Depths of Betrayal (Paperback)
Depths of Betrayal (Paperback)
Book 3 in The Soul Bound Saga
From the shadows of Tiber to the depths of Dwarfhome.
Joran Den Cade’s search for the source of the conspiracy threatening The Tiberian Empire has been anything but safe.
Now his journey brings him to the underground city of the dwarves where a dark secret will shake everything Joran thinks he knows.
Even worse, a familiar enemy is on the hunt for another giant beast like the serpent that nearly destroyed the city of Cularo.
Can Joran and his soulmate Mia stop Samaritan before he unleashes death and destruction on Dwarfhome?
Joran Den Cade blinked exhausted eyes and tried to focus on the imperial palace looming directly ahead of him. On his left rode the Iron Princess, Alexandra Tiberius, member of the imperial family and his fiancée. On his right rode Mia Amino, his soulmate, adopted sister, and the most important person in the world to him. Neither of them looked half as exhausted as he felt. No surprise there. Mia had spent years training to be a warrior and Alexandra would have been beautiful no matter how tired she felt. Joran hated to use any of the substances he kept in his alchemist’s kit, but right now a little stimulant wouldn’t go wrong.
At least the sun felt warm on his shoulders. It would have been a beautiful autumn day if not for the small number of zombies still wandering the countryside, the—he knew not how many—mysteries he had to unravel, and the fact that Princess Alexandra insisted they report in to her father, the emperor, immediately on arrival. When you thought about it, exhaustion was the natural response to everything he had to deal with.
They’d left the bulk of the Second Legion to hunt down any zombie stragglers and returned to Tiber with a modest escort of Iron Guards. Happily, they hadn’t run into anything or anyone that wanted to kill them on the three-day trip. That many days without a violent encounter of some sort came close to a recent record.
He took a deep breath of the crisp air and offered a silent prayer to The One God that they’d have a chance to at least wash up, change clothes, and get a cup of tea. Strong tea, with lots of honey.
“Copper for your thoughts,” Mia said.
Joran offered a wan smile. “I’m praying for a cup of tea, and a nap wouldn’t go amiss.”
“Oh, I figured you were thinking about those weird chambers we found under Fort Death.”
He grimaced. The chambers in question appeared to be where the zombies they’d fought had been created by whoever controlled them. They’d found nothing in the way of instructions or notes and the simple stone slabs revealed no secrets. All in all, they’d left with many more questions than answers.
“They were the least interesting thing down there. Empty workshops devoid of everything save frustration. Pity whoever worked there didn’t leave a journal behind, but I suppose that would’ve been too much to ask for. The best thing the army could do is collapse those caverns—fort and all—then rebuild somewhere else. Not sure if they will or not, but that’s beyond my control.”
“Are you going to be okay?” Mia’s concern came loud and clear through their link.
“I will. A hot meal and a good night’s sleep in a proper bed will set things right. I’ve completely lost track of how long we’ve been going nonstop. It’s amazing you’re not more tired than me. You did all the actual fighting after all.”
“I’m used to it. In the city guard, we sometimes worked twenty-four hours straight. Not often, thank The One God, but when it happened, I thought the day would never end.”
Alexandra led them around to the side entrance near her suite and the three of them dismounted. “Tend the horses. I don’t know how long our meeting with Father will take, but I doubt we’ll be heading out again today.”
“Yes, Majesty,” the leader of the Iron Guard unit said.
“Any chance of a rest before we meet with the emperor?” Joran asked. His voice sounded entirely too pathetic in his own ears.
“Yes. If we show up looking like this, I’ll never hear the end of it. Besides, I want him to have a chance to calm down before we talk. I did sort of ignore a direct order not to take command of the legion. Father hates it when I do things like that.” Alexandra yanked the door open and they followed her inside.
Joran smiled at the soft carpet under his feet. Back in civilization at last.
“Do you often ignore his orders?” Mia asked.
“Not the important ones.” Alexandra pushed through the suite doors and a moment later her six servants came boiling out of the back room. “The problem is, Father and I sometimes disagree about which ones are the important ones.”
“I imagine the emperor thinks all of them are important,” Joran said.
“Exactly! He’s completely unreasonable sometimes. How many whorehouses do you think we’d have had to search to find General Artum? We didn’t have time for that sort of foolishness. Speaking of the general, I’m going to have to think up a good punishment for him.” Alexandra shook her head and turned toward her room. Glancing back over her shoulder she added, “You’ve got an hour, then we see Father.”
Joran glanced at the two servants—Marsa and one whose name escaped him—that had been designated for his use. “Whatever she’s drinking to get that much energy, I want some.”
The servants giggled and Marsa said, “I think Her Majesty’s energy comes from inside. But I can get you a nice snack.”
“The One God bless you. Hot tea if you can find it as well, please.”
When Marsa smiled and headed for the kitchen the second girl said, “I’ll fetch you a clean robe, my lord.”
Joran and Mia retreated to the room they shared. Inside, Joran went to the pitcher of water, poured a bowl full, and splashed his face. The chill water did wonders to wake him up.
“Do you suppose the servants think it’s strange that you and I share a room instead of you and Alexandra?”
Joran pulled off his filthy tunic and tossed it in the bin. “I doubt they worry about our sleeping arrangements. They know we’re soulmates, so our staying close shouldn’t surprise them. As for Alexandra and I, we’re only engaged. If our sleeping situation stays the same after the wedding, then they’ll have something to talk about.