Please give Christine a warm welcome for stopping by with this wonderful sneek peek , Thank you Christine for stopping by.
The Stregoni Sequence: A Sneak Peek of What’s To Come
For curious readers out there, yes, there is much more Stregoni Sequence to come! I won’t give away too much, but I will give away a few tid-bits. The series will be comprised of four books, and there will be a theme, that of enchantments which must
be broken to save someone, such as the Vampiro Curse from Golden Healer. Characters from book one will reappear, such as Chrystine and Aaryn, but they will no longer be the main focus. Each book will have a new main character or characters. For example, in the second book of the series, Memory Charmer, two of the stars are Cheryl and Ferdinand, ex-members of the Stregoni Seven from Golden Healer.
To end, I would like to thank all of my blog hosts for having me and leave both them and my other readers with this, an excerpt from The Stregoni Sequence, Book 2: Memory Charmer:
CHAPTER 1: The Boy Next Door
The basement was completely finished, so it didn't really matter that he hardly ever allowed her upstairs. Living downstairs with the butterfly and celestial decorations scattered in an artsy, mismatched sort of way was like dwelling in her own, private, personalized home, a special corner of the house all to herself.
But it wasn't a home.
It was a prison.
Standing very still, she took the most shallow of breaths, leaning against the doorframe. Standing as close as she possibly could to the doorway without being seen, she remained still and silent as a shadow, listening to the voices.
They stood at the very crest of the stairs. He was speaking with the new family in that fluid, songlike, alluring voice. The poisoned voice. He was renting out the cottage upon his land, and finally, after so many months, found an interested family. Why he chose them of all people, she could not tell. His house, as well as the cottage he rented out, stood several miles from the city of Lisallight, heavily secluded, deep in the woods.
Shadows and secrets enshrouded his life. So why did he rent the house to the one family who knew the shadowy secret that was her?
The boy. The boy knew. The boy caught only a glimpse of her through the window. She'd left the blinds open. How could she have been so foolish? How angry he was upon finding out. For though not present at the time, he still knew. He always knew things like how the boy had stared, trying to catch a better glimpse through the window of her long, white-gold curls, her soft, blue skin, her small, delicate form.
After that incident, he neither spoke nor acted harshly towards her again. At least, she didn't think he did. She stifled the urge to shake her head in frustration, fearful to make the slightest sound. Remembering anything at all was so difficult. She wasn't sure
whether this was the work of the magic house or of his own, dark magic. At any rate, she somehow knew that he messed with her mind, robbed her of memories of things he did, things he thought might be too horrible for her to remember. Her memories snatched away, she could only trust her feelings. Yet that could be worse, feelings of guilt, shame, and fear lingering in her heart without her having any clue why. Well, she’d formed suspicions, yet she dare not let those take shape in her mind either. Sometimes, she already felt on the brink of madness from not knowing why the feelings of vulnerability, sadness, sickness, terror shrouded her heart, clouding her mind. Well, she did know, in part. It was because he was there, always there, always waiting for—whatever it was he expected of her—if only she could remember—although something in the back of her mind urged that she did not really wish to remember—
"Yes, well, I'm very glad to do business with you, sir," he said then. "I'm sure you'll enjoy staying in the cottage for the summer. The forest is gorgeous at this time."
She shuddered. It was gorgeous because he made it so. She feared and prayed that the new family might not do anything against his pleasing. After all, such beautiful trees and flowers were known to grow suddenly poisonous or worse if the renters did something to dissatisfy him...
"And thank you, sir. My family and I look forward to a relaxing vacation here in Lisallight."
"And I can think of no place better for you to have come for a relaxing vacation than Lisallight."
"Thank you again, sir."
"Certainly. May I see you and your wife and son to the door?"
Footsteps sounded. She tried to quiet her breath even more, though this was hardly possible at the rate she already controlled it.
