On Friday, I received and signed the contract for Magic Fell.

I really don’t think I can describe how this makes me feel. I wrote the first iteration of the story ten years ago for NaNoWriMo, specifically for my grandmother. She wanted a book with magic and dragons, so I gave it to her. She spent the last seven years of her life trying to convince me that it should be published.

So first I called my mom (one of maybe three people besides me who’ve ever read the story) and told her. She cheered, and immediately starting nagging me to hurry up and get started on the second in the trilogy. (She really, REALLY wants the giants to have a bigger part soon.)

Then I got off the phone with her and immediately started bawling because I couldn’t call my grandmother to tell her that the book I always considered hers was going to be published. I’d like to believe she knows – I may not be religious, but I tend to believe in higher powers, and if ANYONE was going to watch over their family after death it would be my grandmother. She took her role as the heart of the family very seriously. But even then, it’s still kind of bittersweet.

And now I’m crying again, so I’m going to end this part of the post by saying that I’ve moved Magic Fell over to the Coming Soon page. It’ll hang out there with Starting With the Unexpected until May. The tentative release schedule for Magic Fell is May/June of next year. I’ll include an excerpt at the end of this post.

***

There’s roughly 53 more days until SWtU is released (again, the release date is May 15). I’m in the process of working on scripts for the audio portion of my blog tour, as the Other Van Sibling has kindly offered his assistance. Once the scripts are done, it’ll go to recording. And then I have to write actual posts and figure out the giveaways (pretty sure what I’m doing there, but I have to firm up my plans). Once it’s closer to time, blog tour dates/stops will get posted here.

And now I’m going to go start plotting the sequel to SWtU and the sequel to Magic Fell. And maybe I might actually get some writing on Go For the Company done.


Please keep in mind that the following excerpt has not yet undergone editing beyond what I did before I submitted it.  Some things are likely to change.  Shit happens.  Hell, I already found a spot where I got a hair color completely wrong later in the book.

 

Prologue

 

Trivintaie of the Dragon’s Claw stood inside a small cave, staring at the body before her while trying to keep herself from looking over all the others that had been entombed here. She needed to concentrate on saying goodbye to her husband so that she could do what needed to be done.

As she stood there taking one last look at her beloved Corrin, the baby in her arms stirred. She hugged the child close, nuzzling against the already-abundant dark hair on the baby’s head. Not red like hers, but the deep sable that had belonged to Corrin. “Your father loved you,” she murmured to her child. “Just as I love you. You, at least, will be saved. I intend to see to that.”

Reaching out a hand, Triv caressed Corrin’s dead face. “I’m sorry I couldn’t save you,” she told him, hoping that at least his spirit would hear her. “I’m sorry I couldn’t save you as you saved me so many years ago.” She brushed her fingers through his hair one last time, trying to tamp down the despair that had been devouring her since Corrin’s last breath. “Wait for me, love. I’ve a feeling I’ll be following right behind you. First, though, the king of Archai needs to be dealt with. On his hands is the blood of all who have died trying to stop him and his mad quest. There is a price to be paid for that.”

Her eyes were dry as she leaned down to press her lips to Corrin’s cold forehead. Either there would be time for tears later, or she wouldn’t be alive to cry. “Sleep well,” she whispered, giving her husband one last loving gaze before turning away.

When she was clear of the entrance she looked back at the cave, murmuring under her breath. The entrance to the tomb where far too many had been laid to rest in the past weeks vanished. At least those that had paid the ultimate price for her naivety wouldn’t be disturbed any further.

The baby in her arms stirred again, making a grumbling noise to let her mother know that she was getting tired of being bounced around everywhere. Triv smiled down sadly at her. “I know,” she soothed, “you’re getting no rest today. Be brave, little one. I’m afraid it’s only going to get worse.”

Triv squared her shoulders and stood up straight. She was, after all, the leader of the only mages’ guild left on this side of the world, and she had appearances to maintain. Her heart may have been broken, but her resolve was firm as she headed for the steps carved into the sandstone cliffs nearby, carefully making her way down to the beach that she’d washed up on over fifteen summers prior. She’d been just a child, bereft of any memory of who she was, where she’d come from, or why she’d been in the middle of the western sea in the first place. The leader at the time had recognized her as a magic user and taken her in, intending on training her and giving her a place within the guild. As it had turned out, however, she’d already been selected by a far more powerful teacher.

