For your enjoyment: Free Chapters

November 16, 2013

Here are the first two chapters of The Source of Magick, Book One; The Raven Chronicles:


Chapter One-

Being Magickless

It had been weeks since the magick.
Though magickless, she’d felt its presence; felt it thrumming through her limbs, itching at her fingers.
Even now, as she was hanging the wash. Snapping the final tunic from the wicker basket at her feet, she folded it over the line. Lightning sparked between her fingertips and the clothesline, causing her to leap backwards, her lips forming a silent scream.
The tunic slipped from the line into a heap as she stared at her hands in awe. Was the magick coming back by itself?
She took a step away from the laundry, raised her hands to chest-level, and muttered a spell. It fizzled on her lips.
“Damn,” she flung down her arms and retrieved the tunic, placing it back on the line. There were no sparks this time.
What had happened? Where had the magick gone? Why had it suddenly returned, only to leave just as quickly?
“Lisyra? Lis? Are you out here?”
Lisyra grabbed the basket and headed towards the house, puzzled. She wasn’t expecting visitors.
Up the hill she went and from around the corner of the house strode a tall, broad, pale-haired man. “Idan!” She rushed to him. “What are you doing here?”
Out of breath, Lisyra embraced her brother while ushering him inside. “Come, come! The weather has changed on us!”
“Can’t a man check on his baby sister every once in a while?” he asked with a grin.
Inside, Lisyra set aside the laundry basket before building up the fire that was dying in the fireplace. Adjacent to that was a pot-bellied stove on which a kettle stood waiting. Idan filled the stove with kindling, then filled the kettle with water. Lisyra caught a stick aflame and carried it to the pot-bellied maw, catching the kindling on fire. She dropped the flaming stick inside the stove and closed the front, uncomfortably aware that Idan’s hazel eyes were on her.
“What brings you out here?”
Idan returned the kettle to the stove-top. There was quiet between them before Idan decided to speak. “I’ve chosen a wife.”
Lisyra nearly leapt at him. “That’s wonderful! Who is she?”
“Farren: a newcomer.”
His sister cocked an eyebrow, pulling two teacups from a cupboard overhead. “She’s agreed to this? She’s aware of it?”
Idan laughed heartily, and it filled the room. “Of course!”
Over the next few hours, as they sipped their tea, they spoke of nothing but the coming nuptials, and the main reason Idan had come today: “We decided that… we’d like to have the wedding…. here.”
Lisyra’s eyes lit up bluer than usual. She struggled to answer, “Most certainly!”
Idan smiled, then became serious. He stood, moving to the window. “I think they would have wanted that.”
Lisyra nodded sadly: their parents had been taken by war several years earlier; Idan practically raised her. When she’d come of age, she’d moved out of town, the deed to the family farm in hand. At first, Idan hadn’t understood.
Then it had become clear: with her love of nature, her extraordinary talent for magick, not to mention her preference for alone-ness, making a living out here would be no problem for her. Being that he was a businessman, and had no interest in farming, he was more than happy to stay where he was, allowing his younger sister to take that responsibility.
She’d moved into the rundown old place and had it fixed up in no time, without using even one iota of magick. The crops were a different story; they sometimes needed a little encouragement.
Idan surveyed the fields. Though it was becoming colder, they were looking more crestfallen than they should. These were fall harvests, meant to stand up to such weather! Which reminded him. “By the by, little sister. I’ve noticed a few things around here that are cause for concern.”
Knowing what he meant, but not willing to admit it, Lisyra asked, in a tight voice, “Whatever do you mean?”
“You haven’t been using magick, and I’d like to know why!” he growled.
She stiffened. “Of course I have,” she lied.
“You’ve been casting magick since you could walk… don’t you lie to me!”
Lisyra bought herself some time busying herself with clearing the dishes. Obviously he knew something was amiss, and she was only upsetting him by drawing it out. She took a deep breath, closing her eyes. When she exhaled, her bronze tresses flew up and out of her face. She turned to face him slowly.
His hazel eyes were not angry as his words suggested; they were genuine concern. He waited.
“It’s gone, Idan.”
He stared. “What do you mean, ‘gone’?”
Leaving the dishes at the wash basin, Lisyra flopped into the chair opposite him. “I mean, it’s gone. The magick left me weeks ago. That’s why the crops are failing, and that’s why I’m lighting fires with sticks!”
“Why didn’t you tell me, Lis?” He reached across the table and took her hand. “Have you told anybody?”
“No,” she replied glumly. She splayed out her hands. “It’s too embarrassing! Besides… I’ve managed quite well without it.”
“Other than the crops,” Idan gently reminded her.
His remark made her glare, and defensive. “I think it’s trying to come back… there were sparks today while I was hanging laundry.”  She smiled inwardly, thinking of the hum as the lightning raced through her veins.
He thought for a few moments. “A few weeks?”
Lisyra absently nodded. A pecking at the window had caught her attention. It was the blue-black raven that had taken to visiting her farm. They’d formed an uneasy kinship. In fact, this was the closest it had dared to come. Must be because I left the corn kernels out the other day, she smiled.
“What are you smiling about?” Idan accused.
Lisyra nodded toward the window.
Her brother seemed a mixture of incredulous and angry. “What’s a stupid bird got to do with anything?!“
She sighed. “Nothing, I suppose.”
“If this goes on much longer, you’ll need to seek help! If you were sick, would you not go to the healer?”
Lisyra looked at the table and picked at the splintered boards.
“This isn’t a joke!”
“I know… it’s just… well,” she inhaled deeply, straightened herself, and looked directly into Idan’s eyes before answering. She exhaled slowly and spoke carefully. “Have you considered, that maybe, the magick is finished with me?”
Without missing a beat, without even blinking, Idan replied, “Have you considered it’s not?”
*  *  *  *  *
That evening, after Lisyra bade Idan farewell, she found his words echoing in her head as she did her chores. She worked the crops without magick, with limited success. She could tell they were healthier, even if not heartier. As she knelt in the dirt, her skirt cuffed up around her knees- her trousers were all on the line to dry- she muttered an incoherent spell. The magick once again fizzled upon her lips while buzzing around in her body.
The last few weeks, she had felt a quiet acceptance to this change, but now she just felt angry.
Furious, she ripped at the vegetables that were struggling to grow around her, tearing them from the ground. Shrieking, she threw clumps of dirt and green aside. She rampaged, doing the same to whatever she could to the rest of the fields, until finally, all she felt was empty.
Until not even the magick buzzed inside of her.
Trembling, and alone in the light of the dying day, she wept.

