Presenting a first sneak peek from Prelude of Fire, which I’m hoping to release later this year! It will be the first in The Gailean Quartet, a young adult fantasy series where most of the magic is music-based.
Prelude of Fire Sneak Peek:
Ashlai Jardis awoke.
The young teen sat up, blinking in the bright sunlight. The Southern Wood had been plagued overnight by a searing heat uncommon for early autumn, and a sticky sweat still clung to her skin, but at least the thick veil of dust and ash no longer tainted the sky. A cool breeze stirred at last, and she inhaled deeply, relishing the clear air and letting it wrap around her faintly burning lungs like a balm.
At first, she could only sit gulping the cool air, dazed and unsure where she was or what had happened. But then she felt something metallic and warm at her side—her new sword. She reached for it, but no sooner did her flesh touch the hilt than a sharp pain burned her palm, and she snatched back her hand with a cry. As she turned her hand over, a shaft of sunlight illuminated the jagged, triangular shape burned into her flesh. Its original brilliant blaze had been reduced now to a pale glow, and the wound had already begun to scar. Pushing through the pain, she clutched the hilt of her sword once more, but this time, along with the sting, a shrill note like a flute shrieking at an impossible decibel tore through her mind, making her wince and curse beneath her breath—
Everything rushed back to her. The Prism and the princess and the golden-cloaked riders carrying the fury of lightning and fire as they soared upon their giant winged panthers, burning and killing all in their path…
The note faded and then ceased its torturous trilling altogether. Along with the memories the awful sound had invoked, Ashlai’s somber spirit returned. But she didn’t cry. Her tears were long spent. She must focus on fulfilling Princess Lilleana’s command: to find the Sprite Woods and the person there who would help her.
Ashlai caught her reflection in the sword’s smooth, golden surface. Her shoulder-length, fiery red hair was disheveled and streaked with ash, her purple tunic torn and charred with smoke. Wiping her hand across her brow, she wished she had a change of clothes. After everything that had just happened, cleanliness was the least of her concerns, but she wished she could at least slip into something cooler. She already sweated again, and the breeze wouldn’t help for long. Behind her, the sun glared hot and high in the sky. Glancing up, she did a double-take. It was already past noon.
“How long have I been asleep?” she muttered, rubbing at her throat which still ached dully from all the smoke and dust.
“Since you passed out yesterday,” a young man’s voice answered.
Startled, Ashlai staggered to her feet, grabbed her sword, and spun all about. Her carefully searching gaze could see nothing but the thick trees of the surrounding wood. She hoped the heat didn’t make her delirious; surely the voice had sounded too near and real to be a mere trick of the mind.
“Where are you?” she demanded. A sting of anger empowered her, returning strength to her weary body. She clutched the sword hard, already feeling its innate fire merging with the flames filling her body.
“Show yourself,” she said, a little more forcefully.
“I’m right behind you.”
Ashlai whirled, seeking the stranger in vain. “I still can’t see you.”
The invisible whoever-it-was released an agitated sigh. “Of course you can see me—unless you’re blind. Which you obviously aren’t, since you keep staring right at me—Oh…” He chuckled. “Sorry. I was up pretty late guarding you, so I guess I forgot I’m in my other form. Which I’m totally okay with, after seeing that fire blade. I’m rather susceptible to fire, and you seem sort of in a foul mood, and—you are aware that you’re holding a fire blade—?”
Ashlai swung her sword, and a wide arc of golden-red flame blazed from its tip. Euphoria flitted inside her as she released her pent-up anger and pain at this invisible friend or foe. As he shouted in alarm, Ashlai only half paid attention, spinning to release another ring of fire.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa!” he cried.
Ashlai paused, still clutching the blade, and lowered the flames, smirking at the sudden fight in his voice. Breathing hard, she stood poised, ready for another go.
“Hey, now,” the voice said, “you nearly burned my arms to cinders!”
“Maybe if I could see your arms, that wouldn’t be an issue!” Ashlai glared warningly in the voice’s direction and pointed her sword right at the trees. “Now, listen up. I’m in no mood for these silly games. Show yourself, or I’ll burn more than just your arm—!”
“Whoa, watch out—!”
Even as the invisible person shouted this warning, Ashlai spotted something from the corner of her eye, something bright and whizzing straight toward her. She flung herself to the ground just as it zoomed past her head, so close that it ruffled her hair. As it whacked into one of the nearby trees, Ashlai glanced up in alarm—an arrow emitting smoke, a sign of the extinguished flame burning on its tip only moments ago. How easily it could have speared her head, had she moved the wrong way.
Something roughly grabbed Ashlai’s arm, and she yelped—then stared in alarm to see a tree branch closing its small, thin limbs around her arm. The next moment, the branch morphed into a green-skinned hand and arm, and suddenly, a tall, lanky boy stood before her instead of a tree.