Draft of the opening chapter to the sequel of Guardians of the Forest
Sneak preview – testing it out – let me know what you think… Aiming to have the book out in the autumn.
This night was a new beginning, a rebirth. Twenty years she had toiled for this, nurturing the ashes of her magic, burned by that self-righteous king and his brat of a son.
Melda ground her teeth, reliving the humiliation. Skulking from the harbour at Etting – home to another enemy, one who betrayed his own father – having to ally herself with her enemy’s enemy.
She glanced at the scruffy, greying ginger-haired man sitting on a rock by the fire, his slits of eyes narrowed further against the glare of the flames. The uncouth, loud Jarrow had served her well over these last years. He arranged their passage west, back across the oceans towards Ilatias. Once on land again, he acted as bodyguard, hunter and provider of rough shelter on their journey to the High Alps of Asfarlon.
Melda allowed herself a thin smile. Asfarlon. She was right to seek the deep caverns, known to her through ancient books studied in her former life. Here, she was certain, lay the means to restore her powers. Magic hung in the air, tiny invisible particles, faded over the centuries, yet alive enough, and eager, to respond to her summons. They were paltry summons in the first instances, fed by the magic, the magic feeding on her remembered spells – and on her deep, desperate quest for revenge.
With the magic came the faded spirits of the Old Sleih, rising from among the scattered rocks. Confused, dull, able to be bent to Melda’s will. The first had been one who named himself Olban, a Seer from the time the Sleih inhabited the High Alps. The last had been a giant of a Sleih. He had no magic in him, only a strength Melda was able to harness. She frowned. Thrak, as the others called him, had been the most resistant to Melda’s renewed ability to control the minds of lesser beings. He had succumbed in the end.
As they all would.
Triumph heated her heart. Soon, soon, they would all be in thrall to her. They would give up the pendant willingly, adoring her from their prone positions on floors and earth. Serving her.
Rebirth. Melda strode to the fire, where the flames had died to expose lustrous, blazing, gold and red coals. A quick glance at Jarrow and he rose from his rock. His eyes were glazed, his footsteps leaden. He moved towards her like one wading through a teeming swamp, arms flailing. Was it to protect himself from the magic which swarmed and buzzed like angry wasps in the hot air? Futile. The magic would do to Jarrow what it would do. It must.
Melda drew herself up, tall and straight. She lifted the heavy rod of iron, forged by the spirits she had set free, in the fires she had rekindled. At the tip of the rod, a diamond glowed. She touched the diamond to the coals, closed her eyes.
A vision of misshapen creatures, monsters of another time, racing across the alps, towards her. Her beauties.
‘Great spirit,’ Melda cried. ‘I set you free! Join with me!’
The flames roared high, brushing the cavern roof to scorch them black.