I love this author's stories. She vividly brings this new world to light and takes you magical ride through well developed characters and a fun storyline. I highly recommend this story and her other fantasy stories like Gryphon's Quest and Goblin Moon.C. Roberts
To become a Master Wizard, Brynn Nightflyer apprentices herself to man with a shady past; a man who has turned into a recluse. Whether he wants to train her or not, she expects him to meet the requirements of his position and help her hone her magical skills. She's not prepared for the overwhelming sexual chemistry with her new instructor or the fact that, after everything they've shared together, he still wants her to leave his planet as soon as possible.
Draco Pendragon wasn't planning to let his new apprentice stay on his world, let alone seduce her, but he can't resist her lush curves and quick tongue. Sex with her is hotter than anything he's had before, and Brynn's considerable magical ability adds to the intensity of their couplings. But even as their relationship grows, Draco can't forget that he's hunted by shadows of his past — shadows that would like to see him dead.
Note to readers: This is a spicy book! Please try one of my other titles if spicy material might be offensive. I write all kinds of books, from clean and wholesome to action adventure, with no sensual overtones at all. This story is 'out' of the wholesome category! It's meant for readers who like things hot.
Release date: August 31, 2018
Publisher: Candace Sams
Print pages: 187
Content advisory: Sexual content/Fantasy
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Behind the book
Honesty and sacrifice.
These are qualities necessary for any person to practice magic. Rules must be obeyed. There is a price to be paid when they aren't.
On a distant planet, a member of the vaunted Pendragon clan knows sacrifice all too well. And loneliness.
His new apprenctice must learn all there is to know about magic. That includes making serious choices that could alter her future.
Brynn Nightflyer looked at the parchment for a third time, swallowed hard and tried to keep her exhilaration from showing on her face. The messenger had only just delivered her application response, which meant her days at the Sun Gem Emporium were numbered. She’d taken a risk and it had paid off in the most monumental way. Admittedly, she’d relied on her father’s name to obtain the acceptance, but the rest she could do for herself. And it wasn’t as though people didn’t use influence, however minor, to make a better life for themselves. They did it all the time. Why should she be any different?
She glanced around the shop, hoping no one had noticed the messenger or the covert way she refolded the parchment and placed it inside the front pocket of her oversized apron. Too late, her soon-to-be former employer caught the furtive movement from across the store. She watched him leave his place behind the herb counter and stride across the room. His overly large, embellished caftan barely missed knocking over several displays of crystals, books on sorcery, candles and incense. Brynn winced at the imperious look on his face but knew she wouldn’t have to put up with his high-handed treatment much longer.
“Miss Nightflyer, I’d like to have a word with you, please.”
She tamped down the urge to tell him she’d like to have a few paragraphs with him and reluctantly followed the man into the stock room where stacks of spells, magical supplies and robes were neatly stored. Her boss, Pratter Fizzydig, was anything but discreet. Still, she had to give him credit for not chewing her out in front of any customers or the other employees. That and the fact that she had needed this job after her father’s death were the only things that kept her at Sun Gem Emporium, Purveyors of Fine Herbs, Crystals and Magical Supplies.
Once they were in the stock room, Fizzydig turned and regarded her with an imperious look on his face.
“Miss Nightflyer, I dislike our employees receiving messages or communication while on the clock. I saw that note you were trying to hide. Rules prohibiting personal business are clearly stated in the employee handbook. The personnel department handed out a new edition last month. You did read it, didn’t you?”
She took a deep breath and checked her temper. “Of course, Mr. Fizzydig. But I’ve been working double shifts at your request, so there hasn’t been a lot of time for me to attend to personal business.”
“Nevertheless…if I make a rule I expect my employees to abide by it. I can’t make exemptions for you.” He snorted. “I suppose, because you’re Azamus Nightflyer’s daughter you think yourself above the standards which apply to others. Is that it?”
She felt her hands involuntarily clench into fists. “Of course not, sir. I can promise you it won’t happen again.”
