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The Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles – Book I

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In a dark world where magic is illegal and elves are enslaved a young elven sorceress runs for her life from the house of her evil Keeper. Pursued by his men and the corrupt Order of Witch-Hunters she must find sanctuary. As the slavers roll across the lands stealing elves from what remains of their ancestral home the Witch-Hunters turn a blind eye to the tragedy and a story of power, love and a terrible revenge unfolds.

Shivering, Dii pulled her old wool cloak around her and looked at the sky, the stars now fading into the grey dawn. Mages could sense the weather, so Dii knew that more rain would follow this day; even now she could sense the pressure in the air. Hunger made her belly grumble, and as she looked at the thin tent, she knew it would not protect her from the late autumn weather much longer, or indeed the many other dangers which stalked the night. Dangers which were very real for one such as her; an elf, a woman and a mage, for as such, she was not free. Freedom in the land of Erana was rare. It could be bought and sold for some, although many did not have that luxury.

Pulling a very stale half loaf of bread from her cloak pocket, the elf toasted it and poured a little water from her water-skin into the metal pot to boil. Food was food after all. Luxury was another rare commodity. Tossing in a handful of dried leaves and herbs, she sweetened the tea with the few berries she had scavenged. The smell of the toast and herb tea revived the young elf’s spirits and suddenly the dawn did not seem so cold, or the future so uncertain. The small wooden box she carried contained a few herbs from her previous store, both for healing and refreshment, the land around providing much if a body knew where to look. Such plants could heal and fortify and often were of more value than coin, which one could not eat, nor would fight infection.

Dii was a skilled herbalist, surprising for one of her station, but she was clever and had an enquiring mind that searched until it found answers… She considered for a moment. The only good thing about her Keeper Joset's estate was Malana’s herb garden, which was by far the finest in the area and the most bountiful. Regretful for a moment, she thought about the woman she considered her mother, the only one she had ever known: a kind human woman, also a mage and a Kept, or slave, of Lord Joset Tremayne. Malana had taught her a little when she could, including the herb-lore, and loved her a good deal. Education was not the norm in Erana, especially for elves, but somehow it had suited her Keeper to allow her to learn, perhaps it increased her price. Sighing at that thought, Dii returned to her tasks.

Pulling the small purse from her cloak, she examined the meagre coins therein. Dii knew those few coins would not last long, and an elf with a bulging purse would certainly draw attention. She had spent the best part of the small amount she had been able to acquire on the tent and camping equipment, and that had drawn more notice than she had been comfortable with. Dii knew she had been overcharged, but also knew there was little she could do, she had handed over the coins and made her way swiftly from the stallholder’s sight.

Dii was well aware her Keeper was a nobleman, and thus rich and powerful. He was a man of influence, but she was also acutely aware of where a lot of that money had come from. So she had taken the few coins she had managed to hide unseen from her Keeper. Dii could have taken more; she knew she had more than earned it, but somehow felt wrong taking the gold of her Keeper, although after all he had forced her to do, she could not understand why she felt that way. Perhaps, she thought, it was simply self-preservation: half of her hoped he would not seek her, but were she a thief, he might be more inclined to do so. The young elf was many things, but a thief she was not. So Dii had left with a few meagre possessions and a small bag of coins. Everything else remained in her Keeper's house. More afraid of what lay within than without, she had risked her life to flee, both in physically doing so and to be out in these lands alone. So far she had been lucky not to have been spotted by anyone unfriendly to her kind, and she thanked the gods for that. Not knowing the trails and roads well, she had nothing to trust but her luck and her skills.

A 'Kept' owned nothing by right, but Dii knew her favours paid well. Her lovers would sometimes give her coin or trinket if she had pleased them, or a grateful villager would pass on a few copper coins for the potions or herb-lore she distributed. Most of the common people had little healing knowledge beyond basic remedies passed generation to generation, and many communities did not have an apothecary. People often turned a blind eye to the local “wise folk,” although this was not always the case and many a mage had found themselves in the “hospitality of the Order of Witch-Hunters” due to a failure to heal someone, or from mere spite or fear. To be in possession of magic was illegal and, in many cases, meant imprisonment or even death.

The Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles – Book I