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The Stregoni Sequence, Book 2: Memory Charmer by Christine E. Schulze (Fantasy)

The Stregoni Sequence, Book 2: Memory Charmer by Christine E. Schulze (Fantasy)
 
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Elissa, prisoner of the notorious enchanter living deep in the woods...

Cheryl, an ex-vampire, is learning how to fit into a "normal" life amongst humans, fairies, and elves. On a summer trip to the world of Bienvinette, she soon finds herself falling in love with a mysterious magician.

Cloud, a lonely Elemental guardian breaks the most important rule as an Elemental - she leaves her home and comes to earth. There she finds love amongst the anamorphic Monku people, but she also finds much danger. She soon learns that she has placed all Bienvinette in an even greater danger, for now, the Elements are out of balance, and the only way for a Cloud Elemental to return to her position requires unimaginable sacrifice.

Three daring, forbidden romances steeped in fantasy, adventure, and mystery weave together in this second instalment of The Stregoni Sequence, in which everyone must learn the meaning of true, self-sacrificial love. Though, none must learn this lesson more so than the one whom these stories stem from and around whom they all ultimately entwine...

The Memory Charmer.

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The Stregoni Sequence, Book 2: Memory Charmer by Christine E. Schulze (Fantasy)
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Sample Chapter

Prologue

"You showed me the perfect kind of love,
the kind that takes self-sacrifice."

--The Memory Charmer

I glanced slowly down the shelf, my gaze stopping to rest carefully upon the glistening spheres as if each was a precious gem. To me, they were more precious than a gem. Every single one held a priceless moment that I had shared with him. Memories. Before, they'd felt so important, but now, they seemed so irrelevant. Only here and now existed, and now felt so unbelievably sorrowful that I did not know if I wished for it to go on.

Then, suddenly, I wished for those memories again, wished for that moment when I first saw him, when we first spoke, when I first followed the path to the cottage and actually remembered. Because he loved me, I yearned for those memories to be here and now again. My gaze rested upon a sphere in which we'd sat on the couch in the reflection of the fireplace. The sphere showed that moment in which he first told me he loved me.

Holding the tender moment in my hand, I wished that I could have it back again and hold onto it forever. Now, I held only grief and sorrow. Slipping to the ground, I allowed that grief and sorrow and the accompanying tears to consume me once more.


PART 1-THE BOY NEXT DOOR

The basement was completely finished, so it didn't really matter that he hardly ever allowed her upstairs. Living downstairs with the butterfly and celestial decorations scattered in an artsy, mismatched sort of way was like dwelling in her own, private, personalized home, a special corner of the house all to herself.

But it wasn't a home.

It was a prison.

Standing very still against the doorframe, she took in shallow breaths. Edging as close as possible to the doorway without being seen, she remained still and silent as a shadow, listening to the voices.

The speakers stood at the very crest of the stairs. He--the Musician--was speaking with the new family in his fluid, songlike, alluring voice. His poisoned voice. He was renting out the extra cottage on his land, and finally, after so many months, had found an interested family. Why he'd chosen them, of all people, she could not tell. His house, as well as the extra cottage, stood several miles from the city of Lisallight, heavily secluded, deep in the woods. Shadows and secrets enshrouded his life, and he preferred it that way. So why did he rent the house to the one family who knew his most-kept secret--her existence in his basement?

The boy. The boy knew. The boy had caught only a glimpse of her through the window. She'd left the blinds open. How could she have been so foolish? How angry he was upon finding out. Though not present at the time, he still knew. He always knew things, like how the boy had stared, trying to catch a better glimpse through the window of her long, white-gold curls, her soft, blue skin, her small, delicate form.

After that incident, he'd neither spoken nor acted harshly towards her again. At least, she didn't think he had. She stifled the urge to shake her head in frustration, fearful of making the slightest sound; remembering anything at all was so difficult. She wasn't sure whether this was the work of the magic house or of his own dark magic. At any rate, she somehow knew that he often messed with her mind, robbed her of memories of things he'd done, things he maybe thought too horrible for her to remember.

Her memories snatched away, she could only trust her feelings. Yet that could be worse, feelings of guilt, shame, and fear lingering in her heart without her having any clue why. Well, she'd formed suspicions, yet she dared not let those take shape in her mind either. Sometimes, she already felt on the brink of madness from not knowing why the feelings of vulnerability, sadness, even terror shrouded her heart, clouding her mind. Well, she did know, in part. It was because he was there, always there, always waiting for...whatever it was he expected of her...if only she could remember...although something in the back of her mind urged that she did not really wish to remember...

"Yes, well, I'm very glad to do business with you, sir," he said then. "I'm sure you'll enjoy your summer stay at the cottage. The forest is gorgeous at this time of year."

She shuddered. It was gorgeous because he made it so. She feared and prayed that the new family might not do anything against his pleasing. After all, such beautiful trees and flowers were known to grow suddenly poisonous or worse if the renters did something to dissatisfy him...

"And thank you, sir," the father of the new family returned, "My family and I look forward to a relaxing vacation here in Lisallight."

"And I can think of no place better for you to have come for a relaxing vacation."

"Thank you again, sir."

"Certainly. May I see you and your family to the door?"

Footsteps sounded. She tried to quiet her already shallow breath even more.

