Touched by magic, p.1
Touched by Magic, p.1K.N. Lee
Touched by Magic
Magic Truth Book One
Captive Quill Press
A Look at Half-Blood Dragon
A Look at Bloodlust
About the Author
Also by K.N. Lee
About Nicole Zoltack
Copyright © 2018 by K.N. Lee & Nicole Zoltack
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
Created with Vellum
Pale, and blood-streaked, the bodies of their enemies were lain in rows that lined the road into the Elantrian kingdom’s capital.
The stench of rotting flesh burned Eisa’s nostrils.
This was war.
It was never clean.
This was the Divine Army, ordained by the gods to wipe out all enemies of magic.With her staff resting over her shoulder, she led the procession of slaves from the top of her battle-mare. At her side rode, Ryce, her second in command.
She glanced at him—at the scar she’d given him when they were only teenagers fighting for the Grand Wizard position. It stretched across his face, from brow to cheek.
Magic was a dangerous weapon, and she knew how it use it better than anyone in the realm.
Still, he knew her sacrifice better than most—what she gave up to follow her destiny.
“The gods will bless us for this victory,” Sol said, her gap-toothed smile shining in Eisa’s direction.
Sol flew down from the clouds, her blonde braids stained with crimson blood from the battle they’d just won. Her translucent wings flapped behind her as she slowed to fly alongside.
The battle was over. But, the war with the elves was just beginning.
Under the unrelenting, harsh heat of the sun, Nala wiped sweat from her brow. She squinted against the bright rays.
“Don’t tell me you’re slacking off already,” her father grunted. He straightened and took a sip of water from a flask.
Nala flipped her iron sickle. Harvest grain was boring work, but at least it meant her father had returned to the village.
“Aye,” Nala admitted, her cheeks reddening. “I think Koren might want to court me.”
Her father and mother shared a look. “He will have to ask our permission first.”
“Oh, I can’t look at him as more than a friend.”
“You’re getting to the age where you should think of settling down with a decent man,” Mother said, offering a smile.
“Am I?” Nala asked. “I’d rather join Papa on the raids.”
“Ah,” he said, smile fading to a gloomy grimace. “You don’t want to do such a thing, dear girl. I’d see you safe and protected with a husband and children.”
She frowned, but didn’t press the matter. At nearly sixteen, she started to understand the danger her father encountered when he went off with the other hunters. But, she still preferred that to being stuck at home.
Why train her to be a fighter if she was only going to raise children and dote on a man she didn’t love?
Beasts and brutal men awaited outside the safety of the village. Dangers the hunters fought to keep them safe from.
Her father had just returned from raiding with the other men last night. He had gone straight to bed without even eating the meal she and her mother had prepared.
The food had kept until the morning, and she had woken to her father polishing off the plate of his favorite cheeses and fresh fruit.
“That’s right,” Mother said, pausing her work to shake her head. Her long, reddish-brown hair was braided and hung across her shoulder. It was the same shade as Nala’s—the prettiest color of any of the other girls—or so Koren had confessed to her during the summer. “Get back to work.”
“Work,” Nala’s snorted, leaning down to return to the task. “That’s all we ever do.”
“Aye,” Mother said. “And, for good reason. One must earn her keep.”
“I’d like to keep more than wheat and dirt,” Nala mumbled under her breath.
“What was that?” Mother quipped, and Nala blushed, shaking her head.
“Nothing,” she said.
“Ah,” Father said, taking off his hat and fanning himself. “The girl is right. We do deserve more. Why, I’d have you on the throne with a crown on your head…and servants to massage and wash your feet.”
Nala grinned. “And, feed me grapes while minstrels sing songs about me.”
Even Mother had to laugh at that fantasy. For a moment, it was like old times—the three of them working and laughing together, simply enjoying one another’s company.
Something stirred in the forest. Nala shot a glance over her shoulder. The muscles in her belly tightened as the air grew heavy and clouds rolled along the sky to block out the sun.
Wind blew for the first time that day. Startled, Nala jumped as an arrow shot from the forest.
Time seemed to slow. Heat rose from her chest to her throat.
Arrows raced through the field, soaring like birds of prey. Nala opened her mouth to warn the others. Before she could utter more than a gasp, her father grabbed her by the waist and lifted her up into the air.
“Run away!” he called out, his voice so gruff and cut with anger that she hardly recognized it.
Mother froze, startled.
“Hurry!” Nala’s shout broke her mother from her thoughts, and they dashed across the field toward the village.
