It's Sneak Peek Week!
It’s Sneak Peek Week! The last one of 2017. What happened to this year? Last time I looked, it was still February, dang it. A Sea Like Glass is coming along. I’m halfway through a complete rewrite, and I love the changes so far. I had hoped to publish this year, but this will be out early 2018. Not sure how early, but before summer for sure. Here’s a taste of what’s to come.
Demons are real, and they are hunting for Ris. A talented healer and one of the Lady’s descendants, Ris carries a secret that could lead to her losing more than her life. She could lose her soul. As the last of the Lady’s vessels, Ris goes on the run from demons sent by the forces of Darkness with a paladin whose past is shrouded in controversy and the former thief who had a hand in raising her. She must discover the truth about the Lady’s fall from the Light to heal the demon corruption that is spreading across the land. Can she discover the truth before the Darkness steals her soul and corrupts the world?
Thick ferns threatened to swallow us as I followed Michel down some unseen path toward the ocean. I was lost in this strange forest as evening closed in.
A scream shattered the silence.
“Void take it.” Michel sped up to a near run. “We need to get to the water.”
“How much further is it?”
More than the damp cold of the approaching evening made me shiver as we plunged recklessly forward. The approaching dusk bled the forest of light, and the silence grew oppressive. The hair on my arms and nape rose. Sibilant whispers tugged at the edge of my awareness.
“They’re close,” I said, breathless from the run.
“So are we.” Michel pointed.
The forest ended abruptly at a crumbling cliff. A narrow path worked its way down to the beach, parts barely wide enough for us to walk.
Another savage scream cut through the air.
Fear climbed up from my stomach and lodged itself in my throat. I scrambled as fast as I could down the path, bits of sand and rock tumbling ahead of me. I greeted the bottom with a sigh of relief, a temporary sensation that ended with another hair-raising screech.
Water-worn rocks the size of my fist and driftwood as large as a horse covered the beach. I carefully picked a path toward the water. Locked my eyes on my feet and prayed that I wouldn’t break a leg on the treacherous footing.
“Demon’s balls, can’t we catch a break?” Michel grumbled.
The demons had made it to the bottom of the path. Their pasty faces stood out against the approaching night, and their eyes were pinpricks of red against the shadows. Wisps of darkness collected around them, hiding their forms.
The water was too far away. We wouldn’t reach it in time.
“Run,” Michel commanded.
I did as he said. The constant roar of the water was a beacon of hope, but it felt like I had miles to go when I tripped, and the world went white for a split-second. My ears rang. The coppery tang of blood filled my mouth. Something warm and wet ran down the side of my face. I worked my way onto my hands and knees, forcing myself to stand.
Michel steadied me. “Are you all right?”
I swayed as the world tilted first one way and then the other. “I’m not sure.”
“Into the water.” He pushed me toward the waves.
I stumbled forward, barely able to stand upright. Icy water swirled around my calves, tugging at me. Michel joined me, rapier in one hand, revolver in the other.
Blue flames writhed over the blade of his sword as he stood between me and the demons. The flames cast an eerie light across the water that licked at his heels. It shredded the shadows that hid the demons, revealing their true form.
My heart nearly stopped when I counted seven of the creatures. Their twisted bodies vaguely resembled a human in that they had two arms, two legs, and a head; but they moved with the smooth grace of a hunting cat. The tattered remains of clothes hung from their lanky frames, but none wore shoes or boots. Their hands were grotesque with exceptionally long fingers that ended in claws.
A shudder ran through me when I locked eyes with one. It grinned, its mouth a lipless gash in a pale face that revealed row upon row of razor-sharp teeth. Its forked tongue flicked out to taste the air, and its smile grew wider, nearly splitting its face in two. Serpent-like red eyes held mine. I was a mouse caught in a snake’s deadly gaze.
Four of the demons circled Michel. His blade darted through the air, leaving a trail of blue flames in its wake.
The other three walked closer to me, their movement sinuous and deadly. They hissed when their bare feet touched the water, and the scent of burning flesh filled my nose. They howled in frustration, pacing along the water’s edge, waiting for it to recede enough to let them close. I stepped deeper into the water, let it swirl around my hips.
A wave crashed over my head, dragging me under. I fought the pull of it as it tried to drag me out to sea. The satchel weighed me down and threatened to hold me beneath the water. My lungs burned with the need to breathe, but I didn’t dare open my mouth. I couldn’t tell which way was up and which was down. The wave threw me forward, and I landed in a heap on the rocks where I dragged in ragged breaths, coughing and spewing water.
My body resisted when I tried to stand; my limbs quaked from the effort, and my head pounded from hitting it earlier. I made it to my knees, but no further.
Screams filled the darkness. These weren’t the screams of a creature hunting, but cries of pain. Tentacles of salt water twisted in the air around Michel, whipping and writhing toward the demons. The silent song of cellos and violins filled my mind as he wove magic. His sword flashed as he lunged at one of the creatures and burning rot tickled my nose.
The demon in front of me watched as its companions were caught by the tentacles and tossed into the deeper water. It turned its glare back to me as if I were the one causing the waves to shape themselves.
I scrambled backward, crab-like, the satchel’s strap digging painfully into my neck and shoulder. The demon lowered itself onto its hands, its mouth open wide. More pain filled howls rose from my left, but I didn’t dare risk taking my eyes from the demon that stalked me.
I grabbed onto my magic. I didn’t know what I would do with it. My magic was for healing, not harming, but I had to do something.
The song rose inside, a blend of brassy trumpet notes that called to me. I wove it around the oily corruption that threaded through the demon, then burned it like I would poison.
The demon’s red eyes went wide in shock before its skin puckered and blistered. It shrieked, its clawed fingers leaving shadowy furrows in its skin. The creature exploded in a shower of shadow that rained down as stinking, wet ash.
Michel spun and pushed his rapier through the chest of the last demon. It screamed, and with a wet pop, disintegrated. He slumped to the ground, using his rapier to hold him upright. His eyes met mine before they rolled up and he fell onto his side, the waves licking his outstretched hand.
I dragged myself to his side and checked for a pulse. The strong and steady beat thudded against my fingertips, and I breathed out a sigh of relief.
A hysteric laugh bubbled up and out. I pressed my hands to my forehead. We’d survived. I had no idea how, but we had.