Time for you get an idea of where Maeryn ‘Mae’ Darnes is going on her journey and who she’s taking with her. I was excited to see Rivan step up to the plate in the book and be more open with Mae. It turns out his alliances may not be so firm as it all seems, and the foreigner he travels with should be wary—because his bite is worse than his growl.
Check out the first two chapters of Mages By Fortune: Algardis #2 below and get ready for the release of the full book in the Algardis series very soon. P.S. – Reminder these chapters haven’t been seen by my editor yet, they’re just for your viewing pleasure.
Also, if you haven’t read book one yet, what are you waiting for? It’s in Kindle Unlimited!
It wasn’t every day that someone walked up to Maeryn Darnes and told her that they could change not only her life but her entire families’. Today was that day and it felt like all of the emotions she had building up inside of her because of it would force her to burst.
Frustration at being forced to make a choice.
Temptation at the possibilities being dangled in front of her—not just for herself but for others.
Fear…because she couldn’t take back the agreement once made.
Mae wasn’t stupid. There was a lot that the foreign woman wasn’t telling her. There was a gleam of anticipation in Donna Marie’s eyes that Mae didn’t understand and made her wary to the core. But the hope she held out in its place was almost too much to bear.
Mae swiped her tongue over her suddenly dry lips and opened her mouth to speak.
“I—” Mae croaked out.
She intended to say ‘I agree’ but the words stuck in her mouth like a piece of fruit lodged down her throat. She couldn’t get it out and for a moment of panic she couldn’t even breathe. It was as if all her normal bodily functions stopped working and she was left just trying to resume speaking, breathing, and smiling, all of which naturally came as second nature to her so it was disturbing to be without.
As for Donna Marie, she looked at Mae with impatience growing on her face. As she looked down on the less tall Mae, for a moment her face transformed. Not literally but almost imperceptibly, as Mae saw something else in that moment. The tight smile on her lips didn’t reach her eyes. And the frown lines radiating from her tear ducts weren’t ones from a life of joy, but one of stress. It was as if the persona she put on for the public was a mask and if Mae waited just a minute longer the entire façade would crack into a hundred pieces to reveal the truth underneath.
So wait she would.
“I–I just need more time to think it through,” Mae stammered—looking for an excuse for why her mind froze when her heart was telling her to go ahead with the best option she had.
Realistically it was the only option she had.
Donna Marie glanced up at the sky with an exaggerated look of boredom.
“If we’re going to do this now would be the time,” the foreign woman said in a sarcastic voice.
Easy for you to say you’re getting exactly what you want, Mae thought caustically.
Meanwhile Mae was limited by her current circumstances, the fact that the children of the greater holding were violently ill, and let’s be honest—some of her own relatives might be out to kill her as she deliberated.
It was a lot to think about at the moment. She’d gain an ally by giving the foreign woman what she wanted—for however little time this played out, and more importantly she’d gain something for herself in the process. Magic.
A weapon to use both to attack and protect. It would be hers to use as she willed, just as one of her many cousins had used his wind magic to try knock her off a steep ledge so that she would plummet to her death.
That was supposition. We don’t know he meant to kill us. Maybe he would have captured us and brought our hovering bodies back through the window, she thought to herself stubbornly—trying to think the best of the events that had proceeded her being here.
But even she wasn’t that naïve. The force of his power had been deliberate and had quite the chance of being fatal if she and Ember hadn’t spied a balcony to dive down into at the last minute.
Which left more questions than answers for Mae. Who were these mysteriously murderous relatives? What was it that they had been doing to the girls? And what would they do once Richard told them just who it was they’d caught spying from the second floor?
In fact they could be torturing him for important information right now! Mae thought horrified at the prospect.
She didn’t know Richard that well. He was one of the dozens of younger generation cousins that roamed the halls of the Darnes greater holding. She saw him in passing at breakfast, and again at noon’s meal before the ‘children’ were separated from the ‘young adults’ of marriageable age for the last meal heading into the night. He didn’t share any of her studies and their parents weren’t that close. So she couldn’t say that he would keep their secrets or even try to. So instead she wondered just what he had said and what the cloaked figures would do with that information.
Hunt her down like a deer to kill? Or bring her before the elders like a recalcitrant child? Mae wondered in her head.
