Read an Excerpt
By Rachel Roberts, Allison Strom
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 2014 Red Sky Entertainment, Inc.
All rights reserved.
"Vogue!" Kara Davies struck a dramatic pose. With a bright twinkle, the waistline of the red halter sundress tightened into a perfect fit. Even though the dress set off her long, golden tresses and bronze tan, it still didn't feel right. A mountain of dresses, skirts, and shirts were piled on the floor of the mirrored dressing room at Fashion Fallout.
Her friends, Heather, Molly, and Tiffany, stepped out of the other three stalls and peered into hers. They were shopping for the major event of the year, the end of school dance taking place at the Ravenswood Preserve. Kara's idea, of course.
"Kara, that's like the thousandth dress you've tried on," Heather complained.
"Very unlike you," Tiffany noted.
"So true." Kara bit her lip. The girl in the mirror was not usually indecisive. Blond and radiant, Kara was normally confident, competent, and always cool. She had connections—her dad was Stonehill's mayor—academic chops, and full-on popular cred, the queen bee of her school. Kara was also a worker-bee. After school, she managed the Ravenswood Animal Preserve. Summer tours for the animal sanctuary were booked for weeks in advance and the town of Stonehill was getting good buzz about its "haunted" tourist attraction. To top it off, Ravenswood was only a few weeks from getting full landmark status.
So why was Kara stressing out instead of bubbling with joy?
She had thought some shopping time with her BFFs would make her feel better. But no matter what she did, she couldn't shake the feeling that something was coming. And it probably had big teeth.
"I can't decide on a dress till you decide!" Tiffany whined, looking over several outfits she had picked out.
"Ditto," Molly agreed with a shake of her short dark hair.
"I know." Kara eyed her reflection in the floor-length mirrors. This time, she saw beyond the perfect-teenager facade. The girl who stared back at her had a secret hidden deep inside. This Kara was a mage, a girl who possessed real magic.
Heather, Molly, and Tiffany had never met this Kara, nor did they have any idea that the Ravenswood Preserve sheltered magical creatures from another world. That was a secret shared only by Kara and two other teens, Emily Fletcher and Adriane Charday. They, too, had been chosen as mages, protectors of magic and the magical animals—a huge responsibility that weighed heavily on Kara's mind.
She glanced back at the mirror and realized what was wrong with the dress—the halter-top concealed her pendant, a pink, white, and red unicorn jewel sparkling on a silver necklace. She always wore the gem. It had powers and symbolized her connection to magic and her place in that world. She was the blazing star, the centerpiece of an ancient prophecy that had set her on an incredible quest. She'd taken an oath to complete it, a promise bound by more than words.
She flashed on Lyra, a sixty-five-pound, winged magical cat—with the freshest smelling, most perfectly groomed coat of dazzling orange and lustrous black spots. She couldn't imagine her life without her closest friend, or the scores of other magical animals who loved the mages and depended upon them. Emily was the healer of the trio, Adriane the warrior. As the blazing star, Kara had to admit, she was the most powerful. She'd been the first to reach Level Two, bonding with her paladin, Starfire, an elemental fire stallion. She couldn't fight like Adriane or fix things like Emily, but the magic loved her, believed in her, and needed her. Never in her life had she felt so truly a part of something so real and important. And after all, that was her destiny, wasn't it?
The mages had been chosen to find the source of all magic, a place of legend and myth called Avalon.
As Kara, Adriane, and Emily had learned, many realms existed along a network called the magic web. Once upon a time, magic flowed from its center: Avalon. But now Avalon was gone, mysteriously missing, and magic no longer flowed where it was needed. Unless the mages could find Avalon, the web would completely unravel and fade away—taking whatever magic was left.
Whoever found Avalon would control a new, stronger web and all the magic.
And the mages weren't the only ones looking.
From the strands that still remained, the evil Spider Witch was weaving her own web, pulling more magic under her control with every passing day.
The witch's former ally, the Dark Sorceress, was also up to something; Kara could feel it. She shared a connection with that monstrous half-human, half-animal woman.
That alone was enough to give her nightmares. But what really haunted Kara was that the quest to save the web might fail because of something she herself had done. The mages needed nine power crystals to enter the Gates of Avalon. They'd found five of them, but in a moment of anger Kara had destroyed one. Her magic had flared out of control leaving them one crystal shy.
Kara shuddered. The fate of every world on the magic web, even Earth itself, depended on the recovery of nine crystals, not eight. What if it was all her fault that the quest for Avalon failed?
Focus, she told herself. The important thing now was to find the four crystals that were still missing. They needed to work together, but the healer, the warrior, and the blazing star hadn't exactly been the Three Mageketeers lately.