When she reached the bottom of the steps, she made her way carefully across the beach and onto the small dock that had been secured there. “Master,” she said softly into the sea breeze, “I am here.”

Her voice echoed across the surface of the water around her as it began to glow. From the liquid surface before her, a magnificent dragon’s head shining of blues and greens rose. This was Trivintaie’s master, teacher, and dearest friend. This was who would end her life.

“My child,” he said sadly in a voice that had always reminded Triv of whalesong on a sunny day. “Is it done?”

“It’s done,” Triv confirmed, sounding tired. She sat down at the edge of the dock, crossing her legs in front of her. She placed her daughter in the safety of her lap and watched as the infant reached out toward her master.

The dragon brought its snout close to Triv’s baby, and the girl reached up and grabbed at one of his long teeth, giggling with an absolute lack of fear. The creature smiled at her, then looked at Triv. “She is the best of both of you.”

“Yes, I know,” Triv agreed, struggling to keep her emotions contained. Time to cry later, she reminded herself, but it was to no avail. She began to weep, tears tracking down her face. “She can’t die, master. Bad enough that we’ve lost so many, but she’s just a baby.”

Her master nosed at the side of her face, the familiar chill of the sea water clinging to his hide a comfort as she continued to sob. “She isn’t going to die,” he said in a soft voice. “I’ve done what you asked. I’ve set things in motion to stop the king of Archai. Anyone left on the island will perish, but your daughter will live.”

“And you can get them all past the king’s ships safely?” Triv asked, a look of desperate hope on her face.

“All except…” Her master’s words trailed off, his expression devestated.

“I know,” Triv told him. “All except me. Conducting someone’s death always comes with a price.”

A nod confirmed her words. “Always,” her master agreed gravely. “Tell Josephina to take your child back to her people. Your daughter is the beginning of a thousand years of waiting. When the thousand years has passed, the guild will be reborn.”

“Josephina…” Triv’s words trailed off, and she smiled at the wisdom of her master’s words. Josephina was her apprentice, and someone she considered family. “Yes. If I can’t raise my daughter, it must be Josephina. Her people will protect them. I wonder…”

“What is it, child?”

“Elves live a long time. Do you think Josephina will live to see the guild reborn?”

“Anything is possible,” her master said, though she couldn’t be sure if he was merely humoring her or not. It didn’t really matter, she supposed. “Let me tell you my plan, and then you must speak with those you lead. You and your people are honorable, good people. People like that never truly die, child.”

“If only that were so, Master.”

A brief smile played across the figure’s lips. “You’ll see, Trivintaie of the Dragon’s Claw. You’ll see. Now let me tell you what I have planned for the lunatic king…”

 

***

 

An hour later, Triv burst into what was quickly becoming the ruins of her beloved guild. This was the last day the king of Archai had given Triv to decide whether she was going to agree to give the power of the guild over to him. He had promised that by the morning of the next day, if she did not give him the answer he wanted, the guild would crumble into dust when his armies renewed their attack. Corrin, she had been told, was an example of what would happen if she said no.

“Quickly!” she yelled at the nearest apprentice. “Gather everyone you can find! We haven’t a moment to lose!”

She pelted down the hall to the library, yelling to anyone she ran across. It took only a handful of minutes for word to spread among those that were left, and when they were all gathered it was with an ache in her heart that Triv realized that only thirty of them remained. Before the king had made his first visit, there had been ten times that living within these walls.

Josephina, at her customary seat to Triv’s left, reached out and took her hand when she saw the pained expression on Triv’s face. Triv squeezed Josephina’s hand before letting the apprentice take her child, and her eyes passed across the remaining few.

“The news I have is bittersweet, my friends. My master has planned a way to destroy the king and his forces, but you will not be here to see it.”

There was a murmur of voices, and Triv held up her hand. “He’s promised that he can get you past the king’s ships, but you must be off the island. Anyone left here will perish. This includes me.”

