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Tower of Fire: Parallel Magic Book 3 (Ebook)

Tower of Fire: Parallel Magic Book 3 (Ebook)

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Book 3 of 3: Parallel Magic


I'm Bria Kent, and let's just say my last mission for the Death King didn’t quite go according to plan. in fact, I barely made it out alive. And now I have bigger problems.

The Family who raised me are plotting world domination, a band of rogue spirit mages are on their way to seizing power, and the Houses of the Elements refuse to accept my offer of an alliance to fight off the oncoming threats.

To complicate matters, the Death King has tasked me with finding the elves, who vanished a long time ago. An impossible mission, or so I think. But the elves might be our last hope for vanquishing the Family before they bring the world -- and the Parallel -- to its knees.

Here's hoping I can pull off one last miracle…

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“Natural one?” I looked at the die on the table in disbelief as it clattered to a halt next to the game board. “No way.”

“It happens,” said Liv.

Devon leaned forward, her spiky blue hair sticking up in all directions. “You take aim at the monster, but at the last second, you trip and fall flat on your face.”

“Wonderful.” I tapped on the painted miniature which represented my character—an elf, naturally—with my knuckles until it fell over. Devon, our DM, had loaned it to me for the session, since I’d only recently become a regular member of their group. Things were off to a somewhat rocky start for my adventurer, to say the least.

Across the table from me, Liv grinned, while Ryan gave her a disapproving look. “We can’t all have lucky dice.” 

“My dice are luckier when I use them to knock people out,” said Liv. “Not so much when I’m actually in a campaign.”

I’d never thought I’d find myself joining my once-adversary’s Dungeons & Dragons group, but the unlikely collection of allies I’d amassed over the last few weeks was the least of the recent changes in my life. Our current group consisted of Liv, a spirit mage; Devon, a magical practitioner and cantrip expert; Ryan, the Death King’s Air Element; and Trix, an elf. There were a few others who showed up intermittently, but tonight it was just us, plus Dex, a fire sprite whose main goal was to fly above the table, making sparks dance across the game board for special effects.

Admittedly, I’d mostly come here for the chance to talk to Trix, but I’d have to wait until the session was over unless I wanted word to get out that the Death King had told me to find the elves and ask for their help in the upcoming fight against a group of rogue spirit mages who happened to be allied with my own family. Liv and the others didn’t know anything about the people who’d raised me, and it was easier to avoid the subject.

Frankly, I didn’t know if the elves would even want to speak to me, given what the Family had done to them. Even though I was half elf myself, I’d grown up human, and even now I wore a cantrip that hid my pointed ears and elven features. I had three rules for living in the Parallel, the first of which was to always be ready to run at any time, followed by doing whatever might be necessary to survive and adapting to my surroundings when possible. Hiding my true identity had been necessary in order to keep all three of those rules, since there weren’t a ton of elves in Elysium and even fewer who’d run around on the wrong side of the law like I had. Add in my fire magic and it was a wonder I’d managed to fly under the radar for as long as I had. If I did find the elves, I could say farewell to keeping a low profile as far as that half of my heritage was concerned.

I did my best to keep my focus on the game, but my attention kept drifting to Trix. He looked like a typical elf, with symmetrical features and silky dark hair framing his pointed face, and his mild temperament stood in contrast to the fierceness with which elves were capable of fighting when pushed into a corner. Ryan caught me staring and frowned. Trix and Ryan had been growing closer and I knew they liked one another, but I wasn’t trying to flirt with the elf, just get his attention. One did not get on the bad side of the Death King’s Air Element, so I held my tongue until the gaming session came to an end.

While Devon and Liv stayed at home, the rest of us returned to the Parallel via the node which lay on top of their house. A flash of light engulfed our group, depositing us on the other side of a high fence circling the Court of the Dead. I waited for Ryan to head in through the gates to the castle, wondering how to broach the subject. I assumed Trix knew the elves were the first beings who’d lived in the Parallel—before the mages had taken their territory for their own—but I didn’t know the extent of his knowledge. I assumed he knew more than I did, at the very least, since the town where I’d been born had burned to the ground long ago and taken what remained of my elven history with it. Trix had told me himself that the elves had lost most of their strongholds, but he must have an idea about how to find someone who might give me a sense of direction. When Ryan was out of sight, I approached Trix before he could turn away.

