The Master (The Sons of Destiny, Book 3)

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9780425221204: The Master (The Sons of Destiny, Book 3)

The third novel in the acclaimed Sons of Destiny series.

Eight brothers, born in four sets of twins, two years apart to the day—they fulfill the curse of eight prophecy. To avoid tempting destiny, the brothers are exiled to Nightfall Island, where women are forbidden. But when the third-born brother is taken by a powerful and beautiful mage, he wonders if she is the Prophesied Disaster, his foretold wife-to-be.
 
Kidnapped and taken captive by slavers, Dominor is sold to a lovely mage, who promises freedom. But Lady Serina has plans for him—to re-enact a mating ritual, to help reverse a Tantric spell cast centuries ago. Agreeing to help, Dominor doesn’t suspect the secret she holds—because there is more to this magical mating than she has revealed.
 
Once the ritual is complete, he will be returned to Nightfall. But when that secret finally shatters, baring the truth behind the misunderstandings now separating them, Dominor is determined to retake possession of the woman who is his Destiny.

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About the Author:

The best part about being a writer is the joy of entertaining others. Whether it’s sad or scary, silly or sexy, I love knowing that one of my stories has given someone a good time. I hope this is one of those stories for you, too. Currently I live in the Pacific Northwest. Feel free to drop by my website for a chat.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Romance lovers are falling for the Sons of Destiny

“Enchantments, amusement, eight hunks, and one bewitching woman make for a fun romantic fantasy . . . humorous and magical. A delightful charmer.”

Midwest Book Review

“A must-read for those who enjoy fantasy and romance. I so thoroughly enjoyed this wonderful . . . novel and eagerly look forward to each of the other brothers’ stories. Jean Johnson can’t write them fast enough for me!”

The Best Reviews

“I love this world and the heroes and heroines who reside there . . . a lively, wonderful, and oh-so-satisfying book. It is long, beautifully written, and entertaining. Light and dark magic are everywhere . . . fantasy romance at its best.”

Romance Reviews Today

“A complex fantasy-romance series.”

Booklist

“A fun story. I look forward to seeing how these alpha males find their soul mates in the remaining books.”

The Eternal Night

“An intriguing world . . . an enjoyable hero . . . an enjoyable showcase for an inventive new author. Jean Johnson brings a welcome voice to the romance genre, and she’s assured of a warm welcome.”

The Romance Reader

“An intriguing and entertaining tale of another dimension . . . quite entertaining. It will be fun to see how the prophecy turns out for the rest of the brothers.”

Fresh Fiction

Sons of Destiny novels by Jean Johnson

THE SWORD

THE WOLF

THE MASTER

THE SONG

JEAN JOHNSON

Table of Contents

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I would like to thank NotSoSaintly, Alexandra, and Stormi for their invaluable assistance in continuing to help me edit my writing; Alienor for allowing me to bounce ideas off her forehead like crumpled little wads of paper that my muse can then chase after like a cat; PiperKirby for being my cold-reader for this novel and waiting so patiently to actually get to read it; and of course the Mob of Irate Torch-Wielding Fans (this time around, it’s for putting up with my insistence that fruitcake not be used as any sort of a weapon, though stale baguettes are still fair game).

A special mention also goes to: Dale, Janet, Betty, Ann, Adelaida, and Dr. Tuan, for allowing me to take over their break room at the dentist’s office on a quarterly basis; Yvonne at the Infusion Center, for letting me have a chair and something to prop my laptop on so that I may continue to write during each four-hour session; my father, for putting up with my lugging around said laptop to so many of his various appointments; and my mother, for taking him to some of his appointments, too, so I don’t have to deal with rush-hour traffic. Bleahhh.

If anyone is interested in joining the Mob of Irate Torch-Wielding Fans (and is eighteen years or older; sorry, but you have to be an adult to join), you can visit us at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/MoITWF. Or you can come visit my website at www.jeanjohnson.net, where all are welcome!

Hugs,

~JEAN

P.S. The teaser at the end is imperfect. Apologies!

ONE

The Third of Sons shall meet his match:

Strong of will and strong of mind

You seek she who is your kind

Set your trap and be your fate

When Lady is the Master’s mate

Time passed strangely for Dominor of Nightfall. It came and went in muzzy bursts. He had vague, fleeting recollections of the things happening around him: wooden walls that creaked, the tang of the sea ever in his nostrils, voices muttering around him, hands forcing him to get up and walk around when he was too dizzy. He recalled how the floor was too uncertain underfoot for him to readily stand when he was made to do so, and of being fed minty-flavored food and drink that instinct said he shouldn’t eat, yet his captors forced upon him while he was too muddled to resist. And he had memories of eating that herbed food until the world swirled away once more.

