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Read A Magical Melody #FREE – Until June 3


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!

Celebrate my Website Launch with a FREE Novella

Stop by to check out my newly rebuilt, redesigned and rebranded website and you can receive my high fantasy novella Confronting the Demon free – for a limited time only! All you have to do is sign-up to the newsletter and the .mobi and .epub formats will be delivered to your email.

Next stop – blog integration! As you can see, the blog hasn’t changed yet. I run the blog on Blogger, but now the website is powered by WordPress I can migrate the blog over and properly host it on the website. That, however, is another big job and should probably wait until after the release of Stalking the Demon.

If you don’t fancy signing up to the newsletter (I respect not everyone may want to) consider buying instead the Three Realms boxset. For the price of $0.99 you essentially get Confronting the Demon for half-price, making award-winning The Silver Sphere by Michael Dadich and YA epic fantasy The Shadows of the Realm by Dionne Lister completely FREE.  Don’t miss this opportunity – on sale for a short time before returning to the full price of $4.99. 

If you like the new website design, please do share it via social media with the sharing buttons on the right hand side. 

You Must: Love Enough (Part 3) – Free Fantasy Fiction

Welcome back to the third and final installment of Love Enough. If you missed Protestations: Love Enough (Part 1) or Sentenced to Death: Love Enough (Part 2) make sure you check them out first! 

* * * 

‘I am sorry.’ Annael proffered the dagger she’d retrieved from the darkness. A tear trailed its way down her perfect cheek. ‘I do this for you and our son.’

‘But you ask me to wield the knife.’

‘The blade must strike true. No spark of life can remain for them to fan into flame, or you both will die.’

He curled his thick-knuckled hands into helpless fists. ‘I can’t. No matter the reason, I can’t.’

‘You must.’ Annael’s voice lowered, insistent. The lyrical notes tugged at Dagon, luring, seducing, and persuading. Annael had never turned the power of her voice against him, but she did now. 
The gentle persuasion sank into his bones. What she said was right, he must, it was imperative…

‘Don’t!’ He yanked himself free of the soft, seductive glamour.

‘I just –.’

‘I know.’ Reaching out, Dagon stroked his son’s dark hair. Quiet, the baby watched him with huge, sleepy green eyes. Annael’s eyes. Must he spend a lifetime haunted by her ghost?

‘Would you be more at peace if I did?’

‘Yes… no.’ Reluctant, his hand reached for the knife. ‘If I do this thing, I’d rather do it of my own free will.’

‘They’re here.’

High above the stone circle, something moved – a mere hint of shadows on shadows. Only his demon eyes discerned even that much. Annael would sense them inside her head, coming for her.

‘What… what will they do to you?’

‘Imprisonment, trial, punishment. Execution. They won’t allow me to die until they track down our son. Then they will kill him, out of hand, like the mongrel they believe him to be.’ Her hands tightened on the baby. His green eyes drowsed closed.

Dagon’s breath caught in his throat. ‘Punishment?’

‘Torture, if you will.’ Her shoulders hitched gracefully, as if she were indifferent to hate, but her chest rose and fell in quick, shallow breaths.

Torture. He couldn’t do what she asked to save himself. He couldn’t even do it to save their son. The passion engendered by the ardesco wouldn’t allow it.

But he could do it for her, to save her the suffering.

‘I’ll do it.’

‘You will?’ Her eyes shone liquid in the light of the dying torch, betraying mixed surprise, fear and relief. ‘Quickly. We have little time.’

Annael arranged herself beneath an arch, leaning against one massive pillar. The baby lay asleep in her lap, for lack of an alternative except the muddy ground of a rainy night.

Dagon placed the knife point at her breast and hesitated. ‘Will I see you on the other side of the Curtained Gate?’

Annael leaned forward, heedless of the blade pricking her chest, and kissed him, soft and slow. Her lips tasted sweet against his, and the saltwater tang of her tears brushed his tongue. He savored the taste, let it linger, bittersweet, aware this was the last time he would know the touch of her in this life. A tear slid down his cheek, and another, until they streamed down his face, mingling with the rain. She caught one on her finger, and clutched it to her breast as she lay back against the pillar. The other hand brushed the downy hair of the sleeping child before drawing a blanket gently over the boy’s eyes.

The rustle of wings impervious to rain drifted down out of the dark. A voice echoed in the distance.

‘Hurry.’ Annael’s hand covered his on the hilt of his dagger. Perfect teeth dragged at her bottom lip and she blinked, too quickly. ‘I will see you on the other side, though I pray many years pass before you cross that threshold. Tell our son I loved him… I loved him enough to sacrifice everything.’

Dagon nodded once, jerkily, tears falling so fast her flawless face blurred. He drew a deep, shuddering breath. Was he really about to do this? The image of her broken body and disfigured face flashed through his mind, the tiny infant dead at her feet. He couldn’t.

