QSFer Rebecca Cohen has a new MM fantasy / sci-fi book out, Reagalos book 4: Restitution.
Will someone rid him of this troublesome Mage? Seemingly not, and Lornyc’s going to have do it himself. There’s a good reason no one had invoked the Reckoning to become the Supreme Mage of Beher for over a quarter of a century, but Lornyc couldn’t keep his big mouth shut.
Five tasks, five chances to fail, and that’s just the warm up for the magical head-to-head. Pity his Reagalos powers don’t work like Mage magic, so he’ll need to think fast, and run even faster.
Tolem inhaled slowly, holding his breath for the count of three, reaching down inside his chest, chasing his magic. He exhaled, lowering his heartbeat, calming himself. The sweet smell of ground lotus berries and woody hints of the burning nutshrub carried him away from the mediocrity, allowing him to concentrate on the core of his central being. He was strong, his powers elemental, a growing rarity for the mage. It was the reason Arial had chosen him, he knew that, it was what made him useful. Special.
Tendrils of magic coiled around him, a beautiful bright red that was purer than blood, and deeper than any ruby, a colour that filled his dreams and made him whole. Waves of warmth cascaded over his torso, and he stroked his magic with his mind. It rumbled happily, weaving in and out of his body. There was nothing like it, no feeling that made him fly higher. He needed his magic to understand they had a purpose for which they would be needed.
He lazily circled his hand and raised the temperature of the room a few degrees, feeling a chill from having stripped to the waist. Gathering his long blond hair, he secured it in a haphazard plait before reaching forwards and picking up the paintbrush from the low table in front of him. He wriggled a little as he sat cross-legged, the large cushion underneath him to save his legs from going numb from the time he’d spent in his trance.
He dipped the fine tip of the brush into a pot of crimson ink. He looked down at the open scroll on the table, and taking his time, copied the first of the intricate pictograms onto his right pectoral. “In sight of the mind’s eye.”
The second one graced his left a few moments later. “In the depths of the heart’s cage.”
He reloaded his brush, chasing away the excess of the ink, seeing how it flowed like the blood of the goat he’d sacrificed at dawn, its sticky life essence mingling with the cochineal in the ink. The third pictogram was the most elaborate of the four, and it covered a large portion of his stomach, circling his navel. “In the guts of bravery.”
Finally, he drew the fourth over his sternum, a simple inverted triangle with a circle at its centre. “In the part we find the whole.”
Tolem put the brush down and lay back, positioning himself with his palms facing upwards. He stared at the ceiling. For a moment, he barely dared to breathe in case the spell didn’t work, but then he felt the weak tingle deep in his chest.
He closed his eyes and guided his magic to swim across his skin, to lap at the paint as the pictograms dried, and dance over them. As he opened his eyes he saw the red paint glow like coals in a fire, a glittery hue rising from the glyphs. He had one last thing to complete the rite. “Through my own choice I give this freely.”
He heard the rustle of silk robes before he saw her arrive. “It is done,” he told her.
She knelt beside him and kissed his forehead. “Thank you, my love.”
With her white-blonde hair, and golden robes, Arial looked ethereal. Tolem couldn’t shake the last of his concerns about the rites, but it was too late now. “No, my darling, it is my honour to help. I only hope it will be enough.”
She stroked his face. “With our combined strength I am confident I will be successful. But you know I will not be complacent, I underestimated him once, I won’t do that again.”
Lornyc watched the flickering flames of the campfire while the sun started to descend. The last time he’d camped he’d been in another dimension, and the time before that in his early teens; neither had filled him with the quiet contemplation he enjoyed now. Methian was preparing dinner, which amounted to turning the kebabs of meat prepared by the manor’s kitchens that morning over the fire, but it was wonderful to be away for a few days, just the two of them. They’d never had a real holiday, not even after their wedding, and although this would only be two nights in the Splander Mountains, it felt like a luxury.
Methian came to sit next to him, handing over a skewer of meat. “I think I’ve missed my calling,” he said with a grin. “I should have been some sort of outdoor survival specialist.”
Lornyc laughed. “Somehow I don’t think a light trek followed by cooking food prepared by somebody else really counts.”
“We weren’t eaten by bears, and I scared off that wild horned beast.” He shuffled closer and grinned. “I’m serious about making sure no harm comes to your fine body.”
“Wild horned beast? Did you mean the pygmy goat that ran off when you dropped your rucksack?”
“It had horns and it lived in the wild.” He waved his skewer in Lornyc’s direction. “I even carried your water bottle and refilled it at that stream, so I think I deserve some sort of reward.”
“You emptied my water bottle to begin with.” Lornyc took a small bite of the roast meat, it was good. “Maybe if you set up the tent and bedrolls, I’ll let you suck my cock as a reward.”
“You’re so magnanimous, Lornyc, I can see why the people love you.”
“Don’t you forget it.” He stole a quick kiss but wouldn’t let Methian deepen it. “Later. I want to climb up to that ledge first and see the view by starlight.”
“I’ll hold you to that.” Methian finished off his skewer and wiped his hands on his breeches as he stood. “I’ll put up the tent first then we’ll head to the ledge.”
“I’ll help in a minute, once I’ve finished eating.”
Methian grabbed the tent bag. “Why do I think you’re going to take a while over your dinner?”
“Because you’re a suspicious and terrible person.”
REBECCA COHEN spends her days dreaming of a living in a Tudor manor house, or a Georgian mansion. Alas, the closest she comes to this is through her characters in her historical romance novels. She also dreams of intergalactic adventures and fantasy realms, but because she’s not yet got her space or dimensional travel plans finalised, she lives happily in leafy Hertfordshire, England, with her husband and young son. She can often be found with a pen in one hand and sloe gin with lemon tonic in the other.