Until June 3, my short fantasy story is available free to read in Inkitt’s Epic Worlds competition. A Magical Melody is the first installment in A Symphony of Magic, a five part story starting with four shorts and culminating in a full-length novel.

To start you off, the first few paragraphs are below, then follow the link at the end to read the conclusion – or jump straight to the link to read the whole story on Inkitt’s site. If you enjoy the story, please do vote on the Inkitt site – just login via facebook and click the heart at the bottom of the story page. I am currently 20th and I need to stay at 25 or better to make the finals! Your vote counts.

Avram blinked and checked another drawer. Also, empty. No, he’d used the top one, hadn’t he? The bare, wooden bottom stared back when he opened the top drawer again. He ran a finger across the wood. Nothing. No illusion. No sign anyone had been here. Rawellen’s perfume overwhelmed any other scents. He glanced at her over his shoulder.

‘It’s not here. Did you take it?’

On the far side of the room, the colour rushed from Rawellen’s cheeks, leaving her face porcelain white beneath perfectly coiffed, midnight hair. She looked like a child’s doll, a frightened doll. Beside her, Councillor Eiman fidgeted with the lace on his sleeves and glanced from Avram to Rawellen and back.

Faint fingers of panic squirmed in Avram’s gut. If Rawellen hadn’t taken the sheet music… His gaze unfocused as he ran through the possibilities.

‘What do you mean gone?’ Eiman slipped a finger inside the collar of his black frock coat. Sweat trickled down his face.

The silly councillor couldn’t have taken the scores. He had the magical abilities of a toadstool–and an unfortunate resemblance to one too. Really, that tight coat did nothing to flatter his rotund figure.

Avram wrinkled his nose. ‘I mean, gone.’

‘But…but the orchestra is assembled!’

Snorting, Avram pushed the drawer of the mahogany sideboard closed hard enough to rattle the crystal goblets on their shelves. Better for Rawellen to deal with the odious little man.

‘My dear councillor.’ True to form, Rawellen released her death grip on her skirts to ease Eiman into chair and stooped to coo into his ear, turning the full force of her devastating beauty against him. ‘I’m sure we can resolve this matter in short order.’

What? Did the woman not understand “gone”? Avram waved his hands to catch her attention. If she were assuming that he’d mislaid the sheet music and would momentarily remember where to find them, Avram was sure she’d be sorely disappointed. The scores were gone, vanished without a trace, and with no explanation aside from theft.

Without any change in expression, Rawellen drew Eiman back to his feet. ‘On second thoughts, I’m afraid I’ll have to ask you to dismiss the orchestra. Or have them perform something else, a piece from last season perhaps?’

‘But…’ The councillor’s protests were cut off as Rawellen bundled him out the carved door, closing it behind him and leaning against the wood.

‘Gone? Totally gone?’ Her impressive bosom heaved, threatening to spill from the lace-edged neckline of her gown. ‘The whole score? Which one?’

Avram pushed his pince-nez further up his nose and cleared his throat. Why did she have to be so damn beautiful? It was distracting, and it was obvious that she knew it–knew it and used it. ‘Both scores. Both copies.’ The words emerged a dry croak.

Rawellen’s breath whooshed from her in an explosive burst. ‘The spell-annotated copies as well?’

Avram nodded. What a disaster. So much for the rigid protocols designed to ensure that spell-annotated copies didn’t make it to the public arena. Then again, it wasn’t theft they were intended to prevent, but human error. It was too much to hope some music buff had stolen them for personal enjoyment, some ordinary musician to whom the notations would be meaningless. No, it was someone who had the talent to break in here, without a doubt. Heads would roll, and Avram’s would not be one of them.

‘Who? Who would have done this? This is a disaster!’ Rawellen’s voice climbed impressively into the upper registers as effortless as only a trained vocalist’s could do. Her hands rose as well, waving to and fro in carefully orchestrated histrionics. She began to pace, twitching her blue skirts out of her way with sharp, furious jerks.

Once a performer, always a performer. Rolling his eyes, Avram tried to straighten his own rumpled white coat while he waited for her dramatics to end.

Rawellen’s rant wound down as she strode across the room yet again with the heels of her blue boots sinking into the thick, emerald carpet. At the brocade drapes hanging against the far wall, she spun and strode back again. Her skirts brushed against the couches with each agitated pass.

‘I am well aware of the ramifications,’ Avram said, seizing the moment as she took a breath. As I should be. I wrote the damn thing.

Her fingers fluttered, an affectation of nerves, and smoothed the black-striped silk of her bodice. After a moment, she settled to toying with the black ribbon tied below her cleavage. Avram dragged his gaze away. No point in going down that road again. Beautiful women like her had far better prospects than jug-eared, rumpled composers like him. And would she ever grow as bored with her tantrums as he was?

Ceasing her pacing, she turned with her eyes boring into him and dark eyebrows arched. ‘Have you seen her the last few days?’

‘I…’ His tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth. If only. His bed was cold without her. With a sigh, he ran fingers through his hair and grimaced. There wasn’t as much up there as there used to be. ‘It wasn’t her, Rawellen. Only a magister can read the spell annotations or break the wards for that matter, and you know it. Only a powerful musician could do the latter. Morgane is no magister. Least of all a powerful one.’

Rawellen glanced at his hair and arched one eyebrow even further.

He snatched his hand away and scowled, regretting the expression almost immediately. It did nothing to improve a face with a nose too big and ears that stuck out like an elephant’s.

‘When, Avram? When did you last see her?’

Follow the link to read the conclusion to A Magical Melody. Don’t forget to vote if you like it.

Thank you!