PROLOGUE

"Do you think she will remember any of this?" The male voice sounded hushed and muddy. I felt like I had been wrapped in a cold, sleepy fog. Everything seemed to be happening at a distance.

"Very unlikely," A female voice answered. This one was much more familiar. I stirred, fighting to open my eyes. "Would you want her to?"

"No." The first answered. "Havens, no. We may actually want to take steps to prevent that, if we can."

Feeling started to come back to me, the darkness joined by confusion. My wrists and ankles ached, and I couldn't move. I couldn't move. Tears welled up in my eyes and a profound panic gripped my heart.

"She is too young for this," the male voice said, a little more clearly this time. There was a concern in his voice. "Barely a decade old, by human measuring. A child, especially for your kind. She will never understand what has been done today."

"She will. It may take decades." The second voice released a slow, heavy breath. "It may even take centuries. But she will learn."

The cold intensified and panic turned into terror. I discovered in the haze that my wrists and ankles were gripped in tight bindings. My back was arched painfully.

"She will never forgive you."

I pried open my eyes, but everything looked blurry. Cold stone chafed against my skin of my back, even through the thin wool clothing. I had been stretched awkwardly over a large, vaguely spherical rock. My breath came in rough sobs. Tears fell down past my temples as I stared upward. The drops ran uncomfortably into my ears.

"She shouldn't."

My vision finally cleared a little. The space around me was flooded in brilliant white, but I could vaguely make out the shape of six figures standing around me. The scene was so bright that I closed my eyes again, preferring the darkness. The dark felt safer. The dark held no pain and no fear, just quiet, sweet sleep. I longed for that peaceful place as I shivered.

But there was no going back. The fog was gone and I was wide awake. My sobs turned into whimpers, threatening to erupt into a full scream.

"Hush," the familiar voice said, with a gentle kindness that was nearly tangible. "I know it hurts, but you are safe." I calmed somewhat. My bindings were quietly released, and I was lifted from the awkward stone surface. I felt myself surrounded in warm wool. Soft cloth was pulled up and around my ears and the chill of the air became bearable. Arms wrapped around me and I was held close.

I blinked slowly and looked up. The light still burned, but now I stood in shadow, protected from the glare. The eyes that looked down at me were the kind of blue that made the evening sky envious. Deep and warm, those eyes meant peace and love.

"You are safe now," she repeated, and I believed her. Despite the pain and the bone-deep cold, I knew her word was truth. Never mind the fear I felt. She said I was safe, and so it was. I pressed my cheek against her, seeking warmth and shelter from the blinding light.

The illusion shattered when the male voice spoke. "You shouldn't lie to her. Not now." My heart sank into my stomach, and fear crept back in. "We are out of time."

"One moment longer," the familiar voice said, holding me tight.

"The decision has long since been made."

"Just one moment longer."

"It is already done. Let her go. She is no longer yours."

She sighed, and held me apart from her. Tears began to flow, and I clamped my eyes shut. She wrapped the cloth more tightly around me, and I realized that it was a warm cloak of some kind, with a hood pulled up. She fastened it tight around my shoulders.

"I love you, Rhaelin, and I'm sorry."

And then she pushed me. I tripped backward, finding nothing to catch my step, and began to fall.

The wind rushed by, causing my cloak to flutter and whip against my skin. I braced myself to strike the ground, but didn't. The wind just kept coming. Seconds passed. Fear was fueled by adrenaline. It mixed with the exhilaration of falling and I opened my eyes wide, daring to look.

The evening sky was everywhere, dark blue transitioning into deep violet. Speckles of starlight shone far in the distance. I could see a mass of dark brown and green above me, a tiny island in the sky, eclipsing the brilliant white light that I had seen before. Both shrank away from me as I fell.

Shooting stars screamed across the sky, close enough to hear the roar of their passing. Several of the burning orbs struck the island and rocked it with explosions, flashes of Darkness and Light striking one after another. The island started coming apart, some pieces careening off in different directions from the force of impact and others falling away. Like me. It only took a few seconds before the bright light of the island dimmed, disappearing into the distance and leaving only the starry evening to fill my vision.

I didn't know what it meant, and I had no idea what came next. I was still terrified, but the fear was slowly being overwhelmed by the intoxicating wind around me, the roaring sound flooding my senses. I started to laugh through the tears, the pain of my emotions twisting around into a primal euphoria. My arms spread wide, fingers extended as the night sky rushed past me.

I continued to fall, feeling the wind's power. It wasn't just the motion of air, but the raw energy, the flows of magic in the currents as they opened up to my senses. I gathered that energy as easily as breathing, made it a part of my will, and felt it crackle around me. Lightning danced and dark clouds formed from the empty air, drawing together in dangerous billows and forming trails behind me as I fell. The storm grew around me, filling the sky in deafening cacophony and raging storm-clouds.

One of the falling stars shot near me, but slowed unexpectedly to keep pace. It was a smallish comet, little larger than myself.

"Your path will not be pleasant." It was the male voice I had heard above. I snarled at it, and gathered lightning. "Your pain and your power will only grow, but perhaps she is right. Perhaps one day you will understand, if you are clever enough. And if you survive, of course."

I pointed. Thunder shattered the air as I channeled all the rage of the storm at that voice. Energy flowed and searing white-hot lightning flashed in a bolt as wide as I was tall, striking the falling comet. The thunder of that blast was deafening.

Smoke streamed away. Despite the raw power of that strike, the comet appeared unharmed. "You will have her temper," the voice said, amused. "Charming. But now is not the time for that." Waves of light and power pulsed around me, and I grew drowsy. "Sleep now, and forget."

The starlight dimmed, returning me to quiet darkness. The meteor's light faded from my consciousness, and the storm around me dissipated as quickly as it had gathered.

I slept peacefully as I fell, and memory faded away. I forgot the divine starlight. I forgot the floating island and its sudden destruction. I forgot the wind that obeyed my will and I forgot the thunder and lightning that had danced at my fingertips.

I forgot the day I was shoved out of the sky.



       

A Midnight Campaign Novel, set in the Mayhem universe.

Shadow Games is an urban detective story told in an original sword-and-sorcery world. It features relatable conflict, quick-witted dialogue and a healthy dose of spell-slinging fantasy violence. Inspiration for style or tone might include Jim Butcher's Dresden Files or Ilona Andrews' Kate Daniels novels.

The author, Robert Hicks, works as a therapist in Salt Lake City, Utah. During the day he plots the horrible deaths of his characters, but also works with his wife Aubrey to run Midnight Campaign Games. They publish the Mayhem tabletop RPG, which shares a setting with Rhaelin's story, as well as other card and storytelling game projects.

The novel is complete at approximatley 90,000 words, and more sample text is available upon request. For more information about this project, the Mayhem tabletop RPG or other Midnight Campaign projects, please follow the links above, or contact us by email.

Thank you for your interest,

-Rob