Here’s a little something extra for readers. This is the current opening scene of Book 2, tentatively titled Fate Broken. **This is not edited, and the copyright is owned by me.
The threads of magic wavered, dangerously unstable. I glanced at Casius. Sweat glistened on his forehead, and his expression was tight. All the faces around us reflected the same concern. My own hair was damp with perspiration, and I pushed my thick auburn braid off my shoulder and wiped away a trickle of sweat slipping down my forehead.
Nervously, I fingered the small, metal charm hanging from the chain around my neck. Marcel’s charm. My brother who had died trying to bring me home. The magic around me seemed to well up in response to my surge of emotion, and I gritted my teeth. Steady. Like many historical sites on Earth, the abandoned hospital campus just outside of Boston was built over a pocket of deep magic, allowing us easier access to Earth’s Source. Even with the extra boost and a twelve-person circle, channeling this much magic was taking its toll.
We just had to hold it together for a few more minutes.
“Last one!” Tamara whispered, her voice husky with effort. Sweat glistened on her dark skin, sliding over her face delicately scrunched in concentration.
Tamara was convinced her latest configuration would work and we’d all agreed to give it one more shot, but if we couldn’t figure it out—well, messing around with this much magic was just plain dangerous. But I would never complain about the risk, not since the crack in the magical binding around our magic source was my fault.
A crowd had gathered in the old surgical theater to watch. The room had vertically stacked balconies surrounding the central stage, where medical students used to watch live surgeries on the circular stage at the bottom. Five levels of viewing space, separated by waist-high, ornate balcony screens, provided enough room for more than a hundred people to watch. We’d named it the Circle Room for its shape and also because it was location of the Inner Circle meetings.
Instead of leeches and bone saws, the stage now held a round stone table with a carved sigil for each of the twelve layers of the Source’s magical binding; put in place by my ancestors to contain all of Earth’s magic. It was the one thing we’d salvaged from our old Amish town and brought to the campus—the only thing that hadn’t burned in the fire.
All six members of the Inner Circle, and six additional people carefully chosen to balance the magical construct, stood in front of each section of the table with their right hands on the carved surface as we worked together to fix what I’d broken.
I tried not to let the guilt eat at me. I’d had good intentions— namely stopping Titus and the brotherhood from stealing our powers and gaining control of Earth’s magic— but in the process of reversing Titus’s super-conjuring, the backlash of magic created a crack in the binding layer around the Source.
I breathed deeply, allowing as much magic energy as I could to flow through me. As long as I anchored the circle, every person channeling magic within our group was safe from burn-out. With the endowment of power my brother stole from the Brotherhood, and the cataclysmic events involving Titus’ super conjuring, I could absorb a hell of a lot of magic. But that still didn’t make it easy. Plus, the backlash would be a bitch if I lost concentration.
If we failed— yet again—to fix the crack in the binding around the Earthen Source, we’d continue to be vulnerable to our many enemies. And that list hadn’t gotten any shorter. Lord Elias, the traitor on the Aeternal Council aiding the Brotherhood, was somewhere in our realm hiding with the remnants of his rebels and his Fae conspirators—Lord Nuada and Lady Treva. Mentally, I added the remaining Aeternal Council to the list of threats. Despite the alliance we’d struck, we couldn’t trust them unless they also happened to be acting in their own best interests. As the only ones who could access the vast untapped magic of Earth’s Source, my Sect couldn’t afford to trust even our supposed allies. Everyone wanted to get their hands on the power we controlled.
A hundred people held their breath as we worked. No-one would risk a distraction that might unbalance the complex and sensitive conjuring we hoped would seal the leaking magic. Dangerously close to distraction all on my own, I closed my eyes and focused on the energy flowing through me. All I had to do was anchor our circle and provide a direct connection to Earth’s Source. What I didn’t need to be doing right now was thinking about how much I’d already screwed everything up.
