Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Story Snippet: Wrought of Serpent and Snow (Lizzie)

I've very excited to share a scene from my seventh novel, Wrought of Serpent and Snow (Of Made Magic book 2) for this week's Story Snippet. WoSaS is the sequel to Wrought of Silver and Ravens, a high fantasy Twelve Dancing Princesses retelling.

In this scene, Athdar and his friends Galen (the captain of the Silver Guard and his mentor/father figure), Bane, Murray, and Katib (a new character), have snuck into a bewitched castle to grab a few maps. In the previous book, the villainous Prince Cerav of Rusceon had the princesses of Giliosthay create a magic-wrought glass model of their castle, giving him a certain amount of power over it. They royal family was forced to abandon the castle, but our hero and his friends need to recover a few items from it. Their hopes of not being discovered don't go so well.

The walls around them were fast losing their color. From the corners toward them, the hallway was turning to glass.

“Galen!” Athdar cried.

“Jump on! Quick!” Galen dropped the thin boards in front of their feet with an urgent command Athdar didn’t recognize. The boards ceased their fall to hover a handspan above the floor. Galen jumped on the one nearest him and balanced on it.

Not quite sure how they were going to get anywhere on floating boards, Athdar leapt onto his and nearly tumbled off as the board shifted forward.

“Not like that!” Galen yanked him back on, and, together, they wrestled the board until Athdar stood steady. Murray rocked on his but managed to stay on. 

Galen released Athdar, checked on Murray with a curt nod, then jerked his chin down the colorless hallway. “Let’s go.”

Murray stared dumbly at him. “How? And I can see the room below us!” The floor was now completely transparent.

“Magic, of course. Do not step off these things unless you want to become a statue.”

“But we don’t have much mag—” magic stored. Athdar’s protest ended with an “oomph” as Galen sent a large, brightly colored globe of magic barreling into him, then another into Murray. He flew forward, and they cried out as the boards shot forward likewise, following him. He snagged them both by the arm, steadying them. 

“Hold on to my cloak for now,” he shouted over a rush of air as they moved through the hallway. “But don’t expect to have that help when you get to this stage in your training officially.”

Nodding because he didn’t have a voice currently, Athdar grabbed a handful of Galen’s silver-lined cloak. The two riderless boards flew ahead of them at the pace of a diving raven. The sense of glass chased them as walls blurred past.

“How do we steer?” Murray asked as Galen let them go now that they had a hold on him. 

“You don’t—I do. You just stay on!”

Piqued by the challenge in Galen’s tone, Athdar eased himself out of his timid crouch.

“Bane!” Galen cried. “Where are you?”

“This way! Hurry!” cried a rough voice from the leftward hallway ahead.

“We’re coming!” Galen steered them that way, but something in Athdar shuddered at the voice. They were going away from the library, toward one of the chambers designed to be sealed off in case the castle was breached.

“Hurry!” Bane cried as they neared the thick-walled doorway.

There was no sense of enchanters that way. Magic, but not enchanters.

“No! That’s not them!” Athdar and Murray both cried as Athdar jerked on Galen’s cloak. 

The sense of something slammed into him, pressing against his chest and waving through his short hair like water. He tried to cry out, but found he couldn’t breathe. They were going to drown dry.

As Athdar’s chest burned and begged for air, the boards spun around and raced back the way they’d come. Galen threw out one arm in front of him and jerked it back toward his body. A stream of rolling light shot from the room beyond to them, splitting into three shield-sized, wavering bubbles before enveloping each of them.

“Breathe! And warn me earlier next time!” Galen’s order had the garbled sound of words heard underwater, but Athdar didn’t need them repeated to obey.

A tail stretched from each of the bubbles to wherever Galen had called the air, and they followed those as Athdar stretched his senses for Bane. He was above and beyond them, descending fast.

“Bane will be at the stairs!” he cried, gesturing toward that particular stairway.

