The Immortal Heights - Sherry Thomas


SOMEWHERE IN THE MOST IMMENSE desert on earth, a thousand miles south of the Mediterranean Sea and just as far west of the Red Sea, rose a line of sheer sandstone cliffs. High in the night sky above this escarpment hung an enormous, flame-bright beacon, the war phoenix, the light of which cast an orange sheen for miles upon the surrounding dunes.

Beneath the war phoenix, the air appeared slightly distorted, due to the presence of a bell jar dome, which, when deployed in war, kept an opposing force penned firmly inside.

The bell jar dome had been put into place by Atlantis, the mightiest empire to ever bestride the mage world, headed by the Bane, the most powerful and feared mage alive. Trapped under the dome were a regiment of several hundred rebels who had neither handsome uniforms nor fire-breathing steeds, but only desert robes and flying carpets. Some rebels wore turbans and keffiyehs; others, roused from sleep and dressed in a hurry, were bareheaded.

Among this ragtag group of resistance fighters, looking not a bit out of place, were the Bane’s quarries: His Serene Highness Prince Titus VII, Master of the Domain, and Miss Iolanthe Seabourne, the great elemental mage of their time.

From the day Iolanthe first summoned a bolt of lightning, she had been pursued by the agents of Atlantis. But it was not until recently that she’d learned the simple yet grotesque reason that the Bane wanted her: to power a feat of sacrificial magic that would prolong his life and maintain his chokehold on power.

Now surrounded, she was in a fight for her life. But at this very moment, she was not thinking about herself—not entirely, in any case. Her gaze was on the boy who shared her flying carpet, the one who held her hand tightly in his own.

Sometimes it amazed her that she had met him only a little over six months ago—it seemed as if they had spent their entire lives together, both running from and charging toward danger. She almost could not remember a time before she had been swept into this vortex of destiny, before she had made it her life’s ambition to end the Bane’s reign of tyranny.

His eyes met hers. He was afraid—she knew this because he did not hide his fear from her—but beyond the fear was an unbreakable will. All his life he had prepared for toil, peril, and the ultimate sacrifice.

She squeezed his hand. We will outlive this.

In her other hand she held Validus, the blade wand that had once belonged to Titus the Great, unifier of the Domain. She raised the wand high. Instantly, white arcs of electricity leaped across the star-studded sky. It had staggered her in the beginning and it staggered her still, that such sway should be granted to a mere mortal.

A shaft of thunderbolt plunged toward the desert, almost like the trunk of a brilliant tree growing from the top down. As it pierced through the war phoenix, the huge beacon shimmered and expanded.

Purpose surged in her veins. The sizzle of electricity was a rising tide in her blood. And a wildness beat in her heart—no more pretense, no more running, only drive against drive, power against power.

With an almost inaudible crackle, her lightning fizzled upon a shield that had been set outside the bell jar dome.

Cries of dismay rose all around her, drowning out her own gasp. She swore and reached for the elements again. Dozens of thunderbolts struck the shield, like so many brilliant needles thrown against a pincushion, or the fireworks of a new year’s celebration gone mad.

The shield held.

A resounding silence echoed in her head.

“There is no surprising Atlantis twice,” said Titus, with far greater calm than she felt.

Hours earlier—so much had happened since, it felt as if weeks, perhaps even months had passed—the two of them had been sniffed out of their hiding place and surrounded by wyvern riders. Iolanthe, with her memories still suppressed, had decided that there was no harm in trying to see whether the hidden writing on the strap of her satchel, especially the line The day we met, lightning struck, had been literal. She’d called forth a thunderbolt that had incapacitated the wyvern riders, enabling Titus and her to escape to temporary safety.

But this time Atlantis had come prepared. This time her command over lightning would not avail her.

As if to underscore Atlantis’s advantage, the wyvern battalion roared en masse, a clamor that rattled her lungs against her rib cage. The wyverns had