Lord of the Wolfyn - By Jessica Andersen


Once upon a time in a magical land, a dark sorcerer—the Blood Sorcerer—coveted the only power denied him: the right to rule. So he led his army in a vicious attack on the Royal Castle of Elden, vowing to wipe out the royal family and take the throne. But he hadn’t counted on the king and queen’s love for their children, particularly the rebellious, headstrong Prince Dayn….

Branches stung Dayn’s face and lashed at the bloodred chestnut stallion he rode, but neither of them flinched. They were trained for this, had been born for it: Dayn was the king’s second son, Hart a royal warhorse descended from generations of beast-chasers. Together, they guarded Castle Island and the villages surrounding Blood Lake and kept the foul monsters of sorcery trapped in the Dead Forest.

It was a noble role, a dangerous calling…and an incredible rush. At least, it usually was. Tonight, though, he rode in anger with his reins white-knuckled in one hand and his loaded crossbow in the other, his mind not on protecting his castle or the country folk, but on the kill itself.

Full of his master’s mood, Hart snorted, grabbed the bit in his teeth and leaped a thorny tangle they normally would have dodged around. Dayn shouted and grabbed the sturdy beast-chaser’s flowing mane, and the two landed together and pounded away, now with a clear view of the monster they pursued.

The bristling, pony-size gray creature could have been one of the giant wolves that hunted the high country beyond Elden, save for the saddle of reddish fur at its heavy nape and the golden stripe that ran along its spine. Those things marked it as something else entirely: a wolfyn.

The older hunters told of the wolfyn taking human form and seducing the most beautiful women they could find…and then killing and eating them. Those were just stories, though. And the legendary shape-shifting was a way to explain why, back when they first set out to exterminate the creatures, the ravenous beasts would retaliate by attacking at a village’s weakest point and go straight for the strongest warriors and then their beautiful wives, as if they were at war, not hunting.

Those days were gone now, the wolfyn nearly wiped from the kingdoms. The few that remained, though, were deadly and had to be killed for the safety of all.

At the moment, though, all Dayn cared about was riding hard enough to leave everything else behind—his father’s anger, his mother’s disappointment…and the look on Twilla’s face when he’d broken it off with her after hinting at marriage.

His father’s words echoed in his mind. You must wed a proper princess. You are the protector of the royal forest and your brother’s right hand. And the gods knew that dark, seductive Nicolai wasn’t settling down anytime soon, so the king and queen—and their advisers—had pinned their hopes for profitable alliances on Dayn and his sister, Breena. The very thought of it—and the argument he’d had just now with his parents—had Dayn riding hard away from the castle and its politics. He was twenty and six, and his kind lived for hundreds, sometimes thousands, of years. Yet his parents wanted to sell his life to whichever royal house bid highest. Gods and the Abyss, he wished he had been common-born.

But he hadn’t been, so he kicked on until the wind stung his face and the ground blurred beneath Hart’s hooves.

His man-at-arms, Malachai, who was riding well behind them on his sturdy gray gelding, whipped around the thorny brake Dayn and Hart had just sailed over, bellowing, “Damn it, wait!”

Dayn’s former-tutor-turned-companion said something more, but it was lost beneath Hart’s loud snort as the trees thinned and they caught another glimpse of the wolfyn. The stallion accelerated after the beast, which looked back at them with too-intelligent amber eyes, and Dayn gripped with his knees and raised his crossbow as the gap narrowed. The trees opened up around him, but he focused on the reddish saddle mark, which outlined the target for a kill shot.

The wolfyn gathered itself for a last burst of speed, and—

Mindspeak screamed suddenly in Dayn’s skull, filling him with pounding emotions that weren’t his own: rage, defiance, fear, betrayal. Before he could do more than jerk with surprise, wind whipped up around him, squeezing him in a giant’s fist of spell-power, and then yanking him clear out of the saddle and up into a rapidly forming whirlwind that suddenly spun overhead.

“Ambush!” Malachai shouted, his voice wind distorted and quickly growing faint