Shimmer – Snippet 1

Hey, S. M. Boyce here. Shimmer is the second book in the Fairhaven Chronicles, a series inspired by the beauty of the west coast. Enjoy the first 6 chapters on the house and ride along as Victoria Brie (yes, like the cheese) and her best friend Audrey Xavier continue their journey.

Here’s Chapter 1:


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Glow: The Revelations of Oriceran, The Fairhaven Chronicles, Book 1

By S. M. Boyce & Martha Carr

Chapter One

Deep within the tunnels beneath the magical city of Fairhaven, Victoria dodged a brilliant blast of green light as it ricocheted off the glowing crystals embedded in the walls. The blast had nearly hit her square in the face. Smoke sizzled from a burn mark on the rock inches from her face, evidence of what would have happened to her if she had been even a little bit slower.

Time to get to cover.

Half her little training cavern was filled with shimmering purple grass, and not far away a waterfall crashed into a small lake. The grass stung anything it touched, but it was the better option. She ducked another blast of light and rolled into the grass with seconds to spare. The soft tips of the grass stung her like hundreds of bees, but she gritted her teeth and kept low. Her skin itched, and she could already feel the welts swelling on her arms and face.

I can’t worry about the pain. Her primary focus was to stay out of sight, especially since a green blast would hurt a hell of a lot more than some stinging grass. Besides, the black magic in her blood would heal her welts as soon as she wasn’t under fire anymore.

“You found cover! Good thinking, Victoria!” Fyrn shouted across the cavern.

Man, sometimes I hate training. She always walked away with bruises, but it would all be worth it in the end.

Every day she got better, and every day her wizard mentor’s attacks got stronger. He was trying to make her a better fighter, trying to give her everything she needed to succeed and stay alive in a city that didn’t quite trust her.

Fyrn won’t throw anything at me I can’t handle, but damn! Sometimes I wish he didn’t trust me so much.

Another blast hummed through the air, singeing a few loose locks of her hair as it passed. The energy fizzled against the cave wall, leaving another black mark in its wake.

In today’s training exercise Victoria had only one mission. Don’t get caught. She could be seen, she could banter, but she couldn’t get hit. This lesson was about speed and agility, not to mention how to escape a bad situation if she couldn’t win a fight. Not that it would ever happen, of course. She gained more control over the magical artifact in her arm with every day that passed.

Fyrn tried to hide his reactions, but she saw his impressed grins. He had to be pleased with how quickly she was picking up and mastering her new gifts.

“Let’s up the stakes!” Fyrn shouted.

She groaned. Pain almost always followed that sentence.

A sequence of attacks sailed toward her, one after the other, each aimed for a different part of her body. She called these ‘combos,’ and she fucking hated them. One of them hit her every single time.

Every. Single. Time.

She dodged the first two, twisting out of the way with only a second to spare as they hit the wall and fizzled. The third came dangerously close to her head, and she could feel the heat from the fourth as it sailed past her nose.

The fifth, of course, hit her square in the chest.

Struck by the full force of a wizard’s power beam, Victoria flew backward and hit the wall hard. Pain splintered up her back and something in her shoulders cracked. She whimpered, sliding to the ground as her world went fuzzy. She tried to stand, but ended up on her hands and knees when her feet gave out underneath her.

The cold tip of a crystal pressed into her forehead, indenting her skin as Fyrn claimed victory. When her vision cleared, Victoria saw nothing but the wizard’s long staff and the glimmering crystal at its tip. If he were a real adversary, he could have blown her head off and ended the fight.

“Yeah, yeah, you win. Big—” She stopped as his face came into focus. Brows furrowed, eyes narrowed in hatred, pupils dilated—he looked ready to kill.

And the full weight of his glare was focused squarely on her.

“Fyrn?” she said warily, trying to snap him out of it.

Blinking rapidly, the old wizard lowered his staff and stepped away. His shoulders drooped, and he stared at her for a few moments. Victoria cautiously stood, confused and a little worried that her mentor could look at her with such hatred.

“I got caught up in the moment.” He turned his back on her, leaning on the staff as he walked toward the waterfall. The meadow of purple grass between them made him seem small, but Victoria knew better. This wizard was easily the most powerful in Fairhaven. His knowledge, experience, and abilities dwarfed any of the other wizards who lived in Fairhaven.

Truth be told, Fyrn could kill her. She would put up one hell of a fight and maybe take him with her, but it was unlikely she would win in a fight against her mentor. And until now, she hadn’t thought she would ever need to worry about that.

But the look in his eyes had been deadly. Even if he had merely been caught up in the moment, he had looked ready to kill.

And to many people in the magical world, Victoria was someone worth killing.