“Oh, hello, Bria,” he said, in his usual pleasant tone. “Something up?”

“Can I talk to you?” I asked. “You offered to teach me elf magic once, right?” 

“I did, yes,” he said. “Did you want to start now?”

“Not yet,” I said, seeing Ryan give me a disgruntled look from the other side of the gates. “I just wanted to ask for a few more details about what kind of magic you can teach me.”

“I can teach you how to heal, but only if you already have the gift,” he said. “It usually works on autopilot if you get hurt.”

“I think I do have that gift.” Unfortunately, the Family did too, which meant they were functionally immortal. They died and got straight up again, which made it damn tricky to figure out a way to permanently be rid of them. Even after I’d burned them to cinders, they’d managed to recover and walk away in one piece, and I had little doubt they’d pay me back at the first opportunity. I’d been on tenterhooks waiting for retaliation ever since. “What about the mind-control thing you did on the wyrm?”

“That, I can teach you,” he said. “Most of us can enact control over animals, but larger ones like the wyrm are trickier, and humans and other elves are the hardest of all.”

Hmm. Adair’s mind-control worked even on humans—and elves, I assumed—but his ability was unique even among people like us. I assumed most elves didn’t have the ability to mind-control anyone they encountered, and I didn’t particularly want that skill myself, but if I could convince Neddie the zombie horse to obey me for once, I was all for it.

“Good,” I said. “I know nothing about the elves’ history, either. Do you know any other elves in the Parallel?”

“Oh, lots,” said Trix.

“Seriously?” I didn’t know why his admission surprised me, but elves were a rarity in Elysium, and I could count the number I’d met on one hand. “Do any of them have knowledge of the elves’ history? I mean, from before the war?”

“It depends,” he said. “The older ones will, but not anyone who was born after the strongholds were destroyed. Any reason?” 

“The Death King asked me to find any elves who might be willing to fight alongside him,” I explained. “I figured they might have an incentive to help out, given what the Family did to them already, but it depends how much they know of their history.”

“Oh,” he said. “That might be tricky. We’re quite scattered, and so is our knowledge.”

I thought so. The Family had engineered their current scattered statue, along with the mages who’d run the council before the war. “Do you know anyone in particular who might be willing to talk to me?”

“I can think of a couple of people,” said Trix. “I planned to check in with them anyway, so I’ll drop by tomorrow and give you an update if they tell me anything you might find useful.”

“Thanks,” I said. “It’s appreciated.”

Trix glided away, while I studied the dark shape of the castle behind the fence, wishing I could be certain I was making the right call. If I started contacting all the elves in the Parallel, I ran the risk of the Family finding out my intentions to seek out the history they’d made me forget. On the other hand, I remained short on ideas of how to find a permanent way to be rid of the Family, and the elves might be my last shot at thwarting them.

I walked between the pair of shadowy liches guarding the spiked gates in front of the castle, unsurprised to find Ryan had waited for me at the foot of the stone staircase leading up to the front doors. “Why were you talking to Trix?”

“I wanted to ask him how to contact the other elves,” I admitted, figuring it was better to go with the honest approach when it came to the prickly Air Element. Even without the armoured uniform typical of an Elemental Soldier, they towered over me, their shaved head and stern expression emanating hostility even though they’d had us all in stitches earlier that evening by doing a pitch-perfect impression of one of Dex’s NPCs.

Ryan arched a brow. “You’re an elf?”

“I thought you knew.” Maybe it wasn’t so obvious after all. “I’m half elf, half mage.”

Suspicion filtered through their expression. “I thought all non-humans were eliminated in the first round of the Death King’s trials.”

Oops. I’d forgotten that slight detail. “I showed up late, remember? I really thought you knew.”

