This is a sample from my new release, Quintessence, the fifth and final book Enchanted Bookstore Legend. The genre is epic fantasy romance.
In this scene, the heroine, Lyra McCauley, has just taken hold of the dangerously powerful Emtori Ruby, one of the four keystones she alone must retrieve. Those keystones will help the good Alliance channel astral energy to bolster their weakening magical powers. With Dark Realm attacks threatening to decimate the Alliance, Lyra is desperate. Here, she faces great risks, finding herself in the hands of the Dark Realm's alchemist at the camp of the Qumeli tribe, known for their ways with black magic
from Chapter Twenty: Firestone Fever
Through the thinning violet mist, Lyra strained to see around her. She couldn’t piece together what had happened to her or where she was. The Qumeli dust began to wear off, but her vision still blurred and focused randomly. Where she lay on hard, packed soil, the violin nestled at her side in its sack. Her left hand clutched the Emtori Ruby. She worked her other down to her pocket—the Staurolite remained safe.
Tarom leaned over her. “Can you hear me, Lyra?” His complex scent caught her attention; a pronounced top note of calm rosemary masked undertones of volatile and spicy coriander—a curious dichotomy. With the ruby utilizing so much of her mental processing, she noted the contradiction but gave up on analysis.
“Yes.” The word stuck in her throat with a garbled croak. “Where am I?” she sputtered.
“Where there are many healers.” He looked up and waved. “Bring your best healer of magical wounds.”
Lyra turned her head in the direction of female chatter and caught a glimpse of the weathered faces of three women. Full sweeping skirts covered their wide hips, and kerchiefs wrapped around their horns tying back their hair—Qumeli.
They directed a teenage girl who took off at a run and disappeared between circular canvas tents. Animated with arms slicing the air, the trio glanced back and forth between each other and Lyra, talking in a foreign tongue. Their heated discussion drew more onlookers every minute. The metallic odor of rusted iron hung thick in the air. A chaotic squabble of noises bombarded Lyra’s ears. A distant herd of goats bleated, and dogs barked from every direction. A clutch of pseudodragons flapped their tiny wings in nearby trees. Footsteps rushed toward her, and urgent human voices whispered nearby, while others called and yelled throughout the camp.
Lyra flailed her arms against Tarom’s chest. “Get me out of here. They’ll kill me.” Her hand holding the ruby landed with a thud against his shoulder.
He squelched a moan and grabbed her wrists, pinning her arms to the ground while she flinched. “Listen to me,” he whispered close to her face. “You have serious mortal wounds. Those alone threaten your life since you’re not fully afflated. But your magical wounds from that fight are far worse. Neither Cullen nor I can mend those. You will die without the help of these healers who can use black art.”
The strength of the ruby’s magic willed her to fight him, but her torso and legs refused to obey her commands. Despite her heightened sensory input, her legs felt nothing. They lay limp and heavy. She attempted to direct aura into them, but what little she could gather wouldn’t transfer into the paralyzed tissues. She winced at the realization of his truth about her injuries. But she doubted whether the Qumeli would actually help her. “Why would they save me?”
“Because I’ve requested their service.” Tarom raised his voice, possibly to clarify his intent to those who stood close. “This is the Qumeli camp of the western Dark Realm. As the official alchemist, they will honor me.”
“They have no code of honor,” she spat.
“They will serve me. And they will serve you, the bearer of the great ruby.”
“They’ll just kill me to take it.” She steeled her jaw. “You could have at least let me be with Cullen while I die.”
Tarom lifted her empty hand. He rubbed his thumb along the side of her index finger and repositioned the dragon ring to another finger to expose her bloodswear scar. He let go of her other arm and brought his own finger encircled with the same mark next to hers. “Along with Cullen, we share a bond. I will not let you die, and I will return you to your love. I made that promise to you before. I put myself at risk, helping you escape attackers at my Versula castle. Feel my honor once again.” When their scars touched, she accepted his word. Whether he could control the strong-willed Qumeli seemed less certain.
Bombarded with the ruby’s effects, confusing impulses zipped through her mind and body at hyper-speed. She couldn’t sort out potential risks. Lyra attempted to catch Tarom’s gaze and use the craft of fascination to read his mind for clarity.
He averted his eyes, which worried her. She vaguely remembered seeing Cullen’s blue light in the air. She wondered why Tarom appeared at her side in the ravine without him. And why did Tarom transport her away in such a hurry before Cullen arrived? She frantically searched for reasons, but her overloaded brain wouldn’t sequence the possibilities.
