.
Her father was one of very few people who still smiled even when he saw Damian without the veil, when he looked upon the feature that she kept hidden from everyone else. The eyes with irises of yellow, as vivid as polished gold.
“Are you ready for another market season?” he asked.
Their home village, Aether, already lay three leagues behind them. Bolts of the town’s fine wool and linen filled the hold beneath their feet, the cargo that would accompany Damian and her father across the kingdom of Faneria from one market to the next. Summer would be only a memory by the time they returned.
Damian smiled, trying to look as steady and convincing as she could. “Yes.”
Even as she stood there, she could feel energy roiling through her and sparking around her fingertips. She curled her hands into fists, barely managing to keep the sensations contained within her. Yesterday she left blackened hand prints on a barrel in Aether, a few embers still glowing as she hurried out of the alley where the barrel sat. A week before, the wind had been drawn to her, following her around the town and through the windows into her and her father’s home.
A perpetual temp who has worked for a number of evil empires, Catherine decided to forgo things like a salary and regular human interaction to start a business. She lives near Toronto, Ontario with her husband, daughter, and a black Himalayan with a tendency to slide into walls.