🌟 Please join me in welcoming author M.D. Grimm to Stories That Make You Smile! M.D. is here today celebrating the release of book 7 in her fabulous series, The Stones of Power, Lapis Lazuli: Forgotten and Remembered. She’s brought along an excerpt, a generous giveaway, and an exclusive cut scene from book 7! 🌟
The Stones of Power Series by M.D. Grimm
Lord Morgorth’s peers consider him a villain, but there is more to him than they choose to understand.
Publisher: Self-published Release Date: August 12, 2019 (book #7) Average Length: Novel / 65k words Pairing / Genre(s) / Keyword(s): M/M Fantasy Romance, anti-hero, damaged hero, mage, warrior, other world, magic, fated love, battle
Reading the books in order is recommended.
Warnings: abusive childhood, violence, torture (sometimes off page, sometimes not), trauma
Lord Morgorth is a dark mage on the planet Karishian. His peers consider him a villain, but there is more to him than they choose to understand. Cursed by a dark destiny and tormented by painful memories of the past, Morgorth struggles to find his place in the world. Far from innocent, Morgorth has teetered between embracing his destiny and fighting against it his entire life. A decision that is made easier when Aishe comes into his life.
Aishe is a creature of the forest, a warrior and healer. He has the moral compass that Morgorth needs, and Morgorth gives Aishe the companionship he craves. Together, they forge ahead, weathering the storms and fighting the enemies fate puts into their paths.
However, their greatest enemy is not a living being, but gemstones infused with deadly power. They are addictive, seductive, and completely treacherous. Morgorth hates them and is determined to find and imprison all of them.
But he soon realizes they are keys to a greater power. He learns his destiny is not all he thought it was. And an even greater enemy stirs in the darkness.
Lord Morgorth is a dark mage on the planet Karishian. He’s considered a villain by his peers and relishes the title, having embraced the role early in his life. However, not all of his actions are necessarily villainous.
Despite owning several of the Stones of Power—gemstones infused with powerful magick—he doesn’t use them, preferring to keep them hidden away and out of destructive, power-hungry hands. He hates them more than anything. So when a sorcerer gets a hold of a major stone, Morgorth has no choice but to go after him. But, to his irritation, he is not alone. Aishe is a dialen whose tribe was massacred by the sorcerer, and is now on a mission of vengeance. The attraction is instant between them, but Morgorth keeps his distance. Because of a traumatic childhood and a deadly destiny, he has no desire for emotional complications. But Aishe’s very presence challenges Morgorth’s resolve.
Not only does Morgorth admire Aishe’s strength and intelligence, but he begins to see Aishe as a friend. As their hunt continues and their time together lengthens, their bond deepens, as does Morgorth’s fear. If he becomes the monster that destiny claims he will be, will he hurt Aishe? Will he harm the one person who sees right through him? Who accepts him wholeheartedly? Determined to not let that happen, Morgorth keeps Aishe at a distance. But when Aishe is kidnapped by the sorcerer, what will Morgorth do to get him back?
Morgorth is considered a villain by his own people and known as the Dark Mage of the North. But now all he feels is light and love as he pursues a budding relationship with Aishe, a dialen of the Ravena tribe. Morgorth hardly believes his good fortune. He has allowed Aishe into his home, into his bed, into his heart. He laughs more, smiles more, and feels happier than he ever has before.
He should have known such bliss never lasts.
The Council of Mages, the ruling body over all mages on Karshian, knows he has Rambujek, a major stone of power—a stone won from an evil sorcerer. They also know his destiny—to become the Destroyer. Fearful, they send two emissaries to take the stone from Morgorth, using whatever means necessary. This includes tricks, threats to those under his protection, and the threat of war. A war Morgorth knows he would never survive. Conflict soon arises between him and Aishe. Their tenuous relationship is put into jeopardy, their very beliefs about themselves and their love is put into question. Morgorth doubts if he should keep Aishe in his life. He doesn’t know if he can protect Aishe from his enemies. Or from the monster he might become.
