The Magician – Chapter I

Kat squinted at the sunlight pouring into her bedchamber, dust motes caught mid-dance. She smiled at her handmaiden Helene through her tiredness, wishing she could close her eyes and roll back into her dreams.
“Your Imperial Highness.” Helene lowered her gaze. “Your breakfast—” her eyes widened as she stared down at the bed sheets, crisp white linen patched with dried blood between Kat’s legs.
Kat recalled how excited her younger sister had been when she bled for the first time. But it would be different for her. Breath caught in her chest. Her mother would do everything in her power to change Kat, to mould her into someone just like her, but at least it would bring an end to Elisabeth’s gloating.
A smile emerged through the deep creases on Helene’s face, brightness reaching her dull grey eyes. “This is wonderful.” She pulled the sheet from Kat, the handmaiden’s fingers like crabs’ legs.
Kat dragged the sheet back towards her, kicking her legs until she sat with her head against the oak backboard, carvings of scrolls and ivies pressing against the back of her head. She rolled the bed sheet into a ball, folding her arms as she pressed it into her lap. “No.”
“We will have to tell your mother.” Helene raised her chin and scoffed. “You’re a woman now.”
“Please. You cannot tell anyone.” She sat up, clearing her throat. “That is an order.”
“Princess Kathryn.” Helene gave a chuckle, shaking her head. “You do say the funniest things sometimes.” Still smiling, she pried the sheet from Kat’s grip and held them up to the sunlight. She glanced down at Kat’s stained nightdress. “Would you like me to help clean you?”
“That is not necessary. You are dismissed, Helene.” She winced as cramps spread below her stomach.
“As you wish, Your Highness.” Helene dipped her head and hesitated by the door. “One moment, please, Princess.” She slipped from the bedchamber, leaving the door ajar.
Kat’s yawn turned into a sigh. She shifted from the bed, walking around aimlessly, floorboards cold beneath her steps. The arrival of her woman’s blood meant rituals and ceremonies—the cleansing, the sacrifice, the humiliation. She stared down at her trembling hands as her heartbeat pounded and breath grew tight. Sweat pooled around the back of her neck. She closed her eyes, counting to herself, concentrating on the breaths, trying to push away the darkness before it engulfed her, sending back down that spiral of panic.
Helene returned a minute or so later, backing through the door with a wash basin in one hand and a bundle of cloths in the other. She placed the bucket at the end of Kat’s bed and smiled. “You will need to be clean, Your Highness. I can help you if you like. Or if you would rather I left you alone?”
Kat blinked and inhaled, steeling herself. “Thank you, Helene. I can manage from here.”
The handmaiden looked down at a ball of cloth in her hand and passed it to Kat.
“What is this for?” Kat asked, taking the woollen pad.
“Pop it inside your smallclothes. It will soak the blood. I will bring you a fresh pad before you sleep.”
Kat swallowed and dropped her gaze.
“Don’t worry about a thing, Princess. It happens to us all. It just means you’re no longer a child.”
The door clicked behind her as Helene left with the bed sheets. Kat passed over a rug, made from the pelt of a white bear, and leaned out of her window. Clouds tumbled above the Braun Sea, the ever-shifting dots of reflected sunlight sparkling across the waves. Tall-masted ships bobbed in the distance. Barges and sloops vied for space around the harbour.
Kicking free of her nightclothes, she cleaned herself with the cloth. The water warmed her flesh as another pang of cramps pulled at her insides. She took in a deep breath and dried herself, sliding the woollen pad into her underclothes.
She pulled on the clothes Helene had laid out for her—a green silk tunic with a golden wyvern sigil curled along its chest and a pair of cream hose—and raked an ivory comb, carved in the shape of a narwhal, through her knotted red curls, scraping them away from her forehead.
She turned back to her room, searching around for something, anything, to give her comfort. The ornament of a hunting dog, shaped from black glass, so dark it seemed to suck in the light, stood perched on her writing desk. An icy chill ran along her fingers as she took the ornament in her hands, staring into its eyes, wondering what she was going to do. She needed to see Hansel.
Trembling, she set the ornament back on her writing desk, moving aside an ink pot and using it to weigh down loose parchment, many of the sheets scrawled with frantic writing outlining the details of her increasingly vivid dreams.
Kat mounted the windowsill, barefoot, and looked down. The courtyard’s pale cobbles lay four storeys below. Guards and servants passed beneath her in a flurry of movement and purpose, unaware of the young princess looming above them.
She stepped out, dropping down onto a stone ledge, a few fingers wider than her foot, and pressed her body against the sheer wall. Moving swiftly on her toes, she reached a white painted drainpipe and slid down two floors, feet meeting another carved ledge. She pushed herself away from the wall, landing on the roof of the servants’ lodgings, its slate tiles slick with the haze from the Braun Sea.
