The Memory of Fire – Read an Exclusive Extract!
By Sam Bradbury
Posted on January 25, 2018 in Books with tags Callie Bates, The Memory of Fire, The Waking Land
To celebrate the publication of The Waking Land in paperback, we have a special treat for you today! We’re thrilled to be able to share an extract from Callie’s new book, The Memory of Fire. The sequel to The Waking Land, this one follows Jahan and his mission to return home to the Empire and prevent a devastating war, while fighting to reclaim his tragic past. It’s full of magic, romance and revolution.
Jahan Korakides is a hero. He saved the life of the crown prince in battle, helped win the revolution in Eren and earned the heart of Elanna, the legendary Wildegarde reborn.
But Jahan Korakides is also broken; haunted by memories of the woman who experimented on him and his brothers as children.
So when the empire threatens war in retribution for Elanna’s illegal sorcery, Jahan leaves Eren to negotiate with the emperor on Queen Sophy’s behalf. But the world he left has changed – riots rock the city of Ida, his brother is missing and the crown prince refuses to speak to him.
Jahan’s only hope of success seems to lie with the rebels in Ida. Yet, if he joins them, he will merely spur on the war he’s desperate to avoid, and risk revealing himself as a sorcerer.
And then the witch hunters arrive at court, bringing Elanna in chains.
In the extract below, you’ll find a sneak peek into Jahan’s tragic childhood, and your first look at the chilling and manipulative sorceress, Madiya.
Enjoy! (and don’t forget to preorder!)
The Memory of Fire by Callie Bates
Most of my childhood is torn into pieces, memories I’ve scraped together, guessing at the whole. But I remember waking up that afternoon, ten years old, on the stone table in Madiya’s cave. I don’t know why she never took the memory from me. Maybe, in the chaos, it was an accident. An omission.
I remember the taste of opium lingering bitter on my tongue. How cold my feet were. How the high, dark ceiling seemed like it could swallow me up. I couldn’t remember what I’d had for breakfast. I couldn’t remember coming down into the cave, or lying on the table. I couldn’t remember waking up the first time, in my own bed, that morning. It was gone, all of it. The way it was almost every day. My memories ripped from my head by Madiya, sacrificed to make me the ideal sorcerer. It’s the patterns of your minds, she told my brother Rayka and me. If I can just rearrange them, I can make you the greatest sorcerers in the world. As great as Mantius of old.
Tears burned my eyes. This once, I should have remembered. I should have resisted her. I should have spat up the laudanum—that bitter tincture of opium and alcohol Madiya fed us every day. But I hadn’t, again. And again, no one had come to rescue me.
Cool fingers pressed my arm. I startled. Madiya leaned over me, a long trail of golden hair swinging over her shoulder. She smiled, gently, though it never reached her eyes. “There you are, Jahan. Let’s try transforming again. I’m sure you can do it this time. Try just your arm.” She leaned closer and said softly, “Think feathers. Think of Mantius.”
Mantius. A tear ran, scalding, down my cheek. How did she know so well how to hurt me? Mantius was my comfort. My ancestor, the greatest sorcerer of his age, who had worn a cloak of black feathers. He had been able to transform himself into a raven. I would imagine him coming for me. Rescuing me. Materializing out of the past and sweeping down into the cave, gathering me up in his cloak, and carrying me far away from here, and my brothers, too. When my mother screamed at my father, saying he had no right to subject her children to Madiya’s experiments, I imagined I was wrapped up in Mantius’s black cloak, the feathers muffling my ears. I was warm there. Safe.
“Jahan,” Madiya said, a hint of impatience coloring her voice. But when I looked at her, she smiled.
If I didn’t do it, she’d drug me with more laudanum and tinker again with the patterns in my mind, and I’d wake up more muddled than ever. But if I cooperated, maybe she’d stop. And if I could get my arm to transform even slightly, she’d take me back to the house and tell my father how well I’d done. He’d puff up his chest and pontificate about how our family used to be sorcerers, back before our islands were conquered by the Paladisans, and how we’d destroy the witch hunters and reclaim our fortune. And later, I knew, I’d find my mother weeping. Saying Madiya was changing me. Saying she couldn’t bear it.
