MID-WEEK SNEAK PEEK: The Stray

ebook coverDue out December 9, 2017 is the first novel from up and coming author Amanda Geisler. Here is chapter one of The Stray which is book one in The White Wolf Trilogy. Available at the Ouroborus Book Shop or all good book retailers.

Also if you are local to Brisbane Australia feel free to join us for the official launch. For details click here.

 

Chapter 1

The wolf was never far beneath my skin, itching to be free, to run. The transformation was like a thousand needles puncturing my skin. Then the sensations became harsher, causing pain. I gave into the pain stopping myself from gasping at the feeling of fur sprouting from my skin.

Next came more pain, I winced as the first bone snapped, it was always painful. I crouched down to all fours as my back arched, my spine reshaping, fur bristled as it settled upon my skin, it was a wonder we never bled during the transformation.

Claws sprouted from the back of my fingernails, covering what was human. Then there was the uncomfortable feeling of my mouth and nose stretching. Stretching into something powerful, something dangerous. I felt my teeth sharpen, ready to rip into the flesh of some helpless deer, but that wasn’t what I was shifting for. The alpha had called a meeting and I needed to know why.

The final stages of my transformation set in as my legs shortened to match the length of my arms. Both my arms and my legs thickened as powerful muscles formed beneath the skin. I could feel the gradual addition of new weight as my tail proceeded to protrude from the end of my spine.

I shook out my pure white canine fur, the glow of my golden yellow eyes reflected in the river beside me. The contacts that normally hid the tell-tale colour of my eyes had disintegrated the moment I shifted.

The wind swept through my fur as I bounded through the trees surrounding me. I drifted towards the sound of familiar footfalls as I closed in on my destination. Toby, he was kind of like my brother, my pack brother. I caught up and ran beside the sandy coloured wolf, I didn’t startle him, he would have sensed me coming.

We slowed to a walk as we fought our way through thick underbrush, when we broke through the last of it, it was to find ourselves in a large, enclosed clearing. The sky was invisible above us, allowing only a small amount of light to leak through the canopy of leaves.

Several wolves sat in the clearing, all of them facing the large black wolf that sat under the small shelter that had been built a long time ago. Nobody was talking yet, the entire pack hadn’t arrived, they would wait for the rest of the pack.

I knew these wolves well, they were my family ever since my parents were killed. They have taken care of me, supporting me until I was old enough to care for myself. I was an emancipated teenager now, living in my parents’ old house.

Finally, the black wolf stood. This was Erik, the alpha and I despised the man, I always tried to stay as far away from him as possible but it never worked. My family were the alphas of the pack, and as one of the alpha children I might have been expected to lead; my brother was first in line, but he wasn’t here.

‘Silence,’ Erik Mendez growled. There was silence; nobody disobeyed his orders, they didn’t want to suffer the repercussions. ‘A rogue has stumbled into our territory,’ he stated. ‘This stray, has managed to get itself caught by Alec Hall.’

‘What are we going to do with it?’ Seth asked, glancing at me briefly before looking back to his alpha. His wolf was earthen brown in colour with flecks of white.

‘For all I care Alec Hall deserves to die if he thinks he can hold a werewolf,’ Erik sneered.

My brow furrowed. ‘Do you not care that we will be discovered in the process?’ I questioned.

Erik’s gaze shot towards me and I felt my ears flick back under his stern gaze, my wolf telling me to submit.

‘Alec has been circling us for years, ever since he and his son came to this town.’

‘Allowing this wolf to kill Alec is more likely to have them discover us,’ I told Erik. I knew I would get in trouble soon.

We risk exposure if we try to save it,’ Erik said. He seemed thoughtful though, that surprised me.

‘I can get in there,’ I announced. ‘I’m close to his son, and I have Agua. Let me get this wolf out.’ Toby was staring at me as if I was crazy for making such a suggestion.

Erik continued to look thoughtful. ‘If you get exposed, we won’t help you,’ he told me sternly. ‘Do this before the dark moon tomorrow and we will deal with the rogue afterwards.’

I nodded. I couldn’t believe that he was allowing me to do this. ‘It will be done by tonight,’ I confirmed.