She hoped Hansel would not be away on a delivery—it was rare for a message to be sent out so early in the day. Leaning over the roof’s edge, she counted four windows from the right, reached down, and tapped lightly on the glass.
Taking care not to slip, Kat shuffled up along the roof tiles. Smoke rose from a crowned chimney to her left. Ostreich flags, dotted along the battlements of the palace’s outer wall, caught the wind, flapping in unpredictable shudders, the white wyvern on a black field dulled by mist. She watched as more guards emerged from the mess hall’s towering doorway, sauntering in twos and threes to their posts, sharing laughter and conversation. She took in the aromas of freshly baked bread and wood smoke, the hint of hops from the temple brewery catching the wind.
A scrambling sound came from just below the roof’s edge. Kat smiled weakly when Hansel pulled himself up onto the slates. His skin was dark from days on the roads, and he wore his black hair in a tight braid. A navy blue tunic and short trousers marked his role as a messenger. “What’s the matter?”
“Is it that obvious?”
He sat down next to her, pale knees poking from beneath the bottom of his short trousers. “Have you been fighting with your sister again?”
“Elisabeth?” She waved a hand. “No. Not this time.” Shoulders hunched, she looked down at her bare feet and swallowed. “I am a woman now.”
“What do you mean?” He looked her up and down, gaze lingering over her chest. “Nah, you still look like a girl to me.”
She gave his shoulder a playful jab. “Not like that. I do not know.” She lowered her voice to a whisper as her cheeks prickled with warmth. “I…I have bled.”
“Bled? Has someone—” He stopped and nodded to himself, a slight grin curling one side of his lips, and placed a hand on Kat’s. “I understand.” He tapped the side of his nose with a forefinger. “I won’t say nothing to no one.”
“Does that mean you will, or you will not?”
He tilted his head, eyebrow cocked. “Huh?”
Kat rolled her eyes. “It matters not.” She sighed and picked at a clump of moss, freeing it from between a pair of slates, letting it tumble into the drainage gutter. “Helene says she will tell mother.”
“We all have to grow up.” He picked something from his teeth. “Don’t worry about it. Happens to everyone.”
“I am worried. I have to go through the ceremony.” Her fists clenched into a tight ball, knuckles turning pale. “It will only be a matter of time before there is talk of marrying me off to some noble’s son or some foreign prince who does not even speak the Ostreich tongue.” She watched a pair of seagulls rise in broad circles. They danced around each other, diving and swooping, their broad wings slicing through the air. She envied them, envied their freedom, their ability to live how they wanted without the spectre of royal duties and marriage to a stranger looming over them.
“I thought you were supposed to be a princess.”
She turned to see his toothy grin. “Mother will chide me. She’ll tell me again about responsibilities to the Empire and fulfilling my destiny…” Her voice trailed off as she searched for the seagulls.
“Can’t you just order people not to make you do things?”
Kat laughed bitterly. “You think I have power?”
Hansel pushed out his bottom lip and gestured across the courtyard towards the stables. “I don’t know. You live in a big palace. Your mum’s the ruler of the Ostreich Empire.” He counted the points off his fingers. “There’s guards, servants, a navy, an army…”
“Not yet,” she spat. “I cannot even get my handmaiden to do what I want.” She tore up a handful of moss from between the tiles and hurled it from the roof. “It is not fair.”
Hansel laughed.
“You would not understand.” She leaned forward, resting her head in her hands, elbows digging into the sides of her knees.
“Try me.”
“You’ve got it simple.” She turned to him. “You can leave whenever you want and it is not going to cause any crises.”
“No, I can’t. I have responsibilities. People rely on me.”
“I know.” She sighed. “I just wish there was a way I could stop Helene from showing mother those sheets.”
“That’s not a good idea.” He nodded towards the chapel. “I think Witz is looking for you.”
She followed his gaze as the wyvern, no bigger than a large seagull, swooped across the courtyard, his wings broad, black, and bat-like. He landed on the chimneypot to her left and hopped down to the roof, making his way towards Kat on spindly legs. He came to a stop, lowered his head, and lay his leathery wings out at his sides, their surface shimmering between black and emerald green. “Princess Kathryn.” He spoke with a musical lilt. “Your mother is waiting for you.” He regarded her with tiny black eyes.
She gave Hansel a shrug. “I must go.”
“Good luck.” Hansel offered her a grin. “Knock for me later if you’re around.”
“I will.” She gave him a quick smile and climbed from the roof.
Kat scaled down the drainpipe to the courtyard as Witz glided down, landing on the cobbles next to her. He lowered his gaze again and flattened his wings against the ground. “Please, forgive my intrusion. I was sent to find you.”
