Merged Series: Book 3:
Coming Late 2022! Early 2023
Excerpt: Unproofed / Unedited
Chapter 1: Wren
Dawn, Primum second, 295 years post-Merge
Pride and excitement made Wren fluff his feathers. His father had trusted him to protect himself and his sister on a trip to the West Market. He’d never been given this responsibility or freedom. He’d never been allowed to venture down from their mountain home into New Nadezhda by himself and being able to take his sister conferred a high honor.
“Look at that.” Alesia danced on her toes, but managed to keep the cloak tucked around her. She pointed to a building on the corner. The bright light sparkled on the dew on the cobblestones. She had seen a bakery just opening its doors. The smell of honeyed cookies wafted to Wren.
He smiled at his sister. “Let’s get one.”
They entered the shop and the bell jangled. A human used a long wooden paddle to pull the breakfast treats out of the oven. The smell of baked bread and honey with cinnamon filled the room.
“Oh, can we have one?” Alesia whispered and gripped his arm.
He patted her hand and said to the baker. “May we have two, please.”
The man turned with a soft whirr and metal ping, and smiled. “Of course, Prince.” Wren recognized him as someone his father had aided. The whir and the ping was the clever mechanism on the man’s left foot which helped him walk. The Aero’s artisans had built it on his father’s orders.
The human took the two honey cakes and placed them in the eating pouch and handed them to Wren.
Wren fished out a few coins and put them on the counter. “Thank you.”
“No charge.” The man crossed his arms.
“Please, take the money.” Alesia’s voice was soft and full of entreaty.
The man stared at her for a moment and then loosened his arms and nodded. “Yes, Princess.”
Wren would not have been unable to resist her request and was not surprised that the human had been unable to as well. There was something about his sister that made people want to aid her.
Wren and Anise left, each holding their treat. The honey tasted like sunshine and reminded Wren of an early morning song.
“Can we try that?” Alesia was already done with her treat. She pointed to a shop labeled. ‘Fortune Teller’.
Wren shivered. His family already had a prophecy. ‘Two halves united shall burn and be reborn.’
The last thing he needed was another prophecy. No one knew what the first one meant.
The shop was different from the others on the street. It exuded a darkness and sense of foreboding that felt off. He had not been to the city often, but Wren had never noticed the shop before.
He glanced at his sister to say no. But saw her excitement clearly written on her face.
She was just as adept at reading Wren’s expression because she said, “Oh come on Wren, how much danger can we be in? Dad sent guards to watch over us.” She waved her hand at the nearby roof.
One of his father’s guards sat on the roof watching them.
The feeling of independence and trust disappeared. Instead of telling her no, which was probably the right thing, he took her hand and led her to the shop.
The door opened with a groan that sent a shiver down his spine. He’d taken enough of his apprentice training to feel the press of magic in the room.
It didn’t seem to be malicious, at least not yet. But the magic was there watching him and his sister. He didn’t like the feel of the magical gaze upon her, so he turned to go.
“Welcome to Madam Red’s shop.” The voice came from a dark corner on his left side.
A woman stepped from the shadows. She looked like a human, but something about her aura said she was anything but. Curly red hair spilled across her shoulder and blended into red silk. The different red colors in her garb made her look like flames hovered around her.
Wren backed his sister toward the door.
“I am not here to harm you. I can clearly see your futures,” the woman said softly.
“I want to know.” Alesia sang and pulsed forward. Her face was bright and excited.
The smile that the woman gave Alesia was kind. It was the smile that convinced him to stay. Divination magic was not the easiest to control. If a person was good at it, they could give a hint to the future. If they were bad at the magic or unlucky, they might as well make up the future for how accurate it would be.
“Are you Madam Red?” Wren asked.
“I am, young prince.” The woman gave him a polite smile. “Come sit here.” She led them to a small round table in the corner. She pulled out a chair and gestured to Alesia to sit. When Alesia did, Madam Red invited Wren to sit too.
Madam Red then sat and removed a cloth from a crystal in the middle of the table. The light sparkled on a fist sized red gem. Under the surface white and red clouds rolled.
