Saturday, May 11, 2013

Sumeria's Magi, A New Beginning, Part Three

Day 6: count down to book four in the Sumeria's Sons series. Surrounded By Crimson will be release on Saturday, May 18th. From today thru Sunday, May 17th, I will post the side stories to the Sumeria's Sons. 

Reminder: On May 13th thru May 17th, Starting Fires, the NEW short for Gregori and Juan will be featured here on the blog. The story is a little over 12k so I'll post about 3k per day.

Starting Monday, May 13th I will be running a week long contest/giveaway. More participants means more copies. Leave a comment everyday from the 13th thru the 17th for a chance to win an e-book copy of Surrounded By Crimson. If you comment all five days then you will have five entries in the contest. Winners will be announced on Saturday, May 18th. Good Luck!!

A New Beginning (Sumeria's Sons #2.1, Sumeria's Magi #0.1)
© 2013, Lexi Ander

The Magi, Gregori Borchetta, and the warrior, Juan Ybarra, have been dancing around each other since that fateful day when Juan gave his blood oath to Tristan Janick. Dangerous ghosts haunt Gregori and he's not sure if he should stay or go. Will the skittish Magi be enticed to not only to stay for Tristan and the tribe but for Juan as well?

Part Three

"I was eighteen and had recently graduated to fourth level of magics called a Sami, the youngest Magi written history. Very few reach fourth level and when they do; they're in their twilight years. Shortly afterwards, one of the Triad, Barron, approached me attempting to coax me to swear allegiance to Kevah and the Triad." My throat constricted and the hollow in my chest burned as I remembered. Unbidden, the words poured from me in a story I'd long kept secret.

Barron had found me in the college's extensive library where I'd been looking for information on fire mages. I attempted to ignore him but he stepped close, too close, and I immediately became uncomfortable with his proximity. Everyone heard the rumors about Kevah's jealous tantrums when Barron flirted. The man was indeed beautiful, with straight chestnut hair that touched his shoulders and sorrowful blue eyes. Of the three members of the Triad, Barron was the least intimidating and the one who would get you in the most trouble with Kevah.

"He won't wait for your answer much longer." Barron ran his fingertips over my cheek. It took every ounce of willpower not to shy away from his lingering touch. "Kevah's patiently allowed your meddling in the college business but his tolerance is wearing thin."

I casually distanced myself from Barron, and walked to the window overlooking the rose garden. Presenting my back to him wasn't wise, but I was afraid my anger would crack the carefully constructed façade of nonchalance I wore. Some members of the college were beyond corrupted, and young Magi who weren't considered powerful had been mistreated.

"Those instructors deserved a worse fate than what I gave them. As Sami my responsibility is the welfare of all students, not just those who've curried favor." 

Maybe I didn't have my temper under as much control as I'd thought.

Barron laughed hoarsely behind me. "You actually believe that? You're just an upstart teenager who's become power drunk. Caspian was right. The time has come to show you the consequences to your actions when you work against the will of the Triad."

I spun and glared at him. "What's that supposed to mean? I've done nothing to break College rules."

Barron stood in the doorway appearing almost—sad. "You're a foolish boy." He sighed deeply. "Come, there is something you must see."

Reluctantly I followed him through strangely empty stone hallways and downstairs to the Hall of Discipline. The underground amphitheater had been lit with torch light. The granite benches climbed several tiers up the carved walls. The students of the college filled every available space.

In the middle of the floor a tall wooden post had been erected. Two dainty wrists were chained to the iron ring embedded in the pillar. The whistle of the whip was the only sound until the end kissed the welted back of the girl.

"What…" Shock had stolen my words.

"She struck Caspian. Assault on a member of the Triad carries the penalty of fifty lashes," Barron replied from beside me, his tone resigned.

I recognized the girl—Karen—my friend. She'd continually turned down Caspian's advances. He'd arrogantly refused to take no for an answer and hounded her every time they crossed paths.

"She slapped him when he tried to force himself on her." My voice was filled with all the disgust I harbored for the Triad. "She cannot be disciplined for protecting herself."

"If you were aligned with Kevah you could've went to him for help."

I gave Barron a withering look. "I shouldn't need to beseech the Triad's good graces for them right a wrong or to protect the students in their charge." My hands fisted as I refused to flinch at the sound of the next swipe of the whip.

