Sunday, 15 January 2012

Short excerpt from 'Kingdom of the Flame' by Titus Powell

My second novel, Kingdom of the Flame, is finally out (available here). To pique your curiosity, here's a sample passage from it.

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It was two weeks later, after a long lesson on court politics, that Mylène brought up the concept of dark thoughts. She tacked it on at the end, as if an afterthought, but Lily could tell this had been on her mind all day.

They were in the palace library, in a section where nobody could overhear. Lily had never seen Mylène embarrassed to talk about anything before, or to choose her words with so much care. It was as if the wrong choice of words might send Lily racing off to try the very thing she was warning against.

“There’s something else I need to mention,” Mylène had said to introduce the topic. “It’s not something I care to talk about, but you are a young girl and I must.” She began pacing again.

“Humans are by their very nature flawed. We have different drives and desires, many of which serve us. A few, however, are destructive. Particularly for a girl in your position as Candidate. I want to make you aware of certain… thoughts… that will inevitably arise and must be guarded against. Certain dark thoughts.”

Lily sat forward, her interest suddenly engaged.

“It’s not having these thoughts that is bad, because they often can’t be helped. But it is crucial they be denied.”

“What thoughts?” Lily asked.

Mylène walked to the window and looked out. “The desire to be more than friends with someone.”

“Oh. You mean love.”

Mylène looked back at her fiercely. “No. Not love. Love is what you feel for your mother, and what your mother feels for you. I’m talking about something entirely different. Though people do sometimes confuse it with love.”

Mylène pushed a lock of curly red hair out of her eyes and looked at Lily. “For what you are being trained for, you must be pure in body as well as mind. It is vital that you are never sullied by the filthy bodies of men. Once that dignity is taken, a woman can never get it back. Do you understand what I am saying?”

Lily blushed. Now she wished Mylène would go back to politics. “Yes. You don’t need to worry. I am a virgin.”

“Of course, or you would not be here now.” Mylène stood leaning on the back of her empty chair. She looked at Lily hard. “What is of the utmost importance is that you remain one. Common people have dalliances and indiscretions. In places like your village these things are forgiven or even encouraged. But not here. Not as a Candidate. You must be chaste, now and always. It is not a mistake you can make and then repent for. If you give yourself to a man, or even are perceived to have given yourself to a man, then it is all over. You cannot be chosen.”

“You’ve nothing to worry about. The men in the palace aren’t the least bit tempting.”

“Don’t underestimate the power of human nature to lead us astray. You must be constantly on your guard. The men in the palace know that to touch you would mean their death, but you can be sure they lust. And under the spell of wine, men become even more dangerous. You are an attractive young woman, Justinia. Many more would take advantage of you than you realise.

“Be even more wary of your own desires, because those in particular could be your downfall. More than one Candidate in history has failed on that account. Those physical desires for union are dark thoughts, thoughts which for a Candidate like you can only lead to corruption, misery and death.”

“I understand, Madam,” Lily said, embarrassed by the whole topic. “I will be careful.”

Mylène exhaled. She looked tired. “Very well. We have done enough for today. You may retire and I will see you the day after next.”

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If you enjoyed this sample, you can get the full book on your Kindle, iPad or iPhone for less than the price of a cup of coffee. Thank you!


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