Lyra gave up and trusted that Tarom would at least fight to keep her alive. If healed, she could protect herself regardless of his intentions. She focused her limited attention on her injuries. She withdrew her hand from his and inched it over her heart, lungs, and lower torso. She detected bits of information about cracked vertebrae in her lower back and a spinal tear which leaked aura into her torso. Two cracked ribs resisted her limited attempt at self-healing. She raised her head for a better view.
The golden aura in Lyra’s palm shined much weaker than she expected. In her other hand, the ruby’s bright light spilled between her fingers. It seemed healthier than her. She recalled passages from the first Scribe’s book. When Elisabeth encountered the ruby, it fed on her energy, then shared its power with her, creating a unified bond between them.
“That ruby is a burden to you.” Tarom’s hands followed hers across her torso, accessing internal damages. Do you wish me to keep it safe?”
“No. I need it,” she snapped and clamped the gem to her chest, where it pulsed with a more brilliant light.
“Why do you need it?” He quickly repaired her ribs, knitting the bone fragments together with skill.
“It takes my pain away.”
He scanned her face. “Is that all it does?”
“It makes me feel powerful, more alive,” she replied without thinking, then wondered why he pressed her for a more complete answer, as though he tested her.
A young Qumeli woman, dressed like a man in loose trousers, assisted an elderly female who walked with extreme difficulty. With tedious effort, the older woman knelt at Lyra’s side.
Tarom gave a knowing smile to Lyra and motioned to the pair of Qumeli women. His expression indicated he learned something from her answer, but what? “She has a serious magical wound to the lower spine. Aura is leaking around her organs. I can do no more. I trust you can heal her.”
“Gorta heals all.” The young woman wearing pants nodded at her elder and squatted at Lyra’s hips. Dusty, suede boots laced up her shins. She took the old woman’s frail hand toward Lyra but abruptly jerked back and gasped. “The stranger bears the firestone.” The young Qumeli trembled and bowed a forehead of cropped, dark hair that hid numerous horn stubs. Behind two prominent horns above her ears, braids hung down her back. While muttering expletives, she gave off a faint skunk-like body odor.
Gorta remained stoic, her eyes clouded with milky cataracts on either side of a single, scaly horn that arched over her head. More like a demon than a human, her appearance frightened Lyra. The elder woman’s shapeless gray tunic, adorned only with a single claw-footed talisman hanging from her bony neck, added to the chilling effect. When she leaned closer, Lyra grimaced at the old woman’s scent—wet pavement covered with drowning earthworms.
Members of the gathered crowd murmured in a language Lyra didn’t understand.
From his position beside her, Tarom gripped the young woman’s shoulders and pulled her upright. “Heal her now!”
She swallowed hard and spoke to Lyra with a shaky voice. “My name is Teklay. We care for you. Stay still.” Teklay gave a forced smile and touched Lyra’s forehead. “Much heat.” She wiped her hands on a coarse linen vest and took hold of the elder’s knobby fingers again.
Gorta’s icy touch at Lyra’s pelvis made her grimace, although any sensation in her paralyzed lower body gave hope. “Fire spews through her,” the elderly healer said hoarsely and twirled a finger. “Turn.”
Tarom repositioned himself at Lyra’s opposite side and gently rolled her toward him, while she cradled the violin to her chest in the nook of an elbow.
She gasped at the sensation of leaked aura flowing through her left side. To quell the discomfort, she clutched the ruby tighter. It responded, sending energy deep into the organs of her lower torso. Unable to see the Qumeli women behind her, she studied Tarom’s face for any reaction to their procedures.
For several minutes, Gorta’s icy touch traced Lyra’s spine and pelvis.
Tarom’s face remained vigilant but calm, his dark eyes following the women’s movements.
Coldness radiated along Lyra’s sacrum, then jabbed down her upper legs. Her thigh muscles spasmed reflexively. Gorta repeated the application, this time for longer, and the sensation shot to Lyra’s shins. A third time, to her toes. Her legs kicked without her control.
Suddenly Lyra’s mouth watered with nausea. Heat flooded her face and sweat stung her eyes. She clutched Tarom’s knee high boot with her free hand to steady herself.
He rubbed a hand along her shoulder. “You’re hurting her! Be quicker.”
“Only must seal the wound,” the elder croaked. Behind Lyra, a rattle shook while Gorta chanted, her voice hoarse and low.
Teklay danced around Lyra’s body, shaking the gourd instrument. When she completed a full circle, Lyra detected new feeling in her legs. Her aura, along with power from the ruby, coursed into the lower limbs.