"Wait."

Her heart skipped a beat as the boy spoke. It must be his voice, for it sounded so young, fresh, slightly deep, just on the fringes of morphing from a boy's to a man's.

"Sir, if I may ask...I saw a girl through your window one day. I apologize for spying, only I was hoping you might have someone my age..?"

"Ah, my cousin, Elissa. Yes, she visits here sometimes, but I'm afraid she won't be back till next summer, young man."

Her heart trembled again. Why did he give the boy her real name?

"Ah, a pity. She was a fine young--"

His speech abruptly stopped. She imagined a sharp look from the boy's father and could've laughed – under different circumstances. More polite words of parting were exchanged. The footsteps faded, and the door closed.

Silence. And waiting.

Fleeing to her room, she sat on the bed, stiff, frightened, waiting. Waiting for what? She always felt like she was waiting and fearing, though she didn't know from whence those feelings came. She just couldn't remember...

The silence deafened. Until the soft thud of footsteps shattered that quiet with their own, vociferous thunder. Her fear intensified, though she did not know why, save those footsteps were his; he was coming, coming, coming...

And then he stood in her doorway, smiling, his perfect, calm yet bright green eyes twinkling. His soft, blonde, shoulder-length hair gleamed, and he stood with a tall, quietly proud stance. He looked so perfect, but she knew that perfection was marred. She knew she feared him, knew so many things though she couldn't remember why she knew them...

"Well, sweetheart, we've done it. We've rented out the cottage..."

"How good for you," she said in a quiet, emotionless tone.

"I think this calls for a bit of celebration, don't you?"

He walked slowly forward. She focused her eyes straight at the blank wall, keeping perfectly still and poised, hands crossed daintily in her lap.

"Don't you?"

The Musician hovered right over her, casting an ominous shadow.

Suddenly, she knew the reason for her fear though she still could not remember.

She did not need to remember. He was the living nightmare. He was only power and strength and control and desire. He cupped her face in his hands, forcing her gaze to meet his. At first, he touched her gently. A false gentleness. She began to tremble, and he stroked her hair.

Then, his touch grew firm, and she was only weakness and fear and loss of all control. She suddenly needed no memories as this fear, so old and yet so new all at once, overtook her once more.

His eyes burned deeply into hers. As his dark magic emanated from his body into hers, she felt her energy, her very life source, slowly slipping away. She grew weaker and weaker as he forced it from her like the most powerful incubus. But, unlike those she'd read of, as he drained her energy slowly from her body, he also drained it painfully. A burning, intolerable pain ensnared her, gripped every fiber of her being, yet he bewitched her so she could neither cry out in pain nor move. She could do nothing to relieve herself. Even though she couldn't remember the last time, she knew what was to come next--she would soon pass out, the pain too much to bear--

Screaming loudly within her mind, although the sound could not escape her lips, the pain suddenly overwhelmed her, and all became black.

***

She lay on her back, staring at the blank ceiling. If only her mind could become just as empty. What bliss to feel absolutely nothing...

She knew what had happened, even if she couldn't remember anything but him standing in her doorway and approaching with greedily gleaming eyes. She used to not be able to remember even that much, but maybe she was growing a bit immune to his magic, or maybe he just no longer cared and was getting lazy.

Why did he use magic to make her forget anyways? He had grown lazy enough to stop preventing her from feeling the throbbing headaches caused by his magic. He was too lazy anymore to make her sleep off the drowsiness caused by his intense attacks. So why make her forget at all if he now left such reminders in his stead?

She smirked wryly. Was he so warped as to think himself a noble kidnapper by making her forget all the torturous things he did to her? Or did he realize the extra power he wielded in seizing her memories, the boost of fear instilled in her, a fear of the unknown. For though she had some clue of how he tortured her mind, she could never be entirely certain of what went on between them. Sometimes, she felt glad she didn't know. Other times, she thought it might make the overwhelming fears more bearable, knowing what to expect...

Unable to sleep, as always after he'd visited her, she sat up, slipped silently from bed, made her way down the hall--

She paused before passing in front of the doorway leading upstairs. Though she knew he was asleep in his bedroom upstairs, at the far end of the cottage, she always paused here to listen for his snoring. Stealing quickly past the doorframe, she tip-toed to the sliding glass door which led from the living room into the backyard.

Heart pounding, she opened the door very slowly so as not to make a single noise. She opened it just enough to slip through before closing it behind.

She deeply inhaled the cool, night air. The gentle, sweet scent of the small moon-blossom bush wafted up to her. This was the one place where she could feel safe and free, if only for a little while. A place so close to the house, yet it seemed so far away.

Tall stone walls surrounded the back yard on all three sides, but the back wall was constructed of two tiers so that she could've easily climbed out--if she was allowed. She'd tried that only once, and the consequences had proved severe...

His guard, a giant tarantula, appeared from nowhere, scooped her up in large, hairy legs, cruel fangs gleaming at her, wrapping all but her head in strong, unbreakable spider silk, stringing her from the single tree in the backyard. Then the beast just stood there, watching. She'd never been more terrified in her entire life--at least, not until he strolled out. He'd walked tall, proud, his gait seemingly calm. Yet such a dark fury shone in his eyes like none she'd ever seen, rendering her incapable of doing anything save to stare in horror...

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