The release of Asunder, the fourth book in the Thread of Souls octology, is only half a year away! We want to give you a sneak peek of the upcoming book. While this is still in-progress, we are excited to share this bit from the world of Thread of Souls!
If any of the other mages of the Inquisicore Spire’s fourth floor had peeked into the office of Jasita Yolarin, they would have thought a blizzard hit it. Papers whisked across a large curved desk, files flew from drawers, inkpots and quills hovered in the air, and inanimate objects moved about as if alive. In the center of it all stood a frazzled high elf woman with her ponytail askew. One hand flipped through pages brought before her while the other continued to make gestures of spells. Lounging on a sunlit windowsill, an orange and white cat regarded her passively.
“Get me the records from the Vesper guard tower!” Jasita commanded, barely looking up from her review of a folder.
In response, a ribbon rolled across the desk of its own accord, wrapped around the corner of a rolled-up parchment, and handed it up to the mage.
“Write down today’s date and the hour,” she commanded a hovering journal. “Two hours ago a message was sent from the Crystal Rail to the Council of Nine by Magister Dorian Aster. He is bringing in prisoners from the Korventine Empire. And twenty minutes ago, the Magistrate herself, Leliana Dante, asked me to report to her. And I-”
She broke off as a brass hourglass shuffled across the desk toward her, its pink sand within nearly spent.
Her panic renewed, Jasita quickly straightened her robes and ponytail. She scooped up a stack of documents that had the names Taliesin Ostoroth and Ruuda Drybarrel written all over them. She then glanced across at the hovering journal.
“Lulu, ensure this office is clean by the time I return,” she stated. After the journal inclined itself in understanding, she turned towards the cat. “Catlu, lock the door behind me.”
The cat flicked her tail.
With one smooth step Jasita exited her office in a composed and quiet state. Even though she shut the door softly behind her, the noise still echoed in the otherwise silent and still hall lined with five other doors and a stairwell entrance.
She strode into the stairwell and to an alcove with a teleportation circle etched on the ground. It glowed a slight purple. She made the gestures of the spell and whispered the arcane words before she was smoothly transported. The room around her did not change, but when she stepped out of the stairwell she was no longer on the fourth floor.
A busy clerical area greeted her. Shelves lined the walls and ran down the length of the room like stripes. It was a bustling space filled with the noise of shuffling papers and the smell of sterilization. The staff here didn’t spare her a glance as she crossed the large space and over to the singular door that connected the Inquisicore Spire to the taller and wider Dominicore Spire.
Leaving behind the strict and tidy clerical room, she transitioned into a lounge area just inside of the Dominicore Spire’s lobby. This was for employees of the Citadel only, not visitors or students. Currently, two mages rested on fine purple sofas and read books. They all ignored one another as Jasita crossed the room. The Citadel employed tens of thousands of people. Not everyone worked on-site at the three towers or within the city of Cita, but the building was still constantly busy with professionals extremely serious about their work. Many studied and worked for years to get a chance to join the Citadel. And some, like her, were identified at a young age, graduated from the university within the Intellicore Spire, and then hired into a position based on talent and interest.
Jasita exited the lounge and into an inner chamber. It was a corridor that wrapped around the stairwell in a circle, with a handful of doors branching off of it. She could barely hear murmured conversations from the lobby.
Stepping into this next stairwell, this time the high elf paused before casting the incantation. She’d only ever spoken to Leliana Dante a few times in her entire 325 years of life. She was there when Leliana stepped into the Magistrate role, replacing the retiring dwarven Magistrate Karduun Whitetree. Coming from a long line of leaders, Leliana was a woman to be feared and respected. It made Jasita’s failure sting all the worse.
Taking a deep breath to calm herself, Jasita gestured out the spell and felt her body whisked up. From the bottom of the spire to the very top, the thirtieth floor. Reformed, Jasita stepped out of the purple stairwell and into the brightly sunlit top floor. She was faced with a long corridor that ran the length of the floor, ending in walls of tall windows. There was a restrained beauty to the designs here. Purple marble with brass decor and accents. It was all very expensive and well-crafted, but with control that reflected the seriousness of the area. There were only two doors. On one side was the meeting chamber of the Council of Nine. On the other was the Magistrate’s office. A singular statue decorated the otherwise empty corridor. A seven-foot-tall depiction of the Magister, Naboris, the god of magic. He wore hooded robes and held a purple spark in his hand. A symbol of his gift of magic to the world.
