Karin Rita Gastreich is my featured author this month, so stop by every Saturday to read more about her and her book. Can’t get enough? Stop by her blog tour for more excerpts, interviews, and prizes!
Here is a synopsis of High Maga:
Karin Rita Gastreich (author) Darla Middlebrook (narrator)
Sisters in magic, Eolyn and Adiana seek to revive a craft once forbidden to women. When war strikes at the heart of the kingdom, their fledgling community of magas is destroyed; its members killed, captured or scattered.
In hopes of defending her people, Eolyn tries to escape the occupied province and deliver to King Akmael a weapon that might secure their victory. Trapped by the invading army, Adiana is taken prisoner and placed at the mercy of the ruthless Prince Mechnes.
Even as their world is torn asunder, Eolyn and Adiana cling to a common dream. Courage and perseverance guide them toward a future where the Daughters of Aithne will flourish in a world set free from the violence of men.
“War propels the book forward, and the characters are at their best when the events engulfing them are at their worst.” –Publishers Weekly
Chapter 13 (excerpt)
Ghemena awoke cramped and shivering, huddled against Tasha and Catarina. Outside she heard the shouts of men broken by occasional laughter, heavy footsteps and the whinny of horses. Her tongue felt like it was covered with sand, and her arms were numb from being bound. She tried to move her hands, but found a sickly sensation of nothingness where her fingers should have been.
Sitting up, she looked around the bare tent, illuminated by a thin shaft of light streaming through a break in the canvas. Catarina and Tasha slept, bodies curled side by side on the hard dirt floor, faces swollen from the many tears they had shed. With growing dread, Ghemena realized Mistress Adiana was not with them. She shuddered at the memory of Renate’s headless corpse and closed her eyes to shut the image out.
Tasha whimpered and stirred. She lifted her head, tangled dark tresses hanging in her rounded face, and stared with bleary eyes at their grim surroundings before focusing on Ghemena.
“Where’s Mistress Adiana?” she asked.
A painful lump in Ghemena’s throat would not let her speak. She bit her lip, working her arms and wrists against each other, trying to get the blood to return to her fingers.
Tasha moaned and hid her face against Catarina’s shoulder. “This was supposed to be a dream. I was going to wake up, and have it all be a very bad dream.”
“We’ve no time to cry,” Ghemena replied sharply. “We have to get out of here as fast as we can.”
Tasha dragged herself away from Catarina’s sleeping figure and sat up. She pointed to her bound arms with her chin. “How are we supposed to escape tied up like this? And where would we go if we did? You saw the town last night. Nothing’s left of it, and those horrible men are everywhere.”
“I have a way to find Maga Eolyn, but I have to free my hands first.” A burning sensation moved through her palms, followed by the prick of a thousand pins on her fingers. Ghemena knew this was a good sign.
“What way?” asked Tasha.
“A magic way. She showed it to me before she left. I’m going find her and tell her what’s happened, and then she’ll come to rescue you.”
“You mean we can’t go with you?” Tasha’s brow furrowed and she glanced nervously at Catarina. “Don’t leave us alone here. Please.”
Ghemena stopped fidgeting and gave Tasha a worried frown. “I don’t think it’ll work with more than one of us.”
“Maga Eolyn never said anything about taking more than one person.”
“That doesn’t mean it’s not possible.”
“No,” Ghemena conceded doubtfully. “I guess we can try.”
“Promise me you’ll try, Ghemena.” Tasha’s eyes were wide beneath her dark brows. “Promise me you won’t leave without us.”
Ghemena looked at her friend. Tasha had always been the quiet one, happy in the company of her friends, forever trying to make peace between Ghemena and Catarina.
“We’re sisters,” Ghemena said. “We must be loyal to each other, right?”
Tasha grinned and nodded.
“So you see, I won’t leave you alone. I can’t.”
“How does the spell work?” Tasha asked.
“Well first, I have to get my hands free.” Ghemena scooted around on her rump to show Tasha her back. “Can you see the knots? Maybe you can chew through them.”
Tasha wrinkled her freckled nose. “Chew through them? What kind of an idea is that?”
“Well, I don’t have a knife. Do you?”
“It’d take me days to chew through those chords, and I’d have no teeth left at the end of it.”
“Tasha, just do it. Please.”
Tasha scowled, but she eased over toward Ghemena, then fell heavy on her side behind the girl’s back.
“Ow!” Ghemena winced. “You’re supposed to bite the chords, not my wrists!”
“Well it all looks the same in the dark. Hold still, will you? You’re only making it harder.”
A sudden flood of harsh light interrupted their efforts. Tasha gasped and Ghemena looked up, squinting, at three figures silhouetted in the tent entrance.
“By the graces of Mikata, what is this?” The voice was lilting and feminine. As Ghemena’s eyes adjusted, she saw the slight figure of a woman not much older than Mariel, clothed in a simple rose colored dress. She had fine brown skin and hair the color of wheat, neatly braided and coiled. Her expression was kind, with a knowing smile and soft eyes set in an oval face. “Our little mice are trying to escape!”