Home > The Blood Traitor (The Prison Healer #3)

The Blood Traitor (The Prison Healer #3)
Author: Lynette Noni

 

 

Prologue

 


The woman was crying.

Tears ran like rivers down her face, dripping off her chin and soaking her tunic. She had to stay silent. No one could learn of her sorrow.

Because no one would understand.

Wrapping her arms around her knees, she stared into the darkness of her tent, praying to the long-forgotten gods. Begging for their forgiveness. Even knowing that she didn’t deserve it, could never deserve it.

Not after what she’d done.

Not after what she’d created.

A sob buckled her body.

“I made a mistake,” she mouthed soundlessly. “I want to take it back. I need to take it back.”

That was how the man found her, drenched in tears, rocking with anguish.

He stilled at the entrance to her tent, then rushed over to kneel before her, taking her trembling hands in his own. “What happened, my dear? Are you ill? Hurt?”

Her watery eyes locked with his as she croaked out, “I was wrong.”

He frowned. “Wrong about what?”

More tears trickled down her cheeks. “Everything.”

The man didn’t hide his confusion. Or his fear.

“You’re unwell,” he said. “I’ll ask Zuleeka to come and heal —”

“No!” the woman cried, jerking her hands back, her tension flooding the tent.

The man sank onto his haunches, watching her closely. Softly, he repeated, “What happened?”

For a long moment, the woman said nothing. When she finally answered, her words came in a painful-sounding rasp. “Zuleeka killed them. One wave of her hand, and she snapped their necks.”

The man paled. “Who?”

“The villagers — anyone she walked past. Anyone who looked at her wrong. Anyone who wouldn’t join us.” The woman swallowed. “Everyone thinks it was me. But I —” She shook her head, then whispered, “I knew her power was growing, but this . . . I never meant for this to happen. I never wanted this. She promised she wouldn’t use it again, not after last time, when she — when I —”

“You stopped her last time,” the man said, his tone soothing but firm. “You kept her from killing the prince and his guard. They’re alive and well.”

“That guard lost her hand.”

“She would have lost more if you hadn’t freed her from the magic binding her. And the crown prince would be dead.” Quietly, he noted, “Not so long ago, that was what you wanted. One less Vallentis to deal with.”

“I didn’t realize —” The woman shook her head again. “He’s just a boy — younger even than Torell. When I saw him, I . . .” She closed her eyes and repeated, “He’s just a boy.”

“And yet, his family stands in the way of your goals. He stands in the way.”

“There are other ways to take the throne. Ways that won’t hurt anyone else I love in the process. I can’t —” She choked on a sob. “I can’t lose anyone else. Not like this. She’ll kill herself if she keeps using it for harm. The magic will destroy her from the inside out.”

Choosing his words carefully, the man said, “You can’t blame yourself for Zuleeka’s actions. Her choices are her own.”

“You’re wrong, Galdric. Everything she does is because of me,” the woman said, her thoughts turning inward as she recalled what had transpired mere hours ago. Bones snapping, necks breaking, bodies dropping — men, women, and children, all dead in an instant. “Everything she knows, I taught her. This is my fault.”

A weighty pause fell, before the man — Galdric — asked, “What are your orders, my queen?”

Only then did Tilda Corentine’s emerald eyes lock with his, silent understanding passing between her and her closest friend, her most trusted adviser, as she whispered her answer. As she begged for his help.

And then, with their heads bent together, they came up with a plan.

 

 

Present Day

 

 

Chapter One

 


Kiva Corentine was on fire.

Flames scorched her body, and blood boiled inside her veins, causing her to moan and thrash and shove at the hands holding her down.

“She’s burnin’ up,” came a gruff male voice. “Get her some water.”

The smell of vomit overwhelmed Kiva’s senses, close enough to make her realize it was hers, causing her to gag anew.

She was sick.

No — not sick.

Somewhere in the back of her mind, she knew she wasn’t suffering from an illness.

A haze of memories came to her: blue-gold eyes and kiss-swollen lips, deadly shadows and broken glass, caramel dust and iron bars. But then her thoughts scattered, the images seared from her mind, the unrelenting heat all that she knew, all that she was.

“Gods, she’s a mess,” said a female voice, full of disgust.

A wooden tumbler was forced between Kiva’s lips. Water trickled down her parched throat and sloshed over her chin.

“She is,” agreed the man. “And she’s your mess. I don’t got time for the dead.”

The hands holding Kiva disappeared. She tried to sit up, but flames twisted around her torso. Her eyelids fluttered open for the briefest of seconds, but she could see no fire. It was her — the inferno was inside her.

“She’s not dead,” argued the woman.

“Give it time,” said the man, his voice further away, as if he was leaving. “She’s had too much of the good stuff to survive without it. Best leavin’ her to her fate. Or give her a mercy killin’, if you can stomach it.” A snort. “I doubt you’ll have any issues doin’ that.”

“You’re the prison healer,” the woman said angrily. “It’s your job to help her.”

Another snort from the man. “No one can help her now.”

Kiva barely heard his departing footsteps over the pounding in her ears. Her heart was beating unnaturally fast. Dangerously fast.

Part of her knew she should be concerned about her state, but that part couldn’t do anything, couldn’t even think beyond the all-consuming agony blazing throughout her body.

A stream of curse words penetrated her pain, followed by a calloused hand snaking behind her neck and hauling her roughly upward, the tumbler pressing to her lips once more.

“Drink,” ordered the woman, forcing water into Kiva’s mouth. “If you want to live, you need to drink.”

Kiva tried to follow the command, choking on the liquid, all the while wondering why. If this was living, surely she was better off dead. A mercy killing, the man had said. Kiva wanted that — a quick end to the flaming hell, the gaping hole in her heart gone forever.

A hole she knew had nothing to do with her current state.

Blue-gold eyes flashed across her mind once more, the fleeting image spiking a different kind of torture, before it was gone again.

“Damn it, Kiva, drink,” came the angry female voice.

But Kiva couldn’t drink any more. Shivers began to rack her frame, fire warring with ice. Sweat coated her skin even as she trembled from the sudden cold, but when a blanket was thrown over her, she whimpered and begged for it to be taken away.

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