Galen shifted their direction. The pressure on Athdar’s chest eased, and the bubble of air popped. His breath of relief was cut short by the sight of the city through the glass wall ahead. He got the feeling getting out of the castle would not be as easy as simply floating to a door. He’d have to figure out how to handle the board so he’d have both hands free for whatever was coming next.

“Bane!” Galen roared as he slowed them to a halt at the intersection of hallways nearest the stairs. He gave Athdar a sideways glance as Athdar tightened his grip on Galen’s cloak to test out the board’s movements with his own motions. It responded to his movements more predictably than he’d anticipated. He smiled smugly. He could get the hang of this. Eventually. 

“Bane!” Galen roared again.

“Coming!” came an annoyed reply.

Bane and Katib surged around the corner and sprinted toward them, glass chasing them. Bane, a bulging satchel slung across his chest, ran with his palm extended out before him. The floor shimmered in a long rectangle under and in front of him and Katib. A smaller shimmer often overlaid it at Katib’s feet. Bane was literally shielding them from the glass curse trying to catch them. 

“Turn around and don’t stop moving!” Bane shouted before glancing at Katib. “Your shields are decent, kid, but do not give out.”

The boy was breathing heavily and his eyes were a bit wide, but he nodded and kept pace with Bane. 

Then he yelped as something transparent, fluid, and fast leapt from the wall in front of him and solidified. 

“Or lose focus!” Bane shoved Katib back as he sent a blaze of blue magic at a leaping, snarling piece of glass that resembled a—

“Did a glass fox just burst out of the wall?” Murray shrieked as the creature’s well-toothed mouth melted and streamed down to the floor. Its body, streaked with fiery yellows and reds, followed, disappearing into the transparent floor. 

“Jackal,” Galen said, his voice unusually tense. “They have jackals in Rusceon.”

“That’s a really demanding spell,” Bane said between pants as he jumped on one of the two free boards and helped Katib onto the last one. “We might need a better solution.”

To Athdar’s satisfaction, even Bane grunted and swayed as they shot down the hallway again. 

A tremor of magic passed through the castle, and Athdar’s heart sank. Cerav had enchanters helping him.

But that also meant the enchanters had to be touching the glass model to control it.

“How about an exit?” Murray cried as five more glass jackals were birthed from the wall ahead of them. Teeth bared, the jackals jumped to the floor and crouched to spring. 

“Grab the magic and push it back, Murray!” Athdar yelled as Bane shouted a warning of more creatures behind them.

Athdar swept around Galen as the enchanter melted one jackal and slammed a magical shield into another, sending it back but not destroying it. Athdar knelt, Murray doing the same. Calling a protective magic from the rings against his chest into his hands, Athdar trailed his fingers carefully over the glass floor, catching the sense of magic fueling the jackals. He snapped it and shoved stored magic and a sleeping spell into the retreating tail, back at Cerav’s enchanters. 

The remaining jackals vanished.

“That works too,” Galen said approvingly as he caught Athdar’s arm and helped him stand.

“I don’t think it will work twice,” Athdar said. Cerav was a half-magic, and now he knew another half-magic was here. He could also remove the sleep spell from his enchanters.

Straining to keep his sense of magic alert as well as his normal instincts active—and keep his footing on a floating board—Athdar watched the walls regain their color around them. 

“There’s still a sense of glass. Don’t be fooled,” he warned, but he needn’t have bothered. Galen kept them soaring down one passageway to the next, some Athdar didn’t remember connecting quite the way they did now. 

After the fifth turn, Athdar got a sinking sensation they weren’t truly going anywhere. Having a model of the castle, Cerav would know if Galen were directing them toward an exit. Apparently, he could shift the rooms.

Someone drew breath to speak, and Galen said hastily, “I don’t know about you, but I could use a drink.”

“My thoughts exactly,” Bane replied, his breathing heavier than Athdar liked. Galen and Bane were powerful, Katib strong, but none were inexhaustible. Galen and Bane weren’t exactly young either.

