Prologue

Pain. Fear. A scream she never imagined she would hear. A scream she thought was impossible – a scream from the darkest depths of her nightmares. In that scream, her very youth shattered. She was no longer safe, she was no longer innocent. She was scarred, touched by the darkness and cruelty of the real world. There was no escaping it now.

And the screaming continued. She wondered if it would ever end. Any screaming was terrible on its own, but these screams were like none any of them had ever heard. Not yells, not shouts, not any simple sounds of pain – outright screams of the utmost pain and torment, of the worst possible fear, agony…

And they, all of them, came from her big brother. Her unbreakable, selfless, loving, gentle brother: her guardian, her greatest comfort, her best friend. The one thing she could rely upon in this world, the one person she could trust, the one person who could reassure her no matter the fear, the one person who had always been there for her. Always.

Each desperate scream that tore from his throat, Plexaura felt a fresh surge of rage. She knew it was coming – there, in the dark mansion, she would unleash herself. There could be no stopping it now, not while her emotions ran rampant, uncontrollable – primal fury and fear filled her being to the very core, to the very depths of her soul. Boiling hot fire welled within her spirit… and it lashed out.

She would kill them all. Friends, foes, innocents, it did not matter. She would destroy the manor, possibly the entire city. She had no idea how bad it would get, but she could do nothing about it.

In doing so, she would reveal the truth to everyone: the truth about her Gift, her magic. He would get away, unnoticed, innocent in the eyes of everyone except for those who knew – those who would die in this room. Everyone, the entire Empire, would blame her. No doubt they would burn her at the stake, or worse, for this witchcraft and treason…

Exactly like he wanted.