Authors: Laura R Cole
Tags: #fantasy, #magic, #dragon, #mage
(BloodRunes: Book 1)
By Laura R Cole
Copyright 2011 Laura R Cole
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How long? It wondered groggily.
No answer came and it sank back to sleep.
It vaguely felt the world around it, and
drank in the energies of those passing by, idly tasting as they
But still it slumbered.
Then there was a whisper; A faint echo that
tickled the back of its consciousness, stirring the being. Among
the pinpricks of life-forces, one stood out; its bright blood-red
aura calling to it. The presence struggled to wake, but the
vestiges of sleep held tightly to it and it could only manage a
It tapped into its vast resources to make
contact with the aura, but its movements were lethargic. If it
waited until it woke enough to be able to command the power it
wanted, the aura would be gone. Frustration fueled its resolve, and
it managed a feeble attempt.
Elation suddenly flowed through the being. It
had drifted back into sleep, but as it felt the aura come closer,
its sleep was disturbed once more and it reached out hungrily.
Its thinking became clearer, and it wondered
why it had slept so long.
Memories came flooding back, and the anger
began. A deep rumbling growl came from within it, growing louder
and louder as it remembered, shaking the very ground. It felt the
fear of the life-forces around it and it reveled in the sweet
taste, feeding off of the succulent emotion.
The anger was strong now, and the being used
it to shake off the last remnants of sleep as it willed the places
deep within it to awaken.
Its black aura seeped out and spread across
the world and the presence felt as hundreds and then thousands of
life-forces were extinguished, sometimes one by one and sometimes
in large rushes of power.
It fed upon them all.
Its power was growing stronger. Soon it would
be able to break free from the bonds that held it, free to unleash
its power on the world and seek revenge on those who dared to
confine it here.
The power built up within it, surging outward
like wildfire spreading across a dry field. The pressure was
building. It could not be held back much longer.
And then suddenly the fire was doused, and
the presence felt sleepy once more as an unseen force pushed it
back deeper into its dark prison.
NO! It struggled to withstand the urge to
sink back into sleep, fought off the calm that washed over it, but
it was no use.
It slept once more.
Seasons passed, years came and went, and the
world eventually forgot about the evil that slumbered beneath their
feet. But the being didn’t forget. It may have been delayed, but it
was not gone. And this time it dreamt. Dreamt of how it would
And it slept.
And it dreamt.
And then there was a whisper…
Jezebel was fuming by the time her carriage
pulled through the gates of her manor. The two stone lions guarding
the towering archway growled down at her menacingly, and she
How dare he?
She raged to herself.
Usually she had no trouble turning her father's will into her own,
but on this matter it was like trying to budge a stone wall.
Infuriatingly stubborn old man. It really is too bad he's so
She paused in her ranting as an interesting thought
sprang to mind
. Not that accidents can't always happen…
She quickly quelled the thought, however,
shaking it aside. The simple fact that he was a noble and a man
gave him significant power, and he was extremely well connected on
top of that. It would be more trouble to have him gone than it was
to change his mind. Normally he was quite nicely wrapped around her
She clenched and unclenched her fists.
The memory of him patting her shoulder
condescendingly and saying, “You're like the son I wish I had, but
you're still just a silly woman,” burned like acid in her mind.
Just a silly woman indeed
Someday I will hold the power;
then he'll see just how ‘silly’ I am. Until then I simply have to
endure the torment of his ignorance.
He does still control
the family fortune, after all.
She let out an audible snarl and
pounded her fist into her leg.
I simply must gain one of the
The carriage jerked to a halt just then,
catching her off-guard. She stormed out, and threw a berating
comment over her shoulder towards the driver for his clumsiness,
before stomping inside. She slammed the front door behind her, and
dropped her cloak into the waiting arms of one of the servants.
Without pausing, she stalked down the hallway into the library, and
slammed that door as well for good measure.
She sat down heavily into an armchair and
No matter. I always get what I want; I'll
just have to get the support I need elsewhere
The thought cheered her considerably, and she
reached out to take a sip of wine from the glass that stood ready
for her, still chilled. A servant had made her wait for her wine
once, but only once...her lips curved into a nasty smile as she
allowed herself to entertain the memory for a moment.
Focusing her thoughts once again on the
matter at hand, she took another sip. In doing so, she noticed a
letter sitting next to the glass. From the look of the seal, it
must be from Devon. Her stomach fluttered and she grabbed greedily
for the note, tearing it in her haste.
“My lady,” it read, “I am pleased to inform
you that the possibility that I had mentioned has indeed become a
reality. You should be seeing the results presently.” Jezebel sat
back slowly, a smile spreading over her thin lips. She had been
humiliated, yes, but revenge would be so sweet…
Layna flinched as the front door slammed
open, but quickly regained her composure enough to hurry forward to
take her mistress's cloak. She caught it in midair with cat-like
grace as it was shrugged angrily off the woman’s shoulders. She
opened her mouth to ask how the visit with Jezebel’s father had
gone, but the raging fire in her mistress's eyes silenced her. She
deftly swept the cloak out of the way as the woman stormed past,
neither uttering a word during the exchange. The footsteps echoed
in the long stone hallway and ended in another crash as Jezebel
closeted herself in the library to fume.
