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2018’s Upcoming Releases: Mirror’s Deceit by J.A.Dowsett and M. Damodred

First we announced Nate Friedman’s upcoming Children’s Canadian Classic, The Last Hockey Fight which you can now pre-order here. Then last week, we told you all about the upcoming sequel to Sandra Unerman’s Spellhaven, Ghosts and Exiles. You can read about that here.

This week we’re pleased to announce that this May, we’re launching Mirror’s Deceit, the third in the Mirror World series! Murandy Damodred and I, Justine Alley Dowsett, started this company when we launched Book One in our dark fantasy series, Mirror’s Hope. Book two, Mirror’s Heart, followed up with those same beloved characters ten years later as they struggled to reunite and right the wrongs of the past. Now, in Mirror’s Deceit, you’ll meet and get the chance to know their counterparts in the Mirror World. More of the overall mystery and nature of the world is revealed through this tale of deception and intrigue. Here’s the blurb:

One woman is destined to change the world. Her rival has made a desperate flight to the past to stop her. 

In a seeming utopia, Mirena Calanais, a gifted student of majik, is on the verge of graduating from a secret college that will give her a leg up in her political career, when her achievements are overshadowed by the arrival of a mysterious woman with an unknown agenda. Desperate to keep what she sees as her rightful place in the spotlight, Mirena goes to astounding lengths including taking it upon herself to pose as a double agent to investigate a rebel force plotting to destabilize the government. Unfortunately, her actions cost her the trust of those around her, so when she is proclaimed the Dark Avatar of the Destroyer by those she’s investigating, she finds she has nowhere to turn. 

We’ll be revealing the cover in a couple of months, so keep an eye out for that and Mirror’s Deceit will launch May 17, 2017, both locally and worldwide!

1usJustine Alley Dowsett is the author of eight novels and a co-founder of Mirror World Publishing. Her books, which she often co-writes with her sister, Murandy Damodred, range from young adult science fiction to dark fantasy/romance. She earned a BA in Drama from the University of Windsor, honed her skills as an entrepreneur by tackling video game production, and now she dedicates her time to writing, publishing, and occasionally role-playing with her friends.

 

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The Terrible, Mighty Crystal by Sharon Ledwith – Part 8 (Finale)

If you’d like to start at part one and read the whole thing, click here. Then, when you are all caught up, keep reading! 

“Welcome back, Shu-Tu,” Thoth whispered. “You’ve been asleep for well over a week.”

Shu-Tu cringed. Her eyes fluttered open, then started to move around in their sockets. “W-Where am I?”

“Safe.” Thoth brushed away the hair from her brow. “That is all you need to know for now.”

Then, she remembered everything. Shu-Tu sat straight up, her head and back ached, but she ignored the pain. Trying to focus in on Thoth’s red-bearded face was a little like watching a butterfly in a strong wind—not impossible, but not easy either. She sensed her eyes move back and forth, back and forth, back and forth until they crossed. A vision flashed through her mind.

She gasped. “Segferd…he’s—”

“Dead.” Thoth finished for her. “Yes, I know. There was a full moon the night before last. He got caught during an earthquake near his family’s compound by the ocean, and the ground just opened up underneath him. Apparently, Sonl is still looking for his son’s body.”

Shu-Tu wanted to smile, but didn’t. “What of the firestone Amiee took from me?”

“I’m sure it will become the terrible, mighty crystal while in the hands of the House of Beliar,” Thoth replied, shrugging. “But that is not your concern anymore.”

“Aimee and Segferd, they…they left me for dead in that crystal room.” Her chest tightened.

“The Hall of Illumination, to be exact,” Thoth said.

“Is that where you found me?”

“Yes,” he replied, brushing wrinkles out of his red robe.

Thoth stood to pour a cup of water from the silver pitcher next to her bed. The sound of gurgling made Shu-Tu lick her dry lips. “Here, drink this. You need to get your strength back.”

Shu-Tu took a few gulps, and wiped her chin. “What happened to Khem?”

Thoth frowned. “Who is Khem?”