Still, I was here now, with Madiya. I had no choice, even though I shrank from it. I sat up. I reached for the power from the earth, from the waterfall that surged through the cave. I thought feathers. I thought hollow bones and flight and the delights of eating worms. I was only ten and every day I forgot half of what I’d learned the day before. I didn’t know much about birds. I thought Mantius.
But nothing happened. My arm stayed flesh and hair, wrist and bone and knuckles. Madiya was watching me, her mouth growing smaller and smaller. Shame dug through me. And even though I hated her with every fiber of my being, for some reason I still wanted her to like me. I tried to grin at her. “I guess I’m just bird-brained now!”
“You tried so hard,” she said in a soothing voice, and I relaxed even though I knew I shouldn’t. Madiya’s kindnesses always preceded her greatest cruelties.
She walked away toward the shelves lining the cave wall and stopped before a row of shining bells. Not the bells! They were horrible, an endless ringing that left my ears aching and my mind twisted up on itself, even though she claimed they were necessary to protect me from the witch hunters. I scrambled down from the table. I had to think of something, fast, to distract her. “Let me try again to be a bird! Or maybe a badger! I know I can do it.”
“Oh, Jahan.” She ran her fingertips over one of the bells, her voice dispassionate now. “It’s not your fault your mother made me damage you. Your brothers will always be better than you. But at least we can make you immune to the witch hunters’ bells, so they don’t send you mad before they kill you.”
I felt myself shrink inward. Mother had interrupted one of Madiya’s first experiments, when I was just a baby. Madiya had done something wrong; she claimed it had stunted me. And though she always said it wasn’t my fault, it never seemed like she really meant it.
Her head came up. She tilted her head as if she heard something—or felt it. She went still, and then she said in a hard, commanding voice I’d never heard before, “Jahan, stay here.”
She ran for the stone steps. I hesitated. If something was scary enough to frighten Madiya, then it must be terrifying indeed. But something that frightened Madiya might also be enough to redeem my world. I raced after her, up the steps into the blinding sunlight.
I paused at the top, my eyes watering. Somewhere, a bell rang—a bright, shivery sound. A shudder ran through me. I didn’t see how there could be a bell, because Madiya couldn’t endure the sound outside the safety of her cave—but if there was, then it meant my brothers might be in danger, and I needed to save them. The air smelled of orange blossoms and, squinting, I saw Madiya running through the trees toward her neat white cottage. I pounded after her.
At the cottage wall, she stopped dead. I slowed, and then I saw them, just beyond Madiya. My mother and a strange man, walking down the path. I almost didn’t recognize my mother; she hadn’t been out of the house in weeks. She was dressed in a real gown today, and had put up her hair. She kept touching the man’s arm, in a way she never did with my father. And the man . . .
I couldn’t breathe. Everything flared white inside me.
He was facing my mother, his black hat tilted toward her. But even with his back to me, I recognized his blue uniform, strapped with a bandolier covered in clear stones. Even from a distance, even though Madiya insisted she had rendered us immune to their noise, I heard their hum. I knew what the man must be. A witch hunter, here. In Pira. At Madiya’s cottage.
And he had my mother.
“Jahan!” It was my father, standing at the garden gate behind the cottage, my baby brother clutched squirming in his arms. He beckoned me toward him. I hesitated, swinging back to Madiya, who stood frozen, watching Mother and the witch hunter. But then the baby let out a wail and Father snapped, “Jahan!”
I ran to him. He shoved the baby into my arms and yanked my other brother, Rayka, out from behind the hedge. “Go! Take care of them, hide! Go!”
On the other side of the cottage, the bell rang again. Fear split through me, liquid and hot. I ran—just the wind in the branches— back toward the cave. Lathiel cried. Rayka bounded past me down the stairs. I spared a last backward glance for the witch hunter, but I couldn’t see him beyond the trees.
