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Realm of the Golden Phoenix

Blurb

Realms will be released (tentative date)July 2015. The second book in the series--Empire of the Cerulean Gryphon will be released Oct 2015.

Excerpt

“Hold on, honey. We’ll take care of you.”

The voice in Mala’s ear sounded fuzzy and far away. There was too much pain in her body. It felt as if she’d been ripped inside out. What the hell had happened? When Mala managed to open her eyes, she saw strangers hovered over her and a white ceiling above her passed in a blur. The bright lights hurt her eyes and she closed them. Voices sounded from a distance as pain she didn’t understand left an unbearable pressure in her body. God, it hurt so much. She couldn’t even focus on where the pain was coming from. It seemed to radiate outward from all points of her body.

“Get her into OR three. Doctor Williams is on his way.”

Hands touched her, caused her more pain, but Mala couldn’t get away. Her mind disconnected as she screamed and felt herself tumble into a black void. Where was she? What was going on? She couldn’t remember anything, but thankfully the feelings in her body slowly began to ebb away.

Somebody was screaming at the top of her lungs, demanding something; it sounded like her mother. It brought her out of the odd darkness, and Mala wondered what new bug had crawled up the woman’s ass this time. Loud beeps intruded on her, and she was aware of people around her. Incomprehensible words flowed around her, and she gave up trying to make sense of them.

Something covered her face, and she wanted to fight, to stop whatever was happening, but movement was beyond Mala. Unable to stop it, Mala tried to figure out where she was and why.

She’d been driving to her mom’s house for a special birthday celebration her mom had planned for her. No doubt her mother had hoped to set her up with yet another one of her co-workers’ sons. Mala could barely tolerate her mother’s interference in her life. She hated Irena’s insistence that she needed a man in her life for any reason. There been plenty of men, just none Mala wanted permanently.

Why couldn’t she see anything? She could still hear voices, but they were so far away that they didn’t seem important. And the pain had finally gone.

***

“What do you gentlemen need?” As Ivory strode into the room, he directed the question at the eldest man in the group.

“Ivory, we appreciate you coming. Simon found this woman in his west field this morning. None of us have been able to awaken her, and we felt it necessary to summon you.” Samuel Tolman gestured toward the young woman on a litter near them.

Ivory glanced over the woman as he moved toward the litter. Blonde curls surrounded a pale white face, and a green blanket covered the rest of her. To do an initial exam, Ivory lifted the material and clinically studied her body. He could detect no signs of any physical problem or ailment, and as he stared at her, he found no evidence of a mental disorder or injury to her head.

She seemed in good health with no internal injuries, and there were no signs of physical damage any place on her body. He could see why the Council members had called for him. A faint energy of magic clung to her aura, yet that didn’t account for her current state. Very puzzling indeed.

“Have her taken to my house, Samuel. I will attend to her and do my best to help her.” He nodded abruptly to the group of men then turned on his heel. He ignored their relieved thankfulness and left the room.

He had no real patience for the Council, though he appreciated the fact they summoned him. No doubt the poor woman had lain where she was for several hours until they’d finally decided to bring him in. Since his servants would take proper care of the stranger until he arrived, Ivory made his way to the apothecary shop down the street. He would need several ingredients he didn’t usually keep in his workroom.

As he walked, he politely nodded to the others who greeted him, but his mind dwelled on his new case. Ivory had never encountered such a strange malady. Nothing physically or mentally wrong with her, and her mind appeared to be asleep. Though he could have read her, he preferred not to pry in such a way without permission. If it became necessary, he would do so, but not until then.

“Elder Cardenas, it’s good to see you again. I take it the old fools finally decided to call you in for the woman Simon found.” Rand, the store owner, smiled as he greeted him. “So what can I help you with?”

News did indeed travel fast in the small village. Ivory smiled as he stopped at the counter. Rand slid a piece of paper and a pen toward him then waited patiently for Ivory to make his decisions.

“Yes, they finally decided they couldn’t do anything for her.” Ivory sighed and began writing down the list he needed. “There appears to be absolutely nothing wrong with her, other than a faint tainting of magic to her field. But it wouldn’t cause her problem. She doesn’t seem to be unconscious either. Her brain activity is normal.”

“I’ve never heard of such a thing.”

“Neither have I. But I might find something in one of my older books. At least I am hoping I will.” Ivory slid the paper back to Rand.

“I wonder who she is. I’ve never seen such unusually short hair on a female. Maybe she is from the dragon kingdom.”

