Tag Archives: paranormal.

Widdershins my nano project chapter 6

This has not been edited and may well end up being tweaked.

Rowan reached sight of the Rockies just as the sun was setting. The low light on his face seared his tired eyes after thirty-six hours driving but the satellite navigator on the truck had helped, particularly at crossing frozen farm fields to avoid a border stop. Neither of them had papers and he wasn’t up to giving explanations. He could just imagine the reaction to his statement, ‘Well, I am a five-hundred year old werewolf and this is a young wolf in the making. No, we don’t have passports because we aren’t really human anymore.’ He’d deal with getting new identity documents once he had Morgan safe.

Luckily, the truck was a four-by-four or he would have been in trouble with the snow. Morgan hadn’t stirred, despite the two stops for gas and one to change to Canadian currency at a bank just as they opened in the morning. He hadn’t thought she would waken after the strength of stuff he had given her. Five more hours to drive through Calgary and Banff and then he was into the interior of British Columbia. Any side road would do after that point. A whine from the rear of the truck raised the hair on the back of his neck. His time was running out. He pulled over on the hard shoulder to check on Morgan. She twitched and moaned. The change was coming sooner than he wanted. Not good. He might not have time to strip her before he released her if he didn’t do so now, a necessity, if not his preferred choice. He tried to be gentle to keep her hibernating. Stars, she had a great body now she had put on a bit of weight and wasn’t such a skeleton. Down boy, he couldn’t think about that. He wrapped her in purloined duvets to cover everything except her head.

The world spun when he tried to climb into the cab again. He took a moment to clear his head. Five hundred years of endurance kicked in. He could do this and he could do it safely for both of them. He rolled down the window, sucking in a blast of arctic air to keep him awake for the next stretch. Calgary flashed by in a glare of garish Christmas lights, followed by Banff with more subdued decorations. The noises from Morgan became louder but this didn’t disturb him as much as an overriding sense of dread. Something stalked them, and yet he couldn’t see any vehicle behind him, not on a consistent basis. The sense of oppression continued until three hours before dawn. Now he knew who hunted him. A vampire and a long distance one at that. Someone needed to check into a motel with vacancies, which wasn’t easy, given the ski season in full operation. Someone needed to make quite sure he had a nice dark room before daybreak. Good, it gave him time to set Morgan free. He turned off on the first side road, driving until he found a cut out. The growls from the back of the truck were getting serious. He pulled over, opening the rear door. One yank got the covers off her. He retreated to the other side of the truck to let nature run its course. The cold would make her change to get her fur, but he had to stay out of her scent pattern or she would attack him. A vibrant howl reverberated. It had begun. He climbed up to the cab roof, out of the way. A slim and beautiful wolf erupted from the rear of the cab. She sprinted into the trees in easy bounds. Rowan slid off the roof to get inside, shutting all the doors. Now, at last, he could sleep. The vampire was going to have to check every vehicle on this route to find the right one and at Christmas time, with people traveling, it was going to take time. Morgan would run and she would hunt until her human memories kicked in, and then she would return to deal with him for what he had done to her. He didn’t imagine she’d be thrilled. Rowan clicked the door locks shut before he surrendered to exhaustion.

***

Morgan came awake suddenly with an overpowering urge to run. She leapt out of a smelly area into clean forest. With the stars above her head and the sounds of nature all around, her world had no end. Crisp snow bore her weight for the fleeting seconds her feet made contact, leaving only a slight indent. Other fresh tracks snagged her senses with the aroma of prey. Mm, bunny, yum. She found it scrabbling in the snow to get at withered grass under the mantel of white. Carefully she edged around the clearing until she was downwind, her tail now wagging in anticipation. One step at a time, she crept closer, belly low. One mad dash, with the white hare squealing, bounding off at jagged angles and she had it. A bite to snap the neck brought the taste of fresh warm blood to her mouth. She started with the entrails, working her way to the muscles and then crunching the marrow out of the big bones, licking out the goodness. A full belly came with disturbing thoughts. This was not right. Memories of her other life bubbled to the surface in that lonely glade. He had done this to her, the man who was wolf. Yes, she wanted freedom, but not in this form. Her damaged leg began to ache in the cold. She must find him; make him answer for his sins. Her own scent gave a trail back to his truck and an impossible sight.

***
Rowan’s wolf sense roused him from slumber. A predator stalked and he thought he knew who it was. Being inside a locked truck was no security if he guessed right. More pressing, Morgan might walk into a trap if he didn’t spring it first. This showdown was long overdue. He stepped out into the frigid night, snow crunching underfoot, every sense keyed to the slightest movement or sound. Darkness ruled in the time before dawn.