As the mate to the Dark Mage Morgorth, Aishe has learned a lot about magick, love, and himself. He tries to find a home with Morgorth, to be accepted into his world; to survive in a world full of magick, treachery and deception. But all the while he struggles to keep a secret about his past and their intertwined destinies. Despite all the obstacles thrown at both of them, Aishe is determined to stay by Morgorth’s side, no matter what the future brings – even if that future turns dark with death should Morgorth embrace his grim destiny.
But when Morgorth leaves with his mentor to collect another stone of power, Aishe is left behind. It is then that a surprise attack comes and Aishe, determined to protect and defend his new home, decides to take the invaders on by himself. It might prove to be too much for him to handle… especially when he learns the one who leads the invaders is a mage. The third book in the “Stones of Power” series allows us a glimpse inside the mind of Lord Morgorth’s better half, a dialen named Aishe: his motivations, his personal sorrows, and his struggle to find a place to call home.
Time travel. For mages, it violates their number one rule: what the Mother has written, let no one unwrite. The Mother writes the destinies of the creatures on the world of Karishian. If her writings were undone, it is feared that Creation itself could be undone. The Dark Mage Morgorth takes this rule to heart, but there are others who do not.
Morgorth is about to claim a stone of power when it is stolen from him by a female mage he hasn’t seen in decades. As they struggle for the stone, she activates it, and Morgorth is unwillingly plunged into another time and another place. It isn’t long before he realizes what time he’s found himself in and there are a few familiar faces.
Most notable is a much younger version of Aishe. His mate. Living with a tribe who will be massacred, caring for a young lad who will become his mate, and fighting a battle against a mage who can travel from past to future at a whim; Morgorth’s life has never been easy but now he must contend with the will of the Mother. Unable to change the future and the tragedies of Aishe’s life, he must decide what his role in his mate’s past will be, and ask himself one vital question: how does one defeat time?
Those words often invoke a sense of love and comfort. But for the dark mage Morgorth, they mean hate and pain. As the seventh son of a seventh son, many believe Morgorth’s destiny is to become the Destroyer. His father embraced such a future and trained Morgorth through torture and fear to become his weapon. Morgorth managed to escape his father’s cruelty, but not the nightmares that still haunt him. For many years he’s lived with the stain of his father’s savagery, but now he must confront his nightmares head-on.
His father has found a stone of power.
Morgorth must return to his land of birth, to the memories he’s tried his entire life to suppress. Aishe is determined to help Morgorth defeat his inner demons, but he knows he might not be enough to save Morgorth from embracing his darkness. They know it will be a fight to the death and know Morgorth won’t be the same if he survives. With Aishe by his side, Morgorth hunts for his father, and finds answers to questions he never dared to ask—and must live with the truths they reveal.
Lord Morgorth is haunted by dreams of his father. Although Morgorth killed him, his father’s presence and brutality won’t completely die. But now he has more to worry about—in the form of the Council of Mages’ inquiry into the duel between Morgorth and an elder of the council. Morgorth expects sabotage and prepares accordingly. He fears for Aishe’s life, knowing that the best way to sabotage the inquiry is to eliminate the witnesses. He sets into motion a desperate plan that, though it will protect Aishe, could put a strain on their relationship not easily removed.
Yet the true danger lurks unseen, and it will take all of Morgorth’s skill, strength, and devotion to Aishe, to save his mate from the hold of a foe Morgorth has yet to tangle with: a dream demon. Now Morgorth must throw aside caution, restraint, and fear if he is to save the one most dear to him. He must call upon the power of the one thing he hates more than even his father: a stone of power.
But even if he manages to save Aishe, his mate’s experiences in Dreamworld—at the mercy of the dream demon—have changed him forever and could shatter their bond irrevocably.
Lord Morgorth, Dark Mage of the North, has never felt so far away from his precious mate as he does now. Still reeling from the events of a month before, Aishe struggles to come to grips with what the dream demon did to him while pretending to be Morgorth. For his part, Morgorth is haunted by the chilling vision the Mother sent him while he traversed Dreamworld—a vision where he kills the one most precious to him. Due to that knowledge, he knows he must choose his magick or his mate.
A choice with devastating consequences…
When Morgorth goes missing, Aishe must search for him, frightened that he has lost his mage forever. In his heart he knows they were meant for each other and refuses to allow his own horrid memories to tear them apart. But when he finds Morgorth he is stunned to realize that Morgorth doesn’t remember him. In fact, in Morgorth’s mind, he is a young lad named Lazur.