“Hopefully I’ll find out when she wakes up.” Ivory agreed with Rand’s assessment. None of the women in the realm would have such short hair. She must be from one of the other kingdoms, but she carried no mark identifying her home. Most unusual indeed.

Rand disappeared into his backroom to get the ingredients Ivory had written down. He wanted them just in case the woman didn’t awaken as she should. If enough time passed, the lack of activity would effect her muscles, making it more difficult for her to perform functionally when she did wake up.

When Rand return with a black bag filled with what Ivory needed, he commented, “I see you’re preparing for a possibly long wait.”

“Just a precaution, Rand. With nothing evident wrong with her, it’s very hard to tell when she will come out of it.” It almost seemed as if she were in a coma, yet there was no reason for her to be in one, nor had he detected the frenetic mental energy such a state would have put her mind in.

“Stop by again if you need me, Ivory. Or have one of the servants come get me. I’ll be happy to close up shop and assist you if you want.”

He took the bag Rand held out and nodded. “You would be the only one I would ask for help, Rand.”

After he left the shop, Ivory turned in the direction of his tower. It was no more than a brisk walk of fifteen minutes to the outskirts of the small village and through the wooded terrain surrounding his home. He preferred his privacy and kept his home veiled from the main road that led into the village.

His woods were a haven for people who most others wouldn’t accept into their communities. Severe illnesses plagued many, and Ivory attended to them as best he could. At the very least, he could give them a place to die in peace. The majority had the wasting sickness, and Ivory knew he had nothing to fear from it. Too many in the kingdom still believed they could get it just from being in contact with someone who had it. The rest simply refused to allow anything that ugly near them.

As Ivory passed through the community of small tents set on his land, his manner relaxed. His greetings to the inhabitants were far more friendly than his ones to the villagers. Most people avoided him because of his dealings with these poor souls. That was unless they had desperate need of his skill. Which is why the Council had taken so long to decide to summon him.

When he entered his tower, he climbed up the steep steps to the living area at the top. Those were his personal quarters, and he knew his servants would have taken the young woman to one of the chambers near his own.

“Elder Cardenas, Jeral and James brought the young woman from the village, and we put her in the room beside yours.” Mary bowed her head to him as she addressed him.

“I need you to prepare a feeding salve for me, Mary. I don’t want the poor girl to starve to death while I try to find a way to awaken her.” Ivory issued his orders as he strode through the main chamber and to the back hall.

“I’m working on it now. Do you need Phillip to start the stimulation potion?”

Handing her the bag, he smiled gratefully at her. “Yes, and here are the ingredients for it. Make sure he begins right away.”

“I will, Elder Cardenas.” She took the bag then hurried off to join Phillip in Ivory’s work chamber.

Ivory continued down the hall and entered the bedroom where the girl had been taken. Mary had washed the young girl before placing her in the more comfortable bed. A light sheet covered her body, and Ivory pulled it down to exam her once again. Something was definitely wrong.

His gaze traveled over her body, looking for any signs of damage. Not even a faint mark marred the fair skin. The woman was extremely lovely, and her state left her vunerable. It tugged at Ivory’s sympathy. After he carefully rolled her over onto her stomach, he studied the back of her body. Again, no visible signs of any injury that would account for what was happening to her.

Troubled, Ivory’s mind probed hers once more. His power followed the pathways, searching for the smallest indication of misplaced energy, but there was absolutely nothing wrong. Ivory had the feeling this would frustrate him for quite a while.

Returning her to her back, he covered her with the sheet. Nothing abnormal appeared to his sight. His hand brushed the curls back from her forehead. What had happened to this beautiful young woman? Was she running from something and collapsed unexpectedly in the field or had someone placed her there? His fingertip traced the delicate coloring of a vein just beneath her skin. A strange mystery he resolved to unravel.

A tiny movement beneath her eyelids gave him a slight bit of hope that she might be trying to wake on her own. When her eyes finally did open, Ivory spoke softly to her in an effort not to frighten her. “You’re all right now. I’m here to take care of you.”

“Take care of me?” She blinked confused at him. “Where’s my mother? Are you the doctor?”

“My name is Ivory Cardenas, and I’m a healer.” As he watched her eyes, he noticed she seemed lucid. Flecks of gold within the green gave her eyes a very unusual appearance, but that seemed in place with her strange hair.

“Healer?” The one word seemed to alarm her for some reason, and Ivory couldn’t fathom why it would. All of a sudden her face twisted in a grimace of deep pain. “It hurts so much, why does it hurt?”

Before he could speak, her features relaxed into an alarming blankness. He gripped her shoulder and shook her slightly. The girl’s eyes remained opened, but no hint of intelligence or awareness showed in them. After a long moment, Ivory closed her eyelids.

