I’m excited to share with you the first chapter of my third book, The Light of Mytis.
I wish I could just give you the finished product, but I also wish that it rained chocolate fish. Life is full of disappointment.
Light of Mytis will be out in 2017 and until I have it up for pre-order, I will try and post as many chapters as possible without completely ruining it for everyone, especially me.
Don’t worry too much about typos and the such, this still needs to be sent to my editor who will fix up those nasty little beasties. Please enjoy and again, thank you for your love and understanding, Ardentia fans.
Kingsland Empire, Ardentia
When she was alone and cloaked in darkness, the Vessel, Menon, mourned the love she was denied. It was a pain all her own to be suffered in solitary silence, for it was the one thing that weakened her will and in order to reap her vengeance on the Celestials, such burdens needed to be gutted and flayed from her soul.
One other knew the depths of her pain and on nights such as this when her grief consumed her, Menon wept for the child they stole and the Dark Star would have those tears burn and scar as punishment for her frailty.
But Menon’s shadow magic could hide such things. Her true face, a deformed map of despair seared upon her skin, was kept shrouded by her ever-growing power. Pacing the mage tower she passed by a gilded mirror and in the corner of her eye caught a glimpse of the woman whose outward appearance was becoming just as grotesque as the corrupt dark within.
With a breath from her lips the hideous crone vanished, leaving a beautiful reflection once more. Menon had no doubts. The torment, the punishment, she deserved all of it, it made her stronger and her final reward would be worth every scar, every bleeding wound. She would share her anguish and a hundred times more with the Celestials. She would tear pounds of flesh and rip them limb from limb. They would suffer as she had. Then her pain would cease. Then she could rest.
But in order to obtain what she so desperately desired, Jahna Mornglow would have to die.
Menon’s tears had burnt especially deep tonight and it had taken her longer to weave her magic and conceal the marks left behind. When the spell was done she felt whole again, her face pristine. Menon traced the curves of her hips, her fingers gliding over her silken white mage robes. Suddenly a sharp pain pierced her abdomen. Menon winced, watching as a speck of crimson seeped through the fabric and quickly expanded, spilling into drips of blood that pooled at her feet.
There was no assailant lurking and this was the work of no blade. The wound came from within, from a price to be paid.
“Morvax,” she whimpered.
Her servant was slain, but she had no time for anger. Another servant returned to her. Menon could feel his energy twisting through the sky and racing towards the mage tower. She was quick to take up her forest-green cloak and throw it over her shoulders, being sure to keep her wound well from sight.
Four spirals of smoke whipped through the tower windows and circled Menon before bursting into form. She looked over her kindred wielders of the elements; Jamus, Ringlefarn, Gallad and Pann, not an equal to her among them. Jamus belonged to her, she did not doubt his impassioned devotion, not for an instant. The boy would bleed for her if she asked and perhaps one day she might allow him, but not today. The others though, their tethers of loyalty were thin as spider’s silk. Ringlefarn’s ambition, Gallad’s virtue and Pann’s flippancy; traits too strong to break and wills too strong to bend. All had plans of their own, none of which included bowing to Menon and destroying those who gave them power, who elevated them above the pathetic rabble.
Their fates had not yet been decided, but time was running out and even Menon was unsure how long her mask would hold. But for as long as it did, the masquerade would continue.
Their silence concerned her. “It is done then?”
“No, it is not,” Jamus snapped bitterly.
He took his place next to Menon and she had to refrain herself from wiping the dried blood from his face.
“Ringlefarn ordered we retreat. The girl still lives.”
Menon glared furiously. “What!”
Ringlefarn showed no fear. “Tell me, Menon. What is the prize for one so divinely high to fall to such blasphemous lows?”
Menon clenched her jaw. “You were given an order by our Queen.”
“Who was in turn given an order by you!” Ringlefarn boomed. “I have felt poison within these walls for some time. It has made us weak, it has made this kingdom weak. But not until I saw pure truth in that girl’s eyes did I realise the poison’s source. It is you Menon. It drips from you like liquid death.”
“How dare you speak to the High Mage in such a way!” Jamus snared.
