Tag Archives: fantasy

Lady of the Lake Chapter 2 part 2

“Mordred, will you shut your door like I did?” She didn’t know whether to be relieved or not when he did. Was this an elaborate act, or not? “Here is what I hope will happen. We will drive out of the village and take the main road to my boat. That is where I am going. If you want to stop any place along the way, then that is your call. If we are stopped at a roadblock, you let me do the talking. If I say to you ‘John, get your passport out’, this is what you will do.” She demonstrated. “Can you do this?”
“That isn’t my name.”
“No, but it is the name on the document. You will pass it to me, and I will show it to the policemen before I hand it back to you. Do you understand?”
“Thee will try an illusion to fool the evil ones. Yes.” He looked relieved.
She had to strap his seatbelt on for him as he didn’t seem to have a clue. Once they started, the glow of the instrument panel showed his hands as white-knuckled lumps in his lap. He had closed his eyes tight.
All went well until they hit the only road south out of the village. A cordon of police cars waited. “Mordred, there is a road block.” She couldn’t keep a tremor out of her voice. “Pretend to be asleep and let me do the talking. If you must respond, just smile and nod.” Oh God, was this going to be the end? She hadn’t seen a weapon on him, but the report said he had hurt people. A policeman waved her to pull over. She rolled down her window.
“Sorry to trouble you, Miss. Could I have your name and that of your passenger?” The young officer shone a flashlight on Mordred’s face. He winced and opened his eyes.
“John and Ella Harrison. We live just up the road. Is there a problem, officer?”
“The John Harrison?” The guy’s eyes boggled. “From ‘Cut to the Bone’?”
“Yes, that is him. Look, we are in a hurry and have a plane to catch. Is this going to take long?”
The young officer shone the light on Mordred again, who smiled and nodded. “No, you may proceed. So sorry to trouble you, Mr. Harrison.” He stepped back, spoke into his radio, and the barrier was moved aside.
Ella eased the car forward until they were clear. Beads of sweat ran down her neck and into her eyes. Her heart hammered in her chest. What had she done? How would she ever explain this away if they were caught?

Lady of the Lake. Chapter 2 first part.