He arched one brow and looked her over. “It had better not. Too much time was wasted last year on employees who brought their personal lives to work with them. The rules were made for that very reason. I expect a ―”
“Full day’s work for a full day’s wages,” Brynn finished for him. “Yes sir, I remember.”
“See that you do,” he warned. “Now, it’s back to the job and our customers.”
She stood there while he made a hrumphing noise in the back of his throat and pulled at the front vee of his sorcerer’s caftan to straighten it. She watched him walk out of the stock room. His billowy bright pink robe with gold moons and stars embroidered on the fabric made him look less like the minor sorcerer he was and more like a cosmic accident. She let out a long sigh of frustration, shook her head and followed him back into the display area. There, she took up her place behind the counter where crystal balls were sold and gritted her teeth.
One day soon, she was going to be able to walk into the shop and hand in her notice. A few more days of work, one more miserly paycheck deposited into her account, and she’d be ready to purchase her ticket. Her application had been accepted. She had six months to show up at Castle Pendragon or lose the chance of apprenticing under one of the galaxy’s finest and most powerful Master Wizards—Draco Pendragon.
Among those Earthlings who had chosen to venture into space looking for new homes and for the thrill of exploration, the name Pendragon came first. Over a century ago they’d found and populated the planet Illusia. And because of its beauty and ethereal qualities, so very much like Earth’s, the Guild of Wizards had chosen it as the center of all white magic. Among those planets known to mankind, it alone was unspoiled by pollution or war. It stood as a shining beacon to all those who sought the knowledge of the light. By contrast, those who practiced in darkness had yet to find a home world. They were as unwelcome on any newly colonized planet as any scourge or plague. Those magicians practicing dark magic wandered, therefore, and continually sought to usurp the power of the Pendragon clan and all those who practiced white magic. For that understandable reason, any apprentice coming into the Pendragon household, or apprenticing with any lineage of light, was scrupulously checked and tested. If they were found wanting in any way or could not fight off the temptation to use dark arts, they were failed. And once an apprentice failed, their magic books were taken from them forever. The revocation of a family’s books had the result of making whatever magic they possessed dwindle away with time. In this way, it was hoped that evil practitioners of magic would eventually cease to exist.
There were only a handful of Master Wizards. But it was possible, if a student of sorcery was very dedicated and their powers were more accomplished, that they could one day become a Master Wizard for him or herself. And that was Brynn’s dream. She wanted to honor her father and the Nightflyer name, and have it rank in importance with the likes of the Pendragon moniker, especially since she was the last of the Nightflyer clan. If she died without an heir, her family’s books would be destroyed. And that would end her clan’s magic. The name of Nightflyer, however, would still be listed in the rolls of magnificent practitioners if she could study with someone who could hone her skills.
She scrupulously polished crystal balls of all shapes, sizes and colors while trying not to notice Fizzydig’s scrutiny from across the shop. Admiring a particularly beautiful amethyst globe, she smiled brightly when an older woman, wearing an expensive fawn-colored caftan, approached her counter with a questioning expression.
“May I help you?” Brynn asked.
“Yes, perhaps you can. Are you a sorcerer?”
Brynn nodded. “Yes ma’am. My name is Brynn Nightflyer and my ancestors were gifted with a set of books. Did you have a question about any of the crystal balls?” She waved one hand over the expensive merchandise within her display case. Because many on Earth now had beliefs that led them toward New Age practices, certain objects were often sold to those bereft of magic. People were always asking for herbs, lotions, ointments and incense to use in their homes. Even crystal balls found a place of honor in many households. Most people just found their glistening properties quite soothing. The balls were often placed in a lighted area where their owners could stare into their depths.
Brynn waited patiently while the woman’s gaze drifted over different crystal balls and their accompanying brass stands.
The woman leaned closer. “Actually, I do love collecting these beautiful globes.”
“They’re so lovely when you line them up on a window sill,” Brynn enthusiastically agreed. “Aren’t they?”
“I was hoping you could give me some information,” the woman continued. “I understand that if one pays a little extra, that powers can be bestowed on the crystal balls. Is that so?”
