Red Magic: an Adult Dystopian Paranormal Romance: Sector 6
(The Othala Witch Collection)
by JC Andrijeski
About the book:
"You're not white magic at all. Not a bit o' ye. You're red magic... like me."
Born to be successor to the Regent's throne, and the highest-ranked witch in the holy lands of District 6, Maia sees her birthright as little more than a genetic practical joke, and a source of constant worry. Unlike every other witch Maia knows, and certainly her mother, Maia is a hopelessly, terrible witch. She can't do magic at all, no matter how hard she tries.
Faced with the looming humiliation of being replaced as successor to the throne, Maia is on the verge of giving up when a chance meeting on a lonely pier changes everything for her.
A lone, angry warlock makes a deal with her that morning: he'll tell her who and what she really is, if she agrees to set him free. The fact that he's handsome, frustratingly familiar in some way she can't pinpoint, and seems to know more about her than she knows herself, causes her to take his questionable deal.
In doing so, Maia learns things about her perfect, idyllic kingdom that she never wanted to know, and nothing in her life will ever be the same again.
IT DIDN’T OCCUR to me until after I’d thought it, to wonder how I could know him as a warlock with such certainty.
However that knowledge or certainty arose, once it reached my conscious mind, I could neither argue with nor shake it, though.
He was definitely a warlock, my mind told me––not human.
Whoever he was, he could not have been much older than me.
Half a dozen years at most. I guessed less than that, but it was hard to tell, given the condition he was in and the angry way he glowered at me.
He seemed to stare with particular anger at me, too, I noticed... not at the old woman, which struck me as a bit unfair under the circumstances.
He was filthy, so much so he must have come out of the river himself.
The mud and dirt smearing his neck, face and chest might have obscured his age and features somewhat, but it couldn’t disguise the defined muscles in his arms or abdomen, nor his thick, broad shoulders and back. His size alone distinguished him from the majority of the peasants I’d seen at the Water Market and living on the wooden piers.
For that matter, his size distinguished him from most of those I knew at the palace, and certainly from those warlocks I trained with at the monastery. I had a few friends among the Regent’s Guard who came close to his size, but that was it.
As noted before, the dirt he wore didn’t hide the fact that he was entirely naked, either.
From the looks of him, he’d also been in a least one pretty intense fight on his way to being caged.
I couldn’t help but stare at him in those few seconds after that first meeting of our gazes. I confess, I’d never really seen a naked man before. Not apart from in magic simulations, and certainly not up close like this.
Despite the dirt covering him, along with the blood and scratches and bruises, I found something about him very beautiful. Perhaps it was that same sense of life that struck me in the market above us, and in the giant lizard. Perhaps it was something else.
Either way, my admiration was definitely not reciprocated.
Throughout my appraisal he continued to glower at me through the bars of his cage with an intensity that almost suggested he knew me in some way.
Or perhaps he simply knew what––or even who––I was.
The thought made me tense.
It also brought me out of my curiosity-driven appraisal of him.
After all, a warlock might not be as ignorant about the features of a member of the royal family as the average dock dweller.
The realization finally penetrated the fog of my surprise at seeing him inside the crate at all.
I turned to the old woman next, as the shock of his imprisonment finally penetrated. My voice took on the imperious tone I myself never used, but heard used plenty by adult witches and warlocks in my life, particularly when they addressed me.
“What is the meaning of this?” I stared down at the old woman, my haughtiness dampened only slightly by the use of my stilted peasant’s tongue. “Why is he so caged?”
I glanced back at the warlock. I felt my face warm when I caught myself staring at his sex. Looking away sharply, I motioned at his lower body with my gaze averted.
“...And where are his clothes?” I snapped.
Once I’d said it, I glanced back at the warlock’s face.
A flicker of what might have been surprise altered his coal-black eyes, which held a strange light in their depths, despite their midnight color. Swiftly, however, that surprise was replaced by an even more intense fury than before.
“If you’re going to kill me, do it now, ye pious, toady bitch...” He hissed the words in a strange accent, once more glaring at me through the bars. “Don’t keep me in suspense!”
I jumped a little, staring at him in surprise.
Like before, he ignored the old woman. And despite the odd accent, he spoke perfect Regent’s tongue, his deep voice resonating somewhere in my chest.
“I haven’t the time for games from a baby witch,” he added sourly. “Nor the patience for ‘em. So earn your ass-lick for the day, and go scurrying back to your lying, hypocritical masters. Tell ‘em you’ve found a juicy prize to torture in their cells for a few days...”
Staring at him incredulously, I felt my cheeks flush in anger.
That was despite the fact that I didn’t really understand his insults.
I mean, yes, I understood them.
But I didn’t understand what he meant, aiming them at me.
“I was defending you just now,” I snapped. “Are you deaf?” At his continued glower, I raised my voice. “Why have they caged you, sir? And what happened to you? Why do you look... and smell... like you slept in a sewage tunnel after fighting rats the size of horses?”
I was shouting at him.
I bit my lip once I realized.
Another rule broken. Oh, well. I was too angry to care.
Still glaring at him, I growled, “...And why in Heaven’s Sky would I want to kill you? Or see you tortured by the Guard or anyone else? Haven’t I already established I have no idea who you are? I was just now trying to discern that very thing!”
Again, a flicker of wary surprise touched his face.
He seemed to be assessing me then, his dark eyes lingering down the length of me, even more intently than mine had over him. When he finished, he gripped the bars of the crate, twisting them in bruised fingers.
“Who are ye?” It sounded more like a demand than a question. “If they didn’t send you to kill me, then why’re you here, princess baby witch?”
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