WHAT’S HAPPENED SO FAR?
In Cinders & Ashes Book 1, Finn Ashton is a servant on his own estate, serving the needs of his obnoxious stepfamily. His stepfather, Lord Gerard Steward, is desperate to gain social approval and marry his two sons, Christopher and Miles, off to nobility. But due to his being the son of a merchant, he is seen as a social climber and would be ignored except for the fact that Tanglewood Manor is the most fertile of any in the Kingdom of Rirea. That fertility is due to Finn’s magical abilities.
Finn is a half-blood Fae. His mother was (mostly) human but his unknown father was Fae. Finn has no idea who his father is and claims not to care. But he did give Finn the ability to drain life, mix it with his magic and cause the estate to bloom. He has done this every year since his mother’s death when he was 5 years old. The same death that revealed his magic and his Fae heritage. Since the deaths of the prior king and queen of Rirea, allegedly by the Fae King Thalanil Ravenspar’s hands, all Fae found in Rirea have been put to death due to suspicions that they have loyalty to King Thalanil. Finn’s stepfamily has agreed to keep his Fae blood secret in exchange for him serving them, making the estate bloom and never seeking the title of Lord of Tanglewood.
However, this year, there is so little life in Rirea that Finn is unable to honor his promise to make the estate fertile. Desperate for his stepfamily to keep his secret, Finn steals life from the Fae side of the Wall. The Wall is a magical structure that divides the human Kingdom of Rirea from the Fae Empire of the Eclipse Throne. It was erected right after the deaths of the human regents. Finn hopes this small amount of stolen life won’t be noticed, but his hope is a vain one.
As a “reward” for making Tanglewood bloom, Finn’s stepfamily gives him a half day off to spend mostly as he wishes. He goes into the Lupine Woods only to find a beautiful man being dragged by his horse and evidence that the Fae are aware of the stolen life.
Little does Finn know that the man he rescues is, in fact, Rohan De Clare, King of Rirea. Rohan has as many troubles as Finn. He knows that his kingdom is dying and suspects that the Wall is draining all the fertility from the soil and changing the normal animals into monsters. His uncle urges him to consider marrying one of the nearby kings or queens to provide Rirea some relief, but Rohan does not wish to surrender Rirea’s independence, nor his own.
His uncle then suggests he instead have a meeting with all of the surrounding kingdoms, including the war-like and dangerous Achuviel Kingdom and its King Tearlach. That suits Rohan better as, after a magical afternoon with Finn, he cannot imagine wanting anyone but the bewitching young man with the green eyes.
Confessing his love affair to the Captain of the Guard Leonid Blanchet and his noble companion Lord Serxio Lemos, the three of them head out into the Lupine Woods to the cabin where Finn and Rohan have agreed to meet again. The goal is to spruce up the hovel for a romantic picnic. But things do not go at all as planned.
For his part, Finn has found a new lease on life after his afternoon with the amazing Rohan, who he believes to be a simple noble lord and not the King of Rirea due to a misunderstanding and lie that Rohan builds upon. Finn’s time is not his own as a servant, but he is determined to see Rohan again. His eldest stepbrother, Christopher, appears to intuit that something is going on with Finn. The two of them make a deal that Finn will help Christopher with his potions meant to restore Rirea’s soil in exchange for keeping silent about whatever Finn’s getting up to.
But, to Finn’s dismay, the next day Christopher and Miles insist on coming into the woods with him to look for herbs for Christopher’s experiments. Finn had hoped to grab the herbs and go to the cabin to meet Rohan, but now he is stuck with his step brothers.
As if things could not get more complicated for Rohan and Finn, the two parties meet each other in the woods. They must pretend not to know one another. Christopher, though, seems to recognize Rohan from somewhere. But before any secrets can get betrayed, a section of the Wall lowers and they all see the King of Wolves Tyreon looking at them. When Tyreon begins to move--a move that will lead to an attack in Rohan’s eyes--Rohan draws his crossbow and fires, but Finn jumps between the bolt and the wolf, for Finn has dreamed of the great white wolf and knows he means no harm to them.
Finn is struck by the bolt. Tyreon drags Finn’s unconscious body to the Fae side of the Wall. While Christopher and Miles run away, Rohan, Serxio and Leonid ride after Finn and Tyreon. While they manage to scare off the king of wolves, when they go to bring back a wounded Finn to the Rirean side of the Wall, they find that the Wall is once again intact and there is no way home.
In Cinders & Ashes Book 2, King Thalanil Ravenspar, the ruler of the Fae Empire of the Eclipse Throne, stands on one of Aymar’s towers. He has sensed someone draining life from his land and worries that it is his elder brother Marikoth, a Death Mage, who was exiled from the Empire and has found a way around the Wall to strike at him. He had thought that Marikoth was killed by their father long ago, but he was not.
Like all Death Mages, Marikoth killed their mother, potentially accidentally, when he came into his power. This act made their father believe the prophecy that if a Death Mage is allowed to live they will bring about the end of the Empire. But, out of love, their father merely exiled Marikoth and now the danger he poses continues.
