I'm so excited to share a special collaboration I did with Linda G. Hill, author of The Magician's Curse, where her protagonist Stephen and my protagonist of The Exiled Otherkin, Ember, meet.
Stephen and Ember Meet
SETTING: In the catacombs of Rome, a Fae refugee marketplace thrives. Ember has just purchased a replacement boot dagger. As she is leaving the stall, she almost collides with Stephen.
EMBER: (pulls her hat lower) Excuse me.
STEPHEN: My fault entirely. I’m a bit lost.
EMBER: (peeking up at him) It’s my first time here as well, so I doubt I will be of any help.
STEPHEN: If you don’t mind my saying so, you don’t (clears throat) look quite as out of place here as I feel.
EMBER: Is he human? (squinting slightly) How did you get here?
STEPHEN: (smiles) I’m actually not quite sure. I’m looking for a set of knives. I mentioned it to someone in a bar, and the next thing I knew I was climbing down a ladder. The gentleman disappeared after that.
EMBER: (excited over her new purchase) I just bought an excellent dagger from that stall (points). Do you want to see it?
STEPHEN: (nods) How kind of you.
EMBER: (pulls her dagger from her boot sheath) Check it out. You see these two jewels? If you slide this one (slides jewel), and then press this one (points dagger at a wooden sign above a tavern, then presses the second jewel. The dagger blade shoots out of the hilt and into the sign. Grins at Stephen.)
STEPHEN: (laughs) That’s a little more dangerous than I have a need for. I’m looking for something I can juggle, not kill my audience with. I’m a magician on stage. (looks up at the blade in the sign) Would you like me to get that for you?
EMBER: (realizing she shot the blade too high in her excitement, she nods, a little embarrassed) A magician on stage? Like fake magic? How did he end up in a marketplace for Fae refugees? (mumbling) You never know what you might need a sharp blade for …
STEPHEN: (walks over to the sign and reaches up to pull the knife out. Holds it flat in both hands and presents it to Ember) Milady. (she takes the knife) I get the impression I come from a much safer realm than the one you’re used to. I’m lucky, I suppose, that the most use I have for a sharp knife is cutting overly long leather straps … in my barn at home. (he winks)
EMBER: (Suspicious of his thick charm, she smirks at the thought of her pulling a blade on Sasha the first time they’d met) Well, he’s being polite at least. Horses? Or …
STEPHEN: Yes, horses. I use them in my shows. (glances over at the stall that sells knives) Do you think they have anything … tamer for sale? Or would you suggest I wait until I get out of here—where ever here is—and just go for a stroll? Together, of course. If you don’t mind.
EMBER: That weapons merchant had no qualms about openly talking about Fae. Maybe I should steer him somewhere else. On the other hand, there are Fae without glamours wandering all around this marketplace. Without my magic, I can’t even tell if he’s human or not ... Sure, let’s take a walk. I don’t expect my friend for a while.
STEPHEN: (clasps his fingers loosely behind his back and starts walking slowly) I’ve been to many foreign lands in my life, but never anywhere this … magical. What is this place?
EMBER: (Strolls easily alongside Stephen, grateful he’s matched her shorter stride) Magical literally or figuratively? Um … Rome?
STEPHEN: (glances around) I’ve never seen such strange-looking Romans before. (he stares into her eyes) You’re not from around here either? I’m assuming. Is your friend from here? Call me persistent, but I strongly suspect there’s more going on here than meets the eye.
EMBER: Definitely human but not alarmed. Who is this guy? I guess there’s no reason not to tell him about us, and I feel like he isn’t going to let it go. I’d rather he be a human than a Fae spying for Helena anyway. You’re perceptive, aren’t you? Yeah, we’re all a little different. Have you ever read Faerie tales?
STEPHEN: (with a small smile) Like Snow White and the Seven Dwarves? Oh, I get it! We’re in a mine. (looks at her, obviously teasing)
EMBER: (a little confused by the reference she doesn’t understand) A mine? No, these are the catacombs beneath Rome. All these people with unusual looking eyes are Fae refugees. They’ve been exiled or fled from persecution in Faerie. (sighs) Fae are similar to humans, I guess. But we have magic, and we live in a parallel realm where time passes differently.
STEPHEN: I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to make light of a difficult situation. I’m amazed that the mood down here isn’t more sombre. Are you in trouble personally? (frowns) Is there anything I can do to help?
EMBER: It’s no problem. (looks around at the lively marketplace) I guess they are good at not letting a bad situation get them down. Am I in trouble? (laughs) Always. (sobers a bit) But there isn’t really anything that can be done, and I wouldn’t want a kind human like you to put yourself in harm’s way. Thanks for the offer though. You seem to be in quite a bit of trouble yourself. You were forcibly transported here? Where are you from, and how are you going to get home? I’d help with magic, but I was stripped of it before I was exiled. Maybe someone else around here can help?
STEPHEN: (smiles kindly, with a twinkle in his eye) I’m not worried about getting out of here. I’m a magician, remember? (he winks) However, I’m sorry to hear you’ve lost your magic—I can’t imagine how horrible that must be. Home, for me, is a long way away. Canada. Where I’m afraid the ways of old magick are hardly seen. I do appreciate your concern. You must be quite concerned about your own situation. Have you found another place to settle down? With your friend, perhaps?
EMBER: (squints suspiciously) You said you were a magician on stage … You can’t do real magic. Can you? Aren’t you human? Do humans have magic now? Canada? I’ve never heard of such a place. You seem awfully interested in my friend. Are you a spy? Is Helena using humans now, or are you just pretending to be human because I can’t see through a glamour without my magic?