Brynn already knew what was coming. She saw the gleam of mischief in the woman’s gaze. “What kind of power did you want?”
The woman glanced around and moved even closer. “I want to make a man fall in love with me. I’m told that such a thing can be done.”
Brynn wasn’t sure if that was possible, even if the sorcerer involved wanted to open their gray book and check. “I’m sorry, madam. But the kind of magic you’re talking about comes from dark sources, and I don’t use them.”
The woman snorted. “Surely I could pay a little bonus. I mean, what’s the harm in one little love spell?”
“The harm, madam, is that making someone fall in love with you is wrong. I can sell you some incense or some herbs that you can use to ask the forces of nature to be more amenable. But I can’t give you powers to force someone to do anything.”
The woman rolled her eyes in disgust. “I’ve tried burning candles and asking for my heart’s desire. I’ve tried using damned incense to pray that love will cross my doorstep. I’ve even used herbs and oils to anoint my home and allow the spirits of love to enter. But I want a particular man. I know there’s a spell for this kind of thing, everyone does!”
Brynn nodded. “I’ve heard so myself. But I’ve never opened my gray book. And those who told you all this had no business speaking about it. Asking for someone to find and love you through the use of helpful charms isn’t the same thing as forcing a person against their will.”
“And how would you know it would be against his will? Maybe I’m just trying to…to push things along a little. I’m not getting any younger, you know?”
“The best I can offer you is a talisman of some kind, something that will lead the forces of nature to gently guide you into finding the right person. Spells of that kind take time. Things like that don’t happen overnight.”
“I tell you I’ve tried all that!” the woman said as she raised her voice in anger. “It doesn’t work! It’s as useless as simply spitting into the wind. And, if I could have accomplished having the man fall in love with me, on my own, what’s the point in having you sorcerers around?”
Brynn had seen her type before. This customer appeared to be a woman who was spoiled, impatient, and not beyond doing something illegal to get what she wanted. And using magic, in an evil way, wasn’t only morally reprehensible it was illegal. Sadly, the very same personality traits that this lady displayed were probably blinding her to someone whose love was already hers; someone who would really care for her and who she deemed inappropriate because of lack of wealth, age difference or a less than perfect physical appearance.
“I’m sorry, madam. I can’t help you.”
Hearing the woman’s voice grow louder with frustration, Fizzydig walked across the shop. “Is there something the matter here? May I help you, madam?”
The woman pointed a finger at Brynn. “She refuses to sell me what I want. I’ve told her my requirements, and she blatantly ignored my request.”
Fizzydig glared at Brynn. “What was it the lady requested, Miss Nightflyer?”
“Nothing she should have asked about,” Brynn readily replied.
The woman gasped. “Do you hear that? Do you countenance such rude behavior from your employees?”
Fizzydig raised his hands in a placating gesture and lowered his voice. “Now, now, madam. If you’ll tell me what you like, I’ll do everything I can to see that you’re satisfied. We here at Sun Gem Emporium value your time, your relationship, and your trust.”
“She wants to force someone to fall in love with her, Mr. Fizzydig. That kind of magic only comes from the gray book and I won’t use it.” Brynn had the satisfaction of seeing him blink and look questioningly at the woman.
“Is that true, madam? Were you asking an employee to delve into evil magic?”
The woman rolled her eyes in disgust and put her hands on her hips. “I’ll pay.
Fizzydig chewed on his lower lip. “Perhaps I can direct you to some new herbs just delivered from Illusia. Maybe some of them might, uh…encourage…the romantic elements in nature, to more favorably look your way.”
“New herbs? From the home planet of magic, you say?”
“Yes. Why, there are so many different kinds we don’t even know the names of them as yet. Illusian farmers found them growing wild within the great forests of their planet and cultivated them for use on Earth. It’s part of the new open trade agreement we have with one another.”
“Well…I suppose I could try herbs one more time,” the woman reluctantly agreed.
“Certainly, my good lady!” Fizzydig gushed. “It’s much better than delving into dark magic. Why, obtaining a romantic partner by those means would be sure folly. Who knows how it might backfire.”