Every step pounded the earth below, and before long, screams filled her ears. She cried out as she and her father crashed into the dirt, scrapping her cheek from the impact. Dazed, she sat up and wiped her face. Blood smeared her fingertips.
The shock amplified when she turned to her father.
He lay in the dirt, an arrow protruding from the back of his head.
All sounds were sucked away as terror filled her throat and erupted from her lips in a blood-curdling scream.
“Father,” she cried out.
She pushed herself to her knees and crawled over to him. She knew what she’d see—but needed to see it anyway.
No one survived an arrow to the head.
As she rolled him over onto his side, lifeless eyes stared up at her. Despite more arrows falling around them, Nala laid her head on her father’s chest. She did not rise nor fall. Her ears detected no sound, no beating of his heart.
“He’s dead,” she whispered, in utter disbelief.
A faint buzzing sound filled Nala’s ears. As if in a terrible nightmare, she lifted her head and surveyed the scene. Farmers were yelling and running away. Children cried as their mothers tried to herd them away from the chaos. Men were raced toward the forest with sickles and knives raised. Brave as her father had been, they were going to fight.
Tears burned her eyes as she beheld the chaos and devastation of the village. Just moments ago
Now, blood pooled onto the ground, and her father’s lifeless body blocked the road into the main square.
No one stopped. They had their own horrors to face.
One zipped past Nala’s head, and she barely flinched.
What did it even matter anymore?
Sorrow mixed with outrage deep within her. Her body felt far too warm, and she couldn’t stand to be in her own skin. She wanted to rush away from it all, from today, from her father’s dead body, from the arrows. The memories, hopes, and dreams for the future—all of it threatened to overwhelm her.
Her mother sank beside her. Her lips were moving, but Nala couldn’t hear what was said. The screams, the death shrills, the sobs, her racing heartbeat, that stupid buzzing drowned out all other sounds.
A terrible howl burst out. More men had mobilized to fight.
She climbed to her feet and yanked out her sickle and knife. Armed, ready and determined, she carefully stepped over her father. He could not fight, and so she would in his stead.
“Nala.” Her mother gripped her arm. “Don’t.”
Nala went to jerk free when she saw them.
More elves appeared from the line of trees marking the end of the forest. Tall, slender beings with pointed ears and swords that glowed red emerged on horseback, ready to devastate their village.
Her blood ran cold as she saw even more race toward them from the backs of Great Wolves.
“We must go,” her mother whispered.
Nala glanced at her. For a second, she was transfixed by the ocean blue of her mother’s eyes. It was like looking into a mirror, for her the same pain and sorrow filled them.
“Now,” she urged.
Nala closed her father’s eyes. Now, he looked almost as if he were resting and at peace.
Her throat tightened as reality settled in.
Then, she reached to grab her father’s wrists. They could drag him from the harvest field.
From the battlefield.
More arrows flew.
One nipped her on the shoulder, slashing it open.
She cried out, dropping her father’s wrists.
“Go, Nala!” Mother cried.
She obeyed, tears streaming her bloody face—the guilt of abandoning him churning in her belly. Arrows followed her as she sped alongside her mother.
Don’t look back. Just keep moving.
A haunting howl echoed in her ears as they ran. Nala dared to risk a backward glance.
Her heart leaped into her throat as the elves used their enchanted swords against the men, screams and spurts of blood filling the dust-filled air.
“If I tell you to run, you will listen,” her mother said.
“We stick together.”
“Your father wished to keep us safe.”
“Precisely. We mustn’t let him down.” Nala gripped her mother’s hand. “I won’t let you go.”
“You will, if I tell you to.”
Those words frightened Nala more than she wished to admit. In just a year’s time, she would be old enough for a marriage match. She was no longer a child—but the thought of losing her mother and father in one day left her feeling like a baby…useless and desperate for coddling.
Instead of protesting, she pursed her lips and pressed on, into the village square.
“Go and help secure the children and then return to me.”
“What will you do?” Nala’s call fell on deaf ears.
Her mother hurried away around the corner of a cottage.
Alone, she sprang into action and searched for the children.
Most were locked away in the stables. She ran to Sviev, one of the butcher’s sons.
“Where’s Edvin, and Tollack?”
His eyes filled with tears and his shoulders shook as he wept. A single shake of the head was her answer.
Fierce anger washed over Nala as the children clung to her. She knew their fear and pain.
But, the rage became stronger than either of those emotions.
For now, she needed to focus.