She was still breathing, still very much alive, but it was as if there was nothing in her mind. Mary entered the room, bringing the jar of feeding salve with her, and Ivory turned to take it from her.

“Is something wrong, Elder Cardenas? You look disturbed.” Mary asked quietly as she stood beside him.

“I have never encountered such a case, Mary. There is no reason for her to be in this state. No injuries, nothing significantly magic. Even her mind seems no more than simply asleep. She just awoke, yet she can’t seem to stay awake.” A heavy frown marred his features, a sure sign of deeply troubled thoughts, Ivory opened the large jar and scooped out a small amount of salve with his fingers.

Mary glanced at the prone young woman in concern. “Do you want me to consult the oracle?”

“No, not just yet. I’m going to check some of my books to see if I can find any explanations and remedies.” When he leaned over, he opened the young girl’s mouth and rubbed the salve onto her tongue. The salve would absorb into her body and give it the nourishment it needed while she couldn’t be fed.

“Any particular ones you wish me to bring you?”

He straightened, closed the jar and set it on the stand next to the bed. “Bring me the Rema Compendium and Royar’s.”

She nodded then left to get the books for him.

When he touched the young woman’s forehead, a small portion of his power entered her mind. If she woke again, he would know it wherever he was. Ivory didn’t dare try anything else without knowing what the problem was. There could be too much potential for further damage to her if he simply started trying everything he knew to do.

After one last look at her, he picked up the chair in front of the desk and moved it to the side of the bed. He could look through the books here as well as any other room, and he was reluctant to leave the young woman alone.

When Mary returned with the two large tomes, she sat them on the edge of the stand near him. “It’s almost dinner time, Elder Cardenas. If you want, I’ll bring you something to eat at passing of the sixteenth bell.”

“Just something simple, Mary. And bring me a bottle of the golden wine.” He picked up the first book. As she closed the door behind her, Ivory began reading through the index. The book itself contained far more knowledge than its size suggested. When he touched a finger to the mind section, the index changed to list several pages of reference.

He scanned each page, hoping for even a small hint of something similar to what he was dealing with. As he touched one of the small paragraphs that seemed a good potential, the text changed again. After reading quickly through it, his hand waved over the page to return to the initial listings.

Mary entered the room again, and Ivory looked up surprised. He hadn’t realized he’d spend so much time reading. At his look, Mary shook her head with a chuckle, “You got lost in your research, Elder Cardenas. Yes, it is dinner time.”

A wry smile twisted his lips when he caught a glimpse of what was on the tray. “And that doesn’t look like a simple dinner.”

“You know better than to think I’ll let you waste away for lack of good food just because you have a new patient. Now you eat this hearty soup I prepared for you. Every last drop mind you.” Mary had an endearing bossy way about her, and Ivory had never argued with her about it.

The savory aroma reminded his stomach that he was indeed hungry. He closed the book, set it back on top of the other one, then took the tray from her. “It smells delicious, Mary. I’m hungrier than I thought I was.”

“Anything else you need, Elder Cardenas?”

With a rueful smile, he asked, “Could you bring me Golden Axium and The Atriax?

An indulgent smile curved her lips in answer. “I’ll bring them after I take Phillip his meal.”

“I appreciate it, Mary.” He dug into the soup and ate the freshly baked bread beside it. Mary was an excellent cook, and the soup was extremely satisfying. Once he finished the meal, Ivory took the bottle of golden wine and the goblet and set them next to the books. He stood to take the empty dishes out to the corridor and put them on the stand near the door. When he returned to the room, he stretched out the slight tension in his body.

The young woman hadn’t moved even an inch, but her breathing and heart beat were normal. As he sat back down, he wondered about who her family was and where she came from. From what he could see, she wasn’t used to physical labor. The hands on top of the covers were soft, not one bit work worn. Her fair skin appeared very well cared for as did her hair and nails. Definitely not a farmer’s wife or any kind of worker in one of the small industries of the kingdoms.

Her family must be rich for the young lady to afford a life of leisure. He’d heard of no young woman missing from their family. Such a thing would have traveled very rapidly to every community through the magical line. Again, he couldn’t rule out the idea that somebody had done this deliberately to her. But what had they done?

Sighing quietly to himself, he picked up the book again and immersed himself in it. He barely even noticed when Mary quietly set the other two books down and left.

When he heard the musical chime of the first bell, Ivory realized how late it was. Unfortunately, he’d found nothing in the books that would help him. In disgust, he set the book on top of the rest.

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