A rustle in a nearby tree spun him around. Stanislav Borinsky, now called Jack Stevens, crouched on a limb, his eyes glinting in the moonlight. The vampire watched, waiting, intent on the cabin of the truck.

“Where is she, old wolf? What have you done with her? You know you will tell me when I’ve finished with you. Why not spare us both the inconvenience?”

Rowan assessed the killing field with a swift glance. Every boulder, depression, fallen branch mapped in his head, every slight depression or hummock in the snow; he smiled at the old bat. “Borinsky, you missed the boat by so much the ticket office closed down hours since. She will never be your prey.”

The vampire leaped off his perch to float gracefully to the ground. “I will have her. I won’t have my operations disrupted by a human. You must see this from my point of view. I need Mullen to front my North American operation and she has fingered him. What is a puny human to us? Come, give me the girl and I will forgive what your pack did to my men. ”

“The girl is mine. Shall we fight?” Bring it on. It was past time they stopped dancing around each other and settled this for good. This wasn’t about Morgan any longer. It was about who was going to survive.
Borinsky hesitated, looking into the shadows of the forest. “How careless you have become in your dotage. Your pack appears conspicuous by their absence. One last chance. Where did you leave her and where is she going?”

A whiff of frigid air brought the scent of wolf. Rowan did have a pack mate, but was she on his side? The old bat missed the spore of a werewolf. Too bad for him. “How about you consider giving up flying? Sink your fangs into me and that is what will happen.”

Borinsky snapped his cloak back from his shoulders. “What makes you think I would want to ruin my dental hygiene on your sorry carcass? We both know I am stronger than you in your current form. I’ll settle for snapping your back to let you freeze to death.” He rose from the ground, floating into battle position.

A sleek gray wolf sprang out of the bush, bounded to the truck bed, and then onto the roof of the cab. She crouched, ready to spring, her glowing eyes intent on the vampire’s throat. The vampire sailed up onto his former perch, shaking out his cloak like ruffled feathers. “That is not a wolf.”

Rowan smiled again. “Not all of my pack are lupine. Shall we discover what happens when a vampire gets bitten by one of my kind? Normally, I am kind to new pups, but in your case I could make an exception. Oh, and by the way, if you want a fight, you had better get on with it. I spy a silver streak in the sky. Still, this shouldn’t be a problem for you in your new life.”

Borinsky made the mistake of looking east. Morgan leapt at him, missing by a spider’s leg, when the vampire flew up in panic. His hiss of outrage made the night colder. “I’ll not forget, or forgive. I’ll find the girl without you.”

Rowan moved close to the wolf, reaching down with one hand to stroke her luxuriant fur. “Oh look, is that some red I see in the sky?”
The vampire took flight in a blur.

Morgan bit his hand, just a little. Reckoning time. “How about if I go get your clothes and turn my back while you change? We can argue all you like after that.”

 

Snow day May 29 2010 297

Widdershins, my nano project chapter 5

The truck fired into a healthy sounding purr when Rowan turned the ignition. He had finished packing the trunk in the box with anything he thought they might need, plus Morgan’s stash of potential weapons under the passenger seat while the battery was recharging. With twilight approaching, he wanted to make a start if he could cut her loose from that computer. Knowing who was after her wasn’t going to change her problem, so why keep digging into the grubby details? She was only going to upset herself even more as he guessed the weapons she gathered were to self-eliminate if those men caught up. Morgan wasn’t a hunter…not yet. He left the engine running to heat up the cab while he went to fetch Morgan.

As he guessed, she was hunched over the computer in the master bedroom nook. She had a medical website online and was looking into tingling sensations of the extremities. Waves of guilt rushed over him for what he had done to her and yet there was no choice.
She’d be grateful one day.

“Time to go,” he said.

“In a moment. I think I am coming down with something and I just want to see if this site has any suggestions.”

“You do know that if we are tracked to this cabin the laptop will be checked for your browsing history?” And then the searchers would know someone had a problem. Not a good thought. He would rather the man in charge of the hunt not know what he had done to Morgan.

Morgan turned to him, “Just how does a werewolf know so much about tech?”

She had a point. “I have another personae, who happens to be a rich property owner and who has all the toys to go along with the lifestyle. ‘Brandon’ became a tad too interesting to various government people a few years back, so now he is on an extended vacation overseas.”

She closed down the site, deleted her browsing history from a proxy server, deleted the proxy server, emptied the trash box and turned off the laptop before turning to him again. “What did you do to interest them?”

