Today I am excited to feature fantasy author Melissa McPhail on my blog.
Below is an excerpt from her novel, Cephrael’s Hand.
The dark-haired man leaned back in his armchair and exhaled a sigh. He was troubled, and his dark-blue eyes narrowed as his mind raced through the possibilities still available, each branching with a hundredfold new and varied paths. It was impossible to try to predict one’s future—what a lot of nonsense and wasted time was spent on divination and augury!—when so many paths were in motion.
Much better to mold the future to one’s own desires.
Shifting his gaze back to that which troubled him, he reached long fingers to retrieve an invitation from his desk. The missive was scribed in a male hand upon expensive parchment embossed with the image of an eagle. It was the royal standard of a mortal king, but this concerned him not at all; what troubled him so deeply was the signet pressed within the invitation’s wax seal.
A rising breeze fluttered the heavy draperies of his ornate bronze-hued tent, whose peaked roof provided coppery illumination beneath the strong afternoon sun. He glanced over at an ebony four-poster bed and the exquisite woman lying naked behind its veils of gossamer silk. They fluttered in the breeze along with her raven hair where it spilled over the edge, one supple breast left visible for his pleasure. He knew she wasn’t sleeping, though she pretended it so to give him time with his thoughts.
He looked back to the seal on the parchment in his hand. It was a strange sort of signet for a prince. He wondered if the man had any idea of its significance?
Surely not. None of them ever remember, in the beginning. Yet if the seal was true—and how could it be otherwise when none but the pattern’s true owner could fashion it?—then he had very little time to act. Twice before he’d come upon a man who could fashion this particular pattern, and each time his enemies had reached the man first. This time would be different.
The drapes fluttered across the room, and a shadow entered between their parting. Not a shadow, no. Something. The air rippled into waves as heat rising from the flames, and a cloaked figure materialized, already in a reverent bow. “First Lord,” he murmured.
“Ah, Dämen.” The dark-haired man waved the invitation gently. “This is quite a find.”
Dämen straightened and pushed back the hood of his pale blue cloak, revealing a face like a mask of polished steel; metal yet living flesh. “I knew you would be pleased.”
The First Lord returned his gaze to the pattern. As he studied its twisting, sculpted lines, which formed a complicated endless knot, he glanced up beneath his brow and inquired, “These invitations were sent broadly?”
“To nigh on four corners of the globe, ma dieul,” replied the Shade. “Four-hundred invitations, maybe more.”
The First Lord frowned. “Unfortunate, that. This pattern cannot help but garner notice. The others will certainly recognize its substance. It will draw their eye to him.”
“That could be fortuitous for us if it lures them into the open,” Dämen offered.
“No, these enemies are too intelligent. They will send others to do their bidding.” He lapsed into thoughtful silence.
After a moment, the Shade prodded gently, “What is your will, ma dieul? Shall I retrieve him to safety?”
“No—assuredly no,” and he enforced this order with a steady gaze from eyes so deeply blue as to be ground from the purest cobalt. “Balance plays heavily in the life of any man who claims this pattern, and we cannot take the chance of losing him again.”
“The others will not hold to such restrictions, ma dieul,” the Shade cautioned.
“More to their error,” the First Lord returned. “If I’ve learned anything from past losses, Dämen, it’s what not to do.” He tapped a long finger thoughtfully against his lips. “We must bring him in carefully, slowly, for the revelation will not be an easy one.”
The Shade frowned, his chrome-polished features perfectly mimicking flesh. “Your pardon, First Lord, but if he did not Return with the onset of adolescence, what chance remains?”
“A slim one,” the dark-haired man agreed, knowing the chance was so minute that it would take a great tragedy to draw out the Return of this man’s abilities. He regretted the future in the making. Often times of late, he regretted the future more than he did his long and tragic past. The First Lord pursed his lips and shook his head, his eyes determined, though still he hesitated. There was no question of the need, but life was a precious, tenuous thing. He regretted every one over the countless years which he’d been forced to end. Still, he’d waited too long, planned too carefully…sacrificed too much. Mercy was a virtue he could ill afford. “I fear steps will have to be taken.”
“Well and so, ma dieul,” the Shade replied, and there was much not said in his tone. His gaze conveyed his unease.
The First Lord needed no reminding; he would have to be so precise in this planning. Every detail, every possible ramification must be considered, for the moment the man crossed that ephemeral threshold they called the Return, he would become like a beacon for their enemies’ vehemence. And that was something no mortal could survive. His mind spinning as he conceived of his plan, he settled his cobalt-blue eyes upon his Lord of Shades and detailed his orders.
The Shade bowed when his master was finished. He did not relish the tasks ahead, but his obedience was beyond question. “Your will be done, ma dieul,” he murmured. Then, straightening, he faded—there was no other means of describing the way his form shifted, dissolving like dawn shadows until nothing remained where somethinghad been only moments before.
His most pressing matter thus decided, the First Lord tossed the invitation aside and turned his gaze to the glorious creature awaiting his pleasure on the bed.
The woman stretched like a cat and then settled her vibrant green eyes upon the First Lord. “Come back to bed, ma dieul,” she murmured in a silken voice akin to a purr but echoic of a growl, “for I have need of you.”
He returned her a lustful look. She was a feast for his senses in every possible way. “And I have need of you,” he replied in a rough whisper, his desire filling him. Lifting his own naked body from his chair, he returned to her.
About Cephrael’s Hand
“All things are composed of patterns…” And within the pattern of the realm of Alorin, three strands must cross:
In Alorin…three hundred years after the genocidal Adept Wars, the realm is dying, and the blessed Adept race dies with it. One man holds the secret to reverting this decline: Bjorn van Gelderan, a dangerous and enigmatic man whose shocking betrayal three centuries past earned him a traitor’s brand. It is the Adept Vestal Raine D’Lacourte’s mission to learn what Bjorn knows in the hope of salvaging his race. But first he’ll have to find him…
In the kingdom of Dannym…the young Prince Ean val Lorian faces a tenuous future as the last living heir to the coveted Eagle Throne. When his blood-brother is slain during a failed assassination, Ean embarks on a desperate hunt for the man responsible. Yet his advisors have their own agendas, and his quest for vengeance leads him ever deeper into a sinuous plot masterminded by a mysterious and powerful man, the one they call First Lord…
In the Nadori desert…tormented by the missing pieces of his life, a soldier named Trell heads off to uncover the truth of his shadowed past. But when disaster places him in the debt of Wildlings sworn to the First Lord, Trell begins to suspect a deadlier, darker secret motivating them.
Melissa McPhail is a classically trained pianist, violinist and composer, a Vinyasa yoga instructor, and an avid Fantasy reader. A long-time student of philosophy, she is passionate about the Fantasy genre because of its inherent philosophical explorations.
Ms. McPhail lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, their twin daughters and two very large cats. Cephrael’s Hand is the award-winning first novel in her series A Pattern of Shadow and Light.
You can find out more about Melissa on her website.
You can purchase Cephrael’s Hand on Amazon.