Corruption is a disease with no cure that ends with a rapid descent into madness and violence. And until now it only targeted mages.
When an infected warden shows up challenging everything Margot thought she knew she is thrown into the chase to find the impossible cure. But to understand this new revelation she needs someone who knows possession … She needs Nea and lucky for Margot, her warden friend Garret has been tasked with tracking the rogue necromancer down.
Garret is used to dealing with dangerous mages so this should be like any other job: find the mage and deliver her to the king. But from the moment he finds Nea he is dragged into a deadly game of dark secrets and brutal machinations. Now he must make a choice: deliver Nea as promised and place a weapon in the hands of a mad man or deny his king and change the lives of mages and wardens forever.
Sometime in the middle of the night, Nea was woken by someone calling her name. She rose slowly and listened but there was nothing stirring in the darkness. Sliding from the bed, she pulled Emma’s shawl around her shoulders and moved to the door. She leant out into the hallway and listened again. Nothing.
There was a gentle pool of light coming from under Garret’s door but no sounds, and certainly no one in sight. With a shiver, Nea turned to go back to bed but heard it again: a sing-song whisper and the subtle tug of magic at the back of her mind.
She tiptoed down the hall, following the thin string of channelled source, the rush of her own blood in her ears drowning out everything else like she had her head underwater.
When she reached the hall that led to the south wing, she stopped. She drew a slow breath as she watched the shadows, waiting. Then she heard it: the tiniest whispered “Nea … ” and a soft whimper like that of a child. She lifted her foot to step forward, but something closed around her arm and dragged her backwards.
“What are you doing?” Garret put himself between her and the dark hallway. His hair was standing on end, like he’d been running his fingers through it, and his shirt was rumpled, as though he had pulled it on in a hurry.
“I couldn’t sleep.” She tried to edge around him, but he put his arm out to block her path.
“Emil assured me he had warned you about the south wing.” He glanced over his shoulder at the pooling darkness.
“He did, bu—”
“But what? You thought you’d go poking around in there regardless?” He took a step, closing the space between them and forcing Nea backwards.
Nea lifted her hands in defeat. “I heard something, saw something. What’s down there?”
A muscle in Garret’s neck twitched as his jaw tensed. “Nothing of consequence.”
“Neeee-aa.” A sing-song voice drifted from the darkness and Garret turned, pulling Nea behind him and out of sight.
“You’re no fun, Garret. Let the little mage come and play. She smells ever so sweet.”
“Back to your room, Nea.” He took another step backwards, pushing Nea farther away from the wing.
As they moved, she caught sight of the waifish shape of a girl pacing the end of the hallway. Where her bare toes met the wooden floor, a line of rune marks shone in the moonlight. The magic signature was one she knew all too well; it was her father’s. She lifted her gaze and met the ice-blue eyes of the girl. Amelia. A darting pink tongue chased a wicked smile over pallid lips before they drew back to show sharp, impossibly white teeth. The neckline of her nightgown was askew, revealing one very pale shoulder and a small flower-shaped purple birthmark marring the flesh just below the corner of her collarbone. She lifted her hand and curled one finger in Nea’s direction, causing the lank ribbons of her black hair to move over that exposed shoulder like snakes.
Nea felt the hooks of magic digging into her mind and some deep part of her called out in caution. But it was too late. The sticky fingers of the Amelia’s keen were past her defences. She twisted around Garret, ducking under his arm and lashing out with her magic when he made another grab for her. He froze as she pressed down against his soul, pinning him in place.
Amelia’s wicked smile widened, the sleeves of her filthy nightgown fluttering as she beckoned Nea forward in earnest.
Copyright © 2020 S.C. Marks - All Rights Reserved.