He remembered a familiar voice, its source strangely distant yet right there in his ear, desperate to reach him. The voice comforted him with its familiarity, though he couldn’t have said who even he himself was most of the time, let alone the name or the face that went with that voice. He was aware of the omnipresent chafe of chains at ankles, wrists, and throat, of a faint memory that he had once worn fine, tailored clothes, not the rough fabric rubbing against his flesh. He hadn’t always smelled of sweat and worse things, of unclean things, but that was due to the fact that he wasn’t allowed to bathe, nor allowed enough clarity in his wits to tend to himself.

And then it happened. They didn’t come with the bitter-minty flavored food. The world rocked even more dizzily underneath Dom as he lay chained to his bed; his surroundings swayed and creaked dismally, slanting first this way, then that way at unnerving angles, while his mind slowly woke. The cloud obscuring his senses eased enough that he could hear the shouts and the snapping riggings, smell the rain and the sea, and the captive mage knew he was on board a ship on the ocean.

Dominor remembered the Mandarites and their falomel-laced food. He remembered the oddly dressed, arrogantly opinioned Lord and his two duplicitous sons. And he remembered that he was captive on a ship that, from the sound and feel and smell of it, was caught in a bad summer storm, one that seemed to go on and on. Long enough that the last of the mage-confusing drug wore off. As the minutes turned into hours, Dominor became increasingly, uncomfortably aware of how filthy he was, how hungry and thirsty, and most of all how angry he was. When Dominor realized that, when his head was clear enough to think, he tested the chains keeping him bound more or less in place on his thin-palleted bunk while the ship surged with each hill-like wave.

The chains were padlocked to thick iron staples set too firmly in the bulkhead walls for him to dislodge physically in his drug-weakened state. He tried a simple unlocking spell next, but the energy just glowed briefly for a moment, then sank into the manacles clamped at neck, hands, and feet. He tried a more complex spell, one that lit up the small cabin he was in, showing the walls, sea-damp from water seeping through the decks because of the storm. Symbols on the stout, silvered metal simply absorbed it. As they did so, the metal clamped around his wrists, ankles, and throat warmed briefly. Warningly.

He didn’t know those symbols—magical languages were among the very few things that just didn’t translate well without intense study, not even with the aid of the Ultra Tongue spell—but he recognized their effect. They were absorbing his energies. If he threw all of his power at them, they might overload and break . . . and most probably burn off the flesh attached to them. Or, if they were forged with the right sort of enchantments, they could latch onto his powers and drain him to a lifeless husk.

An unpleasant thought.

Then again, so was the possibility of starving to death. Or rather, dying of thirst. That would happen first. His mouth felt like it had been scrubbed with sand, then powdered with dust. The heaving of the ship around him didn’t help; it reminded him of the liquid that lay beyond the hull. It was too salty to drink, of course, but it was a form of water, and he wanted water. Preferably without any mind-and-power stealing falomel in it.

Odds are, they’ll try to keep me drugged until we reach landfall . . . unless I can talk them out of it, Dominor offered to himself. It was a slim hope, but not an impossible one. They’re so full of themselves and their males-are-superior attitude that if I pretended to listen and pretended to convert to their ways, they’d probably decide to trust me.

Not too quickly, of course, he reminded himself. His mind was finally clear enough to have the room for cunning, for plotting and laying out his strategies. They’d not believe a sudden conversion. Not when they’ve kept me chained like an animal. They’ll expect some initial rage—and I have plenty of that! But if I ask the right questions, I can steer the conversation toward the idea of converting-the-prisoner. Like the question of what could they possibly offer me as an enticement to stay, when I’m Her Majesty’s Lord Chancellor.

His mouth twisted wryly. Kelly of Doyle, the woman his eldest brother had married, had made that outrageous claim. The redheaded outworlder had proclaimed herself Queen of Nightfall, the island where he and his seven brothers had lived for three years after being exiled from their homeland, Katan. Her arrival and subsequent romance with his eldest brother, Saber, had fulfilled a prophecy spoken in verse by a woman born a thousand years before. The Seer Draganna had predicted the birth of four sets of twins, all of them mages, all of them with unique Destinies. One of those Prophetic Destinies had been the warning that some unspecified disaster would occur if the eldest ever bedded a virgin.

The Council of Mages of Katan, in their so-called wisdom, had exiled Dom and his brothers to Nightfall to prevent them from meeting any women; if they were the Sons of Destiny, then all of them had to be removed, supposedly “for the greater good of Katan.”

