Without planning to, I ended up taking August off from blogging. Just as well, I suppose, August turned out to be one of those rug-pulled-from-under-you months. Anyway, after persevering with working through the proofs of my book, it’s almost ready for publication! So, in anticipation of that, here be the first chapter.
Part One – The Gem Elves
“The children. Where are the children?” Her deep burgundy tunic swirling about her, Garnet ran to her sister-in-magic, her booted feet sliding on the polished floor.
“Dead. Both dead. We are too late.” On her knees by the motionless couple, Diamond’s blue-white hair enveloped her like a shroud.
It took Garnet a moment to realise Diamond was referring to the couple. She shook her. “The children.”
She stared at Garnet, her gaze unfocussed before she blinked rapidly. “She must have them.”
Crouching, forcing herself to ignore the dead elf lord and his wife, Garnet grasped Diamond’s hands, entwining their fingers. “Help me find them, before the trace disappears.”
Garnet’s burgundy-tinged eyes stared into Diamond’s pale blue ones. The diamond and garnet gems on their respective pendants glowed, as did the gems on the circlets adorning their foreheads.
Snippets from moments before flickered in their minds – of the elf lord, Forel, finding his wife, Linnet… kissing her blue lips, clutching his throat… falling to lie beside her. A skewed sideways vision of a woman in black and grey backing away, dragging a small boy, a bundle clasped against her… turning to run out the small side door.
Snatching her hand away, Garnet leapt to her feet and ran in the same direction.
“Garnet! Not alone–”
“Our sisters are coming. I will delay her.”
As she ran towards the door, still ajar, their sisters-in-magic came rushing through the main doors. They stopped, eyes wide, hands covering their mouths, brought up short by the sight of the lifeless couple.
But one raced on. “Garnet.” Ruby’s blood-red tunic fluttered around her. Catching up to Garnet, slightly breathless, she said, “She has them both?”
Garnet nodded, her gaze fixed straight ahead as they moved swiftly down the narrow corridor, ignoring the doors on either side that stood open.
“I can hear him crying. But the baby–”
“We are close.” Spying their quarry, Garnet shouted, “There.”
“Marlis. Stop.” Ruby grasped her sister’s outstretched hand.
The one called Marlis stumbled to a halt, still holding the weeping child in a rough grip. He tried to turn, but she jerked him back. Slowly, she turned to face the two gem elves. Her sable hair hung askew about her sharp face. Her pallid cheeks were flushed from her exertions, her full lips slightly parted.
“Let them go,” said Ruby. “You are no match for us, you know that.”
Breathing hard, Marlis spoke through gritted teeth. “How did you–?”
“Girasol.” Garnet clenched her free hand, struggling to keep her anger from exploding. “She alerted us.”
Narrowing her eyes, Marlis pressed her lips together before she spat her words out. “I should have known.”
“She’s dead, Marlis,” said Ruby, her voice soft. “She was your sister.”
A muscle in her jaw twitched. “Then she should have shown her loyalty to me.”
They stared at her in silence.
“What do you want with the children?” said Garnet.
Marlis barked a laugh, silencing the trembling boy. “Do not play me for a fool. Their life force will give me the power I crave, to be as powerful as–”
“Life force does no such thing,” said Garnet.
“I know what you will say. Girasol tried to tell me the same thing. But you cannot hide this from me.” She looked hungrily at the baby, lying so still in her grasp.
“Marlis…” Ruby’s voice was low. “Give us the children. They are of no use–”
“No use? I know their life force must be so much stronger. Linnet could have been a gem elf, but she turned from her calling, choosing love instead. The fool.”
Frowning, both gem elves shook their heads. “That is not the way it works,” said Ruby. “The potential power is not passed on, it is only for the one who heeds the calling.”
“You lie, like Girasol lied. You do not want anyone else–”
“Enough.” The gem on Garnet’s circlet flared. “You have already stolen three lives. You will have no more.” She extended her free hand, palm facing Marlis, and slowly bent her fingers, claw-like.
Marlis’s brown eyes bulged. She released the boy to claw at her nose and mouth, held shut by Garnet’s magic. Her other hand came up and the baby fell.
Ruby gestured and the baby floated towards her as did the boy.
Shaking her head, Marlis fought to breathe, clawing and slapping at her face, stumbling to her knees.
“Garnet.” Ruby pulled her hand free. “Garnet, release her. Sister.”
Garnet turned to Ruby, her face tight with anger.
“We do not take life,” she said softly.
“If I were alone, I would make an exception.”
Fragmented darkness descended, half-concealing Marlis as she staggered away. “I know you lie,” she said breathlessly. “You want them for yourself. But you cannot keep them from me forever.”
Garnet’s breath caught as Ruby gasped. They stared at the dark cloud that rose from nowhere to gradually conceal Marlis.
“How…” was all Ruby could manage.
Her sister’s voice seemed to shock Garnet out of her stupor. She started towards Marlis. “No–”
“Garnet. The baby, she is barely breathing.”
Glaring at the retreating dark cloud, Garnet forced her attention away from the burning question of how Marlis knew magic to Ruby who was already rushing back to their sisters.
“We cannot let her die.”
Garnet scooped the silent boy up and hurried after her.