Brynn stood there while her boss gently looped his arm through the woman’s and led her away to peruse the new herbs. Perhaps she could have been more tactful with the woman. But, in time—if the results didn’t meet what this particular lady demanded and with the speed she required—then that customer would surely resort to dark magic. She had only been trying to tell the lady that it wasn’t right and to warn her.
She sighed, went back behind the counter, and proceeded to help a young man purchase a beautiful blue crystal ball with a pewter dolphin base, as a gift for his sweetheart. That was a joyous transaction all the way around. She carefully wrapped the gift for the boy and sent him happily on his way. When she turned to place the money in her till, Fizzydig was standing there glaring at her.
“The stock room?” she asked.
“Right now!” he angrily commanded.
Brynn felt like a recalcitrant six-year-old but followed her nitpicker boss into the back room for the second time that day. She anticipated a drawn-out, butt-mincing lecture, but was surprised when he pulled out two stools from beneath a table and motioned for her to sit as he did.
“Brynn, you simply must be careful how you speak to people.”
“I was only trying to ―”
He held up one index finger to stop her. “I know, I know. She was wrong. But try to understand something.” He took a deep breath before continuing. “You’re a young, exceptionally lovely woman. For some of the rest of us, like that woman and me for example, our choices for a romance are two—slim and none. I’m…well, I am what I am.” He motioned to his thin, gangly figure. “And that woman was older and not all that attractive, as ungallant as it is for me to say.”
Brynn lowered her head and stared down at her clasped hands in remorse.
Fizzydig smiled and placed one of his thin hands over hers. “You could, by your words, push a person into a position where they feel desperate enough to do something foolish. You follow?”
She looked up at him and didn’t see Pratter the Putz, Pratter the Pinhead, or any of the other names the other shop clerks called the man. She just saw someone who was trying to give her a piece of good advice. And her shame doubled because she’d possibly misjudged him for a great many other things. “Y-You’re absolutely right. I could have made her so mad that she’d have gone out and found the first practitioner of the dark arts she could. She might have done herself and someone else a great deal of harm.”
“The next time that happens…and it will, my girl…you think about that before passing judgment. Your words are just as powerful as any magic. They can heal or hurt as easily. You understand?”
“Yes sir,” she quietly murmured.
“Now…were you going to tell me about that acceptance message or not?”
She felt her eyes widen. “H-How did you know?”
“I may be an old fart-of-a-sorcerer, but I’m not blind. You have more power than you’d like people to see. Your talismans are never returned and the customers—most of them, anyhow—are very satisfied with you. And even from across the shop I could see the red mark of Pendragon on the envelope. It was impossible to miss.”
Brynn remembered breaking the wax seal with the dragon’s crest pressed into it but had hoped he hadn’t seen that much from where he’d been standing. She sighed, took a cleansing breath and told him everything. “I’ve applied for apprenticeship at Castle Pendragon and the Master Wizard…the very best sorcerer of sorcerers… has accepted my application,” she breathlessly responded.
“Good cosmos!” Fizzydig said as he put one hand to his forehead. “So, our little Brynn will be apprenticing with Draco the Dragon himself. I didn’t realize he’d take anyone after all these years.”
She’d learned that the Master Wizard of Illusia was referred to as the Dragon but wouldn’t ever dare use that moniker where just anyone could hear. She gave a nod as her only response.
“How long before you have to leave?” he quietly asked.
“I have a month before I need to disembark.”
He ran a hand across his face. “Do you have the funds to get there?”
She cleared her throat and looked him in the eyes. “I will have, with my next paycheck.”
He let out a long breath. “Well, I’ll pay you early. Then you can have your pick of one item from each section of the store to take with you.”
Brynn’s vision clouded with a sudden onset of tears. “Mr. Fizzydig…w-why would you do that for me? I’m just another clerk, a lowly sorcerer at that. And I have to be quite honest and tell you that my thoughts concerning our working relationship haven’t been all that kind. I didn’t think you liked me all that much.”