“Hush now, I don’t make war on maidens. There is nothing for thee to fear from me.”
Encased in his arms, Ella trembled. He was a lunatic, a dangerous madman. Dangerous, the report said. What part of this was real and what wasn’t? Would she even survive the night?
“You hurt people.”
“They stood in my way. I did ask for them to stand aside.” He marched her over to her chair, pushing her down in it as he released his grip. He turned his chair, straddling it to sit opposite, watching her intently
“People will be coming. They will check every house. You need to go, right now.”
He frowned. “I will fight if they come for me. Canst thee help me? I will free thee if so.”
What were the rules of a hostage situation? Defying him could create a monster capable of anything, but if she went along with his wishes? He hadn’t threatened her with any weapon. He had said he would release her if she helped him. She wanted to live. How could she get him past the road blocks?
John’s passport, if he had really left it here. He was so disorganized it was impossible to say, but it was a start. Mordred looked close enough to John that she could make him so with her work kit and give herself time to escape.
“I think I can make you look like someone else. I need that big bag I took to my car. Can I get it?” Did she have a chance of jumping in and speeding off?
“We will go together.”
So much for that plan. Now she was trapped by her offer. Once the case was inside, she opened it and started work on his face. Mordred was surprisingly calm while she altered him with her toners, tints, and padding. John was fatter in the face than Mordred, so cheek pads were needed. Then there was the problem of his shaven head and prison clothes.
“Come with me. You need to get out of that prison overall, and I need to find identity documents to match your new look.”
“Clothes would be good, but what are documents?”
“Never mind. Just trust me that you need these.” A small part of her relished depriving John of his needed passport. Spite grew branches. John had more clothes than he needed. One change wasn’t enough for Mordred when she could give him an entire case of clothes.
The steep old staircase creaked under their steps. Mordred’s eyes widened when he saw the bedroom and then narrowed, zeroing in on her, his face a picture of surprise.
“Don’t even think about those thoughts, Buster. You want my help? You keep your distance.”
“Who is Buster?” He looked puzzled.
“That is you, dude. I am off limits.” She opened the wardrobe, getting jeans, a polo neck shirt, and a brown, corduroy jacket out for him. These she thrust into his arms. “Go through the end door and change.”
“No. Turn thy back to preserve thy modesty.” He stared her down until she complied.
Another chance at escape gone, Ella concentrated on another task in hand. Where would John have stashed his passport? She went through the drawer on his nightstand. Nothing, but John had a horror of being robbed. Not the usual places, so where? On impulse, she felt between the mattress and the box springs on his side and felt a package. Out came a thick manila envelope sealed tight. Inside were John’s passport, his driver’s licenses, and a thick wad of notes, some sterling and some dollars. She wouldn’t have to use a credit card that might not work…and she couldn’t be tracked. Maybe this was good, for what if they were stopped? Would she survive a standoff? She could if she could get Mordred through the checkpoints. He promised he would let her go. Would he?
One last finishing touch left. She turned to the armoire and bumped into Mordred. Heart racing, she choked back a scream. Did he have to move so quietly?
“What are these?” Mordred looked at the documents and cash in her hand.
Ella stuffed them back in the envelope. “Things we will need to win your freedom. I also need something from in here. She pointed to the armoire. When he didn’t move to stop her, she opened to doors to reveal a neat row of wigs on stands. John’s vanity hadn’t let him accept his thinning hair. How ironic that this meant the thing she needed most was the very thing to hand. Ella selected the one most matching the passport, a slightly long cut with hair partially over the ears. By the time she had finished with a bemused Mordred, he could have passed for John, although his shoulders were broader and he was far too thin. This point was made when he yanked up his slipping pants, but a belt sorted out the problem.
“Now, stay out of my way while I pack some more clothes for you.” Ella snagged a sports bag and carefully sorted through John’s side of the wardrobe. He didn’t use half his stuff and wouldn’t miss a few items here and there. She hesitated over underwear. No, not that. There were the new shorts she had brought for John at the weekend for his upcoming trip. They went in the bag instead, and Ella derived a small sense of satisfaction from the act. John’s documents and cash went in a side pouch as Mordred would seem more in character if he reached for his own I.D were they stopped. Next, she grabbed a dry cleaner bag to stash his prison garb, including his footwear. It couldn’t be left here, or the police would know who to follow. But what if they were stopped? She would have to trust to luck and hope they could find a dumpster along the way.
“Here, take these.” Ella thrust both burdens at Mordred. Whatever else, she felt safer when his hands were full. He followed her down the creaking stairs in his stocking feet. The next stop was the cellar for recycling. She needed to reassemble a couple of boxes, and this could be the answer to Mordred’s prison clothes. His face was a picture when she carefully packed down his convict clothes under a layer of cereals and dried goods. The other box was for cans and containers with perishables. Fairy Child would be fit to sail without a grocery visit if she chose wisely, but the car wouldn’t hold much more. One last stop at the front porch for shoes, but here she hit a snag. Mordred’s feet were too big to squeeze into anything except a pair of rubber boots, and then his expression became pained. Well, he would just have to put up with it.
“We are going to pack my car. I want the big cases on the outsides, and the groceries in the middle. The heavy one goes first with the lighter one on top. Your sports bag goes on the back seat where you can reach it.”
For a dangerous lunatic, he trotted along, obeying her orders like an obedient puppy, right up until she took the keys out of the now closed tailgate, and then his hand grasped hers.
“Do you want to drive?”
“Not without horses pulling this …” Words failed him.
“Let go of my hand, then. “Horses? Was he for real?
“Thee will vanish in a magical cart and leave me.” His eyes narrowed.
“Look, all my clothes and my papers are in that car. I need them. Why don’t you get in first? I think you could outrun me if I tried to escape.” He towered over her, leaving her little doubt on that score. She herded him around to the passenger side, opening the door. He surprised her by lowering himself inside, but he stopped her when she would have shut the door. Ella walked in front of the car to the driver’s side. She settled into place, slammed the door and put the keys in the ignition.

Lady of the Lake chapter one second snippet.