It was Erik’s turn to nod, his was a nod of dismissal. I couldn’t believe it as I quickly followed Toby out of the clearing. It was like he was a different person.

‘Are you really going to do this?’ Toby asked me as we ran. ‘You’re going to risk exposure to save a stupid rogue.’

I shrugged. ‘I’m going to try,’ I replied.

I raced past the sandy wolf rushing ahead. We branched apart as we both went to retrieve our human clothes and school bags. I wasn’t expecting to run into him before reaching school, but I did. He loped up to my side as we neared the school grounds, clothes and bag in his canine mouth.

We stopped running through the trees when we heard the sounds of students on the oval beyond the forest. I dropped my bag to the ground in front of me, Toby was only a few metres away mirroring my movements.

I braced my body as I forced myself back into my human skin. Instead of snapping, my bones melted, painlessly changing back into human bones. I saw my fur sinking back beneath my lightly tanned human skin. I looked up once I was fully human, Toby was still in the throes of transforming back to human. He was newer, so it took longer for him to transform.

I pulled my clothes over my naked body. Most girls would feel awkward if they were naked in front of Toby; he wasn’t exactly a nerd, but Toby had seen me shift more times than I could count even before he had shifted himself. He was the only one in the pack that I was extremely close to except for Colby.

I put a set of the usual brown contacts into my eyes, hiding the yellow while Toby dressed into human clothes and put his own set of blue contacts in making his eyes green. When he stood tall on his human legs he ran his hand through his hair, a habit of his, because he liked it messy. I however pulled a brush out of my school bag as we began walking.

There was still a fair distance to walk on human legs and, by the time we reached the fringe we were mucking around. I pushed Toby over and bounded out of the forest playfully, the grin wide on my face.

I could hear him running after me as I ran into view of students. I looked back over my shoulder; Toby was coming alright, he had determination in his eyes, but he was also grinning like an idiot.

He might have been newer, but I knew he was faster than me. It probably had something to do with his long legs. That didn’t stop me from running. I had to remember to make it human speed since the humans could see us. Most of them were used to Toby and I acting like this.

I knew it when he was just about to grab me, so I side stepped as he dove past me. I laughed at him as he got quickly to his feet. I started running again, but he didn’t let me get far, grabbing me unexpectedly from behind and he was not letting me go.

Toby was laughing as I tried to escape. I stomped on his foot and elbowed him in the chest behind me. He let go as I hit him.

‘Ha, ha.’ The sound escaped from my mouth as I backed away.

I backed into somebody. I hadn’t realised that somebody had come closer to us. I saw Toby stiffen slightly at the sight of the newcomer. All I could smell was the jealousy of the person I had walked into.

‘Zac,’ I announced, spinning around to face him. Zac was watching the now sheepish Toby, staring at him through stunning light brown eyes. I knew he tried not to be jealous of Toby, but I didn’t think he could help it.

‘What are you two doing?’ Zac asked stiffly, staring Toby right in the eyes, challenging him.

‘Oh, you know how it is,’ Toby said with a grin. ‘Mucking around with someone like Rya.’

I rolled my eyes. Toby liked riling Zac up, however, anger emanated from Zac.

‘It’s fine Zac,’ I said, putting a hand on his arm. ‘We were just having some fun.’ I glanced at Toby. ‘Stop being a bully.’

Toby just shrugged and walked off with a grin on his face. ‘See you at lunch,’ he yelled over his shoulder.

I shook my head. ‘Why can’t you two just get along?’ I muttered more to myself then to Zac. ‘It would make my life easier.’

‘I just don’t like him,’ Zac told me, glaring after my friend. ‘It’s the way he looks at you.’

I laughed. Toby just had those kind of eyes. ‘He’s a brother to me,’ I reminded Zac, not for the first time. ‘You know that our parents were best friends. We were always playing together when we were little.’ This was actually true, Toby had always come over to my house, he still does. ‘We grew up together.’

‘I know,’ Zac sighed. ‘It just bugs me that you’re so happy around him.’

‘Then you better get over it,’ I told him. ‘Because Toby isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon.’ Zac was still watching Toby, who had just reached the school buildings. I sighed. ‘I’m going to class.’