He laughed. “My dear, I wasn’t trying to make it easy for you. I know I’m a demanding employer but think how much more demanding Draco Pendragon will be. And think of those apprentices who’ve gone ahead of you and failed.” He leaned toward her. “If your father was here, I think he’d tell you what I’m about to.” He paused. “Take one day at a time, one situation at a time. Think of the consequences of your actions and try to make the right decisions. That’s the best you or any of us can do with our magic. Most of all, try not to judge others too harshly. And don’t be too hard on yourself, either. You’ll make mistakes along the way…but never, and I can’t say this assertively enough…never open that damn gray book. Not ever!”
She nodded. “I swear it. And my father did teach me more patience than I exhibited today. I’m sorry about that customer.”
“Brynn, had I not known you could do better I wouldn’t have called you back here to talk to you. I’ve often goaded you about your father to see what you’d do. That wasn’t right, but you held your temper. One day, your life or someone else’s might depend on your saying the exact right thing at the precise time or on using the right spell at a moment’s notice. You’ll have to have control over your emotions. Remember that!”
She smiled. “I will, Mr. Fizzydig. And I promise…I won’t act like a spoiled brat anymore. I’ll be a great deal more patient.”
“Good. Now, let’s get a satchel and gather some magical items. After all, it’s as if you’ll be representing this shop and its employees. I don’t want you showing up on the Pendragon castle doorstep with anything less than the best supplies. Or is there a moat around those old structures…oh, well. You get my point.”
She stood up, walked toward him and hugged him hard. “I won’t fail, Mr. Fizzydig. I promise. And when Draco Pendragon asks me who I represent, I’ll tell him I’m from the Sun Gem Emporium, Purveyors of Fine Herbs, Crystals and Magic Supplies.”
He grinned. “Mind your father’s example, and you’ll be as loved and respected as he was. Be yourself, Brynn.”
With that, Brynn was literally pulled into the shop where Pratter Fizzydig made a huge commotion about her acceptance into apprenticeship. He made an excited announcement to everyone, then declared a holiday and ordered refreshments sent to the shop for a celebration.
If she wanted to be a Master Wizard someday, she’d have to start acting as if she deserved that honor. But the use of dark magic frightened her so much that she’d let even the mention of it spur her into a knee-jerk reaction. Surely, there would be times in her life where such a reaction would not only be unwarranted, but hazardous—as it might have been today.
As her co-workers and employer celebrated her accomplishment around her, she mentally and emotionally challenged herself.
I have to get my act together. I can’t fail all these people, my father or myself.
But there was something that most minor sorcerers didn’t understand. The training that would cause her powers to increase and unleash as-yet unknown magical qualities within her, would result in an augmented desire to open the gray book. That was why so many before her had failed to pass Draco Pendragon’s scrutiny. He’d do everything in his power to see if she was made of metal or mush. He’d want to see if or when she’d crumble and take the easier but decadent road that the dark side of magic offered. Secretly, she was frightened of what might happen.
Right now, she felt she could easily resist any such temptation, but her father had warned her about how the book called to those with greater powers; how it lured and tempted all the great sorcerers with silent promises of grandeur, riches, fame and even more power. Failure meant dishonoring everything and everyone who believed in the light side and its goodness. And it could mean a slow descent into a hellish existence for herself.
She had heard of what had happened to the apprentices Draco had failed. Two of them had been so mesmerized by the gray book and its powers that they went mad. One had been killed by the Master Wizard himself when she became so evil that nothing else would stop her. Many deaths had been attributed to her before the Dragon had caught up with the woman on a small planet far away from Illusia.
Brynn silently prayed to all of the deities in the cosmos that such would not be her fate. Perhaps that was why there were so few Master Wizards at all. Maybe that kind of power was too great for just anyone to wield. But she had to face that fear and conquer it, or she’d never learn how good she might have been. She would only be a minor sorcerer and it would always eat at her if she didn’t take this chance, accept the challenge and give it her best shot.
She drank a toast with her boss and friends and steeled herself for what lay ahead.
The Dragon would test her in every way. She mustn’t be found wanting.
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