Shadow Magic by Joshua Khan
Publication Date: April 12, 2016
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Thorn, an outlaw's son, wasn't supposed to be a slave. He's been sold to Tyburn, an executioner, and they're headed to Castle Gloom in Gehenna, the land of undead, where Thorn will probably be fed to a vampire.
Lilith Shadow wasn't supposed to be ruler of Gehenna. But following the murder of her family, young Lily became the last surviving member of House Shadow, a long line of dark sorcerers. Her country is surrounded by enemies and the only way she can save it is by embracing her heritage and practicing the magic of the undead. But how can she when, as a girl, magic is forbidden to her?
Just when it looks like Lily will have to leave her home forever, Thorn arrives at Castle Gloom. A sudden death brings them together, inspires them to break the rules, and leads them to soar to new heights in this fantasy with all the sparkle and luster of a starry night sky.
A Traveller by Joshua Khan - Guest Post
“Ah, friend! I see you are on the road north, like myself? Perhaps we could keep one another company, yes?”
The man perches himself on a mile stone, and he looks friendly enough. I tighten my grip on my sword hilt, making it clear, in not so many words, that I am no fool.
Yet he is thin, old, no threat to me nor anyone else.
Why would such a threadbare vagabond want with the likes of me, or of the kingdom of Gehenna?
I nod, curtly, and he gathers his pack and we fall into step together.
He looks up at the stars, smiling. “A cold night and yet we have a few miles before we reach any shelter.”
I frown. “I was told there were no inns along this road.”
The man smiles and points a bony finger ahead. “Oh, there is a place to dine, not so far from here.”
I watch him, sideways. Best be cautious, even with beggars.
It is cold, and I huddle my shoulders deeper into the cloak. I left in haste, as murderers do, blood still on my sleeve and the cry of the watch ringing in my ears. Just time enough to gather a small purse of silver—my victim was poorer than I’d hoped—my sword and this cloak, taken off the dead man’s shoulders and not as thick as I’d wished.
Still, I live, I breathe, and there may be richer pickings in Gehenna.
Gehenna, a land only the daring and desperate venture. I smile to myself. Am I not both?
We reach a crossroads. There is a sign, but the moonlight is too faint to make out the words. Both paths lead only deeper into Spindlewood. And darkness.
“You have not been to Gehenna?” asks the man, noticing my indecision at the offered paths. He gestures to the left. “That way.”
I grunt, and take the left path.
I walk in silence. My companion does not.
He laughs as a host of bats wheel and whirl above us. “Look, they herald our coming! Gehenna is poor in soil, poor in coal and decent grazing but, oh my, tis rich in so many ways. Bats, it has plenty of. The nobles here use them to carry messages.” He flutters his hands. “Ffft. Form Castle Gloom to Sable Manor. Then from Tomb Town to the Troll Teeth Mountains. Back and forth, flapping on their leathern wings. They are beautiful, are they not?”
“Bats carry diseases,” I answer. I want him to shut up.
“Not just bats,” says the man. “There are so many types of diseases, I believe we all carry something… foul.”
My hand drops back to my hilt. “Do you mock me, old fool?”
He steps away, and bows. “My humblest apologies, my friend. I meant nothing. I can see that you are a bold warrior, and I am, as you say, just an old fool. But I have been to Gehenna before, so wish, in exchange for a meal, to give you some advice.”
“I have little food,” I reply.
The man’s eyes sparkle. “Then perhaps just a drink? To warm my old bones?”
I tap the wineskin dangling from my shoulder. “Perhaps. If your advice is good.”
He nods, then does a spindle-boned skip. “Gehenna, what to say about the kingdom of darkness? Where to begin? Shall I start with the living, or the dead?”
I scoff. I’ve heard the old wives tales about the dead that walk in this kingdom. Tales to frighten children. I’ve seen enough dead men. Made a few myself and not one stood up, nor as much blinked an eye when I was finished with him. I fear nothing from the grave. “Tell me about the living, fool.”
He smirks. I do not like the cleverness in his eyes. Yet, if he was so clever, why does he wear just rags? “Then be warned, my brave companion, that there are three great killers in this world, and Gehenna is home to one of them.”
“Tyburn,” I reply. “I have heard the name.”
“And does not your heart freeze at the sound of it?”
I shrug my shoulders. “There are many tales about Tyburn, but tales grow in the telling. He may be as good as they say, and he may not.”
Still, I am no fool. I intend to stay well away from Tyburn.
“What of the rulers?” I ask. “They say Lord Iblis Shadow is a great sorcerer.”
The man claps. “Indeed, great he is! He respects the old ways, the ways of the ancestors and those that live, either side of the grave. He hosts a ball every Halloween, an elegant masquerade! You should see it!”
“Masquerade? Why? Are the Gehennish so ugly?”
“Ugly? You would not think that if you but glimpsed his wife, Lady Salome! There is no fairer creature in all the New Kingdoms! No, the masks are so you do not know who is from the living, and who is from the lands of the dead. So, for one night, the two worlds mingle and celebrate together, as is the way here.”
I shiver. It is cold and my cloak is thin.
The old man sighs, and sits himself on a stone. “Yet the dead may rise at any time, not just on Halloween.”
I peer down the path, expecting the light of an inn. But it is dark. “I thought you said there was a place to eat?”
“We shall dine here, my friend,” says the old man. He taps his fingers upon the stone. “Then I shall sleep again.”
I back away and draw my sword. “Stay away, old fool. I will kill you.”
He merely smiles. “I do not doubt it. I can smell a killer from some distance. Your scent brings me from my bed.” He glances down.
The stone he sits is a gravestone. We have stopped at a grave, and the earth around it is churned and broken.
The man moves in a blur. One hand grips my wrist, crushing the bones, making me drop my sword. I cannot scream, as he holds me by the throat. He leans closer and sniffs, closing his eyes as if overwhelmed by some heady perfume. “So sweet, the smell of fresh murder.”
“I have given you advice,” he smiles and his fangs are revealed. “Now about that drink you owe me…”
About Joshua Khan
Born in Britain. Lives in London. Would rather live in a castle. Writes fantasy. Enjoys it.