“The baboon-headed hybrid we met inside the Hall of Illumination.” Shu-Tu closed her eyes to stop them from spinning. “He told us you gave him your rod.”

“You mean this rod?” Thoth asked, reaching behind his back.

Shu-Tu opened her eyes and stared at the golden rod topped with a baboon’s head. The smell of floral-scented incense calmed her, and she nodded. Her eyes started moving faster again, up and down, side to side, until they crossed. Startled, Shu-Tu looked into Thoth’s sapphire eyes, and drew in a deep, sharp breath.

“Khem,” she whispered.

Thoth placed a finger on her lips, and winked. “That’s our little secret.”

“But, why did you bring the firestone to the Hall of Illumination?”

Thoth sighed. “To test you, Shu-Tu. You passed. Unfortunately, Amiee and Segferd did not, and will now have to live with the consequences of their actions. I believe Segferd already has paid his price, as you predicted.”

“The price that I paid and have to live with, it’s why my eyes are like this, isn’t it?”

“You are a seer now, Shu-Tu,” Thoth replied, taking the cup from her to fill again. “I will make sure you get the best training possible.”

Her eyes moved again, then stopped. She reached out to grab Thoth’s sleeve. “I see now it was wrong of me to wish my father alive again. I was in a sad, dark place. Forgive me.”

“There is nothing to forgive if you’ve acted out of pure love,” Thoth said, kneeling. “Remember, Shu-Tu, all things have life, and that nothing is truly dead. There is always motion, and everyone and everything moves at a different speed.”

Shu-Tu grinned. “Like my eyes?”

“Precisely.” Thoth laughed, then gently patted her arm. “Now get some rest. I’ve made arrangements for you to leave for the Temple of the Sun by the new moon.”

Shu-Tu reached for his large hand and squeezed it. “Thoth?”

“Yes, Shu-Tu?”

“I have something to ask before I leave my old life.”

He raised a grizzled brow. “Then, ask.”

Shu-Tu’s eyes juggled around, moving this way and that way, then crossed. “What is a Timekeeper?”

Thoth smiled and tweaked her nose. “A matter not yet revealed, Shu-Tu.”

Up next in 2018 is Sandra Unerman’s Ghost and Exiles!

We’re taking the next few weeks to announce our 2018 line-up, one new release at a time. Last week we announced that Nate Friedman has a new Canadian Classic children’s chapter book coming February 17th, 2018, The Last Hockey Fight. You can read all about that here.

This week, we’re announcing the upcoming quasi-sequel to Sandra Unerman‘s Spellhaven; Ghosts and Exiles!

A generation after the events of Spellhaven, a family tries to find their way in a post-magic society. While some still search to revive the secrets of the city and powers they once lost, others are plagued by what magic and ghosts remain to haunt them in 1930’s England.

The cover for Ghosts and Exiles will be revealed closer to the launch date, but we expect this book to launch April 17th, 2018.

In the meantime, if you haven’t read Spellhaven, I suggest you pick it up and get started. Though, even if you jump right into Ghosts and Exiles when it comes out, you won’t be confused as it is an entirely new set of characters with their own story to tell.

sandraunerman
Sandra Unerman lives in London in the UK. When she retired from a career as a Government lawyer, she undertook an MA in Creative Writing at Middlesex University, specialising in SF and fantasy, and graduated in 2013. Since then, she has had a number of short stories published. She writes reviews and articles for the British Science Fiction Association and the British Fantasy Society. She is a member of London Clockhouse writers and other writing groups. Her interests include history, folklore and medieval literature.

The Terrible, Mighty Crystal by Sharon Ledwith – Part 7 (of 8)

Have you been keeping up with this serial short story? If you’re just getting started, Part 1 is here. If you want to learn more about Sharon Ledwith, here’s her website. Sharon Ledwith has two great series worth checking out. This short story is a prequel of sorts to her The Last Timekeepers time travel series. The character of Shu-tu reappears in Legends of the Timekeepers.

