sabato 9 dicembre 2017

12 Days of Fantasy for Christmas & Giveaway - Day 9: Mark of the Mage by R.K. Ryals

Books never die, but they can be forbidden.

Medeisia is a country in turmoil ruled by a blood thirsty king who has outlawed the use of magic and anything pertaining to knowledge. Magery and scribery are forbidden. All who practice are marked with a tattoo branded onto their wrists, their futures precarious.

Sixteen year-old Drastona Consta-Mayria lives secluded, spending her spare time in the Archives of her father's manor surrounded by scribes. She wants nothing more than to become one of them, but when the scribes are royally disbanded, she is thrust into a harsh world where the marked must survive or die.

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Light a mage-fire! the red coated man ordered.

I was screaming now, the sound shrill. The other men looked at their captain with wide eyes.

And risk the trees? a young soldier asked. The older man's gaze moved to the private, and the boy shifted uncomfortably.

The trees will not burn. Light a fire. The captain's voice was low and commanding with a threatening undercurrent no one seemed willing to test. 

A hand was over my mouth now, and I looked up wildly only to find myself peering into Jarvis' youthful face. 

Quiet, miss. They'll only burn you as well, the boy whispered against my ear. Even at thirteen, the boy was the same height as me, and he was strong. I fought him desperately, but he didn't loosen his hold. You've always been nice to me, miss. Please, he begged. 

Aigneis didn't struggle as they tied her to a hastily constructed pyre of wood. I screamed against Jarvis' hand, my head throbbing furiously. They couldn't do this! They couldn't! 

By order of King Raemon, this woman has been accused of sorcery. The punishment is death. All present bear witness. Light the fire, the captain announced. 

Another red coated soldier lifted a torch, saluting Igneet, God of Fire, before throwing it onto the pyre. Wood crackled as it lit, some of it sputtering, and I was suddenly hopeful. I pulled on Jarvis's hand. 

The wood is too wet! It's too wet! I whispered furiously, but Jarvis simply re-covered my mouth before angling his head at the red-breasted captain. It was then I noticed the way the man's hands glowed as he held them toward the pyre. The man was a mage. The king's captain was a mage. I screamed again, and Jarvis held me. 

I kicked furiously, finally breaking free as the flames took hold, the wood near Aigneis' feet beginning to smolder and pop. 

Two soldiers caught me before I neared the fire, holding me back when I tried to throw myself at Aigneis. Their fingers dug cruelly into the skin on my upper arms, but I barely noticed the pain. I wasn't even sure I was breathing. Each breath was a sob. My lungs burned. 

The edge of Aigneis' dress caught fire, and I struggled against the men's hold. I wanted to shut my eyes but couldn't. There was banging from a carriage behind me, and I twisted just long enough to see my father kicking at the walls of the coach where he was bound. I tried to move toward him, but the soldiers' grips were too strong, too unyielding. 

It was then Aigneis screamed. For the rest of my life, I would remember that scream; the pain, the despair, the fury in her voice. The same emotions roiled through my veins. My screams met hers in the night, in the forest where a mage-fire was being controlled by a sorcerer. 

Screams... the smell of burning flesh. 

Those screams would haunt me forever. Those screams ripped through my heart. Those screams tore at my soul. 

Screaming... and then silence. Nothing left except the putrid smell of death, and the popping sound of flames. Someone sobbed. Someone yelled threats. Someone even scratched the faces of the soldiers. 

In the end, I'm pretty sure that someone was me.

R.K. Ryals is the author of emotional and gripping young adult and new adult paranormal romance, contemporary romance, and fantasy. With a strong passion for charity and literacy, she works as a full-time writer encouraging people to share the love of reading one book at a time.

An avid animal lover and self-proclaimed coffee-holic, R.K. Ryals was born in Jackson, Mississippi, and makes her home in the Southern United States with her husband, three daughters, a playful cat named Delphi, and a coffeepot she honestly couldn’t live without. Should she ever become the owner of a fire-breathing dragon (tame of course), her life would be complete. 

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