“I got sloppy and didn’t pay attention to my appearance as much as I should have done. I had gotten very comfortable with ‘Brandon’, who someone noticed wasn’t aging. ‘Brandon’s’ son will be able to take on his role in another couple of decades, but for now, I need to have him elsewhere and out of sight.”

Shock stiffened through Morgan. “You don’t age? How old are you?”

“I don’t keep an exact tally. I’m old enough to remember the Pilgrim Fathers settling in America.” He shrugged.” Now if you are quite ready, I would like to move out before someone gets worried about our smoke signals. It would be nice to drive a vehicle that isn’t reported as stolen.”

She got up, only to lurch sideways. Rowan caught her before she fell. “Hey, you need to take a nap. I have a nice, warm cab with a blanket on the back seat.”

“I’m fine. Put me down.”
“No, I don’t think so. I can feel you trembling. How about if I get you settled in the truck and then take a look around for something to help you when we stop?” He marched down the stairs with her cradled in his arms.

“I didn’t find any match for my symptoms on the site,” she objected.

Now at the door of the truck, he settled her in place. “Old Rowan knows the ways of nature and herbs. You just get some rest while I drive.” Yes, he did know herbs to help her. He had found them around the lake shore and cabin before she her symptoms started. Once they came to a place where they could rest for a while, he’d brew his concoction, and then she would sleep through the worst of it. Guilt wracked him for taking the choice away from Morgan. Her star burnt too bright to fizzle into oblivion, which it would if nature to took its cruel course. Her hunters would never stop until she was dead, even if one culprit was incarcerated. This man’s boss had very long arms, as Rowan knew from personal experience in his other personae. Morgan wore a huge target engraved on her back for as long as she remained among the accountable.
The night beckoned. He put the truck into drive.

***
Morgan awakened on a hard bed in what looked like a poor motel room. The requisite TV was anchored high to a wall. Underneath, a coffee maker festered. A smell of rancid fat permeated the air. A small kitchenette emitted fumes from the concoction Rowan brewed over the stove. She tried to sit up, but the room whirled and she was on fire. She groaned. Had her leg become infected? The wound seemed to have closed up nicely with the fine stitches Rowan had sewn. It hadn’t felt uncomfortable for a while now.

“Welcome back to the land of the living.” Rowan tipped his concoction into a mug, using a tea filter. He walked over to hand her the drink.

Morgan viewed the contents with distrust. It smelled nasty. “Why should I drink this?
“Because you are sick and it will make you feel better. Of course, you can decline and suffer.” His eyes dared her to refuse his help.

“It is herbs, right? I drink this and my fever goes down?”

“Something like that. How about trying the brew? He hunkered down by the side of her bed.

Her head spun, her guts churned and she couldn’t focus. Whatever it was he offered might help her. His painkiller concoction at the cabin certainly worked like a charm. She sipped the drink. Not unpleasant, with the faint aftertaste of herbs. At least it quenched her thirst.

“How long before I get the benefits?”

“As we are three days from a full moon, it is difficult to say. Just try to sleep.”

Not a problem. Already, her eyes couldn’t focus. Strange his medicines always seemed to have this effect. She drifted off into a cloud of fluff.

***

Rowan cleaned up his mess with a heavy heart. Yes, Morgan was going to recover. Of that, he had no doubt. If she ever forgave him was another issue.

He slipped the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on the outside handle of their door, drew the curtains and positioned a padded chair with its back against the door. Next, he took out a pack of beef jerky from his backpack and hooked the comforter from his bed. Morgan might rest quiet tonight, although he wanted to make sure she didn’t wander. She would have to wake him to get outside, should the urge strike her. Satisfied, he gnawed on both the jerky and the problem of the next stage in their journey. He had to get them to the forests of British Columbia before the next full moon.

Frank_the_upright

My Nano project continued. Widdershins, Chapter 2

This is raw and has not been edited. I will fix it in the fullness of time.

***
A deer steak tasted different when cooked from frozen. For a start, the center was rare, while the outside was a tad overcooked. The really strange part was no vegetables, nothing, not even canned corn. Morgan guessed the guy lived off the wilderness and yet a pure meat diet wasn’t healthy. A good job she wasn’t a vegetarian or she would have been dead out of luck.

“Thank you for the food, but what should I call you? I’m Morgan.” She offered him her hand, which he ignored like she had tried to pass him a live snake. Did he hate women?
He looked up at her with winter in his eyes. “Rowan. My mother named us for nature.” Those eyes dared her to make a snide remark.

