A prophesy has been strummed by a drunken minstrel about a Vendrix finally controlling their greatest power called the Victus Lameit. If someone actually learned to tame this sentient magic that craves carnage, and kills families and strangers alike, it could be used to annihilate the sorcerer that’s been wreaking havoc everywhere.
There’s three things wrong with this notion, though:
1. No one knows who the Vendrix is.
2. To get to the sorcerer you must survive his path which is just one murderous obstacle after another.
3. No one is entirely sure they heard the minstrel’s slurred sayings correctly.
Zendra, a young woman raised by an assassin and anything but dainty, refuses to admit she’s the Vendrix they’re talking about. Despite the fact that she just massacred a horde of wizards with no more exertion of energy than a yawn. Regardless of her denial, she’s enlisted by three men wanting to attempt the Path, for fame, adventure, or vengeance.
Now, Valen, an arrogant yet charming wizard prodigy, Brevle, a wise-cracking warrior, Wulard, owns a map (sorry, that’s all he contributes), and Zendra, still unsure if she’s more of a threat to them than the obstacles, must band together, quiet their pessimism, and will their legs to forge through the Path of Fatality.
Targeted Age Group:: Teen & Young Adult
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I started this book in Middle school as just a hobby. Then it was years of scribbling, typing, leaving it abandoned, rereading it to get inspired, typing a bit more, throwing it in to a fire, repeat. Recently, I finally put my foot down and said, I am going to finish this story–or at least the first book of the trilogy. I found an editor, two awesome beta readers, and here we are!
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
Each character is a mishmash of attributes from important people in my life. I tried to use events I’d witnessed, read, or heard about and created reactions that I believe are realistic to what was happening. I will admit, that my main heroine does have some of my personality mixed with major creative improvements. A gal can dream, can’t she?
“Whatever happens, whatever you see, or hear, you must not leave this spot!” the woman warned, tears rolling down her face as she caressed her child’s cheek. She tried as hard as she could to keep a brave face, but knowing this was the last time she would see her daughter and not knowing what was to happen as soon as she went in to the clearing was more than her bravery could mask She bit her lip and hugged her daughter tightly before releasing her within the large crevice of the tree. Her daughter, who was no older than ten, was wide-eyed with fear, and screaming objections. She didn’t understand any of this.
Her mother had awoken her in the middle of the night frantically and gave her a small bag full of basic necessities. Inside were pieces of bread, a leather canteen with water, and few articles of clothing as well as a necklace with a pendant that she hid within one of the shirts. Her father had appeared just as frantic, scared and haggard as her mother. She was the only one in the family with a bag, and she had been dressed immediately with warmer clothing than one would need for that time of year. She had demanded answers from both her parents but her only response had been long stares in to her eyes, quivering lips, or a lingering hand on her cheek.
All three had run out the back towards the wooded area behind their house, swerving and making sure that the path they had taken was erratic and difficult to follow. All the while she would try to speak and ask questions but they told her to be quiet, so she behaved as they wanted. Her feet had hurt from all the running, and her wrist was bruised under the pressure her father held her. They’d stopped only momentarily to search the trees for hidden answers. In the late hours of the night the only sounds to be heard were owls, the occasional wolf and the twigs that broke beneath their feet. The moon had been full and high in the sky, which lit up the forest perfectly.
Several hours later as they were still running, the small girl, now being carried by her father due to exhaustion, had felt a sudden jolt, waking her up. Her father stopped running and was breathing heavily—not because of the running, but because of something he had seen. He set her down on the ground and she followed his gaze towards the trees. Vines were connecting each tree before them so thickly they could not pass. They looked towards all sides and as far as they could see the thick wall of vines extended. There was no going further. The vines had extended to the canopy and were so closely woven that no light was visible from the other side. The only stretch of light was a clearing to their left, but it had been whispering their names all night and they dared not enter there.
The father unsheathed his sword and struck a piece of vine with all his might. Nothing happened. Not a slit, nor cut anywhere. He tried again, this time grunting and using all his weight to come down on that vine with his weapon. A spark flashed where the sword and the vine met and the force threw him 20 feet behind, hard on the ground. Her mother ran to his side and kneeled next to him, lifting his head with her arm. His face was tinged with black from the flash and the wind had been knocked out of him, but by all accounts he was fine. Her eyes watered as he smiled at her. He whispered to her softly enough that only she and he could hear, “He’s not going to let us leave.”
