Extracts from current Works in Progress

(also feel free to check out my several recent short stories on the blog)

 

DUST BOUND –

 

Tattered buildings forming the three wings of the central compound came into focus. People gathered at the edge of the impact crater where the fourth wing of the old hospital once stood. Blue shimmers surrounding the Fae cast stuttering shadows on the dead ground and her gaze drifted to the rubbled ridge that ringed the crater. Her heartbeat spiked and she looked away. Several thousand in their community, but only a couple hundred gathered to meet the Fae. They shuffled forward, eyes on the sky, children clinging to those who stayed at the back of the crowd. Everyone else would be waiting. The brittle casing of the binocs shifted under her fingers as images in her head battled the images filtering through the lenses. Jenny. Sitting on the sofa with her son. Staring at the door, willing it to stay closed.

She forced her gaze back the other way. To the lights. To the Fae. Blue swirls distorted the images but after a moment the lenses compensated for the glare and three Faeries came into view. Her stomach twisted and her vision shook as trembling hands slipped on the case. The Fae hovered just above the crater, bright multihued wings catching the breeze, shimmering in and out of focus. Bile rose at the back of her throat and she swallowed through a dry mouth. They can’t see me from here.

She dropped the glasses and rubbed her eyes, pushing a hand through her hair. Movement caught her attention and she peered at the compound. Ryder strode toward the Fae. Whipping the binocs back up she focused on his face, taut and grim even from here. Under control. Like always. He crossed his arms and faced off against the hovering floating Fae. Arguing. He was arguing with them. Her heart jumped into her throat. The Fae spread out, blue tendrils twisting from their outspread arms into the crowd. Ryder gestured sharply and the gate guards shifted to stand in front of the gathered people.  Fluttering wings spread out and a Fae garbed in red descended until it hovered directly in front of Ryder. Whatever it said seemed to change his mind. His shoulders slumped and the blue tendrils retracted, pulling children with them. Her lip trembled. A Taking. She turned away and shoved the glasses back in her pack with no wish to watch whose children they took.

Fine grey powder fluttered onto her cheeks and her arms, dusting her hair, turning dark strands into ash. The Dust was falling faster now, almost like raindrops. Cold, hard rain fell that day, seventeen years ago when –. She scrambled to her feet, shaking her head to clear the memories. Fingers tightening around her pack straps, she gritted her teeth. Time to head back. The Fae never stayed long once the Taking ended. The old tales told the truth. The Faeries do steal children and when they return them they’re never the same. Clambering over a car enveloped by Dust, she ignored the prickling of the scars running down her arms. Never.

 

 

Lure of the Lost 

 

Waves thundered down on the deck, knocking Evan’s feet out from under him. He’d thought he would welcome death but as the ship reared against the grabbing tendrils of the ocean, the drive to life pushed him into action. His fingers snatched at the rungs of the ladder on the side of the bridge, muscles straining as the ocean fought to take him. Salt stung the cut on his cheek and he blinked water from his eyes. He dragged himself against the current, closer to the bridge flooding with surf. Alejandro’s still body floated past in the pounding waves. Evan stared at the red streaks of blood trailing from the crewman’s head and drew back his reaching hand. Cold nausea churned in his stomach. He turned to peer into the bridge, searching for Dan.

Metal groaned and shrieked as the boat shuddered. He looked to the darkening sky. A giant wave sucked in all light, beautiful and deadly. The world turned to water as the wave crashed onto the boat. He lost his grip on the ladder. Tumbling, smashing into groaning metal, lungs screaming for air, he sank.

Beneath the waves a heaving mass of churning water and hunks of boat tore at him. Jagged pieces of wood and steel pulled through the dark ocean. His lungs burned and he clawed his way toward the light taunting him on the surface. The light died as a large object slammed onto the water, pushing through, pinning him underneath and sinking inexorably to the seabed.

Hands scrabbling for a grip, trying to pull himself out from under the warped vent, he felt the last air escape his lungs.

But I haven’t finished living yet.

His fingers loosened their hold on the metal.

I don’t know if I ever started.

As his eyes closed, a shadow fluttered through the inky depths trailing a pale glow behind it. He sank into black quiet but felt the imprint of fingers on his arms.