The Council hadn’t accounted for the meddling of the youngest of them, Morganen, whose predicted Destiny was to match-make all of his siblings. He had hauled in a woman from another universe entirely to argue with, be courted by, and eventually marry the eldest of them. Even if it meant summoning the Disaster foreseen for them so very long ago.

And the Prophesied Disaster turns out to be the very same misogynistic idiots who have managed to capture me. At least, I hope my presence on this ship was the only Disaster that befell us when Saber married Kelly . . . It was an ignoble way to fulfill a prophecy, being captured and chained. Still, it only affected himself and his siblings. It wasn’t a Disaster that affected all of Katan.

Dominor was glad no one could see him like this. They had taken away his finespun clothes and given him rough homespun that stunk of sweat and sea and the desperate need for a bath. His chains had enough give in them to allow him to check under the pants. No under-trousers. They’d even taken away his shoes and his socks. They had clothed him in ugly, stained, beige leggings and a matching, long-sleeved shirt. At least, he thought it was beige; the storm gray light coming through the one porthole in the room didn’t really lend itself toward discerning colors.

A tentative exploration of his hair, once silky-clean, proved it was now rather greasy and tangled, especially at the back. From the growth of hair on his jaw, he judged he’d been drugged for at least a week and a half, if not longer. Dominor grimaced in distaste as he fingered his mustache and beard. He hated facial hair. The mustache, if allowed to grow long, tickled his nostrils and interfered with his food, and the beard just plain itched. Not to mention the males in his family line had never been all that hirsute, which meant that his beard would look scraggly and scrawny even when fully grown. If a man couldn’t grow a decent beard, he didn’t look respectable, in Dominor’s opinion.

Maybe I can jump-start the “conversion” process by demanding some civilized amenities, like a shave. I could imply to them that I’d be a lot more willing to listen if they were a lot more willing to treat me well . . .

The door to his cabin opened, startling him. It banged shut again as the ship pitched the wrong way, making someone yelp, then curse and wrestle it open again. The younger of the count’s sons fell inside as the ship shifted and tilted the other way, barely hanging on to the oil lamp now lighting the chamber. A waterskin dangled off his elbow, adding to his burdens. Dominor recalled the names of his captors.

Lord Kemblin Aragol, Count . . . no, Earl of the Western Marches, that was it; representative of King Gustavo the Third. His elder son is named Kennal, and this one is called Eduor. The one who tricked me into drinking that drug-laced alcohol. He still doesn’t look old enough to shave.

“Oh! You’re awake.”

Yes, state the obvious, you little whelp. Dominor leveled him with a firm look and spoke with the lilt of the Mandarite accent, which was how the Ultra Tongue potion he had drunk translated their language. “Yes. And I am not happy with my accommodations. Is this how you convince male mages from other kingdoms to work for you?”

A deliberate shift of his wrists made his chains rattle. Eduor flushed. He blinked a few times, cleared his throat, and braced himself as the ship rocked again. Looking around, he hung the oil lantern on a hook next to the door, then faced Dominor again, clutching his waterskin. “Er, well . . . here, you must be thirsty!”

“If it has falomel in it, I will shove that bag through your digestive system. In reverse,” Dominor added not-quite-blandly, shifting to sit up on the bed. He couldn’t go much farther than that, maybe enough to use the chamber pot . . . if there was one in the small cabin. He hadn’t seen one, yet. But it was enough slack to lend weight to his threat.

Eduor stared at him, eyes wide. His fingers tapped on the bag clutched to his chest. “Right. I’ll, ah, be back shortly!”

The door banged shut behind him. At least the idiot had left the lantern. Not that the yellowish glow of the flame lent much to the dismal décor, but it did shed enough light for him to focus on the planks lining his cramped, closet-sized prison. Unfortunately, counting knotholes was only marginally more entertaining than drifting through a minty, mindless haze.

*   *   *

The heaving swells tossing the ship had eased to an exaggerated rocking motion by the time he was visited again. At least he’d found a lidded chamber pot wedged under his bunk in a small cupboard. Dominor disliked traveling by ship; the facilities were primitive, the opportunity for hygiene less than adequate, and in his case, the accommodations literally stank. Disgruntled, he fixed the man who entered with a hard, unhappy glare and struck first.

“Lord Aragol, I am deeply displeased with the way you have treated me. Not one iota of this situation is disposing me to look favorably upon helping you. When we spoke at the palace, you suggested there were enticements for a mage of my abilities. Wealth. Status. Power. Prestige. Where in any of that does it include chaining me like a common thief, drugging me senseless, and giving me clothes only the poorest of commoners would be delighted to wear?”

Kemblin Aragol lifted his goatee-covered chin slightly. He had dispensed with the hat and the waist-length jacket, but still wore the rest of his finery, including that ridi...

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