She was fairly sure which of those options would leave her alive for another day but neither were ones she could say she preferred.
The thought of it all made Mae’s stomach knot in turmoil and that was just one of the aspects that she had to be careful of before making her call. The others? Were both better and worse than anything else she’d ever been faced with before.
Mae bit her lip in indecision. She wasn’t going to rush into this. She just wished she had someone to discuss it over with. Someone she trusted. But she was alone in this and the choice was hers alone. Which made it even worse not better. Because make no mistake, if she did this, if she went through with what the foreign woman wanted…there would be repercussions.
Mae took a deep breath as she thought about it. Thought about what Donna Marie was asking, which on the surface wasn’t much, and if you stirred the pot…was everything.
Mae didn’t want to be one of those foolish people who leaped before they looked, but from the female mage’s own words…this was as much of a fishing expedition for her as it was a learning process for Mae.
“But to do this,” Mae whispered to herself as she clutched her right elbow and tried to think it through.
It remained to be seen why her family, her elders even, had locked away the gifts—supposing they actually were there—in the first place. What made the power of women and girls so undesirable that they were outright forbidden? Nothing justified it Mae’s head and even as she thought about what had been done to her when she was very young, Mae was simmering with rage. It was all she had wanted as a child, to be special. To be unique. And to think that these gifts were hers to claim all along but because of a decision made long before she was born—they had been cut off? She couldn’t fathom the reasoning and she didn’t think those who had made the decision long ago could understand her pain.
Not that she could ask them.
The methodical placement of the tattoos along her collarbone had been decided generations ago and was something her sister, her stepmother, her grandmother, and even her great-aunt had gone through. As far as Maeryn Darnes knew, it was something generations of the women in her family had been subjected to.
She had never learned why.
Heck, she had never asked why.
It just was.
Only brief memories of the process from her childhood flashed in her mind at any time. It was a room filled with light and female faces surrounded her on all sides. They bent down over with rings of light about their crowns like halos and she looked up at them in confusion from where she lay flat on her back with something cold and hard underneath her.
She’d been five.
Or four. She couldn’t precisely remember what age it’d been done at but she didn’t remember words…just flashes of movements and all those faces. It seemed all the women of her clan old enough to marry had been present. And from what Ember had told her the one time she’d opened up about it with her sister, she too had had the same experience. Although Ember remembered more than her…suggesting that perhaps that she had been older than Mae when it happened?
Ember had talked about smells which Mae couldn’t remember.
Scents of sandalwood, a rare and costly aroma that Mae had only smelled once…when she’d been taken to one of the city-states with her father for trade. The idea of it being present here, so far into the rural shadows of the Nardes kingdom was preposterous. One thimble was worth more than an entire season’s production of vegetables.
Which left the question of how Ember had encountered it when she was so young. But Mae didn’t know much more than that because as soon as she had started to open up her sister had closed down. It taken her years to realized that was Ember’s defensive mechanism. Only being vocal when she knew absolutely everything there was to know about the subject at hand. As a eight-year-old being snapped at by her older sister though, Mae had simple taken offense and endeavored to not speak or do her mean sister any favors for the foreseeable future. Which had lasted all of a few weeks until there was something else Mae wanted and only Ember could provide.
But now all I want is answers, so many mysteries in a family that I thought I knew like the back of my hand, Mae thought as her eyes drifted over to Ember’s still form.
As her memory was triggered, Mae struggled to remember if she had ever gone back to Ember. To insist they talk about that strange fateful day that they both had shared…if only because their recollections were so similar. But she never had. Because the look in Ember’s eyes when she had first brought it up was one Mae recognized all too well—it was one that was haunted.
Funnily enough except for this almost disturbing episode Mae had thought her childhood was idyllic. Oh, they had their struggles. With so many bodies and babies to feed in the family, they had to stretch their food to feed everyone. That meant weeks without meat as the hunters drifted further out to find something that would stretch for them all or when they did find a few hares or even a deer, it was chopped into thick finger-length bits to put into a pot of stew for everyone to partake. But no one died of starvation and everyone who was family was blood. They stood by one another. The secret that sat at the heart of them was simply unspoken of.