But even as Thalanil is haunted by his elder brother’s continued existence, he is haunted more by the love he lost. Maeve Ashton, Finn’s mother, was the love of Thalanil’s eternal life. She ended their relationship without any explanation. The last conversation they had was an argument about whether Death Mages should be killed simply based on a prophecy. Thalanil stated emphatically he would kill any son or daughter of his that showed the signs. Holding a hand against her stomach protectively, Maeve violently disagreed. And that was the last he saw of her.
Thalanil is left alone on the tower of Aymar with an exiled brother, a dead lover and no one and nothing to love.
Next, we turn to Rohan and Finn. These two lovers are separated. Finn’s wound from the spelled silver bolt requires a Fae healer and Rohan is intent on finding one. The Wall remains in place and there is no sign of Tyreon, King of the Wolves, to take it down again. The only way to save Finn is on this side of the Wall. He and Serxio seek out a nearby village in the Empire, leaving Leonid to watch over an unconscious Finn. But Rohan and Serxio find more than what they bargained for!
The Fae village is surrounded by a magical fence and Battle Mages patrol the area, making it impossible for Rohan and Serxio to get inside. The need for the magical fence becomes apparent to both men as the forest is not only very alive, but antagonistic with vines constantly curling around ankles or wrists.
While they are trying to figure out how to get into the village and find a healer, a group of Fae and humans exit it. The humans are bound, wrists and ankles, with chains. They are led to a standing stone out in the forest, secured to it, and seemingly left there for some terrible fate. Rohan and Serxio decide that they must rescue these poor people. As Rohan is cutting through their chains with his magical sword, Lightbringer, something stirs in the forest.
Including one named Hex, which is so large as to more resemble an elephant in size than a spider at all. Rohan sends Serxio and one of the few freed humans, Thomas, to go back to the village and gain the help of Thomas’ mistress, a Fae healer, for Finn while Rohan continues to free the chained humans and faces off with Hex. While Serxio reluctantly and Thomas eagerly run away, Rohan battles Hex. As he does so, Lightbringer’s power seems to grow and change with Rohan feeling that he and the sword have become one.
Rohan is successful in his battle with Hex, but only one of the humans survives it, a woman named Emma. She had earlier warned him that Thomas “has no honor” and she is more than right. Thomas and Serxio return with Thomas’ mistress, a Fae priestess named Ryleth, but Serxio is in chains and Ryleth, far from being pleased that Rohan has killed Hex, claims that he has sentenced everyone in her village to death. She sends a bolt of magic at Rohan, sending him into unconsciousness.
In the meantime, Finn is dreaming, but thinks he is awake. He is in the Lupine Woods. He is searching for Rohan and the cabin where they were to meet that day to have a picnic. But no matter which direction he goes, all he finds are more trees and no cabin. He feels feverish and weak, along with occasional sharp pains in his side, as if he is suffering from a great illness. But has no recollection of being shot by Rohan or of the events that led to him being dragged into the Empire.
Eventually, Finn does find the cabin, but things are still strange. The woods around the cabin form an impenetrable wall as soon as he enters the clearing. The grass there is sweet and not poisoned. There are signs of occupation in the cabin, but Finn fears it is someone other than Rohan. His illness worsens.
But all seems to get better when Rohan emerges from the cabin, full of joy to see Finn. Yet, for a moment, Finn feels a sense of terrible danger even though this is Rohan who would never hurt him. He’s coaxed into the cabin where mounds of furs and blankets await him along with a roaring fire and a feast fit for a king.
But the fire seems to give off no warmth at first, and Rohan also seems oddly unconcerned with certain things like the fact that Tempest is not outside and the woods have formed an impenetrable barrier. But Finn believes that it is his illness making him imagine things, but he doesn’t drink the wine that Rohan offers him…
He and Rohan begin to talk about magic where Finn learns about Death Magic and Death Mages for the first time. He is surprised and happy that Rohan seems to know so much. He has never dared speak of magic with anyone else for fear that they would guess he has Fae blood. But with Rohan those concerns are not there.
Yet the conversation takes an odd and terrible turn as Rohan begins to mock Finn for having small dreams. Wanting a bit of meat and a warm fire as his fantasy to be with Rohan, not even wishing to be at the man’s estate, appears pathetic in Rohan’s eyes. Finn then realizes that this is not Rohan at all. The being pretending to be his love is a Fae Death Mage called Marikoth.
Marikoth imprisons Finn as he tells Finn that he’s dying and this is just a dream. The Fae Death Mage explains that he noticed Finn because Finn drained life from the Empire and he wants to know who he is and how much he knows about Death Magic. Marikoth reveals more than he finds out from Finn, because Finn knows nothing about his heredity or his magic. Marikoth is the exiled brother of King Thalanil Ravenspar who is intent on getting revenge on his family and taking the throne for himself. He reveals that Death Mages are only born from the Ravenspar line so Finn must be the son of Marikoth and Thalanil’s father, or Thalanil, or perhaps even Marikoth himself. Horrified, Finn denies this even as he fears it is true.