“I’ll not hurt thee. Don’t be a fearful,” a male voice murmured, close to her ear.
The shudders came back with a vengeance. If this man was after money, then he was shit out of luck. What if he tortured her for something she didn’t have? John wouldn’t pay any ransom, of that she was sure.
“Pass through the threshold.”
A tanned hand, leading to an arm clad in prison grays opened to latch to let her in. She recognized the pattern from the work crew in the village recently. Oh God, a convict. What had he done? Was he a killer, or a pervert? Heart pounding strong enough to break her ribs, Ella did as she was told. Maybe she would have a chance to grab her cell phone, or a knife or something heavy? The door swung shut behind them with a click as the latch settled.
He marched her into the kitchen. “I smell food. If I do let thee go, will thee serve me?”
Something wasn’t right here. Why was he using archaic language? Was this a setup? Would John stoop so low to intimidate her with another actor playing the part of a convict, or was this man a real a convict? How did one manage hostage situations? Ella didn’t know. She nodded.
“That is good. I will be a letting thee go presently. Don’t thee be making any swift movements, or I will not be pleased with thee.” He released her.
Trembling Ella walked to the stove. She dumped the roast beef and roasted potatoes pan on the hob, next to the boiled carrots. What now? Was she to get the electric carver going? What she didn’t want to do was to turn to see his face. If he was a convict, he would have to kill her. Wasn’t that the way it went?
“Thee can get a knife to carve the meat. Don’t try to skewer me with it. I be a warrior and thee might get hurt if I needs to disarm thee. I don’t want to hurt thee.”
Slowly, carefully, Ella reached for the electric carver. She turned it on.
“Odds blood, what be that device?” A hard arm encircled her again. She hadn’t even heard him moving.
This had to be a setup. No one talked like that. Fine, so she would go along with this parody. “You wanted a serving of meat, and I am about to cut it for you if you will let me. What I am holding will cut the meat.”
He backed off.
Ella continued, reaching up for a plate in the overhead cabinet. She had everything now, including the gravy, but how to serve him without looking at him. Was he an actor or not? Her life might well depend on her next move.
“Serve thyself, too. I’ll not be eating alone. “
Ella reached for another plate to serve herself a tiny amount. No way did she want to eat. Her stomach lurched in protest.
“Is anyone else expected to share the repast?”
“No, just you and me.” Crunch time. She couldn’t serve him without looking in his direction. Was John going to get lucky and become a widower? Was this guy for real? Ella took a deep breath and put both plates on her kitchen table. She tried not to look at him, to keep her eyes downcast and then reached into the drawer for silverware. She set their places, still with eyes lowered. Grunts of enjoyment followed.
“Thee not be eating. I did say I wouldn’t harm thee.”
Ella stared at her plate. “Then why are you in my home, holding me a prisoner?”
“Evil people did lock me away and perform black magic on my body.” His voice hardened in tone. “I needs to get away, to my own place. I needs to hide so they can’t find me, and I needs food for strength to fight them if they does try.”
Shocked, she looked up at him. He was a young man, who might have been a blond, judging by his eyebrows as his head was shaven bald. Faint, darker stubble peppered his jaw and cheeks. Once, he might have been a powerful man, but now his prison clothes hung off an emaciated body. Deep blue eyes stared at her.
“Who are you?”
“They be a calling I John Smith, but that bain’t my name. I be Mordred.”
Ella laughed. This just wasn’t real. She had either lost her mind, or he was a very good actor. “Mordred was the son of the mythical King Arthur.”
He frowned, shoveling in a chunk of roast beef, which he took his time chewing before he answered. “Not so. That was a rumor. I be Merlin’s son and his apprentice.”
Yes, she had lost her mind. “Those people were supposed to have lived twelve centuries back. Who are you really? One of my soon to be ex-husband’s friends sent to scare me?
The man finished his meal with obvious enjoyment. He thrust his empty plate at her. “That were good. Could I have more?”