During their last adventure, Kara had made a judgment call—she'd temporarily taken control of their friend Zach's magic, a decision that had surprised and angered Adriane. Kara had used her blazing star powers exactly as she was supposed to and saved hundreds of baby sea dragons. Instead of thanking her, her friends acted like she'd suddenly turned into Darth Vader. What the heck was she supposed to do? If she hadn't used her magic, it would have been her fault for not doing anything. She just couldn't win.
Why was it so hard for them to believe she wanted to do the right thing?
Kara knew better than anyone that she had made mistakes. She had betrayed the others more than once, and she, of all people, understood how powerful her magic truly was. The incident on Aldenmor bothered her more than she wanted to admit. It exposed her weakness—she didn't always know how much magic was enough, and when she was using too much.
Kara straightened her shoulders and walked from her stall to the floor-length mirror. All her life she'd juggled tons of different activities, from friends to school to cheerleading to interning at the mayor's office, and she'd always made it work. Somehow she would make all the magic stuff—including Emily and Adriane—work out too. Somehow, she would find the strength she needed. When the final battle for Avalon came, the blazing star would prove herself to her friends once and for all. Even if Emily and Adriane didn't understand the sacrifices she had to make. Even if they didn't understand how hard it was to keep secrets from her three oldest buds.
"What's the big secret, Kara?" Tiffany fluffed her blonde hair in the mirror.
"Huh?" Kara blinked, snapping out of her reverie.
"Who are you bringing to the dance?"
Kara's face flushed to match her dress. Her friends chuckled knowingly.
"I knew it!" Molly squealed.
Tiff grinned. "Whenever you think about a cute boy, you're a million miles away."
"Spill it, girl," Heather ordered. "Who is he?"
Kara smiled weakly. "You guys don't know him."
Disappointment spread across her friends' faces. She had always told them about her crushes—they'd spent entire nights talking about nothing else—but this time it was different. How could she explain that Lorren, the hottie she wanted to bring to the dance, had, uh ... green skin? Or that he wasn't exactly human, but a goblin who lived in the Fairy Realms?
"I bet Emily and Adriane know him," Tiffany huffed.
Kara wished she could tell them the truth. She didn't know how many more secrets could she keep and still expect Heather, Molly, and Tiffany to be her friends.
"Look, there's something you should know—" she broke off as white-hot light flashed behind her eyes.
"I knew it, this is too sugar-plum fairy." Heather wrinkled her nose at the tank with sequin embroidery she was wearing.
"No ..." Kara stammered.
The mirror flashed, spilling bright twinkles along the clothing-strewn floor. Pinpoints of light swirled around Kara's waist and into her unicorn pendant, making her heart pound. This definitely wasn't a call from Adriane or Emily, but it felt similar, as if someone were trying to connect with her unicorn jewel—or use it.
"Lyra!" she cried out in her mind.
"What is it?" the cat's silky voice answered instantly.
Kara shook her head, quickly scanning the dressing room. Everything looked normal. She and her friends were the only ones in there. "Um ... what are you doing?"
"I'm helping Adriane and Dreamer in Owl Creek Meadow."
"Fine!" She couldn't call her friend here even if she really needed her. Flying leopards and malls did not mix.
"Whatever." Tiffany glared at Kara and smoothed her outfit. "I'm buying this."
"Did you get new batteries?" Molly stared as bright pink sparkled from the unicorn jewel.
Kara nodded, watching a second wave of lights dance across the mirror.
"I'm going to try on that other dress," Heather said.
"Good, go in there." Kara swung open the door to Heather's stall and—Woosh! The mirror against the back wall fell away, melting into a vast landscape of flickering stars. Kara's jewel glowed as she felt herself being pulled toward the brilliant lights.
"Ah!" Kara yelped and slammed the door shut.
Her friends looked at her.
Kara herded the girls to the next stall, opening the door a crack to peek inside. Lights glimmered along the mirror's surface. Something had locked onto her jewel and was following her through the mirrors!
"Don't go in there!" Kara stopped short and slammed the door in Heather's face.
"But you just said—"
"Make up your mind!" Molly snapped.
Kara leaped inside the dressing room and locked the door. "I have to try on another outfit."
"You have so got to lay off the Frappucinos, K," Heather said.
Kara faced the mirror, bracing herself for whatever was about to happen. But the lights had vanished. She peered closer. Her skin had taken on a distinct pale green glow.
"What's with this new foundation?" Kara wrinkled her nose.
"You look great," Kara's reflection answered.
"Thanks, I've been moisturizing." Kara preened, then froze.
The shiny surface rippled like water as someone suddenly tumbled from the mirror into the dressing room!
"Ahhhhh!" Kara screamed. She backed against the wall, then stopped, staring in shock as she realized who'd just come through the mirror: a pretty teenage goblin girl. Her green skin was flushed, her short dark hair was mussed and tangled. Beneath her velvet sorceress's robe, she wore jeans and a baby doll T-shirt that said "Tinkerbell."
