Today, for out Bring It Backlist feature, I give you a
snippet of what I think of as the book that started it all: Ravensblood, the first book of the
series of the same title.
To set the stage, we are in a very alternate universe version of Portland, Oregon. It’s a world
of impossible choices where sometimes death magic is the lesser of the evils. Let me introduce you to our main
Corwyn Ravenscroft. Raven. Heir to an ancient family of
dark mages, he holds the secret to recreating the Ravensblood, a legendary
magical artifact of immense power.
Cassandra Greensdowne is a Guardian. Magical law
enforcement for the elected council— and Raven’s former apprentice and lover.
She is trying to live down her past. And then her past comes to the door, asking
for her help.
As a youth, Raven wanted to be a Guardian but was
rejected because of his ancestry. In his pride and anger, he had turned to
William, the powerful dark mage of their time, ButRaven discovers that he does have a conscience.
It’s rather inconvenient. He becomes a spy for the council that William wants
to overthrow, with Cassandra as his contact.
In this scene, Raven has just recently returned to
William’s side after agreeing to his role as a spy. He must somehow keep
Cassandra’s dubious trust in his sincerity without losing Williams’s.
William’s conviviality continued throughout the meal.
Dinner was an excellent filet mignon, perfectly complimented by a velvety, dry
red wine and finished with a bittersweet chocolate torte as dark as William’s
soul. William chatted through the meal, seemingly inconsequential gossip about
who was sleeping with whom, and which apprentices were sneaking peeks at their
master’s private projects. Raven filed the information away for future use in
cementing alliances, currying favor, and disadvantaging his opponents.
This was another gift William didn’t suspect Raven would
use against him. No matter how Raven held himself, he could feel the
Ravensblood against his ribs with each breath.
The after-dinner brandy flowed freely, though the
distiller’s special reserve didn’t make it past the head table. William kept
Raven’s glass full, and the conversation turned to comparisons of favorite
liquors and distillers, preferred varietals and vintages and vintners.
By the time the clock struck midnight the crowd had
thinned to about half its original size, and Raven felt pleasantly warm and
mellow. As the last echoes of the twelfth clock chime died out, William tapped
a knife against his glass for attention. The room fell silent.
“Let me introduce the star of tonight’s ceremony.” He
nodded to two of his sycophants at a side table; they instantly rose and
slipped out through a hall door.
William sat back down, smiling in satisfaction at the
murmur of curiosity throughout the room. The man never tired of being the
center of attention.
He leaned in to Raven. “This is my gift to you, my
friend. It’s high time you lost your virginity.”
Raven choked on his brandy. Had William had finally lost
his mind? “I have not been a virgin in any sense of the word for very many
William waved his hand dismissively. “Carnal pleasures,
yes. But there are areas of dark magic that you have yet to touch. To fulfill
your full potential as my right hand, you cannot restrict yourself in this
This ‘gift’ would be a test, one he dared not fail.
“I appreciate any token of your favor, my lord. And I
apologize if I have been in any way remiss in my service to you.”
William clapped him on the shoulder. “No apology needed,
my friend. I understand that some paths are difficult to start down, no matter
how fine the traveling. Now, I was fortunate. When it was time for me to take
this step, my father was still alive. I decided the thing to do was to find
someone you hated as much as your father.”
What was he on about? By the mention of William’s
father, it couldn’t be good. William had killed the man, famously and
spectacularly, in one of the most brutal rituals in the history of death magic.
Few people knew how well the bastard had deserved it.
He turned at sounds of a struggle from beyond the hall
door. It burst open, and the two mages who had left moments before returned.
They gripped between them a tall, wild-haired man who fought them with every
“Ten years ago, my friend, when you still thought you
wanted to serve the light, the Guardians threw your applications back in your
face, despite your vast qualifications, and you found your true home in the
beauty and freedom of the dark. And the Guardians took this over you.”
William gestured disdainfully at the prisoner. “Party-boy. Popular boy.
Bully-boy, bane of your existence. And, of course, son of heroes of the light.”
He recognized the man now, though he hadn’t seen him
since their General Academy days. Andrew Burns had made the lives of less
popular students a living hell. He tormented with extra zeal the children of
families known or rumored to be dark.
Andrew Burns, Cassandra’s cousin Andy, Ana’s nephew.
They must have some contact warding on him, hobbling his
talent. Otherwise Andrew would have crisped his captors by now. Andrew glared
at him with the same naked hatred and disgust he’d shown Raven back at school.
Now, at least, Raven had earned that contempt.
“I know you, Raven,” William whispered in his ear.
“You’re not the type to forgive and forget. You are so very like me, my old
friend. I know how much you want him dead, how often you’ve thought of it,
imagined what it would be like.”
Too true, every word of it— William knew him all too
well. Flattering, the amount of thought given to William’s presentation. The
reminder that Raven had once wanted to serve the light contained the subtle
hint that his commitment to the dark was therefore suspect. And then William
reminded him that the Guardians had rejected him, while William had welcomed
him and given him a place of honor in his inner circle. And he had gone to the
trouble of acquiring not just any Guardian, but the man that Raven hated most.
William could only be going one place with this. “I have
killed for you before, my lord.”
William waived his hand dismissively. “From a distance.
Poisons. Charm-traps. Even mage-fire and spell-lightning, satisfying as they
are, have a certain remoteness. You have never felt the hot blood gush over
your hands. You have never fed on death.”
William purred in his ear like he were trying to lure
him to bed, not to the kill. “You cannot imagine the pleasure, the glory. Try
it, and you can never turn back. You won’t want to.”
Two weeks ago Raven might not have hesitated. Before
this moment he would have sworn to wanting Andrew dead, at least in the
abstract. Even now he wouldn’t have mourned in the least if he had woken up
tomorrow and learned that William had killed the bastard. But he didn’t want to
have to explain to Ana and Cassandra what had happened to their golden boy. He
did not want to give Andrew the satisfaction of being right about him.
And he had always found the prospect of death magic. .
.distasteful, like cannibalism.
“I know that such things remind you of your father, and
of how your mother died,” William said. “But if you allow yourself to be
limited by bad memories, you are letting him win.”
His father would scarcely count as triumph a son who
balked at killing. He understood William’s point, though. In his own twisted
way, William was trying to help.
He looked at Andrew. The Guardian spat on the floor in
William tsked. “Such lovely manners these Guardians
have.” He drew a sheathed knife from an inner pocket of his jacket and slid the
knife across the table to Raven. “This is the blade that killed my father.”
“I am honored, my lord.” Part of him was— William had
never shown another such favor.
Test or honor, or likely a bit of both. Raven could not
refuse. More than status, his life was at stake if he refused William’s offer,
and William would not grant him a clean death. And no matter what Raven did or
did not do, Andrew Burns would not leave this room alive.
He took the knife, unsheathed it. The hilt in his hand
tingled with dark power, hungry for blood, remembering the lives it had taken
in William’s hands. The knife whispered in his mind yes, and some dark
part of his soul answered oh, yes.
You can buy Ravensblood itself on Amazon in Kindle or trade paperback. Better yet, pick up the first three books of the series in an economical Kindle 'boxed set' and be ready for the upcoming release of the fourth book, Raven's Vow. While you're there, look for my other works on my Amazon author page.