But Finn’s shock is cut off as he is suddenly sent into a vision. He is in Rohan’s paralyzed body as Ryleth, her assistant Tela, her slave Thomas, and Serxio hawk over him. They are discussing Serxio and Rohan’s fate. Hex, far from being a monster that they wanted destroyed, was a creature the Fae had made a deal with. In exchange for sacrifices, Hex and her children provided the Fae with a defense against other terrible creatures in the forest. Now, with the deal broken, Hex’s children will attack the village so the Fae villagers must flee to the summer palace of Aymar.
Tela wants to simply kill Rohan and Serxio for their acts, but Ryleth sees Lightbringer. She recognizes it as Vudine, the magical sword of House Aeturnal, the former Fae rulers of the Empire. Though Serxio tells her that Lightbringer has been in Rohan’s family for ages, she believes he must have stolen it as he is human or, at least, appears to be so. But she decides that this is beyond her pay grade and Rohan’s fate should be decided by King Thalanil himself. Ryleth also believes that King Thalanil must be told how bad the overgrowth is in the Empire, because their letters begging for help have not had any effect.
Finn is transported out of the vision. Finn realizes from his vision that Rohan is in danger and he must save him. He begs Marikoth to let him go and to even allow Finn to drain a little energy from Marikoth to save himself from death. Marikoth laughs at this.
While fascinated by this vision Finn experienced, Marikoth decides he is going to kill Finn by draining him anyway. Over Marikoth’s shoulder, Finn sees a raven made of old feathers, bones and energy. This bird grows until it is a monstrous shadow while Marikoth, unaware, behaves like a drug addict at the thought of draining Finn’s life.
Marikoth tries to kill Finn, but his powers don’t work on Finn at all. Instead, Finn drains Marikoth. With this first taste of life, Finn almost loses control to the point that he almost kills Marikoth. But Marikoth manages to free himself. Just before he flees the death dream, he sees the massive magical raven and acts both afraid and betrayed at its appearance here before disappearing.
The raven leads Finn out of the death dream and Finn wakes up in the Empire. The life he stole from Marikoth and from the surrounding vegetation there heals his wounds. He has to lie to Leonid about how this happens, believing that Leonid would fear or hate him if he knew Finn had Fae blood, let alone was a Death Mage. He convinces Leonid that Serxio and Rohan are in trouble and they need to go find them.
Rohan wakes up in a cart, chained with Serxio and Emma, the human woman he saved from Hex. The whole village is traveling to Aymar. Ryleth has Lightbringer on her saddle. They intend to get to the village of Tradavor that night and rest before moving on. Rohan begs her to send someone back to get Finn, who is dying. He argues with her that her deal with Hex couldn’t have continued indefinitely, because she would have run out of humans to sacrifice to it, and pleads for her not to let Finn die for his actions. Ryleth refuses to help him, because the spiders are coming and her people are her only concern.
The spiders harry them all the way to Tradavor. When they get to the village, the priest of Tradavor, Samron, refuses to let them in and traps them outside to be killed by the remaining spiders in order to save his own deal with the forest.
Rohan’s connection to Lightbringer bursts into life and the sword flies to him. He finds himself repeating an ancient mantra that indicates he is the heir to House Aeturnal. He uses the magic within himself, with Lightbringer as a focus, to kill all of the spiders while sparing all of the Fae. The Fae, Ryleth especially, recognize that Rohan is a fated ruler of the Empire. They are welcomed into Tradavor because of this.
The magical raven that only Finn can see leads him and Leonid to the abandoned village where an Ostil, an enraged tree creature, has entered the space. Leonid tells Finn to run while he sacrifices himself to it so that one of them can get to Rohan and Serxio. Finn determines to use his magic. The raven starts to speak to Finn, urging him to kill the Ostil, but Finn refuses, instead communicating with the enraged creature and convincing it to let them go. Leonid realizes that Finn is magical. He is not afraid but grateful.
Rohan awakes in Tradavor, completely exhausted by the use of his magic, and unable to even stand. He is intent on saving Finn. He makes a deal with Ryleth that he will protect her people on the way to Aymar if she sends someone to bring Finn here and heals him. She agrees and Tela and Serxio are sent to look for Leonid and Finn.
Finn and Leonid hide when Tela and Serxio appear on the road, not realizing who they are at first. Finn uses his Death Magic to paralyze Tela while they greet Serxio. Tela realizes that Finn is a Death Mage at that moment. Assured she is not an enemy, Finn releases Tela and the four of them go back to Tradavor and Finn is reunited with Rohan.
Finn finally tells Rohan the truth about his Fae heritage and his Death Magic. Rohan completely accepts him. They realize that their magic works together. Finn drains life to feed it to Rohan. Rohan has the Aeturnal ability to imbue weapons, jewelry and buildings with enchantments, storing raw magical power within them. They see the possibility of draining the excess life from the Empire and using it to restore the life in Rirea. But that will only work if King Thalanil agrees. Rohan thinks it won’t be safe to meet King Thalanil at Aymar, but, instead, to leave a letter with Ryleth to send to him after they figure out a way to get back to Rirea.