Sometimes the most well-known truth is the greatest lie…
For his entire life, Morgorth always knew his destiny was to become the Destroyer of his home world. His birthright as the third seventh son of a seventh son guaranteed such an outcome. Everyone told him so—except his mentor, Master Ulezander. Morgorth will learn that his mentor has been keeping the greatest secret of all: his true destiny.
I knelt on the floor in front of a large bowl of cream, freshly churned that day. After lowering my head until my chin touched my chest, I lifted my sigil-covered hands palms up. The summoning sigils had been made with black ink, standing out starkly against my pale skin. I closed my eyes, and since I’d memorized the ancient words to chant, I repeated them now. They slipped out, winding around my tongue and charging the air. The familiar burn of my magick flowed out of my core and through my veins, lighting up my insides. I never paused in the recitation, not even when I breathed. If I did, it would be considered rude, and the creatures of the summoning might decide I wasn’t worth their attention.
My magick, infused with the ancient words, pulsed in the room before sinking below the floorboards, into the ground, deeper into toxic Underworld.
I vaguely noted the heavy breathing of my brother, Olyvre, while Lyli, his daughter, made little squeaky noises of excitement. Of Aishe, there was nothing. Not surprising. He didn’t make many sounds these days—either with words or simple footsteps. He seemed to have withdrawn from existing.
Feeling my focus waver, I snapped back and infused the words with more magick, hardening my resolve. The krattyie would protect my brother and Lyli if I did this right. They might have been demons of Underworld but they were the benevolent kind. If treated with respect and given lots of cream, they would protect a home, property, and all those who lived and worked there. As a result, my brother and his daughter would be safe as would those who worked for Olyvre on his acres of farmland. It was one of the main reasons he’d agreed to the summoning. He would never seek protection for himself, but for those he loved? He would do anything.
When my magick and words touched something, I kept the touch persuasive and coaxing—a humble request, not a demand. One never demanded anything from the beings of Underworld, not unless one was certain they were stronger than the creatures. Sure, I might have been stronger than the krattyie but I wanted their trust, and I needed them to accept Olyvre as their patron if this was going to work. I couldn’t watch my brother all the time, and after the events of the inquiry several weeks before, I could not deny that everyone I loved desperately needed protection.
I opened my eyes when I sensed other in Olyvre’s house. Lyli giggled and something tittered faintly back. Krattyie adored children, and Lyli was the sort to walk up to a strange animal and try to pet it.
I peered around the room, still chanting, still pulsing with magick. Shadows flickered at the corner of my eyes, sneaking around the furniture, soft sniggers accompanying the movements.
Then I said the final line of the chant. A question.
Will you accept?
The answer was a playful flick to my hair…a gesture Aishe used to do. Shoving aside the longing for his touch, I hardened my focus once more and nodded.
I stopped chanting and pulled the magick back into my core. The pulsing in the room faded with it, although the krattyie stayed. I stood, wincing at my stiff legs. How long had I knelt there? Didn’t matter.
“Follow my lead,” I said, my voice hoarse.
“Lyli.” Olyvre held out his hand and Lyli took it dutifully.
I bowed with my right foot forward, toes pointed. I tucked my left arm behind my back while extending my right, palm up in both offering and gratitude. The others followed my actions, and when I considered the bowl of cream in front of me, I noticed flickering shadows crowding around it. I counted five. A good number. They might be small but they were fierce and their loyalty was absolute. They would guard this house and its occupants forever as long as they received the respect they deserved and as much cream as they could guzzle.
When the cream was gone we all straightened.
I smiled at Olyvre and nodded. “Just follow the instructions I gave you and you’ll be fine.”
Lyli dashed over to where one of the shadows wavered and giggled as it danced away. It laughed with her. She chased the krattyie and they howled like loons. Olyvre watched with a soft, indulgent smile.
We’d stayed with Olyvre last night, and I’d hoped the change in scenery would open Aishe up. Lighten the tension that stiffened his body. So far it wasn’t working. I focused on him now, allowing myself to really look at him. He still appeared pensive, troubled, distant.
So very distant.
