I knew my Beloved Sis was coming today, so I wanted to get a little work done this morning and clear my afternoon and evening for visiting. I got most of the next section edited before she and Papa arrived at noon, and then I managed to finish up the polish tonight. All previously-written sections are now pulled into the main draft and heavily revised to carry the new threads and plot elements. Should be interesting from here on out!
Snippet: This is part of the first section in the hero’s POV, establishing his story goal and the reason for his arrival.
As ravens spread destruction, mayhem, and death, so did Derne Nevarre expect to find nothing less than chaos at the Ravene family stronghold. Castle Nocturna was a natural focal point of massive amounts of life energy: for millennia, Avebury, Stonehenge, and Glastonbury Tor had cast circular waves of power out across the land, and ancient Castle Nocturna had been purposely located in the intersection of those rings. Needless to say, Nocturna’s nexus had been at the forefront of every major British working of magic in the past thousand years and more.
The cataclysm that Lilias Ravene Slymere, Lady Nocturna, had spawned little more than a year ago had made every mage in the world sit up and take grim, even fearful, notice.
Slim, slight and deceptively vulnerable, the rogue witch he’d been ordered to assassinate sat at a mahogany desk while massive amounts of wild magic crashed about her. Untouched. As the mage of this famous nexus of power, she should be carefully and deliberately weaving power into the castle and lands to build her defensives; as a rogue, she would be crouched like a spider with her web spun across the wellspring of energy to greedily soak in every drop. Instead, she didn’t draw energy at all, despite the incredible surges all about her. Unused, the magic became more volatile and unbalanced until chaos threatened, something any sane mage would fear. Why did she let the castle nexus run rampant like this?
Even more troubling, why didn’t she defend herself–vehemently–as soon as a mage of his power so much as stepped foot on her land? Let alone allow him to advance into her obviously private retreat without so much as raising her head. However, he would be surprised if Lady Nocturna even knew he’d arrived.
So why was I sent all the way from Karnak to assassinate this “rogue?”
Power buzzed in the room so thickly he struggled to breathe. His mage instincts trembled with the force of his concentration as he held every offensive attack he knew hovering within his mind, ready to protect himself at a moment’s notice. Yet she made no move to strike him down.
Then she raised her face, pale and tear-stained, soft and expressive, etched with worries well beyond her years. He felt an uncomfortable twinge in the general region of his heart. With coiled muscles and mage powers prepared to deflect any retaliation from a deadly rogue, he suddenly felt his will falter. Those brutal nets and clubs of power fizzled away to nothing in his mind, leaving only burning questions.
“May I help you, sir?”
“Yes.” She pulled herself together and calmly brushed the evidence of tears away. Firming her voice, she straightened her shoulders. “Have I made your acquaintance?”
“No, my lady. Forgive me, the housekeeper sent me directly, and I knocked but you must not have heard.” Nevarre hesitated, utterly thrown adrift. A grim cold ball of lead settled in his stomach. He’d expected the venomous hatred of a rogue, not a woman’s tears and softness. “I have a letter of introduction from a gentleman in Cairo with whom your father has corresponded for many years.”
He offered the letter from Lord Nedry and waited silently while she scanned the page.
“Oh dear.” She set the parchment aside and invited him to sit before the desk. “I’m terribly sorry, Mr. Nevarre. My father and husband passed away over a year ago in a fire. I have no knowledge of the book you seek. In fact, I’m terribly afraid it may have been destroyed as well.”
The backlash of her cataclysm had rushed across the world’s power lattice like a raging wildfire devouring a tinder-dry forest. Every mage had felt her signature: viciously feminine, blazing with fury, fear, and betrayal. Two men had died in her attack, and their sacrifice would have made her spell all the more powerful. However, while every mage in the world would know Lady Nocturna simply by the barest breath of her power on the flows of magic after that day, not a single one knew the true reason why she had released such a massive, uncontrolled amount of energy.
Anyone tapping the nexi directly during her spell could have been burned out, their mage ability seared from his mind for eternity. What repercussions had she experienced as a result? Or had she already been too deeply in the throes of mage madness to feel any regret at all? Enough evidence pointed at that very likelihood–especially the previous Lady Nocturna’s grim demise–that the Magi of the Temple of Amun had called for their most skilled magical assassin to eliminate the threat before she could release another such cataclysm with even more dire circumstances.
Staring at her and studying her reactions, Nevarre couldn’t help but doubt their recommendation. “Please accept my condolences, my lady. No wonder we received no further correspondence from Lord Nocturna.”
“It was very sudden.” Her delicate jaw tightened, her lips flat with strain, yet she didn’t avoid his gaze or dissemble. “I didn’t know he was corresponding with Lord Nedry or I would have written to him myself.”
A slight tremor in her voice sent another twinge of empathy through his chest. Either she was the most skillful liar he’d ever encountered, or she was authentically vulnerable. Doubt held his magic in check. He mustn’t strike until he confirmed her guilt.
Derne Nevarre was many things, most of them dark and vile in men’s eyes, but he did not kill innocents.