They make their way along the road to Aymar, but the forest is aggressive and blocks their path. Finn drains the excess life from the questing, invasive vines, but he takes too much inside himself and fails to feed the excess energy to Rohan. He releases the energy, carving a massive canyon into the forest. Those that didn’t realize he was a Death Mage, do now. Only Ryleth is pleased by this development.
It turns out that Ryleth used to be the head of her order, but her belief that the Aeturnals and Death Mages are necessary to control the overgrowth in the Empire was considered heretical and she was stripped of her titles and sent to the tiny village as punishment. She gives Finn translated pages about a love story between the two last Aeturnal and Death Mage couples. She urges him to understand that he and Rohan are meant to be and that their abilities can save both the Empire and Rirea.
Just as they are about to enter Aymar, they discover that Emma has been murdered by Thomas. She found out that Thomas and Tela intended to out Rohan and Finn to Ryleth’s old order. They killed her to stop her from telling Rohan and Finn their plan. Ryleth, Rohan, Finn, Serxio and Leonid chase Tela and Thomas into Aymar, but end up splitting up, with Finn going after Tyreon.
Tyreon leads Finn to King Thalanil. Thalanil recognizes Finn as the one that drained life from his Empire and a Death Mage. He alleges that Finn is a killer. Finn claims not, but then Thalanil reveals that every Death Mage kills their mother upon entering into his power. Finn realizes then that he killed his own mother. Her wasting disease wasn’t a disease at all, but was caused by him draining her.
Thalanil is about to kill Finn when he sees Finn’s eyes and sees that they are the same as Maeve Ashton’s, the woman he loved. This leads to the revelation that Finn is his son and that the reason Maeve ended their relationship was because she feared Thalanil would kill him, because she knew he would be a Death Mage.
Instead of wanting to kill Finn, Thalanil agrees to spare Rohan, Serxio and Leonid’s lives if Finn will remain with him in Aymar. The Fae king then demonstrates his great power by sending Rohan, Serxio and Leonid through a magical portal back to Rirea. He promises Rohan that if Rohan ever sets foot in the Empire again, he will be killed.
In Cinders & Ashes Book 3, the story begins in Rirea with Marikoth saving a young farm boy, Jeremy, from two neighborhood thugs who have ill intent towards him and his sister, Hannah. But just when Jeremy thinks he’s been saved, it turns out that Marikoth is a more deadly monster. It is clear that Marikoth is walking free in the Lupine Woods and doing whatever he wants.
Finn and Rohan are separated by the Wall and their duties, though both long for each other and vow to find a way to be together. Finn and his father, King Thalanil, bond over their mutual love of wyverns and flying. They begin to learn about one another, as people as well as father and son, and discover there is a lot to enjoy about one another. But there are two points upon which they violently disagree.
The first point is about Finn’s Death Magic. Finn begs his father to help him learn how to control it and use it for good. Thalanil believes that Finn can simply never use it and, instead, learn traditional magic. Finn wants to believe that’s true, but, in his heart, he senses it isn’t. But Thalanil will not be moved. Finn is determined to find Ryleth and ask her to teach him.
The second point is about Rohan. Finn insists that Rohan is not only an honorable man and great king, but that Finn loves him and all of Rirea. He wants to be by Rohan’s side. And he desires his father to help heal Rirea’s dying land, which may require dealing with Marikoth, who lurks somewhere beyond the Wall.
Thalanil believes that he is saving Finn from heartbreak by not allowing him to hold onto things outside of the immortal lands. While Rohan might have enough Aeturnal blood in him to be immortal, he might not. Watching Rohan wither and die will be agonizing, not to mention all the mortals that Finn has known up to that point. Better to stay behind the Wall and outlast them and Marikoth. Further, his father reveals that Marikoth, not Thalanil, killed Rohan’s parents. They had made a deal with Marikoth to help him overthrow Thalanil, but had repented at the last moment and Marikoth had killed them due to their betrayal. The meeting on the cliffs was to warn Thalanil about his brother’s continued existence, but it ended in their deaths, Thalanil’s near escape from Marikoth, and the raising of the Wall to keep Marikoth out.
But the raven leads Finn to a Luminus, a magical communication device that Finn recognizes as a twin to one his mother had in Rirea. His father confesses that he and Finn’s mother communicated over the Luminus, which syncs time between the two lands when someone is within the Luminus’ orbit. But he forbids Finn from using it to contact Rohan or his friends in Rirea. But Finn is not to be deterred. He realizes that the paired Luminus is in Miles’ bedroom and if he could but convince one of his stepbrothers to take the Luminus to Rohan, he could speak to the Rirean king! And he does just that!
He secretly speaks to both his stepbrothers over the Luminus and discovers some very distressing things. First, his family and the servants all thought Finn was dead. The servants, Magna, Emmott and Jacob left Tanglewood when his stepfather refused to allow them to have a funeral. In order to punish Christopher for “losing” Finn out in the Lupine Woods, his stepfather has turned Christopher into the family scapegoat and slave. Gerard has sold or destroyed all of Christopher’s alchemical equipment, is starving and beating Christopher, and has retreated into drinking heavily every day.
