Snippet Saturday is the brainchild of author Lauren Dane, wherein a group of authors selects thematic excerpts from their work and shares them on Saturday mornings. This Saturday the theme is magic and magical scenes. I think I'll go with Survival of the Fairest today, because the heroine's quest for much of the book was to find out whether or not humans, like fairies, could do magic. After all, she has stumbled across stage magician Jake Story and he is definitely the most magical human she's ever met! Not that she's met a lot of humans. But still. Here is a scene from chapter 4 with our heroine Tali investigating Jake's stage show...
The ring was close. Tali clenched her hands in her lap and felt the magic tickle her skin like a cat’s whiskers. She watched Jake Story and his assistant Jessie toss glittering balls back and forth in an intricate pattern and strained to feel any surges in power.
The only surge Tali felt was her pulse racing whenever Jake performed one of his dangerous stunts without the aid of magic. He’d had swords stuck through him, he’d had his body divided into three pieces and he’d transported himself, somehow, out of a padlocked bag in a water-filled glass chamber.
She could still feel the painful wrench of her heart when Jake, trapped in the bag and struggling to release himself from his bonds, had stopped moving. Jessie had raced across the stage, drained the water, opened the chamber, frantically untied the knot on the bag—and a huge, toy snake had sprung forth, to the stunned delight of the audience.
The whole thing was preposterous. Nerve-wracking. Exhilarating.
Right now he wasn’t doing anything risky. He wasn’t juggling knives or flaming knives or double-bladed, poison-tipped flaming knives. Just colored balls.
He hadn’t used magic so far, but he kept disappearing and reappearing. How did he do it? Why was he risking his life in such a fashion if he had no magic to save him?
Could it be Jake merely wished to please the crowd? The couple at the table next to Tali had drawn her attention away from the stage more than once.
The large man frequently added a raucous yell to the cheers of the audience. The Court instructors taught that humans as a race were barbaric, enjoyed blood sports and other primitive spectacles, and this man certainly supported that.
Was Jake’s act some human magic, some human aberration she couldn’t sense. Perhaps she could attend other shows to look for magic in humanspace, a worthy and educational venture.
Jake’s form-fitting black outfit stood out in stark contrast to the gaudy stage equipment and flashing lights. As the two men juggled, the flying objects twisted and turned in the air, catching the light, and neither of them dropped a single one. They tossed them under their legs, backwards and even one-handed. Suddenly, Jake threw up his arms, and all the balls turned into white doves, which fluttered toward the lofty ceiling. The audience oohed with appreciation and erupted into applause.
When the noise died, Jake spoke again. His gaze sought hers in the crowd, and Tali felt herself pinned to her seat.
“And now,” Jake said, his voice as dark and sensual as the recently discovered fudge, “we delve into the realm of the subconscious, the mysterious. Complete surrender. Complete hypnosis.”
From the corner of her eye, she noticed the man at the table beside her shake his head in disbelief, but she couldn’t tear her gaze away. Did Jake mean mind control? While the other five great spirits of fire, earth, water, air and ether graced the Realm with harmony, the spirit Fet’s domain wasn’t safe to tread. The mind was sacrosanct, not that anyone she knew was capable of the shadow arts. She certainly didn’t know how to control another’s mind.
His gaze bore into hers and a sudden image of the two of them wrapped in a passionate embrace, wind whipping their bodies, light flaring, flashed in her brain.
Was it possible? Jake tapped a dexterous finger against his mouth, and Tali felt warm lips press against hers and demand that she yield.
With a gasp, she rubbed her face, and the strange spell broke.
“This is the final and most precarious segment of my show,” he said. Jessie stood silently to the side as orange-clad stagehands cleared off the glittering tables, boxes and other objects. “If you’re faint of heart, if the thought of another person controlling you is abhorrent, I suggest you exit now. Once I begin, none of you shall retain the will to leave your seats.”