Her heart skipped a beat as the boy spoke. It must be his voice, for sounded so young, fresh, slightly deep, just on the fringes of morphing from a boy's to a man's voice.
"Sir, if I may ask…I saw a girl through your window one day. I apologize for spying, only I was hoping you might have some children my age..?"
"Ah, my cousin, Elissa. Yes, she visits here sometimes, but I'm afraid she won't be back til next summer, young man."
Her heart trembled again. Why did he give the boy her real name?
"Ah, a pity. She was a fine young—"
His speech abruptly stopped. She imagined a sharp look from the boy's father and could've laughed—under different circumstances.
More polite words of parting were exchanged, she heard departing footsteps, and then a closing door.
Silence. And waiting.
Fleeing to her room, she sat on the bed, stiff, frightened, reserved, waiting. Waiting for what? She always felt like she was waiting and fearing, though she didn’t know from whence those feelings came. She just couldn't remember...
The silence deafened. Until the soft thud of footsteps shattered that quiet with their own, vociferous thunder. Suddenly, that fear intensified, though she did not know why, save those footsteps were his, he was coming, coming, coming...
And then he stood in her doorway, smiling, those perfect, calm, bright green eyes twinkling. His soft, blonde, shoulder-length hair gleamed so flawlessly, his tall, strong body standing so perfectly. Yet she somehow knew that perfection was marred, knew she feared him, knew so many things though she couldn’t remember why she knew them...
"Well, sweetheart, we've done it. We've rented out the cottage..."
"How good for you," she said in a quiet, emotionless tone.
"I think this calls for a bit of celebration, don't you?"
He walked slowly forward. She focused her eyes straight at the blank wall, keeping her back perfectly erect and poised, hands crossed daintily in her lap.
He hovered right over her, casting an ominous shadow as though he was her greatest nightmare come to life.
Suddenly, she knew the reason for her fear though she still could not remember.
She did not need to remember. He was the living nightmare. He was only power and strength and control and desire. He placed his hands on her neck, forcing her gaze to meet his. At first, he touched her gently. A false gentleness. He stroked her hair as she began to tremble. And then, the touch grew firm, and she was only weakness and fear and loss of all control. Suddenly, she needed no memories as this fear, so old and yet so new all at once, overtook her once more.
His eyes burned deeply into hers. As his dark magic emanated from his body into hers, she felt her energy, her very life source, slowly slipping away. She grew weaker and weaker as he forced it from her like the most powerful of incubus. But, unlike those she’d read of, as he drained her energy slowly from her body, he also drained it painfully. A burning, intolerable pain ensnared her, gripped every fiber of her being, yet he bewitched her so she could neither cry out in pain nor move. She could do nothing to relieve herself.
Even though she couldn’t remember the last time, she knew what was to come next—she would soon pass out, for the pain was too much to bear.
Screaming loudly within her own mind, although the sound could not escape her lips, both pain and internal scream suddenly overwhelmed her, and all became black.
She lay on her back, staring at the blank, white ceiling. If only her mind could become just as blank, just as empty. What bliss to feel absolutely nothing...
She knew what had happened, even if she couldn’t remember anything but him standing in her doorway and approaching with those greedily gleaming eyes. She used to not be able to remember even that much, but maybe she was growing a bit immune to his magic, or maybe he just no longer cared and was getting lazy. Why did he use magic to make her forget anyways? He had grown lazy enough to fail in preventing her from feeling the throbbing headaches caused by the intensity of the magic he used in sucking her life near completely away. He was too lazy anymore to make her sleep off the drowsiness caused by his intensive attacks. So why make her forget at all if he now left such reminders in his stead?
She smirked wryly. Was he so warped as to think himself a noble kidnapper by making her forget all the torturous things he did to her? Or did he realize the extra power he wielded in seizing her memories, the boost of fear instilled in her, a fear of the unknown. For though she formulated some clue of how he tortured her mind, she could never be entirely certain of what went on between them. Sometimes, she felt glad she didn’t know.Other times, she thought it might make the overwhelming fears more bearable, knowing what to expect...
