Rushing to her home world to save a friend brought only heartache. Can Iliana now save Brandon?
A desperate return to her own world has left Iliana shaken, but a gut feeling that something’s wrong in Brandon’s world sends her riding hard for the Ivory School.
When she arrives in Los Arboles, the campus is a smoking ruin and bodies litter the grounds. She finds a few survivors and learns Brandon—and others from the school—have been kidnapped…by an enemy everyone thought was dead.
The only way to rescue Brandon is to use the skills she honed at his school. But she has no way of knowing if he survived the attack or if he even wants her rescue, and it’s not like she can text or track him with GPS. With the help of the only uninjured student, she heads back to the Karobis Desert, hoping she’s not too late to save everything that matters to her in this—or any—world.
The Karobis Calls is the fourth story and dramatic conclusion to the four-part serial recounting Iliana’s journey along the Ivory Road.
Just when she thought they’d be blown off course, the world went white, and static filled her ears before everything grew calm. Iliana slowly lifted her head and looked around.
The world was still. Sunshine of early evening burnished the sunflowers in the fields around her and crickets sang in the grasses. Warmth as real as the freezing cold of Australia enveloped her and she took a deep breath of relief.
“Do you ever get used to the sharp changes in weather and temperature?” She shook herself to release all the tension in her body from the harrowing ride.
“Iliana…” Aristotle’s voice held caution.
She swung her gaze ahead and all the comfort and heat left her body in a rush.
Black smoke billowed in thick oily plumes from the smoldering trees around the main house of the Ivory School of Tactics and Warfare. The breeze painted the sky with streaks of black as fear ran with little cold feet up her spine.
“Sweet glory, what the fuck? Run, Aristotle!”
The horse launched into a pounding gallop up the road to the school and Iliana tried to come to grips with what she saw. The unfolding ruin made her stomach tighten and she hauled back on the reins as they made it to the smoking yard.
Both the house and the stables had been set ablaze and now stood in blackened ruins, studs and beams sticking up like the ribs of huge animals. The fountain in the center was smashed to nothing but fragments, the water dribbling sluggishly from bent pipes.
“Oh, my glory.” Iliana dismounted but couldn’t move a step away from her horse as her gaze took in everything.
The doors to the house were burned away to nothing but the hinges. Inside, blackened rubble as all that remained of the tile floors and the furnishings. The dorms and outbuildings still smoldered sullenly as she turned slowly to look at everything. Her gaze caught on something lying on the threshold burned out house. Something vaguely familiar.
“Aristotle, is that…is that a body?”
His head reared back and his nostrils flared in surprise. “Yes.”
“Oh sweet glory…”
She swallowed hard and took a few steps closer, cataloging every detail like the props manager on a movie set. The body lay belly-down with one hand extended into the house as if the owner had been running inside before being stopped, violently. As she drew closer, she recognized Master Vasily’s Slavic features turned to the side, his eyes still open despite the charred skin.
What little she’d eaten that morning came up in a rush and she turned to the side to keep from vomiting on the body.
No, no, no. This can’t be happening. If Vasily is dead then…
Her body heaved again, emptying her stomach before she wiped her mouth on her arm, tears running down her face.
“We have to check for more bodies, Iliana.” Aristotle’s voice sounded as shaken as she felt.
“Survivors. We have to check for survivors.” She gritted her teeth. “There have to be survivors because I can’t accept that I wasn’t here to help Brandon when he needed me.”
“The world doesn’t work that way.”
“Yes, it damn well does. At least in my world, right now.”