Chapter Two-

A Trip to Prist

Lisyra awoke, un-startled, around dawn, to beady, golden little eyes.
“Good morning,” she sat up, the wreckage of last night’s tantrum evident in her hair and on her clothing.
The raven cocked its head, and for the briefest of seconds, Lisyra swore she saw a flicker of intelligence. “Oh, I see,” she said with a grin. “I fed you once and now you’re not going to go away, are you?”
It continued looking at her questioningly. Suddenly, in a riotous rush of wings, it flew off. Towards the woods, not the house for more food, as she might have expected.
She made her way inside, deep in thought. In many regards, Idan was right. Not with Fayne, though. She frowned. Idan know she detested healers, and would have to be on her deathbed to even call for one! It didn’t change the fact that he’d gotten his point across.
Just how long could she live without magick? It had been a part of her for as long as she could remember. Nevermind that it made her life easier: she had never been afraid of hard work, or getting her hands dirty.
She was missing a vital part of herself, a part of what made her whole. That’s what she was afraid of!
Feeling depressed, she pushed herself through the morning chores: baking bread, taking down the wash, sweeping the house, chopping the wood…  she even forced herself to clean up all evidence of last night’s tantrum.
Now she was missing crops, but that was a completely different ball of yarn.
Exhausted, she sat down to a noon meal: freshly baked bread and tea. She allowed her mind to wander, hoping it would wander away from the magick- it did. Her mind wandered to the subject of Farren: what kind of girl was she? What did she look like? Most important, was she good enough for Idan? That’s when she decided to go into town.
*   *   *   *   *
The hustle of Prist was usually more than Lisyra cared to handle on a daily basis, but today it was a welcome change from her magick-less country living.
She didn’t go straight to Idan’s. Instead, she milled about Market Square watching the children play in the fountain, examining the newest, most exotic wares from the furthest corners of Eridar, and the world beyond.
For herself, she chose a bolt of fine, burnt orange silk (she planned to make a dress with it later), and a bushel of red fruits that were sweet and tart on her pallet- she planned to share these with Idan. For Farren she bought a single daisy; she was fully expecting her brother would allow them a meeting considering she made a special trip to town for that exact reason.
She sat on the edge of a wall bordering the Square, soaking in the sun. It was warm on her skin, and she dreaded leaving its embrace. She reminded herself of ‘that exact reason’, and grimaced and her own irony.
She found her childhood home with minimal issue; she got turned around once. Though she had grown up there, she hadn’t come back often. Normally, Idan came to the country; he often needed a break from city living.
After tying her horse to the street’s feed pole, she knocked on the door. A short, stout man answered. She was immediately put on edge. Worried she’d gotten the wrong house, or that Idan had moved without telling her. Would he do that? she wondered.
Doubtful. She still didn’t feel any better.
The man cleared his throat impatiently, “I said, may I help you?”
“Uh…um… yes, does…uh…Idan live here?” How dare this squat, turnip of a man make her feel this way!
Before the servant could reply, she recognized her brother’s voice booming out from behind him. “Of course I do! Would I move without telling you? What brings you to town, little sister?”
Lisyra felt awkward. Even though she’d cleaned up, and dressed in her nicest clothes, she felt like a peasant in her brother’s home. Her brother was not dressed for the country, as before. He, and his man-servant, were dressed high-class.
“You are excused, Dialto,” Idan said. He cupped her elbow and lead her into the parlor, which had not changed much since she’d lived here. The chairs still sat in front of the window, a round table between them, across from a matching settee. “Are you alright? You seem befuddled.”
Lisyra found her voice and smiled. “Fine, fine… I’ve come hoping to meet your betrothed.”
Idan flashed his teeth, a huge grin, indeed! “You’re quite in luck! She’ll be over within the half-hour!”
Feeling uncertain again, Lisyra’s hand went to her hair and smoothed it down, “Do I look alright?”
Idan kissed her cheek, “Never prettier, little one.”
