Cinders & Ashes #2 by X. Aratare

Cinders & Ashes

WHAT’S HAPPENED SO FAR?

In Cinders & Ashes Book 1, Finn Ashton is a servant of  his own estate, serving the needs of his obnoxious stepfamily. His stepfather, Lord Gerard Steward, is desperate to gain social approval and marry his two sons, Christopher and Miles, off to nobility. But due to his being the son of a merchant, he is seen as a social climber and would be ignored except for the fact that Tanglewood Manor has the most fertile land in the Kingdom of Rirea. That fertility is due to Finn’s magical abilities.

Finn is a half-blood Fae. His mother was (mostly) human, but his unknown father was Fae.  Finn has no idea who his father is and claims not to care, but this unknown Fae did give Finn the ability to drain life, mix it with his magic and cause the estate to bloom. He has done this every year since his mother’s death when he was but 5 years old, the same death that revealed his magic and his Fae heritage. Since the deaths of the prior king and queen of Rirea, allegedly at the Fae King Thalanil Ravenspar’s hands, all Fae found in Rirea are put to death due to suspicions that they have loyalty to King Thalanil. Finn’s stepfamily has agreed to keep his Fae blood secret in exchange for him serving them, making the estate bloom and never seeking the title of Lord of Tanglewood.

However, this year, there is so little life in Rirea that Finn is unable to honor his promise to make the estate fertile.  Desperate for his stepfamily to keep his secret, Finn steals life from the Fae side of the Wall. The Wall is a magical structure that divides the human Kingdom of Rirea from the Fae Empire of the Eclipse Throne. It was erected right after the deaths of the human monarchs. Finn hopes this small amount of stolen life won’t be noticed, but his hope is a vain one.

As a “reward” for making Tanglewood bloom, Finn’s stepfamily gives him a half day off to spend mostly as he wishes.  He goes into the Lupine Woods only to find a beautiful man being dragged by his horse and evidence that the Fae are aware of the stolen life.

Little does Finn know that the man he rescues is, in fact, King Rohan De Clare, King of Rirea. Rohan has as many troubles as Finn. He knows that his kingdom is dying and suspects that the Wall is draining all the fertility from the soil and changing the normal animals into monsters. His uncle urges him to consider marrying one of the nearby kings or queens to obtain Rirea some relief, but Rohan does not wish to surrender Rirea’s independence, nor his own.

His uncle then suggests he, instead, have a meeting with all of the surrounding kingdoms, including the war-like and dangerous Achuviel Kingdom and its King Tearlach. That suits Rohan better as, after a magical afternoon with Finn, he cannot imagine wanting anyone but the bewitching young man with the green eyes.

Confessing his love affair to the Captain of the Guard Leonid Blanchet and his noble companion Lord Serxio Lemos, the three of them head out into the Lupine Woods to the cabin where Finn and Rohan have agreed to meet again. The goal is to spruce up the hovel for a romantic picnic, but things do not go at all as planned.

For his part, Finn has found a new lease on life after his afternoon with the amazing Rohan, who he believes to be a simple noble lord and not the King of Rirea due to a misunderstanding and lie that Rohan builds upon. Finn’s time is not his own as a servant, but he is determined to see Rohan again. His eldest step brother Christopher though appears to intuit that something is going on with Finn. The two of them make a deal that Finn will help Christopher with his potions meant to restore Rirea’s soil in exchange for keeping silent about whatever Finn’s getting up to.

But, to Finn’s dismay, the next day Christopher and Miles insist on coming into the woods with him to look for herbs for Christopher’s experiments. Finn had hoped to grab the herbs and go to the cabin to meet Rohan, but now he is stuck with his step brothers.

As if things could not get more complicated for Rohan and Finn, the two parties meet each other in the woods. They must pretend not to know one another. Christopher, though, seems to recognize Rohan from somewhere. Before any secrets are betrayed, a section of the Wall disappears, and they all see the King of Wolves Tyreon looking at them.  When Tyreon begins to move--a move that will lead to an attack in Rohan’s eyes--Rohan draws his crossbow and fires, but Finn jumps between the bolt and the wolf, for Finn has dreamed of the great white wolf and knows he means them no harm.

Finn is struck by the bolt. It goes cleanly through his side. Tyreon drags Finn’s unconscious body to the Fae side of the Wall. While Christopher and Miles run away, Rohan, Serxio and Leonid ride after Finn and Tyreon. While they manage to scare off the King of Wolves, when they go to bring back a wounded Finn to the Rirean side of the Wall, they find that the Wall is once again intact, and there is no way home.

And that’s where we left off!