 

 

Blood Cursed Rose

Cullen glared at the small figure curled up on the chair. That ridiculously baggy sweater put him totally off kilter. He’d come to kill a beast, a woman he’d watched stalking through moonlight with darkness lapping at her heels, a vampire he’d been taught to hate. Then he’d surprised a tiny woman in sweatpants, hair mussed in falls of dark waves, her face drawn and tired, choosing a book.

He’d almost left.

Now she sat, looking smaller than ever, his own gun trained on him, offering him a deal.

“If you’re not willing to release Aden I’m not interested in any deal you want to make.”

She tilted her head to one side, like a damn sparrow. “I’ll release him, but after you do something for me.”

His lip curled. “A hostage?”

Those slight shoulders lifted in a small shrug. “Call it that if you like. The reality is, I can destroy your brother at any moment. I can make him do it himself. I can make him take others out on his way.”

Fire and darkness raged in his mind but he harnessed it, clenching his fists as his breath tore heavily out of him. “Whatever it takes, one day I will end you.”

Her eyes clouded. “Many people have tried. No-one’s succeeded yet.”

“Pity.”

 

Lady of the Ravens

Elena reached out a hand, her fingers hovering over the gleaming ivory as old blood and pain sang to her. The carvings brought to mind her locket, but the knife had the air of age that the trinket did not. She dragged her eyes up to meet her sister’s sapphire gaze.

Curling her hand back she stepped away. “You offer nothing for free. What do you want?”

Mabel smiled, stretching the freckles on her cheeks. “Only your locket.”

Her breath burned in her chest as her hand rose to clutch the pendant that was pair to the bracer wrapped around her sister’s wrist. “I haven’t taken it off since the day they placed it around my neck. Why would I give it to you now?”

“Because you are a hunted woman and a knife can kill. A locket only holds memories. And let’s be honest–how many of those do you really want?”

Bare walls. A locked door. Her sister’s arms catching her as she jumped from a window. Running hand in hand through frozen fields as the dogs bayed behind them.

Shaking fingers wrenched the clasp apart, thrusting the pendant at Mabel.  “Take it.”

Her sister tucked the past away in a pocket then held out the knife. “The blade carries some of the power of the three. Use it carefully–it may bite.”

Elena grasped the package, folding leather soft as velvet around the bone. The hum of power quietened. Waiting.

“I wish you well, sister.” Mabel flashed a last smile and turned back to the cottage.

For a moment, Elena stood. Steam rose from the dew soaked ground as the early morning sun touched it. Mabel’s skirt caught on a bramble and she twitched it free, turning once to raise a hand in farewell before ducking under the mantle.

Memories and visions tangled and Elena let them knot, unwilling to tug on the threads.

 

Light Breaks –

 

Sunlight dappled the bonnet of the sedan, glaring off the grimy windscreen. Phoebe’s gaze caught on the swinging deodoriser cutout hanging off the rear vision mirror. She ripped it off, tossing it in the back seat.

“You don’t like it?”

She scowled at Damon. “It was making me dizzy.”

Leaning back against the car door he raised his brows in acknowledgement, a sigh deflating his chest. Blood soaked cardigan in one hand she fought back the simultaneous urge to smack him and kiss him.

Stupid idiot.

Blood oozed from ripped up skin. Balling up the cardigan, swallowing bile when red squelched through her fingers, she dabbed at the wound on his side. Why wouldn’t it heal? Breathing in sharply he pulled back from her touch.

“It’s your own fault, Damon. We should have left as soon as you sensed the Wyrgard.”

Indigo eyes flared, edged with gold, and his jaw tightened. Ignoring the skip in her heart she dragged her eyes back to his injury. “If you want to look tough you should get your hair out of your eyes.”  

“You should have left when I told you to.” Chill ice in his voice didn’t quite hide the jagged note of pain. Dammit, why didn’t he start healing?

Her fingers fluttered over edges of a wound turning ashen grey, her stomach twisting.

“In which case you’d be dead. You’re welcome.”

His hand covered hers, stilling shaking fingers.

“Phoebe.”

