Tag Archives: Chapter One Excerpt

Harvest Bite

To celebrate its full release,  today I’m sharing an excerpt from chapter one of A Harvest of Dreams & Embers, Eight Kingdoms book five! The second half of the saga begins with Merlin…and mayhem.

 

Chapter One

Sleep had come to Spring, though it did not belong there.

Myrddin advanced alone through the stillness of the Wyrdwood and found even the birds sunk into slumber. Drowsiness had descended, and with it a sacred silence that brought disharmony, reducing the promise of the branches to the ghost of leaves. There had never been such lethargy in immortal Spring before, but the season had traded away its show of splendor for somnolence.

King though he was, even Myrddin was tangled in threads of torpor and his own sudden awareness of the presence that incited them. Why here, why now? Father?

Yes.

With the feeling of acknowledgment came a summons Myrddin could not deny, though he wanted to. No other being was so perilous to him, had ever cost him so much, as his own father. And now, now that he finally had Kas for his own…

Neither the time nor the place of the visit pleased him, but Myrddin could no more deny the summons of the one who had sired him than the buds could refuse the spring.

His heart clenched. Had he regained what he’d lost only to have it taken away? Kas. All his desires were bound up in the single syllable of that name. He would not give his lover up again, no matter what demand the god of the wild had for him.

Myrddin found his father at the heart of the forest, wrapped around its most ancient oak. He knew it was his father, but Myrddin had never seen him like this. As the Stag of the wood, yes, carrying the moon in the spaces between his antlers. As a mist, or in a man’s shape, but like this?

The god of the wood had come to him as a dragon. His father was a moss-backed beast with leafed and feathered wings whose span stretched beyond Myrddin’s sight. He was the wildest and most beautiful of his kind Myrddin had ever seen, but he was a dragon all the same.

Did that mean…he was no longer a god?

There was a shiver in the branching pinions, a sibilant trembling of feathers. A sound like silk being stretched too tight and too quickly snapped through the air as the great wings beat once then settled.

“Father…” The dragon opened his mouth and breathed out the scent of somnolent blossoms, but not a single word in answer. “Father?”

He resisted the urge to go to one knee as he resisted the drowsy pressure of the air, a sudden urge to yawn. Silence greeted him. More than before, stronger the closer he came to the unsteady orb of his father’s eye. He recognized the source of the unnatural sleep with a familiarity that reminded him of his own long-vanished past.

‘My little shoot.’

Not his father’s voice, but the memory of his mother’s, brushed Myrddin with a faint prickling of dread. This sleep was akin to his own lost winter slumber. The sleep that had taken him at Samhain each year, before Spring had had a rite, or a kingdom… When winter had come to him as to the blossoms and dropped him down the well of the sleeping season.

His father blinked one enormous eye, and the flickering facets drew Myrddin in. The eye became a world, a universe in the shape of an ochre orb. “I forget who I was before the birth of this moment.

 

Want more? A Harvest of Dreams & Embers is currently available at Pride Publishing, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other retailers. Grab your copy today!

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Deathless Bite

Today is a deathless day…or should I say, the day of Deathless? Now on early release at Pride Publishing, this second Tale of the Eight Kingdoms starts in the ancient woods of Britain, ten thousand years before the events of book one, and takes us to the meeting of Kas and Myrddin, and the first Spring Rite.

Enjoy this exclusive excerpt from the very beginning of Deathless!

 

Chapter One

The nights were growing chill, but the change of the autumn foliage had turned the river valley into a sea of flames. Leaves fell like sparks, browned the underbrush and bared the branches of the wood, but not only the canopy was failing. On a bier in the open, breathing slowly and quietly, Myrddin’s mother, the old chief’s daughter, lay dying.

“Mother, you can’t go!”

“Oh, it’s time. It’s past time, Myrddin. Look at you, my little shoot. You don’t change any more, but you’ve grown, and your mother is old and only a woman. Now is my time.”

Myrddin gripped her fingers tightly. The lines of her face were smooth, but worn, and her hand was limp in his grasp. The only brightness left in her was in the green shimmer of her gaze. Already he could feel her slipping away.