The feel of the magic puffed the feathers between his shoulders. It was not evil magic, but something powerful and other. He glanced at his sister. She stared into the gem. Her blue eyes wide and a wide smile beamed from her lips.
It was her goofy and excited smile. The one she had used when they had found a minecart and decided to take it through the mountain. Luckily when the ride ended with them launching off the rails and into the cavern, their wings had saved them.
The woman cleared her throat.
When he looked back at her, he froze. Her eyes were no longer normal, but were bright blue. “This session is not for your sister. It’s for you. You are the only one who can right this wrong.”
Wren’s throat suddenly went dry. This was a test. There were always tests. He swallowed and pushed down his fear. “What did you need to tell me?”
She smiled. “There is a prophecy for you. And a word of advice.”
Wren nodded. He knew he would have to memorize the prophecy. It would never be repeated. As soon as he could, he would have to write it down so it could be put in the chronicle.
Her gaze lifted to the ceiling. She shivered and her silk garb flickered around her like flames.
Remember the pact lost upon the Merge
Seek the kept flame.
Two halves united shall burn and be reborn.
By 30th birthday
Or the portal to the abyss will break open
Only a witch can finish the spell and save the princess
Wren repeated the words in his head a few times, adding them to his memory. The middle part they’d already known. The fact that this seemed related sent a shiver down his spine. He’d been told about the prophecy his whole life.
Madam Red sat motionless with her hands serenely on her lap. She gazed at Alesia who gazed back at her and then turned to Wren. Alesia’s eyes were iridescent. The feeling in the air was different. Whatever had possessed their grandmother and drove her crazy, now had a hold of his sister.
Alesia blinked her eyes and they returned to their natural blue. It was his fault that the spirit had found Alesia. His throat thickened.
“What is your word of advice?” Wren asked, forcing the words past the constriction.
“Run, the demons are here.” The woman whirled in a circle until the silks rose and became real fire. Heat licked out. The flame touched his hand. Tingles consumed his hand and arm to his shoulder. He stared at the flame. Madam Red was gone.
“Wren?” Alesia’s voice was sharp and panicked and snapped him out of his surprise.
He jerked his gaze away from his arm. Alesia stared at him in horror.
“We have to get out of here.” He shook his arm and the tingles faded.
Wren went to the door, but when he touched the handle it was hot to the touch. He drew his sword and cut away the curtain that blocked the outside. A building had collapsed and blocked the door. The flames seemed to form a face that looked in the window.
Beyond the flames a line of women formed. He couldn’t see the details with the flame in the way. They linked their arms and a sheet of frost hit the flames. The powerful magic wave crashed over him. The flames rose and pushed it aside, but he could feel the fire’s response was smaller.
Run! The flames hissed at him. He jerked back. Madam Red was protecting them.
“What’s wrong?” Alesia asked.
“We have to fly.” Wren ran toward her.
Alesia frowned and her eyes narrowed. “I saw a back exit.” She hurried toward the back left corner. There was yet another multi-colored red curtain shimmering in the back. She pushed it aside. A pot bubbled on the fire in a small stone hearth. A chair with a blanket over the back sat before the fire. The walls had no windows or doors, but there was a small stairway leading up.
He grabbed her hand and pulled her up the stairs.
The room at the top of the stairs was a casting chamber with a spell circle in the center. Candles glowed around the outside. The back window had another curtain. He pushed it aside, to reveal a window.
The window opened at a touch.
“We have to go.”
“What about Madam Red?”
“She’s blocking the demons so we can escape.”
The urge to see the women who were attacking the front gripped him. He could fly over, and they would never see him.
“No.” Alesia’s eyes were iridescent swirls. She touched his arm. Heat flared under his skin and the urge to see the demons faded. Alesia had no magic of her own. It must be whatever possessed her.
Alesia’s eyes rolled up. He grabbed her before she collapsed.
A sharp crack at the front of the building reminded him of the danger they were still in.
He launched into the air and carried his sister home.He knew one thing for sure, it was his fault that the spirit had found Alesia and he would do whatever it took to save her.