Here is my excerpt. This is one of my favorite scenes from Blood Ties, and I planned to post in on the blog when I finished BT as sort of a celebration, but let's face it, that could be months from now. And I really do love this scene. It's a bit long, but I hope you'll like it all the same.
The setup: Elle, a sixteen-year-old mage, is learning a new spell with her friend-maybe-more Tristan, who is more practiced in magic than she is. Before long, things start to heat up. Literally.
* * * * *
Twenty minutes later, everything is set up in the classroom. The room is dim in the low torchlight, and we're trying to be quiet because everyone else is in bed. The most scorched mannequin of Abby's collection stands at the front of the room. Possibly it is about to become a charcoal briquette. I mean, we have jars of water, a heavy hide blanket to smother the flames, and a snuffing potion on hand. But I'm learning this spell for the first time, and more likely than not something will go wrong. I'll get too excited and blow the thing up. I'll set my hair on fire. I'll miss and hit the wall. Good thing the building is made of stone.
Tristan tells me the word for the spell-- Fivereo-- and I whisper it under my breath a couple times to make sure I'm saying it right. He shows me the proper wand movement-- a circular swish then a jab-- and I practice the motion with an empty hand.
“All right,” he says after a few minutes of practice. “I think you're ready to give it a go.” He hands me my wand. And then he takes several large steps back.
I shake out my shoulders and try to clear my mind. You need to be both calm and focused to do magic. Sure, yelling out the proper word when you're hysterical will work sometimes, but often spells backfire. Or don't produce the desired results. Or are so overpowered they obliterate the target instead of stun. This is why magic battles are always messy. It's unpredictable. Personally, I've never had a spell backfire. I will not do magic if my thoughts are too jumbled. And I've pounded that attitude into the kids as well. No focus, no magic. It's an easy mantra.
Now I point my wand at the blackened mannequin, take a deep breath, then do the swish-and-jab motion. “Fivereo,” I say in a quiet voice.
A meager little fireball no larger than my fist emerges from the tip of my wand and hits the mannequin square in the chest. The leather vest draped around it smolders for a few moments, then the flames die out and it smokes a bit before stopping completely.
“Um, well. At least your aim is spot on,” Tristan says from the back of the room. He's trying to sound encouraging. Though he would sound more encouraging if I couldn't detect the laughter in his voice. I grind my teeth together but don't respond. He takes a couple steps toward me. “Why don't you try again?” he suggests.
I tilt my head from side to side, wishing I could crack my neck so I'd appear intimidating and confident. My hair just swishes along my back, my ponytail sweeping from shoulder to shoulder. Very non-threatening.
“All right.” I lift my wand again. Repeat the swish-and-jab with a little more attitude. This time I raise my voice to a near shout. Put more power behind my thoughts. “Fivereo!”
A fire ball large enough to swallow me whole ruptures from my wand. The fire planet (because it's way past ball at this point) hits the mannequin and engulfs it at once. But the orb of fire is too big, and on impact it splits into a several smaller balls, which ricochet off the walls and bounce in different directions. As it turns out, it's not a good thing the walls are made of stone. Tristan and I duck and follow the flaming orbs with our eyes as they fly around the room.
A few of the fire balls bounce from wall, to ceiling, to floor and eventually die out. One flies to the back and sets the wall of maps aflame. One hits the bookshelf and the history section catches on fire. Secretly, this pleases me. I've been itching to burn those books from the beginning.
But then the last fire ball-- a wicked looking orange thing-- slams against the stone wall and rebounds, hurtling through the air directly at Tristan. It hits him in the stomach with enough velocity to send him flying back onto the ground. His shirt explodes in flames, and he scuttles backward, yelling at me for help. Yelling at me to do something.
“Do what?” I scream. My feet shuffle in place, not knowing if I should go to the jars of water, or grab a potion that will extinguish the flames.
“Put it out! Put it out!” he keeps shouting, batting at his chest with both hands.
Then I see the hide blanket draped over a desk. I grab it and run, blanket spread out in front of me. I dive on top of him, covering his whole body under the heavy leather. The weight of the blanket, the weight of my body pressed to his, it's enough to put out the flames.
He stops trashing about. Starts to breathe again, though smoky air probably isn't the best cure for a person on fire. I gasp and try to catch my own breath. Our chests are pushed together, rising and falling in sync, only the layer of leather between us. Our noses almost touching. Loose strands of hair fall in front of my face and sway back and forth in the wind of our gasps.
His lips part, and for a moment I think he's about to lean in and kiss me. But then he just moans softly and closes his eyes.
“Is it out?” I breathe.
He opens his eyes and bites his lower lip. “I-I think so.”
“That's good.” I say, but I'm still frozen in place. Still laying on top of him. Pinning him down. “Are you okay?”
“I think so,” he says again.
“Are you burned at all?”
“I don't know. You're kind of on top of me.”
“Oh! Right. Sorry.” I push myself off. Probably he won't notice my blush in the dim lighting. While he sits up and peels the blanket from his chest I busy myself by looking around the room and surveying the damage. The bookshelf fire has gone out, and the book covers are only slightly burnt. The maps are useless, nothing left but torn pieces of blackened paper that hang from the wall. The mannequin-- which, as I guessed, is now charcoal briquette-- smolders in the front of the room, glowing black and hot red. It's not so bad...
I turn my attention back to Tristan. The charred pieces of his shirt fall to dust as he moves his hands down his front, the sleeves the only part still intact. Lifting my hand slowly toward him, I brush my fingers through the tatters of his shirt and trace along the line of his chest. His skin is only slightly pink, no serious burns, and for that I am thankful.
“You're okay,” I say with a little sigh of relief.
“I am. Are you?”
“Oh, yes,” I say dismissively. “Tristan, I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to put so much power behind the spell! I just can't get it right. First too weak, then too strong.”
“At least your aim is spot on,” he says with a little laugh.
I glare at him, but it's hard to be upset when really I'm just happy Tristan is still in one non-cooked piece. I'm trying to think of a comeback when the mannequin falls over and bursts into a cloud of ash. I hope Abby wasn't particularly fond of that one.
* * * * *
Reading this kinda makes me want to jump back into BT. Unfortunately, the bit I'm at now is not all magic and romance. Now I'm getting to the gritty parts, and I do hate being mean to my characters. Does Elle have to save the world? Can't she just make out with Tristan all the time? No? Drat.
See you soon!