Series-Mieshka Files Book # 1
Publication Date- March 23, 2013
Approximately 56000 words
Blurb:"I've got magic?"
"I'm afraid so."
Secure under its Mage-powered shield, Lyarne ignores the war that has taken the rest of the country.
Inside its borders, refugees are first pitied, then assimilated.
Mieshka knows this well. Coping with the loss of her mother and the grief of her father, she keeps her head down at school and maintains a neutral stance with her new Lyarnese friend.
Things change when she meets the Fire Mage. There's a lot more to this city—and herself—than she could imagine.
And Lyarne's shield is not as impenetrable as the city would believe…
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Excerpt:After Roger’s tip, Mieshka is running away from an angry mob through a large, abandoned mall in the Underground--the city that exists buried beneath her city.
Mieshka’s track and field training returned. She stretched her legs out, immediately regretting her choice in tight jeans. Her breath, which had started out panicked and harsh, smoothed into her old, habitual rhythm. As did her legs, pants permitting. She found her pace. The echoes faded. The world and all its shadows drifted by, surreal with the dust and bones of another age. The trail of light stretched straight ahead of her, each bulb marking a distance. It had been a long time since she had raced.
The path split into two, one diverging to run along the right side of the mall while she followed the left. The chasm opened between them with a Plexiglas fence topped with a piped aluminum guard rail protecting her from the edge. The top of a dead escalator came into view. It gave her an idea.
What if she went below?
She clicked on the flashlight and swung its beam into the gap, squinting as the floor below came into view. The remains of a dinosaur exhibit stretched up, gaunt and dusty. Around it, a maze of shopping stalls she’d have to run around.
Nope. Best to stay on the clear path while she had it. While the way was lit.
Behind her, more shots cracked through the old air. Their echoes knocked into her spine. She ran on. Had they reached the mall?
Her breaths raced along with her, shoes pounding against the linoleum. She imagined the mob chasing along behind her. They made her wish she had magic even more. She did not want to be alone in the dark with them. In lieu of either option, she put distance between them.
Her lungs burned. Her legs felt like lead. She was not an athlete anymore.
When the light died, it took her breath with it. The dark was a physical presence. Shocks of blue burned in her vision.
She skidded in the dust, a knee briefly locking in place. Geez, she was out of shape. She skipped a few steps and clicked on the flashlight.
Ancient displays hung limp in the windows, materializing strobe-like in her bouncing beam. She tried to keep it pointed ahead of her. Her breaths wheezed in her ear, growing more and more ragged. Her hair stuck to her open mouth. Her burning thighs grew clumsy, sluggish and slow.
It was eerily quiet.
She looked over her shoulder—a quick, wild look. She didn’t trust that dark. These people lived here. This was their playground. She was trespassing.
What the hell was she doing down here? She didn’t belong here. Then again, she didn’t belong in the normal city either. Hell, her magic—whatever it was—didn’t even fit the normal definition of magic. She had no element. No role.
Her toe stubbed into the linoleum. Hard. She yelped before she hit, the wind knocked out of her. The flashlight spun away. Her knees stung, her wrist rang with pain. She gritted her teeth against a whimper, curling into her legs.
The flashlight rolled under the guard rail. It illuminated the grimy Plexiglas as it tipped over the edge. There was a heavy clunk. The light vanished.
Clinging to her burning knees, she let that whimper go. She rested her head against the floor, choking on her breath.
Maybe she should just let them catch her. She wasn’t going to reach Mo’s. In these tunnels, without light, she couldn’t beat them there.
The floor felt cool against her cheek. The pain subsided into a hot throb. Her knuckle felt numb from where she’d knocked it.
What would her mother have to say about this?
Her laugh hurt. No way would her mom have been in this position. Tears slid from her eyes, but they weren’t the usual ones. These were for the pain. They didn’t choke like grief did.
Which was a good thing, since her breath still hadn’t caught up.
If she got out of this, she promised to run every damn day.
‘If’. Her jaw tensed. She knew what her mother would have said to that. Same thing her father had told her last night.
She couldn’t let the fear win.
An idea formed. She felt stupid for not thinking of it earlier.
She didn’t have to reach Mo’s. Her cell phone was in her pocket. This wasn’t the nineties. Reception could bite through anything. Including a buried city.
All she had to do was get within range of the surface.
Distant shouts roused her. First, she’d have to deal with her pursuit. She sat up with a wince, taking stock. She wasn’t badly hurt. Her skin burned, but linoleum was easier to fall on than concrete. Gingerly, she wobbled to her feet.