Victoria studied the magical steampunk-style dagger that had fused with her right forearm the day Luak had murdered her parents. This was dark magic, and Fyrn had confessed that these artifacts often corrupted the people who bonded with them. Hopefully that wouldn’t happen to her.

Hopefully, Fyrn would never need to kill her.

On a little boulder by the exit, Styx clapped and cheered in the gibberish language of the pixies. Wings flapping, he soared into the air and flitted around her head, chittering the whole way. She chuckled at the little creature’s antics. “No more coffee for you, kiddo. Jesus.”

Fyrn tapped his staff against the mossy ground in his version of applause. “Take the rest of the day off. Rest. Recharge. You did well today, Victoria.”

“I should keep training.” She looked forward to the day when she didn’t need to train constantly, but she knew it wouldn’t come for a while. Come hell or high water, she would have revenge on Luak for murdering her parents. He wouldn’t rest, and neither should she.

Fyrn shook his head, his long white beard trailing a bit behind with every motion. “Every good warrior must know when to rest as well as when to fight. Exhausting yourself isn’t going to make you better than Luak, so go home.”

“I need to get stronger, Fyrn.”

“Exactly, and exhausting yourself isn’t going to do that. Do you even listen when I speak? Good lord, child. You need to get physically stronger, to the point where you can hold both the sword and shield at the same time. Right now you can barely hold one.”

“So make me do pushups! Make me lift weights, or run laps. Going home and resting isn’t going to make me stronger.”

“No, but it will let me look for a spell or something. Physically, you simply aren’t strong enough. You will never be strong enough for that artifact, Victoria. No human could be. There are limitations to the human body that you can’t overcome, regardless of how hard you train. I saw your father go through these struggles, and watching you go through the same ordeal is only driving home the point.”

“Lame.”

“Quite.”

“Well, what options do we have? Only spells? Hey, is there another Rhazdon Artifact that can make me stronger?” She chuckled, but her smile quickly faded. If she were being honest with herself, it wasn’t a joke at all. Another artifact would certainly speed up her training.

“Absolutely not!” Fyrn’s voice echoed in the cave like thunder over a desert, hard and loud. Panicked, Styx dove into Victoria’s hair, his tiny body trembling as he clung to her.

“Fyrn, I was kidding. I don’t want—”

“Dark magic is not something to joke about, Victoria. It kills. It corrupts. You may not lose control of yourself like some Rhazdon hosts do, but every host I’ve ever seen loses themselves to bloodlust and a thirst for power. Look at Luak! How many people do you think he’s killed?”

She balled her hands in anger, but she didn’t know what to say.

Fyrn continued, scowling. “If you don’t take dark magic seriously, it will destroy you from within. I don’t know if anyone has ever had more than one Rhazdon Artifact except for Rhazdon himself, and he started a war that killed thousands! I won’t let you become him!”

Victoria lifted her hands in gentle surrender. “I’m sorry, Fyrn. I take it back.”

“I’ll find you a spell. We have other options.” Fyrn stroked his beard, but something in the old wizard’s face had shifted. As she watched him gaze around the cave, Victoria wondered how much he believed what he was saying. Maybe deep in his heart he suspected what she was already beginning to believe: no spell was going to help her.

She had to face the facts. Spells had limits the Rhazdon Artifacts didn’t have.

Even when she had mastered the Rhazdon Artifact in her arm, she wouldn’t be strong enough to actively wield the weapons she summoned. It wouldn’t do any good for her to have the knowledge but no practical ability to use it. She needed some kind of supplement, some way to get stronger than any human ever could, and so far it seemed like only another Rhazdon Artifact could do that.

Yes, perhaps getting another would destroy her, but she had a powerful enemy who wanted her dead. He had massacred her parents and set a ravenous snarx loose on the city of Fairhaven, killing dozens. That thing may have had a funny name, but it had been nothing to laugh at when it had decapitated Fairhaven citizens and left orphans in its wake. If Victoria hadn’t put her life on the line, the king would have let his people die. Or worse, Luak might have taken over and killed hundreds more.

This was life or death.

Anyway, it wasn’t as if she could go out and shop for a second Rhazdon Artifact. She would wait to see what Fyrn came up with, but the dark magic in her body had so far done only good. She had saved Fairhaven from the snarx, and been welcomed by many of its citizens—though not all—as a hero. Maybe the magic of the Rhazdon Artifacts didn’t have the same effect on her as it did for others, or maybe it was unjustly feared.

Her powers were all she could use to get her revenge on Luak, and she wouldn’t rule out using more dark magic if it meant she got justice for everyone that evil bastard had murdered.

***

Screw training. Screw patience. Screw inner peace. Victoria needed a break.

During the championship Berserk match for the season, she raced along the city’s main Berserk field while the crowd roared on either side of her. They faced the Chezlewok team today. Apparently it was some kind of slithering monster with fangs and a lightning-quick bite.