This was getting surreal. “When you have answered my question. Who are you?”
“I be Mordred. I will prove this to thee when I have more strength. Now, can I have another serving of your excellent food?”
Ella complied. She didn’t know what to do with this strange man. If he was one of John’s buddies, he was doing a stellar job on her. On the other hand, what if he was a madman, escaped from the hospital section of a prison, which his prison grays seemed to suggest?
Mordred wolfed down his second portion with relish. He then looked directly into her eyes. “Do thee have a candle or a taper?”
Ella wasn’t sure what a taper was, but she did have candles. Ones meant to go with this supper. She stood up to get the candelabra from the sitting room, but he was there, breathing down her shoulder before she had reached the doorway.
“The candles are in another room. Can I get them?”
“I’ll be coming along behind.”
He did, shadowing her to such an extent that she wondered about him. Ella placed the unlit seven candle candelabra on the table between then as they resumed their seats.
“There be no lights. Thee agree?”
She nodded. Where was this madness going?”
Mordred lowered his head and shut his eyes. “Watch the candles.”
One by one, starting on the right, they flamed into light. Ella gasped, stunned. She didn’t know what to think. No one could do this.
“Watch.” He commanded.
The candelabra rose above the table to almost ceiling height before it gently drifted down to its former position.
He opened his deep blue eyes. “I be Mordred, the apprentice and son of Merlin. Do thee believe me now, or do thee think me moonstruck, like the people in white coats?”
“I think I have gone mad. No one can do what you have just done”.
“I can and much more when I have my strength back. Will thee help me?”
He was serious. He had just accomplished an impossible feat. None of John’s actor friends could have done this, let alone an escapee from prison. Yes, this whole thing was a hallucination brought on by stress. She would wake up in the morning to her new, horrendous life, and that would be the end of it. In the meantime, she would go along with this madness invented by her mind. It spared her smashing things or dissolving into useless tears.
“What do you want from me?”
“I need to be where the wild things are, away from people. I can’t be going back to the place of sorcery and torment again.” He reached up to wipe a dribble of gravy from his mouth, exposing a wrist with heavy slash-marked scars slicing across it.
Reality slammed through Ella. She was sitting across the table from an escapee from a hospital wing of a prison, who had tried to self-harm. He wasn’t making sense, and yet the candles …that hadn’t been an illusion, or was it? Just how dangerous was this man, if he were real? She stood, turning to reach for the TV remote. A chair crashed back, and the next instant her arms were locked at her sides by his steely embrace.
“None of that long distance talking to call them to me.” His voice was a rumbled growl in her ear, his breath hot on her neck.
Heavens, he thought the remote was a cell phone. Her world tilted askew again. “I can’t talk to anyone with the device.” Now she had better humor him or else. “It is to turn on the box over in the corner that will show pictures and words from a distance, but not hear any words I say to it. I need to know where the people are who are chasing you. How can I help you if I don’t know what traps they are setting?” Would there be news of him? She thought there would for sure if he were judged a madman.
He released one of her arms, still keeping her close against him. “Don’t thee be crossing I.”
Ella flipped through the channels until she had a local one. Halsham manor, a secure state mental hospital, rather than a prison and just five miles away, flickered into view, surrounded by police cars and reporters. The camera zeroed in on a reporter describing a breakout of a dangerous and psychotic patient, who was on no count to be approached by the general public. A picture of Mordred, looking drugged, flashed onto the screen, while the voice reported that he had injured three staff, one seriously. Assurances followed of roadblocks and house to house searches in the immediate area. The man was considered dangerous. Ella killed the screen and gently put down the remote before it fell out of her shaking hand.