Just as Jamus had chosen his side, so did Pann and Gallad take steps away from Menon to stand at either side of Ringlefarn.
“We have no High Mage,” Ringlefarn said tersely.
Menon slid her fingers inside her robe, discretely inspecting her wound. The blood was only enough to stain her fingertips, it was healing already. Good. She needed her strength. “You swore an oath to me. You follow where I lead.”
Ringlefarn shook his head. “Leadership is not a right, it is earned. We only follow if we have divine faith in our High Mage.” He eyed Menon with disgust. “That faith has dwindled to nothing more than a memory of a once honourable mage.”
“A girl you have never met begs for mercy and suddenly I am the one being judged?” Menon snickered. “I thought you wiser than this, Ringlefarn.”
“A girl with the eyes of a Dubraycon. A girl you swore to be a cold, calculated assassin was willing to accept her fate so long as her friends were set free. None of this makes sense, Menon and until it does we three will not extinguish her light on the Queens behalf… or yours.” Ringlefarn looked to Jamus. “It is clear the boy has chosen his side.”
Jamus thrust his hand forward, but where once he commanded an inferno, his exhausted powers could barely muster little more than a spark.
Ringlefarn laughed mockingly. “Your magic is all but spent, boy. It seems your mistress was too occupied making deals with the darkness to teach you how to wield it.”
Menon hissed, her eyes morphing into empty black sockets. “I will show you darkness.”
A thick, weaving rope of black smoke seeped from her palm. It lashed itself around Ringlefarn, lifted him from the ground and threw him against the wall.
Before Pann and Gallad could conjure a defence, Menon summoned two more lengths of smoke that entwined the mages and slammed them aside Ringlefarn.
“Who do you think you are? You could have served at my side. Instead you will suffer the fate I intend to visit upon all those who defy me!”
The ropes tightened as Ringlefarn, Pann and Gallad struggled, strangling their limbs and crawling into their mouths to starve them of air.
“You cannot kill us, Menon,” Ringlefarn gasped as the smoke flooded his throat. “That is beyond even the forces you have invoked.”
“Death holds peace. I would never wish such a kindness upon the likes of you. Torment. That is my gift. That is what gives me pleasure.”
Slowly Menon’s smoke bled onto the walls and took form, coming alive as crooked shadows. They reached out with long, gnarled fingers and filled the air with inhuman wails.
The shadows grabbed at the mages, tore at their flesh, ripped skin from their bones.
Menon watched with morbid delight as the shadows began to consume them, dragging their bodies into the walls of the tower. Even with all their power, the mages could not escape. One by one they were absorbed, stripped of their flesh and blood and made shadows themselves. Ringlefarn fought hardest, struggling to call forth the winds of Methelos to aid him. But he too fell before Menon and she smiled as her shadows swallowed him entirely.
Jamus was shaking. “What has become of them?”
“They are there of course. Shadows on the wall for now and forever.”
At second glance, Jamus could make them out clear as day. Ringlefarn, Pann and Gallad trapped, pounding their fists against the stone, screaming in silence.
Jamus lifted his hand curiously to Ringlefarn’s shadow.
“Don’t do that, my sweet,” Menon warned. “He will kill you.”
With that Ringlefarn’s shadow lashed out with blackened talons and Jamus quickly withdrew, jumping just out of his reach.
Jamus gave a snide grin. “That will teach you for calling me boy.”
Menon nodded in agreement, pulling Jamus to her and straightening his marred robes. “Find comfort in the knowledge that they will never know freedom. That wall is their eternity.”
“I failed you, Menon,” Jamus muttered. “I wanted to to please you.”
Menon gathered Jamus into her arms. She caressed his face, smearing the blood from her fingers across his cheek.
“Could you have killed her? For me? Was she within your grasp?”
Jamus turned away, not feeling worthy to meet Menon’s eyes. “Yes. She was right there. I could have seared the flesh from her bones. But my power, it didn’t last. Why would Herathese not give me limitless flame?”
“This is why the deities are the true enemy. They take from us in copious amounts yet grant us only scraps of their power. When Na’Toth is free he will rain vengeful penance upon them. It is us who will make them bleed.”
Jamus smiled contently, his body warm and soothed regardless of Menon’s frozen touch.
