Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Summoned and Sold - First Chapter reveal

Available exclusively at Amazon

With book two of the Summoned Series coming in December, I thought I'd tease everyone with a chapter of Book one, Summoned and Sold.

Chapter 1

This world was nothing like hers. From the way it smelled to the single sun that warmed it, there was nothing familiar here. She wanted to go home. Back to her world where the trees soared high, the meadows were full of sweet grass, and she was free to run and hunt as she pleased. Vela doubted she’d ever taste those freedoms again.

This new world would be her prison. With it’s strange sky and even stranger weather. Another flurry of what one of the guards had called snow gusted around her, making her huddle deeper into the fur-lined cloak and hood she had been presented with before they had set out on this journey. At the time she hadn’t understood the necessity, but now she was thankful for it. It was one of the few kindnesses that had been granted to her since she’d been taken.

She caught a glimpse of her fingers as she tugged her hood forward, surprised to see her normally golden skin had gone pale. Perhaps if she stayed out in the cold long enough her complexion would turn as white as the snow, or as pale as the woman who escorted her.

“The sooner we get there, the sooner you’ll be warm again. Not much farther now.” It might have been her imagination, but Vela thought her escort’s voice was gentler than it had been. The silver haired woman who seemed to be tasked with delivering her to her new home hadn’t spoken since they had stepped through the strange, shimmering portal. The magic had made Vela’s skin itch and tingle, but at least it hadn’t burned.

When he had used his magic to tear her out of her world and into this one, it had been agonizing. She didn’t know the name of the dark mage who had trapped her with magic and teleported her across the planes, but she would never forget his dark, dead eyes. One day, she would learn all there was about him, and then she would stop him from ruining other lives the way he had destroyed her own.

“Mistress, will you tell me more about where we are going?” Vela’s words sounded strange to her own ears. She understood every word, but it was no language she had ever heard before her arrival here. Magic, they had told her when she’d asked. The same magic that had taken her, enslaved her, and bound her to the will of whoever wore the ring that currently sat on her escort’s delicate hand. Mistress. Every time Vela had to utter the word it left a bitter taste on her tongue. She was a guardian of her people, and called no one but her elders by such honorable titles.  That was, until she became a slave.

Resentment surged through her, and for half a heartbeat she imagined shifting to her feline form so she could sever the woman’s hand at the wrist and free herself. She was larger than Vela by a fair margin, but Vela’s feline form would be more than a match for her.

The thought had barely formed when a searing pain exploded behind her eyes and ripped down her spine, making her stumble. Her long, dark, hair tumbled out of the hood, hiding her face from view just long enough for her to school her features back to impassive obedience.

She had forgotten the first lesson of her new life. The one who wore the ring was protected by it. Even the thought of attacking would trigger terrible punishment.

Vela’s escort glanced over, her expression as blank as the fresh snow that lay all around them. “This land is called Stryx.”

“A harsh name for a harsh place. Is it always so cold here?”

“I have not been here before, but most places are only cold in the winter. Come the spring, perhaps you will find it more to your liking. You would do well to strive and please your master so that he has reason to keep you warm and well fed. Then you will not have to worry so much about the cold.” The woman’s eyes softened and for a moment Vela thought she saw sympathy flash in their strange, quicksilver depths, but it was gone before she could be sure.

“And who is my master to be?” she asked, wanting to know the name of the stranger who would soon control her life.

“This land is ruled by King Terrance. He is the one who paid your summoning price, and it is to him that you will be delivered.”

“He had me summoned? He caused this?” she asked with a barely controlled snarl of rage, her hands tugging at the collar fastened around her throat.

“Aye,” her escort said, her voice flat and cold.

“What does he want with me?”

This time there was no missing the sympathetic look, however fleeting. “What all men of power seem to want…more power. Your children will have your abilities, as will their children. He intends you to be the mother of a dynasty. His dynasty.”

