Prologue of Changes in the Wind

Seven Hundred and Fifty Years Ago

Thradin struggled against the bonds that held him, and Festhin sneered at him. “Your majesty,” he drawled. “How good of you to grace this occasion.”

Thradin couldn’t speak, his lips closed by the spell that held him, the spell that drained him, and Festhin felt him weakening through the bond that still linked them.


The universe must have a sick sense of humour to bind him and the man responsible for the death of everyone he loved in this bond.

“You won’t be able to hold him for long,” Farais said. “Not one of his power.” Her voice was tense, and Festhin understood her concern. Farais was not just his assistant; like him, she too had lost everything to Thradin.

“I just need to hold him long enough,” Festhin said, taking out a book from inside his tunic. The hall held only the three of them, Thradin’s unpopularity ensuring that no guard will burst in to defend him. They had all been too happy to obey Festhin, and to help his coup. “This contains a ritual that can bind an immortal.”

Farais took it, and read the ritual, blanching. “But this… Festhin, this has to be a forbidden ritual!”

“What of it?” Festhin asked. “Don’t tell me you’re being squeamish now.”

Her eyes met his squarely and fearlessly. “His children are innocent.”

“They’re his,” Festhin said. “Do you expect them to be better?”

She looked at the book and at him, and at the bound Thradin whose eyes were bulging now. “Ugh,” she said. “It would be a lot easier if we could just kill him. But you do realise that this also needs a record from one of his victims.”

“I am aware,” Festhin said, and drew a deep breath. Breathe in and out, just as he had trained. “I’ll do it. It’s only fitting, after all.”

A part of him wondered if it would hurt to subject his soulmate to eternal torment.

Not that Thradin had ever seemed to care about inflicting pain on him. Nausea rose in him, but he clamped his lips shut.

He was free of the bastard for good now, and it would stay that way. Never again would Thradin hurt anyone else. He had no power to hurt Festhin either. Not anymore.

He could only hate the universe even more for saddling him with a soulmate with no redeeming qualities who could only inspire hatred and fear.

Hatred and fear were all he could see in Thradin’s eyes too.

Seven Hundred Years Ago

Zathrian stared at the sword in his hands, and at the hateful face of his father.

“Didn’t you hear me?” the man thundered. “Kill her!”

He looked at the frightened face of his only remaining sibling, and at his father. The sword in his hand seemed alive, and it was calling for blood.


The ground was awash in it, the blood of his siblings who his father had sacrificed without mercy. Whose memories he had destroyed from their minds. Zathrian wasn’t grateful.

He was empty.

“Kill her!” Their father shouted, lifting his hand which was curled into a fist. “Do you want to disobey me? Kill her! Use that sword!”

The sword seemed to want to kill, and nausea churned in Zathrian’s gut. He clamped his mouth shut to avoid vomiting. He wanted to die, and the sword wanted to kill.


Zathrian inhaled and everything smelled of blood.

“Yes, Father,” he said through gritted teeth, and drove the sword straight into his father’s heart before letting go of it, and turning to his sister.

“Zath!” she whispered before rushing into his arms. “I’m so sorry, Zath. I should’ve run when you asked me to! I was so scared is all! I’m sorry!”

“It’s okay,” he said, holding her. She was so small, so young. At fourteen, she looked around twelve, and Zathrian’s heart twinged at how his father had always neglected her. “It’s not your fault, it’s his.” He looked at his father who had fallen on the ground, the sword still buried in his chest, eyes glassy. “He deserved it.”

He could feel no regret for what he did.

Six Hundred and Fifty Years Ago

Keres rushed through the mansion, shouting for her soulmate, pain as she had never known before lashing her entire being. She knew without being told that Sigvald was dying, if not already dead.

She stopped as the pain receded, and emptiness took its place. There was nothing she could feel through her soulbond with Sigvald. Nothing but a gaping hole where his emotions should have been.

The sound of footsteps made her cower and hide behind a pillar. Past her walked Emperor Zathrian, his head held high, that cursed sword in his hands, and she knew that she had already been too late by the time she got here. He didn’t see her, garbed in dark clothes and hidden by shadows as she was, and she was grateful.

She wasn’t sure of what she would do if he saw her now.

More importantly, she wasn’t sure of what he would do.

“Sigvald,” she whispered, as she slumped to the floor, the vacuum where he had been threatening to overtake everything inside her. Pain would have been welcome. Grief would have been familiar. This yawning, screaming hollowness was not something she could bear.

She lay there, whimpering, afraid to even scream lest the monster that took her soulmate from her should hear her.

I will honour you, Sigvald. I will ensure you didn’t die in vain. I will expose every lie Zathrian is propagating, I will reveal every truth he’s trying to hide. I will not let him be.

