My fantasy novel The Silver Cage will be available starting December 1. That’s less than a month away, but things are coming along nicely. I’ve been working on a website for the book, the cover art will be ready soon, and the book trailer is finished except for the music. As soon as all of those things are done, I’ll announce it here.
For now, though, I thought I’d provide a taste of what’s to come with a short description of the story and the first part of the novel’s prologue (which takes place twenty years before the events in the novel).
Tune in next Friday for part 2. Part 2 (along with the cover art) can be found here.
The Silver Cage by Mik Wilkens
Life is good for David Conner; he runs his own consulting firm, he has plenty of money, and he’s just met Jennasara, quite literally the woman of his dreams. But David’s dreams become nightmares when he finds himself on Lucasia, a magical world where he is the key to victory in a struggle between opposing forces. To save Jennasara, David must learn the rules of this strange new world, master its powerful magic forces, and decide who is friend and who is foe. But is he the world’s savior or the cause of its destruction?
Prologue (part 1)
Born of Man, blood Royal not Pure
Of Woman spurned, not Mother
She holds her Enemies
And brings forth Hope
Trapped in a Silver Cage
— Phantan prophecy
Princess Alexsa of Candelar knelt in the small, rough-hewn stone chamber beneath Castle Nemik. Moisture from the damp ground soaked the blue velvet robe beneath her knees. She ignored the chill and the room’s musty smell and extended her hands over the pool before her, palms down.
The water shimmered, reflecting the single candle that lit the chamber, and Alexsa reached out with her awareness to touch the True Spring that fed Power into the pool. After a brief moment, she sensed the Spring’s energy and called it to her. The Power rose from the water in red tendrils visible through her magic-sense. It caressed her palms and twined around her fingers in tingling waves. The pale hairs on her arms rose, and her skin tightened as the Power beckoned her to join it.
She focused on her physical senses to help mask the Power’s alluring call: the cool air against her skin, the water’s song as it trickled into the pool, the odors of damp earth and wet stone.
She spread her fingers and smoothed the Power across the water’s surface like a shimmering crimson blanket. The pool stilled. For a moment, the water reflected her hands, the candle’s wavering light, the ruddy glow of Power, and then an image formed on the surface. Alexsa pulled her hands away and almost shouted with joy.
She glanced at the orange tabby cat crouched on the pool’s far side. “Do not call me ‘child,’ Cassantra! I’m thirteen now, old enough to—”
The cat interrupted her with a flat-eared hiss. “Concentrate, child!”
Alexsa glared. “Cassie,” she used the nickname the cat hated, “you—”
Cassantra’s green eyes narrowed; her tail lashed. “Why do I bother to instruct you?”
“This isn’t my first attempt at scrying, Cassantra!” Images flashed through Alexsa’s mind, scenes from the many times she had eavesdropped on her father and his ministers, as well as the hours she’d spent watching the commoners living in the city beyond the castle’s walls. “I know what I’m doing.”
“This is not the same.”
Alexsa pursed her lips and swept a stray wisp of red-blonde hair from her face. She did not want to admit it, but Cassantra was right. Never before had she peered past the Veil to one of Lucasia’s sister worlds. It would take all of her skill to hold the link open.
She refocused her attention and channeled more Power, willing the hazy image to sharpen.
A young boy sat on the bank of a small woodland pool fed by a spring. Sunlight dappled the forest around him.
“Yes,” Cassantra whispered, “he is the one.”
The boy was about nine years old, with dark red hair, green eyes, and a smattering of freckles across his nose. He wore odd clothing: a short-sleeved white shirt with a painting on the front and faded blue breeches that reached the top of strange shoes laced with white string.
Alexsa pushed aside her curiosity at the lad’s attire; Cassantra had warned her things in his world would be different.
The boy sat still, his gaze locked on the water bubbling from the spring. After a moment, he withdrew a small, oblong object from a pouch sewn into his breeches. He fussed with it for a moment and then pulled a blade from its side.
“A folding knife!” Alexsa gasped in delight.
The boy searched the leaf-littered ground around him, picked up a stick, and began sharpening one end.
Alexsa’s wonder faded, and she frowned in bewilderment. If the boy had the ability Cassantra claimed, why waste time whittling sticks?
“He has it,” Cassantra assured her, eyes locked on the image in the pool.
Always keep your thoughts shielded, Alexsa reminded herself. Cassantra had told her that dozens of times.
“Who is he?” Alexsa asked quietly. “What’s his name?”
“Discover for yourself. Thin the Veil.”
Alexsa stared at the cat, eyes wide. Her concentration faltered, and the scrying image wavered. She clenched her fists, rebalanced the energies, and looked at Cassantra again.
“Thin the Veil? I can’t!”