He supposed he should be grateful it was happening now, at the end of autumn, and not when he’d already begun his winter sleep. But how could he be? Grateful. He could have hated it—her dying—if she didn’t look so much like she was letting go of something heavy that she’d carried for far too long.

It was still agonizing to watch.

Why did death have to come so gently? Like a fall of rain—like falling asleep after making love. Myrddin could have hated it, except that she welcomed its coming.

“You’re going where I can’t follow, Mother. I won’t have anyone if you…when you die.”

She laughed, or at least she made a sound that was something like it, and he winced. “You have to learn to let go. Let it be. We’re all mortal, aren’t we? Yes, all of us but you. And you…my son, if you can’t learn to let us go, you’ll have no companion but pain, and that’s…not…what I wanted for you.”

“Mother…”

Red leaves fell onto the furs that covered her, then mingled with her hair as she tried to lift her head. One descended lightly into the spread-open fingers of her unclasped hand, and she smiled. You’ll have to learn. You will, won’t you? Promise me you will.

“I—promise.”

Good boy. Now, let them bring me where I want to go.”

Myrddin lifted his gaze. Her bearers were already waiting around them, their eyes averted from the final parting of mother and son. “Mother. You don’t have to do this. What good is it to just—

I want to die where it began. That’s all. For you, and for me. Won’t you come with me? I won’t make a journey in this world again.

He stared at her, almost shook his head, then squeezed her fingers and let go. “I’ll be watching. I can’t… I’ll just…be watching.”

She sighed, reached up and patted his cheek with her free hand, and the bearers came forward and took up her bier with careful hands. His mother’s fingers slipped out of Myrddin’s grip, and he stepped back, and back, watched her go into the forest then turned and fled up the side of the valley. The sun was setting, and the evening came full of swallowing shadows that he followed along the ridge above the crest of the valley.

He couldn’t stand it, couldn’t bear it, but he was equally incapable of avoiding it, of denying her or leaving her behind. Even at a distance, even in darkness, he could see the cortege accompanying his mother’s body, heard the wails of the tribe’s women as they fell in line behind. He wanted to go to her, stand with her, wait until the end, but he couldn’t do it. Not this.

As he thought it, the wind moved, a sudden hush of gusts that nearly blew him over. It was only then, forced out of his grief, that Myrddin felt the oncoming tide. Power was flowing around him, the green whispering. The wildlife was growing awake, aware, and the blood of his father inside him, the immortal link that connected Myrddin to the growing and greening of the world, pulsed alive.

The whisper rose through the wood until it was a roar among the leaves, a howl in the throats of wolves. The sudden baying of stags mingled with a thousand fluted melodies as the birds scattered from the trees, and the trees bowed, bent, rolled their shoulders and tossed their heads with no need for the wind.

Still, the wind was rising, carrying whispers and roars, howls and birds. Awake! Wild spirits of the spring sped past Myrddin, not focused on him, not paying him any attention, and he closed his eyes but couldn’t close his mind to the message. Awake! He comes, He comes.

Myrddin didn’t need to wonder who. There was only one reason for this much excitement in the wild. My father is coming and why? Now? When it’s too late for him to do anything. A flush of rage replaced his grief, but it was rage tempered by truth and sense. His mother had been an offering since before he was born. That had been the reason why he was born. She had belonged to his father from the moment she had chosen to give herself as a gift to the God.

I was just the result, not the fulfillment. My mother, but she belongs to Father as she has always done.

There had never been any doubt about his father. His mother had been taken, and given a child, and returned…and he was that child, bound to the spring as much as to the mortal world—or more, maybe.

Immortal powers were stronger. Immortal purposes were more demanding than anything but death, and Myrddin remembered his birth—remembered his first year as well as yesterday.

By the end of his first summer, dressed in a loincloth of leather and painted with the brown mud of the forest, he had toddled behind the hunting men. By the end of his first autumn, he’d been strong and straight enough of limb to walk with them. He’d had the look of a boy of ten years, though he couldn’t yet count even one, but he had carried no weapon and only clung to the edges of their sight.

It hadn’t been their prey that he was after, only the wilderness that ran before their footsteps…until autumn had ended, and the first snow had begun to fall.

Snow. Timeless and endless and white, it had fascinated him, then made him irresistibly drowsy. He’d gone to his mother and spoken his first words.

