Prologue

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In the moments before she was to give the signal to begin the attack, Cinder paused and breathed in deeply the scents of the forest. The moss-covered trees, the damp underbrush and the wood smoke pouring out of the chimney of the witch's cottage. It was dusk, just before the night creatures would start to stir and awaken, and the sky was darkening. It was the perfect moment for the ambush, because the ghouls would be still sleeping.

Reaching out with her mind, she began scanning the area for life. Up in the treetops above the small cottage, she sensed four ghouls sleeping in individual trees, awaiting the cover of darkness to awaken. Stretching her mind out farther still, she located the witch inside the cottage, three more ghouls sleeping in the rafters and a goblin servant tending to a live bundle in its arms. The rest of the surrounding forest was void of life and deathly still.

There are four in the trees and three inside the cabin, along with the witch and her goblin. Cinder telepathically informed her First in Command and her Bondmate. "We also need one to cover the chimney and smoke those inside out." Her First gave a nod of understanding and started motioning orders to their team. Four would scale the trees to sneak up on the sleeping ghouls, another would circle around back of the cottage to the roof to cover the chimney. The other five would charge the front door, in anticipation of the occupants inside attacking.

Cinder's life had been a complicated one up to this point and she didn't foresee it getting any simpler, but she finally felt like she had found her purpose and her place in the world. "I'll take lead on the witch. Just make sure that our men can handle the ghouls. Expect the goblin to be particularly nasty." "Yes, Mistress," answered her First, in his own mind for her. Taking one last deep breath in the silence, Cinder looked up to their man on the roof waiting for her signal. This is it, no turning back now, she thought to herself and gave a quick nod to the man on the roof to begin.



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