Unable to sleep, as always after he visited her, she sat up, slipped silently from bed, made her way down the hall—
She paused before passing in front of the doorway leading upstairs. Though she knew he was asleep in his bedroom upstairs, at the far end of the cottage, she always paused here
to listen for his snoring. Stealing quickly past the doorframe, she tip-toed to the sliding glass door which led from the living room into the backyard.
Heart pounding, she opened the door very slowly so as not to make a single noise. She opened it just enough to slip through before closing it behind.
She deeply inhaled the cool, night air. The gentle, sweet scent of the small moon-blossom bush wafted up to her. This was the one place where she could feel safe and free, if only for a little while. A place so close to the house, yet it seemed so far away.
Stone walls surrounded the back yard on all three sides, but the back wall was constructed of two tiers so that she could’ve easily climbed out—if she was allowed. She tried that only once, and the consequences proved severe…
His guard, a giant tarantula, appeared from nowhere, scooped her up in large, hairy legs, cruel fangs gleaming greedily at her, wrapping all but her head in strong, unbreakable spider silk, stringing her from the single tree in the backyard. Then he just stood there, watching. She’d never been more terrified in her entire life—at least, not until he strolled out. He walked tall, proud, his gait seemingly calm. Yet such a dark fury shone in his eyes like none she’d ever seen, rendering her incapable of doing anything save to stare in horror…
“You are dismissed, Nargog,” he hissed. Shrinking to the size of an ordinary spider, the guard crawled into the depths of the tree’s branches.
Then he turned to her, cut her down from the tree with an invisible, mental sword. After she fell roughly to the ground, he released her bonds, all except her hands which he kept bound together firmly with the spider’s silk.
He knelt low over her then, his golden hair brushing her face, his eyes like deep, impenetrable, unbearable shadows as he hissed, “May that teach you not to defy me ever again. If you do, I will let him do much worse to you. Have you learned your lesson?”
She nodded, shaking all over, unable to say anything, knowing somehow what was coming:
“No,” he whispered, his voice low, menacing, almost like a growl, “I don’t think you quite have…”
Closing her eyes, she placed a hand upon her yet dully throbbing head. She did not want to remember what happened after he spoke those words, his voice tingling her neck like a deceptively gentle breeze before the most furious of storms...
Running her fingers along the bark of the immense tree, she glanced up at the branches, something she now did out of mere habit. After that night, she stared upon the tree in terrified paranoia many nights before realizing that the spider’s only purpose was to assure she did not escape. Unless she tried, he would not appear...
She sat upon the lower level of the back wall built like two giant steps, so that she could sit on the lower wall without leaving the yard, without having to worry. Yet she felt so close to leaving, to eternal freedom. Just a few more steps, and she could flee here
Gasping, her body froze rigid as stone as the leaves rustled. Her gaze snapped immediately to the tree, but it stood entirely still. Her eyes skirted then to the trees and bushes above, along the top of the wall; the woods surrounded the house very closely.
One of the bushes moved, and then—
She sprang up as someone fell, toppling over the bushes and over the wall, landing hard, face-down inside the yard.
Racing over, she knelt beside…him. It was the boy who spied her through her window,who so boldly chose to speak to the Musician today...
He sat up on his knees, groaning in pain.
“Are you alright?” she asked, reaching out her hand, wanting very much to touch him and yet recoiling, hesitant. Already her gaze moved nervously about the yard, at the second story of the house. What if he heard when the boy fell? What would he do to him?
“Sure, I’m—” He stopped short in his grumbling to stare at her. “It’s you,” he said, “You’re Mr. Crowder’s cousin.”
She smiled dryly, helping him to his feet. “Come, let’s get you to the wall—and he’s not my cousin.”
“He’s not?” the boy asked, wincing as he hopped up to sit beside her on the stone wall.
