Jasper's Quest by Author Blair Drake: What would you do to find your Magic? **Excerpt-Giveaway**
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Publisher: Magic Quest Books
Date of Publication: June 21, 2018
Number of pages: 228
Word Count: 79,800
Cover Artist: Jennifer Zemanek/Seedlings LLC
When seventeen-year-old Jasper Walker is caught up in a violent storm and flung off the roof of Gray Cliffs Academy along with nine of his school mates, he has no idea what is happening. Even stranger is the unfamiliar world he finds himself in. An alternate universe that reminds him of Africa, he’s startled to discover the year is 1675 and no one in the land of Ardhi has a clue about the world he came from. Then he meets Rylan, a magical healer who has been cursed by an evil king to age well past his time. If the curse isn’t broken, Rylan will die and time is running out…
Jasper is shocked to discover he’s the only one who can break the curse. He must call on his magical powers of supernatural strength and face a multitude of challenges in order to save Rylan’s life…and return to Gray Cliffs Academy.
Jasper Walker landed on the hard ground with a thud and groaned from shock. Winded, he gasped for breath, wincing at the stabbing pain knifing through his chest. He forced himself to breath more slowly, easing air between his clenched teeth. Gradually, the pain subsided and he breathed normally again.
He struggled to his feet, grateful to discover he hadn’t done any serious damage to his body during the fall. Apart from sore muscles, he didn’t feel any different than before. And then he looked about himself in growing confusion. There was one big difference – his surroundings.
Where am I?
He stood near the edge of a thick forest. Tall trees stretched upwards, blocking a portion of the sky. The sun hung low to the horizon, painting the ground with violet shadows. The night would soon be upon him.
He drew in another breath. The air was hot and humid and felt heavy in his lungs. The snow that gathered earlier on his clothes had already melted, leaving him uncomfortably damp. He took a few steps forward and then turned around, not knowing which way to go. If he turned right, he’d end up deeper in the forest. To the left, was an open plain.
And then came a haunting cry, the same anguished plea he’d heard through the storm. Shivers coursed up and down his spine. He couldn’t tell if the cry was human or not, but it was definitely from something in a great deal of distress. His instincts kicked in, and he headed away from the forest in the direction of the sound. Across the plain, through a stand of trees, hurrying now. The cries grew louder and with them other sounds joined in. Laughter reached his ears, sounding incongruous alongside the painful pleas. He crept closer, his heart thumping.
Taking cover behind a large baobab tree, he discovered a natural clearing among another thin clump of trees. Shadows stretched long, dark fingers across the ground. Peering into the dimness, he swallowed a gasp. A group of people, made up of men and women, boys and girls surrounded an old man who lay in the dirt. The man was curled up in a fetal position with his hands covering his face.
Jasper watched one of the male spectators lash out with his foot and connect with the old man on the ground. A howl of pain went through the victim. He curled up even tighter, whimpering.
The crowd laughed even louder. “Ye call yerself a healer! Ye say ye’ve saved so many of us over the years. Why don’t ye get up and save yerself!” another man in the crowd jeered.
“Yer a has-been. No good to anyone, or anything. Yer time is over, old man,” another tormentor mocked and aimed another vicious kick at the victim.
Rage surged through Jasper at the injustice of the scene unfolding before him. A defenseless old man was being persecuted for no good reason. It was something he couldn’t tolerate. It reminded him of some of the younger students at the Gray Cliffs Academy who found themselves the brunt of jokes from older kids. Jasper had a reputation as someone who stood up for the underdog. Now he burned with the need to do something to assist the old man who lay helpless on the ground at the mercy of the cruel crowd.
He took another moment to look around him and did a rough head count of the spectators gathered around. He was outnumbered by far, and a sizeable portion of the mob were full-grown men. Jasper was tall for his age and physically fit, yet he was no match for the men who made up the crowd.
Still, he couldn’t sit there and do nothing. The man on the ground was crying in pain. Then he saw three of the boys pick up large rocks and aim them toward their victim. Before he could fully process what was happening, the boys hurled their missiles. They landed with remarkable accuracy, thudding against the man’s head and shoulder and back. Each time, the man cried out.
Unable to hold back another moment, Jasper burst out from his hiding place, his fists clenched.
The spectators gasped collectively in surprise. The ones with their backs to him turned around. All of them took a step back. He glared at the gathered crowd, his breath coming fast. Adrenaline surged through his veins. They stared at Jasper in shock. He understood their reaction.