Lady of the Lake Chapter one snippet.

As it happens this book is the one that just received a very stale offer of advancement after four years. Yes, I have a new title. Yes, it is most probably different from what those people read. Anyhow, here is the first snippet from Chapter one.

 

“Look, I think it is time to call it quits.” John’s voice sounded crisp, clear and rehearsed on the other end of the phone as if he had studied for the part. “We don’t move in the same circles anymore, and I certainly don’t want noisy brats invading my space. You made it clear that you do.”
A woman’s throaty laugh sounded close to him, too close. Someone was there, with him, listening to him give her the brush off. Ella started shaking. The oak-beamed room blurred under a veil of tears. A lump grew in her throat. What had happened to her husband? Who was this stranger with his voice?
“I’ve paid the rent on the cottage up to the end of this month, in two days’ time, and I handed in our notice. The landlord just told me it is let, so you need to be out tomorrow. I have also removed your name from my bank account.” More throaty whispers came from the vicinity of the receiver followed by John’s low-toned ‘Hush’. “I am suing you for divorce on grounds of adultery. Don’t imagine you will get any alimony out of me.”
Adultery, the word jumped down the line and carved into her heart. “That is not true!” Ella’s voice came out in a squeak. How could he say these things to her? She had never even looked at another man since he came into her life and who was that woman with him listening in to a private phone call? If anyone was having an affair it was him.
“I have pictures of you with another man, someone who is prepared to come forward. The pictures show a very good view of that disgusting birthmark on your leg. If you try to fight me, I will see to it you never work again.”
He could do that, the big name movie star. He could set people up to act the part, with a little help of Photoshop to reproduce her single blemish, an unusual pattern of freckles shaped like a trident. What was the fate of a make-up artist to film producers by comparison to the needs of the big star? Why hadn’t she seen this coming? They had been so happy, or so she had thought. Her dream, her illusion, built on the bones of an unknown actor and her with a foot in the industry, meeting and getting together, making sure he got the right introductions to the right people.
“One more thing, do you think you could find my passport? I am flying out to work on location in Australia next week so could you leave it on the coffee table for my agent to collect? Cooperate with me and I might consider giving you a reasonable one-time payoff.”
Money, it was all about money and lust. John had a nasty habit of accusing others of his own flaws in any disagreement, so she guess the woman by his side was his current woman. Cold logic began to take over from the pain and shock. He had been caught by the paparazzi with some bimbo. He couldn’t risk his image, so this was going to be her fault for cheating on him. How he must have scrambled to manufacture his evidence. Ella didn’t know this person anymore. Four years of living an illusion of love came down to a moment on the phone.
“I will be gone first thing in the morning. I take it you haven’t canceled the lease on my car?”
“No, I was too late. You have it for one more month, not that you’ll need it for much longer. I imagine you’ll want to go back to the States.”
Ella put the phone down very gently. They were done. It didn’t matter whatever else he might want to say. Through it all the smell of a roast wafted from the tiny kitchen; a supper they were to have shared together by candlelight. The supper he had told her to get ready to celebrate his new contract and their four year anniversary. Maybe she could salvage it to take with her.
He was right on one score; she was not going to stay on this damp and crowded island, despite the lure of its history. The Tudor cottage, with it blackened oak beams now sharpened her loss. This was to have been their love nest where they raised their first child together, for it looked as if John was going to be based in England for a few more years. The overstuffed chintz furniture wasn’t theirs. The place had come fully furnished so she didn’t have to worry about getting removal people to come in, or sorting through what she wanted to keep. She should pack her clothes to make an early start since she didn’t want to see his agent. Move, do something, so she didn’t have to think—do anything.
The narrow stairs creaked when she went up to their bedroom, her bedroom now for just this night. What to take? The tools of her trade for sure, but the rest? Where would she need designer dresses again? She left them hanging, along with her wedding gown. What would fit into the tiny foreign car? Pack the practical work clothes and leave the rest. She didn’t want to pack more than she could book in at the airport.
Two large suitcases full of clothes later to haul down the stairs and Ella realized she had no idea where she was headed. A person couldn’t simply head to London and jump on a plane, although that was what she had been thinking before her mind woke up. It had to be booked, and she had no money, not now he had closed their joint account. God, did she have to go cap in hand to beg him to buy her a seat? No, there was the boat. Frantic now, she attacked the Georgian bureau for her passport, driver’s license, birth certificate and the deeds for her boat. It was in her name—his gift to her when he had scored his first blockbuster. Fairy Child was ocean going and would fetch a good price, maybe enough to set her up without begging from him. Yes, she could go to the West Country and live on the boat until a buyer came along. If she were quick, she could stock it up with provisions before he thought to cancel her Visa card. No doubt that would be done at the end of the month. Tonight, she had to leave tonight.
Ella hauled the suitcase with her work stuff out to the tiny car, flipping up the tail gate to heave in the heavy burden. Light rain anointed her face with sky tears. Clouds covered the stars and the moon, making for a dark and grim night of driving. She didn’t care. All she wanted was to be away from the ruin of her dreams. Two more case and then put the food in containers to take whatever she could. Yes, she would need that tomorrow. She ran for the door.
A hand snaked out, covering her mouth. An arm wrapped around her, stopping her from moving. Oh God, oh God, nothing more bad, please don’t let this be happening.

