Where does the time go? My day job started up again a couple days ago, and I’m currently readjusting my schedule to be able to be productive and not spend all my time daydreaming about what happened in the role-play campaign that my husband and I just finished this week. (A main character got a bittersweet ending… not the ending he was hoping for (he’s a fourthwaller), but an ending that left him reasonably happy and with his mind intact).
Anyway, while I’m readjusting my after-work patterns, I thought I’d do a quick status report on the projects of Infinitas Publishing
When Isaac and I started up our business this summer, we created a rough schedule of when we would like to release our books and games. It’s something we created for our own personal use, which gives us an extra push to actually publish things, rather than getting into an endless loop of editing. It’s also a good measure for us to use in terms of how much time we have until we complete a project, even if we don’t release the prospective dates to the public. This should give us a little more wiggle room for when our planning inevitably goes astray.
Beyond those projects, which are up for release by the end of this year, I also have plans for The Shadow War, (book two in The Wishing Blade series).The first draft is partially written (but requires changes), and I’ve been plotting the rest of the story and making sure it will flow easily into book three. The upside of my day job is that I have plenty of time to plot while I do greenscreen work on photos.
Once I have a definite date for these projects, I’ll make them public.
In the meantime, please enjoy the first chapter of my upcoming YA fantasy novella, Magic’s Stealing. 🙂
Darkness flooded Toranih Covonilayno’s sleeping chamber as she mentally extinguished her magic crystal’s light. She tossed the crystal onto her dresser and hurried to her bed. The silk covers rustled as she slipped underneath, where she felt for the leather hilt of the knife under her pillow.
The last few nights had brought strange creaking noises from the attic, soft footsteps and the brushing of rough wool on the edges of the wooden floorboard above. She listened now, waiting to see if the footsteps returned.
They did not.
Instead, wind whistled through a tiny crack in her bedroom windowsill. She peeked over the covers. A shadow passed by the heavy curtains and she clasped the smooth fabric between her fingers.
She kicked off the covers, knife in hand, and hopped out of bed. She waited, just in case the shadow returned. Then she walked to her dresser, picked up the crystal, and carefully raised the light again.
The dresser was pristine, with only an oil lamp sitting in the dustless corner. A small oak chest at the foot of her bed remained locked with steel. Heavy brocade curtains obscured the window.
No sign of intruders.
So why couldn’t she shake the feeling that someone had been watching her?
She dimmed the crystal’s light until the room was cast in an eerie twilight, but the only magic present was her own. The crystal’s faint light revealed thin, lime green ribbons of magic floating around her, while glowing turquoise ribbons darted in and out of the crystal.
Her older sister, Siklana, had created the artifact for Toranih when she was little. Few could see magic without a crystal. Whenever a mage used their ribbons to do… well… anything, she couldn’t see the cause.
And what she couldn’t see, she couldn’t fight.
Toranih sighed. She was seventeen now, and she wasn’t afraid of magic. She just didn’t like it. There was a difference.
Something tapped the glass. Toranih shrieked, fumbling with the crystal. She clutched it to her chest and spun toward the window. A cluster of ribbons danced around a small form on the other side.
Well, are you coming? Daernan’s telepathic voice flitted through her mind, amused.
Of all the times for him to show up unannounced—
She dropped the crystal on her dresser, sheathed the knife, then flung open the curtains. “Don’t scare me like that!”
A small, brown, ostensibly cute owl peered at her with bright yellow eyes and giant black pupils. Daernan, judging by the white ring of feathers crowning his left eye.
The owl shrugged and puffed out his plumage like a feather duster. Not my fault you’re so jumpy.
Toranih crossed her arms. Though dim in the moonlight, the crystal’s twilight revealed various blue and yellow and pink ribbons swirling thick through Daernan’s owlish body.
Coming? The pink ribbons carried Daernan’s thoughts to Toranih’s mind, and she fought the urge to swipe them away.
Toranih knelt beside the window so that she was eye-level with the owl. He tilted his head and blinked. She snorted. “I’ve been expressly forbidden from attending the festival,” she said in the most high-and-mighty voice she could muster. “So, no. I’m not coming.”