Her lips quivered, and she choked back a sob. She closed her eyes and nodded to him, knowing what this meant. She placed his head back on the forest floor, allowing him to rest a few moments, and she took her daughter’s hand in hers. Their daughter was by his feet, allowing them to speak to one another, but still wanting to be close enough to find out if he was all right. He stroked his daughter’s hair one last time. “That’s my beautiful, brave girl,” he said. “I’m very sorry that this was your fate, but you’ll make us proud. I know of it.”
She wanted to say something, ask something, but he silenced her with a kiss on her forehead.
Her mother stood up, still holding her hand, and led her to a tree a few feet away from her father.
These were all the images in their daughter’s head. She was recounting everything that came to the point of her being within the tree. The crevice wasn’t very big, but just enough that she could slip inside. Her mother had cleared the spider webs that were within, but it still was an unpleasant place. It was dark and things crawled around her legs that she couldn’t see inside the shadows. She tried to be a brave girl as her parents instructed but she could not keep the tears from coming out. She felt their fear, and although she did not know what was happening, anything that made her parents scared had to be pretty awful.
Her mother searched the tree to make sure that everything was all right around it and that no footsteps led to the area. She pondered whether she should use the word ‘good-bye,’ or if that would be too much to tell such a young girl. She muttered a spell under her breath and told her daughter this would keep her protected until she was old enough to protect herself. She kissed her forehead, whispered ‘I love you’, and softly said, “Do not show anyone that necklace, Zendra. It reveals who you really are, and for now that must be kept a secret.”
Zendra held her bag closer to her, wishing she understood anything that was happening. She longed for her bed, or the stories her parents would tell her in front of the fire before she yawned herself to sleep in their arms. What had she done that would have them leave her here? If they were so unhappy with the decision, based on their worried faces, why couldn’t they all just go back?
Her mother placed twigs and leaves in front of the entrance of the hole, making it look as inconspicuous as possible in case someone were to pass by. Convinced she had done her best, she placed her finger in front of her lips to signal Zendra to be silent, and then blew her a kiss before turning around to leave. Zendra whimpered softly.
Her mother flew to her father’s side again as he slowly sat up with a groan. She placed his hands in hers and kissed him lightly on the lips. She smiled sadly as he caressed her face and spoke, “I’d not die with anyone else.” As she dropped her head on to his chest and cried, the two vanished, leaving Zendra alone within the tree.
“What exactly were you two thinking? Where were you going to go that I could not find you?” The words echoed in the clearing. The couple had been transported to the middle of the clearing they had feared. They stood up, searching for the source of the voice, but all they could see was moonlight and trees.
Zendra’s father spoke, trying to mask the trembling within his voice, “We were simply hoping for more time. When she’s older you could seek her out and convince her yourself to become part of your convocation, but for now she is our child and we will not give her up to you.” Her mother held his hand firmly in hers, wanting him to know she was by his side no matter what.
The clearing echoed again with no trace of its origin, “Even as an adult you would not let me have her. You are wasting my time with empty words!” With the last word spoken, a flash of white beamed out of the forest towards Zendra’s mother. She fell to her knees in agony as the white stream of magic engulfed her, causing sparks of electricity to surge throughout her body. She convulsed with each spin of the spell encircling her until it dissipated into the night. Smoke rose from her skin as she collapsed besides her husband. He kneeled beside her, pleading and begging her to hold on, to still be alive. Most of her skin was scorched, and he feared a loving touch would cause more pain. His wife opened her eyes weakly, curling her mouth and attempting the biggest smile her weakened body would allow.
A tearful grin was given back, but from the corner of his vision he saw another white flash. A quick lift of his hand, a recitation of a single word, and the white light stopped in midair. It then quickly jetted towards a tree in the forest encapsulating it with sparks of energy. “You coward!” Zendra’s father screamed in to the night sky. “You disarm your enemy without even showing yourself! What are you afraid of? Come and fight me!”
A puff of smoke and a flash of light and there appeared another man in the clearing.
“Very brave words from someone whose about to die.” The man said. He was fully robed, hood and all, disguising each and every bit of himself. He had a protection spell and only a trained eye could see the few glimpses of the bubble around him as it reflected bits of moonlight at certain angles. Her father had known this spell, the human sacrifices it took to create it, as well as its pros and cons. There was no way to penetrate the spell, but there was no way to cast a spell from within either. As long as the robed man was within it, Zendra’s father knew he was safe.