Amiee rushed after Shu-Tu, tackled her to the stone floor, and then straddled her thin body. Shu-Tu hit the back of her head, yet still held the firestone tightly to her chest. A sharp pain went up her neck while Amiee tried to wrestle the six-sided crystal away from her, bashing her back against the cool, hard stone floor. Suddenly, Shu-Tu lost her grip and the firestone was in Amiee’s possession.

“I…I saved you from the wyvern, and this…this is how you repay me?” Shu-Tu wiped away her tears. “How…how could I have been so blind not to see this side of you or Segferd?”

“I wouldn’t worry about it, Shu-Tu.” Amiee smirked wickedly. “In a moment, you won’t be able to see anything.”

Amiee raised the firestone over her head and whacked Shu-Tu in the middle of the forehead. A pain she had never known before seared through her eyes to the back of skull and down her spine. Shu-Tu started twitching as soon as Amiee got off her. Suddenly, she felt her eyes move around and around, as if they were immersed in a goblet of water. Warm liquid, she knew was her own blood, dripped down the sides of her face. Panicking, Shu-Tu slapped the cool stone floor repeatedly, trying to fight off the pain, trying to understand what was happening to her. She sat up, roughly wiped away the blood from her face, and placed both hands over her eyes. Shu-Tu’s skin tingled all over. She could feel her eyes moving quickly, spinning around in their sockets, juggling and bouncing, until they both crossed. Her purpose, the reason why she had been born, everything became crystal clear. Her sight became her insight, her sacrifice became her gift.

Shu-Tu inhaled deeply, and pointed at Amiee. “You will bear a dark-hearted son named Belial who will teach Atlantis to worship pleasure and ease over love and respect. Unfortunately, Amiee, you die during childbirth, and will never know him. And you—” she pointed to Segferd, her eyes spun around and around “—were responsible for preparing a tainted crystal pellet to give to your father to poison the water my father drank. That is the reason why you away from class last week. You, Segferd, will be swallowed by the earth by the next full moon.”

“Have you gone mad, Shu-Tu?” Segferd asked, squeezing the rod.

“By the looks of her spinning eyeballs, I’d say she’s half-way there,” Amiee said, snickering. “Maybe you should put the poor child out of her misery, Segferd.”

He nodded sharply just as the ground started to shake again. The crystals above vibrated to such a degree of high intensity, Shu-Tu swore a chorus of the best singers in Atlantis were in the room with them. She reached out to stop herself from shaking. Surprisingly, she wasn’t afraid.

“If you both want to live to use the firestone for your noble acts, I suggest you leave now,” Khem said calmly. “I will take care of Shu-Tu for you. After all, hybrids are here to serve.”

Segferd shoved the rod’s forked end under Khem’s throat. “Now you’re getting the idea, baboon-breath. Kill the girl with this rod and leave no trace of us being here, or you’ll wish you were never created.”

Khem put his hands together. “As you wish.”

Segferd sneered, then tossed the baboon-headed rod at Khem’s feet. Shu-Tu jerked at the metallic clanging sound.

“Come on, Segferd!” Amiee yelled from the bottom of the stairs. “Let’s get out of here before the chamber caves in!”

The last thing Shu-Tu heard was the sound of hurried footsteps running up the granite stairs before the world as she knew it turned pitch black.

Announcing Nate Friedman’s next Canadian Classic: The Last Hockey Fight

Over the next few weeks, we’re going to be making some announcements regarding our upcoming 2018 releases. And don’t worry. If you miss any, you can find them on our new releases page on our website. This week, we’ve got a special treat for you. Not only are we announcing Nate Friedman’s new children’s chapter book, The Last Hockey Fight, we’re also revealing the cover!

So here it is:

LastHockeyFightCovefont

So what is The Last Hockey Fight all about? Well, it’s an illustrated chapter book for kids who love hockey. It follows Canadian hockey player, Billy ‘The Bruiser’ Fenton with a play by play account of the last season of his colourful career, culminating in a spectacular effort to save the tradition of hockey fights. I won’t spoil it by giving any more away, but you can look forward to this book hitting the shelves as a paperback February 17th, 2018!