She stretched her legs long and wiggled her toes in her boots.
“How do you feel?” Tarom asked.
“Good. Like I want to try to sit up.” Actually, with the ruby’s empowerment, Lyra wanted to leap and dance and race the wind.
He supported her torso.
The eyes of those gathered widened.
“Help me stand,” Lyra directed the alchemist.
With Tarom’s hands under her armpits, Lyra pushed up carefully to test the strength of her muscles. Her legs held her weight, but she took tentative steps to be certain.
“Cured. Now, you pay,” Teklay proclaimed loudly, and the small crowd cheered.
Lyra’s head swiveled to face the woman, and fear shot through her. No longer occupying a helpless body, the ruby commanded her to protect herself. She waved the ruby at arm’s length around the circle. Its red light set skirts and pant legs ablaze on those closest.
The victims screamed and ran, not stopping to extinguish flames licking up the fabric. Camp dogs barked wildly after the victims. Pseudodragons fled to cover higher in the wiry trees. Women from tents rushed out with hides to put out the fires for a few. Most, not as lucky, fell to the ground engulfed and writhing, their shrill cries ascending octaves higher until both their voices and bodies silenced.
Only the two healers and Tarom remained, frozen and staring at Lyra.
The air smelled of charred flesh. Then, Lyra realized what she’d done. She sank to the ground and cupped her head in her hands. She killed innocent people. How? The ruby’s energy validated the wretched act, while what little she could access of her own aura and ethics rebuked her for the murders. Tormented by the war in her mind, she hugged her knees, then spread her legs wide, digging trenched through the dirt with her heels.
Tarom conferred with the pair. He passed a series of small objects to them and waited for their approvals.
Chilling silence descended over the camp. Rather than the previous bustling chaos, only wailing sounds of grief filled the air punctuated by an occasional lone howl. Tent flaps previously open to the fresh air, now fastened tight. Lyra’s heart ached for those she killed, but the grief of their loved ones cut like a blade.
Unable to accept or even comprehend the murders she committed, Lyra raged against the foreign power occupying her. She tried to release the ruby. She opened her palm and wanted to shake the gem loose—its will overpowered her own, flowing through her veins like a rush of adrenaline. She shoved it into the empty front pocket of her jeans, thankful for the meager protection of at least a few thin layers of fabric between it and her. She leapt to her feet and tore away from the camp, away from any person she might harm. Her intention—burn out the ruby’s fire.
Information about the Enchanted Bookstore Legends:
The Enchanted Bookstore Legends are about Lyra McCauley, a woman destined to become one of five strong women in her family who possess unique magical abilities and serve as Scribes in Dragonspeir. The Scribes span a long history, dating from 1200 to present day. Each Scribe is expected to journey through Dragonspeir, both the good and evil factions, then draft a written account. Each book contains magic with vast implications.
Lyra was first introduced to Dragonspeir as a young girl, when she met the high sorcerer, Cullen Drake, through a gift of one of those enchanted books. Using its magic, he escorted her into the parallel world of Dragonspeir. Years later, she lost that volume and forgot the world and Cullen. These legends begin where he finds her again—she is thirty-five, standing in his enchanted bookstore, and Dragonspeir needs her.
When Lyra reopens that enchanted book, she confronts a series of quests where she is expected to save the good Alliance from destruction by the evil Black Dragon. While learning about her role, Lyra and Cullen fall in love. He is 220 years old and kept alive by Dragonspeir magic. Cullen will die if Dragonspeir is taken over by the evil faction…Lyra becomes the Scribe.
Seeking a Scribe: Enchanted Bookstore Legend One
Lyra McCauley is a writer and loves fantasy novels, but until she opens a selection from bookstore owner Cullen Drake, she has no idea he’s a wizard character who lives a double life inside that volume…or the story’s magic will compel her from the edge of depression to adventure, danger, and love.
His gift to Lyra, the Book of Dragonspeir, was actually her copy, misplaced years ago. Lost in her pain following divorce and death, she fails to recognize him as her childhood playmate from the fantasyland. Friendship builds anew. Attraction sparks. But Lyra doubts whether a wizard is capable of love. She’s torn—should she protect her fragile heart or risk new love?
Opening the book’s cover, she confronts a quest: save Dragonspeir from destruction by the Black Dragon before he utilizes power of August’s red moon to expand his strength and overthrow the opposing Imperial Dragon. Lyra accepts the challenge, fearing Cullen will perish if evil wins. Along with magical animal guides, Cullen helps her through many perils, but ultimately Lyra must use her own power…and time is running out.
