This is the second excerpt from my YA novel. It’s fairly early on in the story at a point where Triona is still getting to know Caleb. Don’t forget to comment at the end to win a signed copy.

“What metal glows like that?” I asked curiously.

Caleb smiled; it clearly pleased him that I was taking an interest in the story he was telling. “Magic.” He raised an eyebrow as if he was letting me in on a secret.

I giggled and wrapped my hands around his arm, resting my head on his shoulder. I remembered reading how even the oil on fingers could damage old pages, but Caleb didn’t seem too worried.

“When Brigid made the sword,” he continued, “a piece of herself became part of it, as it does with all artists. Because she was a goddess, it made the sword extraordinary.”

I nodded against his shoulder, enjoying breathing the fragrant scent that was uniquely him rising from his skin.

“Even the light had its purpose,” he said. “It blinded whoever fought against it. They didn’t stand a chance even before the sword struck them down. The story goes that when Brigid realized the full power it possessed, she wanted to destroy it, but she didn’t know how. So she waited until Bres was asleep, stole the sword, and fled to Europe where she was killed, but not before she hid the sword, afraid her people’s enemies would use it against — ”

“But,” I cut in, finding a flaw in his story, “if the bearer couldn’t be defeated, why would she need to do that?”

Caleb stared down at the picture with a wistful expression. I wondered if I’d said something to upset him. He closed his eyes lost in reflection. I lifted my hand to his face and turned him to me. His eyes opened, but he was still far away. It was obvious he was lost in thought, and it made my heart ache for him. Finally, his eyes cleared and he started to speak again as if nothing had happened.

“Of course you’re right,” he said, “but as it turned out, Bres was a traitor to his own people.”

“How?”

“That’s another story completely.” He smiled.

I scowled up at him.

“I will tell you that story too,” Caleb conceded, “but not today.”

I tried to relax my expression so he wouldn’t see my irritation. I’d agreed not to push him, but I wasn’t sure how that applied to fiction.

“Back to the story,” he went on, his voice making butterflies flutter in my stomach. “Bres didn’t find the sword; it only reappeared years later.” Caleb closed the book and picked up the large square paperback he had also taken out, swapping them over and placing the leather book on the ottoman. He flicked through the pages and eventually opened the book wide. “Here.” He offered it to me.

I unwound my hands from his arm and took the book, laying it across my lap. It lay opened to a picture of a sword almost identical to the last. The only differences were in the artist’s style, and the fact that the sword’s name wasn’t written below it.

“And?” I asked, still in the dark about the epiphany I was obviously sup­posed to be having, judging by the way Caleb was gazing at me knowingly.

He grinned and closed the book on my lap, and my eyes widened slightly. The title read The Legends of Arthur and Merlin.

“It’s a tourist book I picked up in England some years ago. It contains copies of illustrations from as far back as the fourteenth and fifteenth century.”

“Are you saying Arthur was one of these god people?” I gasped, flicking through the pages of the book.

“No, of course not.” Caleb laughed like the concept was ridiculous. “Merlin was.”

I wrinkled my nose skeptically. “Oh, okay …”

His laughter stopped short, and his lips pressed into a hard line as he searched through the pages of the book he had just taken from me, finding the picture of the sword again.

“Look,” Caleb said, his jaw clenched as though he were forcing himself to get through this whether he wanted to or not. He pointed down at the illustration, jabbing sharply at the glossy page. “Both swords were said to emanate light, both were said to be indestructible to any known forces, and both battle scabbards were said to protect the bearer, so why not?”

“Is this what you do?” I joked, glancing at the picture again. “Are you one of those guys who dress up and go online to play Dungeons and Dragons?”

Caleb took the book from me and slammed it shut between his palms with a thud. “Never mind,” he grumbled darkly.

It bothered him that I dismissed his theories so easily. I didn’t know anything about ancient relics, so for all I knew he was probably right about the two swords being the same. But at the very least, I could listen to him talk about a subject he was obviously passionate about.

I placed my hand tentatively on his forearm. “I’m sorry. Please tell me more.”

“No,” he barked.

“Please, Caleb,” I pleaded. “I really want to hear the rest.” I really did, because for me to have triggered such a strong reaction, there must be more to this story. Maybe it was an analogy, or maybe he was trying to tell me something else completely, but I was pretty sure he had a reason for mak­ing me listen to all this. “Please,” I begged again, gazing up at him sweetly from under my eyelashes.

He grimaced at me before sighing. “Okay.” He was almost as defense­less against my pleading tone as I was against his. That was good to know.

“So how did the sword get in the stone?”

Caleb pursed his lips and studied my expression. “Merlin placed it there.”

I narrowed my eyes. “So you’re saying Merlin really did exist and that he was a god?”

“He was an earthly descendant of a god, yes. Some books tell of his birth, that he was born after his mother had an encounter with a being that re­sembled a human but was in fact not. Some even say his father was a demon.”

“A demon!” Soul mates, heaven, and now demons.

“He wasn’t a demon,” he scoffed. “And his mother wasn’t human.”

My breath caught. I didn’t believe in the boogieman as a child or read fairytales, even if I’d found my own Prince Charming. “Caleb, this all goes a bit over my head,” I admitted. I gestured, waving my hand over the book. “I’ve never heard any of this stuff before — not that it’s not interesting!” I hastened to assure him. “It’s just that you take it all so seriously, almost like you think it’s real and I — ”

Caleb blinked and stared at me. The puzzled look on his face was enough to stop me speaking in mid-sentence. “Almost like I think it’s real?” he said blankly. “What else would it be?”

I laughed uncomfortably. “See, that’s what I mean,” I said, trying to keep my tone light. I didn’t want to offend him if he was really into this mythology stuff. “You say things like that, but you have to let me catch up. I don’t know anything about ancient swords, and obviously I don’t believe in magic. Nobody believes in that anymore …” I trailed off, feeling stupid. I should just let this go. Who cared if he was obsessed with some old sword that didn’t exist? Everyone had a hobby of some sort.

Caleb looked at me incredulously. “You don’t believe in magic?”

“No,” I mumbled, twisting on the sofa to look at him. He pushed away from me and stalked across the room to look out the window. His shoulders were tense, but his back was to me so I couldn’t see his face.

“There have always been mysteries, since the dawning of time … Things that no human has been able to explain,” he said. “Magic isn’t all about spells and potions. How do you explain us? All of the billions of people floating around on the planet, how do you explain how you and I found each other?”

***

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Find out more about Shades of Atlantis here or visit my publisher, Omnific Publishing here.

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