Movement caught Layna’s eye and she gave
Katrina a knowing smile as her friend snuck out the side door to
the library with a look of profound relief on her face at having
slipped out unnoticed. No one wanted to be in Lady Jezebel’s way
when she was in this type of mood. Even on her best days it was
like walking on eggshells around her temper, and lately she’d had
more bad days than good.
The lady’s time was consumed by her most
recent project to advance her into what she felt was her rightful
place, though Layna wasn’t sure exactly where she thought that was.
It wasn’t enough for Jezebel that she had been born into one of the
wealthiest families of the noble class and her father doted on her
every whim. Apparently, her rightful place was even loftier than
this exalted rank, and she spent every free moment hatching new
schemes to get there. They usually involved whining to her father
to get him to do something for her; whether it was giving her the
money to open a lace shop – which she planned to make a fortune
off, until her father stopped paying people to shop there and she
realized it was actual work – or buying her way into yet another
social group – until they got sick of her constant self-importance,
or they had worn out their usefulness and she moved on.
The latest plan, however, had Jezebel’s
favorite lackey, Devon, running around at all hours of the day and
night. Layna had an awful feeling in the pit of her stomach that
something even more sinister than usual was going on. The basement
had been getting a lot more use as of late, and she shuddered to
think what that meant. The door that led below was the one place
that the servants had been forbidden to enter, and one that Layna
was quite sure she never wanted to see.
Devon himself was an eerie presence, and she
couldn’t help but feel filthy every time he looked at her with his
hungry eyes. His leering stare and loping gait, combined with the
strange noises that emerged from the basement when he went below,
had led more than one servant to the conclusion that he was not
fully human. Legends said that the mages before the Massacre could
change their form into animals like horses, bears, and wolves. No
doubt these legends were what fueled the bedtime stories meant to
scare little children into behaving about creatures like werewolves
who would eat the unruly child who snuck out after dark. While she
didn’t really believe the stories, she could see how someone might
imagine Devon as a werewolf. Though if he were really a powerful
enough mage to have rediscovered the lost art of shape-shifting,
Layna doubted that even the feelings that he had for the lady –
which were obvious to everyone but the lady – would keep him in her
I’d almost say he looks at her with puppy-dog eyes if
he weren’t so much more like a pit-bull.
Footsteps interrupted her brooding and she
looked up to see Lord Gryffon strolling down the hallway towards
her. He smiled a greeting and she bowed her head to him in
acknowledgement, avoiding his eyes and pressing herself against the
wall to give him plenty of room to pass. A few steps past her he
paused and turned back.
Her gaze was drawn upwards, seemingly of its
own accord, and her heart stopped as his brown eyes met hers. Her
breath caught in her throat. She felt as though the air nearly
tingled between them as she waited for him to speak.
He looked undecided for a moment, his eyes
searching for something. Then he gave her a quick nod and abruptly
turned again, continuing on his way.
He exited out the front door, and Layna’s
breathing resumed. She closed her eyes and inhaled his musky
Someone cleared their throat noisily, and she
opened her eyes. Katrina raised her eyebrows and shook her head
slightly at her.
Layna looked away quickly, her face flushing,
and she busied herself by hanging the cloak in the closet. She
picked up the duster that had been abandoned upon her mistress’s
abrupt arrival and continued dusting down the hall, avoiding
Katrina’s gaze. Katrina gave her another pointed look when she
peeked over at her, but then made her way towards the kitchen
without a word.
Layna pushed open another door, revealing a
massive and elaborately decorated sitting room, and she sighed
inwardly. It was her mistress's formal sitting room, and
consequently was never used, but it had
many places that
collected dust. Resigning herself to the arduous task before her,
she took a deep breath and set to work cleaning away the dirt of a
Jezebel would very much have liked to have
skipped the evening services tonight just to spite her father. But,
seeing as how he had his hand in several of her projects at the
moment, she put on a happy face and attended.
The Temple of Naoham was an impressive
building; tall stone columns lined the immense structure, each
separated by a stained glass window that even on the darkest night
seemed to glow with an unearthly light. The intricate patterns
tangled around one another in a mystifying and ever-changing
depiction of stories told in the scripture, the magic within them
undiluted despite the passage of time.
The number three was prevalent throughout the
artwork, a testament to the old ways. Many of the commoners still
worshiped the Three and performed the old rites, but most of the
noble class had realized the true Word was that of the Sleeping
God, Nuko, who would return to them once they had achieved
enlightenment and were prepared to have a god walk among them once
more. Jezebel's family had been one of the first to comprehend the
real meaning behind the scripture's words and had helped lead the
conversion to the true religion.