One of the goals of SPFBO is to give a chance to self-published authors to get more exposure. This year I’m taking part in the competition with my own team. You can keep updated on our progress and all of our content on my SPFBO 5 page!
Tales from the Asylum is a new feature I came up with for SPFBO. I wanted to create a unique opportunity for the authors to show off their story telling skills by taking their characters and putting them in an asylum room to see how they would deal with the situation. A lot can happen in a closed space…
Robin Lythgoe spent her formative years in a family of seven readers (including herself) with diverse interests. Fantasy, with its wonderful worlds and creatures and magic, firmly captured her heart. Though she’s never trained as a thief or ridden a dragon, she has long harbored an excitement for learning. This has led to several self-taught talents such as writing, research, editing, Photoshop, mapmaking, and website coding. Her yearning to learn also results in lengthy visits at museums and historical sites, where she reads everything in sight, and looks up Even More on her trusty traveling data center. Her husband calls her a ‘brown ajah,’ which is acceptable only if the brown is dark chocolate (because milk chocolate is a color, not a flavor). Today she writes tales about wizards and magic, fantastical places and extraordinary journeys.
Sherakai had been in prison before. This room was nothing like those dark, dank, ugly cells forged to break a man. The generous space boasted stone walls painted a gentle shade of parchment and a decent bed. The mattress thin but clean. He even had a pillow. Bolts fastened the bed—and the small table next to it—to the wall. A chain fastened Sherakai to the floor. Secured opposite the door, it gave him plenty of room to move, but restricted him from reaching the door itself, even stretched out to the fullest.
Only one chain. It wouldn’t give the rakeshi much of a challenge. Still, the thing must have done a lot of damage—or damage to someone valuable. Sherakai couldn’t remember. He rarely remembered anything when the rakeshi shoved inside him took him over.
Friend, foe, or casual bystander, when the blasted beast dominated, their lives were over. Narrow strips of quartz set into opposing walls provided constant light. They dimmed over the hours, then brightened again. He’d never seen such magic before; it fascinated him. So clever… He didn’t touch them. Magic had an unhappy tendency to provoke the beast.
So he left them alone, enjoyed the surprisingly ample meals delivered four times a day, exercised, and slept. All good things to do after the damage he’d taken: fiery pain in his shoulder, uncountable bruises, bloody fists, and a possibly broken cheekbone. The vision in that eye had been blurry for days. It didn’t last. It never did.
Footsteps sounded on the fourth day after waking. Bright light flooded through the barred window on the door before a knock sounded. The door swung open without Sherakai’s invitation. A pair of stout guards flanked a thin man wearing embroidered robes and rings on every finger. Tasteful rather than ostentatious. “I greet you,” he said in a strange, heavy accent.
Standing against the wall, Sherakai appraised the two wardens, then turned his attention to the other—a mage by his garb. If he narrowed his eyes and looked at him a little sideways, he could make out a faint glow that did not come from the lamps.
“Open the eyes, please.”
One of the guards lifted a lamp, shining the light over Sherakai’s face. “Green,” he grunted, and all three relaxed slightly.
“You are wild,” the mage announced.
Sherakai forbore to reply.
“Raging,” the mage tried again. When only silence met him, he took a step forward. The guard’s hand on his arm kept him back. “You have words? Sense?”
“I have words,” Sherakai allowed. His voice scraped his throat. How long had he been here? Quiet until now, the rakeshi flexed and slid along the underside of his skin. Sherakai tipped his head one way, then the other, crackling bones. “You should leave.”
A tentative smile revealed the mage’s confusion. “I wish to help you. Free you. You are cursed, yes?”
The offer disconcerted him. Men used him, beat him, experimented on him, challenged him. They did not help. “Why?”
The mage held his hands out, palm up. “The curse hurts you. It hurts others.” He took a cautious step closer.
Sherakai took one to the side. Away. “You will use magic.”
“There is no other way,” he acknowledged.
“Dark, powerful magic binds you. Do you wish to be freed?”
Another step separated them farther. “Others have tried. They died.”
The mage gave a little nod. “They are not I.”
His heart rate increased, thudding with possibility. With dread. He licked suddenly dry lips. “It cannot be done.” He knew this. Painful experience proved it time and again.
“I will find a way.” Upraised hands took on a warm, beautiful glow as magic lit them.
“No,” Sherakai whispered, wishing, aching. Please help me…
The rakeshi smothered the plea, stretching out, filling him—only to come up short. Perception shattered into a kaleidoscope of sensation. Open mouths and shards of light. Shouts overlaying an astonished whisper: “It’s working…!” The sharp scent of spices prickling alongside the rank stench of fear. Stone and water. Exultation and shock.
A low growl rippled through him. What was this? Sherakai’s surprise twined with the beast’s as a delicate web of light held him. Held them. The light burned where it touched, penetrating skin, muscle, and deeply layered shadow.
“Remain still. We must cut away the shades.”
It hurt incredibly. Embrace the pain, Sherakai, his master had taught. The effort to shift from denial to acceptance knotted muscles and contorted his mouth into a grimace.
Doubt stabbed him. They did not know this man. Could not trust him.
I could be free! he cried out silently.
He could be dead…
“What is it?” asked a warden.
“I don’t know. The shadows retreat, then pour back into place.” Strain made the mage’s voice tremble.
The rakeshi swung its head from side to side, as if the violent movement could dislodge the pain. Force away the gossamer threads. Darkness overcame grass-green eyes. Everything blurred, then split into two, as if he were suddenly cross-eyed. The rakeshi’s view—and Sherakai’s. That had never happened before.
“Wait,” the mage hissed.
The rakeshi did not wait. It did not so much as hesitate as it shouldered past the will of its host as if that desire and drive had no more consistency than paper. The chain in his hand (how had it come to be there?) screamed as it tore from the wall. Crimson etched the air. Fragile threads of golden magic snapped and guttered. Sherakai was lost—again. Everything was lost…
If you’d like to get in touch, you can find Robin Lythgoe on social media:
Robin Lythgoe entered Blood & Shadow, the first book of The Mage’s Gift series into SPFBO, which you can check out by clicking on the cover which will lead you to its Amazon page:
You can keep updated on our progress and all of our content on my SPFBO 5 page!