Special sneak-peek to celebrate the winter holidays

Hi all! This is a special post to celebrate the winter holidays and the last week of 2018.

Here you’ll find a compilation of snippets from the first chapters of the waiting-to-be-fully-edited book, “Lucky Destiny” – book #3 in the Neo-Medieval YA fantasy series The Arid Kingdom.

For those who are not familiar with the story, I put some notes here and there between the paragraphs.

Knights armed with laser guns, oldfashioned witches, and a mysterious girl challenge their skills in this uncanny story of the Arid Kingdom.

❄Enjoy!❄

Part I – The Inspectors arrive at the castle…

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“We’ll also want to know more about this adoptive daughter of yours, mister Waltario,” said Fleurice. “We’ve heard she’s a trusty warrior…”

“She’s my daughter,” said the general laying his hand on the girl’s shoulder. “And she’ll indeed make a difference here.”

As the inspectors’ abrasive stares were cast upon Selunia, the general’s hand turned out to have a positive effect. It had a fatherly warmth that made her feel secure.

“But we’ll talk about this later,” Ivan said. “What’s most important to know is whether you were able to protect the objects of historical value, after such a long time.”

The heads of the semicircle stepped aside letting the three guests climb up the stairs toward the main entrance of the palace.

(Notes: Fleurice and Ivan – inspectors; Waltario – General of the Army; Selunia – Waltario’s adoptive daughter.

Upcoming: Vittria, Leido, Fulgerus – the villains; Dual – Prince Soris’ guard)

*

“Vittria, come on already! We’re late!” Leido was beckoning and urging acidly the girl who was struggling to activate her staff. “We had to catch those when they’re still outside, to make them notice better the passing of the time.” He paused to throw a disapproving glance at her outfit and seethed, “Look at those garish clothes…”

“Let her concentrate!” Fulgerus cut in. “You’re not helping her by adding pressure. Those guys will notice the change of time from the inside. Stop being so antsy.”

From the old ruins of what used to be a surveillance tower in the past, Vittria stood dressed in a long white dress, with her shoulders covered by a black mantle. She kept her eyes closed to concentrate on her unspoken incantations while her hands were holding tightly her glowing staff wrapped in a long string of sapphire and onyx gems. It was another kind of spell, one that had been improvised.

All of a sudden, the string detached from the scepter, rose two meters in the air and remained there spinning in circles. Fulgerus noticed Vittria’s hands were shaking badly, dark vines slithering on them. He went closer to her, struck by worry. They needed the spell but she had to stay alive, too.

Like a volcano’s magma, the big crystal of the staff displayed quick variations of red color. It seemed to be as tense as its owner. At a certain point, it stopped flashing and froze in a constant glow. Vittria mumbled some unintelligible words then flung the scepter in the moss that had clothed the old stones of the tower.

The staff flashed shortly and blinding like a falling star, making Fulgerus cover his face under an arm. A few seconds later, he saw the girl controlling the scepter from a distance. It didn’t leave the place it had been fixed in, just started rolling following the rhythm of the string in the air, drawing large circles with the crystal at its top. The witch didn’t open her eyes yet, although the veins on her hands had thickened considerably.

After ten complete rotations, the staff stopped in place. Vittria caught it in her hands before it could fall. The floating string broke free from the seemingly endless rounds and started for the palace. It flew smoothly, grazing over the top of the trees, the gems glittering slowly as if they had become the blinking eyes of a mysterious spirit that had taken over the string.

When it reached the sturdy walls that surrounded the grand courtyard, it descended close to the earth, its fluid motions making it seem a snake. It started flying all around the circumference of the stone hedge, with increasing speed. It made no noise so the guards didn’t stand a chance to notice it. However, the effects of the rotations were soon going to fall upon them.

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*

The girl and the two boys went ahead, while the king and the general led the inspectors to the old castle.

After Dual closed the double door behind their backs, he and Selunia gave a long breath of relief. Soris glanced at them in amusement. “Their presence stressed you, eh?”

“To hell with those snooty inspectors!” Dual barely refrained from spitting to one side. “They looked at us as if we were some monkeys. I’ve never seen such arrogant people before, in my entire life.”

Soris rubbed at his chin. “I confess they were a surprise for me, too. They have the faces of some torturers. I can’t imagine what they’ll do if they find something’s not right.”

At this remark, the two guards enveloped him in sympathetic gazes.

