Title: Witch’s Curse
Author: Debra L Martin & David W Small
Genre: Epic Fantasy
When elite assassin, Jeda DeLongo, fled the Assassin's Guild years earlier, he knew there would be a price to be paid. No one ever left the Guild, but he never imagined his beloved wife and unborn son would pay the price for his betrayal. Now Keisha's life hangs in the balance and the most powerful healers in the Kingdom cannot lift her unnatural coma the assassins put her in. There is only one cure, find the legendary Witch Stone. Jeda leads an impossible quest to recover the Witch Stone--a stone that has been lost for a hundred years. Crucial to the success of the quest are his twin daughters, the famous children of prophecy, but are they unwitting pawns in the witch's power struggles? Forces of White and Black Witches are gathering. Can Jeda find the Witch Stone and heal his wife or will he be instrumental in starting another witch war, the likes of which the kingdom has never seen before?
In the late afternoon, a man on horseback sat at the intersection of a northern trade route and a nondescript side road. He pondered which path to follow. Forward, back, or side – any one of them would change the course of his life. Death and mayhem awaited him on the side trail, but that had been his original destination. Now that he was here, he felt unsure of this action and wavered in his resolve.
If I do this, I’ll be forever committed to this path. There will be no turning back.
He looked north, following the main road as it meandered toward the Great Forest of Tavia. The forest covered the entire northwestern section of the realm. It stretched from the Bay of Tavia to the snowcapped barrier mountains that separated the kingdom from the wilds of the ice-covered Northern Tundra. That countryside was wild and unknown, a perfect place where he might start a new life. There were dozens of smaller cities in the north where he could disappear and never be heard from again. He would be away from the intrigues of those that meant him harm.
He shook his head at that prospect. I’m an adept of the Wizard’s Hall, not a feckless coward. I will not run away.
Looking back over his shoulder, he could see the high spiraling towers of the kingdom’s capital city of Constantine. He thought of the life there, his family, his beautiful wife and wonderful children. He thought of his large home and the material things he had fought his whole life to obtain. He was a rich and well-respected wizard. It would be easy for him to turn around and go back to that life.
I’m a ruling member of the Black Council. I will not be made to look like a fool.
Glancing to the side again, he looked at the path that could lead to his ultimate ambition. At the end of this track, nestled between the rolling hills of evergreens, was a picturesque valley with a deep river running through its middle. Built next to the river was a stone fortress that stood in stark contrast to the peaceful and colorful countryside. The dark bastion was the home of the legendary Guild of Assassins. If he turned and followed this path, it would lead to certain death and destruction, including a chance of his own demise. The enormity of what he planned caused him to hesitate, but he could see no other way – the bitch had left him no choice.
She has underestimated me if she thinks I shall lie down like a lap dog and do her bidding.
At that thought, Lorsen Serer turned his horse down the path toward the Assassin’s Guild. He rode along, thinking about the fateful meeting that had brought him to this point. It had begun as whispers of oddities and tales of strange meetings at the Witch’s Coven of Constantine. These events were small individual things of no consequence, but collectively they told a different tale. There was a plan afoot that would affect him and the Black Council. The Black Council was a secret and hidden society of powerful sorcerers and sorceresses and they had spies throughout the kingdom. It was easy enough to discover what was being planned in the quiet halls of the coven, as the Black had long ago infiltrated its ranks. What was most troublesome, when Lorsen uncovered this burgeoning conspiracy, was that at its center was Elizabeth Berkshire, the leader of the Constantine Coven. This was disturbing and ironic, in that she was also the leader of the Black Council. She was planning a major coup and Lorsen was not privy to any of it.
Elizabeth was a powerful elemental witch who openly governed the White Witch’s Coven with the hand of serenity. In stark contrast, she ruled the secret Black Council with an iron fist. Lorsen often wondered how she maintained her balance between the two.
The meeting he forced on her had not gone well from the start.
“Elizabeth, a word if you please,” Lorsen said as he entered her office unannounced.
She looked up, scowling at the interruption. “Lorsen, I have no time for you or your incessant nattering.”
“It would serve you to make time for me now,” he said, closing the door for a private conversation. “I have business of a black nature to discuss with you.”
Elizabeth stood, her hands firmly planted on her slender hips. “Are you mad, coming here and talking like this?” she asked. “Have you no sense in that dullard mind of yours to know where and when to speak of such matters? In case you hadn’t noticed, we are in the center of the most powerful White coven in the kingdom.”
Lorsen watched her turn red-faced, and knew he had her full attention. “Am I mad?” he countered and banged his staff on the floor. “I might ask you the same thing. Did you think this quest you’re planning would remain a secret?”
Elizabeth had fire in her eyes. “Keep your voice down, you impetuous fool, or you’ll soon find yourself without a head to talk with.”
“Your threats fall on deaf ears, Elizabeth. I’m an adept of the Wizard’s Academy and half the witches in this coven saw me enter this office. How would you explain my death to them?”
“Do not presume to try my patience, Lorsen. State your business or be gone.”
“I’ve already done so, if you would listen between your rants. The Black Council will not allow this quest of yours without its oversight.”
At that, Elizabeth calmed herself and sat back down at her desk.
Lorsen wondered why she looked at him with such smugness. She had overstepped her authority and would be held accountable. Although he’d not spoken with the other members of the council as he implied, he knew they would agree with him.
“You speak as if you rule the council and know of its inner workings,” she said. “If you were not so obtuse, you would have checked with the others on the council first and shared your misgivings. Then you would have learned the truth of things.”
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Debra L Martin and David W Small are a brother and sister writing team who started writing together in 2006. Writing with a co-author is challenging in itself, but when 1 author lives on the East Coast and 1 lives on the West Coast, the challenges are a bit more daunting, but because we live in an electronic world of email, texts and Zoom meetings, the partnership is totally workable. They love the same types of books and that love naturally evolved into writing their own books.
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