I must.

He shoved the blade home. Blood spilled over his hand, hot and sticky. Her last breath sighed from her lips. In the depths of his chest, his heart broke with a profound silence. As though a dam burst within, guilt, despair, and agony flooded him. 

The night exploded in screams and voices calling; Ishafal experiencing the sudden passing of Annael, and crying out in anger and grief and triumph, an emotion for every voice.

Dagon stumbled, and fell backwards in the mud. The tears wouldn’t stop. Deep, shaking sobs threatened to tear his frame apart.

The first Ishafal thumped to the ground bare yards away. Dagon skidded to his feet, slipping on muddied grass. Steadying himself, he grabbed the sleeping baby. The child woke, screaming the strident call of a frightened newborn. Another Ishafal landed heavily to the right. Steel gleamed in the flickering torchlight.

With the baby clutched to his chest, adrift in the sea of his own agony, in the tears threatening to drown him, Dagon stumbled blindly towards the torch. The two Ishafal closed on him. His hand seized the rough wood of the torch, and he yanked the brand from the earth, the flame scribing a line of fire through the rainy darkness as he spun.

The Ishafal behind him shrieked, and jerked back. Dagon felt the impact of the torch vibrate up his arm. Flames erupted in tinder-dry feathers. An explosion of light assaulted his eyes.

Dagon spun again, waving the brand and squinting into the brilliance. The flaming Ishafal screamed, the beauty of his voice lost in desperation. Dropping to the ground, he rolled in the mud and the wet grass. Flames engulfed his clothing and the screams escalated to terror. The other Ishafal stared, shocked. More winged people spiraled out of the darkness, racing towards the pyre the Ishafal had become. A few voices lifted in shaky song, a fragmented attempt to douse the flames with the magic of their voices.

Dagon hurled the torch at the back of a singing Ishafal. The song faltered at the second explosion of flame and light, and he spun and fled into the dark. The screams of the burning Ishafal drowned out the distressed cries of the baby. Dagon whispered soothing words, and the wails eased to whimpers.

He ducked under a branch, and ran into the cover of the forest, trying to outrun the Ishafal, the pain, and the blood smearing his hands.

They were distracted by the Ishafal he’d set alight, delayed in order to save them. If he ran fast enough, and far enough, in the dark and the rain, they’d never find him this night.

And then, when he was sure the pursuit was lost, only then would he stop; to grieve, to shed the tears, and to cradle close to him the only thing remaining of the woman he loved.

* * *

**AUTHOR’S NOTE: This fiction piece is part of the A to Z Blogging Challenge and has not been to an editor.**

 If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to check out my previous posts if you haven’t already. If you’re finding yourself here often, you might like to join as a member, sign up to the blog through RSS or email, or sign-up to my newsletter. Check out my March Newsletter if you missed it.

Don’t forget to share the love and spread the word on Twitter, Facebook or StumbleUpon (or other social networking site of your choice) if you know other people who might also enjoy this.

Thanks for stopping by and visiting!

Sentenced to Death: Love Enough (Part 2) – Free Fantasy Fiction

Welcome back to Part 2 of Love Enough. If you missed Protestations: Love Enough (Part 1) make sure you check it out first!

* * *

Dagon’s gaze followed the line of her pointing arm. Through the shadows, he picked out the blurred outlines of a shape almost fading into the darkness. He leapt across the circle, vaulting over the broad flat altar stone at the centre of the ring. His hand dropped to the sheath on his hip; empty.

Cursing, he lunged at the intruder, but it ducked away behind the pillar of a ruined arch. Wings trailed behind the fleeing shadow. Dagon caught only a handful of feathers. Sinking his fingers in deep, he yanked backwards.

The Ishafal squealed as it fell backwards into a puddle, splashing cold muddy water over Dagon. He straddled the Ishafal, seizing an exquisitely handsome head and slamming it down into the muck, again and again. Mud splattered his face, chill and sticky.

‘Dagon.’ Annael’s touch brought him back to himself with a suddenness verging on painful. She still clutched his muddy dagger in one hand.

Dagon wiped mud from his cheek with one bare, hairy arm. The winged man stared upwards with dazed eyes. Like Annael, he possessed a face perfect beyond the possible, and his skin glowed pearlescent. Raindrops beaded on his flesh, like dewdrops decorating the rose.

‘What do you want?’ Dagon dropped the man’s head with a splash into the mud.

‘We want you to die.’ Blood trickled from a crack in the Ishafal’s lip. ‘All of you.’

His words rang with hypnotic power, compelling, luring, and seducing. Almost, Dagon wanted to grab his knife, and bury the blade to the hilt in his own chest, just to please the Ishafal. Almost, but not quite.