Not that she minded missing the event. Too much magic and too many people teasing her about when she and Daernan would make their courtship a formal engagement.
She turned from the window, lit her oil lamp, and then mentally killed the crystal’s light.
The ribbons vanished.
Let me guess. Your father wasn’t happy that you challenged Lady Ikara to a duel, then respectfully threatened that she ought to let her fiancé fight for her, lest you knock her off her high horse onto her—he mentally coughed for effect—her lazy ass?
Toranih shrugged. “She insulted you. Good excuse not to go.”
The owl sighed, best an owl could, before tapping the window with his beak. Can I at least come in?
She obliged him with a flip of the latch. Then she plopped onto her bed. The owl swooped inside, changing as he went. By the time he landed, the owl had morphed into a young man with shoulder-length brown hair. A patch of white hair ran through his bangs above his left eye.
Daernan stood from his crouch and shook himself like a dog that had just run through a pond. He looked as he usually did, no more dressed for the festival than any other day. Only a simple cotton tunic and loose fitting breeches, along with a leather belt that Toranih had helped to etch and dye. That belt had been an experiment, to say the least. Daernan proved much better at drawing the various creatures than she had. An owl, a shaggy dog, a horse… his favorite changes.
He tossed her a green velvet satchel. “I know you don’t like this holiday, but that’s for you.”
She scowled, dangling the satchel by its cords. “Really?”
If Daernan had brought her spicy cocoa flowers, like last year, she would swear to Shol that she’d make him pay the next time he tried to duel with her.
Daernan shrugged and leaned against the dresser, perilously close to her oil lamp. “Don’t worry, it’s not flowers or ribbons, or anything silly that you wouldn’t like.”
“I didn’t get you anything,” she said. Well, technically she had, but she’d planned to give him the owl-shaped ginger cookies she’d bought for him tomorrow, when the gift wasn’t linked to Aifa’s Night.
“In that case, you could make it up to me by coming to the parade.” He smiled hopefully.
Toranih raised an eyebrow. She dug into the satchel and paused when her fingers touched cool metal ridges. She withdrew a brooch made of sterling silver. The metal had been crafted into a raven that held a wreath of flowers in its talons. Small and not particularly gaudy, the piece would look nice pinned on the pouch she normally wore on long horseback rides.
Daernan rubbed the back of his neck self-consciously. “I might have lied about the flowers. I hope you don’t mind.”
“It’s…” She let out a breath and smiled. “I like it. Thanks.”
He grinned. “I commissioned the crafter whose goods you keep eyeing.”
“I do not!” Toranih had done her best not to let anyone catch her eyeing the metalsmith’s jewelry… just his weapons. They might think she’d gone soft.
“Sure you don’t.” Daernan chuckled, then glanced around the room. “Redecorated?”
“The room was cluttered. I cleaned it.”
“You? Clean something?” Daernan raised an eyebrow. “Who are you and what have you done with Toranih?”
She scowled. “There were too many things someone could hide behind.”
His smile faltered. “You still think someone’s watching you?”
“I heard noises last night. I checked the attic, but nothing was up there. I even used the crystal to look for magic.” She kicked her feet against the bed and sighed. “I know I don’t have enemies, but someone’s been in here.”
“Lady Ikara, maybe? She isn’t exactly friendly towards you.”
“Oh, please. She could run my ear off but I don’t think she could tell the difference between a dagger and a dirk.”
“She doesn’t have to know the difference to stab you,” Daernan pointed out.
Toranih punched his shoulder.
“Ow! I’m just saying!”
She snorted. He wasn’t helping. Lady Ikara wasn’t the kind to go snooping around the manor, and Toranih’s father, Lord Covonilayno, had relatively few enemies. Though he was officially a viscount who oversaw the day-to-day proceedings of Viyna, he was also tasked with guarding the kingdom’s armory, so most nobles chose to stay on his good side.
Daernan sighed. “The parade is starting soon. If you really don’t want to be seen, we can go as owls. There’ll be dancing…”
“Which we can’t enjoy since we’ll be owls.”
“As owls? Do you want mice? Besides, you get free food anyway. Everyone likes you.”
“They like you, too,” Daernan protested.