White waves of magic flowed from Tamara as she wove the threads of energy into the elaborate layers building between the conjuring circle. The threads twisted and connected into layers, and each layer weaving into an overall shape. It was beautiful to watch, and as she neared the end of the binding layer a little spark of hope flitted through our circle. We’d already gotten farther than the previous times. Tamara was right, the modification to the final binding layer was going to seal together the entire conjuring, and—
My head whipped up to the top level of the viewing balconies, and I locked gazes with a man in a tailored navy suit and salt and pepper hair. He leaned over the chest-height balcony wall, looking down over the tiers of equally surprised people gaping at him, right to my location at the center of the stage.
I’d never seen him before.
My stomach lurched in alarm as he held up a gun and pointed it at me.
He cocked the hammer.
I stared stupidly at the man and his gun, lost in my own complete shock. In the space of time it took for his finger to squeeze the trigger, I managed to pull on my magic, carefully balancing the flow of magic within the circle against the draw for the spell already forming in front of me. I couldn’t risk upsetting the entire conjuring.
I sucked in a breath and threw up my hands.
The bullets slammed into a wall of magic a foot in front from my face. Twelve inches between me and death. The space of a heartbeat.
My heart thudded loudly in my ears, and someone screamed.
Woodenly, like a robot programmed with new coordinates, the man’s aim shifted, and bullets ripped into the balconies. Panicked cries and creams tore through the Circle Room. Three, four, five rounds tore through the densely-packed spaces above me as everyone ran for the exits on each balcony, panicking and pushing.
I gritted my teeth and tried to stabilize the conjuring wobbling between us as dozens of people drew on their magic, attempting to conjure their own shields and skim out of danger.
The intruder reached into the inner pocket of his suit jacket and pulled out a small, textured object.
“Grenade!” Casius shouted.
Casius pulled out of the Circle, drew enough magic to skim, and landed next to the man. He grabbed the shooter’s hand, gripping the pin in both their hands. They struggled as everyone ran for the exits, and magic flared wildly.
The weight of the magic Casius had been channeling within the circle fell on me, and the ripple of power knocked me back a step while I struggled to rebalance the conjuring. The entire circle was off balance, and energy sloshed violently like a bowl of water being tipped side to side. My insides clenched as if I were poised at the top of the rollercoaster, momentarily weightless as the magic spun out of control.
Casius pinned the man against the railing, and the intruder turned the gun under his own chin and pulled the trigger.
At the same moment, I lost my grip on the magic.
The entire conjuring crashed, whipping energy backward through our Circle in a cascade of magic power. Tamara got hit first. Her knees buckled, and she just dropped, her head hitting the hard wood stage with a loud thump. Seth dropped to his knees next, clutching his head when the wave hit him. The power cascaded through our circle like a tsunami gathering strength as every member of our circle collapsed, until finally Rhonda went down directly to my left and Jason on my right. I braced myself for the impact of all that loose magic.
The wave of backlashing magic slammed into me. My vision went black around the edges, and I staggered onto my knees.
Crimson high-heeled shoe prints on a white marble floor.
Blood-soaked hay scattered across a dirt floor, and a glimpse of pale skin.
A white Councilor’s robe, billowing across someone’s shoulder.
I shook my head, stunned. The wave of magic had triggered some kind of vision. Unlike the suppressed memories I’d recovered when the binding spell on my powers had disintegrated, I felt distanced from the experience, as if I were watching images on TV. The scenes were fragmented. Nothing made sense, and there was no context to any of it.
I felt like I’d been kicked in the stomach from the backlash. I squeezed my eyes shut. Maybe that much magic had just overloaded my brain for a hot second, surfacing random images from my life. Panting, I tried to clear my brain and assess the damage around me.
The room had emptied, and I opened my eyes to find Casius at the top balcony, looking down at the shooter’s crumpled body on the ground floor. He’d toppled over the balcony and splattered on the bottom, landing at the foot of the stage in front of me. Blood soaked in a wide arc across the hard floor, and the entire left side of his face was missing where the bullet had turned his head into a mushy, pulpy mess.
My stomach twisted, and heat stung my eyes as I tried to control my gag reflex.
“Dammit!” Casius skimmed to the ground, swearing while he stuffed the grenade into his pocket. “Gods curses from all five hells!”
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