A sneer twisted Dagon’s lips, and he slapped the Ishafal hard, one blow, two, across his too perfect face. ‘Did you think Annael would leave me unprotected against the magic of your voice, featherbrain?’ He slapped the Ishafal hard, one blow, two, across his too perfect face. ‘Don’t waste your energy trying.’

‘You were warned, Annael.’ The Ishafal glared at her, ignoring Dagon. He dropped all pretense of glamour. ‘You knew if you did not abandon the demon, then your life hung in the balance. All your lives! You signed your own death warrant when you conceived the brat. It’s only a shame we couldn’t end this before it was whelped!’

‘You would have killed a pregnant woman?’ Horror stole into Dagon’s voice.

‘The ardesco cannot be resisted,’ Annael said. ‘You know that, Rahtiel. We are all slaves to its whims.’

‘And you know it’s tolerated for a night here and there. Permanent attachments are not. Children, never! You should have taken precautions, Annael!’

‘You would kill a pregnant woman?’ Dagon’s voice grew louder, more insistent. ‘Answer me, you slimy birdbrain!’

Seizing the Ishafal by the front of his shirt, he lifted him and prepared to slam him to the muddy ground. Rahtiel stared at him with clear blue eyes. No trace of guilt marked his face or his voice.

‘Such action is preferable to permitting the birth of a demon-Ishafal mongrel.’

A scream of rage ripped free of Dagon’s throat, a savage, wild noise tearing through the whisper of the falling rain. He slammed the Ishafal’s head to the ground again. Jamming one hand against the man’s face, he forced it sideways, into the muddied water of the puddle. Horror bloomed in the Ishafal’s eyes, the first fear Dagon had ever seen from one of his kind. The winged man thrashed, legs kicking as high as they could. Dagon planted his weight, held Rahtiel down, and forced his nose under. Eyes widened. Beautiful features twisted. Bubbles exploded in the puddle as the Ishafal panicked. Dagon pushed his head further into the mud, muscles bulging in his bare arms. The Ishafal relied too much on the seduction of their voices, and the mud drowned Rahtiel’s.

The Ishafal’s frenzied struggle weakened, and his flailing limbs slowed, until finally he stilled. Dagon held his hand to the back of the man’s neck for a moment longer.

‘He is dead, Dagon. Will you kill them all?’

His breath came in short gasps as he released the dead Ishafal, and he rocked back on his heels in the mud and the water. Mud covered him from ankle to thigh, and all across his cloak and breeches and sleeveless vest. More splattered his heaving chest. ‘If I must. How many?’

‘Fifty, at least. I feel them coming. They’ll be here soon. A few minutes, perhaps. He was only a scout. You cannot win, Dagon.’

He stared at her, broken by the truth in her words. To fight fifty was impossible. Fifty, together, would overwhelm Annael’s protections. Willingly, he’d turn his blade against himself at their instruction.

‘There must be another way.’ The words dropped from his lips with the implacable weight of a boulder, though he knew there wasn’t. 

* * * 

Check back on April 29 for the conclusion to Love Enough.  

**AUTHOR’S NOTE: This fiction piece is part of the A to Z Blogging Challenge and has not been to an editor.**

 If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to check out my previous posts if you haven’t already. If you’re finding yourself here often, you might like to join as a member, sign up to the blog through RSS or email, or sign-up to my newsletter. Check out my March Newsletter if you missed it.

Don’t forget to share the love and spread the word on Twitter, Facebook or StumbleUpon (or other social networking site of your choice) if you know other people who might also enjoy this.

Thanks for stopping by and visiting!

Protestations: Love Enough (Part 1) – Free Fantasy Fiction

Welcome to the first part of the second piece of fiction I’ll be posting this A to Z Challenge. This one is unusual – I’m not even sure it constitutes a complete story – but I’m sharing it with you as an interest piece, a perhaps not entirely successful experiment, that despite that has been popular with a number of readers. 

This piece is unique amongst all those I have written in that it is the only one that touches on using third person omniscient. It also draws heavily from some reek rhetorical devices – as I said, an experiment of sorts.

If you read Dragon Bait, you’ll recognise this story is set in the same universe. If you haven’t read Dragon Bait – what are you waiting for? Check out Burning: Dragon Bait (Part 1)

* * *

The angel wept. The stones wept. The night sky wept.

Beneath the standing stone stood a man. The stone pressed cold and wet against his cheek, and he hunched thick shoulders against the persistent drizzle. Though his head was bowed with the weight of his burdens, the yellow gleam of demon eyes reflected in the moonlight.

His name was Dagon.

Memories paraded through his thoughts; the lonely birth of his son, and the desperate flight through the highlands of Avaril to this forsaken, crumbling ring in the wilds.

