Sneak peek at Chosen by Shayla Morgansen

The late autumn night was crisp and cool. A brisk wind sliced through the dying trees in the garden, relieving them of their burden of dead brown leaves. The darkness in the marbled courtyard was broken only by the soft, haunting candlelight glowing in the large ring of lanterns. Thirteen white-robed adult figures stood in a circle within this enchanted ring.

Tonight, in this Connecticut home’s courtyard, the government of the magical world, the White Elm Council, had been called to an emergency meeting by their leader, an old, white-haired man whom they, along with the rest of their world, called Lord Gawain. He stood as part of the circle, and wore a royal purple sash over his white robes, as did the middle-aged black woman to his right, and beyond her was a tall, attractive man wearing an emerald green sash.

‘Blessed be,’ Lord Gawain began in his commanding voice. The twelve sorcerers responded, and a murmur of Blessed be resonated around the courtyard and into the surrounding gardens. ‘Firstly, our thanks to Susannah, who has provided us tonight with her beautiful yard as a venue for this last-minute conference.’

‘Never a problem, Lord Gawain,’ a 40-something American sorceress replied with a smile. Her wavy brown hair was clipped back from her fresh, pleasant face and her manicured hands, although obviously freezing, were ungloved and open, relaxed at her sides.

‘As a sign of honesty and purity, all members of White Elm traditionally keep their faces and hands uncovered,’ Lord Gawain said, beginning the meeting. Two of the twelve pairs of candle-bright eyes dropped from Lord Gawain’s face and two pairs of hands quickly appeared from underneath robes, and he knew, but he continued as if he hadn’t noticed. ‘This is one of many traditions we as a government have upheld for hundreds of years to ensure peace within the White Elm body.’

The council was silent. Lord Gawain continued.

‘I apologise for the surprise meeting, but, as always in history, the White Elm has dutifully responded to their leader’s call, knowing that I would only break the cycle for a great emergency. I am grateful for your faith. Your loyalty to your leaders, your adherence to the council’s ancient code and your purity of spirit prove to the world your worthiness of ruling the magical people. Few other councils would gather so quickly at their leader’s bidding.’

A couple of sorcerers smiled at their leader’s sentiment.

‘So, when you felt my call, where were you, Lady Miranda?’ Lord Gawain asked his co-leader, the 55-year-old black sorceress to his right.

‘Finishing my shift at the hospital,’ she answered smoothly, her British accent sharp.

‘Lisandro?’

The attractive man on Lady Miranda’s right blinked through his long, loose black hair at his Lord’s word.

‘With a woman,’ he answered simply, in his New York accent. No one asked for details. 

‘Qasim?’ Lord Gawain asked of the next man in the circle, the imposing Saudi.

‘Reading to my children,’ Qasim answered.

The White Elm immediately continued answering in the order Lord Gawain had been questioning – highest ranked to lowest – and most answered with honesty. However, the massive African American Jackson cast his vision down for a tiny instant and blinked a few times too many.

‘Asleep,’ he said. Lord Gawain felt the flicker of nervousness in the air, which accompanies a lie, and knew otherwise, but kept quiet. He needed to be sure of the others.

The stick-thin Russian woman next in the circle glanced oddly at Jackson, having felt the same flicker, before speaking.

‘Meditating,’ she murmured honestly.

‘Asleep.’ Tian still looked tired.

‘Reading the paper,’ Peter said, too quickly.

He is the second puppet, Lord Gawain thought. Who is their master?

Emmanuelle, a beautiful French sorceress, admitted to being on a date. She blushed a little, but she wasn’t lying. The youngest, the handsome and mysterious Renatus, spoke last. 

‘I was scrying,’ he said. His violet eyes flickered to Lord Gawain.

A few other members of White Elm shared subtle ominous looks. They didn’t trust Renatus. But Lord Gawain understood the very young man’s meaning. After all, it was on Renatus’s advice that he had called this council.

Peter and Jackson are traitors, Master, Renatus had said hours earlier, confirming Lord Gawain’s already strong suspicions. Lady Miranda agreed. Now they only had to find the third traitor, the leader. But whoever it was had covered his or her lies so well that even Lord Gawain, Lady Miranda and Renatus couldn’t work out who it was.

Lord Gawain had known for some time that a rival force was forming elsewhere. Rumours of black magic beyond that which the White Elm could imagine; whispers of a powerful leader no one could actually name. Similar little tales popped up every now and then, and usually died down, but these murmurings were persistent and becoming louder. Most disturbing was the realisation that this apparent rival group (if it existed) was said to be led by a member of White Elm.

‘Three of you are lying,’ Lord Gawain said after a minute of absolute silence. Two sparks of nervousness flickered briefly in the circle. Who is the third

 

Chosen by Shayla Morgansen will be available from 2nd May, 2014. Join us on facebook for more information.

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Published in: on March 30, 2014 at 12:32 pm  Leave a Comment  
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