A kingdom in turmoil or the love of her life. Which one will she save?
Elemental mage Rielle hasn't heard from her best friend in far too long. Yet no one at the Tower of Magic seems to care about Olivia's silence, or the curtain of secrecy surrounding the distant capital. Before Rielle can investigate, she's assigned a strange new mission: escort a knight named Jon across the kingdom.
When whispers reveal mercenaries have killed the king, taken the capital, and that no one is coming to help, Rielle can't leave Olivia in peril. But as infamous mages and deadly assassins hunt Jon, she can't leave him unprotected either–especially as she finds herself falling for his strength, his passion, and his uncompromising goodness. Her past returns to haunt her, a werewolf stalks their steps, and an ancient evil is gathering, yet the restraints forbidding their love strain and snap one by one.
Saving Olivia and the kingdom means defying orders and sacrificing her every ambition, and could mean losing the man who's become so much more to her than a mission. Which will she choose: her best friend and the kingdom, or the love of her life?
Miranda Honfleur's Blade & Rose's begins with a mismatch romance and blossoms in a adventure that is nothing short of epic. Rielle earns the title of kickass Heroine over and over again despite her flaws. – Terry Mixon, SFWA
"...[M]ultiple threads of a complex plot, forbidden romance, manipulative villains, and marvelous writing."– Fantasy-Faction.com
"Miranda Honfleur is extremely talented, you can tell it from her wonderful, eloquent descriptions, and all the effort she made to create a such an expanded and intricate world… Miranda spread her wings wide and added so many aspects to her story, and she put them together in a way they fitted perfectly, like pieces of a puzzle… [T]hey co-existed harmonically and captured your interest and attention with a strong, magical grip."– Booknest.eu
"The magic system was interesting, the plot was layered and complex, and the writing was wonderful... This is a solid start to a series that will likely find plenty of fans amongst those who enjoy romantic fantasy."– Bookworm Blues
"With a brilliant plot line and rich, exciting characters, and a very touching, beautiful, sensual, passionate and honest love story"– Amazon Reviewer
"The best part is the main female character, Rielle... No damsel in distress, she's a strong, smart, and reliable mage all on her own. She has flaws, but it makes her relatable. You cheer her on from start to finish."– Amazon Reviewer
"Wonderful, detailed world-building and engaging, interesting characters set the stage for this intriguing fantasy story. Action, adventure, suspense, and intrigue - and plenty of twists and turns - kept me turning pages, fully immersed"– Amazon Reviewer
Out the fifth-story window, or not at all.
It was her only chance to sneak out unnoticed. Rielle sprang from the bed and grabbed a coat, white wool with the master mage's four-bar chevron, and fastened the double rows of buttons from neck to hip.
Gloves next. No glow of spellcasting to give her away. She slipped her hands into the wool-lined leather and flexed her fingers. A new pair. The heat of her pyromancy last mission had ruined the previous set.
With a flick of her wrist, she extinguished the fireplace and every candle in the room, willing the flames away until only darkness and the faint glow of the gibbous moon remained.
She tossed her braid over her shoulder and opened the window latch. Her boot perched on the sill, she peered at the ground. Dark. Quiet. Empty.
Farther from the Tower, torches illuminated the walls of the inner bailey, dotted the outer bailey and the gates. Beyond them, white pines challenged the midnight sky, their peaks silvered by the moon. The forest—that was her destination.
If a guard on wall duty looked at the Tower of Magic instead of out at the gates and the surrounding wilds... Well, a mage jumping out her fifth-story window would not go unreported.
And yet, Olivia's silence—and the capital's—went ignored. On her desk was Olivia's latest letter, which she'd read a dozen times already and replied to three weeks ago.
She'd told the Tower's Proctor, asked about the capital… Nothing. Either no one knew, or no one cared. She curled a fist.
Tonight, she'd get her answer.
She tapped the window frame.
An early autumn wind riffled her coat. She shivered, eyeing the five-story drop as she climbed onto the sill.
If she got caught, she'd be punished into the next life, and Brennan—well, a werewolf was the kind of monster thought to exist only in fairy tales. The kind of monster that incited mobs bearing torches and pitchforks. And yet—
With a curl of her index and middle fingers, she called an updraft strong enough to catch her and held it. This better work.
The spelled wind pushed against her boots, her coat, her, as she descended, the force strong enough to keep her from breaking upon the rough white-marble courtyard.
Suspended just above the ground, she uncurled her fingers, dispelling the aeromancy.
Her boots clicked upon the courtyard's flagstones. She caught her breath. Divine be praised.