“It suits you. There is something inflexible and yet wild about a tree name.”
“So Morgan le Fay, I can’t see you as a wicked Arthurian enchantress somehow. Parents have a lot to answer for when naming offspring.” A slight smile lifted the corners of his mouth.

Morgan sighed. “It could’ve been worse. Her second and third choices were Mahitibelle after early pioneer names and Amaryllis, her favorite flower.”

His shoulders started to shake a bit until he got them under as much control as he had his twitching lips. “Morgan isn’t so bad.”

Now he was talking to her, finally talking and not just about her condition. Morgan had a pressing concern. “I’m deeply grateful for everything you’ve done for me, but now I am awake, I wonder if there is a bathroom I can visit when needed?”

Rowan got up from his place by the fire to place his hands on her elevated leg. He closed his eyes, concentrating. “Yes, you can come off traction now. I’ll fix up a crutch, although it won’t help you with the bathroom, which is outside. The snow is far too deep for someone unsteady on their feet and I think you would be too weak in any case. I can carry you there and back.”

Reality slithered sideways. No-one should be able to assess a break without an x-ray machine. “How can you know for certain the bone is set?”

“I have this talent.” The winter returned to his eyes. “Now about clothes. Are you happy with a pair of my boxers and track pants? I salvaged everything you had on above the waist, aside from the sleeve of your jacket, but the rest…the fire and blood took care of them.”

Blood? A compound fracture? There was nothing to show for it on the smooth skin of her leg. He couldn’t mean her cycle as she had accepted the need for a contraceptive implant when she went into the protection program. Male bodyguards buying feminine products would have been a dead giveaway. Something was out of kilter, here. “Again, thanks. That would be very kind of you.”

Bathroom visits became a nightmare with the nasty little hut a distance from the cabin and no more than a primitive earth closet at that. What proved a bigger hardship was not having a daily shower. While Rowan cheerfully obliged by boiling water for her to wash with a bowl, there was no way she could manage the tin tub. Even stranger, he didn’t use the tub, but he never gave off the odor of unclean. Yes, he washed their clothes to hang dry in a corner of the shack, but not himself. No adult man could go long without cleaning himself if he didn’t wish to stink. Rowan did neither. Morgan began to wonder if he washed outside and yet she had never seen him take out any hot water.

Their routine shattered some weeks later when Rowan barreled into the shack near dusk, back early from a hunting trip. His face looked like thunder, but he schooled it into a ‘be nice’ expression before he approached her. “There are men sniffing around your burnt-out car. They know there’s no corpse and are coming back in the morning with dogs. These guys are not cops. You need to level with me.”

This was the end. Morgan couldn’t run. She had no transport and how far would she get hobbling into the forest? The dull pain of hopelessness coursed through her again. “They’re here to kill me. If you have somewhere to hide out, then go to it until they’re done. I want no more blood on my head.”

Rowan sat down on the edge of the bed and took her hand. “What is mine stays mine unless I say otherwise.” His eyes narrowed. “Why do they want you dead?”

What did it matter now? What did anything matter? “I saw a guy kill some people and I told the cops. That is when he had his friends murdered my family. I went into the witness protection program and he got convicted, but that wasn’t the end of it. He has people making me out to be a psycho. There are sworn testimonies from people I never met, claiming I’m a space cadet. If I don’t appear in his appeal, he will win. This is why there is a contract out on me and why you must let this happen. I have had four identities and three bodyguards blown away. I can’t live with a trail of death in my wake anymore.”

“Not acceptable.” Frost sparkled in Rowan’s eyes. “We will leave here now.”

“Get real. The dogs will track us.”

“Track you, maybe, if I were not going to carry you. Tracking me might prove more problematic.” He smiled, slow and wicked. “Finding me will be their last mistake.”
Rowan moved quickly, getting together clothes and a few essentials, which he stuffed into a backpack. He swaddled Morgan in furs to carry her in a fireman’s lift with the pack slung over his other shoulder, and then he set off into the night.

All the alarms went off in the moment he started his trek. She weighed about one hundred and fifteen pounds and yet he carried her as if she were a feather. His pace was a steady run, impossible for a normal man, and yet easy for him. Morgan didn’t fight. This was his choice, whatever he was, but she began to doubt if he were human as the hours wore on and still his pace didn’t alter, nor did he sweat, not that she could smell.

They stopped at dawn when they reached a cave next to a waterfall at the side of a hill. Morgan roused out of a doze to her new surroundings. The place gave shelter from the wind and fresh water, if little else. No normal person could hope to survive here in the depths of winter, so what was his plan?

“Rowan, it’s your turn to level with me.” She looked him in the eyes, but he wouldn’t hold her gaze.

