Welcome to the first snippet for Resistance of Magic a brand new book in the Age of Magic, A Kurtherian Gambit Series!
Sariah inched her way through the chasm, sliding her body toward her goal. She screamed as a sharp piece of rock bit into her chest.
“Damn that hurts!”
She looked down. There was no blood and her shirt was intact, a good sign. She tried to angle her body to keep from impacting the rock further, but she was stuck. She’d either have to keep going and deal with the pain or make her way back.
Sariah sighed. She could call to the boys in the cavern behind her for help, but then she’d have to share whatever prize awaited her up ahead.
Her belly growled, reminding her she hadn’t had a good meal in at least a day. Life was hard down in the mines, but it was better than dying in the streets or selling yourself in the sheets, so she made do.
Most of the kids in the town of Chatwick were miners, the only source of money in this godforsaken place. Some kids started as young as ten, going into the mine each day and foraging for their living.
Sariah had been lucky. Growing up with two living, working parents, she had been spared the grueling conditions of mine work.
As she neared adulthood and after her dad got injured, money grew scarce. So, here she was at sixteen, grinding out her days looking for veins of precious metals.
It wasn’t all bad. When she found a good source, she was richly rewarded, and her tiny frame allowed her to reach spots others couldn’t. She was quite good at it, too. Not that any of it would matter if she died stuck in this small crevasse.
Sariah laughed at herself, then stopped as the motion made the sharp piece of rock against her chest dig itself in further. She shook her head.
“Well, let’s at least see if all this is gonna be worth it.”
She wriggled her body around to free her hands, then carefully brought one hand down to her belt and unfastened her magitech lamp, and brought it forward to illuminate the path.
She squinted in the light as she tried to make out what lay ahead. The dim light glinted off the stone walls for a few more feet, then the walls gave way to a chamber. She couldn’t make out any more, but if there were a chamber all the way down here, she knew something good would have to be in it.
With a stern expression, she gritted her teeth and pressed on and pushed forward as quickly as she could. The greedy bit of stone bit into her chest again as she moved, drawing precious drops of blood.
“Scheisse!” she yelped, but it was done. She was past the narrow spot.
Inwardly, she was glad her parents weren’t there. They wouldn’t approve of the swearing habit she’d picked up. The rearick were a rowdy bunch, and she enjoyed their company, but her parents thought they were a bad influence on her. They were probably right, but she didn’t care.
She banished the thought and kept moving. The path grew wider as she went, and the stone started to get smoother, almost as if someone had already been through and leveled out the walls on purpose.
It didn’t make any sense. Who would go through the hassle of digging out a chamber way down here, thousands of feet below the surface?
Her eyes took on the greedy look they got whenever she struck it big. Whoever it had been, they must have hidden something, and it was all hers now.
Walking got easier, and she thrust forward with bigger strides, waving her lamp before her in a wide arc to illuminate the walls.
In the distance, she caught a glimpse of something shiny in the wall. Throwing caution to the wind, she bounded the next few steps to close on the object.
She reached the end of the open chamber and stared at…nothing. The glint had been nothing more than the light reflecting off intricately carved lines on the wall. There was no ore to be found.
Sariah took one last furtive look at the bizarre pattern of lines scaling the walls. It had an unnatural look to it and almost looked like an animal.
Someone had carved the pattern intentionally, but she couldn’t very well move it out of the cavern, so it wouldn’t pay the bills.
She started walking back toward the entrance and had only gone a few steps when she heard the crunch of boot on metal. She stopped and picked up the small object she had stepped on.
It was a pendant, and unlike anything she’d ever seen before. An ornate pattern of gold filigree curved around several decently sized gemstones of different varieties. The pattern made the shape of a small bird, perhaps a raven. It was hard to tell exactly. Two sapphires were in the place of its eyes, a diamond took over most of the body, and small garnets accented the points of the wings.
The pendant was breathtaking. Whoever had crafted it must have been a master.
Sariah wondered what the design meant and who would have left it there. In the end, it didn’t matter, only how much it would sell for. The gemstones would fetch a good price once she dismantled the thing.
Hastily, she stuffed the pendant into her pack. It stuck out a little bit since her pack was already quite full. She hoped no one would notice because she didn’t want to share her prize. No, she intended to claim this beauty all for herself.