“You do not need to bow to me, Witz. Just walk with me.” She found his formality in front of the other palace staff strange, and wondered whether they knew how close they really were.
“As you wish, Princess.” Witz straightened his body, folding in his wings, barbed tail stiffening. He looked up at her expectantly.
“Lead the way.”
The wyvern waddled ahead, and led Kat through a side-door usually reserved for guards. The door stood in solid oak inlaid with simple strips of wrought iron.
She hesitated for a moment. “Are you sure?”
He hopped up to the door’s handle, grabbed it with his beak-like mouth, turned it, and pushed the door open. “Come. This way is much quicker.” He took to the air and flew on ahead.
Kat followed him along the seldom-used corridor, footsteps echoing. Sunlight poked through the gloom, highlighting bronze busts of long-dead emperors. Her gaze lingered on a dusty tapestry showing a knight on a horse piercing the belly of a green-scaled dragon, its shield sporting the sigil of a basilisk on a yellow field. The earthen floor tiles faded to a chipped cream along a central path. Judging by the blackened beams and smoke-stained pillars, she presumed it to be a much older part of the palace than where she resided.
Bringing his wings out wide, Witz landed on the gilded handle of an oak door set into a stone archway. Brass images of leviathan and kraken caught the faint light, their surfaces dulled by dust and wear. The wyvern wrestled with the handle for a few moments before giving the door a light knock. He hopped to the floor, disappearing into the shadows.
The door inched open as a male servant eyed her. “Your Imperial Highness.” He bowed. “Forgive me. I was not expecting you here.”
Kat gave him a smile. “I was not expecting to be here either.” She looked back over her shoulder towards Witz.
“Her Imperial Majesty and Princess Elisabeth are waiting for you in the dining room.”
“Thank you.” She glanced around at the familiar surroundings—the glossy white walls, the golden twists of leaves along the coving, the plush jade carpet beneath her feet. “I can make my own way from here.”
Paintings and busts of ancient relatives, nobles, and war heroes blurred past her until she came to a halt outside the dining room. A male servant dipped his head and opened the door without a word. “Thank you.” She raised her chin and took in a breath before stepping through.
Kat’s mother and sister sat at the end of a long polished table, both in jade silks. Rows of tables filled the room. Alchemical orbs hung from ceiling beams, throwing their soft white glow into every corner. She walked to her seat, feeling their eyes upon her. “Mother. Elisabeth.”
“Where were you?” her mother asked. Her eyes widened at the sight of Kat’s bare feet. “Where are your shoes?”
A servant pulled a chair out for Kat and she took a seat, nodding to him with thanks.
“Look at me when I speak to you, child.” Her mother’s flesh had greyed with age, and deep lines creased her brow. She held a teacup with long bony fingers, her eyes narrowing. “Where were you?”
Kat met those dark eyes, her voice catching in her throat. “I—”
“She was probably playing with that servant again or sniffing around the stables,” Elisabeth interrupted, her voice edged with sarcasm. “One would forget she is supposed to be a princess.”
Kat scowled at her sister and turned back to her mother. “I just needed some air. I felt unwell.”
“Your handmaiden came to see me. Helene, is it? I can never remember their damnable names.” She held the cup next to her thin lips, steam rising across her face. “She tells me you have received your blood.”
“That means you’re a woman, like me.” Elisabeth tossed her red hair back, thicker and longer than Kat’s. They shared the same button nose, high cheekbones, and bright green eyes.
“I am still older than you.” Kat’s fists tightened involuntarily.
“Well?” Her mother pursed her lips.
“I…I think she may be mistaken.” Kat shuffled in her seat as a servant poured tea from a white teapot, its faded blue designs of falcons and dragons reminding her of the huntsmaster’s tattoos. “I was out climbing and hurt myself. It must have been from that.”
“She’s obviously lying, mother.”
The Empress silenced Elisabeth with a glare. “Did you visit the physician?”
Kat shook her head and looked down at her chipped fingernails. “It was only a small cut. I think it has healed.”
“Show me.”
“Show you?” Kat’s eyes widened. “What?”
“Your cut.” She placed her teacup down on its saucer. “I must say, Kathryn, it is no surprise that you would hurt yourself the way you go scrambling along those roofs barefoot like some disgusting animal. You’re not hurt at all, are you?” She held Kat with her stare, waiting, a slight curl forming at the edge of her mouth.
Kat went to speak and stopped herself before she told another lie. “Sorry, Mother.” She dipped her gaze, pressing her hands together.
“So, there is no wound?”
A servant placed sweetbreads and cured ham on the plate before Kat. She tore up a piece of the meat with her fingers and ate, closing her eyes as she chewed. “I am sorry.”
“This is a big day.” Her mother raised her chin. “I will have the servants make arrangements.”
Kat met her gaze. “For what?”
“For your ceremony, of course.”

