Conniption, Chapter One

“The most painless way to kill a man…or a girl,” he said with a professional, calculated smile, “is to place your fingers beneath their jaw and with a quick…” he clicked his wrist up in a swift, smooth movement and the apparition of gold and green slumped to the floor – its neck broken – before dissipating into nothing.

“Why are you showing me this, Magellan?” Rennoc asked, his finger lightly tracing the embroidered title on the book before him.

“Because you may well float around this castle with not a jot of air or grace about you, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have a job to do. A job that may…and don’t you look at me like that…may, or may not, involve killing someone. I’m trying to stop you from making someone’s last seconds on this earth like that stone over there.”

It was cracked in two, each half only an inch away from one another. All he’d had to do was raise it up and place it in the battlements above them. Simple. But nothing with Rennoc was ever simple. Nothing. It had cracked in half like the splitting open of Pandora’s Canyon and now each dead half lay by its brother in cold silence.

“I’d never kill someone,” he lied.

“Look, m’boy, you can read all you want on the reformation of magical practices against “wicked witches” and their encumbered stereotypes, but that doesn’t change who you are,” Magellan said as his milky grey eyes darted covetously towards the glass pendant hanging by the boy’s heart. “You’re the Sahrail. And sooner or later, that’s going to bring trouble.”

“It’s already brought trouble,” Rennoc was on his feet, his hands clenched furiously by his side. “Are you too old or too blinded by the pendant that you can’t see that? Liza is going to lose everything, everything, because I am the Sahrail. I live in fear of the day Herthallin brings his armies here and…,” he broke off. “Don’t dare talk to me about consequences.”

“Peace, m’boy. Peace. Let the guards down,” the old man’s hand was outstretched, his elongated fingers like five wands pointing at his heart.

He hadn’t even realized he’d done it, though now Magellan had said it, he could feel the life of each guard in his grasp. They were engulfed in panic, their power useless in their chests, their magic a futile wind against the mountain.

“Sorry,” Rennoc mumbled, letting them fall back down to the ground, the stone walls behind them, the ones that lined the little courtyard high above Torrdunaigh, scuffed with metal scratches. Magellan nodded, dismissing them. Reno kept his eyes trained shamefully on the ground.

“It’s OK, lad. It’s OK. Sit,” Magellan gestured to the stone table Rennoc’s book sat on. “At least you didn’t split them in two.”

It was meant as a joke, but it made the boy’s blood run cold.

He’d been drunk only once before. He and Her Royal Highness Elizarine Lucaelic, had celebrated the Sepermeru festival of Set – though they were hundreds of miles away and neither of them religious. Glass after glass of chilled TeMor had burned both their throats, filling them with laughter and joy and a frivolity that did not, if ever, frequent Draothair’s Queen and the Saviour of all Thair often. He’d woken the next morning, his head against the soft feather pillow that was all his own, in his rookery, atop one of Torrdunaigh’s tallest spires, remembering nothing. His tongue was thick and dry, clicking as he pulled it from the top of his mouth. His room looked the same, though he could feel at least ten guards in the reception chamber beneath – eight more than usual. He couldn’t remember much after they’d taken a shot and dedicated it to Seth, the devourer of the sandy cities, and laughed at how ridiculous it all sounded. He remembered crying. Blood. Raised voices and…nothing else.

He’d gotten out of bed, the drink still in his system making it impossible for him to return to sleep, and before he’d even reached the window, dread swamped him with the terrible understanding that he’d done something awful. Beyond awful. Terrific.

The smell of fire and burning came leisurely through the little archway that peered out onto the city below, a sign that the kitchens were preparing breakfast. His stomach rumbled and then changed its mind, threatening to fill his mouth with bile if he didn’t step away. But that dread, along with its companion, guilt, wouldn’t let him walk back to bed where he could pretend that nothing had happened and the world was good.

He flicked open the little curtain and immediately looked to the sea, for, surely an armada had arrived in the night and attacked the city. The Palace of Spires was aflame. Scorch marks beneath the Queen’s Tower told him that it had been worse earlier, this was the dying days of the fire, shrinking under the approaching dawn, a hundred Thair all weaving their spells to quell the flames. That in itself was odd to Rennoc, who knew that every one of them was capable of snuffing out a bonfire twice the size of the little puddles of flickering fires they were each combatting. That was the moment dread and its friend guilt stepped aside and let clarity crash down on Rennoc with the force of a thousand horse’s hooves. The bile came then.

“I don’t remember doing that,” he said as he stepped out of his memory, talking about both the fire and his assault on the guards.

“I know you don’t,” Magellan’s smile was kind, but it didn’t reach his eyes.

“What if I…” he couldn’t finish the thought.