“Mother, I’m tired.”

“Then sleep, dear one. Sleep…”

And then, and every year since, her lullaby had gentled him into the dark. He had slept through the winter and its whiteness, the long, cold months. Only his mother had never been surprised. Like the spring shoots, he had grown and blossomed with the passing of the seasons. She had thought it only natural that winter was time for him to sleep.

“But there won’t be anyone to sing me to sleep this year.”

The flush of anger at his father gave way to grief again, and Myrddin looked up and saw that his mother and the villagers who followed her had almost passed out of sight. He caught up quickly, with the feeling he was stepping in his father’s footsteps as he crossed the ridge line back down toward the floor of the valley.

The procession wound through the trees, bringing his mother one final time through the wood she loved. Myrddin stopped when it stopped, and stood still, arrested in place for no reason he could explain. It felt wrong to move forward, though he could sense his mother’s death coming for her, walking toward her. It was here, in the wood! On the path—in the clearing—right in front of him…

A silence the likes of which Myrddin had never experienced came crashing down.

He tried to take another step forward, but the air was heavy, liquid and too thick to move through. In the same instant, Myrddin saw a shadow dart from the forest with the speed of a fleeing beast, the speed of a predator following. He saw a moment in which darkness lay itself like a shroud of shadow over his mother, a shadow the shade of the forest canopy at night.

Then, color flowed into the dark. His father. The God was green, green and growing as the vivid earth, green as the forest leaves, and He was brown, as the eyes of the stag and the pelt of the stag, and His eyes were black as the rich, turned earth of spring.

“Father… What…are you doing?”

The words fell heavy as stones from Myrddin’s mouth and disturbed the silence, but not the frozen moment. He took a breath and held it as his father bent and lifted his mother in his arms.

And now it is time for you to come with me.” His father’s voice did not disturb anything, nor his mother’s, as it came just after.

“Is this what dying is?”

Myrddin heard his father laughing.

Yes. No.”

The world snapped open and shut.

Want more? Grab Deathless here, on early release at Pride Publishing, before it’s out anywhere else!

Shadow Bite

To celebrate today’s early release at Pride Publishing,  today I’m sharing an exclusive excerpt from chapter one of The Shadow Road, Eight Kingdoms book four! 

Enjoy this crunchy little bite, and of course, if you want more, grab a copy here!

Through the barrow, across the ice, over the bridge and the river’s black water, Macsen ran quickly, following the promise of heat. Summer fire was making its presence known in the middle of Winter, fire and coiling smoke and the scent of golden power.

A smile crawled across his face, eager with anticipation. He knew where Bran was now, and he stalked around the palace, through the green of the orchard. Yes. Yes. He could see through the open spaces of the entryway that Bran was at his forge, muttering to himself, shaping the precious metals Macsen had left for him with practiced movements.

Bits of work were scattered here and there on tables. The beginnings of what might be a silver bridle, golden baubles filled with fire and a dozen gossamer lengths of chain were coiled and piled on each other.

Macsen’s attention was drawn to Bran’s hands, the smoothness of their movements, the easy way his fingers shaped the softness of the gold. There was something sensual in the motions, in his perfect focus, the way his eyes didn’t wander at all and a tiny wrinkle deepened between his brows. The intensity of his attention to his work was such that he still hadn’t noticed Macsen’s presence.

He almost took a step forward, arm outstretched, but caught sight of his own fingers, dark with bloodstains, and grimaced. Quietly, still unnoticed, he slipped away, up to their room and the bath. Macsen stripped out of silk as bloody as his body, and the water went red as he stepped into it. It grew redder still as he bathed, scrubbed gore from his face, his hands, even his hair.

When it flowed clear, he lingered for only a moment before he grabbed a towel and wandered back into the bedroom, considering. Talaith was gone. He would have to do everything himself, or find some other servant, and even the thought made him scowl. When Macsen opened the wardrobe, it was empty, nothing hung. His clothes, where were they? But then she did that too, didn’t she? He’d have to go down into the storage closets and find everything there.

