Today, I decided to share with you all an excerpt from my newest work: Book 4 of the Core Series. I’m getting really excited because there’s only one more book to come in the Core Series and I can feel the end forming in my mind. Today, please enjoy a glimpse into the world of Ima, Judge of Pain, as she becomes one of the most heartbreaking villains you’ve ever met.
From Chapter Six
Ima brushed her silver hair herself. Her sprite had gone to do her bidding, and she knew that once she had Sirce out of the way, once the Great War commenced, the phoenix would bargain with her to save her pathetic world and the red dragon who lived in it.
“It’s almost time,” she told herself. In a few moments, the ninth turn would end and the tenth would begin. One thousand years.
She was alone as she walked over to the mirror that sat on her wardrobe, always covered in a cloth of black velvet. She felt…different than she ever thought she would. It was as though bones that once were made of glass had been encased in stone. The book and the truth it held gave her courage—not to rule the world or sit on the highest throne, but to tear it apart. It’s all wrong. The whole world is all wrong.
She sat at the wardrobe and prepared herself, her eyes closed. She knew that once she removed that velvet cloth, she would have to stare at herself—her real self. And she would not be young. Her skin would not be soft and frost-kissed. Her hair would not twist over her shoulders. She would be one thousand years old. She would look how she’d felt inside. Like dying. Like a prisoner to her immortality—all bones and rust and dried blood.
A knock on the door.
Ima left the covered mirror and twisted the key in her lock, opening her heavy door without a moment of hesitation or fear. If it was Sirce, the Accuser would not be able to hold her much longer. If it was Lor, she would curse him for keeping silent when she stood up to Sirce, but she would not kill him. Not yet.
The swinging door revealed a tired, worn Papu. He was the same as he always had been, but the light had gone out of his eyes, his skin a dull gray, his shoulders slumped.
“Sirce had no choice but to let me come to the courts for the birth ceremony. Rules are rules.” He reached out, touched his hand to hers, though Ima did not move. “I am here for a night. I thought I would come see you.”
Ima only stood, unmoving, unmoved.
“Ima? Aren’t you glad to see me?” But his hollow eyes said that he was not glad to see her, either.
He moved to her, like a ghost over deep waters, and put a cold hand to her back. Her skin prickled, but she did not move as he forced his lips to hers. Ice against ice, they kissed for as long as they could bear it. When Papu finally pulled away, there was no telling smile, no wink. No light.
Ima didn’t know what to say. Her heart did not race, her breath did not catch. Papu might as well have been a tree in the sky garden or a root half-buried in the soil.
“Ima?” he whispered, his arm still around her, their chests still touching.
“You left me.”
He shook his head.
“You left me, Papu. You left me with him.”
“I told you—”
“No!” And a rush of pain knocked him off his feet. “You are the same as the rest of them. The same as Sirce.”
“Ima, we never asked to be put here. I never wanted this. We deserve more. We deserve to live and to die. Life is worth nothing if death doesn’t chase it.” He got to his feet and stepped toward her. “Our hearts cannot find one another if the paths we are on never converge. I want more. I want…I want an end. I want to die.”
Ima took a shallow breath. “Good things, once dead, are meant to be buried. Hearts are meant to be burned.”
Papu stood inches from her, and he would have kissed her again if not for the pain that leaked from her lips. “So burn them, Ima.”
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