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The Lost Magic: an Alternate Beginning

The Lost Magic: an Alternate Beginning

This is a deleted scene from THE LOST MAGIC, which is the fifth Bianca book. It’s the first novel in THE NETWORK SAGA and released September 3rd, 2021.

If you haven’t read THE LOST MAGIC, you can still read this scene (but it is more fun and if you’ve read the final version.)

The events of this scene still happen in the book, but in different ways. This was an earlier version of the story that I eventually had to dissemble—but I thought would be fun for readers of THE LOST MAGIC to see, because then you have an idea of how stories change over time. In general, I would say that I keep only 50% of a first draft that I’ve written. The rest of the draft is enhanced, changed, developed, and moved.

This is one example of the way authors tell themselves stories as they write first drafts, and shows how we have to figure out things as we go, just like the reader. It’s also a version of the book that isn’t as edited or really worked as much with life and emotion and excitement—so the writing feels different. See if you notice anything!

Besides that, it’s a fun scene between Bianca and Derek too!

 

* * *

 

"A pleasure to have you here against my wishes, B," Papa drawled.

"Papa," I replied drily.

A slight, warm wind whispered by, stirring the hair around his ears. His firm profile illuminated against robins-egg blue of the early morning sky. Out of the long shadows of the Wall, the sun showed itself with bright beams. Banners snapped gently in the breeze overhead.

A long road led from the heavy, wooden doors below Chatham castle to Chatham city not far away. Letum Wood encroached on the castle and the bustling town, a dark back drop to both. Smoke whispered above chimneys in the distance.

Dotting the road were witches from the Eastern Network. They rode prancing horses that followed several elegant, emerald carriages. A velvet-like fabric lined the outside of each moving box, bearing Council Members and delegation leaders.

Ostentatious, but everything in the East was a bit . . . much.

Petaling out along the Wall in small groups was the leadership for other Networks, all awaiting the Eastern Network leadership delegation. The South, led by Igor the High Priest, and Alina the Ambassador, stood to our immediate right.

Geralyn, the reigning High Priestess of the Northern Network, wore a brightly colored fuchsia turban on our left. The former High Priestess of the North, Farah, had died two years ago from a fever. That left her sisters Samantha and Geralyn to reign. Farah had been kind to me. I missed her subdued, but still bright presence.

Behind Geralyn shifted a face so familiar it sent a cold trickle through my body.

Merrick.

I sucked in a sharp breath and turned away. Though startled to see him, it made perfect sense he would be here. His gaze darted around, ever watchful, which meant he hadn't seen me . . . or he had and wanted to avoid eye contact, just like me.

Either way . . . awkward.

For a long heartbeat, however, I stared at him. I couldn’t help myself. His sandy blond hair was longer than usual. It danced, wild around the shoulders, when the wind whipped by. His hand hovered near the hilt of his sword, but didn’t touch it. To do so in front of my father would be offensive.

A dozen memories flooded me at the sight of him.

How long had it been since I had last seen Merrick? A year, at least. Maybe more. I'd watched him from a distance while he came with another smaller delegation last fall, but he'd been absent from the Celebration last year.

The Eastern Network carriages rolled to a stop. A dark head of hair emerged and pulled my attention away from Merrick. My stomach jolted at the sight of Niko Aldana, High Priest of the Eastern Network. Once Papa's greatest ally, now his greatest threat. In the course of three years, they'd gone from protecting each other to an almost out-right war.

I braced myself and waited for a head of bright, red hair and a matching smile to emerge after Niko’s. None came before a steward shut the door. My brow furrowed.

Where was Priscilla?

Niko tilted his head back, looked at me and Papa, and nodded once. Papa returned it, then stepped back a few paces.

Seconds later, Niko appeared on the Wall.

"Derek Black." Niko extended an arm. Papa clasped Niko's forearm in his hand, and Niko did the same. They released immediately. Niko turned to me with a smile that resembled a cat.

"Miss Bianca Monroe," he murmured. "It has been too log since we've spoken."

The telltale drawl of my name into Beeanca sent another cold chill through me, despite the warming day. At one time, it had been charming. Now the sound grated on my nerves. My smile wasn't forced, but wasn't eager, when I looked into Niko's face.

"Your Majesty." I bowed my head. "It's always a pleasure."

His smile receded into his usual droll, politician's face. "Indeed. Priscilla sends her greetings."

Niko turned away from me then, a clear dismissal. He'd acknowledged and spoken to me as a courtesy, but was no longer interested in what could have, at one point, been called a friendship. Questions rolled through my mind like waves. Why hadn't Priscilla come? Was she hurt? Had something happened?

This was her home Network—she always came.

Papa and Niko strolled down the Wall together. Niko greeted the Networks as he encountered them. Papa had been strategic in the way he placed Igor, the High Priest of the Southern Network. Igor had been to our right, and Niko turned to the left. Igor trailed behind us now, out of Niko's way. Tensions between the two Networks had been high for two years now.

Papa and Niko headed toward the doors that led into Chatham. Geralyn followed. Lana, High Priestess of the Western Network, waited near the doors.

Niko had his hands clasped behind his back, his shoulders tense, as he walked. Papa had his arms to his side, his manner easygoing despite the tension in his neck. Baxter and Marten wordlessly followed them both.

Seconds after he'd arrived, Niko disappeared inside.

Marten remained back with me.

"One step down," I said with a sigh. “The hardest part of the beginning is over, now that Niko as arrived.”

"8,000 more steps to go," Marten quipped. He winked at me with a subtle twitch of his eye, then followed with Igor, a stocky witch with chocolate hair, pointed eyes, and a deep crease cutting across the middle of his forehead.

Igor's cloak billowed behind him as they moved together into the castle. Thoughts of Niko and Networks and dispute swamped my mind in their wake. I swallowed hard, swept up in the feeling that our recently-peaceful world was just about to tip back upside down.