“How can you be so calm?” Dual asked. “You don’t have to act in front of us. Let’s get you ready for the speech; I know this is pressuring you.”

The Prince hinted a sly smile on his face and flung his hands in the pockets of his black trousers. “I’m ready!” he said triumphantly.

“How come?” the two asked in surprise.

“I was expecting this so I’ve prepared for it in time before they got here.” He raised his eyebrows proudly. “I know exactly what to tell them.”

The faces of the two guards shifted from surprise to delight. They were happy to know the odds were in their favor.

Soris retrieved his hands from his pockets and let them rest on his hips. “In the meantime, we should stay on alert.” He scanned the hall with a quick look. “You never know when a sleep spell will be thrown at us.”

Dual cowered. “Oh, come on, are you serious?” he groaned, fear trickling in his voice. “I mean, do you really think these things like spells exist?”

Soris nodded, without any sign of distress. “Yes, Dual, they do exist. And above that, we should stay focused because if anything happens, there will be only the three of us left unaffected.”

Dual caught his head between his hands and pressed his lips together to refrain from cursing in a very rude manner. When he retrieved his fingers from his hair, he asked, “How can you be so calm? If there will be only the three of us, those people, with the witchcraft they use, they’re sure to take our lives in a blink. They’ll summon a bunch of devils and those will drag us with pitchforks right in Hell!” He shivered from head to toe as he said these so he grabbed the stone of his necklace hoping it will give him strength and courage.

“Dual, calm down. They don’t have that sort of spells.” Soris tried to reassure him. “If we’ve escaped twice from them, it means it’s not impossible. Besides, we have Selunia with us.”

The guard brushed his face anxiously. “Well, yeah, you two are going to escape because you’re some freaks!” Soris let a questioning frown slide on his forehead. “Freaks? Are you saying that I’m also a freak?”

Dual replied with a grimace as if the prince had asked whether birds have feathers.

“Anyway,” Selunia interfered, fed up of his whines. “There’s no time to waste now. We’d better discuss what to do when we’ll be attacked. I’ve talked with Dad about it, but we should make up a plan, too.”

Dual rolled his eyes and let his arms loose, swaying them around his body like a restless child. He was cursing the day he had accepted to move here. For a moment, he wished he could offer his talisman to someone else, just to make sure he’ll stay out of trouble. However, he changed his mind in a blink, as his imagination took him to a horror scenario where the spell wasn’t putting to sleep but transforming people into zombies whose only escape was death by burning to ashes. He definitely wanted to avoid such gruesome ending to his youth.

Soris thought a little then said, “There are three things of great importance: first, the inspectors, second, the prisoners, and third, the old castle. I say Dual should remain here and keep an eye on the main hall while I’m going to look after the prisoners, and Selunia will stick around to the old palace.”

Dual winced. “Are you crazy? In less than half an hour you’re going to hold your speech. What’s the point of breaking up now?”

Soris straightened his back and rested his hands on his hips. “I have a hunch that something’s going to happen very soon. I’m not sure, but don’t you feel something strange in the air?”

Selunia took out her talisman hid under her clothes. Its color was shifting to indigo. “You’re right!” she gasped. “A spell is just settling over our palace!”

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The three of them exchanged worried glances, gulped, then summoned their courage and went to take a look over through the windows that were offering a view to the main hall.

Time had frozen or at least that was the impression the place gave. The big clock on the entrance wall was working normally. The people were the ones who had turned into statues. This time, they hadn’t been put to sleep, but stoned. They all sat still, fixed in the position and with the expressions they had had right before the spell took over the place. Some had been caught with open mouths just as they were talking, some were sitting on a leg or had they arms raised in the air as they were expressing themselves. The chance they were only pretending to stay like this was away from being possible.

Soris frowned. He noticed the difference between the spells. He quickly pressed on the emergency button at his wrist, hoping that it wasn’t already too late. “Let’s get to our positions!” he commanded and made to leave followed by Selunia. They stopped when they saw Dual wasn’t budging.

“Dual, come already! Every second matters!” said the Prince.

The guard sat still.

Soris approached him and took a close look. The young man was standing motionless just like the rest, with eyes closed and hands resting on the window’s border. Selunia rose an eyebrow. His talisman isn’t working or what?

The Prince, rather jaded, gave him a nudge in the ribs.

“Ouch!” the guard winced immediately.

“Come on, stop playing around,” Soris said and showed him the double door. “Go down in the hall and see if everything stays in its place.”