Vela’s inner cat howled in defiance as she heard what her fate was to be. Snarls rang out inside her skull as her wild side fought at the magic that held it in check, to no avail. She had already tried to break free, exhausting herself more than once in the days since her capture. The magic had proven unbreakable. She would have to find another way.

The snow lessened again, and her escort turned away from her to point upward. “At the top of this hill you’ll find warmth, and your future. There’s no sense in postponing what is already destined to happen.”
The guards around them nodded, and surged forward, eager to get out of weather and for a moment Vela was alone with her escort. Enigmatic silver eyes bored into hers as her acute hearing caught the faintest of whispers. “I’m sorry, sister.”

The words were stolen away by the frozen wind, making Vela doubt if she had heard the woman right. A moment later her nameless escort turned her back on Vela to begin trudging up the hill.
Compelled by the ring and the matching collar that was fastened around her neck, Vela had no choice but to follow.

Once they were inside, Vela found herself yearning to be outdoors again. At least there the air was fresh and smelled of natural things. Within the walls of the castle her sensitive nose was overwhelmed by a hundred odors. Unwashed bodies, dank stone, stale food and over it all, the acrid scent of fear. It was everywhere, clinging to the very walls of this place.

They were met by a chamberlain with a dour face and bitter scent who treated them with disinterest until her escort whispered something she couldn’t hear. After that, the man was the height of efficiency. Their guards were sent to join the other men-at-arms in the barracks, while a servant was tasked with escorting the two women deeper into the castle so they could meet with the king. The corridors were dark and narrow. What few lamps lit their way smoked and flickered, adding their own sickly smell to the miasma of unhappiness that filled the air.

Vela hated it.

The servant they were following kept glancing back, clearly curious as to who they were, and why they had been granted an immediate audience with the king. The third time he did it Vela managed to shift forms just a little, flashing slightly elongated fangs and golden eyes at him.

He blinked, quailed, and spun around on his heel with a faint squeak of fright. She was pleased at his response, but even more pleased to learn that she could work around the edges of her magical restraints. Deep in the shadowy part of her mind, her cat purred in agreement.

“Vela, behave.”

Those two words were heavy with warning, and she knew she had pushed as far as she dared, at least for now. She bowed her head into a semblance of obedience, reining in her resentment and hiding it beneath a thin veneer of docile silence until they reached a pair of heavy, iron-bound doors.

Uniformed guards stood sentinel, moving crisply aside and drawing open the doors once the servant made it clear that his Highness was expecting them. Vela felt their eyes on her as she passed between them. Eyes that were cruel, calculating, and belonged to men of easy violence. She knew then there would be no easy escape from this place. Not with men like that standing between her and freedom.

Beyond the doors she found herself in a large hall. Banners and tapestries lined the walls, but their colors were dulled by age and neglect. Courtiers bunched together and spoke in hushed tones, their eyes scanning everywhere as they talked. At the far end of the hall a massive chair of polished wood stood upon a raised dais. In the chair sat an old man, as aged and moldering as the rest of the castle he ruled. This had to be Terrance, the man who was the source of her misery.

She barely bit back the snarl that rose in her throat, but she quelled it before magic or man could detect her slip. Only the two large, brindle hounds that flanked the king heard her lapse, and both of them rose to growl at her as her escort led her up to the throne.

“You are the agent I was told to expect?” he asked in a querulous tone as he waved off the hounds, who settled back down with a whine.

“I am, Your Highness.” The nameless woman dropped a simple curtsey before turning back to gesture toward Vela. “This is Vela. She is the one you asked for.”

Vela stood as still as the stones in the walls, her face hidden within the shadows of the hood she had yet to draw back.

“Can it speak?” the king asked.

“She understands us perfectly, Highness. She will not speak until she is permitted to, however.”
“Excellent! She knows her place. I want to see her.” He glanced around the hall and frowned before adding, “In private.”

