A missing giant. A sinister conspiracy. A decision that will change the fate of a jarldom.
The bone trade is big business. Black market buyers will offer many silvers for fresh giant bone to carve into charms or use in dark enchantments.
When cloaked men kidnap the giant Njal Frostborn, everyone knows why. He's destined to be murdered and sold in that terrible trade.
His best friend, apprentice wizard Idun Wintermoon, is determined to save him from that terrible fate. But to do so, she must defy the head of her order and face powers far beyond her ability. To survive, she's going to need an ally. Luckily for her, Lissette Forlatt - a down-on-her-luck sellsword - is on the case. Together, they'll brave worse than the elements and rogue mages in their quest to save Njal. What they discover might shake the jarldom to its core.
If they live long enough to tell the story.
"I very much enjoyed this book and the whole series (to book 4 so far). Why? The main characters, the banter between characters, the setting, and the blending of magic, mystery, adventure, and romance."– Reviewer Steven on Amazon
"A satisfying blend of adventure, mystery solving, action, and character interaction."– Reviewer Steven on Amazon
"Ford is such a fun author. Love the sense of humor, and the dialogue. The plots are always interesting, the endings often unexpected. Totally worth the read."– Reviewer kat roscoe on Amazon
"I liked the brisk pace of the story and absence of no-nothing episodes. I'm not going to reveal a word of a plot, which kept me awake for three nights in a row."– Reviewer Nadine from GoodReads
"I smell the odor of a wizard cub
"Be she alive or be she dead
"The reek makes me wish I hadn't fed."
I glared up at him. "That's not funny, Njál."
The giant rolled his massive shoulders. "So says you, Idun. But I am laughing. Ergo it must be amusing."
"Simple things," I muttered, "for simple minds."
He laughed again. "But, truly, we need to find a stream or lake or something. Anything. Otherwise, I'm not sure I will survive the remaining trip."
My scowl only set at that. "I didn't ask to crawl through goblin caves. That was your idea."
"Someone had to do it." He gestured at his obscenely tall frame. "I wouldn't exactly have fit in those tunnels. And we needed the key."
All of this was true, which only annoyed me further. I'd just spent an hour crawling on my belly through goblin scat, in tunnels that reeked with goblin and worse odors. I needed a scrub from head to toe, and then back again. I needed a scalding bath, a warm bed, and – if my stomach was ready – a good dinner. And something sweet to finish it all.
Instead, I was hustling through frozen mountain undergrowth, days from civilization, in the shadow of a giant who found the entire predicament amusing.
"Are you sure this will work?" Njál prompted after a space.
"Of course I'm not sure it will work. I'm not sure of anything. All I know is, I've got to try. If I'm going to have any chance at getting back into the university, I have to do this."
"It might be a longshot."
"It is. But, dammit, Njál, I'm desperate."
He nodded, and his long reddish-brown locks bobbed with the motion. "Then we will succeed."
I hoped he was right. It was a longshot. Two weeks ago, I'd been ousted from the most prestigious wizarding university in the realm. One poorly aimed fireball, and eighteen months of good work suddenly ceased to matter.
According to my master, Mage Alvis, anyway.
Granted, he'd been on the receiving end of my bad aim. But with a visit to the infirmary and a little healing magic, he'd been shipshape in no time at all. And still, he dropped me like a bad penny. I'd apprenticed with the man for six months after passing the first-year exams. I would have hoped for a little more loyalty than that.
But no. He relinquished my apprenticeship. Right now, my position at the university was officially "suspended." Head Wizard Aage had given me until the end of the year to find a new sponsor, or else I would officially be expelled.
It sounded easy enough. But nobody wanted me as an apprentice. Turns out, you charbroil your teacher, and nobody wants to work with you.
This, though, was my redemption. And, yes, it involved crawling through goblin shit. A few semesters ago, a pair of freshmen had broken into the head mage's quarters and stolen the key to his enchanted armoire. It was supposed to open portals between worlds, or something like that. No one knew for sure, but there were stories aplenty.
The freshmen had a little too much to drink, and in their inebriated state, decided to prank Aage by stealing his key and hiding it. A stupid plan, but it got worse from there. They'd found a great oak with a deep hollow in the woods outside the university. They figured they'd drop the key there, where they could always retrieve it once they'd had their fun.
Everyone knew you didn't steal from wizards. Everyone knew you didn't taunt wizards, if you were stupid enough to steal from them. And everyone knew you didn't wander the woods at night. That's when the evil things leave their lair. That's when the fell creatures prowl the earth.
Which makes it a really bad time for two drunken eighteen-year-old boys to be stumbling around in the dark. As these two discovered, when a pack of goblins surrounded them. They were too drunk to fight and hadn't learned enough magic to be dangerous anyway. The goblins carted them off, stripped them of their cloaks and coats – and the key – and set to work kindling a fire to cook them.
The boys, mercifully, got away, slipping out of their restraints when some of the goblins fell to squabbling about who deserved the best cuts of manflesh. But the cloaks – and, consequently, Aage's key – were lost.
Head wizard Aage didn't deem retrieval worth the risk. "We don't know if the key is even there. It might have been lost on the way. Or melted down or traded away by now. No, we will leave it. Perhaps it is better this way."
Well, maybe he was right. Maybe it wasn't worth risking life and limb for a key. But, dammit, this was key to more than his armoire for me. This was the key to my future – my future as an apprentice wizard, my future with the Northern University of Arcane Arts.
It had been Njál's idea, and I was grateful. I'd been wracking my brain but drawing blanks. Now, I just hoped this worked. I hoped it was enough to get me back in Aage's good graces. I hoped it demonstrated my initiative, my can-do spirit, and all those other terms university leadership liked to hear.
And, I hoped we got the hell out of these woods before the goblins realized we'd ever been there.
"Hey, no frowning. You got the key. It's finally stopped snowing. No frowning allowed."
"You're not the one covered in goblin shite," I reminded him.
"No, but I still have to smell you." When I didn't respond to his ribbing, he sighed. "C'mon, Idun. Sulking isn't going to bring you better luck."