“That’s why I’m teaching you,” the old man smiled at the broken boy and prayed the tears building behind his eyes wouldn’t show. “Because maybe the part of you that takes over will remember and then your guilt won’t be quite so unbearable when it comes.”

And that was that. That was his choice, his life in a nutshell.

Kill them kindly or kill them terribly.

But kill them all the same.

Possible opening scene of Conniption, Book One in the Veins of Power Series

The opening line of a book is so important to the success of a novel that I lack the words to convince you. The opening scene is what decides whether an agent will read on. They receive tens – if not hundreds – of submissions a day, so I need to make my own stand out. This is a sample excerpt from Chapter One of Conniption, a flash forward that the rest of the book works back from. Please, leave a comment below and tell me if this scene would make you read on, or, more importantly, pick this book off a shelf and purchase it. 

All your critiques are welcome.

Enjoy.

Chapter One (Scene One)

“Bring her back.”

The old man stayed silent.

“Do you not hear me you stupid lunatic. Bring. Her. Back.”

“I can’t do that.”

“Codswallop you can’t. I know you can. I know it. You have some spell. Some trick. You must do,” the boy’s arms waved frantically as if he could flap hard enough he’d fly away. Or at least hover and not fall further into despair. “Please, Magellan, I’ve never asked you for a thing. But I am now. Please bring her back. Please,” the tears burst over his red raw eyelids and ran down his muddy cheek, carving crooked runes on his face.

“I can’t do that that,” he said again, calmly, though the wind came bursting through the bushes and ruffled his green robes, sending a chill through his body.

“You can. Please. Please, I didn’t mean it. She was in so much pain.”

“You killed her.”

Rennoc looked at him as if he’d just started singing and banging on a tambourine. He saw the old man’s lips move and heard the words but couldn’t understand what he’d said.

“She was hurting. She couldn’t go on like…like that. She was becoming a monster.”

“I can’t bring her back.”

“I had to – you believe me, don’t you? I had to. I couldn’t let her become like me, I couldn’t let her lose her innocence like that. I had to save her from herself. I had to save us all. You believe me, right?”

“That doesn’t matter,” Magellan could barely contain the bile that burned his throat from spilling from his lips and spitting at the boy. “I can’t bring her back.”

“Then I will. Tell me the spell. Tell me. I command you, do you hear me? I command you to tell me the spell that will bring her back. Now.”

“There is no spell.”

“There MUST BE,” a flock of pigeons, watching nervously yet nosily, nearby, flocked into the sky at the sound of the Sahrail’s raised voice, at the force of the power that pulsed from him. “Look at her.”

But the old man couldn’t and refused to move his head. The boy was stalking back and forth, pacing, magic at his fingertips. The power crackled like lightning and sent smoke wafting through the air like flame.

“I said LOOK AT HER,” he was more demon than boy now, his voice deep and darker than the magic that was flowing through his veins. “There’s no power there now. She can come back. She can come back and be safe. I’ll protect her. Bring her back. BRING HER BACK.”

More tears carved more runes and twisted his face in unadulterated grief.

He was ugly and more broken now than he’d ever been before.

“Rennoc, I can’t. You can’t. No one can. Magic can’t bring back the dead – it shouldn’t.”

“Maybe your magic,” Rennoc said coldly, all emotion draining from him like the life that had drained from his dead adversary as he snapped her soul in two. “But I am more than you, more than anyone, more than anything that’s ever been. And that means I can do whatever I damn well like.

“Good bye,” the boy – now a man – said as he flicked his fingers and sent a spell fizzing like a hive of bees at his old friend. Wrapping itself around his frail body it threw him far away, the world becoming a blur. Only the horrid look of evil stamped across his young ward’s face glittered before his eyes.

The Last Merchants of Righport

He could see the moment you would die with just a touch.

“Only two points in our lives are fixed beyond reason,” Tomshin’s mother used to tell him, “the moment we are born, and the seconds in which we die – everything else is entirely up to us.”

Those words had hung heavy round his shoulders since he was a small boy of four and his unusual talent had manifested itself when he placed his hands on the Dock Keeper’s daughter, Sandraelle.

The icy wind from the Sea of Heirs made him shudder as he thought of that first vision. The streets were empty but for a few stragglers, too proud or stupid to leave this horrid little town, in search of riches where riches truly lay. And that was not by the Docks of Righport. Once a mighty and prosperous trading hub, the Third door To the Kingdom – as some had once called it – now stood as nothing more than an impoverished fishing town. Clutching desperately onto the coast of Hailreim, afraid that it would slip into the sea of obscurity.

Dark, olive hands wrapped themselves around her fragile neck.

Tomshin shook his head.

Crushing they squeezed until here eyes popped with bloodshot and wept tears of crimson.

He slapped his temple, trying to drive the vision from his mind’s eye.

