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Rubicon: A Fantasy Short Story Collection

Rubicon: A Fantasy Short Story Collection

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A high-priced thief who can’t turn down a challenge. A cocky, young mage whose power has caught the attention of the local Mage-Lord. A royal scribe who stands on the brink of an imperial invasion.

Three people whose fates hang in the balance at a point of no return...

This dark fantasy short story collection includes three twisting, stand-alone adventures by the author of the World of Lasniniar series, Jacquelyn Smith:

  • The Unclean (Winning entry of the Writers’ Journal Fiction Contest, 2010)
  • Wayward Scribe
  • The God’s Eye (Overall winner of the Writers’ Journal Fiction Contest, 2011)

Individual Title Descriptions:

An appointment with the Mage-Lord.

Jared can sense the fulfillment of his destiny approaching as he rushes through the cobbled streets with his blue mage robes flapping behind him. The kingdom of Galdavia prizes the mage gift above all others.

And Jared takes pride in his abilities. He knows he belongs at the Mage-Lord’s side.

Nothing can come between him and his rightful place...

An invading empire. A fallen kingdom. I watch from the shadows at our usurper’s side as history repeats itself...

In a game of power and thrones, only a nameless, royal scribe stands to make the difference between the kingdom’s uprising or complete submission. Death lies on both sides of the knife’s edge.

And in this game, only the victor can claim to know hero from traitor.

Raena never could turn down a challenge.

Tales of her exploits travel across the land in soft whispers. The finest thief in Midnight Reach.

Only the most intriguing (and high-paying) jobs appeal to her. The more challenging, the better. She holds herself above those of her kind who might do any dirty job for a bit of coin.

No risk, no reward, after all…

READ A SAMPLE

The Unclean

Jared was late. He cursed as he weaved his way through the back streets of the city, hoping the shortcut would get him to his destination in time. He dodged a cart filled with fish, pushed by a swarthy man from the docks. The man stumbled, overturning his wares onto the cobblestones. Jared hiked up his blue mage robes to step around the slimy mess, dead fish eyes staring up at him. He tried his best to breathe through his mouth. The air reeked of fish and garbage. The man shook his raised fist and yelled after him. Jared ignored him and ran on.

An appointment with the Mage-Lord! It was every young mage’s dream. After graduating first in his class at the academy, one of his instructors had pulled him aside to let him know his hard work had caught the Mage-Lord’s attention. Jared couldn’t believe it. He had already risen higher than he had ever dared hope. The youngest of five children, he was the only member of his family to be born with the mage gift. Oh, certainly his mother had a gift for weather-witchery, and his sister, Charlotte, could speak to animals, but the mage gift was something different. In a kingdom like Galdavia, where the king himself was a mage, those who could command such power shaped the fates of those under their protection, and could rise above their base-born status. And to work for the Mage-Lord was the most coveted position in all the city. Jared couldn’t wait to tell his family. They would be so proud.

A mangy dog leaped from the shadows of an alley to stand bristling and growling at Jared’s feet, nearly causing him to jump out of his skin. He gave a flick of his wrist, releasing a mere whisper of his power upon the creature. It gave a startled yelp and ran. Jared regretted the waste of energy, but he didn’t have time to deal with the sorry animal. He looked back over his shoulder to make certain he wasn’t being followed. It wouldn’t do for him to draw any more attention.

Although most of the people who lived in the city of Marat respected and revered the Mage-Lord, there were always those who would wish him harm. Jared didn’t understand how anyone could be so horrible. If not for the Mage-Lord, the city would be overrun by the Unclean. It was through his wisdom and guidance that the city was segregated to keep the rest of the populace safe from their taint. With the number of mages in the city dwindling while the Unclean seemed to multiply, it was becoming an increasingly difficult task to keep the foul things under control. Soon it might be Jared’s job to help the Mage-Lord deal with the situation. He felt a surge of pride.

As though summoned by his thoughts, a shadowed figure detached itself from the stone wall Jared was passing to clutch at his billowing sleeve with grimy hands.

“Mage,” the filthy man croaked, his rank breath hot on Jared’s face. Jared gagged, twisting his arm in an effort to free himself from the man’s grip.

“Get away from me you Unclean beast!” he spat. “The Mage-Lord will hear of this!” The man suddenly let go to claw at his own dirty face and tangled hair.

“Don’t!”

Jared sighed, resisting the urge to lash out at the creature with his magic. The man could do nothing to stop him. Unlike the other people of Galdavia, who all had at least a spark of magic within them, the Unclean were barren and soulless, not to mention mad. But the Mage-Lord counselled tolerance toward the wretched urchins, and so they were merely kept separate from the rest of the populace rather than being slaughtered outright like the diseased animals they were.

Jared looked around, but there were no Segregators to be seen. Pity. The Mage-Lord’s enforcers clearly weren’t doing their job.

He turned away from the man and began running once more. He spared a single, backward glance to make certain the beast didn’t follow. The Unclean man was waving both arms wildly in the air.

“Don’t!”

His broken voice faded into the distance as Jared left him behind.

Jared skidded around the corner onto the street that led to the Mage-Lord’s home. He was back among civilized society once more. The streets were clean and traveled by well-dressed nobles. He took a moment to straighten his rucked robes and ran his fingers through his golden-brown curls to erase any evidence of his haste. He sucked in several deep breaths in an effort to slow his breathing and allow the blood to flow from his flushed face. The early spring day was cool enough that he hadn’t broken into a sweat.

Once he had calmed himself, he inspected his reflection in a nearby window. A proud-looking young mage with gray eyes stared back. Satisfied, Jared nodded to himself and walked the last block at an even pace.

The Mage-Lord’s manor loomed before him, a single structure of gray stone, surrounded by smaller outbuildings. Jared had been asked to arrive by the side entrance. He grasped the iron knocker and rapped it against the oaken door. Moments later, it opened inward on well-oiled hinges to reveal one of the Mage-Lord’s servants. He was a forgettable man, neither young nor old, of middling height and stature. He had no discerning physical characteristics of any kind. Jared knew if someone were to ask him later on what the man looked like, he would be unable to say.

“Welcome,” the servant said in a bland tone. “The Mage-Lord awaits you in the parlor. This way.”

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