But then the children started dying again. In large numbers and what had once been a generational curse now seemed never-ending. Nerves were frayed and boundaries broken. Not the least of which was her own. It was how she’d started doing research into the cure in the first place and ended up breaking into her grandmother’s private sanctum to receive the grimoire.
Even just thinking of the tome that she’d risk so much for made Mae flinch.
It was gone…in the hands of people she’d rather it not be and what was worse—they’d destroyed it with fire. She hadn’t seen what they’d done with the incantation on the ripped off page itself because by that point she’d been running for her life. But Mae couldn’t imagine the group of mad cloaked individuals had done much good with it.
Without that page Mae had to wonder if they could even do what needed to be done. Which meant she had to get it back. But first things first, she had to get out of her latest scrape in one piece. So she stood up and looked around the clearing with a firm face. It was the same as it had been before. The air was a little stiller. The gloom about them all a little heavier. But it was still her, three strangers, and her sister—at once all alone in the forest and together. These strangers clearly had kidnapped them but they’d also saved them from a deathly fate. So Mae stood on the cusp of a choice, to trust them, to work with them and in the process—make a deal that would shake the very foundation of her family’s core. But also save the ones who needed help the most—the children.
It wasn’t as hard a call to make as she would have thought.
Mostly because she was on the black list for a large grouping of her closest relatives at the moment and the idea of coming to them with her idea for help was worse than foolish, it could spell the death warrants of not just the children, but herself and Ember.
For knowing too much in a time it would seem that it was best to know nothing at all.
Decided she nodded to herself, turned back and stepped forward. As she did a chill wind blew into the clearing and directly at her—leaving her cold all over. If she was all superstitious, Mae would have taken the ghost that walked over her grave at that moment for a warning.
But she wasn’t.
Instead she put on the charm as much as she could and directed a compelling gaze to the woman who held her future in her hands.
Hers and her entire family’s it seemed.
Mae just desperately hope that her faith in the foreigner wasn’t misplaced…for all their sakes.
Upon release the 2nd book in the Algardis series will be live at http://terahedun.com/magesbyfortune
“Have you made up your mind?” Donna Marie asked in a commanding tone.
“I have,” Mae replied warily.
Donna Marie raised her eyebrows and looked at her. She wasn’t going to ask a second time.
A brief smile flashed over Mae’s face. The foreign woman’s imperious nature sometimes reminded her of Ember…in her most annoying habits.
“Alright, what’s next?” Mae asked with a heavy sigh. She was going in, whether she liked it or not.
Donna Marie’s eyes brightened as she smiled.
She didn’t waste any time in replying.
“Now, I take a look at what makes you and other females like you, so very special,” Donna Marie said in an encouraging voice. “Once my study is done, I can aid you in invoking that incantation you’re so desperate to see succeed.”
Mae’s voice stiffened as she said, “It will succeed.”
It has to, she said to herself.
Donna Marie shrugged, “It will or it won’t. But you’re on a strict timetable from what I gather and I…am not. So it’d be in your best interest to cooperate promptly.”
“I already said I would!” Mae snapped—bristling. She didn’t like being threatened.
“How long will this take anyway?” Mae said as the woman just watched her. Figuring she could move this along Mae started to unlace her front and prepared to be examined.
“A few hours at minimum,” the foreign woman said in a casual voice as she inched forward with predatory eyes.
Mae paused the moment those words uttered from Donna Marie’s mouth.
“Hours?” she said with a shocked gasp. “We don’t have that.”
“This isn’t just some etching I’m going to do on your chest girl,” Donna Marie replied quickly. “I need to not only to use my gifts to study your inked collar but I need to do it with your aid.”
“Why?” Mae said uncomfortable.
“Why what?” Donna Marie asked with irritation.
Mae stopped fiddling with the buttons that held her vested overcoat tight at her waist and stared at the foreign woman.
“Why do you need my help?” Mae said in a voice that was unshakeable. “You’re just studying them right?”
“Well—” Donna Marie started to say in an uncomfortable voice.
Mae squinted at her and looked over at Rivan to see if he had anything to say about this. But his gaze was narrowly focused off in the distance and unreadable in any case. As for Dot, he was looking directly at her with what Mae could only characterize as an avaricious look that immediately made her cringe.