The robed man continued his obviously rehearsed soliloquy about how they should not have fought, how they should’ve listened. Zendra’s father half-listened to the man, half-tried to review the last three years to make sense of everything. They’d never known this robed man’s identity; as many times as someone came to their house searching for Zendra it was always his apprentices doing his biddings. They hadn’t known anything about him, just simply that a powerful wizard—not many wizards had countless apprentices—was interested in their daughter for reasons that even they were not entirely sure of. They’d received day in and day out thousands of threats, decrees, and bribes for over three years, always wondering what was sought out from Zendra. Obviously, as parents, they’d thought the world of her but nothing so special as to deem this much attention. There were some unusual events that may have hinted at her uniqueness; several years back some crazed minstrel rode into town shouting verses he swore were lines from a prophecy describing a creature that would defeat and free the land of its greatest undoing, but Zendra was no creature. Also, an old witch had turned up once and a just single glance at Zendra made her overjoyed. She gave her mother a necklace, stating she had made it for her son too late, and Zendra would need it when she was older, but it must be concealed until then.
Nothing had made any sense and it was not at all clear. The only thing that was fully understood was the robed man’s last threat. It was quite simple and direct: ‘Give her to me or die.’ Those six words were the reason they fled, hoping for more time.
The robed man had finished his speech. The protection spell would be vanishing soon and Zendra’s father was ready for it. The second he saw the lack of reflections from the moonlight, a surge of power flew from her father’s hand to the robed figure’s chest. The man deflected it with the same ease that a person blinks. Zendra’s father, seeing that magic was useless, charged at the man with his sword in hand, swinging away as soon as he got close to him. The robed figure simply lifted his hand and shot out the same white magic stream that had affected Zendra’s mother. Between her father’s convulsions, the man simply chuckled. “When will you ever learn?”
As the spell withdrew, Zendra’s father crawled towards his wife in hopes of being beside her one last time as he readied himself for the final blow. The robed figure muttered something under his breath and out of his hand streamed a crackling surge of power that shot out towards the two in the clearing. It encircled them, spinning around at great speeds and lifting them up several feet in the air. Both of Zendra’s parents were side by side, floating amid the spiraling streams of magic that encased them and kept them afloat. They knew this was it. This binding spell was a way for someone to figure out their next move. The robed man was pondering how he would end their lives, and they were fully aware of it. They turned towards one another, staring in to each other’s eyes, both weakened by the pain. Their hair was flying feverishly around their faces with the strength of the whirlwind as they mouthed their love for one another and smiled, remembering the life they’d had. He looked at her, not seeing her battered complexion of the present but the way he would remember her forever. He saw her perfect soft skin with freckles across her nose, brown hair that cascaded in curls to her hips and a smile that relinquished any sadness within a soul. She would view him the same way; his blue eyes, wavy hair and well-groomed beard that would melt her heart with just one glimpse.
A black streak jetted towards his head. Zendra’s mother screamed as she saw it enter his brain and pull something out from within. A white glimmering strand appeared at the end of the black stream of magic. The strand was released in to the night sky, and an image quickly appeared: White flowing dress, tearful joy, flowers hidden within her hair. A memory of their wedding day was now to be forever forgotten. Another black streak pierced through the whirlwind of white and attacked the woman. It was another strand being pulled and released into the heavens. This time the image contained a nervous giggle, an interested glare, and a longing for tomorrow; the first day they met. With each penetrating streak, any joyous moment in their lives was extracted and removed from their memories. It excavated their long term and short term memories and with each extraction the pain they felt intensified. The first steps, birthdays, parents’ approvals, anything jovial or momentous was ripped from them. Everything was stolen except images of death, pain, and fear.
“Have you given up yet?” the anonymous stranger screamed towards the tortured couple. “One word can mean your freedom.” He waited, listening for any sound from within the spiraling magic.
Finally, faintly uttered words came from within. “Your offer is nowhere near as valuable as what you ask us to give you in return.”
“So be it. If that is your decision, then you shall perish,” he said, not a hint of remorse in his voice. He waited for the streaks to finish their work as he watched their faces turn from love and adoration towards one another to disgust and empathy for lack of recognition. Feeling his spell was near completion, another flash of smoke and light and he was gone. The whirlwind abruptly stopped, leaving nothing but quick gasps, stopped hearts, and two bodies that fell to the ground motionless.
Zendra sat in the fetal position within the massive tree rocking back and forth in hopes that the movement that emulated her mother quieting her as a baby would work now to silence her cries. The screams, the last words spoken by the mystery assailant, and the even more horrifying silence that followed afterwards echoed within her head. She cleaned her eyes with her sleeves and peered towards the entrance of the crevice where her mother had laid the foliage, creating a rudimentary door. Disobeying her mother’s orders, she’d tried to leave during their cries, but a slight electric shock to her fingers as she tried to remove the twigs meant her mother had cast a spell on it. She’d known of this spell before—her mother had used it to keep her in her room anytime there was an unknown visitor at the house.