“No,” she said, and then, wishing she’d kept silent about it, “Look, are you okay? That was quite a fall...”
“Just bruised, I think—if he’s not your cousin, if you’re not his, then what are you—?”
“His ward,” she answered darkly, unable to look into his innocent, imploring eyes.
“His ward?” he said slowly. “What is that supposed to mean? I thought there was something weird going on here...”
She studied him. Concern shone in his eyes now, along with a dark glint. Whatever he was, besides incredibly handsome with his dark hair and dark eyes that twinkled almost like a star-studded horizon, he certainly wasn’t stupid.
Those eyes menacingly threatened. “What has he done to you?”
“Why do you care so much?” she whispered. “You don’t even know me.”
He smiled wryly. “I’ve watched you more than once, you know. I know you better than you think.”
She felt unsure whether to be angry by such an invasion of privacy. First the Musician, now him...
Perhaps seeing the accusing look in her eye, he continued, “There was the time I watched you at your window, but mostly, I watch when you come outside. You always look so lost and longing, like you don’t quite know who you are or where you belong, but you
don’t belong here, and you want nothing more than to leave...
“The first night I saw you, you were crying, and so I kept coming back to check up on you. I knew something wasn’t right here. I wanted to talk to you, but I didn’t know if that would cause more trouble for you than whatever trouble you already had. But now, here I am, and I suppose if my fall didn’t wake him...”
Taking his hand, she assured quietly yet with all the meaning in the world, “If he did hear, it is worth it, I promise you...”
Realizing what she’d done, she quickly tried to recoil her hand. But in a flash, he snatched it back, holding it gently but securely as he said, eyes twinkling with all sincerity and gentleness, “It’s okay. I understand. You’ve been waiting for so long for someone to reach out to, someone to touch, to touch you, a soft caress, a gentle hand, anything that shows that someone, anyone, truly cares, that your life is not just a vain waste of time in this house...”
Her breath quickened as she stared into those eyes. It was as though he spoke not only directly to her heart, but from it. How could he understand her so well?
As if reading her thoughts, he smiled broadly. “I, too, have been lonely a long time.”
“But at least you have your parents,” she said quietly.
He shook his head. “They’re not.”
Confused, she stared.
“Not my parents,” he said.
She blinked, even more perplexed.
He sighed. “You’re right. I owe you an explanation after the risk I’m putting you through in being here. Besides, it’s not as though I think you’ll tell my secret to anyone.”
“No one to tell save the spiders,” she laughed darkly.
He nodded. “All right. Well, see, the three of us were sent here, to the Below of Lisallight—”
“Patience, I’m getting to it. Yes, you see, all three of us, well, we’re from the Above, from the sky, because, well, there’s no careful way to put this, so I’ll just come right out with it: we’re Stars. We’re all three of us Stars.”
She stared skeptically, almost wanting to laugh at how ridiculous his words sounded.
“Stars?” she echoed hesitantly. “You mean, like twinkling Stars, shooting Stars, Stars in the sky?”
“Stars, yes.” He admitted it so commonly, so matter-of-factly, with no hint of deceit in his eyes, that she assumed he must be telling the truth or else must just be mad enough to think he spoke the truth.
“But how..?” She shook her head, trying to fathom the possibility of such nonsense. “How’d you get down here? To Below, as you call it?”
He shrugged. “Just as you said, by becoming ‘shooting’ Stars. That’s what a shooting Star is, you know, a Star traveling to the Below.”
He explained it all so nonchalantly that she could only stare all the more. If he was just toying with her, he certainly hid it skillfully. Bizarre as it was though, she found herself already beginning to believe in him. Perhaps because she had no one to believe in for so long, and perhaps she was a fool to do so. But somehow, she couldn’t help it.
“Well…why are you here then?” she asked finally. “In the Below, I mean.”
“We’re looking for a new Night,” he said simply.
When she continued to gaze in total confusion, he sighed deeply. “I forget I am speaking to a mortal. Forgive me and allow me to explain.