Many individuals shifted in their padded chairs, and a crowd of brilliantly clad young people to the left, the ones who applauded when Jessie participated in the tricks, broke into excited chatter.
“Great danger lurks when one being has ultimate power over another. I could abuse it. I could implant suggestions for you to rob banks or harm others. But fear not. I’m far too ethical to command you to empty your wallets to me.”
The audience chuckled, weakly.
Another trick. It had to be. The Doctrine of Ethical Magic Use prohibited the sixth art. Unless he was an unethical fairy—or unknowing human. Her drinking glass gleamed in the heatless light of the table candles, and Tali felt a rise of tension in the dark room.
The tight fabric of Jake’s shirt outlined his lean, muscled torso as he paced the length of the stage. Tali again sensed a mesmerizing pull.
Why would he baldly declare he intended to hypnotize everyone unless he could? Failure would make him a laughingstock. Though his show contained comic elements, like the Realm’s carnivale skits, he didn’t seem to be joking about his grand finale.
Tali considered various explanations. She didn’t mind if he were a secret agent—that was exciting—but if he were evil, like the spirit Fet… She massaged her hands in an attempt to release her building anxiety.
Jake strode to the center of the stage and placed his fists on his hips. He gazed over the heads of the crowd, his dark eyes vital and his stance commanding. “You’ve heard that an individual must be willing to be hypnotized in order for it to work. You’ve heard that a person must trust the practitioner and believe in the experience.
“I’m here to prove everyone wrong.” He threw back his long, dark hair and his white teeth flashed in an almost cruel grin.
“Let me give you a sample.” He opened his palms and closed his eyes as if channeling some mystical force, and Tali felt a corresponding leap in the magic of the ring.
“Oh, crikey!” she breathed. She’d heard that expression on the teley-vision today and it seemed appropriate. A haze descended over her mind and clouded her thinking. Was this mind control? Was this Fet’s caress?
Jake’s eyes popped open and seemed to glow. “Everyone sip your drink.”
The rustle of sleeves, the tinkle of ice, the thunk of glasses on the table sounded across the vaulted chamber as the room obeyed him. Even Tali. Even straining for the magic she could feel so close, even resisting. Her glass of Coka-Cola was empty, but she obeyed.
“Everyone smile.” Tali’s gaze fixed on Jake, and her mouth curled in a rictus of a grin.
“Everyone do something kind for someone tomorrow.” A thought implanted itself in her brain and wriggled away where she couldn’t reach it. She wanted to claw it out with her nails, but her hands wouldn’t move.
Jake clapped his hands and the whole room inhaled. In another moment they burst into applause.
They enjoyed being forced to do things not of their will? Tali fumed. Dark magic, indeed! How had no other fairies discovered this? If researchers frequented this hotel, how was it this perversion had never been shut down?
Perhaps she alone had determined what this man was doing. Perhaps she alone had the power. It wasn’t out of the question. Researchers were never more than foursies and rarely worked in sibling sets.
“And now,” Jake said, “for the final part of the demonstration. If you don’t believe in magic, raise your hand. If you think yourself my match, raise your hand. If anyone has ever declared you unhypnotizable, raise your hand. I need an unwilling volunteer, folks. Someone who thinks he or she can bring down my house of cards.”
A black velvet curtain lowered over the glitzy backdrop, and Jessie’s red costume stood out like a beacon of fire. Behind him, the cleared stage held only a single wooden chair. Tiny lights winked from the stage floor and cast huge shadows. Jake, in his black clothes, was nearly invisible and wholly mysterious. And watching her, evaluating her.
“Who shall it be tonight?” he asked. “Who will be my unwilling vassal?”
Tali sank into her chair. Crabapples. He was going to pick her.
Places you can buy Survival of the Fairest:
All Romance Ebooks
Barnes and Noble (paperback)
Barnes and Noble (ebook)
Samhain Publishing (paperback)
Samhain Publishing (ebook)
www.jodywallace.com * www.meankitty.com
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