Trust is a valuable commodity few can afford.
Willow Asuwish’s life has been turned inside out since her meeme was banished from Knavesmire. Her best friend, Nyx, is there for her, but when she is almost captured by a green dragon, the Elders confine her to the castle. Without her birth gemstone, Willow is at the whims of the Elders and her emotions. She must find the inner strength to conquer doubt and follow her true destiny to remove the curse from her homeland.
If you love stories of adventure mixed with magic and romance set in archaic landscapes, you’ll love McGyver’s Beyond the Myst.
Beyond the Myst is the first book in the Mystical epic fantasy series. It introduces readers to a unique cast of characters who want to control their own destiny. Brace yourself for the ride to another time and place.
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Chapter One – spirit for escapades
Into each life, the Myst disturbs, remixes and creates new life.
The glistening path left behind by the slug led Willow to its hiding place. She gingerly lifted the leaf of the butter lettuce and peered closer. The slimy slug the colour of a gorgeous sunset rested in the cool, damp shade, still wet from morning dew. Its dark tentacles flailed in the air, detecting the intruder but unable to attack it. Slithering deeper into the lettuce, its hope of escape was short lived. Bracing herself against the repulsive feeling that came from touching the horrid creature, she plucked the snail from its perch and tossed it quickly into her pail.
Task completed, she rubbed the slime from her fingers onto the cloth hanging from her belt. Why the Elders saw fit to assign her to slug duty was beyond anything she imagined. She was destined for great deeds or at least she had been.
She stood straight and stretched her back muscles. Only she and three others tended the eastern garden this morning while the other apprentices attended a class on wand fabrication. A defiant huff escaped. She had learnt that skill many years ago and didn’t need a refresher. But then the Elders no longer valued her skills in the craft and thought her more productive picking vermin off food crops.
A fresh callous from shovelling yesterday revealed itself on her palm. Since her assignment to the gardens, her hands had grown strong and tough. No longer did she wince when picking up stones or carrying wood. Her old self would have frowned at the ruggedness, but now she only shrugged. Tough hands were a small sacrifice compared to that made by her meeme.
Glancing over the rows of lettuce that went on forever, she fought the tears burning her eyes. Simple mistakes made by the young could change an entire kingdom. Had she known this, she’d have followed the rules rigidly, but the time had passed and nothing could change it, not even the magic welling deep inside her.
“The snails aren’t going to catch themselves.”
Willow rolled her eyes and stiffened her chin at the sharp voice. “They would if we trained them.” She twisted her face in a snarky knot and considered Faleena. The girl, slightly older than her, had been passed over by the Elders, her powers too weak to conjure a simple light spell.
“Out here, you follow my orders.” Faleena pointed to the row of lettuce. “Now pick.”
“When I’m ready.” She straightened a braid wrapped in leather, brushed a strand of loose hair from her cheek and gazed at the morning sun. The bright yellow orb sat in the white sky giving her no consideration.
“Another Disobey Complaint will see you demoted to the manure pile.”
While true, Willow wasn’t going to reveal her dislike for the position. It’d only give Faleena pleasure. She shifted her shoulders, stretched her arms and casually considered the lettuce. Oh, the lettuce. It went on for miles, and she had never been fond of eating it. Butter lettuce, watercrest and kale, the worst of the worst. Even the rabbits ignored the bland-tasting leaves. She walked the row, ducking to find slime trails, hoping none appeared. What she wanted most was distance between her and Faleena.
The clanking of metal tubes disturbed the morning silence, and her eyes darted to the noisy windchime hanging from the shelter. Although the wind didn’t blow, it sang as if a gale swept through the land. Before she had time to react, a high-pitched scream shook her ear drums.
“Dragon!” The voice pierced the morning air harsher than the musical tubes that continued to rattle as if in high winds.
Willow searched the sky while her bare feet pounded the soil, racing towards the shelter. The large, dark figure approached quickly, and within seconds took on the shape of a green dragon. It flew directly for the lettuce field and the four women. Its large wings slapped the air, moving faster when it spotted a target.
Breath frozen in her throat made running difficult, but her feet kept moving under their own power. Visually measuring the distance between her and the shelter and her and the dragon, she had enough time to follow the others inside and slam the thick, reinforced steel door shut.
The first two women slipped inside, leaving only Willow and Faleena to cover the ground to safety. Fifty feet from the door, confusion fogged her vision: Faleena had entered the shelter and slammed the door behind her.
“Wait,” she cried and covered the remaining distance in seconds. She threw herself against the thick door, grasped the handle and yanked. It didn’t budge. She peered through the hatch and met Faleena’s tortured face staring back at her.
“Let me in!” Her ragged breath squeaked.
Faleena secured the latch and stepped away from the door. “This is your doing. You brought this curse.” She turned and sprinted into the safety of the underground tunnel.
“You can’t do this! Let me in!” The shadows disappeared, leaving her alone and vulnerable. The sound of thick wings on air shot a cold chill from the back of her neck to her heels. She whirled and found the dragon almost upon her.
Her feet propelled her forward. Seeing the stables, she bolted across the open field, hopping rows of lettuce plants and striving to run faster than the oversized lizard could fly.
A foot caught on a tall leafy variety of lettuce, and she hit the ground hard, rolling over several plants before getting her bearings and leaping up. A snort too close for comfort made her glance over her shoulder. The dragon was only a stone’s throw away. Feeling the death grip on the steel pail containing slugs, she whipped it into the air. It bounced off the dragon’s chest and dropped to the ground.
Pushing herself harder and propelling herself forward using her arms to strengthen her stride, she closed the gap to the stables. Her heart pounded in her chest, blocking out the sounds of the wings flapping behind her.