“Leave it be. There are things better left unspoken.”

“This place will not support us.”

“Yes, it will. I’ll get a fire going, and then I must backtrack to take care of certain difficulties.”

“Those guys carry major firepower. I haven’t seen you with a gun before and nor did you pack one. You can’t take them on.”

He grinned, flashing his teeth. “I don’t share nicely.”

Once the fire was set he headed out, leaving her with a bunch of unanswered questions. She had deadfall to keep the blaze going and before he left, Rowan made a new crutch for her out of a tree branch with lashings holding together a bit that was wrapped in fur to support her weight. Alone now with her thoughts, she went over everything that had happened to her since she woke up after the accident. No normal man could have run that distance with her weight on his back. Even the iron man competitions weren’t so long or so harsh. No normal man could have fixed her leg the way he had. No normal man would hide in the woods with his looks. What, in the name of hell, was he?

Night clawed down into morning. Morgan kept the fire burning for warmth and to keep away predators. When the silvery lights of dawn streaked through the sky she heard yelps and snarls. Whatever was coming, she would meet it head on. The crutch worked well to get her out of the cave and then she saw a pile of clothes. Rowan’s clothes just left in a heap, right down to the underwear.

Men’s screams now sliced through the air until came silence. She didn’t wait long after. A large wolf ran into view, skidding to a halt in a cloud of snow when it saw her. It sat on its haunches, waiting her out. Morgan wasn’t backing down. She sat down awkwardly by the clothes.

The wolf tried growling and howling to make her move, but still she sat firm. The answer came in a shimmer of light, the impossible answer of the wolf dissolving into naked Rowan.

“You are not meant to see this,” he said, unembarrassed and not bothering to cover his private parts.

Not what she expected, thinking perhaps he was the product of some genetic experiment, one of the perfect soldier programs. Never had she considered something out of myths and legends. Her world tipped sideways. Whatever happened now was beyond her imagination. “But I have. If this means I need to die, do it quickly. I’m so tired of running.”

“The others will never let up until you are dead. This much I have learned. ”

She shivered, not just from the cold. “And you? Now I know what you are?”

Widdershins, my nano project.

Rider, this is not edited. I will go through the thing at the end of the month and fix errs then. It is as it is and if there are errs, I am not really bothered right now.

Driving through the fierce blizzard, Morgan struggled to keep her eyes open. Her hands ached from the biting cold, but she dared not turn up the heating again and risk dozing off behind the wheel. Somehow, she must find strength to have any chance at sneaking over the border into Canada on this dirt track of a back road. They would never find her there. They could never hurt anyone close to her again, for there would be no one. Images of blood and brains splattered across her retinas in endless replay.
No more deaths on her account, she wouldn’t, couldn’t handle any more pain and loss. Two new identities complete with birth certificates and passports lay safe in her purse for her next attempt at a new life. Who would she be next?

Testify against the murderer, join the witness protection program until he was convicted, and you will be safe, they said. Three bodyguards killed in a bloodbath protecting her were three too many. Those men had families; wives, children, parents. She didn’t have a soul; not anymore, thanks to the man she was supposed to help convict. Her parents went together when the assassin called at their home. The cops thought he was pretending to sell door to door and since her folk’s home was the first stop it wouldn’t have looked out of place, except he had a gun especially for them. Her granny hadn’t escaped, either; finding the bodies on her return from her hair appointment stopped her heart.

Someone had sold her new personae out twice already, hence the death of the guards, but one of the fake identities she had left was Canadian. She’d go to a small town, get a job, any job not computer related, for they would be watching for such, and disappear. Maybe she could retrain…a huge dark shape appeared in the beam from her headlights, blocking the narrow road. Morgan swerved; the road vanished in a tumbling, screeching roll. Pain, dark, and . . . nothing.

***

Sound came back first, followed by pain cresting. She whimpered, her strength gone, along with her courage.

“Stay still. You’ve been hurt, but you’re safe, now.” The voice was deep and rich, if distant.

Daylight hurt her eyes. The room swirled as black and silver motes danced in her line of sight. A man-shape gradually resolved into a person with overlong black hair, not wearing the white or blue scrubs of a hospital attendant. She must be dead, for he had the face of a fallen angel. This man wore a gray sweatshirt and jeans. The walls of a log cabin formed a backdrop. A good choice of hell for one who lived on the internet; trapped in pain with a hunk for a nurse and not a flicker of desire on her part. Was that what happened in purgatory?

She attempted to speak, emitting a dry croak. Her tongue stuck to the roof of her mouth and her lips hurt.