We stumbled down into the cave. Lathiel hiccuped with sobs. I rocked and whispered to him while Rayka fumbled for candles and muttered at them to light themselves, even though Madiya already had two tapers burning. I tried not to be jealous at the ease with which my younger brother lit them. It cost him so little—just a flicker of deeper chill in the already cold cave. If I weren’t damaged, it could have been me.
“Is it really witch hunters?” Rayka whispered. The candlelight flickered madly over his face. “What are they going to do?”
“You know what they’re going to do,” I said. My teeth kept chattering, but I knew it would be much colder than this in the Ochuroma—the great big prison where they kept sorcerers, the prison where Madiya had been chained for five long years, where they had leached away her magic and tried to send her mad, leaving her with only the stuff that could manipulate our minds, until finally she escaped and found refuge with Father. The witch hunters would take us to that prison, drain our magic and send us mad—and then kill us. Lathiel must have sensed my fear, because although he’d stopped screaming he kept crawling over my shoulder, as if he was trying to get away.
I had to be the big brother. I had to be strong for Lathiel and Rayka—and for my mother, too. I would never let the witch hunters take them.
“It’ll be all right.” I forced a smile at Rayka. “We’re already missing half our memories. We’re halfway to madness already!”
He didn’t smile back, and the sick, aching feeling in my stomach didn’t go away. Madiya had always promised she would never let the witch hunters find us. She’d said she would die before she let them touch us—her handiwork, the boys whom she was perfecting to exact her revenge. To be the greatest sorcerers the world had ever seen, and destroy the people who tried to destroy her.
But the witch hunters were here, and we were alone in the cave. Hiding. And Mother was in danger. I stood up, my legs wobbling. My brothers would be safe here, I told myself. I handed Lathiel to Rayka and collected my courage. I might be damaged, but I was strong enough. Madiya claimed she’d made us immune to the witch hunters. So I would go back up there and save Mother.
I started toward the steps, bravery pumping hot through me. I didn’t hear the footsteps at first. Didn’t see the shadow of someone descending into the cave.
I looked up and my fear pulsed away into sudden warmth. Relief.
I felt relief.
And then, nothing.
A blankness, like nighttime, dulled by opium.
I woke in my own bed in our family villa, evening light purple on the coverlet and a scraping in my throat, like I’d screamed. I’d been dreaming of Mantius in his feathered cloak. I flailed upright. The witch hunter. But I was entirely alone. Not even servants made noise in the hall.
A pressure throbbed behind my right ear. I reached up a tentative hand and gasped. Pain caught me in the chest. I couldn’t get my breath. I grasped at the shreds of my memory, thought I glimpsed a face, thought I saw crimson droplets on a knife. Then it was gone.
I was alone with a bandage encircling my head. I dug my fingers under it, and they came away covered with crimson grit. Dried blood. Four gentle lumps sewed up my skin—stitches.
I swallowed hard, sick with a nameless terror. Had someone attacked me? Madiya must have stolen my memories, again. Which meant she wasn’t imprisoned or dead. If someone had assaulted me, why couldn’t they have done better and gotten her instead?
Unless she attacked me. Unless this was her punishment for something I’d done, that I didn’t remember.
Something thumped in the room below me—my mother’s rooms. Terror plastered me to the bed, but Mother needed me. She had no one else to help her.
I picked myself up and tiptoed through the fabric of the wall itself into Rayka’s room. The particles of plaster buzzed in my skin, then I stopped with a gasp. My brother lay fast asleep in his bed. A bandage swathed his chest, white against his olive skin. So someone had attacked him, too. The witch hunter? Had Rayka attacked him? Was that why Madiya was still alive? Had he—had he killed him?
Or had I?
I stared down at my hands. They trembled. Even the fingernails were clean, but that meant nothing. I might have done anything in the last hours, and not remember it.
I bolted for the stairs, as if, this one time, my mother could save me, though she never had before.
