EXCERPT: The Seventh Cadence: Prelude, Part 2

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It’s the next THE SEVENTH CADENCE excerpt!


If you missed it, read the first scene here.


Enjoy!



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The Seventh Cadence

Prelude (pt. 2)


Gavini squeezed the cloth, letting the excess water drip back into the basin. He delicately patted away dabs of sweat that beaded on Queen Esther’s forehead. Her brow twitched at his touch, but settled as the cool of the cloth briefly drew away the heat of the fever. She struggled for quick, shallow breaths, inhaling sharply.


“Is that better, Majesty?” Gavini asked before setting the cloth across her forehead. “Does the cloth help?”


Queen Esther gave the slightest of nods but didn’t speak or open her eyes.


Gavini put aside the basin. He’d mixed in the last of his spice berries with the water in order to help treat the infection, but he hadn’t caught the beginnings of the issue in time. He’d given strict instructions to the queen’s handmaids to cleanse themselves—particularly their hands—when dealing with her during her pregnancy. He couldn’t be sure that they’d followed his instructions, but he suspected that they had not. It was an odd request and may have been forgotten or disregarded as magical superstition.


But it was no superstition. Invisible to all was an array of life that could bring aid or sickness. And though the Hzorah tribe had a somewhat justified resistance to anything that sounded like magic to them, their fear caused them to behave irrationally.


“Majesty, I must listen to your heart,” Gavini said.


Again, the queen only nodded, and Gavini bent over her bed and pressed his ear to her chest. Her heartbeat was irregular.


An infection, a fever, rapid breaths and heart rate. Sepsis.


Gavini turned and lifted the thick, leather-bound book from within his medicine pack. He thumbed through the pages until he found the entry that matched the symptoms. The prognosis was bleak, but there was a treatment. Unfortunately, that treatment was stored away in another volume—a volume he hadn’t seen in years.


Abigail, I wish you were here now. Gavini sighed. I could sure use you.


But there was another way.


Gavini shut the book and looked up when he heard someone at the door. Prophet Davin slipped into the queen’s palace chambers with deep concern etched on his face. He crossed to the bed with his eyes set on the queen, but he spoke to Gavini.


“How is she?”


“Not well,” Gavini said.


The prophet glanced to Gavini, and understanding blanched his expression. "And the child?”


Gavini shook his head. “The infection holds no reservation for youth. By nightfall—”


“Is there anything else?” Prophet Davin asked. “There must be. I know that there is. There is something you’re not saying, something you have not tried. There is still a future. I can see it.”


While the gaze of a prophet’s foresight rarely concerned itself with the events of one child’s birth, this child would be the second born of King Jeremiah and a prince of all the tribes that had united under one banner to fight the Dominion. It was likely that this child’s effect on the future was immense.


Gavini crossed the room, considering the implications of the only solution he had. It could work. But not without consequences. He turned back to not only the prophet’s expecting gaze but his queen’s as well.


“Her birthing pains are still quite far apart,” Gavini said. “It is uncertain how long they will continue at this rate, but it may be several hours to two days before she is ready to give birth.” Gavini looked apologetically to Queen Esther. “Unfortunately, I don’t believe that you have the time. The infection has progressed too far. If I’d caught it sooner … If someone had sent for me—”


“But there is a solution,” the prophet pushed. “There is something that can make this right.”


When Gavini didn’t answer, the queen spoke. “Please, Gavini. Tell us what we must do.”


Gavini sighed and crossed back to his medicine pack. “I can’t make this right. At least, not completely right.”


He reached into his pack and pulled out another small leather book. This one was black with gold, embossed lettering. Nearly too thin to be bound, its slim form was disproportionate to the hope it held.


“This is an Abbreviation,” Gavini said, looking to Prophet Davin, who’d paled far beyond the natural.


“What’s an Abbreviation?” Queen Esther whispered, breaking the silence.


“It’s magic, Your Majesty,” Prophet Davin hissed.


“But the Wizard,” the queen said. “He’s dead.”


“Yes,” Gavini said. He glanced down at the small book, a smile touching his lips. “But there are a few things he left behind. A few bits of magic that were preserved. Magic that he etched into existence then packed away to be triggered during times of desperation.”


“However,” Prophet Davin interrupted, “we do not use these artifacts. They are locked away and safe. Never to be used. The world has seen enough of magic’s taint. Fortunately, the King has seen to it that we never have to live under its oppression again. How this healer came to find such a thing eludes me.”


The queen gasped for breath, then let out a sharp cry. Gavini and Prophet Davin came to her aid.


