Sample Chapter For THE CRYSTAL ROSE by Ruth Karas

In a time when dragons ruled the skies and a sorcerer’s magic was prized above all things, the frail shaking hand of a woman on her death bed put quill and ink to parchment with solemn determination. After pausing from time to time to blot fallen tears from the letter with her handkerchief, or press the cloth to her mouth to muffle her sobs, she signed her name and gently placed the pen on her writing tray. She reached for some papers on the table beside her bed and placed them on top of the letter. After the woman folded the four corners of all the documents together, her maid heated red sealing wax on a candle flame and let it fall in warm, thick droplets onto the center of the letter where its corners met. The woman removed her ring and pressed its imprint of a rose into the softened wax.
The maid took the tray and documents and set them on the other side of the woman’s bed and took the ring. She picked up the fireplace tongs and secured the ring, emblem side up, inside its grasp, and reached the ring inside the fireplace and held it to the flames until the ring was glowing red.
The maid gave the tongs to the woman and then bent over a three-year-old boy and removed his shirt. She brought the boy to the woman, and held him tightly so he could not move. The woman pressed the red-hot ring against the tender pink flesh of the child’s shoulder and braced her heart against the boy’s screams of pain. She was sobbing loudly as she continued to hold the ring to the skin long enough to cause permanent scarring.
When it was done, the woman gave the tongs to the maid so she could put the ring back into the flames to melt beyond recognition, and then she reached for her son. “I’m so sorry! I’m so sorry!” she said as she held him tightly to her tired, thin body, rocking him back and forth and kissing away his tears. When the boy finally stopped crying and relaxed in her arms, the woman brushed back his hair, which was soaked by tears and perspiration. She sang his favorite lullaby and rubbed his cheek with the back of her fingers until he finally fell asleep.
The maid withdrew the ring from the fire again and smashed it with a fireplace iron, just to make certain it would be unrecognizable; then, she threw it back into the flames.
The maid left the room and returned with a small blanket and wrapped it around the sleeping boy, being careful to leave his painful shoulder exposed to the cool, healing air. After one last kiss from his mother, the maid picked up the sleeping boy. The mother slipped the letter inside the maid’s cloak pocket and watched helplessly as the boy was taken from her.
The slamming of the door emphasized the finality of the woman’s fate, and the beginning of her son’s destiny. There was nothing left in life that mattered to her now. She would welcome Death’s embrace.