Welcome to Day 21 of the A to Z Blog Challenge. Today:
For those of you who have been following my challenge all month, you'll know that the first half was also a blog tour for my dark fantasy, BOUND BY DRAGONSFYRE.
In my interviews I was asked about my next project, which is the sequel to Scorpius' story. For today's 'U' post, I'll give a little preview of the second book in the Dragonsfyre series.
These books take place in a land called the Eighth Dominion, one of twelve provinces ruled over by the emperor. In this land's history, magick was once practised openly, until a religious order rose to power and linked the devastating dragon attacks to the practise of magick.
At that time, the monks were installed as imperial advisors, while anyone unfortunate enough to be known as an adept at magick was hunted down and weeded out. Those who continued to be born with the gifts of sight and who wielded control of magick were forced at an early age to keep these aspects of themselves a closely-guarded secret.
Two major characters in the new book, which will be releasing later this summer, have made their way through the world by keeping their magick a secret. Yet both of them feel the time may be right for magick to emerge from its underground status--especially since the use of it may be the only thing that will save the Eighth Dominion from the destruction of the dragon.
Here's a brief preview excerpt from Dragonsfyre Book 2:
Lying angry and awake in the dark once again, listening to the sleeping sounds of the other cadets, Xaviero put two and two together as his Beloved came to him, gliding silently like a phantom.
Only now did he realize that she came to him in times of despair. His heart seized with dread as she neared him. He couldn’t bear to see more of his future self, chained to the dragon in that wooded ruin, not after the day he’d had. Yet he craved her presence with a force that left him trembling. Again she sat on his cot, reaching forward to brush a strand of hair from his eyes.
Between heart beats, he became that naked future version of himself, kneeling at the base of the statue, his arms pulled behind him, his wrists chained to the stone with cold cruelty.
He felt the gravel digging into his legs as he knelt in this ancient forest clearing, felt the coolness of the stone dragon against his shivering flesh. When he looked up into her gaze that saw him more truly than anyone else, he knew once again that she was meant for him. The realization that he must wait for her burst through his body like a geyser.
Xaviero heard himself moan in the midst of his vision, and he twisted his head back and forth, trying to wake himself out of it. Yet he came to at the feet of his commanding officer and the dormitory steward, both staring at him in the chill light of dawn.
Marched to the commander’s barracks, Xaviero stood and answered questions until his officer tired of his lies.
Xaviero heard the orders to report to their hand-to-hand combat master, his wounded pride forcing his feet to take the steps that would bring him to a rare penalty drill. An exacting cadet with a sense of impatience with the youthful high jinks of his peers, he’d helped to send a few of his fellows to a similar fate without so much as a moment’s hesitation, certain they’d deserved it.
As the sweat stung his eyes, his body rebelling with the effort to obey the master’s relentless commands, Xaviero wished he knew what to do with his magicke instead of spending so much time hiding it. Tumbling to the ground with a flattening blow, he picked himself up to face more, wishing he had a friend to stand in the shadows awaiting him once this was over, as all the other cadets had.
Thus far he was on his own, both with his visions and his years at the academy. He’d never encountered anyone who may have also had visions, though for magicke to be outlawed, at one time in the dominions there must have been practising adepts.
The very next night his Beloved walked towards him in the gloom. Xaviero lay on his side, his back to the other cadets, staring into the dark as his muscles and joints flared with pain.
When she appeared, Xaviero almost spoke aloud. No, he said in his mind. I can’t take any more of this.
Hush, my love, she answered him.
Xaviero pushed himself up with a wince, glancing around him in a panic. None of the other boys stirred.
His Beloved sat upon his cot as she always did. She reached up and wiped the trickling sweat from his face.
You will be asked to suffer for me, she said, hugging his head to her breast. Will you be brave for me? No matter what is asked of you?
Xaviero nodded, unable to speak, not even in his mind.
There’s something I need you to do, she said.
Nodding again, he gazed into her eyes that seemed to see into all his hidden desires.
When we meet, we must embark upon a course of action which the dominions have forbidden. Do you know of what I speak?
Yes, my lady, he finally managed.
Then find a teacher who will prepare us for that which awaits.
Xaviero came to, clutching his crumpled pillow as the cool dawn sent the shadows scurrying. At first stretching stiffly, he froze as his muscles seized in protest.
He remembered what his Beloved had asked of him. Gritting his teeth, Xaviero forced himself to move through the pain as though hacking his way through impassable hedgerows. It wasn’t easy, but through sheer force of will he got through the day with only the barest of signs that he suffered.
He saw the bent heads, noticed his fellow cadets whispering. He even saw the officers taking note of how quickly he’d apparently recovered from that which they knew their drill master could dish out.
You will be asked to suffer for me, his Beloved had warned.
All he’d done was to recover from a penalty drill more quickly than expected. Yet it was a simple thing to go from that to rumors of how he’d recovered, and then to accusations of unnatural means, especially when he had no friends at the academy to set the record straight at mess and during drill practise.
The only person to whom he’d ever felt truly close was his mother. At this late stage of the game, all the alliances had been forged amongst a group of boys who’d studied and trained together for years.
On a wearying day when those same two hostile cadets and one of the officers he admired most seemed to have joined forces to make him crack, an approaching carriage churning up dust in the road outside their gates made Xaviero look up from the demeaning work detail to which he’d been assigned.
Along with everyone else unlucky enough to be clearing the yard of manure in the chilly afternoon, Xaviero stopped to watch a green recruit disembark and gaze longingly after the carriage as it made its way back onto the road.
A calculating idea struck him as the boy looked around for some sort of welcome or direction. This boy was unclaimed by anyone, and Xaviero needed an ally. Dropping his shovel on the ground, he ambled over to the new arrival with as much of a smile as he could conjure up, not having much experience with this sort of thing.
“Looking for the officer on watch?” he asked.
The new boy nodded warily. He seemed a reasonable sort. For all Xaviero knew, he was a complete ass or an idiot, but he no longer had the luxury of picking a good match for himself. He needed a friend, and this boy would be it.
Copyright - Julia Phillips Smith - 2013