Strangely enough, this was not a book I intended to write after I finished Darkspire Reaches, which was supposed to be a stand alone novel. However, there was a certain expectation from my publishers that there would be a sequel and I will admit to prevarication until I saw the comments in the reviews for Darkspire Reaches. While I will never respond, I always take notice and I saw people were asking questions about the world, in particular the Shangrove and also wondering about a sequel, so I go to thinking about what would happen next. This book was so much fun to write and now I guess I am thinking about a third in the series. Maybe I’ll call that one Wurms of the World. We will see.
Free now for five days only. ‘An atmospheric and haunting read.’
He sat up. “What sort of boat is it?”
“Fairy Child is a converted fishing boat. She is ocean going with sails and also an engine.
“Fairy Child is Ella in the Gaelic tongue.” Mordred sat up and stretched.
John had never picked up on her choice of name for her pride and joy. Why did it have to be a stranger? “You’re right. However, here is where we part company.” She tried to put all the authority she didn’t feel into that statement.
“Is the boat made of metal, or is it wooden?”
What did this matter? A boat was a boat. “She is wooden.”
“I be a coming along with you, then.”
Damn, and double damn. Why couldn’t she have just said metal? “You said I would be free. You promised I would when I got you clear of the police.”
“I did be saying that I would free thee when thee got me to the place where the wild things are. Thee has not done this.”
With her head spinning, Ella didn’t have the strength to argue any more. She had to get sleep before she passed out. “Fine, here are the car keys. You saw me open the trunk. I want everything in this car loaded onto that boat with the blue paint on the third jetty along. When you have done that, you can wake me up, and I will start her engines.”
She was too tired to care what he did now. Ella opened the car door and stumbled to the jetty. She weaved across the gangplank and somehow got down below to crash onto a berth.
“Mistress Ella.” A hard hand shook her awake. “I have done as thou commanded.”
Dear heavens would this never end? Maybe she could drop him off on the Sicily Isles? Ella fought layers of exhaustion to dig for the boat keys in her suitcase. Everything was neatly stacked in the cabin. He even handed her the car keys.
“Can I possibly hope that you can sail? If I get her out of harbor, can you head southwest with the sails?”
“No bad magic? Just wind power? Yes, this be possible.”
The first thing Ella did on reaching the deck was to hurl the car keys over the side. Spiteful and petty, but if Mordred had locked the car it would be an added charge to John’s account as it would not have the keys. She went to the wheel house, turned on the ignition and fired the engine. Gauges and the radar came online. She had a full tank of fuel, thankfully something she always had attended to whenever she docked after a trip.
“Mordred, can you go cast off the docking lines?”
He looked hard at her for a moment before running to do as she asked. The thought crossed her mind of throttling up and leaving him on the jetty, but she would have to back out, and he’d have time to jump aboard. If he didn’t and was captured, there was still her part in all this. She could face prison time for helping him. John would relish that. No, she would dump Mordred only when he was free and clear.
Mordred ran back up the gangplank and pulled it onboard after him. He started for the wheel house with a peculiar mincing gait that terminated with him sitting on the steps to pull off John’s rubber boots. These sailed over the side to join the car keys.
Ella suppressed a smile. Those boots must have been painful. She maneuvered Fairy Child out of the dock and into the open water. Once more, her hands shook, but this time with exhaustion. Ten minutes later and they hit ocean water. She powered down the engine to join Mordred on the deck. He was staring at the rigging, bemused.
“Right, you said you understood sails. Here is how these ones work.” Ten minutes later and he was as proficient as she could have wished and then some. Whatever else he was, the guy understood sails. He followed her back to the wheel house. “Look at this gauge. It tells you where the land masses are and our position.”
Mordred didn’t stir. “Thee said a southwest route. I don’t need the bad magic things to tell me how to find direction or land.”
“You can’t sail without the radar.”
“I have the sun and the stars to steer by. The smell of land and the sight of kelp, and the seabirds to tell me when I be near safe haven.”
Ella started to argue, but the room swirled to a violent buzzing in her ears. The next thing she knew was Mordred gently tucking her into a berth.
“Thee rest now.”
“No, I …” His grass green eyes seemed to expand, and somehow she was in a field of flowers, brightly colored flowers with lots of butterflies dipping down to drink the nectar. The real world receded into nothingness.
Ella woke to the gentle roll of the boat into a gray light. A faint noise from the other berth startled her. Mordred was curled up in covers, fast asleep. Panic sent her flying to the wheel house. All the sails were furled, the sea anchor had been let down and the boat was bobbing in the ocean, going nowhere. He must have sailed until exhaustion hit, and then made them safe. The goose bumps on her arms died down.
Silver slivers of predawn sliced through the sky. How long had she slept? A quick check on the instruments confirmed that the boat was on course. Ella exhaled. Her stomach told her it thought her head had been amputated. She went down to the galley, just in front of the sleeping quarters to rummage through the food boxes. Perishable food must be eaten first as there was no way of keeping it fresh on Fairy Child. She took an opened packet of bacon, sliced bread, tomatoes, and eggs. Halfway through cooking them Mordred blundered into the galley with a sleepy but hopeful expression on his face. The sounds his stomach made signaled his need.
