Dear avid reader,
I thought perhaps you would like to see a sample of the first book of the trilogy. It’s probably the longest prologue ever written but it is also a very important part of the story which sets the scene to a dark and somewhat tragic beginning.
I hope you soon find yourself enthralled and if you would like to read more, you can find the relevant link at the bottom of this page.
Find Five Star Reviews on Amazon UK
“Feel The Magic”
SINNERS OF MAGIC
Extract From The Prologue
The forest seemed calm and settled for the night until a storm broke high above the whispering trees, causing dark shadows to sweep across a narrow mud track. A solitary figure hurried along the darkened trail. Hunched over to protect himself from the biting wind, he dragged the hood of his cloak down over his brow. A lock of hair managed to escape his grasp and it danced to and fro across his forehead until he grabbed hold and pushed it behind a pointed ear. An unexpected flash of lightning filled the night sky, revealing his two crimson eyes, and he pulled his hood closer to block out the sudden blinding light. A second spear brought forth a curse as he tried to regain some of his night sight, struggling to penetrate the darkness yet again.
It had been a long journey, plagued with worry and mindless stress over what was yet to come and, although he was a shape-changer of considerable talent, he was forbidden to use any of his powers out of his own realm; it was the law. He had travelled therefore in his human form, avoiding unwanted attention from his own kind and maintaining a low profile.
The rain changed to hail, stinging his eyes and freezing his toughened skin. He was cold and tired, but aware he was almost at his journey’s end, which gave him the strength to carry on. A memory flashed; it was brief but sharp and he strained his eyes into the darkest part of the wood. The cold began to blur his vision, making everything around him look hazy, but his memory showed him the path he should take.
As he followed his instincts, he was able to make out the dark silhouette of a small, rounded door, hidden in a mesh of brambles and thick foliage. It was old and neglected, just as he remembered, and its ivy-covered hinges were crudely carved within the trunk of the huge oak tree.
His small, slight frame moved off the track, heading for the cover of thick vegetation. His cloth-wrapped boots stepped without a sound over debris and hidden roots and he listened to the whispered sounds of the forest, afraid to hear any intruders or spies who were close on his trail.
A hard thudding was beating inside his chest and he put his hand to his heart as though to quieten it. In retaliation, the hairs on the back of his neck stood rigid and sharp when a twig snapped beneath his feet. He took in yet another deep breath, calling upon a calm state of mind, preparing himself to convene with a powerful force known to be much stronger than his own.
With the cold, driving rain chasing at his heels, the king’s advocate braced himself and grabbed hold of the slippery latch. With only the briefest hesitation he pushed his way inside the witch’s domain and prayed he would live to see the sun rise.
‘Who’s there?’ snapped the witch on hearing the door creak open. ‘’Have you no manners? Hasn’t anyone ever taught you to knock before entering?’
At her fury, the elf made a small bow before mumbling some kind of apology.
‘Oh, it’s you, Tremlon,’ she muttered, sounding somewhat disappointed. ‘Close that damn door before I catch me death.’ Tremlon closed it immediately before untying his rain-soaked cloak and allowing it to fall onto the small stool by his feet.
‘You’re late,’ the witch snapped, pointing a bony finger at him. ‘Where’ve you been till now?’
Tremlon’s brow furrowed.
‘Lilura, you know I’ve travelled far,’ he said, sounding terse. ‘Is this any way to greet a guest?’
The witch watched him with a crooked smile playing across her thin, stretched lips.
‘There’s a lot of things I’d call you and a guest ain’t one of them!’ she spat. Tremlon frowned. It was obvious she had no intention of making this visit anything less than uncomfortable for him. He felt his eyes roll over his host’s attire.
Lilura was dressed in long, dark robes, which rested on the straw-covered floor. The hem of her clothing was tatty with age, a string of dried dirt clinging to the bottom of her garment. She was old enough to be his great-grandmother, and her skin was dry and paper thin, wrinkled in some places and stretched to the point of splitting in others. Her face was haggard beyond any recognition, but her eyes were sharp and alive. He felt himself redden when she caught him watching her.
‘I’m soaked to the skin,’ he ventured, when she didn’t offer for him to sit by the fire. ‘Will you not allow me to be warm and dry this night?’
‘If you feel you must,’ she said, pointing to a spot where he would not be in her way. ‘Just don’t go making yourself too comfortable!’
A fire blazed in the farthest corner of the room and he watched in wonder when a prism of bright shimmers bounced softly against the unusual angular walls. Her lair was as he remembered. Each dark corner was filled with eerie objects and deadly beasties. The strong aroma which filled his nostrils was not of death, as one would expect, but from the flowers which she used either for their healing properties or her deathly poisons. An inflorescence of clusters dangled along the roofline, like an upside-down, dehydrated meadow. He noted the wattle and daub surfaces were still smooth and clean, absent of the sooty texture normally left by a fire. It struck him as odd that although there was no chimney of sorts, the air seemed clear, as though the smoke had found some natural way to escape.
As he approached the flames, the witch nodded towards a large twisted root which she used as a table.