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The Magician, episode one of the Ravenglass Chronicles.

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Kat is heir to the throne…

…but the last thing she wants to do is rule.

When the day she’s been dreading finally arrives, Kat is torn between her royal duties and a magical destiny.

Will she choose true love and risk certain war, or accept an arranged marriage with a man three-times her age?

With only a wyvern and a messenger boy as her friends, who can she really trust?
How deep do the secrets run?

Inspired by the tarot and set in a rich medieval world, The Magician is the first instalment of The Ravenglass Chronicles, a fantasy novella serial with new episodes released each month.

You’ll love this coming-of-age epic because everyone loves hidden magic, family secrets, and forbidden love.

Get your copy on Amazon, or read on Kindle Unlimited.

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Wizard of the Wasteland, book one of the Wasteland series.

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Surviving the apocalypse is hard…

…but it’s hell when you’re an addict.

Abel craves a quiet life.

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But no one leaves the Family…

Joined by a travelling showman, Abel must do everything he can to save the kids.

Can he resist the temptations of his old life?

Will he ever be from drugs?

Can he find hope in a hopeless world?

You’ll love Wizard of the Wasteland because everyone loves post-apocalyptic survival, flawed heroes, and tales of good versus evil.

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Blind Gambit, a gamelit novel.

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He’s the game’s only hope…but the truth is, he sucks.

In the near future, the B-chip allows blind people to see in virtual worlds.

The only time Brian really feels alive is when he’s playing Gambit…even though he’s the worst player.

When a hacker seeks to destroy the game, Brian’s immune to the weapon that’s kicking everyone else out.

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With the help of friends and rivals, Brian needs to learn new skills, craft awesome weapons, and discover who or what is trying to tear down the only thing he cares about before it’s too late…

In the real world, Brian is forced to confront his disability. But how can he adjust to a world without sight when Gambit offers so much more?

Written by a visually impaired author, Blind Gambit is a GameLit novel as a fun action adventure, filled with geeky references and an authentic perspective on disability.

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