“The infection?” Prophet Davin asked, gripping her hand.


“No,” Gavini said. “A birthing pain.” He set aside the small book and picked through his medicine pack once again before producing a small jar. He opened it and pulled out a moist, white leaf. “Open your mouth, Your Majesty.”


Through the pain, the queen did as instructed. Gavini placed the small leaf under her tongue. “Resist the urge to swallow. Only hold it there.”


After a few moments, the queen settled again. Gavini fetched her a small cup filled with water and allowed her to drink but cautioned her again to not swallow the leaf.


“Please,” Gavini said, looking to Prophet Davin, “have someone fetch more water.”


The prophet straightened, giving a short glance to the Abbreviation book where it lay. “We will discuss this further when I return.”


Gavini watched Prophet Davin leave the room, then turned back to his medicine pack. He had nothing to attend to, but he’d just given the queen of Hzorah a promise of death and preferred not to face her directly. He’d seen death before. He’d delivered harsh news many times. But never to a queen.


“The book,” Queen Esther said. “How does it work?”


Gavini paused his work with the pack to glance up at the queen’s steady gaze. “Well, as I said, there are some pieces of magic that remained after Wizard Titan left the world. One of them is the magic tied to this book. Prophet Davin is correct, Majesty. The book that this Abbreviation is tied to is safely away in Caldor. But several books were created so that someone other than Wizard Titan could invoke his power in his name.”


“I’m afraid to ask how you came to acquire one,” the queen said.


“Then do not, Majesty,” Gavini said with a small smile.


“And this Abbreviation … It will fix me and the baby?” she asked. “It will take away the infection?”


“I’m afraid that it only has the power to save one life,” Gavini stepped closer to her. “I can save you, but your child will not live.”


Queen Esther looked away, and Gavini felt a pang of regret that he didn’t say it as delicately as he could have. But that was the truth of it. He was a man of medicine, but a Keeper first, and his bedside manner left something to be desired.


“And,” Gavini continued, “magic has become not only taboo but unlawful. It would be against the will of the king and against the will of the people to use it.”


“Then why do you carry it?” Queen Esther looked back to him. “If you know that it’s unlawful, why would you have it?”


“Anyone who understands magic would know that it’s not something that the common man can create, that it is a tool given only to Wizard Titan. And with his absence, magic is no more.” Gavini paused, considering his words. “But anyone who understands magic will also know that it is not explicitly good or evil but a tool. And that there may be a time when that tool can be used to do a greater good.”


Prophet Davin slipped back into the room. “I’ve seen to it that plenty of water will be here for you. I was informed that the palace also has its own birthing amenities. They will also arrive soon …” He looked between the queen and the healer. “What is it?”


“I want to use the Abbreviation,” Queen Esther said.


“But, Your Majesty,” Prophet Davin stammered. “It is forbidden. Even for us. It is punishable by death.”


“It is a punishment I am willing to take,” Queen Esther said.


Prophet Davin stared incredulously. “You would use the magic only to be executed later? To what end?”


“It’s not my life I wish to save,” she said, then looked at Gavini. “Can you save my child instead? You said it can only save one life. Can it save my child’s?”


“It can, Your Majesty,” Gavini said.


“I have given the Crown an heir,” the queen said. “Gabriel will be strong like his father. And, with this child, I will give the Crown a second. And my son cannot be put to death for the sin of his mother.”


Another pain took her, and she cried out. Davin looked at Gavini, his hard expression relenting at seeing his queen in pain.


“The Abbreviation,” she said through gritted teeth. “Hurry.”


Gavini picked up the small book, but Prophet Davin held up a hand.


“Before you do this, Gavini,” Prophet Davin said, “there are conditions.”


Gavini nodded. He had expected this. “I understand.”


“First, after this is over, you must give me the book. It does not belong here. It’s not safe and quite illegal. Second, the consequences for using magic is death. While I am loyal to the laws of the land, I am also loyal to my queen. Therefore, I will not turn you in for this. But you will have to leave Hzorah. And you may never return.”


“Done,” Gavini said without hesitation.


Prophet Davin stared into Gavini’s eyes, as if pondering whether or not the terms he’d given were sufficient. His brow twitched into scowl, and his gaze drifted down to the book with fearful disgust.


“Is that all?” Gavini asked.


“It shouldn’t be,” the prophet said, then stepped aside.


Gavini opened the book to the second page where the spell form began.


 

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Come back tomorrow to read the final scene!


THE SEVENTH CADENCE drops on Oct. 8th, 2021. But you can order it right now.


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