Finn convinces his stepbrothers to load the Luminus into a cart and take it to Reave Castle and King Rohan. He explains that his stepbrothers will be safe from Gerard there. Christopher eagerly agrees, but Miles only does so when Finn lies that he’ll come back to the Manor and serve them. In the end though, Christopher is the only one to take the Luminus and escape Tanglewood while Miles retreats back to Gerard in fear. Through sheer will and determination, Christopher makes it to Reave Castle and Rohan who takes him in.
While that has been Finn’s experience, Rohan has spent every day searching for the tree with leaves of glass, determined to destroy the Wall and get to Finn. He works alongside his beloved friends, Serxio and Leonid, but also with his Uncle Hugues, who Rohan isn’t sure he can trust. For when they were sent back from the Empire to Rirea, he found that his uncle had already taken the throne and contacted the leaders of Bolan, Sultane and the Achuviel Kingdom to come for a summit at Reave Castle to discuss an alliance against Thalanil.
While Hugues cedes the throne back to Rohan, Rohan discovers that his uncle knew not only about Finn’s existence as the son of his former lover and King Thalanil, but also the horrible circumstances that Finn was living in yet did nothing to help him. Further, Hugues’ seeming deep knowledge of the Aeturnals disturbs Rohan. He feels he cannot trust his uncle even as the man provides him with books that speak of the Aeturnals and how they ruled with their “Bonded Ones” until the gods turned against them.
Serxio had a mad plan to stand on the old road that connected Aymar and Reave Castle, right by the Wall, and have a banner trying to get Thalanil--but, more importantly, Finn’s--attention. Rohan no longer believes that Thalanil is his enemy, rather it is Marikoth, but he needs all the help he can get against the Death Mage. But on their way to put up the banner, a mob of people from the city meets them in the streets.
It turns out that homeless and poor people have been disappearing from the city recently and the mayor has refused to investigate. Rohan does and finds Hannah, the young farm girl whose brother, Jeremy, was “saved” by Marikoth, whom she calls the “Glowing Man”, in town. The girl explains in halting terms what the Glowing Man did to her brother and neighbors and warns that she’s seen him in town. Rohan, Serxio and Leonid realize that Marikoth is stalking Dawnmore’s streets and beyond. They must track him down and stop him!
They start their hunt for Marikoth at Hannah and Jeremy’s old farmhouse. They soon find strange tracks that lead into the Lupine Woods. Following these, they come upon a beautiful glade where someone is clearly living, except they aren’t there at that moment, but three undead are, Jeremy included.
Rohan, Serxio and Leonid battle the three undead, realizing that the only thing that can kill them is fire. But after those three are dead, they hear countless undead moans from all around them. Rohan exhausts his magic to protect himself and his friends from the undead horde, and they would have been overcome had not King Tearlach and his warriors ridden to their aid.
The giant Achuvien king still seems to have romantic intentions towards Rohan, but he keeps them light and teasing, even when he realizes that Rohan cares for someone else. But he does reveal that he, too, knows Marikoth. The Death Mage had been his Court Magician until Marikoth betrayed him in some way. The undead, Tearlach claims, are Marikoth’s creations and he has been tracking the Death Mage and the undead from his own kingdom. He’s also there for the summit.
They return to Reave Castle and discover Christopher there with the Luminus. They are able to all speak to Finn and fill each other in on everything that’s happened. Finn is alarmed at talk of the undead. He is glad that Christopher is safe and it is agreed that Christopher will stay on at the castle as an alchemist. Rohan gives Christopher some of the books he discovered in Marikoth’s glade to examine. They need to know how Marikoth is turning villagers into the creatures they faced.
Finn and Rohan promise that they will speak to one another regularly over the Luminus to keep each other informed as well as simply to see one another. Finn is convinced he can change Thalanil’s mind about Rohan. But before they get to speak again things take a dark turn in the Empire.
While Finn is outside Aymar’s walls--having found Ryleth and other villagers--the palace is attacked by hundreds of enraged Ostils, the tree-like creatures that Finn faced before in Ryleth’s village. He and Ryleth go to help, with Finn believing he can possibly speak to the Ostils like he had earlier. But they cannot be reached. They are insane and intent on killing everyone. Finn realizes he has no other choice but to use Death Magic to save the day.
Thalanil has been trapped inside with his Council, including Lord Paquen--who is eager to get more power--and Lady Beinelis--Thalanil’s trusted friend--sparring over whether there’s something suspicious about Thalanil’s human-looking son, Finn. There are rumors already that he’s a Death Mage. When the Ostils come, and Finn levitates into the sky, and destroys them all except one to go back and tell others to stay away, all doubts are gone.
But Finn collapses after the battle and falls into a death-like sleep where the raven speaks to him. It claims to be the God of Death and Finn is its Chosen. Then Finn is thrust into a strange vision. It’s of Christopher in the lower levels of Reave Castle being chased by the undead…
In Cinders & Ashes Book 4, Thalanil has left an unconscious Finn in Ryleth’s care as he travels at all due speed to see his father in order to find out about Death Mages and Death Magic to help his son. But while the Empire has survived its attack by the Ostils, Reave Castle is now in danger from the undead!