Jasita paused at a tall mirror to ensure she looked proper enough to speak to Leliana. Her traditional pink robes with blue arcane sigils were pressed and neatly tucked. Shorter strands of hair that couldn’t tie back into her ponytail framed her fair and angular elvish face. Her aqua eyes were calculating, taking in each detail with precision and a keen memory.
Taking another deep, steadying breath, Jasita stepped up to Leliana’s white wood door and knocked.
“Enter, Yolarin,” came a measured voice from the other side.
Jasita entered a large semi-circular office. The back wall was entirely windows, allowing in a sweeping view over the Pale Timberlands, the Magister’s Cliffs, and the deep blue of Viscera’s Bay beyond. A gentle snowfall coated everything in white. To one side of the room was a pristine seating area and a crackling fireplace. To the other were multiple bookshelves and a small desk stacked with tomes and scrolls. Directly across from her was a large desk made of birch wood. Behind parchments and books and marble statuettes sat Leliana Dante herself.
She was a few hundred years older than Jasita, with a strong jawline and sharp cheekbones. She had the same purple hair that her ancestor, Viscera Dante, was known for. It was shaved short on one side, bangs on the other side framing her face in layers. The rest was quite long and braided behind her. Her pink and blue robes were crafted of the finest materials and neatly pressed. Sharp and narrow purple eyes regarded Jasita with full attention.
“Yolarin, thank you for coming so promptly,” Leliana said.
Jasita stepped up to the desk, clutching onto her folders. “Of course.”
“It seems Dorian Aster has inadvertently tracked down your two fugitives. With the help of Vera Udanta, I’m told.”
“I am surprised they were in the Korventine Empire. That is a great distance from where I . . . lost them.”
Leliana held out her hand and Jasita quickly passed over the folders to her. All her notes and records regarding the two prisoners she’d apprehended north of Vesper. The dark elf and dark dwarf. Taliesin Ostoroth and Ruuda Drybarrel. In her custody for two weeks before they escaped during a rest stop.
As she looked over the papers, Leliana said, “They were found in An’Ock. A bold place for two of their race to be hiding. They were traveling with a criminal Dorian has been hunting for some time, a Sunspirian man that summons a fey creature. A lucky bit of coincidence, it seems.”
“ . . . Yes.”
The rhythmic noises of flipping parchment were nearly drowned out by Jasita’s own pounding heart.
Without looking up, Leliana asked, “Do you know why they would go to An’Ock? Did they give any reason during the time you had them in your custody?”
“ . . . No. They would not divulge their destination or purpose.”
This time Leliana’s eyes did look up at her. “And you weren’t able to get anything from their minds?”
Jasita hesitated. “I . . . thought it best to wait until we arrived at the Citadel for that type of interrogation.”
“Hm.” She closed the reports and slid the papers back towards the blonde woman. “I don’t have to impress on you how valuable these prisoners are. Ever since the Elven Exodus, we have lost contact with the dark elves. And it has been over a millennium since the Dark Dwarven Clan has interacted with anyone on this surface world, much less the rest of the dwarves. And with the rumors that come from the Deep Hollows, as well as the slave trade and violent interactions, information now is more valuable than ever. I was proud when I heard you’d apprehended two of them in the Eleste Highlands. And sorely disappointed when I learned they escaped you and a group of highly trained soldiers.”
The lump in her throat made it impossible for Jasita to respond.
Leliana sighed and stood. “But, ever since you arrived here as a young high elf I’ve seen promise in you. You learned to control your intrusive telepathy well under my tutelage. You excelled in all your classes. You were a star employee in all your support positions after graduation. Not to mention your parents are well-respected researchers. It is little wonder you have such discipline.”
Jasta’s eyes darted away at the mention of her parents, staring hard at the far wall.
“So, I want the dark elf and dark dwarf assigned directly to you,” Leliana continued. “They will be your responsibility and yours alone. I trust you to do better this time.” She turned away and stared out the window at the snowfall.
A wave of relief washed over Jasita. “Thank you very much, Magistrate Dante. I will not fail. What is it you wish to learn from them?”
The Magistrate’s powerful stance was silhouetted against the window. “Learn about their culture. Their religion. Why do they distance themselves from the rest of us? Why do they capture slaves and what they are used for? Where are their cities are located? What are their people’s intentions? What were both of them were doing so far from home? Why were they in An’Ock? I want to know it all.”
Jasita inclined her head. “I can do this.”
“They will be here within a week, Yolarin. Make sure you are ready.”