A primal rutting was shaking her body as she tried to cry out one word of true love.

Laughter jolted him from his nightmare.

Three golden haired girls were gigging uncontrollably, while staring at the poor market son turning crazy in the streets. Their gowns of fine blue silk and jeweled clasps that kept their hair off of the cream of their perfect skin, all hinted at wealth.

Draymen bayed at them as the sauntered by, arses wiggling in the dying light that was setting behind the blanket of grey clouds that covered the sky. Thick copper bands rung the dark blue crates they heaved down the gangplank of the Pylian beer cog, bobbing restlessly in the growing tide. Oar men clustered around the docks, eager to stretch their legs after the hard ride against the unpredictable Great Solent.

“Captain’s daughters,” the grim face of Kinto Peeling muttered behind yellow teeth. His eyes were stained red with grief and he stank of TeMor and week old sweat. His clothes had become ragged and filthy, large yellow stains spreading outward from his armpits and deep blues raining down from his collar. “They shouldn’t be without guard.”

And with that, he strode off to follow the girls down the pier.

Peeling strode off towards the docks, his arms like jelly, wiggling by his side. He barely seemed to notice the cold, even though he had only that thin tatty shirt to warm him. The Draymen seemed to know him and immediately ceased their rambunctious flattery of the captain’s daughters.

The guilt poured through him like piss through snow.

He knew where Sandraelle was.

The clip-clop thunder of a dozen horses echoed down the tight cobbles that hinted at Righport’s former wealth. Tomshin turned, with lead in his stomach, towards the Highwaymen barreling angrily towards him.

Conniption Extract – Fuhlren Grille’s Diary

Fuhlren Grille is an amateur Archaeologist consumed with discovering as much as he can about the Sahrail and his origins. His diaries were written a few hundred years before the main plot of ‘Conniption’ takes place and punctuate the chapters of the book like the letters between contemporary figures also do. His diaries are considered the seminal works on the Sahrail and have been studied in the University of Toulinglish in Athburgh since their discovery (where they were discovered remains a secret!) This is half an extract from one of Fuhlren’s entries when he meets the mysterious “Chained Enchantress” in a cave that the tide pulls away from the land when the moon is at its highest in the sky and where shadows dance warnings on the cold, damp walls. Enjoy. 

Brendon,

“How did you find this place?” a woman had asked.

Well, I say a woman. More like a Goddess. She was beautiful, beyond beautiful actually, magnetic! Yes! That’s the word, magnetic. I couldn’t help but stare at her, my mouth agape, as she slowly lowered her hands and let whatever offensive spell she had brewing at her fingertips dissolve into the air.

Even now, as I write this, I am staring at her every few words. She’s doing nothing of note, just adding ingredients into her ever-cauldron. A sprig of parsley here, some jelly fish bones there, absolutely nothing remarkable at all. And yet, I can’t keep my attention from her.

Her hair is mahogany with tips of pink. She wears a cloak of sheer red that’s adorned with diamonds and shattered glass. Its sown into the fabric and sparkles off the lights of the hundreds of candles that line the damp cave walls. She’s like a blood red universe, a sky of war and rust, which still glistens with the shine of a thousand stars. The soft curves of the cloak cascade from her hair and drape themselves over the large and voluptuous curves of her bosom. It sheers off along her waist before drifting out languidly down her legs.

“Who are you?” she had asked me, her voice light yet piercing. “This is a place of worship,” she had warned, “you must not be here.”

“I-I… I was just looking,” I had stuttered through lips that wanted to do nothing more than taste the cream flesh of her neck, only just visible behind a clunky, grey chain.

“Looking for what?” she had asked, her eyes galring through the darkness. Shadows danced along the walls as she spoke, warning, ushering me to leave this place. Had it not been for her, perhaps I would have.

“For, well, for evidence,” I answered.

“Evidence of what?”

“The Sahrail.”

And then she wept.

I rushed to her, all thought of my mission abandoned, and wrapped my arms – as best I could – around her weeping frame.

“It’s been so long,” was all she could stutter between sobs. “So very, very long.”

She calls herself ‘The Enchantress’, and boy is she! She has cast a spell on my heart without even meaning too. As far as I can tell, she has lived in this cave for years too many to count. She knows nothing of the Wreck of Warts Dip – and everyone knows about that. Nor does she know who the Monarch is, or what year it is, or anything really, except one thing – the Sahrail.

I can see it in her eyes, those beautiful, specked with coral eyes, that she knows something about the Sahrail, something spectacular. I mean, why else would she be here, Brendon? Alone in this cave, if it were not for some knowledge that she keeps from the world. I asked her, I said, “I’m looking for answers, answers on the Sahrail and his power.” But, all she replied was, “This is answers come to perish and Power comes to die.”

Why would she say that?