Oct 11 2012 4:00pm
Falling Kingdoms (Excerpt)
Perfect for fans of Game of Thrones, check out Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes, out on December 11 from Penguin Books:
Sixteen-year-old Cleo has grown up in luxury, the royal heiress to a peaceful and prosperous kingdom. But below the seemingly calm surface lies dangerous unrest, and whispers of war grow ever louder. Cleo has a deeper, more personal concern: she's desperate to locate a magic long-thought extinct. If it's real, it could be the cure that finally heals her ailing sister. Defying her father's orders, Cleo sets off on a secret and perilous journey into a neighboring country—a country that is about to declare war on hers. As Cleo's path entwines with rebel leader Jonas and rival prince Magnus, the only outcome that's certain is that kingdoms will fall. Can Cleo remain standing when all around her topples?
Intricately interwoven storylines meld with unforgettable characters and vibrantly imagined mythology in this sensational series debut, the first of four books that will leave readers craving more. The second book in the series, Rebel Spring, will be published in Fall 2013.
She’d never killed before tonight.
“Stay back,” her sister hissed.
Jana pressed against the stone wall of the villa. She searched the shadows that surrounded them, briefly looking up at the stars bright as diamonds against the black sky.
Squeezing her eyes shut, she prayed to the ancient sorceress. Please, Eva, give me the magic I need tonight to find her.
When she opened her eyes, fear shot through her. On the branch of a tree a dozen paces away sat a golden hawk.
“They’re watching us,” she whispered. “They know what we’ve done.”
Sabina flicked a glance at the hawk. “We need to move. Now. There’s no time to waste.”
Keeping her face turned away from the hawk, Jana pushed away from the safety of the wall to follow her sister to the heavy oak and iron door of the villa. Sabina pressed her hands against it, channeling the magic that had been strengthened by the blood they’d spilled earlier. Jana noticed that Sabina’s fingernails still bore traces of red in the cuticles, and she shuddered, remembering. Sabina’s hands began to glow with amber light. A moment later, the door disintegrated into sawdust. Wood was no barricade against earth magic.
Sabina sent a victorious smile over her shoulder. Blood now trickled from her nose.
At her sister’s gasp, Sabina’s grin faded. She wiped it away and entered the large home. “It’s nothing.”
It wasn’t nothing. Using too much of this temporarily enhanced magic could harm them. Could kill them if they weren’t careful.
But Sabina Mallius was not well known to be the cautious one. She hadn’t paused earlier tonight in using her beauty to lead the unsuspecting man from the tavern to his fate, while Jana had hesitated far too long before her sharp blade finally found its mark in his heart.
Sabina was strong, passionate, and completely fearless. Heart in throat as she followed Sabina inside, Jana wished she could be more like her older sister. But she’d always been the careful one. The planner. The one who’d seen the signs in the stars because she’d studied the night skies all her life.
The prophesied child had been born and she was here in this large and luxurious villa—built of sturdy stone and wood compared to the small, poorer straw and mud cottages in the village nearby.
Jana was certain this was the right place.
She was knowledge. Sabina was action. Together they were unstoppable.
Sabina cried out as she turned the corner of the hallway up ahead. Jana quickened her pace, her heart pounding. In the dark hallway, lit only by wall-set torches that flickered their meager light on the stone walls, a guard had her sister by her throat.
Jana didn’t think. She acted.
Thrusting out her hands, she summoned air magic. The guard lost his grip and flew back from Sabina, slamming into the wall behind her hard enough to crush his bones. He crumpled to the ground in a heap.
Sharp pain sliced through Jana’s head, agonizing enough to make her whimper. She wiped at the warm, thick blood that now gushed from under her nose. Her hand trembled.
Sabina gingerly touched her injured throat. “Thank you, sister.”
This fresh blood magic helped speed their steps and clear their vision in the darkness of the unfamiliar, narrow stone hallways. But it wouldn’t last long.
“Where is she?” Sabina demanded.
“I’m trusting you.”
“The child is here. I know she is.” They proceeded a few steps more down the dark hallway.