Author Bio Pic

Nate Friedman is a writer from Windsor, Ontario, Canada. He grew up around the game of hockey with many early morning practices and games in his life so far. He graduated from the Kinesiology program at the University of Windsor with a concentration in Sports Psychology. His education has fuelled a keen interest in how people think and what drives them to be their best. Comedy is his first love, from Jim Henson’s Muppets to Walt Disney’s perfect cartooning and his desire to be creative has directed him towards children’s literature. He enjoys reading to his nephews, two of his biggest fans. He has also penned, The Coffee Monster, also available from Mirror World Publishing, and hopes you enjoy his upcoming Canadian Classic, The Last Hockey Fight

The Terrible, Mighty Crystal by Sharon Ledwith – Part 6

Here’s part one. Here’s Sharon Ledwith. Then, keep reading…

Shu-tu’s throat tightened. “H-How do you know me?”

Segferd stepped in front of her. “What trick are you playing here, hybrid? We don’t know you, and you don’t know us!”

“Don’t I, Segferd?” Khem asked, smiling and exposing a fang.

“Listen, hybrid, you better not be threatening us,” Amiee said, clenching her fists. “My brother and I are from the House of—”

“Beliar,” Khem cut in. “Yes, yes, I know. Is that supposed to impress me, Amiee?”

Amiee’s fair face turned ashen. Khem dipped his human hand into his pouch and pulled out a glittering six-sided crystal, the likes Shu-Tu had never seen before. The rainbow colored crystal, about the size of a small pomegranate lit up Khem’s features, making him look more human, than baboon.

“This is my price,” Khem said, holding up the six-sided crystal. “The only price you will pay is the consequences of your actions. The rule of the game is simple. I get to ask each of you the same question, and whoever has the best answer gets to keep this firestone.”

Amiee gasped. “A-A firestone?”

“How do we know it’s real?” Segferd asked, his mouth falling open.

“You’ll have to take the word of a hybrid, I guess,” Khem replied, shrugging. “But then again, seeing is believing for you humans. Here, hold my rod, Amiee, and I’ll prove that I’m telling the truth.”

Without the staff she threw at Khem, Shu-Tu watched Amiee limp over to grasp the golden rod. A sheen of sweat on her forehead attested to her pain. Amiee grimaced as she gripped the rod, and leaned against it for support. The forked end of the rod scraped against the rock and sent shivers up Shu-Tu’s spine. Khem waved the firestone over her ankle, and chanted an old Atlantean prayer nine times before he stopped.

“Walk,” Khem commanded.

Amiee grunted. “This is ridiculous, I—” She paused, putting weight on her foot. “T-There’s no pain anymore. It’s like I never twisted my ankle.”

Khem nodded. “The curative powers of the firestone have restored your body.”

Amiee glanced at Segferd, then back at Khem. “I’m in for the game.”

“Me too,” Segferd said, nodding.

Shu-Tu’s heart raced. “What else can the firestone do?”

Khem puckered his baboon lips, twisting them one way, then the other before he said, “Whatever you wish. It was one of six harvested from the mighty crystal. Very rare. Very special.”

“Go on then,” Amiee said with urgency. “Ask your silly question.”

“Very well, I’ll start with you, Amiee,” Khem replied, strumming human fingers against his chest. “For what purpose would you use this firestone?”

Amiee licked her lips. “I would use the firestone to benefit all Atlanteans by surrendering it to the high priests and priestesses of the Temple of Poseidon to help promote divine knowledge.”

Khem scratched his hairy chin. “How very noble. What about you, Segferd?”

Segferd straightened. “I would use the firestone to harness the forces of nature and put a stop to the earthquakes that have plagued our country for thousands of years.”

“Now that’s what I’m talking about!” Khem snapped his fingers. “Shu-Tu, your response better top Amiee and Segferd’s answers.”

Shu-Tu swallowed hard, and said, “I…I would use the firestone to bring my father back to life.”

She swore she heard Amiee titter. Segferd coughed.