Kara clamped her hand over the goblin girl's mouth.
"Kara, are you all right in there?" Molly called out.
"Fine! I mixed purple with red." Kara looked at her friend. "Tasha, what are you doing here?" she whispered.
The goblin sorceress was supposed to be on Aldenmor guarding the power crystals the mages had already found.
Tasha leaned forward holding a blinking handheld device. "I needed to get here fast, so I locked my crystal tracker onto your jewel. These mirrors are so primitive."
"Don't you see where we are?" Kara squeaked.
Tasha's black eyes scanned the small dressing room. "This isn't your bedroom?"
"Hey, Kara," Heather said. "We're moving on to shoes."
"Uh, I just realized I have to go to Ravenswood," she replied.
"We'll go too," Molly said eagerly.
"No!" the blazing star blurted.
Sensing her friends' shocked silence, Kara peeked out of the dressing room.
Heather, Molly, and Tiffany stood there, arms crossed.
"We thought this was our day together!" Tiff scowled. "You're always with Emily and Adriane."
"We're just sorting out stuff for the summer tours." Kara tried to sound casual. "I'll call you later. We'll go over the dance prep."
"Sure," Heather snapped, her green eyes filled with confusion and hurt. She linked arms with Molly and Tiffany. "We're getting used to shopping without you anyway."
Kara's heart sank as her buds stomped away. How was she going to make this up to them?
"Ooo, pretty!" Tasha spun in front of the mirror, holding a lavender dress in front of her sorceress's robe.
"Tasha, what's going on?" Kara asked.
The goblin stopped in mid-twirl. "I've got big news that will change everything!"
"What is it?"
Tasha held up her magic tracker, showing Kara a series of blinking lights. "I found the power crystals."
Kara's eyes opened wide. "How many?"
"All of them."CHAPTER 2
Emily Fletcher drummed her pencil on the dark wooden table, pretending to pay attention to Rae Windor, who droned on ... and on ... and on.
"I like science class and math and English too, and next year I'm going to direct the high school musical. I hope it's West Side Story. I love that show I'd die to play Maria or at least play lead tuba and—"
"That's nice," Emily replied absentmindedly, suddenly realizing the other girls in their study group had moved to a different table.
"Everyone's talking about the dance at Ravenswood," Rae prattled, "but who I am talking to—of course you know all about it."
Emily snapped to attention. Thank you, Kara, for something else to work on. She was about to answer Rae, but the wiry-haired girl had already moved on.
"What's so important about gorillas?" Rae eyed the books Emily had chosen to research her science paper.
"Well, they're highly intelligent, social animals, and they're endangered."
"You know so much about animals." Rae gazed at her admiringly.
"My mom's a vet," Emily reminded her.
"You should get a special school award for working at the preserve," Rae declared.
Emily leaned back in her chair and eyed Rae warily. "I thought you didn't like Ravenswood."
Rae squirmed. "All the kids are working there now, I mean you know, Molly and Tiffany and Heather. Even Aunt Beasley doesn't think it's so bad anymore."
"That's a shock."
Beasley Windor was a haughty and outspoken member of the town council. For some reason, she was against the preserve's very existence.
"She said it's magical," Rae whispered conspiratorially.
"What?" Emily blurted.
"Shhh!" a couple of students shushed from across the library.
"You know, like special."
It was special all right. Emily ran her finger over the rainbow jewel on her silver bracelet, the only clue to the other life she led.
"You think I could work there too?" Rae asked shyly. "With all the cute animals like your ferret?"
"Sure, Rae." Emily gazed at the stacks of books splayed before her. All this research on civilization destroying natural habitats was starting to make her queasy.
Everyone knew about Ravenswood now. The tours had gone too well, booked solid through the summer. What would happen when she, Adriane, and Kara were no longer there to protect it? Would all the animals and the magic become extinct? Like the snow leopards or the giant pandas, or even elephants! They might all soon be gone—forever.
Two worlds on a collision course. The last of the great animals needed wild places to survive, but the world of humans continued to grow, consuming the natural resources of the planet. You didn't have to be a genius to determine the winner.
She kept hearing the voice of Marina, the water Fairimental, over and over in her head. The web is almost gone. You are the last hope, the last mages.
A familiar fear flared in the pit of her stomach as she thought about Aldenmor, its precious magic, the lifeblood of so many creatures and animals, threatened by encroaching dark forces. Emily and her friends had been chosen to protect the magic so Aldenmor and other places along the magic web could survive. But for how long?
Kara was related to the fairy queen. It was no surprise that she had become the blazing star. Her magic was amazingly powerful, making everyone around her shine. Adriane had warrior DNA. The girl had no fear. Emily had never met anyone who had faced more heartache and risen above it to keep fighting on.
Excerpted from Dark Mage by Rachel Roberts, Allison Strom. Copyright © 2014 Red Sky Entertainment, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.