***

My teacher arrived just as I sat down in my seat. He was whistling, surprising me and the rest of the class. Mr Hammond was usually such a sour person.

‘I know that you’re all interested in the werewolf claims that were on the news today,’ he announced.  ‘So, we’re going to spend a few days studying the werewolf myths and legends. There are many different werewolf mythologies, so I would like you to choose one and write a paper about it, to be finished by Wednesday next week.’

There was a collective sigh throughout the room. I had sighed too, but for a different reason.  A dark moon was coming before the due date and that meant one less night to work on the paper.

‘But how do we know which one is correct?’ a student from the back of the classroom asked.

Mr Hammond looked at the student. ‘We can’t know for sure until the lead researcher is able to communicate with the werewolf they have in custody. Then, early next week, Alec Hall has allowed me to organise a little excursion to his laboratory. He should be able to tell us about all the different mythologies.’ Mr Hammond paused. ‘After he manages to talk to the werewolf of course.’ I sensed Hammond glance at me.

I hid my horror. Not only had they almost discovered us, they also intended to find out our secrets. It was a good thing that I would be getting the wolf out of there, I just didn’t know how yet.

We were allowed to spend the rest of the lesson researching our papers on the internet with the laptops we used for class. I already knew that I was going to base my paper on the mythology that was real.

Werewolves were descended from the Greek King Lycaon and his children. They angered the God Zeus by serving him the flesh of Nyctimus, Lycaon’s youngest son. I of course had to limit the details I added to the ones discussed in the human version of our histories. I would have to leave out our connection to witches and the fact that Lycaon also had a daughter included in the curse.

The bell rang and we began to pack up our things for our ten-minute break before our next class. Normally, it was just enough time to swap books over at the lockers and have a bite to eat, but luckily, today I had a free period and an entire hour to myself.

I almost ran to my locker to grab a bit of food, I kept my history books and my laptop.  Zac had the period off as well and most of the time we would sit out on the field to study. However, Zac liked to get distracted and unknowingly test my self-control.

I walked through the hallways that were busy with students making their way to their next class and left the building just as the next bell rang, walking to the tree Zac and I sat under during our free periods together.  It was a place we could just enjoy each other’s company, sometimes studying, and other times doing a lot more than that. When I was with him sometimes it felt like I was melting. I always had to stop him, because I was scared I might transform.  I didn’t know if I would be able to stop myself.  I knew when I was angry I still sometimes had trouble stopping myself from shifting.

I had just settled when Zac arrived, his laptop resting open on his forearm, it had probably just been used in his last class.  He sat down close to me, his hip resting against mine. For a quick moment, it was all I thought about.

‘When do you have history?’ I asked him. I couldn’t remember if he had it today; stupid two-week timetables.

‘Not till after lunch,’ he replied. He was more comfortable without Toby around. His voice was softer and he was more relaxed when it was just us.

‘We’re studying werewolf mythologies,’ I told him. ‘He wants us to choose the one we think is the real one and write a paper on it.’

He sighed. ‘When is it due?’

‘Wednesday. You could come over to mine and we can work on it together?’ I suggested.

‘Sure. I’ll check with my dad for some of his information on werewolf history.’ He was silent for a moment. ‘Enough about school work,’ he said, pushing his laptop off his knees.

He pulled me closer and put his arms around me. He kissed me deeply, his lips parting mine.  When we finally broke apart we were gasping for breath. His lips travelled from my mouth down to my neck, my skin tingled in response.

I gasped again at the tingling feeling they gave me. I put my hand around his neck and pulled his lips back to mine. He made a joke of resisting, but it was feeble and soon our lips connected once again. Our school work was forgotten and my self-control was dwindling. Soon, I would have to pull away again. Zac lowered me down on to my back, his lips still pressed against mine.

I knew that it was going too far, but I couldn’t bring myself to break away. Even when his mouth wasn’t on mine, it was somewhere pressed against my skin and all I could do was respond.  He ran his hand down my side, his hands sliding higher. I lost all control.  My hands began to burn with the first signs of transformation. One hand dug into the ground beside me.