She wished it gave her peace.

Eleven Years Ago

Gavril stared at his wrist in horror where the picture of a sword had just appeared that morning. He didn’t know what it meant, and that terrified him. It was not an illusion, and there was nothing about it that suggested that someone had managed to put a tattoo on him without him knowing.

Marks didn’t appear randomly on one’s body however, which meant that this was magical in origin. He took a few deep breaths, trying to quell his rising panic and heartbeats. Today was supposed to be a good day. It was the day he turned eighteen, the day he got to leave the home for orphans.

It wasn’t that he was mistreated or anything, but as long as he lived in this place, no one was ever going to forget that he was an orphan and judge him for it. As if his lack of parents was some moral failing on his part. It disgusted him, and that was why he wanted to leave. Not that it would make much difference, but it would make it possible for him to leave this town, and go somewhere else, start a life where people didn’t know him on sight, and called him orphan and boy.

Parlan had always gone on about his hometown. Perhaps Gavril could visit him there, and ask him for advice. Not about the mark, but about everything else. The mark… whatever it was, Gavril could find answers. There had to be a book on it somewhere. He would stay in the library for a year if that was what he needed to do to know what that fucking thing on his wrist was.

In the meantime, he would hide it under illusions and ink, and tell people it was a tattoo.

Six Months Ago

Gavril hurried to the inn where he was to meet Parlan. It was one of the better ones, which made Gavril wonder about how Parlan got the money for a private parlour. Not that it was any of his business, but he wondered what Parlan would say if he asked.

The sound of shouting made him stop and look to the side where a crowd was gathered around a man and a woman who was yelling at the top of her lungs about how the man had tried to force himself on her while the man stammered out denials. Gavril took a step in that direction before coming to his senses. The woman was lying, and if the law believed her, the man’s situation could be dire. The laws regarding rape and sexual assault were very strict in the empire, and it was one of the things Gavril liked about the emperor, and his reign.

Not that he would know what it was like before the emperor or the empire. Emperor Zathrian had been ruling them for centuries, after all. Gavril looked at the woman continuing her tirade, and knew he couldn’t stay out of it. Having the power to detect lies meant that he was also very good at lying. He moved towards the crowd, making his way through it, and caught the man’s name as he passed through.

Jesson, and apparently, he assisted the healer who was out of town at the moment. Jesson was an orphan from the snippets of conversation Gavril could catch, and his sympathy was further aroused. Only an orphan who had spent all their childhood in one of the home for such provided by the empire could understand the trials of a place like that. The judgement they had to endure even into adulthood.

“Jesson,” he said loudly, catching the attention of the crowd, and momentarily silencing the woman. “There you are. I was looking all over for you.” He threw an arm around the man’s shoulders, and whispered under his breath. “My name’s Gavril, just play along, will you? Why is she accusing you falsely?”

“I don’t know,” Jesson whispered back, and there was no lie there. “I’ve never even seen her before today.”

“I don’t know who you are,” the woman said, staring at Gavril with suspicion and some wariness. “But I would have you know that that man is a criminal.”

“Jesson?” Gavril scoffed. “He wouldn’t hurt a fly!”

“He tried to force himself on me!” she snapped.

“You don’t look it,” Gavril said.

The woman’s eyes flashed in anger. “It was two days ago,” she said.

“And you waited this long to confront him? Very commendable. And where exactly did this happen?”

“At the healer’s. I went there to consult the healer and he”—she pointed at Jesson—“told me he wasn’t there, but that he would see what was wrong with me, and then he… he…” She started sobbing, and Gavril was faced with a dilemma.

The woman was lying, but she didn’t know that. Which meant that someone had actually tried to assault her, and they were in the guise of Jesson. He sighed. He couldn’t get involved in solving who assaulted her; all he could do was perhaps save an innocent man.

“I wasn’t even there,” Jesson cried. “I was home, I already told you.”

“He was,” Gavril said before she could say anything more. “I was with him all evening.”

“What’s going on here?” an authoritative voice asked and the crowd parted to let three shadowguards through. Gavril explained the situation, reiterating the lie he told.

“There’s been a man going around, impersonating others,” one of the guards said. “You’re lucky you got away, ma’am,” to the woman. “He kills them after. But we caught him last night, so you needn’t worry anymore.”

The crowd dispersed and Jesson stammered out his gratitude, and Gavril shook his head. “No need,” he said. “I’ve a friend who works in the shadowguards, so I immediately knew what must have happened. Go home now. It must have been an ordeal for you.”

Jesson left and Gavril saw that the woman was being led away by the shadowguards. He wanted to follow, but someone tapped him on the shoulder. He turned around to see the laughing face of his friend.