Water streamed down each stone still standing in the ruined ring, cascaded off the lintel stone of a surviving archway, and dripped from the edge of Dagon’s hood. A puddle formed around his boots, and the scent of wet grass and dirt floated on the night air.

Beneath the meagre shelter of the arch knelt the angel, still weeping, while the nameless baby screamed. Annael would not name him; Dagon could not. No name fit.

Dagon’s eyes snapped open, and he slammed his big hand against the unforgiving stone. The silent circle of stones offered no response to his mute anger.

He rounded on Annael. ‘You can’t do this!’

Annael lifted her flawless face to look into his eyes.  Tears and rain left her beauty undimmed. Her pearlescent skin glowed, transcending the rainy night’s attempt to dampen everything it touched, and her wings stood proud behind her lithe figure, defying water the way only Ishafal might. The light of the torch, flickering fitfully in the meager shelter of an arch, revealed black hair and moss green eyes deep enough for a man to drown in. Dagon had drowned.

‘We have no other choice.’ Haunting as pipes, her voice lilted through the rain.

A dizzying whirl of passion, of obsession, engulfed him; emotions formed from the essence of the magic of the ardesco. The ardor swept him up in its wave, and crashed him against the shore. No Ishafal or demon could fight the power of the ardesco.

‘There is always a choice!’ Dagon strode to Annael and seized her by the shoulders, the half-demon, half-Ishafal child pressed between them.

Annael’s wings spread in agitation, and the baby’s wailing continued unabated.

Dagon’s fingers tightened in her flesh. ‘Fight them!’

‘They cannot be fought. My brethren are of one mind.’

‘I will fight!’  

‘And you will die.’ The beautiful music of her voice echoed with a grim note of finality; a dirge in the rain. ‘And then he will die.’

One tear dripped from her bowed head onto the angry red cheek of the squalling infant. She jiggled him, and soothed him with a whispered snatch of melody. The baby’s eyes closed with a soft sigh, unable to resist the siren song of an Ishafal.

Dagon whirled away, running agitated fingers through the dark hair plastered to his skull, and smoothing the scales at the nape of his neck. ‘Barbarity! And the Ishafal insist we are the ones who are base and evil! Never would we kill an innocent child!’

Anger flashed red-hot through him. He pounded his fist again against the unrelenting hardness of the standing stone. The crumbling ruins of the circle, the fallen lintels of broken arches, and the shattered bluestones, all echoed the crumbling of his life, his heart, and his soul.

Annael stepped closer, taking his hand in hers. He shook her off.

‘Dagon, you, better than the humans, know the truth of the Ishafal.’ With one elegant, long-fingered hand she drew the knife from his hip. ‘They are coming. They can sense me; they know where I am.’ 

‘Then go! Leave us, if you must. Lead them away from here.’ Shoving the blade away, he lifted the baby from her arms. Dagon’s heart ripped with the effort of shouting the words against the obsessive compulsion of his love; a love seeded too deep in his heart by the magic of the ardesco for him to ever be free.

‘It wouldn’t help. They feel him, too, through me.’

Numb, he stared at the painful beauty of her face, at the peaceful, sleeping features of his son. Annael eased the child from Dagon’s arms.

A hollow ache blossomed in his heart. ‘I must protect you both, and you tell me I can’t?’

‘You can protect him.’

Again, she tried to press the knife into his hand. Again, he curled his heavy-knuckled fist against her.

‘He is only half Ishafal. Without me, the connection will be broken.’

‘How can you ask such a thing of me? How?’ Dagon’s voice hitched, choked by emotion he could not express. ‘Do you even comprehend what you ask?’

Her flawless face turned towards him, tear-stained and broken. In the unplumbed depths of her eyes, he saw that she knew. Like him, she was helpless as a leaf in a waterfall. Like him, she was a victim of the curse of the ardesco, to which any Ishafal or demon might succumb. She was well aware he must battle against his irresistible, desperate desire for her in order to carry out her wishes.

‘You must.’ Her voice cracked; one discordant note in a perfect symphony.

Dagon snatched the dagger from her, and hurled it away. The hilt smashed into a fallen stone. The weapon bounced, striking a sharp counterpoint to the quiet, restful drizzle of the rain, and fell into the mud with a splash.

Annael’s head snapped around, her gaze scouring the rainy darkness. ‘I sense an Ishafal. There.’

* * * 

**AUTHOR’S NOTE: This fiction piece is part of the A to Z Blogging Challenge and has not been to an editor.**
If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to check out my previous posts if you haven’t already. If you’re finding yourself here often, you might like to join as a member, sign up to the blog through RSS or email, or sign-up to my newsletter. Check out my March Newsletter if you missed it.

Don’t forget to share the love and spread the word on Twitter, Facebook or StumbleUpon (or other social networking site of your choice) if you know other people who might also enjoy this.

Thanks for stopping by and visiting with us!