He wrapped his towel around his waist, pushed wet hair back out of his eyes and contemplated a secondary irritation. His comb, where was that? He scowled, then turned to face the door as it opened.  It wasn’t Bran, he knew that instantly, and who else would dare? But he saw first not the one who had come, but what they had brought with them—his clothes, and things glinting silver. Momentarily, a familiar face emerged from behind the pile.

“Saoirse! What are you doing?”

“I… Since Talaith… I thought you…” And she stopped dead, but still peered up at him, curious and perhaps confused. “Should I leave? I didn’t mean to be trouble, but I helped Talaith sometimes and I never once saw you come down where everything is, so I thought you would need…” Again she stopped. “Red King?”

He had too many thoughts for words, and only shook his head and turned away. Whatever she thought of that, he didn’t know. Her stillness dissipated and she came into the room, began to lay things out on the bed. Tunics and trousers in red and silver, blue and gold, more choices than he needed and some that weren’t even his clothes.

“Girl—”

“There’s things for Bran, too. He likes new clothes after he’s been working. And I brought combs and brushes, but not jewelry. Bran doesn’t need it, not with your gift, and I haven’t seen you wear anything but your crown. Do you, Red King? If you do I’ll bring it next time but—”

Next time. Have you appointed yourself my keeper, Saoirse?” But he was already laughing before she could answer, laughing and shaking his head. “Do what you please, I won’t complain. You’ve done well. I don’t know where anything is, not after so long. But how did you know? How did you know I needed you?”

“I told you, I helped Talaith—and I was watching for you. Bran asked me to. He said he gets distracted when he’s working. He said he wouldn’t notice when you’d come back. I don’t know why he wanted to know, it’s not like you wouldn’t go to him first. You always go to him first. But you looked like you wanted to surprise him and you were very bloody, so I haven’t said anything, not anything. I went downstairs instead.” She wrinkled her nose. “Red King, tell him please that I did notice, and it’s only your fault that I didn’t say.”

He raised an eyebrow. “You think he’ll be angry?”

“Not Bran. It’s not easy to make him angry—you know that.”

Macsen studied her more closely when she smiled. Subtle changes that he had missed were making themselves known to him now, and he was…confused. Were her features sharper, her teeth more pointed?

She is not the same as she was.

“Girl, you’re changing.”

“I am. I am!”

“And you like it.”

“Yes.”

“Good.” And as if he had never said anything else, he returned to the previous subject. “Since you’ve done so well, this will be your responsibility. You’ll be our handmaid, mine and Bran’s.” He met her gaze. “You don’t mind? You were a princess once.”

She dimpled, grinning, and he saw that, yes, her teeth were sharper. “This is more fun, Red King.”

King’s Daughter

It’s #1lineWed again! Today’s “Context is Key” entry in the Secret Files comes from Earthbound, that book which will one day consume  us all. But me first, so you’ll have warning! 

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From the inner chambers of the court, past the Golden Lotus Pavilion and over the covered bridges, the King made his way past the flares he’d ordered lit. Some of them, poorly placed, guttered in the rain.

As he crossed the last bridge, the sound of strings came to him, though faintly. A low arpeggio of sound brought green to mind, swelled like a mountain growing in the back of his thoughts. Beautiful, Liuxing’s playing, and more lush than he remembered. Quietly, careful to make no sound, the king passed through the open door at the northwest corner of the Hall, then up the stairs to where the outline of the prince was barely visible, staring down from the shadows, visibly enraptured.

The king smiled, then stayed where he was, waiting. Trickling sound filled up the room and spilled out its melodies around them. Deep, plucked notes slid down the walls, pooled on the floor, then sprang up and splashed down again, rippling outward.

But the longer he listened, the more the king frowned, and deeper.

This…was not a song he knew, or one he had heard her play before. The falling arcs of sound were slow…so slow, but there was passion in them and unease crawled down his shoulders. Passion. Not love or excitement, not gentler emotions. Something as real as the passion of the spring for rain –

That green, flowing sound. Did she already have a lover? Was that the reason behind her avoidance, the reason she chose to ignore every suitor he selected?

He hadn’t even considered that, when perhaps it was the most obvious reason…but how could it be? The first man he’d picked, she had rejected without a second glance, and all the others since. She was watched, accompanied, guarded and attended, so how could she have had a lover? One or many, it was equally impossible.