Khem frowned. “I see. You know what you want to use this firestone for goes against the Law of One’s plan, don’t you, Shu-Tu?”

She hung her head, her eyes began to well. “I told you the truth. That’s how I would use the firestone.”

“So, which one of us wins the game?” Amiee asked, banging the rod against the stone floor.

Segferd rubbed his hands together. “Yes, who is your choice, hybrid?”

“Very well, you all played my game fairly, so I must choose a winner.” Khem held out the firestone to Shu-Tu. “It’s all yours, Shu-Tu.”

“What!” Amiee screamed. “Y-You can’t be serious! You said it yourself, hybrid, no one must tamper with the will of the Law of One’s plan!”

“Oh, a sore loser, I see,” Khem replied. “You played the game, you lost. I liked Shu-Tu’s answer the best.”

“But…my answer would have saved so many people,” Segferd blurted. “Shu-Tu only wants one life saved.”

Khem shrugged. “A life that matters to her, one she loves unconditionally.”

Shu-Tu stared at the beautiful firestone in her hands. Rainbow swirls of light danced off of it, warming her body through to the core. Khem reached out to touch her cheek, and she shivered. “Your father awaits you,” he said, pointing toward the altar.

Shu-Tu’s jaw dropped. “M-My father is the body under the shroud?”

“Something is wrong here,” Segferd said, scratching his head. “Why would a hybrid have your father’s body?”

“This is all Thoth’s doing isn’t it?” Amiee asked, pointing the forked end of the rod at Khem’s throat. “Tell us where he is or I’ll spear you!”

“No, Amiee!” Shu-Tu yelled, clutching the firestone to her chest. “Wait until I revive Father!”

“You’re father is dead, and he’s not coming back,” Segferd said, his voice void of emotion. “Give us the firestone. The House of Beliar will use it for the highest good of Atlantis.”

Khem clapped. “Now this is getting interesting!”

Shu-Tu backed up toward her father’s body. “No. I won fair and square. I will use the firestone as I see fit.”

Amiee tossed the rod to her brother. “Watch the hybrid! I’m taking that firestone!”

Shu-Tu’s eyes widened as Segferd grabbed the rod in mid-air and pointed it at Khem. “Go make father proud, sis.”

It’s 2018 and we’re off with a bang!

Ok, well it’s not quite 2018 yet. Still a few more days to go. But we’re ready to start our fifth year with a bang!

We’re ready to write 85,000 words by the end of March, 2018.

First up, Murandy and I will be participating in the #85K Challenge for the 3rd year in a row. If you’d like to join us on this adventure, you’re more than welcome to. If you don’t know what the #85K Challenge is, it’s a community of writers working to complete 85,000 words, (approximately the length of your average adult novel) in 90 days. You can read more about it and sign up to complete the challenge on their website 85k90.com or on Facebook. Murandy and I have competed each year since the challenge was founded and we’ve found it to be a reasonable, though still challenging, pace and a great community to be a part of. And the community support doesn’t stop in March! The website has details for what to do the rest of the year to stay focused on your writing goals and complete your novel. It works for us, and I highly recommend the program.

We’re ready to announce our 2018 line up and will be doing so over the next few weeks! 

We’ve got some really great books coming your way in 2018 and we’re really excited to be able to announce them. We’re going to do so one at a time, starting next week, so subscribe to this blog if you haven’t already so you don’t miss any of the exciting announcements. We’ve got two new authors we’ve added to the family and six new books for the year. It’s going to be fun.

We’re ready to make edits to the third book in the Mirror World series, Mirror’s Deceit.

Mirror’s Deceit has come back from the beta readers and over the next month or so, I’ll be working on edits and rewrites. The cover art is done and we’re on target to have this book in your hands for May (or earlier if you’re a member 😉 Learn more about membership and its benefits here.)

And we’re looking forward to seeing those of you who can make it to A Taste of Literature event on January 15th to celebrate Sharon Ledwith’s Lost and Found: Mysterious Tales from Fairy Falls. 

