But when the king’s sorceress sister, Morgan le Fay, threatens the kingdom, Vivienne is torn. Cursed by the sorceress, Merlin needs his apprentice’s help to create the perfect weapon: a revolutionary blend of steam-powered machinery and the mystical science of alchemy. Vivienne could help him build it, or she could give up on Camelot, return Marcus’s declaration of love, and run away with him instead. But if Marcus gives up on knighthood, Vivienne would be to blame for the consequences: disaster for Camelot and its only hope, the terrifying weapon that dwells in the secret catacombs, waiting to be awakened.
A YA Camelot-punk romance, BLACK LACE AND THE CLOCK TOWER is complete at 83,000 words. Please find the first 500 words pasted below as per the contest's submission guidelines.
Kathryn Sheridan Kupanoff
First 500 words:
When a mechanical falcon takes flight from Merlin’s tower, it means the sorcerer is bored or drunk on absinthe.
I wonder if anyone else in Camelot knows that.
Maybe I’m the only one who pays that much attention to the clock tower. Mechanical falcons aren’t exactly new, so why watch Merlin fly his? Well, it isn’t like the sorcerer will ever be completely satisfied with his invention, is it? He can tinker away at that thing until the latest hour of the night. But one day, perhaps it’ll be more than just a toy. How could I not want to watch the skies in that case?
The burgundy curtains of Merlin’s window tend to catch on the bird’s “feathers” on those days of boredom or intoxication. Today is no different. A long arm stretches the falcon out the window. From Guinevere’s chambers I can just make out rough, tattooed incantations from Merlin’s travels to The Holy Land on his forearm and wrist. The back of his hand flicks the machine into the air. I wait for the sorcerer to appear fully, a wind-up controller in hand with copper wires attached to the artificial brain.
Instead, a wire-free bird plummets to the ground.
“Extend!” Merlin calls, his voice deep and demanding of obedience.
The shining wings crack, one plate at a time, to a span of nearly three feet. They catch the breeze and spread across the sky, steering upward without any help from their master.
My eyebrows lift in surprise. This is new.
I glance from my glass-and-copper viewer to the vanity in my lady’s dressing chambers, making sure I can steal a few more seconds of sky watching. Guinevere tugs at the gold skirt of her dress—a low-cut model from Lyonesse that initially shocked, before it captivated, the prudish subjects of Camelot—and resettles herself in front of her mirror as she whispers in a high-pitched voice to the bird cage next to her. A canary whistles back. She’s occupied. Perfect.
Outside, the falcon eclipses the setting sun.
From the valve on its head, steam whistles, identical to the telltale cawing of a real falcon. It swoops over the gardens, barely missing the violets before returning to the highest window in the castle where Merlin waits wearing a long, leather glove. For tradition, of course.
The curtain draws across the window and so I lower my viewer, my lips an incredulous smile I won’t be able to easily erase.
The falcon is wire-free.
Yes, that’s…remarkable. Some would see this as alarming, giving the sorcerer’s dangerous history with magic, but something tells me that isn’t—
“Vivienne?” calls Guinevere from the other room.
I’ve got my blonde hair caught around my fingers, twisting the tail of my braid into a knot. After three short months of being Guinevere’s lady-in-waiting, I know how she hates it when I play with my hair.
Clearing my face of any excitement, I pry my fingers loose.