“How did you expect me to figure that one out?” said Ryan. “I’m not a vampire. We can’t all sniff out a person’s magical species from a distance.”

“Vampires can do that?” I hadn’t known, though it explained why they always seemed to be able to zero in on any magic-related trouble. I knew even less about vamps than I did about elves, though.

“They can sniff out spirit mages, at any rate,” they said. “I take it the Death King knows what you are?”

“Of course he does,” I said. “He’s the one who told me to find the elves and ask if they’re willing to form an alliance with him. That’s why I spoke to Trix first. He has contacts.”

“I don’t know why I’m surprised.” Ryan sighed. “If Trix finds someone with information, I’m coming with you.” 

I gave an eye-roll. “So I have to play third wheel again.”

“You’re the one dragging Trix into this.”

“He volunteered,” I said. “Besides, I don’t exactly know any other elves to ask, do I? My family is dead. My real family, I mean, not the dickheads who raised me.”

Ryan’s expression softened a fraction. “I didn’t know.”

“That’d be because I didn’t tell anyone.”

Except Miles. I’d told him too much, if anything. I should know better than to be that trusting, not with the Family still alive and searching for me. After all, they’d killed the last person I’d grown close to. Admittedly, Tay had been slaughtered by an assassin and not directly by the Family, but she wouldn’t have been there at all if the Family hadn’t manipulated her into doing their bidding. They’d had their claws in her life from the start, the same way they had with mine.

I shoved the unpleasant memories away, with difficulty. “Never mind. I’m going to bed.”

As I turned towards the castle, the shadowy figure of the Death King loomed out of the darkness at the foot of the stone staircase. I managed to refrain from jumping—barely. While his usual dark armour covered his body from head to toe, he also wore an illusion of a human face instead of a mask, a surprisingly young one with dark curly hair. You’d think it would make him look less scary, but someone who could rip out my soul at a touch was not to be trifled with.

“How is your progress with the task I gave you?” he asked. 

“Trix is going to talk to the elves tomorrow,” I told him. “He’ll bring me an update if he learns anything of use.”

“And the Houses?” he said. 

Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted Ryan walking back towards the castle’s back entrance, leaving me alone with the Death King. That figured. “I’ve been at Devon and Liv’s place for D&D night. I haven’t had time to talk to anyone at the Houses.”

“You’ve had all week.”

Guilty. “I wanted to give them the chance to fix some of the damage before I showed up.”

The whole city of Elysium had been in upheaval after the Family had unleashed cantrips laced with a lethal virus among the Houses, ordering the earth mages they’d lured onto their side to distribute them throughout the city for unsuspecting bystanders to pick up. It’d been a bloodbath, and I still didn’t know how many members of the Houses had survived.

The Death King frowned. “You won’t get many other chances before the Family makes another attempt to convince the Houses to join their side.”

“I was waiting for an update from Miles, but it’s not like he can get too close to them either,” I said. “Besides, it sounds like Trix is going to have an update on the elves tomorrow. I can’t be in two places at once.”

“I’m aware of that,” he said. “And yes, the elves should be a priority. I don’t, however, think we can give up on getting the Houses to ally with us yet.”

No. You wouldn’t, given that you used to belong to one of them.

I held my tongue. The Death King and his Court were no longer the House of Spirit in name, since they’d all been turned into liches after the last spirit war. Nevertheless, they’d once been one of the five Houses of the Elements, and for all I knew, there was still some loyalty between them and the others, however deeply buried it might be. 

As for me, my relationship with the Houses had been rocky from the start. As an illegal mage with talents which they believed shouldn’t exist, I’d been jailed no fewer than three times and I fit all their criteria for a troublemaker who deserved to be locked up for life. I wasn’t convinced the Houses would ever change enough for me to see them as potential allies—and I was fairly sure the feeling was mutual. The Death King, on the other hand, was preparing for a second spirit war, and I understood why he didn’t have time to stand around chatting to the Houses. Unless someone else volunteered to act in his place, it was all on me.

“I’ll see what I can do,” I told the Death King. 

