Rise of Heroes

arranged marriage
kickass heroine
magical world

[Book 1 of The Forbidden Blood Series]

Jaden has only known struggle and sacrifice throughout his life. Being the heir to a kingdom plagued by demons, he has seen enough death and suffering to last him a lifetime. But what he doesn't know is that his fight is just starting.

Following the last request of his dying father, Jaden agrees to marry a young princess from another kingdom that he has never even met. But as his betrothed, Elaine Niabard, and her older sister, Isabelle, arrive in Roder for the wedding, he realizes that the strings of his heart are playing the wrong tune. Torn between his duty and his growing desire, he has to make a choice that could either save or condemn his people.

To make matters worse, the demons are growing bolder and smarter. With their darkness stretching its deadly claws further and further into the land, the magic that once saved the world is waking up once more.

The time of reckoning has come. The Third Shadow War has begun.

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“Their armies are vast. It won’t be long before we are swept away by the power of their hatred and their thirst for blood. All we can do now is pray, pray that the Thirteen succeed, pray that there are enough survivors to rebuild what was lost, pray that all of this death and sacrifice hasn’t been for naught. Our last hope lies in the hands of Nydoel… I pray she is strong enough to complete the ritual.” A fragment from “History of the Second War” Written by Fabien Migon Keeper of the Chronicles of Roder --------------------------------------- “It’s happening.” The silence that followed was deafening, full of tension and dread. The two girls stared at the Oracle with wide eyes, the light of the candles in the room deepening the concern painted on their faces. It was well past midnight, and the rest of the temple was fast asleep, as were they, before a haunting scream interrupted their slumber. “Go get Master Brodwyn!” Talia shouted as she stepped into the Oracle’s room. Her companion, too petrified by the sight, didn’t seem to hear her. “Go, Bree!” “But Talia…” the younger girl protested, her gaze going back and forth between her friend and the Oracle that had slumped next to the bed. Bree seemed like she regretted getting out of her bed, but Talia’s heart was racing like the wind, a single thought ruling over her mind. They were going to bear witness to the making of history tonight. Talia gave the girl another stern look until Bree turned on her heel, sprinting out of the room. The sound of her steps faded away in the silence of the night, leaving Talia alone with the Oracle. “Oracle, can you hear me?” she asked, carefully making her way to the bed. Her hand tucked a strand of dark, curly hair behind her ear, only for it to fall back in front of her face. Her nervousness made her palms sweaty and her heart was beating so fast, she felt like she might throw up. Biting her lip, she moved even closer to the most terrifying person in the world. Talia knelt next to her, trying to decide if it was safe to touch her. The Oracle did not seem to notice her presence; it was almost as if she had fallen asleep — her thin nightgown had twisted around her frail frame while her disheveled hair fell limply in front of her face. Eyes closed, she swayed left and right, her thin fingers tightening around a fistful of her nightdress. Talia rose, gently picking the Oracle up and setting her on the bed. The Oracle relaxed on her back, eyes moving feverishly underneath her eyelids. Her body kept flinching now and then, but other than that, she seemed calm, unnervingly calm. Talia stepped next to the nightstand and took one of the candles with her bare hands, the warmth of the flame quickly heating her prickling skin. Lighting up a few more candles around the room, she kept glancing back at the woman on the bed, who had grown disturbingly still. She was always stunned by the ordinary appearance of the girl, who was anything but ordinary. Before Talia came to the Temple, she had believed an Oracle would be either an extraordinarily beautiful woman that could bewitch a person with just one glance or quite the opposite — a horrendous creature evoking mortal fear with its sheer presence. At least that’s how the stories from her childhood portrayed them. But Talia, as well as many others, found out she was very, very wrong. Nothing about the Oracle stood out — she didn’t have an extremely feminine figure, nor did she look like a boy. Her chestnut hair stuck dark and sweaty to her high forehead, while her skin and lips seemed to get paler by the minute. Nothing special. Except, this time, there was this one thing that was special and it almost sent Talia screaming in panic as the Oracle opened her eyes. Usually brown and warm, they now stared into the void with a blind, milky color — a gaze that made every hair on Talia’s body stand on its end. It was directed toward the wall behind Talia, but it still brought shivers that shook her down to her bones. “Oracle?” Talia whimpered, unable to look away. “The sacred law has been broken,” the Oracle whispered, and Talia almost dropped the candle on the bed. The wax burned her skin, making her eyes water from the pain. “What do you mean, Oracle?” Talia asked, circling the bed so she was closer to hear her words. She had never witnessed a vision before, only heard rumors of it, and now that she was there, she could barely stop herself from crying. For the first time in her life, she was truly afraid. The Oracle reached out and grabbed her wrist. Talia screamed, instinctively trying to pull away, but the grip was too strong. Breathing heavily, she lowered her gaze to meet the Oracle’s bottomless white eyes. She wanted to run away so badly, but her feet felt as if they had melted into the floor. So she stayed, paralyzed by horror, staring down at the pale face of the innocent soul who was nothing but a vessel, a vessel for powers far greater than any human could comprehend. “The darkness