Her mouth scrunching she made herself look up at him.

“I’m not going to heal here. The dulling is too strong this close to the gate.” His fingers curled round hers.  “We need to get past the line, into Aelfhame.”

Words tripped over trembling lips. “You can’t walk.”

“No,” he said, mouth quirking up. “But you can drive.”

Her gaze slid past him, out the windscreen, long road leading towards distant mountains. Shifting colours layered the air, pointing the way for those who looked for it.

Driving a car. Into fairyland. Through a magic portal. With a wounded Fae in my passenger seat. What the hell has happened to my life?

“So when we take the car into the magic kingdom, does it disappear? What happens to it?”

His breath hitched as he laughed, and she pushed down against fresh blood leaking down his waist. Figures, the first time I make him laugh it hurts him.

“The car will stop working, but I will start working again. So, any time you’re ready, Phoebe.”

Pushing his hand on top of the bloody cardigan she sat back in the driver’s seat, scrabbling for the lever to move it forward so her feet could reach the pedals. The hum of the engine scraped in her ears, pulling on jagged nerves.

Potholes and broken concrete littered the road inside the tunnel. She cringed everytime the car juddered over something she couldn’t swerve round. Damon gasped once but waved her on when she slowed.

White haze curled around her fingers where they clutched the steering wheel. The painted line in the road taunted her, daring her to cross it. Heart pounding she eased up on the accelerator. Lilac mist snaked around her wrist, stroking her hand. She exhaled slowly.

“You can do this Phoebe.” Damon’s voice echoed as if it came from two different places . “It will take both of us to open the gateway.”

She tried to smile. “Are you sure using magic while driving is legal?”

He raised an eyebrow, then closed his eyes. Violet mist filled the footwell of the car, spilling out onto the road, flowing towards the line. Crap. Okay. I can do this. Red streamers powered towards the purple clouds in front of the line, darting in and swirling, twisting and pulling.

 

REDEMPTION – (my first ever, and *unrevised* MS finished in 2014)

Alaea started drifting around the room once more. She adjusted the set of the curtains and fidgeted with the set of the clothes hanging over the rail near the fire. When she spoke again it was in a quiet voice that Jelena had to strain to hear. “I had forgotten about the wheat. How Anton” she stumbled over his name ‘how he cared for all those people.” She fidgeted some more and Jelena watched her with patient compassion. Then Alaea heaved a big breath and turned to face her “How could the same man care for so many and yet kill so many more? How could someone who made children laugh every day with his silly stories watch as soldiers put swords through other children’s mothers? How could the same man who sat with Tiernan so many evenings talking about music and history be a man who killed other men just because they were elves?” the words were tumbling out now and tears glistened on her cheeks.

“How could a man who held my heart destroy it so badly?” Her hand came up to her mouth as if she realised she’d said more than she intended. The two women looked at each other and Jelena wondered if she should embrace the young elf, or if it would not be welcome. She wished she found it easier knowing what to do in these situations. Alaea let her hand drop and sighed. “I cannot speak to Tiernan about it, he continues to have a stubborn faith in his friend. I thought as you were a soldier you might be able to explain it to me.”

Jelena put down her coat and took Alaea’s hand, leading her to the ottoman. They sat awkwardly next to each other and Jelena stared into the fire, hands clasped tightly between her knees. “I wish I had more answers for you Alaea, and I don’t think you will like the ones I have. Anton is, was, a soldier. One of the best. He loved the idea of service to his country; that’s the same ideal that made him ensure that the most needy families were fed every winter. As a soldier, you are trained to follow orders. It’s not just a case of ‘I was given orders’ it’s a case of automatic hear and obey. An army has to have obedience if it is to be strong.” She ran one hand down her plait and tugged at the ends, trying to work out how best to explain it to someone who had led a fairly sheltered life until recently. “It is like with a child. A small baby doesn’t understand why they can’t hold the knives, you just have to teach them to respond instantly when you say no’.

“But I don’t think he was just being blindly obedient” Alaea said and Jelena could hear the pain in her voice, “even Malinda thinks he went eagerly, she doesn’t say so but you can tell by how she avoids it’.

