Flicker of the Flame (Paperback)
Flicker of the Flame (Paperback)
Book 2 in the award-winning Outlawed Myth series
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An ancient prophecy, now an outlawed myth. Secrets, long kept, that can kill. A young girl who was never meant to be born.
Tereka Sabidur’s life has never been fair. Her brothers always went unpunished while she was mocked and abused. When her mother’s rages escalate into violence, the truth of Tereka’s parentage is revealed, and Tereka and her father end up on the street.
Undaunted, Tereka seeks to put her shattered life back together. But she soon learns everything she believed about herself, her family and her world was a lie. Between a cryptic prophecy, three magic amulets, and those who seek to murder her, she becomes embroiled in a fight for her life.
As the threats against Tereka mount, she unlocks the mysteries surrounding her birth, she is faced with an impossible choice.
Will she embrace the scandalous truth—and her impossible destiny—before the secrets of her past destroy her?
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"A fast paced, action packed fantasy story."
"Can’t wait for the next one."
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Enjoy a sample of Flicker of the Flame
Tereka hadn’t been sure of much in her twelve years, but this she knew: she had one chance. Just one.
She winced under her mother’s scowl, cringing at the sharp words and the tone that cut like winter wind. “Would it be too hard for you to make yourself useful for once?”
“Mam, if you please.” Tereka tried to keep the pleading out of her voice. “I’d be happy to watch Aito while you do your errands.”
Her mother scowled. “Prove to me you’re not too stupid to do the simplest task. Buy tea and candles. Get your brother something to eat. And be back here in an hour. No later.”
“Yes, Mam. I can do all that. You’ll see.” Tereka nodded emphatically. If she could please her mother just this once, then maybe, just maybe, she’d be kinder. Treat her like a member of the family instead of an intruder.
Her mother waved her hand, shooing Tereka and her three-year-old brother out the door in front of her.
Tereka’s twin, Tirk, was already standing in the lane. “Hurry up, Tereka. Aito wants to see the ducks.”
Aito tugged on Tereka’s hand. “See ducks. See geese!” He made a honking noise. Tereka thought that for such a tiny boy, it was a fine impression of a goose fighting for food.
She ruffled his hair and smiled. “Clever boy, aren’t you?”
Her mother slammed the wooden door of their house shut and locked it. “Be back in an hour.”
Tereka grabbed the back of her younger brother’s dove-gray tunic as he took a toddling step into the muddy lane. “I will.” She didn’t need to be told why. Today was Aito’s third birthday and their Aunt Juquila was throwing him a feast. Her mother wouldn’t want to be late for that. As syndic of their town of Trofmose, Aunt Juquila oversaw trade and commerce. Which meant she occasionally had exotic foods no one else did. Foods much tastier than gruel or coarse bread.
She watched her mother stalk down the stony lane, her ash-colored dress swirling around her ash-colored leggings, the orange band around her shoulder that proclaimed her a vendor the one bright spot in her drab appearance.
Tereka sighed. Her mother had never let her set foot in her aunt’s house. Tirk and Aito were always invited, but never her. Maybe today would be different.
Tereka hoisted Aito to her hip, her basket dangling from her arm. She scurried after her mother. Tirk tapped her shoulder and grinned when she turned to look at him. He always had her back. She smiled into his sepia brown eyes, so unlike her bright blue ones.
“Watch out.” Tirk grabbed her shoulder and pulled her to the side just as she was about to step on a mangled rat carcass. She shuddered and skipped past it, dodging the other villagers who trudged along the dreary lane. “We need to hurry, Tirk.” She sped up to pass a row of wooden houses, all the same as their own. Two rooms―a kitchen and sleeping room―small windows with shutters, and peeling paint.
Their mother strode ahead. “Don’t lose your brother. And be sure you don’t overpay for the tea.” She flapped a hand at them and disappeared into the gray-clad throngs at the market.
The tension in Tereka’s chest ebbed. Now they could have some fun. “What do you think, Tirk? Errands first? Or pasties?”
A smile crossed his brown cheeks. “Pasties, of course. If we wait, the best ones will be gone.” He pushed past the tea vendor, dodged a dog worrying a bone, and jumped over a puddle, splashing the hems of his gray trousers. Tereka hoisted Aito higher and hurried after Tirk.
She caught up with him at the pastie vendor’s stall, where she breathed in the scent of onions, frying meat, sugar, and fruit.
Tirk pointed. “Look, they have hopberry.”
Aito patted her head. “Pastie.”
“Which one would you like, my love?” Tereka kissed his smooth cheek, the same brown as Tirk’s.