Lyli’s antics didn’t even produce a smile, although his eyes did soften and warm. That was something. We’d been doing relatively well for a week or two after the entire inquiry and dream demon debacle. Then he’d started to close up. Shut me out. And I didn’t know what in the Mother’s name to do or say to open him again. I was flailing in the dark without a light to guide me. Aishe was my light and he was dim and indistinct now.
“I hope you can stay.” Olyvre picked up the empty bowl and regarded both of us. “I know summoning the krattyie was your reason for coming but… stay, at least for another day. I know Lyli would like you to. So would I.”
I tried to meet Aishe’s eyes but he wouldn’t allow it. I swallowed the frustration that was becoming all too familiar, and the darker sensation of impending doom. “Sure. We can do that. Nothing presses us to leave.”
“Perfect.” He smiled and touched my arm lightly. “I have to get supper ready. Why don’t you—?”
“It’s cloudy, Daddy!” Lyli said and ran over. “I want to watch the cloud creatures.”
“Why don’t you take your uncle with you?”
Panic tightened my gut as I threw Olyvre a glare. “I don’t think that would be a good idea.”
“Please?” Lyli grabbed my hand, hanging onto it with all her weight.
I staggered at the attack before gazing down into big brown eyes that reminded me of Grekel’s pups. Wichtln puppies were as cute and adorable as the adults were fierce and bloodthirsty. Despite Olyvre’s fair looks, Lyli was darker of skin and hair and eyes. Either from her mother—who was deceased—or from the other side of Olyvre’s blood. He was fair like our mother, but our father and the rest of our brothers were dark.
Aishe watched us, silent. He wasn’t going to save me. Why did I think he would? He hadn’t spoken much to me in weeks.
“I don’t even know what we’ll be doing.”
“Watching cloud creatures!” Lyli said as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.
I pleaded with Olyvre with my eyes. “Why are you doing this to me?”
He grinned, eyes sparkling. “You need it.”
“Come on!” Lyli was stronger than she appeared, and with a determined tug had me stumbling out the front door.
Good day to you! Thank you so much for joining me! I want to thank Stories That Make You Smile for hosting me today. I am here to promote not only my latest release “Lapis Lazuli: Forgotten and Remembered (The Stones of Power #7)” but “The Stones of Power” series in general. I’m trying to get some love and attention for this series I am truly proud of and hope to finish in the near future.
To celebrate the day I thought I’d share a cut scene from the newest release, “Lapis Lazuli: Forgotten and Remembered.” I have a few “past scenes” in that book from Morgorth’s point of view. I wrote this one but, unfortunately, it just didn’t fit anywhere in the book. I doubt I’ll use it in future book, even though it so encapsulates Morgorth’s character before he decided to be better. This is before he meets his beloved Aishe and matures into the mage introduced in the first book of the series, “Ruby: Lost and Found.” He’s still young and angry during this time.
I scowled at the modest town as we drew nearer. Elissya had a bounce in her step and a pleased smile on her face. I glared at her.
“This is stupid,” I said.
“No, it’s training,” she said.
“Protecting a worthless town? Waste of my time.”
She gave me an exasperated look before grabbing my hand and tugging me along with her. “Uzzie said we needed to protect this town and that’s what we’re going to do.”
“Protect it from what? Dullness? Boredom? Ignorance?”
“If you can’t say anything nice then be quiet.”
I yanked my hand from her grip and followed sedately. She flicked her thick red hair over her shoulder and strode forward, wearing a modest dress and cloak that hid her curvy, petite figure. Even in dull shades of brown she was striking in her beauty. For myself I knew I resembled a beggar. My tunic, trousers, and cloak were in shades of grey with irregular patches. My boots were a dingy black splattered with mud, and I knew the entire ensemble would cause others to judge me and find me undesirable.
Unsurprisingly, I was right. While several people greeted Elissya with nods, smiles, and kind words, I received suspicious glares and sneers of hostility. I returned those sneers and stood up straighter, pulling back my shoulders. I could turn every single seela here into ash if I felt like it. They were nothing and their opinions didn’t matter.
“You could try smiling,” Elissya said softly as she dropped back to my side. “You scowl too much.”
“I don’t smile.”
“You did last night.”