is spreading. The sacred law has been broken and the Forbidden blood has passed into this world. He is coming for it.” “The Forbidden blood? What are you saying? Who is coming?” Talia blurted out. Before she could do or say anything else, the Oracle’s eyes widened. Letting go of Talia’s hand, she covered her face, sobs rocking her body. A few seconds later, she cried out, waving her hands and tossing in panic as if fighting some invisible monster. “No, no, no!” the Oracle screamed, covering her head with her hands and trembling like a leaf. Talia watched helplessly. “Oracle? What do you see? Oracle!” Talia shouted, all manners and precautions long forgotten. She grabbed the girl’s hands and pulled them away from her face, only to jump back, startled by the horrified expression on the woman’s face. “Elina! What do you see?” The name slipped from her lips involuntarily, and Talia gasped as she realized what she had done. Once an Oracle awakened, they ceased to be the person they had been before — that’s what Sister Maya always said — leaving behind their previous identity, including all attachments and family. From that moment, they belonged to the world. They were no longer their own person. Elina had been Talia’s closest friend before the Awakening. They had grown up in the same village and they had been brought to the Temple together once they both got the mark within the same month. But it was Elina who had been chosen when the previous Oracle died. She had the Oracle now, so any reminder of her past life was forbidden and severely punished if overheard. Sister Maya had told them that some Oracles had remembered their old selves and turned their back on their calling. The older girls had also told them about the rumors that said that those women were executed so that the next Oracle could be reborn and carry out their duty properly. Before Talia could have more time to dwell on what she had done, the girl in the bed spoke again, her weak, trembling voice still full of fear and pain. “I can feel them, all of them,” she whispered. “I can sense their deaths — each and every one, thousands upon thousands. I can hear their screams and prayers. There is no hope for them, no way back. The world is lost to them.” “W-W-W-Who are they? W-What is going to happen?” Talia stuttered, fighting for breath. Her previous excitement at the prospect of such an adventure had turned into a bitter, nightmarish horror that kept tightening its grip around her throat. “The world of men shall fall,” the Oracle’s eerie voice announced with a terrifying finality. “The Forbidden blood is here. The Forgotten are coming for it. He is coming.” “Can they be defeated?” Talia asked, her mind flying back to the stories about the Forgotten Ones. Before she could recall any of the fearful legends, the Oracle’s voice interrupted her thoughts. “Defeated? No, not him, never him.” The Oracle whispered when her body suddenly twisted, arching at an angle Talia didn’t think humanly possible. The Oracle screamed — the most painful and sorrowful scream Talia had ever heard, filled with pleas and prayers for death. Talia stepped back as the Oracle’s body kept twisting and tossing, producing sharp, horrific cracking sounds right before every scream. As if after an eternity of agony, the Oracle’s body relaxed in the bed, sweat covering her from head to toe. Her thin nightgown stuck to her skin, revealing unusually slow breathing. “Oracle?” Talia whispered, fear clenching her throat. “He saw me. He claimed this vessel,” the Oracle whimpered, her eyes looking lifelessly at the ceiling. Something else caught Talia’s attention, and she stared at the Oracle’s chest, the right side of which was now faintly glowing with a ghostly light, a vague imprint of a hand shimmering over her pale skin. The light quickly faded away, as if released from a powerful spell. Talia took a sharp breath, her eyes moving back to Oracle’s face. The sound of heavy steps closing in from the corridor made her cry in relief and she impatiently turned to look at the door. “Talia,” the Oracle called, “I’ll need you to find me, find me, and the Forbidden blood. When the three signs reveal themselves, the Thirteen shall rise. Look for the signs and trust in the blood.” Confused, Talia was about to ask what she meant when the Oracle gestured for her to lean closer. Her eyes were now back to normal — tired and dull, slowly fading into oblivion. Her hushed words brought a frown to Talia’s face which deepened more and more with each passing second. “Trust no one,” the Oracle whispered at the end, extending a hand toward her. Her thin, long fingers touched Talia’s cheek, and Talia jumped, surprised by the jolt of energy that rushed through her body. “Find me, Talia. You have to find me. You will know when you do.” A smile appeared on Elina’s lips and she let her hand fall on the bed. Talia watched as the light in her friend’s eyes faded away, only to be replaced by utter emptiness. A moment later, a small group of people barged into the room, with Master Brodwyn leading them. His face was flushed with blood, the veins on his neck pulsating from the effort. Panting heavily, he stood with one hand pressed against his chest, his bulky belly growing larger as he took deep breaths and let them out slowly. He took a few long seconds to study the room before turning his attention back to the bed and Talia kneeling next to it. “What… what happened?” he asked while the others were still finding their way in. Two women rushed to his side, fully dressed in white as it was behooved. Bree was trailing behind them, desperately trying to steal a glimpse over their shoulders. Master Brodwyn's attention settled on the motionless body in the bed and he took a nervous step forward, but his determination wavered even before he reached the nightstand. “She’s dead. The Oracle is dead,” Talia announced without even looking at her former friend. 'Trust no one.' The words echoed in her mind. ‘Find the Forbidden Blood. Find me.'

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