Still, he couldn’t deny what he was hearing. If he closed his eyes and shut out the sight of her, her playing rolled over him and spoke of things she shouldn’t know. One of his own consorts might play such a melody, one of the palace concubines. It was seductive, a lure, a song designed to enchant a man, and it should not have been coming from the fingers of his innocent daughter.

But there was more than desire in it to disturb him.

Mountains, hills, the river moving – moonlight – they were all in her music, but they were sounds of the wild world, far beyond her experience. She played them all the same, and his mind chased the straining sound of her strings back to their source. A shadow. It moved behind his eyelids, silent and saturated with green.

A green…shadow. The rhythm moved in waves that summoned more than sound, layers of melody speaking a language he didn’t understand.

A whisper disconcerted him, a human noise rising through the falling tones of longing Liuxing was sending out into the rain. It was the prince, speaking to a servant, but the king heard nothing of his words. He was on the edge of approaching, making himself known, when the woman came back and the Prince reached out and took something from her –

A flute. He lifted it to his lips and played a clear, strong note that chased the sound of Liuxing’s strings in eerie harmony.

There was a gasp in concert with the first note of flute, discord as Liuxing’s hands came down across the strings, as she looked up and caught sight of the Prince standing on the gallery, looking down at her.

“Don’t stop, Princess. Play something with me. I’ve never heard anyone as good as you.”

“You’ve interrupted me, and spied on me, and you still ask that question? Do you have my father’s permission to make such requests?”

“I could not say I do.”

“Oh? Very well then.”

She returned her hand to their places on the strings, and the king smiled. Perhaps Liuxing had finally taken interest after all? He looked down and moved along the gallery away from the prince, until he could see her face.

Her expression set off a tingle of warning at the base of his spine. She looked – so calm. But calm was not the word for it. Her expression was deep ocean, still on the surface but something moving beneath. For a moment the king saw that something clearly, and didn’t understand. A monster, terrible and lovely, lifting her head to discover what had dared call her out of the deep…

For the second time that morning he remembered Liuxing’s mother.

He closed his eyes, but the music had changed. The green shadow behind his eyes turned black and cruel as the night.

 

Week Eleven – The Shadow Road

This bit  of erotica comes from the soon-to-be-released  book four of Eight Kingdoms, The Shadow Road. Keep an eye out for more bits and bites as we draw closer to the December preorder date! 

(And of course, remember, this sort of Friday Fun is NSFW!)

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Macsen bent and took the head of Bran’s cock into his mouth, just for the taste of him, and his hands darted down to cup the back of Macsen’s head. He licked his lips and stood straight again, pulled Bran the tiniest bit closer, right to the edge of the table, and replaced his fingers with his cock.

He didn’t say a word, gave no warning, and Bran gasped under him, clawed at his shoulders, pulled himself tight against Macsen’s body and let out one long cry. It was just what Macsen wanted, his name drawn out into an unrecognizable sound.

“Open up for me just like that. So good, Bran.”

Bran shook, shuddered, and trembled finally as he relaxed. Everything was heat, and the fire clutched at Macsen’s skin, but Bran was so tight around his cock he couldn’t move. The pleasure was a torment. It was so hot—so hot—there was just one distraction, and he held Bran against his body and bit deep into his throat, sucked up the red, dark blood.

The first mouthful was enough to take Bran shuddering over the edge, all but untouched, heart speeding under Macsen’s tongue, all of him shaking and his cock throbbing its white essence in pulses between them. His body gripped Macsen’s cock almost painfully, then relaxed while he tightened his fingers in Macsen’s hair again and again.

He stayed still and let Bran ride out his climax, took slow mouthfuls from the brilliant spill at his throat. Brighter. Brighter than it had been since they had left Summer. Was it the power Bran used for his work?

So much sun.

Slowly, Macsen pulled back, then thrust deeper, again and again. He felt desire as it sneaked back into Bran’s body, up his calves and his trembling thighs, into the tautness of his buttocks and the sudden tenseness of his hips. The shadow of fire trembled across his skin as he arched back, flickered over his abdomen, his chest. There was fire in his blood, too, as it streamed over Macsen’s tongue and down his throat.