 

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Another five star review for Darkspire Reaches. Woo Hoo!

Awe inspiring fire breathers, ancient magic, and a … August 31, 2016
Awe inspiring fire breathers, ancient magic, and a lonely young girl who grows to become a fierce, strong heroine. Exciting read! http://amzn.to/1S1LUIIColor Dragon
Read that one? Here is the next in the series. Serpent of the Shangrove.  http://amzn.to/1P9W4T3
And one of the five star reviews it has earned.

This story kept me reading into the small hours of the morning. Gripping story, with a good development of characters, I grew fond of Raven, the female protector who is as much a mother as she is a warrior.

I felt the Drakkens’ pain was well expressed in Connor’s mishap, Cooper’s struggles to become a man and in Rosella coming of age learning compassion in a harsh and horrible manner.

Their world is not an easy one with conflict waiting around every bend. Yet this is a story we can also reflect to today’s times and bring into our own world. Food for thought. After all, most people will find preferable to learning any lesson we encounter along the way in a more tasteful manner—prevention being the ounce we can take. Well done!

Hacking off the golden hair

What happens when the hurt is too much and can’t be born, not really, and yet can’t be acknowledged for concern of others? What happens when Rapunzel reaches the end and plants the seeds of giant thorn bushes for an acre in every direction of her ivory tower? What happens when she slams shut the door and nails it closed forever; when she cuts down the stairs when she is at the top  of her gleaming tower and then hacks off her golden hair, tossing it into the dark abyss?

Of course she won’t starve to death because the maidens never do in fairy stories. Instead, like the Lady of Shallot, she will cast her gaze on the living outside world through the medium of a cold looking glass, never to glance into the eyes of another living being again. Or will she? Can a dead heart revive? Can a shattered soul come to life again?

Is playing around with ideas when I should be working, but haz a cat draped around my neck and he is too happy to evict.

5* review for Shadow Over Avalon! Woo Hoo!

Am doing an ecstatic happy dance!
5.0 out of 5 stars An absolutely spellbinding, reiteration of a classic!, August 29, 2016
Verified Purchase(What’s this?)
This review is from: Shadow Over Avalon (Kindle Edition)
A brilliant retelling of the Arthurian legend filled with creative twists and complex layers that kept me turning pages. Definitely a must-read for Sci/Fi & Fantasy fans! It very much reminded me of Arthur meets Atlantis, but that is where the similarities ended. As the tale unfolded, I couldn’t help devouring chapter after chapter as the compelling characters and intricate plot drew me in and then tugged me along, calling for me to keep up when I was forced to lay the book down. An absolutely spellbinding, mesmerizing reiteration of a classic story that should not be missed!
Snow day May 29 2010 097

Work in Progress

I actually have three on the go and all wildly different but only two that I can share a little of as the third is the fourth book in the Shadow Series. I can’t share any of the Staff of Shadows as the third book, Chalice of Shadows is coming out in November. There would be spoilers so that isn’t going to happen. 

This extract is the beginning of Death Angel, a sci fi novel of a darker nature.