He had ditched his cheek pads and his wig now the immediate threat had gone. Still he looked startlingly like John. She averted her eyes. “There are plates in the top cabinet over to your left. Can you snag a couple so I can get them warming?”
Ella sighed as she flipped the eggs. “Open the cupboard. Take out two plates. Give them to me.”
Mordred followed her orders, and she put the plates to warm underneath the hob.
“Do you prefer coffee or tea?”
Mordred gave her a blank look.
“I guess that will be coffee as we don’t have juice.” She began a brew. A few minutes later she set the tiny table and served breakfast. Mordred inhaled his in record time. He sipped at the coffee, pulling a face.
Ella finished her breakfast and picked up her coffee, satisfied, comfortable, and then her world crashed down upon her head. John was supposed to be sitting across from her. Why had he done this to her? Where had the love gone? The tears started and wouldn’t stop. She made a break for the deck, but Mordred was there, in her way.
“I be very sorry for the grief. I do know I have caused a rift between thee and thine husband. I do swear I will leave thee in peace as soon as I find my place.”
The tears wouldn’t stop. When she tried to push by him, he didn’t give an inch. She had to get away. “It is not you, it is him.” Those words choked out of her.
Mordred’s arms enfolded her. She howled into his chest, unable to stop. His hand gently stroked her hair as he rocked her.
“Whist now, what can I be a doing to make this right? I never meant to hurt thee.”
His kind words set off more tears. Ella struggled for control, aware she was in the arms of a psycho nut-bar. Oh God, could this get any worse?
Mordred steered her to her berth, pushed her down and sat himself beside her.
“It was him.” A sob threatened to close her throat. “You made things worse.” Tears rolled down her cheeks, and she rocked back and forth, her arms wrapped around her.
“I don’t make war on women. I make war on those who do. Where is he?” A note of steel had crept into his voice.
So it is with Death’s Angel. While I am continuing to work on it I cannot post any more without blowing the first rights so there it is. I’ll fish out one of the others instead.
The centurion didn’t help her with learning to read and write their language as he had promised. He sent Nyka in his place. Azriel still wanted to please the centurion above everything, despite her constant attempts to neutralize his venom. His absence robbed her of the ability to judge her progress.
Nyka had set the portable unit up for her and showed her how to key the screen; activate the voice mode and how to interact with it. Aside from this, she was left completely on her own. Buzzing from the food hatch, to announce a meal break at regular intervals, became her way of marking time. Notably, the food was the same as had been given out to the captive women in the holding pens. At least the centurion’s task gave her something to occupy her attention. She wanted to master the skill since it would be easier to navigate her way through the ship if she could read the directions, if that is what they were, posted at the intersection of corridors.
The worst part of her isolation was increasingly vivid dreams. They always started in an Angel holding cell where all her kind were gathered; a rare event in itself. She could see them but not make them hear her or see her. This was the point when she started awake, still screaming at them to notice her. And then came the last, most horrific dream of all. She had watched what the Angels were doing this time, instead of trying to make them notice her.
Azriel woke shaking, covered with a cold sweat. Only once had an Angel died without having an immediate body replacement. Uriel had been more than a friend to her when they got a chance to spend rare time together. Like her, he was an assassin, although no-one would guess from looking at him. His curling blond hair cascaded to his shoulders, framing a face of classical proportions. Deep-set blue eyes sparkled with mischief when he was around her. Added to the good looks, in her opinion, was the fact that no one supplied the Angels with a means to shave during non-working times. His beard came through about four shades darker than his hair, making him look like a charming rogue.
Both Coda and Azriel had been with Uriel on his last mission. It should have been an easy break-in for Coda to access the mainframe data base. Something had gone wrong. They were expected. Heavy duty weapons fired at them without warning. Azriel found a way for them to get clear when a shell blew a hole in a security perimeter wall. She turned to call to the others and saw Uriel’s body drop to the ground. His handsome head had been blown clean away: gone into a million pieces of mush and bone. He couldn’t be regenerated without his memories. He was really dead; forever. It was Coda who got them clear that day. Azriel didn’t remember how; everything was a blur from that moment on.
Back at base, she turned her face to the wall in their underground cell, ignoring Coda’s attempts to reach her mind. One by one all the Angels had been thrust into the cold, dimly lit rock cavern. They gathered around her in silence, all withdrawn from assignments while the controllers searched for the breach of security. When the last Angel arrived they began making a marker for the fallen.
Grieving together, the Angels carved Uriel’s name in the rock floor, taking turns to pound it with a hand-sized piece of harder stone someone had managed to smuggle in past the guards. No one investigated the noise. No one came near to give them food or water beyond what was already in the holding cell. Not one of them spoke. The sound of the stone pounding echoed for days and nights until they had finished. They did this for the one who was never coming home to them.
In her dream, she had seen them pounding with the stone again, heard the sharp beat going on and on until they all gathered around in silence, looking down. When they moved aside, she saw another name under Uriel’s . . . Her own.
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!
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.