Click here to get your tickets now! Space is limited.

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The Terrible, Mighty Crystal by Sharon Ledwith – Part 5

Sharon Ledwith’s short story continues! If you missed part 1, here it is. If you want to learn more about the author and her books, check out her website. Then, keep reading!

 

One more turn led Serferd, Shu-Tu, and Amiee through an archway into a spacious cavern with a high arched rose crystal ceiling. The whole area was lit up using light blue crystals set into the rock walls giving Shu-Tu the impression the room was animated, alive. Across from where they stood was another archway that led to a set of stairs going up toward the surface. Shu-Tu clutched her chest. That could be our way out!

“Look.” Segferd pointed toward the narrow corridor on their left. “This must be a special burial chamber.”

At the farthest end of the cavern was a white marble alter marked with ancient geometric Atlantean symbols. Shu-Tu blinked. A body covered with a shimmering gold shroud was lying on top of the altar, and sitting cross-legged at the foot of the altar was the source of the chanting—a baboon-headed hybrid. A crocodile-skin mantle draped the hybrid’s chest and shoulders, and a plain white linen skirt covered his bottom half to just above his hairy knees. A silver pouch stamped with a crescent moon hung around his waist. Resting in the hybrid’s human hands was the same golden rod that Thoth carried.

The baboon-headed hybrid suddenly stopped chanting and winked at them.

“W-Where did you get that rod?” Shu-Tu asked.

“Your teacher Thoth gave it to me,” he replied, wiggling his brow.

“What’s the meaning of this, hybrid? Amiee demanded, limping closer. “Where is Thoth?”

“Indeed.” The hybrid puffed his cheeks, and then sputtered them out slowly. “Is this how Thoth has taught you to greet strangers?”

Segferd snorted. “Hybrids are not to be greeted in the same manner as humans.”

“Is that so?” The hybrid stood, turned around, lifted his skirt, and wiggled his bare bottom. “Would you rather greet this end instead?”

Shu-Tu covered her mouth.

“How dare you!” Amiee threw her staff at him like a spear.

“Do you think this is a game, hybrid?” Segferd hurled his staff.

The hybrid jumped out of the way of both flying staffs with ease, the glowing crystal ends shattering against the polished stone floor on impact. He landed in front of the archway leading up to the surface, and swung Thoth’s rod across the width of his hairy body several times. This movement generated a strong blast of cool air, making Shu-Tu’s hair cover her face and obscure her vision. Startled, she dropped her glowing crystal staff, and heard it smash against the floor. She groaned. All three of their lights were extinguished.

“I think many things, but if you wish to play a game, then a game it shall be!” The hybrid laughed wryly. “And my name is Khem, if you please.”

“We are not here to please a hybrid. Hybrids are here to please us,” Segferd said, waving his hand. “And we do not play games with hybrids!”

Shu-Tu brushed away the hair from her face, then bit her bottom lip. If there was one thing she had learned from her father during his years as the king’s vizier, it was that if you wanted something bad enough, there was always a way to get it. Wherever Thoth was, and whether he was looking for them or not, they were stuck in a crystal cavern with a large baboon-headed hybrid blocking their only way out.

“I’ll play, Khem,” Shu-Tu said, sweeping back her hair. “But it will come with a price.”

“You…you can’t be serious, Shu-Tu?” Segferd asked.

Khem inclined his head. His deep, blue eyes connected with her on a level she had never experienced before with a human-animal hybrid. It was like he was peering into her soul, pouring his essence into her body, and letting it swirl around and around. He wiggled his sapient ears, breaking their bond. “Everything comes with a price, Shu-Tu.”

Thank you for your submissions!

Just a heads up: our submission period for 2017 is now closed!

submissions-closed

If you were one of the many, many people who submitted to us this year, thank you. We had the pleasure of looking over a truly varied and unique selection of manuscripts. Currently we are not accepting any more general submissions, but if you submitted to us and haven’t heard back, don’t worry, we’re still finishing up with what we have left. You WILL hear from us. We strive to provide feedback on each and every submission we receive.

