Chapter One of “Hope”, the First Book in “The Sapphire Prison” Fantasy Series

Hello, everyone.

Although I have been published several times and have edited for PANDA (People against the National Defense Authorization Act; see, my heart’s work is my 5-part fantasy series The Sapphire Prison. Book One is Hope. Here’s the blurb from the book jacket:

The magician Kehlburn finds a sapphire reservoir of magical souls used 800 years ago to enslave the continent of Niandria. He uses the gemstone to subdue one country and attacks another. To gain more power, he experiments with a ritual which tears the magical souls of siriads from their bodies and imprisons them within the sapphire.

Terek, a human trader from the city of Forestwaith, falls in love with the siriad Alora. Kehlburn kidnaps Alora and begins his torturous ritual to harvest her soul. Unless Terek can save her and with her help sew together the fragmented countries of a long-dead alliance, Kehlburn will crush Niandria under his boot.

“Humans, elves, siriads, and dwarves unite on an epic journey through an exquisitely crafted fantasy world to confront evil forces of dragons, demons, and goblins. With endearing characters, a compelling plot, and Green’s masterful prose, Hope is pure magic.”  -–Judith Barban, award winning author of Poplar River and The Town of Eleven Colors.

Hope should be released in early December, 2013. I’ll release the audio version in 2014.

The first chapter of Hope is short, so take a few minutes and enjoy.

Chapter One

The Neglected Elder Brother

“The sister of strength is gentleness,” Adviser Kehlburn said as he followed Bruck through a doorway into the ancient tower’s second story.

Sounds strange to me, Bruck thought. But then, my mind’s been sluggish ever since we broke into this old building. His torch illuminated odd-shaped glass vessels and other laboratory equipment, sheathed in dust and arrayed on a long, cypress table. The shifting flame threw fluttering, bat-like shadows against a curved stone wall. He shut the door and lit a torch resting in a sconce next to an empty fireplace.

Kehlburn opened one of several tall cabinets. “That’s what they say, but I say strength’s elder brother is wisdom. What good is a sword if he who wields it lacks the judgment to discern friend from enemy?”

“You’re talking about our new friend the traitor.”

Kelburn picked up a bottle encrusted with a white substance around its cork stopper and read the faded label. “I suppose he fits the saying too.”

Bruck glanced around the musty, half-moon-shaped room. “You’re the magician. You search this room.”

The man’s dark eyes flashed. The corners of his lips quirked upward. He set the bottle back on the shelf and closed the cabinet.

Two other doors led from the laboratory. Bruck opened the center one, which revealed a similarly shaped room filled with bookcases. He set his torch in a wall sconce, pulled a book from the closest shelf and read its title. ‘The Echelons of Angels and Demons’. Bruck dropped it to the floor and pulled another. ‘Virtues of Darkness’. He dropped that one as well. Parchments, formerly pressed between volumes, leaned in the space created by the discarded books. Bruck grabbed them and looked at the first.

A gasp came from the other room.

“Find something?” Bruck asked.

The magician gave no response.

Parchments in hand, Bruck returned to the laboratory. Kehlburn stood hunched over an open ebony box. “What did you find?” he asked again.

The question drew a glance, a gleam now in the adviser’s eyes. It brought to mind a satisfaction Bruck felt three years ago when someone else was executed for a chieftain’s missing cache of silver rather than himself.

I’m too smart to get caught, Bruck thought. So is my magician. With him answering only to me, by this winter I’ll combine all six Durk tribes under my rule. “Adviser?”

Kehlburn’s black goatee twitched with his lips. Entranced, as if gazing upon holiness, he slowly reached into the box. He withdrew a thick, gold necklace suspending a sea blue crystal which was dark around its edges. Tiny lights sparkled within the sapphire, reflecting more light than the laboratory’s torch ought to supply.

“Is it magical?” Bruck asked.

Kehlburn wheeled on him, his grey cloak whirling like a dingy sail lashed by a squall. “Of course it’s magical.”

“What did you say to me?” Bruck asked, barely aware of the ancient parchments crumpling in his fist.

Kehlburn touched his brow. “I’m sorry, Chieftain. I don’t know why I said that.”