~End of Part I~

Click/tap here to read Part II

Part 2

(Notes: the Bardanians – Bardan’s soldiers; Bardan – the leader of the evil group)

Outside, the Bardanians had already broken into two groups, according to the plan they had well put up with Bardan. Leido’s team had to break through the main gate, and the other one, lead by Fulgerus, had to go through the entrance at the back.

With the nonchalance which had easily become a habit, two soldiers went to steal the keys from the guardians so everyone could get in. As soon as they laid their hands on the iron bars to climb up, they were sent backward by an electric shock. After shaking unconsciously for a while, they fell with a thud on the ground.

“What the hell?” Fulgerus exclaimed infuriated. “When did they set this up?”

“Eh, no worries. Such a simple trick won’t hold us back,” a soldier seethed, beckoning to one of his comrades to follow him.

They went to jump over the wall, avoiding the gates. They ended just like the other two. The electroshock system was placed all around the protection wall. Fulgerus gnashed his teeth.

A daredevil took a few steps backward and run to jump over it without touching it at all, but, although he was about to succeed as his squatted posture allowed him to roll over at a palm above the wall, he was sent back on the floor by a shockwave. He fell on the floor, groaning in deep pain.

“T’ what?!” Fulgerus barely got his chance to curse when he noticed a dark cloud of smoke rising from the base of the fence. The soldiers who inhaled this became unconscious.

As most of them were falling like the apples from a tree, Fulgerus retreated and dragged other two after him. Upon seeing what happened to the rest, the two soldiers thanked their leader with much gratitude.

“Don’t thank me, idiots!” Fulgerus shouted as anger was boiling inside of him. “Don’t you have the instinct to protect yourself?”

He took his hands from their shoulders and watched the anesthetic smoke rising and dissipating. Darn! That Waltario certainly is a crafty man. Leido was right about him. Curse him! I won’t leave until at least I’ve got the prisoners back. I can’t return to Father like this.

“We must find a way to reach inside,” he mumbled, eyes stuck to the castle.

“Something to blow this thing off,” said a thoughtful soldier.

Fulgerus retorted a face like a provoked dog’s. “Blow off, stupid! And what will you do about the people on the other side? Kill them? That would only make us subject to an investigation. Don’t you remember Father demanded we infiltrate without making any fuss? But why am I asking you? You’re a bunch of imbeciles!”

The soldiers bent their heads, leaving him to his own devices. Fulgerus thought out loud, “That electric wall can’t reach the skies. I’m sure it ends somewhere.”

He took some stones and started throwing them over the fence. The first three attempts were a failure. On the fourth try, he threw the rock at a meter above. That one went through and reached the other side. The sensors in the wall didn’t react anymore at that height.

Fulgerus gave a long sigh. He had to find a way to jump above three meters. “A poll would have been handy.”

“We’ll look after some rocks or something…”

“Don’t look any further!” Fulgerus cut his sentence. “Aren’t you two enough rock-headed?”

The two restored to piety figures.

“I’m talking seriously,” he continued and got closer to them. “You will help me jump. Hold hands!”

They placed themselves at a certain distance from the wall, under the young man’s guidance. Fulgerus took off his mantle, rolled it into a ball and threw it over as if to verify for the last time that was the right height he had to reach. He then looked at his subordinates, made a mental calculus drew them more steps away from the obstacle and went to take his own place before running to make the final leap.

The fear was on both sides. Fulgerus didn’t want to feel on his own the feeling of falling as struck by a lightning, nor did his soldiers wish that—Bardan would have given them a punishment three times more painful than his.

Fulgerus, in order to gain some courage, thought about his honor, his training as a warrior, his father’s words. It was a great moment in his life.

He gave a loud cry and went running. Three steps away from the two, he jumped on their arms and propelled himself with all his might. Reaching the high in the air, he squatted and rolled to pass over the fence.

The two soldiers, now lying on the ground as the lad’s powerful jump had made them fall, holding hands, were watching the show enthralled and also frightened out of their wits.

The tip of his long hair with green shades had touched the area of the sensors making them activate the electric wall. The soldiers gasped like the spectators of a circus risky number that was about to go wrong. But Fulgerus managed to land on his feet, bending his knees a little. It had been perfect acrobatics. The bardanians barely refrained from giving a loud round of applause.

The winner turned to them. “That’s it! I made it! Now go and inform Leido about the way to beat this thing. I shouldn’t be left alone on this mission. And hurry up! The spell won’t last forever!”