Setting her bundles aside, placing the flower on the table, and pressing down at her wrinkled dress, she asked, “When did you hire a man-servant?”
“Dialto? He’s not really a man-servant… and he’s not mine, per say.”
Lisyra’s ears did a double-take, and she shot a glance at him. “I beg your pardon?”
Idan’s cheeks colored. “Her father told me ‘every respectable man has one’. I knew though, that meant, ‘if you want to marry my daughter, you’ll allow this, so that I can make sure there are no indecencies before the ceremony makes it official’. I nearly didn’t have a choice. Anyway, it’s mainly for show. We stay out of one another’s way, and Farren’s already expressed her displeasure of this arrangement. Her father’s not used to the ‘n’ word.”
“That’s the one!”
Lisyra giggled. “What’s going to happen to him after you marry?”
“He’ll stay on, I suppose. That’s at the discretion of Farren’s father. If he does, however, we’ve all decided it would stay exactly the same; it’s an elaborate show. Lucky Dialto’s so agreeable,” he said with a wink.
Lisyra nodded, knowing what he meant. The man seemed incorrigible.
While delicious smells wafted from the kitchen, the two of them passed the time chit-chatting about how the city had and hadn’t changed since Lisyra’s last visit, about the weather, and how much prices had inflated. “Speaking of which!”
Lisyra reached into her bushel and pulled one of the apple sized, apple colored fruits. She handed it to him. “Try this… bite into it like an apple.”
Idan did so, and his eyes rounded. “What is it!”
“I think they called it a… pomegranate…?” she struggled over the foreign word.
“It’s delicious!”
“I thought you might like it- I’m going to leave some for you,” she left him to enjoy the rest of his fruit, and took her bushel into the kitchen, catty-cornered to the parlor. She avoided Dialto, and dumped roughly half the fruit into a bin in the corner.
When she returned, Idan had been joined by one of the most beautiful, regal women she’d ever seen, and was feeding her part of the pomegranate. The woman’s turquoise eyes lit up like a child’s. Lisyra could hear her gushing about the flavor and smiled. She stood at the door a little longer.
The woman was obviously Farren. She had hair the color of the sun, and rosy cheeks and lips to match. Her skin appeared so delicate it could have been porcelain. She was laughing.
Good time for an entrance. Lisyra contained a squeal. “You must be Farren. I’m….”
“Lisyra!” Farren made no effort to contain her own squeals of delight, whirling towards Lisyra in a rush of skirts, gathering her in a hug, clasping her hand. “It’s so nice to finally meet you! Idan has told me so much! I just know we’ll be great friends! Sit, have tea with me! Idan, would you?”
Before the request was fully formed, Idan was already on his way to the kitchen, “By all means, dearest,” he called, a smile on his lips.
Farren sat in one of the chairs, pulling Lisyra with her, never letting go of her hand, leaving her no choice but to sit across from her in the other one.
She never really had an opinion of her own looks one way or another, until now. Sitting here, beside Farren, made her feel like the ugly duckling that would never grow up to be the swan that Farren had become! Like she was sitting next to the princess!
While Farren, whose voice was akin to the soft tinkling of bells, talked, their hands firmly intertwined, Lisyra fiddled with her hair, crossed and uncrossed her legs, shifted in her chair.
Turquoise eyes touched by alarm, Farren asked, “Is something wrong sister?”
Lisyra was embarrassed once again! “Please forgive me, I don’t mean to be rude…”
Thankfully, it was then that Idan returned with a tea tray and set it on the table between the women, the flower forgotten and squished. Even Lisyra had forgotten about it. He then gladly excused himself.
Lisyra stared murderously at the back of his head, a gesture that did not go unnoticed by her future sister-in-law, who erupted into giggles. “Surely I am not that awful!”
Appalled, Lisyra stumbled for an explanation.
Farren waved it off, “I’d feel the same way if my brother did that to me… if i had one that is.”
Finally, Lisyra felt a little more at ease. Her hand free, she took the teapot and poured them each a cup, chuckling. “He never was one for the gossiping of the womenfolk.”
“Idan tells me you’ve given your blessing to have the wedding at your home? I’d love to see it before the ceremony if at all possible.”
The woman’s eyes were glowing so brightly that Lisyra couldn’t have possibly said no, not even if she’d been paid! “I can make arrangements for that.” She smiled.