Jelena rubbed her eyes. “No I agree, he isn’t a blind man. I wasn’t there for the coup but it didn’t surprise me to hear that he supported Malchor so willingly. He admired him a lot. I did too to tell you the truth.” She grimaced at Alaea “I told  you you might not like what I had to say. Malchor was someone who held out a promise of a brighter, fairer tomorrow.  A country led by men of deeds not breeding. It is an attractive vision. Of course, it wasn’t until later when he had consolidated his power that he began to really push the anti-elf policies. I too have talked to people and even Marius admits that the first push North was genuinely held up as a bid to restore Devnor’s stolen lands. It wouldn’t surprise me if Anton was so enthused by the vision he saw that he was blind to the impact it had on others.”

She looked down and saw that while her own hands had relaxed somewhat, Alaea’s were twisting around each other tightly. She put a hand on them to stop her and the young woman took a deep breath.

“I think that’s my real question then. How could he, knowing me, and” she added hastily “my brother, not be aware of the impact on us? Did he not care? How could he not notice if he did care?”

Jelena smiled and felt her sadness seep into her smile. “That’s what makes it a tragedy. He did care and he didn’t notice.” She squeezed Alaea’s hand gently “I hold out hope that we will see Anton again one day. When that day comes you will have to decide if bitterness or forgiveness will make you happier. And if you cannot reach forgiveness then perhaps understanding will do.”

Alaea gave her a half smile and disengaged her hand as she stood up. “I think that will depend on the manner of his return. I would like to be happy, but I cannot quite see a happy ending.”

 

Merlin – The Return of the Once and Future King (Fanfic) – Snippet One

Snippets are unrevised and from full book completed 2016. First 10 chapters available here

The first thing he noticed that morning was that there was no pain. He blinked once or twice and tried to decide if he was still sleeping. Finger and knee joints weren’t screaming for attention as they normally did and his back felt nothing but the comfortable firmness of his bed. Comfortable. Now that wasn’t a word he’d used much in the last 500 years. Experimentally he stretched out his arms. A vigorous energy shot through his body. His heart leapt as the blood pulsed through more strongly than it had in recent memory and he felt the magic curl around his hand, as if it was a kitten seeking to be stroked. “Forbearnan” he murmured, and then jumped out of bed as the fire leaped high. “No! Bugger! Um, ācwencan!”

The fire vanished replaced by the smell of burnt wool. He screwed up his nose and turned to look about the room, nearly knocking the lampshade with his head. That was strange. He flexed his straightened shoulders, relishing the fact that he was no longer stooped over. He took a dazed look at the smoking carpet, realising he wasn’t squinting.  With an oath he stumbled backwards; no long grey beard, no wrinkled skin. Both hands went to his face and felt a short stubbly beard the likes of which he hadn’t worn for centuries. Strong muscles and youthful though trembling hands forced his gaze to the mirror by the bed. A face he hadn’t seen in a very long time looked back at him. His heart skipped a beat.

“Well. That’s unexpected.”

A knock at the door dragged his face away from the mirror. He pulled his pajama pants up on much narrower hips and pulled the drawstring tighter. The knocking got louder. “Yeah, alright I’m coming!”

The knocking was pounding the door by the time he got to the door and pulled it open, the safety chain catching. Gwaine’s familiar shock of hair framing his worried eyes appeared through the narrow crack. Those eyes quickly widened and his friend’s jaw dropped. “Merlin!”

“Yeah, I know. Surprise. Come in” He unhooked the chain and stepped back, running a hand through much shorter hair.

Gwaine edged in through the doorway.

“Bloody hell, mate, I mean it’s certainly an improvement but what’s going on?” his friend wrinkled his nose. “and what is that smell?”

“Carpet. Burning. Well, it’s out now so I guess you could say charred.” He forced himself to stop babbling as Gwaine’s face screwed up in more confusion.

“Magic, Gwaine. That’s what’s happening. But I’m not sure why”.

“I don’t understand”

“Join the club” he muttered, turning away. This was too much to focus on this early in the morning, despite the energy racing through him. Tea would help.

It was a bit unnerving, the way Gwaine stared at him while he made the tea. He couldn’t blame him though; he kept stealing glances at his own reflection in the window.