*

“I’m going to catch him!” Selunia said determinedly.

“No.” Soris stopped her and got up from his chair. “You must break the spell. That will make them run away and help us with the inspection. If this lasts even one hour, we’ll have a hard time getting away from the inspectors. I’ll go after him. He’s just one person. I can manage.”

They got out of the room, and after locking it back, parted their own ways. Selunia headed to a palace terrace. She had to find a method to break the spell as quickly as possible. After all, she’s seen on the screens she was sure the source wasn’t inside the building but somewhere outside.

Keeping a steady pace, she got on the terrace and peered all over the garden. The place had subsided again to a sinister silence like the one of a cemetery. The sky was covered with rosy clouds that gave hints of the upcoming Twilight. Every minute counted but the quietude was leaving the impression that the world had stopped in place. Selunia put on her magical gloves and tried to take control of the restlessness that tried to expand inside her heart. The will to fight gave her the much-sought courage she needed.

It didn’t take long to observe the string of magical stones that was twirling in the sky. After its long flight around the courtyard, the string had halted at a tower’s height and continued to spin in circles. “That must be the source of the spell!” she thought. “Good thing it isn’t that darn stick. I can’t risk starting a fight like the first one with that witch. It might kill me for real if I try that again.”

The bracelet gave the signals of a call. It was Dual. “There’s a strange snake in the air!” he groaned. “I saw it as I was closing the door. Oh, gosh, it was so frightening! Selunia, come here already and rescue us!” He paused to sob. “Oh, I hope it didn’t notice me!”

“Alright, Dual. I’ll be there in a minute.” Selunia closed the discussion quickly to focus on what to do next. The string, as if it felt she had caught it up, hid behind the crown of a tall tree. The girl let out a puff. “I must go down.” She started for the exit.

When she reached the anteroom, she saw Dual sitting in a squat, stuck by a wall, almost biting his nails. Dual popped up on his feet and went to greet the highly awaited savior.

“Dual, I’m going to step out,” she said, trying not to let his fear transfer to her. “You stay here and guard this place and call me if something’s wrong.” The lad nodded and clasped his hands with hope.

Selunia went out through the large wooden door, letting Dual close it behind her. The string had returned to its former place, ten feet above the inspector’s black car. The girl activated the gloves and aimed at it. The spinning circle seemed to wait for her move provokingly. Selunia squinted at it. “Let’s hope it won’t start lurching.”

The first bullet was sent and the string shifted its place in a blink. Selunia mumbled some curses then tried to take it by surprise pretending to ignore it for a while and then shoot at it vigorously. The circle slid gently in the air, dodging easily each attack.

With eyes on it, she arrived a few steps away from the garden. The string went opposite to her. Selunia didn’t want to lose its trace, so she started following it. A few steps and, before she knew it, a long whip had caught on her right ankle, tugging her and making her fall, face to the ground. “Ah!” she cried out of surprise.

She rolled over on her back just to notice a tall and stout man with arms long to the ground. His face and boy was well covered by ragged clothes. She started shooting at him, so he dodged and set her free.

Selunia just got back on her feet when a heavy net made from steel chains landed on her, covering her from head to toe. As she tried to get it off from her, her fingers slipped through the chain loops and so, the energy of her gloves spread through the metallic web. Fearing she might be surrounded, she started twirling in place. Now the net was behaving like a shield against the laser bullets that were hitting in loudly. The four attackers had good guns but they weren’t trying to shoot with precision. They thought her improvised shield would naturally let some bullets slip through the gaps of the web.

Selunia was able to create a protection the shape of a bell, but that would waste a lot of her energy. Her mind filled up with worries. After all, they’d found a way to get past the elaborate protection invented by Waltario. Four enemies were going to become ten enemies in no time.

~End of Part II~

Continue reading here: Jump to Part III

Part 3

Soris advanced carefully along the corridor’s walls, certain that he would bump into Fulgerus in no time. The views presented earlier by the surveillance cameras had shown him where the intruder was heading to. Any moment and he was about to encounter Bardan’s son, whom he didn’t know yet. For now, Fulgerus was just another enemy, whose movements gave away a higher level of skills compared to the soldiers he’d fought before.

Soris had his hand on the gun, prepared to shoot in case someone would show up out of a corner. On the corridors, he sometimes had to make his way between stoned guardians or servants. They were all statues. Our palace is unusually decorated today, he thought.

The bracelet buzzed. He was receiving a call. “What is it, Dual?” he asked in a whisper, eyes still vigilant.