Arms outstretched, she limped forward until her fingers bumped into the Plexiglas guard rail. She followed it to one of the silent escalators.
The first few flashlights bobbed into view, the distance turning them into pinpricks. Her heart jumped, but she forced herself to look. Two hundred metres away, she gauged. By the swing of their lights, she guessed they were walking.
She eased herself down the escalator. Her hand trembled on the vinyl railing, toes feeling each step. Halfway down, the echoes caught up to her.
The shouting had stopped, which worried her. These voices spoke quietly to each other, indistinct in their echoes. She kept going, forcing each step down into the dark. At the bottom, she turned to follow the bulk of the escalator back.
When that ended, she held her breath and struck out into the dark. She angled toward where she thought the stores to be, listening. The voices were clearer now. They came closer with each step. Debris skittered away from her foot, hitting something just ahead of her. She reached out a hand.
Her fingertips bumped into smooth concrete as the first flashlight swept over the scene. The edge of the upper floor was silhouetted against it, giving her hiding spot a hefty overhang. Two pairs of footsteps walked above her.
“Did you hear something?”
She cowered into what she guessed was a support pillar. She followed their footsteps on the ceiling, suddenly glad for the darkness.
“She can’t have gone far.”
“True.” The flashlight swept across the floor above, briefly illuminating a sagging banner on the railings. Two men walked into her view, trailing the guard rail. She slunk back, putting the pillar between them. Where were the rest?
“Yeah, but you heard them talking. She has magic.”
“Magic does not help her find her way.” Roger walked out of the dark as the two men jumped. She’d jumped, too. Through the pain, she hadn’t even noticed the tingling in her hand. She jammed the glowing mark into her pocket. “And if she knew how, she would have used it by now. It’s possible she is hiding, but more probable that she is lost.”
That seemed to describe her fairly well.
“Can’t you sense her? You have magic, right?”
She paid close attention. The transfer mark linked them together. He’d helped her earlier. Was he a friend?
Roger did not speak. In that silence, he said a lot of things.
She saw one man take a step back from him. It seemed an unconscious decision. She was tempted to do that, too.
“Magic does not work that way.” He said finally, gazing out over the space beyond the rail.
“When you find her, don’t hurt her. I want to talk to her.”
The other men turned around to go. She relaxed. Roger did not go with them.
Had he lied? Could he feel her through the transfer link?
Just before the men’s light faded, his gaze passed right through where she stood.
She cowered against the support, her raw skin unhappy with its surface. He couldn’t have seen her. It was way too dark where she stood.
Was it a coincidence?
As the men’s footsteps departed, she listened for a third set.
It didn’t come. Either the man was inhumanly quiet, or he still stood there.
She pressed her forehead against the cool concrete of the pillar. The darkness closed in around her. Those men had caught up with her, but where had the others gone? Short-cuts? Roger had walked out of the dark. Were the others in the dark with him? Her imagination produced a helpful image of them all crowding in the dark, leading with their guns.
She tensed her jaw against the panic, shaking quietly against the pillar. She counted, mouthing each number. Focusing on calming her breath. After two minutes, she opened her eyes again. Not that it made a difference in the dark.
She was her mother’s daughter, she reminded herself. Her mother would not be clinging to some post like a wuss. Her mother would march boldly into the dark, unafraid.
But Mieshka was only her daughter, so she ventured a little less boldly.
She was three steps out when a light popped on. She froze. Roger was still there. As she watched, he took the penlight and moved on after the two men.
She stared at him. Should she call after him? He'd told her to run before, did that mean he couldn't protect her? Why had he waited?
The darkness silenced her. And all the people that might be in it, hiding like her. Soon, the why did not matter. He was gone.
She turned back to the darkness. Her cell phone could be used as a light, but she’d try without. As Roger had just demonstrated, having the only light in a dark place made oneself into a beacon.
So she angled toward the wall, where she could follow the shops. She wanted to find another, more distant escalator before she tried her cell-phone plan.
About the author:
After a year spent living in South-West China, K. Gorman has returned to her life as a university student in Western Canada. During high school, she spent her days ignoring classwork to focus on reading or writing. She has been a voracious consumer of Fantasy and Science Fiction for as long as she can remember. When not reading or writing, she moonlights as a horse-drawn carriage driver, combining her love of history with her long-time passion of working with horses.
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