Zelia is a priestess with sky-blue skin and strange tempers. Half-human and half-air elemental, she lives uneasily in the College of Healers. Perceived as an outsider, and declared a renegade, she is nevertheless chosen for strange and dangerous task.
Ares is an opportunist and adventurer. Neither elf nor human he is another outsider, welcomed by no one, mortal or otherwise.
Misfit and outcast meet, and together they discover they possess unimaginable powers of sorcery which they will need to combat the scourge that threatens the land. For the evil sorcerer Queb, long thought dead, has returned...
Jessica Palmer has had 28 books published starting in 1988. The books range from the area of fantasy, science fiction and horror, by such publishers as Scholastic Book, Harper Collins and Simon and Schuster (Pocket Books). Her most recent books were published in 2008, 2009 and 2014 respectively part of a Native American series.
She lives in New Mexico at the base of the Sacramento Mountains where she is employed by Alamogordo Daily News as community reporter / editor. She also works with wildlife and has raised, foxes, deer, owls, crows, hawks, raccoon and skunks.
"Jessica Palmer delves deep into reality to produce a superb story that is compelling and compulsive reading all along the way."James Herbert.
"Undoubtably the best, Jessica Palmer with her wit and humour. . ."Howard Watts, Substance Magazine, London
Astra Aurelius slipped out from under the sleeping man. The airy elemental was no more than a wisp, a mere whisper of a woman. Small enough to fit into the palm of one's hand, to the human eye the Lady Astra appeared little more than a picture etched in glass. A smile flickered across translucent lips as water chuckled musically down the fountain, and her fluid cousins sang of their delight. The air elemental hugged herself, did a joyous jig, and a whirlwind whipped around the reclining form and the dancing vision.
She was with child.
Somewhere behind her a voice shrieked in triumphant scorn. The scream retreated rapidly, becoming indistinct. The haunting cry shivered up her spine. The frolicking sprite faltered and frowned.
What was that?
The spinning clouds of fairy dust settled around her. Her normally quicksilver thoughts bogged down, and the fountain's chords fell flat, striking a sour note. Below her flickering image, the man's skin had taken on a blue-grey hue, and Astra forgot all else.
This would never do.
The man was real-this mortal man with his hard lips and soft touch-and he might perish if not returned to the mortal realm soon. For man was a thing of earth, and he needed to be rooted in time and place, to have solid soil beneath his feet, in order to survive. Here in this portal between the planes, far beyond earth's stodgy realm, all times merged. Past, present and future became one. For a mortal to tarry here was dangerous. He would most assuredly die if he remained inside the stone circle overlong.
The lady extended a wavery arm to caress the raven head. To bring him here had taken powerful magic, and already she could feel her energies starting to wane.
Her scowl of concentration deepened. There was something she should remember and couldn't. Something having to do with the fleeing cry. Some reason she must linger here, and some reason she should not whisk her all-too-human lover back to the security of the earthly plane.
Astra shook her head, and the thought was lost, dispersed like smoke upon the summer breeze. Without further deliberation, the fairy clothed herself in cobwebs and wrapped her gauzy form in mist so that she could not be seen by prying mortal eyes. Then the Lady embraced her beloved-whose name she could no longer recall-and shrouding him also in her protective haze, the elemental passed through the portal into the earth plane. They reappeared, another ripple among the many heat waves that radiated off the scalding hot sands of the Shamirian desert.****
Wicked laughter echoed about the vacant circle, and a figure materialized out of thin air. The form was flat and two dimensional, like a man made of twigs. The picture wobbled uncertainly for a moment.
For hundreds of thousands of rotations, the wizard had been trapped between planes, caught like a black-moss fly on sticky paper, and pressed flat. Released, he had yet to regain mass or bulk so when he turned sideways he appeared little more than a line. Faced head on, his image was stretched thin, like paint on canvas.
The mage paced, or tried to pace, but the best he could manage was somewhere between a swaying stagger and an energetic hobble. His imprisonment had broken his body, but not his mind, for the wizard swore spiritedly as he lurched from one end of the stone circle to another.
Once his power had been such that it had taken the entire counsel of Wizards to defeat him, and then, as if they thought no more of him than a troublesome gnat, the magicians had given him over to be guarded by that silly, flitting elemental.
The Lady Astra, queen of her kind, had been perfect for the job. She would not listen to his blandishments.
No elemental could be swayed by power or wealth, for all the fay folk had magical skills that exceeded that of the mages on the mortal plane. The lady's head could not even be turned by wizardly promises of immortality, for she was already immortal. And as for money!
The earthy elemental would have simply taken a gold coin back to its earthen breast from where it came. The water elemental would have worn it down with its liquid play. Fire would have melted it while air may have been attracted by its sheen, so like that of the sun but would quickly forget it, leaving it behind as soon as something else to her fancy.
Air, who protected man's plane from water and fire, was the natural choice. Her earthy cousins had the memory of the fabled furry mammoth of the Northern Wastes, but were so slow that it took them turns to complete a thought much less an action. Her watery cousins had more flexibility than earth, but were confined in the beds of streams, the bowls of lakes or streams. Fire, the only element ever to be harnessed by mankind, was considered corruptible.
Queb had been well and truly stuck until the mortal had stumbled on the scene, distracting her. For the airy sprite had wit, freedom of movement and quickness aplenty, but the memory of a sieve, and that had been her weak point.
Bless her empty head! He threw back his head and cackled gleefully, a sound like the scraping of nails across a chalkboard.
A single drooping eye gazed upon the hated fountain. The red orb burned with Brimstone's fire. The water began to seethe and churn, and the fountain simpered pathetically. The twisted, nearly toothless mouth sneered as a skeletal arm waved at his reflection in the pool. The water started to bubble and boil, and the central statue split with a loud crack.
Calmly, the necromancer told himself. He had time. Plenty of time. Fairy babes came when and where they will, in the blinking of an eye or in many turns of the planets. But once the child was born, it would be subject to the same mortal calendar as its father was.
The sorcerer had time to strengthen himself, to plan to prepare, to wreak his revenge on the Lady's whelp. Her birth was an abomination, and with her elemental blood undiluted by time, the child was the only one upon the mortal plane now who could possibly rival his power. But Queb could achieve more no as long as he was lumbered with this useless shell.