I eyed her. She smiled and fluttered her eyelashes. My mouth twitched before I forced my gaze away. Somehow, someway, I ended up in her bed. Or she ended up in mine, I couldn’t say for sure. Why she wanted me, I couldn’t fathom. We were nothing alike and we often argued. But despite all that I trusted her. As much as I trusted anyone, anyway.
“Why should I put any effort into being polite to anyone below me?”
“Being a mage doesn’t make us better.”
“Of course it does.”
“Master Ulezander says—”
“He’s not here, is he?” I caught sight of a sign for a tavern and brushed past her. “And don’t try to tell me he doesn’t act superior to those beneath him. He’s an arrogant bastard.”
Elissya huffed before following me.
The place was rather subdued and I let Elissya handle the order and payment of food and drinks. I scanned the place, eyeing those who eyed me. We didn’t have weapons on us. All we had were words and our magick and that was more than enough to handle what might come at us.
Many older, bearded, and hard-eyed men huddled around large tankards of ale. I chose a table in a corner and made sure my back was to the wall. Elissya received a few appraising stares, and I fisted my hands in irritation at their interest. She was more than capable of defending herself but I wouldn’t mind putting those jerks in their place. She was mine. End of story.
“Would you stop glaring at everyone?” Elissya poked my shoulder.
“Just making sure they don’t mess with us.”
“We’re supposed to be protecting this town.”
“So you keep saying. I’m not deaf. I heard Uzzie.”
“And we both know his tests are multifaceted. This isn’t just about protecting the town. It’s about something more. Perhaps how we interact with the townsfolk. If so, you’re not doing so well.”
I flicked a glance at her even as a portly woman with dingy brown hair, sallow skin, and beady eyes, delivered our drinks. She slapped the tankards down, eyed both of us with a sniff, then turned and shuffled off. I scowled after her and tipped the drink toward me, wondering if she spat in it.
“Stop that,” Elissya said.
“You’re so suspicious of everyone.”
“Hmm. I wonder why.”
Elissya sighed and sipped her ale. She made a face before swallowing carefully and setting the tankard back on the table. I gave her a sardonic smile. It was her turn to scowl at me. Hers was adorable.
We both looked over as a man of undetermined age with a scraggly beard and ripe smell staggered up to our table. He belched and leaned one hand on the table to keep his balance. His breath was foul.
“Why don’t you leave your scrawny companion and join me and my friends?” He pointed a thumb over his shoulder at a group of four men with equally drunk expressions and dirty attire.
My magick rushed to the surface, burning my hands in its intensity. Before I could set the man on fire, Elissya slid her arm through mine and met his eyes.
“No thank you,” she said primly. “I’m right where I wish to be.”
“Come on darling, let’s have some fun.” He reached over to grab her.
I shot to my feet and despite her cry of protest I murmured a word of magick and blasted the asshole with a punch of pure force. It hit him square in the chest and he flew off his feet and slammed hard into the wall by the tavern doors.
“Morgorth!” Elissya leapt to her feet and gripped my upraised arm, urging me to lower it. “Stop!”
Dead silence followed my attack, all eyes staring at us with fear. Dark satisfaction surged through me. I enjoyed their fear. Now they would think twice before touching what was mine again.
“Just making a point,” I said, making sure everyone heard the edge to my tone.
Elissya rose on her toes, her lips brushing my ear. “We weren’t supposed to show them that we were mages!”
“Little late now.”
She made a sound of frustration before leaving my side and hurrying to the downed man. I sat again, still enjoying everyone’s wary looks, and propped my foot on the table. I leaned back in the chair and crossed my arms over my chest.
Elissya fussed over the man as he groaned in pain, regaining consciousness. I was a little disappointed he was still alive. At least he got my message. When Elissya tried to help him sit up, he waved her off and shuffled away, all the while glancing at me in terror. His buddies finally recovered from their drink and fearful stupor and joined the man before they all left the tavern. One by one the other patrons left as Elissya returned to me. Soon it was only the two of us, the beefy tavern owner, and the portly server lady. They both looked like they drank something sour.
“We should leave,” Elissya said softly.
“Best idea I ever heard,” I said and stood.
She stood as well and held up a hand. “Not the town, just the tavern.”
I deflated. “Dammit.”
