THE LAND OF JOY AND SORROW
Seventeen-year-old Smadar never imagined that a flea-market find would lead her back to a magical world sung into existence by the race of Elementals. Now, its once-glorious cities lie in ruins, overrun by Lord Jogganath's monstrous hordes.
When an ambush leaves Smadar dying, a young mage’s forbidden mantras kindle her life. But beautiful, lethal Halle guards a shameful secret – he’s not a mage or a warrior, but a slave without memories, bound to a vicious master. And Smadar is the coin to buy his freedom. Only she refuses to be bought or sold.
As Jogganath’s power grows, the pair gets caught in a brutal war, and the severed threads of their destinies entwine, weaving a tale of star-crossed love and ancient betrayal. To ensure a future for her people, Smadar must seek answers in her own past, embracing a destiny extraordinary even in a land of magic and curses.
First 250 words:
Smadar glared at the ornate bronze clock by the pier. So Tammy was running forty minutes late. Unusual, but not such a tragedy. She knew her best friend would never miss their monthly scavenger hunt in the overflowing rows of Trash or Treasure flea market. Some things were sacred.
She tried to ignore a group of girls who had been gawking at her from across the colorful stalls. If only people could be fined for staring – the longer the stare, the heavier the fine. She fought the urge to smooth down her black, wind-tangled hair, then shrugged and let it beat around her shoulders, long and thick as afternoon shadows.
She wouldn’t apologize for what she was, or in her case – what she wasn’t.
Tugging on the corner of her piled, lapis-blue scarf, Smadar pulled it off, the comfort of protective mantras her mother had woven into the yarn washing over her in tingly, electric spirals. Bright as a Morpho butterfly wing, warm and soft as a kitten curled up against her skin – the scarf was one of the few reminders of Eden she had brought into her exile, the only splash of color in her black-on-black-on-grey clothes.
“Is that a tattoo on her chest!”
“What a freak!”
Surreptitiously, Smadar touched her tamgha; the very essence of every mage’s craft.
Freak, she thought bitterly, if only they knew.
The girls giggled louder, and instead of covering up, she lifted her chin and flashed them her sharpest, brightest smile, the smile she always wore when facing especially vile things.