“Just look at it and get on with it,” Mae complained.
Donna Marie flapped her hand as if to wish away any tension in the air and prompt her to move on.
“It’s a little bit more than that,” Donna Marie said in a weasely tone. “But I promise it won’t hurt.”
That wasn’t what Mae had asked and it stalled her movements even more than their prior conversation.
When Mae didn’t make a move to continue unveiling what Donna Marie so desperately wanted, the foreign woman begrudgingly added, “There’s something about that tattoo about your collarbone. It doesn’t react to coercion—”
And how would you know that? Mae wondered to herself as her hackles raised.
Who else had this woman approached to get what she’d needed…and what had she done for the access she obviously so desperately wanted?
“—in fact, your ancestors were quite devious about it,” Donna Marie said in an envious tone that Mae didn’t like. “They made the tattoos invisible to the naked eye unless you’re a mage—”
“Well, that explains why the girls in the village never really asked about what was right in front of them,” Mae muttered.
“—and resistant to inspection without the express approval of the bearer,” Donna Marie concluded.
Mae raised a curious eyebrow, “So you just have to ask and it can be studied?”
“No,” Donna Marie grumbled. “It’s rather more complex than that.”
Donna Marie frowned as she continued, “How can I explain this to one so ignorant to the complex intricacies of a mage warding?”
“You can try by using small words,” Mae said a bit incensed at being referred to as an idiot in her viewpoint—just not in so many words.
“I didn’t say that you were—,” Donna Marie started
“It’s a binding on your body,” Rivan interjected before Donna Marie could put her foot in her mouth any more than she already had.
The foreign woman turned to him with a look of almost relief on her face and Mae obliging turned her focus to the other young man, only to notice that he was staring directly at her with an intense she was startled by. Mae almost reached up to her face just to make sure she didn’t have any mud on her cheeks but that was just silly because she knew that she was in fact dirty, one didn’t race through an attic and get logged through a forest and stay clean throughout the process, but also he wasn’t looking at her face, but at her body.
And a rather inappropriate portion of her body if anything her grandmother had taught her was right, Mae thought annoying.
He was staring directly at her chest when he said it with narrowly focused eyes. Mae almost covered her top with her hands in affront until she noticed that his look wasn’t lascivious, it was concentrated.
He was studying it, she realized as she recognized the same look that had been on her own face countless times.
But how? Mae continued to wonder. Her skin was still covered by her clothes but that didn’t seem to matter to him.
Rivan continued in a methodical voice, “That binding makes it so your flesh hides the very well written layers of the spell written within it.”
“Spell, what spell?” Mae asked genuinely shocked.
Rivan sent her scorching look. “The tattoo,” he said in a disbelieving tone.
As if she was the fool for not realizing it in the first place.
And maybe she was but he didn’t have to take that tone with her. She was new to all of this!
Apparently deciding to take pity on her Rivan explained further, “The inked tattoos on your collarbone, and I suspect this is true for all the women in your commune—”
He paused there to glance over at Ember’s prone form resting against the tree. Mae resisted the instinctive urge to step in from of her sister’s body and instead let him continue his examination from a distance, a distance of several feet away from both Ember and herself. If he could study the tattoos from that far away and while she was covered, Mae was tempted to just tell Donna Marie to let Rivan do what needed to be done.
Jolting her from her reverie, Rivan continued as he said, “—this is the same. It’s more than just a design, representative marking of your family. As Donna Marie stated it binds your powers and precludes you from using them.”
“And how does it do that?” Donna Marie asked in a smooth leading tone.
She clearly already knew she was just trying to lead his explanation back to her original path of inquiry.
“By using spellwork to do so,” Rivan said through gritted teeth.
He even briefly balled his fingers into fists. Which Mae didn’t miss although Donna Marie was assiduously looking the other way at the moment, so perhaps it was as much for himself as it was for her.
Still the foreign woman nodded in appreciation as she said, “Thank you Rivan.”
“Don’t thank me,” the young man muttered. “Her family may have done a shitty thing but that spellwork is absolutely gorgeous. It’s alive in her skin.”
And this time both Donna Marie and Rivan were staring at the hidden ink with what Mae could only characterize as want.