Someone shoved Zac off of me, angering him until he saw it was his best friend, Dylan Andrews. He was always interrupting the moments I had with Zac. This time, however, I was grateful.  Zac leaped to his feet to mock fight Dylan while I got myself back under control. I sat up and looked clenching my hands closed, hiding the claws that had appeared. I took a deep breath and they disappeared.  Boys, I thought, looking up at them. I shook my head.

‘Righto boys,’ I said to them in the fake motherly voice I used every time this happened.  ‘Do I need to break up this fight, or will you save me the hassle?’

As always, they stopped mid wrestle, looked at me, then sat up and pulled the usual innocent look. I had to stop myself from laughing. They looked like pups when they got caught doing something naughty. The laughter erupted in the end, bubbling over so that in the end the boys joined me.

‘So anyway,’ Dylan said. ‘What are you doing?’ He glanced at our discarded laptops and books and grinned.

‘We were supposed to be studying,’ I said in an accusing tone. ‘But somebody got us a little bit distracted.’

Dylan laughed. ‘Yep, that’s our Zac.’ He dodged Zac when he tried to push Dylan over again. ‘Anyway, you’re lucky I butted in. You guys were getting a bit carried away. I recommend finding a room.’

We spent the rest of the free period talking about the paper that Mr Hammond had assigned us.  Dylan thought he might write about the French history of werewolves while Zac decided to wait to see what his dad said. Soon the bell rang and students started piling out of the buildings.

I grabbed my stuff and stood to leave. ‘I’m gonna go hang out with Agua,’ I told the boys.

Zac moved toward me for a quick kiss.  ‘See you this arvo.’ I nodded briefly in response.

As I walked towards the cafeteria I heard Dylan speak. ‘Dude, you’re so whipped.’ I heard the responding thud as Zac tackled him.  I walked faster shaking my head at the immaturity going on behind me.

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Published in: on November 29, 2017 at 8:56 am  Leave a Comment  

SNEAK PEEK: Everdark Realms 3: The Reckoning

cover3v1I know we promised Everdark 3 by Christmas time but due to some health issues with one of the writers and the departure of another, we are a little behind, so, to make it up to you, here’s a sneak peek at the first two chapters of Everdark Realms: The Reckoning.

Part One:

THE LUNA LUKKOS: THE BATTLE OF MONKISH CITY

Chapter One

Three Jars

The small goblin peered out from a trunk that lay on the ground. It was hollowed out by animals, using it for shelter during the winter days. There, a small pile of bones in the corner where whatever animal had been here last, had eaten as its last meal in the make-shift shelter. The goblin’s name was Stanley and he wore a dark grey tunic and had the hood pulled up over his head. There were two holes on each side so his small, pointed ears could poke out.

Stanley looked around carefully. He examined the tree tops and looked into the dark crooks of the forest. When he figured it was safe, he ran out of the sleeping trunk to a little collection of mushrooms. He pulled a small blade from his waistcoat and started clipping the fungi off at the stalks. He tossed them in a small sack and suddenly looked up. It wasn’t a noise he heard, but an aroma he smelled.

‘No…’ he whispered and started running back towards the cabin.

It took some time to get back, as the goblin was only the size of a small cat. He stopped briefly to climb a small tree; clambering up the branches and looking as far as he could. He saw a bird take flight, squawk and disappear over the mountains. Stanley shook his head. He looked worried. Turning towards the cabin where his master lived, he could see billowing smoke coming from the chimney.

‘Oh no…’ He slid down the tree and ran.

The front door of the cabin was jammed open with a bag of sand. A tear in the side had made it pour into a small mole hill, right in the entrance. The Tarrcrow peered through the gap in the door and saw his goblin friend running at full speed towards him. Without even asking the question, he knew something was wrong.

‘They’re coming!’ Stanley gasped, his lungs empty of air.

‘It was only a matter of time,’ the Tarrcrow said, its beady, black eyes nothing but swirls of ink.

‘You have to leave. Pack your things and get out of here… They’ll kill you.’

The Tarrcrow looked at the small goblin. Stanley flicked his hood off; sweat beaded down its face.

‘No matter where I run, or where I hide… they’ll come for me.’

‘You don’t care if you live or die?’

The Tarrcrow went to the cupboard and pulled out three jars of liquid. One was yellow, one red and one blue.

‘It’s not about living or dying, Stanley. It’s about standing up for what you believe in.’