STEPHEN: (eyes wide, he raises hands in surrender) I’m human! I was joking, hoping to make you smile. If you can trust anyone here who can see through a glamour, by all means, ask them. My interest in your friend stems entirely for my concern for you. As for Canada, it’s a land across the ocean where we specialize in apologies: I’m sorry if I’ve offended or caused you any duress. Sincerely.
EMBER: (purses her lips while eyeing him, then sighs) I’m sorry. I’m sure you can see that I’m not used to trusting people. Honestly, I’ve only recently started to let myself feel at all. It seems I’ve missed a lot since I’ve been in Faerie. So there’s a land across the ocean? I’m going to have to look at a modern map. I can’t believe humans have magic now ...What kind of magic do you have?
STEPHEN: We humans don’t have magical powers as a rule. I’m an anomaly—or my family is, rather. Even so, my powers extend only to a few parlour tricks—the ability to levitate things for instance. Aside from that, I usually attract people to me sexually. It’s not something I try to do; it’s just something I was born with. I have to say, it’s nice that I seem free of that particular nuance down here. (gives her a small grin)
EMBER: (appraises his appearance critically) He’s tall and lean. His jet-black, shoulder-length hair matches his leather pants, calf-length coat, and black button-down shirt. The only traces of color are his mahogany-red eyes. He looks rather mysterious and severe. But when he smiles, it feels as though everything isn’t so bad. He reminds me of a black tulip: tall and sleek, jarring, yet alluring. Well, I wouldn’t go so far as to say you’re free from attracting people sexually, but I get the idea you mean something a little stronger than basic attraction …?
STEPHEN: Let’s just say I don’t have any trouble finding a companion, if you get my meaning. Still, sex means little to me. I’ve been looking for someone special for a long time. I believe I’ll know her when I see her. Whoever she is, she was made for me. (sighs)
EMBER: (smiles sadly) Someone special, huh? I thought I had someone like that once … I hope she finds you soon and is everything you wish for and more.
STEPHEN: I have all the faith in the world. I hope you find what you’re looking for as well, whatever or whomever that may be.
EMBER: With my luck, that's unlikely. That's kind of you.
STEPHEN: (takes one last look around) Well, I suppose I should start finding my way back to where I came in. It seems it might be … safer to purchase my knives above-ground, considering the likelihood that I’ll buy something down here that has a mind of its own. At least from what you’ve described of the place. And for that I must thank you, Miss …
EMBER: There is no sense putting him in danger by giving him my full name. (Smiles softly and holds out her hand) Em.
STEPHEN: (takes her hand) Stephen Dagmar. It’s been a pleasure, Miss Em. (he shakes her hand and smiles) Perhaps we will meet again someday. Until then, farewell. (walks back in the direction they came without looking back)
EMBER: (smiles gently and watches his dark head above the market crowd. With one short blink, he seems to melt into the throng and disappear. Pulling her hat lower and dropping her head, she whispers) Perhaps we will …
About The Magician's Curse:
THINGS DON'T ALWAYS GO AS PLANNED...
When Herman Anderson leaves home to make a better life for herself, she doesn’t expect to meet a tall, dark stranger with whom she’ll fall hopelessly in love.
Charming and mysterious, Stephen Dagmar is a stage magician seeking an assistant. The moment he sets eyes on Herman, he knows she’s the one. He brings her home to his Victorian mansion where they embark upon an extravagant romance. Yet a shadow hangs over their love. Will the curse on his family end Stephen and Herman’s happily ever after before it really begins?
Amidst lace and leather, innocence and debauchery, The Magician’s Curse begins the Gothic tale of The Great Dagmaru. Magic and romance await.
Excerpt from Chapter 4:
Herman has just arrived home with Stephen, who has left her alone to attend to business. She's alone in his office when his servant Nina comes in, and they meet for the first time:
Nina was petite with ten-carat-gold-colored hair and the eyes of a startled fawn. She stepped into the room in ballet shoes like a young sprite, though she appeared to be about the same age as Herman. She was dressed in a form-fitting floral blouse and yellow pants that came to her calves, making Herman feel under-dressed in her clunky sweatshirt and slightly ripped jeans. Nina was so attractive that Herman couldn’t imagine why Stephen wasn’t with her. Or maybe he was. Whatever the case, Herman was immediately envious of the girl.
“I’m Nina,” she said.
Herman stood as she muttered her name.
“I’ve been asked to show you your room. Or do you want something to eat or drink?” Nina held her hands behind her back when she spoke, like she was hiding something.
“Would I be eating alone? Or is Stephen …”
“Master Dagmar said that he wishes to dine with you tonight, but he won’t be available for lunch. He sends his regrets,” Nina said, smiling.
Master? Herman wondered what planet she’d landed on. Something in the way the girl looked at her, as though she was a fly to be pinned to a board and de-winged, caused Herman to panic. “You know what, maybe it would be better if I just left,” she said, picking up her backpack. When she looked up, Nina was frozen in place like a deer facing an oncoming set of headlights.
Linda G. Hill was born and raised an only child in Southern Ontario, Canada. She credits the time she spent alone when she was growing up, reading books and building worlds and characters of her own to keep her company, as the reason she became a writer.
A stay-at-home mom of three beautiful boys, Linda is a graduate of the Writing Program at St. Lawrence College in Brockville, Ontario. Aside from caring for her family, she enjoys traveling the world, eating trout cooked on the barbecue, and, of course, reading.