In a land where halfbloods are considered demons and hunted without mercy, the Nightingale is a survivor. When her family is killed and her village destroyed by Lorcen Caspon, a man who seeks to overthrow the guilds of Caesia and install himself as the head of their power, her life is torn apart. But her captor deepens her agony by enslaving her with a secret, ancient magic that he uses to control her every move.
Forced into a life of assassination and pursued by the king's greatest Weapon, the Nightingale becomes the terror of the kingdom, though she fights against the magic's control. When another halfblood appears and challenges everything she's ever known, the Nightingale sees her chance to break her chains. She sets out to take down the man who razed her childhood—and to reclaim her freedom.
As the magic wanes, the Nightingale prepares to strike, and when its magic finally shatters, she will have her vengeance.
"Effectively melding briskly-paced action with the internal struggles of both a traumatized young outcast forced into horrific deeds and the wily but honorable Talros. Debut author Mickelsen brings fresh twists and emotional depth to her tightly-written, compelling tale of mercantile politics, interracial conflict, and difficult choices."– Publisher's Weekly
"The author is masterful and had me reading until the end of the book, praying that the character would triumph over all the trials set before her!!!"– Reader review
"The writing is very engaging and immersive…Every breath, every injury, every close call that she experiences... I really felt like I was right there with her..."– Reader review
"TELL ME YOUR NAME."
I looked away, refusing to meet his eyes. My bound wrists chafed and stung. I shifted them behind my back, trying to lessen the pressure of the rope. In the strange room, I was numb. I felt dead. Fear and sorrow had burnt my heart to ash and there was nothing left for this horrible man to sunder.
"It heard me, did it not, Bennic?" Caspon asked, tapping his fingers on the wood of the desk. The oil lamp on the smooth top gave off a murky light that cast shadows on his face.
Bennic twitched again, fussing with the lace hems of his sleeves. His gray eyes,which Ihadonceseenshrewdandnarrowed, were now wide and darting under a large forehead and shaggy mane o flight-and-dark hair.The nose that protruded from his face was bulbous and mottled red, like a mistreated tuber, and his an-noying habit of glancing back and forth as he spoke made him ap-pear frightened, as if he expected an ambush to explode from the shadows at any moment.
"Yes, I believe it did," he answered. "So,girl-thing," Caspons aid, "speak. Tell me tales of the anthelai."
He tried to converse. A flicker of anger flared within me and died. What did he want? He had destroyed everything I knew, everything I had ever had, and then had the audacity to speak to me as if we knew each other. I would not give him what he wanted. I tried to hate him but could not summon the energy. I would save that for later.
"Lord Caspon, perhaps it does not understand," Bennic ventured.
Caspon showed his teeth. "Of course it does. You think its mother would have let it go through life without learning the language of both parents? I certainly do not. It's simple human vanity." His eyes slid to me again. "So. Tell me your name."
Names were power and I would not allow this monster to own it. Such temerity after what he had done. I stared at the stone floor without seeing it.
"Tell me your name!" he bellowed, and I tried to stand my ground against the force of his anger. I bit my tongue but barely felt the pain.
"Your name,bitch!"Caspon roared,slamming his hands on the desk. It shuddered beneath the power of his fists. I ducked my head, only a little, but he saw. It was a weakness, my fear, and he exploited it.
He came around the desk, bristling with rage, and I could not help but cower.
"Tell me your name!" he screamed, spittle flecking his lips. His eyes were wide and red. I cringed as he snatched me up by the front of my dirty tunic, shaking me so hard my head whipped back against the wall.
The hard knock rattled my thoughts, shocked me into aware-ness. He dropped me at his feet and I fell, landing hard on my side. The fear came back, rushing in to fill the void of my heart.
"You murderous bastard," I snarled in Anilo, using my mother's words.
Caspon stood over me. I turned my head to stare at his ugly face, to sneer my words upward to his ears. I was terrified, grieving, and hurt, but I refused him with everything I had. He would not have what he wanted from me.
