Saturday, August 17, 2013

Lichgates: Book One of the Grimoire Saga by SM Boyce


Kara tumbled through the darkness. Whenever she tried to scream, dirt filled her mouth and nose. She eventually just held her breath, closed her eyes, and waited to be crushed in the landing.

Two roots broke her fall and bent with her, slowing her momentum but bruising her ribs in the process. Her hands slid off the grubs and mud as she grappled for something to stop her fall. Her cheeks flushed, and her stomach floated into her throat, heaving and twisting with her body.

She took a deep breath and thudded against something solid. She covered her head with her arms. Light poured around her as she held her position, waiting to fall deeper into whatever she’d gotten herself into this time. Her shoulder throbbed from the landing. Ringing hummed in her ear, but this was a new, silent place. She peeked through two fingers.

Dirt clung to her now-ripped jeans, and red smudges covered the exposed skin on her arms. Her shoes were caked in mud. Blood seeped through a rip in her sleeve, and a purple bruise had already begun to spread over her kneecap. She searched her arms and shins to feel for breaks, but nothing stung. That was good, but her phone had disappeared and her pack was still in the gazebo.

She leaned against the something solid that had broken her fall, which turned out to be a stone desk. Blood from her arm smudged the side where she landed, its red streak a vivid contrast to the desk’s white polish. A matching stone chair sat a foot or so from the desk, as if whoever had last sat in it had only just left.

Her hair was a mess of tangles and soil, and the streaks of mud on her cheeks smelled like a combination of carrots and crusty leaves. She brushed away as much of it as she could, rubbing the last of the dirt out of her eyes and wiping her face with the least-filthy bit of her shirt. The edges of her vision blurred, but the room slowly came into focus.

Stone shelves canvassed every wall from the floor to the twelve-foot ceiling. Every inch of every shelf was covered in books, each bound in colorful leather and labeled with gold symbols she couldn’t read. There were no doors in the walls of bookshelves, and the only light came from a pane of glass in the roof. Crimson sunlight leaked into what could only be a submerged library.

Kara eyed the skylight before pulling herself onto the desk and reaching for the window, but it was at least six feet away. Without any rope, she would never be able to escape through it.

She peeked over her shoulder, trying to figure out how she’d gotten into the room in the first place, but the only evidence of her fall was the pile of dirt where she’d been sitting. It was as if she’d appeared from thin air.

I’m trapped.

Kara sat on the desk and wiped the sweat from her palms onto her jeans. Her breaths became more and more shallow as adrenaline spiked in unison with her pulse. The ringing became a scream in her ear.

“Chill. Out,” she said rhythmically.

She closed her eyes and took a few deep breaths to distract herself from the panic. Her chest rose and fell until the rush of her heartbeat faded from her head. When she could control her breathing again, she stared at the floor and debated her very limited options.

Something glittered from a gap in a desk drawer, so she hopped to the floor with a soft thud and knelt to get a good look. There was no handle on the drawer, but she was able to slip her fingers through the opening and drag it out of the desk. The rock groaned from the effort. As it finally slid open, a sunbeam skirted around her and cast her shadow onto the book hidden inside. It was wrapped in thin silver chains, but had no padlock.

The air in the small room stalled as it had before the storm: stagnant and suddenly heavy. The muscles between her shoulders tightened, and her neck tensed.

Hidden deeper within the drawer was a thick sheet of parchment paper. Kara set this aside, covered as it was in an illegible, spidery script. The book’s faded red leather was porous and soft, its title written in gold lettering that had long ago begun to chip so that now, only spotted lines comprised the runic letters.

The chains wrapped around the cover like metal vines, and instead of a padlock, they had all been fused together in the book’s center. In this mess of iron was a small silver pendant, hung from a short chain and set into the fused metal like a key in a lock. It was the same symbol that had appeared on the door: a crude four-leaf clover comprised of thin crescent moons. A brilliant diamond glittered from its center.

Her hands inched along the pages trapped beneath the odd lock and brushed the silver vines in the process. The metal burned her fingertips. She dropped the book, which thumped on the desk. Pain shot through her arm.

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Genre – Fantasy

Rating – PG13

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