“I’ll let it pass.” Bruck pushed his stringy hair out of his eyes with his knuckles. “This time. I know magicians are touchy about their artifacts, but we Durks don’t put up with that kind of attitude from a foreigner, magician or not.”

Kehlburn cut his eyes at him, then away. He slipped the necklace over his head and clutched the gemstone to his chest. He tilted his head back, closed his eyes and mouthed words. The magician jerked spasmodically. He straightened, took in a long breath and let it out.

A grin spread over his face, a look of cunning Bruck had never seen on the man before. The look gnawed at the Durk chieftain, though he had nothing to fear from this foreigner. Only Bruck’s approval allowed the man to live in his tribe’s community, or for that matter, live at all. The magician silently spoke again.

From the floor below came a crash, followed by muffled laughter from Bruck’s men.

Demon’s blood, what are the fools doing now?

The jewel resting against Kehlburn’s chest sparkled. Its pentagonal shape suggested it was cut long ago. Judging from the chain’s exquisite detail, a master goldsmith had fashioned the necklace. Even if the artifact wasn’t magical it might fetch twenty gold pieces, more money than Bruck had ever seen. That some wizard enchanted the gemstone put its value beyond price. But what was it doing to the man?

Bruck shrugged off his apprehension. No reason to let one expression get the better of him. The magician, the jewel, and especially the incantation perplexed him, so he stayed to see what would happen next. He shoved glass vessels aside, one of which fell to the floor and shattered, and set the wadded parchments on the table. Loath to disturb Kehlburn in the middle of a spell, he leaned against the table and looked out the tower’s barred window. A huge brown bird perched in one of the swamp’s innumerable twisted cypresses. Bruck folded his arms across his great chest and heaved a sigh. For a time all was silent, save for the whisper of the torch’s wavering flames.

Kehlburn swept his arms around himself, then drew his hands to his heart, where the amulet hung askew. He lowered his head and smiled at the sparkling gem cradled in his hand.

“Even though some of my men died breaking in here, I’m glad we did it,” Bruck said. He peered at the jewel’s cool blue center. “You can use the artifact, then.”

Kehlburn’s eyes turned venomous. “Let’s find out.” With one hand he gripped the jewel. The other he clamped on Bruck’s head. “Siste.”

Bruck’s scalp turned icy, as if an arctic wind had whipped through the room.

“What are you doing?” He grabbed Kehlburn’s wrist, but his fingers froze at the touch. The cold sank into his hand and chilled the bones of his skull. “S-stop,” he said, teeth chattering. He gripped the magician’s wrist with both hands, but his brittle fingers lost their strength as the cold penetrated to his neck. The musty smell of the laboratory faded. His vision went dark. His shaking legs buckled. A blow penetrated the numbness of his forehead, which Bruck vaguely realized was his head slamming against the floor. Through the ringing in his ears came a chuckle.

“Yes, like the sorcerer who wielded it eight centuries ago, I can use this amulet.”

“P-please, I’ll–”

“Dear Bruck, you not only possess an ox’s strength, but its wisdom as well. A pity. You might have proven yourself useful.”

An impact shattered Bruck’s temple. As his life drained away, a pale hand reached out of the darkness and with taloned fingers more frigid than Kehlburn’s ripped into his chest. Bruck screamed into the void. Down the hand pulled him toward myriad voices wailing as if in answer. Down, down into the abyss.


3 responses to “Chapter One of “Hope”, the First Book in “The Sapphire Prison” Fantasy Series

  1. Wow! This is so different from what I read by you a few years ago, when it almost seemed you didn’t want to disturb your beautiful world. I don’t read fantasy, but this definitely drew me in. Please let me know when the Kindle version is available!!

  2. OOOH! Instant teleportation to a distant and fantastical world- NICE! I few years ago, I would have also said, “and darker world”, but I know now that darkness abounds in ALL worlds… to the wielder of light in all worlds- WELL DONE!

  3. I’ve never read a fantasy story before and rarely watch or read Si-Fi so I am probably your toughest audience. That said, I was drawn into the story and admired your creativity. The story appears to be on the brink of becoming complex and fascinating. My only critique would be the use of the word “abyss’ in the last line. A more creative word might make it more of a page-turner. Good job Ed!

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