Evening was falling once we stepped outside. Most people were closing up shops and returning home.
“Something better attack this place,” I said. “Because I am not staying the night in this shithole.”
Elissya punched my shoulder.
“Don’t be such a whiny ass.”
I sputtered. “Try that again and see what happens, wench.”
Her eyes glowed and her fists clenched as she stepped into my face. “What did you call me?”
I just barely towered over her and was more than willing to use whatever advantage I could.
“Step back,” I said.
Screams stopped our argument. We spun around back to back, taking battle stances. The sun touched the horizon as a flood of townsfolk came running from the direction of their community garden. Close on their heels came five glenshods, swamp creatures apparently tempted by the fresh meat the town offered. My geography of this area was incomplete, and I could only guess there were bogs or swamps nearby. Glenshods didn’t like to journey too far from their preferred territory. Didn’t matter right now anyway.
Seelas darted past us, a few knocking into me. I grimaced as I struggled to maintain my stance. I kept my gaze on the beasts even as Elissya let out a whimper of fear. The beasts drove a few seelas to the ground and massive teeth ripped into flesh.
“I got this.” Dark joy surged into me as I broke from my stance and raced toward the glenshods. I grinned as my magick burned through my veins, searing my hands in need. Perfect timing. I really wanted to destroy something.
Fire erupted from my hands and traveled up my arms. Three noticed me and pounced. Their massive girths were intimidating as were their long, thick claws and serrated teeth. They were reptilian in appearance yet with arms and legs like seelas and dialen. Their eyes were black and hungry.
With a murmured word of magick, I flung fire at two of the beasts before forming a shield for the third as it came at my face. It bounced off the shield, the impact rattling my teeth and sending me to the ground. I lost my breath but sucked in air as I climbed to my feet, ready for the next attack. The two set on fire roared in pain as flames ate at their scaly flesh, their usual brownish-green color turning black.
The remaining two glenshods glanced at each other before staring intently at me. I held up a hand and curled my fingers, beckoning them.
“Let’s see what you’re made of, uglies.”
“Don’t taunt them!” Elissya said, her voice higher pitched than normal.
They charged me at the same time. I shot fireball after fireball after them. These two were smart, however, and kept dodging and swerving, separating to come at me from both sides. The best way to beat a mage was to divide our attention and wear us down.
I caught a flash of light out of the corner of my right eye and spun around to my left and fully attacked the glenshod on that side with pure force. He sailed through the sky but I didn’t stop there. I slapped my palms together, which caused the wall of pure force to grind the glenshod into the ground, crushing the beast.
I was panting by the time I released the spell and sweat slid down my face. I had to brace my hands on my knees to steady myself. Wow, I needed to work on my stamina. That was a lot of magick all at once and without any help from energies in the natural formations around me. I really needed to brush up on using the magick in the elements instead of always relying one what lay inside me.
Only when I was steadier did I turn around and consider the flailing glenshod that attempted to attack my right side. Elissya had finally swallowed her fear and used her more delicate magick to burn the beast’s nose. It lay on its back, cupping its face in agony.
“I aimed for his eye,” Elissya said, her voice wavering.
I glanced at her as she stepped to my side, pale and shaky. “Either way you had my back, so thanks for that.”
She swallowed hard and nodded.
I could have made fun of her for her weak stomach but gave her pass. I noted our surroundings and the fact that many of the townsfolk watched us from around corners and through windows. We were probably the most entertaining spectacle they’d ever seen in their lives.
The two flaming glenshods were now burnt husks but the one that bounced off my shield at the start was missing. I counted again to make sure and cursed.
“What?” Elissya asked.
I told her.
She cursed too.
“How could you?” someone yelled.
I turned around as the townsfolk fully emerged to converge on us in a mob. I stepped in front of Elissya and spread my arms, keeping my hands clear.
“Don’t hurt them,” Elissya hissed.
“They’ll destroy us for sure now!” another person shouted.
“Am I missing something?” I asked.
“You’ve doomed us all!”
“How about a little gratitude?” I shouted back, incredulous at the absurd ignorance surrounding me. Maybe I should blast them all to teach them a lesson.
“I don’t understand,” Elissya said. Her voice was too soft to be heard over the racket of accusations and anger flying around our heads.