The spell was simple. It would keep her within a room or in this case, a tree, and only allow her to leave when it was safe. Zendra knew she’d probably be able to leave now, but she hesitated. She knew what waited outside for her and wasn’t sure she wanted to see or confirm what she had dreaded and believed. Zendra stifled a sob that crept up her throat with the feelings of panic and desolation that ran through her veins as she acknowledged that everything would be utterly and completely different from now on. She was so young and so naïve to all the events that had transpired throughout the years.
Her mind showed her all the different outcomes that could have occurred outside. Some were positive: her parents would be waiting outside with just a few scratches, faces of triumph, and their arms wide open in preparation for a hug. There was also the image of a brave knight that would come to her rescue. He, having just slain whatever was threatening her family, would appear in front of the tree, arms stretched out awaiting her hand and whispering, “I’m sorry I didn’t come sooner,” as he led Zendra to where he had hidden her family during the fight. She tried desperately to keep the more positive images in her mind, although the deep pang within her stomach told her it was nothing but the dreams of a small child. She took a deep breath, cleared her eyes of their ever-flowing tears so her parents would believe she had been braver than she was, and touched the twigs that were laid in the opening.
Zendra drew back her hand quickly, a reaction that was impulsive now after having felt the shocks from all the other times she tried to leave. She took another deep breath and this time left her hand on the entrance, overriding her body’s natural reaction to withdraw. There was no shock this time, no twinge of electricity or magic, just the solid feel of a twig. It was safe for her to leave.
Sighing deeply, she removed everything that blocked the entrance with an extreme gentleness. Zendra was in no rush to leave, and there was no hurry to destroy her mother’s last creation. Having cleared her opening, she crawled out hesitantly, leaving her legs still within the tree’s protection. Granted, it was just her legs, but in her mind as long as she was not completely out of the tree, she could still hold onto her past. Her past had contained happiness, a family, toys, and most importantly a future. Leaving the tree meant taking a grand step towards her new present, and based on the screams she had heard during the night, this present was bleak and uninviting.
She peered outside, her bag still clutched within her arms. It was early morning, meaning she was inside that tree for at least four hours. With the exception of the shade her protective tree was producing, the forest was completely lit up with warmth from the sun. This wasn’t the scary gnarled forest she had hated during her night’s escape. This was a warm, inviting piece of nature, filled with life and sounds of gaiety. The forest during the day gave her hope. There was no wall of vines blocking their path to freedom anymore either. Zendra’s face grew to a smile; all she had to do was find her family and they could leave without any more obstacles. The dawn of a new day was setting them free, letting them escape. Hope was clouding the small girl’s mind; her onset maturity due to her traumatic experience was whisked away in to the morning light and the naiveté and undying joy of a child was coming back. Pictures of skipping hand in hand between her parents or a knight galloping towards her were all her thoughts contained. Her mind was filled with elation, optimism, and birds singing until she skipped her way into the clearing.
Upon seeing the clearing, the chill that pulsated up and down her spine paralyzed her movements. She hadn’t yet seen her parents, but the brooding feeling of death thickened the atmosphere. There were no birds’ songs in this space, and it almost seemed that the sunlight dared not make its presence here either. Zendra stood frozen in the entrance of the clearing. She turned her head towards the forest in the direction where her salvation tree stood and wondered if she should go running back, rub her eyes, and start the day again. This was clearly her still in a nightmare.
She took a big gulp, returned her gaze towards the clearing and followed the scorched patches of grass. Zendra didn’t lift her head for fear as to what these burn marks led to. Her eyes were on her feet, and her peripheral would only allow her to see just a little way around. In her mind she saw different, less optimistic scenarios now: they’d been turned in to statues, animals, a note on the ground stating ‘be back soon’, or maybe even immobilized for simply a few weeks. These were her hopes—her dreams, that is—until she saw them.
Zendra gasped. This was her worst vision, the image she had constantly shook from her mind, not wanting it to be true. She stood just a few yards before her parents. The grass beneath her feet was brown and singed—more evidence of what had caused their death and suffering. They lay in front of her, both with eyes wide open towards the sky, dread and pain written on their faces. Their skin was blackened and their limbs were facing every which direction. Zendra knelt down beside them, streams of tears running down her face. She placed one hand on each of their shoulders and shook them violently, hoping they’d wake up. Leaning her head close to her mother’s mouth, she hoped for any sign of breath, but they were both so cold. She continued to shake them, slap them, and scream at them—anything that might bring them back. Finally, Zendra released her grasp on them, allowing the sobs to take full control. She knew this was her fault. Something about her existence was the cause of their death, and she would never forget it or forgive herself.
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