* * *

In my dreams, I watched the village burn.

Smoke caught in my lungs as I ran out into the narrow street, between crumbling buildings of brick and stone, with strident screaming echoing in my ears. The obsidian shape of the citadel was the only constant, standing in the centre of the torrents of orange flames and outlined in brightness which I now knew came from the transporter spell inside the upper room of the tower.

I halted before a pile of stone blocking the route ahead, and then veered into a side street. A roaring noise sounded in the background, and more flames bloomed over the rooftops. A pair of hands grasped my shoulders, cold and transparent.

My eyes flickered open to see Miles hovering above over me—in a literal sense—having astral projected into the castle from the outside. His body was transparent, his straw-coloured hair leached of colour and light, and his ghostly hands brought a chill to my skin. “Sorry I startled you. I didn’t know how else to wake you.” 

I breathed in and out, my heart pounding in my chest. “What’s going on?”

“Security breach. Rogue liches.”

“Shit.” I was on my feet an instant later, grabbing the round pendant which contained all my cantrips and looping it around my neck. I wasn’t dressed for battle, but I shoved my feet into my shoes and ran out of the room in my pyjamas, while Miles floated behind me in his incorporeal form. 

“Don’t use your fire on them,” he warned. “If they’re killed, they’ll just reform inside the castle and hide among the other liches.”

“Scumbags.” I picked up the pace. If the liches had been physical enemies, I might have stopped via the weapons room, but no sword could pierce the dead, and spirit magic was the only way to bring one of them to a permanent end. I followed the sound of shouting to the castle grounds, where the other Elemental Soldiers sprinted ahead of me towards a mass of dark confusion.

There, Liv faced off against the oncoming tide of living shadow, and as I drew closer, she reached into one of the liches’ bodies with a glowing hand. After a brief flash of light, the lich’s shadowy form collapsed in on itself, turning to nothingness.

Miles flew in to join her, blasting a second lich with a bolt of vivid white spirit energy. He then caught the lich’s life essence in his hand, draining it in an instant and causing the shadow to dissipate. Spirit magic might look less flashy than my own fire magic, but it was regarded as the most lethal sort of magic for a reason. Even a lich had no resistance against it if the spirit mage was strong enough—which Miles certainly was. His lean form glowed around the edges, as ethereal and bright as the liches were dark and shadowy. It didn’t hurt that he was able to draw power directly from the node near the castle, intended solely for the Death King’s personal use—with one brief exception involving a transporter spell which I wasn’t sure he’d entirely forgiven me for.

When the last lich evaporated beneath Miles’s spirit magic, Ryan and Liv ran over to the gates separating the castle grounds from the rest of the swampland. 

“How’d they get in?” I walked over to join them, my sock-less feet slipping around inside my shoes. “What happened to the liches on security duty?”

“Judge for yourself,” said Ryan. 

I squinted into the darkness and nearly gagged when I realised what I’d thought were bushes were two heaps of bones and rotting flesh lying in front of the gates. “Were those liches?”

“You remember I mentioned cantrips which can make the undead fall to pieces?” Liv strode forward, her mouth twisting with distaste. “The cantrips return the liches to life, only for their magic to eat them from the inside out.”


If Harper had been on guard duty, she’d have met a similar demise, but she wasn’t one of the Death King’s security liches. They never would have had the chance to defend themselves, not if the cantrip had been deployed by someone who’d then fled the castle’s grounds before they were spotted.

“Those cantrips only work on the dead.” Felicity, the Water Element, strode up to join us, her blue-lined cloak rippling behind her and the Earth Element, Cal, on her heels. “That means if humans had been on guard duty, they wouldn’t have been affected.”

“There are only four of us,” Cal pointed out. “If we’re going to take over security, we’ll have to take long shifts.”

“Then we’ll do it,” said Ryan.

Shit. How am I supposed to find the elves and guard the castle at the same time? The Death King already expected me to negotiate with the Houses as well as the elves, but he was as vulnerable to those cantrips as any other lich. Only now did it hit me how much of a threat they might pose to the Court of the Dead.