‘The Everdark,’ Stanley said, solemnly.

‘Stanley,’ the Tarrcrow said, leaning down, his beak gently touching the ground in front of the small goblin. ‘Your work here is done. You’ve protected the forest from my cursed feet. You are free to go.’

‘But… but…’

‘I won’t live. And you needn’t come back. You’re free.’

‘I’ll fight with you,’ the goblin pleaded.

‘No… it’s not your fight. You must go back to your city… They will more than likely need you in this time of peril.’

The goblin thought for a moment, bowed and ran towards the corner of the front room. He opened a door and disappeared inside. The Tarrcrow moved the sand bag and swung the door open wildly. The forest around the cottage was swarming with thin, demented creatures. All the morbid monsters were hunched over and walking on all fours. They had the snout of a canine and the extremely long ears of a bewilder-goat. Their fur was mismatched in colour and missing in patches. Whatever had created them had done so quickly, and with one purpose.

‘Come out, Crow!’ one howled, appearing form the cover of the forest.

The Tarrcrow stepped outside and where he walked, a small fire started, exactly the shape of his foot print. The giant crow held the jars under its wing and quickly counted the shadows moving amongst the tree line. There were too many. He looked over his shoulder and saw the goblin in the doorway. Stanley waved, with a tear in his eye and the door was swiftly shut.

‘Where is the monkey boy?’

‘He’s not here. He came and went on his way…’

‘You’re hiding him.’

‘No,’ the Tarrcrow said, knowing perfectly well there was no use in arguing. ‘If you’re master had any foresight they would know his whereabouts by now… Saboo is not hard to track down.’

‘Tell us where you sent him.’

The Tarrcrow pulled the first jar from under its leathery wing. It held it up and let the sun charge the yellow liquid.

‘Find him yourself. Your master sent the assassin Chupacabra… and you should know by now it was killed. There’s your first clue…’

The horrors became restless, shaking their awkwardly built frames.

‘There’s no time for this… Kill it!’

The Tarrcrow arched its wing back and lobbed the jar into the air. Multiple horror hounds leapt from the dark recesses of the surrounding forest. The jar spun in the air, the liquid inside sloshing around. The lead horror charged the crow, nabbing the giant bird around his leg. The jar fell to the ground and shattered into a hundred pieces. The liquid exploded into a blinding light, sending searing rays outwards like the spokes in a wheel. Light tore through two horrors, killing them instantly. They fell to the ground in a mess of stitched skin and rancid hide.

The Tarrcrow tried to kick the hound off, but its teeth were made from shaved bone. He felt his feathers tear and its skin rip. Blood squirted from the wound. Another hound latched onto the Tarrcrow’s right arm, then another went for the throat. He pulled the blue jar from its nook and smashed it on the ground near his feet. A whirlwind appeared, sucking up three of the horrors, tossing them into the air and spinning them around until they became sick. It flung them far and wide. They crashed into the trees, breaking their necks and dying instantly. The crow pecked its long beak at the hound on his foot and soon it died, still with its teeth still sunk in.

More emerged from the darkness. Then more after that. The Tarrcrow was surrounded by shaggy, bony creatures of dark magic.

‘Your time has come, bird. Tell us his whereabouts and we may spare your life.’

‘I knew my days were numbered once the dark magicians cursed where I walked,’ the Tarrcrow said, his voice shaky. ‘But I thought I would die for the greater good. For the cure. For the land. Not at the hands of make-shift animals built to serve a master.’

He slipped its hand into its underwing and pulled out the red jar.

‘I can say I’ve served a purpose and left Saboo in capable hands… Tell your master his days are now numbered.’

With his final words, the Tarrcrow lifted the jar up and hammered it against the ground. The jar broke apart and a great, cyclonic, ring of fire engulfed the surrounding woods. The fire leapt high and large, burning everything in its wake. The cottage turned to ash, the trees crumbled and the horrors melted into oblivion.

The Tarrcrow returned to the dirt of the forest… the forest it had once protected.

 

 

Chapter Two

The Mirror Man

Saboo sat against a crumbling brick wall and watched the vendors set up their stalls for the daily commerce. His hands were in his side-bag, where he was holding the Mask of Ebb. Looking down at it his face stung. He grimaced and rewrapped the mask in the cloth he had taken from Lawless’ house. He stood up and looked around. He had been in Spooners Lore for two days, sleeping by the fountain until a vagrant, smelling of alcohol, tried to use it as a urinal.

He stepped out into the morning sun and was almost run over by a cart carrying cabbages out of the small city.

‘Watch out!’ the blind driver grumbled.

The night before, when Saboo had found a small bridge to sleep under, he had witnessed a group of strange people marching through the city centre in the middle of the night chanting for a wizard that had blended into the populous of the city. They had upturned bins and had woken the occupants of the stores to search their houses for the miscreant. As far as Saboo could work out, the wizard had several warrants for his arrest and used dark, illegal magic.

Saboo made his way to the side alley where a local eatery gave out small portions of food to professors and warlocks who worked through the night in their viewing towers and watched the progress of the comet as it came and went. Saboo lined up with the rest of them, but when he got to the front, he was pushed away.

‘Pirate!’ The grumpy food dispenser shouted, pointing at Saboo’s tattoo. ‘This is for the people who have earnt it… Now scat!’

Saboo, with his tail between his legs, left the alley for the backstreets of the city. He looked at the tattoo on his arm. It had healed and his fur was starting to grow back. His stomach rumbled and he headed out into the twisted metropolis.

Spooners Lore wasn’t a big city, but the way it was built was astounding. The streets spiralled around a centre where there was large monument made of wands. They were all burnt and scorched together, from some great war that Saboo had never heard about. There was an equal mix of horrid, criminal types lurking amongst the streets, disguising their faces and wearing odd masks. Then there where the upper-echelon business creatures, dressed with scarfs around their necks and carrying expensive clocks and dials. Their pockets jingled with spare change and they made the noise louder, daring anyone to pinch them. Generally, the place was a hub of magical traders, soul-exorcism handlers and general positive mages trying to come together to form a safe haven.

Saboo’s stomach grumbled again, this time loud enough for a civilian walking near him to snap a quick glance at him. He had come here to find a way home, but had not met a single person in two days who would answer his questions. He was starting to think he had been guided in the wrong direction. He coursed his way through the streets, getting odd looks from passers-by. He tried to hide his tail the best he could, however, it was a bit awkward to walk with it tucked in beside his leg.

There was a fork in the road, one street sign read; Hawkers Pavilion – Magical Traders and Fair, and the other side read; Blackbird Avenue – Travellers Unique and Rare Food Bazar. Saboo saw the word ‘travellers’ and began to walk down the slight incline in the road. It was paved beautifully and intricately. The large houses on either side had built in shop fronts. There was less noise away from the centre, but the shadows crept and followed, not only between the stores and alleyways, but also high up, through the windows and mezzanines. There was an elderly woman pushing a cart up the hill. She was snorting and moaning and muttering to herself under her breath. Once she reached the top, close to Saboo, she stopped and wiped her brow with an old rag.

‘Broth?’ she said, her words sounded like straw going through a meat mincer.

Saboo approached carefully, eyeing the old woman. She popped the top off a large pot and the smell hit Saboo’s nose and his mouth instantly watered. Floating on top were dumplings and vegetables. The smell was divine.

‘Only 5 Pecos a serve. Only 5!’

‘I don’t have any money,’ Saboo replied.

The woman grunted and heaved the heavy cart handles back onto her shoulder and started heaving the wagon back over the hill.

‘Wait!’ Saboo said, running after her. He reached into his bag and pulled out the Mask of Ebb. ‘I have this… Will you trade?’

Saboo held the mask outwards the woman glanced at it over her shoulder. She dropped the cart suddenly and the cutlery clanged together. She wiped her eyes with rag and stepped towards Saboo.

‘Where did you get this?’ she snarled.

‘Someone gave it to me,’ Saboo answered, now somewhat regretting showing it to her.

‘Stranger from a stranger land you are… but aren’t we all? You look tired and starving. I will give you this food for that mask, under one condition… you don’t tell anyone you had it, or who you gave it to.’

Saboo gently angled the mask back towards his chest.

‘You know what this mask is?’

‘The Mask of Ebb… missing for quite some time. The Mask of Flow is in this very city… the two together… well…’ she rushed around the side of the cart and filled a large bowl with broth. She added dumplings after dumplings and pulled a large coco-juice from the ice box. She offered it to Saboo.

As hungry as he was, he knew he had made a mistake.

‘I’m sorry… no. I’ll have to keep the mask. Would you know of anywhere around here that could get me back to…’

The woman lunged forward, dropping the broth and the juice. It smashed against the floor, spilling everywhere. Her fingers wrapped around the mask and her eyes shot open, pure white and without pupils or irises.

‘Hand it to me!’ she snarled like a wild animal.

From the darkness sprung a hooded figure, a large wooden bo-staff twirled in the air and thumped against the woman’s abdomen. She was flung backwards and rolled along the ground. The mask fell to the cobblestones pavers and the hooded figure picked it up. Saboo took several steps back. The figure didn’t lift their hood off their face, but stared with yellow eyes. It looked down at the mask, then back to Saboo. It handed it to him.

‘Spooners Lore isn’t a dangerous place… unless you start waving around an extremely rare, magical artefact.’

Saboo took the mask and put it back in his side bag.

‘Thank you,’ he said. ‘I don’t know why I offered to swap my mask for food… it was…’

‘You’re hungry, that’s why you did it. Come with me to my shop, I was just about to prepare breakfast myself.’

Saboo was reluctant to follow. He stood his ground for a moment and looked down the path to the Travelers Unique and Rare Food Bazar. There were more food carts down amongst the interconnecting roads.

‘You can go down that way, but you don’t have any money. Nor do you know anyone.’

‘I just need to find a way to get to…’

‘Monkish City,’ the hooded figure said, the voice neither male nor female.

‘How did you…?’

‘Without sounding forward; I’ve seen you here for the last few days, sleeping under bridges and eating things out of the bins. We don’t often get Luna Lukkos here… in fact, you may be the very first one.’

‘My city is under attack and I need to get home. But I don’t know where I am or how I can get back quickly.’

‘I do,’ the figure said. ‘Now let’s stop standing here, out in the open waiting for trouble and get to my shop.’

The figure flung its long coat, making it swirl and fan out. They marched quickly down a side alley and out of view. Saboo rushed to catch up. He hadn’t even had time to make a decision if he was going or not, but he found his feet moving fast after the hooded figure.

They swerved and parried down several alley ways, and down the next street. It was much quieter and barely any shops were open. Several people were hanging their washing out, strung high above, from building to building.

‘Here,’ the figure said, pulling keys from their side pocket.

Saboo looked up and saw the sign; Bard’s Mirrors and Antiquities. It was an old, faded sign that hung from equally faded and rusty chains. The door was pushed open and the figure slid inside. Saboo followed carefully. Inside the shop was dimly lit. The first thing Saboo noticed was the number of mirrors everywhere. There must have been nearly a hundred just in the front room; of all shapes and sizes. Some were long and wide, some were short and skinny. Some were in frames, others were cut haphazardly. They weren’t stacked in any particular order, or had price tags on any of them. They were scattered with almost careless abandon. Saboo stepped around and over the mirrors to follow the stranger to the rear room.

‘Is your name Bard?’ Saboo asked, losing the figure in the darkness momentarily.

A candle was lit and the stranger’s face was suddenly thrust into light. Their skin was grey and their eyes glowed a strange yellow. They had a slit for a mouth and no nostril holes.

‘My name is Mondo Bard. The store is actually named after my father, he died several years ago.’

The rear room had more mirrors, all smaller than the ones in the front room. Some were hung on the exposed brick walls. To the right was a chimney, the fire was out and the coals were cold. There was a table with half built frames and a long bench with two deep sinks full of water.

Mondo put the candle on the table and poured water into two ceramic cups.

‘You said your city is under attack?’

Saboo drunk swiftly from the cup, taking the entire contents down in several large gulps.

‘I was taken by the Calavera witches. They are the ones that gave me the mask. A fortune teller told me they put a curse on my city.’

Mondo turned and looked at the empty fire place. He stared for some time.

‘It makes sense now.’

‘What does?’

