Thursday Sampler: Seer of Souls by Susan Faw
April 28, 2016
In our mission to connect readers, writers, and books, Caleb and Linda Pirtle is showcasing some of the best authors in the marketplace today. Thursday’s Sampler features an excerpt from Seer of Souls, a fantasy epic by Susan Faw.
As one reviewer said: Faw’s work is innovative while still paying homage to the best hallmarks of fantasy, bringing readers an engaging story inspired by the breath of new life, like forging a new path through a well-loved forest.
To save the world, they must be born of the world. The battles between the Kingdom of Cathair and the Primordial forces at Daimon Ford are the stuff of legends. Desperate to save the world, two immortals choose to be reborn as mortals, wiping away all memory of their divine existence.
But even as Cayden, and his twin sister Avery make the ultimate sacrifice, other gods are plotting against them. At the point of birth, divine intervention and powerful, ancient magic are called upon to snatch their souls from the dying flesh of a princess’s poisoned womb. The royal family of the Kingdom of Cathair has always been the physical Spirit Shield of the world.
With the murder of the entire royal family, who guards the secrets within the castle walls? Can the magic of the gods, old and new, ensure the safe keeping of the immortal treasure within, and if they fail, who will choose for the unborn?
Helga, the goddess of the underworld, is not amused and has set into play a diabolical scheme of her own. There is a little place called Sanctuary by the Sea and chaos is about to pay a visit…
This is Seer of Souls, Book one of the Spirit Shield Saga, a fantasy read for all ages.
The baby gave a feeble, barely discernable kick. Its twin had ceased movement but not with the natural stillness of slumber. Poison moved through their premature bodies, oozing along their tiny veins, a burning acid in their blood.
Mordecai lifted his hand from the woman’s sweaty forehead. Gwen’s panicked eyes locked onto his sad grey ones. She clutched her distended belly as another wave of pain ripped through her.
“It must be poison! This is more than simple birthing pangs.” She coughed and the motion made bile rise in her throat. Gwen clutched at Mordecai’s left hand, gripping it so tight the knuckles of her hand whitened. “It’s reaching the babies! Mordecai, what do we do?”
Straightening his lanky frame, he released her hand and wandered over to the tall mullioned window of the bartizan room. His sweeping brows pinched together in a frown as he gazed unseeingly at the silent courtyard below him. Purple wisteria climbed the ashlar walls of the castle, revealing their stark outlines. A fresh breeze stirred the heavy tapestry curtains as lightning flashed, highlighting the roiling clouds, puffing in eager anticipation of the storm breaking over the castle.
Her seclusion was for her protection. Gwen’s grief over Prince Alexander’s failure to return from his most recent patrol with the Kingsmen twisted in her gut, accentuating the pain of the poison.
The prince and all of the Kingsmen in his unit had been slaughtered by Primordials in a sudden vicious attack. This sorrowful news had arrived on the heels of the king’s death from a heart attack a week prior. The kingdom was reeling from the double disaster. And now it’s my turn. I am the target, she thought.
Gwen coughed and froth formed in her mouth, drowning her thoughts. Her lungs attempted to fill but failed. Intense pressure gripped her chest as though a large man with a booted foot stood on it compressing it. She pushed aside her discomfort and staggered over to join the wizard at the window. She clutched a handful of his grey robe sleeve, partly to gain his attention and partly to keep from sinking to the floor.
“Please, Mordecai, I must save my babies! What can I do? There has to be a way to help them. Between your magic and my heritage, there must be a way.”
Mordecai’s mouth drooped beneath his long white beard. “I can only think of one solution, Gwen” he said gently. “You must pass the mother bond to me.” Tears sparked in her almond-shaped eyes as he locked his to hers. “I think we both know that you cannot survive this poison.” He squeezed her hands. “We need to convince Alcina the babes have died with you.”
Gwen’s liquid green eyes searched and found steely resolve reflected in his grey ones. She nodded once and unconsciously rubbed one hand across her protruding belly, where the foot of the lone stirring child pushed against the thin protection of her skin.
“We need do this quickly, Gwen. The birth will take most of your remaining strength, and they must be born alive in order to pass the bond.”
She groaned again as a hard contraction took her. The twisting pain of a poison-filled cramp left her gasping for air as she sank to her knees beside the wizard. She raised her head, panting. “I do not think that is a problem, Mordecai.”
Mordecai gently eased her onto her back, on the cold stone floor. Reaching inside his pocket, he took out a clear crystal stone and placed it between her cold hands, clasping them with in his own. Together, they began to chant.
The late-day sun streamed through the garden-view windows of the bartizan room. Dust motes stirred in a breeze heavy with the smell of damp earth and wisteria. A few trailing clouds scuttled across the sky in an attempt to catch the storm moving off to the east, low rumbles fading softly into the distance.
With a groan, Mordecai sank back to his knees on the polished floor beside the princess. Gwen’s sweat-soaked brown hair curled damply over her curiously shaped ears. Dark circles shadowed her eyes; eyes that stared back at him from a deathly pale face.
She lay on the floor, her bloodstained gown bunched to one side. Beside her, wrapped in cotton swaddling, were two newborn infants, a boy and a girl.
Both children were dead.
A tiny red birthmark, resembling the shape of an oak leaf, adorned the right side of each smooth cheek. The tattoos faded away before his eyes. Mordecai smiled a grim smile and trailed a thin finger down the soft cheeks where the tattoos had appeared so briefly, sensing the residue of magic under the skin.
Gwen lifted her hand and caressed the cheeks of her two babes. A hot tear trickled out of the corner of her eye. She would never know them, nor they her.
Mordecai lifted the children and placed them in her arms. She hugged them and wept silently, tears streaming down onto the cherubic face of the closest child.
Gwen’s mournful eyes lifted to the man standing beside her.
“Are they truly safe now, Mordecai?” Her weak voice shook with supressed emotion.
“They are as safe as we can make them, Gwen.”
She touched his sleeve. “Thank you,” she murmured weakly. “You have been a true friend.” She stiffened, sucking in a hard breath that ended abruptly. Her eyes widened as the soul in their emerald depths faded away. Her hand slipped from his sleeve and thudded to the floor.
Mordecai gently closed her eyes, squeezing his own shut to dam the tears sliding down his whiskered face.
“Sleep well, Gwen, and welcome the peaceful embrace of the Mother.”
He staggered to a chair by the open window. Leaning out over the stone ledge, he saw a dead eagle on the stones below. He dropped back into the chair beside the window and gazed out at the setting sun. The last of the storm clouds faded into the distance. Little did they know that they carried the hopes and dreams of the world in their midst.
Pain stabbed into Mordecai’s chest and he sucked in a deep breath. If his calculations were correct, he had little more than a half hour left. The poison was completing its job.
Well, his task was finished. What would be would be. Eyes opened wide, he watched the sun creep toward the horizon. The rays of the setting sun blazed through the retreating clouds, glowing pink and orange. His lips curved with satisfaction. It was done.