Barron huffed angrily. "That's not the world you live in. Kevah rules here. All Magi abide by his statues or they risk being declared rogue when they attempt to leave. You cannot change the outcome."

The whip whistled again. Karen cried out, going limp with only her bound wrist keeping her upright.

"The hell I do." I strode to the amphitheater floor. "Caspian!" I spat. "Hold!"

The Magi had taken off his suit jacket and dress shirt. Sweat glistened over his toned torso, dampening his blond hair. He smirked at me as he swirled the tip of the whip against the floor around his feet.

"Well, if it isn't the illustrious Sami who's decided to grace us with his presence. We've a packed house today. You might not be able find a seat."

"That's enough, Caspian. You've proven your point. Look at her, she can't handle any more." I stalked towards him. He held his ground but fear flashed across his face before he could school his features.

"She drew blood." He pointed to a scratch on his cheek. "You understand the college law. No one may attack a member of the Triad—for any reason."

"Self-defense can be declared," I countered.

"Only in front of the king, which we don't have." Caspian grinned maliciously.

"Then her case can be argued before the Council of Five."

"Elder Ion Argus declined the hearing." Caspian circled the whip and I lunged forward and caught his arm.

"How many more?" I asked through gritted teeth.

"Twenty-three," he responded, appearing triumphant.

I knew Karen couldn't take much more. The smug look on Caspian's face told me the asshole was aware of fact as well. He'd break her if he could and I refused to allow him the chance.

"I'll take them in her stead." My voice echoed through the theater.

For the first time the audience reacted, murmuring among themselves.

Barron stepped up to me. "Gregori."

"No, Barron, the swap is allowed. He's made his choice." Caspian seemed almost giddy.

"Kevah said…" Barron interjected.

"Kevah's not here!" Caspian snapped.

I ignored them as I closed the distance to Karen, stripping off my shirt as I went. A soft moaning cry came from my friend. I pushed her thick brown hair from her face.

"Shh, now," I whispered. "I made him stop."

"No, Gregori, you can't take my place. This is what he wanted," Karen warned.

"And I refuse to stand by while you take his abuse. I won't leave you alone," I promised.

I draped the T-shirt over her bare back, whispering apologies because I knew it had to hurt. She struggled to rise. I grasped her under her arms and assisted her to her feet.

"Come on Gregori, we don't have all day. Classes are disrupted enough without you drawing this out."

I declined to acknowledge Caspian. Karen gripped the chains above the shackles leaning against the post. I used my larger frame to cover her, supporting her as I was able before I reached up and grasped the iron ring.

"I'm so sorry," she sobbed.

"I'm not."

The whistle and snap sounded before the eruption of pain bloomed. Again and again the whip licked a trail of fire from the base of my neck to the small of my back. I refused to give Caspian the satisfaction of my screams and caged them behind clenched teeth. I lost count in the fog of pain and yet I stayed still, protecting Karen, knowing if I moved Caspian would strike her out of spite.

It took a moment for me to realize the lashing had stopped. The students were filing out of the room. Barron pried my stiff fingers away from the iron ring. My knees buckled and I slid to the floor. Sweat stung my eyes as my body attempted to process the abuse my back had taken. Barron unshackled Karen and drew her away, helping her to slip into my T-shirt.

Hands roughly grasped me under the arms and hauled me to my feet. Before I could protest, my wrists were clamped in iron, and chained to the post as Karen had been.

"Do you think I'd allow you to defy me in front of the whole of the college and not exact a price from you for your open defiance? Kevah wants your allegiance, and by the Gods, you'll give your fidelity to him."

Barron held Karen in his arms, his face a blank mask. She stared me with wide frightened eyes, too weak to do anything to help me.

"This is not what Kevah said to do." A hint of fear tinged Barron's voice.

"I swear if you can't shut up, Barron, "Caspian snapped, "I'll get what Kevah wants. Watch and learn."

I pressed my forehead into the wood of the pole as Caspian started again. I fought down panic, trying to keep a clear head. The only thing I could do was wait for Caspian to become exhausted. That was where I'd been wrong. He didn't tire, the strike of the whip landed harder, and the fire of its kiss more wicked. Agonized screams filled the amphitheater as the torture continued and blood soaked the waistband of my jeans.

Every so often Caspian would stop and whisper to me. "Do you give your vow, Sami?" He spat my title with undisguised derision.

Each time I responded with, "Fuck you."