‘Something stronger is at play here. The Everdark has passed and someone, somewhere used it to their advantage. The witches you speak of… they are karmatic. What they give in negative, they must give in positive.’ Mondo turned to Saboo. ‘Someone has hired them to curse your city, to destroy it, then to take you far from it… but they gave you the mask.’

‘That’s why I need to get home.’

A shadow moved in one of the mirrors along the far wall. Saboo leapt back, jolted in fright.

‘They know you’re here!’ Mondo said, flinging his hood back over his head.

‘Who does?’

Mondo grabbed Saboo by his arm and ran into the front room.

‘Picture a mirror in your city, any mirror.’

‘What?’ Saboo said, watching as the mirrors started to fill with grisly shadows.

‘I can send you back… through the mirrors. I normally need more time to prepare, but you have the mask. It will help get you there, but you must wear it.’

‘But it burns.’

‘You’ll die here if you don’t.’

Saboo yanked the mask from his bag and looked at it. A long, grey hand came out of the closest mirror and tried to nab the mask. Mondo kicked it away.

‘Whoever is behind this is strong, now put it on.’

Saboo lifted the mask to his face and placed it on gently. The searing pain tore at his flesh, digging into his skin and reopening old scar tissue. He shrieked and convulsed in agony. Mondo grabbed his hands and closed his eyes as the shadows started to crawl out of the mirrors.

‘Picture a mirror or you’ll end up somewhere you don’t want to be.’

Saboo sifted through his brain, but he came up blank. Then he remembered a piece of mirror he used for his traps outside the Monkish City.

‘Okay,’ he gasped. ‘It’s small… and outside of the tree city.’ Tears rolled down his face.

‘It will have to do,’ Mondo swung him around violently as several shadow creatures pounced on him. Saboo was thrown into a long mirror. As soon as he hit it, it turned to liquid and he was swallowed whole.

The shadow beings all rushed to the mirror, but Mondo snatched it quickly and threw it onto the floor where it smashed into a thousand shards.

‘You’ll never find him now,’ Mondo said with a grin.

The shadow creatures all turned their eyeless sockets towards him.

‘You will pay for that,’ they said in chorus and slunk back into the mirrors from which they had come.


 

Published in: on November 18, 2017 at 5:39 am  Leave a Comment  

Indie Book Review: Soulless by Jacinta Maree

“We are the generation that laughs at death.

Reincarnation.

What was once considered a gift of immortality has become an eternity of nightmares.”

 26846210Soulless by Jacinta Maree is set two hundred years in the future, where humans have begun to remember every life they have ever lived. Scientist came up with a band aid cure called D400, which helps repress memories but no one can find a cure, until Nadia Richards is born.

Nadia is a strong and likeable female lead with a sassy attitude that makes you giggle as you read her story. The difference between her and every character is fascinating to read about, where she sees parents and siblings, everyone else sees just more humans, no one really connects anymore because of the reincarnation, because of remembering every person you’ve ever met in every life time.

When Nadia meets Diesel, a man with some very psychotic personalities in his past, you become addicted to this story. They say we girls can’t resist a bad boy, well Diesel is as bad as they get. You instantly crave to peel back the layers underlining his character, he is so complex and fascinating that you just need to keep reading, you need to know more about this man, this character.

When Soulless arrived in my mailbox, I had it finished in less than two days, and the only reason it took me that long is because work would have fired me if I didn’t show up to my shifts. It is a fresh take on the dystopian genre. It is exciting, full of action, dark elements that make you squeamish, but most importantly keeps you on your toes and itching for more.

It does, however, end on a cliff-hanger, which is bad in the sense that I need the next one now, like right now. Luckily for you, it is now available, but when I read it, it wasn’t and I was annoying the author to hurry up with the release of Soul Finder, so when you read this book, have book two ready to go.

Soulless is a one of a kind story that I can’t even think of what to compare it to. But if you like Divergent and Hunger Games, then I guarantee you’ll enjoy Soulless. It would also be recommended to young adult and above.

Jacinta is an amazing writer with an extraordinary imagination and I loved this book as well as her other series I have read and can’t wait for more of her work, so I highly recommend you google her name.

 

-Danica Peck

 

Published in: on November 5, 2017 at 6:54 am  Leave a Comment