A large man stepped forward and towered over me with a glare. “You violent cur. We had a tentative truce with the beasts until this. They took two, maybe three of us every few months and we were allowed to harvest certain plants on their territory. Now they’ll come to destroy us all.”
“Well, I didn’t have a truce with them,” I said. “I was defending myself and my companion from becoming food. Maybe you all should do the smart thing and move.”
“This has been our home for generations, mage!”
“Then you deserve to die for being so stupid.”
“Morgorth!” Elissya gripped my cloak and yanked slightly.
The beefy man clenched his fist and looked like he would love to punch me.
I met his gaze and raised an eyebrow. My magick rose to the surface once again and I knew it made my eyes glow. “Think really carefully about what you do next.”
“Let’s go.” Elissya tugged on my cloak.
“You’re not going anywhere until you fix this!”
“Fix it?” I said. “You don’t tell a mage what to do.”
I punched his chest with my fist surrounded in pure force and sent him barreling through the mob. Everyone scattered after that, crying in fear and shock.
“You ungrateful maggots!” I screamed, my magick burning to the point of pain. Flames erupted along my arms, and I vaguely felt Elissya stumble away from me. “You small-minded, ignorant, wastes of air! Do you know who I am?”
“Stop!” Elissya moved around in front of me and gripped my face, forcing me to meet her eyes. “Stop it!”
I wrenched my head out of her hands and barely kept my fire contained. “Fine. You want me to fix it? Where are the beasts? Where is their nest?”
It took a moment before someone answered. The tavern woman who served us drinks was helping the beefy man I’d blasted to sit up.
“South. They’re not far south from us. You can’t miss the swamp. It’s massive.”
Without another word, I spun on my heel.
“Stay here,” I said.
“But—” Elissya made to grab my arm.
I pinned her with a glare. “Stay. Here.”
The flames on my arms disappeared before I murmured a word of magick, activating my speed. I sped through the air, a mere streak of light. A heartbeat later I found the nest and I fixed it.
The glenshods wouldn’t be bothering the town again. Because they were all dead.
The swamp resembled a warzone by the time I was done. Fires and smoke and blackened carcasses littered the swamp. Winded, I leaned against a stunted tree and observed my handiwork. That should shut the townsfolk up.
I slogged my way back to the town. I didn’t dare use speed again. I might hurt myself bad enough to fall into the magick fever and from what I heard about it, that wasn’t something I wanted. By the time I returned to the town, it was early morning but still dark and chilly. I wrapped the cloak around myself and frowned at the quiet streets.
Was this training exercise over with yet?
I turned my head and nodded. “Are we done yet?”
Elissya approached me slowly. “Aye, I think we’ve done plenty.”
I rolled my eyes. “Uzzie said to protect the damn town so I protected the damn town.”
Elissya sighed and shook her head. “Somehow I don’t think this is what he had in mind.”
Apparently it wasn’t. The old goat should be more specific with what he wanted then.
We stood in one of his parlors as he stared at us with narrowed eyes and crossed arms, looking every inch disappointed and displeased. I just wanted a damn bath, being covered in smoke and unsavory gore. I was sure Elissya wanted a good soak, as well, to relax. Would he just get on with it?
I finally broke the silence. “Go ahead, say it. We failed. Blah blah. We disappointed you. Blah blah. We shamed you. Blah. Blah.”
Elissya sucked in a startled breath as Master Ulezander narrowed his eyes further, his jaw clearly clenched.
“I stink,” I said, ignoring the tightening of my gut. “Can I go take a bath?”
“You will stay right there,” he said through gritted teeth. “I told you to protect that town.”
“By massacring the glenshods.”
“I don’t like repeating myself. If I’m going to do something, I commit.”
“There were other ways.”
“My way was the most efficient.”
Master Ulezander bared his teeth at me.
I raised an eyebrow.
He turned to Elissya. “What have I always taught you?”
For the first time since arriving back at Muelsel, she spoke. “That the best answer is not always obvious or easy. Violence isn’t always the solution.”
“Tell that to the council,” I mumbled.
He gave me a sharp look that I returned boldly.
“Elissya, leave us. Take a bath, get settled, and we will talk further later tonight.”
