Excerpt of thrilling YA Fantasy, Phoenix:



When young Reiza has a disturbing vision, the Ruler of the Winter Realm demands the death of a child; the Flame Realm Princess, Violetta. Violetta had always found comfort in the form of magic, but a sudden tragedy compels her to view her gift as a curse.

With each step Violetta had taken towards the well, she

had heard the driver’s footsteps fading. Twenty panic-stricken

minutes saw the trees twist in a monstrous fashion, taking the

weary Queen by surprise. She was determined to pass through

the winding maze, using every one of her senses to her best

judgement. She trusted in her instincts; used the energy about

her as a guide.

         The trees were fewer now, but still she walked,


along the narrow stone paths. The dark atmosphere bound her

in chains of fear. The young Queen quickly became discouraged.

She searched frantically among the twisting passages. Her head

dropped. Reluctantly, she sought to throw in the towel when

a light glow appeared up the passage ahead. Curiously, she

paced towards it, doing her best to zone in on the light. Violetta

chanced a quick glance behind. Everything she’d passed seemed

to instantly vanish. It was just her and the glow, guiding her

forward. She halted suddenly. Something large and sloping

caught her unawares. She glanced down to find that the glow had

fled. In its place, there stood a coarse oblong rock, as high as her

waist, its surface coarse. She leaned gently against the structure,

the roughness of it grazing her skin.

“The altar,” she whispered, mesmerized.

         The Queen stared silently round her new surroundings.

About her, she noticed a strange circular structure, hewed from

the same tough rock as the altar. It easily towered ten-feet above

her, rounding on her like a ravenous beast. There was no wind

here. Just the distant whistle of it in the trees.

          Violetta stood with her back to the altar. She was gazing above

at the elaborate structure when something sinister caught her eye.

She wheeled round, refraining from blinking in case she missed

it. A shadowy figure emerged from her left. It advanced towards

her with impressive stealth. Violetta prepared herself to run, but

couldn’t. No matter how much she shifted her feet, she couldn’t

move a single inch. Her feet seemed to have frozen stiff. She

waited, terrified as the demon approached. Her eyes widened.


The Emperor’s gaunt face loomed above her. His strides were

powerful, broad shoulders pinned back, chest puffed out. He

looked ever more impressive than usual with his body draped

in a ceremonial robe. Blood red; mandatory for both parents who

sought the ritual. The Queen felt herself go weak at the knees.

          Ryore said nothing. He barely looked at her. Without warning, he

scooped her up into his muscled arms, before gently laying her

upon the altar. The cold stone rubbed at her bare legs. Violetta

tried to adjust herself, but Ryore’s arms held her fast.

“Be still!” He cried.

It was more an order than a request. In anger, his powers

seemed to flare from within. Thick layers of frost swept over the

altar, luckily failing to reach the Queen. She reluctantly obeyed.

“You’ll be alright, my dear,” he said, “That I can promise.”

His voice warmed, restoring her faith.          

Violetta gradually began to relax. She relished the feel of her

husband’s hand as he lightly brushed it against her cheek.

            A second shadow crossed into the clearing. The Emperor

was the first to spot it. Violetta stirred upon the altar. Sensing

her husband’s sudden discomfort, she craned her neck to catch a

glimpse of the figure. It slunk steadily towards the couple. It was

abnormally tall for anything human.

“The seer was released into the maze, on my orders.”

Ryore’s voice boomed out through the clearing. He gave

Violetta his most reassuring look, but all she could see was the

shadowy figure. 

          It continued to advance upon her, a cloak of

deep blue, shrouding their body. A matching hood hid their

features. The only thing she could make out were long strands

of wispy white hair, which poked through the sheer fabric.

Violetta shuddered. She was suddenly reminded of Clarisse; her

old nursemaid, and the way her hair used to dangle limply over

her face. The mysterious newcomer inclined their head. They

appeared disturbingly familiar to the still Queen. She eyed them

closely as they met with the altar, splitting the air with a few

foreign words. The language seemed impossible to identify, as

did that lurking sense of familiarity. 

          The moonlight swept over the slim, dark figure. The couple 

stared in awe of them. Their navy hood was slowly peeled back. 

The urge to be violently sick assaulted the Queen. The creature’s 

face was as gaunt as ice, the skin taut as though pulled back from 

behind and stapled in place. Violetta wished only to tear her eyes away, 

but she was simply unable to cease her staring. The figure appeared to have

no gender. Instead, their features appeared androgynous at best.

Its eyes were only slits in its head. The Queen doubted whether

they could see that well.

“Emperor Ryore.” Its voice was low and gravelly. “Pleased to

make your acquaintance. I’m so glad you were able to decipher

my riddle.”

Its long curved teeth crept out from its mouth. Violetta

flinched. Ryore, surprisingly, simply nodded towards it.

“Charmed, I’m sure.”

          The seer was intent on examining the Queen. They drew

awfully close, sniffing about her lithe frame in the same way that

dogs sniff out a scent.

“She is ready!” They exclaimed.

The seer pulled back from the anxious Queen. Their cloak

opened up to the stark moonlight. Thankfully, their body was

more than well covered. Violetta didn’t know how many shocks

she could take.

“And now to prepare the tools of fertility!”

The seer began digging around inside their robe. Dozens of

pockets spontaneously appeared, bringing forth a great many

items. Containers and books were among a few. Most were

drawn back into their robes; just a few main articles remained on

the altar.


Ryore coughed, clearly impatient. The seer gave a displeased

frown. They carried on regardless, bent over a neat line of simple,

yet elegant brown pots. They sat on the edge of the square stone

altar. Each appeared to be half-way filled with a different precious

substance to the one that preceded it.

          Violetta maintained her statuesque state, wincing as the

healer’s hand shot out towards her. She was confronted instantly

by a wart-covered hand. She gazed grimly upon it, until it delved

deep into one of the pots. Before long, the hand withdrew, the pale

flesh coated in a pungent paste. 

          Violetta glanced warily up at the figure. They were neither young 

nor old. Now that she stared, she noticed a line of grotesque bruising which 

hugged the jaw-line, the cheek-bones hollow and close to blue. They stared 

back at the entranced Queen, one hand reaching to untie her robe. Instinct

almost saw Violetta lash out, but remembering her promise, she

let them work. Her robe undid with the greatest of ease. The

paste-covered hand explored her nude form. Its slender fingers

adorned her body, mysterious symbols emerging in their work.

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