“I fear we may have lost our opportunity to end all of this before it reaches Kalavar. We must now rely on mortal weaknesses to destroy her. Let us focus our attention on crowning Mydra,” Menon said.
Jamus pulled away. “But the potion, it fails to break her will.”
Menon smiled towards the shadows on the wall. “Luckily Gallad imparted knowledge to me that will be most useful in convincing the stubborn princess. Knowledge I will use right this second.”
Menon gripped Jamus’ hand and dragged him from the mage tower and through the dark corridors of the sleeping castle.
Jamus reached for the key in his pocket to open the doors of Mydra’s chambers, but instead Menon simply waved her hand and the doors flew open with such force that the wood cracked and fell off its hinges
Jamus stared in awe as Menon glided into the room a foot above the ground and stood at the end of Mydra’s bed.
Mydra bolted upright and scurried across the bed, being as far away from Menon as she could until she was clutching the bedhead.
“Is this it then? Have you come to kill me?”
“No, no, no. How many times must we go over this? Your death will serve me no good. I cannot have a corpse on the throne.”
Despite Menon’s words, Mydra looked no better than a corpse; sickly and sallow, the lustre long lost from her hair, her once bright eyes bloodshot and tinged with yellow. Her frame was skeletal and her nails snapped one by one as she clawed to cling tighter to the bedhead.
“I will do nothing that you ask.” Mydra’s voice was little more than a series of desperate gasps. “You will gain more from a corpse than you will of me.”
“Perhaps then my words were too hasty.” Menon slithered to Mydra’s bedside. She reached for Mydra’s face and the princess recoiled as soon as she felt the icy chill that accompanied the mage’s touch.
Menon traced the soft angle of Mydra’s chin, the curve of her throat, the delicate bow of her collar bone and allowed her fingers to linger over the gold chain around Mydra’s neck. With a snap she wrenched it loose, clenching the necklace and the blue stone it was leashed to firmly in her first.
“A living, breathing princess is all I need and on the outside that is how you will appear, but inside there will be nothing, just an empty shell encasing a silenced mind. You will do only what I command. You will say only what I command.” Menon shook the necklace. “It is your sentiment that has earned you this fate. All the loving memories you have unwittingly fused into this trinket. Your love will be the downfall of your father’s kingdom.”
Mydra’s lip quivered. “Love conquers. It does not destroy.”
“Love is weakness!” Menon screamed.
She threw her arms into the air, calling once more upon her menacing black smoke. The dark night came alive as lightning tore at the stars and the thunders roared as if the sky were falling from its pillars.
“A heart and soul encased within,
of mind and body, of blood, bone and skin
whilst in my keep, our thoughts entwined
Will mind and body and breath be mine.”
Menon’s eyes rolled over black. “Dominate.”
Her tendrils of smoke rushed at Mydra, driving into her eyes, ears and mouth, seeping through every pore. The shadows consumed her, leaching at her life force, draining her will, seeking out anything good and alive and making it a dead, unfeeling thing.
Jamus did nothing but watch as the light left Mydra’s eyes. Eventually the thunder and lightning ceased and when Menon’s smoke receded, all that was left of Mydra was a vacant husk with a haunting, empty stare.
Menon staggered backwards. She had used much of her power, already she could feel that wound reopening. She outstretched her arms, writhing her fingers towards the shadowed corners of the room and absorbing the dark to replenish her strength.
She threw Mydra’s necklace to Jamus. “Put it around my neck.”
Jamus walked slowly, as if a heavy weight was pressed down upon him. He didn’t look at Mydra any more, he couldn’t, he even struggled to look at Menon.
He clipped the link of the necklace around her neck and turned his back on them both as soon as his task was done.
Menon tucked the blue stone into her robes. “Can you hear me, Princess?”
“You will be crowned soon. Do you know this?”
Mydra nodded again.
“And as Queen, who do you serve, Mydra?”
Mydra uttered meaningless mumbles and murmurs, as if learning to speak for the first time.
“Who do you serve?” Menon pushed.
“I serve Menon’takrez Leed,” Mydra muttered.
Menon nodded her head approvingly. “Good, girl.”