“See, I’m sure you’ve heard the ‘legends’ of Lisallight being an Elemental land. That means it is governed and protected by Elemental Guardians. None of this is legend, you know. It’s all true, and, well, the Night we have now, she’s dying—fast. She was a fairy before she became Night, so her silvering hair is a dead give-away that she’s dying. If she dies, and there’s no more night, well, you can guess the confusion and trouble that would cause for the inhabitants of Lisallight. And we Stars would have to sleep forever. So several of us Stars were sent to the Below to search for a new Night. Because there’s only two ways for a new Elemental to be chosen—either one of their children must be chosen, or, seeing as we Elementals currently have no children, an Elemental must marry a mortal, and that mortal can then become an Elemental. So those of us seeking companionship came down seeking a wife—or a husband, as in the ladies’ case.”
“And, umm, this Night…how much time does she have left?”
He shook his head. “Hard to say exactly. A couple days at best. That’s why we have to hurry. If we don’t find a new Night soon, then once the current Night is no more, the Stars will all sleep, and then, who will find the new Night? Day and Sun won’t do it, as they’ll be glad to have total reign of the sky. Wind is so concerned in her own affairs,
and she’s too childish and playful for marriage yet, I think. Moon might be able to do it, I guess. Still, we’re hoping that with several of the Stars searching, someone will find her—or him,” he added quickly, looking away. He’d stared intently at her when
he said “find her,” and now she blushed madly, glad that, whoever this Night was, her darkness concealed reddening cheeks.
Silence passed between them. She felt suddenly shy in his presence, knowing what he thought, implied.
She began to think. It would’ve seemed a bold suggestion since they just met, but now that she understood his situation, it did not seem so. And she didn’t really think it would be so bad. Already, they shared some connection in that they were both lonely, seeking companionship. He certainly seemed sincere, and even if he wasn’t, even if all she’d be doing was passing from one master to another, at least he’d be a kinder master. And if he
really took her to the sky, she’d be far away from him...
Becoming Night sounded like a huge responsibility, yet wasn’t that also what she’d been hoping for? To own, discover, cling to some purpose besides just the daily survival she’d come to call living?
Her hand cautiously crept along the wall to take his as she dared to whisper, “I’m willing to do it, you know.”
His gaze roamed carefully to hers. She turned her face just enough to glance over, see his reaction. He seemed to study her uncertainly, cautiously, yet hopefully.
“Do you really..? I understand we just met...”
She smiled. “It’s me who should be telling you that. It’s probably the reaction all the others Stars will get in looking for spouses, you know.”
He sighed again. “You have a point. But why do you..?”
“Don’t you think I’d risk everything to get away from this, from him?”
Her voice trailed into a whisper as she spoke of the Musician, and she glanced away, the pain no doubt glinting in her eyes once more.
He squeezed her hand, promising gently yet ardently, “I’m not like that, you know…like him…I would never try to control you, make you do anything—”
“I want to.” She looked up at him, surprising herself at the amount of confident resolution reflected in her voice. “This may be the only chance I have to escape, and—” She suddenly cast an uneasy glance at the tree.
“What is it?” he whispered, as if sensing the abrupt need for quiet.
“I tried to escape once before,” she breathed. “He caught me almost instantly...”
“If you were Night, you’d possess new powers, speed being one of them. And there would be my speed as well, my speed as a Star. Only you’d have to agree to be Night before we left here, because only Night can return the Stars to the Above, and returning to the Above is the only real way we could escape...”
“I agree,” she said, nodding.
“Then I will send word to Night, and then I will return for you tomorrow. We’ll have to perform the wedding and appointment ceremonies right here. I’ll bring the two other Stars to be witnesses—” He stopped short and laughed.
“What is it?” she asked, smiling as his eyes danced.
“I just realized—you just accepted a marriage proposal from a young man whose name you don’t even know.”