If you submitted to us and your manuscript was not selected for publication, please understand that we are a small (very small) press and we are only able to produce a limited number of books each year. There were some tough decisions made. Also, if you take a look at our feedback and find it to be of value to you, you can always make the necessary changes and re-submit to us next season. At the very least, we’ll keep providing you with feedback on how you can improve, or we will let you know why your manuscript is not the right fit for us.

I would like to take a moment to thank the people who dedicated so much time and effort to reading through, compiling feedback, and responding to the frankly overwhelming amount of submissions we received this year.

Robert Dowsett – Thank you, as always, for acting as our Acquisitions Editor. Your keen eye and abundant patience are an asset. I know the submissions period keeps you away from your hobby of reading from your to-be-read pile for longer than you would like, but I hope you’ll agree that it’s worth it.

Sarah Jane – A big welcome back to you, Sarah! Thank you for coming back year after year to read with us. We really appreciate it. Your comments are always thoughtful and insightful and we’re grateful to have your continued assistance.

Sabrina Wiese – Last, but not least, welcome to the team, Sabrina! As I’m sure you know, you were a BIG help this year. I think between the two of us we were determined to put Rob out of work! But in all seriousness, thank you for helping us to find those diamonds in the rough and I hope you had enough fun to want to stay on and help us again next time.

If you’d like to read a little about these helpful members of the Mirror World Team, you can check out our About Us page here. Otherwise, keep an eye out ( or subscribe to this blog)  for our announcement of the 2018 lineup, coming soon!

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Don’t forget about the HOLIDAY2017 Sale! Use code HOLIDAY2017 in our STORE for 25% off ALL TITLES, paperbacks and ebooks alike!

The Terrible, Mighty Crystal by Sharon Ledwith – Part 4

Sharon Ledwith’s short story continues! If you missed part 1, here it is. If you want to learn more about the author and her books, check out her website. Then, keep reading!

 

“Where is he?” Shu-Tu asked, surveying the manicured grounds outside Thoth’s private grotto.

Under the light of the half moon and stars, she could make out a giant circular garden, all the flowers closed and bowing in deep contemplation. A bubbling spring on her right gave off enough steam to dampened the air and make her unbound hair frizz. She licked her lips, tasting the saltiness in the air from being so close to the ocean. Shu-Tu’s skin tingled. Her thin, sleeveless dress stuck to her body. Perhaps this is a mistake.

“Thoth said he’d meet us here, and his word is true,” Amiee replied, glancing around.

“True or not, Thoth better show his face soon,” Segferd said, hiking up his silk trousers to sit on a gleaming granite bench. “I’m not accustomed to be kept waiting.”

“Honestly, sometimes I think we came from different mothers, Segferd,” Amiee said.

“That would explain many things,” Segferd said, grinning. “Like your gigantic feet and monkey-like hands.”

Aimee snorted. “Or your tiny ears and bird-beak nose.” She glanced at her palms.

Shu-Tu rolled her eyes. She rubbed her arms briskly just as she heard a thunderous crack behind them. A dark green creature double the size of full grown horse charged out of the thicket. The creature screeched, the sound going through Shu-Tu like shards of glass, and then snapped its reptilian jaws. The moonlight caught a forked-tongue slithering out of its mouth, lapping the air in search of fresh blood.

“Oh Poseidon, a wyvern!” Amiee shrieked. “It must have escaped from its breeder!”

“Quick, into the grotto and down the stairs!” Segferd picked up a chunk of rough-cut quartz crystal. “It’s too big to follow us!”

Segferd hurled the quartz at the wyvern’s bulbous serpent head. It snapped at the crystal in mid-air and spit it out. Translucent wings beat a path toward them while the wyvern’s hawk-like feet curled up into its leathery body. A long tail with a barbed end—poisonous to the touch—swished furiously as the wyvern got closer to the three classmates.

“Move, now!” Segferd shouted, leading the way.

Stumbling, Amiee tripped over her bejeweled sandaled feet at the mouth of the grotto.