Out of the corner of his eye, Athdar saw Murray start, a look of disappointment in his expression. But none of the Silver Guard were like Murray’s uncle, seeking escape in a bottle, giving it control over him and freeing the evil inside him.

They might be seeking escape where bottles were stored though. The anchor to the Realm of Coryruso was hidden in the wine cellar, which, as he sought out in his mind the map of the castle Galen had made him memorize, lay not far ahead but quite a ways down. If no one realized their path and shifted the rooms. As he considered the fastest way down to the cellar, he got a bad feeling the levitation spell Galen was using on the boards did not work for flying.

“Did you bring those pebbles of yours?” Galen whispered. 

Like his parents’ rings, Athdar never left the ravenstone behind. “Yes—”

“Balcony ahead,” Katib said hopefully as a soft sense of magic rose in front of them.

“These don’t fly,” Galen said meaningfully as they approached an outer wall. It opened to a balcony and a view of the city that had never been there before, or sensed of magic before.

“And that’s no exit,” Murray retorted. “Does Prince Cerav think us stupid?”

Athdar doubted that, which meant the magic of the mirage was a distraction.

“I don’t know, but if any of you three want to scream like a girl,” Bane rasped, “there’s an open window behind that mirage. The whole city outside could probably—”

As if freed by that odd permission, Athdar cried out and Murray screamed as the room shifted to glass and a dozen rows of jackal heads, maws open, popped up through the floor in front of them. Athdar jumped, his board skimming a jackal as one clamped down on Murray’s board. Murray flew forward as his board jammed into the glass jaw. 

“Murray!” Athdar shunted what magic he had left into a spiked shield before his and Galen’s feet, shattering the growing group of waiting jackals as Galen yanked Murray from his fall and thrust him back to Bane.

An unearthly note, one too high for Athdar to imagine any male making—even a seventeen-year-old—screeched out behind and to his left, magic mingling with it. The thin tip of an ear chipped off the jackal head at his feet. A tooth may have cracked on another.

A blaze of magic from Bane and Galen hit the jackals but only melted their mouths shut. 

“Pebbles! Now!” Galen clamped a hand on Athdar’s shoulder, pushing magic into him as Athdar pulled out the seven ravenstones from his pouch and threw them at the glass floor. 

Eitilt go tapa, eitilt fíor! Fly swift, fly true!”

The stones spread out, two to each side and a spine of three, as a shimmer of feathers darkened the air.

Glass shattered, and Galen threw down a shield as an ethereal raven burst through the floor, a shard of glass in its beak. Athdar’s stomach tightened as they plummeted after it, his cloak flying up around him, the board falling away to who knew where. 

The glass in the raven’s beak touched the solid floor beneath. The stone faded into glass and burst, and they followed the raven through, toward a darkened cellar. Galen released Athdar, and the raven faded, shrinking slowly so that Athdar caught all seven stones as he passed.

A rack of wine casks loomed beneath them.

“Got it!” Bane yelled. 

Feeling suddenly light, Athdar’s descent was slowed and diverted as a blunt-ended, spiked shield of magic hit him, pushing him away from the racks, toward the open area by the storage closet door. Their broken boards lay beside it on a floor quickly vanishing into glass.

“Grab hold!” Bane ordered. 

Wrapping an arm around a shield spike, Athdar obeyed, and from Bane’s grunt, he guessed everyone else did as well. The shields lowered them slowly.

The storage closet door opened at a word from Galen, and they threw themselves inside. Athdar felt again the familiar yet odd sense of magic as they entered the Realm of Coryruso. They dropped to the floor as the shields disappeared.

If you enjoyed the snippet, Wrought of Serpent and Snow is available for pre-order and releases December 9. With friendship, adventure, found family, and romance, it's fun, clean read. If you haven't read book 1, Wrought of Silver and Ravens is available here.

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