“You have practiced enough, and the Veil is weakened by the boy’s presence. Do as I taught you.”
Alexsa drew a deep breath and focused on the Veil. The silver grid shimmered in her mind, its structure oddly weakened and warped. She pushed at it with the Power she controlled, thinning it more.
The boy’s head shot up, his brow furrowed, and he gazed around the clearing beyond the pool.
“He knows,” Alexsa whispered.
“He senses what you have done,” Cassantra said without taking her eyes from the image. “He feels our world. The Power calls to him.”
“I want him,” Alexsa said sharply, eager to discover what she might accomplish once she combined the boy’s Power-shaping abilities with her own. “When can I bring him across?”
Cassantra looked at her through slitted eyes. “Not yet. He is not ready and neither are you.”
Alexsa started to protest, but the boy’s attention snapped to the far side of the pool before him. Intrigued, she widened the scrying image.
A shakorn stepped from the thicket beside the spring.
Alexsa stared in disbelief. She had never seen a real shakorn, had only studied representations on engravings and tapestries and read a few brief accounts about them and their one-horned male counterparts, the shakune’or.
The shakorn in the scrying pool looked smaller than she expected, about the size of one of her father’s hunting hounds, with a long, delicate head, large brown eyes, and a silky white coat. A shimmering mane draped her curved neck and withers, and a long tail arched behind her, tufted at the end. Sunlight sparked silver from a cloven hoof.
Cassantra hissed and arched her back, her orange fur standing on end. “Sytan take the creature! What is a shakorn doing there?”
Alexsa’s stomach knotted. “I didn’t call her.”
“You could not.” Cassantra started to lick her fur back into place and then shook it down instead. “No Guardian would come to a witch’s call. She must have been near the Spring. She sensed the thinning of the Veil and went through it to the boy’s world. Perhaps she sensed him, as well.”
The shakorn took a hesitant step toward the pool.
Startled, the boy dropped the knife and stick and scrambled to his feet. The soil beneath him crumbled. He threw out his left hand to catch himself, and it landed squarely atop the knife. He jerked his hand up, lost his balance, and slid to the pool’s edge.
The shakorn darted back into the brush.
The boy sat with his shoes in the water, gaping at his bloody hand, green eyes wide in his suddenly pale face. He plunged his hand into the forest pool, and the water in the scrying pool reddened.
Fascinated, Alexsa leaned forward and touched the water with a hesitant fingertip. The surface flexed as if a thin skin covered it, and the color gathered to her touch. She pulled her finger away. A deep red drop clung to its tip. She stared at the thick, quivering bead, brought it close to her face, and tasted it with a tentative tongue.
“Yes . . .” Cassantra breathed.
An amazing rush of . . . something coursed through Alexsa. It called to her, enticing, seductive, more alluring even than the call of Power. She wanted more. Now. A word swam into her thoughts. Pureblood.
She looked at Cassantra, aware the word came from her. She smirked at the thought of the cat ignoring her own teachings about shielded thoughts.
Pureblood, she mused, careful to keep the thought to herself. Could it be true? Could this child from another world—?
Cassantra growled and laid her ears back.
The scrying water had cleared. The boy sprawled on his back at the pool’s edge, his bloody left hand cradled in his right, a mixture of wonder and trepidation on his face.
Across the pool, the shakorn stood half-screened by the bushes, one delicate front foot lifted. Her large, tufted ears swiveled toward the boy; her nostrils quivered and flared. She waded across the pool, her cautious steps barely disturbing the water’s surface, then she stretched her neck and touched her nose to the boy’s cut hand.
Power flared, and two bright sparks of energy flashed, one snapping from beast to boy, the second from boy to beast.
The boy jerked away, startling the shakorn, and she bounded away in a spray of water. The boy stared after her, then he held up his left hand, mouth agape, eyes wide. No wound showed on flesh previously torn.
Alexsa gasped. “She healed him!”
“Guardians!” Cassantra hissed, her voice filled with scorn. “They cannot resist giving aid. They touch others, infect them. They weaken our world with their compassion.”
Alexsa drew more Power from the Spring, reached through the meager barrier of the Veil, and centered all of her attention on the boy. His image filled the pool. Waves of untapped Power-shaping ability flowed within him, startling in their intensity. The depth of his potential sent a shiver of eager excitement through Alexsa.
Again, the thought came: Pureblood. She considered her plans, and Cassantra’s, the things she could accomplish with the boy’s abilities joined to hers. She must have him!
The image wavered, her command of the Power slipping as she taxed her abilities. Aware of the danger of losing control, she ended the spell with a wave of her hand, and the Power sank back into the water.
“His name is David,” she said after a long moment, then looked at Cassantra, her expression determined. “He is mine.”