“So, Merlin, any thoughts on why a thousand year old man suddenly looks 33? Sure you weren’t mucking around with youth spells or something?”

“Don’t be stupid, I haven’t done that since 1915”

 

Merlin – the Return of the Once and Future King (Fanfic) –  Snippet Two

The explosions had stopped  and the air was filled with white dust from the concrete. People were hurt and shaken but what was worrying Merlin was the mood of the crowd. He’d seen disasters like this before, been in London for many attacks over the centuries; never had he seen a people turn on itself. It was like watching starving wolves rip each other to pieces while the lions waited at the sidelines.

Elyan stepped in to a fight and broke it up – they didn’t argue with the man with the sword. All over the square there were fights breaking out and people began picking up rocks from the ground and hurling them. It didn’t seem to be aimed at anyone or anything, just general outpouring of rage.

“Arthur, we have to stop this, they’ll kill each other!”

Arthur looked around and then ran to the statue of Queen Anne that stood in front of St Paul’s, pulling himself up over the anti-pigeon spikes to stand next to the saintly queen, one arm holding her round her neck for balance. Merlin stood below him, on the lap of one of the stone ladies in waiting. The scuffles had turned into full on riot now. Arthur’s voice was harsh as he shouted for them to stop, but it didn’t carry far over the yelling and screaming and the sirens. At that moment someone threw a rock right at his King and without a thought Merlin stepped up and flicked it aside with a look. He could feel anger rising and with a few harshly murmured words and a gesture from him the crowd found that the rocks they held were suddenly so heavy they dropped harmlessly in front of them.

Arthur stood above the rubble, majestic even in his torn t shirt and dust covered jeans. Excalibur shone in the sunlight filtering through the dust and a sea of cellphone cameras were lifted, recording every moment. Merlin shrugged inwardly. At some point in time the rest of the world was going to have to know about Arthur – looked like the world had decided it would be now.

 

Merlin – the Return of the Once and Future King (Fanfic) –  Snippet Three

Mordred. Mordred can you hear me?

Emrys. What is it? I am here.

How to say it.

I am afraid.

Mordred’s voice in his mind took on a deeper urgency. Are you hurt? Is Arthur okay?

Arthur is fine. Very kingly. I on the other hand am losing control. His hands twisted around each other and he took a shuddering breath. How do we do it? How do we keep the power chained so that we don’t unleash hell on the world?

His eyes opened and he looked at Gwen. Arthur had stopped the bleeding but there were streaks of it still down her face. Those men had bruised her but it had been him and his power who had knocked her out. Guilt washed over him and he looked away.

Emrys. Of all men I know, you are the one best suited to answer that question. How did you stop this time?

A frown wrinkled his brow and he looked under his eyelashes at his friends.

Love. It was love that stopped me.

I told Morgana once that the love that binds us is more important than the power we wield. It was you who taught me that. You have the answers within you Merlin. Do not doubt yourself. We do not doubt you.

Arthur came over and held out a hand. Accepting it, he allowed his king to pull him to his feet. Arthur met his eyes with a half smile and gripped his forearm tight. “Gave us a scare there Merlin, but I knew you wouldn’t do it. It’s just not who you are.”

He smiled a little. Maybe he was right, it wasn’t who he was, but he could never forget that it was who he might become.

 

Merlin – the Return of the Once and Future King (Fanfic) –  Snippet Four

Merlin inhaled deeply “Then magic will return until the world’s end”. He quirked his eyebrows at the dragon. “At least this prophecy has a happy ending.”

Aithusa blinked slowly at him and he heard her voice in his mind. The ending is not certain to be happy for all, Merlin. You must be careful. I know what you mean to do.

He straightened his shoulders and met the dragon’s gaze. Tell them and I will unleash such wrath upon you. You know how it must be, Aithusa, for Albion. For Arthur.

The great head lowered and a wave of sadness hit him with such strength it took him a second to realise it had come from Aithusa. Stepping forward he leaned into her neck, inhaling her scent. We are, both of us, the last of our kind. The thought was so mingled he didn’t know if it was his, or the dragon’s.

 

 

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