Taste of Darkness (An Avry of Kazan Novel Book 3)

By: Maria V. Snyder


She’s fought death and won. But how can she fight her     fears?

Avry knows hardship and trouble. She fought the plague and     survived. She took on King Tohon and defeated him. But now her heart-mate,     Kerrick, is missing, and Avry fears he’s gone forever.

But there’s a more immediate threat. The Skeleton King plots     to claim the Fifteen Realms for his own. With armies in disarray and the dead     not staying down, Avry’s healing powers are needed now more than ever.

Torn between love and loyalty, Avry must choose her path     carefully. For the future of her world depends on her decision….





CHAPTER 1

Cold air caressed my back. I rolled over, muttering at Kerrick for hogging the blanket, but stopped. Something felt...odd, wrong, missing. Opening my eyes, I confirmed the emptiness next to me. Kerrick was gone.

For a moment, I stared at the dent in the pillow. Had yesterday been a dream? Had I imagined Wynn’s betrayal, Tohon trapped in a magical stasis, Kerrick’s miraculous arrival, and the rest of the insanity?

No. The events replayed in my head with vivid details. The blood, the overpowering reek of dead ufas, and Wynn’s poisoned knife striking Kerrick’s arm. Poisoned with Death Lily toxin. I’d thought I’d sucked all the deadly poison from Kerrick’s wound...but what if I hadn’t?

Icy fingers of fear wrapped around my heart. I shot to my feet and dressed in record time. Kerrick’s shirt, boots, and sword lay in a heap by the dying fire. Not good.

Out in the large main cavern, the rest of the infirmary staff stirred. I scanned the patients’ cots on the off chance Kerrick had collapsed into one. He hadn’t.

Loren added wood to the cooking hearth, poking it into a bright blaze.

I rushed over to him. “Have you seen Kerrick?”

“Nope, and we figured we wouldn’t see either of you until...” His smirk faded. “Maybe he went outside for some fresh air.” This in a hopeful tone.

“Without his shirt?”

“Well, when nature calls...”

“Or his sword?”

Loren jumped up. “Let’s not panic, Avry.”

Too late.

“Have you searched the other caverns?” he asked.

“Not yet.”

“Okay, then you look for him inside, and I’ll go outside. If he’s not nearby, I’ll ask the guards if they saw him last night. All right?”

I nodded, but dread clawed up my throat. Kerrick wouldn’t be in another cavern unless he’d been too sick to find his way back to me. Gulping down the tight knot, I grabbed a lantern and checked all the other sleeping areas.

A few people grumbled after I swept the light over them, but I didn’t care.

Odd squinted in the brightness, but sat up as if he’d been awake. “What’s wrong?”

I explained.

He cursed. “Not only did Wynn stab us in the back, she’s twisted the blade, too.”

“While I’d love to plot revenge with you—”

“Yeah, go. I’ll be right out.”

The other caverns yielded the same results. Even the one reserved for the privy. A detached part of my mind noted the buckets needed to be dumped. However my heart kept its frantic rhythm. That was the last place inside. Perhaps...

Running back to the main cavern, I spotted Loren and Odd talking to a soldier.

“...sometime after midnight,” the man said. “Don’t recall if he came back or not.”

Loren rounded on him. “Don’t recall! You’re supposed to be guarding us. What if the enemy grabbed him? If someone goes into the woods and doesn’t come back, that’s a big red flag, you idiot!”

Odd touched Loren’s shoulder and tilted his head toward me. “Not helping right now.”

“He was outside?” I asked.

The guard had seen him leave. I dashed out into the cold morning air. The fresh scent of moist earth reminded me of Kerrick. Without hesitating, I embraced the closest bit of foliage, seeking the vibrations of Kerrick’s forest magic.

Nothing. I drew a shaky breath. Don’t jump to conclusions. He could be unconscious. Odd and Loren had followed me out. Six inches shorter than Odd, Loren ran a hand over his buzzed black hair. More silver sprinkled his hair despite only being thirty-five. Odd on the other hand had let his hair grow since Tohon’s surprise attack. Although saying it had grown was being generous. His dark brown locks remained close to his scalp in a fine fuzz.