“Yes, Master.” She shot me a wide-eyed look before hurrying away.
A tense moment of silence followed her departure.
“Hate and fear only lead to destruction,” he said.
“Tell that to the council,” I said louder.
“Oh, I have. Why do you think you are standing here in front of me?”
I glanced away, remembering that day as if it was yesterday. The day the Hand came to destroy me.
“And now you see fit to prove their point,” he said. “Have you heard nothing I have said since you came to live here?”
“Sure I’ve heard it,” I said. “I just think you’re wrong.”
“All of it.”
“The powerful make the rules,” I said. “The powerless follow. We both know that’s how the world works. You said protect the town. So I did the most logical thing and destroyed the threat. It was a permanent fix and required little effort.”
“What of the glenshods? Did they not deserve life and freedom as well?”
I frowned and shrugged. “I don’t make those kinds of judgements.”
“You did by choosing the town over them.”
“You wanted me to.”
With a deep groan, Master Ulezander broke from his tense stance and began pacing the room. I wondered if I was the only one to agitate him so much.
“There were other ways to protect the town!”
“By teaching them to protect themselves so they can sustain themselves and have confidence in their own skills. Or by changing the terms of the truce. By not killing the glenshods in the first place.” He stopped and met my gaze. “Killing should never be the first solution.”
“It’s the permanent one, though.”
“You are not listening!”
“Maybe because what you’re spouting is horseshit!”
“Who is the master here? Who the apprentice? Do you think I have lived as long as I have by doing whatever I want when I want? Do you honestly think I haven’t made sacrifices for my beliefs and had to be patient when I wanted to be rash? Right here in this room, who is the most powerful?”
I hunched my shoulders and lowered my gaze to the floor. He was right on that score, I couldn’t deny it.
“With power comes duty and responsibility,” he continued. “The Mother did not give mages her magick so we could subdue those weaker than us. You don’t see the payshthas making slaves of us all, do you?”
I swallowed hard. “No.”
The payshthas were the Mother’s first children she created with intelligence. The mages were her last. In the grand scheme of the world, mages were still young.
“Just because you have power doesn’t mean you have to abuse it. It doesn’t mean you have to be like your father.”
His words were a punch to the gut. I gritted my teeth and glared at the floor.
Master Ulezander strode to my side and gently put his hand on my shoulder. “You choose who you will become.”
I let out a bitter laugh. “Not the best thing to say to someone with my destiny.”
“And yet I still say it. And I mean it. Choose your own future.”
I sighed wearily and shrugged again. “Right. Sure.”
He squeezed my shoulder before letting go. “We aren’t done yet but you need rest. Go take a bath and get some.”
I nodded and left, slowly climbing the stairs. Maybe Master Ulezander wasn’t as powerful as he claimed to be. Only the truly powerful felt no fear. Should my destiny prove true, I would be the most powerful mage alive. Therefore I would know nothing of fear or pain ever again. But my mentor was right about one thing—I had to learn patience. I had to bid my time and follow along with his lessons until I was on my own. I needed to do what Nanthar did, the first seventh son of a seventh son born. I needed to mask my true intentions and play the loyal puppet.
I could do that. It was a good skill to learn, after all. Once I was free I would do what I wanted and no one would stop me.
I hope I’ve piqued your interest and that you’ll check out the series. There will be 13 books before I write The End, so the journey is only half-way through!
I am currently working on the second book to my “Saga of the Bold People” and finishing up a (low) fantasy trilogy, as well as outlining for a couple of other future projects. So many WIPs, so little time!
Thank you so much for joining me and may dragons guard your dreams!
M.D. Grimm has wanted to write stories since second grade (kind of young to make life decisions, but whatever) and nothing has changed since then (well, plenty of things actually, but not that!). Thankfully, she has indulgent parents who let her dream, but also made sure she understood she’d need a steady job to pay the bills (they never let her forget it!).
After graduating from the University of Oregon and majoring in English, (let’s be honest: useless degree, what else was she going to do with it?) she started on her writing career and couldn’t be happier.
Working by day and writing by night (or any spare time she can carve out), she enjoys embarking on romantic quests and daring adventures (living vicariously, you could say) and creating characters that always triumph against the villain, (or else what’s the point?) finding their soul mate in the process.