Birthing Ella Bandita
by Montgomery Mahaffey
Genre: Dark Fantasy
4.1 average on 10 reviews
Seven years of silent treatment brings a young woman to the edge of despair. Her father, the illustrious Patron, has refused to speak to her since she was thirteen, and everyone in the village follows his rule. One day, the girl realizes her twentieth birthday has passed, and she is now the age when she would enter society as a Woman – if only she wasn’t an outcast. Knowing her life will never get better, the girl decides to end the aching silence within her in the depths of a violent river. Just before plunging into the icy water, a voice behind her utters, “There is a better way.” The Sorcerer of the Caverns stands at the bank, holding a promise. He has the power to end her ostracism, but as the girl knows, a change of destiny this drastic must claim a fair price.
Exclusive excerpt from Birthing Ella Bandita by Montgomery Mahaffey
She sat down. Her back was straight as a rod, her hands in a tight clasp, her limbs rigid, a silent prayer repeating through her that she had to get out of the Caverns. For a moment, she panicked at the thought that the Sorcerer might read her mind. But he gave no indication he could as he took the crystal stargaze and held it to the candles. Its essence came free, and the colors whirled around them. The girl grew light-headed, but dropped her lids. She refused to look up until she’d made herself blind to everything but the Sorcerer. Then she opened her eyes and focused only on him until the essence was brought home to the crystal and the colors fell.
“You have a strong command over yourself,” he said. “That’s very good.”
“Just tell me what you want and be done with it.”
He set the crystal down and pushed it across the table, its tiers spinning before her.
“If you lay with me just once, I will bless this stargaze with the power to steal the heart of any man you desire. But…”
The Sorcerer paused.
“If you lay with me many times, I will teach you the arts of seduction.”
The Sorcerer slowed his speech to the lulling cadence of persuasion. The girl listened. She couldn’t stop her limbs from softening nor could she hold the tight grip of hands.
“To master the secrets, you must surpass the ancient knowledge. If you can do this and pleasure me more than any woman ever has, I will give you a dust you can use for protection.”
“What does such a dust do?”
“Blow a pinch when faced with an enemy,” he said. “Say the first thing that comes to your mind and thus, your enemy is changed.”
“So far, this sounds…” the girl trailed off. “Why not just make this your offer?”
The right side of the Sorcerer’s brow crinkled deeper. She scowled, hesitating before she continued.
“My heart’s been dead for years anyway. Why would you want it?”
“All or nothing.”
The girl tensed. She thought an agitated serpent might have invaded her belly. The longer she looked into the Sorcerer’s eyes, the tighter the coil around her innards became.
“No,” she said. “I won’t do it. Just let me go.”
“I’m not done yet,” he retorted. “If you give me your dead heart, I will make you immortal.”
The girl opened her mouth to speak, but the words wouldn’t come.
“You could die,” he continued. “Bullet, blade, rope, fire, or water would kill you. But you can never fall sick, so plagues and poison will have no effect on you.”
The Sorcerer uncurled his long fingers and held his palms open in readiness to receive.
“Just think of it,” he murmured. “You’re only twenty years old. You will never grow old. You’ll remain a maiden alive forever in the bloom of youth. The world would belong to you.”
The Sorcerer’s temptation was as powerful as legend told. A chaos of fascination and disgust rioted inside the girl. She stared at the thin papery flesh and the thought of touching him made her recoil. Then she remembered the silence, the backs turning on her, and the eyes averting whenever she turned to face the accusing glares. The possibility that she would never have to suffer that ever again made her tremble, the tingling along her flesh more than she could stand.
And there was the promise of endless youth. Although the girl lacked the vanity that often plagued the beautiful, she had a physical prowess most women never knew. The thought of never having her strength and agility diminished was almost irresistible. But she couldn’t forget the stories she’d heard all her life about the Sorcerer. This offer couldn’t be so simple. There must be something he wasn’t telling.
“What is your hidden price?”
“I’m offering you a chance to change your destiny. Are you really going to ask me foolish questions?”
“I want to know what your hidden price is.”
“Girl, do you really think you will ever get a better chance than this?”