But there’s more danger from the living. Marikoth has infiltrated the castle and is holding Rohan hostage unless Finn returns to Rirea immediately, which Finn discovers by sharing Rohan’s body like he did once before when Rohan faced Hex. Marikoth makes clear that he no longer simply wants revenge against his family for exiling him, but believes that he and Rohan are destined to restore and rule the Empire together. He is a Death Mage and Rohan is the Heir of House Aeturnal. Not to mention that Finn is simply too good-hearted to do what has to be done: namely overthrow Thalanil. Rohan rejects him, but Marikoth is not dissuaded.
Desperate to save Rohan, the raven appears to Finn and tells him that the only way to return to Rirea and save Rohan is to fly Silver Soul, the wyvern queen who is said to kill anyone who attempts to ride her. Finn has no other choice and he goes to the Wyvern Tower where he approaches the huge wyvern. Despite her fierce reputation, they are able to speak telepathically and she agrees to help him. For her the Wall is not even there, which hints that she might be more than she seems.
She flies Finn to Reave Castle in time. He fights his way to Rohan through seas of undead despite the fact that his Death Magic does not seemingly work against them. It is the magical ring, Amarathar, that saves the day. Finally, Finn faces off against Marikoth, or rather only thinks he does. Marikoth shows him a fantasy where he is a beloved nephew and student of Marikoth’s and Rohan is Finn’s husband. But Finn sees through the trick when he realizes his father is nowhere to be found in this fantasy.
In fact, Marikoth is asking Finn where his father is. It is then that Finn realizes Marikoth believed that the only way Finn could get to Reave Castle in time was to convince Thalanil to teleport him there. And since Thalanil would never send his son alone to face Marikoth, the Death Mage believed that Finn would bring Thalanil right to him. Both realize their mistake. For Thalanil is nowhere to be found and the “Marikoth” that Finn faces is just a glamourized undead.
Having saved Rohan from Marikoth, Finn decides to stay in Rirea to keep Rohan safe from the other Death Mage. Rohan not only recovers from Marikoth’s draining, but after he and Finn make love, the entire castle starts to bloom. Through the joining of their powers, Rohan and Finn are able to restore the rose garden at Reave Castle. This gives both of them hope that they can save Rirea together.
But it is what they find beneath the castle that raises more questions than answers. There is a tomb of the last Aeturnal king and his Bonded One below the castle. The statues of these two former rulers of the Empire show visages almost the exact same as Rohan and Finn’s, leading the two to wonder if they are not these beings reborn.
Also in this tomb, the ceiling is carved to show a war these two fought against a mighty army of monsters called the Dreadbrood. The Dreadbrood, as Tearlach explains, is the God of Death’s army and it can only be controlled by Death’s Chosen. Finn is shaken by this supposed myth as he was called Death’s Chosen by the raven.
The tomb is also filled with scrolls, tomes and other ancient writings, which may explain and answer all the questions that these revelations bring. But they are all written in ancient Aeturnal dialects, including Achuvien. Rohan calls in all of the professors from the University to study them and get him and Finn some answers.
Meanwhile, Rohan is determined that Finn should be made Lord of Tanglewood once more. He formally recognizes Finn as the true lord of the manor and it is determined that they return to Tanglewood to eject Gerard Steward from Finn’s family home. Finn has Magna, Jacob and Emmott brought to the castle to reveal not only that he is not dead, but that he is Crown Prince of the Empire and Lord of Tanglewood. They had left the Manor after his death, but all eagerly agreed to return to take care of the estate.
A highly unwilling Christopher agrees to accompany Finn, Rohan, Serxio and Leonid on this mission. He has been studying the book that Rohan found in Marikoth’s camp and experimenting on the undead. But his unwillingness to return to Tanglewood does not wholly stem from a desire not to leave his work. It becomes clear that Christopher has deep seated guilt about how he behaved when at the Manor. He knew that if he attempted to help others that not only would it be made worse for them, but also, he would draw his father’s wrath. In fact, he allowed the servants to believe he had killed another servant named “Old Jonathan” because he wasn’t altogether sure his father hadn’t. Better to take the blame than face his father’s wrath. When he reveals all of this to everyone, he receives forgiveness that he does not think he deserves, but it breaks through his icy exterior.
All of them return to Tanglewood only to find it worse than they ever imagined. Without the servants there to take care of things, the whole house has fallen into filth and disarray. Gerard has taken to drinking constantly in Maeve’s old study. Miles has taken to hiding in his room, a ghost of himself compared to what he was before. He hasn’t eaten in some time and is terrified of his father.
Rohan is outraged when he truly sees how Finn was living at the Manor. He, Serxio and Leonid forcibly eject Gerard from the Manor. Rohan informs the drunken, rageful Gerard that his crimes against Finn mean that he should be executed, but it will be up to Finn what his fate is.
Finn confronts his stepfather and, in doing so, he sees himself sitting on a strange throne with an icy crown, radiating death. The sky goes dark and is split in two by lightning. Everyone is terrified. But Rohan touches Finn and guides him back to himself.
Finn determines that Gerard should be exiled for his crimes. Death would be too good for him. Imprisonment would mean that they would be haunted by him. So exile it is.