Briefly closing her eyes, she chanced an inward glance. Her anima's inner luminosity remained bright. As long as she kept her spellcasting limited to her innate elemental magic, she probably wouldn't need to find another mage for resonance later.
In the shadows, she crept to the eastern edge of the white stone inner wall, watching for patrolling guards on the battlements. Thankfully, they guarded against intruders and not escapees, but tonight, they were nowhere to be seen. Slacking off?
She shrugged. No matter. If they weren't here, her escape would be all the easier. In the cover of the inner wall, she sidled against it until she reached a stack of hay bales.
Scanning the battlements for patrols, she climbed over the sweet-smelling hay, prickly even through her gloves. Near the top, she stilled, holding her breath.
Not a single guard.
Something wasn't right.
She listened for something, anything, but heard only her own heavy breaths. Perhaps she'd see something from a vantage point on the wall.
With a grunt, she dragged herself onto a crenel, waited for any sound, and hearing none, emerged from between the merlons. Crouched, she scanned the length of the stone wall in both directions.
No one. There should have been at least two guards here, two more near the corner on the southern inner wall, but she couldn't see any.
A distant shout. She darted to the nearest merlon on the wall's outer face.
About five hundred feet away, just inside the outer bailey by the western gate, spells lit the darkness. Flashes of brilliant color popped in disarray. A skirmish.
A small group clustered around a single armored intruder. Torchlight glinted off his blade as he dueled a mage guard, evading, defending, attacking.
Her eyes widened.
Wildfire. He moved like wildfire.
Armor of massive plate—sage tinted. She knew it. Arcanir.
He had to be a warrior-priest of the Order of Terra. A paladin.
What was one of them doing here?
She counted the guards—six. All of them? No one left to even sound the alarm? They engaged the paladin at the western gate. Rainier Valentin fired a purple blur of conjured daggers while the paladin fought another mage wielding a massive scythe.
No, not another mage—another Rainier. All six of them were Rainier. He'd created five apparitions of himself, all of them attacking with ethereal weapons, distracting the whirling paladin. Every strike with the arcanir sword dispelled a conjured blade.
The five other mage guards lay afield, already defeated. Only Rainier and his apparitions remained to protect the Tower.
She spelled her eyes with earthsight. The fallen guards still glowed with threads of bright anima, were still breathing. She dispelled it. If he'd left them alive, the paladin wouldn't kill Rainier either.
Across the outer bailey by the eastern gate, two small forms crept in the faint torchlight—children? Tower novices, nothing separating them from the intruder but the length of a cobblestone path. Fiery red hair... and a shaved head. Jacqui and Luc. What were they doing out at this hour?
She curled her fingers into a fist. Would he see them as mere children? Or only more mages to fight?
Being mere children hadn't kept her or her brothers and sisters safe in Laurentine nine years ago. When the pirates had—
No, that's in the past. She took a deep, cleansing breath.
Rainier would keep him busy until someone from the Tower took notice. After all, they fought in the outer bailey of the Emaurrian Tower of Magic... Over a hundred mages lived here, including a wild mage and a magister.
One paladin. The odds spoke for themselves.
And if no one emerged, well... His luck would run out. As much as she needed answers about Olivia, Jacqui and Luc's safety came first. If the Proctor reprimanded her for sneaking out, so be it. She could handle another round of his discipline.
The paladin struck Rainier in the face with the pommel of his sword. No, an apparition of Rainier. Violet smoke puffed, rose. Dispelled.
"I mean you no harm!" the paladin bellowed. Barely a breath later, he breezed through three more apparitions. In a veil of smoke, he elbowed another in the abdomen hard enough to make him splutter and fall. Dematerialized on the ground. Another apparition.
The smoke cleared, and with an arc of golden light, Rainier conjured a fiery blade. No apparitions. Just him. He never did turn away from a fight.
"Let me pass!" The paladin raised the visor on his helm.
Rainier didn't move. "By order of the Divinity, you are to submit to questioning, paladin."
They were a little past questioning now. The paladin forged ahead toward the eastern gate.
She grimaced. Rainier's conjured blade wouldn't stop a paladin; while he was in his arcanir armor, no direct magic could affect him.
But with the conjured blade, Rainier set upon him anyway.
The paladin parried, his arcanir sword dispelling the conjured weapon, and coupled it with an armored uppercut to Rainier's jaw with his knuckle dusters.
She winced. Where were the other mages? She needed to get to Brennan. A backward glimpse of the Tower's doors revealed no activity. She looked back at Luc and Jacqui, huddled across the outer bailey, and then at the fight.