The twin suns rose over carmine cliffs to the east, their glow casting long shadows in the valley below. Light caught on one of the surveillance vids slowly rotating above the hacienda, giving the lens a baleful red eye.
Three days of watching without sign of the target gave Azriel some downtime. The controllers didn’t like their angels resting, but either she got necessary downtime, or they would need to recruit more angels from the ranks of deviants. A smile tugged at the corner of her lips at the thought of all the rare metal used to enhance a new angel’s bone strength. The money-mogul controllers walked a constant tightrope between putting fear into the population and causing metal riots. Gods help anyone thought to be squandering such a rare resource.
Sunlight crept over her position and Azriel responded by slowing down her metabolism. She had burrowed under the low trailing branches of a blue-leafed gungua bush for the shade she needed when the suns hit their zenith. Heat stirred a pungent citrus aroma from the leathery leaves. The soft orange sand beneath her formed a comfortable hollow.
She waited for the guards to come out of their bunkhouse like small black bugs scuttling across the ground. Shift change came at the same time every morning for those in the valley. Each of them headed for a post on the four corners of the compound. A short while later the night watchers emerged, stretching. No sign of her mark.
Already a heat haze shimmered on the hard-packed dirt of the valley. Scrubby vegetation struggled for life but the hacienda shone like the most precious beryl in the Governor’s chain of office. Underground irrigation, for sure, and the cost staggered her. Six families could survive for one year on the water being squandered to create a paradise for the rich.
Her thermal suit switched from heat to cooling as her limbs tingled in protest to her internal command. She chose to lower her metabolic rate rather than waste energy and consume more of her own precious water.
Sunshine after the chill of the night brought out a frantic swarm of insects to scour the hillside. They flew in clouds, their iridescent wings shimmering in their search for opening verch flowers. The bugs had a limited time before the sweet smelling yellow blossoms withered in the scorching heat, assuming the hunting kamik rats didn’t get them first.
Another smile stretched her lips. Downtime held a peculiar joy for angels. How angry the controllers would be if they knew the angels linked. The controllers couldn’t use their machines to monitor thought patterns below a certain level of neural activity angels used at such times. She kept her eyes trained on the green luxury below while she let her mind drift. A few hunters in fur burrowed deep in their dens around, waiting for the cool of night, their thoughts cloudy with impending sleep. The contact soothed her, but they were not the contact she wanted.
Azriel, are you still hunting? Coda’s thought patterns connected.
Yes, and I am running out of time. Another two days, maybe.
I found the data you wanted. He sounded smug. The mark is out of her time zone. She is probably getting adjusted.
Why send me in early?
Who knows? I’ve dropped off a grav pack ten teligs north of your last check point. I also clipped it with the homing beacon.
Why I must kill this woman?
Coda shielded his thoughts but his discomfort came through.
Tell me. She hated killing. If the mark was a wanted deviant, it made a difference. The holo image she had memorized of the girl didn’t appear to belong in this category.
Just do the job. We aren’t responsible. We don’t need to think.
Coda? Azriel had a bad feeling about this kill. It was all right for him. He hacked into databases, destroyed corporations and individuals from the inside out. Nothing personal.
She had a liaison with the Governor’s son. He dumped her and now she is bringing charges for a forced insemination.
The mark is pregnant? I have to kill a pregnant girl? Azriel’s pulse quickened, her gut churned.
Don’t try to fight. Remember what happened the last time?
Azriel retained total recall of that kill; a child, a boy barely out of the baby stage, who tottered on unstable legs. When the moment came she had tried to alter her aim to miss, knowing his guards with their heat seekers would zero in on her location once she fired. Without the shocking impact of a kill, they wouldn’t suffer moments of numb disbelief. They could have gunned her down if her plan had worked. But she hadn’t been in downtime and the controllers picked her rebellious thought to the gristle, forcing her finger to the trigger in that second and the ones after. The child didn’t die instantly. It took three shots. Blood everywhere, people screaming, vomit souring her clothes.
No angel had a choice, not with an implant imbedded in their brains and yet she had still disobeyed to spare the child. The punishment for her attempted rebellion wasn’t something she wanted to repeat. Three weeks wired into a pain amplifier had that effect.
Azriel, you can’t put us all through agony again. Coda’s thoughts were tinged with terror. If they find out about us…
All the angels shared pain with a hurt member when they entered downtime. He was right. If she gave under torture and the controllers found out about their link, it would be disabled. The thought of being truly alone terrified her.
One clean shot between the eyes. He wasn’t happy at the kill and this came through. If the girl’s people are quick, they will be able to save her child. You just had orders for the girl, didn’t you?
Is she so far along?
She lied about the conception date so she could travel. I have confirmation from a private clinic. He faded out, his downtime over.
If only Azriel could end her own life, but the controllers had programmed their angels to survive at all costs, damn them to every hell. She shuddered, envisioning the bank of cloned cadavers waited for revivification when this body ceased to perform at the peak of excellence and her essence was transferred to a new shroud of flesh. Five times she had reawakened into hell. The controllers couldn’t waste all the knowledge angels accumulated on retraining skills already acquired.
The suns crept higher and the buzz of insects diminished. Far below a thermal carried the sound of voices and the faint moist promise of water. Three people came out of the main building, a single story white stucco affair. Two men and a woman, all in swimsuits and heading to a kidney-shaped pool overhung with shade trees to the south.
Azriel went into active mode. Adrenalin rushed through her system along with sick self-loathing. The girl’s belly made her ponderous and awkward.
Her hands slicked with sweat as she assembled the projectile weapon. She clipped a telescopic sight into place, its oiled lens creating a stink that warred against the tang of citrus. A girl’s laughing face came into sharp focus. Azriel blinked away tears, rubbing her eyes on the sleeve of her orange and gold camouflage jacket. Do it now, while she is happy. Please die quick. Her finger gently squeezed the trigger.
The sound of the shot whined through the valley long after the girl jerked and fell; her head a ruin of brains and blood-saturated blonde hair. Azriel broke cover. No time to think, she ran to the gullies, sprinting for the crest and her own grav pack. With another transport waiting for her, she’d run this one at full throttle.
Ten ahns more, then five. Almost at the top. A huge blow in her back threw her facedown and gasping in agony. Release endorphins – get out of the line of fire – pack wound with dirt to slow bleeding. Get backpack — fire boosters. The hot wind blowing at her brought more focus. She set direction and headed north, keeping low to the ground where her camouflage clothes against the red and gold surface would give her more cover. Tears whipped away in the hot breeze rushing against her face. She’d pay dearly for the loss of moisture in hell’s own desert.