Heritage Avenged: Enchanted Bookstore Legend Two
Lyra McCauley receives an alarming letter from the coroner who evaluated her deceased aunt, originally thought to have died of cancer. The news causes Lyra to take leave from her job and travel from sunny Tampa to the frozen island community in northern Michigan. Questioning whether Dragonspeir magic was responsible for her aunt’s death, she resolves to learn the truth and accepts the Imperial Dragon’s appointment into the Alliance sorcery training.
Additionally, becoming proficient in magic craft is the only way she can bridge the gap between her mortal human world and her lover’s. Cullen, a 220-year-old wizard, is dependent upon his Dragonspeir magic for immortality. He is her only family now; she cannot lose him.
Evil forces block her and try to steal her inherited scribal aura. Riding a stealth dragon, a cloaked rider pursues Lyra. Both the Alliance and Dark Realm alchemists lay tricks and traps. Her aura equals that of the first and most powerful Scribe, but will Lyra’s novice training allow her to discover the truth…and find a life with Cullen? Or will the Dark Realm keep them apart?
When Lyra McCauley learns residents of Dragonspeir’s Alliance are suffering with a deadly plague, she doesn’t heed the warnings of her fiancé, wizard Cullen Drake, to remain safe in her human world. After all, she’s the present Scribe—one of five strong women in her ancestry who possessed unique magic, each destined to protect the Alliance against the evil Black Dragon of the Dark Realm. With Cullen dependent upon Alliance power to maintain his immortality, the stakes are doubled for Lyra.
She leaves her college teaching and puts herself at risk for the community afflicted by black magic. To find a cure, she and Cullen travel into the vile, lawless underworld of Terza to strike a bargain with an expert. Their efforts further enrage the Black Dragon, vowing to decimate the Alliance and avenge the murder of his heir.
Lyra must secure the three lost volumes of the Book of Dragonspeir. Written by the three earliest Scribes, each book contains energy. Possession of the entire set will enable overthrow of the Dark Realm. Following clues into dangerous lands, Lyra and Cullen seek those volumes. His assistants, Kenzo the tiger owl and Noba the pseudodragon, prove invaluable aids. Only if they succeed, will the Alliance be safe and Lyra reach closer to the immortality she needs to live a life with Cullen.
Lyra McCauley, current Scribe of the Alliance, is the only one who can decode magic hidden in the recently retrieved ancient texts written by her ancestors, the first four Scribes. Information in those writings can help Lyra locate the four missing keystones, which will restore power to the Alliance and allow overthrow of the Dark Realm. With peace restored, she and her beloved, Cullen, could finally marry.
Time is short with the Black Dragon’s Dark Realm increasing attacks to avenge the death of his heir. Many innocent lives are lost. Alliance residents are forced into hiding. Magicals and blue dragons follow leadership of the Imperial Dragon and the other three Guardians into battle to defend the Alliance.
While Lyra unlocks the ancient magic, she opens herself up to scribal powers from her ancestors. She alone can fight the deadliest of the Dark Realm’s forces—the cimafa stealth dragons—but at a cost. The energy flux threatens her health and ability to learn where to find the missing keystones. Can Lyra overcome this shrewd tactic of the Black Dragon to decimate the Alliance?
~the final volume~
Barbaric Dark Realm warfare threatens to overtake all Dragonspeir lands, including the Alliance. Lyra McCauley, the fifth Scribe of the Alliance, finds herself in a desperate competition to gather four missing keystones. Those amulets of the four natural elements guarantee victory for the side possessing them. The Dark Realm’s alchemist, Eburscon, beats her to finding the water gem, the Pearl of Pendola. Three more keystones remain: the fluorite containing earth energy, the moonstone of the sky, and the fiery, dangerous Emtori Ruby.
The powerful gems, stolen centuries ago, channel astral energies and can restore much-needed Alliance power—the last hope. The wizard, Cullen, who is Lyra’s beloved, relies on Alliance magic for his immortality and will perish if the land falls to the Dark Realm.
Lyra uses her rare magical energies of quintessence and the Staurolite, governor of the four natural elements, to guide her to the hidden keystones. However, greed and power drive opponents, who challenge her in close pursuit, planning to destroy the Alliance, or to claim the power of quintessence for themselves.
The Dark Realm captures the ten-year-old Alliance seer, Kessa. Her abilities can give them information about the locations of the keystones, complicating Lyra’s plans. Will her love, allegiance, and quintessence allow her to save Cullen, Kessa, and the Alliance before the Dark Realm claims all of Dragonspeir?
Purchase Links for books in the series: