I wanted to share this little snippet that didn’t make the final cut of Tides of Spring. It features a particularly horrifying demon that I was reluctant to do away with, but the scene added nothing to the story or characters, so it had to go. I hope you enjoy it.
Stalker and Wind Talker circled around to the back of the complex and found a single storey office building set into the wall. It had several small windows high up and Stalker jumped up to grasp the ledge of one of them with her fingers. She pulled herself up awkwardly and peered inside. The room was dark and still. She dropped back down with a slight crunch to the gravel and looked at Wind Talker. It would be simpler on her own, she could just shift into a flying animal and go over the wall. But she had to get Wind Talker in too.
‘Give me a boost up, I’ll get the window open and we can get in that way, it looks safe.’
Wind Talker agreed and Stalker placed her foot in his cupped hands. She grabbed hold of the window ledge and managed to gently prise open the window and slide it up. She deftly pulled herself up and through the window, her feet landing silently on the floor inside. She turned and reached her hand down for Wind Talker. He grasped it and scrambled his feet up the wall. His entrance was somewhat less graceful, but still virtually silent.
Stalker led him out of the office they had landed in and out into the hallway. It smelled strongly of fresh paint and the whole block seemed to be newly refurbished. Somewhere in the distance she heard an electric saw start up. They crept towards the door out of the block, which would lead out into the courtyard where the power equipment was located.
As she walked slowly along the hall she felt something wet drip onto her shoulder. Her hand darted to the wet spot, she expected to find wet paint but instead thick, red gloop came away on her hand. Her eyes darted to the ceiling above and there she saw, looking down at her with its head cocked to one side, a disgusting demon clinging to the ceiling. It was roughly humanoid, but it was flayed and instead of hands and feet, it had bits of machinery roughly sewn onto stumps of limbs. ‘Out, now!’ she yelled to Wind Talker and they backed up along the hallway.
The demon dropped to the floor and scuttled after them on all fours, snapping its pointed metal teeth. It launched itself at Stalker and an electric saw for its right hand fired to life. It managed to slice into her arm and she screamed in pain.
Wind Talker bounded out from behind her, in his Agrius form, half man, half bear and terrifying. He snarled and attacked the demon, driving his claws into its chest. The creature shoved him back and twisted away from him, climbing back up the wall out of his reach and hissed at him, spitting blood and pus down on both of them.
Stalker drew one of her swords and leaped up to stab it, catching its leg before it darted out of reach. She turned and ran for the nearest office, Wind Talker hot on her heels. Once they were both inside, Stalker slammed the door shut and glanced around the room. There was nothing in it except plastic sheeting on the floor.
The door started to vibrate and the whirring saw began to slice through it. Stalker leaped away from the door and ran for the window, she dove straight through it, shattering the glass and flew through the air, with splinters of glass flying around her. She fell a few feet and then floated gracefully to the floor, with the aid of her special talisman and landed with a slight crunch on the broken glass.
Wind Talker came flying out after her and landed with a heavy thud just behind her. Stalker looked up at the window and saw the demon leaning out of it, snapping its teeth and hissing at them.
The rest of the pack came running around the corner to find them, their faces filled with panic.
‘So much for a stealthy recon mission,’ Stalker said, brushing broken glass from her clothes. She had small cuts all over her hands and arms from jumping through the window but they were already healing. Wind Talker shifted back into his human form and glanced up at the window. The demon showed no signs of following them.
If you were intrigued by this morsel, then be sure to pick up the finished version on 17th October on Kindle, Nook, Kobo, iBooks and Smashwords.
If you’re new to the series, then get your free copy of the first book here.
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If these were the “good old days” of publishing, then assuming I had managed to secure a publishing contract, I would be about to embark on a book tour of book shops around the country to promote my new book, Ghosts of Winter. However, the industry has changed radically, though the traditional publishers are largely stuffing their fingers in their ears and ignoring this. There has been a paradigm shift, it is now authors that hold all the cards, and the former gatekeepers to literature are floundering.
Given that I am a self-publishing author in the digital age, I won’t be doing a physical book tour. But I thought it might be nice to recreate elements of one online. So in the coming weeks I’ll be posting excerpts from Ghosts of Winter here, like doing readings in person to a gathered crowd.
Given that this is book two of a series, I have tried to find a short excerpt that does not contain significant spoilers, and would like to remind readers that the first book in the series, Seeds of Autumn is available here. This section comes near the start of the book, and demonstrates some of the supernatural elements and the raw beauty of the world of shifters, Hepethia.
The pack set off at a run, heading south to the spot where the lightning had struck. The air was still buzzing with static when they got there, there were tiny ripples coming off a mound of pure crystal. It gleamed silvery blue in the late afternoon light and the sides jutted up from the smooth ground to form a wall over six feet high. The afternoon was drawing late and the tumultuous sky overheard was darkening, the storm was abating, the Lord having tired himself in the fight, but the rain persisted.
Stalker approached the mound and clucked her tongue in thought.
‘I guess we need to get inside,’ she said quietly. Weaver came up beside her and placed a hand on the crystal. Stalker copied her and felt the cool, hard surface against her palm. She pressed hard against it and felt a little give. She glanced at Weaver, who looked surprised and quickly retracted her hand. Stalker persisted and felt the crystal softening and warming. She watched in wonder as it slowly melted away from her palm and a small opening appeared. It wasn’t a mound at all, it was an impact crater. She looked around at the others, unable to hide her excitement and beamed at them. Eyes watched carefully, a small smile playing on his lips. Wind Talker frowned, caution written on his broad face.
Stalker took a step into the opening and stopped short, her gaze settling on the snake-like elemental curled up and glowing bright blue-white. It was about six feet long and the light radiating from it rippled along the supple body. It had huge chains shackled around it and rooted into the crystal floor.
‘That must be him,’ she whispered, looking over her shoulder at Wind Talker for confirmation. He peered around her and gave a single nod of his head and the four of them filed carefully in through the doorway and stood and watched the elemental for a minute.
Eventually he raised his head and looked at them with lamp-like eyes, obviously not surprised to see them, he must have been aware of them before.
‘Hello.’ The fae’s voice was little more than a crackle of electricity, but the one word somehow came through clearly.
‘Hello,’ Wind Talker replied and took a few steps closer. ‘Bound-and-Chained-Lightning, are you all right?’
Stalker was taken aback by the concern in Wind Talker’s voice and she smiled to herself.
‘Who? Me?’ The elemental lifted himself up more, looking at Wind Talker with wide eyes the colour of a tropical sea. ‘I don’t know. Am I?’
Wind Talker glanced back over his shoulder and gave a shrug to Eyes, clearly unsure how to proceed. Eyes moved up to stand next to him and looked thoughtfully at the elemental.
‘Do you know what you are?’ Eyes asked him.
‘Lightning?’ the elemental asked in a childlike voice. ‘Electricity?’
He seemed to be confused. Stalker and Weaver moved closer. Stalker felt so sorry for him, he was caught in a confusing limbo state between the two forces that made him, with powers pulling him in two directions at once. She could relate.
‘Can you tell me what I am?’ he asked, his eyes almost seemed sad. He was hard to read.
‘Power,’ Stalker replied without thinking, looking into his deep blue eyes.
There was a sudden shimmer from the elemental, he shook all over and flexed from nose to tail. Everyone jumped back as sparks flew off him and scattered across the floor. He flared up bright white, filling the whole crystal cage with blinding light and Stalker covered her eyes and turned away.
The light dulled and she looked back at him. He had grown; his chains had tightened around him but were still intact.
‘Thank you,’ he said, his voice suddenly older and with more of a crackle to it. ‘Things feel clearer now.’
Stalker grinned from ear to ear and looked back at her pack. They were smiling too.
‘We’re a new pack and need an ally. Are you willing to support us in establishing ourselves?’ Eyes asked, stepping forward and speaking kindly but with an edge of authority.
‘Yes. If you will free me,’ the elemental replied.
‘Consider it done,’ Eyes said with a firm nod.
Stalker looked around at the crystalline cage and the chains that bound this beautiful fae to the ground. It was raw Hepethia, alien and incredible. Making one small hole in the wall had taken a great deal of focus and mental energy, to break Bound-and-Chained-Lightning free would be a massive effort. She grasped Weaver’s hand and they exchanged determined glances.
‘We’ll need to all work together,’ she said quietly.
‘Can we change this?’ Eyes asked, raising a sceptical eyebrow.
‘I think so,’ Stalker replied, trying to keep the doubt from her voice. She focused her thoughts on breaking the crystal chains that snaked around Bound-and-Chained-Lightning, willing the fae to be free from its bonds. The chains began to shimmer and shake and the fae within them flexed. A crackle of electricity issued from it and it suddenly glowed brighter. Stalker was distracted for a moment, in awe of the beauty of the fae before them, but she quickly refocused. The chains were trembling and clinking slightly, making strangely melodic sounds.
She felt Weaver’s hand tighten on hers and a smile burst onto her lips; they were doing it. The chains began to creak and strain and suddenly a single link snapped, splintering into two pieces that scattered across the smooth floor. Another quickly followed and the fae rapidly expanded, free to move more than it ever had. With one last flex, the remaining chains snapped and Stalker reflexively shielded her face as the small pieces went flying in all directions.
Bound-and-Chained-Lightning soared into the air and seemed to explode into a thousand stars, scattering tiny sparks over the shifters below. Stalker squinted, shielding her eyes with her hand as she tried to watch the fae. The explosive flare died down and in place of the snake was a beautiful silver dragon flying in a figure of eight above them. He was a wingless, Chinese dragon, all rippling muscles and a bobbing head. He flickered constantly, like lightning behind clouds. Stalker drew a slow breath and looked around at the others.
‘He’s beautiful,’ Weaver whispered.
‘His name has changed,’ Wind Talker said, his voice full of wonder. ‘Unchained Lightning,’ he added slowly.
‘I love it,’ Stalker said, a bright smile lighting her face.
‘Unchained Lightning,’ Eyes called out. The fae stopped circling and looked down at them. ‘Will you honour our agreement and help us?’
‘The honour is mine,’ the fae replied, and he landed in front of them with a soft thud.
‘Excellent,’ Eyes said. ‘Then let’s begin.’