I cursed him in Anilo, exclamations flying from my cracked lips. The vehemence of my declarations startled me, but I would not stop. I flung every insult I knew and invented new ones when my supply ran out. My father would have been horrified to find I was capable of such language, and I surprised even myself, but the dam of my lips would not hold anything back. I insulted Caspon horrifically, to his face, and the look of confusion and incredulity on his face was sufficient payment.
When the curses failed me, I stopped. The silence was a deafening thing.
After many heartbeats, Caspon began to laugh."How perfect!" he exclaimed.
"Lord?" Bennic asked, his voice soft and wary.
"Not a word of Caesarn, but it knows. I know it knows. The thing curses me with everything it has, you saw. I could see its rage and its hatred. Have you heard the tree-climbers' tongue before, Bennic?"
"No, sir. I haven't," the other man replied.
"It sounds too much like birdsong, according to some. It's not worth learning, being nonsense, but the sound intrigues me." He snapped his fingers, turning his back on me and returning to the desk. "I have it, a name for the creature. Given my plans, it fits well."
I tracked him with eyes, wary and spent. My head hurt, and my heart, but I would fight if he came back. My mother had said these were dangerous men, and I believed her. My father had died while trying to keep me safe, and I would try to live. But I did not know what else to do but watch.
"I will call it after a certain bird, a harbinger of doom."
"Oh, indubitably fitting, Lord Caspon," Bennic agreed.
Then they both turned away, ignoring me, and talked as if I was not there. I sighed and closed my eyes, fighting back tears.
"There is nothing quite like an extermination raid to raise one's popularity, am I right?"
"Certainly, my lord, but please, I must advise caution."
Lorcen Caspon folded his hands before him as he stared at the nervous, fidgeting advisor, meeting the man's eyes with such intensity that he had to look away.
"Lord Caspon, I fear to ask, but how can you hope to control such a creature? The very Plains of Centura could not hold them."
It was obvious that the man feared his employer, his master, but he refused to quit this task. Advising and questioning seemed to be his livelihood, and I saw he meant to do them well. However, it would not do to make Caspon angry. I had seen firsthand evidence of that. Bennic's master did not speak immediately, but instead leaned back into his leather-covered chair and stared up at the wooden planks of the ceiling. He twirled a feathered quill in his fingers, around and around. His smile had faded, and his eyes dimmed under lowered brows. Bennic watched and said nothing, as did I, knowing it was unwise to speak when Caspon appeared deep in thought. I had learned, in any case, that silence was better. After several long, painful moments, the guildmaster voiced his ruminations.
Caspon glanced at me in an offhand manner, a strange light in his eyes. "The mercenaries that went on the extermination raid, where are they now?"
"The lower foyer, sir. Awaiting the rewards you promised them."
"Yes, of course they want their rewards." He waved a hand in dismissal. "Have them all killed. Tonight and quietly. I want no word of my new prize leaking out."
Bennic's voice stopped in his throat. I considered this from my place on the floor. If he knew his lord, then he should not have been surprised, truly. The blood drained from his face as he openly and obviously considered this command. Thirty men—I had counted—had survived the brutal raid, and now they were to die as all my family had died, though they had done nothing but what their lord had commanded. All this bloodshed. Was there any sense to it?
"Is there a problem, Bennic Davlov?" rumbled Caspon.
"Sir," Bennic began, the tips of his fingers trembling, "each and every one of those men has sworn to secrecy. Surely you can allow some leeway—"
"Oaths can be broken, Bennic. I will take no chances." Caspon's voice was cold, his manner threatening. "You would be wise to do the same."
"Yes, sir,"Bennic stammered, sketching a swift bow before turning to depart the room. He halted just as swiftly when Caspon called his name.
"I will require the knowledge of certain men. Send Aylan Tavoli, Servor d'Anco and Nichil Boswain to me at once. No, wait. Send them separately, a half-hour apart. That should be sufficient. I would not want them getting any ideas of grandeur or companionship. Also, take this beast to its cage. I don't want it looking at me." The smile spread back over Caspon's narrow face as he tapped the quill on the gleaming wood of the desk. Then, without another word, he turned his attention to the four piles of paperwork set on the oaken surface, each stacked in an even row before him.