They, as Idan and Lisyra had the day before, sipped their tea and spoke of the nuptials, which would be taking place near month’s end: earlier than Lisyra had expected. She panicked, but only slightly. Farren’s gift of gab kept that panic at bay.
Once the couple was wed, they would settle in this house and wouldn’t Lisyra please, oh please, come visit? Of course she would.
Lisyra felt overwhelmed by this woman’s beauty, grace and girlish charm. So much so, that she hadn’t noticed there was a third guest at this tea party.
A blue-black raven, perched just outside the window.
*   *   *   *   *
Lisyra was invited to join the young betrothed and their “man-servant” for dinner- she was pleasantly surprised to see Farren in the kitchen with Dialto as a cook, not as a back-breaking overseer.
She and Idan, at Farren’s ushering, went out for a pre-dinner ride around the city.
His grin was broad as they rode. “How did I do, little sister?”
“We’ll see after dinner… if there are any deaths related to poisoning!” she teased.
“Oh she’d only do that to me… and only after the wedding! That way she can inherit my many pounds of bullion!”
Their laughter echoed through the streets.
“A ridiculous thought, to be sure,” Lisyra said, wiping tears from her eyes. While she knew the woman less than Idan, she got the sense that Farren was not a murderess.
Idan nodded.
Quietly, she added. “You’ve chosen well, brother. I am happy for you.”
They rode in silence for another twenty minutes, taking in the city. Most of Prist’s inhabitants had cleared the streets to go home for dinner. There were some stragglers… the single men (and women) on the prowl, or those who were courting and taking in a romantic evening. There of course were the beggars and the pick-pockets, the children who had yet to be called in.
The air was crisp, and the sun was falling,
She couldn’t shake this… feeling as they turned back towards Idan’s home.
“They should have had enough time to not need our help with anything by now, eh?” He elbowed her, grinning.
She giggled half-heartedly. That feeling was in the pit of her stomach now… it wasn’t dread… or fear, or even joy. Those she could handle.
The pit started to feel like an egg that was beginning to hatch. Yes, this was something else.
Abruptly, and without warning, or even stopping, she flung herself from her saddle and began retching in the street.
Her vomit was black.


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