The Soul Stone
Series: The Kronicles of Korthlundia #2 (Standalone)
Author: Jamie Marchant
Published: June 25th, 2015
Publisher: Black Rose Writing
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Recommended Age: 18+
Synopsis: In this sequel to The Goddess’s Choice (Reliquary Press, 2012), the Crown Princess Samantha and Sir Robrek struggle to solidify their rule in the aftermath of the king’s murder and Duke Argblutal’s attempt to usurp the throne. They are thwarted at every turn by those who seek power for themselves and desire to prevent their marriage. Just when they think their problems are solved, a deadly curse begins to spread throughout Korthlundia and Samantha becomes pregnant.
In my sword and sorcery novel, The Soul Stone, Samantha must fight off priests, enemies, and her closest advisors while Robrek discovers the reason the goddess chose him as king, to defeat the Soul Stone, a stone capable of sucking the soul out of its victims, which threatens to obliterate all life in the joined kingdoms. Their archenemy, the Bard Alvabane, awakens the Soul Stone and plans to use its power to reclaim Korthlundia for her people (a people driven out over a thousand years ago by the hero Armunn). Armunn had to sacrifice his life and soul to contain the Soul Stone. Will Robrek have to do the same? Will the young couple have only a few short months to love each other?
Although having read The Goddess’s Choice adds depth to The Soul Stone, it is not necessary. The Soul Stone is a complete story of its own.
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The Magic of the Joined Kingdoms
The most important thing to remember about magic is that it results from mixed blood, usually a mix of races, but occasionally a mix of classes will work. The more mixed the blood or the more unusual the mixture, the more powerful the magic. The requirement of mixed blood is the primary reason there is so little magic in the joined kingdoms any more. Korthlundia is a small, isolated country with a mostly homogenous population. To make things worse, the church in Lundia, the southern half of the joined kingdoms, insists that the mixing of blood is an abomination to the goddess. The clergy refuse to believe that the great Sulis would bless such an outrage against all that is sacred with her holy gift. Sulis is the goddess of healing, and her clergy are supposed to be able to heal both body and soul, but because of the ignorance of the clergy, there are few Lundian priests with true healing magic. The Korthian church, the northern half of the joined kingdoms, has a more tolerant view of mixing blood, so they have a higher percentage of true healers among the clergy.
There are three main classes of magic users. The first, as I have mentioned, are healers. Healers are able to go into a trance and join their consciousness with that of the patient. In this way they are able to feel the disease or injury and manipulate the tissue to promote healing, or they can as easily use their gift to harm. Healing is exhausting, but produces intense pleasure for the healer. Most healers exist outside the church and are looked down because of their mixed blood; they are seen as witches or demons and are not infrequently killed. One of the two main characters in The Soul Stone, Robrek, is one such healer. Slavers kidnapped Donella, Robrek’s mother, from her homeland, a far distant land whose people had never mixed with those of Korthlundia. Because of the unusual mixture of his blood, Robrek grows into the most powerful healer the joined kingdoms has seen for centuries. However, having such power is not without its drawbacks. Because of his power and dark coloring, he is often called “demon seed.” The local priest wanted him exposed at birth and tried to have him burned at the stake as a young man.
The second class of magic users are the auroras. An aurora can see the multi-colored aura that surrounds all people and reveals their character, including their honesty. Since the magic of an aurora rests in the womb, they are always female. The onset of an aurora’s power happens when she first bleeds in the way of a woman. However, she cannot fully control her power until she has given birth to a child. Samantha, the crown princess of Korthlundia, is an aurora. One might think that such an ability would be invaluable in a monarch, but there is a problem. To be an aurora, a woman must have a mixture of common and noble blood. Since Samantha’s mother was indeed noble, the fact that Samantha is an aurora means that she is not the true daughter of the king. She is, in fact, a bastard. Her gift, therefore, becomes a liability that she must hide to preserve her position and even her life.