Red Woman

It’s #1lineWed again, and that means time to riffle through my word-stash! Today’s “Context is Key” entry in the Secret Files comes from Rakushinpu, another WIP I’ve not shared from previously. It takes place slightly before  and during Japan’s Heian era, and explores some of the mythology of the Jorogumo, or Rakushinpu.

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The woman – is she, can she possibly be a woman? –  draws Miho’s eyes. The red-painted smile drifts on her face like coiling smoke. She walks under a red umbrella, and her hips sway back and forth with her steps.

Her robes are the robes of a lady, but she is alone – no guards, no outriders, no chaperon, no escort. Her face is hidden behind a red fan, but her eyes are black and gleaming above it. Miho stares at her; why is she familiar?

No woman like that has ever been inside her father’s house.

A little at a time she follows the woman through the market. Past the stalls of food vendors and their sweet-spicy smells, past shops selling paper and silk and ink and furnishings and combs and jewelry, past men and women going about the business of their lives.

Her eyes are focused on the flash of red that moves ever in front of her, the swinging black hair like a cut out section of starless night, drinking light.

Miho traces lines of gold embroidery with her eyes, then stumbles a little. She has seen a flash of pale skin. A bare foot, visible for a sneak of a moment, one shining instance that Miho was lucky enough to catch.

So improbable. Her attention lingers on it long after it has passed. Her gaze is fixed to the hem of the woman’s robe now, waiting, hoping – so pale, that skin! Milk and moonlight. Like Miho’s own skin, but more gleaming.

She is so distracted by it that she doesn’t notice the trap in front of her until it is too late. Until she is in it.

The woman turns down a darker way, and Miho waits a moment and then slips around the same corner.

A dead end, and two chips of onyx that confront her, eyes so dark she can’t discern their pupil. Miho draws in a sharp breath and turns to run, but a sharp, hard grip has her by the shoulder in the next moment.

“Don’t run, little girl. I meant for you to follow me, though I wasn’t sure it would be so easy. Do you know me, pretty one?”

Miho stares at her, stunned. No one has ever, ever called her ‘pretty one’. The fan lowers before the face, and it is a beautiful face – the most beautiful face Miho has ever seen, as she’d known it would be.

“I – you wanted me to follow you?”

The woman smiles, though her mouth does not move. The crinkles at the corners of her eyes give her away. The eyes themselves drink Miho in, drink her whole awareness with the penetrating nature of their stare.

“Yes. I needed to thank you. But you haven’t answered my other question. Do you know me?”

Miho stares at her, the slender fingers wrapped around the black lacquered pole of her Chinese umbrella, the red shade across the pale skin of her cheeks and the darkness of those eyes. Always, always the eyes.

“I know – your eyes.”

And then she averts her gaze and twists her fingers together, suddenly ashamed that she should be dressed below her station, with leaves in her hair and the dust of the market on her face – and I’m ugly I’m so ugly it’s not fair, she’s so beautiful

“But I called you pretty one, didn’t I?”

Miho starts backward away from the fingers that are reaching out for her cheek and finds her back pressed against the wall of the alley.

“I – you – I didn’t meant to say that out loud, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry -”

“Hush, flower, glowfly, beautiful darling – is that enough to reassure you? Pretty one, I said, and I did mean it…and you…you spoke only to yourself, only in your mind – but that doesn’t mean I didn’t hear you.”

Miho stares.

“You know who I am now, don’t you?”

The utsukushii woman has a voice like honey and plum syrup, thick and rich and too, too sweet. Miho feels that voice sticky on her skin and poured into her ears and drowns in it. Red woman – red woman, utsukushii woman, too sweet woman luring her closer, always closer, speaking like the spider to the fly.

“The spider.”

Yes.

 

Wild Justice

The best part of the writing week is Wednesday, because Wednesday on Twitter is #1lineWed. The hashtag will lead you to a land of glorious lines, excerpted from the works in progress of writers all over the world!

Because I participate myself, and because Context is Key, today’s entry in the Secret Files comes from Haven, a WIP I’ve not shared from previously. It takes place at the meeting of east and west, covering nearly a hundred years, from the mid 1800’s to the end of World War II. 