Responding, he slid a muscular arm under her shoulders to help her sip water from a cracked cup, patient until she had drunk her fill. This was real, not afterlife. In the back of Morgan’s mind, a little voice screamed at her not to eat and drink anything. She was hurt and by the grinding pain in her leg, she was going to need surgery. Morgan tried to push him away, only then becoming aware of the burn on her arm, a raw, red patch of angry outrage against her skin.

“The ambulance…when is it coming?”

“It’s not. We are cut off from the outside world until the melt comes in spring.” His black eyes sparkled with little flecks of amber while his mouth formed a tight, hard line as if he wished her gone. Behind him, a glow from a wood stove gave off the warmth he lacked.

“Did you call for help?” The pain built into waves of agony. A sweat broke out on her face and neck, and yet she shivered. She couldn’t bear this pain. A scream began to build.

“No phone.”

“In my jacket, I have a cell phone.”

He gently eased her down onto the bed. The room swirled again. A hard object was pressed into her hand. Morgan waited out the dizziness until she could focus. She flipped up the lid, to a blank screen. It just needed turning on; that was it? Nothing happened. The battery was dead.

“There is a charger in my purse. My cell needs juice.”

“Sorry.” He didn’t look sorry, just annoyed. “No electricity and I couldn’t save your purse. By the time I got you free everything else had gone up in flames.”
Her car, her identities, and all her clothes gone? The pain escalated and this time she couldn’t hold in a groan. “I need a doctor.”

He reached back for a metal mug. “Here’s something for the pain. It will send you to sleep.” Once more he helped her to drink; holding her up until the sharp tasting fluid was all gone.

“My leg . . .”

“I set it.” He closed his eyes as if he were enduring an exercise in extreme patience. “If it were possible to get you out of here, I would’ve already done so. You wouldn’t survive being dragged through the snow on a sled.”

A warm feeling flowed through Morgan. Her eyes wouldn’t stay open, and the pain receded into a dull ache, vanishing as sleep claimed her.

***

Sometimes a calm, deep voice would soothe her while she drifted in a world of dark and warmth. There were drinks of things that made her sleep again, but also those that stilled her hunger and thirst. Time hung, suspended until the day Morgan woke to find her leg up in the air, strapped in what looked like the remnants of a chair back, in traction with a large rock attached to the whole. She was also naked under a down quilt and lying on a mess of towels, something that brought an instant blush to her face. He’d put an incontinence pad under her and from the lack of stink, also washed her down very efficiently. So much for her shreds of modesty.

This one-room log cabin with a wood burner against one wall had a pile of pelts rested on the floor next to it, presumably where he had slept as she had the only bed. A table and one chair were against another wall. Herbs hung suspended from the ceiling rafters. An old tin bath was pushed into a corner, partially concealed by a modern bamboo screen. Aside from a few cups and plates on a dresser and a clothes chest, this was the most primitive dwelling she had ever seen. More like an old prairie house from a working museum. No curtains adorned the two windows. There wasn’t even a water faucet. Just then the door banged open, and a figure swathed in furs entered, carrying firewood, which he dumped by the wood burner before he threw off his winter gear.

He must have made a habit of working out, since his shoulders and arms stretched his sweatshirt, complimenting his slim hips and long legs. While his hair was overlong, his face looked freshly shaven. He was also drop-dead gorgeous, but not in a pretty way. This man was all male to the roots of his hair. He turned, as if aware of her scrutiny.
“How do you feel? Would you like more pain juice?”

Did she? No, it was a dull ache now. “I think I’m good for the moment.”

“In that case, I will get some food happening. You have lost a lot of weight.” He didn’t wait for comment; he just shucked on the furs to brave the weather once more.
Damn him, he was right. Her arms were like twigs. Every ounce of body fat had gone. Stars, she must look a fright. Her more immediate concern was how to get out of this place. He said all her stuff went up in flames. Was this true? She then wondered why a guy looking like he did would elect to camp out in a log cabin in the middle of nowhere with only the oil light fixtures. This place was a nightmare. What had he done that he needed such isolation? Was he on the run, and if so, for what?
Jasper Vacation2011 003

Sequel to Darkspire Reaches.

I am getting asked when the next book is coming out quite a bit now. ‘Serpent of the Shangrove’, book 2 in the Darkspires series will be live sometime in the fall of this year. In the meantime, here is something and with it comes a disclaimer. This is the first chapter and it has not been through my editor yet so may well be subject to change. Like Darkspire Reaches, this is a dark fantasy with romance. Enjoy the pictures. They are all mine. I live very close to the Rocky Mountains.

