Chapter 1

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It had been two days since Cinder had died and was resurrected by the most powerful coven in the world. She had been suffering from nightmares without cease; every time she closed her eyes, Dominique and the darkness were there with her. She had awoken screaming in the night again and Sebastian was trying to comfort her. A look in the mirror, at her tear-streaked face, had her remembering the shackled hand of Sean, who was still a prisoner in the keep of the evil vampire, that she had helped slay. Her dreams had been pulling on her and at last, she remembered them and was preparing to storm the Keep, by herself if need be. Sebastian had convinced her to wake the King and prepare a host of soldiers, to swarm the Keep and take it. They planned to clean it out of the evil that still resided there and to rescue the prisoners.

King Adrian, his General and other officers, Sebastian and Cinder all stood gathered around the war table in front of them, discussing the plan of attack. Cinder could barely contain her agitated desire to pace as they discussed a plan of action. "How exactly do we plan to get inside a walled Keep with a reinforced iron gate, without being picked off by archers and wiped out by Dominique's apprentice, may I ask you? Our scouts have reported that the apprentice has settled in and plans to take over where Dominique left off," the General informed them. "Even if we used ladders, the losses would be too great. Can Cinder's magic force the gates open?" the General asked, turning to her. She mulled the idea over in her mind but then another thought came to her mind. "There is a secret back entrance into the Keep," Cinder offered up to him. All of the men in the room looked over at her in surprise. "What secret back entrance?" Sebastian asked her. Sebastian's eyes were calm as he held her gaze for a moment, but she could hear his concern for her in his mind; her agitation wasn't obvious but he could read her more easily than others. Cinder reached down to the map on the table and pointed to the corner in the courtyard of the Keep that held it. "I saw them using it several times, while I worked there. It is guarded but I believe we could send a special group of soldiers in through that entrance. Once inside, they could storm the gate and open it with my help, allowing the rest of the army inside." "A small group of soldiers wouldn't hold up against the small army that resides in the Keep, your Highness," the General said, doubting. 

Cinder looked at him and continued, "They are simple human soldiers, General, not another army of werewolves. We have the advantage in every way. A single werewolf is worth probably ten of those soldiers. I don't believe it would be a problem; I was willing to go by myself." "The losses to the group inside would still be too great, with the entire army focused in on them. We wouldn't stand a chance of a surprise attack." "If the army draws the enemy's fire and attention, while the other soldiers sneak in through the back entrance, there is even more chance for success," she proposed. The General looked at her for a moment and then at the King, saying, "That could actually work. It is your call in the end, of course, Your Majesty, but it does sound like a good plan of attack. What do you think, Your Majesty?" Adrian looked at Cinder, while he rubbed his shadowed beard, thinking. There was no way he was going to be able to storm the keep, without her being involved, regardless of what plan they used. Cider's proposed plan was the best one that they had come up with and it did sound doable. "Alright, let's move. We take the Keep at first light. General, ready your men. Select the best for the special group, that will be sneaking in through the back of the Keep. Sebastian will be leading them. Cinder will go in after them, through the same entrance, and help open the gate once it is unlocked. We will lead the main army to the Keep's gate and provide the distraction time needed, to get the gate open."

The General started giving orders to the officers around them. Cinder was already in her black armor, having been ready to go even before the tactical meeting started. She wore black boots that came up to just below her knees, black leather pants with reinforced pads, a leather fitted vest with black chainmail over vulnerable areas and she completed the ensemble with a hooded leather jacket, that provided cover for her arms and reached down to just above her boots. Her hair was pulled back and banded at the base of her neck. She had taken black paint and drawn it across her face to help shadow it, using it to also dull the sheen of her weapons for stealth. Her short sword was in its sheath across her back and she wore a large dagger on her left hip. She had several other knives stashed about her person, in case she would need them. She was agitated to get on the move but a determined, deadly focus lay just under the surface, waiting to be honed in on her targets. She looked every bit the Eradicator of legends and she could feel the minds around her observing her; most found her intimidating, and others inspiring. Only four of the men in the room weren't truly intimidated by this image of her; her Bondmate and first love, Sebastian, Adrian, the King, who was also a love of hers, Captain Tristan Lyles, a close friend of hers and the General. All the rest present in the war room eyed her with a small sense of wariness, but appreciation that she was on their side. 

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