But Finn is haunted more by what happened when he confronted his stepfather rather than his fate. He starts to wonder who and what exactly he is.
In Cinders & Ashes Book 5, Ryleth wakes up to find herself imprisoned in Aymar’s dungeons with Thomas, the human slave who killed Emma. Evidently, Tela had him imprisoned right after she assisted him in his escape. Ryleth has no idea why she’s been imprisoned and believes that a traitor to Thalanil must have done it. She asks one of the guards to contact Lady Beinelis, who she hopes is still loyal to the crown, who will vouch for her as Mentor to Finn. But, as it turns out, the guards know exactly who she is and that is why she is imprisoned. The guard strikes her with a magical weapon that sends her into unconsciousness.
We then return to Rirea, where the mystery over whether Finn is a Death Mage or something else deepens. Hugues discovers a book in the crypt regarding Death’s Chosen and confronts Finn with it. He claims the book states that the Death’s Chosen is solely created to destroy the Aeturnal Heir and Hugues intimates that he believes Finn is this being. Angry and hurt, Finn causes lightning to split the sky. Finn takes the book from Hugues and sends him away, claiming Hugues only wishes to break Finn and Rowan apart. Despite his confident words, Finn fears Hugues might be right.
Finn, Rohan and the boys head out to restore a field using their magic. They go to the field in Rirea that is the most drained, the most dead. When they reach their destination, all of them are struck by something off about the place. It inspires Serxio to tell them a story about a supernatural creature that burrowed into the ground and caused the land to turn to dead, grave matter.
Despite being completely unnerved by the location and the story, Finn and Rohan attempt to restore the land. They sink their consciousnesses deep into the earth in order to find some scrap of life left, but what they discover is the antithesis of that. They discover the Dreadbrood, Death’s army of the dead, resides in a cavern beneath Rirea!
Finn and Rohan quickly retreat from the Dreadbrood, afraid that they might awaken them. They become convinced that the cavern must be able to be accessed by the catacombs under Reave Castle. Finn is determined to find them while Rohan must greet Queen Artremaya, Ruler of Sultane, who had just arrived for their summit.
Rohan and Artremaya find common ground between them as both their lands are being ravaged by death. While they speak, Finn goes into the crypt, but is unable to locate an entrance to the cavern where the Dreadbrood sleeps. He does meet up with King Tearlach. He asked the Achuvien king to translate the book he took from Hugues as it is written in ancient Achuvien. Tearlach agrees but is surprised by Finn’s trust in him. Finn suggests that perhaps they could be friends or allies, at least.
We return to the Empire where Ryleth, once more, returns to consciousness in a cell in Aymar’s dungeons, but she is not alone. Tyreon has arrived and his ability to dampen magic has affected the magical bars of her cell. The clever wolf gets the keys from a sleeping guard, but she is forced to release Thomas from his imprisonment as well otherwise he threatens to reveal her escape. After picking up Tyreon’s family, they all flee to Rirea.
Exhausted from the day’s events, Finn goes to rest in his and Rohan’s rooms when he sees the Wall flicker and go out for a moment. Silver Soul tells him that she saw Marikoth entering the Fae Empire. Shocked and terrified by what Marikoth might do, Finn flies on Silver Soul’s back to the Empire without letting Rohan know.
Thalanil teleports back with his father and Shadeheart from Old Norbreask to the top of the Wyvern Tower at Aymar. His father is dying of poison and he is intent on saving him so much that he doesn’t realize anything is wrong until he senses Marikoth approaching. Thalanil is confronted by Marikoth along with Lady Beinelis, Lord Paquen, the Keeper of the Order Lyari and her assistant, Tela. Marikoth has come to claim the throne from Thalanil and everyone with him agrees that he should be king, not Thalanil.
They blame Thalanil for the overgrowth and the madness of the creatures in the Empire despite the fact that these things have been happening well before Thalanil was born. While Thalanil agrees that a Death Mage may be the answer to control these changes in the Empire, he states emphatically that Marikoth is not the one to do so, but that Finn should rule if they wish a Death Mage to be king. Marikoth intimates that Finn is a monster and not a Death Mage at all.
Realizing that they intend to crown Marikoth, Thalanil attacks his brother, but his magic only feeds Thalanil. Realizing this, he draws his magical blade, Kharazack or Ghostbringer as it was known in Common, and attempts to strike Marikoth down. But Thalanil is quickly overcome by his brother’s Death Magic. Their father and Shadeheart attempt to intercede to save him, but both are drained to death by Marikoth. Just as Marikoth is about to kill Thalanil, Finn appears. It is clear that Marikoth fears Finn and bargains to give Thalanil to him, alive, if Finn will not attack him and leave the Empire immediately. Finn agrees to his terms. He flies back to Rirea with Thalanil.
Rohan’s meeting with Queen Artremaya is interrupted with the return of Finn, Thalanil and Silver Soul. A dragon–or wyvern–in the courtyard causes quite the ruckus. Thalanil is rushed to a bedroom to rest while doctors are summoned. Silver Soul goes back out and returns with Ryleth, Thomas, Tyreon, Skye and their pups. If a wyvern causes a ruckus, the pups cause an even larger one as everyone falls in love with them. Despite misgivings, Rohan allows Thomas to live, but he must prove that he is worthy of this second chance by serving in the castle. He then hurries to where Thalanil is recovering.
