Cursed: Briar Rose's Story - Kaylin Lee Page 0,1

appeared in the air beside her, each glistening with a strange, shiny black rock. “We finish the Master’s work. Control the continent. Rule the weak.”

Cyrus peered at the odd garments. The black rock wasn’t a gem, yet it wasn’t a plain stone, either. “And what Master is that, lady?”

The magic that had been hovering by his mouth finally disappeared. The tension in his shoulders eased.

“Death’s Master.” The woman slid the helmet over her head and slipped into the cloak as the man beside her did the same with his garments, which were covered in the same slick, black rock. “This one I just perfected this morning,” she murmured to her companion. “Wait until you see how it picks up speed. Quite thrilling, Piers. You’ll enjoy it.”

Another wave of her hands. A small, crystal structure appeared between her palms. The male mage leaned over her shoulder as he adjusted the placement of his helmet. “You keep tweaking your designs. How many times have we experimented now? It’s been over a decade since we tested it in Draicia. At some point, you’ll just have to pick a design and build the thing.”

Light flared from the woman’s hands. The crystal structure released a sudden torrent of white powder that shot into the sky, then swirled around them, a small, fierce tornado.

A searing headache slammed Cyrus to his knees. The tingly, white wind tugged hungrily at his clothes and hair.

“A few more experiments,” the woman said to her companion, barely loud enough to be heard over the swirling cloud of powder. “Just a few more. Then I’ll build it. And I won’t be late. Besides, you want the storage function to be finely tuned, don’t you? You should. We’ll be depending on that magic.”

Cyrus’s headache throbbed. The wind tugged painfully at his skin, shrieking in his ears, warping his vision. He groaned, but the wind whipped the sound away.

“See that you aren’t late,” a distant, male voice replied grumpily, his visage obscured by the strange storm. “It’s bad enough that we have to make use of aurists until the delayed harvest—”

Cyrus collapsed, dead before his head hit the rocky ground.

Chapter 1

There are two types of people out there—those who run from their fears and those who run to them.

I’m the second kind.

“Heads up, Briar Rose!” Dad’s panicked warning echoed in the empty, windowless Sentinels’ training hall.

A mechanically propelled mage shot toward me like a striking snake, long, heavy chains whirring from its hands instead of real expellant magic. I loaded a fresh, blunt-tipped bolt and aimed.

Crack. Before I could fire, another mechanical mage raced down the adjacent track and joined the first. They rushed toward us, their chains close enough to strike each other. Sparks flew as they sped down the track toward the platform where we stood.

I released my bolt. The first mage went down with a satisfying crash. “It’s Bri, Dad.” I corrected as I loaded a second bolt. Why was he so worried? This was the most fun I’d had in years, maybe ever.

I aimed at the other mage and fired. My bolt struck the mage, but without enough force to knock it down. The metal creature kept coming. Maybe I needed to get closer.

“Get back, kid!” From the corner of my eye, I saw Dad raise his bow.

“No! I’ve got this.” The oncoming mage was several seconds away. I still had time.

I bounded off the platform and darted in front of my dad’s bow so he couldn’t fire on the fake mage without hitting me.

The next bolt clicked into place. I sighted as I jogged down the track toward the mage, then fired.

Clang. A hard, direct hit. I slowed.

The contraption collapsed just before hitting me, its metal limbs colliding with the track and echoing in the empty training hall beneath the palace.

I lowered my bow, then turned, faced my dad, and attempted a graceful victory curtsey. “Didn’t think I could do it, did you?”

As I said, I prefer to face my fears head on. Run at them, if I can. That way, I meet them on my terms instead of waiting for them to come to me on theirs.

It made sense, my mom being a famous former assassin and all that. And as I discovered a month ago, my dad being … Dad.

A soldier. A leader. A brave, strong Sentinel. And currently, a scowling, frustrated one, who did not appear to appreciate my effort at a curtsey. It probably hadn’t looked quite right in the loose training pants I’d borrowed