“You can’t!” someone cried out, and Triv raised her hand again.

“You know the price,” she reminded them. “No life is taken lightly. It’s a price I’m willing to pay so the rest of you may live without having to watch over your shoulders for the king.”

She let them digest that for a moment, then continued. “I’ve been promised that the guild will live again. It will be a thousand years, but it will live again.” She looked at Josephina, who was holding her daughter so protectively. Yes, she thought to herself, this is the right thing to do. “You are to take my daughter with you, Josephina, and go back to your people. As for the rest of you…”

“Ha!” a voice thundered from the back of the room. Gyr, one of the old masters, stood from his seat and stepped closer to her. “If it’s a choice between trying to make a new life for myself or knowing that death is coming as I stand beside you to face that idiot, I’ll take dying beside you.”

There was a thundering of voices in agreement, and Triv closed her eyes. She wouldn’t cry in front of them. “You all,” she said in a voice thick with emotion, “make me proud. However, I can’t allow you to pay this price. Tomorrow morning I will stand alone before the lunatic king and show him the true power of the guild.”

She rose then, her face grim. “If any of you need me, I’ll be in my room. I doubt I’ll be sleeping tonight, seeing as I’ll get a very long sleep starting tomorrow. Josephina, I need you to come with me.”

She left the room quickly, before anyone could see the tears beginning to fall.

When she reached her room, Triv was not surprised to find a vaguely purple cat sleeping on her bed. It opened one eye groggily as Josephina followed Triv into the room and shut the door behind them.”

“K’yerin,” Triv said, addressing the cat. “It’s time.”

K’yerin stood and stretched as only a cat can stretch, taking his time and yawning widely. When he was done, he padded softly to the end of the bed and sat, giving Triv a curious look as Josephina laid the baby gently on the bed.

Triv pulled her hair out of the way and unclasped the necklace she’d sworn she would never remove. When she put it on the end of the bed next to K’yerin, he began to yowl.

“Hush,” she told him firmly. He went silent, but the look he gave her told her that he’d bite her nose if she gave him the opportunity. “You’ve been the best familiar I could have asked for,” she told him as she rubbed him between his ears. “I can’t allow you to die here, either. I’m sending you home, K’yerin. The amulet will go with my daughter. When the time comes, you must teach the one that will come after me.”

Triv raised her hands and began to intone a familiar chant. The worlds swirled around her, and she could feel them become a part of her being as the magic filled the room, making the air itself seem alive. When she was on the brink of losing control, an opening appeared in the space behind K’yerin. The cat gave her a long look of sorrow, then jumped into the portal and disappeared.

Triv dropped to her knees, exhausted, as the magic left the room. Josephina was beside her in an instant to keep her from falling to the floor completely, and it occured to Triv that Josephina was always at her side. If fate hadn’t intervened, the elf probably would have stayed at her side for the rest of her life.

After Triv had recovered enough to stand with Josephina’s assistance, she picked up the amulet and handed it to her. “This belongs to my daughter now. Make sure she never loses it.”

Josephina took the amulet, her face pale as tears gathered in her eyes. “Triv…”

Triv motioned toward the door. “Go get what you need, but don’t take much. The guild’s ship only has so much room, after all. There aren’t many hours left until daylight, and you need to ready yourself.”

Josephina gave her a sad look, but said nothing more before leaving the room.

When she was certain she was alone, Triv finally took her daughter into her arms and wept, her heartbreak sounding in every sob.

 

***

 

When the edges of daylight began to appear, there was a knock at Triv’s door. The door opened and Josephina looked in to find Triv curled up next to her baby, her arms wrapped around the child as she sobbed softly in her sleep. Josephina sighed – she’d done her share of crying through the night as well. When she put a hand on Triv’s shoulder, the guild’s leader jerked awake. Her eyes were wide, and held more fear than any one person should be made to feel. When she realized it was Josephina standing at her bedside, she blinked several times and wiped her eyes.

Josephina dropped onto the bed and wrapped her arms around the other woman. “It’s time.”

Josephina felt Triv nod, but it was a moment before Triv let go of her. “Alright. Let’s get this over with.”