Divine's flaming fire. She pressed her lips in a tight line.
Rainier fell to the ground but pushed against it with his hands.
The paladin elbowed him in the back. "Stay down."
The paladin made for the eastern gate—and for Jacqui and Luc, who cowered together by the portcullis but assumed a battle stance. No. They had no chance of stopping him. But now they were definitely targets.
Magic coursing through her, Rielle focused on the paladin's path and formed a circle with her hands, straining to cast five hundred feet away. Anima flowed from inside her, powering her spell.
Beneath the paladin, the ground cracked into a web thirty feet in diameter. He wouldn't be able to jump clear of it in a full suit of armor.
He glanced down, then ran.
It was too late.
A great rumbling filled the air as the ground broke and collapsed, leaving the downed, injured mages gasping and coughing in the dust cloud.
Her spell transmuted the soil to stone, some twenty feet deep—she hoped.
She cast an updraft and jumped from the battlements. After landing on the soft grass, she cast candlelight, summoning a small flame to her palm to light the way through the darkness.
Ahead of her lay the pit she'd created, and within it, the man of the hour.
His little invasion would cost her information on Olivia tonight, and no doubt punishment from the Proctor. Besides the unquestionable fun of cleaning garderobes and scouring pots and pans, punishment meant having to stay in the Tower instead of going on mission. She'd enlisted with the Divinity to do some good in this world, not to play chambermaid.
All for some paladin's whim. She huffed and shook her head.
Well, her last chance to avoid—she sighed—minimize her punishment was to handle this impeccably.
Paladins considered themselves mankind's last defense against the so-called perils of magic. It had been centuries since there had been an official clash between the mages of the Divinity of Magic and the paladins of the Order of Terra. However, their relations had never been friendly.
But five years ago, during a mission in Signy, she'd healed a young paladin on the brink of death. They clung to honor. She could use that.
She approached the pit and knelt, crumbling dirt in from the rim and the freshness of earth into the air.
The paladin grunted. She poked her head over the edge to watch his futile attempt to scale the sides, his face contorted with the effort through his helm's open visor. He kicked out, pounded his armored foot onto the stone bottom, his hands clenched into fists.
Without help, he'd be going nowhere. When she held the flame out, he glared up at her and planted his hands on his hips.
"I demand that you free me." A deep, authoritative rumble of a voice.
She met his gaze squarely. "And I demand that you surrender."
He snorted and looked away, scanning the confines of his prison. "Surrender? What about 'no quarter'?"
No quarter. Yes, on missions, the Divinity required that mages give no quarter—take no prisoners.
"This isn't a mission. You will not be harmed if you comply. But if you are so eager to die, that can yet be arranged." When he didn't look her way, she shrugged: a waiting game would end only in her favor. "Suit yourself. I can wait. I'm not the one trapped in a hole."
The paladin pressed his lips together, still and staring into the shadows. His gaze meandered back to hers. "This has nothing to do with the Tower. I'm just passing through on my way to Monas Ver on the Order's business."
Perhaps his words would have had an effect where the Order held sway, but not here. "That means nothing to me."
He should have submitted at the western gate. The guards let nearly everyone through without so much as a question, and they would've even let a paladin through after questioning. An hour or two, and he could've been on his way. Everyone knew. If he didn't like it, he could've gone farther south around the Tainn Mountains through the duchy of Maerleth Tainn and its pass. But two hours lost beat several days.
The paladin exhaled a harsh breath. "Terms."
At last, a practical response. "If you harm no one, you have my word that I will allow no harm to come to you. You agree to meet the Proctor of this Tower of Magic and submit to his questioning."
He paced the dark pit for a moment and then paused. "I accept." Although he didn't seem pleased, the word of a paladin was renowned as ironclad. "I am your prisoner."
The paladin raised his head. "Well?"
"Sit." Geomancy leveling spells were not known for their smoothness, and she didn't want him unconscious.
He grimaced. When she simply waited, he heaved a sigh and sat on the bedrock with a clatter of armor.
She acknowledged his cooperation with a contented shrug. "Brace yourself."
She took a few steps back before dismissing her candlelight spell. Calling upon her magic once more, she formed a circle with her hands, tying her gesture to the invisible threads of anima in the earth.
When she raised her arms, the ground beneath her feet shook. Dust rose from the ground, shimmering in distant torchlight. A deafening rumble filled the air.
Off to the side, Jacqui and Luc struggled to remain standing.
The bottom of the pit rose, bedrock turning to loose earth and churning upward, raising the paladin with it.