She woke as I flung myself into her room. I scrambled onto her bed and burrowed down beside her, pressing my face into the coverlet. Her fingernails caught in my hair. A gentle gesture—a tentative one.
“Who’s this?” she said.
I lifted my head, ready to grin. I thought she was teasing.
Then I saw her face. The line between her eyebrows, the vagueness of her eyes. How her hand reached toward me but stopped, as if she was unsure whether to touch me or not.
“Mama?” Dread pulsed through me, so ferocious I called her by the name I hadn’t used in several years. “What happened?”
She looked surprised, as if she hadn’t expected to be called anyone’s mother. Her hands brushed at her cheeks. She stared doubtfully around the room. “Where’s Cyra?”
I blinked. She meant her sister. Aunt Cyra had never come to the Britemnos Isles; I’d never met her. My father burned all the letters my mother wrote to her, because each one revealed that her children were being experimented upon by a cruel sorceress.
I was shaking, but somewhere in myself I found a grin. “Did you invite her to visit?”
My mother stared at me, her lips parted, as if each word I spoke were foreign. Then she brushed her hands through her hair. “I’m . . . I’m tired. I was having a little dream. I can’t remember what your papa and I called you . . . darling. Isn’t that silly?”
Darling. My mother never called me darling. She called me by my name.
“Mama!” I tried to find a laugh inside me, but I couldn’t. My throat kept trying to close.
She just stared at me, utterly blank.
“I’m Jahan,” I whispered. I could hardly speak. “Papa wanted to name me Mantius, for our ancestor, the great sorcerer. The one he admires so much. But you talked him into naming me Jahan, after Grandpapa. Remember?”
She just stared at me, uncomprehending. And I began to cry. Footsteps stirred behind me. I whirled, my heart lurching so hard I thought I’d throw up. Madiya stood there, silhouetted by the window. I didn’t know how long she’d been watching us.
Her face was cold. And I knew, then, that she’d done it. This wasn’t one of my mother’s episodes. Madiya had taken away her memories—not just the ones of breakfast or what she’d done that morning. Years of memories.
I was supposed to save her, and I’d failed. Failed so completely I
couldn’t even comprehend it.
Madiya strode over to the bed. I backed away, falling off onto the tiles and smacking against the wall. I didn’t have any weapons to defend myself, and my magic was a failure. Madiya had taught me everything I knew. I couldn’t fool her. This time, she would take away my entire mind, just like she’d taken my mother’s.
Maybe she had stabbed me. Maybe this time, she hadn’t been careful when she rummaged around in our brains. Or in Rayka’s case, in our hearts. Or maybe this was what she’d been doing to us all along, after she drugged us with the opium. Maybe there were other scars I’d never found. She’d taught us, after all, how to heal ourselves.
She put her hand on Mother’s forehead. My mother gave her a placid, lamblike smile and fell instantly asleep.
A shiver ran up my body. This was all wrong. Mother would never let Madiya touch her.
“It’s a mercy for her, forgetting,” Madiya said. “She’s suffered a great deal.”
“N-no!” I stammered. “I know what you did! You stole her—you took her—”
“Jahan,” she snapped, and I fell silent, shaking. “She summoned the witch hunter. She put us all in danger.”
I stopped. That couldn’t be right. Mother wouldn’t have summoned a witch hunter to capture Madiya, because capturing her meant capturing us.
“It’s safe now,” Madiya said, impatient. “The witch hunter’s gone. We got rid of him. Go back to bed.”
We. I looked down at my clean hands. I tried to stare into the empty hole in my memory, but there was nothing. Nothing but a kind of ache. A nameless grief.-
Madiya was ignoring me now. She collected her book from the night table and tucked it under her arm. Then, without a backward glance, she walked from the room.
I huddled there for a long time, between the bed and the wall. Waiting for her to come back and force the laudanum down my throat. To scar me again. To take all my memories, even the ones of my mother.
But she didn’t come back. And I didn’t forget.