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UNEDITED EXCERPT. Confidential. Unrevised and unpublished proof. Please do not quote until verified with finished book.

This copy is not for distribution to the public.

The Scarred Mage of Roseward

Book 1: Thief

 

 

Prologue

 

He wouldn’t go mad. Not yet. Not tonight.

His feet heavy, his shoulders bowed, the hooded man climbed the winding stair up the tower. Each step was a battle to be fought and won before he could attempt the next. A flickering candle held high in one hand created a small sphere of light around him, but the darkness pressed in heavy and threatening on all sides, ready to overcome him should his candle go out. He rested a hand on the curving stone wall on his right and breathed in a slow, steady rhythm.

With every breath, he whispered the promise again: “Not yet. Not tonight. Not yet. Not tonight.”

It was the same promise he’d made every night for . . . he couldn’t say how long. It felt like years. Like centuries.

A grim smile twisted his lips beneath the deep shadow of his hood. He pressed on, taking the treads a little faster. No rail guard stood between him and the empty space down the center of the tower. One false step would send him plummeting to a gruesome end. But he couldn’t deny the unmistakable lure of that drop, that darkness. It was like the lure of insanity itself—a sense of inevitability just waiting to be fully embraced.

“Not yet,” he whispered again through grinding teeth. “Not yet.”

Of course, he might be mad already and simply not realize it.

At last he reached the landing at the top of the stair and stood before the door. It was open, but only a crack. He reached out to push it wide enough to step through and passed into a circular chamber built around a central stone basin that was filled with slick, dark oil waiting to be lit. Tall, wide windows, many with broken panes, ringed the room.

Once upon a time, this lighthouse had stood watch above the cliffs of Roseward Isle, guiding ships safely through the treacherous channel between the island and the mainland. But many years had passed since any ships dared to brave the channel and sail close to these haunted shores. The basin remained unlit and cold.

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