I didn't remember passing out but when I opened my eyes, I hung limp from the shackles, the strain on my shoulders a muted misery compared to the torment of my shredded back.  Within my line of sight, Barron and Caspian wrestled for the bloody whip.

"You must cease!" Barron screamed. "You've assured he'll never give his power to Kevah and if you kill him, Kevah will murder us both!"

"I'll make him yield!" Caspian yelled.

"No, you won't because he cannot be broken. I've already told the two of you that and yet you've ignore my council." Barron shoved Caspian down retaining the whip. "You should've listened to me. You've guaranteed your fate with your stubbornness. I promise you, I won't share in your punishment."

Karen cupped my face, her eyes red and swollen from crying. With trembling fingers she pulled sweat soaked hair away from my sight.

"I'm so sorry, Gregori," she cried.

"I'm not," I croaked, my throat sore, voice hoarse.

"I'll have my pound of flesh." Caspian grasped Karen by her hair and pushed her aside. He pushed his face close to mine, the stink of his sweat made me gag. 

"Every tear she cries, every scream she gives me, each time she begs for mercy, when I strike her, bleed her, all of it is on your head. You could've stopped this but it's too late. She'll be the one to pay your dues." A vicious kick to my groin added a new agony and stole the air from my lungs.

Karen fought, kicking, clawing, and biting as Caspian hauled her away. I had no breath to call out, or strength to make him stop. The magic kept slipping through my fingers because I couldn't focus beyond the haze of pain. The last thing I witnessed before I passed out was Caspian beating Karen until her struggles ceased and she went limp.


I didn't remember how I'd come to be straddling Juan's body, clutching him tightly to me with both arms and legs. My chest ached and eyes burned from the memories of the friend I couldn't save. Juan's low calm voice whispered in my ear as he stroked my back from shoulder to waist.

It took time for his actual words to penetrate my sorrow. "You're with me now. I've got you and you won't be alone anymore." I attempted to push away from him but he refused to release me. "No more running, Gregori."

"Gods, you are dense," I snapped without much anger.

"Why, because I stayed?" He trapped my cheeks between his palms, forcing me to face him.

"Karen was killed because I failed. I was stubborn and selfish. I refused to bend to the Triad's will so Caspian murdered her to make me pay. I wasn't strong enough to protect her."

His thumbs wiped away tears I didn't know I cried. "How would you been able to save her? You told me they left you for dead. You aren't responsible for the Triad's actions."

"Had I yielded, Karen would be alive." The echoes of her cries still haunted my dreams.

"Do you actually believe Caspian intended to spare Karen? I don't. If you' given your allegiance you wouldn't have been able to live with yourself. You would self-destruct if you had surrendered to the corruption of the Triad. You wouldn't be the man I've come to admire if you had compromised your values to travel the path they had laid out for you. Some things are worth fighting for."

Juan dipped his head and brushed our lips together, scattering my train of thought. How long had I waited for a man to be interested in me? Not my strength in magic. Not my body or my family name. Someone who had enough constitution to stand boldly by my side, who wouldn't hear the words I spoke but listened to what I didn't voice? Would I allow that person to slip away? Juan deepened the kiss and an unintentional moan escaped my lips. The silky smooth texture of his mouth called to me and I gave in and pressed into his body, opening at his gentle coaxing.

The breakfast tray crashed to the floor when I fell backwards, bringing him with me. I kissed him back, fingers carded through his silky black hair. I locked my legs around his waist, pulling him closer as my tongue dueled with his, exploring him, tasting him. He was voracious, delving deep, stealing my breath and stamping his name on my heart. He pulled away and gazed into my eyes, he seemed determined.

"I won't push for more than you're willing to give me. But you need to understand this one fact, I'm here to stay. You can't chase me off, so quit trying."

I licked the taste of him from my lips. "I'm scared," I confessed.

"Only a fool wouldn't be."

I didn't argue with him.

I'd struggled with this attraction for him, just as I fought the need for a tribe, for the closeness of friends, and yet I'd found a new home with people who were more my family than my blood relatives. I stared at a man who carried the potential of a new beginning—if I had the courage to grasp onto him.

No, life was far from perfect. But I could see a promise of something more when I gazed into his eyes. Regardless of what he said, it was selfish of me to want more when I realized Kevah would eventually hunt me. I'd need to find strength to either walk away from him, or I'd have to leave behind my reluctance for violence—to protect my tribe, my family, and those I was beginning to love.


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