‘Sit over there,’ she commanded, turning to view her visitor with shrewd eyes. ‘I’ve been paid to feed you b’fore we leave.’
Tremlon felt a shiver of apprehension creep down his spine at the thought of her offering him food. He knew it would not be wise to decline her offer and sensed the danger she put him in, forcing the chill in his bone to deepen.
‘You’ll not be poisoned this night,’ she said with a cackle. ‘I’ve been paid well by your king for this conspiracy, enough it seems to spare your wretched life this night.’
Tremlon dropped his gaze, trying to keep his turbulent emotions well hidden from her. Secretly, he chided himself for his carelessness; she had been able to read his thoughts too easily. There was a moment’s silence as he closed his mind to her.
‘I told you to sit,’ she snapped, turning hostile when she realised he’d severed the connection.
Reluctantly he did as he was told, afraid of the glare still burning in her eyes, aware of her unpredictability.
‘The child’s not here then?’ he said, trying to sound nonchalant. The old crone let out a hiss between her rotting teeth.
‘No, she isn’t ’ere yet,’ she answered, moving slowly towards a brewing pot. ‘Time enough for trouble,’ she added, twisting her body to shoot him a menacing grin. She flicked her tongue along her lips, tasting the fear that emanated from his life force, giving her cause for a moment of satisfaction. She picked up a ladle and filled a coarse, wooden bowl with a thin broth she had made earlier in anticipation of his arrival.
‘Be at ease, elf,’ she said, adding one more spoonful. ‘The wind will bring the babe soon enough.’
She turned, placing the bowl before him, together with a crudely carved wooden spoon.
‘It’ll give you the strength of mind you seek, along with the gift of courage you so lack,’ she hissed, her eyes still golden with wickedness.
Tremlon felt himself bristle and a tremble of anger rippled down his spine. His lips pursed at the slight, but he remained silent. He disliked the old woman intensely, but was no fool to her powers. Instead, he picked up the spoon and placed the first mouthful of the watery broth to his lips. She turned away from him and stared into the flames.
Slowly, the elf started to chew, grimacing with embarrassment when his stomach growled from hunger.
‘Damn cold night for a babe to be travelling,’ he remarked, mustering some courage to break the eerie silence and hide the rumble from his stomach. Lilura moved towards the warmth of the fire, watching with interest the long, dark shadows created by the flames.
‘And to be a long one for us,’ she said, her eyes turning cold.
‘My humble thanks for the food,’ he replied, ignoring her menacing stare.
‘It’s what’s expected of me,’ Lilura answered, with a shrug of a bony shoulder. ‘But be warned, my kind deeds have run dry.’ Before he could answer the door burst open, causing huge droplets of icy rain to blow in the witch’s face.
‘Be off with you, stranger!’ Lilura screeched, when the dark silhouette of a man blocked her small doorway. ‘You have no right to be here.’
‘It’s Bridgemear!’ shouted Tremlon, feeling relieved to see the magician. ‘It’s good to see you safe and well.’
The newcomer was a larger man than the elf, tall and solidly built. His clothes were filthy from the track, but the dirt did nothing to hide the ice-blue eyes. He stepped forward with wide strides, a confidence born only of the powerful. A nod of his head was his only acknowledgement that he had heard the elf as he stepped inside.
Bridgemear was well over six feet tall, born within an elite realm of sorcerers, and the room was made even smaller by his presence. He wore a long, draping coat and, pulling back the hood, he revealed plaited blonde hair falling either side of a strikingly handsome face, with lines of worry creasing what would otherwise be a smooth complexion. His menacing stare rested on the shape-changer.
‘Tremlon,’ he said, his eyes becoming hard like pieces of flint, ‘I have the child, as arranged.’ Closing the door with the heel of his boot, he took a step towards them. The roof was low, almost touching his head; he flicked his gaze across the room. A spare chair moved to his side and he sat without invitation.
Disturbed by the sudden mayhem, a mangy cat slipped between the unwanted intruders; unnoticed it crept towards the magician. In a flash its claws were outstretched, seeking his flesh, and with one vicious swipe it latched itself onto his calf.
‘Get away!’ cried Bridgemear, kicking the startled feline aside. ‘I have no time to mess with familiars.’ The witch moved surprisingly quickly for an old crone, grabbing Bridgemear’s arm in retaliation. She instantly regretted her impulsive action when hot pain seared through her fingertips and up her arm. She bit her lip to stifle a cry, releasing her grip and leaping back in shock. Bridgemear chuckled, but his eyes flashed like cold steel.
‘Foolish one,’ he chided, beginning to unfasten his tunic. ‘You of all people should know your darkness cannot touch the light.’ She stole to the rear of the room, still rubbing her arm.
‘I ain’t even been told what all this is about yet,’ she lied, when the pain in her fingers began to subside and her anger had no choice but to cool.
Bridgemear’s lips tightened. ‘You know too much of my business already,’ he spat, causing his eyes to narrow. ‘You know only too well what you have to do.’ Peeling back his cloak, he revealed the half-naked body of a sleeping child. ‘You must ensure the babe is switched with one that has died in the ordinary world.’
