Home > Thief (The Scarred Mage of Roseward #1)

Thief (The Scarred Mage of Roseward #1)
Author: Sylvia Mercedes

He wouldn’t go mad. Not yet. Not tonight.

His feet heavy, his shoulders bowed, the hooded man climbed the tower’s winding stair. Each step was a battle to be fought and won before he could attempt the next. A flickering candle held high created a small sphere of light around him, but darkness pressed in on all sides, ready to overcome him should it go out. Sliding his other hand along the curving stone wall to his right, he breathed in a slow, steady rhythm.

With every breath, he whispered the promise again: “Not yet. Not tonight. Not yet. Not tonight.”

He’d made the same promise every night for . . . he couldn’t say how long. It felt like years. Like centuries.

A grim smile twisted his lips within the deep shadow of his hood. He pressed on, taking the treads a little faster. No guardrail stood between him and the empty space down the tower’s center. One false step would send him plummeting to a gruesome end. But he couldn’t deny the unmistakable lure of that drop, that darkness. It was like the lure of insanity itself—a sense of inevitability waiting to be fully embraced.

“Not yet,” he whispered again through grinding teeth. “Not yet.”

Of course, he might be mad already and simply not realize it.

At last he reached the landing at the top of the stair and stood before the door. Open, but only a crack. He pushed it wide and passed into a circular chamber built around a central stone basin filled with slick dark oil waiting to be lit. Tall, wide windows, many with broken panes, ringed the room.

Once upon a time, this lighthouse had stood watch above the cliffs of Roseward Isle, guiding ships safely through the treacherous channel between the island and the mainland. But many years had passed since any ship dared to brave the channel and sail near these haunted shores. The basin remained unlit and cold.

A salty breeze wafted through one of the broken windowpanes. The candle he held sputtered and threatened to go out. Carefully the mage shielded its glow with his free hand and carried it to a desk against the one windowless wall on the north side of the tower. A candle nub in the bottom of a clay bowl had sunk deep into a puddle of its own wax. He pried it out and stuck the fresh candle in its place.

Books, pages, and scrolls littered the floor around the desk, stacked in baskets, tucked between the desk’s legs, or lining the walls in haphazard array amid bottles of ink, quills, and trimming knives—an assortment of mage’s implements. On the desk itself lay only a single book, a lovely volume worked in tooled red leather and bound with straps. Gold leaf embellished the delicate petals of a rose on its cover, and an aroma of crushed roses seemed to mingle with the musty scent of parchment.

The hooded man drew a long breath through his nostrils. His candle flickered gently, and the rose on the book cover seemed to dance and move in its light as though stirred by a breeze. His gut twisted painfully, and a weight of stone bowed his shoulders.

He pulled back the chair and took a seat. For a moment he could only sit there, his face immobile, his hands still. Working up the will to do what must be done.

Time to begin.

Like a soldier on the frontlines leaping suddenly into action, he flipped the front cover open. A cloud of rose perfume filled the atmosphere, clogging his nose and lungs. He choked, eyes watering. With a savage shake of his head, he leaned in, focusing his vision through the pink-hued miasma, concentrating on that first page, on the spell written there with painstaking precision in bold red lettering.

He began to read. His lips moved silently, forming the shapes of the words, but he dared not speak them aloud. Sweat broke out across his brow, and his heart raced by the time he reached the end of the first line of script. Methodically he kept going, refusing to skim or skip over the more dangerous, more powerful words.

By the time he reached the end of the page, a pulsing throb of energy radiated up into his face, thrumming a frequency that struck the very core of his soul. He paused to catch his breath, and the energy immediately died back. That was no good. He must maintain the spell, the entire spell. If he let it break, he would have to start over from the beginning.

His hand trembled, its fingers awkward as they gripped the badly worn corner of the page and turned it. New words, new precise lines of written magic glared up at him. These were both harsher and more confident than the first page. The spell’s power grew with every line he read.

Hours or minutes or mere seconds passed. It hardly mattered. He fell into a rhythm almost like a dance. A dance of magic whirling in his soul. He gathered the energies to himself and sent them out again, and with every beat, every give and take, his heart stuttered, and he wondered if tonight would be the night his mortal body finally broke under the strain.

Shadows deepened along the edges of the room, pooling together. They gathered in a mass, crept across the floor, and crawled over the basin, trailing through the pool of oil, causing ripples where there should be stillness. They closed in on the mage at his desk and mounded together before shooting out tendrils to climb his chair, to snake up his legs and wind around his waist.

He gasped. Knifelike protrusions cut through the thick fabric of his robe, slicing into his skin. But he could not be distracted, he could not be swayed from his purpose. Grimacing, he bowed closer to the book and read on. Shadow thorns wound around his neck, crawled through his beard, his hair, and pulled at his hood until it fell back across his shoulders. The perfume of roses intensified.

She was there. Standing just at his back. Her hands gripped his shoulders, fingers digging through flesh down to the bone.

Let me visit you tonight, my love.

Her voice was sweet, poisonous. His skin prickled at her breath against his ear, at the warmth of soft rose-petal lips teasing gently at his earlobe. The sensation was almost enough to distract him from the thorns biting into his flesh.

You are lonely. I can feel it. Let me come to you. Let me care for you, satisfy you. What am I but your most perfect dream come true?

Her hands moved from his shoulders, sliding down to pull at the front laces of his shirt, parting the fabric. Her fingers reached inside, tearing his skin, lacing his body with pain. But through the pain he felt the delight she promised, and his body responded with a pulse of need that shamed him.

Quickly he focused on the spell and continued his reading. Now he gave voice to the words, speaking them aloud. The power of the spell intensified.

She uttered a ferocious hiss. The soft petal-lips gave way to biting teeth that grabbed and savaged his ear. The dangerous fingers playing across his skin tore deep into his flesh, and blood flowed, soaking through his shirt and robe, pouring in rivulets down his body to pool on the floor.

Why do you fight me? Why do you resist? Was I not created for you and your pleasure? Why do you refuse all that I can give?

He read on, his voice louder than before. With each word, the spell strengthened and her hold on him faded. The shadows retreated, dissipated, and vanished. Only a soft flutter in his ear remained, a ghostly echo.

You will understand in the end. You will be mine . . . mine . . .

His candle in its bowl burned down. When at last it guttered out, the golden light of dawn streaked through the east window and bathed his desk in its glow. By that light he read the last of the spell, the final words. The Binding.

With a tremulous sigh, he shut the book fast and sagged back in the chair. Sweat soaked his matted hair. He touched his ear, wincing, and drew back his fingers to find them red with blood. More blood soaked through his shirt and robes. Not as much as he’d believed, however. Most of the attack had been a dream. Only a dream.

Hot Books
» Buy Me Sir
» Daddy's Pretty Baby
» Ruckus (Sinners of Saint #2)
» The Greek's Forgotten Wife (The Boarding Sc
» Mastered (The Enforcers #1)
» Kept (The Enforcers #3)
» The Dom's Virgin: A Dark Billionaire Romanc
» Filthy Marcellos: The Complete
» The Chosen (Black Dagger Brotherhood #15)
» Wet
» White Hot (Hidden Legacy #2)
» Wake A Sleeping Tiger (Breeds #31)
» The Hot Shot (Game On #4)
» If You Were Mine
» Fallen Crest Home (Fallen Crest High #6)
» Latest books
» Hot Author