“I should have known when you became late,” Parlan said. “I don’t know why you even got involved. That woman could have been telling the truth for all you know.”

“There was something about him that made me certain he was innocent,” Gavril said. Parlan didn’t know his gift, and Gavril intended to keep it that way. “All I knew was that everyone was against him only because he was an orphan, and I know what that feels like.”

He was certain Parlan remembered those days too, back when they were both students. Gavril always got accused of anything that went wrong, and without Parlan standing like a rock at his side, ready to defend him, it would have gone very ill for him. Parlan’s family was wealthy and respected, and hence his word carried weight. Gavril didn’t resent him for it, only the world they lived in that had such stupid prejudices.

“Shall we go?” Parlan asked. “I wanted to treat you for lunch.”

“I don’t even know where you’re getting all this money, seeing as your parents cut you off when you joined the rebels.”

“At least, they haven’t given me up to the law, yet,” Parlan said cheerfully. “My brother sends me some money every week. I think my father knows it, but he ignores it. I guess they just got scared when they realised what I was involved in. Can’t say I blame them, but…” He shook his head. “This cause means something to me, Gavril. A lot, actually. The truth is important, history is important, freedom is important, and Emperor Zathrian is suppressing truth and freedom, and rewriting history, and it just isn’t right.”

Gavril agreed completely, which was why he was part of the rebellion, after all.

Three Months Ago

Keres sighed as she looked at her second in command. Vulir was studying the map of Ingemar, brows furrowed in concentration.

“It’s a damn big empire,” he muttered. “How are we to find a book, Keres? Are you sure it is not in the palace?”

“I’m not sure of anything,” Keres said. “It could be in the palace, or it could be in any of the archives or libraries or the other residences Zathrian has. All I know is that it’s not in the royal archives.”

Arantya moved from the window to stand at Vulir’s shoulder. “I don’t know what a book can do to help our cause.”

“I’d like to know as well,” Parlan said, from where he was sitting, mending a tunic.

“It’s not just any book,” Keres said. “It’s a history, and it’s magical which means it cannot be destroyed. It contains every truth Zathrian has buried, every lie he has fed us as history. With it, we can expose him. Without it, we won’t be taken seriously by anyone.”

“We can raid every archive, library and residence and still not find the damn thing,” Vulir said. “And if we raid only those places, Zathrian will wise up to what we’re after.”

“So, let’s raid a few armouries and grain stores,” Parlan said.

“No grain stores,” Keres said. “Whatever his faults, Zathrian has never let his people starve, and we won’t be the reason for that to happen.”

“Armouries, then, and his residences, but raiding libraries and archives will only turn people against us, Keres.”

She hated that he was right, but an idea was beginning to take shape in her mind. “I may have a way,” she said.

Three Weeks Ago

Zathrian looked at the proposal on his desk and at Keres. “You’re serious about this?”

She nodded. “I think it’s high time we did something like this,” she said. “The history of the empire has never been codified into one single book. It’s scattered throughout. My scholars are getting lazy, and this will give them something to do as well.”

Zathrian was amused. “You will need more than your scholars for a project like this,” he said. “And you will need to consult every library and archive in the empire.”

“I’m aware of how daunting this task looks,” she said. “But I also think it will be worthwhile.”

“Oh, I don’t doubt that,” Zathrian said. “I know that you have a will like iron.” He studied her proposal once more. It was basically everything she had said, in more detail. “Shall I ask Sedele to get you a list of possible candidates for this job?”

She huffed, shaking her head. “I’m perfectly capable of finding scholars for this job, Zathrian.”

A part of him warmed that she still called him Zathrian, despite the distance that had grown between them over the centuries.

“All right then,” he said, signing and sealing his approval on the document. “You have my permission to proceed. But bring me the recruitment letters in batches, will you, Keres? I don’t want my hand to fall off from all the signing.”

“Why you don’t use magic is what I don’t understand,” she muttered as she took the approved proposal.

“It doesn’t feel right,” Zathrian said. “It feels lazy.”

She stared at him strangely for a moment, and shook her head, a half-smile on her face. “You’re hopeless,” she said.

He grinned at her. “But you love me.”

She grimaced. “In your dreams.”

Zathrian sighed once she left, and looked at the mark on his wrist. It was itching again for some reason. He wished he could be rid of it. His soulmate must surely be dead by now, probably killed by his own hands during the purge. Zathrian had no regrets, however. Only annoyance that his fucking soulmark wouldn’t disappear. He shrugged as he pulled the reports from Sedele and Pavia towards him. He had work to do. An empire didn’t run itself, after all.


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