Jasper Vacation2011 067 And to start off, here is a pretty trailer.

“Who let the half-breed in?” the cultured voice of a young female cut through the chatter. Her cruel words echoed to the ceiling in the vast mountain chamber.

Conversation trailed to an end. Faces at the long trencher table turned in one direction. All looked at Copper, his fork hanging, halfway to his mouth, frozen by those words. The celebration ended for him. Here he was at a feast for a hand-fasting, an invited guest and yet an outsider in this now festive main cavern. His friend, Strallen, newly joined to a lovely Drakken girl, sat red-faced with temper and yet said nothing.

Copper was grateful his parents were both absent, for this insult touched them closely. He didn’t think his mother would have let the moment pass, but he must for Strallen’s sake. He brought the lump of now cold meat to his mouth and chewed as if nothing had happened.

All the eyes switched to Rosella, an exquisite girl with long blonde curls sitting next to Lorien, the hand-fasted girl. Once, she had been his playmate before they had both matured.

She giggled, waving her hand in an artful little gesture. “Well, he is a half-breed. Why is he invited to such an occasion? It is not as if any of us would consider him for a mate.” She pulled her arm from Lorien’s sudden grip. “No, I will have my say. Copper is a nobody without pure blood. He has done nothing and he will never amount to anything.”

Strallen half-stood as he leaned over his new mate. “What do you suggest a person can do to change his standing in a world where we have no threats? How a person conducts themselves in company is more important than how pure their blood is. I am sure we will all remember this when you cast about for a mate, Rosilla.”

The girl’s rosy blush of temper paled to milk white. She pushed away from the table, marching towards the passage to the outside with a couple of her cronies in tow. Fitful conversation started amid nervous laughter. Eyes turned to Copper again.

He stood, bowing towards Lorien and Strallen with the intention of getting some fresh air himself. Two of the older Drakken males moved to block his path. The denial hurt more than the insult. How could they think he would go after that wretched girl? They did, so he turned to take a tunnel deeper into the heart of the aerie. His star sense kicked in, giving him private thoughts of the gathering and taking him off-guard. All the girls and most of them men felt the same. They didn’t mind his company as long as there was no chance of him joining their family. He decided right then that wherever he went was better than here.

A whir of wings, followed by a heavy thud on his shoulder pad announced the arrival of Kryling, the little firedrake. Trust that one to be lurking in the rafters. Now he couldn’t keep the ill-tidings from his parents. As fond as he was of Kryling, there was no denying the drake was a snitch.

“This is going to hurt mother. Can you at least keep it from her?”

Angry thoughts slammed into his mind. Kryling was in a fine fury and had every intention of telling Raven precisely who said what. The drake considered it would come best from him and not someone mean-spirited. Tendrils of sympathy began to seep from Kryling, along with a tail wrapped gently around Copper’s neck.

“Don’t worry about the girl. I wasn’t that interested in her,” Connor said, not a lie anymore as he found the thought of her made his guts churn in a sickly way. No, if he found a mate, it would be someone who cared for him as a person, not how pure his blood was.

Kryling sent pictures of hunting with an image of Copper in his wyvern form bringing back three bucks for the table and the girls crowding around.
Turning right at a junction, Coper headed for a lower exit, hoping he wouldn’t meet another Drakken on the way. “No, not everything revolves around who is the best hunter when it comes to getting mates.”

The drake puffed a smug smoke ring and countered with an image of his harem. Strangely, his mates seemed to glare in an angry fashion in this mind picture.
“Having a problem keeping peace amongst all those females?” Copper knew the little drake was trying to cheer him up, but this harem discord hadn’t been part of the plan.
Kryling snapped his wings shut and hissed.

Copper felt more like roaring and for that, he needed room to change to his other form. The back entrance offered a launch from a cliff side and at the same time triggered a faint memory of his first home on another world. He changed in free fall over an azure sea, exhilarated by the smooth shift in bones, muscles and tendons into something huge and very different. He cupped his wings and then a small thud hit him between his shoulder blades. Kryling was along for the ride wherever they were headed, a place far away from any Drakkens.

***

Thick blue mists rose off the shracken swamps as the first rosy light of dawn hit the water. Daybreak came welcome after a sleepless night outside, but he hadn’t wanted to be near others. Droplets of dew settled on the leather of his hide. He didn’t care as long as he was alone, and he aimed to keep it like that.

Launching from the ground, he flew high, working hard with his wings against the heavy air until he burst through the clouds. Far, far in the east, near a distant mountain range, a ring of light flamed and shimmered in the heavens, catching his interest. The middle of the ring showed up a stark black against the red of the dawn sky, like someone had burned a circle in the fabric and the night peeked through.