 

Latest review for Shadow Over Avalon

Since this book scored #17 on the Amazon.com bestsellers list for Arthurian yesterday I thought I would share the latest review on the book from that site.

5 star review.
writes4coffee reviewed Shadow Over Avalon
1 of 1 people found the following helpful
Delighted August 9, 2016
Shadow Over Avalon combines two genres that I don’t read a lot: science fiction and fantasy. It’s a new, fascinating spin on the Arthurian legend, and I was eager to begin reading. I’m delighted with the book. It has vivid descriptions, well-developed characters, a rich plot that flows nicely, and enough tension building to keep the reader turning pages. My favorite aspect of the book is how, in the underwater world of Avalon, the “blue sky” is the seawater. The cliffhanger left me wanting more, and I will definitely be reading the series.

 

Backcover of SOA

SS front and back with textWoo Hoo. Another great five star review of Sword of Shadows.

ADPase reviewed Sword of Shadows
A splendid mixture of goodies to savour July 19, 2016
The world created by the author for ‘Sword of Shadows’ is a fascinating place. Well imagined and thoroughly described. For me it was a slow read because there is a lot to appreciate and absorb. Characters are strongly developed and relationships are compelling. This is the second book in a series, which unfolds a new take on the King Arthur myth/legend including an new take on Excalibur & Merlin. As I read, I was reminded of the ‘Lord of the Rings’ and I enjoyed them as well. It is a complex book with numerous characters, plenty of interweaving story arcs, and amazing plot layers that kept me on my toes.

I liked the idea the enemy is not a simple one-dimensional baddy. Instead, they are intelligent and fascinating in their own right. I would have enjoyed this book more if I’d read the first book in the series. In fact, I went to the Amazon ‘Look Inside’ feature for the first book (Shadow Over Avalon), and read the first three chapters to get a quicker feel for the world. If there is a third book, I would certainly buy it to find out what happens next in this world. If you enjoy a rich mixture of mystery, Arthurian mythology, science fantasy, suspense, and immersion in another world, I recommend this book.