The final class of magic users are the Bards. Bards are able to affect the emotions of their audience with their music. There has not been a true Bard in Korthlundia in over a century, and little is known about them. That is why the Bard Alvabane is such a powerful enemy of our heroes—an adversary that nearly succeeds in wiping out life in the joined kingdoms. Since Robrek and Samantha do not understand bardic magic, they have great difficulty figuring out how to stop her.
Short Excerpt from The Soul Stone by Jamie Marchant:
At bedtime, Alvabane sat at her dressing table brushing her long hair. It had once been a bright, rich red, but it had dulled with age and was now mostly grey with only a few strands of color to remind her of what once had been. It seemed a metaphor for her life—small flashes of color to remind her of her once bright purpose.
One of those flashes, Erick, set her nightly goblet of fortified wine next to her hand. She needed the strong alcohol to dull the pain of her joints so she could sleep. Erick had served her for ten years. When her former servant had died, he’d been sent by her people, despite the fact that she’d only been a disappointment to them.
She turned to thank him, but the words died on her lips as she saw the reproach in his eyes. Alvabane turned back to her mirror. Tonight was the night of the new moon. She should have been preparing to perform the rites of the dark gods, not preparing for bed. “They have forgotten us,” Alvabane said. “The Soul Stone does not live.”
In the mirror, she saw Erick’s eyes narrow. He was not yet twenty and still had the optimism of youth. He still believed the Stone would come to life again when the gods willed it. He believed it would again be the weapon it had once been. Created in the far past by magic which had since been lost, it had been used by her people to protect themselves from the barbarians that now ran free over Korth and Lundia.
“I will perform the rites next month,” she promised, but so had she promised last month and the month before that. The stairs to the bottom of the East Tower were agony to her knees. Erick made a mewing sound, reminding her what he’d sacrificed to serve her and the dark gods. She herself had cut his tongue from his mouth when he came to her as a ten-year-old child. He had surrendered it stoically. Only the Bards were allowed to sing the rites of the gods. All others who heard them had to be rendered mute so they couldn’t repeat music not meant for their tongues.
“Do you think you have sacrificed more than I?” She turned to face him. “I submitted to the brutish duke’s bed for years. I gave birth to a child of rape. All so I could remain near the Stone. I performed the rites faithfully every new moon for decades. And for what, I ask you? The power of the Stone remains trapped behind the shield the demon Armunn created from his own soul. That shield can’t be destroyed. I have dedicated my life to trying, but it is impossible. The Soul Stone won’t live again!”
Erick mewed again and looked toward the tapestry on the wall. It showed the map of the desert of Sehra, to the south of Korthlundia, where her people had lived in exile since Armunn and his hordes had trapped the Stone and then driven them from their homeland. Blinking back tears of despair, she turned from him. “Do you think I have forgotten? Every generation fewer of our children are born. Only by returning to the land of our birthright can we be strong again.”
She got up and went to the tapestry, touching it lovingly. “Do you not understand? The dark gods have found me unworthy to be their messenger. I once thought I was the child of the prophecy, the one who would drive the descendants of Armunn’s hordes back across the mountains into Korth and reclaim the land they call Lundia as our own. But I was wrong. I’m an unprofitable servant, an unfit vessel.”
About the Author:
Jamie Marchant lives in Auburn, Alabama, with her husband, son, and four cats, which (or so she’s been told) officially makes her a cat lady. She teaches writing and literature at Auburn University. Her first novel The Goddess’s Choice was released in April 2012 from Reliquary Press. She released Demons in the Big Easy in January 2013. The sequel to The Goddess’s Choice, titled The Soul Stone, will be released in June 2015 from Black Rose Writing. Her short fiction has been published in the anthologies–Urban Fantasy and Of Dragons & Magic: Tales of the Lost Worlds—and in Bards & Sages, The World of Myth, A Writer’s Haven, and Short-story.me.