‘Is this your daughter from the princess?’ she asked, whilst her mouth tightened with spite.
Bridgemear’s face flushed. ‘Enough questions!’ he hissed, his face contorting with inner pain.
‘So she is then,’ said the witch, flashing a crafty grin. She looked upon the babe’s sweet face and was surprised to see how peacefully she slept.
‘The child is to be named Crystal,’ Bridgemear said, allowing a deep sigh to escape. ‘It was her mother’s choice, not mine.’ He made to scoff at his own remark, but a weak rasp escaped from his throat instead.
‘Give the child to me,’ said Tremlon, his arms eagerly outstretched. ‘She’ll be fine in my care. I promise I’ll look after her and ensure no harm befalls her.’ His eyes locked upon the magician’s, willing him to give up the child.
It felt like an eternity, a whole lifetime, before Bridgemear began to untie the child from his breast. His strong fingers tore at the fabric, releasing his hold, allowing his daughter into Tremlon’s care. Smears of blood stained her body from the birth and a sense of sadness appeared to engulf them both.
‘There’s something else,’ Bridgemear added, pulling at a leather pouch secured to his belt. He lifted his hand and displayed a beautiful chain of bright golden orbs, placing it with care upon the table.
‘What have you there?’ asked Tremlon, sounding rather confused. ‘It looks like the amulet which belongs to the inner circle of my people.’
‘It did belong to your people or, rather, a certain person,’ said Bridgemear, his voice thick with genuine sorrow, ‘but it’s Crystal’s now.’
The necklace had a plain metal clasp with silver entwined and in the centre lay an exquisitely cut jewel that shone fire-red. Tremlon reached out a trembling hand and retrieved it. He interlaced his fingers between the orbs that made up the thickest part of the chain, becoming absorbed by its natural beauty. He brushed his fingertips over the stone, watching in awe when tiny sparks of light ricocheted from inside it. Mesmerised, he saw the colour swirl from red to a deep purple, showing him his feelings of utter despair.
‘Without the amulet, Princess Amella will be unable to return to her people,’ Tremlon stated, his own words making him realise he would never see her again. ‘She can’t do this,’ he insisted. He glared dangerously at the magician, his eyes turning to slits. ‘I won’t allow this to happen; she’s our only princess.’
‘Calm yourself and be reasonable,’ roared Bridgemear, becoming infuriated. ‘Don’t you think she knows the consequences of what she’s giving up? I tried to make her keep the amulet, but it’s her wish that the child should have what would have been passed down to her, if she had been born legitimately.’
‘Why would she destroy her own life for this child?’ Tremlon gasped, releasing the necklace and watching it fall helplessly onto the table. Guilt washed over him as he looked down at the sleeping babe who Bridgemear had so trustingly nestled into the crook of his arm.
‘We broke the law!’ Bridgemear cried, jumping to his feet and banging his head on the ceiling. ‘Amella felt she could no longer honour her father and people after what we did and has taken a life of exile.’ Tremlon averted his eyes whilst the sorcerer cursed and his gut tightened at the thought of his inadvertent betrayal of his princess. It had just been a little love rivalry; he had never meant to be the one who told the king of her secret love affair with Bridgemear.
‘It’s no use fighting between ourselves,’ said Lilura, edging her way to the door. ‘What’s done is done. My lord, it’s time you left.’ Bridgemear’s eyes filled with regret.
‘I only did what the Elders forced me to do,’ he said, sounding pitiful.
‘Then take peace in the knowledge that you did only what the law-makers asked of you,’ she replied testily, ‘you could do no more.’ With hard eyes, she lifted the latch and exposed the dreadful night.
‘Forget her,’ she advised. ‘Your terrible secret’s safe forever. You must understand that we cannot have her here, as in time her powers could be far greater than all the elite magicians put together. She could so easily destroy us all.’
‘I think you’re over-exaggerating,’ said Bridgemear, refastening his tunic and looking beyond her into the night.
‘My lord,’ the witch said, bowing her head, ‘I exaggerate nothing.’
Slamming the door behind him once he’d left, Lilura cackled almost to the point of hysteria.
‘Stop your noise,’ Tremlon snapped when he could stand her hysterics no longer. ‘You don’t know what he’s going through.’
‘Oh, and you do,’ the witch snapped back with a hiss. ‘Why is that, I wonder?’
Tremlon glared at her, a look of repulsion spreading over his face, but her own facial features merely mirrored his own and he read his secret in her eyes. She knows what I’ve done, he thought, aghast. Blanching, he dropped his head in shame.
‘It’s time we finished his dirty work,’ she told him, before picking up his cloak and with a swift movement for one so old she threw the garment towards him.
Catching it with one hand, Tremlon spun the cloak in the air until it fell neatly upon his shoulders. ‘So be it,’ he said with a bitter twist of his mouth. ‘The dirt must fall at someone’s feet; it may as well be mine.’
© Lynette Creswell, 2012
The right of Lynette E Creswell to be identified as author of
this work has been asserted in accordance with section 77 of the Copyright,
Design and Patents Act 1988
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