“Amiee!” Shu-Tu screamed. She stopped to help her friend up, and dragged Amiee inside.

Hot, rancid breath from the wyvern’s open mouth rolled across the back of Shu-Tu’s neck and arms. The wyvern screeched and snapped its powerful jaws, its tongue desperately trying to reach her, taste her, but the wyvern couldn’t fit in any farther. Shu-Tu shivered just as the ground tremored. Her eyes widened. An earthquake! Oh please, Poseidon, have mercy! Holding onto Amiee, Shu-Tu reached out to grab a statue of Poseidon’s mortal wife Cleito sculpted from the rock above them. The wyvern retreated as fast as it had attacked, the beating of its wings signaling the creature’s departure. Falling pieces of rock and crystal filled the entranceway, and snuffed out the moonlight. Shu-Tu’s throat tightened. There was no way out. Suddenly, the earth ceased shaking. Shu-Tu blew a sigh of relief. At least the quake only lasted three short breaths.

“Shu-Tu? Amiee? Are you okay?” Segferd asked from the bottom of the rock-cut stairs.

Shu-Tu coughed. “I’m fine.” She released the smooth, stone statue and blinked a few times to adjust her eyes to the darkness.

“I…I think I’ve twisted my ankle,” Amiee said.

Groping in the dark, Shu-Tu bent down, and brushed away Aimee’s soft gown. She placed her hand over Aimee’s foot. “She’s right. Her ankle is starting to swell.”

Aimee growled. “This…this is all your fault, Segferd!”

“My fault?” he asked, his voice echoing. “How so?”

“You attacked the wyvern first!” she snapped. “Who in their right mind does that?”

Shu-Tu used the cool, granite wall as a guide to stand. “It’s all right, Amiee, your brother did his best to protect us.”

“You must learn to stop sticking up for him,” Amiee said, grunting to stand. She squeezed Shu-Tu’s hand. “T-Thank you for…saving me.”

Shu-Tu shrugged. “You would have done the same for me. Can you walk?”

“I…I think so.”

“Here.” Segferd passed a wooden staff topped with a glowing crystal to Shu-Tu and Amiee. “This will help Amiee walk and give us enough light to navigate the pathways to find another way out.”

“Where’d you get these staffs?” Shu-Tu asked, the orange glowing end illuminating her features.

“They were leaning against the wall at the bottom of the stairs,” Segferd replied, holding out his hand to his sister. “It’s like someone left them there for us to find.”

Amiee swatted his hand away. “No thanks, I can manage without your help.”

As they made their way deeper into the grotto, the only light source, other than the glimmering crystals on the staffs Segferd found, came from the effervescent springs swirling below them. The damp, pungent air inside the grotto was a welcome relief from the humidity above. The smooth passage led them down and around, down and around, like the actions of a perfect spiral.

“Where do you suppose this goes?” Amiee asked, limping.

“There’s talk among our servant hybrids of a secret natural labyrinth called the Hall of Illumination,” Segferd said, holding out his staff. “Initiations for the highest order of magi are held at the far end of the hall. I wonder if this is the place they were speaking about?”

“I don’t think such a hall truly exists,” Amiee replied, grunting. “Hybrids have a tendency to fabricate things. Besides, those half-breed creatures were created to serve us, not teach us.”

“But, Amiee, what about what Thoth has taught us?” Shu-Tu asked, wiping damp hair off her forehead. “That everyone, and everything has a purpose here. That we are all an inseparable part of one Whole.”

Amiee snorted in laugher. “If you to choose to believe that you’re one with a hybrid, Shu-Tu, then as Poseidon is my witness, I’ll throw you into the churning springs below us.”

“Wait, do you two hear that?” Segferd stopped. “It sounds like chanting.”

Shu-Tu listened. A steady, monotonic mantra lulled her, invited her to come closer like an invisible wagging finger. She smiled. “Reminds me of a verse Father would chant.”

“Whoever it is must know a way out,” Amiee said.

“Agreed.” Segferd pulled at his silk tunic. “Come on, it’s not too much farther.”