Didn’t matter. They would lose to the Plits.

“Victoria, here!” Audrey waved her hands, pointing to a pair of black fidgets—fifty points each!—rolling near her. She charged for one, and Victoria lunged toward the other.

It slipped out of her fingers as she hit the ground. Audrey fell as well, missing her fidget by a few inches as it scuttled through the grass.

Across the field an ogre snorted, his eyes focused on Audrey’s sprawled body.

Oh, shit.

Such was the game, after all: hurt your opponent until they went to the medic and were disqualified from continuing. And boy, did this team love trying to take out the fidget chasers.

He ran toward them, the ground rumbling under his massive feet. It wasn’t long before his eight-foot-tall body towered over them—he looked ready to flatten Audrey. She scrambled to stand, but her shoes slipped on the wet ground cover.

Victoria dove for her friend, grabbing her shoulder and rolling them both out of the way seconds before the ogre toppled onto them both.

Audrey grinned. “You’re the best.”

“I know.” Victoria winked.

A green fidget squeaked beneath the ogre’s leg, its indestructible body pinned momentarily by the monster. Victoria snatched it free and its tiny feet wriggled like a fish out of water. “A hundred points! Damn!”

An elf on their team—Georgie—sped by and plucked the fidget from Victoria’s hands. “Thanks, ladies!”

As the opposing team’s ogre pushed himself to his feet, Bertha’s brother Edgar plowed into him from the side. Bones cracked, dirt kicked into the air, and Victoria winced in sympathy.

That had to hurt.

Audrey, however, chuckled. “That’s what you get for messing with Team Plit!”

“Damn right! Now let’s win this thing,” Victoria said, fist-bumping her buddy. Her eyes scanned the field for the next fidget.

As they ran through the field of ogres and elves tackling each other, Victoria felt strangely at home. These were her people—her team, her buddies. They would always have her back.

Always.

***

Victoria sat on the floor of the cave she and Audrey had slept in when they first came to Fairhaven. Back propped against the jagged wall, she gently tapped her head against the rock as she tried to make sense of her runaway thoughts. Styx flew in circles above her to wear himself out. Otherwise he would be up all night rummaging through the kitchen cupboards. Victoria might have been rich thanks to her parents’ forethought, but this pixie would eat her out of house and home if she wasn’t careful.

Even though she had initially brought up finding a second Rhazdon Artifact as a joke, the idea made more sense to her the longer she thought about it.

And that scared her.

She didn’t know what worried her more: The idea of having more dark magic pulsing through her veins or the fear that she might be chasing power the same way as others who had been corrupted by the Rhazdon Artifacts fused with their bodies had.

After all, Fyrn had once mentioned how he watched host after host be destroyed by their own greed and lust for power. She could hear the reasoning now: just a little more, and I’ll stop. Just a little more, and I’ll have enough. Just a little more, and I’ll be happy.

Just a little more.

I wouldn’t mind some company,” Shiloh said.

Victoria jumped, heart skipping a beat when the ghost tied to her Rhazdon Artifact appeared. He lounged against a boulder, examining his nails in the same bored fashion as always.

“Some company?” she asked.

He nodded. “Get another Rhazdon Artifact ghost for me.”

“Wouldn’t you just find it boring?”

“Probably, but it’s worth a try. Do it, and I might hate you less.”

She frowned. “That’s a terrible reason to fuse with another Artifact.”

“Suit yourself.” Shiloh shrugged, and as fast as he had appeared, he disappeared again.

Sometimes she hated that ghost. True, he didn’t have a choice about being forever tied to the dagger in her arm, but he didn’t have to make her miserable. Lately he had taken to hiding wherever it was ghosts hung out, and she had rather enjoyed the peace. Sometimes she even forgot he existed.

Happy times.

Elbow resting on her knee, Victoria stared at beautiful Fairhaven below her as her mind wandered. The city had become her refuge, the safe space she called home. Luak had threatened them in an effort to take control of the city and she had stopped him, thanks to the power of her Rhazdon Artifact. It, and it alone, had given her the ability to kill the snarx. She couldn’t have done that without magic, and she couldn’t deny that the dark magic had become a part of her. Being a Rhazdon host was a life sentence, since removing the artifact would kill her. She would never again be without it, so there was no point in hating what she was.

But to add another? That would be pushing her luck.

She sighed, rubbing her eyes as she forced herself to face the bitter truth. Dark magic was dangerous, and she was treading a thin line between greed and having enough power to get justice and do what was right.

If she listened to her heart, she would always make the right choice. And right now it told her to wait.

Victoria would do whatever it took to take care of her city, her friends, and the magical world that had quickly captured her imagination. She adored Fairhaven, and if it meant destroying herself to save it, that’s what she would do.

Until then, she would wait.


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