About the Book
Jame and Tigh set out on their new careers as peace arbiter and peace warrior. Between hero worshipping teenage girls, battling the army of the Silver Dragon, and getting more than they bargained for with Jame’s first case as an arbiter-at-large, they discover that life on the road is anything but routine. But life has never been routine for Tigh and Jame and each challenge helps build the foundation for their new life together.
The shouts came closer, followed by hard-soled shoes clattering on the adobe brick. Unheeding invaders to her peacetime world, bursting through the quiet crooked lanes, scattering the raked sand and artfully placed rocks of her yard, pounding on her door demanding entrance . . .
Tigh sat upright on the bed before sleep had released its hold on her. She sucked in air and willed her brain to turn on all her senses. She picked up noises that didn’t belong in the Ynit that she shared with Jame. They were sounds from her life before.
“What?” Jame’s sleep-confused voice penetrated Tigh’s scattered focus.
“Something’s going on,” Tigh muttered as she tossed back the covers and vaulted off of the bed.
Jame sat up and frowned for a few heartbeats. “They’re rallying all fighters, regulars, reserves, retired . . .”
She jumped out of bed and pulled on her clothes alongside Tigh.
“Never thought I’d have to wear armor in Ynit again,” Tigh mumbled as she buckled the sections of molded metal to her leathers and clipped her sword sheath to her back.
“Maybe it’s a drill,” Jame said.
“They wouldn’t dare tick off a compound full of well-armed warriors like that.” Tigh waited for Jame to finish pulling on her boots.
“I see your point.” Jame grabbed the neglected Emoran staff decorating the corner of the chamber. Tigh stopped in mid-stride and stared uncomprehending at her. “In case I have to defend myself.”
Tigh nodded as Jame rushed passed her and pulled open the front door first. She stopped and stared at the chaotic and foreign sight. Tigh guided her through the door into their front yard.
A cacophony of shouting and running sounded from the unseen warren of lanes around them. Everyone, warriors and civilians alike, were stumbling out of their houses, pulling on clothes, armor, weapons, and rushing to the main square.
Tigh and Jame jogged past their bleary-eyed neighbors of arbiters and their families. None seemed to know why they were out in the cold dawn air instead of warm and asleep. Many faces wore the same grim mask as Tigh knew she wore, as if they were collectively flashing back to when this kind of alarm was almost as regular as meal call during the Grappian Wars.
They burst from the narrow confines of the lane onto the vast plaza that had once been the reviewing grounds for the armies of the Guard.
Tigh was blinded by a horrific blow to all her senses. She stopped so suddenly, she stumbled to the rough adobe brick.
“Tigh.” Jame dropped down next to the sprawled Tigh and pulled her to her feet.
Tigh could only stare spellbound at the hundreds of soldiers falling into their regimented lines as the civilians huddled near the edges of the square.
“Tigh. Look at me,” Jame said.
Tigh trembled as Jame turned her head away from the plaza and pressed her palms against her cheeks. She sucked in air and worked to relax the paralyzing grip too many vivid remnants of her past still had on her soul. Only the intent gaze of green eyes on hers was strong enough to pull her away from the nightmare visions flashing through her mind.
“I’m all right,” she said.
Jame slid her hands down Tigh’s face and neck onto her heaving shoulders.
“Are you sure?” Jame searched Tigh’s face.
Tigh nodded, forcing her mind into a meditative calm. It wasn’t a matter of whether she was all right, it was a matter of pushing it aside to deal with later. “Remind me to talk to Pendon about this.”
Jame relaxed and nodded. “Let’s see what’s going on.”
With eyes on the adobe brick ground, Tigh turned back to the plaza and allowed Jame to pull her along until she had calmed her mind enough to raise her eyes.
“Where’s your place?” Jame held onto Tigh as they walked through the forming lines of soldiers.
“Huh?” Tigh blinked at Jame. “Over here.”
She led Jame to the front of the lines where harried-looking officers were engaged in an animated discussion.
A medium-height woman, in full armor with a long bow arching over her shoulder, broke from the small group and hurried to intercept Jame and Tigh.
“Commander,” she said. “We need your help.”
Tigh exchanged mystified glances with Jame as they followed the master archer.
“Tigh. Thank Bal.” Commander Maure, a striking woman with thick gray hair and an impressive scar across her face, grasped Tigh’s forearm in greeting.
“We’d heard rumors for about a year now of bands of raiders hitting outlying villages,” Kare, the master archer, said. “It sounded like the usual post-War chaos and the raids were too sporadic to appear organized. “It looks like we should have been paying more attention to them.”
“What happened?” Tigh asked.
“We think they’ve been pressing in on Ynit from all directions for several weeks now because all of a sudden there’s a ring of them about a sandmark’s walk out in every direction,” Maure said. “Several thousand of them.”
Tigh frowned. She had just ridden a horse through those invisible raider lines. The severe storm probably saved her from a nasty encounter.
“They’re probably after the weapons in the armory,” Jame said.
Maure rested curious eyes on Jame. “That and to rid the Southern Territories of its defense force.”
“Several thousand?” Tigh asked. “Do they have siege engines?”
“So far we’ve counted six,” Maure said.
“Is that wizard still here?” Tigh asked and blinked at the half-dozen eyes riveted on her.
“Wizard?” Kare asked.
“We have a few hundred peacetime soldiers. Most have never seen a battle much less fought in one,” Tigh said. “They have several thousand fighters plus, at least, six siege engines. I was just thinking of a way to even up the odds.”
“Do you think the wizard will help us?” Jame asked.
Tigh shrugged. “She will if she wants to make it back to wherever she comes from. Anyway, I think she’s as interested in the survival of a peacetime force as the rest of the Southern Territories.”
“But a wizard.” Maure shook her head. “They’ve always refused to help us during the Wars.”
“Allow me to suggest that Jame talk to her,” Tigh said. “If anyone can persuade her to help us stop these raiders before they get close enough to use those siege engines, Jame can.” Tigh turned to Jame, who looked embarrassed by the compliment.
“We can’t refuse any options at this point,” Maure said, gaining Tigh’s respect as a thoughtful leader. “We’ll bolster the defenses within the city and you have a talk with the wizard. And let us all pray to Bal that we succeed in stopping them.”