Thank you to those who left reviews on Amazon! And to Goodreads too, I thank you as well. I made a promise that if I got 15 Amazon reviews for CHILD OF BLACKWEN, I would share a teaser chapter of MISTRESS OF BLACKWEN, volume two of the Artemis Ravenwing novels. And I shall keep to it!
Here is Chapter 1 from the recent draft. Please enjoy! And if you haven't reviewed CHILD OF BLACKWEN yet, please do! I would greatly appreciate it! :)
I blinked once I noticed a tanned hand waving to and fro inches away from my face. The hand belonged to Jack, an outcast elf mainly because he looked like the last elven mage that brought chaos to the Woodland Realm; dark hair as opposed to the differing shades of blond, and dark eyes instead of blue or green. His being my best friend might have added to the hell he lived through in Ellewynth.
“Stop it,” I said as I caught his wrist. “You’re giving me a headache.”
“You’ve been quiet for some time, Artemis,” another voice said. “We were beginning to worry.”
I glanced at the woman who sat across from myself and the fire—Callypso. The glow from the flames brightened her light blue eyes and the short blonde ringlets that framed her fair-skinned face. Callypso, the wind elemental and long time friend to Talisa. Callypso, the woman who held Jack’s heart, even if she didn’t know it yet. A part of me thinks that she does know.
“My mind drifted,” I explained. “Don’t mind me.”
“You worry for Shadow,” Callypso stated.
A snort caused us all to face Azrael, the golden-eyed horse with a coat that shined as if it were moonlight itself. Jack raised a hand to stroke her mane and sighed.
“I know, girl. We’re all worried.” Jack’s attention shifted towards us. “I’m worried about Netira too.”
“We will find her,” Callypso reassured him.
“Is Talisa still in her tent?” I asked.
Callypso gave a curt nod. “Scrying is a complicated art. Sometimes it works instantly, and other times it takes days.”
“We don’t have days.” I grumbled. “We need to find Netira. Then we have to get Shadow back.”
“Patience is a trait worth having, Artemis.” Callypso chuckled. “Rushing only makes things worse.”
“Don’t I know it…” Jack mumbled.
“Oh,” I raised an eyebrow at him, “do you now?”
“You shush!” Jack scolded. “Think about it though. If we rush in to rescue Shadow, we will have to deal with Serlene and the other scouts. Not to mention Destrius’ pet, Boil Face. He left us so that we wouldn’t have to fight them, remember?”
“Are you saying that we must leave him behind like a lost cause?” I asked.
“Shadow said he would meet us in Westyron, which implies that he has a plan,” Callypso explained. “First and foremost, Shadow is a soldier. He knows what he is doing, Artemis.”
“I know what he said!” I snapped. “I just…I just hate the idea that he’s out there on his own right now.”
Callypso and Jack glanced at one another and instantly nodded. Once they saw my confusion, Jack rubbed his head.
“We don’t like it either, Artemis,” Jack began. “While you’ve been spacing out and Talisa went into scrying hibernation, Callypso and I were thinking of our own plan of action.”
“Is that so?” I asked, while trying to hide a smirk. I knew Jack was enjoying any spare moment with Callypso he could get.
“We need to give Talisa and the scrying a chance. We’ll give her two days at the most,” Jack explained. “If she’s still in that tent after two days, and if Shadow hasn’t met up with us here, then you and Callypso will go rescue him.”
“You’re going to stay behind?” I asked, confused that he would not come along.
“It’s better that way,” Jack replied. Azrael snorted once more and Jack shook his head at her. “You are going to stay here with me. They can’t take you with them.”
Azrael neighed in protest and I strolled over to calm her down.
“Jack’s right, Azrael,” I whispered. I glanced at Jack. “What’s the reason for you staying here?”