“Here.” Jana stopped outside an unlocked door.
She pushed it open and the sisters moved toward the ornately carved wooden cradle inside the room. They looked down at the baby, swaddled in a soft rabbit’s fur coverlet. Her skin was pale white with a healthy, rosy glow to her chubby cheeks.
Jana adored her instantly. The first smile she’d been capable of for days blossomed on her face. “Beautiful girl,” she whispered, reaching into the cradle to gently pick up the newborn.
“You’re certain it’s her.”
“Yes.” More than anything else in her seventeen years of life, Jana was positive of this. The child she held in her arms, this small, beautiful baby with sky-blue eyes and a fuzz of hair that would one day be black as a raven’s wing, was the one prophesied to possess the magic necessary to find the Kindred—four objects that contained the source of all elementia, elemental magic. Earth and water, fire and air.
The child’s magic would be that of a sorceress, not a common witch like Jana and her sister. The first in a thousand years, since Eva herself had lived and breathed. There would be no need for blood or death to play any part in this child’s magic.
Jana had seen her birth in the stars. Finding this child was her destiny.
“Put my daughter down,” a voice snarled from the shadows. “Don’t hurt her.”
Jana spun around, clutching the infant to her chest. Her eyes fell on the dagger the woman pointed toward them. Its sharp edge glinted in the candlelight. Her heart sank. This was the moment she’d been dreading, had prayed wouldn’t come to pass.
Sabina’s eyes flashed. “Hurt her? That’s not what we plan to do at all. You don’t even know what she is, do you?”
The woman’s brows drew together with confusion, but fury hardened her gaze. “I’ll kill you before I allow you to leave this room with her.”
“No”—Sabina raised her hands—“you won’t.”
The mother’s eyes grew wide and her mouth opened, gasping. She couldn’t breathe—Sabina was blocking the flow of air to her lungs. Jana turned away, face screwed up in misery. It was over in a moment. The woman’s body fell to the ground, still twitching but lifeless, as the sisters sidestepped her and fled the room.
Jana gathered her loose cloak around the baby to hide her as they left the villa and ran into the forest. Sabina’s nose bled profusely now from using so much destructive magic. Blood dripped to the snow-covered ground.
“Too much,” Jana whispered as their steps finally slowed. “Too much death tonight. I hate it.”
“She wouldn’t have let us take her any other way. Let me see her.”
Feeling oddly reluctant, Jana held the baby out.
Sabina took her and studied the child’s face in the darkness. Her gaze flicked to Jana and she gave her sister a wicked grin. “We did it.”
Jana felt a sudden rush of excitement, despite the difficulties they’d faced. “We did.”
“You were incredible. I wish I could have visions like you do.”
“Only with great effort and sacrifice can I have them.”
“It’s all a great effort and sacrifice.” Sabina’s voice twisted with sudden disdain. “Too much of it. But for this child, one day magic will be so easy. I envy her.”
“We’ll raise her together. We’ll tutor her and be there for her and when the time comes for her to fulfill her destiny, we’ll stand by her side every step of the way.”
Sabina shook her head. “You won’t. I’ll take her from here.”
Jana frowned. “What? Sabina, I thought we agreed to make all decisions together.”
“Not this one. I have other plans for the child.” Her expression hardened. “And apologies, sister, but they don’t include you.”
Staring into Sabina’s suddenly cold eyes, Jana at first didn’t feel the sharp tip of the dagger sink into her chest. She gasped as the pain began to penetrate.
They’d shared every day, every dream...every secret.
However, it would appear, not every secret. This was not something Jana would have ever thought to try to foresee.
“Why would you betray me like this?” she managed. “You’re my sister.”
Sabina wiped away the blood that still trickled from her nose. “For love.”
When she yanked out the blade, Jana collapsed to her knees on the frozen ground.
Without a backward glance, Sabina swiftly walked away with the child and was soon swallowed by the dark forest.
Jana’s vision dimmed and her heart slowed. She watched as the hawk she’d seen earlier flew away…leaving her to die alone.