Every member of the crowd, including the man on the ground, was dressed in funny garments, like something he’d see on an old-fashioned movie based in ancient times. The coarse homespun fabric looked something like burlap. The men wore tunics that hung loosely from their frames and fell past their knees. The women wore long dresses made from the same material.
He looked down at his school uniform – the navy-blue blazer, white shirt, blue-and-maroon school tie and gray pants. His lace-up school shoes were still shiny. He’d polished them only that morning. It felt like a lifetime ago.
“W-who are ye?” one of the male adults of the crowd demanded.
The man was broad across the chest, with arms as thick as tree trunks. Jasper trembled inside, but forced himself to maintain eye contact.
“My name is Jasper Walker. Who are you?” he stated clearly.
The man gathered himself together, and when he spoke again, his voice was loud and firm. “I’m Baron Drakor. What is yer business here?”
Jasper took a few more steps forward. Most of the crowd drew back. Baron Drakor remained where he was. Jasper narrowed his gaze at the man, and then pointed to the figure on the ground. “That man is a friend of mine. I demand you release him.”
Drakor’s face split into a wide grin. Huge guffaws filled the air. His whole body shook with mirth. Many in his crowd of supporters began to laugh. He crossed his arms over his powerful chest and stared hard at Jasper.
“A friend of yers, you say? How could that be? This man has lived in my village since I was born. I know every inch of this land and everyone in it, and I’ve never set eyes on ye.”
Jasper thought fast. He had no idea where he was, but it was obvious he’d been thrust somewhere far back in time. He could hardly admit he was a school boy snatched from the twenty-first century. They’d think he was crazy and might turn on him next.
No, he had to continue with his bluff and pray they set the old man free. It was his only hope. He glanced down at the victim and saw blood running from a wound on his face. Jasper’s anger surged inside him. Once again, his hands clenched into fists.
Refusing to be intimidated by Drakor’s glare, Jasper shrugged. “Perhaps you’re not as widely traveled as you have people believe.”
The crowd sniggered. Drakor’s face turned red. He turned angry eyes on Jasper. “How dare ye!” he spat. “I am the King’s representative. No one, and I mean no one, speaks to me like that!”
Without warning, the man lunged at Jasper and knocked him off his feet. Caught unawares, Jasper fell hard. Once again, the air was knocked out of him and he wheezed and gasped for breath. The crowd erupted into laughter. Anger and embarrassment burned on Jasper’s face. Anger won out. He surged to his feet, his fists at the ready.
Drakor laughed even harder. “Oh look, the young pup wants to fight me! How about that?”
The laughter of the crowd grew louder and Jasper understood why. Drakor was a mountain of a man. His heavy black beard and narrowed black eyes made him look even more menacing. Jasper glared at his opponent and at the same time tried hard to stem the trembling that had started in his body.
“Come on, then! Let’s do it,” Jasper urged before his courage gave out.
Drakor shook his head in surprise. He chuckled. “Don’t be stupid, boy. I’d knock yer head off. Now, go home to yer mother and leave us to finish our business. If ye turn and leave right now, I’ll forget yer impudence.”
Jasper turned his gaze on the old man who still lay curled up on the ground. One of his eyes was swollen shut, but he looked at Jasper out of the other one. Hope and desperation warred in the old man’s eyes. Tears leaked down his cheek. Jasper saw he was the man’s only hope. If he turned his back on him, the old man would surely be stoned and beaten to death.
“Come on, boy. It’s none of yer business. Go back home to yer momma, where ye belong.”
The guffaws and jeers of the crowd filled Jasper’s ears. For a fleeting moment, he thought about turning away and leaving them to it, but then he saw the poor man who cowered on the ground, and he couldn’t do it. With a surge of determination, he tightened his fists and charged.
When she’s not writing about magic, she’s reading about it. Her influences are Cassandra Claire, Neil Gaiman, Rick Riordan, Garth Nix, and many more.
In the mortal plane, following the lure of magic has drawn Blair into strange and wonderful adventures from Australia to New York City, with many stops in between. She currently lives near Denver. Her very favorite spot is a red loveseat in her office, frequently shared with two cats, an outnumbered Dalmation, and occasionally her bewitched husband.
She might have gone to a school similar to Gray Cliffs Academy and would love to go through a magic portal. In the meantime, she’s creating her own in more books of magic.