“Callypso is a better tracker and fighter than I am, and you know it. I’m not confident yet with using magic in battle either, considering my odd circumstances,” Jack answered. “I’m…I’m also going to attempt the scrying spell. We all know what I am, and perhaps I can get faster results.”
“Talisa is going to throttle you when she finds out.” Callypso frowned. “Unique or not, you’re still a beginner. Scrying is dangerous for the untrained.”
“Not for nothing, but isn’t danger a common theme for this journey?” Jack grinned. “So, my queen of impatience…will you give Talisa two days, Artemis?”
I sighed as I picked at the bandages on my palms. “Two days then. Nothing more.”
Shadow ignored the chafing of the iron cuffs on his wrists as he and the elven scouts walked. He also tried to hide his enjoyment of the complaints from Aellyas, who was extensively covered in boils. He knew the man’s pain, as he was once Talisa’s tester for the herbs used to create such an ailment. Considering who Aellyas was and who he served, what little pity Shadow had quickly disappeared.
“Damn that crone!” Aellyas snapped. His hands came away with blood and a viscous yellow pus from the boils on his face he scratched open.
“Be silent!” a woman demanded.
Shadow glanced behind him to see the leader of the scouts, Serlene, who now seethed with anger. Her normally tight plaited bun was out of place and there were hints of a bruise by her right eye and cheekbone. How she acquired it was something Shadow enjoyed even more; Artemis was finally learning to stand up for herself to those idiots.
“And that goes for you too!” He heard Serlene scold. “Don’t even think that I do not see the smirks!”
“Oh, I’m sorry.” Shadow chuckled. “Was that directed at me?”
Serlene fumed and one of the scouts gripped her wrist.
“Serlene, he is still one of us,” one of the elves said. The voice was male. “Deserter or not, Shadow must still be shown respect.”
Serlene huffed and the scout released her. She grabbed the link that connected the iron cuffs together and raised them to her eye level, which was much shorter than Shadow’s.
“Why did you surrender so easily to us?” she asked as she let go of the link. “I expected more of a fight from you.”
“In case you didn’t notice, woman, I did fight,” Shadow explained while gesturing towards Aellyas. “I think Aellyas’ present look suits his personality.”
“I will get you and Kiare’s witch for this, bastard!” Aellyas bellowed.
“You will do no such thing!” Serlene spat. “You deserve the punishment that was inflicted upon you as you acted against Lord Celstian’s orders! Lord Destrius will be dealt with as well.”
“I very much doubt that,” Shadow mumbled.
Serlene marched up to him and struck Shadow hard along the side of his face. “There is still honor left among us, Shadow. You threw it away for the sake of a vampyra…the same one responsible for the destruction of our home. I used to carry you in such high regards. Do our people mean nothing to you?”
“Our people mean everything to me,” Shadow answered, as he rubbed the side of his face. It itched more than it pained him. “The decision I made meant far more. I don’t ever expect you of all people to understand that, Serlene.”
“How far you’ve fallen, Shadow,” Serlene replied. She shook her head in disgust.
“And how little you know, Serlene,” Shadow responded. “I have no regrets, nor will I feel any throughout our journey back to the ruins of Ellewynth.”
“You’re despicable.” Serlene hissed as she stomped away from him.
The walk resumed and Shadow began to plan on how to acquire the key to his cuffs. The slap Serlene dealt him revealed its hiding place, which was on a leather cord that hung around her neck. He was actually disappointed in how simpleminded Serlene was; Shadow usually enjoyed a challenge from his captors. However, he had to keep up the pretense of being a helpless prisoner for just a little while longer. Since Aellyas was sent after him, he was sure the bastard’s master was also nearby. And because Shadow was certain that Destrius was around, the possibility that he was the one behind Netira’s disappearance was high. Shadow needed to keep the scouts focused on him so the others could deal with Destrius and rescue Netira without interference.
Please be careful, Shadow prayed as Aellyas continued to complain loudly about the pain.