“Well,” Mae said while clearing her throat and trying to break up their stares. “So you want to study how they inked the design?”
“That and more,” Donna Marie said eagerly.
Rivan shrugged. “It’ll take careful unlayering to see just how they laid down the spell framework I’m guessing. Starting with a bare look at your skin and moving into the field of aural divination as we descend into the realm of strictly mage sight.”
Mae stirred but she didn’t really have any knowledge what they were planning to do and how it would affect her, and from the looks on their faces—they had done just about all the explaining either was prepared to do.
Reluctantly, she said then “Okay, let’s get going then.”
She eyed Rivan warily as she did so while wondering if she had been keeping a tense eye on the wrong person all along.
He knew far too much about this ‘warding’ when even Donna Marie couldn’t definitely state such details. So how did he know it? Mae openly wondered with a question in her eyes as she looked at him.
Of course, he was now back to being silent with an interesting gleam in his eyes, his hand folded in front of him, and no more.
Donna Marie proceeded to begin.
“Well, as my fine traveling companion has so aptly stated,” Donna Marie said. “Your tattoos are composed of more than meets the eye. I will not only have to visually study it but dive into my magic to unravel the layers that make it a composition.”
“But you’re not going to…permanently remove it or anything?” Mae nervously stated.
“What?” Donna Marie blurted out caustically. “Oh no, I don’t believe that will be necessary.”
Mae let out a slow sigh of relief.
“That’s good,” she hurriedly replied. “I mean—not that I wouldn’t want it removed, but it would make my life easier if you could just…make the tattoo bend to your will for a moment, show me how to proceed with the incantation as a third in the mage triangle and then…we’ll all be on our way.”
“I’m sure we will,” Donna Marie replied with a bit of darkness in her tone.
Mae couldn’t precisely pinpoint on what part of their conversation had tripped her up though so she let it go as just a fanciful part of her imagination as Donna Marie continued to speak.
“Now that I have your verbal permission to assess your tattoos you must do one more thing first before we begin?” Donna Marie said.
“What?” Mae asked immediately with apprehension.
To be fair Donna Marie had yet to ask something of her she couldn’t easily physically give…but there was always something more on the horizon, which Mae didn’t like. But she had to play her gains to get to the cure to win.
“You must believe inside yourself that this is the right decision,” Donna Marie said. “Or it won’t work.”
“What won’t work?” Mae asked mystified.
“I won’t be able to access your ink,” Donna Marie said in a final note.
Frustrated at the delay now that she was finally ready to move on, Mae pulled aside the top of her collar and said, “What do you mean—it’s right here!”
“If you had a mirror in front of you right this moment, what you see and what I see would be very different,” Donna Marie explained.
“But you’re a mage!” Mae complained.
“I didn’t say the ink would be invisible to me,” Donna Marie snapped. “It just convolutes my study in a way we don’t need. You can thank your bull-headed ancestors.”
Mae grumbled and then said. “Fine, I believe you should see it.”
“Not just in your head, but in your heart,” Rivan said forcefully as he interjected again. “If you don’t it won’t work.”
Mae narrowed her eyes. “This is a lot of layers of security for some pretty ink…even if it does lock away my gifts. Even the male relatives in my family don’t have naturally intense gifts, just enough to set bone or encourage crops.”
Donna Marie nodded eagerly, “Now you see my conundrum. Why work so hard to lock something away that is essentially meaningless in nature.”
“I wouldn’t call it meaningless,” Mae cried—a little offended.
“Please,” Donna Marie said wryly. “There are toddlers in my cities which display more magic than the greatest of your elders. I am not boasting, it is a fact.”
“And yet the gifts needed to do what these backwards commune-dwellers have done outstrips more than the mage adepts at your fabled school,” Rivan murmured.
What school? Mae wondered as her ears perked up—not wanting to interrupt now that they’ve told her something.
“Nevertheless,” Donna Marie said firmly. “They individually are not so gifted which begs the question what are they hiding underneath these layers of spellwork.”
“And why hasn’t anyone discovered it before?” Rivan added in an echo of Donna Marie’s interest.
Upon release the 2nd book in the Algardis series will be live at http://terahedun.com/magesbyfortune
Catch up to the series on Kindle Unlimited today, Mages By Chance: Algardis #1.