Racing between rows of waggons, she sent multiple wishes into the air to Welkin Nymphs, wishing she’d reach the building before the dragon pounced. She focussed all her energy in the run and dared not waste any determining the proximity of the dragon. Yet, the heated breath of the beast fell upon her bare legs.
A blinding force plunged her to the ground, and she rolled several times with limbs wrapped around her. When she came to a stop, she struggled to break free.
“Get up.” The rough male voice left no room for discussion.
She shoved her unruly hair from her eyes to espy Nyx before he jerked her to her feet and dragged her towards a small stone structure near the stables. She stumbled after him, tripping once, scrambling to her feet and carrying on.
“Faster.” He pulled harder, then pushed her.
She fell through the opening of the stone building and landed with a thud on the dirt floor. After rolling several times, she clambered to her feet and pressed her back against the wall.
Nyx grabbed a large body shield, shoved it into her hand and rammed her into the far corner. “Don’t move.”
She sank to the floor and pulled the shield over her body. A fierce wind entered the small structure, first pressing the shield against her body as if it would entomb her to the stone wall, then withdrawing with such force, it dragged the shield and her towards the opening. Arms around her waist yanked her backwards, and she tumbled to the floor with Nyx holding her tightly.
“Get back.” He again shoved her into the corner, then raced across the room to waiting crossbows. Flipping the metal bar keeping the weapons secure, he grasped a crossbow, loaded an arrow, then crept towards the doorway.
Willow held tightly to the shield and scrunched into the smallest ball she could muster. She peeked at Nyx, wishing he’d hide instead of challenging the beast waiting outside, but he stood ready to shoot, fully exposed to the large eyes scouring the inside of the structure.
The hot breath of the dragon entered the building again, pushing the shield against her forehead. She welcomed the pressure and dreaded what would follow. Nyx would be sucked out and captured, carried off and eaten. Squeezing her eyes shut, she mumbled one wish after another. “Welkin Nymphs, hear my words. Save him, please. I’ll do anything. Make the dragon go away. Oh, honourable Welkin Nymphs, I will be forever grateful.”
Tears seeped from between her eyelids and fear swept across her chest. Nyx had to live. If she lost him to the curse, she’d banish herself from Cothromach. She wanted to stand and fight, but she’d only be in the way and cause more harm. If she had her wits about her, she could work a spell, but she’d been unable to cast much of anything since she brought the curse.
The wind withdrew, tugging on the shield and pulling her from the wall. Her body skidded across the floor, and she reached out with one hand and dug her nails into the dirt. It did little to slow her progress, and she slammed into Nyx, jolting him aside as she glided towards the doorway.
Her eyes widened as she approached the dragon, its face screwed up as it sucked its wind inward. She released the shield, giving it an extra shove, and directed it at the dragon’s snout. The oval steel slammed into its nose, and it jerked backwards. It coughed and sputtered and shook its head.
She obeyed the order and an arrow whistled overhead. A hand grabbed her and pulled her deeper into the structure. Once on her feet, she stood behind Nyx who quickly loaded another arrow, aimed and fired at the dragon. The second arrow joined the first, embedded in the shoulder of the howling beast. Green blood oozed from the wounds.
Yellow eyes flashed in fury, then great wings fluttered and the dragon took flight, disappearing from the entrance of the stone building.
Nyx raced outside and fired another three arrows before it flew out of range. His arms dropped to his side, and the crossbow rested against his thigh. Gasping for breath, he stood silently, letting the peace of the early morning resettle upon the land.
Willow ran to him and threw her arms around his neck. “Thank you, and thank the Welkin Nymphs for saving you.”
He wrapped an arm around her and drew her nearer. “And for saving you.”
“You did that, silly boy.” She eased her grip and looked into his light brown eyes. He’d been her playmate since they were young newlins, when he had saved her pet civet from drowning. His quick wit, sense of humour and spirit for escapades had suited her well, and they had gone on many adventures together, much to the dismay of the Elders, who wanted her attention focussed on learning and a male companion of higher social standings.
“This silly boy only wishes for you to be well.” He cast his eyes over the lettuce field. “Why didn’t you enter the shelter?”
“It was locked.”
Thoughts raced through his mind, and his eyes settled on the side of her head. “The others. They reached it safely?” He lowered the right side of his body and dropped the crossbow to the ground.
“And you did not follow?”
“Faleena?” His free hand touched her hair.
“The harpy.” He withdrew his hand. “Is this a new friend of yours?”
The bright orange slug wiggled inches from her face, and she shoved him away. “That’s no friend of mine.”
He smirked, tossed it aside and picked up the crossbow. “You may return to your duties, My Lady.”
She prepared to lecture him on the formality when the rattle of cart wheels reached her ears. Cothromach Castle’s official carriage ground to a halt beside her, and a young man dressed in formal attire stepped down.
“Lady Asuwish, you have been summoned to the castle.” He bowed, then gestured for her to board.
“Am I not permitted to retire after a harrowing morning? This young man saved me from the clutches of a green dragon, and dare I say I am unfit for a formal meeting with the Elders.” She tugged at her soiled skirt.
“The attack is the reason behind the request.” He stood rigid, waiting for her to board.
Nyx mischievously smiled. “Your duty awaits, My Lady.”
She rolled her eyes and strode towards the carriage, passing near enough to poke his ribs. “Thank you again, Sir Hambledon.
He grunted from the jab. “I’ll need to make a report, so I’ll see you there.”
She boarded the carriage and the driver hopped into the seat beside her, snapped the reins and engaged the horse into a trot.
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