“Selunia’s been caught!” Dual answered in a panic.

“What?!” The prince stopped in place.

“I mean she’s surrounded. She’s no escape!”

Soris’ eyebrows drew a sharp crease on his forehead. “And you’re doing nothing?”

“What can I do?” he sobbed. “They’re many. I don’t have her powers. I can’t fight those giants.”

“Shoot them! You don’t have to fight them directly. What on earth? Have you lost your mind completely? Can’t you think anymore? Go! Go right now! It’s an order. And report back!” The conversation was hung up abruptly.

Soris cursed between his teeth, tightening his grip on the gun’s handle. What if it was indeed as serious as Dual presented? What if Selunia was truly held captive? Losing her in such a moment was equal to losing the fight.

*

Soris had one last corridor to pass, one that was swerving to the left. After the corner, a passage of about twenty steps followed, and at its end, a heavy door of old oak was waiting for him. It led to the underground, the place where the prisoners were held captive.

At a stone’s throw, before the prince would reach the corner, his black bracelet rang. Dual let him know about Selunia’s victory. Soris smiled relieved then lifted an eyebrow. An idea had struck him. He closed the conversation and continued to talk loud, “Good. I’ll be right there!”

He started running towards the dungeons, ignoring the fact that his steps were echoing clearly on the stone pavement. After the corner, he continued his run for a little then stopped. The last footstep dissipated in the corridor’s cold air. The prince returned stealthily along the wall, his gun pointed at the corner. In this cat-chasing-mouse game, I feel like I’m not the chaser anymore…

As he passed by a door which was of no importance, he pressed its handle and pushed it wide open, a loud creak following. The prince waited, his brown eyes squinting at the silent corner. After a whole minute, he showed up: the masked man who’d jumped over the fence, Fulgerus himself.

Soris pulled the trigger.

Fulgerus lifted his arms, his vambraces shielding him from the storm of laser-bullets. A few of them got through and left some painful cuts. But, instead of taking shelter behind the corner, Bardan’s son lunged to the prince. He kicked the boy’s gun away then grabbed him by an arm and pulled him close. A real fist fight began between the two experienced warriors.

*

“So that string must be hit for the spell to be broken?” Soris asked then looked at his watch. “It’s been almost half an hour! We must hurry. Selunia, you go outside and distract it. Dual and I are going to shoot from the inside.” He prepared his new laser-gun. “If it’s hit from multiple directions, I’m sure it won’t escape.”

Selunia went out immediately. Soris started searching for Dual in the anteroom. He found him lying on the ground passed out, his back leaned against a wall.

“Dual, come on, stop pretending,” he said, kicking the guard’s foot. “You made me feel so worried when you didn’t take my call. Get up!” The prince gave him another gentle kick. “That animal was killed. Now it’s time to get rid of the spell. If we just lie there doing nothing, we might have to fight a hundred of those wolves.”

These words worked like magic. Dual sprang on his feet. “Sure! Let’s shoot that snake!” Meeting the prince’s long stare, he mumbled an excuse, “Gosh, there was something strange in the air; it made me fall asleep.”

Soris shook his head then went to open a window, beckoning to Dual to do the same, on the opposite side of the anteroom. With a clear view to the skies, both of them prepared their guns and peered to target Vittria’s string of beads.

Selunia found it first, so she shot at it several times, failing to hit it. The boys then started their own attack. It didn’t take long for their plan to show its efficiency.

Taken by surprise, the string received several laser-bullets, lost its balance, then a little shinning sphere weakened it completely. The energy stored by Selunia inside that globe had covered it completely, weakening its influence over the place.

After this, the three Aridens watched with much interest to see if their action would break the spell. The string started spinning at a great speed, its details melting into a simple circle. A strange wind started blowing, opposed to the direction the string was spinning. The rustle of the leaves murmured a pleasant sound, proving that the spell was broken.

Selunia looked around, feeling the magical breeze brushing through some wisps of hair left untied. “We defeated it!” she rejoiced.

When the snake of crystal had fallen on the pavement, Dual shouted out loud, “You did it, girl! Hooray!”

She turned around to face her comrades, first noticing the prince’s smile and then Dual’s powerful applause. Soris was a little distracted by the new light on his bracelet. It had been blinking for a whole minute already. It showed that someone was trying to destroy the protection added at the gate of the old castle. Breaking the spell wasn’t enough. We have to get them out before they can encounter the inspectors.