The children relied on her for strength, but if she stayed here, she alone could not protect them. If she fought alongside her mother and the other adults, she would have a chance at making a difference. A slim chance nonetheless but a slightly increased one.
“Stay here,” she urged.
“You’re leaving?” Svein asked.
“I will be back,” she promised.
She left and barred the door behind her.
A few buildings were on fire, the flames licking the air, fierce and powerful. The shadows seemed to mock her, and she jerked, startled, when a hand landed on her arm.
Mother. Her eyes were wild with grief and fear.
“What is it?” Nala asked. The weight of her fright was enough to crush her.
“We are unmatched,” she said. ‘Their weapons are enchanted and none of us have the magic to stop them. We must hide, and hope they will leave. Come.”
Nala stifled back a sob. Her mother brought her to their cottage and barred the door. “Go in the kitchen. Find more knives,” she said.
For once not hesitating to listen to her mother, Nala raced to the kitchen. She had retrieved two knives when the cupboard behind her was opened. Her mother shoved her inside.
Nala slammed her body against the door, but her mother had already locked it. She banged on it.
“Let me out!”
A howl from outside silenced her. Heart pounding, Nala dropped the knives, and covered her mouth. A growl sent her sinking to the floor of the cupboard.
What is happening?
She peered through a crack in the door and clasped a hand over her mouth to muffle a scream. An elf with long blue hair and pearl-colored skin that shimmered under the sunlight awaited outside, riding on the back of an armored Great Wolf.
“Out,” he ordered her mother. “We won’t hurt you if you comply.”
“Please,” Mother pleaded. “Just leave us. We have nothing of value.”
“I won’t ask again,” he said, pointing the tip of his sword at her.
Two more shoves of her entire body weight and the door burst open, hanging off the cupboard. Nala fell to the floor with a thud and a grunt.
Frantic eyes flashed, meeting those of the elf.
With a flick of his wrist, her knife flew out of her hands and landed near the door.
He shot her a stunned look when he realized that the knife had just missed his head. She swallowed a lump in her throat as he leaped from the saddle and moved so quickly that she almost missed it.
Before she could react, he lifted her from the ground by her throat.
She tossed the other knife to her dominant, right hand, and circled the fallen furniture.
For a moment, she was choked up grief.
They’re gone. Mother and Papa.
“Valiant effort, little one, but I will not tolerate one more act of defiance.”
“Nala,” Mother said. “Please, don’t fight. I cannot lose you.”
Nodding, she glared at him through tears.
When he set her back on her feet, she rushed to her mother, throwing her arms around her waist.
They obeyed, stepping outside as he leaped back on his wolf’s back.
Just beyond the village was a grassy field. The children and several other young women awaited. A horde of elven raiders surrounded them, all armed and glowering at their captured spoils.
“You might think me a monster,” the elf said from behind. They hadn’t quite reached the others yet. “But, we spared the lot of you. I’d say we are due some gratitude.”
“Yes,” Nala said, nodding. “Thank you for killing my father. We are grateful.”
She glanced over her shoulder to see his jaw tighten.
“Tell me this, have you ever asked your father how many elves he’s ki
The question stunned her. Was this a revenge raid? Had her father and the other men attack an elven village on their last raid?
Her stomach sank further, and nausea overwhelmed her.
As she and her mother joined the huddled women and children, she looked at the elves in a new light—a light she hadn’t expected.
They had destroyed her world. But, maybe they deserved it.
Svein rushed to her and buried his face in her neck.
“It’ll be all right,” she whispered to him.
She wished she believed her own words.
One by one, the children and the young women were tied up and then loaded onto carts. As much as Nala wished to fight off the raider who seized her to bind her hands and feet, she did not. She was numb.
As much as it pained her, she allowed herself to be forced on board. She would not risk one more life. If she had been the only one captured, she would have risked her life on the chance of freeing herself.
While the horses pulled them along, Nala twisted around and watched as the black smoke billowed from the once-peaceful village.
Svein glanced up at her. “I’m scared,” he said.
She hadn’t seen his mother or his father, and she ached for him. “I…” Words failed her.
“Are you scared?”
She would not lie to him. “Yes.”
“Close your eyes,” she urged, pulling him closer to her by wrapping her bound arms around his neck. “Rest if you can.”
The boy listened, but they both knew he would not sleep any.
The trek lasted for days, with the horses pulling the carts swiftly. The ride was somewhat smooth. Only a few times had she been jarred or startled by bumps or going over rocks or into divots.
Touched by Magic by K.N. Lee / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes