Winter Gods & Serpents (The Auran Chronicles #1) by Wendy Heiss

Part I


Chapter 1

Nightmares and Kingdoms

Patience is the virtue of the dead. My pulse thumped frustrated in my temples proving I was indeed alive, and this quest was not suited for me.

I tapped my foot impatiently on the broken wooden floor of the empty room at the pace of my bored breaths. Something echoed. I could not make out whether it was my foot or heartbeat, but it was loud, enough that I could not concentrate. How do you break someone? I had learned the way of blood and steel, but some run on venom and dress in scales.

The hollow dark room lit only by small cracks between the old broken walls filled with ragged breaths and gold dust that shimmered between the rays of light. Smell of autumn penetrated inside, the air tasted of chestnuts and chimney smoke—melancholic.

Do not kill him. My friend's order had been clear, but was I one to usually obey? The man in front of me had dropped his body forward in fatigue, sat and tied by a half broken wooden chair. His short yellow hair matted in blood, blue eyes covered in a blanket of fear and surrounded by violet bruises. His blue uniform almost turned black as the dry crimson fluid patched and discoloured most of it. No trace of the wolf crest of Isjord anymore.

He'd only stared at me in insatiable anger ever since I’d tied him down, unwavering, as if I were his prisoner. His features tightened, he turned red and let out a groan of struggle.

“It won’t work,” I said pointing to the crafter halo around the room. “Your magic is nullified within these walls.” The man was an Aura. A human veiled in godlike magic. This particular one was an ice Aura, elemental magic wielder, a Verglaser.

I took a seat afront him. “Pretty far from your borders, haven’t you heard of the monsters in the mountains?”

He spat in front of me, mouth twisted into a snarl. “The only monster we found there was you, princess. Wait till your father learns of you, he shall be most satisfied.” He would be, greatly. It was what he’d made me be after all.

I shook a finger at him. “He won’t, all your comrades are dead in some scorching deaths. Living proof that you are not stiffs of ice, it happens you melt, pleasantly even. And please, no one with this face could be a monster,” I said, leaning in and fluttering my lashes.

He shook in his chair, tugging on his binding. “You’re a psychopath.”

“I consider it an attribution not a fault, but I am one with very thin patience. What were you doing in Myrdur?” I asked sternly at the loss of will to spin in circles.

Isjordian soldiers had not been this far into the fallen kingdom of Olympian for decades. Not since they had been the wielding hand of their destruction. The night of Draugr. Like eudemons, Isjordians crept between the curtains of night and shadows, through the autumn wind of November and silence of peace, armed to their teeth inside Olympia. They’d burnt and massacred the lands while Olympians rested unprepared under the impression of the protection that had been established earlier that day when they had finally settled an agreement of peace sealed by the marriage of their princess to the Isjordian king, my mother.

“Looking for you,” the soldier revealed.

“That dear is a poor piss lie, father knows where I would be and that is certainly not under the caves of the Volant mountains or the ruins of Myrdur. I am no blind bat to nest there.” He knew, more than knew—father had chosen where I would live my exile, right where I had been for the past twelve years.

The soldier remained silent after my words, his jaw flickered in anger while his eyes dug daggers onto me. In his head I probably bled, but there was no blood in my veins anymore, just rage and hate. I would leak black.

“He wishes to occupy the lands? Finally gathering the courage to face the souls of those he tarnished?”

He only laughed shaking his head without answering me.

I clicked my fingers and leaned forward. “Has Isjord ran out of gold? Coming to mine it here?”

“We need no gold; it comes to us.”

Ah yes, the famous tag line. “You’re looking for something,” I stated, and his attention dropped to the floor expressionless. “Interesting, what did you lose in the mountains, soldier? Aren’t you aware the spirits hunt those that chase and search on these lands? Are you that desperate as to tempt their fury?” Myrdur was cursed, roaming on restless spirits that preyed on anyone who dared disturb their resting place, no one had a remedy for it. Neither had my father, who had not touched these lands after he destroyed them.