“Pastie. Please, Terter.” Aito tugged on her short dark hair.
Tirk bought four pasties, two stuffed with hopberries and two with cabbage, counting out the bronze sheaves and dropping the coins in the vendor’s hand. Then he broke off a corner of one and handed it to Aito. He gave the rest to his sister.
Tereka set the squirming Aito down and firmly grasped his hand. She took a bite of pastie and strolled down the narrow lane between the market stalls. Vendors called to passersby, offering candles and crockery, boots and baskets. The clanging of the blacksmith’s hammer competed with the horn that sounded the arrival or departure of a caravan.
As they ate, they made their way through the central square of the market, dominated by the monument to Prosperity in the center. Tereka wasn’t sure what she thought about the monument. The bronze people held large baskets overflowing with bread, vegetables, and fruit. The statue people certainly looked well-fed, but their clothes were the same shapeless cut as any villager, their hair fixed in the same regulation manner. Surely a prosperous people could afford better clothing. Surely they wouldn’t all have to look the same.
Except for the shoulder bands, a different color for every profession. And the colored ribbons women tied around the handles of their baskets, the color the only choice they were free to make.
A caravan of wagons had lined up in the square, brown-clad traders standing near their horses, chatting with guardsmen who wore black and carried swords and bows. Not for the first time, Tereka wondered why traders and guards didn’t have to wear gray.
Tirk nudged her with his elbow. “That will be me next year.” His eyes shone. “I can’t wait to travel around with Da and see something other than this dumpy town.”
A knot formed in Tereka’s stomach. Just last week their da had told Tirk he could start as his apprentice. What would she do without Tirk? He’d always been the buffer between her and their mother. Tirk strode down the line of wagons, chattering around mouthfuls of pastie about accompanying their father on trade runs to far off towns like Pir Bakran, Anbodu, and Litavye. Tereka took a firmer grip on Aito’s hand. She didn’t understand Tirk’s excitement about seeing other places. Everyone in Tlefas had to be the same. To make things fair, they said. The other towns wouldn’t be much different than their own. “I’ll miss you,” she said.
Tirk didn’t seem to hear. He grabbed Aito’s other hand. “Come on. Let’s get to those ducks. I’ll race you!” He trotted ahead of Tereka, pulling a laughing Aito along.
Then abruptly, he dropped Aito’s hand. “Can you take him? I’ll be right back.” He ran over to a group of boys gathered around the miller and a trader who were exchanging shouted insults.
Tereka rolled her eyes. Boys. Nothing more exciting for them than a fight.
Aito tugged at her hand. “More.”
She broke off another piece of pastie and handed it to him, putting the rest in her mouth. “Ready to see the ducks?”
He smiled, dark purple hopberries smeared above his lips. “Ya! Geese, too?”
Tereka laughed. “Of course.” She pulled a rag from the pocket of her ash-colored dress and wiped his mouth. She took his hand and led him toward the pens that housed the poultry, careful to avoid the piles of waste left by roaming dogs.
A hard thump on her back nearly knocked her to her knees. She staggered and let go of Aito’s hand. Something crashed behind her. A youth not much older than herself, clad in brown trousers and tunic with a white band around one shoulder, lay sprawled on the ground, an overturned box and broken pottery lying beside him on the cobblestones. It seemed to Tereka that this trader’s apprentice had been in too much of a hurry.
The apprentice groaned and stood up. “If you please, I’m so sorry. I didn’t see you there. Are you safe?”
Tereka laughed. “Yes, I’m unhurt. And you?”
He grimaced. “Safe for the moment, but not when my da sees what I broke.”
Tereka glanced at Aito. He was sitting on the stones, staring at the nearest horse. “Stay there,” she said to him, setting her basket next to him. She stooped and picked up some shards of pottery. “I hope you won’t get in too much trouble.” She tossed the pieces in the box and reached for another. “Oh, look, this one’s not broken.”
“At least one, then.” He scooped up the remaining large pieces and added them to the box. “Thank you.” He grabbed the box and ran off.
“Aito, let’s go.” When she turned, her breath caught in her throat. Her basket sat alone, its bright blue ribbon fluttering in the breeze. The boy had vanished. She scanned the nearby area, wondering how he could have moved so quickly. She’d only been a few heartbeats helping the clumsy apprentice.
A flicker of motion caught her eye. There he was, standing near a pair of black horses that were hitched to a wagon in the caravan. Aito was patting one horse’s leg, his gray clothing looking almost white in contrast. Tereka darted past a group of traders. The black horse took a step forward and Aito fell, right in the path of the wagon wheel.