At last, he was at her level, and she completed the spell. He scrutinized the ground beneath him with a frown.
He was a tower of a man, about six-and-a-half feet tall, and the full arcanir plate armor made him massive. It was rare that, at her own significant height, she felt so small.
"Luc, Jacqui," she called. The two novices shuffled over. She inspected the paladin's weapons belt; he carried a sword and a dagger. "Disarm."
He didn't move.
"I can't allow you to enter the Tower, much less the Proctor's quarters, armed." Although she preferred his compliance, her fingers tingled, ready to cast should he refuse.
"If I wanted to kill you, I wouldn't need weapons."
A threat. She grinned. "Then you should have no objection to handing them over."
After a ponderous silence, he threw off his sheathed sword, dagger, and sword belt.
"Luc." She cocked her head toward the weapons, her fingers still ready to cast. If the paladin dared attack Luc, she'd spell every stone in the outer bailey's walls to crush him.
Luc collected the weapons, gaping at them as though he held magic itself; it had to be his first encounter with arcanir. He moved behind her once more.
"And the armor," she ordered.
The paladin narrowed his eyes. "I will not relinquish my armor. It's not a weapon and poses no danger."
No danger? She raised an eyebrow. She'd seen him punch Rainier with his knuckle-dusters. The conjurer was still out cold.
His armor, shimmering a faint sage green over steel gray, showed some wear but appeared well maintained. It had seen a significant amount of combat.
But the paladin's armor wouldn't save him if he attacked her or the Proctor. There were plenty of surroundings to funnel into a whirlwind to crush him. And the Proctor, a force-magic magister, could do far worse to him.
"Come." She inclined her head toward the Tower.
His face hard, the paladin moved in the direction she indicated. From his shoulders hung a long, heavy woolen cloak of pure white—not unlike her own meticulously maintained immaculate mage coat—with the Order's moon-shaped coat of arms adorning its back.
A crowd of mages hurried toward them, voices raised in commotion. She grimaced. So now they came, when the work was nearly done? She held up her hand.
One stopped directly in her path.
Of course it was Kieran Atterley—a master singular elementalist, a hydromancer, and her bitter rival.
She cut around the paladin and faced Kieran. With his tall lean build, wavy copper locks, and bright sapphire eyes, he was the oft-cited handsomest master in the Emaurrian Tower.
But that handsome face masked ruthlessness. He'd been a thorn in her side ever since she'd won the coveted apprenticeship to Magister Leigh Galvan seven years ago. Four years after that, when she was nineteen, Kieran had reported her to Magehold for master–apprentice misconduct, with nothing to gain but the satisfaction of ruining her master's life and hers. And last year, he'd pushed her down the spiral stone stairs from the Tower's second floor.
His ire seemed insatiable.
He sneered down at her. "I'll take it all from here."
Now, seeing a possible commendation in the capture of a trespasser, he wanted to take it all from here?
She leaned in toward him, narrowed her eyes. "You can take one thing. A knee to the jewels. You want it?"
He huffed a sharp breath.
"Then get out of my way."
He spat. "You—"
Before he could touch her, she gestured a flame cloak over her entire body. It flared to life, wreathing her in protective fire, ready for battle. She wasn't exactly the notorious Flame of the Crag Company, but she'd more than earned her four-bar master chevron. If he wanted a fight, she was ready. And he'd lose.
She strode into his path, her shoulder colliding with his. His black mage coat caught fire there, and he beat at the flames. She looked over her shoulder at the paladin. "Follow. Luc, Jacqui, you, too."
Taut as a harp string, Kieran stood aside as the paladin, Luc, and Jacqui moved past.
Luc outran them to the open Tower doors, and spilled the light from within. At the entrance, she dispelled her flame cloak.
When the paladin raised his hands, her muscles contracted, but he only removed his helmet.
The light of the Tower's sconces revealed a handsome visage: mid to late twenties, a few years older than she. Close-cropped brown hair and eyes a familiar blue, the color of the Shining Sea in a storm. A scar slashed through his left eyebrow. And like all paladins, he was clean shaven, but his lack of facial hair did nothing to diminish him; it only complemented a decidedly masculine jaw.
She turned away. He might have a handsome face, but she'd seen handsome faces before. Falling for their appeal rarely ended well. Especially when they belonged to unattainable men who'd sworn a vow of celibacy.
In her periphery, he scrubbed a hand through his hair and then rubbed his neck.
Low on the right side below his jaw, there was a scar about the width of a blade. Another just behind his ear—an exit wound. Healed, but poorly.
It couldn't be.
No, it was him. From five years ago.