Then she groaned as she remembered she’d have to get back through the narrow tunnel. She shrugged and decided to call upon the boys to help dig her out. They were always eager to help.
“Harvey! Padron!” She waited for a moment, but there was no answer. She walked back through the cavern until she was almost at the tight spot where she’d gotten stuck. “Harvey! Padron! I need help!” Still nothing.
Sariah had hoped the pleading tone in her voice would get them to come. Instead, she was staring at another empty chamber. She wondered if something was wrong. It wasn’t like them to be completely quiet.
She called again another time or two with increasing volume, but it was useless. Gritting her teeth, she started working her way back through the crevasse. The tiny unforgiving piece of rock cut into her again, even harder this time.
“By the Matriarch!” she cried out as the stone cut into her breast anew. Then she was free. She looked down at the tears in her shirt and swore. She’d be forced to buy a new one, and shirts were expensive. Sariah hated spending money on such frivolities.
Back in the main corridor, she looked around for her friends, but they were nowhere to be found. In a state of almost panic, she spent several minutes looking for them before she realized how late it was, and they’d probably gone back home for dinner.
Her own belly growled at her again at the thought of food. “We’ll eat soon,” she told it. “I promise.”
A small movement off to her left caught her eye. She looked over and focused harder, but just as quickly it was gone. The hairs on the back of her neck stood on end, and she readied for a confrontation.
“Boo!” a voice called out from behind her.
Sariah practically jumped out of her skin. She audibly yelped and spun around to face her new opponent, only to find Harvey playing a prank on her.
Harvey broke out into a boisterous laugh. “Got you!”
Sariah frowned and punched him in the arm. “Not funny. Quit sneaking up on me!”
His lips curled into a wide, toothy grin. “But you should have seen your face! That look was priceless.”
Sariah glared at him. “Yeah, yeah. Is Padron hiding out there, too? Come out Padron, so I can deck you!”
“Nah, he headed back earlier.” He pointed at her pack. “So, what’s the haul? Find anything good back there?”
Her hand absentmindedly went to the bulge in her pack. Had he noticed? She hoped not. Her cheeks burned red, but in the dim light she figured he wouldn’t notice.
Slowly, Sariah shook her head. “Nope, nothing. It was a dead end.”
“Aww, man. Another night going hungry, I guess.”
She felt bad for lying to him, but he’d get his own score soon enough. Besides, if the pendant was worth half what she thought it was, there’d be enough to share after she sold it.
The two made their way back to the elevator shaft in silence. When they reached the shaft, they found the platform had already been lowered, so they rode it up and out of the mine without incident.
The last few rays of sunshine greeted Harvey and Sariah as they made their way outside, weary and ready for food and sleep.
Sariah looked around for the foreman. He inspected everyone leaving the mines to make sure he got his due, but he was nowhere to be found. She shrugged. He must have gone home already, or more likely, to the bed of one of his mistresses.
She shivered in revulsion at the thought of what those women endured. As unforgiving as her mining career could be, it was a much better way to earn her pay.
Halfway to her house, she parted ways with Harvey. She waved to him and kept walking through the mostly empty streets.
After she was positive he was out of sight, she pulled the pendant out of her pack and stared at it. It was every bit as beautiful as before. She fingered the jewels, then put it back. It wouldn’t do to walk around with something so valuable in full sight.
Sariah turned and headed toward the market square. She hoped she could find an appraiser tonight. She had precious few coins for food.
She wandered through several stalls but couldn’t find what she was looking for. It was getting awfully dark, so this wasn’t too shocking.
“Oh well,” she muttered. “It can wait for tomorrow morning.”
On her way back to her house, she stopped by a small fruit stand selling questionable, overripe options. She bought a few apples that had definitely seen better days with the last of her coins. She munched on one right away and saved the others for her parents. At least they wouldn’t go completely hungry tonight.
As she trudged forward, a dark man watched her from the shadows of a nearby building. He had been following her unnoticed for some time.
His eyes darted to the bulge in the bag at her waist, then back to her. That was his quarry, all right.
He let her get more distance, then followed and took great pains to ensure he wasn’t seen by anyone. As he walked, his lips curled into a sinister smile.
Well, what do you think? Are you ready to see what Sariah and her friends are up to? Need more? Come back tomorrow for the 2nd and last snippet of Resistance to Magic, now available on Amazon!