“They bow and curtsy to me.”
“Unless you challenge them to a duel.”
“There is that.” Toranih grinned and eyed the raven brooch. Lady Ikara could sniff the air all she liked, but she wouldn’t keep calling Daernan a street mutt. Besides, he did have claim to noble lineage, even if his father wasn’t around to prove it. His mother permitted the commoners to tend to their estate in return for access to a small cottage inside the city. No one paid attention to the fact that she had married into nobility.
Seemed that was how she liked her life.
“And we’ll get to watch all the mag—entertainment.” Daernan closed his mouth quickly.
Toranih rolled her eyes. “Magical entertainment, right. Know what? You go. Report to me in the morning about all the beautiful light showers and flashy streamers, and don’t forget to tell me how the gracious Aifa blessed the newlyweds. If you get back here before sunrise, you might even beat Siklana to the story.”
Her sister always did like magic. She cast enough for the two of them.
Daernan groaned and tugged Toranih’s arm. “Come on—it’s no fun if I go by myself. And everyone’s expecting us, even if we are owls. You should come.” He beamed, giving her his kingdom-class puppy-dog eyes.
She swallowed uncomfortably. “This is a bad idea.”
“Please? It’ll be fun. I promise.”
Toranih sighed. Sometimes she wondered if he had ribbons of the persuasive nature, though she’d never caught him. Wasn’t likely, anyway. That kind of magic was rare.
She rose from her bed and set the raven brooch beside her prized lamp. Then she raised her crystal’s light until it was just right for seeing magic. After she extinguished the oil lamp, she focused on her royal blue ribbons and stretched her arms, her palms open to the ceiling. Tickles rolled through her fingers, then her hands, then her body. Blue ribbons swirled around her, merging into a thick smoke that rushed to her toes. She shrunk. Her bones mended into the form of an owl. Her magic glowed bright, twisting and fading with a heartbeat of its own.
Ready? Daernan asked, already perched on the windowsill.
Toranih killed the crystal’s light and hopped toward the window with her leathery feet.
She preferred raven form— though it wasn’t much better—but at least now she could see.
Daernan hooted. Let’s hurry—the show should be starting! He dropped off the windowsill, his wings outstretched, and caught the air with a quick swoop.
Toranih cringed. What would happen if she hadn’t made the change properly? What if she didn’t actually fly?
The ground teetered beneath her, perilously far from the ledge. She spread her wings, prayed to Shol she wouldn’t crash, and dropped into the night.
A cloaked figure knelt beside a sprawling sycamore near the young woman’s sleeping chamber, her eyes trained on the two owls.
Finally, they were gone. She climbed the tree, bark catching on the tips of her leather boots, then slipped inside the open window. The room was dark, save for moonlight, but it was just enough for her to see that the young woman had rearranged the furniture since the night before.
No night table or pile of books, and her usual set of sparring knives didn’t hang from the wall. Probably locked in the chest at the foot of her bed, or buried under the mattress.
She didn’t bother to check, though, instead stopping beside the dresser and stroking her fingers across the light crystal. It responded eagerly, and turquoise ribbons flared to life.
She quickly extinguished the crystal and peered into the distance, waiting to see if her own sight revealed the magical ribbons that would signal the two’s return to investigate.
The night remained empty.
The only magic she saw was her own. The rest of the family was at the parade.
But there was something new in the room. Ashen moonlight shone through the oil lamp at the edge of the dresser. Skewed light reflected onto a metal brooch—a brooch with a raven and a wreath of flowers.
The intruder held her breath, reaching her fingers toward the jewel piece, then quickly withdrew. She couldn’t leave any trace that she’d come. That meant leaving objects where they’d been found.
She left the sleeping chamber for the hallway. Bronze wall sconces flickered with pale, turquoise light across elaborate tapestries. The crystals cast shadows along the crimson throw rugs, each one embroidered with curling gold patterns.
She paused, recalling the two owls flying into the night.
Always strange to see the young woman, but stranger still to see Daernan alive.
She wrapped her cloak tight around her shoulders, then traveled the familiar stairs downward, downward, and deeper—under the manor and into the kingdom’s dwindling armory.