This bit comes from what is  currently scene one of draft one….the very beginning! 

P.S: If Casimir’s body movements seem strange, it’s because right now…he’s a Unicorn. Bwaha!

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Casimir came following purpose, the nature of his being – the odor of a final sacrament. Out of the night of the summer forest, skirting villages, towns, civilized places, he came summoned by the need to act, to fulfill his own essential task. Yet he was drawn onward, needled through every wild place until he breached the borders of domesticated gardens.

He heard low voices, words in German and a language he did not know, quick and light and sharp, incomprehensible as the darting speech of birds.

There were nothing but human sounds from within the boundaries of the garden, and Casimir shook his head, pushed his nose through the edge of the green. Brick and white masonry, tall fences of fern and flowers plaited into webs against the walls – nothing unusual. In a clear space paved with white stones, there were a table and four chairs.

He caught the thin smell of tea, food odors, and focused on the four unfamiliar faces in those chairs. Mortal. Pale.

Empty. What was he doing here? What drew him onward?

I have nothing to do with men.

This was not the place or time for some great revival, for a fight against this world. The world of men and real things, the world of iron. And yet as he focused on the strangers – so foreign, the source of those bird-voices.

He heard a wail that did not come from this world, but from the world beyond. Purpose. Madness. Intention and price. The black eyes of a woman who stood behind one of the seated strangers opened for him, and showed him a land of mountains. Islands and sea.

How long since I have seen the sea?

But there was nothing clean in the salt or the wave, and over the green mountains, which first had beckoned him, there grew a haze of orange and gray. The vision expanded, focused, drew him down from the blue of the sky into jade canopies, the million leaves of an ancient forest. Then – terror!

Smoke sensations.

Casimir reared back, but there was no escaping it now.

Wild justice. All that was magic turned to dust. Yes. Black eyes opened over a tea cup, and they were full of future reflections. In the east, a green land would fall to screaming fire. Even the land on which he stood would turn to brown ash.

War is coming. It comes with these men – fire from the sky.

He breathed sharp and deeply, and panted enough to dislodge the blossoms before his face. A gasp of surprise broke the trance that held him, shattered the vision. It was a gasp directed at him, but that was all but impossible.

Long gone, the days when mortals knew our ways, could sense us, see us.

Casimir hesitated at the edge of retreating, then remained.

Darkest Bite

To celebrate the contract being signed just this morning, and because a few lines of this were shared during #1lineWed on twitter today, enjoy a tiny Bite of Deathless!

 

Deep in the winter’s dark promise, as far from spring and his own country as he had ever been, Myrddin finally encountered something completely beyond his experience. Slim, naked, wild-haired, beautiful, a stranger was crouched by the water of a trailing spring, black as the night, black in the chill, and when he turned at Myrddin’s voice, the wide of his black eyes was the wide of the startled deer.

“Hello -” Myrddin paused, heard something riled, whispering, but it came from the air all around him and not from the stranger he had spoken to. “Where did you come from, where are you going? Will you let me stay a while, will you answer my questions?” He took two steps closer, then three. “I’ve been looking for someone. Someone to help me with a rite of spring. To invent something beautiful and take away the power overflowing my soul. Someone… Do you know anyone?”

He was answered by nothing, and at the same time by a myriad of silences, one quiet become many voiceless truths. The wideness was fading out of the dark eyes that confronted him a little at a time. The voice that answered him was soft, but it only spoke his own words with the intonation of some other power heavy behind them. “Some…one. Anyone?”

The words were halting, the sound of them almost swallowed, more a questioning echo than real speech. Myrddin took one step closer. The stranger took one step back. “Can’t you answer me? Who are you? What’s your name?”

“Your name?”

“Myrddin—my name is Myrddin. And you?”

“You…”

“Do you not have a name? Do you not know words? Who are you?”

“Who are you?”

“I’m Myrddin!” But this time he started laughing and couldn’t stop—it really was like talking with an echo. Maybe this stranger didn’t know how to speak? But he was gorgeous, and the dark of some terrible, magnetic power leeched out of his skin like rain from clouds, soaking and unavoidable.

