Home > A Queen of Thieves and Chaos

A Queen of Thieves and Chaos
Author: K.A. Tucker




Sofie could finally see.

After three centuries of agonizing and pleading, of empty promises and seemingly unconnected schemes that had driven her to the brink of madness …

The moment she dragged her kneeling, naked form from the cobblestones of the sanctum, stood to greet the Fate of Fire, and saw the anticipation in his harsh features, Sofie knew something monumental had shifted in their favor.

“She has done it? She has released the nymphs?” Hysteria clung to each syllable.

Malachi strolled around the stone casket holding the two corpses, his corporeal form as magnificent as it was terrifying. “The process has begun.” His deep voice rumbled; the corners of his mouth twitched with delight as he reached down to graze a finger across Romeria’s perfectly preserved cheek. “Whether she realizes it or not.”

Sofie pressed her hands against her stomach to contain her excitement. “How much longer?” How much longer before she would feel Elijah’s arms wrapped around her shoulders again?

“Soon, my love. Very soon.” Malachi lifted his gaze to her. “Until then, I have a task for you.”






A peal of shrill laughter within the castle competes with our footsteps, earning Jarek’s scowl.

I peer up at the formidable legionary who towers over me, his sculpted body wrapped in leather, his sable-brown hair freshly shaved along the sides and braided at his crown in three thick cords gathered at his nape. “Come on, you can’t dislike children.”

“Can’t I?” His eyebrow arches, amusement painted across his angular but handsome face. “Let me show you what happens when the blood lust hits them for the first time, and we will see how cute you think those feral little monsters are then.”

I grimace, recalling Zander’s menacing description of the Islorian immortals when they’re learning to feed. “Mortal children,” I amend.

“They’re slightly less feral. Equally irritating.” His gaze surveys our limited surroundings, as if expecting a threat to materialize from the walls at any second. “And they don’t belong here,” he adds quietly.

Another squeal of childish laughter ricochets, the echo eerie within this hollow kingdom that thrums with ancient magic.

“Do any of us?” I opened the mountain wall three days ago, and since then, we have scoured every corner of Ulysede, finding signs of a thriving city—food stores, clothing, floral blooms decorating windowsills—but no life beyond livestock, songbirds, and the odd stray cat. Elisaf found an armory full of gleaming metal—enough to outfit a small army—each breastplate emblazoned with Ulysede’s two-crescent-moon emblem, as well as a treasury vault filled with gold coins stamped with the same, but no one to wear the armor or collect payment.

It’s as if Ulysede was built and then frozen in time, waiting for us. To what purpose, though, we still don’t know.

It’s an unoccupied city bordered by sheer, unscalable mountain walls on all sides, but only a fool would believe we’re within the mountain, and an even bigger fool would think we’re still in Islor. When that ancient wall of nymph scripture known as Stonekeep parted and we stepped through those main gates, we were stepping beyond our realm. The fact that two moons hang in the sky every night confirms it.

I study the painted ceiling that lines this hallway—an illustration of a teeming market with people selling wares, surrounded by horses and wagons and soldiers with Ulysede’s crest on their chest plates. The white sandstone castle with royal blue spires and soaring parapets is full of these lively murals, with no hints about who these people are, or from what time.

Are they depictions of the past?

Or perhaps a hopeful future?

I suppose I belong here, seeing as it was my blood—an inexplicable combination of Princess Romeria, heir to the throne of Ybaris and daughter to Aoife, the god of Water, and Romy Watts from New York City, unwitting key caster masquerading as a human thief—that unlocked the secret of Ulysede. A crown of thorns on a prickly throne was waiting for my head.

The question remains, now what?

Jarek and I step into the grand hall as a little girl—one of Norcaster’s humans rescued from their keepers’ cages—darts past, chased by Eden in what appears to be a game of tag.

“I caught you!” Eden declares, encircling the child in a hug, earning another shrill scream of glee.

The corner of Jarek’s mouth twitches, and I doubt it’s on account of the child. My lady maid is the only one who seems capable of dulling his razor-sharp edges.

Upon seeing us, Eden releases the girl and bows. “Your Highness!” Her innocent blue gaze rakes over the black breeches and tunic I dug out from the expansive and stocked closet, and her forehead furrows. “Was the gown I laid out not to your liking?”

“She can’t train in skirts,” Jarek answers before I have a chance to respond.

I roll my eyes. He’s been relentless in his demand that we spend time each day in the castle’s sparring court. Of all the things I still need to learn, throwing a dagger doesn’t seem vital, but I am improving. The blade no longer bounces off its target. “It’s a beautiful dress.” The closets of the queen’s chambers are full of them, and they all fit as if custom-made with me in mind. “But”—I gesture at my outfit—“this is way easier for moving around, in general.”

“Yes, I suppose so.” Eden bites her lip, her focus flitting to Jarek. Where their interest in one another has landed, I can’t say. The only time he leaves my side now is when I’m behind my bedroom doors with Zander, and even then, Elisaf has seen him roaming the halls late into the night.

The little girl has tucked herself into Eden’s skirts, her attention shifting from me to Jarek. I remember her, peeking out from the gaps in the wagon outside of Kamstead—the tiny village with air that reeked of burning flesh. Where before she wore tattered clothes and smears of soot, now she’s freshly washed and donning a sunny yellow pinafore.

I wonder which of us scares her more—the warrior with countless blades strapped to his leather-clad form, or the Ybarisan princess turned Ulysede queen with poison in her blood and untold magic coursing through her limbs?

I offer her a gentle smile. “What’s your name?”

“Betsy, Your Highness.” She attempts a curtsy and loses her balance, stumbling a step. It could be her age—she can’t be more than five—or that she’s had little practice in formalities, coming from the north where the idea of bowing to royalty is shunned. Either way, Corrin would be appalled.

“Do you like it here so far?”

Her head bobs in fervent agreement, but then she falters before throwing a pointed finger upward. “Is that really a nymph?”

I follow her aim to the stone statue in the center of the great hall, the creature at least ten feet tall, clothed in spiked armor, as if ready for battle. Its jagged wings appear designed as much to spear opponents as for flight, the claws on its hands primed to gouge enemy flesh. When I first laid eyes on it, I mistook it for a daaknar. “We think so.” There are countless versions of these winged creatures throughout Ulysede—from fearsome gargoyles to dainty, humanlike figures and a myriad of forms in between. I assumed the latter were the true ones, the nymphs who speak to me through their childlike laughter that only I can hear, but Gesine warned me to not assume anything. The seers have seen this terrifying version hovering over us just as readily, and so far, their visions have not steered us wrong.

Hot Books
» House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City #1)
» A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire
» From Blood and Ash (Blood And Ash #1)
» A Million Kisses in Your Lifetime
» Deviant King (Royal Elite #1)
» Den of Vipers
» House of Sky and Breath (Crescent City #2)
» The Queen of Nothing (The Folk of the Air #
» Sweet Temptation
» The Sweetest Oblivion (Made #1)
» Chasing Cassandra (The Ravenels #6)
» Wreck & Ruin
» Steel Princess (Royal Elite #2)
» Twisted Hate (Twisted #3)
» The Play (Briar U Book 3)