The scent of damp earth invaded Netira’s nostrils, forcing her to wake. Her head throbbed, and Netira remembered then that she was struck from behind. She was trying to divert the elven hunting party away from Artemis and the others and recalled that there was one that didn’t follow. Netira also remembered hearing the party stop their pursuit of her, though she never understood why.
As she opened her eyes, she tried to move but found it to be a futile effort—her arms and legs were bound. She was a prisoner. Again.
“Avilyne’s hell.” Netira swore. “I can’t seem to do anything right if the end result continues to be the same.”
“Be silent, vampyra,” a voice snapped at her.
Netira grew still at the sound of the voice, as she knew exactly who it belonged to: Lord Destrius, one of the Elders of Ellewynth and a prick to boot. She cursed once more and wondered how she had such horrific luck as of late.
“What are you doing out here, Elder?” Netira asked. “Shouldn’t you be at home, as your station demands, considering what has happened to it recently?”
“What I am doing is for the sake of Ellewynth.” Lord Destrius frowned. “I’m bringing the ones responsible to justice.”
“Oh?” Netira chuckled. “Let me refresh your memory, you senile fool. I was held in your prison as your city burned. You even tried to kill me there. Explain to me how I am responsible for the destruction when I was behind bars for the entirety of it.”
“You are of Blackwen City. You are as every bit responsible for the destruction of my home as your Mistress is.” Lord Destrius spat. “Your vampyra friend, Artemis, is also held accountable. Had the others listened to me and handed her over to Arlina in the first place, Ellewynth would still be standing.”
Netira wanted to smack him. How was this delusional fool an Elder?
“You are ridiculous!” Netira shook her head. “Why are you really here? I won’t believe that you came out all this way just to recapture me.”
“Why I am here is none of your concern, vampyra,” Lord Destrius replied.
Netira glared at him and tried to lift herself from the ground. Her efforts were met with cold steel that now rested against her neck. Resigned, she stopped moving and Lord Destrius gave her a warning glance before removing his sword.
“That’s what it is,” Netira said after their brief moment of silence. “You’re waiting for someone.”
“What makes you say that, woman?”
“If you really came to reclaim me, we’d be much closer to the ruins of Ellewynth by now,” Netira explained. She looked around before continuing. “Seeing as how we’ve barely moved from the spot where you first attacked me, that could only mean one thing: you’re waiting for someone.”
“Alright, I’ll indulge you,” Lord Destrius replied, his countenance smug. “Who then, would I be waiting for?”
“There was one scout who did not pursue me,” Netira answered. “How amusing…you sent a spy among your own people. Do you not trust your fellow Elders, Destrius? Thought the scouts would have a change of heart once they would confront Shadow? Or did you just want to personally add to Artemis’ suffering, as if living as an outcast in your city wasn’t enough?”
“Perhaps it wasn’t a fluke that you were once Arlina’s Second.” Lord Destrius folded his arms. “Let’s just say that if things had gone according to plan, and I have no doubt that they have, the one person I truly came all this way for will soon be in my possession. You, vampyra, were just a bonus. If I were you, I’d enjoy the time I have left. I will finish what I meant to do back in your cell.”
“I would hate to disappoint you, Destrius, but…” Netira began, “no, wait. I would very much love to disappoint you. I survived you then, and I will survive you now.”
Lord Destrius hoisted Netira from the ground by her neck and struck her hard. He hit her once more and was confused when she began to laugh.
“Ever the gentleman, you are.” Netira spat out some blood. “Don’t you have any other tactics?”
Lord Destrius pulled her closer to him and she felt disgusted when she felt his breath on her ear.
“How I will enjoy killing you once the time comes,” Lord Destrius whispered.
Before Netira could retort, she felt another strike to her head. Her sight grew dark, and the last thing she thought of before slipping unconscious was how she was going to make the bastard suffer for all of this. She would enjoy every moment of torturing him.
Copyright - Melanie Rodriguez