“It won’t happen again,” Liv said firmly. “Not if I have anything to do with it.”

“Who even created those cantrips?” I asked. 

“A vampire who got what was coming to him.” Liv crouched beside the bodies, reaching past the piles of rotting flesh to pick up a coin-shaped cantrip, and then holding it up so we could all see the faded markings on its surface.

The Family’s signature stared back at me. No way. “I thought all the cantrips with their mark on them were destroyed.” 

“Whose mark?” Liv said, as sharp as always. 

“Long story.” If the Death King hadn’t already told her, then I didn’t have the energy to relate my entire sorry history to her. “They’re called the Family, and they like to put their signature on things.”

“Hawker was using them before,” Miles added. “Might be him.”

“Exactly.” But I didn’t think so, somehow. This felt… personal. Maybe it was paranoia talking, but given the Family’s flair for the dramatic, it wasn’t too out there that they’d decided to remind me of their existence by leaving their signature outside the gates to my new home. As if I could ever forget.

Liv continued to glare at me, but I’d never been involved in the Family’s cantrip creation schemes and hadn’t even known about them until I’d met one of the victims of said schemes in the flesh. Still, I’d never expected the Family to openly target the Court of the Dead. Their usual method in times of conflict was to watch from the shadows and then swoop in to scavenge the ruins. Either they wanted to play a more central role this time, or they were mad enough at my spurning them that they didn’t care if they angered the Death King. Unless someone else had used the cantrip and intended the Family to take credit. Whatever the case, I met Liv’s stare until she shrugged and returned to the castle. Then I walked over to Miles, whose transparent form was almost invisible in the gloom.

“Those cantrips wouldn’t have any effect on you, would they?” I asked him. 

“Unless I ask one of my Spirit Agent friends to turn me into a lich, no,” he said. “Which I have no intention of doing. I like being alive.”

“Good.” Liches were created by a spirit mage binding a person’s soul to an amulet—either their own or someone else’s—and turning them into a being which existed in limbo between life and death. Most were part of the Court of the Dead, which was open to any lich who agreed to surrender their soul amulet to the Death King. The Parallel was filled with enough dangers that even the dead tended to stick closely together, so almost all of them had opted to stay here in the castle.

One of said liches was my friend Harper. She’d been a fire mage before she’d died in battle, and Miles had offered to bind her soul to an amulet to give her a second chance at life. She’d said yes, and while she didn’t yet know if she wanted to make that decision permanent, she didn’t deserve to have the choice taken away from her again by some dickhead who thought it was funny to mark lethal cantrips with the Family’s signature.

“I should head back before Shelley throws a bucket of icy water over my head while I’m astral projecting,” Miles said. 

“Is that likely?”

“Wouldn’t be the first time.” He stepped toward me and hugged me. His transparent arms passed through mine, leaving a faint chill in their wake, but his closeness helped to dispel my unease a little. 

While he vanished back to his body, I re-joined the Elemental Soldiers in the castle’s grounds. Liv had already gone back into the castle, perhaps to find the Death King and tell him the threat was taken care of. Why he hadn’t come to fight himself was a mystery, but he hardly needed to fend off intruders when he had four Elemental Soldiers and an army of the dead at his service.

“Who wants to take the first watch?” asked Ryan. “We can trade shifts every six hours or so.”

“I’ll take the first watch,” I said. “I have things I need to do tomorrow.”

“I’ll join you, then,” said Ryan. “I think there should be two of us out at a time. Also, you might want to put some clothes on first.”

Right. I looked sheepishly down at my pyjamas, which I’d forgotten, but the others were more or less dressed in full uniform as though they’d expected an attack. I should have, too, but I’d let my guard down. 

I was halfway to the castle when it hit me how quickly Ryan had decided to partner up with me to guard the castle. Did they still not trust me not to run off if their back was turned? Maybe not, but it’d be reassuring to have someone’s company through the rest of the night, in case the Family did show up in person. 

If anything, this attack had reinforced my determination to find a way to be rid of them for good.

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