Those near enough to hear him immediately began to move back, and within minutes the hall was nearly empty, save for the king and the two of them. Even the guards had moved back, though Vela could still see them lurking in the shadows. They had their hands near the hilts of their swords, and their hard eyes were fixed on her.

“Now, show me what my gold has bought.” The king leaned forward, the tip of his tongue wetting his pale lips.

“Vela, remove your hood.” The words carried a tone of command that she couldn’t resist, and she removed her hood to reveal herself for the first time.

She heard the king’s breath hiss between his teeth as he stared at her, the tip of his tongue sliding over his lips yet again. Vela couldn’t repress the chill that washed over her as his gaze roamed over her still cloaked body.

“Show me the rest.”

“Vela, disrobe.” Her mistress’s command was irresistible, but she fought it anyway. Among her people nudity was not taboo. The weather was warm, and clothing was of no use to someone who changed forms several times a day. That did not mean she wished for this man to see her naked body. She could smell his interest in her, a cloying musk that clogged her nose and made her skin crawl.

Her fingers worked at unfamiliar clasps and fastenings even as she struggled against the compulsion to comply, but as the pain began to build she accepted there was no point in fighting. The magic that bound her was too strong. She let her cloak fall away, and with unshed tears in her eyes, she skinned the simple gown she had been given over her head and let it fall where it may. Lastly, she toed off her shoes and kicked them aside to stand in at the base of the dais. Her hands balled into fists at her sides as she stood in rigid silence, refusing to be cowed by what was happening to her.

“She is exquisite,” he murmured, nodding slowly as he took in her soft curves, golden skin, and dark hair that fell to her waist in a single, shimmering wave. His gaze lingered for a long time on the full rise of her breasts, and she could see his lust intensify the longer he looked.

“Interesting eye color. I have never seen amber eyes before. She really is quite stunning, if smaller than I expected. To think such a little thing could house such power. It’s hard to believe. You may tell your master that I am well pleased. So long as she has all the attributes I requested.” He cocked a hoary brow in question. “She is what I asked for? All of it?”

“She is exactly as specified, Highness. From her coloring to her lack of sexual experience. She is young enough to bear many children, and completely healthy. She was acquired from one of the more distant of the fae worlds, and is gifted with the ability to transform at will into a most impressive feline.”

“A true Feral. A legend come to life. I want to see it,” he demanded. “Then I will take possession of this lovely creature, and your master will receive all that he was promised for her delivery.”
“Vela, you will do as his Highness requests.”

For a brief moment Vela considered reminding them that the hounds were not likely to respond well to her transformation, but then she decided that was their lesson to learn. Her cat was so close to the surface that the change was over in seconds, her wild half exploding to the fore in a howl of fury at being constrained so long.

She became another creature. A being of dark grace, fur, and fang. The damned collar that bound her morphed in size and shape as she changed, dashing her small hope that she would escape it once she was allowed to alter form. She shook her head, irritated by the way it pressed against her throat, mocking her hopes of freedom.

She was larger in her feral feline form. Far larger than the two foolish canines that launched from either side of the throne and came at her in a frenzy of barking and snarls. With lazy grace she tore out their throats with two swipes of her claws, letting their bodies fall at her feet. She sat back and glared at the man who had destroyed her life, daring him to take offense at what had happened.

Perhaps the old man would order her killed for what she’d done, or send her back to the one who had captured her. It would be better than staying here and sharing his bed. She could smell his vicious nature as clearly as the blood that was pooling in front of her. He was the source of the decay that was eating away at this place, this man who put himself above all others while his actions caused his subjects to live in perpetual fear.

Whatever came next, Vela had already made her choice. She would not live like that, cowering in terror. She braced herself for rancor, punishment or even death, but instead the old man laughed and clapped his bony hands in front of him.

“She is exactly what I had hoped for. We’ll have her prepared for a wedding ceremony at sunset.”


You can find out the latest information on the Summoned Series at http://summonedseries.blogspot.ca

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