When Rohan encounters Thalanil, who is still unconscious on the bed, he realizes that he can restore the life that has been stolen from the Fae king. Just like the Aeturnals did with the power stones, he “fills” Thalanil back up with magic. It works perfectly, but instead of being grateful, Thalanil puts a blade to his throat. Finn stops his father from hurting Rohan, chastising him for attacking the person who saved him, but Thalanil is still too traumatized by what happened to him and the loss of his father and Shadeheart to truly believe Rohan is not an enemy.
While Thalanil rests, Finn and Rohan want to catch up with Ryleth and all that has occurred in the Empire, but Finn dare not leave his father alone. Yet he can’t have Rohan in the same room with him either. Finn asks his stepbrother, Miles, to stay by Thalanil’s side while he attends to his other duties. Miles eagerly agrees, wanting to help.
After his and Finn’s successful catch up with Ryleth, Rohan has another altercation with his uncle who tells him all about Death’s Chosen and his belief that Finn is a being created by Death to destroy the Aeturnals. Rohan is not impressed by the argument, but, more importantly, he is devastated once more by what he sees as Hugues’ betrayal of him. Hugues contends that all he is doing–all he has ever done–is for Rohan’s benefit, even if Rohan hates him for it.
The next day, Thalanil has recovered to the point that he is anxious to do something–anything–to regain his kingdom, but he knows that his great powers only make him more vulnerable to Marikoth. But Miles tells him about Christopher’s attempts at alchemy in order to undo the spells and potions that Marikoth used to create the undead. Intrigued, and certain that no human could possibly understand such things, Thalanil goes down to Christopher’s laboratory. What he finds shocks him to his core for Christopher is close to unraveling the secret of the undead. With a little help, Thalanil believes that he and Christopher can solve this mystery. Christopher eagerly accepts Thalanil’s help while Miles sits in a corner, content to be near them both in case he’s needed, but not too happy about the smell.
Finn and Rohan had a very furry night as all of the wolves slept in the same bed with them after they made love. Rohan realizes that he must build a bigger bed as the wolves are not going anywhere else and he can’t quite deny their fuzzy faces or Finn’s big eyes on their behalf.
After breakfast with Serxio and Leonid, they all head down to Christopher’s laboratory when they realize that Thalanil is working with him. Queen Artremaya joins them. Not only have they re-created the potion that creates the undead, they resurrect an evil convict and Thalanil shows Christopher how to control him.
While watching them take over control of the undead, Finn can see the magic that connects the undead to their makers and he realizes that he could anchor a whole army of the undead to the living. Perhaps this is how he could fuel the Dreadbrood and use it against Marikoth! Finn is also easily able to take control of the undead himself from his father and stepbrother while they cannot take it from him.
Finn confronts the raven about this ability and the fact that it called him “Death’s Chosen” before. The raven confirms that it is the God of Death and Finn is not a Death Mage at all. Finn is alarmed by this last fact, because he believes that Rohan is destined to be with a Death Mage and if he is not one… But the raven tells him he must accept who he is, and if Finn does, then it will give him control of the Dreadbrood, the only army that can defeat Marikoth. And maybe it will let him keep Rohan too.
Finn takes Thalanil to the crypt of the last Aeturnal and Death Mage. Finn confronts his father about his enmity towards Rohan, pointing out that the Fae have few friends outside of the Empire, and that it is only due to Rohan’s good heart that Thalanil was saved and allowed to remain here. Thalanil points out that he is being magnanimous since Rohan is clearly courting Finn against his wishes. They come upon Ryleth and Crosley arguing in the crypt, which stops their conversation.
Upon seeing the visages of the dead Aeturnal and Death Mage that match Finn and Rohan’s, Thalanil begins to understand that Finn and Rohan’s connection is not some passing fancy. Finn tells him that he believes that the past and the present are connected. Finn believes that in order for the Empire, Rirea and all the lands to flourish the Empire must be restored to its former borders and that there is some kind of magical connection throughout the lands.
Ryleth believes the power stones are part of the equation and that they are part of a larger network that balanced life and death throughout the Empire. Thalanil realizes that this means Marikoth will invade Rirea, not just out of hunger, but because Marikoth knows he needs Rohan to achieve this permanent balance.
Meanwhile, Rohan, Serxio and Leonid are in Rohan and Finn’s bedroom when Marikoth contacts Rohan over the Luminus. Marikoth intimates that he is not the enemy, but Finn is. He further claims that he no longer seeks simple revenge for being exiled, but instead wants to restore the Empire. Rohan reluctantly asks what Marikoth would do to the Queen of Sultane or the King of Bolan to encourage them to accept a restored Empire. Marikoth, of course, does not intend to say anything. Anyone that resists him will be destroyed, which is why Rohan rejects his offer to join them.
Marikoth takes down the Wall and sends creatures into Rirea, which will kill the populace. He will not stop them until and unless Rohan agrees to join with him.
And that brings us up to date!