 

Broken Glass

Another bit of Holy, for your reading pleasure, which includes the lines I shared from this WIP for today’s #1lineWed theme on twitter: Sound! This time,  the words come from scene one, draft two! 

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It had been a quiet night. Now, there were too many lights flashing, and the noise of too many heavy, booted feet. The old brick and concrete behind the new installations of Wall-ads and neon signs hovered in a vague haze of too many colors, too much bright. It was the part of the city Artemio didn’t come to, not any more, not even though he’d been born here. They’d called it Old Boston but it wasn’t the Boston he remembered. Just a reflection, gone blurry and eye-catching on wet asphalt. He stubbed out his cigarette against the door of the van.

“Too many goddamn lights.” What was the point of calling his team in if the regulars were gonna fuck it all up before they had a chance to get started? He heard the wet slap of Taj’s boots against the pavement as he rounded the back of the van and came up beside him. Artemio threw an expectant glance at his second, but Taj was already shaking his head.

“No dice. We’re gonna have to go with the info and blueprints we got out of storage, Luca’s got nothing. No access in or out, this place isn’t even hardwired to the old surface ‘net so there’s nothing to patch in on.”

Artemio grimaced, shrugged. “Guess we’re gonna have to do it the hard way, then.”

“You wanna wait for the girls?”

“Can’t. How long’ve the regs been out here like this? Anything serious inside’s gotta know they’re out here by now, and we’ve been here five minutes – five more’s too many. We’re goin’ in – take out those east windows, blow the whole inside of the ground floor flat and clean.”

“Got it.”

“Get Jer at the rear, I want you on point with me and Marina’n Luca in the middle.”

He didn’t turn to make sure his orders would be followed, he knew they would be. He waited twenty seconds, then raised his fist, dropped it. At the signal, Luca tossed a pair of crackers, and the world dissolved into a flash of shattered magic and the sound of breaking glass.

Artemio swung himself into the window, dropped and turned to the cover the room while Taj slipped in beside him. Something was…off. The sound of the sirens had faded out of his awareness as soon as he was inside the building. He could still hear the glass breaking, but only where it crunched on the floor under his feet, and then Taj’s. “What the hell? Taj -”

“Yeah, I feel it. I can see it. Something strong. Dunno what, I’ve never felt anything like this.”

Artemio felt magic moving on his skin, itchy-tingling, already strong enough to make him tighten his fist and run the fingers of his other hand back through his hair. He drew his gaze along the walls, peered into dark corners, then glanced at the windows and noticed the way they failed to let in light, as well as sound. More glass crunched as Luca dropped in and crossed to stand beside Taj, and Artemio watched Marina drop in behind him, cat-quiet. Jer came last, face scrunched in irritation as his vestments caught on the glass.

He signaled them all out to check the rest of the downstairs, because this room was sure as fuck empty, and despite the noise they’d made busting in there was nobody on the stairs. Artemio turned his attention back to the windows. Reflections from the lights on the building across from them spilled toward them, but just like the sound nothing entered.

Artemio  scoped out the room around them again with sharp eyes. That was the other thing bothering him – not a single shadow was disturbed, though there should be many. He filed the thought away with all the other things that already stuck out as wrong about this place.

It was right at the edge of the worst of the blasted district that still had buildings standing, but this one was untouched. There wasn’t a boarded window or a cracked brick in the whole place, at least not that he’d seen. And the silence, when outside there was the beginnings of rain and the sounds of sirens, crackling speaker-static, tires on wet pavement, boots tramping and conversation? All of that was loud enough that the noise should have been spilling in, flooding the whole of this downstairs room. The shadows didn’t move because the outside lights went dark at the line of the window, as if they didn’t dare come in.

Artemio stared at the broken pane of glass for a second – yeah, just what he’d been afraid of. The line of dark and light was sharp, unnatural, cut off just where the glass should be.

“Somebody fortressed this place up real good. Best goddamn barrier I’ve ever seen.”

And that’s not good.

Guest Post and Giveaway: The Last Stop On The Undone Blog Tour With Belinda Burke

And I present for you the last stop on the Undone Blog Tour, at Crystal’s Many Reviewers! Read and enjoy! (And keep an eye out, because today is Friday, and that means it’s time for more…fun!)

Final Stop on the Undone Blog Tour