Triv picked up her child, cradling the baby with one arm as she took Josephina’s hand. The strode through the hallway that way, making their way down the wide stairway that ended at large, heavy doors.

“Everyone else is aboard,” Gyr told her as he opened one of the doors for her, letting both women into the cave that had housed their ships. There was only one left now, but one was all they needed. “The weather’s starting to look bad.”

“I know,” Triv told him. “My master intends on hiding the ship in the coming storm. You’ll be safe, but we need to hurry up and get you all out of here.”

She made her way across the nearly-destroyed dock leading up to the ship so quickly that Josephina and Gyr had to run to keep up with her. By the time Gyr had boarded and the ship awaited its last two passengers, rain was starting to fall outside the cave.

Triv looked down at the small bundle in her arms with a sigh. She kissed the infant on the forehead, trying not to wake her, before handing her daughter over to Josephina. “Keep her safe, Josephina. Keep yourself safe.”

Josephina smiled wanly. “I’ll keep us safe. For you.” She paused a moment, then spoke again. “I won’t get a chance to say this again, so…Thank you, Triv. For everything. You’ve been like the sister I never had.”

Triv smiled softly, her lips trembling slightly as she reached out to place a hand against the elven woman’s cheek. “I know, Josephina. You’ve learned well, and I should have promoted you to master long ago. Don’t let our ways die with the guild.” She pulled her hand back and sighed again. “Go.”

Josephina nodded, then turned to walk up the gangplank. When she was aboard and everything was ready, Triv called out. “Master, we’re ready.”

Just outside the cave, her master’s head rose from the seawater. He looked at the ship a long moment before turning to Triv. “My daughter.”

Trivintaie steeled herself against the worst duty she’d ever had to perform. The king of Archai had invaded out of greed for power, and he would soon discover that the power contained within the guild was more than he could handle. The spells had been cast, and there was no turning back. A thousand years from now, the remaining fragments of those spells would guide her direct descendant back to this place, to make the guild live again. “See them safely to land, Master. I am ready.”

The dragon’s head nodded sadly. “Soon, we will be one.” With that, he sank back into the water, and the ship began to move away from the island, the remaining members of the guild on deck, their eyes on her as they departed. She could see Josephina, tears pouring from her eyes and her arms holding Triv’s baby.

“Josephina!” Triv yelled, tears streaming down her own face. “Josephina, sister of my heart, go knowing that Trivintaie of the Dragon’s Claw loves you as if you had been born to the same mother!”

Josephina raised a hand to acknowledge her words, and Triv whirled around, running inside before she could see the ship disappear into the storm.

She strode quickly through the guild, making her way to the edge of the familiar sandstone cliff that faced the beach and the open ocean. It was here that she waited, alone, until the king and a handful of his soldiers joined her.

“Have you come to a decision, then?” the smarmy jackass asked. He looked far too smug, but Triv had a feeling that wouldn’t last long.

“You’re making a big mistake,” Triv warned him.

The king pulled his sword free, the tip at Triv’s throat. “I have crossed the ocean for the power of your guild, woman, and you will give it to me.”

Triv smiled a cold, calculating smile at the man. She noticed his smugness falter a little, and it warmed her. He was going to get exactly what he deserved. “Then you shall have the power of the guild, King of Archai. And all that comes with it!”

She turned to face the edge of the cliff, feeling the sword tip bite her skin as she did. Her hair whipped about her in the storm, and she raised her arms from her sides. “Master, he asks for power!” she yelled out to the sea, her voice hoarse. “I am ready to bestow your power upon this man!”

The king of Archai laughed to himself at how simple it had been to make this foolish, weak woman give him what he wanted. How could they have ever expected a woman to be able to rule anything?

His laugh was brought short when he saw the immense wave rise to block out the sky. Trivintaie looked over her shoulder at him, triumph on her face. “You wanted power, you filthy son of a pig? Here it is, king of donkeys! My master is waiting for you to join us!”

It is time to come home, my daughter.

With that last thought to her, the ocean crashed down upon the Isle of the Dragon’s Claw, covering it and sweeping it clean. When the water receded, all that was left was the ruins of what had once been the greatest source of magic in the western world.