The Bridge to Magic
The Sundered Web Book 1
by Alex Thornbury
Genre: YA Dark Dystopian Fantasy
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There was a time before the bridge was forged, but those stories had been mostly forgotten. The dark history of that bygone age was now buried in the archives of the priests. Only the echoes of it remained on the tongues of minstrels and drunks. Elika had heard them all and each tale seemed more terrible and unimaginable than the other.
Those were dismal times of endless wars—men against magic, magic against men. The time when even the storms and rains were at the mercy of magic and its fickle moods. It might snow in the summer, or the hot winds might carry sand upon them, burying entire cities. Honest travelers feared to ride through the forest, lest the trees attacked them. A farmer might wake up to find his river flowing the wrong way or dried up altogether. Those days were gone and might have been forgotten, but for this stark reminder before Elika’s eyes.
And who had not stood before the dark bridge in their last moments, facing that choice they all must one day make?
Like that hoary, old codger in the ale-stained uniform of the city’s Blue Guard who had stood before the bridge for nigh on an hour; unsteady on his legs, his sour breath steaming in the crisp, winter night, drinking deeply of the cheap gin, which was as likely to kill him by morning as what he now faced. He took a long swig out of his bottle as he braced himself for the unknown fate ahead.
Elika sat huddled in the doorway of an abandoned house, watching him, needing to know whether he would reach the other side or die crossing. Her ears filled with the howling winds rising from the great chasm, and she did not need to imagine what he was thinking, staring as he did at the monstrous bridge and the lifeless bank beyond, for she was thinking the same—surely it is better than what remains at our back. Better than what approaches.
She clutched the cloak tighter around herself against the biting gust of wind trying to rip it from her. She had scavenged the woolen cloak some days ago from a dead beggar, and it still smelled of his mustiness. She pulled up her knees to her chest and clamped her icy hands under her arms. The stone wall was cold at her back. Her breath steamed. She waited and watched the old guard take another wobbly step toward the bridge, seeking courage in his gin-dulled mind. He took another gulp, stared at the empty bottle in surprise, then threw it aside with a foul curse. The bottle hit the frozen ground and rolled off the edge of their world into the chasm, to fall for eternity in that endless darkness.
“Bloody hell! Looks like he’s about to change his mind,” Rory said to no one in particular.
“He won’t,” she said.
“Confident, are ye? Why are you here, anyway, Spit? You won’t be getting his loot. My men are already outside his home, and they’ll cut any ragamuffin who tries to sneak past us.”
She hated being called Spit. It was the name they gave the orphans. “Name’s Eli,” she mumbled, though why she bothered she did not know.
Rory knew her name, knew all their names, for it was his job to know. He was the one Peter Pockets sent out to catch and bring in those young ’uns who might be worth something to Pockets’ gang. He was also the one who delivered the less savory messages to competing gangs when they strayed from their own hunting ground.
“Sure it is, Spit.” He gave her a mean, toothy grin. His yellowing teeth were large in his long, gaunt face, and made her think of a fox’s snout. “Why don’t ye just go back to your mouse hole and save yourself being cut again?”
“Not here for his loot,” she lied and instinctively scanned the buildings for Little Mite, in case Rory was of a mind to cut her now and be done with it.
Mite was also watching, though she’d never see him unless he wanted to be seen. Mite only needed to give the signal across the roofs for Tick to slide down the chimney into the old guard’s home before Captain Daiger’s men got their own signal. Tick was fast and wily. He’d be quick to grab what he could and be gone before anyone had the mind to chase him. She’d already seen his pleased face from afar when he had signaled to Mite that he was in position. There was good looting to be had with this one.
“So, here for the spectacle, then?” Rory smirked. “Always thought you were morbid like that, watching them with those large, icy eyes of yours, as if you were death itself urging them on.” He shuddered. “Evil pup. Maybe you be thinking of taking the crossing yourself, hey Spit? Like your ma and pa.”
Alex Thornbury grew up in Cheshire UK, and developed a deep love of history and fantasy thanks to the many castles she visited as a child. Though she grew up to be an Alchemist by trade, she never stopped fantasizing about other worlds, dragons and epic battles. She has abandoned her Alchemy and potion making career, and is now a full time author of high fantasy. After all, who does not love to build new worlds and meet its wondrous inhabitants?
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