She laughed softly. “I must be more desperate than I thought.”
He laughed again, brightly, his voice almost twinkling like his star-lit eyes. “Well, Lady Elissa—that is your real name?”
She nodded, blushing as he called her “Lady.”
“Well, Lady Elissa, it is an honor to meet you. I am James-Star. But you can call me James, of course.”
She smiled shyly at him, breathing his name, “James...”
He nodded. “Well, then, my lady, I must needs be off until tomorrow. I have much to discuss with the other Stars, much to plan. I will return for you here tomorrow night.”
She nodded as he stood on the inner wall, helping her to her feet.
How close their bodies stood. An unusual heat blazed from his skin. His eyes burned brightly and deeply into hers, setting her heart aflame with the promise he need not speak. He would return, for a love already formed like a new ember growing in those gleaming eyes, a love for the one he’d chosen as his wife. He leaned his face towards hers…
She placed a finger to his lips, stopping him. “Not here,” she whispered. “If he sees…”
“Let him see,” he said, and a thrill raced through her as his voice echoed powerfully. “Soon, he will not be able to stand against your power, when you are Night.”
“But I am not yet,” she reminded gently.
“No,” he said, shaking his head. “But soon, and then…then I may kiss you every night, if it so pleases you...”
She smiled. No one had ever asked if she wanted to be kissed. “It would please me very much.”
“Til tomorrow then,” he promised, and, deeply twinkling eyes giving her a final, reassuring look, he scaled the wall, making his way deftly and noiselessly into the woods.
For a moment, she could only stare at the place where he disappeared. He’d gone as quickly as he came. Was it all real? Was he real? Did he really promise to take her away from the torture of her existence? Was that promise truly sincere? Even if it wasn’t, the hope he gave her was enough to allow her to sleep through one, more night here...
She hopped down from the wall, casting a wary glance at the tree as she passed, wondering if the spider slept, if it acted as a spy or just a guard. Perhaps his only purpose was to keep her in, not others out. She hoped his purpose was not to relay such messages
of intrusion to his master...
Slipping silently inside, she locked the door, creeping back to her room, snuggling beneath the covers once more. This time, sleep came easily to her. For as excited as she was, her heart at last, stricken with the coldness of fear for too long, nestled in the warmth of security as she thought of James-Star. She would soon dance in his arms, in the sky, far from where anyone could harm her ever again...
About The Author:
Book Buy Links:
Golden Healer, Dark Enchantress
Tears of a Vampire Prince: the First Krystine
Christine E. Schulze has been creating books since she was too young to even write them in words. Her collection of YA fantasy books, The Amielian Legacy, is comprised of series and stand-alone books which can all be read separately but which weave together to create an amazing fantasy. Her fanatsies also incorporate many other genres, such as Christian fantasy, romance, and even a spark of horror at times. She hopes to inspire readers throughout the world with these books by publishing in both traditional and electronic formats to make them available to all readers.
Christine has published several stories with Calliope and Kalkion magazines and is an active member of the WEbook online writing community. She has also published several Christian/fantasy books which are available at various online retailers, as well as publishing several eBooks via Writers-Exchange.
Her latest and most exciting venture includes her publications with Old Line Publishing: Bloodmaiden and Tears of a Vampire Prince: the First Krystine. She also anticipates her upcoming publication with Old Line, Lily in the Snow, as well as releasing The Chronicles of the Mira with Writers-Exchange in both paperback and electronic forms.
Christine currently lives in Belleville, Illinois in her first and most thrilling apartment.
Christine has generously offered an ecopy of Golden Healer, Dark Enchantress. All you have to do is leave a comment along with your email so I can contact you if you win. The giveaway is running from Sept 19th to 26th with the winner to be announced on the 27th.
Be sure to follow the rest of the tour for the end of the tour giveaway! Next stop is
Sept 20 – All Things Books http://speedyreader-allthingsbooks.blogspot.com/