When her father's life is threatened and her family forced to journey across the desert to find shelter from their pursuers, Kat Parker must travel to a dark magical land to confront her father's hunter.
The dry desert air blew sun baked sand across the barren landscape like some tormented ghost, wailing aimlessly over the parched land, pursuing a forgotten curse. Despairing against the desolate landscape was the sole landmark, a looming watchtower of staked stone; empty holes of windows shuttered with rusted metal that creaked and thumped rebelliously in the wind. The surface was blackened by the ever beating sun, or possibly tarnished on levels unseen by the dark secret that lurked squatting in the decrepit core of the tower. The watchtower was the only sign of life on an otherwise forsaken horizon, with even the ever thirsty denizens of the desert avoiding its presence. The dilapidated structure served as a warning for the deathly secrets hidden previously in the earth's dry, sandy bosom, a secret that poisoned the land like cancer; the evil that gave rise to this tower.
Gword, the weathered man who lived in the weathered watch tower, leaned against the stone of the tower chewing on a piece of tobacco. His light blues eyes, void of any spark of life, stared out across that vacant desert that had come to be his loveless mistress and hateful warden. His skin was tough and darkened from his prolonged stay in the sun. His black hair mingled with the charcoal gray strains that sought to invade his scalp. Wrinkles etched their sandy way across his face like a riddling tale of this man's haunting past, his forced occupation; a curse to guard the gate between freedom and captivity but to never himself be freed, by a love he'd been ripped away from.
The chain around Gword's ankle rattled as he fidgeted, following as the shade shifted across the ground. He spit once more into the sand. He froze, looking out. Across the desert something caught his sight, a speck on the horizon. Surely, he thought, it was his imagination; a trick of the light, a mirage. But he couldn't take his gaze from the spot on the sand. The longer he watched the larger the speck grew until he could no longer imagine it an illusion.
It had been years since any soul had stumbled upon Gwords perch. He eased himself down into the sand and watched the progress of that wayward traveler, hypothesizing over the many possible reasons that could draw this stranger to his post.
The sun continued its journey across the sky and the traveler continued its journey across the sand until they merged in Gword's vision, the traveler climbing the raise to Gword's tower, seemingly out of the descending sun. Gword stood, hand on the hilt of his danger as he watched the figure climbing up to him. As the traveler approached him, Gword recognized the figure as that of a woman. Her brown hair breezed around her face in flowing curls. Her amber eyes peeked out with a startling intensity over the tattered gray scarf that covered her face from the nose down. Her olive skin glistened with sweat and was marked with grime.
She was dressed oddly for one traveling through the desert, with an oversized jacket and pants fashioned from a material that looked vaguely like dragon leather. The jacket pulled tight to her thin waist by a leather belt from which her danger and sword hung rocking on her hips with each step she took. Her thick soled boots sank into the sand as she walked holding onto the straps of a thin pack worn over her shoulders.
As she reached Gword she removed the scarf from her mouth and spoke, her voice cutting through the tense silence of the desert like a forbidden melody.