The sun was well risen by the time Copper settled on a high plateau after a long flight that had dried his wings of all moisture. Was this was the forbidden thing he was not to seek out if he ever saw it? None of the others of his contemporaries had seen the gate, if that is what it was, or he would have heard about it. What if he did something the others hadn’t? Would that make him acceptable as a Drakken? Now he missed Kryling as the little Drake had flown free soon after the outlands of the aerie passed underneath. Kryling knew what the gate looked like for sure, having flown through it as an adult.

While he would need his current form if he decided to go through the gate, he didn’t want the draconian tendencies to influence his judgment. Aside from that, his man-shape would be a lot harder to spot if the aerie noticed he had gone and sent out searchers. He drove the magic inward, and a second later a red mist enveloped his melting body. Bones changed; wings became absorbed; clothes regurgitated. A man wearing flying black leather gear now stood in place of the wyvern. A shudder of compression shook through him at the reduction in size, but then he threw it off to enjoy the sensations of a very different form.

Copper settled down amid the harsh tundra with his back against a sun-warmed rock, wondering why his sire and dam preferred this shape. He liked to fly, although he always reverted when he returned to the aerie, knowing his dam became irritated if he wore his wyvern shape in her cavern. She would be more than irritated with him if he followed through on this plan.

Long ago, in another world, he had a crèche mate. They shared the same hatching and then she was gone. Neither of his parents or any of the others from that time before would speak of what happened except to say the girl kit was dead. A part of him knew this for a lie. His star sense told him all believed they spoke the truth as they knew it, but underneath, in their secret thoughts, they believed she might have survived a little while in a hostile place.

Fourteen years of waiting for the star gate to return dimmed the memories of what happened until now. Anger surged through him again. Fourteen years was young for a man, but not for a Drakken. They called him a half-breed, and yet that was not quite true. His mother, Raven, was the half-breed, if not entirely, for she had magic of her own as well as that of the Drakkens. Her beast form, like his own, was massive. Fortunately, he had taken after his tall sire for his man shape, rather than Raven’s tiny frame.
A faint flash of silver caught his eye. He was too late to dive under a scrubby bush for cover. Kryling, zoomed into his position, chittering and grabbing at his tunic to pull him back in the direction of the aerie. Images of his mother blossomed in his mind from the drake. Kryling was doing his best to make Copper feel guilty enough to comply with wishes of family.

He almost started the change when he noticed something. The little drake wasn’t acting like he had just flown such a great distance, not looking the least tired. None of the other wyverns had appeared and they would have shown up by now if Kryling had caught a ride on one of their backs. The drake wasn’t here for him. Once again his star sense aided him. Kryling was running away from his squabbling mates and wanted the backing of a Drakken shoulder from which to state his case if they caught him. This was why he left the aerie with Connor the night before. Not out of solidarity, but out of the need to evade an angry confrontation of several irate females. He smiled, amused and then returned to his thoughts.

Out here, in the back of beyond, there were not firedrake colonies to report Kryling’s whereabouts. The empty lands stretched for miles as forest and plains, punctuated with a river, meandering as it gained distance from the mountain springs. This was a world lonely of higher species, so no habitations marred the land. Strange to find an inhabitable planet without an intelligent species and yet the Drakkens had done just that when they arrived through the star gate in the first wave. Not so with the previous shift, where two intelligent species were already present. Copper wondered if the ancestors of the fair Angressi folk had been the ones to travel to a new world or it if had been the dark-haired First Born tribe. With a name like that, he rather placed his guess on the tribes. How natural to name oneself in such a way to claim original ownership of a land where another was there before. Also, he knew the tribes to be migratory while the Angressi folk were territorial. Given the tribes had magical talent; it would make more sense for them to be the incomers. Although this raised the question of how land born creatures would get through a sky portal. They must have some way of making the gate lower to the ground, which further ruled out the Angressi, who possessed no magic.

Without the Drakkens, what had happened to the lost kit? Would the Angressi or the First Born kill such a one, helpless though she was? What was her name? Jazzler? Her fate bothered him. If he went through the gate he risked being trapped for years. No Drakkens now inhabited the other world. All hands would be turned against him. On the other hand, he had a few days to find a trace of the lost kit before the portal shut again. Do nothing, or know for sure? Maybe if he proved himself by a deed of courage he could gain acceptance. Rosella was right. He had done nothing, but he could alter that. Copper let the change come with his decision. Right or wrong, there was nothing for him here.